The Sunni Response to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – Toward MAD or Stability?

The Sunni Response to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – Toward MAD or Stability
(Robert McFarlane, March 1, 2017)

Transcript available below

About the speaker

Robert “Bud” McFarlane was National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan from 1983 to 1985.

His record of public service includes ten years in the White House and State Department in posts that included service as Military Assistant to National Security Advisors Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft, Counselor to the Secretary of State, the President’s Advisor to the Middle East, and ultimately as President Reagan’s National Security Advisor.

He is perhaps best remembered as the architect of U.S. policies – including most notably the Strategic Defense Initiative (or Star Wars) – which so stressed the Soviet economy to bring it down and in the process accelerated the collapse of Marxism in the former Soviet Union. Currently, Mr. McFarlane serves as Chairman and CEO of McFarlane Associates Inc., a consultancy focused on the development of alternative fuels and other measures designed to reduce US reliance on foreign oil.

He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, served 20 years in the US Marine Corps, holds a Master of Science from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, and was selected as a White House Fellow.

In recent years Mr. McFarlane has focused on organizing investment into developing countries, nurturing reconciliation between rival Sunni and Shia sects in Iraq, coaching the tribal leaders of Darfur and in 2011, co-founding The U.S. Energy Security Council. The USESC is a bipartisan group of former Cabinet-level officials, Fortune 50 CEOs, a Nobel Laureate, and retired military officers focused on raising public understanding of the risks to (and the means to restore) the security of our nation when all air, sea, and land transportation must utilize a single fuel (oil) whose price is set by a foreign cartel.


Robert R. Reilly:


Our speaker tonight needs very little introduction because of his distinguished reputation and you know of course of his tremendous service to President Ronald Reagan and this country as the National Security Advisor of the president and the key role he played in the peaceful elimination of the Soviet Union, particularly in creating certain non-kinetic pressures upon that evil empire that brought it down through economic and other measures, so our country owes a great deal to Bud McFarlane.

He also served as a counselor to the State Department, a military adviser to Brent Scowcroft and Henry Kissinger. He served for 20 years as a marine officer. I once made the mistake when I had the privilege of meeting Tom Moynihan, the founder of Dominoes Pizza, I said, “Oh, you were a marine.” He looked at me sternly and said, “No, I am a marine,” so I won’t make that mistake with you tonight, Bud. He is a marine. I know there are some other marines in the audience tonight, so…

Now, I won’t tell you where Bud McFarlane studied. It is part of the resume you were sent on the email. I will just mention that he has been working hard in recent years in the kind of work out of which he will never run and that is reconciling Sunni and Shia, reconciling tribes in Darfur – you may have to go back, Bud, on that one – and most recently, working with recently retired four and three-star generals and other senior diplomats on arms control issues in the Middle East as of course he was a seminal player in arms control agreements with the Soviet Union, so it’s something about which he knows a great deal.

You know that the first lecture topic we announced might have been considered somewhat anodyne, “Restoring America’s Leadership Role in the World.” It’s not that tonight’s topic is unrelated to that, but Mr. McFarlane asked if he might be able to switch to this topic on which he will be speaking tonight, if conditions allowed him to talk publicly about it, and I’m so glad that conditions have permitted that and that he will be talking to us tonight on, “The Sunni Response to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – toward MAD or Stability?” Please join me in welcoming Bud McFarlane.

Robert McFarlane:


Thanks to each of you – you have choices in 68-degree evenings like this. You don’t have to be listening to turgid lectures from the over-the-hill gang so to speak.

Your introduction I noted was too generous and in passing you said early on that I don’t need an introduction but that provoked a memory here about- it must have been 2009, as a former staffer for Kissinger, I was asked to organize a reunion of all of the former staffers that had worked for him on the 50th anniversary of when he came to the White House.and so it wasn’t a big challenge. Everyone wants to be in the same room with Henry, so I got everybody together. Everybody came and because everybody knew him, for goodness sake.

He really does not need an introduction to that crowd, so I had the bad judgement to essentially use that cliche and say, here’s our boss, he needs no introduction, and sat down. Bad choice. Henry got up. Then he was obviously disappointed and he said, “Bud, I may not need an introduction, but I always enjoy one.” That was a blessing to work for Henry.

Tonight, we are focusing on a difficult agenda. All of you are well read, follow the news and the headlines as you have an ever more depressing state of mind over the past ten, fifteen years in the Middle East. Currently, I believe if someone were to ask you, you could probably name at least five (probably more) challenges of a seriousness that keeps you awake at night. I am not going to ask for a show of hands, but obviously, everybody knows about ISIS.

Radical Islam has become an acceptable term now thanks to Bob Reilly, really. If you really want to get beyond the headlines on what is the nature of this menace. He has the definitive book, The Closing of the Muslim Mind, which tells you how the rejection of reason, of modernity occurred, and the Faustian bargain that was reached between the Wahhabist group of wannabe-imams back in the middle of the 18th century. But it is undoubtedly the best work anywhere. I would include in that Bernard Lewis’ books on the Middle East and Islam.

But this is a modern manifestation of this Wahhabist apocalyptic vision, a team, a tribe that believes truly that they are carrying out a mission, a mandate from god to destroy all of the infidels in the world, ending in a caliphate and the End of Time. I did not come here to talk about that tonight, but that is the first challenge that all of us and our country and the West generally face in the Middle East.

It is not the only one. The second one that ought to keep you awake at night is Iran. This country now remaining a revolutionary state since the Ayatollah Khomeini returned in 1979, and has been since that time on a theocratic crusade first to expel all Western influence from the Middle East and then, gradually, directly into the use of surrogates like Hezbollah to dominate the Middle East and ultimately the world as the leader of Islam.

Iran, of course, being Shia, but about 15% globally of the Muslim faith, but now well-funded, well-trained, well-armed, well-advanced in using surrogates indirectly to expel our presence from the Middle East, and ultimately to outflank the Sunni-dominant populations of the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, all of the Gulf Cooperation countries, Egypt, Jordan, and North Africa).

The third challenge is equally daunting and it turns on the intervention of Russia into the Middle East. This is the first time they have been able to establish a presence with a host country, Syria, welcoming them.

See the rest of his talk…