The spike in tension between the United States and Iran has left many in Washington D.C. unnerved as to the possibility of escalations that could snowball into military conflict. While two consecutive attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, as well as the downing of an American surveillance drone are the most recent factors that seem to have pushed the two nations closer to conflict, others would argue that the seeds for an eventual showdown were planted when President Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in the spring of 2018. In the interim, the sanctions re-imposed on Iran have left the country in an economic free-fall. Yet, in spite of the intention for sanctions to curb Iran’s unsavory regional behavior, instead the government in Tehran appears more determined than ever to assert its presence and sovereignty. This comes as the two sides admit they are not willing to commence negotiations, and as the Iranians indicate they will begin to re-pursue some of the nuclear endeavors the JCPOA had once prevented. Is there a final straw that could necessitate a military conflict? What are the factors that could bring the U.S. and Iran back to the negotiating table? Who benefits from a war in the Gulf? How would the politics of a U.S.-Iran war play out in Washington and Tehran respectively?
Sigurd Neubauer (moderator), Dr. Abdullah Alshayji, Dr. Abbas Kadhim, Dr. Shireen T. Hunter, and Dr. Trita Parsi.
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Sigurd Neubauer (moderator)
Non-Resident Fellow; GIF
Sigurd Neubauer is an internationally recognized authority on the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Persian Gulf Security, U.S.-Arab relations, Middle East politics, Arab-Israeli relations, Afghanistan, and U.S. defense industry. His expertise also includes NATO, Norwegian defense policy and transatlantic relations. Over the past decade, Neubauer has authored dozens of scholarly articles and hundreds of commentary pieces, including for The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, CNN, Fox News, Al Arabiya, Arab News, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post and The Forward, among others. Neubauer is a frequent contributor to the Al Jazeera television network, both English and Arabic channels. He is also a Non-Resident Fellow at Gulf International Forum. From 2009-2018, Neubauer supported various U.S. government clients at Exovera (a subsidiary of SOS International LLC) with open-source intelligence, information engagement and stability operations support. From 2015-2017, Neubauer was a Non-Resident Fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington and an opinion columnist for Al Arabiya English. Fluent in seven languages, Neubauer is a graduate of Yeshiva University in New York where he studied Jewish History (M.A.), Political Science (B.A.) and French Literature (B.A.). Originally from Norway, Neubauer lives in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area with his family.
Dr. Abdullah Alshayji
Professor; Kuwait University
Abdullah K. Alshayji is a professor as well as the former chairman and director of the graduate program of the political science department at Kuwait University. He is an expert in U.S. politics, Gulf Cooperation Council security, and political development, and has published extensively on these issues. From 2007-09, Alshayji was the head of the American studies unit at Kuwait University. He later served as a special advisor to the speaker of the Kuwaiti Parliament, the foreign relations committee, the committee investigating the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and the committee for Kuwaiti prisoners of war and hostages in Iraq. From 2008-09, he was a member of the advisory board of the committee in charge of drafting a comprehensive national security strategy at the Kuwaiti government’s Bureau of National Security. From 2001-04, Alshayji served as counselor and head of the Kuwaiti Information and Media Bureau at the Kuwaiti Embassy in Lebanon. He received his bachelor’s and master’s in political science from Oklahoma State University and his PhD in political science from the University of Texas at Austin.
Dr. Abbas Kadhim
Director and Resident Senior Fellow, Iraq Initiative; Atlantic Council
Dr. Abbas Kadhim leads the Atlantic Council Iraq Initiative. He is an Iraq expert and author of Reclaiming Iraq: The 1920 Revolution and the Founding of the Modern State. Most recently, he was a senior foreign policy fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. He was formerly an assistant professor of national security affairs and Middle East studies at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California and a visiting assistant professor at Stanford University. He also previously held a senior government affairs position at the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, DC. His books include: Governance in the Middle East and North Africa and Studies in the Ba’th Party Archive. He earned a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Abbas Kadhim is on Twitter @DrAbbasKadhim.
Dr. Shireen T. Hunter
University Associate at Georgetown University
Shireen T. Hunter is a University Associate at Georgetown University. From 2014 to July 2019 she was Research Professor, from 2007 to 2014, a Visiting Professor, and from September 2005 to August 2007 a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University and adjunct professor. She was also Distinguished Scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., with which she was associated since 1983 (Director of the Islam Program, 1998-2005; and Deputy Director of the Middle East Program, 1983-92). From 1993-1997 she was a Senior Visiting Fellow and Director of the Mediterranean Program at Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels. She was an Academic Fellow at Carnegie Corporation of New York (2000-2002. Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, and the Hellenic Foundation.)
Dr. Hunter’s areas of expertise include the Middle East (especially the Persian Gulf region), the Mediterranean, Russia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus (North and South), and she has done extensive work on North-South relations, energy (Persian Gulf, Caucasus, Central Asia), developing-country issues (political, social, economic, security), and Islam (Russia, Europe, the US).
Dr. Trita Parsi
Executive Vice President, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
Trita Parsi is an award-winning author and the 2010 recipient of the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. He is the Executive Vice President of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a newly founded think tank which seeks to promote ideas that move U.S. foreign policy away from endless war and toward vigorous diplomacy in the pursuit of international peace.
He has authored three award-winning books on US foreign policy in the Middle East. His latest book is Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy (Yale University Press, 2017), which reveals the behind the scenes story to the historic nuclear deal with Iran.
Parsi founded and led the National Iranian American Council for seventeen years. NIAC was and remains a vocal proponent of dialogue and engagement between the US and Iran.
Parsi has followed Middle East politics through work in the field and extensive experience on Capitol Hill and at the United Nations. He is frequently consulted by Western and Asian governments on foreign policy matters. He has worked for the Swedish Permanent Mission to the UN, where he served in the Security Council, handling the affairs of Afghanistan, Iraq, Tajikistan, and Western Sahara, and in the General Assembly’s Third Committee, addressing human rights in Iran, Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Iraq.
He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins’ School for Advanced International Studies and teaches at Georgetown University.