Saturday, March 28, 2009

Interview: Ryan Mauro

We are pleased to continue our interview series with Ryan Mauro, one of the youngest geopolitical analysts in the country. But don't let his age fool you. Ryan's adept analysis and research methods make his writing not only informative, but compelling. I've been visiting his website, World Threats, since 2004. He has spoken at conferences and colleges and published his first book before he was twenty.

So here it goes:

Q: What is the biggest strategic threat to the United States in the next five years?

The biggest strategic threat has to be the Iran-Syria Axis. We are seeing the beginnings of transcontinental blocs being formed aligned either with the U.S. or the Iranians. In the Middle East, you're seeing one bloc form, consisting of the U.S., the Saudis, Egyptians, and other Gulf countries, and on the other, Iran, Syria, the terrorist organizations and possibly Qatar. In Africa, you're seeing Iran and Syria becoming closer to Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Sudan and supporting radical Islamic forces in Somalia, pitting them against the U.S., Djibouti, Ethiopia, and others. I believe you'll see a similar dynamic become more obvious in Latin America in the coming years.

In the next twenty?


Luckily, the vast majority of the Iranian people are opposed to the mullahs that oppress them. The Iranian people are also suffering economically, and the future doesn't seem any brighter. The Iranian regime relies upon oil exports for 90% of its income, but by 2015, they'll need all that oil for domestic consumption. Pretty soon, major changes will be needed. The regime will either need to take a Stalinist route, becoming even more brutal to its people, or a Gorbachev-like route, where they liberalize for the time being in order to alleviate pressure, appease their people, have better trading relations with other countries, and receive foreign investment. Either way, the end game is inevitable: It is very probable that within fifty years, the mullahs will be out of power and Iran will be a friendly partner of the U.S.
The next big challenge is China, who is currently supporting every rogue state and making inroads on every continent. If the U.S. and China end up having a confrontational relationship, similar to that of the U.S. and U.S.S.R., the world will be divided into two camps. However, there is good reason to believe this will not occur. There is growing evidence of dissent among Chinese inside and outside the government, demanding more economic and especially, political liberalization. This movement is growing. In addition, the ties between China and the U.S. economically make it extremely counter-productive for one to become too hostile with the other.
My main worry is that internal destabilization will cause the Chinese rulers to become more harsh towards their people and they will try to rouse up nationalist fervor in an attempt to solidify their power. If faced with being thrown out of power, they may seek to provoke some sort of conflict with the U.S., perhaps by going to war with Taiwan. This does not make economic sense, but at that point, the corrupt, selfish Communist government's primary concern will be holding onto power.

Q: Do you believe that the Obama Administration will be able to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon?

The best bet the Obama Administration can hope for with their current approach is to delay the Iranians' acquisition of a nuclear bomb by cutting some sort of deal with them. I would not rule out Iran suspending, but not ending, their uranium enrichment program if they receive economic, technological and political incentives. This would be a trick on their part, seeking to encourage further appeasement in the future. However, Iran will continue their program and may continue to operate a parallel, hidden enrichment program while suspending their overt program. This covert program may not even exist in Iran, it can have parts in Syria, North Korea, or Sudan.

Do you believe that the new plan for Afghanistan will be able to quell the Taliban?

The Obama Administration is taking the right approach and with General Petraeus as the head of CENTCOM, I am confident progress will be made. In Iraq, the key was working with the tribes, convincing and enabling them to defeat Al-Qaeda. The same general dynamic exists in Afghanistan, except the problem is that the tribes are located in Pakistan, and they are more loyal to the Taliban than the Iraqi tribes were to Al-Qaeda. Our options are limited in regards to Pakistan, but we must admit the fact that while Pakistan has taken some positive measures towards fighting Al-Qaeda, they continue to allow the supporting radical Islamic infrastructure to operate, particularly the networks of Lashkar e-Taiba, the Taliban, Jalaluddin Haqqani, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. We cannot mistake half-measures made out of self-interest for a full commitment to fighting Islamic extremism.

Where will be the next flare up in world affairs?

The next big flare-up is hard to say. Mexico is clearly undergoing a major crisis and there is a good chance of the government losing control of key portions of its territory, similar to the situation in Pakistan. We are also faced with the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran and possibly, Syria and Lebanon, which would almost certainly ignite a major conflict in the region. The conflicts in these two areas need to be followed closely, as they each appear to be going quickly downhill.

We'd like to thank Ryan for taking part in this interview.

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