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tv   Discussion on the Future of Iraq  CSPAN  February 22, 2016 10:50am-12:54pm EST

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do you anticipate that they might ask for additional funding beyond the level that you provided? >> not to me. that will be a discussion with us and them. and them and more between them and the congress, and i'll stay out of that. >> do you know whether that's going to be part of the mou that is being negotiated with israel? >> i don't have the details of the specifics of that mou, and i'd be guessing if i said it was better suited for state department or policy to answer that. >> okay. >> thanks. >> thank you very much, folks. don't forget, rick has some handouts for you that the admiral mentioned at the beginning. >> thank you. >> thank you. today, republican presidential candidate donald trump speaks at a campaign rally in las vegas. that's ahead of the tuesday night republican caucuses. our live road to the white house coverage begins at 10:00 p.m. eastern on c-span.
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[ applause ] every election cycle, we're reminded how important it is for citizens to be informed. >> to me, c-span is a home for political junkies and a way to track the government as it happened. >> i think it's a great way for us to stay informed. >> there are a lot of c-span fans on the hill. my colleagues, they're going to say, i saw you on c-span. >> there's so much more that c-span does to make sure that people outside the beltway know what's going on inside it. next, the lessons learned from the u.s. intervention in iraq and how they can be applied to the defeat of isis, hosted by the atlantic council. this is two hours. i'd like to take this opportunity to welcome everybody on behalf of fred kempe, our
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intrepid president, and the entire atlantic council family. it's a great honor to welcome you here to this afternoon's launch event of the rafiq puryearie center's task force on the future of iraq. right off the top, let me say that rafiq bisri, a member of our executive committee, is here. and we thank you and what you have done to make this center a reality and its work so recognized. i'd also like to offer thanks to both conrad adenauer shiftone and the american university of iraq for their generous support of the iraq task force. before we begin, let me just note that our event here is on the record and is being live streamed online. for those of you on twitter, i encourage you to follow using #futureiraq. i'm delighted to welcome our distinguished group of speakers. we have two former ambassadors
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to iraq, ryan crocker, chair of the iraq task force, and jim jeffrey. and a former commander of the iraq and nato training commission, lieutenant general michael barbero. thank you so much for joining us here today. with four civil wars in 2015 and isis's rapid growth over the past 18 months, the middle east continues to be fraught with conflict and instability that has exacerbated security concerns around the world. we're here today to do a deeper dive on one particular state -- iraq. that holds immense geopolitical and strategic importance, both in the middle east and more broadly across global communities. as defeating isis dominates the agenda for many countries in the middle east, including iraq, it is crucial that we also take into account the deep-seeded dynamics pre-existing in each of these countries that will need
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to be addressed when crafting sustainable solutions for peace. inspired by the ongoing work of the atlantic council's middle east strategy task force that is chaired by executive vice chair of the atlantic council, steve hadley, and honorary board director madeleine albright, the iraq task force seeks to go beyond the defeat of isis and conduct substantial research into the iraqi case. the task force will bring together a broad array of regional stakeholders and international experts to collaborate in identifying ways to stabilize the iraqi state, reconcile its warring communities, and build a basis for long-term stability in the country. the group will think through the demobilization of iraq's militias, the future of iraq's sunni community, the prospects for kurdish independence, paths to improve iraq's governance and economic performance, and plans for the reintegration of
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internally displaced people. to do so, we've gathered a team of 25 of the world's leading experts on iraqi politics, chaired by ambassador ryan crocker, who we'll hear from shortly. the work of the task force will culminate with a book and a series of policy-oriented papers complete with recommendations for governments and the international community. both the middle east strategy task force and the iraq task force are part of a broader atlantic council effort to inject strategic thinking on u.s. foreign policy. with a specific aim to empower the international community and regional players with long-term approaches to respond to the challenges within the middle east. we hope to develop a comprehensive set of policy recommendations for the long-term support of iraq's stabilization in time for the transition to a new administration here in the united states. so, without further ado, i'd
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like to turn over to atlantic council senior fellow and executive director of the iraq task force, nussaibah younis, who will introduce our distinguished group of panelists and moderate today's discussions. nussaibah. >> thank you. thank you all very much for joining us for the launch of the task force on the future of iraq. it's really been a passion project of mine for a long time, and a lot of you have given me advice and guidance on how to put this together, which questions to really focus on and how to move forward with this so that it's the most useful that it can be, both to the u.s. government in terms of our devising of a long-term strategy for the stabilization of iraq beyond the defeat of isis, but also to develop useful policy tools to share with the kurdish regional government and with the iraqi government in baghdad. and we really aim to bring
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policy measures to the forefront, learning from the mistakes we've made and also from the lessons we've learned from over a decade of u.s. involvement in iraq. and i have with me a distinguished panel who have years of experience in iraq and who i'm going to ask them difficult, reflective questions to try and draw out how we can really bring lessons learned to bear on our future engagement with iraq, which, frankly, as much as we've tried to turn away from, it really is a country in which we need to have long-term, strategic engagement. and so, the more foresight and strategic thinking we can bring to bear on that, the better for us all. so, i'm going to start with ambassador crocker. ambassador, you were ambassador to iraq between 2007 and 2009,
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which, as we all know, was a period of really quite dramatic stabilization in the country. when you look back to that time, how do you account for the shift from violence to stabilization and the shift from a very, you know, part of the population being very alienated from the political process towards their willingness to really take part and to give baghdad a chance? >> well, thanks, and it's a pleasure to be here. let me just say a word about our larger purpose, the future of iraq task force. it's ax matic that iraq will have a future. the question is whether the u.s. is going to be part of that future, seeking to shape, channel, guide processes to a better place than what we're
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seeing right now. i approach this with these 25 experts that had been assembled, all of whom know more about iraq than i do. it may not sound like it as we pontificate up here, but as we go into the task force, it is with a very open mind to take a fresh look, make a series of assessments to challenge each other as we do it, and then try to provide something useful to a new administration. we, arguably, over the last dozen years first did too much as a government, and now, arguably, are doing far too little. so, this will be our effort nestled within the fantastic work that, as steve hadley and madeleine albright did on the middle east, to try to provide a
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way forward for a new administration, which is going to need it. of course, everything good that happened in '07-'09 was entirely due to me. you know, there's nothing like being in the right place at the right time. i think jim and mike would agree with that. i think there were a number of factors that led to the achievement of relative stability and relative inclus e inclusivity on the political level. the surge really counted. i got there in the early days of the surge in the beginning of 2007 and could watch it work in districts like doctrah. that was my week, i went there just as the surge troops were
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moving in. a completely devastated neighborhood where the only protection the largely sunni inhabitants thought they would ever have from irani and shia militias was al qaeda. and with the number of troops, not just the number of troops, but the change in mission, protection of the population, you could see how life came back to parts of dorah because we had a small operating base there. so, the surge and the sense of security it brought to populations primarily in baghdad, but really, around the country, made a huge difference. with that, politics would be workable again. i worked, obviously, very
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closely with nuri al maliki and others. prime minister maliki, obviously, came from a certain background and had a certain world view called highly sectarian, but he knew what he needed to do for the country. i mentioned to jim over lunch, we taught the iraqis a lot of bad things. maybe the worst was the budget supplemental process. but iraq's first budget supplemental in september of 2007, $250 million, went to the sunni province of anbar. it took a fair amount of lifting with the prime minister to get them there, but he could see how important that was to pull iraq out of the chaos of civil war and provide at least the hope of a unified country.
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so, again, security, security, security, but security to trigger a political process. and we saw that in the course of those two years how deals could be done in parliament bringing kurds, sunnis and shia together for compromises, compromises they could not quite fashion on their own. but if the because in the middle of it, getting something here, giving something there, we could help them put it together. and i certainly start with that bias, if you will, and i'd be interested in what jim thinks about it, being there at a later time. we really were the essential middlemen when i was there. for lots of reasons, the horrors of the saddam years, the unspeakable tragedy of the civil
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conflict in 'o06 and early '07 - compromise just wasn't something iraqis were going to do, but we could get in the middle of it and make those things happen. with the kurds, i would have interesting conversations with the kurdish leaders at that time. and when they got way too interesting, i'd say, hey, guys, remind me, what were the very worst of times for iraqi kurdistan? and they would be some debate, because there are a lot of bad times in iraqi kurdistan, but almost always, they'd come back to the on-fall, you know, the awful, virtual genocide or attempted genocide of saddam against the kurdish people. and i'd say, right.
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so, what was the best of times? well, that one was easy -- right now, today. this is it. it's never been so good. and i'd say, right, so don't blow it. you know, in other words, don't overreach. recognize that the best future at that time for the kurdish region was within a unitary iraqi state that would not threaten kurdish security and would provide a solid economic basis through the 17% budget share. so, again, from a pretty bleak beginning in early '07, you know, there was no guarantee that surge was going to work. i remember watching the casualty counts go up. you know, god, mike, you lived that. when we hit over 120 dead in june of '07, that number still sticks with me. every one of them a person, every one of them an american.
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and i could not say at the end of june 2007, as we looked at those figures, that their sacrifice was going to turn the tide, but it did. it brought that basic security on which we could then build the various political and economic structures. >> thank you. ambassador jeffrey, you were there as ambassador later under the obama administration. could you reflect a little on what ambassador crocker has s d said? under the obama administration, was the u.s. still prepared to act as a middleman in kind of doing the diplomatic heavy lifting and bringing the various components of iraqi society togeth together, or had the u.s. mission in iraq really changed by the time you were ambassador? >> mm-hmm, yeah. i think i'll start with an
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explanatory story, and it involves ryan. he may not remember this, but before he went out there in 2007, he visited us in nea, and he walked into my office. i looked up at him and i said, "ryan, only you can save iraq." i won't repeat and embarrass his pity answer, but many of you who know him can imagine how he responded. so, we had a good laugh and went on to other things, but to some degree, ryan, dave petraeus, george w. bush, and most importantly, the iraqi people saved iraq in that period. and every day when you look around the rest of the middle east, iraq is actually looking a bit better, compared to -- it's got a constitutional system, it has a democracy, it actually votes. people who don't do well are driven out as prime minister. that's happened repeatedly. and it's managed to stem this tide of isis. but something has changed totally apart from the united states. leave that for another
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discussion. something has changed in the world since that period of time. for three decades -- this is walter russell mead more than jim jeffrey, but it's worth thinking about -- for almost three decades after 1987-'89, we didn't face really existential, major global or even major regional challenges. so, we dealt with each problem, be it not korean nukes or taiwan incursions or afghanistan, the plan colombia or iraq as a problem we would beaver away at within a generally positive world. things have been shifting, not in our direction, particularly, but not only in the middle east, for the past three or four years. and iraq was getting caught up in that when i was there. in terms of the obama administration, president obama came in -- i mean, he ran, famously, if we're revisiting the whole thing now, on an
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opposition to hillary clinton's vote in 2002 on going into iraq. he was a guy who voted against it and who was going to withdraw all the troops. well, actually, he didn't have to withdraw all the troops, because, in fact, the u.s. government had agreed in 2008 in the security agreement that we would withdraw all of our troops by the end of 2011. so, president obama came in with a double success story. iraq was relatively stable, and our fighting, and particularly casualties, both iraqi and american, were way, way down, and we were on a glide path to withdraw all of our troops by 2011. he went to camp lejeune, gave a speech in february 2009, where he essentially endorsed the
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entire bush administration's program for iraq, calling for a country that would be secure, stable, an ally and friend of the united states, and a partner in the struggle against terrorism. he did caveat that a little bit by saying that we couldn't be on every street corner, we couldn't solve every problem, that the iraqis would have to step up, but it was quite -- he was quite optimistic about that. that attitude remained through 2010-2011. he saw iraq as a success. he saw iraq that was something that was kind of fixed. his focus was on afghanistan. and iraq was kind of on automatic pilot. some of us who had had some experience there previously were concerned that things might shift in a bad direction, giving some of the clouds that were looming in the region, particularly from iran, and so
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we recommended, myself and lloyd austin, at the end of 2010, after a government was finally formed, that we try to keep troops on. and at the end of january, beginning of february, president obama personally took the decision to do that. and after the usual fits and starts that characterize our government, we announced that at the beginning of june publicly to the american people, that lo and behold, we were actually going to try to keep some troops on. so, ending america's war in iraq and bringing all the troops home stopped being the policy. the policy for a brief period of time was to keep troops on. now, president obama was a good sport about that. he was willing to try. we can argue, and michael gordon lays out all the arguments in his book about the period, how much president obama's heart was in it, but i had my instructions to try to negotiate it. and in the end, the iraqi
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parties agreed that we could keep our military personnel on, but -- and this is also indicative -- they did not want to send a status of forces agreement that would grant american troops immunities to the iraqi parliament, because they flat thought that it would just blow up and it wouldn't get passed. our independent assessment, looking at polls and other things, were that they were probably right, and secondly, that in a nonemergency time, when the iraqis didn't feel a major security threat, getting a piece of paper from the prime minister, which is what we have now for our troop presence in country, was possibly not a smart idea. so, from my standpoint, regretfully, we wound up executing the 2008 plan and got all of our troops out at the end of 2011. now, the obama administration did not walk away from iraq. we had a very ambitious plan to
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use the embassy as a platform. ironically, a week before mosul fell, president obama cited it as the model when he was going to withdraw all the troops from afghanistan, of how to do things after 2016. then, a, mosul fell, and afghanistan got in trouble, so he dropped that model, as he well should have, because the model didn't work. and i could go into for hours all of the details of how we would use special forces and the various elements of american power in training and fms programming and everything. it was well thought out. the problem is, if you do not have boots on the ground, if you do not have an american military presence in a potentially dangerous and difficult place, washington's ability to do hard things, to focus on a very important but, from washington's standpoint, ever more peripheral issue that is in the green or quasi green category, drops and drops and drops. some of that's my fault, some of
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that is washington's fault, a good bit was mall erieala yousa kee's fault and other people in iraq, but the fact is, we could have done better in 2012 and we didn't. >> i want to move on to talk about the popular mobilization forces. so, we now have possibly 60,000, possibly 80,000 shiite militiamen under arms in iraq, and they've helped in the fighting in some areas. in other areas, the u.s. has tried very hard to keep them out of the fighting. but whatever role we think they played in the war against islamic state, all parties in iraq are very worried about what the future of the pmus it going to be in the country. how can they be demobilized, disarmed or properly integrated into the state's military structure? and we have had experience with
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dealing with shiite militias previously in iraq. and i wanted to turn to general barbero. we've talked before about this, and general berbero refers to the march madness, which is in march 2008, when prime minister maliki decided fairly unilaterally that the time was now to go after the sadrists and launched a military campaign that could well have failed if we hadn't had backed him up with u.s. military support. reflecting on the iraqi government's experience in dealing with militias and in bringing them back under control, and particularly with some of them, integrating them into the iraqi security forces and into the interior ministry, police forces and other structures, what do you think are some of the lessons, general barbero, that we could learn as we prepare to confront a very,
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very large challenge of trying to deal with these pmus? >> thanks, nussaibah. if i could comment on the overall lessons learned from that period and then comment on the militia issue. i think as i look back at that period, it was a lesson learned that we should take forward as we look to a new strategy or a strategy for the future. i think we had an alignment, not perfectly, but an alignment of ends, ways and means, which is for a strategist, that's the essence, right? we understood the ends were very clear -- stop the violence, secure the population, set the conditions to allow iraqi structures and institutions to mature, allow iraqi security forces to move to the lead. the means, that was a surge, 40,000 additional troops. the ways were what were critical -- live among the population, don't drive to work, live and disperse and separate the reconcilables from the
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irreconcilables. and when you identify the irreconcilables, ruthlessly destroy them. and also key to that is, you know, understanding that it's about the population and securing the population. so, i think ends, ways and means is always the standard by which you test a strategy. and i think they were in alignment during that period. so, to answer your specific question, i think we make a mistake when we lump together these pmfs or militias. i think there are nationalist militias, and you know, an iraqi friend in baghdad a couple weeks ago described this to me, and there are, frankly, iranian surrogate militias. and they seem pretty confident that the nationalist militias, the iraqis who answered the call, they could be brought back into the fold in some measure. they were reconcilable, not
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that -- they could be brought in and made part of the institutions. the huge concern and the question is how you put this genie back in the bottle -- are the iranian-sponsored -- iranian surrogate militias -- and we know they are some of the same characters as we dealt with in the past. and that is the question. i mean, daesh, we're grinding away at them. you could see a way forward there. the internal problems in iraq are deep and have deepened during this period, but you can still see a way forward there. but these militias that are aligned, i think more closely aligned with iran than they are with iraq, how do you contain them and get them back into the bottle, as i said? and i think that is the greatest threat to iraqi stability and security moving forward. so, it's an open question. >> yeah. >> how you do that. >> thank you. ambassador crocker, if we could continue talking about how to
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rein in the militias -- i mean, you've had extensive experience not only in iraq, but also in afghanistan, pakistan, and also lebanon straight after the accords which talk about trying to rein in the diverse militias. i mean, can you reflect on some of the lessons that come to mind in terms of drawing down these militia forces, particularly in the context of a weak central government? you know, when prime minister maliki was launching military action against the saddarists, he was doing so on the basis of pretty strong electoral support. you know, he had unequivocally the backing of, you know, a significant proportion of the iraqi people in a way that for all his good intentions -- i'm not sure we could say the same about prime minister abadi. so, you know, how does a weak central government really go about beginning to confront some
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of these armed actors, many of whom have quite clearly got political ambition? >> as mike was reflecting on that momentous time, march-april 2008, i was thinking about an event in basra much more recently, which was the effort to deploy iraqi forces into basra to bring some orders. the militias ripped the city apart. and the prime minister had to withdraw that unit. it's a pretty stark contrast between '08 and now. you know, one thing those of us practitioners try to do is not get trapped by our own experience. because i saw this and that happened, therefore, it will apply everywhere else, but it's
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really hard. i spent six difficult years in lebanon on two tours, the second one as ambassador, and i have to say, i see some parallels to what took place in lebanon and what's going on in iraq. weak central governments. iran playing a very, very significant role. you know, anyone who thought that the iran nuclear deal was going to herald a new era of a gentler, kinder iran in the region is nuts. and what you're seeing now, whether it's in iraq or in syria, is the indication of that. because what you're seeing now in iraq is the old iranian play book that they began to write in the early '80s in the immediate
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wake of the israeli invasion. when they, working with syria, created what became hezbollah. i mentioned, trying to avoid being captured by your own experience, my involved being a survivor of the 1983 bombing of the embassy in beirut. and i was there when the marine barracks went up in october of that year, all brought to you, again, by a combination of iran, syria, and a local proxy, hezbollah. so, as mike says, the pmu, ha hashid is not monochromatic. there are nationalist elements, but there are also, clearly, forces and individuals who are taking their instructions from iran.
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so, this is going to be really, really, really hard for the iraqi government to come to terms with. aga again, if you cannot deploy a military unit into basra, maintain it and establish order, which maliki could do in '08 with our help, frankly, you're in trouble. in a sense, a way forward might come through the excesses of these militias. by all accounts, basra is not a very fun place to live right now because there is no rule of law. it's militia rule, much as beirut was during my first tour. and people will get sick of that. that may be an opportunity, carefully crafted, to start
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literally to gain some ground back, but this is going to be hard. as we withdrew politically and militarily, it didn't end a war, it simply left the battlefield to our adversaries, in this case, iran, their proxies in the center and south, and to islamic state in the west. so, this will be a hugely difficult lift. and again, i see our job in the months ahead as a task force in trying to first define the problem and its various dynamics in a methodical and comprehensive way, and then to set out some possible courses of action there. but this is going to be extremely difficult. >> ambassador jeffrey, if you could reflect a little more on what you see as iran's end game
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in iraq. if you compare the relationship between maliki and the iranians at the time when you were ambassador and how the relationship is now between the official iraqi government, between abadi and the iranians versus these proxy forces, where do you think iran really gets its power and influence from on the ground in iraq, and what do you think they see as their medium-term goals? >> yeah, i think, again, you have to take a step back, given the fact that we are in a different world than we were a few years ago, where we could look at iran and iraq as a separate thing. we have -- it's obvious from looking at the papers -- an iran problem. i would say an iran/syria/russia problem right now in the middle east. that is the number one problem in the whole region. and considering we also have isis, that's saying a lot.
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and so, the first thing is, what is iran trying to do? most, but not all, observers believe that it is trying to establish something like a regional power position, unite all of the shia with a combination of -- and here i would draw an analogy outside of the islamic world, but the early soviet union in the 1920s, which both had official diplomatic relations as a state and a political ideological movement as a party. to quote henry kissinger on iran some years ago, "iran has to decide whether it's a country or a cause." as a cause, borders aren't too important. they all sort of meld together. and what is important is iran's advancing its interests in the region all the way to the
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mediterranean, and both drawing support from and then coming to the rescue of its local allies, typically, but not entirely, shia arabs. so, if that's the framework, then you have to deduce from that how that applies to iraq. iraq is obviously particularly important to iran because it's a neighboring state. it was a source of one of its most syrian modern experiences, the iran/iraq war, and you have the competing center of shia islam in najeh in the center of the country. but in the state system, it's an independent state. in the world of the middle east, it's an arab state in a region that takes arabness seriously. so, iran doesn't have a totally free hand there. but again, as ryan said, you have a phenomenon that is not all that different from beirut.
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if you can have a weak government, if you can have major forces that are able to bear arms, able to serve as a militia, and who are more loyal to iran or iranian surrogates than they are to their own government, then you're able to exercise tremendous influence. we see this every day. but while i would rate iran's influence in iraq as higher than that of the united states, iran's influence in iraq and ours are not higher than the iraqi people's themselves. at the end of the day, there's a push and pull. now, to get to maliki and abadi, again, maliki had a lot of traits that contributed to the rise of isis and the alienation of the sunni arabs, and to some degree, the kurds.
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but as a relatively strong leader, he would at times stand up to the iranians. and i always got the feeling -- and it was a good feeling, ironically -- that he was trying to play us americans and the iranians off and balance each other. prime minister abadi is a man who is sympathetic to the united states, sympathetic to the west, but also an iraqi patriot, and he has to be aware of what's happening in his coalition, the shia coalition, and what's happening in his country. and he's in a different position than maliki was five years ago. >> could i just add something? >> yeah, of course. >> to be a little provocative here, jim touched on the iran/iraq war, something little remembered in this country, never to be forgotten in either iran or iraq.
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you look at key figures in iran today, like seoul mannie. he was commissioned just before the war started and went through the whole eight years of it, seven of them on or near the front. well, if getting blown up once affects your world view, think of what seven years on a western front like conflict will do to you. as you look at some of the players and as you look at what iran is doing in iraq with the militias, particularly in the tikrit campaign, pushing them into sunni populated areas along with revolutionary guards, iranians, i would give you this hypothesis, that solimani and others in the hierarchy in iran are trying to do what they
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couldn't in 1998, which is gain a total, definitive victory over iraq by fragmenting it because they're well on their way to bringing just that about. the islamic state does not threaten iran. islamic state is actually a good foil for the iranians, and vice versa. use that as a rallying cry to mobilize the population and control the mobilization. so, that poison challis that he had to drink out of in 1998 may turn into the victory cup for suleima think and their political heritage. >> so, we can understand why iran is taking this course of action to further their interests in iraq, but of course, there are iraqis -- you know, we can debate how
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widespread this is -- but there are iraqis who work with the iranians in the furtherance of those interests. general barbero, you went in with general petraeus, a really fascinating opportunity to have an insight into some of these characters who have become very influential in iraq today, potentially as conduits for iranian influence. i wondered if you could give us a bit of an insight into some of these actors. what do they get out of their relationship with iran? you know, how are they potentially manipulating that relationship for the furtherance of their own political goals, security goals and social goals? >> well, the one interesting character whom i was ordered to meet with every week, and it was more like a trip to the dentist, was the head of the badr corps, very active and very aligned. you see iraqi tv, qasem
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soleimani and hamri together all the time. back then, it was obvious where he received his marching orders and support, and it's on open display today. so, it's just a continuation of some of the trends we saw then. but i would just say, as we look towards a strategy and iran's interests in iraq, there are two facts -- whatever a future strategy is shaped, you have to deal with iran. they're a fact on the ground. they're a major player. but any notion that their interests are aligned with ours, they're aligned in an opposite direction. and to think that we can work with them and somehow merge our interests is totally false. and we must understand that. and we saw it back throughout
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our time in iraq in the past, and we must account for that in the future. >> ambassador jeffrey, just moving on to turkey, you were ambassador to turkey before moving on to iraq. what do you think turkey's strategic goals are in iraq? and how would you assess the deployment late last year of 150 troops and 25 tanks into bashiqa that caused huge uproar in baghdad and elsewhere in iraq? what do you think their goals are around the possible participation in the liberation of mosul, certainly, their ongoing training of sunni troops in peshmerga? what are they trying to get at here? and you know, the u.s. has been long pressuring them to get out of bashiqa and to get out of the iraq fight with less than great success. so, could you explain a little
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bit where they might be coming from? >> i'll try. i don't think anybody, include ing erdogan, can explain what he's doing. but i will come back to my initial comments that all of the actors in the region are acting through a different prism than they would have acted six or eight years ago. at that time, believe me, turkey had interests in iraq and they made it apparent to us in all kinds of comfortable and uncomfortable ways, but again, that was looking at a specific problem. right now, turkey, perhaps more than anybody else in the region, except saudi arabia, is a believer in the reality of this russian/iranian/syrian/hezbollah and add on some more potential allies, front. and its actions, while informed by some of their conceptions and misconceptions and experiences and maladventures in iraq in the
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past are going to be in the context of dealing with that threat. to some degree, on some days i think they're doing all of this to try to provoke us to change our policy and to play a more active role dealing with that eventuality. other days i think that what erdogan is trying to do is to find desperately allies to his self. obviously, he has a friend in the kurdistan regional government. of course, this site is just to the west of it. there is a whole controversial gray area now that isis created in mixed and arab areas that when isis came in, the iraqi army melted away, the krg peshmerga moved in, and these areas are also co-terminus with parts of the province where you have a split among the arab
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population. the former governor was driven out. he's allied with the kurdistan regional government people and with the turks. so, this is partially -- and we saw that when i was there, although not with tanks -- a very strong turkish effort to play both the kurdish card and the sunni arab card, and i think this is more of the same, but it has more of a strategic focus, and erdogan sees it as more existential, thus the tanks and thus the refusal to fold under our pressure and baghdad's pressure. >> turning to some of the internal political dynamics in iraq. ambassador crocker, general barbero said earlier that there was a strong effort in 2007-'08 to separate the reconcilables from the irreconcilables in the sunni community. do you think that effort has really happened this time around in our effort to defeat the latest, worst reincarnation of
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al qaeda in iraq? >> i'm glad you turned back to islamic state, because it gives me an opportunity to say, just for the record here -- and i think it's a premise of what this task force is all about. islamic state is a symptom. it's not a cause. we in this country focus on the immediate. islamic state's pretty immediate, so let's make that the ultimate objective of everything we're trying to do in the region. that way lies madness. i mean, you've got to get at the fundamental political issues, at least in iraq, that led to its rise, and that is a failure of governance, which is something we're going to be looking at, an ascendancy of partisan politics. it alienated the sunni community, and islamic state took advantage of it.
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you know, again, during my time there, part of what we were doing was that full court press against what was then al qaeda in iraq. and we got about 90%-95% of the way there, but we could never quite get rid of them in parts of mosul and on up the ufrates river valley, where they could move back and forth from syria. you know, why in mosul? because a lot of the residents there, you know, looked adistance at baghdad, looked a ascance at the kurdish region, and that gave them just enough of a crevice to hang on. well, those crevices have now become canyons. and until the iraqis, with obviously, some help from
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outside, can start to fill in those canyons, we're not going to get rid of islamic state, just period. now, you know, back at that time, and mike was more directly involved than i was, there was a concerted effort to reach out to a whole lot of really nasty people. again, as dave petraeus and i said ad nauseam, but i'll say it again, you know, you don't make peace with your friends. so, we talked to a lot of very bad actors to see if we could shift them, and we did this in conjunction with the iraqis, obviously, but also, frankly, to mess with their minds, you know? some of the things we would tell them is, you know, come in out of the cold, you know? abu mohammed down the way did,
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you know? you should be like him. and the guy would say, that son of a bitch. and then if we were lucky, he would go kill abu mohammed and save us some trouble. you know, it is a somewhat rough game out there. and at the end of the day, there are a certain number of people who just have to be killed. those are the irreconcilables. but what you have to do is kind of know your landscape well enough so that you are killing the absolute minimum number of people and not creating a whole new set of enemies. and frankly, i think you can only do that if you're very deeply engaged on the ground, where people are taking you seriously, both your allies and your adversaries. and sadly, that is not the case for us now in iraq. >> ambassador jeffrey, given where we are, we don't have the troop levels in iraq, anything
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like we had back in 2007. the iraqi government does not have, i mean, arguably, does not have the political capacity to reach out to the reconcilable sunnis, and certainly hasn't been able to push through a legislative agenda that would show that the government was very serious about re-engaging those sunnis in the political process. you know, short of the carpet bombing approach advocated by ted cruz that would just generate an entirely new generation of radical actors, you know, how do we encourage from outside the re-engagement of those sunni actors who can be brought back into the political system and who, frankly, need to be, if we're ever to have a chance of securing these areas once we militarily defeat isis? >> yeah, to some degree, that's actually going on. i mean, one of the rays of
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sunlight in the whole isis 2014 thing was that much of anbar province did not fall after fallujah to isis, and the fall of ramadi a year ago, which was defended primarily by sunni arab anbar police, some tribespeople, and iraqi army units, which included sunnis, that was more of a goof-up militarily than a sort of meltdown that you had in mosul. and of course, the city much devastated has been retaken. and other places are being held by, again, sunnis. and there is a tremendous amount -- i mean, i saw that when i was out there a few months ago -- there is a tremendous amount of back-and-forth between the government and various sunni groups. many of them are in exile now. many of the -- well, the provincial governors, their provincial councils have all fled, and they're involved. i don't think they're playing the same role we saw before because they've essentially lost
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most of their territory. one difference with 2007-2008, aside from you don't have the big presence of the united states military, is that in 2007-2008, essentially everywhere we had control of the population. that was the whole point of the surge. and therefore, you could carry this out. general casey talked incessantly about reconcilables and irreconcilables back in 2005. he couldn't carry out that policy because we were not embedded on the ground and can actually discover the difference or get the kind of intelligence we could do. without that, it's difficult. on the other hand, isis is such a uniquely evil organization. and while it has many former baathist officers, it is also in some respects an alien force in iraq that i'm relatively hopeful
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that if we can get a military offensive going, you'll find a way to have some kind of preliminary resolution like people are still working on up in tikrit. but again, if this is replacing isis by an iranian-dominated baghdad, you're going to be back in the same mess in the future. so, it gets to the same question again. >> if i could just add to the comments of the ambassadors. you know, how do we deal with this isis problem in the context of the sunni population and bringing them into this, fully into this iraqi enterprise of the future? well, tactically, it can be done. i mean, again, it goes to strategy that matches ends, ways and means, and you understand it's an ecosystem, it's a networking, and you attack the network, which starts with a very detailed and accurate intelligence understanding of the network, which, it's
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questionable whether we have that now. and then you go ruthlessly to go after the full -- every part of the network -- leadership, suppliers, foot soldiers. and then you go after their resources. so, it's not exactly carpet bombing, and it's not just stealing their oil, taking their oil from them. it is a very sophisticated understanding and putting the right boots on the ground -- intelligence, soft, precision strikes to make sure you attack the network. it can be done. but the more complex and difficult question is how do you incentivize a sunni population to, "a," reject this element, and then to -- then the harder question now is buy in to a government in from baghdad? and that is difficult. and i don't think we can impose that. we can help nurture it and hopefully set some conditions for it, but that is really the crux of it.
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how do you incentivize the sunnis to reject this, but more importantly, buy in to a future in iraq, and that's tough. >> yeah. staying with you, general barbero, i want to turn and look at some of the tremendous capacity-building efforts that the u.s. has invested in, in over a decade, you know, of support for the iraqi state. you from 2009 to 2011 were the senior u.s. and nato commander responsible for manning, training, equipping, building -- >> i know where this is going. hey, weren't you responsible for training the american security forces? >> i was with you. >> right, i worked for the ambassad ambassador. >> he was in great shape when i was there. >> can you reflect a little on what did and didn't work? and as we approach a continued effort to strengthen the iraqi forces, you know, how should we
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be approaching that today? >> well, i think we underestimated some things in iraq -- the significant divisions in the society that had been in this pressure cooker controlled by saddam hussein for so many decades, this brutal regime. so, we underestimated the effects of that. and we knew that -- and as we got into this -- this was going to be a long, tough slog to build iraqi security forces and really not change culture -- make some significant changes. build a noncommissioned officer court to us, which is national sharing of intelligence, which had been a weapon, something you used against your adversary, but now is something you're supposed to share to defeat a common goal. so, there is some things that were very tough challenges that we tried to overcome. we knew that this effort would go beyond 2011, '12, '13, and
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said, you know, the minimum capabilities this force needed weren't going to be in place to continue to go after the last 5% of al qaeda in iraq. so, i think we underestimated initially how tough this was going to be. i was there in 2003 when we said, okay, well, let's just start building an army. and it was sisofean task to start to do that. but i will say this, we understood the challenge and knew that it would take many more years to do this, as i think we're seeing. so, i think we just -- we did commit a lot of resources and we made some bad decisions, but we also had things on a path, where you could see that the iraqi security forces could be capable at a period of time to be able to take on this immense challenge. and i think we just left at the
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wrong time. >> if i could interject something. and this isn't a criticism of you, but it's something we have to think about. in revolutionary or civil war environments, not just in the n middle east, although is full of examples, but in turkey and in russia and in central europe, from 1918 on, what you see is conventional armies and the structures and culture behind them have a hard time dealing in those environments. who does well? i saw it in vietnam, i saw it again and we see it now in iraq. it's the high-end guys, the golden lions and, you know, these sort of known and guys that we had doing things like macking so and that sort of thing in vietnam who are really good and lots of local militia still wearing their black pajamas who are out there defending their hamlets. often you have to put some focus on to that.
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one of the things that we keep on and he also embraces himself, prime minister o buy di is this idea of recruiting sunni locals into a popular mobilization units. i think the latest is 25,000 person element plan for our national guard field and parliament, but there are tribal levies fighting right now and there are people being recruited and trained by us there as well. so some of that is actually working out and with the capability of u.s. military to train those people and their motivation, because these seem to be motivated people, a lot can be done. >> yeah. we have something like 10,000 sunnis currently under arms, but many, many more who even without the progress being made in baghdad who want to fight and who can't get an audience in
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baghdad and who will get an audience with the krg but will only be supported by the krg if they're absolutely deemed to not be a threat in any of those disputed territories that the krg has taken in the last year, so you know, compared to the militia -- the sunni militia forces that we saw in 2007, you know, more towards 100,000. >> uh-huh. >> we're still at 10 with the ceiling of 25 but really no one particularly motivated to vat and approve and arm and pay those fighters. moving on to -- continuing the theme of capacity building. ambassador, we've seen protests in iraq on and off for years, but certainly since last summer not about isis about the lack of electricity, about problems with sanitation, water, education, health care services and we have tried to build capacity in the
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oil ministry and the electricity ministry to bring transparency and standards, international standards of governance, you know, where we have succeeded, what has been, you know, what has been the magic ingredient? and where we haven't succeeded on all these other efforts, you know, should we be giving up on those sorts of governance supporting projects or should we be doing something radically differently? >> like so many other things, a huge, huge problem and it's something we're going to be looking at in great detail in the months ahead. the whole question of governance and capacity. hardly a secret that endemic corruption is a cancer now in
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iraqi society. i don't pretend to know the ins and outs of it to any degree, but talking to iraqi friends from all communities, it's a pretty constant theme. sadly i have come to wonder if, you know, let's say good news/bad news. there may be one tie that binds together sunni, shiite and kurdish elites, that's good. the bad news is they're all making a whole lot of bucks out of the current system. and that makes it very, very hard to reform. if the powers that be are making a whole lot of money out of the current system, the incentives for changing that system are few
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and far between. then you add to that, you know, actors like iran and their proxies really aren't that interested in seeing good governance and particularly not interested in seeing the consistent rule of law because that works against their interests. so, you know, all of this plays into a huge part of the challenges iraq currently faces. does that mean you throw up your hands and say nothing can be done? no. no, of course not. but i think one has to be modest in expectations, one has to understand that probably at the top of the list of things that the united states or any other outside power is not going to fix is the quality of internal governance. we can help iraqis committed to
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a better future identify the problems and then look at localized solutions. and i think an area in particular where that's important would be in the oil sector. that is the engine of economy. the iraqis have a long history of running their own oil industry. they at least have a memory of how to do this. it's something that we're doing down at texas a&m incidentally. we have a lot of iraqis in our petroleum engineering department who not only go back with the skills necessary to run a successful oil business, they've also probably absorbed something of the way governments and their societies interact, which we hope will be to the long-term good. so i think it's looking first as in so much else identifying the problem and a team of american experts isn't going to do that.
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it means working with iraqis and then start figuring out where you can move and where you can't. there will be no across the board fix to this. that i can cheerfully predict. but i think there can be incremental progress. >> if i could just add to this immense challenge that ambassador crocker described is the new challenge of the utter devastation of these occupied areas. the situation in anbar has been underreported. security forces decimated, infrastructure destroyed. 75 schools destroyed. 250 damaged to the point they can't be used. and on and on, so just think of what that portends for mosul where they're going to fight to the end. it's going to be tougher as
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liberating these areas as we continue to grind away at them. and what we find there is just going to exacerbate this lack of basic services and infrastructure and especially in areas that need it worst, these sunni areas as you're trying to convince to align themselves with government in baghdad, that's an immense challenge that we need to face and take on. >> yeah. absolutely. i mean, the devastation that we've seen in te crete that we can imagine will take place in mosul poses a huge time when the iraqi government and the krg is struggling intensively with the collapse in oil prices and with the costs of running the war against islamic state. can we use financial contributions and infusions of
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weapons and of training to the iraqi government and to the krg? can we use those contributions that are very important to make but can we use them as leverage as part of this effort to make a dent in the corruption that we see and to incentivize a greater push towards the focus on rectifying some of these governance problems? >> i was hoping for a chance to jump in on this because i have some hard-earned views. one is we can rebuild things. we did fallujah after we took that place apart. it's something that the united states can do or the iraqis can do. it requires money, but as long as somebody is not there trying to blow it up, as you're doing it that's a whole other problem, but assuming you have the security situation which is the first priority under control, you can do that. iraqis will also be able to -- as ryan said with the oil
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industry, run a lot themselves and come to us for the expertise to augment and re-enforce what they're doing and that's been a huge success. other things they did while we were horrified at it because it undercut our whole electricity program which we put an enormous amount of effort into was the neighborhood generators. i can site a thousands reasons why this is uneconomical, stupid, diverts oil and et cetera, et cetera, that's how baghdad was lit up. we were always talking about we want to enkourng entrepreneurial activity, boy, that was it. that gets to it. we can't do that. it won't work. first of all, if we can generate enough support in this place, washington, to provide weapons or to provide, you know, economic redevelopment and relief and such, there's a huge strategic reason for that and we cannot make that -- hold that hostage to pressuring them. plus, people don't like to be
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told what to do. if iraqis want to -- decide that corruption is so bad that they're going to end it and they need some advice on how to do that, they know our telephone number, but if we fly in there and boy i saw that in 2004 with every single american sort of clone of every single american institution, ngo or pressure group here in washington and then individual actors like newt gingrich on top of that coming in with their 20 good ideas on how to fix iraq and trying to field that and deploy that, it doesn't have the intended effects. i'll just leave it at that. >> how true that is. >> you said that you no longer believe that the forces fulling iraq together are greater than the forces pushing iraq apart. can you explain where your shift in thinking has come from? >> yeah. i've just recently returned from
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baghdad, solid like to be able to modify that a little. even in the beginning of 2007 the ambassador crocker described, month of february i think 34 car bombs in baghdad alone. enormous iraqi casualties and then of course the investment in u.s. casualties. you always felt that the forces pulling iraq -- holding iraq together were stronger than these ones pulling it apart. that there's a sense of iraqi nationalism, which would prevail. and it wasn't being an optimist, it was just taking a look at it and i think hopefully being a realist. but the -- and the last few years the sectarian divisions -- we used to call fault lines where we would impose ourselves to try to hold things together or set the conditions for it to be reconciled -- i think have become so deep. i heard -- i was in kurdistan
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right after the isis advance and i heard comments why should we fight for the sunnis when they wouldn't even fight for themselves? christians never -- they are not going back. the sunni shiite, i think sunnis will tell you the ethnic cleansing where these militias are now moving into. so my concern is that these divisions have become so deep that it would be -- it's questionable if we can hold this entity, iraq, or this iraqi -- if iraqis can hold this entity called iraq together. >> ambassador crocker, you've said publicly that you think the prague mentation of the state system in the middle east would be catastrophic. would you include in that, you know, kurdish independence? >> the lines that were drawn on
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the map about 100 years ago not by the people whose lives they preceded to define, but by european statesmen in versailles have had amazing durability. i think one tries to redraw them at great parel. certainly that is what islamic state is trying to do, literally in their sweep through iraq, taking mosul and a lot of other real estate, they actually took time out to obliterate border posts, just to erase literally the notion of these 100-year borders. i do not -- to put it mildly -- see anything good coming from
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that process. and again, this is part of the conversation i used to have with my kurdish friends, you know, i certainly as an outsider as well as an outsider can understand it, i understand kurdish aspirations, particularly after what they've been through. but that was part of my don't blow it. these are the best of times. to move toward jer rid cull independence in northern iraq or to make it even more extreme a cross through northern syria, i think can trigger a whole new wave of violence in the area. we already see what the turks are saying and doing as the curds move towards northern syria.
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if there's one thing turks, iraqis and iranians agree on is no independent kurdistan. so as bad as things are today, they can always get worse. and that would be a great way of making them worse. >> just to push you a little on that. it seems like the relationship between the krg and certainly the kdp and the government is stronger than ever. do you think that turkey would risk its economic ties and its deep political ties with the kdp by blocking a move to independence? and just practically speaking, if the curds were to have this referendum and declare independence, what would be the catastrophic results that you would foresee? >> i defer to jim on this. your name is something i've always associated with ka it's a
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rowfy. it ma be the best work against a step being taken. but, while certain elements of the turkish may be making good money out of oiling dealing with the kurds, i would find it hard to believe, jim, that that would translate into a passive turkish stance if the kurds formally declared independence. >> i'll let you have the final word on that. >> yeah. one, there is the right of self determination. you always have to keep that in this very broad mix. secondly, the specific relationship between kurdistan and the rest of iraq is something that the kurds who are
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serious players have their own army, their own borders, their own economy are going to be major players in. three, given all that we've talked about today, any kurdish leader who doesn't consider the reserve parachute of declaring independence if things turn even more chaotic is not doing his or her job. now, i'll get to your question after all of those caveats. a number of different things can happen. one is with the blink of an eye kurdistan is exporting 600,000 barrels a day, some of it from the northern oil company which is a baghdad operation out of kirkuk. for many complicated reasons baghdad while pushing an alternative scheme involving the famous 17% and such is kind of okay with that. an independent kurdistan i'm not
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so sure. and that oil goes on international markets and it can be challenged and has been challenged. secondly, we had an incident about two months ago where the russians decided that they wanted to fire some crew's missiles from one of their lakes into syria and they had baghdad close down the air space over kurdistan for several days. this had a huge impact on international air travel. that's the problem. kurdistan semiinternational status with their own contracts with oil companies, with international flights going in and out and everything is dependent upon them having some sort of legal status or legal tolerance. if you pull the plug on that you have to rack and stack all these various attributes of a state and figure out how would you deal with that? the first and almost obvious thing is you need the absolute
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cooperation of turkey, but that might not be enough. all the turks in the world couldn't change the air space closure and all the turks in the world can't get people to lift oil. >> thank you. i'm going to throw this open to questions now. we've covered a huge range of topics. i'm going to start here. then i'll move to barbara slaven. >> could you introduce yourself. >> you said -- mr. crocker, you said that iranians had a game plan for iraq and it was essentially to fracture the state and to divide it. so two questions for you. how do you know that that's the case? behavior -- does the behavior point to it? can you tell us why? and what's the advantage to the
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iranians to break up a state which a few minutes ago you said the one thing that everybody agrees on is no independent kurdistan. if you fracture the state you'll have an independent kurdistan. >> i first absolutely did not state that as a refutable fact. i called it a hypothesis. i do think it's something to look at. what would be the rational for it? to absolutely ensure that iraq never again is a threat to iran. a fragmented iraq would at least in a conventional sense never be a threat to iran. you would have again a jihadist -- as i suggested, i don't think iran feels really threatened by islamic state and vice versa. you would have a shiastan that
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would include most of iraq's oil cha iran could certainly find ways to profit from and a somewhat problematic kurdistan. but what we have seen, of course, is iranian influence in kurdistan and in that scenario kind of a -- a long-term fragmentation i think you would expect to see even more influence in the kurdish region just so they would ensure that nothing really dangerous comes out of there. and i would imagine this is a subject to debate in teheran. what do i know, we're not there. so, no, i don't set this out as an absolute fact, but i think it's worth thinking about given who some of the iranian players are and as you correctly point out while you cannot adduce motives purely from what is happening on the ground, it's still worthying about.
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>> thank you. professor davis at the back. i'm taking names down, so i'll get to you -- oh, sorry. and i've already forgot barbara. if we can send a mike that way as well. >> i'm barbara slaven and the run the future of iran initiative -- hi, i'm barbara slaven and the run the future of the iran initiative at the atlantic council. i thought i should come and see what the future of iraq would be. i'm shocked iran took advantage of the united states toppling a sunni government in a country that has a shia majority. you know, reality intrudes here. given however our own domestic situation, particularly our own domestic politics, how can you project that a future american administration is ever going to be willing to engage troops certainly or treasure in the way that we did over the past decade to reverse what looks like a
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pretty solid gain on the part of the iranians in iraq? any more than we would go into lebanon again with marines to try to deal with hezbollah. it's to all three of you actually. thanks. >> i'll start. you've just summarized the obama administration argument to what do we call them -- joint target -- a few guys out there with radios. this is another going in with 100,000 troops. barbara, how many airplanes does putin have in the middle east? they're doing a lot of from putin's standpoint really good work. how many people has he lost? i think we're up to two, maybe a
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few more on the ground. that's the kind of deployment of power to achieve strategic ends that i admire, i don't admire his purposes, but i certainly admire the trade craft and that's the kind of thing i sense that most of the people that are making recommendations for the commitment of american forces are talking about. there are plenty of people in an 85% sunni middle east who are willing to stand up and fight against this iranian offensive. they need assistance, they need weapons, they need leadership, they need air cover. that's what we're there for potentially. i'll stop there. >> if i could just add to that, i think when ever we have this discussion it's continue to do what we're doing now or it will be thousands of troops and that's a false choice. there is a way to do it. and it starts with what are our national interests in the region and how does iraq fit into that?
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it would be pleasant to start with that question first. and then devise a strategy, as i said at the outset, that matches ends, ways and means. when you say your going to destroy isis, destroy isis. but when you're hitting them at six, seven, targets a day and a small cad ray of advisers that don't go to front, some do, that's not going to destroy isis, okay? so, it's frustrating to hear the discourse on this, but i think it's -- well, i mean, sit in our interest to do that? and what are our interests there? and then devise a strategy to do it. but it has to start with u.s. interests, not in a region not as we wish it to be but the situation on the ground that we find. >> some of us were distinguished between shia power, majority as you pointed out and iranian power in iraq and leave it at
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that. >> that's the point i would press. unlike what some of our arab friends believe, shia does not equal iranian. those of us who have been out there know how -- what passionate arab nationalists, many iraqi shia are. and so i would talk not about troops and treasure. i would talk about politics and diplomacy. i have argued with this administration with a singular lack of success, as most of my arguments with this administration meet with a singular lack of success, don't send 101st airborne to baghdad, send the secretary of state for a prolonged seance with the iraqi leadership to both assess and try to influence.
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what deals can be done? we have been sort of missing in action politically and diplomatically and that is where i would like to see the thrust of a renewed effort come. and here the iranians may actually help because if my provocative hypothesis is anywhere near the mark, well, that's war in another form. and at a certain point you're probably going to get, in fact you see it in some areas already, an iraqi arab reaction to that. you know, we saw al qaeda's excesses enable the surge through the awakening. they were their own worst enemy. think iranian overreach can potentially deliver the same results. i think we need to be giving body and others some alternative to teheran, because right now there isn't, but that needs to
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be political and diplomatic in the first instance. >> yeah. we're certainly not talking about rolling back shia power in baghdad. that's not anyone's goal. the point is just for those militias that have sprung up during this time of instability to be properly integrated into the country's armed forces and for iraq's sunni communities to have enough of a seat at the table that they can go back to their constituencies and actually be able to deliver something once in a while. thank you, sir. >> eric davis, rutgers university. in the document i received from you, it was very exciting to see all the dimensions of this future of iraq task force. however, you are emphasizing the future and i notice one category that's not there and that's the category of youth. 70% of the population is under the age of 30, 40% is under the age of 15. we know that most of the
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violence comes from the activities of youth and we also know if we look at iraqi civil society organizations we see that the main drivers and most of the effective ones are youth. so, how do we really integrate youth, not just sort of give them kind of off the cuff importance but really they're the generation in waiting. they'll be taking over the new iraq. and if you look at the education they're receiving, it's very wanting because the school textbooks have been denewted of anything that treats any iraqi group that they don't particularly like. so i would like you to see what our panelists would say about how we deal with this very, very important demographic, thank you. >> that's a great point, eric. let me just say generally that was an ill lustrytive menu, not a comprehensive checklist. we're certainly expecting or everyone that is associating
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with this effort is that kind of input. what else -- so that's what we came up with as an initial draft. what else should be on that? so please give us that kind of feed back. now, we tried to get at that. there is a reference to education in there because it is so critical for the reasons you site. the youth bulge and the way curriculum -- curricula are being modified and altered. so that certainly is our intention that that be part of it. but certainly worth flushing that out a bit. i'm on the board of mercy core international. that is something we do everywhere we're involved which is drill down on youth and education because we have learned over the years how absolutely central that is to
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long-term security and stability and again, a massive challenge. all that said and my friend knows this so, so well there was a lot of speculation at the end of the active phase of the lebanese civil war in 1990 that 15 years of vicious conflict had produced an entire generation of lebanese who had no formal education, really only knew how to operate is a clash that kof and that would be a recipe for long-term murder mayhem pillage and plunder. lebanon still has its share of problems but that apocalyptic prediction did not pan out. young lebanese have grown up in militias, they dropped that gun
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and took that option once they had it. yes, this is deserving of serious concern and serious attention, but also i don't think we should sell a young generation coming of age under horrific conditions too short. give them some alternatives and i bet you they'll take them. >> ambassador? >> thank you very much for an excellent discussion the panelists bring to the discussion huge amount of experience, insight and wisdom. i'med ed an admirer of each one them. they raised through this discussion a whole number of issues, some extremely important, some central and some of them are better discussed in smaller circles than this bigger
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gathering. but i just want to take one strategic issue, which was touched upon. that is the fact that there's an alliance of iran, russian and syria hezbollah, that is on a roll. it is actually making tremendous gains. and if things go the way they are, they are heading towards victory in their terms to achieve their goals in the region. we know that the iranians and the russians are good chess players. i'm not sure that as a political system that the american system is in that league in terms of chess, seeing so many moves
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ahead. the question i have here is will the political system in this country, never mind the middle east, produce the political will that will stop, that will stop this advance? not necessarily put down the shia and put up the sunnis. this is not really a solution. that's just a reversing the poe lairty of sectarianism does not solve anything. it is unwinding this distinction, which is necessary. but is anyone in this country with power and decision going to stand up and say to the russians thus far and no further. stand up to the iranians and
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say, thus far and no further. and allow this space for iraqis and others in the region to solve their problems, which are many, and they have so many challenges as we know. thank you. >> thank you. who wants to tackle that beast? >> well, it's a great point. you know, it's both heartwarming -- it's heartwarming to see all of you in this room, so many of you i know have known over the years, and to think of the knowledge and expertise on iraq and the region that you represent. the kind of unsettling follow-on thought is all of you in this room probably represent two
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thirds of the americans in this country who really care about iraq. you know us very, very well. americans have tremendous qualities. we also have a few challenges. and one of them is what i call strategic patience. you know, we didn't build our great country on patience. get' er done. i'm about today and tomorrow. let's get on with it. if it gets costly, messy, difficult, heck, let's go on to something else and get that done instead. we're kind of genetically wired for let's fix it. let's fix it now. well, the middle east is not a region that lends itself to easy, quick fixes. so that's a challenge for us. and of course our political system is also not geared to long-term policies.
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policies change as the white house changes hands, as the balance shifts in congress. the example again is iraq. in 2002 the american people through their representatives in congress basically voted to have a big old war in iraq. and then in 2006 the american people through their elected represents in congress voted not to have a big old war in iraq. but you can't rewind the film. so you've rightly put your finger on a real challenge for the american public and for american policy. now, in terms of the specific incident you site, clearly there were other policy alternatives open to this administration or any administration in syria and iraq vis-a-vis iran, bashar al
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assad or moscow. i've suggested some of them. the administration has elected to basically sit pretty tight. but there's nothing in our system that would have prevented more robust actions. these are policy decisions, policies made at one end of pennsylvania avenue and its resourced at the other. we diplomats and soldiers don't make policy. we just kind of carry it out. so i think there were alternatives. i was recently out in the middle east, not in iraq. the perception i found among people i've known for years that the benign interpretation is that there is a teheran, damascus, moscow axis in the face of which we are just
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passive. that's the charitable interpretation. the less charitable interpretation is that it is actually a teheran, damascus, washington axis that by our inaction we are really siding -- we are in effect accomplices. and i think that's quite dangerous. >> there's not going to be any kind of american intervention in the middle east on a scale of anything remotely like that in the first ten years of this century. i think that's pretty apparent. we barely got enough political support to do the first gulf war, even though that didn't involve all of theesques of vietnam and iraq and afghanistan and that was 20 years after vietnam. so it takes a long time to do the same mistake again even if it isn't a mistake.
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but as i said, we're not talking about that level of effort to make a difference in the middle east. we're talking about again, you know, a putin-esque 1,500 man exhibiti exhibitionary element. we have 40 or 50,000 troops. we have 10,000 afghanistan alone. we have 3,700 in iraq. we have 3 or 4,000 in kuwait. i could go on and on. we have them outnumbered about 20-1. we're just nothif"t using them. and i could see a different administration, in fact almost any of them from 1945 until either 2000 or 2008 using those forces and providing another force. whether we've arrived, we had
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two administrations that tried very different approaches to the old traditional work the problem slowly. and i don't think the american people by polls are happy with the results of either of them and judging from the campaign there aren't a whole lot of -- there's nobody who is really ronald reagan's or bill clinton's so we have to wait and see. >> just one more. >> yes. >> what you bring up is that we are not very good at conflict resolution. unless if they have the terms surrender, but anything short of that which most of them end up in that we're not very good at that. so, just from the past decade that we've talked about and our experience in iraq, i would
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beloathed to turning back axis of evil without a clearly defined end state and a definition of success. we just recalibrated our commitment to afghanistan because we haven't done that very well. the sacrifice we've all seen firsthand, i would be very reluctant to sign up for some great crusade to turn back this axis unless we had a very clear strategy and definition of success to end it. >> doctor? >> thank you very much and thanks for this panel. of course no one can assemble better experience speaking with the beard just said. you're lucky to be supported by one of the greater experts. but let me ask about methodology, approach and maybe the philosophy of the task force since we are launching a task force. it's been more about iraq rather than with this task force is
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going to do. now, this experience, which is great and coveted, i think if it casts a very heavy shadow on the work of the task force, it might turn easily into hindrance. watching the talk, i still think that there is a lot of that experience is dictating what has been said on the panel today. no criticism. i'm in acad mia. this is annoying about me. both of you. this is what's very important, what is going to be new from say the iraq study group which i have the honor of talking to secretary at the time about certain aspects of it, are we listening to new people? are you looking at the new realities in iraq? your experience is invaluable as it is, it right now probably part of what we study as
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historians versus what happened after june 10, which is very important. what is going to be new here? when we talk about just let me take one quick example because time is important and would like to hear about that. talking about the pmus, still we heard the word militias, for example, even the iraqi government says they are not militias and they are part. the general -- the elements of it that used to fight you in those days, and also they were not supported by many iraqis because their job was to terrorize many segments of iraqi society now days their popularity is through the roof in many parts of iraq and i can't tell you the decline of the popularity of the establishment, the parties that ruled iraq historically since 2003, you know, there's a lot of change right now that i think
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needs -- that we have to force ourselves to forget the experience and use it just as a back support rather than let it overcome or overshadow our work and i think this is going to be maybe the pivot where, you know, success and problem recreating another iraq study group report will be there. again, i know both of you, i would love to talk to you about it in another time on going. but thank you for this excellent panel and wishing you all the success and luck. >> thank you. because we just have a few minutes left, i'm going to collect all the remaining questions i have, starting with representative byon. >> thank you. i'm byon sami. representative to the u.s. being kurdish inevitably i'm
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going to talk about borders. ambassador crocker, you said that these borders had endured remarkably well or words to those effect. that's true but at what cost? there has been genocide, chemical bombardment, war, bloodshed repeatedly and we're seeing it today in iraq yet again. so, i think we should stop thinking like 19th century men, people were born in the 19th century, we are now in the 21st. president has declared a referendum, he hasn't declared independence. i would just like to make that point. my question is really regarding saudi arabia and the uea and the other gulf countries. today we heard about iran, little bit about turkey, we haven't really heard about the sunni arab countries and what role you see for them in the future of iraq.
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>> can you see him over there towards the middle on the left? >> it has been a long time since i've seen you. i believe it was around 2002 -- >> can you check that the microphone is on. >> yeah. this okay? >> yeah. >> i was part of the iraqi opposition and then i was a former iraqi parliamentarien and now i'm very active in the arab sunni cause. i've listened to the excellent panel you have gathered. i have listened to the general saying that in the past two or three years the forces taking iraq apart are much greater than the forces that are putting wars
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to keep iraq together. i've listened to ambassador crocker saying that we are looking at daesh. we talked about the political solution before the military solution, general, because whatever force you mass, we have as the ambassador said a real problem. in terms of carpet bombing and what i believe what has come in the arms senate committee, there has been carpet bombing. we have total destroyed arab sunni cities. those that were not destroyed by the carpet bombing were destroyed by the militias as it
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happened in ta crete. now they are dismantling all the refinery there is. big trailers with iranian plates dismantling all the refinery back to the iranian borders. the tragedy that has happened to the iraqi sunnis after 2003 is a tragedy -- is a tragedy that has never been talked about in the quarters in a proper manner. there is a genocide that is being committed against the arab sunnis in iraq and maybe even in syria. it doesn't matter what side you are. if you are against sa dam, you are a sunni. if you are against bashar al assad you're a sunni and you've got to be taken out. now, ambassador, that is the question.
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have you thought about an srg sunni regional government of which as an idea it can make sure that iraq stays together rather than torn apart. >> thank you very much. thank you. just here in the red top. >> i'm an unresident fellow with the atlantic council. it was interesting to see that we talked about how not -- the shiite community and how the pmu is divided between pro iranian and more nationalistic movements, actually nationalistic movements with the pmu are greater in number but less trained and are less financially rich than iranian pmu. so my question is wouldn't it be interesting to look at empowering these movement that are shiite nationalistic maybe to limit iranian expansion? and how can the u.s. do that given the poor history it has with these parties,?
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>> okay. there was just one more question, that gentleman on that side. yeah, he's been waiting. thank you very much. >> thanks very much. i want to go back actually and we've been hearing some of these questions about what will happen to the sunni areas and hearing eric's question earlier. thinking of the example that was given about lebanon and what it took to rebuild that country. and some of the services that also ambassador jeffrey spoke about the entrepreneurial spirit that brought back to electricity in baghdad and brought these communities together. as we look in iraq and whether we talk about a future that includes multiple states or independent kurdistan or whatnot, those areas under isis will be liberated. the people will have to go back one way or another.
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2 million people have been displaced. one thing that could unit and look into a future of iraq is building upon and investing in that entrepreneurial spirit and the investment in youth. i was born in iraq. i understand it. i have gone back. there's a huge level of disenfranchisement and a distrust of the iraqi government, whether it comes back ever together to control those areas or not. my question would be how do we in our current foreign policy as well as broader diplomatic and development assistance, assist in creating -- recreating that sense of country ownership, entrepreneurial spirit that engaging the young people in rebuilding their future, whether they would be a part of one political thing or another, we really have to think about the trauma and retranslate that back into an economic productivity into rebuilding those communities. >> thank you very much.
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i had a couple more on my list but i think we have to leave it here. if you can just wrap up with your final remarks each of you starting with ambassador crocker. >> well, trying to absorb all of that, let me start with, maureen, with you because part of the what we're trying to do is something that is not just repetition of everything that's been done before and to do it in a way that is useful to those who are going to have to make decisions, starting next january. the structure says a lot about it, you know, with what 25 senior advisers representing i can assure you every conceivable point of view and exper ren shall basis on iraq, there is going to be a lot of healthy debate and discussion.
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that's very important. the other thing that i said at the beginning -- this is very hard to do -- all of us involved in this to the extent we possibly can need to check our preconceptions at the door. to say here is the issue. what's drilled down in it. let et speak to us. let it define itself rather than us trying to overlay our own preconceived definitions on whatever the issue is. again, that's really hard to do. actually its impossible to do but you can check that tendency. the worst mistakes i i've made in my career have always involved letting my preconceptions shape an objective reality. so, these are -- these are very good cautions. you did hear us pontificate because that's what happens when you're sitting up here, but i tried to say at the beginning that that's, you know, what this task force is about is
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discovering iraqi realities first and then trying to come up with constructive ways to deal with them, not starting with the preconceptions and adjusting facts to fit those. again, it will be an on going challenge and i'm sure that we will be getting your refreshing academic critique as we proceed. >> you can bet on it. >> just very quickly on some of the other issues. yes, the question of iraq's other neighbors, particularly the sunni arabs is a very important one. we spent today talking a lot about iran because that's obviously the challenge of the hour, but that is our intention to look at the complicated, not always discernible roles the arab states like saudi arabia,
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jordan, uae do play in iraq. i got way more questions than i have tentative answers now but that is an important issue and we will get at it. let's see, what else did we need to talk about? >> why don't we support the nationalistic militias who at the moment are only lesser? >> yeah. that's a great point. again, it's a challenge for the task force. you know, who are these guys? as butch cassidy, if you're old enough tomorrow famously asked sun dance kid. who are these guys? who directs them? what motivates them? understanding their reality. and then coming up with some ideas to how they might be dealt with and possibly incorporated
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into some state structure. keeping in mind certain sense of humility here is not the united states who is going to do this. but i think we can do some interesting -- some useful analysis and then some suggestions both to iraqi authorities as well as our own. and on trump and ownership, i really like that. one of the things that has kept lebanon going is its deeply rooted sense of personal entrepreneurship. that's alive in iraq as well. if there is one thing that does unit kurds, arab sunnis and arab shia, it's that desire to go make a denar. my last week in iraq in early 2009 i took a walk through downtown ramadi. it was bustling. buyers and sellers everywhere.
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i went to a couple of shops that were selling housewares. i just looked at them. they were made in iran. and i said, so how do you get this stuff? he said, oh, we got a middleman. >> you go to sauder city? they go, of course not. but we know of him. he is highly reliable. we get good prices, regular deliveries. we'll never meet him, but it's great doing business with him. i mean, that spirit is everywhere out there. that will be something we look at. you know, how can the iraqi state at least allow, if not encourage, iraqis to do what they do very well, which is business. >> thank you. ambassador jeffrey? >> yeah. you always at the end when you get this flurry of questions try
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to think of something intelligent to say to kind of sum them all up. i usually fail. but this time i'm going to try but it will be provocative. in looking at all those things, let's things, 70% under 20 and let's find the right militias and let's do something about a kurdistan regional government for the sunnis and anyway, we've heard a lot of these. here's the problem. none of this works, in my experience. the assumption we're making is that iraq is a supine patient that has turned himself over to a team of doctors that says do whatever you want and then a team of doctors and you have a heart specialist and this or that and you all sit together and have debates and work on
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things. we tried that we were actually the team of doctors during the military period to some degree because we had a huge effort and iraq other than the brief period of time around the surge where a civil war was about to tear the country apart and people felt that this could be disaster, i don't think has ever said tell us what's wrong with us and we'll do what you say. the problem is we hear every day when we're here in iraq and people saying tell us what's wrong and how to fix it and we'll follow you, but that was never deeply ingrained in the population, in the various groups that there were countervailing forces and antibodies against each our best suggestion. so what i would urge is apart from the diplomatic and military where we have a real role and it
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could be the oil sector and it could be entrepreneuri iaial electricity and relationships throughout the region and find ways to support that and if we tried to diagnose this patient and find ways to fix it, it will keep us busy, but it won't do anything for the patient. >> general? >> thank you very much. we've run a little bit over our time. thank you. [ applause ]
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today homeland security security jeh johnson will lead a panel that range from terror attacks to natural disasters. joining secretary johnson will be past and present governors and mayors. live coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. here on c-span3. today republican presidential candidate senator ted cruz from texas will speak at a campaign rally in las vegas ahead of a tuesday night republican caucuses. our live road to the white house caucuses starts at 2:00 p.m. eastern over on c-span. tonight on the communicators, gordon smith, president and

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