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).

What Dr. Judith Yaphe Said

The Hostage Crisis

There were 52 hostages, almost all of them were in the embassy as employees.  …They were taken hostage.  And at first, there was hope that the Iranians would come to their senses and there was hope that Khomeini would say oh well, that was a wrong thing to do, and let them go.  But the problem is, the revolution was in its very early stages and if there’s one thing that saves a revolution, and I don’t care what revolution it is, it could be the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, if you have an outside threat it brings the different factions together behind the government, the new government, the government that’s there. And in this case, two things happened that do this for Iran, and the first one was the taking of the American hostages in the embassy.


Iran-Contra Affair

And it was a high-agenda item for the U.S. government.  When the hostages were taken in Lebanon, that was an extremely high visibility issue, maybe visibility isn’t the right word ’cause nobody knew who, we were not known as to who was working on this.  But the point I wanted to make is it had the attention of the president, President Reagan, and nobody, I think, really understood how deeply he was affected by that. And that took us into Iran – Iran-gate, you know, we never buy hostages or pay terrorists, yes, we do.  And that turned into Iran-Contra.


WMD Development

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.


1975 Algiers Accord

So there you have not as well armed Iranian army, virtually unarmed Basige, 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.


Never Trust an Islamic Extremist

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.

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