tv Hudson Institute Discussion on Iraq Middle East Policy CSPAN June 6, 2019 3:17pm-4:51pm EDT
changed to omaha beach. the cries of the wounded. >> most of it was medic, and a few of it was mama, that type of thing. the cries of the wounded and the dying were sort of haunting. but they were drowned out by the rifle and machine gunfire coming in from our right. >> and at 8:00 p.m., president trump and first lady melania trump join french president emmanuel macron for the d-day 75th anniversary ceremony. watch sunday starting at 1:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv on c-span3. the state department last month ordered all nonemergency u.s. government employees to leave iraq. president trump said iran was supporting a tax on u.s. personnel in the region, and ordered 1,500 additional troops to the persian gulf. the hudson institute brought analysts together to talk about the role of iraq as tensions build between the u.s. and iran.
>> if you have a phone, please put it on silent. i would appreciate that. thank you. doing the same thing right now. >> so my name is michael preachent, senior fellow at the hudson institute. i would like to welcome our c-span audience. today we have a panel called "stuck in the middle: iraq caught between the united states and iran." these growing tensions are leading to discussion as to whether or not iraq could possibly be the battlefield for these two powers in the region. well, iran being a power in the united states, being in the region. that this is likely to take place in iraq, we may have some disagreements there. but today we're going to discuss it. and we're going to do this like a sunday morning show format. i'm going to provide a -- i'm going to leave it to our
panelists to break it down. we have a great panel today, starting first with the islamic communities and the west. the recent author of a book on shia/sunni relations, sectarianism. dr. abbas, director and resident senior fellow, the iraq initiative from the atlantic council, also the author of "reclaiming iraq." and he and i have talked about -- grown to know each other since the 2014 isis campaign, where we were looking at sunni/shia divide in iraq and the u.s. foreign policy that was overlaid over this isis campaign. and then omar al nadawi, an iraq analyst. we will have a new affiliation soon. right now he's an iraq analyst with experience going back to 2003. he's published numerous
articles. i look to him to see what his take is on iraq, and he is focused on iraq security, energy and politics. so he looks at all the crucial sectors of this country are and, again, how u.s. foreign policy is overlaid over it, whether it's good or bad, and also some of the regional pressures put on iraq. so thank you all for coming today. it's good to have you. and i'll just begin. all right. so let's just say in the last 72 hours, we've had some -- some escalation and some deescalation in iraq. we had -- we had forces going to the region, about 2,000 u.s. forces going to the region, most likely going to iraq, to introduce an air defense capability against the growing threat of rockets and missiles, not only from iran, but also from some of the iraqi militias iran is giving those rockets and missiles to. they can be launched from syria at u.s. bases, they can be launched within iraq, they can be launched from iran.
so we're introducing an air defense capability and also a counter fire capability. and that capability is to basically have a response on the point of origin where that rocket or missile is launched from, especially if it's a territory controlled by a known militia. so that's the military part of this. then we have the president's statement in japan, where he says, we're not looking at regime change with iran. we simply want iran not to be a nuclear power. if you look at pompeo's 12 steps, you're basically saying, the other ten you can ignore and the other ten are the reason we have instability in the region. and the top two issues the president wants to get at are two positions that iran is not likely to move on. and that's shutting down -- that's disclosing all of their military development for a nuclear program, disclosing all of that allowing the iaea to investigate all sites, even those sites outside of the jcpoa, and a -- not a promise,
but concrete steps to dismantle its nuclear program in its entirety. i don't see iran doing that. but i think the message coming from the president is one where, hey, listen, maybe this is deescalation. the president just said he's not looking for regime change. he simply wants iran to be a nuclear power. all right. -- not to be a nuclear power. so let's dive back into iraq again. a couple statements. foreign minister hakim met with zarif and put out some statements. and as we all know, you can say something in the press and it can be misinterpreted. right? so the misinterpretation is iraq stands with iran. there's a lot to it. talking about sanctions, not necessarily we will stand with iran if there is a war. but all you need is that first part. iraq stands with iran to cause controversy. then there's an issue that i really care about, and i think our panel will care about, as well. and that is that the russians are now doing training equip with the ninth iraqi army division. the ninth iraqi army division is
iraq's armor division. as you know, armor divisions in middle eastern countries are coup protection forces, the forces that protect the government and keep it in place. one of my criticisms over the last two years, three years, has been the use of american tanks by militias in iraq. this takes all of that off the table. so if there's a problem with the u.s. training equip mission being hijacked by goods force militias, this is one way to get past that. give them t-90 tanks and we no longer have a say. i'm not sure the russians track their end use items. but the fact that russia is providing t-90 tanks to the ninth iraqi army division, and training them, i just think it's -- iraq is starting to look more and more like syria before combat. and so the first thing i will say to the panelists is, where are we right now? is iraq a place where the u.s.
can count on iraq's government? or are things just not that bad? i'll put those three questions to the panel and begin with you. >> well, i guess from what we sort of discussed before we began this panel, i think that we need to not assume that a confrontation -- direct confrontation with iran is under way. in some respects, we're at war with iran, as a lot of officials have pointed out, we're at war with iran over sanctions, we're at war with iran over their proxies, so we're not in a direct military confrontation, but already more arrest less at war with iran. and i think now this is at a critical point, so we should boast back and understand that a
direct military confrontation doesn't necessarily have to happen. >> right. >> and so unfortunately, we're in this situation where it's a guessing game. the iranians are guessing what the next move is. they're making assumptions. the hard liners inside the country are basically assuming that there is a war. their propaganda is that there is a war and they're acting accordingly. and that's why we're seeing incidents that have happened that are so-called accidents that nobody is claiming responsibility for. so i think that that's a starting point that we're in a very critical period now, and it's important not to give the iranians the impression that war is inevitable. and, you know, what foreign minister zarif calls our b-team are the people that the iranian government looks to as the deciders. and that's -- if you look at their own internal political
structure, and if you look at sort of the mirror on the wall our "a" team is their "b" team. i think we're in a critical period now and in some respects already at war with iran. but it's important not to give the iranians the impression -- and sort of empower the hard liners to assume that there's going to be a confrontation. as it concerns iraq, i think the iraqis are in a very difficult position, obviously. i don't think that the government -- the current -- the sitting government is in any position to resist iranian influence. if you consider to what degree the iranians control iraq, politically, militarily. so i think that we can't -- we can't put iraq in the position of being in the middle. >> right. >> as the topic of this discussion indicates.
because they can't be in the middle. i mean, they're a country that is so much dependent upon iran, from their electricity to, you know, the list goes on. so i don't think that placing iraq in the middle is really a good situation for either iran or the united states. and i don't see that the political structure that exists now in iraq is such that there can be any sort of resistance to this. >> right. >> so i think that as we discuss a possible confrontation with iran, we have to -- we have to understand and realize that this is going to involve two countries. not just one. it's going to involve iran and iraq. and that's why caution is extremely necessary. >> what's interesting about the "b" team, there is no "b" in arabic. in tehran, there is a "p."
i think dr. abbas might differ in the fact that the iraqi government is in position to push back against iran. >> well, the iraqi government is in an interesting or curious position, if i were to put it that way. it's a government that has just emerged from a brutal fight against a terrorist organization. it has -- and this administration and the past administration, i'm talking about the iraqi administration, adopted a very prudent policy of not being in a camp versus another -- they kind of use neutrality as much as they could in the regional and international foreign policy, if you will. so that's where they are. the question is, can they -- and that's what geneva, i agree with you on that, can they really make that policy applicable and
actionable. there is -- in iraq, it seems that there is a consensus on the preconflict. nobody wants the conflict to occur. so that's the iraqi government and all of the actors within iraq. they all have the same idea, and the same desire on the conflict. they don't want it to occur. even the iranians don't want that. and, of course, we here in the u.s. don't. the question is, do we have that consensus if the conflict occurs. no. that consensus will be shattered. the iraqi government is not in charge of every single aspect of iraqi life. they do not control all of the components of the conflict in that sense. so if it happens, we know that the iraqi government probably will push for neutrality, and not get involved. but that cannot be said about many fighting groups in iraq
that already confess that if something happens, they will take the side of iran. so, you know, even though now they are saying they don't want that conflict to happen and they don't want to provoke any conflict or cause it. but if it happens out of their own sort of doing, then we will see iraq become more than one iraq, and the decision will become several decisions. and that will be a nightmare for the iraqi government, because then it will drag iraq into the conflict, especially if some of those groups decide to act against some u.s. interests or personnel in iraq. then that will put iraq right in the middle of the conflict. the question of whether iraq is able to choose sides, which is one of the questions that you mentioned, iraq does not want to choose sides, because either side they will choose will be really costly for them to
alienate the other side. iraq cannot afford losing the cooperation and work with iran on trade, on energy, on many other issues that were just mentioned. and iraq also cannot afford going against the united states, because the relation between iraq and the united states is very unique and it's very important for iraq. so the government hope is that they will be spared that hard choice, and the best way to spare them a choice like this is for the conflict not to occur, and that's what we all hope for. >> all right. i think i agree a lot with much of what geneva and dr. abbas said. i think no one in iraq wants conflict right now. iraq has very important, very challenging conditions it's facing right now. its most important enemies right now is electricity, and the
coming summer. and random fires that are consumed against sweet crop. iraq is having a -- you know, could be facing this summer a very destabilizing challenge if the government fails to provide the conditions and the services that manage to alleviate the suffering, the recurring suffering of the people. so i think the government, as has, you know, been stated often, is not interested in the conflict. i think even iran's proxies in iraq have been quick to distance themselves from the connections to provocations against the united states. and i think there's still a lot of doubt about some of the recent incidents, such as that single rocket that was fired in the vicinity of the u.s. embassy. there is contrast between that and a vague, unattributable
attack between very pinpoint and very specific actions in the gulf. which i think indicate -- such as the attacks on, you know, oil shipping and fajara, specifically, iran trying to pull the attention toward where it can actually hurt the u.s. and its allies. trying to broaden the scope of the terrorists. if hostilities emerge, then not only the strait is at risk, but also the bypasses that some of the u.s. allies, uae specifically, have built in order to maintain and safeguard energy supplies in the region and globally. now -- so no one in iraq wants conflict. but that doesn't mean that iraq is not -- you know, doesn't have an issue. doesn't have a problem that
arises from the proliferation and expansion of militia's power in iraq. there is obviously a security and military component to that. and there is also a very, you know, worrisome economic component to that. the militias and with the -- i think the conclusion of major offensives against isis are -- many of them are trying to -- after consolidating the political gains in the iraqi parliament and trying to expand their economic roles in the country and creating, you know, some of the parallel state structures that are reminiscent of hezbollah and lebanon, the rgc in iran. so the u.s. and baghdad have to push back. but i think in iraq, there is a -- a preference and there is logic to prepare a long game in pushing back against the expansion of militia influence and power in iraq. and that starts with, you know,
economic pressure through, say, you know, monitoring and exercising stricter controls over the militias that the pmf are entitled to through the iraqi national budget, putting red lines on economic activities that challenge state authority. creating economic incentives that would erode the attractiveness of joining militias versus joining the formal economy and formal state institutions. and simultaneously throughout these phases, maintaining a relationship with iraq security forces to be able to give the iraqi government the ability to enforce law when, you know -- if the political overtures and the economic measures fail to, you know, produce the desired results. but at the moment, pulling iraq into the conflict and, you know,
with, of course, the notion that no one really wants it -- but pulling iraq would make -- would make a bad situation a lot worse for everyone. >> so i have questions for all of you here. so everybody agrees no one wants conflict. so who is interested in conflict in iraq? who is actually interested in it? to each you? and then i have some followup questions. go ahead. >> well, i think there are actors in iraq that have historical grievances with iran and with iran's proxies in iraq. now, that doesn't mean that they are also interested in the -- their interests align with those of the united states. i think there are -- without naming names, there are similar actors to those who in 2014 saw an isis opportunity to destabilize --
>> can you name some names? it would be great. >> okay. remnants of the baath party. i know this has been used in the past as a -- you know, as a scarecrow by maliki government, and some hardliners in the shia political establishment. but this is in the region and lobbying here in washington to try and push the united states to take action against iran and its allies in iraq. but is that something that is also in the united states' interest? no. is it in iraq's interest? no. because these people aren't interested in simply restoring balance. they're interested in restoring their version of the status of the pre2003 -- >> any groups besides the former baathists? can you say hezbollah? >> no, i wouldn't say hezbollah would be interested in that. and i don't think iran is interested in dragging iraq into this. the more -- the stricter the sanctions on iran get, the more
iran needs iraq as an economic lung, as a third lung for its economy. >> to offset u.s. sanctions. >> to offset u.s. sanctions. so iran right now benefits from stability in iraq. and iran now benefits from the continued impunity of its proxies in iraq for economic reasons. now, that is against the interest of the iraqi state. but also means that iran is not interested in provocation in iraq right now. >> two themes -- i'm sorry, i'll let you answer and then come back. >> that's all right. i think omar is absolutely right. whether it's the remnants of the baath or isis and its supporters. isis was defeated, but not every single person who joined isis has been eliminated. you can't do that. it was -- it is just an idea, more than an army. so they would like to have any
continues that would destabilize iraq. this would allow them the space to act and to do what they could not do in the past. because many of the iraqi forces that defeated them would be occupied doing something else. the baathers definitely are that. i would agree with omar that anybody who is what we consider the proxies of iran among the militant groups would not want the conflict to occur, unless we also are ready to say iran wants it. because these guys would like to have what iran would like to have, and that's very important. so far, we are not going to say that iran is interested in a conflict. also, we have to, you know, even be careful thinking of these guys as proxies of iran with
absolutely no care or interest in what happens in iraq whatsoever. there is always an equation of a certain percentage of what they do and what they desire, based on iranian interests. but also a very large portion of their desires, their acts, are based on what they perceive to be iraq's interests. and, you know, that's very important. and it is, as i said -- there is a consensus at this point that a conflict is not in the interest of iran, and it's not in the interest of iraq. so i don't see anybody like hezbollah or the other fighting militant groups would welcome an occurrence of a conflict. >> i think that on abbas' point that we tend to generalize about iran's proxies. that there are puppets, and they -- you know, iran is just pulling the strings, and actually, in reality, and on the
ground, that's not how it really happens. and, you know, i think that your point is an important one, which is that, you know, it's not as if some of the shia militias that are under the control of the forces are waiting for a conflict because they think it will benefit them. they have a lot of political interests. their allegiance to iran, their political interests inside iraq. so i think that's the first point. and the second point is a broader one that i like to make. which is that i think that the way to look at this and try to answer the question, who benefits from a war with iran, is to fast forward it, okay? so if we go to war with iran, what is this going to look like the morning after? and that's what didn't happen with iraq. nobody was thinking about the morning after or the people who were thinking about the morning after were misleading the u.s. government. so let's think about what happens if we go to war with iran. what would happen inside iran? okay? probably the population would --
>> we're not going to put 120,000 u.s. troops -- >> right. we're not going to do that. what i'm saying is that even if we just declared war on iran's proxies and went to war with some of the proxies, there would be support for the iranian regime that doesn't really exist now. >> right. >> and so, you know, the regime wouldn't necessarily collapse. and that's not trump administration policy anyway. we're not -- i mean, trump doesn't want regime change, right? >> well, if they adhere to all 12 steps, by design, they would be regime change. but -- >> yeah, collectively. >> but, i mean, they're unattainable. you can't -- >> as you mentioned in the beginning, it is unattainable. >> and it's by design. if you adhere to them, they collapse. >> some of the -- a lot of the objectives are unattainable. so i think that we have to think about, you know, what happens the morning after. and that's not really anyone's interest, particularly the iraqis. >> okay.
so let me just push back a little bit again, so everybody -- we're all in agreement that nobody wants conflict. i'm actually going to agree with you. if your caseca zaly, you have 15 seats in the cor. you're getting paid a lot of money, you have a lot of influence. you're sitting pretty. the last thing you want is to lose that. if you're abu metty ma hen das, you're paying favored militias. you have an office in the goi, you get a goi paycheck, you oversee an annual budget for salaries. and we all know that all are not being paid. the volunteers are not getting a paycheck. it's the favored militias. so i would agree that abu and kazali are sitting pretty. i love what i'm hearing from sadr, i just hope he means it. any group that drags iraq into war with the united states and iran will be turned -- the iraqi
people will turn against them. and that goes back to what you were talking about. it's about to get very hot in basra. there's water issues, electricity issues. and the offices that were burned down last year in the summer were barrakar, aah, the iranian consulate. so those four things -- without u.s. interference, were burned down by iraqis protesting these groups' influence on an incapable baghdad to provide electricity and power to the basraees. so my question is, will iraqis rally around the flag if a militia -- let's say katab hezbollah or ahh, will iraqis rally to the flag because of that specific surgical strike on a militia preparing to attack a u.s. installation? will they rally behind the flag for that, because it's the u.s. attacking an iraqi, or will we
see what we saw in basra? >> well, i think you mentioned an important player. sadr. and i think one of the first things to look at is how he's going to respond. right now he says if an entity pulls iraq into a conflict, then that's our enemy. now, sadr's coalition and pof dominated coalition are the two pillars holding the government together. >> right. >> these are staring at each other with words or with bullets. that means the government is going to collapse. >> right. >> now, the other, you know -- the alternative scenario, if he changes his rhetoric and says he will follow the middle eastern proverb of, my brother and i against my cousin and my cousin and i against a stranger, and he joins or aligns himself and
provides solidarity to the pmf, now we have the alternative scenario, where the iraqi strait and we know that he can mobilize a lot of people. and find themselves, you know, being pushed towards siding with the -- towards rallying behind the flag. like you mentioned. >> to the iraqi nationals. not to a militia flag. >> right. right. and both those scenarios would be damaging to both iraq and u.s. interests. either a government collapse or a solidarity that translates into support for the militias. . >> and i think -- i mean, you know, the -- i think that we have to understand, as omar pointed out, that there are forces in iraq that are working fiercely for the government to collapse. so, you know -- >> which forces? >> well, sadr wants the government to collapse. you know, the pro iranian
factions and parties want the government to collapse, because they think the government -- >> former baath. >> right. and it's not just -- it's shia parties, too. >> right. >> that want the government to collapse. so, you know, why would we deliver this to the iranians? why would we deliver a collapsed iraqi government to the iranians? and i think that that's what we -- you know, the question -- to me, the question where we're sitting now is the question that should have been asked before the arab uprisings and how the united states played a role or did not in the arab uprisings. are we going to give iran more gifts from washington? to me, that's the question. >> part of the department of the army's history of the iraq war writing team. and we conceded at the end that we did exactly that. we gave iran a gift. >> right. >> by writing into iraq in 2003. dr. abbas? >> i agree. it's just a matter of, you know -- maybe at one point i
would like to highlight your scenario talks about a preemptive strike, where, you know, before they do anything, you know, they are staging something -- >> the rules of engagement, though. if you're getting ready to launch something and you see it. this isn't an rpg -- >> no. >> this is more sophisticated. if you see it, it's the punch being caught before its throne. >> yeah. >> in an roe, we can hit that. >> divergence between your perspective here as a u.s. that is trying to preemptly stop danger versus how it is going to be seen by the iraqis. not seeing you, the images and the intelligence that you are seeing. so it would look like you are really targeting an iraqi group without any provocation. or even being, you know, manipulated that way. that would be damaging. and i think, you know, if you think that some of the people
who are going to be making statements that you like, for example, like the sadr's, you have to remember he has not chang changed his position towards the united states. he's not going to stand with the u.s. against -- an iraqi group, even if he disagrees with them. and that is the question. the other thing is what omar was talking about. if we end up with a collapsed iraqi government, we have to also study carefully what the alternative will be. and so far we do not have any alternative that on the horizon or in the calculations that we like. so that is going to be also costly. so i think a preemptive strike, whether or not justified, that's another question. that's for the military to make the call on. it's just the fallout of it is going to be on a cost benefit analysis. it's going to be very costly.
>> why can't we depend on the u.s. trained and equipped iraqi security forces to see that cocked punch and do something about it? why is it that the united states doesn't -- i mean, there is kind of a loss of confidence here if we loss of confidence here if we see the evacuation of an embassy, if we see secretary pompeo's warning to the iraqi government that if you don't help us, we're going to do this without asking you. why can't we rely on the iraqi security forces to see this threat and deal with it? >> the question here is can you count on the commander in chief to give the decision to the iraqi armed forces to strike a group of the -- >> let's say -- >> that's even -- i think it's even harder for the commander in chief. >> why? >> because these guys are very strong, and if you provoke them and you end up creating a -- that's what i said before. >> isn't that why we're here,
though, at this point? >> i understand, and i think, you know, this is why the iraqis are trying to kick the can down the road. that's why abadi did not go out of his way to implement the pms law. this is why the prime minister is not doing it. hezbollah is a very strong -- hezbollah is a very strong opponent that i don't think we could talk him into ordering the iraqi armed forces to target them just because we like to have it. if they feel like they are an internal threat to iraq, that's a different game. but i don't think that he will issue an order on our behalf to have his forces, because the -- are also an asset. we have to look at it from iraq, just looking at it from washington, what you say makes perfect sense. but from baghdad, the view is
completely different. >> i think there's a lot of commanders in the iraqi security forces that would love to take on the militias, but know that -- >> but will they get the order? >> they also know they can't because the level of infiltration, the level of saturation. i'm sorry. go ahead. >> the iraqi officials have made this very clear to the u.s. government that they're incapable of doing this because of the internal politics. so it's almost sort of a false question. i mean as trump has -- >> it's a reality. a false question with a realistic possibility. >> i mean the trump administration is very aware of -- >> right. >> that the iraqis can't do -- the iraqi security forces can't really. but i think the other issue also is that we sometimes do not look at iraq through sort of this two narratives. is it isis, or is it the iranians? and i think this is the choice that we have at this point, i think. and if we destabilize the country, i mean didn't we learn anything from syria? if we destabilize the country, isis is -- >> i don't think the u.s. destabilized syria. >> no. the u.s. didn't destabilize
syria, but the u.s. contributed to the destablization. >> by ignoring it. by doing nothing, okay? so i think this is a time now to do nothing. >> so success would be doing nothing here where failure in syria was doing nothing. >> if we destabilize iraq, that's the perfect recipe for -- >> i would argue that it can't get any worse. it keeps incubating existential threats, al qaeda, isis. now there's a new element with iranian-backed militias that have views beyond borders. we see them in syria. syria has become a free fire zone. you can hit anything in syria, to include iranian quds force members without repercussion, without a red line being crossed. i know you wanted to get in here. go ahead and jump in. >> please, yeah. two points. if your question is about can we
rely on iraqi security forces to go and deliberately, forcibly demobilize -- >> no, no, no. deal with something that's an immediate threat to a united states installation or united states personnel. >> you were in iraq during the gulf war, and you remember the scud hunt. that is an extremely, from a military standpoint, it is an extremely difficult undertaking to track what would be mobile launchers scattered around the desert. that was something that was beyond the u.s. and uk military capability in 1991. you cannot expect the iraqi security forces right now to be able to do that. however, i think if you have that fist ready to punch, and if the u.s. decides to take action against that and drop a 500-pound j dam on a mobile launcher, i think everyone will be happy to deny that it happened and say it didn't happen. that's not something that the iraqi security forces can do and should not be expected to do. >> so the question -- the
question is -- let's look at it this way. it's not about whether you're able to track every militia and every missile shipment and rocket shipment in. it's if a katyusha rocket is launched from an area controlled by a.h., are the iraq security forces required to do something about it? now, that's the incident. so we've seen five unsuccessful attacks, six now from proxies. we saw the uav attack in saudi arabia by the houthis, a capability brought into the houthis. by the quds force. a successful attack in that it hit its target but it didn't kill anybody. four unsuccessful attacks. the quds force did not sink an oil tanker. they caused damage to it. the katyusha rocket launched from an area controlled by a.h. in the vicinity of the i.z.
i agree, not a reason to attack something. but u.s. resolve is being tested, and i think the red line is u.s. loss of life or a successful attack on a u.s. installation in iraq or a successful sinking of an oil tanker would prompt a different response. i think the u.s. resolve has been tested. we are not going to go to war for a uav. we're not going to go to war for an attack against four oil tankers. we're not going to go to war for a katyusha rocket fired, but i do think we still aren't going to war if we hit something we see about to launch in the direction of a u.s. base. i don't think that's going to war. i think that is actually a response that should be in play, and i'd like to think the united states had an ally in the iraqi security forces to help us do that. otherwise, why are we even in iraq? >> and i believe there have been incidents in which iraqi security forces intercepted rockets that were aimed at -- air base, for example. they have done that. they have done their job when they could, when they had the intelligence. >> against isis? >> well, who knows who put those rockets.
rockets are rockets. >> well, the label was it was isis that did it, not militia. that's the issue. >> maybe it was the militias. >> yeah. i'm just saying when we know the militia does something, can we count on the iraqi security forces to do it? i did talk to a retired general who has more knowledge of the individuals within the iraqi security forces, and he believes that the federal police and the moi would actually do something, or the cts would do something. i do believe there are groups inside the iraqi security forces that want to do something, are ready to do it, but need u.s. backing. and the messages we've sent allies in both iraq and syria is that the u.s. is a temporary ally, that you can't really depend on us. we don't have your back, so to speak. we have your back for about two years, and then an election cycle changes everything. this concerns me because we're
talking about something that's very probable. a successful attack on a u.s. installation in iraq against americans and what do our hosts do about it? i mean there's also something, you know, my brother against my cousin, my cousin against a stranger. there's also something about making sure somebody you're hosting doesn't get attacked by another iraqi. >> i mean there are some missing information in this scenario that you make, mike. the question here is, you know, where are we with the conflict because we know right now nobody is interested in launching rockets because let's say it's in your scenario, that it's hezbollah or someone else. they know by launching rockets against u.s. that's possibly causing the death of an american personnel, they know that they are bringing iraq to a conflict. the question is are they at a point where it doesn't matter for them, or does it matter? and also if you bring it to abdel mahdi's attention and you
say commander in chief, go and do your business, he has other options. these are not -- that's no isis. he talks to them. his people meet with them, and they are with him in various coordination -- i mean the hasht at the end of the day, it is part of the iraqi security forces. they have not figured out how to normalize that because the law hasn't been implemented, but they are talking to one another. i think for abdel, it would be easier to pick up the phone and tell someone don't do it rather than to pick up the phone and tell a commander to bomb the -- hezbollah. then the situation will be defused without the americans have to bomb them, without the iraqi forces have to bomb them. but, again, depends on where we are with the conflict and what the end game will be for them and for everyone else. i mean there are so many moving
targets in iraq right now that we cannot really make a decisive call on what the scenario is. but clearly, i mean, we are not here on this stage negotiating or discussing the rules of engagement. we respect that. from american rules of engagement or iraq rules of engagement, the question is what the political calculations of this are, and i think in no one's interest that we get to that position where it is inevitable that you have to bomb them or let the iraqis do that. >> so the key takeaway i got from you is deterrence is working. >> it does always. >> -- there will be a u. response if they do something. >> you have alternative ways of diffusing a situation. as i said, these are not on opposition directions with the government. all of the fighting groups have been working hand in glove with the iraqi government on 80% of the issues that they are there within iraq. and there is this 20% of the
issues where they are being sort of a thorn in the iraqi government's side. >> i think it goes back to, you know, what we were saying earlier, which is that, you know, they have their own political interests inside iraq -- the militias. so it's not -- we shouldn't assume, as you're sort of laying out the scenario, that they're going to attack u.s. targets or attack u.s. bases or attack u.s. troops because the calculation is very complicated. i mean they're going to assess what's in their own interest. they're not just sort of puppets of iran that will -- >> i get that. i get that. each looks out for their own interest. so in the last ten days we had solemani going to iraq telling the militias to get ready, then we had him tell them don't do anything. i think in some cases they were preparing and now they are listening. i don't believe in an accidental attack on a u.s. embassy.
i don't believe in an accidental attack on u.s. personnel. if there is an attack on u.s. personnel or an attack on a u.s. facility in iraq, who's responsible? iran, quds force proxy? who is responsible for that? i don't think there's any accidents. >> at this point it's not going to be iran or its proxies, i guarantee you that. the consensus among them is they don't want conflict. that does not mean that an accident cannot happen. hopefully not. but if it happens at this point, what we know right now and all of the assembly of the factors, it's not going to be iran. it's not going to be its proxies in iraq. >> the iranian foreign minister -- not the foreign minister, but an iranian m.p. says that saudi wants an attack on the u.s. facilities in iraq, that isis wants an attack on the u.s. facilities in iraq, that former ba'athists do. is it that narrative that's being shaped already that if there is an attack, it will be somebody else trying to blame the militias?
is there that narrative already playing out here? >> i think it's, you know, we look at the facts. we look at the situation logically. it is not in iran's interest, and there are other parties, third parties, and two of them, you know, the ba'ath remnants and isis, who do have an interest. so, you know, if logic seems to support, you know, a probability, then i think we should side with logic. >> so there's no logical reason for solemani to be in iraq? >> there's no logic for solemani to provoke a conflict with the u.s. in iraq. now, one of the problems of the situation is it's unpredictable. we've warned the iranians that any attack by any proxy anywhere would be considered like an attack by iran. and that creates a very unpredictable situation.
by the time you have determined the identity of the attacker or who is responsible for it, you could be a week deep in hostilities. >> can i also -- >> yeah, sure. >> -- raise a point? we're talking about a response to something. so i mean the question i think we should be asking also is maybe it's the united states' responsibility not to create a reason for a response. >> well, a defensive capability against missiles -- >> but i mean we're talking about, you know, an environment now at this critical time, and the perception in iraq, in iran is that some people in the u.s. government, just like we assume some people in the iranian government want a war with iraq. so i think that we need to change the perception. >> with iran?
>> with iran. we need to start talking about negotiations. we need to make compromises, make concessions that the iranians can at least use as some sort of cover for the hard-liners to go back to the negotiating table. i think instead of talking about how the iraqis are going to respond, how the iranians are going to respond, i think we also need to raise the issue of what can the trump administration do today to prevent a response? >> i think -- >> what can be put on the table that will prevent -- that will stop -- that will halt this escalation? >> we see a slow-moving carrier group that has now arrived. >> right. >> we see a defensive capability being put in. we see the president say, hey, listen, we're not interested in regime change. we just want you guys to not become a nuclear power, a weaponized nuclear power. s also, you know, abdel meddy is trying to act as an intermediary between iran and the u.s. the only wild cards here are whether or not it's logical for
qasem soleimani to ask one of his militias in iraq, in syria, anywhere else to attack americans because we've all agreed that it's not. it's not in iran's best interest. but it is in a group's best interest. it is -- is the irgc a wild card here? is irgc leadership a wild card here? >> i think that we've all agreed that that's -- even the revolutionary guard sees that it's not in their interest. >> that it's what? >> that it's not in their interest. >> there's a lot of different groups within the irgc that thought the regime never should have talked to the u.s. about the jcpoa, and there's also elements that want regime change, but they want to be in charge of it, want it to be more of a militarized leadership capability. go ahead, omar. you were going to say something? >> but i would add something. i think going -- i would want to
follow up on geneive's point on giving the hard-liners something to let them, you know, walk back from the brink. the problem with the u.s. disposition right now is we have given the iranians 12 demands, and if they implement these demands, then we'll talk to them. but basically we're asking them to disarm and then come to the table. >> right. >> so what's left to negotiate if they -- if we already ask -- >> well, there's 12 steps, right? four deal with the nuclear program. the fifth deals with ballistic missiles and everything else deals with weapons proliferation, support for proxies, houthis, cyberattacks. so there's 12 different steps that any normal nation would agree to. >> but we walked out of the jcpoa? >> what's that? >> we walked out of the jcpoa, so what kind of good will measure should -- >> real quick. real quick on jcpoa, then we'll get to you. >> we put on the table conditions that are non-starters, okay? >> by design. >> by design. by design. i mean no -- i mean and we shouldn't generalize and say any
government would agree to this. we're talking specifically about the islamic republic of iran. they're not going to agree to the 12 conditions. that's why there's a stalemate. >> not a single one of them, i don't think -- >> of course not. and we're not giving -- if you're talking about diplomacy, we're not giving the iranians a reason, an invitation to step back from escalation. >> i don't believe it's the time to offer concessions right now. i think they're trying to wait out the trump administration. they believe there will be a change in administration in 2020. i believe that the maximum pressure campaign is working, but i believe iran can survive the next 18 months. but i also believe that strengthens any democrat presidential candidate's position on iran. the jcpoa expires in 2027, 2030. so in the second term of the kamala harris presidency, the islamic republic of iran can put
a nuclear warhead on top of a ballistic missile. everything is based on the premise that iran re-enters negotiations at the end of the sunset clauses to renegotiate an iran deal. once they've already become a nuclear power, why would they do that? we have to look at the islamic republic regime, not the iranian people, but the regime, the part that we are worried about, the part that needs iraq to breathe, the part that's trying to offset u.s. sanctions by penetrating iraq's economy. i believe in canada/u.s. relations, mexico/u.s. relations. i'm all for people crossing borders to find a better life, but i'm not for people crossing borders to cause havoc. i don't believe that a neighbor should dictate who is -- who the government is, and i don't believe a neighbor should have primacy over another country's security forces. we've all talked about the problem of the militias. but i do believe we are in a space now where iraq is -- the militias are standing now.
qasem soleimani has told them to stand down, because i agree it's not in the best interests. but the wild cards at play are all on the iran side of this. the u.s. isn't going to make a mistake. we make mistakes when it comes to staying in a country for 17 years or staying in a country for 16 years, but not when it comes to actually taking out a target at the beginning of a campaign. we already have a target plan for iran. we did for saddam in 2003. we hit key infrastructure. we hit all these things. this is not a 120-man invasion. this is a response to an action. we will be the counteraction to an iranian action, not the preemptive action, unless it's the scenario of the fist being caught. deconstruct away. i threw that out there so you could disagree with it. >> well, look, the u.s. has the most awesome firepower, precision firepower in the world and can destroy any number of targets. but you have to tie the military
plan to a political end. and right now it doesn't seem that there is much clarity here in d.c. on what that political end is. do we simply want iranians to disarm? >> we want a change in behavior, and we want them not to be a weaponized nuclear power. >> i think the way we have -- >> i don't think we're alone in that. i think everybody has a different way to get there. >> the way we have structured our pressure elements on iran is conducive to escalation. it's not conducive to a -- you know, a renewal of -- an opening of communications towards de-escalation. that's a problem. >> and if you look at, you know, where we are today, an argument could be made -- i mean i've made this argument -- that trump policy is working, right? i mean look at their oil exports
that have plummeted. look at the economy. look at -- you know, so in a sense, why are we continuing the pressure? because trump policy -- if you look at what the objectives are, the objective was not regime change. the objective was to tank the economy, right? that's worked. so why is washington continuing the pressure when, if you look at what the objectives are, not the 12 conditions, but if you look at the objectives from the beginning of the administration, it's a success. so, you know, why are we then continuing on this road that is totally unsuccessful, i mean from everything that we've assessed so far, there is nothing to be gained. so that's why i think there's some confusion among us, among a lot of people who are analysts following this issue because why continue the pressure? there's a difference -- you need to assess the success versus future failure. >> is iran ready to give up its
nuclear program right now? >> no, but that's an unrealistic objective. >> is it? >> to give up its entire nuclear program? that's an unrealistic objective. >> the nuclear program, as geneive says, iran signed, you know, the nonproliferation treaty, and it signed also everything that needed to sign as a country. and that's their argument. we talk about the weapons program. that's a legitimate demand of iran because signing that treaty means that they are not going to do anything that leads to a nuclear -- military nuclear program. but the other components of the nuclear program, these are entitlements for any country that signs, and iran's arguments has been all along that, look, we signed and we kept our end, and you did not give us what we are entitled to according to the treaty, because the treaty says
once you sign, you get all kind of help from advanced countries. you get, you know, one, two, three, four, whatever it is, a list that they get. they didn't get any of that. >> there's a key part of that. >> no, let me finish that, please, because this is where the iranian argument, i think, that is very hard to push against because, you know, the only argument against the iranians when they say, why aren't we getting what we are entitled to according to the treaty that we signed, the only argument we have is to say we don't trust you, and that's not a good argument. >> -- penetration of iran's economy. >> no, no, no. especially, look, when the international watchdog said they complied by the treaty, our own state department said in a certain language that they had been complying. the europeans said they were complying. everybody said they were complying. and then we go back, and we pull out of it because it was a bad
deal. that kind of was really put us in -- that's not the way we went against saddam hussein for war. because we went against saddam hussein, the first time there were 30 countries. the second time there was a coalition of the willing. you name, everybody contributed in a way. this is going to be a u.s. versus iran, and that is going to be really hard to make as an argument. >> two fingers here real quick on the jcpoa. i would agree with everything you said. we never found them cheating, any of that stuff. but there would still be a jcpoa today if iran didn't violate u.n. security council resolutions prohibiting ballistic missile testing. >> that was a different story. >> let me finish my point. i know. that's my point. we walked away from the iran deal because of all the other stuff that was happening outside the iran deal. i'm conceding your point. the violation of u.n. security council resolutions for weapons proliferation, for the support
of terrorism, for using civilian aircraft to transfer militias to syria, for buying equipment they're not supposed to have. these are all violations of existing u.n. security council resolutions. iran has been in breach of the mpt in the past. why would expect iran to adhere in the shadows of the jcpoa when they cheat in the open to u.n. security council resolutions? if all those things didn't happen, we would still be in it. >> the solution for that -- i'm sorry, geneive, but since i was pushing against what i'm saying. the solution for that is to negotiate another deal over the issues that we found iran acting in a troublesome way, not to pull out of the deal that we concluded on the account of something else because this has made us in a weak position. >> not at all. >> no, no, no. >> i disagree. >> what we did was there are sanctions relating to the ballistic missiles. what we did, we reinstated the sanctions we agreed to lift once they signed the jcpoa.
then before the world, we look like we didn't abide by our word, but we -- >> next time it will be a treaty. go ahead. >> the fundamental problem was that the obama administration was very naive, and they negotiated a deal that was far too narrow, that didn't include ballistic missile program, that didn't include. >> sunset clauses. >> sun set clauses. all these things. so the problem is that the united states made a mistake. i mean and that should be acknowledged. this was a bad deal. it was narrowly focused. people told everyone from people working for biden to security advisers, who were still by the way arguing in support of the jcpoa. >> right. >> that this was narrowly focused, that it needed to include other issues. so in a sense, we're sort of trying to, you know, institute a correction here, and that, to me, is one of the sources of the problem. >> we'll get a better deal.
>> we need to get a better deal. but getting to that place of a better deal, in my view, isn't pressuring iran to the point that there is now a military confrontation because as omar said, you can't divorce the military situation from the political situation. the iranians have a problem now domestically. they signed a deal, and the population says, we got nothing for it. >> even when we were in the jcpoa, the economy was in the tank. >> exactly. and it's difficult in some ways to distinguish what is the damage from sanctions and what is the damage from their own economic mismanagement, okay? and so the iranians have a domestic problem, and we can't really divorce that from the conversation. so they're trying to get out of their domestic problem, but i just think that we have to acknowledge in washington that
the fundamental mistake -- let's go back to the beginning of the story. the beginning of the story was a bad deal. what we're trying to do now is correct the framework of the negotiations, and that message has to be sent to the iranians. >> right. >> that's the objective. the objective is not a military confrontation. it's to go back to the negotiating table. >> based on everything we've said, so we don't see a military escalation between -- or we don't see a confrontation between iran and the u.s. we do not see it in iraq. the maximum pressure campaign, in my opinion, is working. some of you don't think it is. the goal is to get back to a jcpoa where we address ballistic missiles, the end of sunset clauses, the end of this adventurism, the end of weapons proliferation and a complete inspection regimen that covers everything, not the military sites that were left out of the jcpoa. so deterrence is working, the maximum pressure campaign is working, so isn't this good policy? just that nobody knows it's working? >> it's good policy. the problem is that instead of
sort of taking a step back, a pause, the policy -- the military operation, the military escalation now is sort of superseding the policy. >> right. >> so we're in a race now, okay? we see that there's sort of a successful policy, but the military confrontation now is dominating the conversation, and that's why i think the conversation needs to be reframed, because the problem is the perception on both sides. >> right. >> okay. we're trying here now to parse out what are the shia militias going to do in iraq, and what is, you know, hezbollah militias going to do in iraq, and what is hezbollah in lebanon going to do? they've made statements as well. let's not forget. >> their payments have gone down. >> they're now trying to de-escalate. >> right. >> so i think that we need to
now focus on a political solution. >> i think the only way smart power works is when there's an element of hard power and soft power. we have diplomatic engagement. we actually had "the washington post" calling the president the adult in the room because he disagrees with bolton. he disagrees with pompeo. so this is a great opportunity for a lot of us to look back and say, good. the president's listening to a team of rivals and disagreeing with them. if you look at what the president said, it's big. all the people that we all see line up behind the president on iran, and i lined up as well on certain issues, are questioning, why would you tell iran, the regime, that they don't have to adhere to all 12 points? they just need to promise to do this. we've got to get away from promises. but i think smart power only works when you have a deterrence in the region in this carrier group. you have a defensive capability to negate a threat, and you have ongoing engagement to include the iraqis acting as mediators.
do you see efforts to quiet this and de-escalate, you know, take care of everything working? do you think the baghdad government has the ability to tell iran now and tell the u.s. no? >> well, the iraqis have announced a couple of times that they are trying to mediate. >> right. >> the only thing is two things. both sides don't say, we are asking the iraqis to mediate. >> right. >> and also many iraqis say, look at these guys. you know, you have all kinds of problems. you cannot even mediate among your own blocs to get a nominee for a minister of defense and minister of interior, and you want to mediate between two countries on a non-negotiable issue. so there is a lot of -- i mean a lot of skepticism about iraqi ability to mediate. also the iraqis are not alone in this business of mediating. there are people who are more credible for their capabilities -- the swiss, even
some regional people who are doing or they have done better in mediating between iran and the united states. but definitely the iraqis can help. you know, it doesn't have to be a unilateral effort. the iraqis could be a member of a group of nations that are trying to create a consensus over where this escalation is going. but i think, you know, again, there are limited capabilities for the iraqis to mediate between the iranians and the americans because a lot of -- what can the iraqis do other than convene, maybe, and it's very hard to put these two countries together. but i respect the idea or the feeling of the iraqis that they need to do whatever they can to get their country out of dire consequences of a conflict, and that is very important, i think, for adil abdul med i.
>> i would just add that, you know, abdel meddy can be an important communications conduit, but it's up to washington and tehran to actually use it and take advantage of it. it cannot make either side actually listen. >> but the problem i see, and you know better than i do, but in engaging iraq as a mediator is iraq has too much stake in all of this. so you're asking a government that has a stake in the outcome to mediate a conflict, and that's a bad position to be in. >> right, right. >> and the problem i see with, you know, involving other players and not just having direct negotiations between iran and the united states is that, you know, we saw this with the jcpoa, right? what have the europeans done? just created a mess, right? >> right. >> i mean the europeans are so unhelpful in all of this. so does it really make sense to engage other parties that have an interest?
because the europeans have an economic interest. they have big oil companies that want to invest in iran. so i don't really see that getting a middle man involved in all of this, although that seems like a logical solution, is helpful in the end. a middle man that has an interest. >> in the region, where do you see the most likely place for a contest between the u.s. and iran to take place in this current scenario or this current situation? is it iraq? is it syria? is it -- >> i hope it will be nowhere. i mean i hope they work it out. >> but is iraq one? is iraq two? >> i think iran's expansionism, if we take a step back, the most recent wave of iranian expansion, so to speak, took place in the context of events in syria in 2011-2012, the syrian civil war and the rise of isis in iraq in 2014. so in a way, a lot of that was a
reaction to a serious threat to iran's regional security structures and regional, you know, power projection abilities. that was -- you know, the implications of that, the manifestations of that expansion was, of course, detrimental to the interest of the u.s. and many u.s. allies in the region. but torpedoing the jcpoa was not necessary. an expansion was needed not by throwing away the jcpoa but broadening the discussion to include the regional security dynamics and what's critical to that is lowering the barrier to diplomacy, and then the high-handed demands again in the 12 points.
>> iran stayed in jcpoa. >> what we've learned from walking away from it, because iran said it was a red line, if the u.s. leaves the jcpoa, we'll leave the jcpoa. they stayed in it. it's people like putin that are telling them to stay in it. europe is as hesitant now as it was when the u.s. was in the jcpoa to invest in iran's economy simply because of the irgc's penetration of it. and now they're actually looking at iraqi economic sectors to see the level of penetration in iraq of the irgc and its shell companies. so none of this just started with walking away from the jcpoa one year ago. >> well, that extension of sanctions, the u.s. now sanctions not only the entities but everyone who works with them and everyone by extension. >> but that happened last month. >> yeah, but that creates a barrier. >> and it should because it makes it more difficult for european companies in the private sector to invest in
iran's economy if an fto designated irgc owned 20% of it. it's by design. it's to get them to come back, to renegotiate an iran deal that can be signed as a treaty, that can never be torn up by a president because it wasn't, that has no sunset clauses. i love the words of chuck schumer and other democrats that oppose the iran deal but are now telling the president, make sure that any deal you make with kim jong-un will have an -- will not have sunset clauses, will address ballistic missiles, will allow inspections of all sites, and will completely dismantle the nuclear program. a weaponized nuclear program is in no one's interest. the old argument of brinksmanship, you have a nuclear weapon, i have a nuclear weapon, we'll never go to war with each other, is different when there's a religious component added to it. >> again, we certified that iran was not violating its -- >> that's annex one, section t that could not be verified so you can make the argument they
were not in compliance. >> i think the test or the final result of our decision to pull out of the jcpoa basically is this -- >> so the jcpoa caused all this? is that why we're here? >> no. no. no. >> talking about it a lot. >> my question is time will tell. if we end up with a better deal, then the administration has succeeded. if we end up with no deal, then the administration has made a mistake. if we end up with conflict, then the administration made a bigger even mistake than ending up with no deal. so it's really we don't know until now where this is going to lead. if we get a better deal, which is what everybody hopes, then we succeed, and hopefully also the region will win because nobody wants iran with a nuclear program, a military nuclear program. and no one wants a conflict. so clearly i think it's our order of measure is, you know, the best scenario is to get a better deal. the less, you know, second best
is probably no conflict but, you know, no deal until hopefully we get another deal under different circumstances, and the worst absolutely we end up with conflict. because it's pushing, as just talking about, killing the prospects. >> so it would be a mistake to simply re-enter the jcpoa in 2020 without changing any of the conditions. >> if it's a different administration, then it's a different story. then you can enter with the understanding that you will make it as a launching pad or a step for other deals on the issues that are very bad with iran, ballistic missiles and militias and, you know, the destabilization, expansion, all of the things that iran is -- >> the question is really how do you measure what the danger is, okay? is the danger the nuclear program? is that danger greater, the weaponization of their nuclear program, is that a bigger danger than their militarization?
is that a bigger danger than their ballistic missile program? that's why we find ourselves -- it didn't begin with the jcpoa obviously. we didn't create iran's geopolitics in the least, right? we're dealing with it. >> right. >> but i mean i think that where we get into this kind of false discussion that leads nowhere is trying to assess what the biggest danger is. it's all dangerous, right? so that's what we're trying to address now is if we're going to reopen negotiations, they have to be broader negotiations, and they have to address these other issues. but, again, not to be repetitive, but to place conditions that are non-starters for the iranians doesn't get us anywhere. you have to sort of be aware of your partners, your adversary's limitations, what the red lines are. they're not going to the table on the 12 conditions. that's a non-starter.
>> the 12 conditions are by design meant to make the regime fail because they can't adhere to a single one of them. i'm going to open it up to questions and then we'll have final comments. yes, sir, we'll start with you. who else has hands? let me see what we've got. yes. >> good afternoon. thank you all for being here. my name is julian kyle lewis from the illustrious howard university here in washington. and i've heard it argued that possibly leaving saddam hussein in power in iraq would serve as a sort of check on the activities of iran to sort of create more of a balance in the region diplomatically. and what i would like to know is since everyone in the region knows that saddam hussein did not trust russia at all and then
consequently everyone in the region watched him lose his entire country, so now the government in iraq right now is looking at that historically and saying, hmm, maybe working with the russians may not be too much of a bad idea, you know. so what i would like to know is juxtaposing those two points, how can u.s. policy -- or would u.s. policy benefit from having saddam hussein still in power or having this type of problems that we have today looking at the russians having such leverage at this point in time? thank you. >> well, i don't know if i'm the best person to talk about it since i put my life on the line in 1991 to topple saddam hussein. so i am pretty much for removing saddam hussein and thankful for those who did it for me 11 years later, even though we could have done it if certain policies did
not occur. saddam hussein was not much of a check on iran after 1991. the country was depleted. his power was not what it used to be. but also i think the removal of saddam hussein was just a matter of time. it was inevitable. his being a check on iran was part of the old situation when iraq was really strong and dual containment was working well, you know, from the united states side. but i think it didn't hold for later, and that's the one part on removing saddam. maybe omar has something on the russian side. >> sure. i think -- i still think that removing saddam hussein from
power was a good thing from an iraqi perspective. the aftermath was an absolute mess, so things could have been done differently and with a better outcome even with the removal of the saddam hussein. i think had saddam not been removed in 2003, iraq would have probably muddled through for a while and collapsed at some point in the previous decade to look pretty much like what syria does today, which would have not really reduced, you know, the potential for russian resurgence and influence in the country. >> i think what we learned from the iraq war is when we go into iran, we're not going to do irgc -- we're going to leave them in power so we can work with them to stabilize the country. that's a joke. it pushed the entire iraqi army into the insurgency. that was one of the biggest problems. that was a failure. i'm going to go to you first and this gentleman and then here. can i get all three of your questions so i can write them down. we'll start with you, first.
>> the panel, i wanted to ask about diplomacy. you said let's give diplomacy a chance. while foreign minister zarif enjoys a visit in new york and goes on american station fox news, then he calls -- he tweets and he says pompeo is rude, and he refuses to talk to him. but then he goes and has dinner, according to "washington post," with feinstein and meet behind the scene with kerry. so how do you suppose that this diplomacy can take place on a mutual respect? thank you. >> okay. first question on diplomacy. we'll hold that. yes, sir? >> gerald chandler. i'd like you to go into more detail what you mean by conflict. so far the iranian government has denied doing anything that's happened such as the attacking of the saudi ships. but just supposing that these iranian government for some other reason sank a saudi tanker, openly declared that he did it, if the u.s. responded by, say, bombing the runways of the tehran airport, would that be conflict, and would it mean
further escalation, or could it just operate there? >> okay. the third question? no, no, no. yeah. thank you. >> thank you very much. assistant professor at university. i think before this conversation, i would like to say we should have opinion polls to ask to see how the shia people in iraq thinking about iran today. not before 2003 or 2004. no, today. and also we'd like to ask -- to talk about how the sunni people looking to isis also today. we have a new -- in iraq right now.
after this resolves, we can change the trend of this conversation. this is number one. number two, it's illogic to say if we don't accept the iranian proxy, we will have ba'ath party again. it's a joke. this is not normal to talk about this after 16 years, and i think anyone repeat this story again and again is something just would like to put us under like no change in iraq, no new in iraq. we will stay ba'ath or iranian people. no. we should have a new ideas. we have a new trends. i worked in public opinion polls with many organizations for ten years in iraq, and i worked with saddam regime in opinion polls with my father. i know how the iraqi thinking.
i know the change. i don't think the iraqi shia wants to be allied to iran people. this is a big lie. this is a propaganda, and the proxy -- the iranian militias in iraq -- to control the shia, not to help them, to prevent them to say the truth. and isis have the same job in the sunni. before two weeks, i was in talking with people in fallujah, and i suggest to them something. i told them i would like to establish a university college -- >> i need you to kind of get to the point and then -- >> okay. sure. >> so we can have some time to answer the questions. >> can i continue? >> 30 seconds. >> i was talking with some friends in fallujah to establish a university college, and i
asked them what the best name and the brand for this college to establish, and they told me, we need american university. in this area. >> all right. thank you, sir. >> thank you so much. >> all right. so i got three questions. just talk about operations. just kidding. three questions. first one's on diplomacy, giving diplomacy a chance. what would like to tackle that one? >> i'll answer it. >> okay. >> so i think that it's sort of difficult for americans to understand this, but i think the way to think about the foreign minister, mr. zarif, is to sort of compare him to john bolton, okay? so he has some influence, but it's very limited within the iranian regime. he doesn't necessarily call the shots. he certainly doesn't call the shots. i mean just last week ayatollah
khomenei was criticizing publicly prime minister rouhani. when the foreign minister comes here and goes on all the talk shows and talks about this or that, you have to take it with a grain of salt because he represents one voice, one position within the regime, and that's not necessarily the position that's going to be the decider in ultimately that's important. so i think that that's -- he was given power to be part of the negotiations that created the jcpoa. i don't think that that would be repeated. i think if there are negotiations, they're going to be people that have much more confidence within the hard-liners in the regime that are going to come to the negotiating table. zarif is sort of a mouthpiece. i think we have to keep -- the problem, though, just as we think zarif, what comes out of his mouth means something, the iranians think what comes out of
john bolton's mouth means something. that's why we get into this very confused situation. that's why we can't really get to some negotiating process, because the people with the loudest voices aren't necessarily the decisionmakers in either country. >> if i may just respond, i don't know if anybody on the stage made the dichotomy that you have to accept the militias or, you know, the isis. that's not the argument. also, i don't believe that we made that or anybody would make it. always you look for -- dichotomy is always the problem. you need to look for a scenario that is better out of the box. also iraq did have a law in late 2016 which had a very large margin, multi-partisan -- no
bipartisan, multi-partisan, where they passed that law to take those militias, dismantle their current leadership and make them into a force that is compliant with the orders of the commander in chief and make them part of the iraqi security forces. one of the goals of that law is to separate the ruling from end ruling militia in order to know who complies and who doesn't, so you know your friends from the enemies. this is on the minds of the people and on the minds of the religious leaders. as to polls, i think iraquis did have a very wonderful poll. it was the election. in the election the militias were the second largest seat winners, more even than the incumbent prime minister's bloc who came after them. if you are to think of the highest seat winner and, in fact, iran with the fact they
fight against isis. so the iraqi people did go to the polls and did vote. >> somewhere between 25% and 40%. >> absolutely. normally when you look at that, if a person doesn't want to go and practice his own patriotic duty for elections, what makes you think he will honestly tell you what he thinks when you go and conduct a poll. this is a problematic thing. iraq has a long way to sort out these things. a long way to have agreement on there shouldn't be dichotomy on militias or fighting isis. iraquis have be it as creative as they can be to create the third option. that would be the healthy option of getting iraq on the right track towards a democratic nation. >> couple footnotes to that -- i
would love to hear the question again but going back to baath versus militia, iraq has always had an issue with militia since its foundation. there has been numerous periods in iraq's history in which militia's in different levels of states existed from kurdistan to more recent rein carnation of militias. it is notcarnation of militias. it is not about eliminating those or having them entirely in power, it's the choice that the path iraq should go it that of a long and stable and deliberate
approach of establishing specific rules for the game, specific rules that can allow these militias to contribute to the security of the country and to create the specific -- help the specific nuanced social political balances that iraq needs, at the same time refrain from authorities. again, not a binary dhois. on the conflict, what is the question? >> what does conflict look like, conflict that you describe we should avoid? >> what we should avoid is a -- an action by either side that results in a reaction that does not have a stopping point in mind, in the foreseeable future.
if you force the other side to respond and create a cycle, that's what's -- what we need to avoid. the u.s. and iran have always exchanged blows, since the creation of islamic republic. >> i'm not sure we've hit back. >> we hit first sometimes. sometimes we call them mistakes. >> shooting down of an airline. >> something like that. the iranians shot back sometimes. so as long as we keep things in a dynamic that can be terminated, that can be stopped, and that cannot be allowed to go out of control and spiral out of control to pull in additional actors and ending up consuming the theater of operations and spiraling out of control to
destruct business in iraq or the gulf shipping, we're still operating within permissible parameters. >> i think based on this panel i feel really good, there would be no conflicts between iran and u.s., no conflict in iraq and we're going to get a better iran deal. this is great. that's all the time we have. >> listen to the recommendations, yes. >> that's all the time we have. thank you all for being here today. we appreciate it. thank you to our c-span audience and thank you to my panelists. >> thank you very much. it was great.
sunday on american history tv on c-span3 we tip our coverage of 75th anniversary of d-day. at 1:00 p.m. eastern, listen to past american presidents to travel to normandy's beaches to honor the fallen, starting with jimmy carter in 1978. he's followed by ronald reagan in 1994, bill clinton in 1994, george w. bush in 2004, and barack obama in 2014. then at 4:00 p.m. eastern on real america, the 1944 film "d-day to germany". >> we needed it badly because we thought we should use it as a
port. we found it pretty badly destroyed by the germans themselves. they destroyed the docks which we thought we could use. it took them, if i recall, almost two months before we could bring a ship in. >> at oral histories, world war ii veteran john ron describes how his company was deforted to omaha beach, the constant artillery fire and the cries of the wounded. >> most of it was medic but a few of it was mama and that type thing. the cries of the wounded and the dying were haunting but they were drowned out by the rifle and machine gun fire coming from our right. >> and at 8:00 p.m. president trump and first lady melania trump join french president emmanuel mechanic rn for the d-day is ceremony at normandy cement tear. on american history tv