Listen: Dr. Patrick Clawson Breaks Down the U.S.-Iran Crisis
"After after the US assassinated Iranian General Qassem Sulamani last Thursday night cable news and social media were inundated with people sharing their thoughts. What's on what the strike would mean for the future of the Middle East and whether it might mean war between the US and Iran? This week I spoke with two foremost Middle East. Experts is to clear the noise and get the real sense of what this all means. I here's my interview with Dr Patrick. CLAWSON director of research at the Washington Institute a fluent Farsi Speaker an eminent Iran expert. Who helped us understand what is going on right now inside Iran? Patrick thank you so much for joining us. Yes thanks for having me now. I saw a few people comparing the other night. The assassination of Qassams Sulamani to if an enemy had killed the American American Vice President Chairman of the joint she says staff of the Armed Forces and the director of the CIA all rolled into one. I'm not sure if that's exactly Accurate but it certainly gets. The point across that Sumani was a hugely important figure in Iran. Who did most of his work outside of the country? So maybe you can tell us who was costume Sumani when he was only responsive to the supreme leader so he was somebody operated outside completely outside of the control rule the elected government and he had had quite a low profile until the battle against Isis when is is the Islamic state launched some spectacular tax writing Tehran against the modulus parliament and against Khomeini's tune. Many the Iranians became afraid that Isis was going to wound their country your same way that it unexpectedly rolled across northern Iraq and over much just Syria and there was the perception that was the role luminary guards particular vessel money who saves the country from that fate and that really is what launched him on this past being so incredibly popular and then he capitalized on on this by showing up on the front lines and the battles against Isis and the battles against the opponents of the Syrian regime and he showed up on the front lines. It's both in Iraq and Syria repeatedly tried to claim credit for Iran For the battle against Isis which was not very deserved of course the irony is that it was the sectarian policies ultra sectarian policies. That Isis had the knicks had a push the Iraqi government to adopt which. We're so responsible for young Sudanese turning to Isis. They're only possible savior. And it's this part of the broader kind of complexity the day of the Middle East that you know when we think of maybe America's enemies or or Western enemies in the Middle East. We often think of well. I guess nowadays now as we think of the Sunni extremists Isis but kind of historically we think of Shiite extremists backed by Iran groups like Hezbollah for instance. Right right right and Iran has a long history of being prepared to work with the Sunni radicals at the same time that it's fighting. That's what it did with the Taliban with what with al Qaeda in Iraq would simultaneously work with and fight these organizations and so that history of Iran being both the firemen and the arsonist is what he wrong same approach Brought to the fight against Isis. What do we know about the specifics of the attack last week? That Killed Sumani. Well we know that it was remarkably stupid on the part are risky shall always say on the part of Some money and his key Iraqi interlocateur arguably the most important person in Iraq effectively able to control all the militia. Many who adopted the The Sudan Hondas To be in the same car they made a very attractive target so so the United States was able to track some of these movements across the Middle East he had become much less discreet over the years and decided they would interact attack attack him here at the Baghdad airport at a spot where there was no possibility of collateral damage is very isolated area now in the hours after the attack a lot out of elected officials and foreign policy types you know landed on roughly the same assessment. I would say they felt that Sumani was a bad actor Dr. no-one should shed any tears that he is dead. But without any serious strategy for what comes next they felt that the assassination wouldn't be helpful. Awful step do you share that assessment. Oh I think the fascination clearly had to be accompanied by a whole lot of additional steps and We won't have to see how things things unfold for instance. I would say that. It was pretty obvious that after the assassination Iran would pick some reprisals and the hope would be that The reprisals would be like like the ones that we saw the other night in the missiles fired at Iraq year basis actions which Iran could claim were bowled strikes against United States dates but which in fact inflicted very little damage. And if that's all Iran does well and Mr Trump's decision to take out Mr Solomon need look pretty good The question is what will come next. Will Iranians Start Planning something which they will carry out in the months ahead. That'll hokey much damage than what we've seen to date. Of course that wasn't the only staff writer. The Iranian regime also announced an additional degree of noncompliance with the JCP with twenty fifteen Iran. Deal right but that had nothing to do with saw money. I mean they've been saying for some time that they plan to announce that on January fifth and sure enough. They did so since we've been told ever since November fifth that every sixty days Iran would be announcing the next step. It was hardly surprised that Iran announced measures January fifth breath. And when they did they measures were markedly less veer than what people had fought in that the expectation ever since the November fifth actions of reducing adducing Iran's commitment to nuclear deal had been announced that a good chance that on January Feron would announce it's going to stop cooperating with the enhanced inspections nations by the International Atomic Energy Agency. He wanted nothing of the sort And Iran is still cooperating. Those enhanced inspections So what Iran announced in January fifth was if anything less than what people have thought they might get. Maybe you just have a cooler demeanor but you sound rather less concerned than a lot. Lot of people out there on Cable News on twitter. Would you say that there's less to be concerned about. Then some people are portraying the situation. Well I'm a believer in the muddle through theory of history three and the dramatic events or not as likely as muddling along. I would simply say that You always have to ask yourself once the alternative So for instance a number of people partially criticizing the decision to kill someone. Money are people harshly criticized trump's decision not to respond militarily early after the attack on Saudi oil facilities and if salamone in fact was planning terrorist attacks with killed dozens or more Americans uh-huh and he'd carried those out. Then these some of these critics would have been complaining that Mr Trump hadn't done anything to forestall the actions so I would just simply say that Often when you're in a tough situation all the options facing you are tough and imperfect and in this case Mr trump came down a very different side. They come down on over the last six months. I think that we calibrating had some merit to it. Call the goodness knows. This step was a very bold and potentially dangerous injury step. Let's just turn before ran. Let's just turn quickly to a little bit about how this killing has been received inside of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ron. You mentioned that Sumani is seen or had been seen within Iran kind of the figure who saved Iran from Isis or or from other bad actors in the region there were reportedly millions of Iranians at his funeral a gathering so massive that fifty people actually died in a stampede in the middle middle of the proceedings so to what degree is that due to him truly being a revered and beloved figure or is there some degree to which the turnout was is more a sign of fear of the regime and kind of a sense of needing to fall in line. Well the government's certainly encouraged and siltation people turning out. I wouldn't say that he was beloved and revered I would say that he was respected and that many people who can't stand the Islamic republic. We'll tell you look. We don't like the Revolutionary Guards yards at all but in their hand they did save us from a worse fate namely the Dash and furthermore that last summer when Iran I was having a record floods. It was the goods for us. which effectively organized relief thought areas after the government had turned out to be utterly incompetent doing that and so there were large numbers of people in several of the cities where the funerals were held Who felt a personal gratitude to for the coots force had done for them and their neighbors? But I don't think that he was so much loved as he was respected And the image that the regime constructed for him was not really entirely accurate. Put it mildly. I mean this is a man who is also a brutal thug at home as well as a terrorist abroad and It really was a clever marketing to take advantage of the role that you played against Isis. Won't he played in flood relief to make him into a popular figure. The last question. Since president trump reimpose sanctions on Iran. The value of the Iranian riyal has plummeted. I think the exchange rate eight today stands somewhere around forty two thousand riyal to a single. US dollar there have been major protests against the regime in recent months over over economic dissatisfaction. Yes but also interestingly pushing back on repression of women and and perhaps other social issues does the US killing Sulamani Johny weaken or strengthen the standing of the regime at home. I think that it makes a lot of rainy INS scared where the future is headed. And I don't think that's good for the regime so while it's certainly true that some of the money was a unifying figure in Iran. People Kinda got S- care net the possibility that it'll be war with the United States while all this is certainly something that will be watching very closely over the coming days and weeks weeks and months. Patrick thank you so much for joining us and sharing your"