tv Iran Protests CSPAN January 4, 2018 12:30pm-2:01pm EST
another. this is also this question of regional equity should be squarely on the table in a discussion about whether about r the u.s. wants a world-class rail system. that is the question and the next question is how to deliver on that anyway that is fair and equitable across the country. host: when it comes to gas taxes and the formula, you say if the state generates more tax, do they get more federal funding back for infrastructure? guest: not necessarily. your last guest probably knows a lot more about that topic that i large, there is not a one to one correspondence between what a state puts into the gas tax and what it is getting out. host: ruth is in georgia, independent line. i think that all of
america should pay for infrastructure, not just gas. that is not right. everybody benefits from it. guest: this is an interesting question. the federal gas tax was put in place as something of a surrogate for a toll or user fee. it was decided that was going to be the fairest way. >> all of this available on c-span.org, washington journal live at 7:00 a.m. eastern every day. we now go to the washington ali -- washington institute for near east policy. story we would be focusing on would be the story, the story of protests, the mystic unrest -- domestic unrest
, the biggest demonstrations we have seen since 2009. whatever one expected to be talking about this week and next week was the question of sanctions waivers, a,certification of the gcpo and efforts of congress to annul the legislation. that is all still in play, but now it has been cast in a different light by what is happening inside iran. we have convened a panel of our experts to discuss this issue. the protest -- the protests in iran and their implications for the region and u.s. policy from a lot of different angles. i'm going to introduce folks in the order i am going to call on them. we will start with patrick clawson. he is our senior fellow and director of research at the institute. he is going to look at the background of these protests. where are they coming from, what are the causes and what has been happening inside of iran that
can explain the unrest we are seeing. then we will turn via video to who was one of washington jk most skillful at whereers of iran they might be going in the future. conellowill turn to the -- confellow. people look at the role of security services in these protests and what the protests might mean for the future of those security forces, both within and outside of iran. finally, i will turn to our visiting fellow who is going to look at how these protests might reverberate in lebanon, outside of iran jk borders but certainly where iran is spending those billions of dollars that protesters have cited as one of
their grievances. as is our practice, we will talk about what u.s. policymakers should be doing about all of this. i think so far, i would just give you my one minute of personal take. so far, i think the trump administration has tried to demonstrate its support for the protesters through the presidents twitter feed -- president tickets are feed and it is trying -- president jk twitter feed -- president's twitter feed. so far, international statements have been mild compared to american statements. that effort is still underway. i'm sure we will see this effort develop as the days and weeks unfold. we may see more sanctions on iran, more human rights abuses and this will play into those big decisions coming next week regarding sanctions waivers and the certification of the jcpoa.
we will be speaking from the table unless you want to come up. . -- come up here. >> by former colleagues at the international monetary fund have made reports about iran jk economy wouldn's say that is pretty good. iran cdp has grown more than the u.s. gdp. iran is running a healthy account surplus unlike the united states which runs a deficit. the picture looks pretty decent. i thought that it was telling that when the new york times ran a very nice article about iran
situation.s while the macroeconomic numbers might be pretty good, the situation for ordinary iranians has not been. it has not been a trickle-down. in the annual survey that iran does of the living standards of people, it has shown that those standards are still 10% over little more than 10% below what they were, a decade ago and unemployment is rising. 12.5%. is that aspening more jobs are being created, more people are coming into the labor force. we discovered there are a lot of iranians who always wanted to get jobs but got discouraged and dropped out of the labor force. in particular, inflation is back
up. that was the one great accomplishment of rouhani's first-term. he was able to bring inflation down into the single digits. it is back up again and furthermore, the price increases are concentrated in the items that are consumed by ordinary working people. spread prices rose for the first time in three years by 15% a couple weeks ago. iranians eat 353 pounds of bread a year. famously, egg prices and chicken prices are up sharply. furthermore, the rich in iran are flaunting their wealth. i recommend the instagram account that has well over a quarter million followers which is called rich kids of tehran. of can see the lifestyles the truly ostentatious.
if you're in the market for a nice maserati, you can see a good selection of them. the parties that they throw, the clothes that they where. i know enough about clothing to say that is expensive. frankly, it looks like nothing happened in what the shah's days. when it organized a coronation ceremony, bringing thousands of foreign guests, chefs from france, they drink over 2000 bottles of wine. reallyentatious wealth shifted from concentrating on national economic development to concentrating on a good time for the select few. that is increasingly what the republic feels like. that is the overall picture behind these protests.
let me focus on dose co-specific issues. one is the cost of iran's destabilizing foreign activities. it is really not that expensive. that may be true in absolute numbers if you compare it to the size of the united states economy, but it is not true compared to the size of iran's economy. we don't have numbers on how much they spend on supporting the syrian government and various terrorist groups. the u.s. government often likes to use this internal thinking, the number $7 billion a year which i think is high. if we throw in the nuclear program and the missile program, it is certainly in the billions of dollars. it would be hard to make the argument that the expenditures
are less than $5 billion a year, roughly half of that going to the syrian government, a big chunk of that going to the -- going to hezbollah. that is 1% of gdp. theomparison, 1% of gdp in united states would be $180 billion. i don't think anyone would say that $180 billion is a small amount of money. 1% of gdp israel money and that is a minimal estimate -- is real money and that is a minimal estimate. that is just the direct cost. if we throw in indirect cost, we get a much higher number. the new budget that was proposed by president rouhani for the next fiscal year in iran says that military expenditures are going to be $12 billion. much of that is not necessary, except because of iran's adventures in foreign policy.
there is another 1% of gdp at least that is due the foreign policy. , some12 billion estimate people said he is trying to inflate it in order to embarrass the revolutionary guard. is the arabian government estimate. is 12 military spending million -- $12 billion a year. 's first point would be iran destabilizing activities are real money and it is destructive that the amount of money that iran is spending on these activities, minimal estimate, 1% of gdp, that is more than the budget cuts that rouhani proposed.
he proposed cutting in half the expenditure in cash money given to the ordinary iranians. that would not have been necessary except for the expenditure on the destabilizing activities. my second point would be things can get a whole lot worse. the banking system in iran is tottering. there has been an explosion in credit institute -- institutions. they are like credit unions. they hold about 25% of deposits. many of them are connected to the revolutionary guard, many of them are connected to clerics who claim they are collecting islamic taxes. these institutions have paid little attention to send -- to
the central bank of iran and they have been paying outrageous deposit rates and charging outrageous loans. when you're charging 35% of the year for loans, there is not a lot of legitimate economic activity that can pay that rate. several of them failed in november and we saw street .rotests in tehran the first time we saw chants of death to khamenei. if the institution fails, you lose your money. the banks are not in much better shape. they are desperate for liquidity. they have been borrowing from credit institutions. has putral bank of iran a cap on the amount that institutions can pay in interest. 90% of the institutions have violated that cap. the central bank has been trying to get iran's banks to report
under iran's generally accepted accounting practices, not international generally excepted accounting practices. the few banks that have done that have gone from reporting profits to massive losses. the government has spent two years doing nothing about the situation. there has been no action or proposals to modify the central bank law to allow it to regulate central-bank institutions. this is a classic recipe for disaster. if you think that i am exaggerating, let me quote from rouhani's quote. he said 25% of the money market is in the hand of six institutions. when they want, they interfere with the money market, the gold market and the real estate market. i raise this issue with great urgency with the supreme leader.
3 million to 4 million people are having a lives totally ruined by the actions of these fraudulent institutions. i've gotten pressure from all sides. you will not believe the pressure letters i have started to get from different institutions in the state. frankly, the banking system in iran could collapse. there is no deposit. bankss what keeps iran's isolated, independent of what happens with u.s. sanctions, independent of what happens with the financial action task force which is meeting this month and will evaluate how iran's action plan is going. it is this problem with the banks that keeps the banks away from the international financial institution. one last word of pessimism about -- we economists like to steal from other social scientists.
it is young people who go out in the streets in protest and that is what you are seeing here. there is a general rule of thumb that revolutions are more likely to occur in countries where the median age is under 26 which is where iran was in 1999. iran's population is rapidly aging. isay, the median age in iran slightly higher than the median age in israel. it is eight years higher than egypt and age in pakistan, 10 years higher than the median age in india or iraq. with the average age in iran being 31 and revolutions rarely occurring when the average age is over 26, i'm afraid that does not give us the basis for optimism.
within the decade, the average age will get to be 36. >> thank you, patrick. i feel like with every that has happened in 2017 and 2018, we all feel like we are rapidly aging. we will turn out to -- you will be joining us via video. take it away. we cannot hear him. one moment while we sort this out.
should we move on to the next speaker, you think? while we sort out these technical issues, let's move on to mike. that first,st say the regime has been very effective in closing down information coming out of iran. as a result, it has been hard to these candidate developments to read events going on thousands of miles away during potentially violent and revolutionary situations. but even the videos that have been getting out have been very
low-quality and it is hard to what is going on on the streets. my comments are somewhat tentative, but there are a number of things that are rooted in long-term trends in iranian society and the way that the regime has responded to previous bouts of violence which enable us to create a framework of analysis. the first thing in talking about these kinds of events in iran is to understand that the founders -- of the islamic republic are revolutionaries and there is nothing revolutionaries fear more than counter revolutions. first of all, they know revolutions can occur. and made one in their youth. -- they made one in their youth. the political style, the political culture in iran is rooted in a conspiratorial worldview. some of these conspiracies are
true. there have been conspiracies in the past. that kinds of him -- that kind of informs the regime's response. what they have seen is in the events of of the violence, what are they be in 2009 or 1999 or the mid-90's were in cities and were done by the urban middle and upper classes. now, we see a series of protests which involve the provincial working-class. while the recent events have exposed deep class and regional cleavages in iranian society, it is not vote well for the future. one of those people into the nine said it only people into ron and a larger cities who were the rural could get
working-class is involved, the regime would be in trouble. they are involved now, but they are in middle classes and upper classes into ron is more interested in revolutionary tehranand reform -- in is more interested in revolutionary -- evolutionary change and reform. another thing that the regime is concerned about is that in the past, they have been concerned about invasion and rightfully so. historically, iran has been invaded a number of times. ii, the brits and the russians and then you had iraq in 2003. after 2003 with the u.s. getting counterinsurgency efforts, those fears have diminished somewhat and iran has
been concerned more about what they call soft warfare, efforts to subvert the regime. iran has great strategic depth or geographic depth to deal with invasion. they have mountains around the perimeter of the country. every iranian citizen is vulnerable to messages, subversive messages brought in from outside the country. ont is why they put emphasis jamming satellite communication's, controlling the internet and the like. a few things about the lessons the people who rule iran today drew from their experience in making the revolution. these lessons have been modified by their own experiences in dealing with subsequent bouts of violence. first, the need for strong decisive leadership by the
political echelon. the shah was constantly written by dell. he was suffering from health problems. he was on medications, he was he wouldy fearful that be thrown under the bus and as a result, he did not show the necessary resolve when push came to shove to do what needed to be done from the regime's point of view, to stay in power. as a result, the islamic republic has been by and large, very quick in responding to signs of opposition to the regime. , i thinkeen this because of the social base of the opposition, this time, they were a little more hesitant for reasons i will explain more. it has to do with the social
composition of security forces. also political considerations. the security forces must be resourced and given strong support. the shah converted his military from a pillar of the regime to a regional power projection force during the course of his rule. 79n the events and 78 and occurred, they were not prepared for internal security. they did not perform well in this role, either acting with excessive or insufficient restraint in some cases, resulting in large numbers of to cowies but not enough the opposition. response and his self-doubt prevented the military from operating effectively. the security forces must also be properly trained, equipped and
employed. iran has spent a lot of money on forces. they have special units with riot gear. i am not sure the training is so great. that is one issue where i think they could use more work. one thing that has been very important as the result of the revolution is what happened during the revolution is shah -- is the shah, when people were killed, you would have a 40 day mourning period, and when it was over, you had more people killed and you had this snowball effect. as a result, the regime is very careful in its use of lethal force. they tend to rely on face-to-face violence on the street and by and large, only very discriminate use of firearms.
done in was selectively the current round of violence, but they are careful not to -- careful to avoid engaging in lethal overkill. finally, morale and cohesion in security forces must be preserved. during the shah's rule, a lot of community ranks of the military, the junior officers had recently gotten college degrees and they were exposed to many of the revolutionary currents in a ron -- in iran and as a result, many were sympathetic to the opposition and were from the same social background. this has been a constant problem or constant fear of the islamic republic. this was not so much a problem in 99 or 2009, when it one of wereecurity forces who high and large drawn from major cities or lower middle classes
and the working classes dealing with upper-class people in the class divide that was at work. ofing the current round violence, this is a real problem because now you have the people who in theory the revolution was made for going against the security forces who are supposed to be protecting those people and representing those people. factor inlso been a their very restrained and careful response in dealing with the current violence. 'sat said, let me discuss iran method, their art and science of social control. as i mentioned, trying to avoid large-scale use of lethal force. there is no tiananmen square moment.
the army went out with tanks on the streets in china. you don't see that in iran because there is fear that this would fracture the military but also they don't want to set in train this kind of snowballing effect of opposition against the regime. they prefer face-to-face malays involving truncheons -- melees involving truncheons, there were chains involved. that is how the people who are left down hearted. who wants to deal with face-to-face violence? it is very intimidating and has a cowing effect on the opposition. they prefer to identify leaders of the opposition and pull them away, and his confessions, put them under house arrest. demoralizing the opposition. as we saw in 2009, a lot of protesters were brought in,
subject to all kind of mistreatment, he really a show in, c -- sleep deprivation and then they were released to go home to speak of what they went through. it had a dramatic psychological impact in terms of demoralizing the opposition. undermining the morale of the opposition is key to how the iranians do it. they focus on decapitation but once you do in the -- but what do you do when you have leaderless opposition? ,atient attrition demoralization, pushing back gradually over time is their preferred way of doing these things. let me quote from a newsweek correspondent who was in iran in 2009 to cover the uprising. we talked about what he was told by government minister of the
techniques of dealing with these problems. he said the minister said the problem with the shah's police is they thought they could break a prisoner's will through physical roster -- pressure. what our brothers have to break ad is how man's soul without using as much violence against his body. that is the regime's approach. how does this go? i have no idea on the future trajectory of violence and opposition in iran. these things are impossible to predict. to some extent, it will be a function of how the regime handles it. if they engage in missteps, we could see a dramatic increase in violence. 1978ad a black sunday in when 700 people were killed and that further energized the revolution. if they engage in missteps, it could add new impetus to the
opposition. long-term, in the past, we have seen iran after the u.s. invasion of iraq, devoting a lot of resources to internal security forces. we're likely to see a diversion of resources more to internal security, away from force building that might have use in external operations. in terms of iran's deployments impresses like syria and yemen and iraq, they are using small numbers of people from a small portion of the military and also some other parts of the irgc. it has never been a for -- never been less than 1% -- less than a fraction of 1%. it will never have a major impact on their activities in syria. syria is kind of winding down
and iranian casualties are way down over previous months. to the degree that people are 'smanding an end to iran foreign interventions, they can already say we are pulling back and retrenching. way down inria were december compared to the previous month. lebanese,is use more afghani's and they will be ok in that regard. will beevents in iran affected most by developments on the ground, but i think it is important that we do certain things to shield who we can, the iranian people, from essentially harsh actions by the regime and create space for the opposition to continue to protest peacefully.
the longer these go on, the longer it will have an impact on the economy. there is no reason for us to snap back on nuclear sanctions people will stay home because of the security situation and any company that was thinking about investing in iran now will think twice. the numbers that were thinking of investing were much less than expected because of the threat of american sanctions. this will only further chase potential investors away. uslly, there is no need for to waive the nuclear -- to not waive the nuclear sanctions. we should continue with a policy we are going. don't pull out of jcpoa. that would redirect the attention of the iranian people from the regime's inability to solve their financial problems to us and we should not make the united states the issue. i will conclude my comments with
that. >> thanks very much. i think we are ready to go. let's try turning to him once again. we still cannot hear him. i assure you that he is normally .udible when he speaks he can hear us that we cannot hear him so maybe we should move on. sort of a game of musical chairs. take it away. the protests we are witnessing today in iran are not
similar challenges in its own constituency in lebanon. the context and the signs of discontent in lebanon within the shia community are similar to what we are seeing in iran today and the background of the protests. a little context. the accumulating anger that led to these protests, we have been seeing a lot of signs of a chelating anger with the sheet -- within the shiite community in lebanon. this has increased with hezbollah's activity in the war in syria. not just because the war is dragging and has caused the shiite community more losses than all of has the look -- has below is wars combined -- hezbollah's wars combined. lebanon, the only institutions that are paying on
time today are the lebanese government and hezbollah. ngos and even international companies are going through major economic problems. hezbollah and the lebanese state are paying salaries on time. 's southern suburbs, there are 4 million lebanese in lebanon. 700,000 residents. within the shiite community as a estimates, aing to quarter of the shiites in lebanon are on hezbollah's payroll. the rest are facing problems. this is just the context. with the syria war and economic problems with iran, hezbollah's
budget has not decreased but has changed drastically. before the war in syria, the oceanic community was benefiting from hezbollah social services which has also served non-shiites in lebanon. at one point, the circle of beneficiaries started to shrink , notly hezbollah's shiites all of the shiites. today, social services have shrank to only catering to hezbollah's fighters and immediate families. what we have today is hezbollah paying salaries for people to go fight and people are going to fight in order to get the salaries, because for these people, it is not about fighting for the cause, they don't really feel that they are doing this
because the road to jerusalem passes through damascus. they are doing it because the salary is available. for the rest, the economic problems have really increased and the class divisions are very clear. have verytoday, you poor neighborhoods and very rich neighborhoods. the middle class their hoods are starting to disintegrate into poor or rich -- neighborhoods are starting to disintegrate into poor or rich. the rich are benefiting from the war in syria and the poor have no options but to fight. syria areting in getting the salary and also whatever is left on the social services. what you have today is a huge gap, not only a class division but a huge cultural gap between the fighters and the
non-fighters. this is creating tension between the disco communities within the shiite community. the fighters community and the rest of the community including hezbollah's community. the signs of discontent have been expressed several times in lebanon and there have been protests inside beirut. were not reported because they were not considered important and because they were contained quickly. there have been protests, one of them was -- in the poorest neighborhood in hezbollah's stronghold in beirut. time, they went to the street and actually badmouthed hezbollah and the war in syria. this happened only a few months ago.
there have been economic protests against inflation, against social services, that this is the first time there have been protests by hezbollah supporters against political issues. this has been the case. only last year, during municipal elections in lebanon, some of 45% ofah's headquarters, the shiites voted against hezbollah combined. this is one example of many places in lebanon where the shiites voted against hezbollah. these are some signs of discontent that are in a way similar to what we are seeing in iran. the protests have been contained by force. the people who badmouth hezbollah were forced to apologize in front of a camera and they apologize because of
fear, not because of regret. it means the discontent has not gone. 2018 asooking today at the next step for hezbollah and the lebanese in general where we have the parliamentary elections. hezbollah is already seen by the shiites in lebanon as the authority without services. authorityt was the when they went almost 70% of the parliament in limited and they will be officially the authority and they will also keep on having increased so -- decreased social services but the shiites will still not be benefiting from this authority, which means that i would not be surprised if we see more protests within the shiite community and at the protests continue in iran and things start to develop in lebanon, this will reverberate
and the shiites will see this as a sign for them to go more because they are already there. the discontent has not gone away. when the a coincidence protest happened, there was a video that went viral of a woman badmouthing -- and saying that he has forced her and other women in the shiite community to sell their bodies. it is basically legal prostitution encouraged by hezbollah and is also very popular in iran. this woman was basically telling -- that his war in syria is forcing them to sell their bodies and it is not a rancid and one of the first videos we saw in iran during these protests also is from a woman in
iran's streets saying the same thing. it is not a coincidence because the grievances are the same and the context is the same. thank you. >> thank you, hanin. there i ask if we can try again? i apologize for the issues but i want everyone to hear from him if at all. do we have the audio? >> hello? >> we can hear him a little bit. can we turn him up? just a moment. we are trying to increase your volume. go ahead and say something. >> is this ok now? >> is that all right?
can people hear him? go ahead. speak loudly. >> good afternoon, everybody. recent protests in iran are just the extension of protests started about three months ago as patrick said. moneyts were people lost in banks and private institutions that credit institutions -- credit institutions. i think it is different from what happened in 2009 because
the protests in 2009 [indiscernible] >> i'm going to cut you off because it is just too quiet. i am afraid that folks are not able to make out what you are saying. apologize for that. i am going to instead moved to the question and answer period. i want to move into a q and a and discuss the implications for u.s. policy and how we see things, moving forward. i will give folks in the audience a chance to ask their questions. i want to start with one question that is increasingly in mind -- in people's minds as
these protests move and subside. if they don't subside, that has implications for iran and the region. assuming these protests are suppressed or fizzle out on their own, i am curious as to what each of our speakers thinks will be the longer-term implications for iran and the region. movement,2009 green after the people had been cleared out of the streets, you had this coalition between performance forces and the more pragmatic traditional forces which put quite a bit of pressure on harlot elements of the regime that ultimately led of hassanction rouhani. the big question is what is going to happen when khamenei dies. everyone assumes that is going
to happen sooner or later and that is going to be a real moment of transition. grover takes over for khamenei is going to have an opportunity to have a reset. the question is what will that reset look like and i would say that what the crew -- protests have done is shaken the conviction on the part of the islamic republic's leadership, that they really have the hearts and minds of ordinary iranians. for all the noise that you hear in the big cities and north tehran, when you get right down to it, the hearts and minds of ordinary iranians are with them and they cannot be sure of that any longer and they cannot be sure of just how much the ideology really matters to those people. this is a regime built on ideology. if it is going wobbly at the knees, that is a big problem. the already been a lot of iranian commentators who have said that tehran feels more like the soviet union where everybody goes through the motions but
that is not really what they are about. abroad whichses have led to quite a burst of hasonalist pride in iran let the regime kind of reinvent itself as iranian nationalists. if it turns out that ordinary iranians while they may be proud of iran a competence abroad, they don't want to pay for it and they would rather see the money used elsewhere. that is going to be a big problem for the regime. with i could dovetail patrick's comments. many people thought that as a result of the activities in isil,and in iraq against the irgc gained a kind of new
degree of respect in iranian -- was kind of a rock star. what is interesting is the degree to which the hostility of many of the protesters are not just erected against the clerics but against the irgc which is part of this clerical military system which is deeply embedded in the economy. ifot of people assume that there were to be a post clerical regime or even if the clerical regime was to continue after khamenei is dead, that the irgc's role would be stronger in a follow-on regime. that might still be the case, where a few months ago it looked like many people would --ept that, or would accept running for president, it is not clear that that is going to be something that would lead to a
more stable status quo after khamenei's death. i pose it as a question, really. ,> i think a lot of people ,peaking on the region especially in lebanon and iraq, you feel that a lot of people are surrendering to the idea that iran is winning and iran is there to stay and it is not going anywhere because the status quo. andsign of weakness in iran the regime put forth, i think it to reconsiderle and i am thinking mostly in lebanon and a lot of the political forces in lebanon today, so far, they are not there but at one point if this goes on, they might reconsider the recent compromises with hezbollah, regarding the
political system and how things have changed and the compromises this sense of surrendering to the status quo might actually change and revive the forces that feel like it is time to actually take a stand. >> i think that would be good news from the point of view of u.s. policymakers. with that, let me open the floor to questions from our audience. if you have questions from home, feel free to tweak those -- tweet those at us. wait for the microphone. let me remind everyone that we are on the record and we are being broadcast live. >> can anyone offer an evaluation of the size and significance of the pro-government rallies that have been taking place?
. is impressive is the size of the government rallies. a highly honed apparatus from bringing people out and they can usually turn out hundreds of thousands of people on the turn of a dime. and yet here we are, week into the protests, a week it has taken them to get people out there. that is not very good. furthermore, it should have been pretty easy because in the big cities, it is not where the protests were taking place. i am impressed by how slow the government has been in their usual efforts to bus in hundreds of thousands of people and it suggests to me that the usual places that they go to round up people to bus than men, the free
lunch and all that stuff, they were scared that people might not show up and that it was not as easy to round people up as it had been in the past. i'm assuming that the government is going to pull out all the stops for the usual kind of demonstrations that they have an that we are going to see some really impressive ones, but the fact that it took them a week to even get going. today's pro-government demonstrations were bigger than the protests, notes apprise, but they were not the kind of massive sizes that we have seen in the past. >> i think we have a question in the second row. you mentioned that you don't believe the jcpa, that they should be allowed to break that deal in order to oppose -- impose sanctions again.
i guess i wanted to ask the panel about that, given the economic problems that are clearly a major part of what is causing these demonstrations, people opposed to the jcpa argue that the economic problems didd be worse if the jcpa not open up investment. the second part of that is the europeans and russians have been reacting to this in different ways. could you describe what you see the europeans and russian government doing with regard to what is happening in iran? the iranians do a wonderful job of stopping people investing in their own country. the biggest barriers to investment inside iran has been the opposition that we have seen from people inside iran to the deals. many of the deals signed with foreign companies were actually going to be serious propositions
and not just way too feather your nest -- not just ways to better your nest. not threatening the traditional way that the well-connected making their money in iran and they did not like it. there have been many complaints. i would say that the biggest discouraging been thet has in fact uncertain business environment, the poor business conditions and the internal infighting that makes it so difficult. we are talking about a government which when it came to power five years ago said that within months it was going to be opening negotiations with foreign oil companies for investment inside. it did not happen. it still is not happening. what slows things down.
companies thatan were so enthusiastic about going into iran, including companies that signed these deals that get these headlines, nothing happens. isy are realizing that iran a midsized market where you can make some money, but it is not going to be el dorado and it is not going to be the savior for the iranian economy, either. my biggest reason for saying that i don't want to see the is i don'tosed want to change the topic. i want to keep the topic on the protests in iran. i don't want to make the whole focus be on the jcpoa. i want to keep the focus on the problems inside iran. and your quest -- and the question about the european and
russian reaction? iswhat we have seen so far predictable from the russians. ,hat the russians have said is basically supporting the iranian regime's line which is that these protests are somehow foreign inspired or the work of foreign agents. this is similar to the explanation russia would give to any kind of protest in russia, itself. russia is also one of iran's major external allies. -- i don't we don't think we will see any type of effective human action. it might be useful for the united states to put russia into the position to veto any such action. europeans are more complicated because the united states would like to see some sort of joint statement, joint sentiment between the unit's states to put
some international pressure on the iranian regime, but it has not happened so far. instead, we have seen mild statements from the europeans which do not blame anyone. why do we see that? few reasonse are a and those reactions are milder than the european reactions in 2009. one of my colleagues is writing a piece about this. i think there are a number of possible reasons. the first is the jcpoa itself and the economic cooperation that patrick was talking about between europe and iran. i think the europeans bristle at the idea that this is what determines their policy actions toward iran and if we had a european appear they would say that is not fair. the second factor is that europeans have a tremendous
amount invested in their andtionships with rouhani the european inclination is not to take the side of the street protesters but to try to work in dialogue with rouhani and hope that this episode will strengthen those that they consider allies inside iran. third, i think since 2009, a lot has happened in the middle east and europe has bore the brunt of the flow of refugees from the middle east. i doubt they have an appetite for any more such instability and i'm sure they are worried about that instability. finally, there's certainly some concern about the united states. we have these decisions looming about. there's been serious questions about the american commitment to the nuclear deal. you already start with a gap between the united states and european positions on iran,
which is quite different than 2009. i'm sure the europeans are eyeing those decisions next week and are trying to be careful not to do anything or say anything to embolden the united states away from the sanctions. i think this should be an occasion for the u.s. and europe to join voices together and put some join pressure on the regime. we may not fully agree on the nuclear question or iran's regional behavior, but we can agree on human rights in iran. so far, that has not been the case. any more questions? >> excellent panel. point, i derivative was in the white house and state department during the 1979 decisions about how to deal with the iranian revolution. it's fascinating to sit here and watch -- i was a mere kid then.
the obama administration officials such as phil gordon and susan rice are urging everyone to be quiet, don't do anything, don't say anything to rock the boat. patrick was absolutely right about the issue on sanctions. on asdo you all come out a policy for the united states where the obama administration in its infinite efforts to get change offst regime the table? it seems the trump administration wants to put regime change back on the table. .> let me just ask hanin is u.s. support or silence better in this circumstance? the trump administration has been careful so far to say explicitly that they are not
seeking a regime change. i think they've been pretty explicit on that point. just as a clarification. >> it is not a good idea. knowing how iran functions in the region, specifically iran moves into a vacuum always. iraq,s in syria and wherever there's unsettling events, they go fill the vacuum's. it's easy to know the absence of any american policy in syria led by stronger iran. nothing is being done. iran doesn't want any confrontation with the u.s. a couple of confrontations in syria -- it's obvious that iran is trying to avoid confrontations with the u.s. if silencehis point,
will throw demonstrators under the bus. i don't think it's a good idea. it doesn't have to be direct support, but many things can be done to make sure that support is provided for these demonstrators for people in the region as a whole who are looking at iran, to know that the u.s. is on their side. >> iran's narrative is we support friends, the u.s. doesn't. it's used effectively in various situations. if united states government is seen as not supporting people who are protesting, iran will use that to once again be this narrative. the u.s. doesn't come to anybody's help, whereas iran does quickly. i'm with hillary clinton. she described in 2014 the actions in 2009 as a big mistake.
i'm with her. >> on the question of regime spent, the supreme leader 20 years warning the united usees its objective is to cultural objection to undermine the islamic republic -- he's more concerned about hollywood and washington. his idea of u.s. efforts to bring about regime change is "argo." - helle obama is up there giving this award to this movie, that feeds their image that the united states government is coordinating with hollywood to undermine the islamic republic. many of us know the director of the woodrow wilson center program in the middle east.
arrested in iran. with appeals for her release, the regime put on a program on television which explained why they were holding her. calledd an animation george soros' weekly meetings with george bush in the white house to plan how they would undermine the islamic republic. not all of us knew that mr. soros was seeing mr. bush on a weekly basis. we certainly didn't realize that they were planning together to overthrow the islamic republic. that's what they put on television. he really believe this stuff. refrain fromt our saying we want regime change will change his mind?
come on. give me a break. >> just two points. first, with regard to the public diplomacy, i would argue for a very calibrated approach to our use of language that i think, first of all, if we are too full throated in our support for the people -- ultimately, if the protests fizzle, you only highlight your impotence and the regime is able to grow your crow your- you success. just be careful how you do it. s plays aure thei big factor in the current
context. throated, too full you might also alters some -- there is conspiratorial protein in iran. it's not exclusively a worldview that is of the regime. it's also the people. might affect the calculus of people who might otherwise be willing to join the opposition. if they hear it is an american project -- it's hard to know. i would argue for speaking up but not too loudly. consistently but not too loudly. onould argue for the focus destabilization as opposed to regime change. we're not going to have a big impact here. though, in certain
intexts hold out the threat the context of our geopolitical competition with iran in the region, if they start attacking american soldiers directly, then we will bring the conflict home. if there's a conducive context to that now, more so than in the past, that gives us the ability to impose -- forces them to divert resources to internal security. that's the way i tend to look at this. more in terms of the broader geopolitical competition. i don't know how to engineer regime change. we can help around the edges at most. we can impose costs and make things tougher for them at home if they do things against us in the region.
>> i have two questions. the early demonstrations were -- i wondered if someone wanted to comment on whether there is a meaningful minority that isn to this affecting the course of the protests were creates opportunities down the line. second of all, i think it was yesterday, there was an article saying one of the early triggers of the protests was a leak a few months ago of a budget that on islamicending clerics thatand on
had never previously been revealed. i wonder if anyone is familiar with the document. the article didn't go into a lot of detail on it. it's been explored by experts on the side of the ocean. >> let me start with the second question. drew no articles in any american newspaper whatsoever. speech is much longer than usual. quoted one thing about the banking system -- he had a lot of things to say in here. he laid out a much more realistic number for a lot of things. one year,'s budget was nine
pages. that his budget was nine pages. give me authority to spend what i want to spend. this year's budget speech is extremely blunt. this year's budget is much more honest than in previous years. will that provoked demonstrations? i don't think so. that fits with the whole technocratic approach of the rouhani government that wants more transparency to flesh things out more. that was therir aim. revolutionary guards have traditionally maintained that they spend what they feel like. assad is saying that is not true. you have to get allocation. -- what ita piece
says is half of iran is made up of non-persians. if you're going to have the provinces demonstrating, you're going to have a fair number of non-persians demonstrating. increasingly, you find minorities in the cities. a study about where the demonstration started, there are well over a million sunnis living there. they are very unhappy. isis is doing quite an exceptional job in recruiting them. iran is beginning to have a serious isis problem on its hands because of the way it treats its sunnis. there are a lot of ethnic minority problems in iran.
when the heartland starts demonstrating, that comes out. there were a fair number of demands. ethnic nationalism is also a problem. there's the azerbaijani , the big thing is on december 22, you get hundreds of thousands marching up for hours that's whatop -- they do. you, this issue of the budget and how much iran spends on its foreign ventures has been noticed a lot in the western media as something that seems to be animating some of these protests. how has that reverberated in
lebanon, which is the destination for some of that money? iran spending in lebanon has become a political issue. >> you mean the recent protests? so far, lebanon, everybody has been very careful. they don't want to make conclusions. some are excited, some are afraid. there was next was of interview yesterday on this. this issue of budget, the military budget has been a big issue in lebanon for a long time. this is not recent. many in the committee have been affected by this budget, the budget cuts and budget changes. ezbollah in lebanon
-- social services are drastically cut. to thentity connected collective memory of the shia. that's the only thing linking the people in lebanon. everything else is an issue. 2012 when they publicly announced their -- and the budget cuts. >> hudson institute. patrick, the question about the pro-government rallies, pointed out this took quite a while. in that sense, it is a departure from the usual playbook. i was wondering from michael's remarks whether there were departures from the playbook --
they haven't deployed like they did in 2009. is been a police force and three units of the irgc from three separate provinces. do you feel there is considerable uncertainty or division, potentially damaging divisions within the leadership in confronting this particular crisis? >> i will just talk about the division of labor and the security forces. it's really hard to get a handle because of the poor quality of videos coming out, exactly who's doing what. based on statements of iranian officials and what you can see in some of the videos, the law
enforcement forces are the first line, backed up by the siege. out, it's just not coming i haven't seen vigilantes like we have seen in the past in large numbers. that might be in part because there's maybe been a process of professionalization of the security force. knows?i don't quite know . we've had statements saying they've been helping the law enforcement forces. is the lead and the siege supports them. there was a statement from the unitsder saying irgc happened deployed to three central provinces. it's really hard to get your arms around this. has devoted aran
lot of resources to creating internal security capabilities in the big cities. in iran, in tehran, you have the headquarters. they have exercises, they put on videos. are on motorcycles. ifthey were planning for -- most of their assets are in the big cities, now, you have a nationwide protest in small cities and towns. they need time to redeploy these guys. i don't think they were set up to deal with a small town or rural protest. and was mainly the infrastructure in the big cities, especially in t ehran. that's where we will see investment in the coming years.
version of resources -- favorediversion of resources. than for sexual have to come to thel towns -- infrastructure will have to come to small towns and cities. witnesss interesting to this very thoughtful discussion. i have two minor remarks about russia. we never said it was inspired from outside. a point there manipulations going on.
we view this as an internal affair -- they are finding remedies, solutions to it. it is our neighbor. it has been a neighbor for a long time. it is a friendly country for us. differentlot of relationships with them bilaterally. re believe the best way fo security and peace in the region is to adhere to these principles. had a of our colleagues piece in which he said the russian reaction to these developments was much more
restrained than russian reactions to protests elsewhere. she thought that was an interesting phenomenon. >> more questions? -- we have one more question in the back. right before the buzzer. go ahead. >> i was wondering what patrick's response was to my earlier question. i do want to ask about the internal order. the picture you described is quite desperate, the economic situation. the you think it will in fact collapse? if so, what happens then? >> can i just add one thing? the economic situation has not been great in 2017.
it was a lot worse before. many of these things have been true for a long time. auto spending important priorities -- lots standing on a important parties. what makes today different? >> the macroeconomic situation is pretty good. the government has a lot of margin to resolve these problems. of their best efforts to steal everything that wasn't nailed down, government get is gdp. small relative to the banking system is in bad shape but nothing compares to cyprus.ation in it's more like italy and spain. we have lots of experience on how to deal with these things. there are lots of people who can
provide good advice, like the imf and other institutions. it's been impressive, they spent two years dithering about the central bank authority and they've been talking about setting up a bad bag with all the bad loans. you have a real serious banking crisis. it's nothing like the scale of a banking crisis we saw in cyprus and in iceland, to countries that dealt very effectively with their banking crisis. is the inability of the authorities to take a tough decision that is the fundamental problem here. in fact, it would be quite possible to resolve these economic problems. similarly, even though there's been reasonable economic growth, one could imagine a set of economic policies that direct that growth more towards ordinary people. the rouhani government is doing
the kinds of things that -- taking the easy route out, finding ways to cut spending and raising taxes. that hits the poor and there's no trickle-down. it would be possible to come up with a different set of policies that addressed an awful lot of the concerns of ordinary people. the positive insurance system for the banks, excuse me. there are few countries that don't have a deposit insurance system. it would be possible to implement that. they lost their entire life savings -- the people rouhani referred to who were completely ruined. you can address that problem. it wouldn't be hard. impressedsay that i'm
by the economic incompetence. there's clearly a deadlock in thation-making in tehran is much worse than the deadlock in washington. >> that brings us to the end of our time. let me think our panelists -- thank our panelists. [applause] >> thank you. staff andthank our thank you all for coming. have a good day. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017]
[captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [no audio] the washington post reporting the trump administration unveiled a controversial plan to permit drilling in all the u.s. continental shelf waters, including protected areas in the
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