What Are the World's Crisis Spots?
What's at stake politically in several of the world's hot spots including Egypt, Syria, Iran, and Pakistan?
What Are the World's Crisis Spots?
THE ASPEN INSTITUTE
WHAT ARE THE WORLD'S CRISIS SPOTS?
1000 N, Third Street
Aspen, Colorado, 81612
Friday, June 29, 2012
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS
National Correspondent, The Atlantic
President, CEO, and Director,
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Director, Aspen Institute's Aspen Strategy Group
President, Council on Foreign Relations.
* * * * *
P R O C E E D I N G S
MR. GOLDBERG: We're just going to wait for Jane
to finish the Starbucks and then we'll start.
MS. HARMAN: He is the morning Joe Mason.
MR. GOLDBERG: Yeah, good. Is it morning? Is
it still morning? Good morning, welcome to our foreign
policy panel 2.0. Just they did one before. This one is
going to be a lot better. Trust me.
MS. HARMAN: Because you rehearsed.
MR. GOLDBERG: Ah?
MS. HARMAN: Because you rehearsed.
MR. GOLDBERG: Because I rehearsed so much. I'm
Jeff Goldberg from the Atlantic. Thank you for coming.
We have a great panel. You know who they are. If you
don't, you have various propagandas from the Aspen Ideas
Festival to tell you who they are. But Richard Haass is
on my far left, just unusual. Far -- yeah.
MR. HAASS: That actually makes sense.
MR. GOLDBERG: Richard Haass is in the radical
center. Jane Harman, you all know. Nick Burns with whom
I just did an hour conversation on foreign policy, this
one is going to be completely different. What we're going
to do, the topic is hot spots, sort of the big country by
country challenges the U.S. is facing now and in the near
to middle term. And in order to be fair to all the
countries, I'm just going to go through every country. So
I want to go --
MR. HAASS: All 196.
MR. GOLDBERG: Yes. So we want to start with
the Andorra problem. Or, you know, you can talk about the
special relationship between the U.S. and Andorra and then
we'll just move right through. Nobody -- you know,
Andorra has never been mentioned at the Aspen Ideas
MR. HAASS: Now it has.
MR. GOLDBERG: So I feel really I think they
should underwrite this from now on.
MR. HAASS: It's equal to their GDP.
MR. GOLDBERG: Equal to their GDP. So I thought
we would just jump in and do some of the obvious hot spots
and then talk about some of the longer challenges. I know
that Richard and Jane are rearing to have an argument
about Egypt. So I want to start with Egypt. And Richard,
can you start us off by talking about what's happened in
the last couple of weeks, what it means and where you
think this country is headed. And do it in a minute.
MR. HAASS: I'll take 20 seconds of the minute
to set the stage. What happens in Egypt matters
dramatically. It's somewhere between a quarter and a
third of the Arab world and Cairo is one of the greatest,
if not the greatest city of the Arab world. So the stakes
are large politically. Egypt has also been an important
partner of the United States whether it's with the Israeli-
Palestinian talks, in the efforts against terrorism or
generally promoting international order.
It's now been, what, about a year, a-year-and-ahalf
since the Al Siya (phonetic) regime was ousted and
what we've seen is a series of efforts, we've had a series
of elections, and the most recent development is obviously
now you have a weak presidency led by the Muslim
Brotherhood, you have the military still playing a large
role in political life, you have no constitution and you
have no parliament. And I would simply say that this is a
situation that cannot last.
Nick, you've got it -- the battle grounds will
be the relationship between the military and the Muslim
Brotherhood, which now controls the presidency, what are
the powers between the two, right now heavily tilted
towards the military. I don't think that can survive,
because I think sooner or later there will be a showdown
between the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood who are
large in number and the military.
And I think the military will be scared to use
force, will be scared to confront them too directly for
fear that either the soldiers won't follow through on the
orders, or if they were to, it would mean a massive loss
of legitimacy. The big battle though will ultimately be
in the constitution because that's ultimately going to
determine the division of power within the government,
between the government and society.
And the questions are enormous in part because
we know very little about the Muslim Brotherhood in terms
of how it would actually rule. A year ago almost all of
them were in jail or in the streets. Now they are in
positions of power. We know what they said. We don't
know what it is they are going to do. We don't know
exactly what the military is willing to step back from.
And all this is new. Egypt has had several
voting events, but electocracy is not a democracy. And I
would simply say however far Egypt has traveled, it pales
in significance to the distance it needs to travel. And
I'll just say one last thing, the one set of actors I
haven't mentioned are those who to some extent help get
things underway in Tahrir Square, the liberal, more
I think those forces are not terribly well
organized and at the moment they don't look to be decisive
though there is a large body of Egyptians who clearly
favor a more secular Egypt. They did quite well in the
recent -- in the rounds of the presidential elections. I
would simply say that Egypt is up for grabs in many ways
and the ability of the United States or any other outsider
to meaningfully influence that trajectory is not clear to
MR. GOLDBERG: Jane, do you think that the
Google kids, the liberals who began this, are going to go
back out into Tahrir Square now that they've been boxed
out of governance? Can you just --
MS. HARMAN: Well, I'm more bullish. Let me set
the stage for a slightly different take and explain why
I'm more bullish and then what I think they might do.
I've been do Egypt twice in the last year. I was there
for the first round of presidential voting just a few
weeks ago and I was there right after the Tunisian
election last fall where I was an observer, and that
period was right before the parliamentary election.
So I've met everybody, Muslim Brotherhood folks,
I'm sure Richard has several times, Salafis and a crosssection
of activists, some who were elected to parliament
who were in secular parties, some who weren't et cetera,
et cetera. Why I'm more bullish is that this -- their own
history shows that it takes a while to form a pluralistic
government. I mean, we started in the 1776. We really
didn't have a government until 1789. That's 13 years.
And I think that would be horrific to
contemplate for Egypt. But it has only been 18 months and
there is progress. I believe that in that week when Egypt
went dark after the presidential runoff, that there had to
be, I don't know this, conversations between the
Brotherhood and the SCAF, the Supreme Council of the Armed
Forces about (inaudible), and how this was going to work
going forward. I don't think -- I'm quite sure that
And I think the result of that will be a weaker
presidency than the Brotherhood wants but a functioning
presidency, and a reassurance for the SCAF that they will
be able to keep what they got during the Mubarak era.
That may trouble a lot of people including me, but I think
in the net if they keep that and the country is stable and
a democracy can begin to grow -- a democracy is not an
election, Richard's right, I think that that's a trade we
should make for the near period.
In any rate, I think those conversations
occurred. I think the parliament will be reformed and a
do-over, I don't know how much of an election will have to
be held, I mean it was -- the supreme court opinion on the
parliament was only that -- or the high court, I don't
think it's called the Supreme Court -- opinion was only
that a 100 seats out of 500 were nullified because they
were elected by party slates.
But then the SCAF abolished the parliament. I
think there's a way to patch that up. I think a lot of
people will be reelected there and maybe it will be the
opportunity for some women to be added. They were boxed
out in the first rounds, and that could be better.
And then comes the constitution which won't be a
perfect document, but to our mind, Richard, the Muslim
Brotherhood is full of capitalists. They are good
business people, many of them. They are quite wealthy and
they want Egypt's economy to recover. They have got to
understand, and I'm sure they do, that if they vitiate the
treaty with Israel and if they take the country hard right
to a, you know, not just Sharia laws principles, but
Sharia laws as actual articles in the constitution, no one
will want to go there.
And I so I don't think that happens. I think
they are going to have to show results and I think there
will be a group of people from a variety of view points
who takes the largest Muslim country in the Arab region
and develops something out of it. So that's my view.
MR. GOLDBERG: Nick, can we count on the
rationality of the Muslim Brotherhood?
MR. BURNS: I think it's a highly ration
organization but it's not a united organization. It's
been around since 1928. It has a long history, but it's
riven by factional disputes right now. So one of the big
questions we've got to look for here, answer is, which
Muslim Brotherhood is going to show up at that
constitution writing assembly.
MS. HARMAN: Right.
MR. BURNS: I would just make two points, and I
actually agree with a lot of what both Richard and Jane
have said. Two things for us to look forward as
Americans; there's a dramatic showdown underway between
the military authorities on the one hand and the new
government on the other. And it's not as if they are
going to break apart. I think actually we're beginning to
see some signs that they are working together. Not
easily, but they are beginning to make some tradeoffs and
compromises and we should hope that that continues.
And this gets to the second point. The second
point is that President Obama faces an array of extremely
policy choices here. We've got competing interests. On
the one hand we have to support, I think, democratization
and these elections and the results of these election in
the Arab world. We can't do what we in the Bush
administration did. We didn't like the result in Gaza
when Hamas won. So we just walked away.
If we are one of the primary supporters of this
election, we've got to work with the Muslim Brotherhood
government. President Obama has done that. He called
Mohammed Morsi on Sunday. We're obviously trying to use
our best influences to convince the Muslim Brotherhood,
keep the Camp David Accords with Israel, don't embark on a
radical course in foreign policy, find a way to work with
On the other hand, Jeff, as we were just talking
about earlier this morning, we also have some pragmatic
interest tied up in Egypt. Egypt has been a blocking
agent against Iran, part of the blocking coalition that we
put together. Egypt has been ally against al-Qaida.
Egypt has its peace treaty with Israel and Israel, of
course, is a primary interest. And so since the beginning
MS. HARMAN: The Suez Canal.
MR. BURNS: And the Suez Canal. You've seen the
president, you know, kind of up in a high wire without a
net juggling these competing priorities. That continues.
I agree with Richard, this drama is going to be written by
the Egyptians, not by the Americans. Those days are over
when we can impose a solution, but we've got some
leverage. And if we exercise it, I would say, largely
privately behind the scenes, not through Twitter, Facebook
and soapbox statements -- we've got $1.3 billion in badly
needed aide to the Egyptians.
We also have a 30- to 40-year personal
relationship between our senior military leaders and
Egypt's senior military leaders. So this is where
diplomacy kicks in. Can we operate effectively behind the
scenes to kind of push these two unlikely actors together,
the military and Muslim Brotherhood, and keep them going
on some kind of centrist path. It may not work out that
way, but that's where American policy should stay focused.
MS. HARMAN: Can I just add one thing on the
aide thing? Just one second. The $1.3 is military aide.
Then there's $250,000 in --
MR. BURNS: Not million, billion.
MS. HARMAN: Billion. All these zeros.
MR. BURNS: Right.
MS. HARMAN: -- of government --
MR. GOLDBERG: We've got a true congresswoman by
the way, right?
MS. HARMAN: Thank you, thank you Jeffrey.
MS. HARMAN: Yeah. $250 million civilian aide
and $50 million more in some other kind of special deal.
They are in different pots. And just to make this point,
Congress conditioned the $1.3 billion on certain
benchmarks being reached. Hillary Clinton waived those
benchmarks in March, but retained some authority to take
it back. I would say that we should give all the civilian
aide and plus it up. I think we should condition some of
the military aide on the performance of the SCAF.
MR. GOLDBERG: Richard, you could respond to
that if you want. I also want to put this on the table.
What would be the consequences of an abrogated Camp David
Accord? What will be the consequences if Egypt decides,
you know what, we don't have peace with Israel anymore;
doesn't mean necessarily we're going to war, but no peace.
MR. HAASS: One aide, I would condition it. I
would basically make it clear -- and I would do it in more
and more countries, whether it is Pakistan or Egypt.
Blank check, hope-for-the-best aide is a nonstarter. And
we ought to make it clear what our criteria are. There's
got to be a reason. We want to Egypt to succeed. We want
Egypt to gradually move in the direction of a greater
democratization, greater market economics. And we've got
to use aide to incentivize that.
But for example, if there is abrogation of the
treaty, we shall talk about in a second, or there is
terrible ill-treatment of, say, the 10 million or so
Coptic Christians in Egypt and so forth, there ought to be
a price for that. There can't be on conditional aide or
simply aide in the hope that good stuff happens. It ought
to be aide specifically tied to behaviors.
If the treaty were to be abrogated, and needless
to say I hope it's not, and I don't think it will be, but
it were to be abrogated, what do we do is essentially
reintroduce to the Middle East a level of history that we
haven't seen there. Or to put it in another way, from
Israel's point of view, Israel has always had three
It had a distance fear which used to be Iraq and
is now Iran, which is the one that preoccupies them most.
It's had this fear of its contiguous neighbors - Egypt,
Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, which is this fear that for
several decades was largely quieted, since the '73 war in
many ways, formally and -- formally with Jordan and Egypt,
informally with Syria, most messily with Lebanon, was
largely quieted. And then you had the internal fear, if
you will, the Palestinian one.
If you reopen the contiguous fear, which the
Egyptian treaty would do, it would be a transforming
moment for Israeli security policy. Israeli strategic
planners, who've already begun to hedge a little bit
against that possibility would have to do a lot more than
hedge. It would essentially reopen this third strategic
arena. For Israel, it would be strategically a terrible
Psychologically and politically though, I think
it would make it very hard for future Israeli governments
to make peace because what it would tell them is that we
give up things that are real territory in exchange for
political promises, but given the political
unpredictability of the Arab world, that's a bad trade.
So I think it would have repercussions as large as they
would be beyond the immediate strategic consequences for
Israel and for Egypt.
MR. GOLDBERG: You know, you say abrogation
doesn't seem to be in the cards, but if you asked --
MR. HAASS: I didn't say that. I said I think
MR. GOLDBERG: Yeah, likely. But if you -- if
we had this panel last year and I asked people what are
the chance that Egypt is going to have a president from
the Muslim Brotherhood, we know what people thought a year
ago. The Muslim Brotherhood said it wasn't going to run a
candidate and they changed their mind. So I mean, let me
focus this on the Sinai for a second and Nick and maybe
Jane can jump in.
The Sinai Peninsula has become this zone of
chaos. It resembles in some unfortunate ways some parts
of Yemen, some parts of the tribal areas of Pakistan now.
Terrorist attacks are launched from Sinai into Israel.
What are the changes that the Egyptian military won't have
the will or the capacity to pacify that area? What are
the chances that Israel would have to actually go in and
do it because that would an enormous game changer?
MR. HAASS: This is a real problem for Israel
and the United States. My family and I lived in both
Egypt and Israel in the '80s and we used to travel
frequently throughout the Sinai down to Sharm el-Sheikh
across from Jerusalem to Cairo and the El Arish (phonetic)
road, and it was quiet and it was stable and that was the
result of peace that Jimmy Carter was able to negotiate
March of 1979. I agree. I think there are big
If the Muslim Brotherhood decides, I don't think
it will either, to abrogate or weaken its accord, it poses
a real problem practical for the Israelis because all of a
sudden the buffer zone that they have that Richard
described for the last 30 years or so has receded. And if
you couple that with the uncertainty of what happens in
Syria, and the Syrian-Israeli border has been solid and
stable since 1973, suddenly Israel becomes in all of its
borders worried about stability, worried about attacks and
it will make and should make the Israelis less interested
in some of these grandiose peace deals when they can't
trust the commitments that Arab countries have made.
So I think that the Muslim Brotherhood is not
going to pick this fight. If they pick this fight, they
lose the United States, they lose the American people,
they lose the Europeans, they lose some of the other Arab
states. I think they are going to try to get -- they are
going to try to position themselves to have as much
authority and leverage on the writing of the constitution.
That's the big, big project now because that will decide
who has power in Egypt over the next several decades.
MR. GOLDBERG: Jane, this is a question that
would lead us into Pakistan, where we'll go next. We're
going to go on a great tour today. But do you think that
Egypt, you've been there twice in the last year, do you
think that Egypt has the capability of actually keeping
the Sinai calm by itself with its technical capabilities?
MS. HARMAN: I think, yeah, and it was a
conversation that I was in. You know, I'm not going to
describe the detail of it, but in a very high level
conversation with senior leadership of SCAF just a few
weeks ago, and I realized a lot has changed since then;
however, they made absolutely clear that that's a problem
that they want to take on.
It's not in their interest to have unrest in
Sinai because it's a breeding ground for a lot of people
who might attack them as well as attack Egypt. I just --
kind of the last comment on this, I think SCAF wants to
carve out a big lane for itself to protect what it has,
and protect its prestige and make sure that no one who has
in some past life done anything that the international
criminal court or somebody might think is a bad thing is
ever prosecuted. I think they want immunity and
And I think they will try to negotiate that. I
think the rest of the governance issue could be if it's
adroitly managed, the province of a pluralistic
government, not just an ambigovernment. And there are
different strains of the Muslim Brotherhood, but -- for
example, Anwar Sadat, the nephew of Anwar Sadat who looks
exactly like Anwar Sadat and his wife has the same name as
the late Anwar Sadat.
MR. GOLDBERG: How do you know it wasn't the
actual Anwar Sadat?
MS. HARMAN: Maybe -- you know, true. I have to
think about that. It might have been Jeffery Goldberg
MR. GOLDBERG: From backside, yeah.
MS. HARMAN: So --
MR. GOLDBERG: I'm frequently mistaken for an
Egyptian politician. You're right, yeah.
MS. HARMAN: He is in a center right party,
secular party, and he assembled a delegation that came to
Washington last week and we had a meeting at the Wilson
Center and they went all over the Hill, et cetera. There
was a Salafi member, there was a cop, there was a woman
member of his party, there was, you know, sort of a
variety of folks all of whom are optimistic that the
government will get its act together and they will all
play a role in it.
And I would like to believe that will be an
outcome. I think there's -- you know, Egyptians, we
should not underestimate their capability. Of course, we
should not underestimate our own stupidity either. But we
can only affect this from the margins. And if we take --
if we nurtured this, I think there's the best chance that
we will play some role in the outcome while we could.
MR. GOLDBERG: Richard, do Muslim Brotherhood
and then jump on. Let's just move geographically and I
want you to open up the discussion about Syria, which is
obviously from an humanitarian perspective the worse
crisis the world is facing, which is 200 people were
murdered yesterday by the Syrian government. It's -- it
hasn't been morally tenable for some while. And if you
could open the -- after your Muslim Brotherhood piece,
open the discussion about why we aren't doing anything?
MR. HAASS: Thirty seconds more on Egypt, which
is to say I think the most dangerous scenario or difficult
scenario rather for American foreign policy is not a
closed Israeli relationship versus abrogation of the
treaty. It's the in-between. And my prediction is we've
had a cold peace between Egypt and Israel even under the
old government, the Mubarak. The question is whether
that's colder and you have something like the frigged
peace where you keep the formal treaty in place, but the
cooperation that gave the relationship meaning and
content, that goes away. And I think that's the
situation. We're likely to face, a combination of will
and -- lack of will and lack of capability on the Egyptian
side and that will pose some very difficult problems to
Syria. The best way to start Syria is to
juxtapose it against Egypt. Places like Egypt or Bahrain,
when people set it up, they always say the United States
needs to choose between strategic interest, national
security interest of cooperating with the state against
humanitarian interest or democracy interest. What's so
interesting about Syria is the interest line up. We have
humanitarian interest obviously in stopping the carnage.
Roughly what, 12,000 people plus or minus have
lost their lives since it began over the last year. And
we have strategic interest, particularly given the Iranian
connection with the Assad regime. It's not one of those
places where you've got to choose where realists and
idealists, if you will, are at loggerheads. In this case
there's much of a parallelism than is the case with other
It's not a question though I would say, where I
disagree with Jeffrey, it's not that we're doing nothing.
The United States is doing some things. There's sanctions
and the rest. The question is what are the options.
There's military intervention. We can talk about that.
There's arming the opposition, which is happening largely
through the Arabs. The United States is playing a slight
role there covertly, and there's a version of the status
quo, what I would call status quo plus or intervening
And there's a lot more we could be doing short
of the others. For example, we should be threatening
those who support the regime with war crimes indictments.
We should be upping the sanctions. The sanctions against
Syria should at least be as draconic as the sanctions
against Iran or civil aviation between Syria and Europe
and anywhere else, and Arab world, where we can have
countries to agree with us, what could be cut off.
Arab countries who are unhappy with Syria, and
many of them are, the Sunni countries, they ought to go to
Russia and they ought to be pulling out ambassadors and
introducing economic penalties against the Russians. We
ought to be sitting 24/7 with the Syrian opposition so
they make statements and they put together a serious
opposition that essentially reassures the Alawites of
Syria, the minority that run the country, that they will
not suffer the fate of the minorities Sunnis in Iraq when
Saddam was gone.
They have to know that that they have a real and
safe place in the future of Syria. So I actually think
there's a lot more we could do. And then we can discuss
here, I don't want to take too much time, the pros and
cons of the two major escalatory options, which is all-out
arming of the opposition or physical military
intervention, if you will, a Libya-plus scenario. I think
it has major shortfalls and major problems, but we can put
it on the table.
MR. GOLDBERG: But Jane, you're close to the
administration and I want you to answer this question.
Richard is right. There's an alignment here that you
usually don't find. There's obviously a humanitarian
interest. But Syria, we're talking about a regime that's
Iran's foremost ally and only Arab ally; you're talking
about Syria as a primary sponsor of terrorism.
There's no -- this is not an issue of, well,
Mubarak is our friend, so really should we be abandoning
him. This is an issue where Syria -- where the departure
of this regime could have only beneficial effects on our
national security if obviously an al-Qaida government
doesn't come into play which we can work on. So why does
this administration seem so passive on this question?
MS. HARMAN: Because the options are absolutely
terrible and there's total war fatigue in America.
There's an election going on. I thought I would point
that out. And there is no attack by air strategy that
will, of itself, cause regime change. So that means we or
some group of somebody has to go in by land, think land
war, another land war, which nobody wants. That's a
problem in Iran too.
I agree and I know our government agrees that
Bashar should go. But I think the only real option is the
Yemen option, which we can't seem to get to happen yet,
but which is he goes, his family gets sanctuary some
place, hopefully in Russia which is -- which should want
this, want to get him out, but doesn't, and then a
government is structured including Alawites.
So I completely agree with Richard. It's face
saving for them, and most of them or some of them are
butchers trying to destroy the rest of the population.
But if that government isn't structured, there will be allout
civil war. These are people who absolutely hate each
other. It's totally tribal and there are al-Qaida folks
in the mix. So I think arming the opposition when we
don't know who it is, is really a crazy strategy and it's
going to end up with arms being used against interests
that we seriously have.
MR. GOLDBERG: Nick, is it that dire? Is what
she proposes that dire? I mean, is that -- are we facing
no good options and no possible means of support short of,
you know --
MS. HARMAN: No, I said the Yemen option is the
MR. GOLDBERG: But you said it's --
MS. HARMAN: But going-in military option and
arming the opposition are not good options.
MR. GOLDBERG: Let me reframe it. If you were
making policy right now in the Obama administration, what
would your policy be?
MR. BURNS: Well, I would just like to say -- I
think that Jane's right in the sense that we've got to
have a sense of restraint here. Psychologically
throughout most of the last 30 or 40 years, we Americans
in both Republican and Democratic administrations have
tended to think that when we act, we can resolve all
problems. We cannot resolve this problem through U.S.
military intervention. This is not Libya for all sorts of
reasons. So I think that's an important point to make.
On the other hand, I think Richard makes a very important
powerful point. We've got nothing to lose by focusing in
on Assad and --
MR. GOLDBERG: But Jane says we do have
something to lose.
MR. BURNS: I'm just trying to agree with
Richard now. A typical diplomat.
MR. BURNS: A typical diplomat.
MS. HARMAN: Why should --
MR. BURNS: They're both friends of mine. We've
all worked together.
MR. GOLDBERG: I will agree with you, Jane, in
MR. BURNS: But I think there's a bridge here,
and that is what does the President have to lose if he
sanctions Assad to the extent that we've sanctioned Iran,
as Richard suggested, and if we make his departure a clear
objective of our policy. This gets to diplomacy. And I
think what's happening now, Secretary Clinton is meeting
the Foreign Minister Lavor off of Russia today, the U.S.
is obviously trying to convince the Russians that if they
want to have influence in Syria in the future, they
shouldn't be the last country standing as Assad departs
The stage right or left in the next couple of months.
Assad is going to lose power. The only question is when.
Can Russia be part of that solution? As Jane says --
MS. HARMAN: Or lead it.
MR. BURNS: Can they lead it and can there be a
Yemen type solution. We engineered the departure of Ali
Abdullah Saleh from Yemen. He was promised a safe
MS. HARMAN: Right.
MR. BURNS: No trial for war crimes, no
execution. Assad should take that deal because he'll be
leaving power. Russia is the key. And the final point
here, Jeff, we've got a lot of people saying that Russia
is a problem. It is a problem. Governor Romney has said,
not that he wants to take this back, that Russia is the
greatest adversary of the United States in the world, not
true. Russia is many things.
It's a very difficult country for us to deal
with and it opposes us on a host of issues. But it is a
partner in counter terrorism. It's been very helpful in
the resupply of our troops in Afghanistan. And Putin may
hold the key on two big Middle East issues; Iran and
Syria. If we're going to get an Iran deal, if, and that's
a very difficult proposition to imagine, Russia is
probably going to help write that deal. And the same is
true with Syria. So despite our disaffection from
Vladimir Putin and Sergie Lavrov, we got to work with
them. And I think that's what the President is trying to
do, and I think that's a sensible policy.
MR. GOLDBERG: Who is the -- what country is
America's foremost adversary in the world?
MR. BURNS: Iran.
MR. GOLDBERG: No doubt in your mind?
MR. BURNS: No question about it.
MR. GOLDBERG: Jane?
MS. HARMAN: I'd say, short term Pakistan,
bigger problem. I read a brilliant article, forget the
author, but it was called "Ally from Hell," which made a
point that at least six nuke sites in Pakistan --
MR. GOLDBERG: It's a great, great article.
MS. HARMAN: -- are unstable, and nuclear
materials may be driving around Pakistan -- may be driving
MS. HARMAN: Who?
MR. GOLDBERG: She's getting me back. It's fine.
MS. HARMAN: May be driving around Pakistan -- I
think he's Anwar Sadat, and -- but --
MR. GOLDBERG: Yeah, it's crazy that Anwar Sadat
is covering Pakistan for The Atlantic now.
MS. HARMAN: But Pakistan is just set up for
proliferation. And I think that that is a more urgent
dangerous issue than a year or two later in Iran.
MR. GOLDBERG: Stay on Pakistan. We'll loop
around back to Iran. Richard, is Pakistan -- you know,
it's interesting when you talk to people at CENTCOM and
you ask them, you know, CENTCOM is the military command
that covers most of the dysfunctional countries of the
world and they are focused like a laser on Iran.
Pakistan, you know, this has been there a lot of times, is
a completely dysfunctional state, which actually has
nuclear weapons already. It's not theoretical with
MS. HARMAN: Right.
MR. GOLDBERG: How do you rank Pakistan and Iran
in terms of potential crisis for this President or the
MR. HAASS: Well, you don't have the luxury of
choosing between them. They're both on the short list.
Iran is an imperial power that wants to spread its
influence throughout this critical part of the world and
one of its quest is to either acquire nuclear weapons or
get 90 percent of the way there because they believe it
will support this imperial quest of their, and also shield
them against various types of physical attack from Israel,
the United States and others.
Pakistan poses a different threat. Pakistan is
not an imperial power. Pakistan, the threat is not its
strength, it's its weakness and it's an imploding
Pakistan. It's a failing state. The question at some
point is whether anyone there is read Malcolm Gladwell and
the tips. What's so frightening about, you know, the
numbers are stark. We're worried about Iran acquiring
one, two or three nuclear weapons. Pakistan already
probably has upwards of 100.
The question is what can we do if anything to
try to prevent Pakistani failure and the possibility that
these weapons or materials get into the wrong hands. It's
already the state that's the greatest home to
international terrorism. The sanctuary they provide is
killing Americans in Afghanistan. So Pakistan, again, its
threat is its weakness, it's dysfunctionality. For Iran,
the threat is something different and Iran is on something
of a quest. So there's two different challenges, two both
very real, two as a result are calling forth very
different responses from the United States.
MR. GOLDBERG: Nick, do you think Pakistan is
tipping or do you think it's, from -- even from the
Pakistani perspective salvageable as a unitary state.
MR. BURNS: Well, it's dramatically -- the
situation in Pakistan is dramatically worse today than it
was 4 or 5 years ago. There's no question about that.
The U.S.-Pakistan relations, at an all-time low.
MR. GOLDBERG: They've always been at an alltime
MR. BURNS: This is the all-time low.
MS. HARMAN: All-time lower.
MR. BURNS: You know why?
MR. HAASS: Until tomorrow --
MR. GOLDBERG: Until tomorrow, yeah. We have a
panel tomorrow on the all-time low.
MR. BURNS: No trust.
MR. GOLDBERG: No trust.
MR. BURNS: Since President Obama rightly, we
decided this in the last panel, went in to take out Osama
bin Laden May 1, 2011, there's been no trust there. And
you have now the United States looking towards a departure
in Afghanistan. The President is going to take combat
troops out by 2014. We're actively seeking a political
deal with the Taliban.
That's going to further weaken out ties with
Pakistan because the Pakistanis don't want to see that and
they don't want to see India become more influential and
India is positioning itself to become more influential as
a protector of Karzai. So I think it's a much more
problematic security environment for us in dealing with
The one thing I would say is I wouldn't predict
imminent collapse. Say what you will about the sometimes
treacherous, sometimes not very trustworthy Pakistani
military, I think their, obviously their interest is in
survival of their institution, not just their country. I
think they can probably hold the country together through
this very unstable period as Afghanistan returns to a more
unstable state in the future.
MS. HARMAN: Can I just add one thing on that
MR. GOLDBERG: Go ahead.
MS. HARMAN: You know, there's a soap opera
going on in Pakistan. General Musharraf will be here in
the next few days and he ultimately had to leave power
because the Supreme Court headed by the guy who still
heads it declared his holding power unconstitutional. And
then there was an election and everyone remembers Benazir
Bhutto was assassinated and her husband Zardari became the
Just recently the Supreme Court dismissed the
prime minister because he refuses to -- I don't know what
the technical word is, but make Zardari vulnerable to
prosecution for corruption. And so now there's a new
prime minister who won't do it either and he'll get
dismissed. And so there's going to be this sort of
Saturday Night Massacre experience where no one will be in
power on the civilian --
MR. GOLDBERG: Right.
MS. HARMAN: -- side in Pakistan. And what
worries me about that is that if the only piece of the
government left is the military, let's remember -- I think
we should -- that Osama bin Laden was hiding in plain
sight in a military garrison town and I think there is
plenty of reason to believe he was protected and the
military has refused to go against major terror groups in
the country. So I don't think that that's any kind of
recipe for stability of any nature and I do think Pakistan
could melt down any day.
MR. GOLDBERG: Should we refrain -- should we
refrain the whole Pakistan issue and say look, they're
actually working against the American interest. Can we
just be frank about it and deal with it as an enemy or as
an adversary instead of making believe this fiction that
MR. HAASS: We certainly should not use the word
ally. We certainly should not use the word partner. If
you want to call them a limited partner I'd put "limited"
in caps and "partner" in lower case. This is a
relationship -- again they're providing sanctuary to
terrorists. They're providing sanctuary to the groups
that are undermining Afghanistan and killing Americans in
They've got this enormous nuclear arsenal. A.Q.
Khan, this revered figure in Pakistan was basically
running the Walmart of nuclear trade. So let's not kid
ourselves. This is not an ally. It's -- many ways, isn't
our friend. I'm not sure we gain a whole lot by publicly
calling them adversaries, something like that.
I don't think it makes sense to write countries
off. Instead again, you want to come back first of all
through realistic relations with them, get rid of the
glitter, get rid of the idealistic hopes, approach them
for what they are, and have a extremely narrow
transactional relationship. Again, we will only provide
certain types of support, military support or economic
support on condition of certain types of behaviors or
reforms. But the idea like after 9/11 that when we pump
billions and billions and billions, with double figures in
front of it, of dollars into Pakistan on the hope they
would be a reliable partner in the global or regional
effort against terrorism was about as flawed a foreign
policy as we could carry out.
MR. GOLDBERG: I want to go to the big enchilada
in a minute, Liechtenstein. The --
MR. BURNS: Thank God, I was hoping --
MR. GOLDBERG: No, we've got to deal with that.
MR. BURNS: I'm prepared for that.
MR. GOLDBERG: If that implodes, boy, then you
MR. BURNS: As goes Liechtenstein.
MR. GOLDBERG: Then Monaco, you know, let's --
it's a domino effect.
MR. BURNS: Domino theory, yeah.
MR. GOLDBERG: It's a domino theory, the Iran
question. But I have this broad question that I want --
you're all very smart and maybe you could answer this. In
1947, the subcontinent of Asia was divided into two parts.
One part today is the world's largest democracy, a vibrant
economy, one of the world's largest middle classes.
The other part is Pakistan. What happened?
Nick, I mean have you thought about this? Why did it --
is it reversible and how did this come to pass that these
two places that are so alike obviously in so many ways,
MR. BURNS: And so different.
MR. GOLDBERG: And so different.
MR. BURNS: In their founding, in their founding
fathers, Muhammad Ali Jinnah or Nehru. I won't go through
the history of South Asia in a minute --
MR. GOLDBERG: No, could you?
MR. BURNS: I won't. I'll spare you, but I'd
like to just -- one more point --
MR. GOLDBERG: Most probably the lunch session
we're going to do.
MR. BURNS: Here's the problem for us. If we
engage in name-calling against Pakistan, and if we
effectively decide to walk away from the relationship, we
hurt ourselves in two respects; on the margins, although
they've not been a faithful, unstinting partner in
counterterrorism, they still do have troops on the Afghan-
Pakistan border which is where most of our terrorist
MR. GOLDBERG: Right.
MR. BURNS: We still needed in that fight.
Secondly and more importantly, there's going to be a very
messy drawdown in Afghanistan, and we're going to have to
try to leave and not have the country completely splinter
and maybe collapse in the process. Like it or not,
Pakistan is going to write part of that history. It's
been a major actor in the negotiations with Taliban. And
so Richard's right, they're not our friend, they're not
our partner. We ought not to be giving them billions
every year, but we need to retain some influence and some
MR. GOLDBERG: But answer -- yeah, the --
MR. BURNS: To go to your question -- to go to
your question, obviously the rise of India as the world's
largest democracy, strategic partner of the United States,
likeminded on how to handle China, likeminded on how to
handle Afghanistan, this is a major preoccupation for us.
And I'm -- I've been -- the last couple of days at Aspen
trying to stress the point that sometimes in foreign
policy we see more integration between Republicans and
Democrats than differences.
Here you have a case in India where President
Clinton opened the door to a big relationship, President
Bush built that relationship, and President Obama has
maintained it. So you have bipartisan consensus. It's
not an alliance. India is not going to be a treaty ally
of the United States is too big, it's too proud, but the
Indians see their strategic interest in coincidence with
ours. That's a good thing, and the tricky balance for
MS. HARMAN: Except for Iran.
MR. GOLDBERG: You asked a different question.
You asked us why is Pakistan not -- why has it not worked?
MR. BURNS: And I'm just answering as usual. I
MR. GOLDBERG: Are you getting to it?
MR. BURNS: As usual.
MS. HARMAN: He was going to defend, Richard.
He's about to defend you.
MR. BURNS: I've been doing a lot of listening
here, Richard, you know.
MR. HAASS: I don't want to fight.
MR. GOLDBERG: Dick's making a really good point.
MR. HAASS: I don't want to fight over a
MR. BURNS: As we're diplomats. Very diplomatic.
MR. HAASS: Yeah, we're diplomatic. The tricky
thing here is --
MR. GOLDBERG: Yeah.
MR. BURNS: There is still an India-Pakistan
balance that we have to be mindful of in our own
relationship, and if we try to insert India as our major
partner in Afghanistan there's going to be a Pakistani
reaction. So we have to be mindful of the Pakistanis from
there. Pakistan's a failed state, India is very
successful, what else can we say?
MR. GOLDBERG: Can you go to that --
MR. HAASS: Building on what Nick was saying --
MR. GOLDBERG: Yes.
MR. HAASS: -- I would say a few things. I
think the definition of Pakistan from the get-go as a
state whose identity was based upon religion set the stage
for certain problems, particularly when it was built upon
a society that had very powerful families, in some ways a
feudal society where you had very few of the institutions
that we would think of are pre-democratic plus very, very
powerful geographic and tribal splits.
So it was very hard to build national identity
against that backdrop. Among other things, the army
became the most powerful institution in the country, so
you just didn't have a lot of the prerequisites of
democratic progression. And quite honestly, I don't see
it -- I don't see it coming. A friend of mine,
(inaudible), when he was dean at the Kennedy School, went
on to run Harvard, he used to have three boxes on his
desk, "In," "Out," and "Too hard."
MR. HAASS: And to some extent, Pakistan is in
the "Too hard" box if your goal is that you think somehow
you're going to turn it into a flourishing, liberal
democracy, market-oriented country that's going to act
responsibly in its national security -- isn't going to
happen. So that sometimes in foreign policy, your goal is
to bring about wonderful outcomes, this is not one of them.
Here the U.S. goal is to try to somehow prevent
or forestall awful outcomes. And even -- that may not
sound like it's ambitious, but in this case that is mighty
ambitious for all the obvious reasons.
MS. HARMAN: Can I say something bad about India?
MR. GOLDBERG: Yes.
MS. HARMAN: -- isn't India still a close ally
MS. HARMAN: No?
MS. HARMAN: Okay, got that wrong. Okay. But
India just tested a nuclear weapon in the middle of this
drama about getting Iran to allow full IAEA inspection,
we're getting there, and so on --
MR. GOLDBERG: Yes.
MS. HARMAN: -- and trying to prevent North
Korea from testing more weapons, India tests a weapon.
And India and Pakistan are both nuclear states and they
both mistrust each other totally and they're still
fighting over Kashmir. I'm not exactly sure what the
interests are in Kashmir anymore, if I ever knew, and --
MS. HARMAN: -- I'm sure these two know, Nick
knows everything about Kashmir, I know he does. But I
worry that by taking India's side in all this, we are
creating a bigger problem for ourselves, not just in
Afghanistan, but I do think to remind "Ally from Hell,"
even if they're no longer our ally, let's say "frenemy
from hell," 100 nukes, vulnerable nuclear sites, six or
seven terror groups that are given safe haven in the
country, an imploding civilian government, I mean, this is
very dangerous to empower India at a time when Pakistan is
MR. BURNS: I would say -- if I could just
defend India for a second? Could I do that?
MR. GOLDBERG: Yeah, defend India for one second
and we'll come to --
MR. BURNS: Actually, I was going to defend Bush
and Obama. I think Jane's right. India hasn't been a
perfect friend of the United States. On Iran, until it
was faced with U.S. sanctions in the last few months, the
Indians were importing 14 percent of their oil from Iran.
It's now below 9 percent. So they've reacted to the
threat of sanctions.
MS. HARMAN: Okay. Well, good.
MR. BURNS: But I do think Jane is right, it's a
really -- and as Richard said foreign policy is sometimes
just a question of bad choices, which one do you choose.
And we need a strategic military partnership with India
because of China, to balance China. But if we
overcompensate and put too much into the Indian
relationship, we're going to send the Pakistanis off on a
tear. And so there's got to be a little bit of balance
here of restraint, and of restraining the Indians from
trying to defeat the Pakistanis and Afghanistan on
Kashmir. Every American administration since 1947, '48,
has not taken India's side, has been neutral, and we are
still neutral under President Obama. And I think that's
the right place for us to be. There's no premium for us
of supporting --
MS. HARMAN: But is there any way to resolve
MR. BURNS: Not in the short term.
MR. GOLDBERG: Let me go to an issue that is
more urgent than Kashmir for American foreign
policymakers. And the reason I'm sort of holding out Iran
for last, we're going to go to questions in a few minutes,
is that I was kind of hoping that Ehud Barak would walk
through the door and so we'd be able to answer our
questions. As many of the Israeli defense minister is
coming to the festival today, but he's not here yet. And
I wanted to ask him when he's going to attack Iran.
MR. GOLDBERG: And I'm sure he would just -- you
know, within the confines of the tent, share that
information with us, but since he's not here I want to go
to that direct question, and then we could broaden out on
the Iran question.
Richard, I mean, give us your -- this has been,
you know, a growing crisis. The Obama administration's
number two fear -- number one is the collapse of the euro -
- its number two fear is a preemptive strike on the
Iranian nuclear facilities by Israel before November.
Where do you think we are -- and Jane, I want you to do
this and Nick too -- where do you think we are, what are
the chances of an attack, what are the chances that
President Obama will give up on these set of negotiations
that aren't going well, and if he's reelected move in 2013
toward military action with Iran?
MR. HAASS: Well, you've got different timelines
going on here. You've got the timeline of Iran's nuclear
endeavors and what they're doing is enriching uranium to
various levels in ever-larger amounts. Since this meeting
has begun, they've enriched more uranium. So uranium
enrichment is happening in Iran as well as fortification
of their new uranium enrichment facility and what Ehud
Barak will talk about is what he calls his zone of
What he is worried is that the quantity of
Iranian nuclear material as well as the quantity and
quality of the cement they build around it to protect it,
that Iran will arrive at a point that any Israeli raid
cannot achieve a decisive amount -- a meaningful enough
result and that Iran will be left with enough of a nuclear
capability that will still pose a threat to Israel. So
Israel feels the pressure to act before this zone of
immunity as he calls it, before this timeline runs its
course. When will that happen, 6 months, a year,
something like that -- (inaudible).
The Israelis know the United States couldn't
militarily accomplish a lot more vis a vis Iran if we so
chose, and they have -- they're not sure we will so
choose. They're not confident in our willingness and they
also know America has a much longer timeline because we
have much stronger munitions, much larger Air Force, much
larger missile force, we don't feel the same time-pressure
of acting that Israel does. The other thing that came
through -- and I was just in Israel last week -- the other
thing that came through is Israeli nervousness about the
They are extraordinarily worried that the United
States and the other countries involved might be willing
to settle for an outcome that would be enough for us, that
we could tolerate a degree of capability and ambiguity on
Iran's part, but would be too much for Israel. So all of
this is going into the Israeli decision-making pot, and I
would simply say that between now and November I think the
odds are not negligible. I don't know if it's 3 out of
10, 4 out of 10, or something like that, but I think the
odds are about that level that Israel will strike.
We'll give a little bit longer, in part because
the new sanctions kicking in within a number of days, but
I think they've essentially given up on these talks, that
these talks will ever produce a result soon enough given
again their concerns about the rate of Iranian enrichment
and fortification. So my hunch is Ehud Barak and the
prime minister of Israel, B.B. Netanyahu, will probably
face a fateful decision sometime this fall, are they
prepared to use military force given all the repercussions
for our bilateral relationship knowing what it would mean
for our political process and are they prepared to do it
given the possibilities obviously of Iranian retaliation.
I would simply say that the chances of Israel
doing that are far more than negligible. I wouldn't say
it's necessarily likely, but it's in that range of a real
MR. GOLDBERG: Jane, is there any chance that
the Israelis are simply bluffing?
MS. HARMAN: Well, I think some Israelis are
opposed to military action.
MR. GOLDBERG: I'm talking about the two
Israelis who matter.
MS. HARMAN: Oh, I think it's more than two who
matter. I mean, I think with this new coalition, I think
what Mofaz thinks matters, and I think there are probably,
you know, three others that I could think of who matter
too. But it's not a huge -- it's not the whole Knesset
that matters, and it's probably not me that matters, hard
as it is for me to accept that. But --
MR. GOLDBERG: You matter to us.
MS. HARMAN: Let me -- sweet.
MR. GOLDBERG: Yes.
MS. HARMAN: Let me add a few more points.
MR. GOLDBERG: This isn't the first rodeo Jane
and I've done together.
MS. HARMAN: Yeah, we've had this going on for
MR. GOLDBERG: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
MS. HARMAN: He's wonderful. He's wonderful.
MR. GOLDBERG: Yeah, yeah.
MS. HARMAN: So first of all on our intelligence
on Iran, that's something I have focused on for years,
it's better, but it isn't great. And there were two
coordinates to trying to get a picture of Iran. One is
its capabilities, and I agree with Richard, that its
enrichment capability even with some covert action that --
by somebody that slowed it down a little bit is increasing.
Whether -- nobody thinks Iran has a bomb now,
but it has the enrichment capability and will have it in a
near term whatever that means to produce bombs in a near
term after that, think a few years maximum. The second
coordinate is intentions, what does Iran really want to do
with this? And noise is not an intention. A lot of
countries make noise. What do the five people who matter
in Iran really want to do and I don't think we know the
answer to that. Attacking Iran, whether Israel does it,
or we do with Israel, or somebody else does it, may delay
Iran getting the bomb, but the day after is also a unity
and resolve of unity inside the Iranian government.
It probably means that the government which is
inside Iran, that the government which is now fragile and
hobbled by sanctions might have the ability to survive. I
mean some bad things happen after an attack that we have
to measure too, or somebody has to measure. So I don't
know what the calculus is. I think we should -- I think
Israel is waiting until sanctions fully kick in, which is
next month. That hasn't happened yet.
MR. GOLDBERG: It's tomorrow.
MS. HARMAN: It's tomorrow? Oh, it's tomorrow.
MR. BURNS: Central Bank sanctions it, yeah.
MR. GOLDBERG: Yeah.
MS. HARMAN: Okay, well, I think Israel is not
going to attack today.
MR. GOLDBERG: Okay.
MS. HARMAN: So -- and anyway --
MR. GOLDBERG: Ehud Barak is going to be --
MS. HARMAN: Ehud Barak is here, so it'd be
MR. GOLDBERG: Would you actually -- would you
actually, we all know Ehud Barak, he would -- he's a
classic wily commando, he might actually launch the attack
from the Greenwald Pavilion.
MR. GOLDBERG: There's a small chance.
MS. HARMAN: With you, Jeff. You'd be next to
MR. GOLDBERG: Or the St. Regis Hotel. Maybe
MS. HARMAN: You -- but something I forgot to
say about Egypt and it relates to all this, if only there
were some progress on the two-party talks, the two-country
talks, Israel-Palestine, I think that would send a signal
I know --
MR. HAASS: Jane, we talked about this, come on -
MS. HARMAN: Come on Richard, it would send a
signal to the world that could change a lot of the
calculations and the view of Israel. I do think that.
MR. GOLDBERG: And if bears could fly and they
could probably have a new story --
MS. HARMAN: So I just -- I just started a
MR. GOLDBERG: It's not happening any --
MR. HAASS: Any of the -- it's not --
MS. HARMAN: You don't think it would matter?
MR. HAASS: For this -- for the consideration of
Iran's nuclear question, Israel security, absolutely not.
MS. HARMAN: For Iran's consideration?
MR. HAASS: No ma'am, irrelevant.
MS. HARMAN: And you don't think it'd matter for
Egypt's consideration either?
MR. GOLDBERG: Jane, I want to go to -- we're
going to go to questions. I want Nick to deal with the --
MS. HARMAN: Okay.
MR. GOLDBERG: No, no, no.
MS. HARMAN: Does anybody agree with me that we
ought to have progress? Hey --
MR. HAASS: On the sanctions, the --
MS. HARMAN: -- look at these, 10 brilliant
MR. GOLDBERG: The Harman caucus can meet
afterwards in Doerr-Hosier room. I want Nick to go to the
question and let me fold in one other question and then
we're going to go to questions. The other aspect of this
is do you believe that President Obama would use military
force, not necessarily now, but use military force rather
than allow Iran to cross the nuclear threshold?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
MR. GOLDBERG: Okay, go to the previous question
MR. BURNS: However, I don't think an Israeli
attack is likely in 2012 for the following reason, and I
know that some of you have heard this in the various
panels we've been conducting here, it's been 32 years
since we've had a sustained dialogue between Israel and
Iran, since the Jimmy Carter administration, 32 years. So
the President's in the third month of our multilateral
negotiations with Iran, those negotiations are not going
to make progress this summer, if progress is going to be
made. And there's a big question mark about that.
It's going to take a lot longer. So I would
expect that the administration, China, Russia, Britain,
France, and Germany -- those are the countries at the
table on one side against Iran, are going to try to keep
these going if they can, through most of this year. If
that's true, there's no possibility of Israel striking --
firing a shot across the bow of all those countries, I
don't -- I don't see it happening.
Here's the problem with diplomacy however. We
have to stay at the table long enough to make sure we're
searching, you know, doing everything we can to produce
some kind of a deal with Iran. Answering the question of
whether it's possible, we can't stay too long, or else
Iran runs out the clock. It's simply continues to enrich
uranium, and suddenly 3 years from now we're at the table
and Iran announces they're nuclear-capable. So there is a
fine delicate balance. I would just make an appeal for
diplomacy right now, and I know it's going to happen.
After this next desultory meeting -- we used
that word the last time, where you're not going to see
progress, the New York Times will report failure, all
sorts of people will come out of the woodwork in our
society to say President Obama is naïve, diplomacy is
naïve, there's only one way to deal with these guys, turn
to the military option. I think that would be a tragic
mistake. If this is the only opportunity we're going to
have to talk to these guys, and these are cynical, brutal
people, we're going to have to extend these conversations
longer than 3 months.
What else is President Obama doing? The Central
Bank sanctions kicked in yesterday by the United States,
the toughest sanctions we've ever imposed on Iran. The EU
oil sanctions kick in Sunday and Monday. I would also say
if that's the second leg of your policy, negotiations
versus sanctions, simultaneously, we're going to need a
couple of months to see if the Iranians respond to those
Third, and this really answers your question, I
thought the President made a major move in his policy at
the AIPAC conference.
When he came out and said at the AIPAC
conference in March, I don't believe in containment. I'm
not willing to live with the nuclear armed Iran because it
will lead to the proliferation of nuclear powers in the
Middle East -- that was an important moment given what
he's already demonstrated on the al-Qaida front and in
both Yemen and in the Afghan-Pak border. If talks break
down and sanctions don't work, and if the President's
reelected, I think the President will be very tough-minded
on this, I imagine, and I think the military option will
be very much under consideration in 2013 or '14.
MR. GOLDBERG: A quick point and then we're
going to have mikes.
MR. HAASS: What worries me after my talks in
Israel is the possibility that the Iranians will offer a
policy of parking their nuclear capability just below
having a nuclear weapon.
MR. GOLDBERG: Ninety percent capable.
MR. HAASS: The 90 percent, and the question is
whether that's enough for us and the rest of the world and
-- but still too much for Israel. And that's why I am
skeptical a bit of negotiated outcome and the history of
sanctions leads you to some modesty about what sanctions
can accomplish, even though these are quite -- and I keep
coming back to the Israeli timeline. The Israelis -- if
they want to keep security in their own hands, if they
want to not -- if you will franchise it out and I hope
Iraq will make this clear, they do not have the luxury of
waiting beyond a certain point. And that I think for them
is what's behind this potential decision to act sooner
rather than later.
MR. BURNS: And Richard -- and very briefly --
MR. GOLDBERG: Yeah.
MR. BURNS: And Richard, I think here -- if this
all unfolds the way you've just suggested and it very well
may, this is too important for us to see Israel get out
ahead of the United States and attack against our will and
in a timeline that we don't choose. And so here's the
really difficult part of the U.S.-Israeli relationship,
very close, we're friends, but we may have separate
tactical interests here. And I would hope that the Obama-
Netanyahu relationship could be repaired so that the
United States can continue to lead -- if anyone's going to
use force, it ought to be us, not Israel.
MR. HAASS: I -- we would be in a better
MR. GOLDBERG: We're going to go to questions.
One right here is -- we're going to -- wait for the mike
if you could because this is being recorded.
MR. ROGIN: Thanks very much. I'm Josh Rogin,
Foreign Policy Magazine. I wanted to ask a question about
Pakistan. We've talked a lot today about the actions of
Pakistan, but we've also talked about how Pakistan is
engaged in internal struggle over its identity and its
future. If you talk to the civilian leadership of
Pakistan, the Pakistan Peoples Party, they always say the
same thing. They say they are the ones in Pakistan who
are more liberal, more democratic, more secular, more
amenable to turning Pakistan towards western-focused
foreign policy interests, but that the U.S. government has
failed to realign its focus from the military and
intelligence relationships to a strengthening of the
partnership between those in Pakistan who would like to
work with the U.S. more and those in the U.S. who would
like to work with Pakistan more. They simply claim that
we haven't supported the Pakistan Peoples Party in their
struggle for democracy in Pakistan, a struggle that they
seem to be losing. I'm wondering if you all see that as a
valid point, if you think it's too late or can we still
realign American policy towards the civilians in Pakistan
who seem to want to work with us and seem to --
MR. GOLDBERG: Why don't we go to -- yeah,
Richard, do you want to do that?
MR. HAASS: You've got to deal with the reality
that the military is the most powerful and capable
institution in Pakistan. Second, a lot of our national
security interests with Pakistan do involve national
security type things. On the other hand, you know, we
need to have a civilian side to it which explains the
economic aid, supports for example, explains the support
for say, Benazir Bhutto returning. The United States has
pushed things, politically impacts it.
But the fact is though we were up against the
reality where pushing on the civilian side of Pakistan is
pushing on a very weak lead --
MS. HARMAN: Yeah.
MR. HAASS: -- particularly in the context of
some of the national security priorities we've got. It's
possible that the ties we've got in the balance is
slightly off. I don't disagree with the thrust of your
question, but what I would challenge is even if we were --
put slightly more marbles on the civilian side and
slightly few on the military side, the idea that that
would have a transforming effect, I just don't buy it.
MR. GOLDBERG: Jane, do you --
MS. HARMAN: There's also -- seems to me some
responsibility on the part of the PPP and the Pakistani
people. For example, they pay virtually no taxes in
Pakistan and yet they come and ask the U.S. for aid.
That's really not okay. And there's massive corruption in
the civilian government in Pakistan, not to excuse the
military for things that it does. So I think that
complaint is basically unfounded and agree with Richard --
agree with Richard -- that because it's so weak, it's very
difficult for our support which is there to get the kind
of traction it might if that government took more
MR. GOLDBERG: Do you want to --
MR. BURNS: Full agreement.
MR. GOLDBERG: Okay. There's a question over
here, this -- yeah. No, no, no, right next to you, sorry.
SPEAKER: Ladies first.
MR. GOLDBERG: Ladies first, she had her hand
MS. TEMPLE-RASTON: Dina Temple-Raston with
National Public Radio. Question I have for you is a
different kind of hotspot. I wonder if you can talk a
little bit about the hotspot -- the al-Qaida hotspots that
are growing up, where we should be worried? I know
Secretary Panetta said it's strategically defeated, but
clearly they're popping up in places we hadn't expected in
North Africa et cetera.
MR. HAASS: The biggest challenge faced in the
United States in this area is not strong states, it's weak
states. And they moved into so-called ungoverned spaces
not so much with the acquiescence of governments, but
beyond the capacity of many of these governments, be it
Yemen, or Somalia, we're seeing elements of it. In Libya
we see elements of it, and Nigeria, obviously Pakistan.
And I think this is the future. There's no reason this
might not happen in 6 or 10 or 15 or 20 more places where
they will exploit lack or capacity of lack of will or
both, and it's the reason that you do need a global
effort, and I think you're going to see the kinds of
combination of special forces, drones and the like is
going to become the norm rather than the exception.
You're not going to see future Iraqs and
Afghanistans. We're not going to be sending a 100,000-
plus American militaries to occupy and remake other
societies. But we are going to have to have a scalable
counterterrorism policy that can go around the world and I
think that's what you're beginning to see the U.S.
military adapting to.
MR. GOLDBERG: Jane?
MS. HARMAN: Well, I was -- I'm going to say
this on Dina's panel on Monday, but I think we have
eliminated al-Qaida core, that's the top management that
lives in Pakistan. We're on about the fourth generation
and these guys get whacked almost as soon as they take
power. And I do support the --
MR. GOLDBERG: I like the way she says whacked.
MS. HARMAN: I do support the use of our drone
program. However, playing whack-a-mole is not an adequate
strategy and to get on top of what is a defused
horizontally organized threat that does feed on weak
states, we have to win the argument. It's not enough to
have a kind of covert military strategy. We have to live
our values. That means closing Guantanamo, and it means
having the rule of law applied to all of our actions
including our drone program which we are now doing. I
commend John (phonetic), but my point is it's a real
problem, but to defeat it, a military solution is not
MR. GOLDBERG: Can I just add one thing to the
question and ask Nick to answer this? Does it matter --
does the bureaucratic al-Qaida matter as much anymore in
the age of self-radicalizing terrorists? We have another
issue entirely that we're not focused on because we're
worried about organizations in Yemen or in the tribal
MR. BURNS: Yeah.
MR. GOLDBERG: Yeah.
MR. BURNS: It certainly matters, but it's not
sufficient just to defeat it because as you say it's
implicit in the question, you've got in Somalia and in
Sudan and in Yemen now offshoots of al-Qaida that are as
virulent as Osama bin Laden ever was.
MS. HARMAN: Yeah.
MR. BURNS: So in answer to Richard's point I
would just say this. Here's the good news, if there's any
good news in this fight; there is no difference between
the two political parties in our country on this. You've
seen a nearly complete even handoff from President Bush to
President Obama. If anything President Obama has
prosecuted the war with a greater ferocity and that's the
right word for it than President --
MS. HARMAN: no question.
MR. BURNS: -- Bush did. We've learned a couple
of lessons, and two come to my mind and I served in the
last both Clinton and Bush administrations, putting a
100,000 -- 150,000 troops into Moslem countries occupying,
as Richard says, trying to remake them, not the best way
to get at this problem that you've asked us about which is
And so you see a clear shift in Afghanistan in
strategy. We've given up on counterinsurgency trying to
remake every hamlet in Afghanistan. We're turning
towards, you know, commandoes on distant basis, take them
off the streets and strike at our enemies when we have to.
And we'll have to do that not just in the Afghan-Pakistan
border, but in Yemen and in Northeast Africa.
It's going to be a very tough fight. Last
point, we can't go it alone. And here's how we've got
just say unilateralism is over for us and isolationalism
is over too. We need a 1,000 allies in this and we've got
them. The Arab countries are with us on this fight, the
Europeans are, and most of the Asian allies. So it's not
a hopeless picture for us.
MS. HARMAN: And Jeffrey --
MR. GOLDBERG: Yeah.
MS. HARMAN: Just two more points. One, the
Muslim Brotherhood, even though it scares us, at least is
operating inside the tent. The rise of political Islam,
Islamist parties is the nightmare for al-Qaida; al-Qaida
wants to blow up the tent.
MR. BURNS: Right.
MS. HARMAN: So as these movements, hopefully
some of them moderate, get traction in the Arab world,
this is a good news story and we shouldn't forget that.
MR. GOLDBERG: I'm sorry, this has to be the
last question. Make it a good one. Okay.
SPEAKER: Okay, my name is --
MR. GOLDBERG: Really broad, overarching.
MILANTOFF: My name is Milantoff (phonetic).
I'm from the Netherlands. My question is I have the
feeling -- already an hour we talk about the symptoms --
of a disease which might be caused by fundamental things,
distrust, humiliation, and disconnection between cultures.
MR. BURNS: Between?
MR. GOLDBERG: Cultures.
MR. BURNS: Cultures.
MILANTOFF: Between cultures, yes. How can
maybe ordinary beings, civilians help to fight the cause
of the disease instead of fighting the symptoms?
MR. BURNS: And the disease being? Be more
MILANTOFF: Well, like the gap between cultures
and the distrust, the fundamental fear and actually
emotions between different parts of the global society.
MR. GOLDBERG: That was a broad question.
MR. BURNS: It's a broad question.
MR. GOLDBERG: It's a very broad question. Do
you want to try first?
MR. HAASS: I'll try a piece of it. I think
humiliation is an important force in international
relations, more within countries. I actually think a lot
of the Arab upheavals to some extent have humiliation at
their core, and I think it makes a strong case for
political participation, it makes a strong case for
economic opportunity, it makes a strong case for doing
things about -- against corruption for essentially giving
people the say in their own destinies.
So I think if one could do things -- and this is
not just a rule for governments, this is -- corporations
can have a large role, non-profits, civil society,
educational institutions are important, but to the -- I
think actually the principle source of rage in a lot of
the world is humiliation at a personal level and to the
extent that that can be -- it cannot be done away with,
but it can be reduced and people can have other more
positive outlets. I actually think it would have a
MR. GOLDBERG: Okay.
MS. HARMAN: I agree with Richard.
MR. GOLDBERG: Duly noted.
MS. HARMAN: And -- yes.
MR. GOLDBERG: Want to stop there?
MS. HARMAN: No. And I would commend an op-ed
that Tom Friedman wrote the other day about how these
revolutions were fueled by a lack of trust between people
and their governments. But the response is now fueled by
a lack of trust with each other. And building trust is a
huge piece of getting to some place good. And the pitch I
wanted to make here is you can't build trust if you leave
women out. And that unfortunately --
MS. HARMAN: They like that better than my
MR. BURNS: It's a better point.
MS. HARMAN: It's --
MR. GOLDBERG: It's a better point.
MR. BURNS: Crowd wisdom.
MS. HARMAN: So they're going to have a panel
later on Israel-Palestine. But anyway if we leave women
out, and there's a serious danger of that happening in a
number of these places, and not just leave them out of the
political equation, leave them out of the economic
equation, because women are drivers of the economies in
many of these places. And we're also more than half of
the talent pool.
MR. GOLDBERG: Nick, last word.
MR. BURNS: All right, thanks for your question.
I would just say briefly psychology does play a part in
international politics, no question about it, and I
thought when President Obama went to Cairo in June of 2009
and gave that very impressive speech, it was a fine -- it
was a good moment. But we need to do a lot more. And
here's the political point just to ground it a little bit
on what we might be able to do in the next few months as
we go through our own election, if we paint every Islamist
movement in the Arab world as radical and as, you know,
not worthy of our respect and attention, that's going to
be self-defeating. We're not in charge. The Arab people
are going to be in charge of these 22 different
They're all going to look differently, and I
think particularly in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is not
my dance card. I don't actually support most of what they
believe in. But they won the election. We're going to
have to give them a chance to work with us and to try to
define a relationship, and that is crossing a cultural,
psychological barrier that you talked about, very
important that we be a little bit sophisticated about the
differences between some of these groups in the Arab world.
MR. GOLDBERG: Just a -- thank you very much --
just a programming note. At 11:30 tonight I'll be here
with the ambassadors from Andorra and Liechtenstein.
MR. GOLDBERG: So just meet me here. Try to get
here early if you can. I want to thank the panel. It was
fantastic. Thank you very much for coming. Thank you.
* * * * *
Audio/Video: Middle East
What's at stake politically in several of the world's hot spots including Egypt, Syria, Iran, and Pakistan? See more
Israel's Minister of Defense on Egypt's new president, the unraveling of Syria, Iran's nuclear capabilities, and the... See more
With two hot wars, plus what’s going on with Libya and our own domestic economic woes, we face some very big challenges... See more
Fact: Middle East
8% of Iranians approved of US leadership in late 2011 and early 2012 — one of the lowest ratings the US receives worldwide. 46% of Iranians support cutting ties with countries that impose economic sanctions on Iran 31% do not, showing a sizable minority of Iranians still value relations.
—Gallup World, Feb. 2012