tv Book TV After Words CSPAN August 12, 2012 12:00pm-1:00pm EDT
before we get into some of the very vividly told stories of his 30 years of u.s. iranian in each man from the perspective of our military to military interaction. so i wonder if we could just start with -- tell us why you wrote the book and how you wrote it can bring you our a government historian and this book was really done any different methodology. guests of the dissertation started back in in foreign policy and persian gulf. one of the catalysts for me as far as an interest in the region
at both was my father had been the u.s. central commander from 85 to 88 to the u.s. military command from the middle east. at least that spurred an interest even though as a young lieutenant at the time and ranchers prefer different the march geopolitical issues. but after desert storm come work at a school with an interest in the middle east have got me quite interested in doing best in the region. it started with a dissertation and back to. i intended to read a book about the time -- just 90 book contract two days before 9/11 happened, which was a far different the thinness and then after my military experience is in iraq and afghanistan mse started you any started you any issue in a different light, i said bannings cope with the book
and a good 10 years research and readiness. my wife reminded me we haven't had a vacation since 2004. so as to which every waking moment of my free time. it took us from the government service at a washington thing for an experience you from the government right to travel. research is quite interesting. for me, with government records in the modern era, they are not in very good shape. most of the electronic records, a lot of them have not been saved. so it really is going out, fighting people who sell records, talking to people. obviously archives. caspar weinberger gave me access to his formulae restricted papers. and one of the best sources is a retired at my wife stumbled in to labor the detailed presidential and secretary of defense level of your notes in
the looksee at macro space in the basement and do a really insightful. i traveled a lot. i went to south to route -- beirut when i was on sabbatical from the government to check to hezbollah and in the. i interviewed hundreds of people for this book and plow through a lot of records. supposedly to anything it was doing on the government service at the time. because otherwise it would have been an overlap and that was not even the case. >> host: because you write about a contemporary. commit the u.s. official documents, only the earliest. you're covering has been declassified. should you have to request a lot of documents? >> guest: i requested documents and works you will need to it to real release.
>> host: i thought it may be useful to reflect an minute on the role of the historian's perspective this third two a political scientist or somebody who wants to take a policy analysis is. so help us understand what she thought were the boundaries of the stories you were telling and the craft of the historian compared to some of these other disciplines that also were covering some of the same. if u.s. foreign policy. just go first and foremost come i try to take an unbiased look at the stories they could. i wasn't trying to make a case that, for example, george w. bush's policies are correct or incorrect. i don't think that's it's a particularly democratic or republican story. it's an american story. there's overarching themes, which are quite fascinating. what i try to do is take a look at this in the larger
perspective and go back and see, how do we get to where we are today, what were the main causes? are there in a trenchant piece around that ran through her relationship and what the alternate is trying to write as in the checked his account of what transpired works on both side to better inform the public about why it is we seem to be on a collision course with iran? the meantime how did we get here in the truth is lies in history. we are both captured by our own historical baggage if you will, of which mostly chases back to 1979 in the their site teen suicide over it. >> host: generally, we think americans are less historically focused on other cultures. other cultures are always invoking either china or iran or turkey. the about the greatness of their
empires in the past come et cetera and the united states tends to be more future oriented. in this particular case he found the trauma of the hostage crisis in the iranian revolution is still very formative in the mind of americans who are in response of americans who are in response of americans who are in response he ran policy? >> guest: ambassador ryan crocker told me one time that the arenas are the most historical or this historical society. and every time we have the negotiations come including the most recent one, they bring a that many of historical grievances. sl is on their mind. the third u.s. policy makers really think they are to appear for the first 10 years, clearly the hostage issue was foremost in american policymakers to nine. the iran-contra happened swatch colors the next 15 years. why are we going to risk an opening to the ring and suicide have been to iranian and over a
series of incidents where iran has spurred u.s. effort for roper schmoll, we seem to be captured by. there's a great example of a tp is just on this idea of the more things change, the more they stay the same. a couple years ago i was done at the centcom headquarters in tampa, talking to general alan, who was not a senior commander in afghanistan. he was then deputy could hurt a central command and we were going over a memo in different u.s. goals and options for iran. when i read it, i was stunned and i had to say general, you know, i can pull a memo from 1983% is almost identical things you are saying here, written by one of your predecessors. while that makes her great relevant history come it doesn't say much for the current state
of our affairs. >> host: just a few smaller counterparts. disinterest in some of the hostages, living at the time of the revolution cannot they themselves would like to not be captives of history particularly to refine equilibria barmaids of engaging cabrini and society. but help feel so true from the iran-contra forward, there were subsequent perusing chapters in u.s. aranda relations. so it's not just 79 to 80. this more recent bruises or scars the two sides are feeling. >> absolutely. in fact, the way described as we built the u.s. and iran have built a relationship or a house on an unstable foundation of distressed. and over the years we've added to this trust within even less stable house. so i think both sides bear some culpability for perpetuating this problem.
>> host: as you do your research committee to try to decide it is outside the boundaries of their research to get iranian perspective? did you try to interview iranian submit their documents? >> guest: i did. i interviewed iranian government officials that work is not to be available to me. as i said, i interviewed hezbollah or hamas representatives who spent eight year as their representative to get a sense and try to look at this u.s. through their lands on this issue. it's always a challenge, unfortunately, i can't go to the national archives and pull out the record. all the children record as an and a lack. it's always a challenge, but i think i've done as well as you can possibly do, at least at this current time. >> host: iran is getting
better and stay in they cannot archives where andrea santillan deicide of the story. i want to compliment you in a you inevitably some stories are told. i think of hollywood decides to make a movie of the book him a verdict in a lot of the work for screenwriters and given a lot of color in atmospherics. i wanted to ask you, what are your favorite stories from the boat? spoke with the ones you found the most romantic, not necessarily that the u.s. side comes out as a hero, but just tell me for me. human interest side, what were some of your favorite vignettes are chapters of this book? >> guest: there's a few i was personally involved with, one story at iowa, there is a couple of them. one is a story by the name of two rashi yockey, and erudite
man, made wine into some basement, had parties with the alcohol flowed freely and his daughters was addicted to give you this, particularly cinderella, was a very western family. he despised the current iranian government comeau is a staunch supporter of the shaw and thought they were essentially trying to take her ran back to the stone age and destroy his greatness. he had an 18-year-old son he was trying to essentially get out of the iran-iraq war, which would've ended up in the killing fields around basra. so he goes to turkey to get a visa for his son to immigrate, move to hawaii where they hadn't had to live to go to school in the united states. an unfortunate return for the visa for his son, the u.s. government pitches him for, to
work for the cia as a robust intelligence collection effort by director casey at the time, director of the cia and he agrees. and he becomes one of the best agents the u.s. has. he is well positioned to provide perhaps the most significant information he provided with a massive attack in saudi arabia and were in the middle of executing any tips up the cia, less u.s. military to take countermeasures. it ends up in a shooting fight, firefight in the gulf between his ears the k-kilo seven or eight craniums, which causes iranians to get nervous and pull back on the inking something was compromised. the significant aspect is they never got to saudi arabia, so what would've been a major war. the downside is the iranians immediately suspect someone has
taped a month in captivity he had been the lead naval planner for this operation, so they traced back, put a tail and discover he is the man who compromised in. in dramatic detail, is recounted mostly through the eyes of his daughter who remembers her watching cinderella because the vcr was a working prop lee, father comes home, took a bus to work and all the sudden a bunch of armed guys show up, ransacked the house, called the father of in an unmarked car to prison and over the next seven to eight months is held in solitary confinement. there's a video tape of his trial/interrogation where he defends himself and says i didn't compromise. you guys are the people who are the real traitors and the family hankin. that story of a sticks with me
because i describe a lot of offense in their. i was like to remember this is a very humid story. i met his daughter at new york city and it always stuck with me. another story that is along the same lines is one where the united states can't and iranian mind later designed to deliver u.s. warships in 1987. the u.s. has complete ready to engage in international law and our current rules of engagement, so we opened fire. but the problem is, again, this is a human story. the u.s. feels for the ship the next morning about this as recounted a story researching one of the iranians. some poor fellow happen to be dumping garbage in the u.s. open either until then. probably had no idea.
it was not in the decision process to do this operation, just some sailor who was told to do it and have been to be dumping garbage at the time. but as the guys searched his body, we found a photo of the guys 10-year-old son from the exact same age as the seal fun. even 15 years after the event he got very emotional, knowing that some place in iran there is a son whose father is coming home. >> host: that is a very touching story and it does lead me to imagine you have been forward deployed in iraq, afghanistan and participated in desert storm. the people in centcom deployed in the goal, where iran lives large large over the decades as one of the most important threads are not on the u.s. military presence in the region, but also allies and partners in the cold countries, how much
opportunity is therefore a kind of normal interaction? i've heard a little bit of naval stories to how there are some very limited protocols of how american or british allies ships can interact with the every indians ships. so what is it like in terms of the protocol of actual contact military to military? >> guest: it depends. it has the revolutionary guard corps navy, which is part of the revolutionary guard much more strident, mishra dedicated to the regime and a regular iranian navy, public of islam regular navy. its genesis was the u.s. navy. a lot of early officers have been trained and only resort me, most of retired, but an institutional member there. the inner action is professional. it's a standard protocol of
ships passing, occasionally the arabian ships have even rendered us honor, sir have a custom of the warships passed. they salute each other, that kind of thing. so that's very professional. the revolutionary guard corps navy is a different matter. they're far less discipline. commanders are rewarded for showing initiative, which is usually oppression and there has been a number of instances, back to the 1990s, where they've conducted what amounts to mock attacks on u.s. warships transiting in the strait of corbis for a through the gulf, where they go at high speed, turn off at the last-minute come occasionally look like the one cover the guns. as in incidents in 2008, where one past in front of an american destroyer and dropped what looked like minds are some image of the water in front of it and nearly led to a shootout.
so dealing with them can be pretty dramatic of an event. the shooting that happened was last week between one of our oilers in what turned out to be a fishing boat to kill the fishermen as a reflection of dealing with the iranians revolutionary small boats because it's hard to tell a fishermen are smugglers,, but they're both right on top of you. >> host: certainly over the years of professional navy has declined in resources, capabilities and the guard navy has become the much stronger actor. some people believe the revolutionary guard almost a parallel political structure in iran, so the pendulum is swinging in their favor. >> guest: there is no doubt the supreme force of any of their come either the army because there's an army equivalent and revolutionary
guard. the revolutionary guard as the supreme one. the conventional navy, for example is partly because of incidents like casting reality was not trusted as the will to the navy, but they use to employee a revolutionary guard commander is the chief of naval operations for the regular navy to keep a watch on them. >> host: would much be the same petition point for there's no command that we are in the days where the u.s. and iran were close partners and allies. so there is that generation that were trained in the u.s., let the american equipment, that generation must be more or less retired by now. >> guest: they really are. the only place you see those people are in some of the diplomatic corps where they went to school in the united states, for example. i would say a lot of the arabian officers still love american equipment. they have an influx of soviet-made equipment after iraq
and during desert storm and they purchased it. even then they realize even though its 1970s is still better. which has an impact that their calculations vis-à-vis the united states military today. but as far as loyalty, is pretty low fate. >> host: we have the same problem that generation that learned farsi and hoped it to be stationed in iran for various civilian capacities. those folks have also -- most of them have finished their professional careers, so we do have a generation of folks that of oleander said iran as a distant target and i've not had opportunities to interact. >> guest: that's a great operation. i think ambassador lindberg was maybe one of the last ones who really was on active duty, who had real experience with the rand. >> host: so let's start to talk about some of the more
kinetic stories that you have in your book about engagements between u.s. and ukrainian forces. sometimes one senses that these were not necessarily planned at the highest level to be provocative, but that things have been, signals goodness. you know, miscommunication occurs by one country is sending signals to the other and it can escalate. but most of your stories it doesn't escalate to some sustained combat, but i think what hovers throughout the book is any one of these episodes could turn into something larger, more lethal, where we would be on a slope to a more sustained confrontation between the united states and iran. so i was hoping you could help us understand a little bit from the perspective of the u.s. military and people who are deployed. let's pick some various points along this continuum to try to
understand that the dynamics are late for the u.s. military. the list takes the end of the iran-iraq war, where we had been -- let's go back a few years. middle of the 1980s b.c. iran very much preoccupied by the iran-iraq war in the united states can intermittently gets involved. as it tried to stay mutual? henry kissinger says there's few words for what both sides to lose, but this is one of them. but we were kind of ritual at the beginning. we started to tilt to iraq at various times, but then we had this anomaly, the iran contra, were sorted in the tail end of the iran-iraq war we were trying to to do some rather complicated dance. so why don't you help us understand from the news of the military and narrative of what has been seen as a kind of
growing worry about the capabilities of iran and that whole decade of the 80s where we were building up some judgments and assumptions of iran as the military at area did not want to rent to become too powerful militarily. >> guest: the iran contra is interesting because around the time it happens, least the iranian arms piecing it happens in the mid-1980s about the time the u.s. makes the transition of militarily from worrying about the soviet union as the great tide of invading iran to iran as an intrinsic threat in its own right. one of the catalysts, which i described in a book was when the revolutionary guard boarded the uss or the ss president taylor, the president commercial ship, which raises alarm also potential piracy and other hostage crisis and starts the u.s. military donahoe avenue of
military planning which frankly years later we are still doing. but at the same time, you have this outreach to iranian operates on the government that the white house pursues. and i think it is a look at the iran-contra, the piece which you have to look at what reagan had been trained to do all along. in 1981, in september the first two documents the reagan approved. one is a national security directive that essentially lays out what our policy will be towards iran going forward. one of the elements of that in addition to containment of the saudi arabia is to actively pursue moderates within the government that we might parkways. president reagan said iran was too powerful of a country in the cold war also rare to have it not in the u.s. fold.
to submit to find a way to work with this new government. maybe there's people who would harbor the american sentiment. so that is always -- the other piece says the cia directive is to try to find these guys come in these matters we could with. but in kc, director of the cia was pursuing that. the idea of we traded some are provided weapons to moderates though it grieves yourself with the government, and is in keeping with the wii can do for four or five years already. but that tension between iran as a threat versus some sort of accommodation was really the big stickler on that at one of the reasons why caspar weinberger of the defense of the time was so adamant we don't provide weapons to iran because he was much more that this was a growing threat and rather than help them or work with them, we needed to contain them. but others in the administration and the white house and national
security adviser didn't discount potential threat, but thought that if we could find the right people to work with a wake up better relationships, the threat was start diminishing. >> host: you've mentioned a little bit of this planning idea and i think it's important to sort it -- there's two sides of this, planning versus current policy. when your professional military officer he spent a good part the matter what your assignment is, being aware planning for contingencies, planning for worst-case scenarios. but meanwhile, the current policy may not have a very aggressive component to it. the current policy may be to avoid conflict or de-escalate, but there's always this planning peace. so you have some dramatic stories about plans that have occurred over the years that if the opinions for winning those plans, they would like reinterpret that the u.s. is that a state of war or that the
u.s. perceives that the only way to sort of describe our interaction state to state as warlick. and i think this is it and that becomes even stronger and more recent years, where we now understand that the supreme leaders of the iran desk, the u.s. does see this as a relationship that is defined by war and yet, i hope you would agree we want to distinguish between planning for worst-case scenarios versus current policy, which may be to avoid the worst-case scenarios. >> yeah, i agree. the one thing the pentagon does this plan. that is what they're there for. if they didn't plan for contingencies and iran are elsewhere, they are not doing their job. if a crisis happens, you just can't make these things up on the fly. you have to have forces in position. i don't know as you go through
the history i think, very often defy military offers that they don't want to go through war or escalate prices. so i think you're absolutely correct. the one probably always have have is the iranians and as you said, the iranians don't always interpret what we say correctly or what they see correctly is perhaps a better word. a good example is the 1998. the u.s. saddam hussein kicked out inspectors in december 98. usc's horses and for telechoice strikes. the small animal planet and to that was absolutely convinced this was an event that somehow
are gearing up for a major strike in iran. but if you looked at the headline of "the new york times," they realize that the u.s. was about. somebody said at the time the supreme leader subscription had labs and ibm doesn't perceive this in the same light. that misunderstanding and mr. a recession is always there and always potential for danger. >> host: what it would take a short break and we'll be back in a minute. >> host: stories of the debates in the military in addition between military and civilians in our government on how to manage the iran problem.
how do we act in a way to send clear signals to the iranians about our red lines and limits without being so confrontational that the only option is to escalate military tensions. i thought your book has some really original material on some of these debates within the military and i wonder if you could talk to us a little bit about centcom is out in the arena and the theater itself and the folks back in washington are part of a conversation between civilian and military people trying to set the course of u.s. policy. there were a few stories about when that really create some friction that i think are quite interesting. he told the story that i think you knew quite vividly from the time that your fathers served as centcom commander since the late 80s i believe from the
chairman of the joint chiefs and the admiral that was in the region and the time he was the centcom commander. help us understand why that story was important from the story you're telling. >> guest: it's a fascinating story and it illustrates back is not a uniform view within the military, let alone how to approach iran. the issue was really between -- there is not romance anime is jamesa sly and come describe to me that the chief of naval operations of the most insubordinate man he had ever known, but also grudgingly a great thinker, one of those guys who thinks outside the box to use an overused metaphor. but lyons never had gotten
nowhere the bombing of the u.s. marine barracks. he sat with very good reason and we have not responded, so he was advocating that only a very strident military policy, but actual military strikes against irani at the time. he was encouraged by admiral corral. he had a long relationship. corel was very political military officer. he did a lot of his sturdy work to do things he didn't want to be associated with and this was a case where the admiral really encourage what he termed a window of opportunity, which was in august 87 a turnover up aircraft carriers in the golden lions wanted to use this plus the battleship about to arrive to really punish the iranians. perhaps even use it as a way of
ushering in regime change was level targets, not just military. the other side of this was the centcom commander, my father and pretty much supported by caspar weinberger very much in civilians in the pentagon a few well outside the joint chiefs of staff who thought the answer was more of a containment view and don't want to escalate the crisis. we'll do sort of a restrained measure operation to avoid striking the arabian land in the object to keeping this crisis in check so it doesn't go to a full-blown fright so he would essentially drive the iranians back by oil platforms without escalating the complex to do something provocative and these two really clash in what happens
is a serious event have been and eventually gets to the secretary who essentially sides with those who thinks any fires them, release them in the middle of all this, admiral corral and the transcripts of phone conversations between lansing and the transcripts of phone conversations between lansing and the transcripts of phone conversations between lansing he doesn't back him up and says i he doesn't back him up and says i know nothing. so he takes the fall for something the chairman had encouraged. >> host: interesting. >> host: interesting. the lower ranking military officer the lower ranking military officer in the gold if you're serving on one of the ships based out of the operations comptroller, you
understand the abstract iran is the largest piece of the threat environment no longer the soviet union a russian. not worried about the cheney tip. and the big scheme of things, iran wins the largest as a possible requirement. how does the more junior military personnel, how do they understand u.s. policy? let's just take a snapshot of something fairly recent. do they believe that you're just going to her three years to the gulf region. do you think young military officer see iran as the enemy, or how do you think they are conditioned to understand u.s. policy? i guess it would also hope to -- how often is somebody who is forward deployed in one of the branches of the armed services,
how often do they get briefed on u.s. policy? how do they get the nuances right if one were supposed to be forward leaning and just maintaining and containing? >> guest: that's a good question. i'm not sure sometimes even senior officers had the same nuance. iran is such a difficult problem as i describe this relationship between peace and war. that's not an easy -- it's not quite clearly in the cold war with the adversary and everybody approached it that way. i would say average sailor probably doesn't have a good view of this nuanced view. a lot of them based upon interaction with iranians themselves when they pass them on the water, which is in some cases very professional. other cases they're very nervous. the u.s. military does a very
good job of trying to condition ships because are really attacking naval issues most likely not army or air force, the ships before they deploy a series of workouts to kind of put in this mindset of okay, is this boat hostel? infinite hospital. is that the revolutionary guard boat? is it really it really just out there who treat your nose and not really start a war or not. so we try hard to get people conditioned to this environment. but it is a tricky situation. there's no doubt about it. there's no diplomatic relations, last year, at least according to the press accounts of supreme leader opened a hotline between their two navies, which would have perhaps hope fuse this problem. if there was an incident we call a commander and say this is what we saw.
>> host: that the incident as the agreement, which i know several of the u.s. naval commanders in the region have thought would be sort of below the threshold of being political breakthrough, but still something very useful and pragmatic. >> absolutely. if we could get to that step, it would help. it doesn't have anything to do with the grand geostrategic calculations or the way regulated governments fear each other. the good of the soviet union when there is tremendous adversary and it's something navies do. >> host: the reference of the cold war is useful and will eventually get to the toilet were shadow, cold war. how do we understand the u.s.-iran story. the cold war in some ways it's a useful analysis because there's pieces of the relationship that have the scholer says set the
limit, signal each other, don't go any further account et cetera, get at least in the cold war there was also a political conversation going on they didn't suggest her best friends come into a very different worldviews, but we at least have a channel in which we could communicate and try do not misunderstand each other's intentions. the cold war a typical was very much to avoid the catastrophic war, but that certainly this was framed spr adversaries. we have different goals for the international system. the trip with iran is it's an asymmetric relationship. they are not a peer adversary and they never will be and they understand them. so therefore they are more likely to interpret our intentions of hostile come even if we think we're just managing the problem, they are more likely to perceive it as having disproportionate adverse effect on them. so let's fast-forward to iran's
nuclear program, being of the big threat. a lot of the stories in the 80s is the naval tanker war and secondary effects of the iran, iraq war. stuff that is fairly locally contained. but over the last decades ago that up his spending some name that is larger geostrategic consonance. if they think about it from u.s. military to come would talking about the need be, but the preparing or thinking about or developing capabilities for a possible requirement that the president wants to do set back iran's nuclear activities or prevent them from crossing that line presumably would entail very different parts of the u.s. military. can you chat to us about that? planning for what are some of the contingencies right now, our
formulas all options on the table. we want to germanic solution. we don't see that we hope very much to avoid the president has gotten out of balance right, still believing we have the choice to make a politically resolving its dispute with the international community of nuclear activities. but what about that plan inside of imagining are going to have to use other measures. >> the prevailing view is hopefully we will go down that path. there is time for diplomacy. the diplomatic opening the president has done is the correct one. i think iran has a unique ability of taking everything to the brink of suddenly reversing course and work in a compromise. so i hope that's the answer. i think the u.s. military is prepared for any contingency, and be at iran or elsewhere. there is a robust air defense system in the golf today.
the other day was announced and a $4 billion in new pastry at air defense system. we just deployed more minesweepers typical for countermeasures. with the largest number since desert storm on the golf today and those are not only aimed at iran, that any possible contingency. iran also, al qaeda pirates, just one certainty we have in the middle east as you don't know what the next crisis is going to be. obviously you think the military has thought through the iran problem. for probably a smart mouth about dealing with iran in 25 years. but it's not only iran. it's a number of other potential problems. >> i'm quite with you on how the policymakers are framing a hand and the iranians have a choice to make and there is a solution
that would get us to a more -- a different outcome. one argument is made that after the wars in iraq and afghanistan, it would be hard for us to pull off a military operation on a scale that iran would require. iran is a country lets remember, three times the size of iraq, more importantly geopolitics of the region, very important energy producer, et cetera, but as a practical matter, i would assume that operations with respect to iran's nuclear activities would entail the air force more than the navy or army so within the military, maybe the argument of could we do and what our capabilities might be different than the public conversations.
>> guest: is there a conflict of any sort, miscalculation or otherwise, is a joint water. we don't fight army navy air force anymore. we fight altogether. so under any circumstance, we'll see every single element of offshore services involved in it. and this energy we have, particularly after 10 years of war, when it comes to a lot of those, the political infighting done even in 2002 when there's some nasty fights between the air force and army, for example a come on rent vincennes who's in control, a lot of those have gone away. we worked out a lot of kinks as far as how to fight a modern joint water. >> host: you mentioned our relations with the gulf countries. and i wonder whether we should spend a little bit of time reflecting on what are their
requirements -- security requirements, expectations. you have said their capabilities to join us, both in deterring iran and possibly having to go further have improved and it changed over time. so i wonder if we should be a little bit more of how well we can cordoning with the countries at the gcc. in the end, the u.s. decides to capabilities that the u.s. are so qualitatively different both quantitatively and qualitatively different. i wonder if you have the impression that they would expect to participate or be a full partner, both in a deterrent or containment strategy and in a strategy that might require more forward action. >> guest: they are obviously have the most online. you raise a good point because one of the wearing constant
throughout the u.s. foreign policy and i think it comes throughout the book at different users is his desire to partner with the gcc gulf cooperation council states. the first incident ever found of us trying to work with them and forge sort of a cohesive bond was in 1982 with the defense department pushed it very hard. the late 80s we start working on an air defense system it's all an air defense system in case iran decided to attack one of the gcc states again in the late 90s when the iran a threat seems to rise after hobart towers, so it started working at the gulf countries again and try to force some cohesive bond and of course we've been doing it back again. it really is a partnership.
if the u.s. military was going to operate in the middle east we can't do this alone. it's not only ferguson and access. post does so where does iraq fit in all of this? we have iraq somehow between pro-american and pro-iranian arabi trained maybe trying to be both, but iraq was their enemy. alistair friend of a back-and-forth, back-and-forth. iraq in gulf countries don't get along well at all. they quite profoundly disagree about whether iran is good guy or bad guy. so how would you imagine here we've engaged, tried to modernize the military, made this huge investment in bringing iraq institutions back online.
how would you imagine the iraqis playing in a contingency with respect to iran? >> guest: that's a completely unanswered question. iraq is in a transition. and there's hope that eventually the gulf states will come around. there is a sunni shia issue, which is the fundamental divide in their mistrust of iraq. but on the other hand they are arabs, not persians even on malki, prime minister malloch e. has been somewhat supportive where ryan crocker is sitting with them and said, did you -- they're watching a think president ahmadinejad, the iranian president on tv and says, he needs a translator.
he spent a lot of time in iran during the iran-iraq war in the 1980s and has been surprised he didn't learn farsi. what life is like to be second-class citizens so that tension is fair. i just really think it's too early to tell how iraq fits into larger calculus. >> host: unfortunately afflicted this area crisis committee iraqis are orienting themselves along that the kerry and the fault line more than on the area of versus non-arab fault lines. that's quite interesting. i wanted to catch up on one story more recent. we talked about stories from the 80s and 90s. at the very end of george w. bush's presidency, this curious in the name, or some british naval officers were, you know
captured by the higher gcc forces in the calls and taken to tehran and it was such a dramatic moment and wants to memories of the hostage crisis came back. our closest ally working with us and coalition in the gulf. how did that play out in terms of the issues we talk about how did the u.s. military talk about that versus government back in washington. rivera options was that an important player in how the crisis got resolved and bruce were released after a few weeks. >> guest: that's a very pivotal moments occurred thinking about fiorini problem. the incident is there is a british naval boarding party that listens back pain were
essentially looking for smugglers off the coast of iraq a long-standing mission we been doing for a long time boarding unlucky not ships in the northern gulf. while they are doing this, it was right fairly close to the boundary, the american boundary between iran and iraq. in fact, the boundaries pin down because it's based upon the entrance from the shock till arrived,, but it shifts over time. not a static boundary. absolutely. but the british are convinced they were on their side of this line. the revolutionary guard commander and a couple of those sun is his own initiative without any orders come is a very aggressive young officer, striving over, almost the british are still on the ship, essentially instigates the crisis, trains as weapons in the reddish decide rather than risk was shed that they would
capitulate. when this incident happened that comes to a not brought by the name of cosgrave, the senior american naval commander in bahrain at the time. he looks at options of things we can do with tracking where the sailors swear, taken up the bose to a poor brain on the opposite side of the iran-iraq border, small iranian naval base there in the latina trying to do something about it. essentially his deputy as a naval commander that my instructions that were not going to escalate this crisis. there's an interest in tehran they were stunned that on the set and the revolutionary guards reporting they have a host of british sailors and a few marines captive. they're not quite sure what to do, whether they should release them or not. they make the decision to bring
tehran and all of a sudden they realize it's a propaganda victory. ahmadinejad trades around, tweet the nose. they never liked what they see as colonial interference, and better and this is a way of tweaking them. they play everything they can and eventually release them. the u.s. military have what happened afterwards. the naval commander at this is suddenly ghostwritten the equivalent of the junior officer to a very senior commander, now one of the district commanders. on the iranian side. so these guys reward initiative sort of curious risk-taking. the british to assist they could have led to a much wider conflict in the northern goals. and so, it figures under a hold your revolutionary whether they are quick to operate without
borders because the system is reported that behavior. >> host: i think it is an important story as we see -- as they gather more information and understanding about their behavior. it is harder and harder for us to figure out where the points of entry to have a more productive or constructive conversation with the iranians. but for the most part we have to keep trying and looking for those opportunities. but as we said earlier comments about the strengthening rule of the higher gc and perhaps kind of the built-in logic of this science that is now the iranians and i'll end up we believed as you said earlier that the experiments they probe, they tried to be and then they will back off and maybe we can't assume that is the pattern for
the foreseeable future. i thought we would end up with a discussion about even the title of the book and what -- the story to understand its implications for the future. when i first read the book, i sensed every time there's a litter the episode between the united states and iran, it kind of did a whole of the trinity here that we can't quite overcome and i guess reading between the lines i thought that maybe the larger message of the book was this kind of inevitability that cost gives the story is quite absurd relationship, this is where we have it. but i figure you, i have a different conclusion and in some ways the toilet water is not
intentional. it is almost by default. it's just a series of layers that move us in this direction. there's policy pushes some pollsters try to change the dynamic of the u.s.-iran relationship, but i want to get your thoughts on the title itself, whether you think the twilight war has become by default or whether twilight war is a condition that we should -- that can be changed and that twilight war is not real war, not a declaration of war vis-à-vis iran. and so how you take a story of the first 30 years that kind of imagine what is the next chapter. you're a historian so i know you don't want to go there, but i just want to help us think about
what climate is working. is it a permanent condition? is it subject to change? >> guest: regardless of how the p5+1 talks come out, the nuclear issue is a sin to mount the problem, not necessarily the problem itself. the problem is 30 years of distrust and enmity between the two countries. the iranian revolution has installed a pillar of foreign policy of anti-americanism of the young men man who overthrew the shah are very unpopular american back dictator have great in their beards, but attitudes haven't changed. particularly after june of 09 u. s-sierra heartening and rice of the revolutionary guard, where those at the senior levels attitude prevails are coalescing. they are in their eyes to those
who have been pragmatic and moderate over the years. the bottom line is i don't see the ultimate tension between the united states and iran changing anytime while the supreme leaders are around and see what happens. i don't see a change until the revolutionary generation goes. having said that, that doesn't mean war. one of the things i find interesting is the amount of -- we talk about how often we moved to the darkness or potential conflict. we also have opportunity to move to the late. there's been openings in the reagan administration, perhaps one of the better was when george h.w. bush's administration for you might have tracking under the iran-iraq war. it was after 9/11 where there is a number of considerable amount of talks with iran. so the potential is there.