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tv   Dennis Ross Discusses Trump Administrations Iran Policy  CSPAN  March 10, 2017 2:41pm-4:09pm EST

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that we won't try to change your borders by force if you don't try to change ours. >> sunday night at 9:00 p.m. eastern, on afterward wardsoarr. >> next the discussion of the iran nuclear agreement. the event was hosted by the center for the national interest. it's about an hour and half. good afternoon. thank you for turning out on a spring-like day in washington.
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let's hope it continues. and thanks for c-span for coming along. and just a few tips on how we're going to handle this morning's meeting. it is being filmed live and when you ask a question, please state your name clearly so the world knows who you are and aunts and uncles can refer to the recording. the subject today i think is highly relevant. iran sanctions and the nuclear deal. we heard a lot about the iran deal in the campaign, particularly from the president. but i think there is some confusion as to what actual policy is given that we have a
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nuclear deal with iran, which no one seems eager at this point in time to tear up. even though the president says it is the worst deal ever negotiated. secondly, we have a major fight with the islamic state or isis which the president claims is one of our top priorities. in foreign policy. and yet ironically, one of the countries we will rely on to beat isis is iran. and iran has an election coming up. there is great pressure on capitol hill for more sanctions. not for violations of the nuclear deal but because of its behavior in the gulf, ysupport for yemen and the human rights record.
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to discuss this we have an extremely talented duo before us and before we get to the dui, i forgot to announce who i am. i'm jeffrey kemp, senior director for region security here at center for the national interest. first ill turn to dennis ross and then mark fitzpatrick. dennis has served several presidents as key negotiator for ar arab-israeli peace. he is a distinguished pelfellow washington institute. he has written several books, the last is a must-read on the relationship between successive israeli governments and american presidents with some really interesting background material
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that i think is quite new to most of us. mark fitzpatrick has lived for the last 10, 15 years in london. working for tstrategic studies s commentator writer on nuclear nonproliferation, but he is an american. before he went to iiss in the state department doing pretty much what he is doing now. he is now moved back to washington and is the executive director of iss america. and in that capacity, he runs the office they have here in town and they hold meetings just like this and do publications just like we do. but mark's real prominence in this town has to do with his
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extraordinary knowledge of the iran nuclear component, including the status of the iran nuclear deal. so dennis is going to start out by giving a broader picture, particularly talking about how we deal with these conundrums that i mentioned, including the israeli ambivalence towards the iran deal, given the hostility that there was towards it while it was being negotiated. then mark will talk more about the actual deal itself where it is succeeding where it has weaknesses and what new sanctions may mean for the iran deal even if they're not directly earmarked against it. with that in mind, they will both have about 12, 13 minutes
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to open up. den snis. >> thank you, geoff.n snis. >> thank you, snis. >> thank you, geoff.? snis. >> thank you, geoff.snis. >> thank you, geoff.. >> thank you, geoff. yes so i want it talk about what i think the trump administration confronts. i won't try to explain what their policy is wabecause i thi their policy is something still being developed. but i want to look at it from the standpoint of the kind of things they might do. let me start by just sort of noting two things to begin with. one is that obviously as geoff said, the president of the united states referred to this as the worst deal ever negotiated taen reflects, i think, not just a view of what negotiations produce, with you an inherent sense that deal itself has within it or producees a number of vulnerabilities. and i want to address some of that.
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and since the joint comprehensive plan of action, if you listen to the general, he says iran has been much more in the region since. so the administration is confronting what they see as vulen vulnerabilities that flow from the deal in the nuclear dimension but also it's dealing with or thinks it must deal with what are the implications in the region itself. and so i think the first question to ask is okay so what does the administration do about the comprehensive plan of action and secretary of defense during his confirmation hearing made it very clear that he thought even though it wasn't a good deal that he had to live up to it. and i would suggest that that makes sense. if we were to be the ones rip it up since the fact was it wasn't
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a bilateral arrangement b, we wh make ourselves the issue, not iran's behavior, or bad behavior. if in fact what the administration wants to do is to find way to increase leverage on iran to effect its behavior then one of the things that is important for had administration to do is make it clear on what the focus of what iran is doing, we shouldn't make ourself the issue. in other words, don't isolate the united states. think about how you do more to put the spotlight on iran's behavior and what is wrong with iran's behavior. and here i think there is something that can be, i think, effectively done. one thing that the obama administration didn't do effectively, and i'll come back to this later, in a sense the obama administration became very defensive about the issue of iran not getting the economic benefits from the deal.
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and the iranians, my colleague patrick clausen who is here, wrote a piece with two other members of the washington institute, which i thought -- which i think very effectively focused on iran having created a narrative about how iran was living up to the deal and we weren't. and one of the reasons is that iran when it comes to creating transparency in its banking system and fulfilling the standards that the financial action task force required with regard it money-laundering and to terrorist financing, iran doesn't meet those standards. one of the reasons it therefore becomes very difficult for or at least banks are quite hesitant to do the kind of financing that would be necessary for some of the bigger deals, is that they worry about consequences of being slapped with really big
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fines because they might deal with someone who is connected with money-laundering or terrorist financing. if iran isn't getting economic from the deal it is because iran isn't meeting the standard that everyone else is supposed to meet, at least with regard to their banking requirements. it would be effective to focus on that and also focus on what iran is doing in the region. when the general says iran has become more aggressive in the region, well be that's a good thing to remind everyone. the things that the obama administration reminded that would exist on human rights and on terrorism, they exist because again of iran's behavior. not because somehow we are dreaming these things up. there is a context on which the
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admin should draw on. if i were advising the administration, what else would i advise them do? i would say, by the way, i'm not advising the administration. but if i were advising the administration, there would be a number of things that i would focus on. and they go back to concerns that i myself had about the joint comprehensive plan of action. one of my major concerns is because at the end of 15 years there aren't any limitations on the size or quality of the nuclear infrastructure that the iranians could have i worried that down the road iran's threshold nuclear status would be such that the gap between that and being able to have a weapon would be sufficiently small that iran might at some point be tempted to two for a weapon and i felt that one of the key things that i wanted the obama administration to do that they didn't do and trump administration could do was to bolster deterrence. there is a number of things that i think the administration could do to bolster deterrence.
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one thing would be to change our declarititory policy. within the joint comprehensive plan of action the iranians make commitment never to seek, acquire or develop nuclear weapons. if we were to see them doing that the iranians should understand that given the kind of infrastructure they are allowed to develop it would be too late to impose new sanks so they need to understand that if we see them moving towards a weapon notwithstanding the commitments they made that we would, our declaretory policy would be we will use force to deal with nuclear instra truck tour, not sanctions. secondly, after 15 years, the iranians, there's nothing in this arrangement that prevents iranians from producing highly enriched uranium after year 15. that is something the administration could establish as principle that if they do that, that would be a trigger.
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the third thing, something i was -- i favored for a while, obama administration was able to compose their enthusiasm but i was in favor of giving eiranians a 30,000 pound bomb which is a conventional device that could actually deal with the one enrichment site built into a mountain. i said to give that to the israelies.into a mountain. i said to give that to the israelies.built into a mountain. i said to give that to the israelies.into a mountain. i said to give that to the israelies.enrichment site built mountain. i said to give that to the israelies. and two, if we change our policy webs maybe the iranians didn't believe we had it, but if the israelis td they would believe the israelis would act on it if they were moving towards a weapon. and moreover, it would signal we would be supportive of the israelis under the
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circumstances. a further thing i would like to see happen, one of the concerns i have is that the iranians were almost bound to cheat, at least along the margins and if for no other reason than to test how good the verification provisions were within the joint comprehensive plan of action and i felt that again if you're going to bolster detrance one of the things you have to do is establish that for every transgression no matter how small there is some price. obviously for smaller transgressions, price should be a proportional price but still be a price. there is the joint commission is something that obviously brings together the five plus one who negotiated it. but we have seen the iranians have more heavy water than they were supposed to. we have seen the iranians have as i understand it they've had
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access low enriched materials and established for the compress purpose of ensuring that we would have a very clear picture into dual use capabilities, dual use materials the iranians were requiring. iranians only made five requests through this procurement which is another way of saying they are really not using the procurement channel. we foe from the germans they have engaged in illicit behavior trying to require materials. and the point is that we should have some understanding at least with the europeans that rather than being in a situation where in the joint commission we flag things that the iranians are doing that they shouldn't do, they should see a consequence, actually a price for them doing the things they should do. so as i said, you establish pattern. when you violate there is a
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consequence. it becomes clear if there is really big violation then the consequence is severe. that's, as i said, a way to bolster detrance and and a fifth area where i would like to see detrance bolster and the new administration could do something would be to detract to see. iranians giving more asissist to hezbollah than before. we could increase the price to them. one of the reason i think the obama administration was hesitant to do these things is because there was a kind of fear that if they did this this would play in the hands of hard liners. it would weaken rohani. there was a kind of analysis that the obama administration did which was that one of the important things potentially changing in iran is that you could empower rohani, doing the
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deal during the comprehensive plan of action would empower rohani and within the iranian hierarchy even whenever you did anything that would impose a price or seen as provocative it would hurt them and play it hard liners. that was exactly the opposite of the logic used in the first term in approaching the iranians on the issue. that's still a logic i think should apply. if you want to bolster detrance and enhance the strength of the pragmatic types within iran it seems you want to show what sula manny does, the head of the forces, is cost iran, it doesn't benefit iran. if you want them to see that using shia to weaken the regime throughout the region is something that works against iranian interest, there should be a price for it.
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should we be more to predict tharms they shouldn't have anyway too hezbollah, yes. should we look for wayes it raise the cost? yes. one of the things the iranians have not been shy about is they are clear that nuclear deal doesn't prevent them from doing anything they want to do on the rest of the region. well i don't know why we can't respond in kind. maybe i'll wrap up by saying the following. as you raise the issue of the iranians elections. look, i grant that it's a, you know, how you think about the iranian election whaens happens and what we might do to effect it is not a simple thing but there are very few people who predicted that rohani would win the last election. so the idea we will govern our behavior by what we think will effect the iranian election says kind of, it is about as good as thinking you could predict what would happen in our elections.
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we should be pretty humbled about thinking that we're going to be able to effect the iranian elections. right now, it's pretty cleary think that iranians at this point, whatever the criticism of rohani, the fact is there seems to be a cautious posture towards the trump administration. and no small part because they're not quite sure what trump administration is going to do and they see potentially that they can create some divisions between us and other members of the five plus one. i would say we shouldn't be too preoccupied, which we aren't too good at in any case, do what we think is the right thing do and remind everybody here the iranians said they won negotiate on the nuclear issue and we tremendously increased sanks that time.
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now i'm arguing, argue the sanctions we have. when they engaged for example, in ballistic missile testing we shouldn't have done what we did what the white house did. 22 31 calls on iranians not to test ballistic missiles. since they don't intend to have nuclear weapons anything they test isn't subject to that. look a what the ballistic missiles, look at what the range they have, look at payload they can carry and by wait they could carry nuclear weapons and because they are are called on not to do it there is no reason the administration not only onity own shouldn't be going to other members of 5 plus 1 saying they are called on us to do it but are doing it anyway. we should be implementing sanctions that we have and
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should be where there are -- where behavior justifies do doing more we should do more. especially with other members of 5 plus 1. we should look at ways to have some agreement on if they violate what price would be at least with the europeans. and look for ways to raise the cost of iranians of what they are doing in the region because the basic logic of what we applied on the nuclear issue should be applied on their regional behavior. >> thank you very much, dennis. very clear, very provocative. and raises a lot of interesting questions we will discuss, hopefully. after mark has made his mark. >> thank you, geoff. pleasure to be here. i think we all agree that iran present problems in several areas. but one area they don't a present an immediate problem is in the nuclear area. they are no longer marching head fast toward having capability to
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produce nuclear weapons in a short period of time. jcpoa blocked them from having them. because they aren't marching toward that breakout capability we're not talking about going to war over the issue. the region is more peaceful than it might have been otherwise. but iran continues to enrage and in many waysity problematic. i would agree with the proposition that the united states should be willing to sanction iran for these other areas in the nonnuclear field when warranted. let's talk a minute about what "when warranted" means. one is, when sanctions can be more effective policy tools in changing the behavior in question. you know, sanctions tend to be the policy of first choice. but it's not the only -- the hammer isn't the only tool in our toolbox. when warranted also means that
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applying sanctions in other areas doesn't violate u.s. obligations under the jcpoa, whether intentionally or inadvertently. and undermining the sanctions relief that iran was promised under the deal, would violate it. i agree, patrick clauson and his colleagues said the washington wrote some interesting notes. the united states should not appear to be suspending the sanctions relief that was promised by the jcpoa. a second, the united states should avoid rhetoric, such as talking about the, quote, chilling impact sanctions could have on investment in iran, or the uncertainty new sanctions would introduce.
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you know, as dennis mentioned, there are many reasons why foreign companies are disinterested in engaging in investing in iran. we shouldn't reinforce the iranian narrative that the united states is to blame for this lack of interest. a third recommendation by the washington institute was that the united states should avoid discussing the jcpoa all together when referencing, for example, the iran security council resolutions on weapons exports. i want to say a main point is that the united states needs to prioritize its objectives. i would say that preserving a deal that blocks all iranian paths to a nuclear weapon is a first order objective. because only with nuclear weapons would iran pose a direct national security threat to the united states. in pairing iran's ballistic
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missile program, i would say is a second order objective. it's important, but it's not on par with stopping nuclear weapons development. and then i would say that stopping iranian's arms shipment is a third order problem. the real issue in yemen is the internal political solution that's needed. so when warranted also means when sanctions can be effective. my judgment is that more sanctions won't cause iran to buckle under and renegotiate a jcpoa under u.s. terms, as some who want to scrap the deal have argued. and it's important to realize that sanctions alone weren't responsible for the jcpoa. they were very important in bringing iran to the negotiating table in 2013. but it was only when the obama administration agreed on a major concession to allow some enrichment that they allowed them to accept the interests of inspections under the additional protocol. it was incentives and disincentives.
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some say that obama's decision to allow some enrichment was the original sin. i guess, without sex, negotiations weren't going to give birth to a deal. there wasn't going to be a virgin birth. there wasn't going to be a unicorn deal that only benefited the united states. i would also judge that sanctions on iran's missile program mpt going to get iran to stop the missile program. it's too important to their national defense. their air force is so decrepit, that they rely on ballistic missiles for their defense. that doesn't mean sanctions are irrelevant. sanctions can help slow it down, they can damage and undermine the program's efficacy. but if we really want to achieve a solution to the missile issue,
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it's going to require, i think a broader arms control agreement that involves other players. i just don't see iran accepting missile limits that only apply to itself. but if they apply to others maybe through a multinational deal, or maybe separate bilateral deals, then i think we have a possibility. meanwhile, there are other deals to deal with the missile program. the tools include integrated missile defense in our gulf state partners. enhanced export controls. you know, use the procurement channel wisely and well to stop the iranian procurements. by the way, the german report about procurements, it wasn't very specific as to whether iran's ongoing procurement was in the nuclear or missile field, it kind of mixed those two together. i think it's probably mostly in the missile field, and we should do what we can to try to stop it through export controls. and civil defense measures are another tool you can use to deal with the missile threat.
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so let's look at the criteria, then, that nonnuclear sanctions shouldn't undermine the jcpoa. some of the iran sanctions bills under consideration in the congress seem to be drafted explicitly for that purpose of undermining the jcpoa. and just to pick one example, hr-566 named the terror-free skies act seeks to delist the iran nationals by the u.s. treasury. that would make it unlikely that any of the planes would be licensed, which would be an explicit violation of the jcpoa. this and other sanctions bills, also, some of them seem designed to goad iran into being the one that kills the jcpoa. some advocates are clear that
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that's their objective. in talking with iranians, i don't think they're going to be easily goaded. i think they are going to take a lot that we're going to dish out to them. because they don't want to be the one to be seen as the party responsible for killing the deal. and right now, iran probably has global opinion on its side. as ilan goldenberg wrote last week, even though the trump team maintained they would abide by the deal, the global narrative is setting that the trump administration is the actor. my deals with europeans and others suggest that is the narrative, that means our partners are not going to join us in reimposing any sanctions if the deal collapses. one other example of an idea that's put out there of a new sanction, designating the iran air corps as a terrorist organization. it seems designed to warn foreign firms against doing any business with iran, given the
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pervasive role that the enterprises play in the iranian economy. but that would be another violation of the spirit if not the letter of the jcpoa, if that was the purpose of designating the irgc. and there's no purpose, because they already fall under enough other sanctions, that there wouldn't be any other impact. iran is already designated as a country, as a state sponsor of terrorism for good reason. and that designation covers the irgc. but if the irgc is to be designated, and i think that's probably coming, i think it would be wise to wait until west mosul falls. because irgc supported militia are involved in the attack on
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isis in western mosul. and it would be counterproductive to sanction their sponsor. it would create a difficulty in continuing to press that battle. and it would create danger for u.s. forces in iraq, if we're suddenly designating one of the partners -- de facto partners as a terrorist group. designating the irgc would also make it very difficult to involve them in any potential diplomatic solutions to regional issues in which they are involved as a problem, if they're going to be part of the solution. it will be difficult if they're a terrorist group. and labeling the irgc group would be tantamount to a declaration of war on iran. now, he exaggerates. but i think there's probably a lot of iranians that would see it that way. so we could create this emotional response in iran that i don't think it would be warranted. you have to ask whether more pressure on iran, which might otherwise seem to be a good idea would turn the population against the government.
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and yes, it could see rohani losing his bid for reelection on may 19th. i agree with dennis that u.s. policy, we get it wrong so often, we can't determine who's going to be the winner or loser in iran. and there's probably nothing we could do that could be certain to help rohani. but i have a feeling there's a lot we could do to hurt him, that would benefit a hard-liner if solohani turns out to be a candidate of the hardliners. i think you have to admit rohani would be a much better partner. if the objective of the exercise is to prolong enmity between iran and the united states for another generation, we should keep doing things that get the goat of the iranian people. like forbidding all of them, all of them to enter the united states under the terms of the visa ban. you know, such acts spur iranians to rally around the flag. they reinforce the conservative narratives that the united states can't be trusted. last point, giving a talk on north korea later this week so i've been thinking about parallels. we saw in the north korean case how abandoning a diplomatic deal
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that limited north korea's nuclear program, abandoning it has contributed very much to what seems now to be an insurmountable problem. the 1994 agreed framework with north korea wasn't perfect. the north koreans cheated, yes, they did, but the deal did significantly roll back their weapons program for a significant period of time. so i say similarly in the iranian case, it's far better to taylor an incomplete but effective agreement than scrap it in hopes of achieving a best outcome but getting the worst. >> thank you. >> thank you very much. mark, two excellent evocative presentations. we'll momentarily open this up for discussion. i just have two quick questions for the speakers. dennis, could you say a little about how you think the netanyahu government now sees
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the nuclear deal. because my judgment, reading between the lines, is that while they never liked it and they probably still do not like it, they're no longer in a let's tear it up mode, but more in a let's make sure it works mode. if that is the case, then presumably that will have great resonance on the trump administration. and mark, you sort of alluded to the upcoming elections, and you mentioned the ban on travelers from the seven countries. and i know barbara slaven has some interesting ideas on this. but it does seem to me this was a case of us hitting ourselves in the face. particularly given the fact that
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the iranians that are banned, or were banned, i have no idea where it stands right now, are all ones we know and like. and -- >> probably a couple we don't like. >> that's probably right. okay. so dennis, just on netanyahu. >> look, i think that within israel, there was a view within the security establishment that the deal bottom lined. and that there were flaws in the deal. there were concerns about the deal. but the deal bought time. and rather than scrapping it, the smart thing to do was to ensure it was in force, and number two, figure out ways to take advantage of the time. if you're buying, depending on how you viewed it, i've heard from different voices within the israeli dispense establishment, some view it as 8 to 15 years that you're buying. the reason some say as little as
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eight years, which means seven years, they feel the prospect of the iranians walking away after year eight goes up, because that's the point at which the sanctions are actually terminated as opposed to suspended. so then their impulse to walk away might increase. others think that, no, it's -- they worry more about when the iranians can start putting the advanced centrifuges starting in year ten, but in any case, the basic view was, you're buying time. what can you do within the region, what can you do with the united states to take it to maximize the impact of that time. and netanyahu's view was similar except in one area. he has been really all along on the end point. and the concern that iran is being legitimized as a nuclear state. and his big concern was, find a
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way to extend the 15-year period, because he's convinced that under the guise of the deal, iran will find a way to become a nuclear weapons state by year 15, or year 16 or something like that. so my -- i think that in the conversations with the trump administration, yes, there will be a focus on serious enforcement, but i think there will probably be some push to see if there is a way to try to renegotiate that. and i suspect that maybe some will make the argument to the administration that showing that you won't scrap the deal, but that you're open to being tougher on the iranians might get other members of the 5-plus-1 to feel that, okay, let's keep the trump administration to stay on the reservation, and then we can go back and talk to the iranians. i don't think there's much other
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interest in renegotiating the deal. i'm sure there's no interest on the part of the iranians in renegotiating the deal. i think that's the conversation that will take place. >> okay. >> the travel ban was one of the dumbest ideas that's come out of the white house in the last month. it applies disproportionately to iran. because iran has the largest population of the seven countries. it probably has more population than all the other six combined. and it's a rather well-educated middle-class population. so much more likely to be opined for visas to visit their 1 million relatives in the united states. it really hits the iranians hardest. and there's no prospect for iran to get out of the box, because there's no government relations. they can't provide easily the kind of assurances that would be required under the deal to ascertain that the travelers in question weren't terrorists.
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so it was a bad idea. >> okay. well, with that in mind, let's open it up for questions. barbara, i'm going to start with you over here. barbara slaven. you've got mikes in every direction here. >> thank you. barbara slaven, i run a program on iran at the atlantic council. i think what has been missing, although mark touched on it a little bit, is what is the context for iran policy? i think madelyn albright put it it's more like pool. when you hit a ball in one direction, it may hit a number of other balls before it winds up wherever it goes. so i'd like both dennis and mark to talk about, what is the context for this? if you put more pressure on iran, and as dennis suggested, how is that going to impact our
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policy in dealing with isis, how will it impact syria, how will it impact yemen? should we be encouraging the saudis to be even more aggressive in yemen, even less willing to sit down and talk to the iranians about conflict resolution in the region? what is the broader context, and do you think that trump white house even has a clue now about how to put that together? thanks. >> okay, pool question. >> look, there's a lot of moving parts, to be sure. let me take the second part of your question first and then i'll address the first part of your question. i think the policy is obviously being formulated. but you have a secretary of defense who came out of centcom.
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you now have general mcmaster who also has a lot of experience. both of them have experience -- and i think one of the things you should be -- it's worth keeping in mind, they have a lot of experience with losing american soldiers to shia militias in iraq, shia militias that were armed, financed, trained by the quuts forces and the iranians. that weighs heavily on them. so i do think it's going to inform the way they approach iran in the region. i do think there's a focus on iran in the region. in some ways, there's a focus on iran in the region not only because their own experience, what they see from our traditional partners in the region, and the fears they have, but in an interesting way, because it's easier to deal with than the jcpoa. if you're not going to tear up the jcpoa, which i think they conclude you shouldn't tear it
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up, for the reasons at least what i said and they understand from talking to the europeans and others, then it becomes natural to focus more on what the iranians are doing in the region. now you get back to the question of, the priority on isis. it can cut a couple of ways obviously. at the end of the day, if you're going to defeat isis, you also have to have a plan for what comes after isis. you know, i would suggest that -- and mark, you raised the rule of the shia militias which is more outside of mosul than in mosul, but the experience of some of the shia militias in iraq, when they have liberated places like ramadi or fallujah, most of the young sunni males disappear. and that deepens sectarianism. it doesn't make the prospect of ensuring you don't face son of isis later on less likely. part of the challenge is, if you're going to have -- if you're going to have a strategy for dealing with isis, it's not
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only militarily defeating it, it's also trying to discredit it. it's having a plan for reconstruction. it's having a plan for sunni inclusion. it's having a plan for governance. and it's not clear exactly how the iranians help in that regard. i mean, some of the patterns, if you look at the story in iraq, they haven't exactly been helpful in that regard. so here you get into, if you're really going to approach the region in terms of isis, then you need the sunnis with you. now, today, trying to drew the sunnis in with you to play a bigger role in terms of dealing with isis, if it looks like you're going to partner with the iranians, it's made less likely. again, using your pool analogy, the cue ball can hit the 15 ball which hits the 8 ball and they
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can careen in different directions. fundamentally, i would say you're going to need the sunnis with you. now, the question becomes, is there a way to bring the sunnis with you if you don't have a strategy that looks like you also are going to counter iran. the irony is if you have a strategy that looks like you're going to counterwhat iran is doing in the region, does that then also put you in a better position to then say to some of the sunni states, you know what, we're countering iran, so maybe you don't have to do as much. i mean, it's the -- look, when president obama gave the interview with jeff goldberg, and he basically said, look, the saudis need to learn to share the region with the iranians, and he said this before he went to the gcc summit, that didn't exactly endear him to them when he came. you may recall that he was the one foreign leader that the king chose not to meet at the airport. there was an article written the
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day after the summit by rasheed who said the president had come and asked the leaders to acquiesce in iran's dominance in the region. obviously he didn't come and ask that. but that's what they heard. and so apropos of your question, it's a complicated region. if you're going to have a strategy toward isis and you need the sunnis, you have to have a strategy against the iranians that will counter them. mark, where you and i may different is, my basic approach to the iranians is, build the pressure on them but leave them a way out. don't corner them. leave a way out. i'm afraid that if you don't build the pressure on them, and
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if don't see what sulamani does come across, their more active use of shia militias i think deepens sectarianism. >> so now, david? >> thank you. i'm dave pollack from the washington institute. i want to ask about both speakers about the possibility of some small scale but direct military skirmish between iranian and u.s. forces somewhere, maybe off the coast of yemen, maybe inside iraq, i don't know, in the gulf. how likely do you think that is? what do you think would happen? and what do you think would be the effect of that, if any, on the nuclear agreement? >> that's a good question. either one of you. >> yes, i hope that the iranians are paying attention, and
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hearing what administration officials are saying about precisely this kind of thing, about the harassment of u.s. ships, and the next time it happens the gun boats will be sank. i suspect they would be. here's a case where the united states has put out a rhetorical position, and i think it will add to the deterrence of such activity. but if it happens anyway, which it might, and you can't be certain that an irgc maritime boat won't have gotten a word, or will take action into its own hands, and there will be a flare-up. then the question is, do the communication channels that existed in the obama administration work to overcome the flare-up? and i think those communication channels are still working at the lower levels, but probably not yet -- well, there's nobody answering the phone in the state department yet. but i would hope that rouhani would see to it that it didn't
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flare up into a conflict. because he knows he'd lose. he can read the writing on the wall, the united states ready to press the case. [ inaudible ] >> well, yeah, that's true. he's not in charge of the original operation. but he can have an impact on the de newmont of it. >> it's a -- it's obviously a tough issue for a lot of different reasons. if you look at the iranian behavior right now, like i said, they look to me to be somewhat more cautious. and, you know, it's interesting, when michael flynn said we're putting the iranians on notice,
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and the president backs it up with a tweet, i found that not the equivalent of the obama red line per se, but when you say put on notice, you've just raised the expectations about what you're going to do. does put on notice mean more designations? does put on notice mean you're going to act militarily? if you're on the iranian side, my guess is, you probably should be more cautious. one of the reasons -- i mean, i think that the potential for the very thing you identified in your question is higher than it was, is not because i think the iranians didn't take notice of it. i think they did. but if we look at the history of the irgc back during the iran/iraq war, frequently they acted quite independently of what the central decision makers were saying. so is there the risk that we could have, you know, that kind of an incident? yeah, i think it's pretty high. and again, you look at the secretary of defense with his experience, i think the
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potential of a reaction of us destroying such a boat is pretty high. the question then is, what do the iranians do about it? my guess is, their response is more rhetorical than not. but i -- you know, again, if i was doing what i used to do, i think we might see it express itself in places like iraq. so, you know, i think the -- here's where i actually think, like mad madeline's analogy of pool, when you make policy, you actually have to be a chess player and not a checkers player. you have to be thinking three, four moves ahead. do i think -- because the essence of your question is not what is the immediate implication as it relates to not so much vertical escalation, but a horizontal escalation, and i do think there's some risk of that. i think it's less likely to
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affect the nuclear issue. >> let me just go through what i have noticed, and to tell you -- i don't know all your names so you'll have to announce them. the lady here. the gentleman in the white. and the lady next to david up there. okay. so that's four. any more up there? stephen? okay. yes, certainly, governor. okay. yes. >> i'm kelly torrence from the weekly standard. just briefly on the travel ban, it seemed especially silly. i would guess a lot of the iranians who wanted to come to america are coming friendlier than most. what i wanted to ask, mr. fitzpatrick, i might -- i think the idea that rouhani is a moderate is certainly debatable. i might agree with you that he is someone we would rather deal with than sul i manny.
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is it true, though, that soleimani doesn't have influence, and do we think, talking about affecting the iranian elections, do we really think whoever is president of iran is really the -- that's where the buck stops and that's who we're really dealing with, and that's who has to sign off on any deal we make on any issue? >> well, clearly iran is not led by the president. the supreme leader has far more power. but iran's political nature is one of sort of consensus based decision making among various groups in the elite. rouhani is not unimportant. that's the only election they have is for the president at this point, until the supreme leader dies and they have another election. i didn't say rouhani is a moderate, but i think he's far better than a hard-liner, soleimani.
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barbara's question about context. the context under obama was that, jcpoa was a transactional deal, and it was hoped it would be transformative, that iran over time would change in ways that would are better for all the areas where we have concerns about iran. and that hope is still out there. it hasn't materialized at all so far. but given the demographics of iran, i think it's fair to hope that it some day can. and we can affect how that evolves by negatively or positively. we certainly can't fine-tune any election outcome. but continuing to chastise iranians, i don't think works to our benefit, in changing hearts and minds in iran. >> what do you think about, you know, the obama administration's refusing to take a stand on, say, the green movement? i'm curious, you're talking about the demographics of iran changing. do you think the united states needs to be more supportive of dissidents and freer movements in iran?
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>> i don't think the green movement has much standing right now in iran. it's kind of a moot question really. >> okay. yes, sir? >> i'm mahmoud with reuters. dennis, a question for you. you talked about the importance of showing the iranians that there's a price to pay for transgressions. what is the appropriate price for the iranians to pay if they end up having 130.1 metric tons of heavy water? rather than 130 metric tons? in a practical sense what would you have wanted to see an administration do in that circumstance? more broadly, it's not to raise the question of -- i don't mean to raise a trivial question, but a genuine question, if you're going to make them pay, what do they pay for something as small as that might seem? second, can you explain in more granular detail the kinds of ways in which you would try to raise the pressure on the iranians, if you do see them
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doing things that you don't want to see them? and in a way, this goes back to barbara's question, but how do you do that? is it a blizzard of designations actually going to change their behavior in certain circumstances or not? and how do you do that when they continue to punish you in so many sort of horizontal theaters? whether it's yemen or syria or iraq? >> look, what i would -- it's not a simple answer to your question. where if they are -- if there's a kind of -- if they're exceeding by a small amount of heavy water, what should be the price. the point i had in mind was, you sit and talk with the europeans, in particular, and say, let's come up with what our proportional consequences, or penalties for their engaging in what would be small amounts of violations or infractions.
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the idea that they can, you know, they can engage in behaviors that aren't consistent with the deal, but all you ever do is just call attention to what they do, doesn't make sense to me if what you want to do is get them used to the idea that for a transgression or violation there's going to be a price. you know, there are -- there can be limited kinds of penalties imposed. but that ought to be something you discuss with the europeans and work out in advance. that's the point i was getting at. as for the idea that, because they can hurt you in a number of ways, you should be self-deterred, well, that becomes the -- you know, they can read that, too. and it's not like they're constraining themselves in terms of what they're doing in the region right now. you look at the weapons that are going to the hutis. it's not like they're holding back. you look at the weapons that continue to go to hezbollah.
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it's not like they're holding back. so, you know, would i try to do more to interdict their delivery of weapons? yes. i would try to do that. they're not supposed to be doing it, you know, under the terms of the security council resolution as it is. it's not like we're in the wrong. so i think they -- you know, it's true, you have to think through every move you make. that was the point i was making before. but it's also true that if you -- if every time you're afraid that when they engage in behaviors they shouldn't be engaging in, that you can't do anything, that message is pretty clear to them, too. and, you know, the -- it's not like their involvement in some of the places in the region are so popular with the iranian public. you know, the fact that they
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spent a lot of money on the outside is not something that is so welcome at home. i would do a lot more to shine a spotlight on that and also expose it, so their public would be aware of that. that, you know, when i say raise the price, there's different ways to raise the price. including, by the way, shining a spotlight on it. >> shining spotlights, one might add that iran has one of the worst environmental crises in the greater middle east. thanks to water shortages and mismanagement. and that is really hurting a lot of people. so, next, governor gilmore? >> former governor of virginia. first of all, a quick observation. sounds to me like the panel believes that we've already improved our ability to deter iran by the statement of the president through general flynn.
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so actually, our foreign policy has improved already. but here's my question. everything that we said today is all about handling iran. handling the nuclear program, handling export controls, shining a spotlight, how to handle it. i don't mean to be naive with this question, but can i get a clear statement of what you think the iranians are trying to do? are they trying to dominate the middle east? are they trying to create a shiite caliphate? are they trying to simply protect their own regime by creating deterrence? what is it that we're trying to stop them from doing in the first place? >> dennis? do you want to start? >> well, first of all, let me say that i -- more of a nuclear specialist than a iranian regional specialist. so when i try to offer a suggestion what the iranians are trying to do, i may be a hundred percent wrong.
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but most of the states in which iran is involved are states hon its periphery, and its -- and they involve many of them shiite populations that they see themselves as a natural leader of. so there's a -- probably part of it is protection of the state by defending neighboring states. and part of it is defending a co-religionist. i'm sure that's a shallow answer. dennis can do better. >> look, i think the iranians have a self-image. they're the dominant culture. and they have a tendency to look down on many of their neighbors. and i think that they feel that by rights they should be able to dominate the region. and i think they have offensive and defensive reasons for that. offensive, because i think they think they have the right, and defensive because they think
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it's also a way to protect the regime. so they -- you know, i'll use the term, they think they should be the dominant power within the region. it's true that they -- there's a periphery, but there's also lebanon. you look at the effort they've made, the investment they've made to back us up. you know, the argument they'd like to have a corridor basically from iran through iraq through syria to the mediterranean i think is probably not wrong. now, they can rationalize that, as i said, in defensive terms, but others obviously see it in offensive terms. the fact that they clearly were interested at one point in trying to open up a front on the
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heights in syria. i know how the israelis see that. the fact that they've given hezbollah, you know, over 100,000 rockets. right? you can certainly, again, they have a huge stake -- hezbollah is the one place where they in effect successfully exported the revolution. so they have a huge stake in that. and that also helps to explain the level of investment they've made in syria. one last point on this. one of the things that the -- that their use of hezbollah in particular, hezbollah more than the other shia militias, they've been like the shock troops in lebanon. the reason that the -- there's been an importation of the shiia militias is that there are very large numbers there, is because the actual numbers of forces available to the assad regime have declined as much as they
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have. and so they actually need the shia militia to basically hold territories. and anyway, just the -- one last observation on this. i for a long time before the conflict in syria began, i always looked at hezbollah as being a lebanese organization first, and basically an instrument of the iranian second. given the way they were employed in syria, in a way that was not in hezbollah's lebanese interests, it became very clear to me that they are basically an instrument of the -- of iran. >> would you say iran regards itself as an exceptional power? >> yes, it does. absolutely. >> absolutely. oda aberdeen? >> my question is to dennis. dennis, the obama administration did not have a good relationship with the gcc. especially with saudi arabia. and the emirates.
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now, with the trump administration in power, how does the trump administration, or what does the trump administration want from the gcc on iran, on isis, and finally, on that of the israeli issue? because when netanyahu came, he says he sees a change. i'd like your analysis on that. >> well, i don't represent the trump administration, and so i don't want to be in a position where i would be asked to try to say i know what their policy is going to be. because i might not express it very well. but i think what we -- at least drawing from the press conference, it does seem that the -- that the president at least has an interest in broadening the circle, creating a regional approach, at least on the arab-israeli issue, which is
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not a simple thing to do. and i do think that -- and you would know this as well as anybody -- that both the saudis and emirates at this point are hopeful about the trump administration. they viewed fairly or not that the obama administration saw the iranians as part of a solution to the problems in the region, not the source of the problems in the region, and therefore, they became deeply distrustful of the administration. when the administration put iran on notice, i think they liked that. i think the language towards iran generally is reassuring to them at this point. but i think, you know, they're obviously going to have to see what the policies are going to be. it's not just -- it's not just what is being said, it's actually what is being done. mattis is someone they know very well.
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so i think that's probably also a source of some reassurance, at least to the saudis and to the emirates. and i think there's probably an expectation that there will be within the region, again, one of the interesting things about the saudis and emirates, they're not keen on having the jcpoa ripped up either. but their focus -- this has always been a distinction between the israelis and the key gulf states in particular, the israeli view of iran was through the nuclear lens, which they read in existential terms. the saudi and emirate view of iran is what iran is doing on the ground in the region in existential terms. they were more concerned about obama doing a deal on the nuclear issue, because they saw that as a suggestion that the deal would come at their
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expense. and they were worried that basically, if iran could cause all sorts of problems when they were under sanctions, imagine the kind of problems they could cause when they were no longer under sanctions and they had access to more materials. that was kind of the perception of the -- certainly of the gulf states. and i think they have an expectation of what the trump administration will do, but, you know, it remains to be seen what that means in practice. >> okay. the lady next to david pollack? could you say your name, please? >> i'm ann garen, reporter for the "washington post." i guess i would put this to both of you. we used to hear a lot about americans held in iran and what role they played in potential diplomacy, or deal making or sanctions involving the united states and iran. and really, since the release of jason ryan and the nuclear deal, seems to me we've heard a lot less about that. and yet there are at least two,
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probably more that i'm not aware of, americans held there. do you expect that to return as an issue between the united states and iran, as sort of a front burner issue? and if so, how? and do you think the travel ban will influence iranian thinking or behavior with regard to the americans that already hold, or in likelihood to take more? thank you. >> that's a very good question. tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the hostage taking of the elder mr. numosi. very much that should be on our minds. how we deal with it, and whether the sanctions, or what tools can be used, it's a very tricky set of issues. and the answer, i'm afraid, to your question about whether this will continue as an issue, i think is yes.
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because it's one of the ways that the revolutionary guards can hit back in the nonnuclear area. you know, they don't want to be the ones to kill the nuclear deal, so they'll sanction the to kill the nuclear deal so they'll sanction the united states in -- you understand what i mean? sanction the united states for what? but that -- i think there are various ways that the iranians can hit back and taking the iranian-american dual citizens -- there are more british dual citizens in jail right now than americans is one of the tools that they have. i don't know how to help. >> dennis. >> look, one person whose name never seems to get mentioned is robert leverson who has been held for a long time who the iranians have not been straightforward on in terms of his status is a seemingly have
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used his status at different points to try to effect the administration. i do agree with mark that this has been a practice of the iranians and also -- here's where you do see the interplay of the elite forces and the competition within the regime as well. i know from my own time in the obama administration that when we were trying to get the hikers back, the -- we clearly got indications of there would be times when it would look like it was more promising and suddenly it all changed and this was a function of the judicialaries entering into this. i see it in ermz terms within t competition within the elite and the interplay of those forces. it should be on the agenda just
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because of the fundamental humanity of it. so again, it gets back to we're in the early stages of an administration whose policy has really not been articulated yet. i think we need to have a better sense of what that articulation is going to be so we understand more of what the priorities of what his administration really are. >> three more on the list and then we'll call it a day. ste steve. >> steve robenacher. it was obama in his mpr interview who said about year 13 under the jcoa that iran's breakout time would be zero.
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that's been the fundamental flaw of the agreement. it's not that it doesn't provide protections between now and year ten, 12, 13. it's what happens in the long term and where do we find ourselves in the future. the reality is that under the agreement we're basically agreeing today that lots of things that were sanctioned and sanctionable and prohibited by the u.n. security council in the past because they were dangerous will become permissible and something we agree iran will have the right to do starting as the restrictions come off beginning year ten. dennis, you said one area of particular concern is uranium and there's no restriction whatsoever on how much and to what level iran can produce highly enriched uranium which is the key component to a nuclear weapon. if you want to worry about breakout time, the more highly
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enrich enriched uranium the kicker they can produce weapons. we tell the iranians that if they exercise this right, that president obama and others agree they should have beginning after year ten we'll use military force to take out their capability. it's a fine idea. the lawyer in me, though, says basically what you're threatening to do there is to use military force to rewrite the agreement and the iranians will have a completely well founded claim that we're rene reneging on the deal. the deal is they could have as much uranium as they wanted in the future and you're saying if you do that, we're going to bomb you. that is i think essentially what i heard you say. i guess my first question to you is do you think if the united states or the trump administration takes that
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position, it will get any support from other countries? and if not do you think we'll actually be seen as creditable by the iranians and i'd like to ask mark whether you agree with that suggestion that dennis had and if you don't, what's your solution beginning year 13, if iran -- let's be clear. they could come up with legally plausible explanations for producing lots and lots of highly enriched uranium. they could say we have these cancer patients. we've decided we need a nuclear navy and you americans use highly enriched uranium and we're using it for the day when we need one. it might be a phoney explanation, but i think they could put it forward as a legal matter. if they do that, what's your o proposal?
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because i heard you say we can relax because the iranians are out of the nuclear business. bomb them if they exercise the rights that barack obama agreed that they will have in the future. >> two terrific questions. hold it for a second. >> i wanted to follow up directly on that point. as i understand this right is the right that iran has ten years from now under the agreement, is that -- >> no, the deal -- for 15 years they are limited to 3.67% enrichment. after year 15 there's no limitation on the level of enrichment. >> sorry. 15 years. my point is that the trump administration may be in office for four years. it may be in office for eight years. it's not likely to be in office for 15. so to what extent does a position like this taken by an
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administration today have credibility with tehran. >> three questions for both of you. keep it short. >> quick and to the point. look, this responds to both of you. the way i would do this, steve, is i wouldn't just announce this right now. i mean, obviously i have, but i wouldn't announce it. what i would like to see the trump administration do is go to the other members of five plus one and say we should agree among ourselves that they should not be allowed to produce highly enriched uranium. the last administration did say that at the jcpo was included, they should they would have no justifiable reason for producing
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highly enriched uranium. i would like to say let's have an agreement among us that this is not acceptable, that we will read that as an indication of them in fact wanting to put themselves in that position to have a nuclear weapon. and at least try in private to see if others will accept it. and if it's not accepted by the others, still be prepared to commu communicate it to the iranians in private to begin with and then say it publicly. it doesn't bind any future administration. part of what you're doing, when you do this, like when i say i want to change our declaratory policies, you want to begin to get everybody used to the idea that they shouldn't -- the iranians should understand that they shouldn't be tempted to move in that direction. my big fear precisely, what you are also noting is, i'm very worried that they think we've deferred having a weapon, but we
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haven't given up the option. and i don't want them to be tempted. i think we need to think about the things we can do to make it less likely that they would be tempted. >> mark. >> so the proposition of the jcpoa is after 15 years, if iran abides by all the limits and the inspections don't turn up violations, iran would have a nuclear program that is a so-called nuclear program and it would follow the same limits that apply to others. the ability to enrich as much y uranium as they want would be a right and there are limits that other exporting countries can put or political restrictions, countries can decide collectively that we don't want anybody to have heu. that's not legitimate for any purpose, especially if they've
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had a past dailiance with nuclear weapons development. i don't go with the idea of saying we're going to bomb them if they have heu, but a policy of no heu is another one. how we might enforce it would be a matter for future administrations. how iran is judged to be a normal nuclear country is through the iaa inspection process if they abide by all the rules and there are no outstanding questions about their nuclear program, then they will be eligible under the additional protocol to get the so-called broader conclusion of all nuclear material and the country being for peaceful purposes. if there are any reasons for suspicion at all about iran, i'm pretty sure that the trump administration would make that known to the aeia and they wouldn't draw that conclusion that all activities are for peaceful purposes.
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if after year eight iran hasn't been able to reach the standard for the required additional protocol, i think the concerns -- countries concerned about iran would probably want to renegotiate the deal at that point because they would have legitimate concerns that something is still amiss. iran is still not behaving like a normal country and we don't want all those limits to come off in year 15. that would be my approach is this thank you very much. >> sand spector. i want to go back to two points. this idea of somehow providing as a part of a deterrent strategy, the b-2 bomber system. it's a system for use with nuclear weapons and it would raise the number of issues above
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and beyond the ability simply to attack a single site. we're seeing this problem emerging with some other countries where advance to suppliers are offering nuclear weapon platforms so there are other issues involved here. i'd note that the procurement channel i don't find to be quite such a fact that the iranians haven't used it i don't find to be such a troubling aspect. they have so many extra unused sen tri fudges they can keep the existing level so they don't need to go into the marketplace for that purpose and the iraq reactor that they're still reacting. >> okay. quick on the response. >> we use the b-2 for conventional purposes. we've been using it now for
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conventional purposes. >> in libya. >> yes. >> mark, anything on that? >> so the last person i had on the list was talking to sandy right now so maybe -- so you are still on my list, madam? >> yes. >> okay. my question is about sanctions on the irgc and is -- and what that would mean internationally if sanctions are imposed on the ircg how would they be received by europe and russia and china given the broader state of turbulent relations with the trump administration and is there a way to structure a sanctions bill on the ircg that would make it more effective in terms of convincing p plus five
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partners to go along? does it have to do with restructurering stakes. >> i don't see much appetite in europe for such a designation, but if the irgc had been involved in activity that was a particular interest to europeans like human rights violations, then they would be more willing to go along with such a designation, but i don't think that's the purpose for the designation. the purpose seems to be the idea is to inflict punishment on the iranian economy and the europeans aren't going to go along with that. the sanctions should be smart and they should be directed at behavior that's egregious. as i say, they shouldn't violate the jcpoa and we should be
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certain that the sanctions -- we should have a good idea that the sanctions are more effective in changing the behavior than other possible tools. >> dennis. >> i agree with him. i don't think that you actually require that. >> thank you both very much and thank you for being so enlightened and provocative audience and thank you cspan and we wish you a good day. thank you. your documentary has been selected as this year's grand prize winner. >> what? >> what? >> oh my gosh. >> seventh and ninth grade sisters of virginia, this year's
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grand prize winners of our documentary competition. it's titled the tent is tossed which explores refugees and immigration policy. >> a refugee is defined as someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. >> with so many people fleeing their countries desperate without a home politicians a arguing over one question, should the united states let more reenfugees into the countr >> they won the $5,000 prize. we asked students to tell us what the most urgent issue for the president and congress to address in 2017. students competed for the chance to win prizes. we received almost 3,000 entries from 46 states, plus the district of columbia, new england, germany, singapore and
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taiwan. now we're happy to announce our first place winners. in the middle school category are three eighth graders from pennsylvania. for their documentary u.s. gun violence, a complicated puzzle. the first place winner for the high school category is matthew gannon from washington, d.c. for his documentary titled invisible which deals with homelessness. matthew won this year's fan favorite contest. he'll receive an additional $500. in the high school central category is 12th grader jarod clark for enough is enough dealing with pharmaceutical pricing and our first prize winner for the high school west category is a ninth grader from wyoming for her piece fossil fuels to renewables, the
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challenges to transitioning. congratulations to our winners. thank you to all the students and their teachers for competing and making this year's competition a success. the top 21 winning entries will air on cspan in april and you can watch all 150 winning documentaries online at now, two former diplomats from the reagan and obama administrations on the future of the iran nuclear agreement and how the white house may approach the deal and whether it will differ in campaign statements. good afternoon. welcome to the heritage center. for those in-house we ask that mobile devices haven


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