America vs. Iran: Competing strategies in a changing Middle East
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Event Summary

On Sunday, the Obama administration announced that a six-month nuclear deal with Iran will take effect on January 20. The following day, AEI hosted a panel discussion of the future of US-Iranian relations and US soft-power strategies in the Middle East. The event coincided with the release of a new AEI report titled "America vs. Iran: The competition for the future of the Middle East."

During Monday's event, members of AEI's foreign policy team focused on the need for a revision of US policy in the region. Danielle Pletka noted that US competitive strategies do not fundamentally seek to undermine Iran, whereas Iran has a well-coordinated soft- and hard-power strategy throughout the Middle East. Frederick W. Kagan elaborated that US policymakers need to change the faulty narrative perpetuated in the administration and media asserting that the US should not have a competitive strategy because its interests are in line with Iran's.

Ambassador Michael Gfoeller (ret.) provided an interesting perspective on the Persian Gulf States, explaining that there is significant suspicion among these countries that American influence is receding, particularly with the drafting of an Iranian nuclear deal. AEI's Matthew McInnis emphasized a key takeaway from the new report: To undermine the Iranian regime's ideology, the US must align its aid programs with strategic goals, recognize Iran's regional objectives, and exploit Iran's weaknesses. 
--Heather Malacaria

Event Description

The future of the Middle East hangs in the balance between Iran and the US. Iran has crafted its soft- and hard-power strategies to not only expand its power and influence in the Levant and Persian Gulf, but also limit American aims. How has the US responded to Iran’s competing ambitions?

Following the interim nuclear deal with Iran, AEI will host an event to answer this question and to discuss which country will have the most influence in the Middle East, what direction new governments will take, and how changing regional dynamics will impact US national security. This event will coincide with the release of a new AEI report analyzing US soft-power strategies in the region and advocating for the restructuring of US foreign assistance to better check the advance of the Islamic Republic.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.

Agenda

2:15 PM
Registration

2:30 PM
Panelists:
Ambassador Michael Gfoeller (ret.), Independent Consultant on Foreign Affairs and International Security
Frederick W. Kagan, AEI
J. Matthew McInnis, AEI
 
Moderator:
Danielle Pletka, AEI

4:00 PM
Adjournment

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Heather Malacaria at [email protected], 202.862.5942.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5942.

Speaker Biographies

Ambassador Michael Gfoeller (ret.) is an independent consultant on foreign affairs and international security.  Previously, Amb. Gfoeller was head of Middle East and North African (MENA) affairs at ExxonMobil's International Government Relations Department from 2010 to 2012. From 1984 to 2010, he served as a US diplomat. His career included service in the capital cities of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Russia, Armenia, Moldova, Poland, and Belgium, and he likewise served in Iraq. He also served from 2008 to 2010 as the senior political adviser to David Petraeus, then commander, US Central Command, focusing on counterterrorism, international security, and diplomacy. From 2004 to 2008, he served as deputy chief of mission and charge' d'affaires at the US Embassy in Riyadh, where he coordinated interagency counterterrorism operations. He served as political adviser and regional coordinator for South Central Iraq in the Coalition Provisional Authority from 2003 to 2004. He retired from the US State Department with the rank of ambassador in 2010.

Frederick W. Kagan
is the Christopher DeMuth Chair and director of the Critical Threats Project at AEI. In 2009, he served in Kabul, Afghanistan, as part of General Stanley McChrystal's strategic assessment team, and he returned to Afghanistan in 2010, 2011, and 2012 to conduct research for Generals David Petraeus and John Allen. In July 2011, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen awarded him the Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest honor the chairman can present to civilians who do not work for the Department of Defense, for his volunteer service in Afghanistan. He is coauthor of the report “Defining Success in Afghanistan” (AEI and the Institute for the Study of War, 2010) and author of the series of reports “Choosing Victory” (AEI), which recommended and monitored the US military surge in Iraq. His most recent book is “Lessons for a Long War: How America Can Win on New Battlefields” (AEI Press, 2010, with Thomas Donnelly). Previously an associate professor of military history at West Point, Kagan is a contributing editor at The Weekly Standard and has written for Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and other periodicals.

J. Matthew McInnis is a resident fellow at the AEI, where he focuses on Iran, specifically its intentions, strategic culture, military power, and goals. He also works on US defense and regional security issues in the Persian Gulf (Iran, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula) and on the effectiveness of the US intelligence community. Before joining AEI, McInnis served as a senior analyst and in other leadership positions for the US Department of Defense.

Danielle Pletka was a long-time US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia. In that role, Pletka was the point person on the Middle East, Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan issues. As the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, Pletka writes on national security matters with a focus on Iran and weapons proliferation, the Middle East, Syria, Israel, and the Arab Spring. She also studies and writes about South Asia (Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan). She is the coeditor of “Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats” (AEI Press, 2008) and the coauthor of “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran” (AEI Press, 2011). Her most recent study, “Iranian influence in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan,” was published in May 2012. She is currently working on a follow-up report on US–Iranian competitive strategies in the Middle East, to be published in the winter of 2013.

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