tv Geneive Abdo Discusses The New Sectarianism CSPAN January 22, 2017 2:19pm-3:22pm EST
>> this is booktv on c-span2. television for serious readers. here is our prime time lineup. tonight starting at 7:00 p.m. eastern harvard law professor michael on the drafting of the u.s. constitution. peter cousins discusses his book the earth is weeping, the epic story of the indian wars for the american west at eight. and on booktv's afterwords at 9:00 p.m. fox news threadbare discusses his new book on the final days of the eisenhower administration. and at 10:00 p.m. iraq war veteran michael anthony shares his difficulties returning home from work. and we wrap up our sunday prime time lineup with omar ãus ambassador to russia he talks about the dangers of is limited extremism and what it means to be a good muslim in the world today.
that happens tonight on c-span2's t.v.. [inaudible conversations] >> hello everyone thank you so much for coming. we are going to have a discussion and then we're going to open it up to q&a after 30 minutes. and as you probably know or may not know this is been filmed by c-span. so thank you very much c-span. [laughter] also, please ask a lot of questions and be as provocative as you want to be so that we can have a lot of very interesting conversations and that will be great for television. so, my name is geneive abdo. i am a senior fellow and we also have joyce karam a
correspondent for al hayat. i think for any media particularly for this media i think she is a very interesting and truthful take on all sorts of issues in the region but also happens in washington. if you read any of her coverage about the iran nuclear deal it was absolutely spot on. >> thank you. >> we are honored today to have her with us and so we are going to begin and they are going to start taping i guess. so thank you for coming. >> incorporated you everyone. good to be here. i have to say, reading geneive abdo's book, being interjected with a terror attack in turkey, another attack in egypt, isis
taking ãit has brought us full circle. i think most of you have been in washington following events in the middle east. but i rarely find a sense of realism and a real touch from the region that geneive abdo brings into the book. i think what i like about it is, it just paints a very good picture of what is happening in the middle east. it is no-nonsense, no wishy-washy talk about the future of the liberal democracies in the region. you do not get this. you really get what is happening in the region right now. a complex understanding of the dynamics that you, i am shocked that are always missing in the conversation on washington.
how many of us have heard about ãin the last year in the debate in washington? not many. and it is a major part of what is going on. i mean it took geneive for years to research and write this book. reading it i grew up near tripoli lebanon and she was there. she went to walk, she went to bharain and that is where ãwhy i think this book is different. it is also refreshingly very honest and candid. over realities in the region. that we try to spend, we tried to censor in the city. i tell you who is paying who? which cleric is sitting in baghdad or tripoli and
spreading hateful rhetoric on twitter. this is a debate that definitely we need to happen in the region and i think to understand the post-arab spring middle east. it is really a must read, congratulations on this book. and i will only take 30 minutes. then we will go to you for questions. but i will start geneive by asking you, at what point watching the arab spring you said to yourself this is not used in europe, this is actually not the mess that we all believed in here in washington d.c. and in places like syria for example. where it is an open inferno now. do you think if the regime had
acted differently in the beginning or if the opposition did not get armed, things could have been different and we would not be at this sectarian upheaval we are seeing today in syria? >> well, i think you raise a broader issue which is really important. that is that a lot of the discussions that are beginning, of course everyone was optimistic. and you use the diplomatic term that my book is honest. but 11 people always say that i'm too cynical and that you know every time i give a lecture about the middle east everyone says we know now we are going to kill ourselves. it's because i generally am pessimistic about the region. but i think it is more sort of a realism and so when the arab uprising started i think that you know, there was far too much optimism about the outcome and given all of the different factions where there was
religious or political, it was obvious this was going to take generations to sort out in the beginning. i think in the case of syria, it is like most uprisings. and what is important i think it is to talk about the similarities. because if you look at bharain, syria, egypt, the uprising started all with the same goal. which was to oust dictators. in bharain it wasn't necessarily regime change, it was to create a constitutional monarchy. what just something to different but nonetheless to improve the current form of government.and so they all began that way. but unfortunately after a short bit of time, all of the uprisings sort of deteriorate and get into conflict about religion, politics, conflicts among the sunnis, you know extremists against more i hate use the word moderate but, within their tradition. you know how islam is going to be practiced. i think the moment for me when
i knew this was going to be something significant and different and violent was when i was in egypt right after president morsi has been elected. and i was interviewing in cairo. he said to me our goal has nothing to do with changing the egyptian government. we are glad the muslim brotherhood is in our. but our objective is to redefine how islam is practiced. >> right and that actually also comes out very vividly and very strongly in the book. how different the politics are playing the game here. i mean given what is happening in egypt particularly, do you see them being the more dominant sort of you know quote unquote, islamic force in the future? and, are we as arabs, are we predestined to the cycle
between minus and secretary and -- sectarianism. >> in egypt yes. i mean obviously they for the most part, and this is generally speaking.i do not want to simplify this too much. they went from being sort of part of what we call in arabic movement into being politicized. because there was an opportunity. so when the collapse happened they became more politically active that they had been and that was something that had not happened on that scale before. i think now i am actually going to egypt tomorrow. but i think, i can firmly answer this more effectively in a week from now but in any case, i think that what happened after the arab uprising is that it empowered them in some cases.some of
them were corrected by the government. and i think that more or less that is still the case. >> you ever see them going mainstream seeing how literal the interpretation is? >> no, i do not think so. i think there are enough openings within religious interpretation and there is a term now that is always used the democratization of religion. which basically means there are a lot of competition now for the religious message. there are extremists, so and they are part of this discussion.and there is room for, there is an opening for different interpretations. so i don't see that they are retreating. i think of anything they will become more prominent. >> you also talk a lot about you know post-saddam iraq, iran's role, the past resentment we had from arab shi'a towards iran and the
rise of isis has really ãi mean is iran winning today? do the paradigms of iran and isis mutually benefit from each other in a place like iraq? and what is the future of the iraq look like? >> i think joyce you have written a lot about this as well.iran's role in the region. i think we are probably on the same page with these issues. it is clear when i did go in the first chapter of the book is about the clerical establishment there. it is clear they have a few objectives. one is they wanted to distinguish themselves from persian shi'a . so they feel that what has
happened as iran has become much more powerful in the arab world is that people equate persian shiism with average shiism. and i think another thing important is that they feel that the iraq he government has been co-opted by the iranians. and they do not know what to do about it. >> are they right? >> it seems so. i mean, co-opted is such a strong word but if you have revolutionary guards in the country, if you have all sorts of you know they forces, iran's presence, militarily they have religious influence in the country which began ãnot from the arab uprising but since the us invasion. then of course, iran has a great role to play now in iraq. i think that for a lot of the arab shi'a that is okay. and on the sunni side, some of the trouble leaders who were interviewed in the book, they
basically told me that and i met them ãnot in iraq. they supported the takeover of mosul because they thought that given the choice between an iranian backed shi'a that government that was marginalizing the sunnis and isis, they would rather cast their ãthat was surprising to me. >> we see ourselves in this same site circle. before it was al qaeda in iraq. now we are into falluja has been taken and liberated three times. isis just took ãagain yesterday. after it was liberated by you know russian forces. in march. it seems, i don't know if it is just us or nobody wants to see
the missing piece here or address it. are we, are we going to go through this same cycle as long as this sectarian question, as long as the sectarian problems are not honestly dealt with? >> unfortunately i think so. because, even if you dealt with say, and al qaeda supposedly on the rise in certain countries now. but even if you dealt with the problem of extremism i mean in a military sense, and this is i guess the other reason i wrote the book is that in washington i think all of these issues are sort of trust through, there has to be some military solution. but in fact i think what we have learned over the last 20 years is that all of these islamic movements, were there and they are extremist or not there ways that we cannot
control and in ways that cannot be controlled or affected by military solution. and because there is rivalry i think it is important to explain that even though my book is about the shi'a ã sunni struggle there is also a sunni ãsunni struggle and a shi'a ãshi'a struggle. all of these complexity and struggle being played out on the ground are sort of an invitation for extremists. because then they can capitalize on one group versus another. and you know as i mentioned, even groups that i mean why would sunni leaders support isis? they were able that time capitalize on the marginalization that they were feeling from the iraqi government. and so there was an opening. >> back to iran's role in this. i mean, i remember you know in
lebanon, when there was just a small group in the 80s orchestrating terror attacks but not really claiming them. and here we are at a point where it is actually not publicly ãit is involved in syria and in yemen and to a lesser extent and bharain and in iraq. what does it say about the iranian policy in the region and has actually the model succeeded so that they can replicate this and other places? >> well that is a really important question because as part of this divide that is escalating between the shi'a and sunni what's interesting is that you know if you look at the speeches from say the beginning of the arab
uprisings, he did not play the so-called shi'a card. and neither did iran. he was talking about and islamic awakening, he was talking about islamism was just going to be these were arab uprisings to fight colonialism and, imperialism but ãas of 2014 when they made this big speech i think in july, he basically said you know hezbollah is now the shi'a militia. in their iranians, that is ãi am simplifying this. but that was his message when he acknowledged this of course after there was overwhelming evidence of that was the case. but iran has done the same thing basically. because of their military activity in arab countries that you mentioned, they can no longer talk about pan- islamism. they can no longer talk about being a state that represents all muslims against the west. and so this i think, and is aware think about in the book.
the reason that these speeches are important and the reason that these developers are important from leaders, whether it is hezbollah or ãit is and how it's received on the ground. as you know arab societies now are in a state of anxiety. >> completely. i mean i was in morocco last summer and just average people would go through there. and they would be you know like, they don't want to be syria. and i think that trauma, the war in syria had over the region, not just read you look at libya as well. it is a step back for the efforts of democratization and liberalization in the region. but i mean ãon iran
specifically, i think it is a fascinating experience, experiment to watch. you know coming from lebanon again, that hezbollah would be actually now and occupying force for example in syria. that the ãin iraq, despite what we hear in washington ã no, it is not a quote unquote pure resistance force against isis.and i don't know how we actually can get out of this now because this has become the new status quo. and the argument that you hear repeatedly in d.c. on government, on human rights but ãhow are you going to, how does this remotely resonate with what is going on on the ground? in areas of conflict? i mean do you see any hope for
and push for better government in the region anytime soon? >> again, i think it depends on the country. i think that in bharain probably not. because the mainstream shi'a movement has been completely isolated from the political process. in egypt you know there is a very repressive government. it now is in power that is also not very inclusive politically. if you sort of go down the list it does not seem very optimistic. lebanon, i always think of lebanon sort of in a different category and maybe you disagree. you have spent so much of life there but ãi sort of look at lebanon as, in a post sectarian era in the sense that despite the fact that there are religious factions, also some different political interest groups. somehow the lebanese i guess
maybe having fought 15 years of civil war, there is a social contract now in lebanon where you know hezbollah, very important in the government. but people have decided okay, basically this is a faith ãyou can't do that much about it. let's not kill each other over it. >> in this area effect. >> and the syria effect. right. as you mentioned it is really terrifying people because no one wants to become another syria. >> and how much the war in the region you know, contributed to where we are today? i mean you look at libya for example. there is a proxy were happening between the sunni ãsunni war within libya and iraq as well there is a proxy were over there. so how do you address this, do the populations of you know
libya or iraq or even lebanon and syria, do they have any willpower at this point to break out of this proxy war that the region has benefited from for a while now. >> i think it is difficult. and i just want to mention that as we are talking about this, you know we do not want to give the impression that all of arab societies are sort of engulfed or engaged in these conflicts. because most people actually feel victimized by the conflicts. and they feel helpless. and that is why you know as i mentioned, people feel a lot of anxiety. but what has happened to your point about proxy wars is that you know we have the states. whether it is turkey, saudi arabia or iran. they are jockeying for power on a geopolitical level.and that
affects societies. in that, some factions react to it. some tried to take advantage of the situation of the proxy war. but then others are just completely innocent victims. that is probably the majority of arab societies now.that they have to live in these conflicts whether they are driven by states, driven by extremist groups and they feel very helpless that they cannot control the future. they cannot even control whether they get a job or not, forget about the future or forget about their political future. >> and anyplace at syria you know the actual activists that started the uprising are either ãkidnapped like ^ father powell has disappeared, you have many are now in exile and the new dynamic we are approaching a syria is between after the or the soon fall of
aleppo is increasingly becoming between on isis on the one hand and then al qaeda ãchange their name now. but do you see this dictating the new narrative in areas of conflict where the two extremes will take over if these conflicts are not addressed? >> i think that that is the case. if you look at you note in the old days in egypt before the arab uprising started. you know if you remember former president mubarak said you would have to support my government because i'm the only alternative to the muslim brotherhood.which he painted as an extremist group which is not an extremist group.
and so that was always the choice. anything that narrative continues. it just became more complicated. because as you say, there are more players now. but i think aside played the same narrative in the beginning of the uprising. he said extremists are going to take over seriously have to support me against the uprising because the alternative is worse. so i don't ãi think that the basic narrative has not changed. unfortunately. we have seen a pattern and we have seen the direction it has taken. the only difference now is that there are 11 different players than before. on both of these extremist sites. >> you know i also enjoyed the chapter on bharain, how you went there and describe it. two questions here. had saudi gcc not intervened, but when this situation be like at the moment?
how real is the iranian role in bharain? and we do not hear about them anymore. what is a stone current status quo ? >> i think even though bharain is a minor sort of unstable state which is why i think during president obama's administration there wasn't that much focus on situation in bharain. but i think if you look at the developments that have been there, they very much -- the sunni issues. for example in the studies invaded, when the uprising began as the shi'a and sunni led uprising.there are sunni involved because they wanted a constitutional monarchy
environment. when the studies invaded three months performance into the uprising, it was about three or four months into the uprising. it allowed the government to completely change the message and the narrative. so then it became sunni, saudi arabia and the sunni led government against the shi'a . in that extended to iran as well. so then the government began this propaganda campaign on television. in the newspapers which are state owned. that this was an iranian plot. that the shi'a in bharain were part of overthrowing the government. and that, where the saudi invasion came in and as you point out, it helped the government advanced this narrative. >> is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy.
but you know another aspect as a journalist, it is close to the heart when you start talking about twitter, the level of hate across the board. i mean these people just really do not like the extremists narrative that we see on twitter from opposing sides. i mean just last week after the fall of aleppo, he said the hezbollah rhetoric was extreme sectarian on twitter. there was this video of hezbollah journalists going with the flag and climbing up to the citadel of aleppo and essentially declaring victory. just yesterday, after the bombing in egypt use of people celebrating the killing of christians and these are mostly tweets in arabic that you know
maybe we do not get translated much here in washington but you talk at length about this. about the role of social media in fueling the sectarian war and what worries me is that we don't have the tools for the oversight to address it. i mean how big is this problem and your direct engagement with clerics that fuel this hate speech. what did he teach you? >> i think it is a huge problem and because a lot of this is being articulated in arabic it is difficult for people in the us to understand the magnitude. >> right. >> the reason i went to twitter is that i was trying to ã everyone always asks how do you know this anti- shi'a sentiment exists?
you know how can you prove this? so i thought well, okay twitter seems like a good way to try to figure out the anti-áuntran10á sentiment. and as you saw, the tweets are so graphic. they're going to grind the flesh of the shi'a , i mean the things they say are horrific. but to your point about is it important? i think it is hugely important. because if you look, some of the people i profile in the 14 million twitter followers. so even though in terms of methodology and i am about the last person to be analyzing the technicalities of social media, but i looked at it more from a substantive point of view. and even if you can't scientifically evaluate the penetration of these messages, who is following them, how does that affect what happens on the ground, i attempted to do that. i mean you can't really. you can't really decide, okay, someone is tweeting about the
battle of ãhow did that affect what happened on the ground? i mean it is difficult to know. but if someone has 14 million followers on twitter you have to assume someone is absorbing this material. and so i think, it is massive. i mean you know if you have millions of followers and i think the other thing that is dangerous about it is that, it is reinforced by different forms of media. >> not the mainstream media but it does marginalize you know people like me. you know, even al-jazerra and others were trying in the fake news here everyone is throwing ãi mean we have had it and in the arab world for a long time now. i don't know how you address it. i mean when you tell these clerics, we told his extremists, when you read them these tweets ãwhat ?
>> we were talking about this earlier today. what i thought was interesting. so i did not really have access to the saudi's. so i just follow them on twitter. but i did have access to other countries. and i went to lebanon. i started reading back to them there tweets that they had tweeted in arabic. and at least three of them said i did not to that, somebody else did. [laughter] and so it is interesting, and in every conversation we can get into the power of the internet and social media. but because i think it encourages people to be more aggressive than they would be normally. and to create more hostility. but they were trying to convince me that they did not tweet that. and so, you know finally, it was one particular ãi said if
you did not tweet this an answer question. do you think that the shi'a are real muslims? and he said no. so you know if you sort of i think that the danger of twitter in addition to a lot of other dangers is that it gives people lessons to be much more aggressive and if they had to confront to strangers like me or to anybody else, what do their communities, what they were really saying, they want to retract it. once it is out there, you know ? >> i am glad you are out of that meeting safe. [laughter] you know one last question we do have a new administration coming to town. we heard, we both heard from president-elect donald trump so far on the middle east ãyou think there's anything different here ãwhat i have read over, for example his statement after meeting ãthere
is no national human rights or any form of oppression in egypt. there is a laser focus on counterterrorism. it seems. and there is an interest in pushing iran back in the region or at least that's what we understand from the view nominations he has made. is that still realistic today given you know as he sang this book here how much influence iran has had today and iraq, syria lebanon and even in other places ãwhat do you expect from the trump administration looking at the region? what do you see it looking like in four years?
>> i think is dangerous for anyone to try to predict anything about the trump administration. but having said that, it does seem that there will be some attempt to deal with iran in a different way. of course then president obama did. and but i just do not know how effective that will be. i mean i think that short of having a direct effect on the hardliners in iran in the revolutionary guard which is impossible, right? i think what people do not understand is there are many iranian states there is the state of the foreign ministry, the presidency of the state of the revolutionary guards and the military apparatus.and so you're dealing with many different states. and this is why the nuclear negotiations which were with the presidency and the foreign ministry of course ãthat process does not have an effect
on what iran does on the ground. in all of the countries we mentioned. there is no connection between these two things necessarily. except that the nuclear deal has provided iran with cash reserves, ability to sell oil that presumably could aid their military apparatus and all of these countries.but i don't, i think that if the trump administration does try to do something to try to minimize iran's influence in the region that is a good thing. i just do not know if it is possible. >> the dynamics of the conflict, they are ãi do know i asked myself this question, how are you going to counter iran when you actually providing air force support for groups that are funded by iran? i mean i don't know is it me or does it seem ? >> no, that is part of it all. the complexities.
obviously the united states has basically endorsed to shi'a led governments in iraq that are working closely with iran. so that is one sort of situation. then in syria, the united states is enough against the government which is supported by rensselaer's are the nuclear negotiations are accompanied a process. but one of the reasons that the us never attacked syria at a crucial time was because the obama administration is not want to disrupt the negotiations on the deal. >> -- >> these competing forces and interests make obviously us policy and regions very complicated. and very conflicting. >> but you do not see this sectarian now more, this sectarian gap you know, healing
itself. >> i don't think so. >> well, on that not so optimistic note, we will turn it over to questions from the audience. i think someone will bring the microphone over here. >> please identify yourself. and i should have mentioned this happen hour ago. the # is new sectarianism on twitter. >> hello thank you very much for the conversation i am looking forward to your book. my question actually is about the title of the book you mention the new sectarianism: the arab uprisings and the rebirth of the shi'a-sunni divide.for me sectarian politics and the sunni and
shi'a divide, this is not only for the politics between the countries in the region but even with a lot of local communities. what is new about this sunni shi'a divide given the situation? thank you. >> thank you. >> i think what's new is first of all the point image in earlier which is there are many more competing messengers. and interpreters of how islam should be practice. which has increased the violence. so you know in the 90s for example when i wrote a book about the muslim brotherhood of egypt, if you wanted to know what was being said at the mosque you went to the mosque. and he stood up to listen to the friday prayer. and basically, even though the, even though the sermons and the mosque certainly were not
conversation -- the question that muhammad raid it that some of the militias were credit bid afatwah, calling on sunni and shia to rise up again isis and some militias were form as a result of the fatwah, so this is a cleric issuing a religious decree to -- but he couldn't control what would happened later. so they no longer listen to sunday citizen any -- i'm simply identifying it but to some degree the commanders are the iranian revolutionary guards, not sistani. that's a good example of not being able to control the message. that once you unleash something you don't know what the consequence is going to be,out
they're very violent. i checked with people, they were given to me by legitimate sources, and they're on internet. i do think that what has happened there is very positive in tunisia, but when we look at the success stories, you have to place them in then could text of the region. so, one reason that tunisia has been more discussful in terms of the roll of the islamist movement than egypt is that they compromised with the government. so they knew when to participate in politics, when not to. it wasn't an all or nothing proposition.
in egypt the government decide they would oust a democratically elected government, the muslim brotherhood and create the government. >> and was it also -- because of the past transition that happened, but how much did the education program that the tunisian government invested in the country also help in this? >> right. well, the education system as far as i know has always been much more, i guess, shall we sea, less polarizing than the egyptian occasion system in terms of the middle east history and how islam is taught and portrayed. so, you're talking about completely different -- a completely different context, and i think that's why the outcome is different, and in
addition to a lot of other reasons. i'm certain athlete a -- certainly not a tunisian expert. >> we see the highest number of jihaddists -- used to be the highest number flowing to syria were coming tunis. there were sign radicalization and existed, underred by by-outside. funds by schools and not to the level i think produced syria or iraq. we cannot go. >> thank you. i'm, i guess, a health communicator.
i have a question about the east african literal, and let's skip the area from, say, djibouti to the kenya border and good from kenya to museum mumbass, the madagascar. do you have -- i know the area fairly well and i know -- when i was there, there war sunnis, shias, this was in '70s, all living in peace. but the ethnic origins of the people, they were sunnies and shias from yemen, omanis, and it was very mixed. and it answer area of friction. what is going to happen there? >> i can't speak to that because i don't research that part of
the world, but the only thing i will say that us somewhat related ex-if you're interested in polling on the issues in other parts of the world in africa, how the shia view the sunnies sunnies and vice versa, the pew forum has done he excellent polg and the geographickic span of their polling is huge, and they did poll in parts of africa. what though found, which i found be fascinating regarding africa, is they -- they do the polling over time, and they ask the same question, obviously, because want to have consistency. what they found is that as the saudis became -- developed more of a presence in parts of africa, okay, when -- before the saudis had any real presence in africa, when they pulled sunnies and they -- polled sunnies and them their views of a shia, they didn't know what a shia was.
but as the saudis became more influential in the african countries, when they polls later they not a much more negative response from the sunnis toward the shia. so this speaks the perceptions on theground of state-driven sectarian kind of discourse. i thought that was interesting. i'm sorry, i can't speak about africa because i dent research that part of the world. >> for the first time last year the secretary general of hezbollah and in his speech, talked about nigeria. he was messaging actually -- paying condolences to a shia cleric that died there. so it is very interesting to watch and a more vocal hezbollah effort or whatever you want to
call it in the continent. >> over here. >> thank you for the wonderful conversation. i'm from yemen. i have two questions. you mentioned the new sectarianism and the shiite-sunni conflict, erupted recently. what make this new sectarianism more aggressive? who is using it, politicians being used by sectarianism or vice versa. you've have he conflict in yemen, how is that linked as a sectarian conflict? thank you.
>> i think, again, yemen is a perfect example of an opportunity, okay in so in the beginning, as you know better than me, the houthis weren't necessarily backed by iran, right? but as time went on and as the serious -- the war developed and deteriorated there was an opportunity for iran to become involved, and there was an opportunity for the houthis to capitalize on iran's willingness to become involved. and so i think that sort of goes back to what we were talking about iran. i think that in this town in particular, people have a tendency to view iran as this aggressor state, that is going to launch a nuclear war, that's going to invade this country or that country, and in fact itself you look at the history of
modern iran, their strategy is much more complicated. they're not an a degreesor state necessarily. they're a state that capitalizes on opportunity. the same was true in iraq, in the beginning. the same is true in bahrain. iran was not involved in uprising that first occurred in 2011, but what happened since then -- you u.s. intelligence reports confirm this -- some of the more radical youth groups that dold as a result of the bahrainy ghost-accepting aid from hezbollah. some located in lebanon so, to answer your question, i think that a lot of these conflicts don't -- the way they have end up today isn't the way they began and i think yemen is a perfect example of that. >> since we're short on time --
>> we have ten more minutes. >> okay, yes. so we'll take two questions at a time. actually the gentleman here. >> yes. my name is -- do you see -- these are a proxy war between soviet and iran, and they are fighting everywhere in the muslim world. do you see any compromising point for these two countries, given that iran has been relatively stable because -- fo more than years and saudi arabia is very stable as long as the american interests are there. so, what does that make them so insecure and keep getting the shia sunni killed all over the muslim world. do you see any compromising point between the two nations that could help them to become less involved?
thank you. >> then -- thank you, i am rash ya, a journalist and i spent a decade recording in the middle east, recently in syria. i'd like to speak to the point you mentioned about different characters on the stage trying to interpret islam and sort of a competition to own the narrative on islam, and i've certainly seen that first hand in syria and throughout the region. but there's also the power of money and arms, certainly in syria, that's coming from one interpretation of islam or at least two. saudi arabia and iran, and those are the sources of the proxy war in syria and arguably the source of many conflicts in the region mitchell question is what do you think the u.s. should do about
this? the memory of the u.s. aligning itself, backing to hold war ask then come bag took bite us in the behind or is it -- let the two sides fight even other out in a -- each other out in a war of attrition? let's be cynical as long as this doesn't spill into the west. >> good questions. in terms of saudi and iran, the one common denominator i don't think the united states can influence either country in terms of what it does in the region, and that when the arab uprising ban and the saudis had just gone into bahrain, at the time secretary of state hillary clinton was having small meetings with people who know something about the arab world in her office, and i was in a meeting of maybe seven to ten
people, and we asked her, what is the united states going to do about saudi arabia? they just went into bahrain. she there's nothing we can do about the saudis. next question. so, i think that that's sort of the case. and again, i have never been in government. have no idea what the united states should or should not do, but i think that what we have learned since the arab uprising is that the united states' role is limited and the leverage is limited. what leverage does the united states have over iran in terms of preventing revolutionary guards from operating in syria, lebanon. just don't nope what the leverage is. that the iranians did -- this is interest of a controversial statement but what the iran's did through the nuclear negotiations they were very strategic to mike sure that the negotiations were only about the nuclear issue. okay in and they never -- the negotiations they made clear
that is one of the conditions from the beginning. wasn't going to be about syria or iraq. it was confined only to the nuclear issue and that was very smart on their part. now, the rouhani people would say privately -- is would some private meetings with, wink, wink, the next conclusion is about syria but i knew that would never happened. i they tried to convince some americans if there was going be a nuclear deal and all parties could agree on the conditions and the terms of the grandma, grandma there -- agreement, and there were be concessions on syria but that didn't happen. >> to the gentleman's question, any opportunity for compromise between saudi and iran him in soon? >> i don't. there would have to be interest
by both sides and i don't see what those interests could be. they're both pen -- benefiting from the rivalry so what benefit in concessions? >> and to rasha's question, consecutiving the syrian war from here, we did hear fromun u.s. official, there's a silver lining, that al qaeda and hezbollah fighting in syria. that was in 2013. i'd like to find the same official again and ask the same question, see how silver that lining is and we had one question over there. >> yes. i'm for media research. >> can you bring the mic closer. >> yes. i'm cala.
my question is about the role of the court. by talking about all of the issues and the struggle between the religious parties and the influences of countries like iran, saudi, turkey to iraq, especially in iraq, the kurds displayed a good -- made a good rolled in keeping the stability between the shia and sunnies in iraq for years after the fee diet -- defeat of hud hud hud -- the kurds. how far do you believe that the kurds in spite all of their own troubles, figures against isis and the economic cries, -- economic crisis and what is the missing part of the kurd on their role to keep their -- on in iraq especially. thank you.
>> i can't speak about the kurds. the only thing in iraq the kurds have a de facto state. that's pretty clear at this point. as part -- a result of everything that happened in iraq and i think the kurds -- if you look at the iranian kurds, the kurds have been victims everywhere. and iran is a perfect place where they have been victims and so it's been very difficult for the kurds, say in iran, to fight for equal rights with the rest of the population, and when muhammad was president, the kurds had a lot more power and they were empowered by his administration. they were allowed, for example to have their own languages in schools. he appointed kurdish officials that headed kurdish majority
areas of iran, which was quite -- has been quite taboo, but i can't really speak to what their deficiencies are, if that your question. i'm not qualified to do that. >> do you see the kurds -- they are sunnis themselves -- them avoiding getting sucked in to the sunni-shia war? how did it -- >> i think we have already seen that. the kurds -- when iran came to the rescue of the kurds, right? when isis was at the doorstep. you already saw this kind of strange alliance -- not alliance but putting too much of a point on it but you already saw some sort of cooperation, and the kurds were very thankful to iranians that they came to their rescue, and they were sort of asked, what.sunni constitutes? why didn't they come to our rescue?