tv Discussion on Turkeys Role in the Middle East CSPAN December 5, 2018 8:14am-10:15am EST
really well. sometimes groups were operating in coordination. there was a fairly close alliance to try to get rid of assad. after the joint intervention by iran and russia in 2015, the bolstering of -- let's put it that way, the rescue by this foreign intervention and the big surge and the coup in turkey helped to reshape turkish ideas about what should happen in syria to emphasize containing the growing power of kurds in the southern border of turkey. it was one of the two or three
things that killed the ambition of the gulf countries to get rid of a pro iranian regime in damascus and replace it with a neutral or anti-iranian regime, therefore taking away the major iranian asset. there was a period of almost confrontation in syria where the groups that were supported directly or indirectly by most countries were on almost being targeted by turkey. there was a real confrontation of interest there. i think what you have seen is that under the rubric of a trump administration policy that is becoming more coherent in syria and is focussed on doing what the gulf countries were hoping for which was working, first of all, on the ground to block iranian interests, especially from creating a military corridor through iraq and syria to the met traditerranean.
that seems to be out. but in addition there's a move by the trump administration to start a dialogue with turkey, especially also with russia to see what can be done to squeeze, to marginalize the iranians to make sure that the iranian is no the big winner in syria and limit their gains. this is all very positive. so all of that kind of indicates the way in which saudi arabia and turkey can still find themselves on roughly on the same side. at the same time, you just seen turkey into a new military cooperation agreement with kuwait. it raises a fear of a new turkish -- and the emergence of a camp that could stretch out to incorporate countries that most people couldn't imagine being a part of it. and i mentioned jordan and kuwait as possibilities.
now, it may be fanciful, but when you see new military cooperation agreements, that tends to exacerbate fears. so what we end up with, then, is a really bipolar relationship. let me say, i want to end by endorsing ambassador's comment about there being no bottom in the middle east. things can get worse. that's for sure. and, you know, as usual it -- as edgar king said it's not the worst as long as we can say this is the worst. and i think that's exactly right. there's always the case.
but he said so far in many areas. first of all, i would like to start with a warning, and i believe it will be a start saudi arabia -- merely as a river i are. if you go back coming to power, it was saudi arabia with president erdogan -- don't forget the saudis know the election secretary general and
from saudi perspective, it was, you know, -- it also improved the turkish tcc relations in 2000. i also published a piece on the gcc. back then there was a bright prospect between turkey and saudi arabia but in the framework of the gcc. you know, the game-changer here has been the arab spring and the turkish position in the arab
spring. beyond this it almost -- it was also turkey in north africa, central asia, and even in yemen. as an example on this concurrent -- syria is a great example. it's a matter of rivalry or competition. they supported, you know, different kind of transitions in syria and backed different groups in syria.
if you're working together toward a regional common app. such a common ground. and i believe there's room for negotiation between turkey and saudi arabia. these are two major powers and the transformation of turkey may help in the sense that turkey had saudi arabia may understand each other to the earlier terms. but however saudi's distance from anti-qatar position and moderation toward the muslim brotherhood. you may not think -- but the alternative is the illusion of
>> first, i would like to thank everyone for good presentations. i think it would be good if we could come out of this meeting with some ideas for the future of american policy. we might begin with an issue that was touched on but maybe not covered enough, which would be this. when turkey and saudi arabia both look at the international system and look at maybe declining american power and influence and commitment and engagement after the -- certainly over the last 10 or 15
years. and when they consider, perhaps, advice they've given to the united states as followed this, for example, king abdullah advising the united states not to invade iraq, which lead -- left the door open for iran to enter the region or the turks about being happy about the way the u.s. -- autonomy in iraq in the 1990s and beyond or the way the united states did not engage deeply enough in syria after 2011. to what extent has this changing global picture and the changing role of american power engagement at the same time russia started to come back into the region. how has this influenced decisions that both countries have taken that have alienated
the other one or helped create the rivalry and disagreements in places like syria and elsewhere. and vis-a-vis iran, too. can we start with that? if anyone wants to. >> is this on? >> yeah. >> all right. so saudi arabia has had to play a much more robust and forward-leading role in the region for three reasons. first, because it feels threatened by the rise of iran and it's not going to fail to act on that. and that's just a circumstance that would have warranted a more robust saudi regional posture
anyway. secondly, the collapse of the traditional centers of arab power and influence. cairo, damascus is ripped apart. these power centers in the arab world are not functional. they either simply can't rule their own territory or, in the case of egypt, they look abroad in such a way that it institutes an extension of domestic policy, for example egypt's concern in gaza is more of a domestic policy issue. same with libya. i mean, there's such a geographic kl approximate s
geographic proximity. it's an -- in the same way i think turkey is concerned about the kurds. especially in syria is, again, almost more of a domestic issue than a foreign policy issue. so because of this vacuum arab leadership, i think saudi arabia had to step up. there's a vacuum of arab leadership. and the third is the decreased role of the united states that you pointed out. in that context, then, i think all these three things come together, particularly the relative point of the united states during the obama administration. but i think as trump's america first policy, though they're hard to read, they haven't been very coherently defined yet. they look like extending some of obama's caution and the idea the
last thing you another war in the middle east and stuff like that. and that the notion of burden sharing, if there's one idea that is consistent between obama's foreign policy and trump's foreign policy is the emphasis on burden sharing they both have. and it translates into fight your own wars. for them, they've done that. right. all they asked for is some support. now they're getting crucified for it. now, of course, one can -- it's no problem making the case against the yemen war. both in syrtheory and practice. from the point of view of burden sharing is problematic to lecture a country like saudi arabia about how they need to fight their own wars and when they do get upset and put sanctions on them. i'm not attacking this. i'm saying think about it in terms of burden sharing and it becomes problematic.
and there was a sense that u.s., you know, was looking into a potential arrangement with iran because of the jcpoa that didn't pan out. and there's a real anxiety about not just the american presence but the reliability of the united states. all of this prompts saudi arabia to take a more robust role. and this is magnified by the role versus the defense minister and the crown prince who is a very audacious, let's put it that way, and at times certainly reckless leader. you can combine that and in the limitatio limitations of what they can do a fairly aggressive saudi regional policy. i think turkey has defined it since the cue defined its
interests more narrowly than before, but where they have identified something as a crucial interest, for example, preventing the rise of a unified pkk stake in northern syria. they have intervened forcefully to stop it. even to the point of confronting american troops. so what i'm suggesting ultimately is that the lack of -- or the reduction of u.s. leadership and the sense, at least in riyadh and possibly dakar, as well, probably refer to you on that. that the u.s. is not only less assertive but less reliable. creates a situation where these countries, you know, not just saudi arabia and turkey but others are looking to define and secure their own interests and
dependent on the united states and are operating in an unstable area where in terms of reference and balance of power is being negotiated in real time. i think that exacerbates a sense of rivalry and confrontation, et. cetera. i believe you said it was the russian intervention in syria that broke apart the turkish saudi agreement. >> oh. from that point on you had turkey more concerned about containing the kurds and, therefore, you have a confrontational policy because at the gulf supporting the
syrian democratic forces. that actually has something to do with the relationship between the united states and russia [ inaudible question ] it's a necessity. because when turkey, you know -- in syria there was a bit of moment of expectations that there's going to be enough regional and the u.s. support to
yet in particular the touches on it i think a core issue here. it's what is the role of the u.s. not just in this region but globally. the seven or plus decades since the end of world war ii. you know, we, in america, created the post world order. it was basically sidelined bit french and the british. certainly sidelined in this
region. and what we got them. you got a two decade truce that's all it was. it has been broadly at peace in a way it never was before. so before we kind of say the senate was right to vote down the lead of nations thing, i wish we could do that again. consider the consequences. if we do not lead, who will? i fear the answer is no one will lead because no one can. it's not that i worry about the
chinese taking over the world. it's that the chinese or anyone else is not going to be to even manage conflict. and as we look at what is happening in turkey, what is happening in saudi arabia, we can see the, you know, where it could go. and, again, this is so rightly point out, this did not start with president trump. it started with president obama. trump elevated it to an art form, but, you know, pulling us out of the tpp and the paris climate agreement and the jcpoa, again, some of the obama administration totally oversold that to our peril and loss by pretending it was more than what it was.
rightly, that may not be where they wanted to be but it's where they are. then the irony of us not having been there at the creation they're saying it's not going well. you need to pull out. that's also a reality, if you look at the senate vote yet or the day before. the turks and the kurds i was very much involved in the run up to the march 2003 as deputy secretary covering the gulf with the effort to make our efforts in iraq a successful as they could possibly be. one key element in that was having a northern front to bring me fourth division down through turkey and into northern iraq. that didn't happen thanks to the
turkish general staff, largely managed to see what first looked like parliament i are approvappe there was not enough deputies to make it legal. we were prepared to give the turks very wide latitude vis-a-vis the iraqi kurds. dangerously wide, in my view. so if the turks have encouraged problems with iraqi kurds they have only themselves to blame. had the vote succeeded, it would be a totally different landscape, literally, in northern iraq. i'll toss that out there. but it was heightwas highly sig the time. the other thing i point out is that these things count. we, of course, had a long,
strong, mill-to-mill relationship with turkey. turkey is a major customer for our weapons systems. right now we're working on f-35 sale of very large proportions. but, you know, if turkey goes ahead with the s-400, the air defense system from russia, i don't think the f-35 goes at all. because it would almost certainly comprise the most advanced technologies to the russians through that system. so don't get lost in the details but some of these things get very, very important as you're looking ahead what to scare wto relationship you're going to have. >> before we come back to american policy, and what
influence it has had on this rivalry, let's come to something you said. it is where did the interests of the state begin and end compared to where the interests of erdogan began and ended. what is it about -- is there something about the nature of these two states turkey being -- well, having some post autumn grievances that carried all the way through the '20s until today. and have different ethnic and sectarian make up and being a democratic country. on the one hand and then saudi arabia having some grievances against the empire for the fall of the first two -- and seeing
itself as the custodian having pride in his own form of government which has taken the country from sand and to modern economy and society. to what extent to these differences in the nature of the state contribute to the rivalry or make competition difficult? then you come to erdogan, the man. where you have one person -- erdogan feels rebuffed by the west, specifically, by not getting into the eu and is an islamist that is committed to sunni islamism where as mbs is
someone trying to engineer a top-down change and does think it's worth defending. and that. their form of government is worth defending against the different vision that is being espoused by turkey. you have the nature. we'll talk about that a little bit in terms of why they have different policies. my sense is that solomon, you know -- a lot in turkey.
>> yeah. with regard to mbs >> with regard to mbs and saudi arabia, the decision-making process in saudi arabia, not only is murky, it's always been murky, it's harder than the kremlin, a more complex puzzle, the dearth of good information and knowledgeable sources, et cetera, makes it almost a fool's game. i do think, though, we can be sure of two things. number one, mbs, young, audacious, et cetera, has an enormous amount of power. the degree to which the changes that he has overseen in the past two years constitute a self-coup, which i've been calling it from the beginning
since the ritz-carlton thing. it can't be overstated. the old system of saudi arabia, which was a monarch and modern f futilism and checks and balances in the royal family, all that is pretty much wrecked and there's been a tremendous concentration of power around the crown prince. it also needs to be said that the authority for all of this comes from the king, you know. in other words the king is a non-controversial figure relatively in saudi arabia. his authority is uncontested, his right to be king is uncontested, his authority is really uncontested. mohammad bin salman does what he does precisely because of the sense he's doing it all under
the rubric of the king, that the king has delegated all this to him. don't forget, this is a king who has already replaced a crown prince, right, crown prince naiyaf was removed and mohammad bin salman was put in as crown prince. even before that it was done. the point is, it is not unthinkable that from a structural point of view that mohammad bin salman would not be king. however, the amount of bureaucratic power that he has assembled and the apparent commitment of king salman to his succession means that, in fact, he will be king. there's a strange reality where he can't be king because he's become so radioactive in washington and it would be hard for him to come here, but he can't not be king because he's going to become king. we'll see how they figure that one out. the point i'm making is that while i can't -- in turkey it's easier to distinguish between
national and institutional prerogatives and the political and personal prerogatives but in saudi arabia it's deliberate and fury mixed up, an absolute monarchy. this isn't an accident or weird thing. at the same time -- in fact that's one of the big differences between saudi arabia and turkey. they would come into a problem of the brotherhood model in the world, i agree, is not exactly a brotherhood party but a sunni, islamist and republican party. in that sense -- majority, yeah, if you can. i understand. i think you're right. none of that is true of saudi arabia. now, i just do want to say one thing in addition, this business
of islamism is -- i think you're absolutely right to locate the fundamental contradiction here between turkey and its allies like qatar on the one hand and uae on the other hand. uae is the party in the region that is categorically opposed, unequivocally, to all forms of political islam and the politization -- the politization of islam and the islam of politics. any version is [ inaudible ] to abu dhabi's perspective. they are committed to what amounts to secular politics in the region and to separation of religion and politics. this, of course, is not really true of saudi arabia. saudi arabia and post arab spring, particularly under mbs, is earncertainly anti-muslimhood
anti-islamist in a way. you can't have saudi arabia standing for a total break between religion and politics because saudi arabia presents itself as a religious state, as the custodian of the mosques and pure islamic state with the core r -- coreran and all that. you could say the difference between status quo, islamic politics and revolutionary islamic politics, and all those, the point is there is no clear break in saudi arabia the way there is in the uae. the second thing is that mbs is not categorically unwavering opposed to all muslim the way the uae is. the example is yemen. saudi arabia in the northern part of yemen where it has been operating has been increasingly working with a muslim
brotherhood party in yemen which presents itself as part of the wave of post-islamist groups led by morocco, et cetera, who have broken with three aspects of muslim brotherhood structure that are -- noxious and toxic to arab governments, which is revolutionary nature, conspiratorial nature, ie, illegal underground, and above all transnational. these groups say we're not revolutionary or conspiratorial or doing anything secret and we're not transnational. they only comment on tunisia and tunisia foreign policy and doesn't talk about sudan. they take the position the jordanian muslim brothers take the position, and it's one that i think in the end saudi arabia could easily end up living with
because it doesn't threaten a return to arab be spring or anything. >> it doesn't threaten the state. >> okay. so that would potentially be a saudi perspective. uae would find all of it threatening. there's a distinction. i want to say you can imagine that in the next decade, if erdogan emerges and is recast as part of a post-islam movement with the lacking those three qualities -- the revolutionary, conspiratorial and transnational -- that i talked about, that saudi arabia could become comfortable with that potentially or not. >> you have less than 15 minutes, so can we get into american policy now. is there a way for the united states to re-engage, to support both of these traditional allies, in a way that helps them
resolve some of their differences and helps us contain our adversaries? i think turkey, for example, would not be happy with an iranian nuclear weapon. turkey is not happy with iran's expansion on the ground through the mediterranean. how do we harness them together in this endeavor better than we've been doing? what is it that erdogan wants from the khashoggi incident that he would need to get? is it going to be necessary for mbs to make some concessions because of the khashoggi matter? is it useful for the united states to be imposing sanctions on turkey and saudi arabia if we're going to be trying to bring them closer together in an effort to contain our common
adversaries which includes russia, not only iran. that's a big question, but it's a question about what should american policy be now. ambassador crocker, if you want to talk first about that? >> sure. i think we can all be brief here because what american policy? yeah, this has been a very interesting conversation to me thus far. in my remarks, tried i tried to out that in obviously different roles, saudi arabia and turkey have been absolutely critical partners in the post-world war ii international order. i think that behooves us before we let all this drift away to go sit under a tree somewhere and consider what our vital
interests are, what they have been and where they're likely to go and then bring regional partners into the conversation. what does turkey envision as the gains it would like to make? what are the losses they seek to avoid? same thing elsewhere. if you're going to do that, you have to have a policy. we're kind of short in that
department. i would like to say it's just the middle east, but it seems to be pretty well global right now, and i just go back to that kind of waking nightmare, if not us, then who? if not us, with what consequences for our own security and for international security? i find that a fairly frightening view right about now. on the plus side, i think we've heard from colleagues there is a pragmatism in both leadership. if we had a framework to work from -- this isn't helped, of course, by the fact that this administration has not seen fit to move expeditiously at all on the assistant secretary appointments, you know, to almost two years in you don't have ambassadors in important place likes riyadh. great nominee. although that does raise another question. a career soldier, not a diplomat. in modern times we've seen two
career diplomats to riyadh, jim and hugh. the saudis didn't like either of them. both served a tour. what they don't want in the kingdom is someone with the background and skills to make say the politics of the royal family a little less opaque than they are. >> right. >> because opaque is what they want. >> okay. i don't think john is a fluent arabic speaker but he knows the kingdom and region. let's see how he does out there. obviously this will be the worst possible time for the saudis to take issue with who we send to riyadh. he has had [ inaudible ] but so did hugh until they found out how deeply he could get into their society. again, not to get lost in the weeds, but, you know, i think
what we've done here is to convince ourselves of how important these relationships are and that we've got a lot to work with as well as against, but then that just puts us back on the -- the overarching question, you can't do any of this without a policy. >> can i just say, i mean i think from -- from a u.s. leadership would be most welcome and there would be a tremendous amount to work with. i will tdefer to my colleague o ankara's perspective, but the saudis are hoping for a much more robust american presence and they've clearly bitten off more than they can chew in some places and in other places like in syria, they were relying entirely on the united states to indirectly pursue their interests. in iraq it's got to be a
collaborative effort by saudi arabia and kuwait and others working politically and financially to incentivize the iraqis to examine back into the arab fold and get distance from iran with the united states playing its role. i think iran has a problem in iraq when it faces the combination of what the united states, saudi arabia and kuwait bring to the table, but confronting any of those three on their own i think iran is in much better shape to continue to weald undue authority in iraq. it's a good example of where these countries actually need each other, even to succeed in the very limited policies that are being pursued right now. there's a tremendous amount to work with. >> well, i don't know to what extent you are following, but
the stabilization of iran is a prospect, with what president trump is doing and out of the coalition, iran may come on the brink of collapse sooner than we assumed. we have iran destabilization as a prospect. we need to deal with syria and yemen, so that should be simultaneous policy to stabilize syria and yemen in order to deal with this emergent destabilization, enormous effect to iran, how are we going to deal with it? the tough guys, the powerful leaders, they agreed to iran, but how are they going to handle
it? >> is that a policy for reducing iran's influence in yemen, iraq and syria? >> but -- >> destabilizing iran. >> i don't know what's going to happen afterwards. >> right. >> there should be a policy to deal with it, but also, you know, there should be simultaneous policies to work harder on syria and yemen, to handle that. that signal, you know, the kind of signal from saudi arabia and the united states that, you know, there is a clear plan and policy on iraq as well as, you know, renewed engagement to yemen and syria is going to be, you know, very good signal to ankara to be on board. before seeing the agenda on the future policy on iran in turkey, turkey is going to try very hard
like we have seen in the u.s. region of iraq, we'll see similar developments and less in these countries. >> can i add one thing, it occurs it's worth saying that a strong u.s. engagement, strong assertion of american leadership, would be so welcome in riyadh that if there were over a short period of time a re-establishment of trust and confidence in the united states, the united states could even shift to trying to be a balancing power in the region with success and with the backing of riyadh. it's what makes it so hard is not the u.s. policy isn't pleasing, it's that there is no confidence. if there's confidence and trust, you could have even a more challenging policy and be successful. >> i tried to reflect a lot of
the questions that came out of the audience here, but there's one i want to read, actually read it, it's for ambassador crocker. i'll make it the last question. if you were to write a new version of the perfect storm, what would your central main warning be to the current administration? >> it would be pretty much what it would have been with the previous administration, and again, foy this is getting repetitive, but it's important enough to repeat. do not cast aside american global leadership without some very careful consideration of the consequences. we've talked about that in the middle eastern context. well, take a look at europe. the rise of forces throughout
europe basically, of extreme right wing orientation. among other things,p i the broadcasting voice of america, all official usg civilian media, we have restarted our hungarian language service through radio-free europe out of concern of the way the current government seems to be controlling individual liberties and press liberties. you may have seen the stories over the last couple days how they are shutting down their own media. why is this important? because horrific things have come out of europe in the 20th century. two world wars and the holocaust. world war ii and the holocaust are still in living memory. do we really think that can --
that kind of thing can never happen again, that we have reached the end of history and frank wishes he had never written that book and has been honest enough to say so. yes, our post-world war ii effort was directed the at containment of the soviets, but a subtext was european unity, not just against the soviet union, but european unity under u.s. leadership to structurally start to development the institutions and the or yen sayingsyen -- orientations that would make those kind of genocides impossible. what we can see now how possible that might get. it isn't -- it suspect just the middle east, it isn't just the middle east and europe.
abdicating in east asia, the chinese are building new islands every day, which they are using now for air and sea basing. again, my message would not be on the middle east, except by example. it would be on the world, what kind of world do we want to see and what are its implications for us. >> i just want to say that within a day or so, this -- the video of this conference will be on our website, which is www.me pc.org, and then this trips will be in the next issue of the journal, the winter 2018 journal, which will be out probably after christmas. having said that i want to thank the panel very much for a great discussion by you. [ applause ]
donald j. trump. >> peter, publisher of many best selling non-fiction books. >> i came to understand about donald trump and this is profoundly important for the way things work now, is donald trump in his heart of hearts believes he always wins. here's a guy who has been in new york real estate, gambling real estate, boxing, wrestling, beauty contests, television, construction, never been the target of a criminal investigation. that's astonishing in new york city. >> a conversation with journalist and publisher peter osnos sunday on c-span's q&a. the state funeral for the 41st president, george h.w. bush is being held this morning at washington national cathedral. president trump and the first lady will attend along with many world leaders.
former president george w. bush will speak as one of the allologists. live coverage is on c-span at 11:00 a.m. eastern. jeb bush was one of the speakers at "the wall street journal" ceo council meeting, the former florida governor and 2016 presidential candidate spoke about leadership and his father's legacy. we'll watch that and more from the meeting. >> the man to my left you know, and i noticed at the table here many of you know him personally. governor jeb bush, here for what is really becoming a bit of a national celebration of your father's life i think it's fair to say. he graciously and gratefully, in the middle of a very emotional and busy week for your family, agreed to come by and speak with us, and we appreciate it very much. >> i'm honored to be here. i love to come. [