tv Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Discussion on U.S. Policy... CSPAN April 29, 2019 9:43pm-10:59pm EDT
asked a discussion on the trunk administration's policy towards iran with retired general david petraeus and the deputy secretary of state william burns is hosted by the carnegie endowment for international peace, this is one hour and ten minutes. >> thank you for coming to the carnegie endowment. i'm a senior fellow there. air. the discussion today is about the state of u.s. iran relations. this month marks the 40th anniversary of the advance of iran so i will talk about the past, present and future of relations. i want to also welcomed the audience who are watching on television both our c-span audience and for the first time broadcasting simultaneously in
translation with iran international, so welcome to the audiences in iran and throughout the u.s.. but we start with general a genl petraeus who was the commander of the u.s. forces out with general petraeus and suzanne maloney at the institute, one of the most thoughtful scholars of iran over the years of the state departmenalso at thestate depart is the ambassador builder who was formerly the deputy secretary of the state's industry author of a terrific new book called the back channel. i'd like to start with a two-part question for all of you and i will start with you, bill you have several decades working on the middle east and you were never based in tehran but in
your book you recount to interesting memos he wrote to condoleezza rice and secretary of state hillary clinton advocating for a different approach to iran. i'm curious when you look back over the past four decades, do you think that there were examples of opportunities where the united states could have engaged iran, taken a different approach that may have changed the adversarial nature of the u.s. iran relations? >> first let me say that it's great to be here at carnegie. i guess i'm supposed to say that. but it's especially nice to share the stage. you mentioned the state department and the beginning of the obama administration in
which i made a quite consistent argument with the deep state capable of making the same arguments with both republican and democratic administrations, but essentially the argument was even though the situations are not at all analogous as it was implied in the cold war towards the soviet union and the strategy. in many ways you can borrow from that original concept and by that i need in terms of diagnosis. in other words, we are dealing with the leadership in the country that are capable inflicting a fair amount of damage on us, our interest and also a regime that has its own internal contradictions on this with sensitivities. it's a huge amount of baggage and mistrust and grievance on both sides come, so that is the
diagnosis. the prescription is similar in the following respects that's what i thought then and continue to think that they would you need to do in terms of the american strategy is pushback against external overreach by the leadership you need not to be shiny about the concerns of human rights but it also makes sense to selectively engaged in areas that you could manage the largely adversarial relation ship in the case of iran with the most imminent threat to the post them on constrained nuclear power one example after 9/11 when we dealt, ryan crocker was
the first of the diplomats that we know well working with the iranians and what came after the taliban afghanistan and a fair amount of leverage as well. iran was spending dozens of centrifuges. we missed a moment because after the axis of evil speech in 2002, that effectively cut off the channel. so this one example of a place that we were not in a position to transform the relationship with the lord we adversarial but it could have managed in a more effective way in the cold-blooded interest of both sides. >> you played a critical role in the negotiations with iran but
then led to the first part of that and i'm curious what was your biggest one or two takeaways from your dealings with iran that perhaps you would share with the current administration? >> i'm not sure anybody is looking for my advice these days as a recovering diplomat. i think the lesson for me anyway is notwithstanding the largely adversarial nature of the relationship it was possible through the tangible results and when i took through the long experience with the officials it was first you have to deal with the iranian leadership and the actor and we always got ourselves in trouble in the previous administrations come as we try to game the system's. we are not very good at that and i think that it's important to deal with the leadership as a unitary actor recognizing all sorts of differences but it
doesn't take sense to try to gain it. second, leverage matters. it wasn't a coincidence. it sets the stage for a serious negotiation the third and not least we like to connect us to the realistic game is, and that is where i get concerned about the current approach of at least on the face of it seems to suggest capitulation that are not tethered to history at least as i've understood. >> i want to ask a question i've asked ambassador burns o forbear opportunities that we missed perhaps to counter iran to check the ambitions and in particular one of the questions that comes up was perhaps an opportunity for the united states to the
guard commander said here's how you would respond to that. >> let me also say that i feel privileged to be on stage with the troubles with whom i have great respect. second, i want to add a tiny bit because we did reach out and conduct negotiations with the iranians in baghdad during the course of the surge. ambassador crocker was the negotiator. the challenge was we had three rounds of this and we thought there might be some opportunity to make headway with them. but the fact was that was very clear there was no room at all for the negotiators. they literally would have to leave the room and make phone calls back literally to ask how to respond to this particular point or question for the ambassador said h they had no latitude they were not true
negotiators they were just a mouthpiece. then that was disappointing. we thought there was some opportunities. beyond that, i got neither confirmed or denied that we contemplated doing something and i can tell you that costs never set foot in iraq during the time that i commanded the surge guard during the time i thought centcom. i forget where it was during afghanistan. he was very careful when i happened to be the director of the cia. he really traveled only in two countries that i recall and those were obviously iran and syria. there were other opportunities to get the big ideas right and the biggest was that you have to be firm. they will test you if you don't respond that they will push a little bit further. there may have been some
opportunities. the challenge was also the politics within iraq. so, for example when the five were detained by the special operation forces in january of 2007, these were five operators were up to no good in a very significant way. and i was not yet the commander. i was still going through the confirmation process at the time. i remember it though and the pressure was enormous, i believe both the president and premise of iraq at that time that we have to release him and i talked to general casey and my predecessor later on, and it seemed as if we have no real choice. there was a moment of reflection here we are we need to print ministers support for the surge. the biggest of the big ideas that were contrary to what he just agreed to accelerate in a meeting in jordan in late
november of 2006. so again i think the politics were difficult. the same is true when it came to releasing the high ranking official who was detained together and later on they were militia leaders that were in cold-blooded murder type of this jurors we found the very detailed evidence not just intelligence on that and that is what prevented frankly to administer from demanding that we released them after they were detained i was very disappointed to see some five years after they were detained and they were tried by an iranian court basically found not guilty of anything despite the extraordinary evidence that we had connecting them with those murders. frankly the same with the now militia leader and despite the constitution that prevents
militia leaders or the law that prevents them from being in the council of representatives is a member of the clr. so welcome back to the land of the two rivers. two rivers. it's an interesting place has always. i think there were some of those and those are still pretty tactical opportunities in the same way that talks about the others. there was the outrage from of course -- in march of 2008 when we were fighting against the shia militia and a very significant battle in basra and he wanted to be sure that i knew of a controlled policy for iran when it came to iraq, syria, lebanon, gaza in afghanistan. and now presumably, probably put yemen in there as well. let's never forget that it is the cubs force that controls the
policy, not the ministry of foreign affairs or some other state organization. again, there was no real opportunity for constructive dialogue at that point in time. >> as i said, the audience is watching and is the former director of the cia, i think they would be very curious, i know that i am curious, how you would rate american intelligence on iran both in terms of our assessments and understanding of the political trends and the technical. >> let me first say hello to the iranian people. believe it or not, we used to have a bit of interaction with them because i would go to the border crossings between iraq and iran and there were a lot of reasons to inspect them and we had careful procedures for that and i wanted to make sure that they were being followed. but, inevitably, we would have flooded of the religious
tourists who were going to the other side and of course this is the holiest and coincidentally, it was the division that i was pretty much to command the division that liberated in the sites during the fight to baghdad when i was a two star general. so, i felt a certain continuing connection and it is pretty well-known that wwellknown thatd to make sure that there wasn't even a naked in a famous -- nick in the famous mosque in many areas near that. so, we used to engage with them and it's fascinating they actually were very positive. in fact, the iranian women would come up and would always want to grab me by the cheek. general petraeus, so good to see you. nice activity fault they were going for the jugular on most occasions though that was not the case. when it came to our intelligen
intelligence, i always felt that it was quite solid. there were some very specific examples of this that the so-called secret sites that they had formed we knew about that for years and it was based when we were somehow about two out them and announced to the world was a secret sites they had not declared and generally, again it comes and goes as methods and sources and all the rest of that or good or turnout to be not so good inevitably but with other countries who also have quite good intelligence inside of in f iran, i felt that we had quite a solid understanding. there's a tiny degree of the sense of black box about the supreme leader in the inner circle, needless to say.
but i think that isn't unlike other countries where again, trying to read the mind of the leader has been imperfect science. >> they want to ask you to bring us to the present. you will be able to reflect on some of general petraeus is commented in particular, i'm curious about your assessment of the trump administration's current approach to iran. i argue there's never been a greater discrepancy between a president and national security adviser. president trump has made it pretty clear that he has no interest in conflict in the middle east. ..
i think it's important to talk about the trump administration's policies with this backdrop of the history of us iran relations and with the awareness that while there have been moments in time in almost every administration since 1979 that the us and iran might have come into a different opportunity for some kind of more productive dialogue, i think it's overly romanticized often that only if we had accepted or permitted the oil field that was offered to quantico, the first upstream deal in iran since the revolution in 1975, if only we had made good on cost that began or avoided language like axis of evil, somehow thingswould have been different .
we've been confronting with iran our regime which is very much formulated around a presumption of anti-americanism, a regime that for most of its post revolutionary history has been unwilling to engage directly in public authoritative fashion with the united states with only a couple of exceptions which of course have already been referenced here in post 9/11 opportunities, some of the dialogue that took place when general petraeus was in baghdad and most recently the negotiations that led up to the jcp oa. we've been accustomed to seeing shari on our screens, the ministers speaking to the people in the president but that is a relatively new feature of the bilateral dynamic and it's important to remember for most of the last 40 years we've been laboring with the difficulty of an adversary that has often
thought to avoid any direct dialogue with us. i think that's no longer the case today and that is one of the few advantages to the situation we find ourselves in in the aftermath of the trump administration's decision to walk away from the iran nuclear deal. as karim points out eloquently in the piece that he's published today in the atlantic, there is this divergence obvious between the president and his national security cabinet and it's been a consistent one almost since the campaign. . remember, president trump campaign on renegotiating the iran deal . he distinguished himself in 2016 on the other republicans in the race overall promising to rip up the deal on day one . a president sees himself as a negotiator, his background as a wheeler dealer and a real estate business, and he is quite convinced i can genuinely that he could somehow produce a better bargain with the iranians and was negotiated after more than a decade of talks, for
two administrations from both parties here in washington. and with the cooperation of the other permanent five members of the un security council plus germany. president trump thinks he can do better than that, let him have his opportunity. of course what he has staffed himself with is a national security cabinet and i don't limit this simply to the national security adviserjohn bolton . but a cabinet that really is invested in this notion that pressure on iran will work if sufficiently applied. i think we're living in a real time experiment, we all remember those of us in washington and certainly those of you in iran will remember the intense debates that took place around the negotiations that again with iran at least in public fashion in 2013 and then around nuclear deal once it was concluded in 2015. is it enough, should we have gone for broke. we for the first time in post revolutionary history
assembled a multinational coalition that was applying real economic pressure to iran. this had never happened before in any serious fashion, not even when american diplomats were held hostage in iran. the first time this economic pressure was working it was appearing to produce some new readiness on the part of as i said a regime that had been unwilling to engage in a serious way on this issue are many others, for many years. why didn't we simply push it to the natural limit and try to get everything, try toget a bigger, better deal . what you're seeing right now in terms of the kind of strategic impasse that this administration is facing with respect to iran is that its rhetoric and its fraser for the second pressure makes iran in a box for a period but it doesn't produce a resolution of the situation so as long as you have iran facing virtual economic war with its back against the wall with no serious opportunity for engaging with this administration, although obviously foreign minister's
appearance on fox news and his trip to new york, there was evidence there open to trying. as long as this regime is backed into a corner we are all very much at the mercy of the decision-making in tehran and that is quite a worrisome thing because there's really only one alternative that the regime has at its disposal at this point in time that can work to its advantage. people worry about will iran break out of the nuclear deal, will they retaliate against us forces in the region, these are all reasonable concerns, legitimate concerns but the advantage to iran doesn't come from either of those moves, the real advantage comes if they take some steps to disrupt energy supplies coming out of one of their neighbors, a long-standing strategic precept or the iranians that if we can export our neighbors won't be able to export either in the one thing that any disruption to energy supplies would do for iran is raise the price
of oil, improve their own bottom line in terms of whatever revenues are able to repatriate and hurt the presidents political capital at home in terms of being able to continue to apply sanctionsand that's a risk that we face >> i think that is a real risk . i think though that the prospect of president trump responding with military action against iran and in iran proper rather than elsewhere which has generally been the approach that we've taken,not always obviously, there's certainly reports of alleged covert action in various locations . but i think the situation is different. i think president trump presents sort of an unknown risk to them. he has taken action in syria when redlines were crossed. it was proportionate and measured and so forth but i think that's a concern.but there's no doubt that this is going to hurt a country that
already is in a very significant recession, already has very significant inflation, substantial inflation and already is launching the real as currency decline precipitously so it is going to be in a very tough spot in the question i think is just whether or not they're going to correct correct their teeth and try to bear this and talk it out, noting that there are, there have been lots of signs of unrest, not coordinated but somewhat spontaneous demonstrations throughout thecountry . unlike in the past where there generally was some organizing feature or function in the wake of the election for example. in came on. in this case, and there's also environmental degradation that's now starting to cause real movement of people inside with mismanagement of water, on and on. the challenges i think are
very essential. today coffee out to november 2020, for someone other than president trump the elected? or do they come to the table sometime next year and say hey, let's talk about this. he wrote a book about iran's political economy. what's your sense of whether they can sustain, they could go at 500,000 per day exported, is that something iran can sustain until november thousand 20 and mark . >> i think it's an unanswerable question in the sense that you ran and muddle through an enormous amount of economic duress. we seen this over the past years and on repeated occasions, most notably during the 1980s when the war with iraq was raging and the saudi's for reasons that had more to do with market share than to do with the rand decided to try to break open and expanded production to
the point that drove iranian oil revenues down to less than 10 million per year. this was an enormous painful episode for iran and yet did not produce a change in iran's approach to the war with iraq, at least not in the near term and it did not time to vote the kind of internal debate within the system about what are the choices that we face today because that simply wasn't permissible. ithink that we are in a different position today in iran . we've seen the kind of debates about the choices available to the regime . and the alternatives that the system faces if in fact it cannot sustain the degree of economic productivity and at least some sense that there are going to be, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel. there is a debate both within the regime but also a debate on the street as general
petraeus suggested, iran has been experiencing a degree of small-scale but persistent unrest almost entirely driven by economic considerations. so to the extent that sole priority for the leadership of the islamic republic is the preservation of the system, it may have to recognize that any of amount of economic duress, particularly one that doesn't have a natural and state, there isn't a war that can be ended, there isn't a drought that can be resolved by a change in weather patterns, that this is in fact a long-term economic see,that the system has to muddle through . my sense is the leadership will not try to simply wait it out until 2021. are trying to demonstrate that they have the staying power, that they're not going to collapse immediately and it was important, we didn't see the right here in september saying that they were open to a prisoner negotiation. they waiteduntil it was clear maximum pressure applied .
but if you think back to the 28, the 2013 negotiations, even the back channel conversations, that wasn't, it was a period of months between application of the full weight of american financial sanctions, targeting iran's energy exports and the beginning of some of those more productive conversations with the iranians and it was a recognition of the time that they simply while they might be able to muddle through, they simply didn't want to endanger the long-term fatality of the system. today those pressures are even more acute with 80 million iranians and 160 million sim card cell phone in every hand, the fact that information disperses very quickly. the fact that there is already a jockeying for succession around the future of the supreme leader who has recently turned 80 . this is a system that recognizes it doesn't have time to spare so i think they're looking for a way out of the impasse that they're facing . unfortunately the administration despite the
fact that the president himself may be interested in negotiation, has created any kind of a credible platform or framework for negotiation. possible they're doing this behind the scenes by clan, there are many who are worried about the what the administration was doing in 2012. before it became clear that some of these conversations are already underway we don't see any evidence of it either from iran's behavior or from this administration and i think again, lack of a direct channel to try to find a way out of this impasse is going to be something that turns iranians away from potentially some kind of diplomatic dialogue and in the direction of trying to provoke a crisis. >> i think it's entirely possible this time that there driven down below 500,000 barrels, maybe even lower. there are going to be some that are produced by sino pack and another chinese company that are doing the
production, presumably export. maybe that slide through but i think again, the situation is different. this administration is different. the waivers that were allowed obviously are going away. there were still some there and both bill and i were in position back the last time this was done and this was very carefully calibrated. then as we were reminiscing i was the one who went to the saudi and asked how to bore the ambassador to invade, the need to produce an additional 1 million barrels and to either tell the market or go out individually tell countries so that the market wouldn't spook and by the way it did not. i think the saudi's will pick up the slack again this time along with the other bodies, perhaps the iraqis and our shell producers. but i think you're going to see this, it's entirely likely it would go well below 500,000 barrels. the chinese time of these very sensitive trade negotiations don't want to pick a fight with the us over a few hundred thousand
barrels of oil probably can be replaced again by the saudi's, and iraqis or others . india i don't think again wants to crosswise. so i think this is a very different situation for the iranians and the other factor i didn't mention of course is as a result of all the developments i mentioned, there's increased unemployment in the country that already was suffering on lack of unemployment so this is a very difficult situation . and so will get back to some of those q&a but i want to go to the jcpo around deal which was one of the most hotly debatedgeopolitical decisions of the last decade . and is coming to the four again, in the democratic primary debate seems to be one of the chief foreign policy questions, the decision whether or not united states should go back to the jcpo, in the event the
jcpo has sustained itself over the last couple of years so my question is how would you see the future of the jcpo? imagine it's able to survive which is not a foregone conclusion over the next three years and a democratic administration comes office, what would be your advice in terms of how to think about the future of the jcpo? >> before i get to that question let me make two points on what david and suzanne have been saying. i do think the situation is in some ways different today. i do not underestimate the capacity of the united states toward the imposition of sanctions to do a lot of damage to iran and the energy market was different too but i come back to a point i made at the start and that is that kind of leveraging the pressure only works if it's connected to a realistic set of things and my concern is
what's on offer for the iranians. the 12 points that secretary pompeo laid out, it's not aimed at producing a deal but producing either the capitulation of this uranian regime or its implosion, neither of which i think is tethered to history as i suggested before so that's one point. the second is to state that i believe that the president's decision to pull out of the jcpo was a historic mistake and i think that for the following reasons. first, it's on a lot of collateral damage, not just to our credibility in terms of negotiating with other countries against a pattern of retreat not just from the iran nuclear agreement but from the paris climate agreement, from the transpacific partnership, the trade agreement in asia but i think it does actually widen the fissures between us and our closest european allies were trying to fold the agreement together, in effect doing the iranians work for
them. it is eroding overtime the efficacy of sanctions because actions work in the run-up to the talks that began in 2013 because they were widely shared. however grudgingly on the part of our china and some others. it was an international effort that brought real pressure to bear. and i think unilaterally we imposed sanctions, you have a foreign minister of germany, one of our closest allies over a year ago saying all of us need to reduce vulnerability to the nationals so that they can that's not going to be seen overnight for next year but will wake up five or six years from now and find that tool which was not always used wisely in the past, is less effective so to answer your question, if you assume that the agreement holds together which is a big assumptionbecause i do think there's a real danger of inadvertent collision , i take general petraeus!
that the iranian mission regime maybe carefulin dealing with this president , but as we both know, the middle east is where stuff happens, things happen, you can escalate quickly. it's been all very fortunate in last 2 and a half years of this administration that the united states has not seen a prolonged international crisis and never served the administration where you went that long without a prolonged international crisis but i worry about the incoherence of that paris mentioned between the president and his senior advisers and our capacity to manage that kind of an escalation but if you assume that the agreement is still living and breathing, when january 2001 you have a different administration, you would make sense to dotwo things, first , presume our compliance with the jcpo to rejoin it, but simultaneously you would have to start a serious negotiation or kind of follow negotiation which i've always experienced in
many arms-control processes that would involve in which would deal with some of the obvious challenges in the jcpo, some of the provisions in the agreement, the so-called sunset clauses would be much closer to the expiration date. we have to begin a conversation about the range of other issues that are not built forth in the comprehensive nuclear agreement, ballistic missiles . to begin a conversation about challenges where webumped into each other across the middle east . so i think along as we were in the couple a resumption of us participation in that agreement with a serious negotiation simultaneously about the follow on ours, that would make it. i want to move in a second, so please think about what you'd like to ask but i do this if i neglect following question which i will propose to all of you, to part and you can feel free to take each question or ignore them but the decision to trump
administration's decision to designate the revolutionary guard terrorist organization decision the bush administration was contemplating. the obama administration was contemplating. it was, the revolutionary guard over the last decade has become iran's most important economic political institution. what are the ramifications of that designation, andsecond , what we've seen over the last decade and a half in the middle east is some of iran trying to mcdonough lies the hezbollah model, the franchise has been a lot from lebanon to iraq, to syria to yemen and at a time when most americans don't want a greater presence in the middle east, how do we intend with iran, i'm going to start with youand work down . >> i am not sure that this latest designation is as significant as it sounds. because they had already
hired at jc and then designated by the treasury department which is the one that frankly most counts and there are already some, i don't know if you callthem exceptions are explanations of what the latest designation actually means . given how intertwined the irg is as you mentioned in the economy and diplomacy and all the other activities so i'm not too sure that this is very important in rhetorical policy and that does matter. that is not insignificant. for the state department and so forth, but again, the big designation which is the one that generally follows the treasury that had already identified the irg see not just the kirkus force as essentially a terrorist entity. the second, look. i think it's very important to understand that iran has for some time wanted to lebanon eyes iraq and syria
as you described it and in other words they want to do in those countries what they have done successfully in lebanon which is to create a very powerful paramilitary force which gives them enormous muscle in the street, particularly in shia my areas of the country and then to follow that by getting that same force and norma's power in parliament in the legislature of the country to the point that lebanon is a coalition around has bullock as a blocking veto if they choose to use that. more difficult to do this in syria, certainly where there's always been some differences to begin with and it's not quite the same kind of structure and so forth. but iraq i think, this is a significant challenge. the council representatives does have some members as i mentioned earlier actually are leaders of the militia,
the popular mobilization forces. one of the big challenges that this very impressive leadership team of the president, prime minister and speaker of the council of representatives have is how do with, deal with the fact that not all of the entities that have force if you will, as you know our government has to have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force . this is a problem if you have an element such as those in the hosta shop be noting by the way and we should all acknowledge that they did serve iraq at a time when the islamic state was literally knocking on the doors around the walls of baghdad and did come to the service of their country tragically, the situation was allowed to reach that point where the grand ayatollah and not to essentially say now is the time to come to the aid of your country which legitimized the return of these militia to the street.
militia that you will recall and destroyed back during the battles of march and april 2008 in basra throughout the southern provinces in city and other places. so with that understanding, again, what do we have to deal do? he comes back to what bill was talking about with actions to undermine the effectiveness of elements that would like to again, take control ofiraq . and iraq, a country that has to have a relationship with iran, it's always going to be bigger neighbor to the east, we have to understand. we have to try not to be an obstacle of that but it should be a mutually productive, mutually beneficial relationship, not one in which iran can lean on iraq and get what they want done through various levers of power that they control. now, what else do we need to
do? well, we should certainly ensure that whatever our plans for syria are, that we do not allow the establishment of the ground line of communication and i'm talking about a hardball road , you can go through the desert in various places for iraq and syria. but we're talking about big trucks that are carrying major items of equipment. and we should ensure together with our iraqi partners iraq is not become a line ground of communication from iran through iraq through syria and down into southern lebanon and hezbollah or to iranian military industries in syria which clearly israel our ally has shown that they will not allow. so to avoid that turning into a bigger crisis again, we can have a major contribution by staying as we have at the border crossing a console which is one of the two hardball crossing, the other one obviously is a lot and
it's reasonably well covered i think by iraqi security forces together with some of our coalition forces. so that's a very, very significant goal. it was something that could have been called into question by a complete withdrawal from syria but reportedly is very much in the forefront of the mind of the white house. >> i'd also like to ask for there are concerns and are of the officials claim they have intelligence that iran was planning to go after them in the region or the reaction to us escalations. as an addition to the earlier questions, you can talk about some of your concerns of possible escalation . >> in terms of the designation i tend to agree with general petraeus.
i think it doesn't really change the game in terms of pressure on iran. i think some of the reaction in washington and elsewhere may have contributed to this overhyping of the issueitself . from the administration but also from its critics, those who immediately left to the presumption that this was a slippery slope to war area i think a reading far too much into the reality of this mechanism and there's a temptation, a tendency that i've seen at least for the past dozen years for every group in washington and again, it's applied to republican and democratic administrations to see every evidence of pressure on iran as a step toward war. i don't think that has been the case, has proven to be the case today and the fact that you have a commander-in-chief that for whatever his other flaws seems to be deeply adverse to any kind of military, us
military intervention in the middle east is at least something of a check on a deliberate move towards a military crisis in the region and as i said, i have great concern about the risks of an inadvertent escalation area but i don't think this administration is trying to jump into a war and i am, i don't quite buy into the hype that the president's advisers are trying to trick him into war because that's what they're after. we have to be careful to analyze these specific steps in their particular implications rather than to read too much into them . in terms of the broader regional influence question and how iran a retaliate against some of its adversaries across the region, i think we're less with this perennial dilemma, what we found is that engagement with iran hasn't in fact ameliorated iran's capacity to extend its influence often in ways that are destabilizing, often in
ways that are inimical to us interests intothe broader interest in a peaceful prosperous middle east . but we found that pressure hasn't yet produced a significant change in the better either, whether it was under the bushadministration, whether it's under the current administration . there is some evidence that the sanctions are having an impact on iran's capacity to provide financial support to hezbollah, possibly also on the oil city that has been a long-standing feature of the relationship with syria ultimately it's not really undermining iran posture across the region and what we've seen you thought back 20 years ago, when i first and working on iran the idea that iran could in fact be sent our cross the lot would have been inconceivable. and so i think we have to begin to look at the other factors, obviously they're there and obviously there are lots of folks we spent time thinking about this but we often have these conversations about in just a
disjointed way about an iran that is inevitably hegemonic and one that is seemingly all-powerful, but we ignore the rest of the factors that our friend michelle dunn spent a lot of time on in terms of leadership and governance across the broader middle east and i think if we want to really address the crisis that iran has contributed to, it's benefiting from, it's really is implement on us think about how we address the vacuum of good governance and enlightened leadership in the arab world because that's exactly those vacuum that iran moves into, takes advantage of, sets of these parallel institutions have been in effect hijack and strangle the institutions of the state itself. >> will, that returned me to the point i've made about containment as a sort of framework, however in perfume's analogy to the soviet unionand the old cold
war . because what suzanne said is exactly right. part of what animated containment in george cannon view was the importance of sorting out our neighboring countries, reducing their vulnerabilities and i think right now, in an era in which you can see the deeper drivers throughout much of the sunni arab world in particular accelerating the dysfunctions getting worse, are doing too much indulging i think of authoritarian regimes and we are paying attention to those internal problems which create opportunities for what is essentially a counterpunching regime like iran which is not 10 feet tall but take advantage of the vulnerabilities and dysfunction of others so that's an important part i think of a sensible american strategy you don't see much in evidence today. beyond that i think it's the point also i made that a course after matters.
you have to push back against external overreach but that has to be combined with a willingness to selectively engage and not see diplomacy as a favor or a reward for bad behavior, but rather a market investment because by engaging, you're better able to localize lots of other countries. when we can demonstrate where not the problem, radiant behavior that's the problem, that's what animated a large part of those in the obama tried to do in the nuclear negotiation. >> we have about 20 or so minutes for questions and if we can get quick questions we can get quick answers and fit in as many as possible so i'lltry to take you at a time , this gentleman in the front, wait for the microphone and if you can be brief and introduce yourself. >> my name is soupy lovesorry . just report that came in today religious freedom in iran 300 soupy's were sentenced. but barbara is in problem.
i think, the ministration should take not just to the administration but the problem everywhere, if we forget iran, we should not forget about pilates. i'm from that region. alter the time a major problem. i don't know when you're countering iran, we have to not forget about this wahhabi slaughter. >> my name is benjamin a while, up until recently the international policy advisor of the israeli minister of energy and the security cabinet member. my question is regarding the peace talks that we were talking about, that seems to tackle one of the stands iran on which is the nuclear program but then there's the other regional program that is as bullock, hamas, etc. and i think the sanctions are here to tackle that problem.
i was wondering if you see one solution for both those problems or maybe there needs to be a more complex solution that will tackle the internal nuclear problem in the more regional one of support to terrorist activity in the region. >> why don't we take one more in the back. >> in the pink shirt. >> barbara from the bbc, could you all quickly talk about what you think the game plan of this administration is? you alluded to it in different ways but if you would just say what you think the administration is up to, if indeed it does have a game plan . >> sure. just very quickly, on game plan, on the face of it, the game plan would be as i was suggesting before producing through maximum pressure
either the capitulation of this regime, not the negotiation of a better deal or its implosion. i don't think i share the views of my colleagues, i don't think president trump himself is a military interventionist but it remains sort of opaque to me about whether this is serious negotiating strategy or not. so that's how irespond to that question . >> i think that there is a consensus within the administration that includes the president pressure is good and pressure for the sake of pressure may producea desired outcome . the president would prefer negotiations, much of the rest of the senior cabinet appears to prefer either something that looks like a capitulation or an implosion. but for the moment they're all agreed upon a strategy of maximum pressure and it plays into this presumption that many hold that iran will bend
but it will bend to a little bit of pressure, you need a lot. on the question about either there's one solution for everything with you man, i think again, this is the experiment we're living out in real-time . the criticism of the jcpo was that it didn't deal with a nonnuclear issue and that was by design, it was designed by the bush administration, president obama took most of the criticism for it but the negotiations were never intended to address the wider array of issues what i worry about is the fact the trump administration's action in terms of withdrawing or walking away from the jcpohas taken the idea of transaction with a ran . the concept that you can solve one problem , continue to disagree on others and look for solutions on them. i think it's going to be more difficult to strike and sustain a narrow market bargain, narrow meaning to one set of issues rather than the other and i say that though i'm completely
pessimistic throughout the course of my career that there is a grand bargain to be had with iran. i think we are facing a structural problem in engaging with iran in the future and that we have now i think validated the fears and the paranoia of the senior leadership that one small set of concessions will only lead to pressure of concessions on everything else. >> on the first question, there is a legitimate concern about lobbyist influence. the saudi's in the past obviously funded a variety of initiatives that promoted that. we have seen all of us, have seen the effects in places in europe, bosnia where i spent a year, there was an influence of this. what has beenencouraging , certainly there are some issues that give you great disquiet but it has been encouraging with the vision
2030 and saudi arabia is an explicit commitment to dial that back quite considerably and to promote a degree of moderation in the practice of islam even inside the kingdom and it's not as widely recognized because it was not broad news but the ground prince also replaced some 50 or so clerics, hardline clerics. i don't know, a year or a year and a half ago, somewhere around that time as part of the efforts to again, promote a degree again, everything is relative. of moderation. on the regional activities of iran, i want to get billed a little bit on what suzanne said about this earlier. i do think it's a reasonable question to ask whether or
not the sanctions are finally going to reduce iran's capacity to continue to fund lebanese hezbollah, sods militia in iraq, militia perhaps even these in yemen. some other actors in bahrain or wherever . again, asmaller scale . this is going to be, i think increasingly ethical in a sense to sell to the public, not that they do haveto sell it but does ultimately come out , there have been closures about how much money has gone to these different activities. and the iranian people are going to say my gosh, what you have done to our economy because of your various activities or your support of these different groups abroad, we're the ones who are tightening the belt. that at least spend the money at home and don't keep digging ourselves a bigger hole. and then when it comes to the game plan for the administration, i think the big question here is are the
12 demands that secretary pompeo announced in his speech, i guess his heritage not long after he became the secretary of state , are these opening positions for negotiation or are these absolutely nonnegotiable. i tend to think that they are the former, but again, we will have to see over time whether that's the case and i don't expect anything in next few months, perhaps even in the remainder of this year. the question is anypoint in time next year , whether or not the iranians populate that they just begin grit their teeth until the election, in hopes of change, or if they agree to come to the table then. >> more questions, this gentleman in the center.
>>. >> thank you. peter shipley, retired foreign service. what is the risk that netanyahu will look at the situation and say we have a limited window of opportunity ? trunk may not be around after two more years, now is the time to take military action against iran and we got the us on our side, what's the risk of that? >> i've answered quickly and say the window of opportunity closed back when bill was i think the old undersecretary and i was director of the cia. >> gentlemen here in the front. >> that was slightly tongue-in-cheek but not entirely. >>. >> you have about so briefly introduce yourself. >> jim moran.
served in the congress for a little while. i wanted you to address a couple of issues. one is the concept of an era of nato. and whether this is not problematic in terms of our long-term objectives and another is the fact that the president has supported mps's support of general cars assault on the government video which we have supported as have the united nations. it seems to be a precedent for further mischief and dissolution of our long-term plans but let me just say i couldn't agree more with your insight iran seizes the opportunity that are created by these authoritarian unlike arab leaders and that may be the source ofmuch of the source of the problem .
>> i guess my answer to your true question congressman would be first, i think the first is an illusion, the idea of any, we seen this movie before going back 60 years. it rarely pans out. that's not to suggest that general petraeus, there are lots of ways but the idea of a formal alliance and the ice second, to support general after is foolish. libya has had more than his share of fragility with security right now but it's foolish to assume that there is a military solution here at general halfhearted is going to produce all, anybody was supporting him is doing right now including the president and his phone call to him and appearance support , is just going to produce more hardship, more trouble for society that has morethan its share already . >> and i just build on the first one and reaches you congressman and former chairman, when i was the
central command commander we thought that the most important way in which you could integrate capabilities andthis is without any kind of alliance , structure or military force was just to start by integrating the ballistic missile threat warning system. which was not integrated, by the way. it was a common system generally built on us early warning radars and patriots and a variety of others and we had a lot of as you may recall we had batteries of patriot in just about every country up and down the gulf. this was a time in which cutter was still a member in good standing of the jcc see, that is not the case now . and frankly we could never actually get them to even allow the others to see their needs. in other words, what their radars on their soil that they owned were actually identifying.
so that seems to me to bea relatively low bar to get over if you wanted to coordinate activity . there's nothing offensive about it, it's entirely defensive and in the end, central command ended up by default being the integrator, in other words we have the feet all of them and we would put it together in our own illicit missile defense system. so if you can't get that in the days when the gcc was together, there were always some reservations by some of the gulf states that conquer had relationships with iran that were a bit concerning. some of that again is just reality, they share the latest gas fields in the world and had to have a relationship. but if you couldn't get back, it's really hard to envision something like the nato and especially now that one of the t gcc members has been cast out from the fold and
not from the gcc but is being cut off in a variety of other ways. >> we have time for two quick more questions in theway back, i see a hand . >> voice of america, for general petraeus, i'd like to know what your take about the iran's foreign minister about the fact that the us administration may be lured into war by both accidents and with that also what if iran intervenes somehow in the straight of hormuz? >> when we start with you general petraeus and suzanne, final thoughts . >> look, i think it would be very unwise work iran to precipitate some kind of activity in the strait of hormuz.
in general, iran has been quite restrained in the kind of activity that characterized some of their actions in the past, where they run a lot of speedboats for these high-capacity speed boats that are ships and all the rest of them and turn off at the last minute. they did however run apparently, put a uv unmanned aerial vehicle over one of our large ships in the past week or so. at least according to a press report and i haven't had that confirmed from elsewhere, but i think they've got to be very careful about this action again, as was mentioned earlier, president trump from their perspective presumably a bit less predictable . perhaps less restrained. if they provoked something, and you don't know where that goes as we all well know. when you roll the iron dice, who knows, tell me how this ends. as someone said on the road tobaghdad .
and the idea that the administration would be lured into war again, i think that that is pretty unlikely. as i mentioned earlier, i think opportunities by any other country in the region to do significant damage to some of the components of the iran program, this was limited all the way back and again in 2010 or 2011. and the idea that again, someone would try to calculate what could happen. i think is really somewhat questionable area and i just don't seethis happening . >> suzanne, the 40th anniversary of the islamic republic and for both of you, your final thoughts.
it's never wise to make predictions about iran but would you envision we could potentially become 50th anniversary, the societal political trendlines and for bill, what would be a wise us policy to ensure that it does transition to something more positive? >> i have tried to steer away from making predictions because as anyone who knows iran knows, it's absolutely impossible to predict with any degree of accuracy what might happen in that country. i also recall being part of a group of people who were watching iranian president address the iran un general assembly back in 2000 when it was the year of the dialogue of civilizations and we took a set of predictions about when the us embassy might reopen in tehran. i was optimistic of the group and i predicted 2009 i will note that one of the people was part of that conversation
is now sitting in a prison cell in iran. let me with that caveat say that i think that iran is well-positioned to make a stable transition to some sort of better governments. simply unparalleled in terms of the capacity of a system that has already had this sort of wrestling with authoritarianism, wrestling with the role of religion in politics in which there is now a well honed experience with the mechanics of democracy if not the realities of a truly representative government. there's been more than a century of debate among iranians about how to get accountability from their own leadership. but that said, when and how that transition happens i think is entirely impossible to predict. and i think it's very unlikely to come under the type of catastrophic economic pressure is being applied to iran today and is going to be applied for the foreseeable future .
there's simply no precedent for that kind of hardship reducing a transition to a more responsible set of leaders and what i think we haven't really thought through is the potential inadvertent consequences of the current policy outside of the real risk of some kind of military escalation area what does it do to the prospects of some kind of much more positive transition in iran in the long-term regime implosion brings regime change, of a type that actually produces a less possible and a more dictatorial and a more dangerous set of actors, led by the people that general petraeus has had to deal with before, i think in fact we could be facing a potential outcome which is much worse than the one thatwe face today . >> i just want the clock qualify very quick response that i gave you earlier about
the window of vulnerability, based basically on an assumption that there is not a resumption of the nuclear program. but it is a reality about the capability through the qualities of the different elements of that program, but assuming there's not something now, if that happens then i think all bets are off perhaps even with the united states and that's when i think you start to get really concerned. >> bill, your diplomatic efforts help prevent iran from becoming like north korea, is there a policy that could help iran become like south korea? >> the one thing i've learned through many years as the limits of us agency on our ability to affect regime change in a simple way. or even to predict as suzanne was trying to do the evolution of another society. having said that i share suzanne's view that i do think we ought to approach iran's future with a certain amount of confidence in the following sense. i don't think the current
theocratic leaders in the regime answers for what is in mind, of a young population, some presented us they under the age of 30. having said that i think there's a smart way for the united states to manage what is a very complicated and largely adversarial relationship between now and then. and as i suggested before, i think the smarter way is not separate with delusions or pushback on behavior which threatens others or the interests of our friends, not to be shy of our human rights issues but to selectively engage and as and said, be transactional in places where you can reduce not eliminate but reduce some of the most intimate dangers that an unconstrained iran nuclear program would pose and i think that was the essence of the iranian nuclear agreement, both the integrated agreement of the comprehensive agreement. they did not solve the totality of threat at this iranian regime posed but i
think they were a way of managing that relationship and i think that approach that brought strategies still make sensefor the united states . >> i want to thank you all very much for coming and thank those who've been watching online and in iran and in the us and join me in thanking the panel. >> c-span's washington journal, life with issues that impact you. , need to impeach father tom stier will discuss efforts to impeach president trump. and then attorney law professor alan dershowitz will join us, talking about his opposition efforts to because the president . and kaiser health news fred
shelby will be with us, the proposed federal regulations regarding medical records. be sure to watch washington journal live at seven eastern tuesday morning. join the discussion. >> here's a look at live coverage tuesday on the c-span networks. the house returns at 10 am eastern for general speeches. you may begin work on a series of bills related to improving financial literacy and post office meanings. later on c-span, joe biden continues the campaign rollout with an event in iowa. on the fence you at 9 am, house intelligence committee chair adam schiff and freedom caucus chair mark meadows questions from reporters on the miller report. we leave that event about an hour later when the senate resumes work on executive nominations including a vote later in the morning on the nomination of william cooper to be the general counsel of
the energy departments. and on c-span three, a couple of hearings beginning at 9 am eastern with acting homeland security secretary testifying on the president's budget request. another house hearing in the afternoon focuses on the homeland security departments fiber security budget . >> the c-span bus travel to texas and georgia, asking folks what does it mean to the american? >> what it means to be american to me if the opportunity to challenge the status quo, to constantly be striving for what we do is there an equitable and sometimes it's not always the best decision but it's a choice and i think being american sometimes is hard to represent our nation well what i think overall we can to survive. >> for me what it means to be an american is freedom. freedom from persecution, and freedom to accept people for who they are and understanding that we weren't
the first people, hardly anyone in the united states of america were here. we all migrated but overall, to me, being an american is to have many elements but other elements are embedded and woven in the american flag so we should all salute to it and we should all respect our country as our country has done so much for ourselves, for the us citizens and for people abroad in other countries. so to be an american is to be a true patriot through the good and bad times. >> for me, being an american means being free. i'm free to live how i choose, i'm free to believe how i choose, to raise my family the way i want to and it's also a responsibility. i think it's important to , you have to educate yourself to protect being an american and making good educated decisions when y