The U.S., Iran, and Security in the Persian Gulf panel

November 21, 2019 1:13:13
Kaltura Video

Ronald E. Neumann, Jerry Feierstein and Deborah A. McCarthy discuss the United States, Iran, and security issues in the Persian Gulf. This event is a part of our Weiser Diplomacy Center Launch Series. November, 2019.


Good afternoon. Good afternoon. 

There we go. I know it's raining 

outside but we can be awake and 

excited and lively in here.

I'm Michael Barr, I'm the dean of

Gerald R. Ford School of Public

Policy here at the University 

of Michigan.

I'm delighted to welcome you

all here to the Ford School, to

welcome our wonderful panelist.

We're going to hear from four

distinguished diplomats on the

topic of U.S., Iran, and Security in

the Persian Gulf.

Not a small or uncomplicated


The director of the Weiser

Diplomacy Center, my colleague

John Ciorciari, will introduce

our honored guests in a moment.

Before he does that,

I want to say a few words

of welcome and a few word about

the Weiser Diplomacy Center.

Today is the final event in our

semester long series that

launched here at the Ford


Briefly mission of the Weiser

diplomacy center is to provide

practical training to students

interested in international


Inform verge on type I cans

related to diplomacy and serve

as a hundred with the foreign

policy community.

The Weiser Diplomacy Center has

brought an amazing array of

visitors here.

We've hosted two former

secretaries of state i former

ambassador to the united


Former national security advisor

and the current special

representative for North Korea.

Who was recently nominated to

serve as deputy Secretary of


Not a bad lineup even before


We have a wonderful panel today

as well.

The Weiser diplomacy series I

described elevated the caliber

of discussion about diplomacy

and foreign policy here at the

University of Michigan.

And it elevated the Ford

school's pronile policy making

and diplomats in Washington,

D.C. and around the world.

I want to offer my deepest

gratitude to ambassador and Mrs. Weiser who are here with us

today and to their entire family

for their generous gift and for

their vision of this amazing

program here at the Ford school.

Please join me the thanking Ron

and ilene.


  many of you will snow that Ron

served as discuss ambassador and

ilene serve add long side them.

They are both passionately

committed to the importance of

diplomacy and to the men and

women ho serve our country


We're grateful for their

friendship and support of the

Ford school and University of


We appreciate your work and the

great gift you've given to our


We are deeply grateful.

Today's event and the series was

hosted as part of the Ford's

school conversations across

difference initiative bringing

people from lots of different

political backgrounds and

perspectives here to the Ford

school to talk about foreign


Practicing diplomacy both abroad

and here at home is essential

for working through moments

where differences seem


The art of talking and of

listening across political and

other differences is critical

for advancing public policy and

diplomacy alike.

With that let me turn things

over to John who will introduce

our panel.



hello everybody and welcome.

Lady like to thank the Weiser

family and the American academy

of diplomacy.

The topic we're going to address

is timely and extremely


We're going to talk about U.S.

Iran relations , the nuclear

deal, politics and security in

the gulf more generally and of

course those issues are linked

to a whole range of other

regional issues relevant to U.S.

foreign policy and the Middle

East from Israel and the

Palestinian territories to the

conflicts in sir y Yemen,

Afghanistan and beyond.

And to have a discussion on such

an important and wide range ago

Ray of issues we've assembled a

dream team of diplomats with

experience in the region.

I'm going to introduce them


Trust me introducing them in a

time efficient manner requires a

lot of distillation of their

incredible accomplishments

across decades in U.S. foreign


I'm going to start on my left,

your right with ambassador

Gerald Feierstein who is a 41

year career veteran in the

foreign service.

Now retired he was ambassador to

Yemen during the Obama

administration from 2010-13.

Principle deputy assistant

deputy of state for Middle East

affairs from 2013-16 and many

other crucial post including

deputy chief of mission mission

this Pakistan and in the counter

terrorism bureau and postings

elsewhere in Saudi Arabia,

Lebanon, jambeau and he's now

senior Vice President of the

Middle East institute which is a

leading think tank in


Immediately to his right is

ambassador Patrick Theros who is

president and executive director

at the business council.

He has a foreign service career

with many distinguished post

including U.S. ambassador to

qatar and advisor to commander

in chief for the U.S. military

command with coverage of the

Middle East region.

He is also been deputy chief of

mission in Jordan and the you'd

Arab Emirates and counselor in

Syria among other roles.

Ambassador Ronald Nunez to his

right is president of the

American academy of diplomacy

and served three times as

ambassador to al jeer y Iran and

most recently to Afghanistan

from 2005 to 7.

He served in Baghdad

coordinating political aspect

was to military intervention in

you Iraq at the time.

He was deputy assistant

secretary in the bureau of

middle even eastern affairs in

the Clinton administration and

other senior roles.

I think you get idea.

There is a tremendous amount of

expertise here.

During the Obama second term.

She was principle deputy

assistant Secretary of State for

economic and business affairs

and serve add among many other

important roles as deputy chief

of mission and deputy assistant

secretary for narcotics and law


She is going to take it from me

this a moment and moderate a

conversation for about 45

minutes with our expert guests

before we open it to all of you.

For your questions, you'll see

people going around with note

cards, please pass your

questions in writing to them and

they'll bring them to us where

we will select that's are

representative of the group to

pose to our expert panel.

Thank you to our guests and we

look forward to a great




in moderating the dream team,

by the way , the dream team was

the basketball team.

I won't go into that.

As you can see with the vast

experience they have all across

the Middle East, deep experience

from years in the diplomatic

service, I wanted to start the

panel as follows, to talk a

little bit about what is

happening inside the region.

Then we'll get to what is

happening between the U.S. and


And then if we have time we'll

put it in the bigger political


To draw on your deep history

knowledge of the history of the

culture and our bilateral

relations, I want each of to you

talk for a couple of minutes on

the power dynamics taking place

today within the region and

specifically to talk about how

Iran is perceived by its

neighbors in the gulf.

Thank you.

Delighted to be here with all

all of you today.

The basic elements of the power

dynamics in the region are

particularly the competition

between Iran and the major

states of the gcc in the gulf.

Saudi Arabia.

And between Iran and Israel as


When you look at the reach of

the region, whether what you are looking

at is the reaction of the other

states to what is broadly

perceived as Iran expansion

programs, its search for gemny

in the region and the reaction

of those states to what they see

as the threat from an

expansionist Iranen state.

That of course plays into what

we're going to be talking about

a little bit later on in terms

of U.S. and Iran and the other


So three aspects of Iranian

behavior quickly, one is the

ballistic missile programs,

second is Iranian interference

in the internal affairs of its


In the gulf context that is


And third is Iranian support for

terrorism and how the region

responds the those three

perceived threats.

all of those threats real.

You have to take one thing into


This is not a new development.

I've talked to many gulf leaders

all of whom say it was the same

in the days of the shah.

It's been in this area for the

last several centuries.

This is not terribly new.

In fact, if anything for the

small states in the gulf , the

problem in the last century or

so has gotten much more

difficult because there are two

red tear powers.

Someone Saudi Arabia on one side

which has a dispute with Iran

and seen as expansionist by the

small states.

They've for the last two

centuries tried to find an

outside protector.

The gulf states were prepared to

give up a certain amount of

independence in return for their


After the British left, the

United States was seen as

supporting both Saudi Arabia and

Iran against their interest.

They saw Iraq as a valuable to

both countries for years.

Iraq was seen as a plus for most

of the gulf states except


When we took them out, we

destroyed their own balance of


Iran is the strongest country in

the gulf far and away and

without outside protection would

be the principle threat to the

gulf states.

However this is not to say they

are not other threats as well

such as Saudi Arabia.

Iran is perceived differently

to different countries.

They've just moved up the


Remember the leadership of the

states in several cases has

changed sand younger and break

ago way from the traditional

conservative almost passive

defensive approach to power and

feeling the musculature and

challenging more so old


At the same time you have a real

doubling down of monarchies

defending systems.

And there is a tendency

particularly in the west to say

monarchies, old news, gone.

We've done that too back in the

They've become more to


They are less tolerant.

Saudi Arabia of various

criticism liberalizing the

social benefits.

It's a mixture of one respect

very liberal regimes and

Christian churches are open.

Jewish centers are open and

various places.

And at the same time oppression.

They are all still pretty


Chances of remaining are pretty


Snog guaranteed.

But the chances of them

surviving in this form of

government rather they are not

moving to democracy and they are

doubling down on not moving.

And for them the lesson of the

Arab spring is this thing is


Look what happened when you

pulled down these regimes.

You got chaos and god shed and

all kinds of disruption that is

still going on.

A lot of loss of life and that's

not a pretty picture and we

don't want to go there.

The last thing I would note in

passing is the east countries

are very different protect

ourself each other.

There is a tendency in the to us

see the smaller states as being

very much -- a bunch of guys

running around in bed sheets.

In fact they are very different

from each other.

They have historical differences

with each other.

I won't go through them doesn't

say the notion that they are

similar in how they regard their

citizens and how they work with

each other and how they work

with their own people, to argue

that is the same in each of them

is completely incorrect.

That's a good point.

Let me turn to the relationship

the United States has with Saudi

Arabia as we build up to other


We have a strong defense and

security relationship.

Many have criticized the United

States for overlooking Saudi

Buss and human rights.

Congress passed a resolution to

end involvement in the war in


This was to end human surfing in

Yemen and killing.

Can you give us an inside view

of the U.S. Saudi relationship.

How does it work and how does

our diplomacy balance security

interest with our support for

human rights in this part of the


it's actually a very

difficult balance to strike.

I I has Ron said we're dealing

with political systems, with

systems of government and

society that are different from

hours where the analytic of the

two sides to really understand

one another and to coordinate

and cooperate is limited.

What we have with Saudi Arabia

is a relationship that goes back

to the end of world war to and

in some ways before the end of

World War II that has been built

around two core pillars.

One is energy and recognition of

Saudi Arabia as the paramount

producer of oil in the world.

And therefore a major anchor for

global economic security.

And then the other aspect , the

other pillar is what we have

done with the Saudis over the

course of these past years in

terms of building up Saudi

Arabia's own defense

capabilities and the second

aspect is how we work with the

Saudis to promote regional

security in places like

Afghanistan where we work

closely together all the way

through to the gulf to Syria, to


So these have been core

principles at every use

administration has pursued going

all the way back to the

Roosevelt administration,

Republican, democrat, it hasn't


We have a stressful situation

right now where we do have some

significant differences.

And those differences reflect

particularly our different views

about the rights of citizens,

the interaction between citizen

and state , the rights

particularly for women, for

other human rights, civil


Where this has created real

tension and friction between our

bilateral relationship.

So the question how do awe dress


How do you balance between the

partnership we have preserved

for all of these years against

what has been the fact frommous

peered in our relationship N. my

view and the Obama

administration and trump

administration, we need to look

at what the core U.S. interests

are in the region which are

primarily the stability and

energy pillars and to what

extent or the other do you then

press on these human rights?

My own view is we have not

pressed as much on the human

right side as we should


We should take the murder more

seriously than we have.

We need to correct that balance.

But I also believe that at the

end of the day we do need to

recognize that preserving a good

strong Saudi U.S. relationship

is important for to us achieve a

broader objective in the region.

I wanted to add a perspective

I got.

Because we tend to be very

certain of our moral recollectty

rectitudewhen we look at a murder.

When I was there.

What I got was wait a minute, we

depend for our security on Saudi


This crown prince is under

taking C.I.A. critical reforms

that are essential for this

stability of the place.

By the way, you go on having

your relations with Russia even

though Putin murders citizens in

various different countries.

Why are you so hung and in

danger of destroying this

relationship and bring us into

danger as well over one killing

here where you tolerate multiple

killings over there.

I don't say that's the view you

should take.

I just put that out there to to

show there are different views

of looking at this thing.

I want to turn to the U.S.

relationship with Iran.

It's been 40 years since the

U.S. hostage taking in Iran.

Since then we've had no official

diplomatic relations and no

embassy in Iran.

Our interest there are

represented by Switzerland.

While there was extensive

contact, most communication

today is done by press

statements and announcements.

You lived in Iran as a younger

officer and also with a director

of the Iran office.

You lived inside the country.

Can you talk a little bit about

how from that perspective with

such limited context how can we

manage our relations?


it's true.

We tend to look at it


As they toned look at us too.

It's a very long period.

There is the debillty that there

are great splits in Iran.

There are people for whom the

revolution key piece of the

revolution is maintaining the

ideological friction.

It creates -- I had a great time

in Iran.

I enjoyed the people.

People who visit Iran find

Iranians far more welcoming to

Americans passing through than

many other states there.

One of the problems with our

relations with Iran is whether

you ought to have relations,

whether you ought to improve the


Whether that's a good thing.

When you get into negotiations

you have there as you have here

a need to show that you are

really doing something that

works well in order to pacify

your domestic critics.

Since the same situation exists

here, that sets up a situation

in which for each side a

successful negotiation is one in

which they have to show they've

done really well which usually

means the things the other side

can't afford to have you show in

order to pacify their critics.

That's not an impossible

situation as the nuclear

agreement showed.

But it is a very fought

situation in which to hold out

negotiations making it

particularly fraught when you

have an approach that says we'll

tell you what we want add we

don't really need to talk to you


Afterwards you are going to

ask questions about what it was

like to live there.

The U.S. pulled out of the jcpoa

and other party versus remained.

The eu warned they may start

withdrawing from the deal.

This past fall there was a

report the president and

President Trump with the support

of the French president were

moving to an agreement which

included lifting of the U.S.

sanctions in exchange for Iran's

agreement to remain a nonnuclear

weapon state.

What do you think of the

prospects of the U.S. and Iran

getting back to the table?

And if you disagree?

I don't think we can do it on

our own.

I don't believe that the

American government or the Iran

government have any formulas

whereby the two of us can get


It's got to be on a grander

level than just France despite

its glory.

The p5 plus someone probably the

only vehicle around.

Although principle members of

the U.N. security council and eu

trying to gang up on both sides.

Gang up maybe the wrong term.

But providing cover for both

sides to come to the table and

start talking to each other

because frankly I don't believe

that given dynamics that Iran

was describing that there is any

leeway on each side to make the

necessary even cosmetic

concessions that would permit to

us come together and have a

serious conversation.

What would be worse would

approximate coming together with

each side having expectations of

the other and not having them

met and frankly, without going

into too much detail, I think

we're heading for a train wreck

with Iran which could be very

damaging to the world's economy

in the gulf because of what it

would do, what the Iranians

demonstrated they could do in


I think it behooves us and

perhaps the Iranians to try and

get more international

intervention to make something


I'll take a little bit of

issue with pat and take a

slightly more optimistic view.

And that is if you look at the

Obama policy on Iran and if you

look at the trump policy on

Iran, what you would see are two

policies that were opposed.

The Obama theory of the case

that was effective in the Iran

nuclear deal , the jcpoa was

basically if awe dressed what it

was key international concern

about Iranian behavior and that

was its pursuit of a nuclear

weapons capability, if you put

this place an agreement to

address that, then over time by

bringing Iran into closer

relationship with the

international community,

addressing their economic

concerns, doing other things,

you could then set up the

possibility of getting the

Iranians to address these other

issues that I mentioned earlier

that were also a broad concern

about the missiles, about the

interference, about support for


The trump administration took

basically the opposite view

which was we can't wait, we're

not going to wait for the

Iranians to come around on their

own, they won't do it and the

only way to get them to move on

those issues is to basically

beat them with a stick until

they cry uncle.

The Obama approach would work.

The trump approach clearly has

not worked.

And what we saw with the macron

initiative was an effort to

basically begin the dialogue

again and to bring the U.S. and

Iran together at the table where

they could begin to work through

some of these issues.

I actually think they can do


And it's very clear from both

the position of Donald trump

himself and from what the

Iranians have said that both

sides gingerly are interested in

finding a way to get back to the


Neither of them wants the train

wreck that pat is concerned

about because both sides

recognize that a train wreck

kills a lot of people including

the engineers.

So both sides would like to get

back to the table.

And what -- the period we're in

right now is the maneuvering

between these two sides to

figure out who is going to be

the stronger party when they sit

down at the table.

But I do believe that they will

sit down at the table probably

sometime before our presidential

election next year.

Optimism is free.

Having said that I'm not quite

as optimistic.

I would joust just note two


One is the legacy of suspicion

and distrust.

It's not only an American


It's a huge Iranian legacy going

well back into the 50's when we

overthrew an Iranian government.

Something which they never


I remember my friend who was one

of the hostages and has been a

real advocate of the two

countries working together.

Talking to an Iranian saying you

have to get over that hostage


He said yes, I agree, we should.

But never it was answer.

We've had several initiatives of

reaching out and in each case we

walk add way and betrayed


I do not think -- we will see.

You could -- I think what is --

there is a recognition of what

pat was talking about train

wreck possibility.

That's not just Iranians, that's

the Saudis and uae.

On various sides how do we talk

about this and deconflict.

I think it is knock on wood

possible that we will avoid the

ultimate stupidity of war

because there is a recognition

of just how dangerous that is.

And so there is this kind of

tentative reaching outlooking

for ways to low ter temperature

and deconflict.

I am personally very pessimistic

particularly given the long

history and the sense -- Iran

has a sense of we made an

agreement and you walked away

from it.

So what is the point because you

can't trust the northern hold to

an agreement they make anyway.

And when you look at Syria and

other things with this

administration of you can't even

trust them to keep their own

policy straight.

Why get into this.

I'm pessimistic you will get


Some day I think it has to


Not in the last year before an

election I don't think.

If I could add to defend


But the one obstacle to a trump

phone conversation in New York

in September it was simple issue

that they were not able to

decide whether or not a U.S.

reductions in sanctions would

come before the call or after

the call.

But the two had agreed to make

the call.

And again you are absolutely

right, I don't think that it

will be an easy negotiation.

We know it was not an easy

negotiation in 2015 either.

But the reality is whether you

like it or not the one thing

that maximum pressure has Dunn

is it has inflicted real

economic pain on Iran.

And therefore they have a strong

incentive try to figure out how

the deal with us in a way to get

sanctions reduction.

And I think -- I don't think

they are going to do it because

they love us.

I don't think they are going to

do it -- but I think ha both

sides will make the decision to

go back to negotiating table

because both sides recognize

that it's in their interest to

do it.

I prefer you to be right.

I'm going to add one thing.

I ran the sanctions team at the

state department.

The last time when we squeezed

Iran, we got very good at


So we had capabilities today

that we didn't have last time

and they were pretty good.

we are very good at


The Iranians say they are

offering graduate courses on how

the avoid American sanctions.

They have more limited capacity

to do that.

We have dug ourself, we and the

Iranians have both dug ourselves

into a public position, Pompeo's

ultimatum to the Iranians

resembles 19 14.

Surrender everything before we

talk to you.

I don't see this administration

easily backing off of it and I

don't see the Iranians trusting

us if we have the conversation

that it will happen.

I remember when we did have the

first reformist Iranian

president in which collectively

in our wisdom we decided if we

were nice to them it wouldn't


We might help them.

This is partly the mind that's

the Iranians are working from

that they see on our side.

We're going to come back here

a year from today and we'll see

who is right.

if I'm right we're not going

to be able to afford gasoline

get here.

We may have to meet in a


the United States has a

strong military presence in the


I know several of you have

served in the gulf.

Hosting 5,000 military

personnel, 10,000 approximate

qatar and two bases.

The role of Kuwait international


We have sent more personnel to

Saudi Arabia and we've launched

a new security initiative

construct in the region to

protect shipping.

Many of the gulf countries are

increasing their own

capabilities as well.

How does had affect power

dynamics in the region and our

U.S. interests?

partly this rush to become

the owners of the biggest

arsenals in the world is meant

to deal with the Iranians.

I think it is a bit of a power

play between the gulf states.

We don't trust each other.

The recent when cutter was

blockaded by the neighbors, they

felt I don't know how much

justification but they convinced

themselves that the only reason

the Saudis weren't coming across

the border is they didn't want

to telegraph their intent by

massing on the border.

What is on the books, Saudi

Arabia is a much larger more

powerful country than qatar.

They see their military as

having two real functions.

Someone deterring an attack by

their neighbors, or long enough

for the Americans to get there.

And secondly dealing with the

potential of the breakdown and

order they talk a lot about

breakdown of orderer in Saudi


Their nightmare would be civil

war in Saudi Arabia if something

happened which is something they

talk about a lot.

I think the uae buildup of

military force is aimed at Iran

and building up the weight in

the gulf cooperation council.

And my experience of the uae has

the same sort of dark look at

Saudi Arabia's own power


The Saudis have been chip ago

way at the border for


I think a very large portion of

that is part of the jockeying

for power between the gulf


You asked particularly about

the military balance and how the

buildup of gulf states changes


The sort answer is very little.

These are fundamentally weak

states who are very aware of

their weakness.

They made a real effort to

expand the quality of its

military to some extent I think

has succeeded and shown a

certain ability for power

projection effectively.

The Saudi military has shown

very poorly.

Went into Yemen and it has

really done badly.

They reminded me of something my

father said to me years ago when

the Soviets went into

Afghanistan and said every

country entitled to the Vietnam

of its choice.

First of all, there are

economically powerful and weak.

They want to exaggerate a lot of

the buildup of supplies but

don't have to use it.

I remember reading once there

was a technique of riding your

camels in a circle to stir up

the dust so the enemy would be

frightened by the size of your

force and you wouldn't have to

fight them.

There is some of that still

going on.

You look at them.

They have enormous dependence on

their decal nation facilities,

on the oil refineries.

These things are all vulnerable

to missile attack.

You can have these societies

crippled quickly in a war really


And they have small populations.

They can't have a large


They can have a lot of


They can hire a certain number

of mercenaries to help them run


But they don't have v the

population base to have a strong


In several cases they've gotten

used to foreigners doing this


The Saudis have had several

military experiences including

the first gulf war and none of

them they have shown particular

military greatness.

Less than two million people in

the whole country.

These are fundamentally weak


The bottom line is they can get

more powerful to some extent for

their own protection, not to the

exThant we can use that as a

change in our relationship.

I would say that two critical

developments over the last ten

years that have driven these

decisions, particularly again by

Saudi Arabia and the uae to

build their own internal

security capabilities.

One was the perception rightly

or wrong think perception that

U.S. commitment, U.S. interests

and U.S. willingness to carry

through on our long standing

defense and security umbrella

for the gulf is fading.

And you can go back to the Obama


You can even go back to the

George H. bush administration

and see a declining level of

interest to the gulf states that

has played out.

The second issue is the collapse

of the traditional Sooni Arab


Particular think focus Egypt has

had since 2010.

The collapse of Syria, of Iraq

as pillars of the Sooni Arab


And therefore what you have seen

are two things.

One the rise of the gulf states

and their view that they are now

responsible for leadership in

the Sooni world.

And that is exacerbated or

compounded by the younger

leadership, the more ambitious

leadership that we have.

Therefore as a result of these

two things we've seen two


Someone they are no longer

relying on the United States.

You see this in turn towards a

more positive, more focused

relations with Russia and China.

But you also see anytime terms

of their decisions they are

going to take on greater

responsibility for their own

security, their own protection

than they did before.

They are not going to wait for

the seventh Calgary to come over

the horizon anymore.

They are going to take that on


Now we can talk about whether

they are good at it or not good

at I, it doesn't matter.

The reality is that's a decision

they are making and they are

going to purr site and that has

strong implications in terms of

our own role and

responsibilities in the region

going forward.

If I could add one quick

point the this.

We say we don't need the gulf

because we are an oil exporting

country reenforces this

perception that when the balloon

goes up we're not going to come

for it.

That is nonsense.

I want to wrap up by putting

this in a larger context before

we get to the questions.

What relevance does gulf region

have in the broader geopolitical

competition between the U.S. and

China and the U.S. and Russia?

I'll take a swing at China.

I don't think it has to be part

of the competition.

China is very dependent on the


I forget the numbers.

the gulf.

If there is one country for whom

a major war in the gulf would be

catastrophic to their economy

it's China and I'm speechless at

the Chinese refuse toll get


Maybe it's their whole political

history in modern times.

They don't want to get involved.

They have sort of vent to

sanctions are a blockade to oil.

They have the most to lose and

they are not doing anything.

I don't think they are looking

for any confrontation.

I don't believe that the Chinese

see themselves moving into the


Vladimir Putin is a guy who

has played a weak hand very,

very well.

Russia does not have thisth

economic or the military or the

diplomatic capacity to really

challenge the United States and

the region.

But he is a past master at

identifying vacuums and figuring

out how Russia can move in.

And he is somebody who has a

vision of Russia as a great

power who believes that Russia

by dent of its great power

status should have a seat at the

table when all of these

political and security issues

are debated in the Middle East.

He's going to do that.

At the end of the day he is not

our competition.

The competition ha the U.S. has

in terms of the great powers is


China is eating our lunch


They are becoming increasingly

the number one economic partner

for the gulf states.

That's going to continue.

I agree with pat that the

Chinese are perfectly willing to

let us take on the hard issues

of security and stability in the

region while they focus on

building their economic

relations and prospering through

the relationships with the gulf


But I think that is also


I don't think it's an distant

the only two -- an distant the

only two naval facilities China

has outside China are Pakistan

and in the horn of Africa

because they understand their

security and their economic

survival depends on access

through those waterways to the

energy and also to the export


there are no Chinese military

forces there.

they have the capability.

There is nothing stationed


But they have the capability of

using it for military.

They are gingerly moving into

some of these more aggressive


But you are right that what they

want to do is they want to us

take the headaches and let them

take the money.

I do think what you are

seeing is overall a less stable


I agree with my colleagues that

the gulf states are less secure

in their relationship with us

and they are therefore looking

elsewhere and in particular the


The problem is they are looking

to their own defenses building


these are policies which they

feel they are forced to because

they can't rely on the

relationship they had with us.

But they are not able to

supplant that relationship.

The Russians will sell them arms

but they are not going to come

to their defense.

Their own defense capabilities

for all the equipment remain


So what you have is a

relationship where we're not

quite backing away.

We got a lot of troops there.

But they are unsure of us and

it's not clear what we're

actually prepared to do.

Building up their arsenals

without the real capacity to to

deter the people they are most

worried about.

When you have that altogether

you have a less secure region

and more dangerous one.

When you have the solid U.S.

relationship, clumsy as it might

often have been, everybody knew

where you were.

Therefore you didn't mess with


Now you have one that is very

shaky and uncertain and that has

room for mistakes.

we will now turn to


thanks so much for being


I'll be giving you your first


How do you see the increased

wave of protest impacting the

Iranian regime.

These are the current ones.

you want to predict future.

This is really tough.

they are posing threats.

The regime is incredibly ware of

the danger of these riots.

You are seeing the fact there

are social cracks after these

years since the Iran revolution.

I personally doubt this period

will lead to that much change.

I think if there is one lesson

that the older leaders of the

revolution really learned from

the revolution itself, it was

how they gained strength as the

shaw vacillate.

You had a period during the

revolution where the shah had

put down.

demonstrations and then he would

not always.

And move back and forth.

As he vacillated, the

demonstrations got bigger and


If there is any lesson which I

think the older revolutionary

leaders have carried away, it is

not to make the mistake of the


I believe they will put these

eye riots down.

They have a lot of force but

don't have leadership.

The revolution had leadership in

the wings ready to come forth

and take hold.

I don't think they have it.

I think you have something that

is very interesting.

It shows you how much

dissatisfaction there is.

Whether or not after this you

get something else, but I don't

believe these riots themselves

are going to lead tie lot of

change real quick.

I would say I agree

completely with that.

The absence of a coherent or

popular Iranian revolutionary

presence abroad.

Right now the United States is

chose on the support probably

the single most hated Iranian

exile organization as the


I think I saw something today

which said they have already

killed about 100 demonstrators

in Iran.

I agree completely with Ron they

are going to do whatever they

need to do to stop the


They have been very clear.

What you need to remember is

that the methodology that Assad

has used in sir y he was taught

by the Iranians.

That is the irgc that went into

Syria and really helped the shah

use the extreme measures that

he's used in order to stop the

Syrian uprising.

The riots in Iraq have much

more potential for political

change but that was not the


thank you again for being


I am a , Jr. in the Ford school

undergraduate program.

The next question we have for

you is how do U.S. relations in

the gulf interact with U.S.

relations with Israel in

particular how do U.S. Saudi

relations with the U.S.

involvement with Saudi Arabia in

Yemen impact Israel?

there was a theory in the

trump administration that

because the Israelis and the

gulf -- an opportunity actually

push forward this idea of what

is outside in.

You could get gulf states to

take steps to normalize the

relationship with Israel on this

basis and to open diplomatic

relations to do all the other

steps regardless of where the

Israelis were in their

negotiations with the


I think what eve seenover the

past couple of years is that

expectation, that idea was

vastly exaggerated.

And that while the two sides

there, is no doubt that quietly

under the table Israelis and

gulf Arabs are working much more

closely together, that the gulf

states are more willing to be

open about the nature of some of

their relationships,

particularly on the security

side than they were in the past,

nevertheless, nevertheless there

is a cap on how farther going to

be willing to go in the absence

of some movement towards a

resolution of the Palestinian

issue and particularly the what

is called the abrailroad peace

initiative which is basically

full normalization between

Israel and the Arab world in

exchange for a two state

solution, Palestinian state with

east Jerusalem as its capitol.

This is the position.

It is still position.

And I think that the reality is

that unless there is something

that addresses Palestinian

requirements, you are not going

to see the gulf states go beyond


if I could add one point.

I've seen this movie before in

the course of my career.

There have been I can think of

three historical instance when

is American policy beginning

with the mom tear sen toe aligns

that led to the overthrow of the

monarchy in Iraq where we were

going get Israel and the further

Arab states against the Soviet


We tried et a couple more times.

Hague was building a trying to

build a aligns against -- I

forget if it was Soviet union or

Iran at this point.

Soviet union with the gulf


So we've done this.

We've done had several times.

We think that we have no memory

so it's a fresh idea.


next question.

next question for you.

What are the most effective

strategies for combating Iranian

backed groups in the Middle


since we haven't seen one yet

it's hard to know what it will


we're doing our best to fix

the problem so you dry up the

swamp in which they dwell.

if you try deal with them

directly, this is their turf,

they know their turf, they know

how the survive in that turf.

If progress on the Palestinian


I don't even know how the deal

with Iraq.

I couldn't begin at this moment

the suggest how we deal the


The Iranians have gotten a

lot of power in Iraq.

But the Iranians are not well


And Americans are often make the

mistake of thinking because they

are if I rack therefore somehow

they are close to the Iranians.

They forget eight years of the

Iran Iraq war with thousands of

people killed.

They never changed sides.

They never went over against

their own government.

When I served in Iraq after our

invasion, you could -- it was

not good for you if you were an

Iraq can I politician to be seen

as too close to the Iranians.

Now you are getting a lot of

push back.

The Iranians do best this Iraq

when the country unstable.

Because then they can work with

different power centers for

their own interests.

They always had the risk that a

stable Iraq would be a threat to

Iran again as it was back to the

battle so this is a not new


We keep reminding you things are

not so new.

Right now they have a -- I think

one can say that some things --

things one should not do are


Right now when you have a lot of

backlash against Iranian

pressure is a good time for to

us kind of shut up and sit down

and not to be very heavily


Kind of consult quietly with


You have a very volatile


You have some things going in

the direction we kind of like.

So don't try -- we have a desire

usually to do something.

This is one of those places

where you are much better off

right now watch it golf you may

see an opportunity to do

something useful.

But don't assume you have to do


one quick point.

Just to set at rest this

question of Iranian shia control

over Iraq.

Looking at theological terms.

Require ace certain

historical perspective to know

what you are talking about.

if I can just add the

experience in Yemen and I think

it kind of sharp Tennessee point

en the pointthat Ron and pat were making

that they've been able to

establish relations to work, to

build aen lines, relationships,

Israeli unique to that set of


In the case of Yemen where you

have the hooties.

Yes they have a relationship

with Iran.

Yes they have exploited that

relationship and the Iranians

have exploited the relationship

in order to achieve an object

they've they have which is to

stress and put pressure on Saudi


But nevertheless the issues that

are unique to the conflict that

is goingen in no one Yemen right

now are issues that are internal

to Yemen.

They are not fighting because

they are partners or proxies of


They are fighting because of

their circumstances in Yemen.

And the best thing that we can

do to the exThant we can do it

is to help resolve those

internal issues.

If you deny the Iranians the

vacuum that they have been very

successful at exploiting, then

you can deny them the air they

need to develop these


And that is true I think with

Iraq, in Lebanon and it's

absolutely flew Yemen.

the basic point that

underlies all of these is you

have to actually know something.

And you have to pay attention to

the different situations and the

differences and you can't do

this on the basis of kind of two

dimensional policy and sound

bytes about Iran which is where

we carry out our public


You have to know about


we'll go to the next


we have a question turning

towards combating terrorism.

Can the Arab coalition of states

be trusted to combat terrorism

in line with U.S. and global

geopolitical interests?

maybe sometimes no.

Mostly no.

it depends on -- I think that

the Saudis were good partners

for us in fighting against Al

Qaeda and the Arabian peninsula.

We had a lot of success.

There was one particular

instance you may or may not

remember called the cartridge

bomb attempt in 2010.

Where there was an attempt to

smuggle explosives on board an

airplane in printer cartridges.

We would not have known about


We would not have caught on to

that had it not been for Saudi

intelligence and their tipping

us offnd the British off about

this plot.

So there have been instances

where in fact they were

extremely important partners for


Saudi policy has on occasion

exacerbated terrorist threats

and Mayed made it more difficult

for to us deal, Libya being a

good example.

How does turkey and the

president fit into the equation?


turkey has a lot of it own


It's feeling its oats as it's

moved into Syria.

Turkey has end in certain areas.

It's helped combat extreme


At the same time many parts of

Syria you have turkey being

quite tolerant of movements with

the Islamic state because the

turks are worried about other


They are far more worried about

Kurdish terrorism than the

Islamic state.

If helping works, they'll help.

But if helping gets us gets

crossways with where they see a

stronger threat and interest,

then they are not so helpful.

Turks also are really feeling

their oats on an expansion of

their influence.

This is like policy 2.0 because

they had same same view after

the breakup with the central


The lift was way heavier than

they had capacity to undertake.

Now they are kind of trying some

of that again.

And again I think they are going

to find that their am -- their

reach I think exceeds their


I would add there is an

internal dynamic.

He came to power how many years


His first 7 or 8 years in power

were fantastic.

The best ruler, best leader of

modern turkey you could imagine.

He did bring an enormous

difference for turkey.

Some place along the line, he

has had problems.

The problems reflect themselves

in election results, local

election versus not gone well

for him.

And like most guys who -- like

most leaders who want to stay in

power an occasional foreign

adventure is not a bad thing

properly managed.

Your comments at the

beginning you commented on the

potential of some sort of

movement or lack of potential

for movement in Iranian U.S.


I'm wondering what does recent

rise in tensions between Israel

and Iran mark bedty Israeli air

force strikes against targets in

Syria a couple of days ago

suggest about Iranian ambitions

in Syria and what is the risk of

this turn into a larger conflict

and impacting the potential for


this is one of those places

where I don't believe that the

two countries really have annexo

essential view of the other as a


I think a lot of this is Iran

trying to maintain its controls

or its influence in Syria.

And in large mart is Israeli

domestic politics because it's

really use to feel have the

Iranians as the boogie man

sitting out there.

I think this is more of a hype

inside the United States and

domesticically in both

countries, hype rather than -- I

don't think either country wants

to have a war with the other.

there is no doubt that the

Iranians were far more invested

in the survival of the saA sad

and his regime than the Russians


That for Iran Assad is an

important partner.

Access to Lebanon through Syria

is incredibly important.

I think for their own reasons.

The Iranians see the ability to

expand their military

partnership with his Bo La in

Syria as well as Lebanon is use

informal personals of

threatening Israel.

The Israelis have responded.

I think interesting something

the Israeli versus responded

extremely aggressively against

Iranian presence.

They have gone after the Iranian

arms depos.

They have killed a number of

Iranians in Syria.

It's one of those situations

where the two sides have decide

this is a game they are going to

play and keep it confined to

this particular battleground and

not allow it to spill out into

other kinds of conflict.

thank you.

How does current state of

U.S. Iran relations affect U.S.

diplomatic efforts in the

country to Iran's east


what is happening in

Afghanistan , the Iranians were

initially quite supportive of

intervention in Afghanistan.

There is a big difference in the

way they look at Afghanistan.

Iraq is a historic threat to


The shah years ago, every year

the troops had an annual

military exercise where they

exercised on the basis of the

Iraqi invasion of Iran pushing

Iraqis back.

Afghanistan is not a strategic


They get nervous about us.

This were very helpful in the

negotiations in putting

government in place in


I think I had probably the last

meeting with the Iranians in

Afghanistan up until 2005ment

Ted last such meeting that was

ordered to suspend them because

we wanted to put pressure on

them about nuclear weapons.

I argued with secretary rice

that was a bad decision and I


She was boss.

Anyway they remained fairly


Very nervous about when we put

troops to their border.

But otherwise supportive.

They became belligerent

pushening to Afghans.

But now the kicker is that they

are very concerned about two


Someone the growth of the

Islamic state presence in


And the other is the perception

that we're not going to hold up

our continued involvement in


And they can't -- the situation

is going to get worse.

So from their point of view ,

the greater danger between

Taliban and Islamic state is the

Islamic state.

If that means they need to warm

up their relations with the

Taliban this order to prepare

for the expected panic departure

of the U.S. and collapse of

Afghanistan, that's what they

are doing.

You have a warming of relations

between Iranians and the Taliban

as you have between the Russians

and the Taliban.

And in both cases it is premised

on the two perceptions Islamic

state is a bigger threat and I

can't trust Americans to hold up

their end in Afghanistan.

They are going to walk out and

leave chaos and I got to have


turning to humanitarian


How concerned should we be about

the human cost of sanction on

Iran for ordinary Iranian


how much we should be or how

much are?

should be?

if you are looking at it from

a purely moral and ethical point

of view.

It's a little bit like our

sanctions on Iraq up to the 2003

war in which we frankly -- we

took a position that the

humanitarian crisis that we

created in Iraq it was fault of

Saddam Hugh sane and tried to

sell that domesticically.

I don't think we managed to sell


If we try and sell the same

story in Iran, I don't think

it's going to be sold.

The human -- there was always

been a bit of humanitarian


We've aggravated the

humanitarian crisis in Iran.

We with a few exceptions I think

the Iran government will do a

good job of convincing the

Iranian people it's the

American's fault.

That's an important point.

One the official U.S. position

is that we are not interested in

punishing the Iranian people.

We are interested in putting

pressure on the regime.

The reality is the opposite.

That in fact the weight of U.S.

sanctions is falling on the

common people.

And as Ron said earlier and my

wife used to lead tourist in

Iran, I told her to stop.

She said that the Americans on

her tours were always amazed

about the warmth Torre acception

that they got.

The fact that the common Iranian

people liked Americans.

And they liked America.

And they felt as though were it

not for the political

differences that they would be

able to have a good relationship

with us.

The risk that we run is that we

are changing that perception and

that we're building opposition.

We're building anger against the

United States among the Iranian


And that's going to do two


One is it's going to strengthen

the regime because it means the

as pat said the regime can say

it's not us, we're not the

reason that the economy is


We're not the reason that your

life is so difficult.

It's because of those Americans.

And the second thing is that

when the day comes and it will

come that we would like to

normalize the relationship with

Iran, that we would like to get

back to business with Iran, that

there is going to be popular

resistance within Iran to doing

that, that is going to make it

much harder to achieve our


Let me add a comment on


Sanctions are an effective tool

if you outline cheerily behavior

that you want to change.

In the current long list of

sanks on Iran and I'm not an

expert on Iran, there is no

desired behavior that is


We don't have a clear policy of

what we want them to do other

than denuclearize generally F.

you outline the behavior.

Let me add another point N. fine

tuning, we're able to allow

exceptions and to allow certain

things to go through etc.

But the intent is really for the

behavior of a state to change.

The trump administration as I

just said has not enunciated

when it wants to achieve.

So the pressure felt,

politically it is played up


And the longer they run , the

harder they hit.

there is even.

I take the same point and

take it further.

The deepest lack of clarity and

this has been true for several


Not just this one.

Is whether policy is about

change in behavior or regime


As long and we send mixed


As long as the belief a

possibility that what our policy

is ability is regime change,

then there is no reason to make

the concessions necessary

because you are just weakening

yourself, you are setting

yourself up for the next round.

The concessions which we say we

want in sanctions on behavior,

it really only makes sense even

if you wanted to have that

agreement if you believe that is

what the Americans are really


It's not about regime change.

And the way we talk about leaves

you very uncertain of what the

policy is or what the policy

will be tomorrow.

Some sanctions are very


When we sanctioned some Russians

in the context of cyber, it's

very targeted.

Like stop hitting us, we're

going to sanction and then we'll

use more offensive ways to cyber


Any other questions?

last question.

between this and cocktail


What is your at vice on how

students interested in Middle

East diplomacy can best prepare

to succeed?

With all of your years of


I tried the first which is

succeed at what you are doing

right now.

Come out of here, do well in


And then just get to know as

much as you can about the Middle


There are no magic formula.

It's a well educated person who

has educated himself on the

region, who has a real interest,

you need start developing a

visceral interest in the area.

And that's the best way to

prepare for itful?

did you choose it or stumble

into it?

I stumbled.

Most of my life I've stumbled

into things and I stumbled into


this one I chose.

I had three months in

graduate school before I joined

the military.

I went to visit my parents in

Afghanistan and that's where I


We could all pontificate for

hours up here and that would

really delay the cocktail.

You'll never be fully expert.

You have to recognize what a

colleague told me going to one

post, you will never understand

country as clearly as on the day


Because you think you have a

perception, you get into the

details, you learn more and

more, it gets harder and harder

to make simple bottom line


Recognize this is a lifetime


Not to be discouraged.

Understand that you come out of

here with is a basis on which to

go forth and learn.

It is not a basis of knowledge

sufficient to already proclaim

how things ought to be.

So prepare yourself that the

history, these are countries

which have an enormous sense of


And this is often impedestrian

Tom them.

It's really hard to go forward

when you spend a lot of time

looking backwards.

You need understand the history.

You need to understand where

people are copping from.

Then you go and learn to listen.

And my old boss the late

Saunders who was involved in

negotiations and other things

who really had an understanding

of the psychological dimensions

of negotiations as well.

And he had a saying which was

listen deeply enough to be

changed by what you hear.

And it's an enormously important

point of both scholarship and


If you want to get other people

to do things your way and like

it, you have to know what their

way is.

As well as the history and

knowledge having a certain

amount of humility and learning

to listen and spend a lot of

time listening is a good thing

to learn.

very early on had to make a

choice between studying Russian

and Arabic.

And I realized if I was going to

study either of these languages

and spend next 15 to 25 years of

my life in that part of the

world, I like lamb better than I

like cabbage.

On that note.

I want to thank you and thank

the audience.


outside we'll have a


I don't believe we're serving


There may be lamb.

One more round of thanks for

this wonderful panel.