The View From a Newsroom in the Middle East

In the Room with Peter Bergen

Mina Al-Oraibi is the editor of The National, an English-language newspaper headquartered in Abu Dhabi. She shares how the post-October 7th news landscape looks inside the Middle East.

1-on-1 with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

RFK, Jr.’s views on vaccines and his penchant for questioning official narratives have kept him on the fringes of American politics for years. But now, as a third-party presidential candidate he is polling around 10% — enough to affect the outcome of an election that is expected to be decided on a razor-thin margin. In this lengthy sit-down, first published in September, 2023, Peter probes Kennedy’s unrelenting skepticism about a wide range of issues, from the war in Ukraine to the fentanyl epidemic — and whether he buys the official narratives about 9/11 and the moon landing.

10th Annual Future Security Forum on September 9-10, 2024

10th Annual Future Security Forum on September 9-10, 2024
Save the Date: Future Security Forum 2024
Please save the date for Arizona State University and New America’s Tenth Annual Future Security Forum on September 9-10, 2024 at New America’s offices in Washington, D.C.

The Future Security Forum is the premier event of New America and Arizona State University’s Future Security partnership. As we mark ten years of collaboration together, this forum will explore the future of global security and how perceptions of the state of global security have changed over the past ten years and might change over the next ten.
This year’s forum will be held in cooperation with Security & Defence PLuS, a partnership between Arizona State University, King’s College London, and the University of New South Wales. On the second day of the forum, Security & Defence PLuS will gather experts and leaders from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and beyond to engage in discussions on critical Indo-Pacific security issues.

More information regarding programming and registration will be shared soon. We very much hope to see you in September!

Is the U.S. is headed into a new Cold War?

David Sanger thinks so. After four decades at The New York Times, he may be America’s most experienced national security reporter, and he thinks superpower conflict is back. He describes how the U.S. overestimated the democratizing power of globalization, underestimated the ambitions of Russia and China, and what, if anything, can be done to counter the “grand delusion” that kept so many smart observers from seeing this new era coming.

What Happened When the Migrant Crisis Came to Chicago?

What Happened When the Migrant Crisis Came to Chicago?
In the Room with Peter Bergen

Busloads of migrants have been arriving in northern cities for the past two years, testing the patience of some residents and bringing out empathy in others. We go to Chicago to find out what the real, local effects of this surge are — not just what the politicians with their megaphones say they are. And we explore some solutions to a problem that has become the number one issue on voters’ minds in this crucial election year.

Where Did the Migrant Crisis Come From?

By Peter Bergen
April 16, 2024

American voters say immigration is the number one issue on their minds in this crucial presidential election year. How did we get here? In part one of this series we look at Venezuela, a country that has seen a massive exodus of its population over the past decade, many of whom end up in cities and states across the U.S.

What does Iran really want? CNN.com

Opinion by Peter Bergen
7 minute read
Published 6:45 PM EDT, Sun April 14, 2024

Editor’s Note: Peter Bergen is CNN’s national security analyst, a vice president at New America, a professor of practice at Arizona State University and the host of the Audible podcast “In the Room” also on Apple and Spotify. He is the author of “The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden.” The views expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.

CNN

On the surface, Iran’s Saturday missile and drone attack on Israel was a response to the Israelis’ airstrike on an Iranian consulate building in Damascus two weeks ago that killed at least seven officials, including commanders of the nation’s Revolutionary Guards.

Yet it also was an outgrowth of the enmity between Iran and Israel, including its ally the United States, that has been building for decades, a result of both the Iranian regime’s nature and of policy reversals and blunders by the US ever since the Western- and Israel-allied Shah of Iran was overthrown by Islamists in the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

“A modern, strong, peaceful Iran could become a pillar of stability and progress in the region,” former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote in 2006. “This cannot happen unless Iran’s leaders decide whether they are representing a cause or a nation – whether their basic motivation is crusading or international cooperation.”

Like other regimes driven by a revolutionary ideology, Iran’s ayatollahs chose to be a cause, exporting their influence and ideas to other countries and to an array of militant groups.

The goals of the ayatollahs are threefold: to evict the United States from the Middle East, to replace Israel with Palestine and to bring down the US-led world order, according to Iran expert Karim Sadjadpour, whom I recently interviewed for the Audible podcast “In the Room with Peter Bergen.” These are not modest goals, but Sadjadpour said you can’t underestimate the revolutionary fervor of Iran’s leaders.

The Iranian campaign to evict the United States from the Middle East began in Lebanon in the early 1980s, when Iran backed a ragtag bunch of militants living in the Shia-dominated areas of southern Beirut who had founded Hezbollah, “the party of God.”

Using the then-novel technique of suicide bombings, they bombed the US Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people, including eight CIA officers, the deadliest day in CIA history. Hezbollah also bombed the Marine barracks building in Beirut, killing 241 American service members.

Those attacks by Hezbollah achieved their aim. The Reagan administration pulled all US forces out of Lebanon. A wealthy young Saudi fundamentalist named Osama bin Laden was watching closely: He concluded that if you applied enough military pressure on the Americans, they would pull out of the Middle East.

After bin Laden’s al Qaeda attacked the US on September 11, 2001, the Americans effectively handed the Iranians a big gift, which was the 2003 overthrow of their mortal enemy, the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, against whom Iran had fought a ruinous, almost-decade-long war during the 1980s.

Following the fall of Saddam, Iraq was wracked by a civil war that killed hundreds of thousands. Iran introduced into the Iraqi war zone highly effective roadside bombs known as EFPs – Explosively Formed Penetrators – that wounded and killed hundreds of American soldiers. In 2011, the US withdrew from Iraq.

The official US Army history of the Iraq War concluded that Iran was the only winner of that war. This wasn’t the conclusion of vocal war critic Noam Chomsky but of a group of sober US Army historians.

Norman Roule was the top US intelligence official on Iran from 2008 to 2017. Roule observed to me for the “In the Room” podcast that “Iran uses a cookie-cutter approach across the region, but the dough in each country is different, and the cooking time is different.”

In Syria, a civil war began in 2011, and Iran saw another opportunity for this cookie-cutter approach by propping up the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad with billions of dollars of aid as well as Iranian advisers and Hezbollah forces on the ground fighting for the Assad regime.

That explains the continued presence in Damascus today of senior Iranian military leaders and advisers like the ones who were killed by the Israeli airstrike on April 1 that precipitated Iran’s missile and drone barrage against Israel on Saturday.

In Yemen, the Houthis started fighting the central government, and – particularly after Iran’s rival for regional dominance, the Saudis, intervened in the Yemeni war in 2015 – Iran trained the Houthis and supplied them with missiles and drones. These are the same weapons that the Houthis have been using against ships in the Red Sea, effectively closing the shipping route to and from the Suez Canal and cutting off a critical route for global trade.

And then there is Hamas. While Iran had no foreknowledge of Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, according to Christine Abizaid, the director of the US National Counterterrorism Center, Iran has supplied Hamas with hundreds of millions of dollars for weapons and training, according to the US Treasury Department.

Iran’s proxies in the Middle East, to one degree or another, now exert significant influence on Gaza, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. These proxies are grandiloquently known as “the axis of resistance” to Israel and the United States, and they exert their influence on a region that extends 1,500 miles from the north in Lebanon to Yemen’s Red Sea coast in the south. And now the Iranians are closer than ever to having nuclear weapons.

The most significant foreign policy blunder of the Trump administration was pulling out of the Iranian nuclear deal inked by the Obama administration, which was preventing the Iranians from enriching uranium above around 4%; you need around 90% enrichment of uranium for a nuclear device. Before former President Donald Trump reneged on the deal, Iran was observing the terms of the nuclear agreement, according to Trump’s own intelligence chiefs. Today, the Iranians reportedly have enough highly enriched uranium for three weapons and are considered closer than ever to having a workable nuclear weapon.

Saturday’s drone and missile attacks against Israel were designed to show Israel and the region that the Iranian regime can’t be trifled with, and the Israeli attack on its military leaders in Damascus would be avenged. However, it might not trigger a major war since 99% of the 300 drones and missiles launched by Iran were intercepted, according to the Israeli military. It’s likely that Iran’s theocratic regime, which has faced major internal protests and is approaching a generational transition, wanted to respond to calls for retribution for the Damascus attack without triggering a major war with two superior militaries – that of the US and Israel.

The Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York released a statement as Iran’s attacks were in progress, saying they had now responded to the strike against “our diplomatic premises in Damascus” and “the matter can be deemed concluded.”

That, of course, doesn’t mean that Israel will deem the matter concluded. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who hasn’t achieved his strategic objectives in Gaza of wiping out Hamas militarily and returning the 100 or so hostages held by Hamas, and is also not well-liked by most Israelis, can surely benefit from a rally-around-the-flag effect by casting himself as an assertive wartime leader. Of course, the Israeli public may also demand action to restore deterrence against Iran, having just lived through a barrage of Iranian missile and drone strikes.

So, despite President Joe Biden calling Netanyahu on Saturday night to tell him that Iran’s attack hadn’t succeeded and saying the US wouldn’t support any counterattack, it would hardly be in character for Netanyahu not to respond in some fashion against Iran.

And here is where things might get even worse as the burgeoning regional conflict that the Biden administration has long tried to avoid is now in higher gear, and it’s unclear where everyone’s red lines are and what might trigger a major war with Iran.

As Abizaid noted in an interview for my podcast before Saturday’s attack by Iran, the issue is that “everyone has sort of a loose understanding of what these red lines might be, and events could change your perception of whether one of those has been crossed at any given time.”

On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani will meet with Biden at the White House. The meeting comes at a time when there is considerable pressure in Iraq to withdraw the 2,500 US troops who remain there on an anti-ISIS mission.

The withdrawal of the US troops from neighboring Iraq is a key goal of Iran, which exerts considerable influence over some Iraqi politicians.

This poses a dilemma for both the Iraqi government and the Biden administration since the US troops based in Iraq have been frequent targets of Iranian-backed militias since the Gaza war started. While these attacks stopped following the killing of three US soldiers by an Iranian-backed militia in Jordan in January, if conflict were to start heating up with Iran, those attacks against US bases in Iraq could resume.

Balanced against that is that the last time the US pulled all its forces out of Iraq was in 2011, and within three years, ISIS had taken over much of the country, a history that the vast majority of Iraqis do not want to repeat.

It will be interesting to see whether, given the increasingly bellicose stance of the Iranians, the Biden administration puts considerable pressure on the Iraqi prime minister to keep those US soldiers on the ground in Iraq.

The Art of Diplomacy How American Negotiators Reached Historic Agreements that Changed the World, New America online

[ONLINE] The Art of Diplomacy
How American Negotiators Reached Historic Agreements that Changed the World
EVENT
Art of Diplomacy book cover
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
In his new book, The Art of Diplomacy: How American Negotiators Reached Historic Agreements that Changed the World, diplomat and negotiator Stuart E. Eizenstat provides a history of the major international agreements that have defined today’s world. Eizenstat examines cases from the treaty to end the Vietnam War to the Kyoto Protocols and the Iranian Nuclear Accord. Drawing upon experience and perspective as a participant in top-level negotiations and interviews with over 60 key figures in American diplomacy, including former presidents and secretaries of state, and major political figures abroad, Eizenstat recounts the events that led up to the negotiation, the drama that took place around the table, and draws lessons from successful and unsuccessful strategies and tactics.

Join New America’s Future Security Program as they welcome Stuart E. Eizenstat to discuss his new book The Art of Diplomacy. Eisenstat served as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union and Deputy Secretary of both Treasury and State. He is also the author of President Carter: The White House Years (2018), The Future of the Jews: How Global Forces are Impacting the Jewish People, Israel, and Its Relationship with the United States (2012), and Imperfect Justice: Looted Assets, Slave Labor, and the Unfinished Business of World War II (2003). The conversation will be moderated by New America Vice President and Arizona State University Professor of Practice Peter Bergen.

Join the conversation online using #ArtofDiplomacy #NewAmericaEvents and following @NewAmericaISP.

Speaker:

Stuart E. Eisenstat
Author, The Art of Diplomacy
Former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union

Moderator:

Peter Bergen
Vice President, New America
Co-Director, Future Security
Professor of Practice, Arizona State University

When
Jun. 13, 2024
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Where
New America and ASU
Online Only
RSVP
New America
740 15th Street NW, Suite 900
Washington, DC 20005

Deterring America’s Rivals and Enemies, ASU in DC

Deterring America’s Rivals and Enemies

Deterring America’s Rivals and Enemies

Event description
FreeOpen to the public
The Leadership, Democracy and National Security Lab is proud to present Peter Bergen, Author, documentary producer, podcast host, professor of practice at Arizona State University, vice president at New America, and CNN’s national security analyst.

Topic: The world’s leading superpower has sometimes stumbled when it comes to deterring its rivals and enemies, from unenforced redlines in Syria to misreading the capabilities and intentions of al-Qaeda before 9/11. Today, the US must attempt to prevent Iran from widening the regional conflict in the Middle East, China from invading Taiwan, and Russia from winning the war in Ukraine. So, how has the US fared in exercising its deterrence capabilities over the past several years, and how might it continue to do so in the future?

This event is offered in-person or virtually:

In person at the ASU Washington Center (11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. ET)
Virtually (9:00-10:00 a.m. AZ MST)

Tuesday, April 23, 2024
11:30 am – 1:00 pm Deterring America’s Rivals and Enemies

What UFO Conspiracies have to do with Jan. 6th

The Pentagon UFO office just released its investigation of UFO sightings going back to the 1940s. We talk with maybe the most serious historian to study UFOs, Garrett Graff, to learn what UFO questions the Pentagon investigation has laid to rest, what new questions have been raised, why it’s sometimes in the interest of national security to keep information secret, and the connection Graff sees between UFO conspiracy theories and the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.