Future U.S. Iran Policy in a Shifting Regional Order

The Middle East Institute (MEI) hosted VADM John W. Miller, Paul Pillar, Amb. Dennis Ross, and Alex Vatanka for a discussion of the regional impact of the nuclear deal and U.S. policy toward the Gulf going forward.
Friday, May 13
12:00 - 1:30 pm
SEIU Conference Center
1800 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20036

Event Information

One year after the P5+1 reached a nuclear deal with Iran, critics of the agreement argue it has emboldened Iran to pursue more aggressive regional policies, heightening tensions across the Middle East. What is clear to both critics and supporters of the deal is that the rivalry between Tehran and Riyadh is destabilizing the regional balance.

Looking ahead to the next U.S. administration, how should policy-makers respond to this shifting regional order, and what level of U.S. engagement is required to help stem growing regional conflict?

Panelists Vice Admiral John W. Miller (USN, retired), Paul Pillar (Georgetown Univ.), Ambassador Dennis Ross (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), and Alex Vatanka (MEI) assessed the regional impact of the nuclear deal and discuss U.S. policy toward the Gulf going forward. Indira Lakshmanan moderated the discussion.

Speaker Biographies:
VADM John W. Miller
Former Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and U.S. Fifth Fleet
Vice Admiral John Miller spent a majority of his operational career in the U.S. Navy deploying to and operating in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. He served as deputy commander to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/United States 5th Fleet, deputy director, Strategy, Plans, and Policy (J5), and chief of staff, U.S. Central Command. He accumulated more than 3,500 flight hours and 1,000 carrier-arrested landings over his career. Miller left command of the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center in October 2011 to serve as the special assistant to the deputy chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans, and Strategy (N3/N5) in Washington D.C., before reporting as commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/United States 5th Fleet/Combined Maritime Forces. Miller is a distinguished graduate of the Naval War College and holds a master’s degree in international relations.

Paul Pillar
Researcher and Core Faculty Member, Center for Security Studies, Georgetown University
In 2005, Paul Pillar retired from a 28-year career in the U.S. intelligence community, last serving as national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia. Previously, he was chief of analytic units at the CIA covering portions of the Near East, the Persian Gulf, and South Asia and an original member of the National Intelligence Council’s Analytic Group. He was an executive assistant to the CIA's deputy director for intelligence and an executive assistant to Director of Central Intelligence William Webster. He headed the Assessments and Information Group of the DCI Counterterrorist Center, and from 1997-1999 was deputy chief of the center. He has authored numerous books and reports, including Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy (Brookings Institution Press, 2001) and Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform (Columbia University Press, 2011). He is a frequent guest on PBS NewsHour and The Diane Rehm Show and has given testimony as an expert witness in congressional hearings. He is a nonresident senior fellow in the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution and a contributing editor at The National Interest.

Amb. Dennis Ross
Counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Ambassador Dennis Ross is counselor and William Davidson distinguished fellow at WINEP. Prior to returning to the institute in 2011, he served two years as special assistant to President Obama and National Security Council (NSC) senior director for the Central Region, and a year as special advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. For more than twelve years, Amb. Ross shaped U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process as the U.S. point person in both the George H. W. Bush and Clinton administrations. He was instrumental in assisting Israelis and Palestinians in reaching the 1995 Interim Agreement, successfully brokering the 1997 Hebron Accord, facilitating the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, and working to bring Israel and Syria together. Amb. Ross also served as director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff in the first Bush administration and director of Near East and South Asian affairs on the NSC staff in the Reagan administration. He was awarded the Presidential Medal for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service by President Clinton. He authored several influential books on the peace process, most recently Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, October 2015).

Alex Vatanka
Senior Fellow, Middle East Institute
Alex Vatanka is a senior fellow at MEI who specializes in Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Iranian regional and foreign policy. From 2006 to 2010, he was the managing editor of Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst. From 2001 to 2006, he was a senior political analyst at Jane’s in London (UK), where he mainly covered the Middle East. Alex is also a senior fellow in Middle East studies at the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School (USAFSOS) at Hurlburt Field and teaches as an adjunct professor at DISAM at Wright-Patterson AFB. Born in Tehran, he holds an MA in international relations from Essex University and is fluent in Farsi and Danish. He is the author of Iran-Pakistan: Security, Diplomacy, and American Influence (2015) and is presently working on his second book, The Making of Iranian Foreign Policy: Contested Ideology, Personal Rivalries, and the Domestic Struggle to Define Iran’s Place in the World. He has lectured widely for both governmental and commercial audiences, including the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, U.S. intelligence agencies, and U.S. congressional staff.

Indira Lakshmanan (Moderator)
Foreign Policy Journalist
Indira Lakshmanan, currently a contributor to POLITICO Magazine, has reported from 80 countries in Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East over seven years as a State Department correspondent for Bloomberg News and more than a decade with The Boston Globe. She traveled regularly with Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry and covered the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, traveling with Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. For two years, she wrote a page two column for the International Herald Tribune, the overseas edition of The New York Times, and Bloomberg. Lakshmanan is a frequent guest host for NPR’s Weekend Edition and The Diane Rehm Show, as well as a guest commentator on PBS’s Washington Week and NewsHour, and on NPR, Sirius XM and MSNBC. She chronicled the inside story of seven years of Obama Administration diplomacy with Iran for Politico Magazine. During her 12 years abroad for The Boston Globe, she was the paper's Asia bureau chief in Hong Kong and Shanghai, its Latin America bureau chief in Bogota, Colombia, and a Bosnia War correspondent.