Recent History Supports Iran Agreement

By Louis Kriesberg, Maxwell Professor Emeritus of Social Conflict Studies, Syracuse University

The evidence favoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in July 2015, is before our eyes. It was negotiated between the Iranian government and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China and one other: Germany (P5+1). For much of the time prior to the negotiated interim agreement, the US pursued a highly bellicose policy toward Iran and Iran speeded its development of a nuclear program that could be preparatory to having nuclear weapons capability. That history also makes evident why the rejection of the signed Iran agreement is likely to have extremely grave consequences for the US.

The negotiations followed a well-regarded strategy for untangling protracted highly complex conflicts: tackle a single element in the conflict and settle it.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, Iran was helpful in several ways, including overthrowing the Taliban by supporting the Northern Alliance Afghan troops, helping establish the government in Kabul headed by Karzai, and denying sanctuary to escaping Al Qaeda members. Nevertheless, in President George W. Bush’s first State of the Union address, in January 2002, he called Iran, together with Iraq and North Korea, an “Axis of Evil.” The Iranian government could reasonably believe that it was threatened by the US. It energetically sped the advancement of nuclear programs that could enhance the development of nuclear weapons as well as nuclear energy. The Bush administration chastised the Iranian government and imposed some economic sanctions. These actions certainly did not slow Iran’s nuclear development program.

President Barack Obama’s administration undertook a different strategy. It recognized Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, engaged with Iranian officials with civility and respect, and explored possible arrangements that might preclude Iran’s attaining nuclear weapons. At the same time, the Obama Administration was able to expand UN Security Council sanctions on Iran for failing to cooperate on earlier resolutions and its continued uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities. As in most successful negotiations, a blend of carrots and sticks proved effective.

In August 2013, Hassan Rouhani became president of Iran, following the bombastic and extremist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Serious conversations now began and in November 2013, the Joint Plan of Action was a pact signed between Iran and the P5+1 countries. It provided for a short-term freeze of portions of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for decreased economic sanctions on Iran. This was implemented and it ultimately led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The negotiations followed a well-regarded strategy for untangling protracted highly complex conflicts: tackle a single element in the conflict and settle it. That was done. The JCPOA is a well-crafted, narrow agreement that does not foreclose further actions relating to Iran about many contentious issues and even possible cooperative matters, for example those regarding ISIS. It also enables the US, in solidarity with other signers of the agreement, to negotiate various extensions of the JCPOA, as they expire and when Iran is much further from having nuclear weapons grade uranium than it presently has.

If Congress rejects the signed agreement, US leadership and credibility in the world will be badly damaged. No “re-negotiation” is really feasible. Hardliners in Iran can claim vindication that the US cannot be trusted, and there would be no incentive for Iran to renew negotiations for harsher terms. Nor is it likely that all the other signers of the agreement would renew negotiations after such a development in the US. Iran would naturally resume its nuclear development program. The likely further consequences would be awful to contemplate. I urge readers to encourage members of Congress to approve the agreement and not to return to policies that have so drastically failed in the recent past.


Industrialized Killing: Accountability & Justice for Syria

A Robert H. Jackson Center interview with David M. Crane (July 20, 2015)

David M. Crane, former Chief Prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone (2002-2005) has worked to gain and provide support to Syria. In conjunction with Syracuse University College of Law students, Crane heads the Syrian Accountability Project (SAP). Crane and SAP work with several international organizations to provide impartial analysis of open source materials. The goal of these collaborations is to fairly prosecute President al-Assad, his subordinates, and members of the Syrian Opposition for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and violations of the Syrian Penal Law.

Having David Crane on the Board at the Jackson Center has been a tremendous success. So, we wanted to gain some insight into what his lecture might entail. Below are introductory questions concerning Crane’s lecture “Industrialized Killing: Accountability and Justice for Syria”

Q: Why did you decide to title your lecture “Industrialized Killing”?

A: To raise awareness of the horror that is taking place in Syria.

Q: What first interested you in finding justice for Syria?

A: The beast of impunity must be faced down wherever it raises its ugly head. This is the 21st Century…mankind cannot turn its head and look away.

Q: What in your career led you to believe you could do something for the Syrian people?

A: As the founding Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone I developed a unique expertise to create a justice mechanism for oppressed peoples.

Q: How did you arrive at the idea for the Syrian Accountability Project (SAP) at SU Law?

A: Initially a seminar the project grew into an internationally recognized justice organization based on the techniques we used in successfully prosecuting a head of state and the leadership of the warring factions in West Africa.

Q: What are your goals for SAP?

A: Our goals are to develop a trial package for a future local, regional or international prosecutor to use in seeking justice for the Syrian people.

Q: How or where do you envision judicial action for Syria? How can we avoid westernized justice once a Court is established?

A: Be aware that a justice mechanism is for and about the victims…the people of Syria.

Q: How do you think the IS problem affects the likelihood of justice in Syria?

A: The IS phenomenon complicates the entire process and may even permanently derail a justice mechanism, but that should not stop of us from our project.

Q: Does IS change the likelihood of President Assad stepping down?

A: I don’t see President Assad stepping down. He may survive this.

Q: Do you have an opinion on the White House’s shift from demanding Assad’s removal to appeasing the Russians, focusing on IS, and stepping away from the Syrian Civil War for the time being?

A: The reality now is that Syria has become a sideshow in a larger geopolitical event and the administration has to deal with what is not what they would like it to be.

Q: Should the US be heavily involved in bringing the Syrian Conflict to a close, should the effort be global, or should the region be tasked with solving the issue?

A: The US is and has to be involved in this even though it is a reluctant participant. The EU and the Arab States have to step up as well.

NATO Needs to be Better at Waging Networked Warfare

natologoBy Octavian Manea

(Re-published from Defence Matters, July 27, 2015) Many of the lessons that the Alliance learned over the past decade in the Afghan theater (working with local population to counter propaganda, strengthening institutions of local government, using strategic communication) remain highly relevant as we face increased Russian hybrid aggression across the whole European spectrum. It is the conclusion emphasized in an exclusive interview for Defence Matters by Former SACEUR, Admiral James Stavridis.

The alliance learned a lot in terms of waging counterinsurgency in Afghanistan as well as in terms of providing support and enabling a host nation government. Is the Afghan stability operation legacy of NATO applicable in the proxy war in Ukraine? In the end the vulnerabilities in the fabric of state and society are a core raw material used there.

Yes I very much do. I think that a great deal of what we have learned in Afghanistan would be very helpful as we face increased Russian aggression not only in Ukraine, but across the whole European spectrum: counter-IED, working with local population to counter propaganda, strengthening institutions of local government, using strategic communication to move messages to large groups using all media (radio, print, internet, social networks), interoperability-the ability to bound together our forces to operate coherently, the use of UAV and intelligence gathering. All of this knowledge that we gained in Afghanistan is very applicable in what I would call counter-hybrid warfare.

Having in mind the Afghan legacy of the Alliance, do you see a role of NATO in the fight against ISIS?

I do. It is very important that NATO should be prepared to respond to the Islamic State in three ways.

First, it’s the instability along the Turkish border. This is one of NATO’s main borders crossed literally by millions of refugees. The potential of Islamic State to use refugee flows to get into Europe and NATO is extremely high. The border region of Iraq and Syria is a very clear danger to NATO.

Secondly it is the Mediterranean Sea and the ability of the Islamic State particularly in Libya to create instability and get into the refugees streams crossing to Italy and Europe. We also need to be prepared for the jihadists who hold European Union passports and are currently in the fight in Syria and Iraq. They are going at some point be able to come back to Europe. That is principally an intelligence, police and legal challenge, but NATO as an alliance can be helpful providing cyber, intelligence, information capabilities and in cases where there is higher degree of militarized activity. There are some places where the Alliance can be helpful even within the borders of Europe itself.

NATO is a full spectrum alliance, so it should be able to deal with both low and high-end spectrum warfare. What can NATO do in order to deter and respond to hybrid warfare?

First we have to study, observe and learn what the Russians are doing. Much of what is called hybrid warfare has been around for thousands of years. What is unique is combining all of the elements together, what is new is the cyber and the social networking component of it and taking them together and applying it in a European country. We need to study, understand the phenomena and reverse engineered so we could defeat it. We will not be able to rely on traditional military capabilities to stop this kind of activity. We will need to use many of the tools of the hybrid warfare themselves. It takes a network to defeat a network. And hybrid warfare is networked warfare. That means that NATO needs to be vastly better in cyber, much better in our strategic communications, our use of the social networks, we need to be able instantly to disprove the propaganda and the lies that are emanating from Moscow and much better in assisting the Ukrainian military in order to defend their nation against this invasion. We have work to do …

To read the entire article, click here.

Octavian Manea (MAIR ’13) was a Fulbright Junior Scholar at SU Maxwell School and a 2013 recipient of a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Security Studies through INSCT.

Rethinking Command & Control Systems in Emerging Nuclear Nations

By David Arceneaux, Ph.D. Student, SU Maxwell School

(Working paper research funded by the Andrew Berlin Family National Security Research Fund)

Introduction: Rethinking Peter Feaver’s Framework

What factors explain command and control systems in emerging nuclear nations? Command and control systems are the operational means by which a state plans the management, deployment, and potential release of nuclear weapons.[1] When evaluating emerging nuclear powers, researchers often devote attention to the quantity and quality of a state’s physical nuclear arsenal while overlooking command and control structures.[2] These measures of nuclear capacity, however, are more useful for generating estimates of a state’s nuclear intentions than accounting for how a nuclear state’s organizations might operate in practice.[3] Any explanation of how these states operate in practice must account for the role of command and control. By explaining the factors that affect command and control systems within emerging regional nuclear states, researchers can better understand the practical employment of nuclear capabilities, which offers insight into how destabilizing future proliferators may be for regional and global security.

Nuclear proliferation is a timely topic of study. At the time of this paper’s writing, the United States and Iran have reached a tentative deal that the US hopes will prevent the development of an Iranian nuclear arsenal.[4] Furthermore, concerns over North Korea’s ability to weaponize its nuclear capability have once again arisen. Adm. Bill Gortney—commander of NORAD and US Northern Command—recently suggested that North Korea’s KN-08 delivery platform might be able to deliver a nuclear missile to the US west coast, despite the fact that the system remains untested.[5] This pair of observations demonstrates two different policy issues, however: nuclear proliferation and post-proliferation behavior. Although research on nuclear proliferation is extremely important, the prioritization of this topic has obfuscated the importance of understanding what states will do with nuclear weapons once they are acquired. A diverse arrangement of potential nuclear postures is available to regional nuclear powers, and it is the posture—not proliferation itself—that causes insecurity. Iran and North Korea have clearly demonstrated that some states desire nuclear weapons and are willing to incur great costs to acquire such capabilities. This study aims to shift focus to the study of post-proliferation behavior in regional nuclear states. By doing so, we may obtain a better understanding of the conditions under which nuclear proliferation is more or less threatening to regional and global security.

When Peter Feaver first explored the origins of regional power command and control systems in 1992, he faced a paucity of data on these systems.[6] The most recent nuclear event at this time was India’s “peaceful” nuclear explosion in 1974, which was not followed by another atomic test until India weaponized its latent nuclear capabilities in 1998.[7] Feaver explicitly noted this obstacle to inquiry, stating that “[r]eliable data on existing or developing systems of command and control in emerging nuclear nations are scarce.”[8] Conscious of these limitations, he established a deductively derived framework for evaluating an emerging nuclear state’s command and control systems as data became available. Feaver’s model has long served as a central framework for debating nuclear stability in proliferating regions, but it has recently been called into question for lacking systematic empirical evaluation. For instance, Vipin Narang plainly asks of the model: “Does the pattern of command and control arrangements match the theoretical predictions?”[9] Although this question remains relevant to explaining the conduct of new nuclear states, it nevertheless remains unanswered. Even with the newfound availability of evidence, no effort has been made to evaluate Feaver’s propositions.[10] This essay takes this lack of empirical evaluation as a point of departure.

In this project, I aim to further the literature on command and control structures in emerging nuclear nations by disaggregating the two key explanations from Feaver’s framework into their constitutive elements and subjecting the proposed hypotheses to evidence from the cases of India and Pakistan. Using observations from South Asia, I argue that a key factor in explaining an emerging nuclear state’s command and control system is the state’s preexisting pattern of civil-military relations. More specifically, this essay demonstrates that an increased level of military intervention in politics allows military organizations to institutionalize more responsive command and control procedures,[11] which may in turn increase the likelihood of preemptive or accidental nuclear use …[12]

To read the complete working paper, click here.


[1] This definition borrows from Vipin Narang, Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), p. 4. Alternative definitions are referenced at a later point in this project.

[2] See, for example, Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press, “The Nukes We Need: Preserving the American Deterrent,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 88, No. 6 (November/December 2009), pp. 39-51; Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press, “The End of Mad?: The Nuclear Dimension of U.S. Primacy,” International Security, Vol. 30, No. 4 (Spring 2006), pp. 7-44; Kenneth N. Waltz, “Nuclear Myths and Political Realities,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 84, No. 3 (September 1990), pp. 731-745.

[3] Peter D. Feaver, “Command and Control in Emerging Nuclear Nations,” International Security, Vol. 17, No. 3 (Winter 1992/93), p. 160. Emphasis in original.

[4] For a simple and useful overview of the points of contention and tentative results of the negotiations between the US and Iran, see William J. Broad and Sergio Pecanha, “A Simple Guide to the Nuclear Negotiations with Iran,” New York Times (2 April 2015), available at: <>.

[5] Jon Harper, “NORAD Commander: North Korean KN-08 Missile Operational,” Stars and Stripes (7 April 2015), available at: <*Situation%20Report&utm_campaign=SitRep04%2F08>.

[6] Feaver, “Command and Control in Emerging Nuclear Nations,” pp. 160-187.

[7] India’s permanent representative to the United Nations at the time of the test strongly asserts that India’s test was “conducted exclusively for peaceful purposes” and “had no military or political implications.” For the full statement, see Rikhi Jaipal, “The Indian Nuclear Explosion,” International Security, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Spring 1977), pp. 44-51. For an authoritative explanation of the development of India’s nuclear program, see Ashley J. Tellis, India’s Emerging Nuclear Posture (Santa Monica: RAND, 2001).

[8] Feaver, “Command and Control in Emerging Nuclear Nations,” p. 160.

[9] Narang, Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era, p. 26.

[10] Although no effort has been made to use recent evidence to test Feaver’s framework, Feaver calls for such a study to be conducted. He observes, “As more information about emerging nuclear arsenals becomes available, the framework should be tested by comparing the expectations derived from the two propositions against data from specific countries.” Feaver, “Command and Control in Emerging Nuclear Nations,” p. 180n41.

[11] For arguments on the offensive nature of military organizations, see Barry R. Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain and Germany Between the World Wars (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984); Jack Snyder, “Civil-Military Relations and the Cult of the Offensive, 1914 and 1984,” International Security, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Summer 1984), pp. 108-146; Stephen Van Evera, “The Cult of the Offensive and the Origins of the First World War,” International Security, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Summer 1984), pp. 58-107.

[12] Scott D. Sagan, “The Perils of Proliferation: Organization Theory, Deterrence Theory, and the Spread of Nuclear Weapons,” International Security, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Spring 1994), pp. 66-107.

NATO’s Paradigm Shift: Searching for a Traditional Security-Human Security Nexus

NATO_Affiliations(Re-published from Contemporary Security Policy (July 2015)) NATO’s identity has been in persistent crisis. Since September 11 and even more since intervention in Afghanistan, the alliance seeks to define a role for itself in the 21st century. Further overseas interventions like Afghanistan or Libya seem beyond its current ability and will. Nevertheless, the Russian engagement in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea have galvanized interest in the alliance, with many, particularly in the USA and Eastern Europe, calling for a major revision of NATO to ensure that the West can withstand a new Cold War.1

[pullquoteright]The alliance still faces a security environment that includes everything from an assertive Russia to humanitarian crisis in Africa and the Middle East.”[/pullquoteright]The question of identity refers to the fact that NATO was created as a defensive security alliance, aimed to protect its member states from an attack by the Warsaw Pack. Once the Cold War ended, NATO was transformed into an organization engaged in complex peacekeeping operations, as the alliance had the military skills and the commitment to democracy promotion to aid societies in conflict transition into democracies. As NATO looks beyond Afghanistan, it is somewhat unclear what it stands for and what, more importantly, it can offer its member states that increasingly seem unsure on how to use and view the alliance. Additionally, the alliance has to contend with the American strategic pivot; attempts by Europeans to reignite enthusiasm for integration through a common defence, security and foreign policy; and, a growing demand within the Eurozone for defence spending cuts.2 Simply, it seems that Europe (mainly Germany) and the USA not only have different visions for the alliance, but also for the global affairs. The dichotomy between Europe and the USA was clearly seen with the German reaction to statements by General Philip Breedlove, Commander of U.S. European Command, particularly on the Ukraine, describing General Breedlove’s comments as ‘dangerous propaganda.’3

A core assumption on which this paper is based is that institutions matter.4 Stephen Walt has noted that although the arrangements that lie at the heart of all institutions vary, what binds them is a commitment for mutual military support against an external actor(s) should a specified set of circumstances emerge. This is also why Walt has pointed out that alliances can come to an end if there is for example a change in the security environment. Walt identifies a number of factors that may precipitate the demise of an alliance: domestic politics, changing demographic and social trends, regime change or ideological divisions, declining credibility, a belief that there is no longer a genuine commitment to provide assistance and more.5 Over a decade ago, Celeste Wallander pointed that the assets that NATO developed during the Cold War for political consultation, decision-making, and for military planning, coordination and implementation could be used once the Cold War ended. Wallander emphasized that in the post-Cold War period, there was a willingness and a desire to adapt the alliance to the new security realities, which meant that some programmes were reduced and others created.6 These changes were essential to make the alliance an effective tool.

This article shows that NATO has to adapt to the new security environment, recognizing that it is unlikely to engage in further Afghanistan- or Libya-type operations. But the alliance still faces a security environment that includes everything from an assertive Russia to humanitarian crisis in Africa and the Middle East. One way for NATO to remain relevant is by developing a new agenda and an identity tailored on addressing the link between fragile states and Islamist extremism, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa region, which poses a direct and immediate threat to the NATO member states and international security. NATO has the maritime capabilities to patrol the Mediterranean (and engage in traditional security and protect Europe’s southern borders which are more susceptible to infiltration) and other areas that are turbulent such as West Africa or the Gulf, as well as advance neoliberal democratic values through such programmes as Partnership for Peace …

To read the full article, click here.


1. See Matthew Kroenig, ‘Facing Reality: Getting NATO Ready for a New Cold War’, Survival, Vol. 57, No. 1 (2015), pp. 49–70; See also the forum convened to respond to Kroening in Survival, Vol. 57, No. 2 (2015), pp. 119–44, with responses by Egon Bahr, Götz Neuneck, Lukasz Kulesa, Steven Pifer, Mikhail Troitskiy and Kroenig.
2. It is important to emphasize that even though it remains largely unclear what is NATO’s budget and the specific amount that each member provides the alliance, the assumption is that the cost of keeping NATO is large. The Dutch Court of Audit, which is an independent organization that reviews government spending has called for a greater debate about NATO’s spending and the fact that the whole system, including NATO’s budget for military, civilian and investment projects was USD 3.27 billion in 2013, without explaining how much its member contributes. Anthony Deutsch, ‘Dutch Auditor Calls for More Transparency on NATO Spending’, Reuters, 10 June 2014.
3. Matthias Gebauer et al., ‘Breedlove’s Bellicosity: Berlin Alarmed by Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine’, Spiegel Online International, 6 March 2015.
4. Gilles Andréani, ‘Why Institutions Matter’, Survival, Vol. 42, No. 2 (2000), pp. 81–95; Adam Przeworski, ‘Institutions Matter?’,Government and Opposition, Vol. 39, No. 4 (2004), pp. 527–40.
5. Stephen M. Walt, ‘Why Alliances Endure or Collapse’, Survival, Vol. 39, No. 1 (1997), pp. 157–63.
6. Celeste A. Wallander, ‘Institutional Assets and Adaptability: NATO after the Cold War’, International Organization, Vol. 54, No. 4 (2000), pp. 731–32.

Why Did the Taliban Go to Tehran?

Taliban_FightersBy Farhad Peikar

(Re-published from The Guardian, May 22, 2015) Reports of an official Taliban delegation’s clandestine visit to Iran this week raised eyebrows in both Kabul and Tehran: why would Iran, a Shia powerhouse involved in proxy wars with several Sunni states and sectarian groups in the Middle East, host a radical Sunni militant group on its soil?

The two erstwhile foes once came to the brink of a full-blown war against each other. However, when it comes to regional politicking the two have found much in common, including their fear of the spread of the Islamic State influence in the region.

In 1998, Tehran deployed more than 70,000 forces along the Afghan border in a clear show of military might and threatened to invade Afghanistan and avenge the deaths of at least eight Iranian diplomats at the hands of Taliban in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif that year. Iranian generals predicted they would topple the Taliban regime within 24 hours, but the situation was defused when the United Nations interfered.

Then, when the US-led coalition forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001 for harboring Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of attacks on 11 September 2001, Iran tacitly supported the operation.

However, more than a decade later, the two archrivals seem to be willing to coexist in the face of the growing threat posed by Isis. This dovetails with another shared goal: pushing the United States and its western allies out of Afghanistan.

While Tehran may not wish to see a return of a Taliban government on its eastern border, Iranian officials would not have a problem seeing the Taliban becoming part of the current western-backed Kabul administration through a much-awaited reconciliation …

To read the full article, click here

Farhad Peikar (MPA/MAIR ’13)—a graduate of INSCT’s CAS in Security Studies program—is a former Afghanistan bureau chief for Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA).

The Accidental Counterinsurgent

Iraqi_insurgentBy Octavian Manea

(Re-published from Small Wars Journal, May 13, 2015) A discussion with Emma Sky, the author of the just published book The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq (Public Affairs, 2015).

SWJ: What prepared you for this Gertrude Bell kind of journey, for the role of the accidental counterinsurgent operating in a field where 80% is about politics (as Galula would remind us), doing a job where you had to “be more of a missionary than a soldier” (as one officer said)?

Emma Sky: When I went out in Iraq, the first time in 2003, I was not at all read or versed in counterinsurgency. It was not something that I was interested in or thought about, I had never worked with militaries. My background was in development and I had spent a decade working in Israel and Palestine and when you work in development and conflict mediation, people are very much at the center of what you do. The way I framed things had more to do with how the environment shapes people’s behavior. I think we are all products of our environments. If you change the environment, people’s behavior will change. This is the background that I came with. Everybody you meet, how you treat them, will affect whether they are your friend or your enemy. This is generally my approach to life.

SWJ: If I understand well the book, my impression is that you are at the other side of the spectrum from Rory Stewart who is highly critical about COIN and grandiose nation-building schemes. But there are times when we may need to embrace nation-building or state building. In this sense what are some of the necessary lessons that we need to have in mind next time?

Emma Sky: I am not that different than Rory Stewart on this. Rory may be at the far end of the spectrum, but I am closer to him. I am not a believer in big nation building efforts. When we look to Iraq today there is nothing to be seen from a decade of our efforts. So you have to ask why. Why after spending billions of dollars is nothing to be seen from it? I think part of the problem is that we are looking for technical solutions to things that are inherently political. It is all about politics. You quoted Galula saying it is 80% politics. I would say it is 90-95% politics.

The violence is an extension of politics. People use violence to achieve political ends. The main problem that we had is how we frame the situation and we framed it in terms of good guys/bad guys so good guys would be put in power and the bad guys would be excluded. In reality it is a power struggle between different groups. Probably civil war is a more accurate term than insurgency, because insurgency assumes that the government is legitimate. Civil war is more of a competition between a vast array of groups for power and resources. What we saw in Iraq was that those excluded from power tried to bring down the whole new order that we introduced and those that we empowered basically extracted the resources of the state for their own purposes, subverted the democratic institutions that we introduced and used the security forces that we trained and equipped to go after their political rivals.

Our focus should be much more on peace agreements, mediating between the different groups, because if you don’t get that right all the technical assistance that you provide is worthless in the end. Look how much we spent training and equipping the Iraqi army and the first time they were really tested by the Islamic State they fled. This had to do with the leadership, the governance of the security forces, there was so much politicization, so much corruption, so much political interference that completely undermined the chain of command. So conducting more training, providing more equipment does not deal with the problem of the governance of the security forces. So the issues are mostly political. We had all these plans to develop ‘them’ as if they were the passive recipients of our benevolence – and we don’t pay enough attention to the politics. In Iraq and Afghanistan we could have done much more right from the beginning to broker inclusive peace agreements.

SWJ: There is a lot of discussion about ancient hatred in the Middle East these days. Is this concept explaining anything? There was a moment during the 1990s when the collapse of the former Yugoslavia and the successive ethnic wars were perceived through similar lenses. George Kennan himself used the metaphor during the 1990s to advise against a Western intervention in the Balkans.

Emma Sky: When you look to the history of a country like Iraq, most of their history people have lived together, peacefully, they haven’t gone through sectarian wars like we had in Europe. There was not a 30 years war as in Europe. When we arrived in Baghdad in 2003, 30% of the population was intermarried. We blame ‘ancient hatreds’ for the violence partly to absolve ourselves of any responsibility for what’s happened and partly out of ignorance. People don’t understand what is going on in the Middle East so it is easy to say that everything has to do with Sunni and Shia. It is a simplistic explanation.

When you look at the conflict today, it has definitely become much more sectarian, so there is a new dynamic in the region. But the root causes have to do with power and the shifts in the balance of power which was caused by the Iraq war and the way in which we left Iraq which gave the impression that Iran was the victor, that Iran has driven America out of Iraq. Previously it was Iraq that acted as a bulwark against Iran’s expansion and without a strong Iraq, Iran is projecting its power through the region. Iran and the Gulf states have been supporting extreme sectarian actors, turning local grievances over poor governance into proxy wars against each other. That is what made the Middle East more sectarian and led to the break down of societies that coexisted for centuries …

To read the full article, click here.

Octavian Manea (MAIR ’13) was a Fulbright Junior Scholar at SU Maxwell School and a 2013 recipient of a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Security Studies through INSCT.

In Search of Post-9/11 Veterans’ Missing Perspectives


By Corri Zoli, Daniel Fay, & Rosalinda Maury

“We, as warfighters, yearn to give a narrative to our story, to the war we fought, to make sense of the madness.”

Marine Corps veteran Sebastian J. Bae

(Re-published from War on the Rocks, April 23, 2015) Recent discussions at military blogs and elsewhere raise important questions about moral injury and the Post-9/11 wars. With generous support from a Google Global Impact award, we surveyed over 8,400 recent warfighters on their military and post-service experiences. What we learned surprised us and revealed something troubling: warfighters’ experiences in the Post-9/11 wars and in post-service civilian life are too often missing from our national public consciousness and discourse. Despite a deluge of award-winning writing by recent veterans, including this generation’s invention of the war blog, sustained national interest in this war and its warfighters remains limited at best.

Missing Perspectives, Missing Strategy

The first point we want to emphasize is, thus, one of missing perspectives. We have noticed an overarching lack of deep interest—even on the part of the public, federal agencies that collect data on servicemembers (for benefits allocation), and academic researchers—about warfighters’ perspectives on the Post-9/11 wars and their personal impacts. As Sebastian Bae writes, “despite a decade of war, today’s veterans remain faceless, marginalized from society—either heroes or villains.” Significantly, “‘thank you for your service,’” Bae adds, “represents the banality of society’s understanding of the nation’s wars and the men and women who fought them.”

This lack of in-depth, evidence-based inquiry is also—unfortunately—common across academia and in government. Scholars know a lot, for instance, about the “greatest generation” of World War II veterans, Korean and Vietnam—even Civil War veterans. But aside from health and wellness studies, Gulf War I and Post-9/11 veterans—a cohort facing some of the mostcomplex battlefields, unprecedented deployments, and the highest service-related disability rates (see Table 1)—have received far less attention by social scientists, in education data efforts or in programing on college campuses (with some key exceptions). Likewise, despite the rhetoric of “supporting our troops,” neither the VA, the Department of Education, nor the Department of Defense have modernized their data efforts to understand how veterans are doing in the military-to-civilian transition, where they go to school, or which career pathways they chose. We don’t even know the total number of U.S. veterans—federal datasets conflict over this baseline number, despite its importance for benefits and services (see Table 2). In short, we as a nation—in government, academia, and elsewhere—have not sufficiently explored the experiences of recent veterans and their meaning for national public discussions of war, service, and security today.

Secondly, we want to raise one underappreciated source of this often superficial approach to the Post-9/11 wars and its warfighters: a missing or faltering national security strategy for today’s complex, asymmetric conflicts, which may aggravate post-service transition challenges for veterans, including combat stress and moral injury. Moral injury, “the pain resulting from violating one’s moral foundation,” is increasingly seen as “the hallmark of today’s veterans.” While psychologists are still trying to define this idea and its impacts, Sebastian Bae’s informal description is again worth underscoring:

“Unlike Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, moral injury does not stem from fear, but from struggling to reconcile a state of mind occurring in war, where moral clarity is impossible, and the morality society expects of us. To survive, we become someone we no longer recognize, accepting the inconceivable as the price of survival. So, guilt suffocates our voices, hiding stories we cannot share—society does not, or will not, understand.”

According to B.H. Liddel Hart, strategy is “the art of distributing and applying military means to fulfill the ends of policy.” But as Clausewitz knew well, policy objectives—not the military instruments of force to achieve them—are at the heart of strategic thinking, and this policy-oriented strategy itself is based on a narrative with “moral force” that then explains the need for a given war and its goals. Wars for modern, democracies are hard enough to prosecute: without a coherent strategic narrative with clear, worthwhile goals, the moral ambivalence that war (no matter how righteous) inevitably brings weighs most heavily on the “policy implementers,” the women and men of the armed forces tasked with effecting policymakers’ decisions and plans.

Given the importance of these two, missing, critical pieces of information—veterans’ perspectives, and a strategic narrative to explain these wars and our sacrifice—we have tried to structure our survey questions to fill in at least some of the gaps. In the process, we have gotten a glimpse, not only of the many transition challenges faced by today’s servicemembers, but their ongoing aspirations to contribute to public service beyond the military …

To read the complete blog, click here.

Corri Zoli is the Director of Research and an Assistant Research Professor at Syracuse University’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism. Daniel Fay is an Assistant Professor of Public Management at Mississippi State University. Rosalinda Maury is the Director of Survey Research at Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families.

Afghanistan Tries to Strike Balance in Escalating Iran-Saudi Rivalry

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani shakes hands with Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani (right) during an official welcoming ceremony at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran on 19 April 2015. Photograph: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani shakes hands with Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani (right) during an official welcoming ceremony at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran on 19 April 2015. Photograph: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

By Farhad Peikar

By supporting Saudi Arabia’s operation against the Houthi, a Yemeni Shiite rebel group backed by Iran, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani risks dragging his troubled country into a Sunni-Shiite proxy war. If Afghanistan fails to strike a balance between its relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran, it runs the risk of polarizing its people and getting caught in the crosshairs of a regional power struggle. But if Kabul plays its cards right, Afghanistan’s historically ambivalent role in opposing spheres of influence could also be used to maintain balance of power in the region.

While Afghanistan’s relations with the Saudis have been better than ever under Ghani’s leadership, the Afghan leader’s 19-20 April trip to Tehran indicated that Kabul is also seeking to balance its relations with its western neighbour. During this week’s trip, Ghani and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, announced increased cooperation in trade, technology and culture. The two leaders also agreed to share intelligence on terrorism and drug trafficking.

[pullquoteright]As a former chessboard in the 19th-century “Great Game” between the British and Russian empires, the struggle to strike a balance between rival powers is not new for Afghanistan.”[/pullquoteright]As a former chessboard in the 19th-century “Great Game” between the British and Russian empires, the struggle to strike a balance between rival powers is not new for Afghanistan. The country was also caught between the United States and Russia during the Cold War, and more recently between Pakistan and India. To an extent, it has also borne the effects of Iran-US rivalry.

But as it struggles to emerge from its own decades of war, the Riyadh-Tehran matchup could prove devastating for Afghanistan. Even if the current proxy war in Yemen remains within that country’s borders, the same sectarian tensions could erupt in Afghanistan, where both Saudi Arabia and Iran wield significant influence over opposing groups of tribal and religious leaders.

Kabul-Riyadh Ties

Saudi Arabia has a positive image in the minds of many Afghans, who see the country as the holy land that houses the two major Muslim sacred sites in Mecca and Medina. The Saudis also helped Afghan mujahideen in the fight against Soviet troops. Saudi Arabia was also one of the three nations to formally recognize the Taliban regime before it was toppled in 2001.

The influence that Riyadh wields over active anti-government groups including the Taliban, Hezbi Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Haqqani network – as well as other former mujahideen factions that are now part of the Kabul government – makes the kingdom instrumental to any peace deal that could be struck with insurgent groups.

President Ghani has placed a great deal of hope in his administration’s relations with Saudi Arabia. Ghani has travelled to the Muslim holy land twice since becoming president last September and publicly asked the Saudi monarch to use his influence with Pakistan to kick-start peace talks between Kabul, Islamabad and the insurgent groups.

Kabul’s tacit approval of Operation Decisive Storm on 1 April, which came less than a week after warplanes from Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies began striking against the Houthis in Yemen, should not come as a surprise. In return for backing Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen, Ghani hopes to see reciprocal support by the kingdom in ongoing peace efforts with the Taliban …

To read the entire blog, click here.

Farhad Peikar (MPA/MAIR ’13)—a graduate of INSCT’s CAS in Security Studies program—is a former Afghanistan bureau chief for Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA). This article was written in collaboration with