OUR SCHOLARS | Dr. Judith Yaphe

Judith Yaphe

Judith Yaphe is an adjunct professor in the Elliott School and Senior Research Fellow and Middle East Project Director in the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) at the National Defense University in Washington, DC. Before joining INSS in 1995, Dr. Yaphe served for 20 years as a senior analyst on Middle Eastern and Persian Gulf issues in the Office of Near Eastern and South Asian Analysis, Directorate of Intelligence, CIA. She specializes in Iraq, Iran, Arabian/Persian Gulf security issues, and Political Islam/Islamic extremism.

Yaphe received the B.A. with Honors in History from Moravian College and the Ph.D. in Middle Eastern History from the University of Illinois. Selected publications include Strategic Implications of a Nuclear-Armed Iran with Dr. Kori Schake, (2001), The Middle East in 2015: The Impact of Regional Trends on U.S. Strategic Planning (2002), The United States and the Persian Gulf, ed. by Richard D. Sokolsky (2003).

“They were activists clerics, they were revolutionaries and they believed in taking control and not in just being passive and being victims. So this is an activist movement and clerics should be active and they should be out there representing the people and fighting for social justice. And a lot of clerics were very much taken by this, and many of these clerics are very popular. They are together at one period of time in Najaf, which is where the major centers of Shia learning, Najaf and Karbala, and you have Khomeini there and Sheikh Fadlallah from Lebanon, who is the spiritual guide of Hezbollah and the Lebanese Shia. You have a lot of other famous clerics from the Gulf states, who then will go back and preach in this but not for very long, they will be exiled for their activities, their preaching, it’s not acceptable in these Sunni ruled states.”


“The Iraqis could buy anywhere, they could shop till they dropped. You had Iraqis going out with suitcases full of money to buy all kinds of weapons systems including the beginnings of their weapons of mass destruction programs. They could buy chemical. They even bought biological agent in the United States for their experiments, for their WMD development, and they were looking for nuclear as well, although that was harder for them to get, but if a government is determined to get something it will.”


“So there you have not as well armed Iranian army, virtually unarmed besige, but against a fairly well-armed – the Iraqis at that point had the fifth largest military, well equipped, new equipment, modern weapons, and this was all within the past five years or so. So the contrast is enormous; 1975, Iraq is weak, Iraq is fighting civil wars with the Kurds for several years. That’s Saddam Hussein’s biggest problem, the drain on his resources. The Shah is at his height of wealth, strong military army; he is the hegemon of the region, powerful figure. And Saddam goes to the Shah and let’s make a deal.”


“In Saddam’s case… He never trusted an Islamic extremist; he couldn’t control them. He maybe tried to. I’m certain that his intelligence operate, they hadn’t been in some kind of a contact with somebody in that organization, he would have had them shot. You’re not doing your job, you know, out. … But with Iran, …They certainly didn’t have run of the country or freedom to get in and out, and may have been kept as a kind of insurance.”