On Tuesday, the American Enterprise Institute Executive Council at the University of Michigan — the University’s branch of a conversative leaning think tank based in Washington D.C. — held a talk on the Iran Deal and its consequences for Iran and the United States. Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and former Pentagon official, led the talk.

Rubin’s talk focused on the specifics of the Iran Deal and Iran protests and how the U.S. has reacted to the deal and its effects in the past.

“Rather than simply engage in the political fight between Democrats and Republicans about whether or not this deal is a good thing,  the fact of the matter is we also need to be forward-looking in regard to our policy,” Rubin said.

One of the key points of the talk centered on the premise of the Iran Deal. The main focus of this deal was to ensure Iran reduced its nuclear facilities; lifting economic sanctions placed on Iran did that.

After neighboring nation Iraq managed to hide nuclear facilities from the United Nates, stricter inspections of countries’ nuclear facilities were added to the deal. According to Rubin, Iran chose to accept — not ratify — the treaty, resulting in the country receiving new technology without increased inspections. 

“Whatever you think about the deal, we still need to … be forward-leaning to deal with Iran as the terms of this deal start to expire,” Rubin said. “It’s going to happen faster than many people expect it.”

The talk shifted to protests within Iran and how these protests immediately turned on Iran’s security forces. The focus of the protests centered on common complaints, like those of Iranian workers, which according to Rubin, include unpaid wages, not foreign politics.

Rubin also mentioned the effect of demographics on the protests in Iran. He discussed how young adults primarily held the protests, but as these young adults grow older and have children, they will be less likely to protest out of fear of losing their families.

“Different people can think in very different ways, and I would argue that it is culturally arrogant to project our own value system onto others and assume that other people think like us,” Rubin said.

Additionally, Rubin discussed a bounty the Turkish government has placed on him as a result of his analysis predicting a possible coup in Turkey. After a failed coup in 2016, the Turkish government issued an arrest warrant for Rubin and a bounty of 3 million Turkish liras (about $800,000).

On his personal opinion about whether or not there should be violent action taken against Iran, Rubin claimed it could only delay their nuclear program by a few years. Unless a policy exists within these few years to address the next steps for the U.S., Rubin argued that a bombing would be very irresponsible. 

“My advice is not to sacrifice the long-term goal of having better relations with Iran, for the short-term gain of trying to do something like military action or play the ethnic card,” Rubin said.

Engineering graduate student Niral Shah initially came to the talk to learn more about the Iran Deal and its effects on Iran and the U.S.

“I think he said some interesting things,” Shah said. “It looks like I need to learn more about the separations of power within Iran and learn more about how that’s divided to really figure out what’s going on there.”

LSA sophomore Brooke Lennox is interested in working in national security and felt the talk would help increase her awareness of global security dilemmas.

“Middle Eastern politics is so complex and religion-based, and I’m really interested in that and how that has developed,” Lennox said. “It’s important to look at what’s going on now, and I think the best possible solution involves looking ahead and learning about possibilities for the future.”

Rubin asserts the goal of the Iran Deal was to rein in the Iranian nuclear program, and the debate centers around whether or not the deal was successful. According to Rubin, if Iran does build a nuclear weapon, the situation may be difficult because of the flaws of general deterrence.

“The way I tend to look at it is there is no magic formula, and if there was a magic formula to solve the problems of the region, that magic formula would have been discovered generations ago,” Rubin said. “And because there’s no magic formula, it’s almost like we’re damned if we do, we’re damned if we don’t, and therefore we might as well do what we think is right.”


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