By Harry SarlesFebruary 6, 2020
FORT LEAVENWORTH--Command and General Staff College's Cultural and Area Studies Office hosted its first panel briefing of the year on Jan. 23 entitled "Cultural Dynamics of U.S.-Iran relations: Is Conflict Imminent?" Three panelists shared data and analysis of the situational environment in and around Iran.
Chris Hoch, the National Intelligence Officer for Iran, the National Intelligence Council; Dr. Michael Rubin, Resident Scholar, The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, and a Senior Lecturer, The U.S. Naval Postgraduate School; and Brian L. Steed, Assistant Professor of Military History, CGSC were the panelists. Al Borgardts, Deputy Provost of the Army University, gave opening remarks and Dr. Mahir Ibrahimov, director of the Cultural and Area Studies Office acted as the moderator.
Speaking to a standing room audience of approximately 120 in the Arnold Conference Room of the Lewis and Clark Center, Ibrahimov began by saying his office presents panels consisting of top experts on the most important topics of operational and strategic importance to the United States. In addition to the local audience, 10 stations across the Army were connected via video teleconference to the panel presentation. After introducing the speakers, he turned the discussion over to the panel.
Hoch arranged his remarks around three macro points -- the context with Iran matters, context translates into culture; we have to understand who in Iran we're talking to; and the threats and opportunities we face in Iran. He said there are three generations to consider in Iran. The oldest is the generation that brought the current regime to power and continues to hold most of the leadership positions in Iran. The following generations are successively removed from the revolutionary movement and may be seeking more stable conditions that would allow them to thrive.
Hoch joined the Office of the Director of National Intelligence as the National Intelligence Officer for Iran in March 2019. He has more than 22 years focusing on Iranian domestic, foreign, and regional policies. Mr. Hoch has served three overseas tours with the Department of State including Jordan, Afghanistan, and United Arab Emirates.
Reuben took a look at Iran and Iraq based on the past. He began with a talk about demographics. Iran has had a drastic decline in birthrate in the past decade. A more than 50 percent reduction in birth rate since 1980 had led to an aging population. The economic reverberations of the aging population may cause an effort by Iranian leaders to rally the populace around the flag, said Reuben. He also pointed out that the current supreme leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei is nearing 80 so regime change is likely to come from within due to his eventual passing or leaving power.
Rubin is co-editor of "Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East?" (AEI Press, 2019), "Kurdistan Rising" (AEI, 2016), "Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engagement" (Encounter, 2015), "The Shi'ites of the Middle East" (AEI, 2014) and two earlier books examining Iranian history.
Steed was the final speaker. He talked about the regime and leadership in Iran. He said the Iran Army's character was forged during the Iran-Iraq war. They perceive the U.S. to be weak willed and technology enabled (unable to operate without technology superiority). That perception fits well with how the Iran Army perceived itself during the Iran-Iraq war, said Steed. In that conflict they also believed themselves to be fighting against a technologically superior enemy. Iran is asymmetric in its approach to warfare. It heavily uses proxies. "Iran is the expert in plus-one warfare," said Steed.
Steed is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel with more than 30 years of civilian and uniformed experience. As an Army officer, he was a Middle East foreign area officer, which required him to travel extensively throughout the Middle East and North Africa and included eight and a half consecutive years living and working in the Middle East.
He has written and edited nine books, and numerous articles and papers on military theory, military history, and cultural awareness. He edited "Iraq War: The Essential Reference Guide" and authored "ISIS: The Essential Reference Guide" both published in 2019.