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tv   Regional Politics of the Iran Nuclear Agreement  CSPAN  September 26, 2017 12:41pm-1:56pm EDT

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source, you can tap into that c-span archive and get real quotes for your paper. so congratulations on keeping the archive intact all these years. >> for the past 30 years, the video libraries is your free resource for politics, congress, and washington public affairs. so whether it happened 30 years ago or 30 minutes ago, find it in c-span's video library at c-span, where history unfolds daily. >> next, scholars and a former iranian diplomat discuss the 2015 iran nuclear agreement and the future of the joint comprehensive plan of action. a look at the hopes and expectations of the united states and whether the u.s. will recommit to the terms of the agreement. this discussion was held yesterday by the atlantic council.
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>> okay. thank you, those who came this morning. thank you for staying. thank everyone else who has just arrived. i'm barbara slaven. i direct the future of iran initiative here at the atlantic council. we just had a really fascinating discussion with the e-3 ambassadors and the eu ambassador about the iran nuclear deal. and the challenges that are currently being presented to it from the united states. so we're now going to look at the attitudes of the region toward the iran nuclear deal. we're going to examine whether there is support, strong support for the agreement, reservations about the agreement, concerns about u.s. policy or support for u.s. policy on the part of some of the main regional players. and i'm really delighted. i have three fabulous panelists to discuss these issues.
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first, we're going to hear from hussein, senior resident scholar at, forgive me, iranians, the arab gulf states institute in washington. arab gulf states. >> it's a modifier of the states, not the gulf. >> okay. okay. the arab gulf states that are across the persian gulf from iran. >> it doesn't say that either. it's neutral on the gulf. >> hussein is a longtime friend. i'm sure many of you have read his commentaries. he is truly an expert on the region. he's a weekly columnist with the national, which is based in the united arab emirates. he previously served as a senior fellow on the task force on palestine, executive director for arab american leadership and communications director for the american arab anti-discrimination committee. then we're going to hear from another dear friend who is executive director of the seta
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foundation at washington, d.c. this is a turkish foundation which has been very active for the past dozen years, ten years? how long now? >> seven. >> seven years. yeah. at a time when, of course, turkey's policies have been very dynamic. kadir also served as assistant editor of inside turkey, an academic journal. he holded a ph.d. in middle eastern and south african studies from columbia university and a masters degree in history. if anyone has attended the events at seta, they know these are really interesting and give a lot of insight into how turkey sees the region. and then finally, we're really pleased to have ambassador hussein wasabi in here to talk about how iran is viewing all of these new challenges to the jcpoa. he is middle east security and nuclear policy specialist at
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princeton university's woodrow wilson school. he served as iran's ambassador to germany, head of iran's national security council, and spokesman for iran in its nuclear negotiations with the e-3 from 2003 to 2005. he's written a number of books on u.s./iran relations. his latest one, iran and the united states, an insider's view on the failed past and the road to peace, was released in may 2014. and he's just come back from several weeks, yeah, in iran. i think he has a very good sense of how iranians are viewing the debate that's going on in this country and in the region and in european capitals. so, let us begin. hussein. >> barbara. >> we have the impression, certainly have gotten the impression from some of the statements that have been coming, particularly from saudi arabia and from the united arab
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emirates that they are very happy about the shift in approach of the united states. they like the trump administration's approach to iran. they thought that president obama was much too soft on iran. that he didn't understand the dynamics of the region. >> mm-hmm. >> i guess the question is, do these countries, and we'll talk about the gcc as a whole, which is obviously not monolithic, but let's just start with saudi arabia and uae, do they want the jcpoa to continue? or do they want it to be scrapped? >> okay. let me begin by saying thanks very much for having me. it'siga great to be here and gr to see old and new friends on this panel. so you're right, first of all, that there's a pretty interesting set of diverse opinions on a range of topics within the gcc. i think the jcpoa is one of the
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areas most contentious international issues in which you do find a relative consensus in the gcc that is not -- is not disrupted by the confrontation between the quartet and qatar. in other words, there will be consensus before the standoff began and the consensus remains now and the consensus is still there. that includes, i think, saudi arabia and the uae as well as the other four gcc countries. so you're quite right that saudi arabia and the uae in particular, and the others also to some extent as well, are happier with the trump administration's approach towards iran with its more confrontational attitude, with its willingness to put u.s. differences with iran both in terms of iran's regional policies, specific regional policies and conduct and pattern
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of behavior. and the disagreements between washington and tehran on the long-term goals, the strategic objective, the vision for the middle east to the forefront. they felt both immediate chronic issues, so acute issues were being lost. and the long-term chronic issues were both getting locked during the second half of the second term of barack obama under a kind of miasma of good will coming out of the jcpoa, and that's why they were nervous about it. however, having said that, they did all collectively agree at the 2015 camp david summit with the obama administration, the gcc/u.s. summit to endorse the negotiation after being very uneasy about them. but they got sufficient reassurances at the time, and they did collectively endorse
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the negotiation. and then in august of 2016, the foreign ministers meeting which john kerry attended, they endorsed the skrrxjcpoa itself. in both cases, this was sincere. it was based on two understandings. they received assurances from the u.s. that were sufficient to assuage their acute concerns about the jcpoa, and i'll talk about those in a second. but also, they felt that having achieved what they could, they were not going to be able to stop either the negotiations or reverse the agreement itself. and therefore, they would have to, you know, sort of do what they could with the reality rather than take the israeli attitude of actually urging that the whole thing be undone. now, having said that, their worst fears, and it's not just that they're happier with the
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trump administration. it's also that they were reassured towards the very end of the obama administration by what not only what was happening under the jcpoa, which has rea. in other words it's being implemented successfully. and it has moth balled and to some extent reversed iran's progress towards a nuclear weapon. this is a good thing from their point of point of view. their fear that this will be infective is more or less being assuages. it is being effective they don't share the view of certain people in the united states that it's not effective. they think it is effective. secondly, the bigger concern, which was that would be a initial stage in a broader upper sha mall between washington and tehran that would come at their expense, very important, that last part, at their expense with iran receiving a wide range of
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green lights and carte blanche without having to adjust its policies, without having to adjust its regional attitude. did not happen. and the language, the attitudes from the united states towards iran on its regional policies and its missile testing, especially it's regional policies started toughening before trump took office. when you look at the last statement from a u.s./gcc joint meeting i think it was in either november or october of 2016, the word terrorism reappeared. iran's support of terrorism. that was gone for the middle part of the second obama term in paper statements jointly with the gcc towards iran. it was back. and it was back because the united states was making no progress in going further with iran on other issues as the supreme leader kept saying, he wasn't interested in discussing them. and in fact they weren't up for
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negotiation. in other words, the worst fears of the gulf countries about what the jcpoa might be heralding on other fronts did not materialize. now, in addition to that, i think it's -- it's sort of important to note that the jcpoa, while it does address concerns that gulf states have about iran's emergence as a nuclear four and all the impact that it could have on their other concerns as was discussed by the ambassadors here, in other words the point that ambassador sullivan made, root up front and very clearly, which is that on any problem one may have with iran it's going to be much more difficult to deal with a nuclear iran than a non-nuclear iran. this is obvious and simply true. so that's a good thing. but the big concerns, unlike the united states and perhaps europe and certainly unlike israel, the gulf states' concerns about iran's policies were never primarily about its nuclear
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agenda. what they have been most concerned about is the spread of iranian influence and hegemony inside the arab world. not simply into areas where there are welcoming shia majorities that have long standing ties with iran like lebanon and parts of iraq. but beyond that, into places like syria, which are sunni majority and where it is not possible to argue as some people have that this is all just a leveling out of the region and everything is taking its natural shape and all that. it's absurd if you look at the iranian, slash hezbollah role in syria, you can't possibly defend that kind of an argument. and that process has intensified. iran has not only strengthening its position in various places. in iraq it's shakier than it was, but it's still very powerful. but thing like the possibility of permanent iranian-controlled
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land bridge to lebanon and the mediterranean through parts of syria, beyond any regime in damascus to approve or disapprove of but simply controlled by iran and its friends is a real possibility. a game changing one, a remarkable transformation. >> let me -- >> so these kind of concerns i think remain uppermost in mind. so because of that -- let me just answer your question very, very briefly. what they want, vis-a-vis the jcpoa is for it to be rigorously enforced. that's the word they used and the word in a the trump administration was using until recently. rigorously enforced. i think they mean it. i think they mean hold the iranians to their agreement and then use all other forms of leverage including robust non-nuclear sanks and confronting them in all different ways with regard to maritime security, ward with regard to arms shipments and
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other forms of support from iran and hezbollah to the houthis with regard to iran's maligned, malignant role in syria, and a range of other issues that we can discuss, missile development, too. so there you go. >> quickly to follow up, so the crisis between the united states and iran, which would be precipitated by the u.s. walking out of the jcpoa, that's not something that they would welcome? they are content with the poor state of the u.s./iran relations as they exist now. >> well, i don't -- that's not the right way to put it. but i think their concerns would not be primarily addressed in any constructive way from their point of view as i understand it by a walking away from a jcpoa which is being properly implemented. from their point of view that would be a net negative. because what it would mean is that a restriction on iran would be lost. leverage on iran would be is
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your surrendered, and iranian hard liners will have pocketed this reality, they will have done away with the international sanctions regime under fwoem and had their -- their obligations under the jcpoa removed under trump all for nothing, all gaining the arab states nothing at all. >> okay. >> and in fact removing their leverage. this to them i think does not seem like a net negative. now, just a little caveat. if of you were to broaden the annerture and say overall do they want a more confrontational attitude towards iran, the answer is yes. but does a blow up over the jcpoa get them any closer to where they want to be? as far as i can tell the answer is no and they don't seem to think so. the word content is an interesting one. it was used by albright and company in the recent evaluation. a good paper on saudi arabia's potential nuclear ambitions for the institute for science and international security where they basically said they don't
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have any, but they might if iran went whack to an aggressive nuclear program and they used the word content regarding riyadh's attitude towards the jcpoa, and i think that's right. >> okay, kadir, turkey and iran obviously have a very different sort of relationship. they are not always on the same page regionally, but we do remember that turkey and brazil tried to negotiate a nuclear deal with iran when a u.s. effort fell apart in 2009. lately, they seem to be on the same page when it comes to kurdish issues. still some disagreements perhaps over the fate of the assad regime. what is the attitude in, they towards the jcpoa and how are they regarding this rather significant change in tone from washington toward the deal? >> thank you barbara for inviting me to this discussion. i think it's a very important one. i would say that broadly, turkey
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doesn't quite like any kind of insertion of any new layer of instability to the region. it doesn't work for turkey when you have militarization of crises conflicts because that's not where turkey feels most strong about. that's just a broad point. but uncertainty and instability seems to be the sort of ongoing theme in the region. and once you feel like isis appears to be set back, you have the krg's referendum for independence, you have -- while the syrian conflict seems to be winding down you have the pyg's efforts to create a auto on the mouse area, which is a problem for turkey. seemingly the gulf crisis pops almost out of nowhere.
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so these kinds of elements of insrnt and instability is a problem. so if the trump administration is definitely looking to confront iran regionally, as mr. ibish talked about, i think turkey shares some of those concerns, regional concerns about iran's activities. >> but they are on the same side regarding qatar. >> no. exactly. for a variety of different reasons. but is the trump administration going to confront iran regionally with or without the agreement? aet right? that seems to be the question. so if they abandon the agreement without a clear policy, that's going to create new problems for the regional powers. under this kind of pressure and threats by the administration, iran seems to be kind of reaching out to turkey in particular, but others as well in the region. but this won't be easy because
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of syria, what happened in syria was turkey and iran found themselves at opposite ends of a conflict. but as i said, turkey is concerned to the extent that it's called it iranian expansionism. so it is a serious problem for turkey. but the nuclear deal itself does not -- whether that is canceled is a concern to see how that broader policy is going to develop. as youmer, in 2010, turkey, as you mentioned, actually, turkey was involved as a non-permanent member of the u.n. security council to try to mind a middle ground between the west and iran, even there was this tehran declaration which ended up hurting turkey's relationship with the u.s. in particular
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because the u.s. wasn't happy about that deal. i won't go into details, but we had whole debate for six to nine months something like that about turkey turning east, leaving the west, et cetera. that ended sharply with turkey's stationing of the nato radars in the eastern part of turkey. that showed, actually, turkey was justed a concerned about iranian capabilities, missiles and others, like the west, but it was trying to find a diplomatic solution. and it argued at that point the sanctions would lead to military action and we would -- which would lead to war. again, that element of instability was not in turkey's favor. with the arab spring, i'm just skipping very fast to syria, when syrian uprising turned into
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a conflict and eventually a regional proxy war, turkey and iran found themselves at opposite ends. and there, again, there was an element of uncertainty in the sense that we didn't know what the u.s. wanted to do exactly. and u.s. policy was reduced to counter-terrorism over time. i'm not criticizing it. i'm just observing it. so that -- turkey kept seeking leadership from washington which never came, and then you find now turkey negotiating, trying to negotiate, find a common ground with russian and iran through the astauna process. so on the ground they are quite supporting opposite groups and they have very different aims in syria but at the same time they are keeping this diplomatic track alive. both for turkey to protect its
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narrow -- relatively narrow interests in northern syria but also to find a solution and end a conflict in syria. one more example to this gulf crisis, as i mentioned at the beginning, there was a serious disconnect between the president and the national security team that was just too obvious. and these mixed signals were worrisome for regional powers in general, but turkey as well. and turkey had a very strong relationship with qatar but it also had strong relations with saudis. so it tried to again find a middle ground and tried to negotiate. you know, that initial list included a turkish base to be removed from qatar. so what you found turkey doing, trying to -- they also met the iranians. right? they tried to negotiate.
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so turkey, you find once again trying to eliminate that element of uncertainty to calm down the crisis. at the same time, again, you have mixed signals at best, no clear policy from washington on this. last thing, today this krg referendum is being held. and you know, iran is strongly opposed to it. tucky is opposed to it. the u.s. officially is opposed to it. many in the region doubt that. they think that they are playing some sort of game. but i'm just stating that. i'm not arguing for it. it is causing quite a lot of anxiety in the region. for different reasons for iran and for different reasons for turkey, there seems to be a little bit of room for sort of working together against this
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kind of -- this referendum. but, again, turkey's relationship with krg is very different than iran's relationship with krg. if the nuclear deal is canceled by this administration or they don't certify it, are we going to go back to sanctions for and war, sort of a u.s./iran standoff where you have sanctions and war versus diplomacy option which you know we spent several years, many years, actually, under the obama administration, that ended up producing this agreement, which is -- which is not perfect, obviously. but what is going the replace it? right? that's a worry. and if it's going the lead to a sharper confrontation between the u.s. and iran, and
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confronting iran will mean actual fighting on the ground in syria, in iraq, yemen, elsewhere, things are going to be unstable. so going back to my initial remark, turkey won't be happy about that instability. we'll try to calm down the situation. but that doesn't mean turkey doesn't think that iran needs to be contained or confronted regionally. so i would say that turkish policy towards the nuclear deal which is not the top of the agenda to be honest at this point between prd and krg in northern iraq and northern syria, but it does have a bearing on what the u.s. wants to do in the middle east, and in particular in terms of its iran policy. >> i'm just curious. president erdogan met again with
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trump, i believe this past week. >> yes. >> does he raise the jcpoa at all? or is he too busy talking about turkish issues, syria? >> to be honest, i don't know what they talked about specifically, but from reports from what we know from others, advisors, the priority is the u.s. support for pyd, the armed support for pyd and opposition for krg. those are the top agenda items. >> i thought it was interesting this morning that apparently half of the 50-minute conversation that theresa may had with president trump was about iran. which seems rather a lot. hossein, welcome. >> thank you. >> you have just come back from iran recently. i remember when the election was going on, there were actually some iranian friends of mine who
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said oh, trump will be much better than hillary, and we really, you know, hillary will be much tougher on us than he will be. how are people reacting there? how concerned are they whether this agreement is going to last? how confident are they that the europeans, regional partners and so on will maintain support for the agreement if trump does not? >> thank you barbara. first of all, let me go back to the main issue of the panel, which is jcpoa, iran, and the region. iran has 15 neighboring countries. eight of them are non-arabs and seven arabs. all non-arabs countries, they have been supporting of peaceful management of nuclear crisis, and they are supporting nuclear deal.
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pakistan, afghanistan, turkmenistan, russia, azerbaijan, armenia, all of them, to turkey. we have seven not arab countries. iraq is not member of gcc. >> right. >> iraq has been supportive of nuclear deal and peaceful diplomacy with iraq. then we have six gcc countries. out of these six, ayman always has been against saudi arabia diplomacy on iran. they did a crucial role on iran/u.s. negotiations, they played very constructive role. qatar, kuwait, always they try to stay somehow in between. the most hostile have been saudi arabia and emirate. we don't have actually
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independent country like bahrain because bahrain means saudi arabia. therefore i would say just two countries. emirate is playing double game with saudi arabia and iran. and political insecurity issues is a ally of saudi arabia. and making the most business with iran. practically, emirate is partner number one. the official trade figures always is between top five. unofficially, because they smuggling billions of dollars of goods the iran, they are number one. therefore nobody knows what they are doing. this is why, therefore, barbara, it's important to understand out of 15 neighboring countries we have two hostile countries against jcpoa and other issues. it is not all about the region. because everybody here is talking about the region, they think it is only saudi arabia or
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emirate. no. it is not the case. second, saudi arabia, emirate, constant policy differ before the deal, after the deal remains the same. first always they are be looking after the nuclear crisis, 2003, they have been looking military strike against iran. you have hundreds of weak links before the deal. saudis, emirates, they have been pushing the u.s. to attack iran. and even during president obama, john kerry just stated twice that even with obama was looking engage member with iran, still they are pushing kerry/obama to attack iran. therefore, this has been the first strategy they have been looking for before the deal and after the deal. second, the maximum possible sanctions, short of war.
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it really has remained the same. no changes before jcpoa, after jcpoa. third, zero role for iran in the region. it has not changed. the same. before jcpoa, after jcpoa. and fourth, zero engagement between iran and the u.s. they are extremely afraid, and they, iran, and the u.s. they go to bed. that's why they hate obama, and they love trump. because obama was for engagement, and arab -- when i say arabs, only i'm talking about these two countries. they were very much afraid that obama would go beyond nuclear deal. and fifth is zero defense capabilities for iran because
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they want whenever the situation is ready to invade iran like they did early in the revolution. shah left, they thought this is the best time. an arab country invaded and gcc only saudi arabia paid $97 billion to saddam to invade and dismantle iran. i would say with these five sustainable strategies before jcpoa and after jcpoa i really don't see any changes practically. i believe they have a very clear strategy. and of course we cannot expect iran to embrace such nice neighbors with such policies. the part two, barbara is about what the eu ambassadors, they said. the key issue of trump
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administration is about iranian regional behavior. am i right? >> right. >> and the eu ambassadors they say they have the joint understanding with the u.s. not about jcpoa but about the iranian regional behavior. and the key issue always, israelis, saudi, they are raising is always about iranian influence. right? but it's extremely important to understand how iranians view the role of the u.s., the west, and gcc on regional stabilities. first of all, they say it was an arab country invading iran, killing, injuring hundreds of thousands of iranians. second, it was united states of america who attacked iraq. the root causes of all crisis in
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iraq is the u.s. attack. it was not iranian attack. third, it was the u.s. attack of afghanistan. and today 50% of the afghanistan is in the hands of taliban. after 10, 15 years. >> 16 years. >> 16 years. and terrorism has been expanded initially because of these two american military strikes in the region. who invaded libya? does iran have any influence in libya? it was the u.s. europe, nato, and gcc. and what is the situation of libya? it was another war. who is attacking yemen? saudi arabia, the u.s. before you can see the wars, whether this is afghanistan or yemen or iraq or libya or
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against iran, all has been cure ated by the u.s. and its regional allies. this is exactly what iranians are concerned about, the regional behavior of the u.s., the west, and gcc. you need to understand what is the reality, who created the wars. it was iran? iranians, they have saved two arab states from total collapse. syria, and iraq. without iranian help, iraq would have collapsed in the hand of isis. and syria would have collapsed in the hand of isis. who supported the terrorists to bring regime change in these two countries? who attacked arab countries? it was iran? therefore, you can see how the views are very, very different. it would be really good to have a realistic dialogue between the
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regional powers and international powers to discuss the source of problems in order to find the solution to problems. the u.s., you read barbara thousands of articles. they say saudi arabia saudi monies, gcc monies, the source of isis. you hear president trump before elections saying saudi arabia is the source of -- number one source of terrorism. obama curated isis after elections, says saudi arabia is my main strategic partner. you know, we really don't understand what's going on in this country some month ago says saudi arabia is source number one of terrorism. amp he's elected says saudi arabia is my partner number one. therefore, iran, believe me,
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they -- everyone you talk to in tehran, they believe the u.s., saudi arabia, they are all behind the terrorist groups. and the u.s. does not want isis to die. and they -- you can find a lot of documents on the u.s. side, also. you have hillary hearing at congress saying that the u.s. had the role founding isis -- finding -- and taliban. you remember? and everybody knows about 9/11. you have not seen one single iranian to be involved in any terrorist activities in the europe and the u.s. but terrorist country number one is iran. therefore, this is something very important. there is no difference, believe me, in iran, on the regional issues. iranians with their moderates, reformists or conservatives,
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they view the u.s., saudi arabia, arabs, with the same what i explain for you. there is no difference. on trump, you are right. there were some iranians, they liked trump versus hillary because they believe if trump is elected it would undermine the u.s. and this would be in dangerous for iran. and trump is doing the same. do you need anything more? >> no, i think that covers it. i'm going to come back to you hussein, because i think you should react to some of the things that the other hossein said. >> i would love to. >> my understanding of the way saudis and emirates feel certainly about iran's regional activities is these are arab countries and iran should keep its happened out of them. that's basically -- iran should have nothing to do. >> mainly because arab
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countries, saudi arabia has right to attack yemen, attack every country. has right to invade. >> obviously the saudis did not attack yemen. >> i'm asking hussein. i won't get into a debate with you. i'll let hussein. >> okay. let me just say i think what we got from my good friend hossein was an excellent explanation. the second half of his remarks about how iranians in general see the world, the middle east, their neighbors, i think that was an accurate summary of iranian attitudes, and i think it was very useful in that regard. although i'm skeptical that there is no diversity of opinion in iran on this. that would amaze me but i'll take him at his word that also no big diversity of opinion. i'm skeptical. but okay. let's stipulate that there is no big diversity of opinion on that. the first part of his remarks, which was a summary of gcc,
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saudi and emirate policy towards iran, unless we were to ascribe it as a consensus iranian interpretation of those policies, in which case it might be accurate. but if it were to be taken as an actual summary of the policies of those countries, it was a caricature. particularly on for example, zero iranian role in the region. that is not the saudi and emirate policy towards iran. zero iranian defense capabilities. that is not their expectation nor their ambition. what they are afraid of is -- and with, i think, reason -- is the emergence of iran as a regional hegemon with a set of alliances that give it a disproportionate weight in the region and which take it -- its influence very far afield from any area in which it could
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legitimately claim to have either majority indigenous support or a compelling, immediate national security interest. for example, far off parts of syria. in the list of wars that you mentioned, i think you gave a pretty accurate summation of kind of the way many iranians would view it. but i think it would be very hard to talk about, you know, kind of a list of grievances about who has done what in the region and not include irans role in syria in the past few years as a extremely problematic one loolly, morally, politically, et cetera. otherwise, one is simply blind to the legal, moral, and political realities. in yemen, i think we can all agree that this is a war that
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would be best resolved as soon as possible and that it has not gone well for the coalition. however, it was pursuant to a u.n. security council resolution. and the relative merits of the houthis versus the hadi legitimate government is not really open to question. if you go back to the security council resolution, it's important to the legitimacy of the goal of the intervention, is hard to question. the way in which it has been pursued is very easy to question and you had at to be questioned. those are two different points. so really, just my response is very useful from the point of view of explaining iranian world view and iranian consensus. not so helpful as an accurate summary of the policies towards iran of vab why and the uae at all. two different things. >> thank you. turkeyings is somewhat in the
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middle here in terms of its interpretation of iranian activities. i have heard iranian diplomats say that iran is a status quo power. but i've also heard iranian diplomats say that they understand they have an idea logical role to play in terms of supporting groups that are oppressed, fellow shia, and so on. how does turkey see it? and we pointed out there is some confluence of interest now on qatar, on the kurdish issue. but in general as a former imperial power itself how does turkey see what iran is doing had the region? >> as i mentioned, there is a diversity of opinion let's say in turkey. but broadly, they are concerned about what they, some call iranian expansionism. which, what it means is pro-iranian militias, groups in
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syria. specifically within the pkk there is an iranian, sort of pro-iranian branch that for many analysts in, t turkey was particularly influential in the breakdown of the peace process. and in iraq they don't think that, you know, iran has been helpful in making sure that sunnis were part of the political system, which, you know, it's a breakdown of the sort of iraqi pollity as a whole, they don't think iran played a very constructive role in that. these are some of the complaints that would go against ambassador's description of the iranian view. but as i was saying initially in
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my remarks, turkey, has always both competed with iran and challenged them at times. but at the same time found ways to work together because they recognize they are there to s stay. they do have confluence of interests on a variety of issues. so -- and of course, a u.s./iran war, potential one, would be extreme, or a war between gcc and iran in the gulf would be highly, highly destabilizing and it would be against the interests the region, including turkey. so i don't think they think of iran as innocent as that was described. but of course they see it as a legitimate regional power. they did actually, in the iranian nuclear deal, they did
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argue for iran's right for enrichment. they thought that this was given by ntp and it needed to be protected as a principle. some probably thought that in the future turkey would have to also develop similar capabilities. i would say it is a bit more sort of let's say sophisticated than saying iran is all bad and iran is all good. >> barbara, on the fear of regional or the u.s. or western countries on the rise of iranian influence, of course one part of iranian influence is because of the natural situation of iran geographical situation, 80 million human resources, very strong leadership.
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also, i believe part of it is because iranians, they are very much well trained how to resist the u.s., how to resist the sanctions. that's why iran perhaps is the only country in the region which is independent on security, is not neither dependent to the u.s. or to russia. iran is totally independent on its security. but the big issue, which nobody pays attention, is the other part, why iran influence is increasing. i believe this is because of failures in the arab countries. disfunctionality of arab regimes, corruptions, dictatorship, for decades. it is really the reason the arab war, if i do not say arab
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world -- arab league has collapsed practically. even we don't have a united gcc today. you can see the crisis between qatar and saudi arabia. we can see how disputed -- we do not have neither a gcc as a united organization, nor arab league. they all have collapsed. the dysfunctionality, the corruption on democratic structure of these countries, dictatorship for decades is main -- one -- at least one of the main reasons of the collapse of arab world, and they do not like to mention these realities about themselves. only they try to blame iran because of the problems in their own countries. >> there is of course a difference of opinion about whether the relationship between the crisis of the arab state, which is very real, and the growth of iranian influence in the region is -- which, you
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know, which is the causality. in other words, is iran simply -- >> the arab spring started because of what? >> no. of course not. but the question in other words, is iran exacerbating the problem lieu its support of a whole myriad of non-and substate actors, militias, et cetera, in syria, in iraq, in yemen, perhaps in bahrain as some people argue, including the united states, and elsewhere? or is it saving, as an iranian might say, is it saving syria by supporting mr. assad? is he the savior of syria? >> i think the truth is somewhere in between. >> is it? that's the question. in other words, what's the relationship between that policy of supporting non-state actors and the relative functionality of these states? that's a very interesting question. >> i should point out that many countries in the region, and of course the united states, has supported freedom fighters.
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>> sure. >> in a variety of conflicts around the world. >> absolutely. >> and you know, one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist as we know. >> absolutely. >> let me open this up now so we don't just have a debate between the two husseins. wait for the microphone to come down. >> yeah it's on. thank you, this question is for the ambassador. first of all we'll come back to atlantic council. my question to you is what steps, positive steps, have iranians taken toward the saudis to reduce the tension that has been going on for a long time? as you know, the saudis are spending millions of dollars in washington to pretty much hold the foreign policy of trump. so what are the steps that iranians have been taking to be able to salk to the saudis and be able to solve this conflict?
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thank you. >> there has been an official approach. the foreign minister of kuwait came to tehran raised the concern of the gcc with the iranian president and his counter-part. and iran responded very positively. and visited kuwait and discussed the main issues the gcc, they are concerned about iran. kuwait, ayman, qatar, they were really ready to go for a broad dialogue between iran and gcc, but saudi arabia stood against. the foreign minister of kuwait came to tehran with the mandate of gcc. gcc already they agreed what issues are the main point of concerns. but they did not expect iranian constructive or positive reaction.
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when iran reacted positively, then saudi arabia backed off. this is an official side. unofficially, there has been, since 20 13rks many, many second tracks between iran, -- between iran/gcc, iran/saudi arabia. even obama, kerry, they tried a lot. you all know this is not my claim. if you ask, trump doesn't want, but obama really wanted. they all know iran was very ready, constructive, participated at high level seriously, but all was blocked because of saudi arabia. saudis, they feel they have lost the game in the region, and they want the u.s. to put all pressures in order to weaken
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iran to rooeeach to a point of balance. you know, they are waiting to see when the u.s. pressures on iran would weaken iran to put them in a balanced situation in order to need to negotiate, to negotiate with iran. i don't believe it's going to happen. you can see since 2011 the saudi position in the region is weaken and weaken and they are losing more and more, and iranians are gaining more and more. if they want to continue, that's the game. but however officials and unofficially. i know foreign minister zarif has been ready to have the same platform of p5+1 and iran on the nuclear. he has been ready and he's ready to have the same platform with iran and gcc, six plus 1. and some gcc countries they really love it. but saudi arabia is not ready. >> can i say, that specific exchange involving kuwait,
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underlies, from the point of view of the gulf countries, and not just saudi arabia, not all of them, but not just saudi arabia. it emphasized one of the biggest problems in dialogue between iran and the gulf arab states, which is essential. i must say, it ought to be everybody's goal to get everybody around the table and start talking. that should be the end goal. but one of the biggest problems is that the arab side in this does not feel they speak to a unified iranian interlockture. that iran has one set of policies over here and another set of policies over this, that this wing of the government has this attitude and another wing of the government has another attitude. and then they talk to the president and the foreign minister they are talking to one iran and the irgc and the can
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you describe brigade they are talking to another iran. that's really a problem. when the kuwaitis were actually discussing face to face with president rouhani, they got one set of responses to the -- the conditions that the gcc laid down as necessary conditions. when they received the written response, which they thought looked like it was written by a committee of people who did not really see eye to eye, they got a different response on some of those specific points, things like that the iranian revolution was a unique event and could not be, you know, in any way -- i think the word was not exported but did not have relevance outside of iran. very different answers in those two moments. that reaffirmed that really big concern that they don't deal with a unified entity that is absolutely. so that is a big problem for them. other than that, though, i think there's a lot -- a lot of what hossein said about the concerns
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that the gulf states have about the relative imbalance in this dialogue is right. he's not wrong about who is willing to just sort of jump into talks right now and who isn't. yes, you are right about that. that is true. >> can i just add that i understand that there will be an exchange of delegations just to look at embassy properties, consulates. of course we remember that the saudi embassy was trashed after the execution of the shake. they have agreed to send in a delegation to survey the property look at what needs to be down. and they will. >> this is not out of the question. we have seen positive signs. >> and the hodge, the iranians went to the hodge. >> it's very important. if you ask is this about relations with iran or just the hodge. they will say it's just the hodge. there has been no hodge since the founding of the second
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state. you saw them, when the relations come to a head, the hodge is always a major issue, since the founding of the second state. so this is about relations and it is a good thing. >> kadir, can i ask about the oic, organization of islamic conference. meeds in istanbul. does it play any role in this or is this between the saudis and the iranians to work out? >> well i'm not sure if it ended, but the current, i believe, the term is is in turkey. and erdogan, during the gulf crisis spoke with that voice also, in addition. and he talked to sort of saudis being the big brothers and trying to find a solution. but these -- i feel like these organizations are not as
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effective as they used to be with sort of trend going down words for internationalism and more sort of nationalist policies. i mean trump advised that to other nations at the u.n. as well. and they didn't -- you know, russia wasn't there, germany wasn't there. who else wasn't there? three out of p 5 plus one was not at the u.n. i think that's an important trend to also consider when couple of things reminded me of that. when we talk about part of the delegation -- exchange of delegations and trying to find a common ground is because the u.s. does not have sort of policy that he can here is my iran policy and everybody align. or here's my iraq policy.
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some consider that as a good thing because it's forcing the regional powers to come together and try to find a solution between themselves. but then you see u.s. coming back and saying hold on a second. here are my interests. and we were discussing this with the u.s. withdrawal from iraq with a friend of mine in d.c. when he said, we really want to get out. we don't want to be there, et cetera. and i said that's not going to be true. soon enough you will be saying here is my interests, i'm coming back. and that happened in june 2014 with isis taking over mosul. all of a sudden u.s. said, no, this is unacceptable. we have a policy now, but on isis, which then pushes all regional actors to have to adjust to it. right? so some thing that they may have
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worked out between themselves could be actually destroyed or it could lead to new openings. but this is going to be a factor going forward, how the u.s. formulates its regional policy and then specific theory of iraq/iran policies. the regional powers, none of them is strong enough to, quote, unquote, dictate. of course many would organize u.s. is not strong enough to dictate it either but it's much stronger than anybody else to dictate its terms. so this element, if the u.s. coming to the region with mixed signals and sort of confused policies, we are going to have more problems, not less. >> yes, sure.
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>> yes. my question is -- it relates to a term that i keep hearing, and that's "iranian hegemony". what does that mean? i mean, i remember long time ago russians, chinese used to complain about russian hegemony, or vietnamese about chinese hegemony. but in the context of the region, what does it mean? >> hegemony, roughly speaking, means influence well beyond the normal diplomatic and trade leverage that countries would have. in other words, the ability to essentially, if not dictate to another government, at least very strongly influence its internal policies.
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in particular, its defense and foreign policy. so to take an example right now the iranian role in syria is hegemonic. hegemonic because the syrian regime is no longer independent of iran's influence. it is so dependent on iranian organized fighters, whether they be irgc fighters, hoz bowla fighters, afghans, brought in large numbers by afghanistan by iran to fight in syria, the syrian regime would have fallen, probably, or come very close to falling in 2016. if a joint surge, military surge by iranian backed forces, that is iranian forces, hezbollah, afghan and iraqi forces all under the broad leadership of iran and iranian-backed groups in syria in conjunction with russian forces in the air and
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the intelligence level and other diplomatsh not intervened to save this blood soaked, blood drowned dictatorship in damascus. perhaps the most evil regime in the world. by the way as far as the u.n. goes -- represented cambodia during the genocide. who sits at the u.n. is not a great litmus test of moral legitimacy when it comes to this am of blood and guts. that's what hegemony means. it's a good example. and particularly, given the context of what al assad rule has meant for syria and what cost it has imposed, you know, it puts this into perspective. in addition to which the reasons why this is so important have to do with securing a similar relationship that iran has with much of lebanon that is controlled by hezbollah which has a very direct relationship
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with the irgc and with creating a direct, as i said land bridge not only between iran and lebanon that is hezbollah through syria but also to the mediterranean, and this is crucial, as i say, independent of the wishes of the regime in damascus. all of that can be described as not o.j. hegemonic but regionally imperial. i'm not sure hegemony cuts it. >> i believe syria is not really a good case to discuss hegemony. >> i'm sure not. >> because everyone knows in this room who recruited, which countries, tens of thousands of terrorists from all over the world, bringing to syria. and iranians they have been supporting assad, its army, even
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militia to fight these tens of thousands of terrorists. they were not syrians from the u.s., yirp, chechnya, all over the world. therefore, this is a fight between these two groups. and everyone knows who was -- who funded, who gave weapons, from which borders they came, these tens of thousands. some figures it says 110,000. but look at saudi behavior over bahrain. it is a very good example of hegemony. it's totally in hand. full influence. look at saudi behavior toward qatar. it was totally hegemonic against a neighboring country. it was -- a terrorist always they say saudi arabia does not respect our integrity, sovereignty, interference, wants us as a puppet.
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this is a very good example if you want to know what do they mean about hegemony. >> i wouldn't dispute -- >> okay, okay of let's take some more questions. the gentleman over here. say your name and ask a question. >> actually, the definition -- >> steve winters a consultant. i would like to address this to the ambassador. i see as a simplet thissic question but i would like to hear your view on it. from president rouhani's speech at the united nations it seemed that he was emphasizing the fact that he had been elected the leader of the country, and to represent a moderate position, and therefore that indicated that a majority of the people who voted were supporting such moderate behavior as he outlined. at the same time, it would seem also true that there are various elements in the revolutionary
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guards, the can you describe force, and of course the previous president going back who see themselves as somehow guarantors of the purity of the revolution, and really have a slightly different concept, and of course this feeds in with the points being made that perhaps they have been the most active in some overseas thing. given there actually is this tension, even at the highest levels of the society, how do you see this as playing out in the future? do you see these groups as converging? or do you see it's like a struggle? are the moderates going to prevail and the others not? >> i totally agree that iran is a very diversified society. it's very different from saudi arabia or other gccs. we have a real parliament no one did dissolve. even the leader cannot dissolve the parliament. the parliamentaryians are
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opposing -- therefore they are completely in. the judiciary is not in the hand of government. however we have reformee, we have moderates, we have conservatives, in many ways like what you have here, you know. even you have here a congress challenge the government. nobody -- i mean europeans i mean they didn't know who is talking on the behalf of who in washington, who is deciding. and jcpoa is a good example. and today even nobody knows who is going to decide on what. but the iranian constitution has a very powerful structure for decision making. i really do not believe what my friend hussein said about the decision making system in iran. we have national security concern. the speaker of parliament is
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there. president is there. the red of judiciary is there. intelligence minister is there. army is there. they are all is there. they are all there. when they decide of course the leader would confer then it's a national decision. the nuclear deal is an excellent example. it was more disputed in iran than the u.s. everyone will know iranian domestic situation, they can understand. they blame the foreign minister as bepral, profit of the u.s. in the parliament. it was a disaster. but at the end, when the national security council decided and the leader confirmed, up to now, you cannot see anything here from the iranian side on this decision.
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what you can see a lot of failure on the u.s. side. for the question is more about the u.s. forget the region because their system is one man finish but even about the u.s., we have more problems. >> gentleman right here. >> i'll keep the -- >> congratulations on your allied times article. great read. interesting read. considering that the jcpla came in without a single fired shot an ainge ki donald trump tweet the pretty remarkable. my question is from the washington per speck sieve, do they see this deal as more from a geo political sense of iran's so-called behavior rather than this being a nuclear issue?
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>> is this directed to me? >> anybody and just briefly, what kind of advice would you give to policymakers in washington who are going through heez negotiations towards the october 15th deadline? >> i don't think anybody understand us donald trump's views on a lot of issues. he prides himself on being a great negotiator, claims the jcpoa was not negotiated and that he somehow could have done better. i think anybody who followed the negotiations closely realized there were a lot of compromises that had to be made on all sided in order to get a deal. i remember a discussion over for example, the restrictions on iran ece uranium restrictions. they settled around in the middle. this is the way negotiations go. trump wants to put his own stamp
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on iran policy. it's been under review now for how many months? the process resulted in a recommendation to certify the jcpoa while working on strengthening other means of dealing with iran's regional activities. i heard tra two weeks aerks but the mrgs has not yet announced its decision. and president trump certainly in his comments at the u.n. made it sound as though he was not going to take the advice of his national security establishment. unlike the iranian system, which does tend to reach a consensus decision. it seems that he has not going to accept that. so, we are all waiting to see you know, it is one thing to say that iran policy will not be hostage to the jcpoa. this is been the critique that he has made, but to create a new
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iran policy without a jcpoa seems to me very unlikely to succeed. and instead, we'll have yet kris with iran and no way of o containing their nuclear program. my advice has been obvious. keep the jcpoa and if you want to talk to iran about other issue, talk to them. we have channels now thanks to the jcpoa to do this, but the state department hasn't shown most interest. ncs hasn't shown much interest. if you were here for the earlier discussion, i asked the am ba ambassadors without the president trump administration had offered to put anything new on the table and they said no. in my view, anybody who's ever negotiate anything, you have to
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offer something if you want something this return. so we're all still waiting. we will see what the policy is. when it is unveiled. >> my advice is listen to your friends. >> listen to your friends, well, but your friends may be telling you to do different things. if the u.s. listening to its closest allies in europe, it will keep the deal. >> i didn't say i said listen to your closest allies across the board. >> they're in europe. >> you're going get a similar answer! japan, south korea. >> there's one dissenting voice. in israel. >> even in terms of israel and we should have had someone here representing the israeli, there has an israeli point of view. there's netanyahu and the israeli national security establishment, which tends to be in favor of jcpoa. a lot is politics. a lot is optics. i would like for trump to declare a


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