tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN April 18, 2016 7:00pm-8:01pm EDT
to really hold -- to encourage our own government here to keep pushing the syrian government to abide by the u.n. security council resolutions that are really critical just on a very basic humanitarian level. i'll stop there. >> jomana, thank you very much, both for your presentation here and also for the really important work you're doing and the information you're able to give us. i wanted to re-emphasize something that you said before when you started off by saying bashar al assad is not a protector of christians, and i think it's important to emphasize that not only because -- not only because it's not true, because he's not a protector of minorities, but also i'm concerned every time that that phrase has residence in washington or in the united states. i feel that's not -- >> or in europe. >> anywhere. i mean, i can't -- you know, that's -- europeans, it's up to the europeans. but here in washington, i think
it's very important and in the united states. it's like we are not in the practice of making distinctions between whose lives are more valuable. a christian's life is very valuable, no one should be slaughtered in syria. no one should be put through assad's killing machine whether these are christians, whether these are yezidis, shia. i always like pushing back on that idea, protector of minorities, because minority lives are not less valuable than those of the sunni arab majority in syria. so thanks very much again. mike, if you could follow up, quickly, as many of you i hope have read mike's piece from last year on mosaic and mike has -- mike has, i believe, uniquely identified the different ways the administration has been moving in the region which are largely about iran but also
syria is a major part of this. so i think mike is especially well positioned to be able to put this in a larger regional context and also in terms of u.s. policy and different changes. so, mike, thanks very much. >> thanks for those kind words and thanks for having me here on this panel. i agree with every word that my colleagues have said. in fact, i'd like to key off something joe said in his brilliant analysis. joe said that the -- that what's being fought over in syria is nothing less than the regional order. and i think that's absolutely true. i think it's worth emphasizing. and i think we need to think much more about it. i wrote down here what i think are six principles that have become -- that i think president obama has sold us on. obviously people who dissent and
maybe don't agree with all of them, but i think the administration has been pushing these principles in one way or the other. it's not just the administration. i shouldn't put it all on president obama. i think that in my own party, the republican party, a number of candidates have also pushed these principles. and i think they're all false. i'd just like to run through them quickly. but i'd like to run through them with -- in the context of a discussion about the struggle for regional mastery and for regional order that is going on in syria. the first principle that the president has got us to accept, i think, is that the use of force by the united states is almost always counterproductive or at least in syria it cannot lead to anything good. the second one is that we don't really -- we, the united states, don't really have a vital stake in what's happening in syria and in the middle east more broadly. and i don't think there's any other way to read the recent jeffrey goldberg article in the
"atlantic," "the obama doctrine," which i would urge everyone to read. i don't think there's any other way to read it than to say that the president has decided that the middle east is just not -- that a stable order in the middle east is not a vital u.s. interest. the third principle is that the defeat or the weakening of isis is our strategic goal in syria. and that that goal takes precedence over any other goal. the fourth principle is that iran and russia are partners in the fight against isis. and if they're not behaving today as our partners, they're going to behave as our partners tomorrow. the time and time again secretary kerry and the president have suggested if you listen carefully, you can hear the footsteps of president putin, he's just about to turn the corner and come in here in order to work with us to get rid of bashar al assad. meanwhile, therefore, we can
give up any demands about assad, any serious demands about the composition of the syrian government or concessions to the opposition because any minute now, here he comes, president putin. and president putin is very much aware of that and he plays to it by saying i'm withdrawing my forces from syria. i haven't seen them withdraw yet. the sixth is that there are no moderate -- fifth -- i'm at five. i'm at five and i can't even read it so i'm going to run -- i'll say -- i'll go to five and say there are no moderates, there are no moderates among the syrian opposition that we don't have any -- anyone that we can really work with. and there has been both by our own policy, the government's policy, and by the rhetoric of people in my party, there's been
an identification with the syrian opposition and islamic extremism which i think is "a," it's factually incorrect. "b" it's horrendous with regard -- from a humanitarian point of view the way it tarnishes -- it blames the victims of this horrible oppression. and then, finally, it leaves us to bad policy because we can't look after our own interests because we're reading what's going on on the ground incorrectly. and then the sixth principle which i can now read clearly, is that our allies are the problem. the amount of rhetoric that has come out of the white house about the problematic saudis, the problematic turks, and so on, at the same time that there's no rhetoric whatsoever about the problematic iranians. all we know about the iranians lately from the white house is that they're this group of moderates who took over the iranian government and they want to make a deal with us and want to work with us against isis in
syria and isn't it wonderful that they, too, are about to turn the corner and come toward us? meanwhile, we have these problematic allies who are causing us all of these problems. and the result of that is what? the result of those six principle, the result is we have this event like just took place. which is we have this cease-fire which as joe, i think, very, very adeptly pointed out is an illusion, right? it's on illusion. everyone is sitting now waiting for the next round and the next round is coming, believe me. there's no way that this blossoms and grows into a larger piece. the result of that is that then assad and his supporters, meaning the russians and the raup yan iranian-dominated forces take palmyra, and we get things in the newspaper like boris johnson writes that palmyra has been
liberated by -- you know, and that isis has been defeated by the assad -- by the pro-assad forces and isn't that really wonderful? he's smart enough to know he had to mention the fact that, yes, of course, assad does use chemical weapons and torture his own people and so on and so i feel a little bit -- i, boris johnson, i feel a little bit sheepish about saying this but isn't it wonderful? no, actually it's not wonderful. it's not wonderful. believe me, i don't shed a tear for any isis fighter who has killed, but what are we talking about? who liberated palmyra? afghan, iraqi, shiite militias dominated by the iranian, trained, equipped, and deployed by the iranians with the support of russian airpower and as joe said, we have some contracted to the russians in syria which means we are building a new order. not just in syria but in the
middle east, in which this russian/iranian alliance and this network of militias that the iranians have put together which is now operating not just in syria but also in iraq, also in lebanon, also in yemen and so forth, is an acceptable partner for the united states and for the west. it also means we completely misread what's happening -- what's happening in europe. the refugee crisis in europe and all of the tensions that it creates in europe and in nato is a consequence of the actions of this russian/iranian/syrian alliance but somehow popularly, we are associates in our minds with isis rather than the actual perpetrators, this is the russian/iranian/syrian alliance. and even in the right wing now in europe, the anti-immigrant wing, is looking to russia as
the -- as a partner in solving the refugee problem, which is a completely pathological position. so, listen, just to sum up, i think that we -- that we accept these principles at our own peril. the humanitarian costs that jomana has outlined is really staggering. i mean, we now have estimates of nearly half a million people killed mainly by the assad regime. 10 million people, perhaps, uprooted in one form or another. and that is horrendous and i think as americans we should be concerned about the fact that we have just turned a blind eye to this. but then there's this strategic -- the strategic factor and i'll just mention three things here and i'll stop. the one is, we have degraded our
alliances in the region. we have denigrated our traditional allies. our traditional allies do have problems. we have problems. there's no doubt about that. by emphasizing those publicly and by moving away from our traditional allies that means the turks, the saudis, the israelis and so forth, we have not built structures in the region that are capable of contending with the challenges of the region with anything other than unilateral military force which is what we're supposed to be avoiding. so if there's another shock that comes, like a destabilization of saudi arabia or destabilization of jordan, the only tool that we really have at our disposal is unilateral american action, which is problematic. the second thing is we are not building a stable new order. we are -- we are sowing the seeds of further conflict. you can see that.
for example, and this is just to give one example. we are now in a conflict with, quietly, in a conflict with the turkish government about this hundred kilometers of territory along the syrian-turkish border that the turks have not closed. we're telling them that if they don't -- that if they don't close it we're going to close it by working together with the syrian -- with the syrian equivalent or the syrian arm of the pkk. that's a kurdish terrorist organization which the turks regard as a vital enemy. so we're going to work with their kurdish enemy to close this border. they would like to close it but they want us to work -- they want us -- they're willing to close it but they want to do it under certain conditns which will protect them from the creation of an autonomous kurdish authority on the other side of the border that stands for kurdish separatism from
turkey. if we continue down this path, we can tell ourselves that sooner or later the turks will just accept this. but i think what's more likely to happen is just the opposite. at a certain point the turks will reach their breaking point and they will start taking unilateral military action which will work very much against the peace and stability that we want. and then finally, the claimed goal of all of this is that by doing all that we're doing, we're going to defeat isis, it's just not going to happen. with the absence of -- with the absence of sunni partners on the ground in syria, and sunni partners in the region, we cannot retake the territory that isis now holds. we can clear it out militarily, but we can't hold it and create a stable new order there. you know, we might get lucky. maybe because isis isn't the smartest organization in the world.
and maybe isis, itself, will collapse, but we're still going to have tremendous disorder there. we're still going to have a safe haven in that region for extremists causing us problems in the region and in europe and elsewhere. but we need to define the strategic goal not as defeating isis but as creating a new stable order in the region and the path to that begins with working with our traditional allies and coming up with an agenda that they can get onboard with. thank you. >> thanks. that was terrific. i want to come back to something you said and something that they said in different ways when you said the administration, part of the message is that there are no moderates to work with syria. jomana and joe, you're saying that -- [ inaudible ] thanks. >> thanks, adam.
>> -- were jailed or they were killed. so what you guys seem to be saying is that contrary to different messages that we're hearing, it's not too late, right? a lot of people think, oh, the whole situation has gone so far to the extremes, there's no one for us to work with there at any point, and i believe it's safe to say that's not going to happen with this administration. but you guys seem to be saying that there are different moderate groupings that it would be possible for the u.s. to work with so i guess, first of all, jomana, if you could give me a kind of a picture of what that opposition looks like on the ground. i know it's entirely, you know, it's not entirely transparent but just a general picture and then i'll ask mike and joe to talk about what that might look like in terms of implementing policy if there are actually
moderates to work with. >> so i'll probably defer a little bit on some of the armed group section to joe because he might be a bit more familiar with that than i am. i tend to work with more of the civil society movements. but i definitely -- >> no, i wasn't really talking about the armed groups. i was just saying -- >> the movement. >> right, what the movement looks like at this point. >> i definitely agree with the statement you just said, that there are -- there is a moderate civil society movement in syria. and, frankly, one that the united states government has been supporting. the state department funding has significant portion of that has gone to keep media, you know, organizations, local councils alive, et cetera, and organizations that have really stood wi withstood the pressure of jabhat al nusra, and until about a year ago isil as well. local council members, one of my friends who remained despite the
fact that isil was there to keep a movement alive. but then he himself was also killed by isil. so i definitely believe in that movement not only because we saw them during protests but because there are a significant number of syrians who have not taken arms in the past five years and have remained in syria and have chosen not to leave. they could have left. but i do believe the people we're seeing in syria right now are committed in remaining in syria and not all of them have taken up arms. and i think that we need to really show our support for them and, frankly, i don't think -- i mean, i know our ally, like mike was highlighting, is the kurds right now. that's our main ally that we're utilizing in the region but the kurds are not going to be able to come to damascus, not going to be able to come to holms and liberate these other areas from isil or assad or from anyone else. they're not even interested in that kind of a fight right now. and so you need people from that region to liberate their own regions and they can only do that if we really show them the support that mike was saying,
that sometimes they're not aware where we -- and the international community really lies on this line. do we support them, do we not support them? and i think making that clear to them would really help. >> it comes back to something you started with, joe, and you're saying in some ways the administration has farmed out a lot of its policy to the russians. so, again, what's your sense, let's say for the next white house, who is there to work with and what could be done? mike, i'll ask you to follow up on that. >> maybe i'll answer this question or your first question differently. take a different angle, if you'll allow me. since we're reflecting on five years later and what happened, i think it's important to make a kind of -- to take this moment of self-reflection and maybe part of it self-criticism. two points i think that are important. if you remember, i hope you all remember in the early moments of the conflict assad gave
interviews. his cousin gave interviews to the western press, to "the new york times," to "the wall street journal" and he said exactly, look, and it was only few peaceful civilian protests in some streets of damascus and the village near iraq. okay? there was no syrian war. he said, look, this thing is going to radicalize and islamize. it's going to weaponize and it's going to regionalize. we looked at that, okay, this could have been analysis from the researcher but it was a president of the republic saying this is what i'm going to do. okay? now, what's worse is that we helped him implement this. i mean, we, the world, i mean, the west, et cetera. so these prophecies became self-fulfilling prophecies with our inactions, mistakes, inability, unwillingness, et
cetera. everything that mike has talked about. so i think everything was written on the wall since the start. we knew this was the playbook that assad wanted to put in motion and by doing nothing or by doing the wrong things or by having the wrong analysis, willingly or unwillingly, we helped this reality taking shape. and then this reality become a reality and then we took it as a pretext not to do anything. i mean, if you remember, the debate in washington in 2012, it was if we go there, we will radicalize it. if we go there, we will weaponize it. if we go there, we will enhance the region. but by not going there, we made all of this coming true. this is something i think we should reflect as analysts today in retrospect. now, where were the turning points of the missing opportunities? of course, everybody has in mind the chemical episode. this is probably the historical missed opportunity, but there were missed opportunities before
that and there were missed opportunities after that. and there are still missed opportunities today. as jomana has said, today this hype in washington and elsewhere about the kurds as fighters against -- is nice. i mean, we all -- i mean, i have respect for the kurdish fighters, but the kurds are only interested in sanctuary, they will not go in even damascus. this is a limited faction. now, mike mentioned allies also. i mean, neglecting our allies is preventing us today in building this new opportunity, but not only in terms of military buildup, it's a political matter. i mean, if you want to rebide a stable order that will manage a post-isis middle east, you will have to have a new social contract in the middle east between peoples and states. and this is a reality. this is a truth that you can't escape. and by keeping, turning around the bush of this issue, that is
really democratization, the change of the social power, political formula, that, by the way, russia and the u.s. has written in the geneva platform. it's written -- i mean, it's ink on paper on the geneva platform. an order transition that would lead syria to a more or less normal political democratic life. so we're not inventing the wheel in 2016, but only we have to look back to the missed opportunities we have inherited today. the last point on this issue and this is maybe the part that is difficult for me to express. and you will maybe allow me. i mean, people know where i stand. but in this issue of radicalization and who is the moderate to work with, there are no moderates, et cetera. my bitter feeling five years later, one of the things that i reflect upon with self-criticism is that probably the opposition,
revolution, call it as you wish, i mean, this reality of the anti-assad forces i think they have missed the battle of the narrative. they have not constructed a proper narrative to their friends, to their allies, to the world, other syrians in the early stages of the conflict. i think this is something which is still doable and i think that the opposition should work on that. the narrative that syria has from the start was a peaceful civilian revolution. i don't want to use the term secular or religious because in the mideast this is something very relative. i mean, we're not in a west monostearin stand nave van part of the world. this is not the way things work in this region. they have missed the construction of the proper narrative that is able to stabbed in front of the narrative that you were denigrating a few minutes ago that assad is the defender of the minor iitys and christians. let's name things as they are.
i, as a french, partly, i'm lebanese also, was appall yesterday on easter sunday to see a delegation of french mps and politicians and researchers and journalists going to damascus and sitting with the butcher of damascus, of syria, in the name of this guy is defending the christians. for me this is something -- besides the counter truth of it, but i'm very bitter that the syrian opposition and us all have missed the construction of the proper narrative that is able today to confront this truth that is leading the entire, let's say, eastern part of europe today to turn to vladimir putin for protection because they're completely appalled and petrified of muslims invading them under the name of refugees, et cetera. we -- and in that sense, mike, this is a defining moment not only for the middle eastern order but for the world order. we are constructing the world
order or misconstructing the world order for the 30 years to come out of the syrian cauldron. this is why it's not only a syrian question, international question, partly ethical, partly geopolitical, and it is partly, let's say, a strategic issue. >> i ask joe, you said 30 years? is that what you're -- >> i mean, i'm ready to negotiate on that. >> mike, i know that you -- i'm not going the ask you to write a narrative for the opposition, but what would be -- what would be the narrative, why is syria still important right now for the next administration in terms of u.s. strategic interests and what is the entry point for the united states right now? is it these moderate groups, is it different allies to work with? it's such a big issue now we've allowed it to get very big so what's the way in? and explaining it how, right? explaining why it matters.
>> well, i think the next -- first of all, let me just make some predictions and then i'll say what i think should happen because i don't think what i think should happen is actually what's going to happen. i mean, when i watched the debate on the republican side i think that there's more of a tendency to agree -- or all they claim to disagree with president obama on these issues, i think there's much more agreement than meets the eye. i mean, you can divide the u.s. national security elite into two groups on this. and one group says that you can't -- cease it basically the way i described it. you can't solve the syria problem without -- you can't solve the isis problem without also thinking about assad and iran. and that this territory of
jihadistan from baghdad to aleppo is one problem and it requires -- we have to have a policy, a uniform policy about bringing order to it across the syrian/iraqi frontier. the other one, the other way of seeing it says, isis is the problem, not iran and russia. so in that first category that says that this is one unit, then the problem is not just isis, it's also iran and -- iran and russia and their proxies. the other side says, no, isis is the core problem. isis, you know, russia and iran might be problematic in certain respects but they're not as big a threat to us as isis is. and we can -- we don't have to work against them. we don't have to impose costs on the russians and iranians for what they're doing. and on that side you have -- if you divide it up that way you see some remarkable things. on that side, the side that says basically we can work with the
iranians and the russians in syria and iraq, you find that president obama is there, donald trump is there, ted cruz is there. right? they like to blur the lines a little bit by not admitting the degree to which they want to work with the russians and iranians. but that's the way it is. and i think that the american public, unfortunately, does agree largely that there's nothing that we can do, right, and that we really do need to just kind of take a step back from this and let whatever happens happens. there's nothing that's going to come up in domestic politics that's going to make a president change his mind about that. so the preconceived notions that they come in with are what's going to determine it. you know, hillary clinton, possibly, she's sending signals that she sees things a little bit different than president obama on this, but she has a side of her party and it's the bernie sanders wing.
the progressive wing of her party. bernie sanders doesn't want to talk about foreign policy, period. right? you can't get him to say anything about foreign policy. and when it comes time to govern, hillary clinton is going to be very much aware of the fact that she's got her bernie sanders wing. so oddly enough the progressives, the bernie sanders and the american firsters of donald trump, they end up on the same position on syria. so it bodes ill. it requires a president to have -- to come in with a conception like joe already has and to understand the intersection of these things in that way. so i'm not -- i'm not optimistic. but what i think -- what i would like to see is a president that would come in and would say, look, obviously the united states is still vital -- the middle east is still a vital interest to the united states. what's the proof of that? the proof of that is for seven years president obama tried to pull back and he can't do it. he can't do it. we're -- you know, he may say the iraq war is over, but we're
fighting in iraq. we're fighting in syria. and the trendline is going in the opposite direction. we are committing more resources and engaged in more military activity as time goes on. so the idea that we can somehow -- we can somehow pull back from the middle east without it following us, i think that thesis, that thesis has been completely disproven. and then i think that we need to think about what kind of world we want to live in, right? just these kind of refugee flows into europe and the affect that it has had on european politics and on american politics. right? we're talking about -- we are talking now about much greater control over people, much greater control over borders, much greater control over our own lives, right, because of this chaos that we have failed to -- that we have failed to -- that we have failed to take care of in the middle east. i think if a president wanted to explain to the american people
why we need to be taking action, greater action in the middle east and playing a more aggressive role in organizing the region and imposing costs on actors like the russians and the iranians, it wouldn't be hard to do at all. there's still a deep distrust of the russians and iranians and the american people. the president just doesn't talk about it. we started talking about who it is that's actually taking palmyra -- >> he doesn't talk about it. >> exactly. exactly. he knows if he did -- who is taking palmyra and what does this region look like after those forces are triumphant? it's not good for the united states. >> one of the different things, i mean, just say -- i want to open this up for questions and answers in a couple minutes. but i just want to -- you were talking a allies before. what does it mean to -- what does it mean to look at the region still in terms of allies? we're talking about syria,
specifically talking more generally about the american role in the region, the american position in the middle east. and i want to finish up on this question. why don't you start off since you led in to that and then joe and jomana. >> americans want allies to be like the allies we had in world war ii, right? they want our enemy to be the devil and they want the allies to be on the side of the angels and they want to feel good that the fight they're fighting is a completely moral fight in every respect. right? what we get in the middle east is something much messier, right? we are -- it's a question of bad and worse and understanding what's bad and what's worse. we don't share the same values with the saudis. we don't share the same values with president erdogan in many regards. but history shows that the turks and the saudis are willing to accept a middle east in which
the united states is the hedge monic power. history also shows that the iranians and the russians are revisionist powers in the sense they want to diminish the united states and diminish its allies. president obama is selling us a bill of goods and telling us that iran has changed and russia has changed and they don't want to weaken the united states and they understand because we're now reaching out to them that we all have the same interests. it's just not true. their goal -- it may not be their overriding, their sole goal. putin may not wake up and every morning say how do i undermine the americans today? but undermining the americans is on his agenda. the guy grew up in the kgb. right? you don't spend our lifetime trying to undermine the united states and then just because there's some changes in the international order, you forget about how good it feels to cause
americans pain. it feels good to him. we need to understand that. it's as simple as that. >> joe, if you want to, i mean, if you want to -- if you want to talk about it from a french perspective or regional perspective, you certainly don't have to talk about it from an american perspective. but what the region looks like and what america's role in the region looks like? how is that? and the different people we can work with both in europe and in the region? >> i won't delve into that too much, i mean, besides the fact that mike mentioned the goldberg interview. the "atlantic" piece where not only the saudis and et cetera were mistreated but even the brits and the french called free writers and et cetera. it's triggering a lot of free action. >> i would be curious to know what people are saying in paris? >> they are outraged. i can tell you. several things have been written. one of our french fellow colleagues here in washington
wrote in the "atlantic." a very strong piece in reply to president obama. this is not the issue. i would like to say, if you would, about -- two things. first of all, this is why. it's not only -- it's no more only the mideast. i think it's what's happening in europe is really very grave and very dramatic. when you talk to politicians in france or england or elsewhere they tell you that probably besides france and great britain today, the entirety of the political spectrum in western europe is shifting toward something between the far right, the far left, both populous and demagoguic, and by the way, this is interesting because the sanders/trump convergence is something of that kind which is new in the u.s. but not at all new in europe. we have been living that in europe for the last 20, 25 years. and also the shift toward a kind of -- by default because these people don't find anyone to protect them anymore. and this idea that -- i mean, i don't think this is an analysis.
it's a fact that putin is saying. the day the wall fell in berlin, putin said, this is the worst day of my life. and i will take revenge. this is written in all his biographies. we're not accusing him of anything. this is what the guy is standing for. so, okay, now, the choice is ours. do we want to build again a europe that is a europe that resembles the europe of the '30s or of the cold war or do we want to capitalize on the liberal order that was created after the fall? this is a decision western political leaders will have to make and part of this decision is made today in syria and iraq. i say it again. it's not that i'm obsessed by that -- >> no, it makes sense. if you could just explain a little more. >> partly because of the refugee issues that is completely changing the fabric of europe, completely changing the perception of the political forces, perception of the social forces, the way the electorate bill behave in the coming years.
partly, as you said, the powers that will become the defining powers in the middle east, if they supersede the west, u.s., and others, will also shape the way the international order is constructed. they are shaping the way the energy flows for the coming decades are being constructed and designed. they are shaping the way that -- probably arab peoples and arab societies will evolve and will react and shape their vision of the world. so we are really creating today. of course, you can see the mideast is marginal. we're pivoting to the east. but even in the east and this is news that probably the white house should know, even in the east they're looking at what's happening in the middle east. when you sit with asian diplomats or asian politicians from singapore, china, et cetera, they will tell you, and i have these conversations, probably we all have these conversations. the way the u.s. is behaving in the mideast is telling us if in
20 years from now china takes over taiwan, or singapore in the sea of china, if we are able to count on the american protection. and this is the new world order. i mean, this is not something related to assad and the family and lebanon. this is something planetary. we are redesigning the equilibrium of the world. now, on the regional level, forget about the city guys, the saudis and the turks. they are murky, play with islamists. in every speech the department says that our aim in the middle east and in syria is to protect also and to, let's say, avoid and strengthen the fragility of states like lebanon, jordan, and et cetera. what are these states today living out of the syrian crisis? lebanon is on the verge of collapse. jordan is on the verge of serious problems. i mean, you have more and more sleeping cells. you have a number of refugees that have led the king of jordan
to say that we can't breathe anymore. i can talk about lebanon. you ask me about the country, the spillovers on lebanon are today really reaching the red line. i mean, lebanon has escaped the syrian conundrum so far. it was a miracle but miracles are not forever. at one point they stop, at least frankly you are -- >> surprisingly. >> so nusra, isis are approaching the border. lebanon is a country of 3 million people to 3.5 million people where you have 1.5 syrian refugees. just imagine the entire population of canada pouring into the united states. this is the magnitude. okay? just imagine how long this country can take. without a president of the republic, with a militia that is armed to the teeth, that is calling the shots and making politics and demaking politics. and et cetera. so, i mean, this is also partly in the discourse of the u.s. i'm not putting in their mouth something they haven't said.
they say every day since three or four years that our aim in the syrian issue is to prevent spillovers, is to enhance an orderly political transition and prevent our friends in the region to collapse. everything has happened. i mean, all these points are happening in front of their eyes. so if you want to talk about allies, et cetera, forget about the grand schemes of alliances. even your small friends in the regions, your poor old friends in the region are living helpless because of your lack of policy. so i think that this is interesting to reflect. now, if you give me one second you ask me a very interesting question about lebanon and syria. i think that we tend to overexaggerate the comparisons between the two crises, the two wars, the lebanese war and the syrian war, at least because of one point. the syrian war or syrian crisis is a rebellion by a society against a authoritarian regime.
lebanon was sparkly, let's say, the product of lack of sleep, lack of any regime, authoritarian or lib -- it was the absence of the state and factions fighting among each others who will define the central power. whereby in syria you have a fight by society aiming to seize central power. where the comparison is interesting is that lebanon adopt in a way that i think syria should end up if we are able to lead it to a political process, meaning a properly accepted political power sharing by all the factions. now, of course, al assyrian, it's not the question to replicate the sectarian system in syria but a kind of power sharing that so far the only party refusing that power sharing device is the regime. so far at least verbally the opposition has gone to geneva accepting the platform of negotiation whereby the regime also if you take its words is refusing to talk about the central issue which is assad.
saying the only issue is isis and terrorism and then we will see. so this is something that they are trying to escape. the second aspect which is very interesting when you look at the way the lebanese crisis was sold and this is why i think the comparison stops also at the doors of syria, very ironically the number one condition for peace in lebanon was that syria becomes the -- it was the mandate given from the west to syria. who who will become the syria of syria tomorrow? i don't know. i mean, iraq? of course not. the gulf? of course not. turkey? of course not. so the contenders are probably iran and others. so this is also something that we have to keep in mind when we go very quickly and simply or simplistically this comparison between lebanon and syria. >> thanks. that's great. jomana, i'm going to ask you to wrap up this part before we go to questions and answers. i can ask you, we've been talking about the region, we've been talking about the view from washington. if you can.
i have to say, by the way, it was very moving when you just mentioned about your friend being killed by, you know, by isis. but if you can, give us -- if you can give us a view of how the syrians are looking at it, how the siege syrian communities are perceived, you know, just what's going on now and what's it likely to look like? >> sure. obviously i'm speaking in my own personal capacity on this. from the people i've talked to, i'm sure you're not going to be shocked to know that syrians are incredibly disappointed with the way things have unfolded. i mean, to say they've lost faith in the united states is an understatement, i think. they felt really not only abandoned but betrayed by anyone who has, any country, any leader, who has actually
attempted to or claims to have attempted to address this situation. we don't have to go back to the goldberg article and the red line and how that was the first of many disappointments to come. the security council resolutions, the syrian people stopped getting excited every tomb they passed one because the implementation was always the issue. it wasn't the issue of agreeing on things that should be common sense. they're human rights, basic human rights and needs. i think something that -- the goldberg article was actually translated into arabic very recently and has spread like wildfire throughout the middle east. the comments that the president made about, you know, contrasting asian children who want to, you know, build technology and build the world and middle east kids who are killing each other and, you know -- >> waking up, wanting to kill americans. >> exactly. exactly. i mean, that's -- i mean, those are my cousins, right? no one has ever expressed that kind of sentiment. it's deeply disturbing, i think, to have read it as an american, to have read it, but i'm sure it's even more exponentially disturbing to be a middle
eastern and reading that is how the president of the united states views the region. it's very disappointing, to say the least. so i think that the syrian people are waiting to see -- i mean, there are people who will always have hope, right? like, i mean, i have to have hope as a syrian-american that something will come out of these negotiations whether or not that hope was based on anything tangible. but i guess some are waiting to see maybe what the next president can bring to the table. >> jomana, thanks very much. do we have someone with a microphone here? yes. thank you. hello, please. >> identify yourself. >> yes. the hudson institute. the question i have goes back to the beginning of the conversation or the discussion
and the presentation of the de facto partition of syria and the attitude of various president parties to it. and the question has to do with a relationship between russia and iran. it was suggested that iran would not really like to accept that situation. and i'm not -- they also wouldn't like to accept the situation where russia is calling the shots. that i can certainly understand but i'm not sure i understand why they wouldn't be satisfied with the partition so long as their principle goals are achieved. and this is connected, i guess, with the question of what exactly was the purpose of the campaign in palmyra? i think you suggested that people were asking whether this isn't the first step toward raqqah. it seems at least plausible that it wasn't the first step toward
raqqah. it was the first step -- it was the step toward a way of protecting the kind of partition you were talking about before, that palmyra was the long finger of the islamic state into the central part of syrian control by assad and something that was more threatening than raqqah. >> how about if we have joe take the second part of the question and then, mike, if you take the first part? joe, if you want to talk about raqqah and the palmyra campaign, and mike, if you want to talk about why the iranians are not. we'll break it up like that, okay? >> very quickly -- maybe i was a bit -- what i just aimed to say is after the pal maya opposition, if you look at it in detail, you probably know, palmyra was almost handled over by the regime of isis a year ago after one shot, one bullet shot.
today it's all of a sudden after the brussels attack, et cetera, taken over by the regime. with also a few battles. okay, it was a battle but it was not so -- so that is something murky here. this aside, the question though that is raised is, okay, this russian, let's say, covered operation by air and iranian and all the people, the afghan, hezbollah, assad apart from iraq and et cetera, doing the groundwork. is this model going to be the pattern of something replicated elsewhere with an acceptance by washington? for example, in raqqah, or would the u.s. would like -- or is the u.s. wanting to take the lead on other battlefronts like raqqah in order to establish a balance between washington and moscow? judging by the diplomatic process and the behavior of the
u.s. diplomacy so far, my bet, and i wouldn't say my fear, is probably they would also subcontract the battle of raqqah to the same pattern that we have seen in palmyra. the problem here is that it will become more problematic for the reasons that mike doran has mentioned. who will control the territory. palmyra is a very specific case. it's not really a city. it's an archaeological site. by the way, it's the siege of probably the harshest prison of the assad regime that has been taken over. so to rejoice that the regime has taken, again, its worst dungeon is not something very rejoiceable. raqqah is something else. if you want to take raqqah, again, you can't send shia militias to take raqqah and to slaughter the sunni population and keep it away. one will have to take order and to put order in that region and to govern it. we're talking here about goff
governance. this is what i was employing in my probably very quick remark. >> mike, do you want to take the first part?russia-iranian condominium. >> right. >> i could just give my own view on the relationship between the two. i liken them to same he's twins that don't like each other. they same the share organs and they share the same lens -- limbs and they can't get away from it. but which i mean, the russians and the iranians, they both have a strategic interest. it is not a tactical interest, it is a strategic interest in maintaining the assad regime in place. they've been entirely consistent about this all along. and that is what allows them to work -- to work together. i'm sure if i was reading the
top secret intelligence on the iranian-russian relationship i would find tension between the russians and the iranians because, as joe said, the iranians don't want to be supplanted by the russians and don't want them to call all of the shots. but they have a strategic interest. but look, president obama is right about one thing, the russian and iranian position in syria is not that great. if you look at the forces used to take palmyra, these are not well-trained efficient forces that are capable of holding out over the long-term against an aggressive and determined foe. and so there is a reason why iranians are using afghans and iraqi because they themselves don't want to die. and so assad himself can't mobilize his own military. so i think that they are -- the
russians and the iranians are stuck together for a very long time. and anybody on the basis of intelligence, real or imagined, says they are going to fall-out any time soon is selling us a bill of goods. >> thanks. >> i saw two more hands and i want to get these because we have to close back in a second. back here fadas and raffi, you had your hand up. ask your question and we'll hold off on the answer and then ask your question and we'll see if we can go on to these. >> first thank you all for this convention. thun someone who watches syria on a daily basis. and i want to pick up on a nugget. joe spoke about -- being calibrated around the time of president obama leaving the office and i have to stay at first it didn't strike me as making sense because if your from moscow and looking for a
deal, the best deal is on president obama's watch other than somebody else. but when we look deeper into it, some of the rational might be that putin could not deliver in syria and if he could not deliver in syria because of precisely some of the things mike was just talking about, namely the difference between the russia outlook on syria and the arabian and syrian outlook and we've seen that playout in the media with assad's statement about retaking every inch of syria and calling for election and the russian deputy foreign minister, in terms of a setup for a political compromise which the syrians didn't take very nicely. and that is your thinking, as to why the men in moscow are looking for past time and is a cease-fire the outer limts of what the russians could put forward at this time. >> could you identify yourself.
>> [ inaudible ], george washington university. >> thank you. and raffi, to you could identify yourself and ask your question. it is going to come from this way. >> i'm raffi dancinger, an adviser to a-pec. and some have said that i.c.sisd assad need each other. they need assad as a poster boy for recruitment who kills sunnis and they need isis to say it is us against them, the only terrorists on the other side and we are the good guys fighting against them which is something you suggested. and if that is true, isn't it interest in both of them to continue the war in such a way that isis will remain in tact, perhaps it is a small thing, which they are willing to do, i don't know, but basically, they want us to continue and not to really seriously hurt each other because if both of them, it is
their interest to continue this. >> thank you, raffi. joe, you answer the first question and then working back your way and all of you come up with an answer to raffi's question as well but let's keep it quick because we have to close down in a second. very good questions. thank you. >> i fully agree with what he said and this is what i was implying to refine that, i would say the following: so far, for what is extractible from the american administration exacting it, i think what he has in geneva, and this whole machinery is -- it is the ultimate thing he could get. this is why both sides have an interest of presenting the truth as holding because the americans would say -- i mean, the u.s. administration could say to its opinion, to its friends, look, we've achieved something on syria, there is hostility and people could live and in this political process, believe it or not we're talking about assad,
me and lavrov and in the corridors and it is not public but we're doing itment and time is passing. and the administration is leaving in a few months. so for the u.s. it is already something. for vladimir putin it is convenient. he got what he wanted. he is sitting on power with the u.s. he has become the holder of the keys in syria. but he knows that the digestion of this deal on a syria basis and on the international level can't be done with an administration that is leaving. it has to be done with a new administration. so he knows that he can't deliver assad in six months. so he has a vested interest in hanging on to this illusion of political process, that turns around the world and then, also because he wants to, let me say, capitalize on this parity between him and the u.s., he wants to know who will be in the white house for the period to come. this is the way i see. which is not contradictory to your way of seeing it. >> and very quickly, if you want
to take raffi's question and mike, if you want to finish it up. >> absolutely. and i think what you stated is absolutely correct. i think that -- and this is something that the syrian people have said over and over again in protests, as long as assad are here you are giving isil and others for that matter a excuse to recruit and it fuels their fire because they are the only two entities that are able to offer any sort of -- of to win anything in any way. they are able to arm them and give them food and water and et cetera. unlike some of the other armed groups that are poorly supplied and purely -- poorly-funded. and i should mention briefly that we did see some individuals in isil areas, during these protests, also hold out signs. and granted they did it covering their face and in very obscurely so they wouldn't be caught but there were people inside of isil who risked their lives to show that we are for freedom and for
democracy and the removal of assad. so there is still a movement alive, a moderate and peaceful movement alive even in the isil-held areas even though people are only able to see isil at the forefront of this fight. >> mike, would you like to have the last word. >> sure. i think there is a lot of evidence of -- what would we say, conniving together, between isis and assad, but it is assad who is biuying the oil from isi. and the reason is simple. the center of gravity for isis is iraq and the center of gravity for assad is western syria, vital syria, the damascus and aleppo. and the connection, the geography con titinuity betweene assad realm, that is what they
are all focused on. so the centers of gravity are different. and the other thing that i think people miss a lot, when looking at t at the arraignan structure and isis, there is a vector for both of them. isis is a sunni revolution organization that wants to carry out revolution. in the islamic world. but they are focused on taking over sunni territory, that is where they are focused. and iran is quite happy to have isis out there forming revolution in sunni areas. there is no possibility they will become active in iran, for example. so there are points where they have friction between them, iran and assad and isis, but basically they are vectors moving in the same direction. >> mike, thanks, that is terrific. i want to thank you for coming and thank our c-span audience and hudson and our panelists, thank you very much, again. >> thanks. [ applause ]
[ hearing concluded ] coming up next, u2 lead singer bono and deputy secretary of state antony blinken talk about combatting violent extremism. they think the u.s. needs to boost aid to foreign nations to combat the poverty and poor living conditions that have led people to radicalize and carry out violent attacks in europe. the hearing committee is just over 2:20.