I recently returned from a conference in London entitled “Iran and the International Community: Policy Considerations for 2013”, to see David Beckham's presser on his move to the PSG football club shown live on BBC, CNN, SKY and Aljazeera. As a news junkie it struck me that even President Obama rarely gets this sort of exposure at the same time on these stations in Europe.
The Iranian conference was put on by two 'Think Tanks'. The UK based Henry Jackson Society and the US Foundation For Defense of Democracies. It covered a wide range of Topics including: the present state of Iran's nuclear weapons industry, human rights in Iran, Iranian sponsorship of Jihadist terrorist groups, the state of the Iranian opposition movement, the efficacy of the current international sanctions against Iran and an assessment of potential military and diplomatic policy responses. I was left with a distinctly uneasy feeling as to the way in which the world community, with all its other problems, was facing up to the serious threat that an Islamic Republic that wants to 'wipe Israel off the face of the map' was (by general consensus) only 24-36 months away from obtaining the Bomb. Make no mistake, with this capability Iran is a threat to global peace and security. In short, this is important.
On the other hand, I have faith in our democratic political institutions to react accordingly but with one reservation brought about by a comment made by the excellent Douglas Murray, Associate Director, The Henry Jackson Society (see below). He said that the Mullahs who rule Iran have run rings around the 'West' and strung us along in the nuclear negotiations that we have initiated because "they care much more about this than we do." Perhaps if we gave as much attention to the Iranian nuclear weapon issue as we do to what David Beckham is doing for the next five months it might make the world a safer place! (see here for previous my blog piece on Iranian Drones)
I tweeted quite a bit during the conference and decided to put the best of my tweets and those of others in attendance into the slide show below. I have referenced contributions from commentators in the slide show at the bottom of the page and introduce them with some of my own assessment on their performance as speakers below. The slide show finishes with four policy prescriptions (I guess five if you include the point about David Beckham above) which I think democratic countries should implement straight away.
1. Dr. Michael Broer – Senior Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Arms Control Expert, Politico-Military Affairs and Arms Control Directorate, German Ministry of Defence.
A pleasant enough fellow who seemed very sound for a German bureaucrat. Ballsy Thinking score: 6/10
2. Reuel Marc Gerecht – Former Middle East Specialist, Directorate of Operations, CIA and Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
This bloke was hot mustard. He had the Thinking Balls of an elephant and as you go through the slide show above you will note he is mentioned most often of all conference speakers. Gerecht reinforced my belief in the importance of the activities of the Sneaky Beakies (the secret services) in defeating Iran's attempts to nuclearise and also stop it financing terrorist activities. Ballsy Thinking score: 10/10
3. John Hannah – Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Former National Security Advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney.
Interesting background and clarity of thought. Though tends to slouch! Ballsy Thinking score: 7/10
4. Richard Perle – Fellow, American Enterprise Institute.
Formidable background, direct talker and wears long RED ties - a power dresser! Ballsy Thinking score: 8/10
5. Professor Matthew Kroenig – Department of Government, Georgetown University and former Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow in the US Department of Defense.
Yowder! This is the man to watch! Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan (the Red October version) personified. He even looks like he can jump out of a helicopter into the Atlantic ocean... You could tell from the body language of the Oldies on stage that they respected this Dude. Clarity, facts and incisive comment. Gerecht, you need to take this man into the field and toughen him up. He even has his own website (check it out here). Ballsy Thinking score: 10/10
6. Elliott Abrams – Former U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor (Middle East) and Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations.
An intelligent expert who seems to know his way around the Beltway. Ballsy Thinking score: 7/10
7. Rafael Bardaji - Special Adviser, Spanish Ministry of Defence.
A complete sleeper. Er, I mean I was about to drop off when he spoke as his microphone wasn't working 100% and then..he dropped the bombshell remark of the the conference for me about a meeting he had with the Supreme Leader in Iran (see slide 2 above). I was so startled that I had to ask the nice lady from Reporters Without Borders next to me whether I had heard him right. Interestingly his remark was my most retweeted from the conference. Ballsy Thinking score: 9/10
8. Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Oh dear, what a pompous prat! He got his oar into every aspect of the conference. He was on a panel (forgettable), asked ass-kissing questions from the floor and chaired one session appallingly. So obviously out of his depth. I guess if you pay for the damn conference you can do what you like but... Ballsy Thinking score: 2/10
9. Douglas Murray – Associate Director, The Henry Jackson Society.
Oh Douglas, you made me proud to be British! Your analysis was simply brilliant. In fact, you held the floor with every remark you made, most of which was picked up by others on your panel. I Googled you and you even seem to have a fan in Newsnight's executioner Paxman (here). Ballsy Thinking score: 10/10