Cato’s Emma Ashford joins Matt to explain America’s larger (lack of) strategy in the Persian Gulf region.
Emma Ashford, (@EmmaMAshford) Research Fellow in Defense and Foreign Policy, Cato Institute
Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias), Senior correspondent, Vox
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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I am a has been on the show. Previously we had a kind of big picture discussion about restraint in foreign policy, but with IRAN
in the news I wanted to have around to talk more specifically about american policy in the region, the interconnection with the big oil with everything else us, oh, thank you. Thank you for coming in its great, be back, I'm not pretty quickly, but the circumstances shore. Well, that's the nature of foreign and defence policy right you don't you need don't really get in the newspaper for Good NEWS does make you feel a little awful, though, when you're sort of professional triumph, Sir tie
to everything: blowing, yes, no, it's it's sad occasion, so it seemed like after a rationing up of tensions, we're maybe stepping back from the from the brink somewhat and so to me. That's a good time to ask like this is like a dumb question, but it's like what is the Eu S around conflict bout like what is the? What is that? Because you know you can't you
look at any moment the cold war, you could say we're we're mad cows. Sophie's did this yesterday or the Soviets dramatic, as we did that yesterday, but like the issue
some notion that the communists were trying to take over the world, and we don't want them to like what. What are we trying to do in the Middle EAST
Ah they're nice sure, I'm all right answered at last question, but with regard to IRAN, its occupants have far back. You go right,
so I mean we have been in engaged in serve open still. It is with what least on our side since nineteen, seventy nine. Since the revolution, we were technically friendly with the before them to feel caribbean. They might go back further into the fifties and talk about how you know the CIA help to overthrow of the democratically elected leader of IRAN, and so we have had to sort of ongoing has
It is with from a very long time in the cold war. They were somewhat Sylvia lines at the end of the cold war.
Since then it's mostly been, I mean, I would say just both sides are hostile towards another there's, no real rational reasons for it, mostly about the fact that we have historically been hostile towards one another bray. Yet the current crisis, though so in the Obama years, we really saw the sort of de escalation of tensions abomination it a very good job and John Kerry, in particular, of trying to reach out to IRAN wings down that historical immunity at least a little bit, and then in the Trump administration. Trump withdrew from the Jason
the way the Iranian Nuclear deal he slapped on a much more sanctions at everything. Just got really bad again, really fast. Weight into that sort of the trunk will often talk about what he seizes the kind of flag. Technical short
Cummings of GDP away, but he, but it seems like a better way to understand this- is that Obama wanted to prove
you wanted to step away from the long term conflict and from does try to me, like the hawks view, is that the regime is bad in some more fundamental way, and so there's no point in trying to the eight. Not like you want war all the time, but but did this?
no point in trying to sort of have a warming with yet so to develop. Administration people were actually very specific that they were trying to negotiate nuclear deal. They were not trying to improve relations with IRAN generally, but obviously that was the hoped for, and state of this whole process right was that if we can make progress on the nuclear issue, maybe we could make progress on say proxies in the Middle EAST. Maybe we could make progress, progress on missile technology and eventually maybe we could actually negotiate with them, but I think they saw it much more as akin to how we negotiate with the soviets.
war right, this was arms control. This was nuclear proliferation control. We were trying to work with a country, even though we had so many differences. We both accept that both countries are rational, both countries of smoke to get out of this, and that was the basis those negotiations were built on the difference, I think, with the Trump Administration, with a lot of Sir Republican Hawks is there's this idea that IRAN isn't rational, that it's not a country. You negotiate with my believes, John Bolton that sad IRAN is a cause, not a country. I may be wrong and who said that, but, as is this idea that underlies lotta republican hawks approach to the country where the disorder, religious underpinnings of the Islamic Republic make it inherently
and on deal with a ball ray I'm or that they couldn't be deterred, for example. So if the Iranians got nuclear weapon well, it's not about mutually assured destruction of thunder deterrents. It's that the greens are going to use the nuclear weapon because there are marked her state and they don't have any sense of self preservation, and so this is a fairy unrealistic view of IRAN, where maybe there are few people that have that crazy view of the world. But it's a state like any other, but that a lot of different interests, a lot of domestic politics,
by and large, their mostly rational about securing their their interests above easy due to some extent the sort of trump you know tit for tat or even greater escalation is based on the idea that there there is a deterrents dynamic right just that you want to approach it in a particular kind of
we aggressive hostile way, but otherwise what they're doing doesn't make any sense right I mean
one general, doesn't it doesn't like cause. The iranian state to collapse is supposed to frighten less. The inherent contradiction in this really hawkish approached her on. To be frank, is that you know they can't be reasoned with, they can't be deterred, but if we use in a force, suddenly, though, be deterred- and so is, it is a fundamentally contradictory point of view and the way the Trump Administration has approached. It is
partly some people than the administration. Maybe they believe this, maybe they're just saying they sable. If we pile on enough sanctions, we may cost high enough about. Iran will come back to the negotiating table, we get a better deal and then for some people.
maybe they're saying that, but what there actually thinking as we need to push for regime change unless there's a lot of people in D C that have been arguing that for twenty or thirty years wherein we did see that John John,
non Twitter, ah the other day saying well, he hoped this would show the futility of the whole thing and we need it. We need to go for regime change now. Obviously he he was pushed out of the administrations of that doesn't necessarily reflect Donald Trump thinking about that's an idea. That's in the in the ether is certainly very popular, and it
I'm new to people not just like Bolton, wasn't administration you'll kid, I'm ready, Giuliani, shrilly close the president he's been taking money from some iranian opposition groups for years to advocate for them. So there's pretty strong ties between that community and and some of trumps closest cabinet. But I get the impression
from the way that the news says this was sold to trump as ever the hit on the terrorist leader, but he himself is not pushing for regime change. They are in fact the fact that he chose to try it. I guess de escalate after the iranian strikes, suggests again that he's not really the one pushing for regime change right now, something that struck me that vision
always in the mix in a weird way and in the ram conflict, as I saw Michael Doran, Hadda Abed and in the New York Times about this, and the like social copy promotion was like. If we want to maintain a presence in the Middle EAST, we have no choice but to confront a ram.
Which, like maybe that's true, but to me it was like building a lot into the. If, because so much of the time, the reason we supposedly need to have this presence in the Middle EAST is to counter ran right and there's a vizir reflexive kind of element to a lot of this site when people
plain about Saudi Arabia, we here like well their valuable allies in the region and life
did. They valuable for is countering ran, but so then that's why we need to help them when around blows up their oil facilities, and so it's like why like like what is the, but there are lots of parts of the world where we don't have big military bases and lots of people so like is. It is important to be in the Middle EAST in this big way. Also, I think you
really pinned down that there is this very circular logic during somebody arguments, but our presence- and I think during the nineteen nineteen that was a very relevant argument to day its becoming relevant, argued again. We sort of pushed on the back burner, for we were doing the global war on terror
right. So we were, we were in Iraq, we weren't in Iraq because of IRAN. We were in Iraq because we were there to overthrow Saddam Hussein. We ran other countries because of terrorism, and so that was the rational carried the day for a really long time. Prior to that, it was about a problem, but it was also came about securing oil, securing the ceilings and energy security, and today what we basically come to you is that, with that, with that terrorist anti terrorist logic can receding were left with not very much that actually justifies a. U S, presence in the Middle EAST. It's it's you know is deterring IRAN, its.
its energy security, but that's a very vague thing at this point because we're pretty energy independence ourselves an and then maybe it's it'll helping regional states to secure themselves. That really is not a good rationale.
While in the wind interplay with terrorism issue. I mean it's, it's interesting. Why? Because the this specific logic of the original american presence in Afghanistan really seem to militate in favour of cooperating with the ran right, because we were there in a country that was a chase into ran for reason. That was not about like sticking to the Arabians right and so the in principle. They could be very helpful to us and I've got to stamp out Ternata Velly. They could be very undermining of what we were trying to do there, but we were not like. We were, we were thereafter or somethin,
or whatever, and it was like a brief moments where that cooperation was being realised. Yeah there was. There was a brief moment after nine slash eleven for the basically offered to help. You know at least with intelligence and stuff like that
The Bush administration basically shut it down pretty fast because there were so many people in the Bush administration that had been sort of IRAN hawks for such a very long time. But really if retirement of Ghana stand is only in the last few years that we ve seen around try to build connections with the Taliban and offered for decades they'd been opposed to metallic ban on their neighbouring border in Iraq. The situations a little different, obviously around sponsor bunch militias, killed a bunch. Your service members in Iraq, but like almost everything to do with the? U S opinion relationship. The problem is bad blood, where it's not that there's a good strategic, really,
chip aren't good strategic rationale for being opposed to them, in fact, again in the last four years, what we see is that iranian militias and U S backed forces- are fighting on the same side against ISIS. So it really is much more about all the bad feelings we built up in forty years of trying to kill one another
it is about anything else. Swayed and me, that's what so. It's sort of the eight be hostility with ran. It proceeds the war on terror, and now it seems to have transcended it almost, even though there was objective alignment against ices and against the Taliban right. But there is more commitment on some level too that bad
I'd than to the terrorism issue yet and against Al Qaeda too, because despite what present vice president pence sad but week or so ago, there was no time between IRAN and nine eleven. You know there was, I believe, a couple of hijackers transited that country well before they knew what their mission would be well before they considered carrying it out, and that's really the only talk soon I mean that sort of,
misleading argument. Swayed again, IRAN opposed Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda was Sunni terror groups. It saw the regime in Tehran as as fundamentally flawed and something else that it should be fighting.
Listen to the! U S on the Saudis and all the other stuff, so we
in common on the Anti terror front. The problem is that when
This overtures were rebuffed.
The Iranians turned around and serve tried to achieve their own state,
interest rates by backing militias and in Iraq. We Le Pen's arguments from me, as particularly rising
because you know so he's saying, while some of these people transiting through ran on the way to have Kennison, these are beaten these hijackers. By definition, these are people the american government gave visas to. Obviously we were not in cahoots with.
Kate, I read that there are no like they got away with it right, like you said it was a pretty good plot on some level people didn't know they were terrorists trying to hijack planes. That's that's why it
right to the end. The idea that the Iranians had dislike mystical knowledge is, it seemed seems not so so oil, so Trump speaking in his sort of trompe way it in his address Wednesday morning. He went off on this tangent about oil independence. Am he didn't? He didn't make a really clear point, but I think you know the public and experts have always. I think long felt that
America's presence in the Middle EAST has something to do with oil. But politicians, for various reasons, have never really wanted to say like that, what it is that it has to do with oil. So if you go back to the cold war, writing, and- and I should also note here- that during the cold war we didn't have, a lot of trips
ground them, at least for this was a fairly small number of trips. It was basically naval present and much of America's oil came from the Middle EAST
a lot of the oil but went to a western european allies and NATO, which was obviously are vital for the anti soviet campaign that also came from Middle EAST, so we had a really strong interest in seeing that that oil continued to flow out of the Middle EAST.
To our countries and from a military standpoint, is absolutely vital that the Soviet Union itself was an oil producing power, so we needed the Middle EAST ralds compete today. That's not me.
Yes, most middle eastern oil goes to China, Japan, South Korea goes over to Asia. Those India places like that in the: U S
Producers is not the biggest producer of oil and gas in the world. We consume most what we produce,
and some of our allies in Europe still get some middle eastern oil, but the fact is just that, were we less dependent than we used to be.
And there was this- I mean you alluded to this right, but there's a specific military logic to the cold war right we're having one part which we really thought there might be a war with this
union right at me. That was an important consideration and then the other thing was that the Soviet Union had satellite states like around the world. That was a real thing, so if the Middle eastern oil producing states were to join the Soviet Bloc, that would be
like a huge strategic nightmare. Re Emmy means a little bit outlandish, but also not completely in conceivable like
Communist regimes took over many countries of the course of the cold,
he's a worrying that Iraq and IRAN of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia would somehow become part of the Communist Bloc was gonna totally crazy thing right to keep in the back of your mind and to be worried about, because if the Soviets controlled all the oil in the world, then you know we be we'd, be pretty fucked. Yet it is totally not a crazy argument to make during the cold war we
basically trying to ensure supply of oil right. We needed the physical oil to come from, at least so that we could burner in our cars and tanks in factories. Now who does not
talking about now we're talking about further disruption of ITALY's draw supplies. The price will go up that damage the economy a bit. That's not good, but it's not like were actually lacking the stuff. We need to run our economy and actually, if you serve look at the history of oil and and how we manage our energy security, the most damaging thing that ever happened to us was the nineteen
and three oil embargo, which was actually imposed on us by those same middle eastern states, rack, and that was about Israel.
Basically yet right was about the? U S provided some support Israel in one of the arab israeli Wars and OPEC Basic
said, while no more oil for you right and answer right. So now I mean, of course, if, if middle eastern oil production stopped oil would be more expensive, people would be annoyed, but it wouldn't be. Like then, in an emergency situation, the United States will be unable to fuel its
fighter jets or something like we have oil. Yet, from a military standpoint, energy security is much better than it used to be from a civilian standpoint, not necessarily
because the price could go up so high. Maybe you can afford to fill your car, but from a military standpoint
Much better at every euro necessarily care as a consumer. A woman
dollar is now going to a guy in Texas rather than to a guy in Kuwait. I mean- maybe maybe you feel better about that, but I think mostly people want to be able to drive them and not not pay too much money for it. But it's never been clear that you know a big military presence actually makes oil cheap
on a sustainable basis right it, which is different from saying a military presence, ensures that there's some kind of physical access will that's the other car.
right. So what are these?
He must be energy security and your presence in the region bleed over from the cold war period and people just get parroting them for years and years, but that was about a naval presence to make sure that nobody closes the strait of her moose. For example, that's not about tens of thousands of troops from basis
in Iraq or in Jordan and Syria, or anywhere else like that. To be frank, a lot of those troops over these years, the things that we have done in those regions have destabilized countries the formerly produced a lot of oil which actually bad for world markets. Yes, let one single break is that I want. I want to talk about how that that transition.
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She has what you were saying, drawing
cold war. It seemed like the oil was more compelling strategically and we had a presence in the region, but it was modest compared to what current-
exists right and if so, how did so much? But how did did come to be so much bigger over the years? You know it was a process of basically steady increases. So did the kick off was the First Gulf WAR and right so that was
Surely a war fought over control of oil? That is a concern that Saddam Hussein had seized Kuwait, that he was poised to seize the saudi oilfields. This was a very real possibility and so the
ass, the sun. I think it was half a million trips plus the european trips plus soviet troops. All went there to push back. The interesting thing is that once that conflict with over the trips and I'll come home, so then at that point we see the Clinton administration starting to do things like set up no fly zones over parts of Iraq's protect the kurdish population. We see them setting a big military bases elsewhere in the region to try and keep an eye on Iraq and having this political jewel containment, which was both Iraq Andrew
and we were gonna watch them both and contain them. Both then the war on terror starts those numbers of trips go up again and again, more basis more trips and region. Sir,
then came home under Obama, but not all of them somewhat back for the Anti ISIS fight Trump has run the numbers up just dramatically since it came into office
so best estimate that he didn't give up good figures anymore, best estimate private. Fifty thousand troops there may probably less than five thousand at the end of the cold war.
back to the original Gulf WAR idea. I mean again, this is one of,
things where I guess they weren't gonna, say straightforwardly like this is about oil.
But the idea was that Iraq has a lot of oil. Kuwait also has a lot of oil. Saudi Arabia also also has a lot of oil and if one person patrol all of that oil, he would then be a very powerful actor in the global economy, and we don't want to
That, oh, yes, absolutely I mean, so I don't. I don't, have the figures for ninety one on hand, but if you look at what those three countries produce today that close to fifty percent of global oil production is a huge amount and putting
it is even more back then, before the U S, yeah shale stuff, and so
putting all of that in the hands of one man like Saddam Hussein who, even though we worked with previously, we know he's erratic. We know he's irrational. You know, that's not a great move right,
and I mean you wouldn't want- probably anybody to have that much influence in the global economy. Much less. You know a bad guy,
Another way to put it right is that in our allies that the Saudis they control about a quarter,
the world's oil supply. Today
That is enough for them to be was called the world swing producer right, so they can buy themselves just by just in production costs the price of oil to product safety.
just imagine how, as your control of the oil market increases, that power just goes back and said to them.
Dual containment was about the idea that.
Iraq and IRAN were continue to be at odds with each other, and we were instead of picking aside in that fight or instead of deciding we dont care. We were gonna make sure that neither one could expand because we we didn't like either of their governments and again because there's so much oil in the other country is that expansion,
be in, like a concrete, practical sense damaging well. So this was actually course correct right, because, during the eightys we backed Saddam Hussein in the IRAN, Iraq WAR and then both countries fought themselves to rubble for ten years.
And then Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait, and suddenly we decide he's a threat to so you'll containment,
basically single will know, we don't like either off them, I'm going to try and contain them, even though again both of them are pretty much rubble at this point and the
U S starts to take. It is not just about energy, it becomes much more about regional stability, it becomes about freedom and pushing back against dictatorships and all of the stuff where, even if it's not true, that's what policymakers are safe
it's about right and so now in the post, Iraq, war version of this rights. Obviously, no more do containment, Saddam Hussein's guy
It seems like there's a series of region, all struggles,
Wade, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, where there's like saudi pro iranian faction and then like we don't we don't want them to win. Will if you go back to twenty eleven, if the arab spring
possible causes this to happen. It's a little in a little in Iraq about the! U S presence in that country! That's what destabilized Iraq, but most the other countries get destabilized by the Arab Spring Protests, whether the Euro, whether their dictatorships get thrown out of power, whether like Libya, they get some
killed by the U S or whether they do not manage to put down the uprising but star civil war like in Syria. So all of these countries are basically in chaos at this point
and you see pro iranian factions emerging. You see pro society factions emerging
in that language is a little misleading, because mostly what these actors want is not for IRAN to be great right. They want to achieve their own domestic political agenda, but their willing to take no iranian or saudi funding or immorality funding to do it, and so that's why we ve seen across
region over the last five six seven years. The escalating set of sort of proxy wars and destabilized countries is because no, the easy way for regional countries to express their disagreements is the Duke out with proper.
he's rather than directly. I didn't get a few years ago. A point which is, I think, you know, people often reared the sort of proxy relationship in in one kind of way.
Right that in the civil war it's like, will we have the proxies of the foreign state there, but it too,
It seems more likely that slut people are fighting their civil war for their own reasons, and then they want help because you trying to win this war right. So it's not that you're, you know doing whatever, because you love a ran. It's your Krajina
iranian money because you just want to win the other frame. That's really misleading that sometimes put on this is the whole city versus Shia, and so am I
There is some truth to the fact that IRAN primarily backs Shi Ite proxies in the South EAST
merrily, backs any proxies, but there have definitely been instances where that's not the case me look at the Iranians backing Bashar Al Assad. His coalition was not really made up of Shi Ite Muslims. It was a much more diverse coalition and the relaunch, yet Muslims fighting against them. So this is. This is just another case where the over simple
creation basically obscures the fact that this is a civil war where the Iranians are backing for ever site, they think will bring them most. In fact, russian, though this sectarian elements create, may be a natural affinity, affinity and infrastructure
it's easier to build those kind of bonds or people default to those kind of identities. From time to time, I would certainly like the content of the conflict is not about religion. Typically, not no right, and in the case of you know, the political science research is pretty
on this, in the case of proxies, you know they are almost always about states achieving their interests rather than about affinity, affinity helps. But it's not the key reason and proxies tend to be really unreliable right,
You can't necessarily look at any given conflict and say that that group is doing something because around told them to probably not. Maybe they are it's very hard to say: proxies are really unreliable. Shore short minutes, a difficult is difficult
relationship inherently and so, and so the United States clearly feels it has a dog in this fight
right I mean we are not dual containing IRAN and Saudi Arabia.
we are also not saying leg, you guys he couldn't pretty nuts
and walking away right I mean we are trying to help the anti Iranians sides in a bunch of different conflict. Yeah and again, I think this is very historically continue
in this. This isn't someone looking at them, at least in saying well enough for you as interest strategically. We should try and strike a balance here. This is, in many cases,
presidential administrations coming in and saying. Well, you know the Saudis and our friends. We have to work against IRAN and I think, if you look at the push back, the Obama administration got for trying to balance things even just in the slightest sense. You know that maybe we will talk to the Iranians rather than just considering them complete pariahs. The push back that they got you
that small steps was a really difficult to break this cycle. Can we be fish was a fascinating dynamic because the Obama administration I felt like had like two different and ran policies, and one was the policy they actually
had where we're negotiating a non proliferation agreement. This is not about. Anything else were focused on this narrowly. We still have the same side. We have we're gonna, give assistance to the USA and
he's in Yemen, and then we had this kind of like other policy, where Obama told Jeffrey Goldberg in an interview that the reins and salaries are gonna have to learn to share the region. I can say here present about amused off the record to journey
at various times about strategic realignments? Word of that. I think clearly got back to friends of the Gulf States who, I think,
A reasonably were sort of alarmed that the presence of the United States would kind of in casual chit chat say that maybe we should revise our entire line system there, but he can actually do
That right leg I mean there was no normal that lies in relations. There was no even like direct talks with the iranian leadership in the way that you are trumpeted. His is press conference with with Kim
and so with a cream, a very ambiguous situation where we continue to be committed to fighting these iranian proxy forces,
even with an administration that seem to have lost faith in that vision, yeah there were mixed signals from the Obama administration. I think on this topic. Aren't you know
strenuously objecting, but they had never said that this would improve all relations with IRAN at the same time, as you say, private comments, some comments to journalists that suggested that they really did see. This is the first step in a dramatic improvement of our relations with IRAN. At the end of the day, you know if you were to ignore Trump and what came afterwards at the
and they bomb administration. We were definitely in a better position with IRAN that we had been since the revolution where we actually had some open channels with them. They were actually direct, that's the first time that it never happened, but if you were to look at any other country in that context, you'd say why those are tenable. Relations, sober we'd, Meda.
you steps, we haven't got all the way and Trump has taken us back so far that I think we're like one step forward. Two steps back rowing, although I mean
The timeline right cause tromp was would trumped said today was that during the Giuseppe away, the Iranians stepped up their level of attacks in the region, and that's not why
I mean we had the. There were some things that they did, but in particular in terms of attacking american troops right. They they pulled back on mad, and there was a I mean. That's that's why there was a thought that there could be an improvement in relations. It wasn't pure
quarantined round the nuclear top universal conflation there, I think of attacks and Americans with a rainy and regional activities, and this was this was one of those things again where a lot of people have talked past one another on this. So during the J Cpu, oh yeah, IRAN largely stopped its attack on Americans. It did what it could to rein in its proxies. Things did improve on that front, but it did not stop it often
Groups in funding the Government- Syria didn't stop funding groups in Yemen or elsewhere, and a lot of people dislike the J C p
I turned around and said: well, you know. Maybe it solves the nuclear issue, but it does nothing to solve IRAN's regional behaviour, and so it was a bad deal and we should be concerned about that. To you I'd be that that's exactly hits the nail on the head right and we because this is
distinction right is guenaud. Iran's made nuclear concessions in exchange, we made economic concessions to them and then an exchange informally. Iran's stopped encouraging militias to attack American sold because ran it seemed like wanting.
America that they wanted the United States get off their backs up.
didn't it all stop their own pursuit of regional dominance,
it seems like the arabian desire would have been to get us to say, like you're cool now around like no no nuclear weapons, we don't care what you do and then
good, try to win a civil war in Syria or whatever else and another faction. American politics is committed to the idea that we need to check iranian power across the board. Irrespective of whether around wants to
get Americans at all yet so this is also the policy difference between Europe and America. On this question, right is that the Europeans do not like the Jason
you're still still imagery Suki away, but would be very happy to ignore Rachel politics for the most part in exchange, for a sort of that dealing with
clear issue may be doing with missiles and improving trade relations with Tehran. That's what they want in America
There's a faction definitely wants to go much much further way in any loses the question of like
is there a real reason for the United States of America to care who is doing what in Lebanon in Yemen in
area, I mean you can care to some extent right, but leg is this really of first order national security, priority of the United States, because when you look at the bill of complaints against IRAN during the GPA
that's really what it's a bow I mean, I don't believe so. I dont believe that this is a good enough reason for
to be there, and certainly not good enough reason for us to be there in such numbers and its also fight frankly that we are going to lose. You know if it's talking about
deterring the Arabians from attacks on? U S, bases proxies are gonna continue to attack them. That's not something we can easily deter if its talking about regime change in IRAN militarily that something incredibly difficult to accomplish its a country, much bigger than Iraq, of him. Much much harder to do so is not clear to me that there is really is
she passed to winning this, even though were there, and that makes it even more unforgivable. Others is incredible. Singularity ride, so we're deterring ran from attacking our bases, cause it's bad when Emily. Obviously luck, if, if you're their commander in chief of the American armed forces, have to care about people attacking your soldiers, but if the soldiers weren't there they wouldn't be getting attacked so preventing attacks on bases can't be good reason to have the base their right, deterring attacks on your base
this is something you do when you have some other reason that you need the basis. What it means is american presence in the region ends up being a bit like a snake using its own tail, some weird there that causes casualties, the american people dont forgive casualties easily, which
you know. Who can blame them? Railways, east is awful. American service members die. They shouldn't have to to do that, but the casualties then make it much harder to go with any kind of conciliation with IRAN and make it harder to withdraw the troops, and so it's just an essay,
cold? It is very hard to break out of em. You ve seen a mean president Tromp has spoken rallies. Is it a very anti iranian policy, but he seems to speak with frustration about the duration and cost of american military presence in the Middle EAST, and yet at least as best as you can tell, he doesn't see the connection between these things
President Trump seems to take this really interesting sort of third way. I'm some foreign policy, most people either argue like sort of lean in or pull back a high, and President Trump seems to take the argument that you know we should go in hit them hard. Whoever is we're hitting and then we should get out quickly and not concern ourselves with staying to deter other adversaries, not concern ourselves with stained from traceability. You know that we should get in and get out, and so canvas is middle way and you know I mean it. Certainly from my point of view, it's not a good approach, but it's better
and the alternative is the alternative is always being there yes area in its. I always have a difficult time, no, knowing exactly how you want to characterize it right, because the thing is: is that from peace and actually withdrawing troops right? He keeps talking about how he doesn't want to have this big military presence there. But it's not what he's doing there's been. I think. Fourteen thousand
since me of last year and that obscure that does not count the trips that contained in the last couple of weeks. I know there have been major roads, so that's what I always find a little. I don't have puzzling. Could ve
You know what a water Russell need right. Has this concept of like court uncle Jack Sony in foreign policy which
One predates tromp but always seemed to me. It's an effort to paint a version of Trump ISM that has a real strategic vision
right and which the United States isn't going beyond the ground. Huge numbers isn't really going to care about. You know, is Iraq well governed or whatever, but we're gonna be tough right, we're gonna be merciless with our enemies, we're gonna punch back hard and it would be interesting to see
money actually try to do that, but it's a good. It's really not reflective of the timber ministrations actual policy
making its in line with crumbs kind of stray remarks, but word there on the ground in a pretty intensive way and when he lists his bill of complaints against the Iranians, I mean it includes attacks
on Americans, but fundamentally the whole break up of the GB away was about as movements
like other iranian proxy activity spread. So the question of why why why, from this allegedly Jack Sony in point of view, are we so like jazzed up about Yemen? Well, so there are people who make a jack Sony an argument and make a logical, well reasoned Jackson argument. You know. So if you look at the writing
people from Saint Hudson Institute her or some some people like that they are making fairly well reasoned arguments. I'm some of them arguing that the president,
should you don't get us out of Iraq and get us out? No, because we don't need to be there so that our people meekness argument, but the problem is, as with everything the present trump. You know he sees the kind of agree with every talk to last a lot of the time. The report really suggests on the solemn Ani thing compel spent a long time, sir building him up to it getting pence two way and in favour of it. You know telling trumpeted look strong if he killed this terrorist leader, so it seems to me the trumps advisers themselves. Aren't Jack Sonya and the Trump himself has only sporadically that he may in his heart the attack Sonya,
but he's basically just sort of doing what seems good at the moment, and it's not that unusual, and so I mean I was on the workers and the difference between what we heard about Trump and was actually normal about american politics. Is that unusual for president's too, to some extent get ruled by the kind of entrench the weight of the national security?
as they deal with her, I I don't know exactly how to put it, but it's like the tunnel.
commanders are not ordinary political pointy. Is you don't just kind of like step in and run roughshod over their preferences and there's been across administrations like a lot of investment in
meagre Middle EAST understanding, their entire literature devoted to explaining presidential decision making. So some of it in foreign affairs the basically looks at the role of advisers. Advisers, turnout, incredibly important, particularly when the principle, the president, has no real foreign policy experience himself and Trump is, I would say, the least, experienced foreign policy president's, perhaps every minute bombers and of a huge amount of of experience either. But in recent history, most presence of heads at least a military experience. Trump doesn't right right, exactly: ok,
Another breakin and come back to this feels like you, don't even of hours in the day to get everything done. He might because you're missing out on three windows to me, I was up how he fell into a deep dark abyss that opens up when we switch between work.
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the lesson to whoever he talked to last say he decides to talk to you. You know I would tell him that it's a great decision to de escalate, like he's doing that he has now shown that he is strong and that now is the time to faint and offer up before. We all end up in a war that box a stone in IRAN for for a decade now, probably not, but I would say if I was talking to almost anybody else, but I think that's what would sell at present trumpet. That's where a sort of hope he's going.
For firm, slightly more reasoned argument. I would say the key here is stopping escalating things at this point. I think it can be very hard to unwind all the way back to where we were before present Trump came into office, but we could at least talk about returning to compliance with J C p way. We could talk about perhaps creating some kind of extension deal. You know in the next presidential administration, see working with the Iranians, actually try and find a deal that,
at least replicated some parts. The J C p way. We could talk about taking off some sanctions to show that we were willing and again, I think, there's something that even in the trunk administration, you could probably sell to the president, as you know, showing
you're magnanimously. You know trying to
Sure were willing to negotiate by taking off some sanctions, so I mean, I think, they're a path study, escalate, cure and quite a lot of them. Actually, the question is whether the president will take it in the absence of that advice. Right and I mean it, it seems to me really fundamentally I mean this is one of the most frustrating
international conflict from my point of view, because there is so little genuine conflict of interests between
It's an old man. I mean there's a lot of this. A long bill, particulars.
You know of grievances, but
romanians are not in a fundamental way trying to do anything. That's that of interest to the United States of America, and the thing is, if you were to go down the list of things that were meant to be worried about with IRAN right and you go down, was nearest
terrorism. Well, it's mostly not terrorism against us sure. There's there's some concern about Israel in that context, and Hezbollah and Hamas. But you know it's it's mostly not terrorism aimed other allies. If you talk about the nuclear question, one of the GDP way had kind of resolved that we may be able to get back to something like that: you're Talkin missiles in the West, that's usually portrayed as a you know. They won't miss Elsie, confer nuclear weapons with them, but actually, if you know anything about how wars or fought in the Middle EAST, you know the missiles typically carry conventional
since your commonly used there, the Saudis them Roddy of both investing in missile technology, so the Arabians are basically just doing what everyone else is doing. You wanna talk, but regime type. You could make a pretty good argument that the regime in Tehran is actually more democratic than the Saudis
more democratic memories. You know Sir Edward does deserve. Democracy were championing and knowledge. Exactly I mean
there. Then Israel, which serve stands on its own as a separate issue. Also things that we're talking about with IRAN there through just not major problems, are their just, not problems that concern us directly way. I mean they concern Israel yeah, I'm an and some of the support for and hearing him policies in the. U S is based on sort of
people who are very pro Israel's people. I come like Sheldon Edelson, the republican Mega donor, who is in an extremely pro Israel, I'm heathenism a lot of money over the years to serve the groups that are basically hostile to IRAN selling
energy. You saw very clearly mean house Republicans right right when disappear with what's happening, they invited Benjamin Netanyahu to come to a speech in Congress. Basically denounced
the deal I make just two sake. As I mean, I know, this can be a sensitive terrain, but it's not like particularly subtle or secret right that the the israeli government has very strong- and I think well founded objections to IRAN becoming a strong or a more powerful military entity there, and it would. They would love for the United States to deal with this for them. But, like the question for Americans like how important is that all- and also just from the point of view of the Israelis who know the israeli intelligence, eventually concluded that the J C P was in their interests, they want trunk to withdraw, even though Netanyahu did because he told different views on that. But that is really intelligence. That is in our interests to keep the J C p away, and we ve seen that
part of disagreement. Insight is rarely domestic policy from the stuff. A lot of lot of his rallies believed that they would be safer if things weren't so hostile with IRAN, where so this is it. This is again a fairly small group. That's advocating a really hard line, because I've been
and even from the israeli perspective lot of this has to do with relative significance of the nuclear issue. Verses. Other thing swayed- and I think these really intelligence communities view is that a credible, non proliferation agreement with IRAN is very, very valuable. Obviously, there now can be happy about Hezbollah firing Rockets. It is.
position, sometimes, but that if Israel has been surviving occasional rocket fire from Hezbollah for very very very long time is Israel's military is much more powerful than lebanese militia.
Is that whereas the nuclear issue is a real concern for them, that you know was potentially can be resolved until from in a blue enough from the israeli point you actually, the likely Obama administration, despite we might hear, was actually really good for them. I mean from a security point among right. You ve got the nuclear deal. That puts I'll be verifiable limits on IRAN's ability to
nuclear weapon. You ve got IRAN itself, basically bogged down in Syria and in all these other regional conflict and so not
he's sending us much funding to Hezbollah and Hamas, as it had been previously, you know
So you find the situation
finally, Israel pretty much too inattention on the patent part of IRAN at that time was doing better on security front than they are today right. Other I've been, but many are who didn't see it? That way, and we know that
events, sort of consideration- and I mean there was concern that if, if aside, we consolidate control over Syria that now like opens up, you know more mortal.
Roots and- and things like that, so I mean, I think, God totally
Land is sort of considerations, but I mean also there is a question of like it couldn't possibly justify the scale of the american military presence throughout the Middle EAST,
No, I mean America's military presence in the Middle EAST is just drastically overblown for pretty much anything. You want to do at this point. Unless what you want to do is you know basically, population centric, counterinsurgency them cried the two thousands and then too small for that, but but it's it's basically too big for what were trying to do, which a sort of train and equip missions or the fight against ISIS, which is pretty much over most those troops that are sitting there to deter ice
their basic, deter, IRAN or not ISIS. And thirdly, there is a signal right and we because their deterring attacks on themselves in a weird were right
those facilities in those basis would be their regardless, but the truck demonstration is very clear that this is
sort of a show of resolve. At all I mean I can't be the arab states that were aligned with defend them. Selves I mean these are wealthy countries. They ve had a lot of time
to overcome this problem, we sell them a lot of military equipment like what is the what's the issue exactly
Well, so let me let me start with the two problems and then I'll talk about why they actually could defend themselves. So first problem is that they buy the wrong things right. They buy a lot of really expensive, really flashy, fighter jets and stuff, like that. The don't actually serve provide them a lot of defence capabilities, NASA problem right. A second problem is the tiny populations. So you know these states in the Gulf Devolved dealt with is indifferent ways. Some of them have basically foreign militaries right. They they that the officer class tend to come from
Europe and the I must attend comfortably slip, Pakistan, some some. These states have done that over the years or they they sort of just have a very small military so places like. So you don't let foreigner serve and they just have a very small military in a lot of american contractors, and so those are the problems with defending himself right just compared to IRAN. They are small population, a population lives. That said nobody is talking about IRAN staging a ground invasion of any of these countries for it first starters, they'd have to either go over water or through Iraq Raw, so that's very difficult, pry impossible, no reasonably barometer ever do it. So what we're talking about is a sort of air to air, combat or bombing raids, or
sales like her commonly used in these conflict, and in that can a conflict. These countries shape up to look a lot better right at me, because so, if you're talking about a mutual exchange of missiles, then you really that's. Not a labour intensive undertake
oh and negotiate very rich right in terms of like: can you buy the missiles
and something that we have just. We don't tell them myself right together missiles, mostly from the Chinese,
but we do seldom air defenses of an anti aircraft weaponry and that stuff is very good and again right. This is like technology intensive right. This is like the kind of warfare that a wealthy oil rich low population state is actually you don't why well suited could potentially survive could potentially, whether certainly could have enough capacity
turn attack and that's. What's really, import were wrecked all on their own, if if they want to do and then, of course the United States right, I mean I think in in your circles the phrase offshore balancing comes up- and I take it like embedded in that idea- that you're off shore is that you could go on shore right if you needed to yet so the last comment to the Gulf WAR, not first Gulf war. Ninety ninety one that is sometimes feels its failure of offshore bouncing because we had to go back on shore, but but I would call myself not rebounds, for, as you know, it's a success, we stayed out of the Middle EAST, we didn't have major troops there. We funded both sides in a couple of wars to try and keep things equal and when Saddam Hussein took away- and it was apparent, their interests were actually threatened. We intervened, we centrist Middle EAST, we did it fast, we one have. We
mostly pulled out if we had completely pulled out that would have been true success of ultra balancing in a we achieved. Our aims by only fighting a limited wharf when we had to rights are essential. You gotta go all the way back out and said: look we. We proved our point here, but we don't even think we're. Gonna need to go back because we showed to you that we can come and defeat your military. But, like me,
we'll be back the necessary yet even leaving say small numbers of trips in places like Kuwait, but nor engaging in that sort of jewel containment, humanitarian missions, stuff that really spiraled into right, and this goes back to the sort of the no fly zones. This is right,
to be. I mean an interesting way, wait, we we won the war, but then wouldn't you know if you like, a like old timey wars, you read about history, books,
countries, fight them and then, at the end of the war, they like sign a peace deal right where the other guys, like you, beat me, I'm making some commitments here, but then
unlike its good right worse, Saddam was never did
Legitimacy of his regime was never restored really, even as it remained in place,
There was the idea that Iraq had sort of permanently become non sovereign and we were gonna have constant military overflights and it was not a viable. I mean, I think you look back in retrospect invading into those three turn out to be a disaster, but I think the perception on the part of the Bush administration that the situation was not stay
all right, big, some kind of sense. Even in retrospect yeah I mean so. The decision not to go into Baghdad in the early ninety nineties leaves out. It was an apartment than to sort of issue. All these really draconian sanctions mean Europe with Bisque embargoed. Unless the ninety nineties, to keep going the no fly zones, it created the Seattle really interesting limbo. Where
rock couldn't really rehabilitate itself under Saddam Hussein, but it was no real impetus for the regime to go because domestically he was still pretty strong when you can imagine an alternative. You nurse right where we made a deal with other segments of the bath party to get rid of Santa Saddam, and you know replace them with summit,
elsewhere. Rock was still a pariah state, but it didn't sort of stay under his rule for thirteen years and it didn't stay in this limbo, and so is that it was a really can have an interesting decision not to overthrow him, but then to continue the pressure right, and so there was this kind of eight year, clingy administration. They ve inherited this policy from one Bush.
They continued with it with not. I mean, I think it wasn't bill, cleanse desire to particularly do anything with regard to Iraq that wasn't like one of his motivating issues in public life, so we'd just kind of drifted for a very long time in which we were not taking any steps to overthrow the regime. But we also warrant reconciling ourselves
to its continuity. In anyway, we were also those gets a frantic about it, so there were times where I'm, for example, we promised support to the Kurds in an uprising in them at nineteen nineteen, and then you didn't actually go in and support them when when they actually rose up- and so you know, I mean that that is horrible, morally and ethically and movement thing else, but yeah we just sort of went back and forward and back and forward, and whether we wanted Saddam gone or not. Right and of course, I mean inconsistent behaviour, Visa VIII, Kurdish,
groups has continued through into into Syria. We had like marker Rubio yesterday at what, whenever the iraqi Parliament voted to say, our troops should go. He goes
twitter and, like all, maybe there should be an independent kurdish state, which you know maybe they should be.
Buddy, it's the they'll be back and forth,
This to me are a emblematic of the idea that our presence in the region is stabilizing is really belied by the number of times we have suggested breaking up some of these various countries,
foot flopped. On that day. The partitioning of Iraq is a bad idea that just won't die and I hesitate to come at Malta is given that Joe Biden may be coming back into office son and he was
person that originally suggested the idea ram years back, but the need for me. I see our presence in the region as fundamentally corrosive, because the deals that we have to make to stay there prevent us from taking steps
actually in our interests, and so you know before during the cold war. If we wanted to work with the Kurds, if we want to work with some specific group or some specific government, we could do it. We could give them arms. We can give the money, we can work with them, but then we could also in step back home. We needed to that's not the case anymore. No, we end up any situations like where you know we relied on the Kurds against ISIS, and then we promised them things that we probably shouldn't have and then, when the Trump Administration withdrew
it left them sort of high and dry and America looks bad, poisons our ability to work them again in the future. So we really just we're left making a lotta deals, because we want to be there and the only purpose of them seems to be because, where their rights,
wait. Any you know I will member back but went, went when I was in college, and I had a professor who who submit Afghanistan and Pakistan, but I think this observation is relevant to IRAN's dealings in Iraq is
You know he said the like. What Americans have to understand is that Pakistan doesn't have a choice about whether or not its adjacent to Afghanistan, whereas we're there now, but we could leave, and so inherently any effort on our part to say we're. Gonna outlast them is like not credible. Like we're
the other side of the world there right there, and it seems to me that there's something similar in the. U S and ran having like a tug of war about influence in Iraq, right, which is that, like we ve, become very contingency, invested in what goes on in Iraq but ran, is like adjacent to Iraq like big. They can't really walk away from from this situation, and so please, it's almost worse than that, because our presence is what drives some of the iranian behaviour that we complain about, and so this is
a classic. I our theory thing right, security spirals, you know where you do something, and the other side sees you in overreacts, and you know it ends up building up to something more than it than it should be, but just because we are in Iraq, IRAN feels like they have to have more of a presence there. If we weren't there, they probably would be less interventionist in that,
cards. I don't know it's like it. There were chinese military bases sprouting up in Mexico,
Has it we very concerned about that yeah brand
exactly I mean there's you know when I talked undergraduates, but sometimes I showed them, there's a
terrible meme rice and it's just a picture of the Middle EAST, and it just says in IRAN's ridiculous look how close they put their country to our military bases at a most ridiculous
silly right, but it really sums up what the problem is. The Iranians feel threatened. They feel threatened because we are there because we are meddling and regional politics and because they feel outnumbered like we could come for them next and that drives a kind of security seeking behaviour that makes them you know seem perhaps like they have tentacles all throughout the region. Can really what there is trying to do is stay afloat against what they perceive as this american influence prices. We have tentacles everywhere else, as I keep running into the Iranians.
because the right for both sides are interfering, but it's in the cause of trying to counter one another. So right now, it's America plus the Gulf States against IRAN. If it was just the Gulf States versus IRAN, it would be much more evenly match
Petition and I'm willing to bet did the intensity of that conflict would be lowered, actually go faster, ok,
you so much Ashford things as always to Margaret murders are engineered. That's your felt dusar
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Transcript generated on 2021-09-09.