Abbas Milani, a research fellow and codirector of the Iran Democracy Project at the Hoover Institution, discusses ISIS, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the future of the Middle East. Successive US administrations have declared Iran to be one of America’s most serious national security threats. Yet the last four wars the US has fought in the region — in Afghanistan, in the two wars in Iraq and in the current war with ISIS—have resulted in either removing or containing Iran’s powerful adversaries. In all these cases, Iran has fanned the flames of war — by encouraging anti-Americanism in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and by encouraging Shiite sectarians in Syria and Iraq — but also worked on the same side with the US. The fight against ISIS is the most notable example.
Milani is not optimistic about the future of the Middle East, saying he has never seen so much turmoil. The social and cultural systems and boundaries that were implemented after World War I are now coming apart. Seven to ten countries in the Middle East are failed states; then you have nonstate actors such as ISIS. The sand is shifting in the Middle East in profound ways and affecting the whole world. Milani also discusses ways to counter ISIS and help the Middle East.