How would you describe the current security situation in
Iraq, and what are the prospects
for withdrawal of U.S. forces, following the Petraeus report?
Ryan: It is still too unsettled to say that the security
situation in Iraq is good or
even better than before. By many measures (sectarian violence,
murders, terrorists captured/killed) security is better today
than a year ago. However, reports show that civilians are still
dying at high rates and terrorist attacks continue. The ultimate
factor in whether the security situation will actually be better
is the ability of the Iraq
forces to sustain the achievements of coalition forces.
Regardless of the security situation, U.S. troops are beginning
the drawdown. General Petraeus
announced that the 5 surge brigades would return to the U.S.
after their 15-moth tours ended 2008 and will not be replaced.
The reason they will not be replaced is because the U.S. does
not have the will to mobilize additional forces to replace them.
The prospect for even more withdrawals beginning in summer 2008
is good. In his speech following Petraeus’ report to Congress,
President Bush said that he had
approved Petraeus’ recommendation to begin shifting more effort
to training of Iraqi forces and handing off security
responsibility to Iraq security
forces. This change in mission will allow further reductions in
Iraq and, by December 2008, it
is possible that the U.S. could have as few as 10 brigades in
Question: Do you think that the recent clashes
between the Kurdistan Workers Party
(PKK) and Turkey present a serious risk for the security in
Ryan: Every conflict in Iraq
is serious and could develop into a fatal crisis for the
country. However, compared to the Sunni-Shia divide, or even the
threat from Al-Qaeda affiliates,
the clashes between Turkish and PKK forces do not pose a
critical risk. The PKK is almost universally abhorred by the
Turks and the neighboring Kurdish groups. An extremist group,
the PKK has a history of terrorist attacks throughout Turkey. If
Turkey can limit its operations to clearly PKK targets in
Iraq, the incursions will likely
not become a reason for wider battles with
Iraq or other Kurdish groups.
Question: Talks about
Iraq were held in the summer of 2007 between Iran and the
U.S. in Baghdad. Do you think such talks could resume in a near
future, given the current tension between the two countries?
Ryan: At the end of the last round of talks, the U.S.
Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker,
said that it was clear to him that Iran had no intention of
conducting serious discussions on the problems in
Iraq. Additionally U.S. ground
commanders have been very open about evidence of the growth of
Iranian support to insurgents inside
Iraq. Given these developments, it seems unlikely new
talks will be opened.
Question: Do you think Russia and the U.S.
might find common ground about the missile defense deployment
project in Eastern Europe?
Ryan: Having worked U.S.-Russian relations for almost
three decades, I have become an optimist that positive change is
sometimes possible, but always difficult. There are clearly
compromises available which could enable the U.S. to deliver a
missile defense system to Europe
against Iranian missiles while guaranteeing
Russia against attack by that
same system. However, Russia is
in no hurry to reach these compromises because it feels that the
U.S. deployment can be delayed indefinitely by domestic and
foreign opposition to the plan. By the same token, American
leaders believe they have the support at home and in
Europe to deploy the system as
planned without Russian cooperation or interference. The two
nations will only find compromise when conditions prove one or
the other wrong.
Question: You recently wrote that
President Bush should accept
Putin's challenge to make the INF Treaty become "universal in
nature", as an alternative to a new missile race. Could you
develop this point?
Ryan: Long and medium range missiles present the risk of
sudden and unexpected attack. When coupled with nuclear warheads
these missiles can threaten the destruction of whole societies
with only minutes warning. Without an effective missile defense
system, the only way to protect against such attacks is to deter
the enemy’s use of those missiles by threatening a comparable
attack. That caused both Russia
and the U.S. to deploy medium range missiles during the Cold
War. However, in 1987 Russia and
the U.S. pioneered a better way of precluding such attacks -
eliminating the missiles altogether. Achieving a global ban on
intermediate-range missiles would remove the threat of sudden
attack by neighboring states, and also make it unlikely that
nations could build longer-range missiles either. If, however,
states like Iran, Syria, or
North Korea are not willing to
eliminate medium range missiles then the U.S. and
Russia will find themselves in
the same situation they experienced in the 1980’s - confronted
by the deployment of intermediate-range missiles. In such a
case, Russia and the U.S. would feel great pressure to return
similar weapons to their arsenals.
Question: During the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm
this summer, Putin made a proposal to Bush to use the Gabala
radar station in Azerbaijan.
What do you think about the
negotiations going on
about this proposal ?
Unfortunately, the Gabala radar is not the right type for
guiding U.S. missile defense interceptors and cannot be modified
to do so. The U.S. side has said that it is willing to add
Gabala’s radar data into the wider European defense network, but
Putin has clarified his offer by saying that he does not intend
Gabala as an “add-on” but a replacement for the
Czech Republic radar. Gabala
could eventually become part of a Europe-wide air and missile
defense system, but cannot operate as a substitute for the radar
planned for the Czech Republic.