Iran and U.S. Strategy: Looking Beyond the JCPOA

On July 20, 2021, the National Council convened an online program exploring “Iran and U.S. Strategy: Looking Beyond the JCPOA.”

 

 

Joining the program were:

Featured Specialist:

  • Dr. Anthony H. Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy; Consultant to the U.S. State Department, Defense Department, and intelligence community; Former Office of the Secretary of Defense Director of Intelligence Assessment.

Moderator:

  • Mr. David Des Roches, U.S. Department of Defense National Defense University Near East/South Asia Center for Strategic Studies Associate Professor; National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Senior International Affairs Fellow.

Welcome and Context Provider:

  • Dr. John Duke Anthony, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President and CEO.

Audio and video recordings of the program are available above and below, and on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and elsewhere.

“Iran and U.S. Strategy: Looking Beyond the JCPOA” podcast (.mp3)

The Biden Presidency, the GCC, and Iran

On January 28, 2021, the National Council convened an online program exploring “The Biden Presidency, the GCC, and Iran.”

 

 

Joining the program were:

Featured Specialists:

  • Dr. Mohammed S. Alsulami, Rasanah: International Institute for Iranian Studies Founder and Chairman.
  • Mr. Norman Roule, Former United States National Intelligence Manager for Iran; United Against a Nuclear Iran Senior Advisor.
  • Mr. David Des Roches, U.S. Department of Defense National Defense University Near East/South Asia Center for Strategic Studies Associate Professor; National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Senior International Affairs Fellow.

Moderator and Discussant:

  • Mr. Joshua Yaphe, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Scholar-in-Residence.

Welcome and Context Provider:

  • Dr. John Duke Anthony, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President and CEO.

Audio and video recordings of the program are available above and below, and on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and elsewhere.

“The Biden Presidency, the GCC, and Iran” podcast (.mp3)

Strategic Dynamics of Iran’s Continuing Asymmetric Warfare

On January 9, 2020, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations hosted a public affairs briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., focused on “Strategic Dynamics of Iran’s Continuing Asymmetric Warfare: What Implications for the United States and the Region?”

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations January 9, 2020, Public Affairs Briefing examined strategic dynamics related to Iranian asymmetric warfare, and their implications for the region as well as the United States.

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations January 9, 2020, Public Affairs Briefing examined strategic dynamics related to Iranian asymmetric warfare, and their implications for the region as well as the United States.

The featured specialists included:

  • Mr. David Des Roches, Senior International Affairs Fellow, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations; Associate Professor, Near East/South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University, U.S. Department of Defense.
  • Dr. Anthony H. Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy; Consultant to the U.S. State Department, Defense Department, and intelligence community; Former Office of the Secretary of Defense Director of Intelligence Assessment.
  • Dr. Thomas Mattair, Middle East Policy Council Executive Director; Author of The Three Occupied UAE Islands: The Tunbs and Abu Musa and Global Security Watch – Iran: A Reference Handbook.
  • Dr. John Duke Anthony, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President and CEO; Former U.S. Department of State Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy Subcommittee on Sanctions Member; only American to have been invited to each of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Ministerial and Heads of State Summits since the GCC’s inception in 1981.

A podcast recording of the program is available below along with slides from several of the speakers.

 

 

“Strategic Dynamics of Iran’s Continuing Asymmetric Warfare” podcast (.mp3)

Slides from Mr. David Des Roches – “The Iranian Way of (Near) War” (.pdf)

Slides from Dr. Anthony H. Cordesman – “The Gulf and Iran’s Capability for Asymmetric Warfare” (.pdf)

Analysis of U.S. and GCC Tensions with Iran: Implications for Key American Policies

On June 28, 2019, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations hosted a public affairs briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., focused on “Analysis of U.S. and GCC Tensions with Iran: Implications for Key American Policies.”

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations June 28, 2019 Public Affairs Briefing explored implications of ongoing tensions between Iran, the United States, and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

The featured specialists included:

  • Mr. Norman Roule, Former National Intelligence Manager for Iran; United Against a Nuclear Iran Senior Advisor.
  • Ms. Kirsten Fontenrose, Former White House National Security Council Senior Director for Gulf Affairs; Sonoran Policy Group Vice President for Global Relations.
  • Mr. Phillip Cornell, Atlantic Council Global Energy Center Nonresident Senior Fellow; Former Saudi Aramco Senior Corporate Planning Advisor; Former International Energy Agency Special Advisor.
  • Mr. David Des Roches, Senior International Affairs Fellow, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations; Associate Professor, Near East/South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University, U.S. Department of Defense.
  • Colonel (Ret.) Abbas K. Dahouk, Former U.S. Department of State Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs Senior Military Advisor; Former Embassy of the U.S. in Saudi Arabia Defense and Army Attaché.
  • Dr. John Duke Anthony, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President and CEO; U.S. Department of State Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy Subcommittee on Sanctions Member; only American to have been invited to each of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Ministerial and Heads of State Summits since the GCC’s inception in 1981.

A podcast recording of the program is available below.

 

 

“Analysis of U.S. and GCC Tensions with Iran: Implications for Key American Policies” podcast (.mp3)

Arabia to Asia: The Myths of an American “Pivot” and Whether or Not There’s a U.S. Strategy Toward the GCC Region

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That the foreign policies of various governments often appear to be confusing or contradictory is because they frequently are. During Barack Obama’s presidency, such inconsistency has seemed to characterize aspects of America’s relations with the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The ambiguity and uncertainty that accompanies it is among the things that Obama has sought to dispel and clarify in the course successively of his March 2014 visit to Saudi Arabia, his May 2015 summit at Camp David with senior leaders of all six GCC countries, and his mid-April 2016 attendance at a similar meeting with leaders of the same countries. As this essay seeks to demonstrate, what he has had to contend with – and what others of late have had to contend with regarding aspects of his administration — in terms of background, context, and perspective has not been easy of resolution, amelioration, or even abatement.

Assumptions, Ambitions, and Abilities

Dating from before and since these high-level GCC-U.S. meetings, Washington has taken steps to strengthen and extend America’s overall position and influence in the GCC region. A principal means for doing so has been through the GCC-U.S. Strategic Dialogue.[1] But one example among several was when former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, along with Secretary of State John Kerry, came with approvals for billions of dollars in sales of U.S.-manufactured defense and security structures, systems, technology, and arms to GCC countries, together with long-term munitions and maintenance contracts.

President Barack Obama attends a U.S.-GCC summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in April 2016. Photo: Saudi Press Agency.

President Barack Obama attends a U.S.-GCC summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in April 2016. Photo: Saudi Press Agency.

Yet, simultaneously, signals from Washington and the mainstream U.S. media before and since Obama’s meetings with his GCC counterparts have not always been as clear as the signalers thought would or should be the case. That said, what specialists have had no doubt about for some time is that the Obama administration is recalibrating the strategic focus of its international priorities in hopes of being able to accomplish two objectives at the same time. One objective has been, and continues to be, a steadfast resolve to remain committed to the security, stability, and prospects for prosperity in the GCC region. The other has been and remains a parallel determination to emphasize the Asia-Pacific regions.

Affecting the need for such a recalibration have been major U.S. budget reductions and their impact on strategic concepts, forces, and operational dynamics. At issue and under examination in this regard, according to the Secretary of Defense in advance of the most recent Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), are, and for the foreseeable future will continue to be, America’s assumptions, ambitions, and abilities.

Understandably, the GCC region’s reaction to these trends and indications was and continues to be mixed.

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A Discussion with Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif Al Zayani

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The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and its six member-countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – could hardly have been more in the news in recent days.

First, as noted in the analysis and assessment that follows, there was the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ meeting with and briefing by His Excellency Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, on September 18, 2015. National Council Founding President and CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony, the only American to have been invited to attend each and every GCC Ministerial and Heads of State Summit since the GCC’s establishment in 1981, presided, provided context, background, and perspective, and moderated the discussion and question and answer period.

GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani addresses a meeting organized by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and its U.S.-GCC Corporate Cooperation Committee on September 18, 2015, in Washington, DC. Seated to the right of the Secretary General is H.E. Shaikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Khalifa, Ambassador of Bahrain to the U.S., and seated to the left of the Secretary General is National Council Founding President and CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony. Photo: National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

Second, the Fifth Ministerial Meeting of the GCC-U.S. Strategic Cooperation Forum was held in New York on September 30, 2015, in conjunction with the opening of the 70th United Nations General Assembly. According to the Joint Communique following the meeting, the discussion examined issues including “the humanitarian and political crisis in Syria, the importance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the P5+1 and Iran, the Middle East peace process, and the need for a political solution to the conflict in Yemen.”

Third, was the National Council’s standing-room-only October 6 meeting with and briefing by HRH Navy Captain (Ret.) Prince Sultan bin Khalid Al-Faisal Al Sa’ud in The Gold Room of the Rayburn Building of the U.S. Congress’ House of Representatives. In the ninety-minute meeting, Dr. Anthony provided an introductory overview of Saudi Arabia’s position and role in regional and global affairs and led a spirited discussion session following HRH Prince Sultan’s remarks.

HRH Prince Sultan outlined his views, analyses, and assessments of Saudi Arabia’s heightened assertiveness on the national and regional defense fronts. Upon the conclusion of his remarks, the Prince fielded close to thirty questions. HRH Prince Sultan’s address, Dr. Anthony’s remarks, and the Prince’s response to questions will be posted to the Council’s website by the end of the week.

Fourth, only two hours after the National Council’s program on Capitol Hill, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Senator Robert “Bob” Corker from Tennessee, conducted a hearing on“The U.S. Role and Strategy in the Middle East: Yemen and the Countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.”Accompanied by six of his fellow Senators, he did so in the context of, among other things, President Obama’s summit with the representatives of all six GCC countries this past May at Camp David. Committee members also examined the GCC countries’ leadership in the ten-nation coalition fighting to restore the legitimate government of Yemeni President Hadi.

H.E. Dr. Abdul Latif Al Zayani, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, addresses a meeting of the United Nations Security Council concerning the situation in Yemen in September 2013. Photo: United Nations.

In addition, the members asked questions about where the United States and the GCC countries stand with regard not only to the conflict in Yemen. They also voiced their concerns about the situation in Syria and the respective approaches by Washington officialdom, on one hand, and the capitals of the GCC countries, on the other, to the challenges that an assertive and increasingly emboldened Iran poses to the region’s peace, security, and stability.

A recurring issue was GCC countries’ perception of a U.S. disengagement from the region, which American officials, with mixed success to date, have been at pains to deny. Coupled to this issue is what many in the GCC believe is an unspoken American intention to increase the position and role of Iran’s involvement in the region. Were such an eventuality to occur, numerous among the GCC’s analysts are of the view that it could come only at the GCC region’s expense.

Two outstanding resource specialists, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Mary Beth Long and former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche, delivered statements and fielded questions from the Senators for two hours.Their respective testimonies along with a video of the Hearing are available on the Foreign Relations Committee website.

All four of these developments serve to underscore the timeliness and relevance of GCC Secretary General Al Zayani’s following analyses and assessments at the National Council’s recent meeting and briefing.

 


A Discussion with Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary General H.E. Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani

September 18, 2015

On Friday, September 18, 2015, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and the Council’s U.S.-GCC Corporate Cooperation Committee convened an informal seminar with GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani. Present, in addition to GCC ambassadors to the United States, were national security, defense, and other foreign affairs analysts and practitioners as well as scholars and select graduate students from area universities.

Dr. Al Zayani’s remarks focused on issues and interests of current and ongoing importance to the GCC and its six member-countries: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In a private meeting later with National Council President and CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony, the Secretary General agreed that the following summarization of his key points and perspectives could be published in keeping with the Council’s educational mission.

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A King From The East Approaches: Looking at King Salman’s Meeting with President Obama

King Salman’s visit to Washington comes at a unique time in the U.S.-Saudi Arabian relationship. The relationship is fundamentally strong. It is, however, characterized by a lack of adequate mutual understanding – among many there are different motives and goals, misattributions of intent, and stress on its underpinnings.

It is human nature to accept the positive aspects of a situation as given and to focus – and in some cases obsess – on the negative. So the following is warranted: the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia will not only endure. It is more likely to strengthen than weaken over time.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Sa'ud and President Barack Obama during the president's January 27, 2015, visit to Saudi Arabia.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Sa’ud and President Barack Obama during the president’s January 27, 2015, visit to Saudi Arabia. Photo: U.S. Department of State.

The disagreements and trends outlined below will not significantly disrupt the strong and committed strategic, economic, geopolitical, and defense cooperation relationship. Indeed, even if the meeting between King Salman and President Obama contains moments of what a freewheeling media may contend are contentious, the fact that the leaders of these two nations are meeting at all – and at this time to exchange views on matters of immense importance to both peoples – is in and of itself a sign of the relationship’s strength. For context: note that the United States and Great Britain meet to resolve differences; the Koreas do not. Of these two sets of relationships, one is strong and vital; the other is, at best, dysfunctional.

The positive aspects aside, that the media, Members of Congress, and lobbyists of all stripes will and have already begun to parrot and highlight elements of mistrust and misapprehension in the relationship is undeniable. Given those that support them – and/or to whom they seek to convey their analyses and net negative assessments of the Saudi Arabia-U.S. relationship – are who they are, this is in many ways to be expected. In the dynamics of give and take within a world where different parties and powers often display their competitive colors, such jousting between friends, allies, and partners – and adversaries, too – is also something else: part of the essence of two non-identical countries – name two countries that are not – being regional and international leaders.

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