|Glenn Carle - Diminish Iran's Influence In The Region|
|Monday, 27 February 2012 07:56|
Thank you all very much. As the ex-CIA officer it's particularly pleasing and an honor to be here. Now that I'm ex-CIA, I get to express an opinion which I wasn't allowed to do for several decades.
I have the chance to show you or for you to see how a CIA officer in the CIA can be both, I hope, simultaneously calculating and principled. The job of the National Intelligence Council where I was the deputy for transnational threats is to provide over the horizon prognostications of trends and threats to the United States interest, whether they're domestic or overseas within the timeframe of two to five years in the future if we can.
We are the United States intelligence communities' most senior body for strategic intelligence assessments. And we get a lot right and unfortunately get some wrong, too. We have no better crystal ball than anybody despite the expertise.
We function in the framework of the three rules of state craft. I'm going to speak about the three rules of state craft and Iran's and United States' strategic objectives in the region and the great game in which we are engaged with Iran.
The first rule of state craft is to know your own mind which means to decide what your own strategic objectives are. It sounds obvious. It's the hardest task that any policymaker has.
The second is to know who your enemy or your rival is. Also not always clear.
Then the third is to know your enemy and the plans and intentions of that enemy. And that's where my organization comes in.
I spent my career serving the third of those three objectives. The intelligence community, the CIA, and the operations director where I spent most of my career is good at knowing our enemy's plans, capabilities and intentions. In the context of this discussion, that's the Iranian regime.
I also spent part of my career serving the second of the three objectives which is to know who your enemy is. Not just to identify them but to understand which of the various players in the field is the enemy.
Now, one would imagine that the intelligence community and the CIA is focused on and good at this objective but that actually is a misconception.
The CIA provides few answers to questions that are value judgments and that is a supremely political decision; deciding who the enemy is. And the CIA is a servant that does not think. So we provide information and we decide, but deciding who the enemy is is something that can only happen in the always efficient and clear thinking discussions that occur in the White House or on Capitol Hill where domestic knowledge and focus is always the dominant perspective. Present company excepted of course. (Laughter.)
Then, one might wonder why sometimes the United States policy drifts in one direction or another or possibly doesn't even exist. Then I spend all my career observing and wonder the most important point, how, what our strategic objectives are. For the political and policymaking process has little to do with the careful objective analysis that my institution was supposed to be and tried to be engaged in and often has relatively little to do with the facts on the ground.
In fairness, however, facts are secondary. For this is a profoundly political therefore value laden series of decisions. So with respect to Iran then and what U.S. policy should be towards the MEK, I found that the intelligence community in the United States has known a good deal about what and who the MEK are. What Iranians' capabilities and actions are. That's the third object I have of state craft.
I found that the intelligence community and U.S. policymakers have done a good job of identifying who our rival or our enemy is. It is clear that Iran is the great destabilizer in the Middle East just as they fear that we are the Great Satan(phonetic). (Laughter.)
That's the second object I have of state craft. What our strategic objectives are with respect to Iran in the region. Our first objective involves, well, this topic has kept commentators employed for 30 years just as it has confused our policymakers also for 30 years.
In fairness this is because policymakers live in the same gray world that I, as an intelligence officer, live for all of my career. The great world of intelligence is one of the central themes of the book I wrote called The Interrogator, which relates to my involvement in the interrogation of a man we believe one of the top members of al-Qaeda. Facts are uncertain, objectives are unclear, or mutually exclusive. Lies are hard to detect and the truth is often beyond reach. And yet one must decide what our objectives are. Who the enemy is? What he is doing?
And one must decide now. So I have compassion for my colleagues who have to make those ultimate value decisions.
Here is my Iranian counterparts and their intelligence community and I live in the same world. The MOIS works hard to make the truth hard to detect, to eliminate Iran's rivals, and to blame the MOIS's targets such as the U.K. and the U.S. and the Middle East for the MOIS's own destabilizing hostile actions.
As operations officer in the field for over two decades, my job was to learn the details of our rival's actions. The CIA's interests are broad for a world in which interest always trumps ideals. We have many, many rivals. There were many details to learn. The MOIS, which is active in the United States, active in Iraq, active in Lebanon, active against the MEK, active in Saudi Arabia, kept my colleagues and me busy from the moment it Ayatollah Khomeini established an aggressive expansionist revolutionary regime 30 years ago. A regime which defines itself as the Vanguard of Islam actually and of the forces that oppose the United States.
We all know about the discrete challenges that are posed by Iran. There's the problem of the MEK, Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty by which we have heard so much about clear assessment and recommendations about what is the right thing to do. The Iranian nuclear program and on and on. But although the Satan is in the details --(Laughter.) and the MOIS and the Iranian regime are aggressive and hostile to MEK and other perceived opponents, from the large perspective it becomes clear that the U.S. approach to the region to Iraq and Iran has been typically piece meal addressing the needs or trying to day-to-day of the MEK as it shapes American interests, which is confronted by aggressive and newly influential Iran inside Iraq. How to keep the Persian Gulf open to traffic despite Iranian threats. Even the issue of what to do about Iran's nuclear program has been approached as a discrete policy program.
Clearly, however, Iran is playing the great game. Many of us have seen it for decades and the U.S., too, must play the great game for influence in the Middle East in a coherent and comprehensive way rather than by responding to one issue and then to another each day.
Thirty years of tactical responses to the challenge of a coherent, strategic and aggressive Iran have accomplished almost nothing for U.S. interests with respect to Iran.
One can argue and it's a sad argument, but objectively it's true that possibly the most consequential result of our invasion of Iraq and defeat of Saddam Hussein is to expand Iran's interests. Iran seeks at least to become the region's preponderant power to diminish Israel and create difficulties for the United States. To diminish U.S. influence or to eliminate it in the region at the expense of the traditionally dominant Sunni, as a minimum to create buffer areas of influence around Iran so as to protect the regime from what it perceives as external threat.
Iran's single greatest tool to pursue these objectives is the Syrian regime which enables Iran to influence and dominant Lebanon, support Hezbollah and undermine U.S. policies throughout the region.
What are U.S. strategic objectives? Regional stability, diminishing Iran's influence as a destabilizing aggressive power and stopping Iran's nuclear weapons program. The United States in the traditional role, seeks region stability and to avoid that any regional power disrupt the general status quo. In addition we have significant interest in economic, stability and trade flows. We have a peculiar interest in the security for Israel for a host of moral and political reasons.
As such, my colleagues in the CIA and I have identified Iran's strategic objectives, capabilities and means. We have identified Iran as our region rival and even enemy.
Our strategic objectives in the region and with effect of the destabilizing power, which is Iran, emerge clearly and to this intelligence officer, the U.S.'s policy, framework and steps also emerge from the piece meal approach we have taken so along. I think these steps should be followed.
U.S. policy must be to diminish Iran's influence in the region. The road to diminishing Iran, Tehran, runs through Damascus, by eliminating the regime and seeing it replaced by a regime not so dependent on Iran for support, we would remove Iran's single greatest leverage point in the region of the world.
We would seriously weaken Islam and Hamas. Already because Assad is now weakening, Hamas has begun to distance itself from its invariable support for the Assad regime. At least it appears that and finds itself totally on the losing side of history when that comes.
Iran's influence would weaken throughout the entire region. The United States would therefore actively support the opposition in Syria, so that the government that replaces Assad would no longer be a target ally or almost a puppet of Iran.
The U.S. also must increase pressure from Iran as we heard from many speakers so the cost of maintaining its nuclear program is too high. Rational actors or not, they do seek self-survival, self-preservation.
The road to keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons is by a combination of external pressures. We have tools, some of which we heard about in detail a moment ago. No state will negotiate, no state. Unless it is in its national interest to do so and survival is the ultimate national interest. If we make that clear, they will then respond or commit suicide.
Sanctions again Iran's oil industry to include restrictions on how it exports its oil, combined with support for an Iranian opposition, and here the MEK comes to mind, would increase the pressure on the regime, at least forcing it to debate internally the increasingly contradictory objectives of developing nuclear weapons or maintaining internal stability.
A military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities would possibly defer the problem, but would not resolve it, the problem is the nature of the regime, not the tools its using.
The solution is to induce the ayatollahs through external pressure and support internally opposition to the regime. To choose so that the leaders at least choose what they think is survival and stability over a nuclear ambitions and the regime would in any event be weakened by such policies.
Tactically, the field intelligence work I did for over two decades argues in favor of de-listing the MEK from its now outdated and wrong designation as a terrorist organization. Strategically argues working in favor with the MEK as a means of pressuring an Arabian regime which is a destabilizing influence in
the entire region.
So the great world of intelligence or no, the great game or no, the U.S. objectives and MEK objectives and these intersect combined with a coherent strategic approach in response to Iran's regional great gain policies, support for the MEK by the United States can serve as part of a policy that will diminish Iranian influence in the region and could help undermine the regime itself.
Thank you very much.
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