Anthony Shaffer on Iran, Saudi Arabia and a Nuclear Middle East

Middle East

DC Insider spoke with Anthony Shaffer, a retired U.S. Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, to gain further insight on the escalating tension between Iran and the United States. 

Is the U.S. willing to head back to the negotiating table with Iran?

“I think it really depends on Iran. The president has said that he would very much like to return to some level of negotiation with the Iranians on a spectrum of things. I know from my contacts with the Trump administration, the state department, and the Pentagon that that is absolutely correct: There’s a desire for dialogue, especially on the nuclear issues.

There’s a desire for dialogue, especially on the nuclear issues.

Regarding the nuclear issue, there are a couple of factors that make it front and center to the Trump administration and the region… No one in any national security think tank that I know of or has expertise wants nuclear weapons in the Middle-East. It is in nobody’s interest and there are far too many economic interests and a variety of countries in the region that could be jeopardized by nuclear weapons.”

My information is that the Saudis have already paid for but not taken delivery of nuclear weapons; it is in a warehouse in Pakistan. There are nuclear warheads that are ready to go.

“There is the potential use of nuclear weapons therefore the consequence of the Iranians obtaining a nuclear weapon in some form could unleash a new cold war, essentially a nuclear arms race in the Middle-East between the Saudis, the Sunni, the Shia, and the Iranians. No one wants that and the Europeans should be very much aware of the potential downside of this. This is happening and this is not something that I am not familiar with…”

“My information is that the Saudis have already paid for but not taken delivery of nuclear weapons; it is in a warehouse in Pakistan. There are nuclear warheads that are ready to go. Simply put- if the Iranians are able to obtain a credible nuclear weapon and a credible delivery system, the Saudis will take delivery and I think this is where we are at… No one wants to see the introduction of these nuclear weapons in the region and that’s why Trump does not want to get us into a war or a conflict. This nuclear weapons interest is something that concerns the region and the world.”

What of the Saudi-U.S. alliance?

“One of the concepts that the Trump administration put forward early was something called MISA, the Middle-East strategic alliance… It was essentially a concept of having an Arab NATO. This was put together by the feeling by our Arab allies that that we had abandoned them. Thus part of the idea was to re-establish multiple bilateral relationships between those nations and not just us – We’re talking Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, and KSA. 

One of the concepts that the Trump administration put forward early was something called MISA, the Middle-East strategic alliance… It was essentially a concept of having an Arab NATO

These nations have relationships for purposes of collective security so that is something that is still on the table. As a matter of fact, President Trump said something a few days ago about NATO actually going into the region to work as a stabilizing force… I am not sure if I am for that or not, but I do believe that the idea here is that if you have nations that are interested in collective security, it makes it more difficult for the idea of an aggressor to be able to come in and do something aggressive.

President Trump said something a few days ago about NATO actually going into the region to work as a stabilizing force

That is one of the concerns about the Iranians regarding KSA: The Saudis fear that if the Iranians are able to obtain a nuclear weapon, maybe they would become more aggressive and that is based on the history of weapons development that we’ve seen between the Soviet Union and the U.S. back in the 50s and 60s.”

Was Trump being truthful when he mentioned that other embassies would possibly fall under attack?

“I absolutely see truth to the fact that the Iranians were planning military and terrorist operations in the region; there is absolutely no doubt. The reason that I think you see such a scattered description is due to protecting sources’ methods.

I absolutely see truth to the fact that the Iranians were planning military and terrorist operations in the region; there is absolutely no doubt

Speaking as an intelligence officer with some level of direct experience, simply because you know something does not mean you can explain how you know it to the public in great detail and therefore you are going to have to be able to beg and that’s what we’ve been seeing the effects of.”

How much interest does Trump have in the oil in the Middle-East?

“None. The oil issue is something that has been at the front and center in policy this current administration and here’s why: the U.S. has become the largest producer of oil in the world. The conditions which resulted in the oil shortages in the 1970s which resulted in a lot of the aggression in the Middle-East… Those countries that do need the oil are significant – China, Japan, Korea – these are nations which have huge economies that depend on that oil.

We, as the U.S., have an interest to ensure that the oil flows from the Strait of Hormuz to the rest of the world because it is in the U.S.’s interest to see a strong world economy. The idea that somehow we would not want to see oil or take advantage of it is something that is a bit redundant… We have enough oil – we have more oil and the supply hasn’t diminished at all.

China, at any given time, has about three weeks worth of oil on hand to run its economy. Therefore any break in the supply will cause huge repercussions in the Chinese economy and I would argue in the world economy.

I think that it is going to be much more focused on how we do work with our regional allies and China. We’re about to sign phase one of the China agreement and the Chinese clearly understand. China, at any given time, has about three weeks worth of oil on hand to run its economy. Therefore any break in the supply will cause huge repercussions in the Chinese economy and I would argue in the world economy.”

Is the Trump Whitehouse correct to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps a foreign terrorist organization?

“I faced the IRGC in combat and they are terrorists. They were on the battlefield funding and servicing operations in 2003 in Afghanistan.

They have been engaged directly in acts of terror and espionage against U.S. forces while never declaring war.

They were essentially performing the function of what we call Geneva war etiquette – an unconventional combatant, someone who does not wear a uniform – and this has been the record of the IRGC and the Quds force. They have been engaged directly in acts of terror and espionage against U.S. forces while never declaring war.”
 

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Al Bawaba News.

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