tv Arab Center Discussion on U.S. Policy Toward Iran CSPAN August 12, 2019 8:31am-10:01am EDT
the i'm startingg untied because we have i know a few more people coming and, and typical afternoon at the press building. we will welcome them when they get here, but i just would like to ask for your cooperation in terms of turning your phones off to make sure the ringing doesn't get broadcast to the whole c-span audience worldwide. and to avoid as much as possible walking in front of the cameras. it doesn't look good for people in the middle of the conversation kind of going back and forth across from the camera. also would like to announce for those of you who are new at arab center, usually our questions and answers are done in writing your so anytime you a question feel free to just write down
your name,r identify yourself ad write your question. when you're ready raise your hand. staff will collect those, pass them on to the chair of the panel, and then your question will be read and addressed. if you want it addressed to specific panelist, please indicate that. let me just say a couple words quickly about the chairman of the panel, and then just subject matter a little bit, and then turn it over to them. i am very pleased and honored that my colleague and good friend for many years, neither one of us would like to say how long, but has agreed to chair this panel, particularly with the fact, i mean, he's a college with us at the arab center and a professor at georgetown, and a
long time resident an active scholar in washington dealing with these issues, middle east in general but particularly on this issue with u.s. policy towarden iran. i would like for those of you interested to recommend to you a couple, his most recent work for us. if you go on our website, arab center d.c..org come his most recent papers, one on north africa, on tunisia, adjusting to the departure of -- try to cope with the transition and also another one on the issue, the subject of today, a paper that was written a couple weeks before that on the subject of dealing with iran. let me just say that aside from
being a nonresident fellow at the arab center, daniel bloomberg is the director of democracy and government studies at georgetown university. he's also a senior nonresident fellow at the project on middle east democracy here in washington. he did serve as an advisor and consultant, special advisor, to u.s. institute of peace for many years, between 2008-2015. he has worked in various advisory capacity to the u.s. government, including the state department, the u.s. agency for international development, focusing particularly on his specialty, as i said, human rights, security sector reform, and government issues. in terms of the subject matter, aside from the questions that
are raised on the invitation and the announcement, and dan will be talking a little bit more about that in a minute, but it's been kind of interesting for those of us who are following the dance that's taking place between washington and tehran, back and forth. it is a dizzying tennis match, diplomatic tennis match with a tit-for-tat aspect to it, , whih makes it sometimes very difficult towh follow. and it's somewhat chaotic. clearly, the parties have not connected yet in terms of taking a positive reaction many of us would like to see taken to defuse the situation and prevent war from devastating the region, whether by intention or by mistake. but definitely, the resolution witnessed in washington specifically and also on the iranian side, it makes you
wonder if my friend this morning had an article, an op-ed piece in which he said is trump accidentally triggering reconciliation in the middle east?s ly it's kind of funny because my colleague who is also here at the center, the director of our research is wrote a piece a week ago which i to look at it up on a website called the arabian gulf muste not sleepwalk toward war. sadly enough it looks like the region is sleepwalking in that direction. so the panel today will be focusing kind of between those two questions, assessments. is it triggering reconciliation or is it sleepwalking in the wrong o direction? with that said i'd like to pass the microphone on to my friend, daniel bloomberg, to proceed.
>> thank you, khalil that was a gracious and introduction to the chair. i very much appreciate it. it is touc friends since graduae school and i will not mention the year in fall. i'm really delighted to y be a today. i am looking for to learning from my co-panelist. i have to say i remain as mystified about the direction of u.s. foreign policy as so many of us, and i'm hoping, however, in addition to getting out our insights, we can find some arenas we might differ because i the tendency and understandably something to converge rather than the verge but we'll see how that goes. as khalil said we will be taking questions. you will write them down and bring them up here. i will throughout the first question abusing my role as chair and from there we will go and get the card and you questions i and have a very good discussion of our panelists will talk roughly ten minutes.
my job along with my colleagues from the arab center is to enforce those rules, ten to 12 minutes vigorously so we can make sure to finish on time and have a discussion. without further ado i will just very briefly introduced the panelist in the order that they're going to be speaking, which is the order that is printed on your handout. shireen hunter, university associate georgetown university at the place to be i think. ken katzman, congressional research service, he's been right on issues about the goal for many years. many of you shortly all of his work. assal rad who i just met today from the research fellow, national arabian american council she is based in california and happy that you with us today and last but not least my friendd and colleague arba slaven who is director and nonresident senior fellow of the future of iran initiative, atlantic council. without further ado i think we will begin with shireen.
>> thank you very much, dan. it seems to me that the order of the speakers is that age goes before wisdom. [laughing] since i am the oldest on the panel. but thatre also means that i hae been doing this whole iran business, unfortunately, for it seems 40 arduous years arguing about this. i also think academics are just like, you know, the street peddlers. to flag in terms of giving a bit more credentials for my talk. my latest book which was called arab iranian relations commandant amos of conflict and accommodation, available on amazon emison, everywhere. having said that, let mee just
start a few points, raise a few and that hopefully we can have discussions later on. before doing so i want to say that i got two sets of different instructions. one was from the organizer of the panel, and, the meeting, , d the other one was from our respected chairman, dan. what i tried to do then is try to combine those things and hopefully come up with as i say something that is not entirely incoherent and have some useful points. one of my early instructions was that, how serious is the risk of war in the persian gulf, and what is, certainly what is iran tryingis to do? at all busy the other of the
conflict and what the united states is doing. i can say something with quite certainty that iran doesn't want war. that is where we are certain. whether or not the strategy that it is pursuing, including the so-called tit-for-tat escalation that was mentioned, is another matter and i could happen. wars journal happen sometimes because of cumulative effect that such actions. you. know, we have to remember history, since certainly the first world war happened like that. then germany didn't have a plan to conquer europe a or the worl. so the accumulation of certain actions that eventually went out of hand and e led to that. but iran doesn't want war. i told her money, let's be clear that the ayatollah khamenei, let's be clear, the center of
decision-making is iran's ayatollah khamenei and irgc. the irgc has become master of iran. i think sanctions that has been going on particularly since the so-called crippling sanctions as hillary clinton politico has actually increased the power and especially the rule of irgc in the economy. as the economic problems leads to potential for social tensions, the regime will have to resort to some kind of pressure, and i think this is where the irgc will become more important. but if something comes from ayatollah khamenei they think we can credit that, whereas president rouhani, i feel sorry
for them but increasingly he has become like that carrier. period i used to carry the bag of the minister, iri was much better treated kick but anyway, i think that is something that we have to keep in touch. iran doesn't want war. on the other hand, he is also said that we don't want talks. now, once in a while rouhani and zarif, i don't want to get into the other, others than talk about that but if the time comes, might take on what's happening there. is that t he also has said we don't want talks. foreign minister zarif and sometimes president rouhani had said yes, if the americans return the jcpoa, we will talk. but that is obviously, i don't
think the trump administration is going to return to jcpoa in order to have talks with iran, unfortunately. i think it would be wise by the don't think -- maybe someday between measures they can be agreed upon, but i don't know. i don't think that that is going to very muchnk to happen. and the other thing i think increasingly happening is this is something we have to keep in mind. the issues and problems in the persian gulf are becoming almost much, much more internationalized than they had been before. this is in part because the trump administration, together with this policy of more aggressive policy towards iran, has also picked fights with both china and russia. and the one thing to me personally, i i have of the generation of iranians and i
come from a region that has been very much pressured by russia historically for aes least 300 isrs, something that to me very alarming is the growing closeness of iran and russia. if some rumorss are to believe that i ian rent my own of the russian fleet basis. if that happens, the great painful have become realized. iwi think as which happened with the searing conflict, it's no longer iran versus the united states. it's becoming internationalized. and i think that they safe iran and russia are going to have joint maneuvers towardsds the ed of this year. so we will she what happens. i'm trying to sayay the more we delay some kind of compromise with iran, the more this becomes internationalized and you will get the more kooks trying to get in the steering of the soup --
cooks -- the other question that i was asked to address was, , hw devastated a war will be in the region. it is quite obvious, as anybody has said, that iran cannot win a conventional war in theen sensef bombings and so on and so forth. but when you're fighting for your life, or if you think you are going to be destroyed or obliterated, i think that's the word president trump used, then you're going to try to do whatever you can to extend the damage. so use that. in fact, iran's biggest deterrent which of course is a double-edge sword, including with the strait ofed hormuz, the biggest deterrent is what i call the simpson option. in other words, if i'm going to go down i'm going to bring the temple down with me. so i think if indeed there is a
war in the region, then iranians would, whatever means they have, they are going to create as much chaos as possible. most most important, if iran doesn't do anything, the very shock of the war to the global economy is going to negatively affect everybody globally. but certainly countries that are in the region are going to suffer a lotng more. i think think the iran stratege persian gulf, downing the so-called drone or taking ships and so on, is to show basically, and this is i think, is right. it says look, you want to use the strait of hormuz, we have to use it, too, and part of using that is we have to be able to a living, and with all the sanction and so what our living is just completely disappeared.
let me adhere here i read a very interesting analysis abouty the so-called intakes of what is a, sdp or whatever, it's excellent. i never had any hope for this but it shows a chapter that one cannot work i think let's not be kind of complacent about the potential damage that the war can do in the surrounding areas. i think that may not be limited just to the persian gulf and definitely would have impact- d iraq and i thought yes, thank you, i will do that. and so i think yes, i think it will be quite damaging and, of course, the u.s. economy and all that also global economy. the other thing i would like you now to ask, i think i covered the people iran and then going
to talk about -- let me first say talks are not a panacea. one of the things i have been surprised in recent times is that that is this dichotomy has been created which of course is between war and diplomacy. as if the two are absolutely separate. war is a type of diplomacy, or a least war is o a policy by other means. diplomacy is just how and how one can get what one wants. so the question becomes, under what conditions any talks between iran and the u.s. can be productive? because here comes the issue of what the united states once and what iran is willing to get --
wants. many talk about iran's nefarious, i can come under think i love, why don't you call it is what is it you're complaining iran is doing? iran's nefarious regional activities. the most important problem i think is iran's attitude towards the arab-israeli conflict and its actions in the levant, whether it is support from us or whether it's come to me anyway, unacceptable talk although it's mostly talk about israel does that have right to exist politically, not in the east and so on. these are really the main issues. i think there's a lot of tensions in the persian gulf that is derived from that. there's always been a connection between the levant and theet persian gulf, since the time of -- in italy, don't want to go
too much into that. this this is a problem of t age. you have too many historical memories. so i think as long as iran is not willing to change policy in that come at a don't think they are yet, they are as yet willing to do that, it is going to be very difficult to talk. fiorini regime doesn't show any sign that fit are willing to do that. they are willing to come to agreement with the arab state, all arab states, from egypt to even saudi arabia. recently there have been lots of talks and maybe even been solman is changing. but that would mean leaving the persian gulf politics from the levant politics. this has been both policy starting with george w. bush that is created much greater linkage in this,s, and that frightening arabs of iran might make them more accommodating to
israel and so on. i think iran is just lost in this thing. they don't know what they are doing. part of theha problem is iran, unfortunately, and in an article recently i argued that the iranian regime needs a new basis for its political legitimacy. i said they have to change the revolutionary framework into a framework that's basically national concept here i don't mean nationalist, but national. it means iran's interest, iran's safety and iran's prosperity should besh their priority and t disparate of liberation p of palestine or whatever it is they are doing. but the problem is if the change happens, that would mean doing away with the irgc, doing away with ayatollah khamenei and whole lot of those clerics that
it been basically leading iran drive. and i will end it with this before my twoy minutes is up. i will end it with this with a quote from the former commander of irgc. he said if we talk to america, nothing will remain of the revolution. so the problem becomes here that we have to find a way of trying to delink persian gulf politics, and eventually on time things would work out. but as long as we keep this tension, and other point, and i will finish, the whole question of, for u.s., , the problem with iran has become one of pride. iran is, forgive me if i use this metaphor, iran is the
rebellious -- [inaudible] that so far has escaped punishment. iraq is gone. syria more or less is good and everything but i ran as yet. so the problem is iran elements in the united states will really want iran to- cry uncle. of course they would prefer if they did that through talking. that's why you have 12 points. this i have to say here that has been the constant policy of the united states, at least since 1988. i would even the 87. this is not merely a trump problem. if we think of it in terms of trump, then it's going to be -- unfortunately, iranians are thinking terms of trumpet i keep telling them they shouldn't expect anybody else to do much better unless they changed some of the basic issues. you cannot challenge the country and its interests.
you cannot say you are going to drive united states out of the east and hope they're going to give you the lead to do that. so i think that this is what you were seeing, is a gradual combination of crisis that has been going on for four years. i will stop here and hopefully later in questions and answers i might, add a couple more thing. thank you very much. >> thank you very much, professor hunter. i think you put your key on when the key issues and that of course is the hardliners. the relationship is x essentially threatening. for them that would be the end of the revolution. how can you compartmentalize this and an obama solution was to focus on the nuclear issue to try to break them apart, now that particular policy has been jettisoned so it's the question where we go from here? ken may or may not be willing to engage the issue but i know he prepared some remarks so go ahead.
>> sometimes by m and a crs capacity can sometimes i'm not in a crs capacity. today i am not in a crs capacity. i will be speaking in english. [laughing] >> i like that. >> so i think shireen was correct that iran does not want war. however, in my estimation him y analysis, iran is probably in the strongest position i have seen in many years. they have basically rescued aside from the brink of extinction. hezbollah is stronger than it has ever been. iraqis share militias are in many ways the preponderant power in iraq. the uae has felt left yemen, leaving the saudi campaign against the irane backed houths hanging by a thread. iran has backed the houthis. that's very clear.
and so iran does not want war. i totally agree. however, iran as we said it is being strangled by sanctions if its oil exports are proximally 10% of baseline of 2.5 million barrels a day. it hasa shutout of the national banking system. and it is being, its estimated its gdp will sink about six or 7% this year, which if the u.s. shrank about six or 7%, that would be a severe recession, not a mild recession. that would be a severe recession. and so iran is feeling, in my estimation, extremely confident that it can make a tremendous the unitedrouble for states, if there isof a conflic. and iran is going to go to the mats to try to achieve the lifting of sanctions. a fixation of mediators appeared to have taken the chance at the plate and struck out.
there is not tremendous amount of active mediation that is appearing to bear fruit. and i want to talk a little about the fact that this puts a big burden i would sit on the european countries will continue to support the jcpoa, the nuclear agreement. they feel this was a victory for european diplomacy. they saw no real credible rationale for the u.s. to leave the accord. they are tryingea mightily to preserve it. i may succeed. they may not. i want to talk a little about what they're trying to do and what others are trying to do to keep this agreement in place and perhaps salvage the situation and may be pull us back from the brink of conflict, which i think is the point of our meeting today, is talk about are we at the brink of conflict and maybe how it can be avoided. so shireen mention the
instrument for support of trading exchanges. it is a european union vehicle, a sort of a barter exchange. basically the europeans have started it. it is processing transaction. insofar limited to humanitarian affairs issues, goods, which are not sanctionable under u.s. sanctionss law. it is a vehicle whereby basically european exporters to iran will be paid by european importers, and iranian exporters will be paid by iranian -- the money stays on each side of the divideay basically. so the money doesn't go from iran to europe or europe to iran. it stays on each side of the divide and, therefore, presumably avoids taller transaction.
>> trying to make sense of it myself, but it looks like what the europeans are doing is trying to pump capital into the mechanism to try to accelerate it. the other issue that's under discussion is for others outside europe to join this vehicle. china is taking about joining the vehicle. obviously, china is very flush with cash. other ideas, china does still buy iranian oil, yes, this he buy a lot less than they were. however, if you watch cnbc, u.s. and china are in a trade conflict now. is it beyond thought that china as a way of messaging the trump administration might try to buy more iranian oil? that certainly is on the table, i would say.
china has basically said they are going to continue to buy iranian oil. there was a company chinese sanctioned iran-- i have to look up the name, something, something like this. and they were sanctioned for selling gasoline to iran and they were sanctioned, and let no just briefly discuss another idea that is out there. even though i'm not in the capacity today, i do not recommend options. that's not what i'm doing. i can talk about options and debate them, but i cannot recommend anything about you another idea that's out there is after the trump administration left the jcpoa, the europeans announced a $20
million development aid to iran. development grant. $20 million is a very small amount. iran is out maybe 40 or 50 billion dollars a year because of the oil. to make iran whole for the jcp 0. a, they would need to be staked to about 40 to $50 billion is my estimation. can the europeans simply pump that much cash into the iranian economy, 40, 50 billion a year? tough. probably not. could china pump half of that? probably, yes. is injecting capital to the iranian academy economy, sanctionable? there is countries aid on the
terrorism list, iran is on the terrorism list, and u.s. would sanction aid to that country. china does not get u.s. aid, and i don't see the way that pumping into the iranian economy is sanctionable. i'm not an attorney, this is my first blush assessment. iranian into the turkish economy and i don't cover turkey-- there are ideas out there. am i saying that the j krchljcp be salvaged? are there other ideas out there? yes. could this possibly salvage the situation? possibly. i'll end there. >> well, that's really sobering
because i think one recognizes that iran's regime depends on the sale of oil and if you can't sell oil, you have a gun put to your head essentially. so if none of those arrangements work out particularly in terms of oil sales, iran has very few options. walking away completely from the agreement is certainly one option on the table now and escalating in the gulf as response predictable to this situation so i think that's really important. all right. >> i'd like to thank arab center for giving me the opportunity and platform to share with such respected people in the field. i'm going to take a slightly different approach to what we're talking about and talk about sort of the framing of the issue and the reason i take that approach is i think one of the things that's informed the way we have a discussion and i believe a discussion like this is important and it's important to have because hopefully what we're trying to gain at the end of the discussion is a resolution or else this is just an exercise in us talking.
so, if what we're trying to gain is a resolution, we have to have a full undanstng of where the problem comes from and where it stems from and how we talk about it is actually quite important. the framing that we've seen in washington and in the media stems from the last 40 years, iran specifically andolso the broader middle east, we have a baseline assumption that iran is a bad actor and the u.s. is a good actor and when we talk about it in this sort of useless dichotomy we don't get any nuance into discussing why is iran behaving the way it is. if we continue to say at that iran is baying this way because they're bad actors, we have no way because we're assuming they're bad actors. what we see is a rational sort of approach from the iranian side and a bizarre paradox.
that its hand is in everypot in the middle east and yet, it's so week that one strike we can take them out. and the paradox is finding a resolution. the trig -- interesting thing of the paradox, this is the orientalal long been used of talking about the orient, being docile, simultaneously hyper masculine, aggressive and dangerous, so this is not something that's new to this the discourse, this is something that we've repeatedly seen and the same reason why orientalism had a conversation and talking to people and gaining a resolution, it's problematic in this framing as well. so, he talked about why i thought the framing was important to gain a resolution and today what i want to talk about, today we have two
threats that are global and can threaten our species. one is climate change and the other is nuclear weapons. what the jc pchljcpoa did was a not requirements, but global cooperation, it's a model for global cooperation and nonproliferation. rather than abandoning it we should have used it to how to denuclearize the middle east and a model that's used globally. in fact, we tackle the problems that we're going to face in the next 10, 20, 50 years. we're seeing data coming out of the united nations that talks about food scarcity and water scarcity and the these are problems that we should be focused on rather than having what is in my opinion a side show about iran and how iran is again, simultaneously an existential threat and no threat at all because we could take them out very easily.
the crisis that we're currently in is first based on that kind of framing and that's why we see the trump administration have an incoherent policy. we don't have a framing incoherent policy. the other reason we have an incoherent policy is because his advisors are not aligned with his vision. iran doesn't want a war, i agree, absolutely, iran doesn't want a war. the violations, small breaches that iran has gone through in the last few months are easily reversible, if iran wanted to abandon the deal they could have followed suit with the u.s. over a year ago, they didn't because they want to stay in the war. i believe that president trump made it clear he doesn't want a war. unfortunately his advisors arguably do, and they have a vision that's not aligned. the way out, if we're talking about and we'll get into this
more i think when we have questions and answers, but i think there's some concern of, well, iran has said that they don't want any talks. and said they don't want any talks and even brought up an irg official who said if we talk to the u.s. nothing will remain of the revolution. and while that mentality is potent within the hardliners of iran, of course iran did negotiate with the u.s., they did talk to the u.s., we did have a nuclear agreement and so it's not that it's an i am possibility to return to that status quo, it's that we as the united states are not acting in a way that would make that possible. if we go back to the original point we made and looked at the iranian side as a rational actor we see nothing, but them complying with the deal because they wanted to stay within the deal. this is what we call strategic patience. when iranians and i believe dan wanted to talk about the side, the view from tehran. i spent personally ten years in
iran doing field research during my ph.d. program and from my understanding at least from someone who has done field research in iran, iranians are suffering currently under sanctions, and while they absolutely have rightful dissent and disagreement and disdain for the government that they have, what the u.s.'s approach is doing is helping them to unify behind something they don't necessarily like and that's the thing that's actually so frustrating as someone who is an iranian-american and watching the diaspora occur. and we see things like drone strikes, tanker seizures and again if the assumption is that iran is the aggressor, that's the problem and not understanding why they're behaving the way they are. in fact, our drones are close to iran. our bases are close to iran. none of this is taking place
anywhere close to the united states and so from their point of view, this is something i heard from a friend in iran after the drone strike. they were happy to know that they could defend their borders. a war in iran is not something that's a far-fetched memory. war on their soil occurred in the 1980's and a generation was defined by that war and they still remember it and they still understand it and the fear of not being able to defend their borders was a very potent fear and so now what they're seeing is their government, having stepped up and being able to defend their borders is not something that's negative nor would it be by any rational actor. we would not want to feel our borders were not protected by our government. so what i'm hoping in the rest of the conversation that we have, which could get into more details how we can actually move forward, but i do believe that the point of origin has to be the united states because the point of origin that's put us on this path was a decision by the united states, by this administration, to abrogate the
deal and if we want to go back and talk to iran as-- if we want to negotiate a more for more deal then we have to go back to the origins, reconcile that, on the iranian side they have to come back to full compliance if the united states ends the maximum pressure campaign and then you have to have a discussion of more for more. >> thank you for the discussion, that's tremendous. it seems whatever the long-term framing of iran and the u.s., bad actor, good actor, the d.c. framing these days the trump administration provoked this problem and in that sense it's not the actor and iran the rational actor. maybe fox news doesn't share that point of view, but i think that the narrative is to suggest that the ending or the decision by the u.s. to exit the iran nuclear deal was the precipitating factor of getting us to where we are today. barbara. >> i'm not sure there's much
left for me to talk about, but let me try briefly and first thank the arab center and my co-panelists. i agree with a lot of what they said. i wrote a piece the other week for the axios website that said basically when it comes to iran, the means has become the end. and i think that's what we've seen from the trump administration. there is-- there is disagreement within the administration about iran policy although not as much as there was at the beginning of the trump administration when you had people like jim mattis and rex tillerson and h.r. mcmaster actively urging the president to stay in the nuclear deal. the president fired those advisors, got new advisors who were more hawkish on iran, but there are disagreements over whether military action should be taken, national security advisor john bolton in particular is quite hawkish and
secretary of state mike pompeo, also more hawkish apparently than the president. but the one thing they all seem to agree on is sanctions. more and more and more sanctions. and of course, it's not just iran. if you've been following venezuela, now venezuela is under embargo as well. to me it represents a sense of frustration on the part of the administration that their policy isn't working. iran has not returned to the table. there are no negotiations on a new and better deal, and if you remember the 12 demands that secretary of state mike pompeo put forward, a little more than a year ago, iran's policies and activities in all of those areas are arguably much worse than they were when the united states was still in the deal, when the u.s. was still in the deal there weren't tankers that were being sabotaged in the persian gulf. there weren't tankers that were being seized, drones being shot
down. yes, iran was very active in the region, but i would argue that has more to do with u.s. mistakes, like invading iraq, and opening iraq to iranian influence than it did to some sort of diabolical eye -- iran impulse. so all of iran's nefarious behavior, maligned behavior has gotten worse since the united states left the deal and of course, it makes perfect sense because iran is signaling it's not going to sit there and have its economy completely choked off and have the international community pay no price. so what's surprise something that iran was patient for a year until the united states decided that it was going to issue no more wavers for iranian oil exports, that would try to reduce iran's exports to zero so all of this quite predictable. sanctions, sanctions and more
sanctions. last week was simply the height of absurdity. the united states that claims that it wants new negotiations with iran sanctioned the one individual who would lead such negotiations, namely the foreign minister. not only did they sanction him, but on their farsi website they put out an item that had an extremely ugly picture of him, he was in a fight with hardliners at the time, but his face is all screwed up and he looks very, very angry and menacing. and the text in farsi called him a very rude word in persian, essentially called him a pimp for the iranian government. now, i ask you, if you want to have negotiations with an adversary is this the way you go about it? is this designed to encourage negotiations? one of the big questions we
have now is whether they'll come to the u.n. security council for the annual meeting of the general assembly in september? will the united states provide the visas? will it give permission in time so they can make their preparations? will it impose such humiliating conditions at that iran will boycott the u.n. general assembly in september? it's entirely possible. in which case, any chance for diplomacy and deescalation goes out the window. i think that u.s. policy, like many other policies undertaken by this administration is max numb noise, maximum pressure and minimum result. things get worse they don't get better and we don't find solutions. as somebody who has been following iran, also for 40 years, although perhaps less intimately than shireen hunter,
this is frustrating and we're in a better place, as has been pointed out not only do we have negotiations with iran during the period that led to the jcpoa, but actually there have been talks with iran under any administration, one or another. sometimes they've been covert, sometimes overt. but there have been talks and efforts at deescalation. what we have now is a situation where there are no talks. there are no channels, and we are putting sanctions on the foreign minister of the country. last point, and this is a quotation from lewis carroll that i first heard applied to iran by john limbert, a former hostage in iran and former assistant deputy secretary of state in iran and one of my favorite people and it goes like this. when you don't know where you're going any road will take you there. [laughter] >> thank you very much.
i'm going to lead off with a question, but i would invite everybody-- anybody who wants to ask a question, please write it down on a card and my colleagues from the center will be collecting them and bringing them up here. and one of the things that robert said about sanctions is, sanctions have two purposes, one is to force your-- or encourage your adversary to come to the negotiating table and the other is to destroy your adversary. if the purposes of sarpnctions s to engage in a regime change, iran has no incentive to come to the table and we're scratching our heads and wondering what is the policy coming from the administration in that regard? and here is my question on that particular score and that is, where is trump in all this? and this sounds like perhaps an odd question, but it's interesting situation where when you're apparently ten or 15 minutes from an attack, a u.s. attack, we learn that our
president decided it's not a good idea. my as sent, i've written about it, his inclination is not to war, but to negotiate and he doesn't know-- what do we make of this, i'm not sure how to characterize it a strange bifurcation for the white house. is it possible for this administration to actually negotiate? is it possible for trump to findist way towards negotiations and not take steps, as barbara just described, that completely up-end any idea that we could possibly have such talks. so, barbara, anybody else, i'm trying to look into the soul of this administration and understand what the prospects are here, which is after all, partly what we're talking about. >> well, i think one thing, i'll start in both and maybe go
in opposite order down the line. one thing we have to stress is how much this is a domestic, political issue for trump. he left the iran nuclear deal because his supporters supported that, they wanted more pressure on iran, they wanted sanctions on iran. saudi arabia wanted it, emirates wanted it, the israelis wanted it and the big donors to trump's campaign wanted more pressure on iran. so it's domestic politics for him and i don't think -- you know, i can't see him coming back into the jcpoa. i can't see him making concessions toward iran that would make it easier for iran to agree to new talks. you have to put something face-saving down on the trebil v table for iran to return to the talks and not wait until our 2020 elections. we should point out that all the democratic candidates with the exception of cory booker have said pretty much they
would return to the jcp 0. a if there was a jcpoa to return to. which gives iran an incentive to hunker down and somehow stay within some aspects of the deal until 2020. so you know, it's hard to imagine. the sanctions on sharif our colleague robin wright wrote in the new yorker, rand paul one of the emissarieemissaries, inv to the white house and when he said he would have to check with his government before he could come and pretty much turned down the request, he was sanctioned. and according to him, he was threatened with sanctions if he didn't come to the oval office. these are mafia tactics. these aren't the tactics of a great super power. and again, you know, what's in it for iran? if trump will make no concessions, if they won't
restore any of the oil wavers to iran, why should they return to talks? there's simply no rationale for it that i could see. i don't know what the others think. >> just a couple of footnotes to this. i may be a little-- i wouldn't use the word dissent because that's too strong, but i do believe that iran-u.s. problems go beyond trump. this is the -- trump is the culmination of the process that started and frankly, on this i have to say, depending who started what, it depend when in history you want to start. i mean, there are a lot of things that depends on the date you choose. i think the first salvo was from iran and that was first the hostage crisis and then there was the ayatollah h
khomeini thing. and then after that, the clinton administration. in my humble opinion, united states lost the best opportunities to actually have a cokocomprehensive talks with n the best time in 1988. i know this for a fact. i don't want to go into this. iraq was traumatized and iranian troops, and if they got the iraqi troops out, they were willing to have all kind of things. and the other thing is during the first bush administration that sanhanni, and was nobody--
the current power, we rebuffed him. the last time was -- barbara has herself written about it and i liked the book immensely and then in 2003 thing, the u.s. policy actually consistently has been regime change without war except for the brief period that-- the euphoria of the afghan and iraqi wars. i read an article that said the reason that go to tehran and should-- a number of things, but iran was on the hit list. so trump is the culmination of all of this stuff. necessarily on the other side what is happening with the khomeini and probably this will be my last contribution, the problem at that i have as
someone who puts iran ahead of islam or any other religion or whatever, the survival of iran and prosperity is the most important one. he's the leader of the-- and i read one thing, islam is universalist and they look at iran as a staging post for going after this. that's why i'm very worried about the irc. i think that people who consider war by accident or-- a majority want an apocalypsic war, and getting ready for the coming to the messiah. i think you have to understand, of course, it's the personality, the same way of
trump, he's very stubborn. he's very proud and i don't think that he cares. we've missed opportunities to deal with ralph sfsanjani. and with rouhani. and we have to do that. it requires for the united states, it seems to me if they really want to, and the other thing of course the united states really -- it started with clinton, but clinton started this without use of military force, started on what i call a transformative policy for middle east. you can't transform a region completely. it's not a mechanical thing. it's not a puzzle that you move and it has therefore unleashed a dialectic process that we are here. so to get back, it seems to me one way of doing things is to also look at iran as part of
the middle east puzzle. and i think that my one recommendation will be to try to reach agreements, even without open talks, on specific issues with iran. for example, about the shipping in the persian gulf. or about -- and one step will be to allow the process of reconciliation between iran and the gulf to go forward. and i think that iran is ready and no problem with saudi arabia, and then they can build upon that and hopefully -- you see, we have always put pre-conditions for iran. rather than looking at it as a process, the end of this will be iran stopping its nefarious activities and others, but if you go, the clinton
administration did that and others, that you have to accept these things and then we can talk, but that's not negotiation. that's basically demanding surrender. and i think that really is very difficult with any kind of par party. >> i want too aed to the question that you had about trump specifically and how he sort of fits into the picture. so i think this is fascinating because he wanted to coin the phrase, you're fired. so, it seems like it's possible for him, if he wanted to, to as he's done so many times in his administration, fire the people who are guiding his policies. to be fair, he's not a policy expert. i don't think that anybody is under the impression that he is. so he's being fed information boy people who he's entrusted guiding his policies where he doesn't really know what to do. so i think at a certain point it is really incumbent on him,
if he genuinely doesn't want a war, which is what he says, to fire the people who are putting him on that path and bring advisors, like tillison at the beginning wasn't putting him on the path and which is why he argued we should remain in the jcpoa. i think that's maybe a sort of simplified way of looking at it, but being advised by people who actually have the same vision of you should be the path that trump would take if he wants to fit into this. it questions his authority on one thing, i don't want war, i just don't want iranian to have nuclear weapons yet we had an agreement that had just that and we pulled out of that. to get cohesion, he needs people who have the same vision as him. >> just to round it out and button it up, i think the administration, from what they say, seems to believe that the maximum pressure is weakening
iran to the point where its regional activities are diminishing or did diminish. and i wrote a piece for barbara's group and i don't see evidence of that weakening or that iran has shifted any of its activities in the region and i don't see any evidence that the iran's economy is about to collapse so that iran will capitulate because of economic downturn. let's remember the iraqis basically shut down iran's oil exports entirely during the iraq-iran war. if we talked about getting iran to zero, it got it to zero and didn't collapse. it rationed foods and goods, but it did not collapse. i think we have to as analysts look at whether the thesis
that you can weaken iran-- >> it's important that the iranians see that president trump know the only does he want another war in the middle east, he wants to withdraw all forces in the u.s. you remember, he said they were withdrawing from syria and later backtracked on that. and now he is a trying to get his envoy to get an agreement with the taliban so the troops can withdraw from afghanistan. so, yes, there's maximum chick pressure, but the u.s. is not really eager to put boots on the ground. which is another reason for the iranians to continue to test the united states with provocative actions in the persian gulf. to pressure europe, to pressure the chinese, the russians and others and to essentially wait out trump. >> thank you very much. i have to say, the article is
good reading. >> the source-- >> and somehow if there's trouble it would stop protecting its interests, which is bizarre. an interesting question ill he read for you, president macron proposed acting as mediator between u.s. and iran and other countries. trump tweeted today that tehran is giving mixed signals and including macron. that nobody could represent us, does that mean that mediation is doomed? what do you make for this statement, this is for ken and barbara. >> is this something that's just been tweeted today? he stopped beating up on beto o'rourke and-- yeah. trump wants a photo op meeting
with an iranian. this is a real clear goal. he wants to replay the tapes with north korea, not that that's gone so well, but you know, maximum pressure, fire and fury and then, you know, summits with thousands of the world's press in attendance. that's what he wants with iran. but the situations are so different. i mean, first of all, north korea is really a one-man dictatorship, iran is not. iran has politics, it has foreign policy making through concensus, and you know, what's the percentage for iran? iran is already a major power in that part of the world. it doesn't need legitimacy from donald trump the way that had a 33-year-old north korean grandson of the founder of the regime needs from trump. so it's simply not there. and also the region, the region
in northeast ais a wants peace and wants north korea to be brought out and reintegrated into the region at least until recently, the feelings in the middle east were very, very different. i think if there's a hopeful sign, i agree with my co-panelists, the united arab emirates has sent an emissary. and-- if the reason is that donald trump is not going to save them, not going to get rid of the hated regime in iran, stuck with them for a long time, maybe they can sort out some of their problems together. you know, trump has shown that he simply cannot be counted on to solve the problem of iran for the region. >> thank you, yes, and i would add to that when you're playing a game of chicken and you're hoping that threats of u.s. action will bring iran into compliance and it doesn't do this, you're left rethinking
your whole approach, probably what they're doing in dubai right now, reconsidering if that's going to work out because otherwise, because it doesn't seem that the u.s. is going to necessarily go to war or that iran will certainly take the bait. here is an interesting question for which i have no clear guidance for. anybody who knows about this can jump in. an american aircraft carrier battle group has been treading water in the eye arabian sea oust of the straits of hormuz, could it be afraid it's a sitting duck? the question to pose what is the u.s. strategy in the gulf? we haven't talk much about what's going on there and that's a murky subject. ken or anybody else who wants to jump in. >> i think the aircraft doesn't necessarily have to be in the gulf to be effective. i think the issue is what i look at is these deployments
that have been announced since may and there's been several batches, including deployments of some advanced combat aircraft, additional air defense weaponry, u.s. forces are back at the air base where they haven't been since 2003. the question is, are these deployments deterring iran? and i would have to say not yet because iran is still attacking tankers and seizing tankers, so, this is where-- this goes back to what i started with when i gave my talk, iran feels very confident because they make so much trouble for the united states at this point that, you know, they are em boldened to push the envelope to get what they want and, you know, obviously, what i say to people, you know, anybody that thinks that a u.s.-iran war is going to stay limited to the strait of hormuz is just not looking at what i've been-- what i'm looking at or i think
anybody in this panel has been looking at. so i think we have to get away from this notion that any conflict with iran is going to stay limited to some sort of a classic clash in the strait of hormuz. >> thank you very much. i'm going to take this opportunity to throw out an iran-related question that echoes some of the other questions here and that is in terms of rouhani and zarif, bit his whole career on this deal. some of us were at the meeting in 2013 and he was bouncing off the walls. he was so happy. it was a new day. they were coming back, reform-- they felt that the history was with them. and here we are all of these years later and does rouhani, the different forces they represent, do they have a future in how do they survive this very difficult situation
which they've placed all of their bets on this particular agreement and now it steams to be possibly-- to be dissolving before their eyes? >> may i ask a question? >> i think that i was going to write an article, but then i got busy and i didn't. it was going to be varied between trump and hardliners. you have to see the history of him. i have aknown him since before the iranian mission and you're older, you remember things a lot more. and so, there's no mystery. and so-- and i always liked him. i always liked him. i thought he was very personable. and very bright and so on. but there is fumbled twice.
one of the fbles of the fumbles afghanistan. and we basically gave the house key to the government, and-- allowed haimoud karzai, this was the victory. that israeli and because he speaks english fluently, he impresses the revolutionary guard and others who never learned a foreign language at least not to be able to really be fluent, and so that was one. and i think that's what happens after iran diplomacy considered. i personally was opposed to what they did in the country, and they basically gave away any say in afghanistan at that one meeting and i think that contributed greatly, that
contributed greatly to the victory of ahmadinejad. and for the first time in the elections allowing what they -- the concessionary foreign policy. the other thing that obviously -- in fact, someone very close the other day was very closely reading jcpoa and he said didn't iranians have some proper lawyers to look at this agreement? he said it is full of loopholes and things of what has been done. so, what i'm saying is, therefore, as a result of that, and the last, obviously, coup de grace, was so on and so
forth, and the government needs -- they don't have a strong enough foreign ministry. i mean, they should have 200, instead they have just this one guy that it actually nt act with others. and so what it has to do-- i was worried actually about them. i thought his life might be in danning danger and stay in one of his trips, no, really, and therefore, i think what he has been doing, he has been doing quite a bit of tongue lashing himself. i had never seen some of the gestures he has been doing and stuff he's saying is very unrealistic because what he has been doing and going and embraci embracing-- the foreign ministry and so on, so forth. so this is really for him, it's a self-protection. does it have a future in iran? yes, in fact because of he has
now cut his deal with the thing and he has become a hero, he has become a national hero because of the sanctions. >> because of the sanctions. >> and because of all of these things. in fact, he had to go and say that i promise you that i will not run in 1,400 iranian years. the problem is again i will come back and i will close. united states, i don't want to go too much into history. the policies of iran in the 1970's, especially '75 to '79. let's face is our policies contributed to the iranian revolution and that's the biggest loss for the united states frankly worse than the loss of china and whatever. there's still the ripples of that and if you have a war with iran and even if iran is
disintegrated the ripples of that will continue another 50 years or something like that. so we have to be very careful what we're talking. it's not because iran is such a big deal or a wonderful thing, no, none of that, but -- because of that something like that collapsing, everything is not going to remain the same. wherever it is, it's not going to remain the same so we have to be very, you know, careful with that. the problem is we have never wanted to deal with iran slowly and that comes to the dynamics of, i don't think it's partly orientalism, is correct, and how they view the people. they only understand force and you've got to kick them before they basically-- but beyond that, without being pejorative toward anybody, that is the behavior.
one of the problems of the iran and united states and also russia, i'm very upset that the iranians are accepting russian imperialism and fighting american so-called imperialism. to me russian imperialism is worse. definitely worse. the point i'm trying to make is this, iran has been challenging all the time even when it was very weak. for example, he wanted to buy ships and came to america, the american ambassador in con sta stand-- because they were using slavely to control what was -- it's his dynamics of great powers and regional powers and some of these things, i don't want to use it again in the pejorative
way, but united states wants global -- and wants it in the middle east and iran is challenging. if you make your bed, you have to lie in it. i am not saying that u.s. has the right to that, no. but iran has to realize it cannot expect to fight with the united states and expect not to be punished. this is going to happen. so it seems to me that, you know, the french have an expression and i have to confess my basic for-- is french, anglo saxon ven neear verner. and the french have a word you have to slide things, you have to go -- the fundamentals.
anglo saxon saying is by contrast, studied in england, if we're wishy-washy, we'll get somewhere, but it doesn't work, and i believe that the iran-u.s. relations have reached a level that it has to be -- and i think that ideal u.s. accepts iran as a regional player and in exchange iran has to be a more responsible player, not going iran, talking about destroying a country or doing this stuff. or we are going to see, you know, more of the same even after they have gone. >> thank you. in light of the challenge-- >> is it okay if i answer this part, you framed it talking about the future given-- you talked about him bouncing off the walls and i think it's
something to bring up when having a conversation focused only on sort of leadership, he's not the on one bouncing off the world, iranians were. iranians were happy to have the jcpoa, while there are some conversations that try to deny that, it's an undeniable fact. if you look at elections in iran, 70% of iranians voted and he won by a landslide. they want a relationship with the united states. they do not want this sort of consistent aggression that we're seeing so i absolutely think that he has a future beyond just politics. he has a future because that's what the population of that country wants and the only other thing i wanted to add,
shireen, you brought up '75 to '79 when the u.s. made a mistake this iran. i would go back further and go back to 1953. if there is-- we have to be able to look at the iranian perspective on this dichotomy of the u.s.-iran relations as well. if we're going to bring in u.s. wh u.s.-- any state would fight that and naturally do so. >> i just want to comment. i hope nobody lost my remark, is that he's speaking on behalf of social forces and i spent the better part of ten years working on precisely the subject of the relationship between the leadership and iran's social-political arena and how the two are linked. so i want to emphasize this is no in way analysis that focuses on the leadership as i noted.
i do want to return the discussion to the last question which get us back to 1600 pennsylvania avenue of all places and that is two related questions for which i'm sure none of us actually have a good answer. what strategy could help trump save face? you know, what can be done in that regard and we've commented on that and this has been sort of common before and i agree with what could be the solution. why doesn't trump fire his current foreign policy advisors on iran and try somebody who has views consonant with his and leave that. i'll leave the two questions for our panelists and we'll wrap up based on that. thank you. >> yeah, i think that, you know, if the president were to fire particularly john bolton, that would send a message to a lot of countries around the
world that the u.s. pail might be shifting. but trump has had how many national security advicers? this is three. another thing that trump could do is name an envoy for negotiations with iran. instead of having to try to have a summit before you have negotiations, have the negotiations and we have a model which came from the obama administration. the omanies hosted talks that were private before zarif bouncing off the walls when he met with kerry in 2013. rand paul is a possible emissary, there are others, but there are a lot of republicans who have worked with iran and worked with iran successfully. and jim dobbins got the agreement that put a new government in afghanistan after the overthrow of the taliban. and now working on the afghan
file was our ambassador at the united states and in iraq. he speaks dari, which is essentially farsi and he knows lots of iranians and he's capable. ryan crocker, a very diplomate negotiated with iranians in iraq and held talks with them after 9/11 that were about how to manage afghanistan and al qaeda and so on. very capable guy. jim refry, our current envoy against isis and in syria also had long contacts and experience with iranians. the department secretary of state, a man named john sullivan was a young man in iran during the revolution and -- so there's no shortage of individuals. we have an envoy to north korea, i don't know if he gets to do much because trump keeps
reemptying that by meeting with kim jong-unme kim jong-unme kim jong-unment -- kim jong-un. it's possible if trump wants to go that route, but we've seen no indications so far that he does. >> anyone else want to fill in on that. >> because it's going to come down whether sanctions are going to be lifted. this is what i'm watching for. is there any indication that they're going to be willing to lift sanctions and so far i have not seen it. >> may i have one thing, that it can be-- face saving has to be both for iran and for the united states. everybody needs that fig leaf to hide behind and to be able-- this is one of the international negotiations 101. and one thing the jcpoa was
that iran was in a dire situation. i'm sorry i dissent when says that they did not agree to jcpoa because of sanctions is not correct. they did. and i know that for sure. it wasn't the only reason, but it was. the other thing is that therefore, what can iran do? i think that made the positive actually recommendation and that's what the u.s. has been asking iran and the iranian parliament, they signed it and iranian parliament has not ratified it. the iaea, which would increase more than the current inspection and so on that's on the jcpoa. in exchange at least for partial lifting the sanctions. so, that's a person that trump
could go, now with this we know that iran cannot produce nuclear weapons, which actually this is pushing an open door because they have said we will not and in fact, as somebody put it mpt even though it's weaker, mpt prohibits-- i mean the countries like india and pakistan are not members so they're not bound by the limitations of that. so i think there are ways if there is a will there is a way to do that. the last thing i would like to add, if i might, because i r may not have a nice platform like this, is that there is a model dimension to all the things that sanctions are doing to iran. essentially, it is killing the country and i'm talking about even physically killing the country because of
unemployment, because of all kinds of other pressures. people are even smuggling -- across the borders and so on. so, i think that at some point, it seems to me, to be honest, i was arguing the other day that having a war might be more admissible because then you would finish it rather than this slow death that is happening. i mean, children don't have drugs, dying of all kind of peculiar diseases and one thing to me that's amazing is where we get very upset about the certain human rights. this is the right to life that is being-- for a lot of people, is -- and i think that we have to bring this into the-- even though i am a realist and ebl unfortunately power relations determines but that doesn't mean you have to be absolutely immoral in this matter. thank you.
>> yeah, i think the question comes do to from the american position whether we want to live with iran or not and we have to decide the strategy. >> and the question for saving face for trump. obviously i think that saving face would not be going to war. and iran is somewhat calling his bluff. he's continually putting more sanctions on sanctions, sanctions, he's maxed that out to an earn is extent and now he's sanctioning individual people. so it's clear iran-- i'm not going to get into the entire history because that would be ridiculous, is not going to surrender, is not going to capitulate. so they're either calling his bluff and he'll have to go another route, which would be a war, or he has to reel back and i think given the two options, reeling back, for some who ran a platform criticizing wars, especially in the middle east,
to then get into one, that is likely exponentially going to be worse than anything we've seen so far because of the context of iran. iran and iraq are not comparable situations at all, it absolutelily saves him face and a legacy if he can reel back from this and not something that goes on potentially for decades as we've seen in other conflicts. >> i completely agree with that. a war is know the a policy that wins much, the horrific implications wins much for our president domestically. it's a policy of peril and i think we have to recognize that and hopefully he does and he'll see his way towards dealing with iran as opposed to simply sustaining the current status quo which will take us down a very dangerous path. thanks to the entire panel for this excellent discussion and we'll look forward to seeing you another time. [applause] [inaudible