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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  April 1, 2016 12:00pm-2:01pm EDT

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to be respectful towards each other, and we need to understand that senators are respectful toward each other. that will be more conducive to getting real policy done instead of just acrimony and vitriol. >> these people we see on television are real people. when we saw president obama, perhaps the thing that most stood out to me is he had bags under his eyes, he was tired, he is a real person dealing with real things. highnday night on q&a, school students from around the country attending the 54th annual senate youth program talked about their experiences from the weeklong government program, and there plans for the future. they met with the branches of the government, military, and media representatives. >> john capehart came to talk with us and i loved the insight he gave us about kind of the
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outside source reporting back to us, and the elect toward about what is going on in our government. >> ruth bader ginsburg was the most inspirational person we have met this week. she has been one of my idols for a long time. i either want to be in the legal profession or perhaps a senator. >> i understand the need for bipartisanship at times but i think it is important that politicians go to washington with their eyes on a goal, and they are determined to meet that goal instead of sacrificing it in the light of money or bipartisanship. >> we need to get back to having a constructive discourse. we need to get back to respecting all americans know matter what their background. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span q&a. now, 1:00n hour from p.m. eastern we will be at the council on foreign relations
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with a discussion of the syrian president bashar al-assad and a look at his actions that began with civil unrest and lead to civil war. we will have that life. a recent event, with samar ali on -- the current state of the conflict in syria. she spoke to students at the howard baker center for public policy at the university of tennessee in knoxville. i am matt murray and i would like to welcome you to the howard h baker junior center for public policy. person toed to be the introduce our speaker for the attorneysamar ali, an where she specializes in cross-border transactions, international law, and private diplomacy. assistant as
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commissioner of economic affairs under governor bill haslam. in 2010, she was selected for a white house fellowship where she served as an advisor on the senior staff of homeland security secretary janet napolitano focusing on foreign and domestic policy. immediately following her fellowship, she worked as an advisor to the department of homeland security in washington, ec -- d.c. associate0 she was an and worked in the united -- in d.c. and the united arab emirates. she is an adjunct professor at the university -- at vanderbilt university. she teaches courses in international relations. she received her bachelor's in , and was theence
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first arab-american elected as student body president. she graduated from vanderbilt law school and serves in a variety of boards and so on in the nashville area. she lives in nashville with her husband. please help me extend a very warm baker center welcome to sam ar ali. [applause] samar: thank you so much for the introduction, and thank you for inviting me here, even though i am a black and gold fan. on saying that, i did grow up in waverley, tennessee. how many of you have been to waverley? not too many. it is between nashville and memphis and if you know anything about that part of tennessee, you know that you cannot survive if you are not a fan. i am very happy and honored to be here. i have admired howard baker's
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leadership throughout my lifetime as well, and it is an honor to be in this building and with you all here today. today, we are somehow miraculously going to cover two topics, two of the most important topics of our time. and that is the syrian conflict and also countering violent extremism and how it has evolved over the past 20 years. these two topics are related to each other, and somehow we are going to cover them in 40 minutes. we will start with the syrian conflict. and i will take you through how it has evolved and how it is related to countering violent extremism. by saying that, i would just like to start and say that this is a conflict that is personal for me. my mother's family dates back to damascus hundreds of years. i have lost friends and family members in this conflict. it is a conflict that is very
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real, and one that i pray will end with peace and that will create a better future for the syrian people and also create a better platform for global security. starting off with that, we are now five years into this conflict. and if i could just go to slide nine and show you the ramifications of what this conflict has created, you will see that there have been an estimated 300,000 deaths caused by the syrian war so far. and there have been 13.5 estimated syrian refugees, syrians who have been displaced. that is close to 50% of an entire country. and i just ask us now to take a moment of silence actually and think about those 300,000 syrian
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s who have lost their lives over the past five years. thank you. so, how did we get here? how did this happen? i apologize that i am taking you back to the beginning. but it really is the beginning of where we need to start. how did we get to this point? well, to start, let's talk about the players in syria. there are really four main players in syria. there are the russians, the iranians, hezbollah -- which we will call the government of syria -- and their goal is to break the back of the syrian revolution. and also, they have been making faster progress today than at any point since 2011. we will cover that later in the presentation. the second main group, which we will break down into three different categories, are the
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complex makeup of the armed groups. this next slide will show you that make up. as i said, you will see that one of the parties, the government of syria, has russia and iran supporting it, along with hezbollah, the russian air campaign, the iranian revolutionary accounts command and the iraqi militia. , next you have the different rebel groups. as you will see here, they are supported by us in the united states. also the u.k. and france, turkey, the government of saudi arabia, qatar, and jordan. that is making up one group of the opposition. the next side of the opposition, of which you will have heard most likely many times before, is that called jabhat al-nusra. jabhat al-nusra is sponsored by al qaeda. and lastly, you will see on the side of what is called the
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opposition movement, is that of isis. that is the islamic state. some call it the islamic state of iraq in syria. the funding mechanisms which is jabhat al-nusra in syria, and that of isis, you will see, are private funding. there are accusations that there are government entities that are supporting -- let me come over here so i can point -- that are supporting them specifically and particularly, but we -- i do not have concrete evidence of that. these are just speculations that have been made. we do have concrete evidence here, as you will have heard. and we will go through the timeline, that the u.s. has been sponsoring a majority along these lines here. not so much on this line which is closer to that organization, along this line. and many people will then ask about the kurds and where do the kurds fit in. really, you see the kurds coming
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on this line right here, mainly they are fighting against isis. primarily. you are seeing here, too, isis fighting jabhat al-nusra and a line of the rebel groups that they compete for recruits for as well. so, how, again, how did we get here? i was teaching a class, speaking to some of the students earlier today, and one of the questions that someone in the audience raised already was, what is the timeline? how does this start? what happened five years ago? how did we move from peaceful protests to one of the worst civil wars of our time? the refugee crisis is the worst since world war ii. the past five years have created the worst crisis of migrants
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since world war ii. just want to repeat that so we can all understand what that means and how we got here. if you will remember, almost five years ago today, five years and some change, the tunisian arab spring happened. and it spread to egypt and it spread to libya and it spread to yemen and it spread to bahrain. and then it spread to syria. and this at the time was something that surprised many people, because everyone knew that if there was a revolution to happen, if a revolution were to occur in syria, it would be different than the other revolutions. the response by the regime and the capability of the regime and the support of the regime would be different. and also, given the location of syria right next to iraq, and right next to lebanon, it would be different. and that is exactly what we have seen. so let me take you back to march
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6, 2011. the graffiti incident in daraa. daraa is in the southern part of syria, which borders jordan on the southern side. it is called, it is referred to as the cradle of the revolution. there are a bunch of graffiti artists or revolutionaries who spray-painted that the people want to topple the regime. what happened in response to that was that those protesters were killed. on march 15, just a little bit over a week later there was a , facebook page titled syrian revolution calling for a day of rage protest. remember, the day of rage protests were happening across the middle east. next thing we know, syrian march 18, forces attacked protesters are killing people. the civil uprising was an early stage of protest, but the protests were met with violence. that violence and the protests combined only escalated. in april, what we saw was assad
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trying to calm the masses and calm people in syria, saying let's have a national dialogue process. i have heard you, let's recognize the kurds and give them citizenship in syria. let me begin to show signs of holding trust with you. it was too late. the protesters did not accept, did not accept assad's attempts, and also they watched that assad, just a few days after making an announcement in his speech that he was interested in a national dialogue process, killed syrians that were protesting -- over 100 syrians -- on the great friday protest. this was april 22. by may 24, we are less than two months into the revolution, 1000 syrians had died. you can imagine, 1000 syrians across all of syria, not just in one area but across all syria
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1000 syrians have died in eight , weeks time. on august the 18, fast-forward a you months, we see leaders in the u.s., france, britain, and germany calling for assad to resign. dissidents announced the formation of the syrian national cap show -- national council. you are already seeing right here this period, why this is important, that i have highlighted it. you are already seeing that the opposition groups, notice the plural, the fragmentation is a key point that you will have seen over the past five years and heard over the past five years repeatedly mentioned. whose side are we taking? if we are supporting the opposition, who is the opposition? the opposition has evolved over time, and in different areas it has evolved. on september 14, ambassadors and the u.s., eu, canada, japan in the u.k. take part in individual to support the protest movement.
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again, the west is taking a side. it is ry clear who is coming down on what line. and then we see october 4, china and russia, watch the lines here. china and russia use veto power to block potential sanctions on syria. this creates a global risk that will continue for months. not only will it continue for months, it will continue for years, five years to be exact. november 12, syria is suspended from the arab league. the suspension is a harsh diplomatic punishment, isolating assad's regime from arab neighbors. syria called it a betrayal of arab solidarity. next we see january 6, the free syrian army gains strength with one of assad's generals defecting along with soldiers from the syrian army. this is a turning point in the civil war. you think about your memory in january 2012, and what people were talking about. and how they were talking about the conflict they were saying is , only a matter of time before assad goes. the opposition is winning. february 4, russia and china
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veto a you and security -- veto a u.n. security resolution backing an arab league peace plan. on february 6, the u.s. embassy suspends operations and closes consular services. this is a major sign. the u.s. polls its remaining diplomats at a syria and the u.s. -- the u.k. also recalls ambassadors to the country. again, signs of escalation of conflict. it is moving from internal conflict to really a regional conflict that one could argue is a global conflict. what happens next? well -- sorry about that. what happens next is that on february 16, the un's general assembly passes a nonbinding resolution for the resignation of bashar al-assad. this is the first formal resignation request from the united nations for the removal of assad. the reason again i am bringing up this point is what is the key point in the negotiations that
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we are hearing today in february 2000? the sticking point is the removal of bashar al-assad. this is what people are fighting over. february 23, general kofi annan is appointed the special envoy to syria. he will become the first of three special envoys deployed to syria. that is also a sign of how complicated this conflict has been. on june 16, the un suspends the monetary mission in syria. this is june 16, 2012. a year and some change into the war. the un says the situation has become too dangerous to continue its work after observers are directly targeted in an attack. 30, we have something called the geneva communique which calls for a transitional governing body with full executive powers. that was supposed to set the framework for peace talks to follow. unfortunately, it never did. on july 18, an explosion at the security building in damascus
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kills top regime officials. this is important because now we are into the war by a year and a half and it looks like the opposition is winning. in august, kofi annan quits his role as the special envoy. he cites lack of unity over how to solve the crisis. i want everyone to think about that. kofi annan resign because he says there is a lack of unity among world powers over how to solve the syrian crisis. special envoy from the u.n. to syria. september 16, iran confirms that
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the revolutionary guards are helping assad. another critical moment. this i12. iran steps in in a very major way. on january 11, u.s.-russian talks on syria end without a breakthrough. another failed moment to make a breakthrough on the diplomatic stage. march 7, syrian refugees hit the 1 million mark. march 7, 2012. that is three years ago today. one million refugees already displaced. march 14, iran sets up weapons to assad. march 15, 2013, the eu rejects the franco-british proposal to arm syrian rebels. another major point. may 19, syrian rebels take over oilfields. this is important because many people ask how are rebel groups getting financed? part of the financing mechanism for these rebel groups, including the extremist groups, is through controlling some of the oilfields in northern syria. may 25, a major moment.
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hezbollah leaders vow victory for assad. hezbollah steps in also very publicly, taking sides with assad and the syrian regime. france confirms the use of chemical gas in syria. as summer of 2013 was known the summer of chemical gas. this is when there were several chemical gas attacks against the syrian people by the syrian regime. this is when there was the discussion over whether the red line was crossed. june 25, syrian death toll tops 100 -- 100,000 syrians have now been killed by june 25, 2013. that was almost two years ago. so july 13, the u.s. alleges chemical weapons. you will see that there is a lot of different discussions as to whether chemical weapons happened. there was a chemical weapon attack. if there was confirmed that
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there were. the western powers came to an agreement that there were. there was a lot of discussion happening. july 16, a militia kills a reconciliation team. again, intensifying attacks against u.n. officials and people working in private diplomatic circles. july 20, the syrian kurds plan a self-government. because itt in there is important to also recognize that the kurds have been playing a role in the conflict as well and the resolution has to involve the kurds. on july 30, iran grants syria a $3.6 billion credit line. that is again another show that , the iranians are helping support the syrian regime. this is the turning point, really. this became the turning point in the syrian war when we began to see the balance shift towards the regime beginning to win over the opposition. and what happened there, too, as the opposition was weakened, or the middle opposition was
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weekend you saw an , opportunity for the extremist opposition to come in and begin fighting against the middle opposition. they were actually attacking more of the middle -- i would say, we call them rebels. the rebels are more moderate, i do not like to always use that term but the moderate opposition , was the target primarily in august 2013 of the extremists. isis also started fighting as you will see in 2014. and jabhat al-nusra breaks its ties with isis officially. on august 14, the extremists push syrian rebels out of raqqa. they claim that hundreds die in a chemical attack. the chemical discussion is happening right around this period. we're not sure if the u.s. is going to go in or not. august 27, the u.s. is ready to launch a syria strike. france. and u.k. and
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begin a push toward military action. august 29, the u.k. parliament rejects intervention. on august 31, obama slows the timeline for syrian intervention, delays it, taking it over to congress, saying approval from congress is going to be needed. we never go in. from january 14 to july 14, geneva ii is attempted. it fails. that is in january 2014. the majority ofighting is happening between isis and the other groups. al qaeda past general command breaks off links with isis entirely. in june, the city of mosul falls to isis. this is also a major moment because it is showing the strength isis is beginning to gather, and also their entrance from syria to iraq. on august 2014 to december 2014, obama authorizes a u.s. strike against isis in syria. so we turn the focus of the war more to a retaliation against
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isis then a focus against the syrian regime. this is the first time we begin focusing on the extremist elements of the opposition group then on, if you remember what was being talked about in 2011, 2012, and 2013, the removal of assad. following american airstrikes, the curtis peshmerga takeback a vital crossing and isis suffers due to american air superiority. that is an important point, too. it opens up an opportunity for a lot of different players to step in, and you will see who steps in in just a minute. it becomes less and less likely according to u.s. state department officials that the armed opposition will be able to militarily defeat to the government in syria. you are beginning to see people looking at an alternative reality than they had been looking at in the first two or three years of the conflict. there is the third u.s. special envoy to syria. next, we have the u.s. train and equip program that i mentioned
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earlier. it launches and is suspended in the same year. the egyptian president expresses support for assad. and finally, russian military intervention drastically changes the military playing field. russians kill cia-trained rebels in their first week of bombing. this is where the conflict completely changes. this is the summer of 2015. and that is where we are today. just a couple of days ago, the u.s. and russia agreed to a joint party cease-fire to begin on fabric 27th, of which we have seen. that excludes isis and al qaeda linked groups. and on february 28, just yesterday, accusations are being made that the cease-fire was broken by several airstrikes. some people say it was broken, some people do not say it was broken. the majority of western powers are saying that it was not broken. where does this leave us? what does the cease-fire mean for us? let me take a moment so that
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everybody can digest the timeline that we just went through. you can see the different -- remember the different evolutions from 2011 to 2015. and here we are today. the landscape has changed dramatically. as i have mentioned before we , have 300,000 syrians dead. we have 13.5 million syrians displaced. what is going to be next? and how should we care about what is going to be next? and on that note, yes, the title of the lecture is countering violent extremism in syria and beyond. but also and part of talking about countering violent extremism, we have to have a discussion about what is the right and best future for the syrian people. because if we only approach this war in the future in what is in our own perceived short-term best interests, if we do not think about this from a governance perspective or reconciliation perspective of
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the syrian people themselves, we really will not be serving our long-term security interests in countering violent extremism and also helping the syrian people. and i say this because many times, when people are talking about their security interests, they think about it just from their own prism. and they do not see the interconnectedness of this discussion. and it just becomes about, how do we get isis? or how do we get jumped on nusra? it is not, how do we create an ecosystem that is going to be sustainable, that actually creates a better future for people who had been traumatized and who have lost and who have seen the unthinkable, the unimaginable, have seen horror? how do we help them move forward to a reality of where they feel that we are a partnership, we are in a partnership together that is a partnership about peace and stability? not just for ourselves but everyone.
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how do we get here. how do we get there? here are the options and scenarios ahead. we have three options in the settlement process that we are currently looking at. option one is what i call finish. finish is the government of syria breaks the back of the rebellion and pursues a fight to the finish. that is why it is called finish. and no real negotiation about implementation of the confidence building proposals are discussed. there are no proposals that engage in confidence building. it is by brute force the syrian regime continues to govern. and third, no humanitarian aid or pauses or any other political process really takes place. suffering, displacement, destruction, death, and refugees will be multiplied many times as tens if not hundreds of thousands flee wherever they can be able to go. after the finish, the international community will be asked to assist on a limited basis, and surrender processes may need facilitation, but there
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will not be a place for a real negotiated cease-fire or political process. you can imagine what will happen, what the steps of what would happen next for the syrian people in a state like this. and about the 13.5 million people who have been displaced, they are probably not going to feel that safe about returning. i just spoke to someone the other day who was accused -- he is syrian with a u.s. visa -- he is accused of being a partner with the cia. that night, there were people, security forces knocking on his door. he escaped to beirut. he made it out safely. but you can imagine a lot of the people who have escaped and who have made it out are not going to feel comfortable returning in a scenario like this. in a scenario where it has really been more of a surrender than anything else. but this is potentially where things could end up. we have to think about the reality of that and what that does mean for the syrian people
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and us from a global security standpoint. next is option two, which is the match option. outside states supporting the armed group will match the russian escalation. remember the slide where i pointed to, the proxies in the funders for the moderate opposition to the right opposition, the right-hand opposition, if you remember? those are the outside states that i am saying might come in and a stalemate might become a reality. going back to that, in a situation is that were the case, you can imagine that the conflict would most likely, because of the players we are talking about, which is saudi arabia, turkey, united arab emirates, qatar, remember how close they are, remember which neighborhood they live in. if that were to occur and that were to happen, the conflict could spread even further beyond the syrian borders.
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and we would be looking at at a very different war than we are looking at right now. i think this is the least likely option, but i would not take this option off of the table. and the third option would be an actual settlement. and that would be external supporters on both sides, external supporters being, again the outside supporters like the u.s. and turkey and iran and russia, supporters on both sides of the conflict agree to the terms of a settlement and press the parties to comply. because it is going to take that external pressure that actually gets them there, that pushes them to the table. and the international syrian support group, the issg, will set the framework for a political process and a sustainable cease-fire. under this option, if the settlement is a pro-government settlement, what we will see is the government of syria and the international community will announce a cease-fire, setting out terms for those who agree to
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the settlement condition. and the battle will continue against all others. we are beginning to see this play out right now. armed groups will likely be destroyed and the international community will be asked to support, return, rehabilitate, but otherwise have a very limited role. a balanced settlement process, which is what i think the majority of people would like to see, would be the issg set out a detailed formula for a settlement process and cease-fire building on the previous statements. cease-fire, humanitarian aid, political processes that lead into a sustainable future that then leads into a national dialogue process and constitutional reform where there is coordination between the warring factions which would be critical. you will see cooperation and collaboration among all of the different groups that we covered on the earlier slide. you remember that slide with the y diagram. all of those groups and outside groups collaborating with each other.
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as you can imagine, and what kofi annan stated when he resigned in 2012, this is extremely difficult. but if it were to happen, this is probably the scenario that is the best from a global security standpoint. and why is that the case? that is why we are going to now talk about countering violent extremism. how do we counter violent extremism? what is violent extremism? what is terrorism? on this, i think it is important that we start with the definition of terrorism, at least as it is in the u.s. code. international terrorism means activity with the following three characteristics, so we are all on the same page. it involves violent acts or dangerous acts to human life that violate federal or state law. it intends to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, to influence the policy of a
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government by intimidation or coercion, or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assessment, or kidnapping. and it occurs primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the united states. domestic terrorism involves the first two, but it happens on u.s. soil. so how do we define countering terrorism and/or countering violent extremism? counterterrorism, or countering violent extremism, incorporates the practice, military tactics, techniques, and strategies that governments, military law enforcement, business, and intelligence agencies used to combat or prevent terrorism or extremism. for me, how that reads in essence, that is an ecosystem. it is creating a holistic approach that creates an
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ecosystem that addresses extremism, or, and/or terrorism. so i want to next go to how can human rights and good governance help prevent terrorism and extremism? and this goes back to why i was saying option three, with a balanced settlement process, is our best case scenario for combating violent extremism in syria. which, by the way, is also in the interests of the majority of the syrian people. most of these refugees are fleeing syria, yes, because they are fleeing the assad regime, but they are also primarily fleeing because of extremism and the barbaric nature that they are facing. isisjabhat al-nusra and they are saying this is not the community that we want our children to grow up in. these are not the values that we want our children and our sisters and our mothers and our brothers and our fathers to witness. this is not us. this is no longer the syria that
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we once knew. yes, we love syria. i am saying this because this is what i have heard so many times from syrians who left syria. we cannot take the barbarism that we are witnessing. keeping that in mind, how human rights and good governance help prevent terrorism and extremism, the conditions that make individuals or communities vulnerable to violent extremism recruitment, often called "push factors," are often physical insecurity or the inability to provide for one's family. i think we can all agree that many syrian people feel that these are the conditions they are currently living in, and if we do not have a sustainable peace process that supports them in a realistic way, this is only going to continue. two, even where people's low-level needs are not met,
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social and political marginalization can impact higher-order human needs such as a valued role or a higher purpose. again, do you think that a valued role or higher purpose is being served right now for the syrians who are currently living in syria? or for the syrians who have left syria and have no place to go? and/or they do not have access to work permits or jobs or opportunities? and three, as president obama noted, groups like al qaeda and isil exploit the anger that festers when people feel that injustice and corruption leaves them with no chance to improve their lives. if you leave people with the thought that i have no hope, there is no chance for improvement. there is no gateway for opportunity for me. they are vulnerable. and that is who isis and al
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qaeda, those are the conditions on which they thrive on. that is what they are looking for. that is why we need to provide alternatives. how do we counter violent extremism? how do we counter terrorism? we create an ecosystem that naturally, organically creates alternatives for people who are at this point in their lives hopeless and feel there is no chance available for them and nobody cares about them. and fourth, young people take up arms not only because they are poor but also because they are angry. this is important as well, because every extremism, every incident of extremism or every community that is preyed on by extremism is not created the same. yes, sometimes you see communities that are impoverished and preyed upon. sometimes you see communities
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that are not impoverished but they are angry because they feel politically disenfranchised. now i am talking not just about syria, i am talking about beyond syria. that is not to say that the reaction, and becoming a extremist or a terrorist is ok. but it is to recognize that nobody is born a terrorist, ok? and it is not good for us to just assume -- it is not a part of the solution for us to assume that everyone who is a terrorist was born that way and there is no hope for them. the only option that we have is just to crush them and fight them militarily. you have your short-term agenda and goals en countering violent extremism, countering terrorism. but you also have your long-term. from the short-term aspect, yes, there are some lines where the only solution is force.
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but that is a minority. the majority is actually to identify patterns to radicalization. and to intervene, ok? cut those patterns off. going back to that point of creating an ecosystem of alternative to extremism. it is important to recognize that community radicalization and the types of interventions that are most effective may differ dramatically from geographic location to geographic location. so radicalization efforts in countering efforts in nigeria are different than those in france. we can talk about that in the question-and-answer period, if anyone has a question about that. next i want to give you a bit of statistics, because i think it is important for us to understand the data we are dealing with. 80% of terrorist attacks between 2002 and 2014 occurred in
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nigeria and somalia. 60% of terrorist attacks between 2007 and 2014 happened in muslim majority countries. measured in terms of concentration of risk, regions of the highest percentage of high or severe risk countries at the top, here is where we are. south asia, north africa, middle east, sub-saharan africa, latin america, western countries, asia-pacific. since 2007, 70 8% of all terrorist attacks of happened and 10 country. the quote i give you before is from 2002 to 2014. since 2007, 78% of happened in iraq, pakistan, afghanistan, india, thailand, russia, somalia, nigeria, yemen, and colombia. the trend is starting to change russia and columbia have seen decreases.
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libya and egypt have seen decreases. why is that relevant other than understanding the data accurately? that is because a lot of these countries are in the same neighborhood. that is important for us to recognize for a variety of reasons, which, again, we are running a little bit out of time, but i will take it in the question and people have questions. latin america is the region with the most positive overall results that we are seeing, and in a hyper connected world, far away problems can affect local threat, and political violence can escalate and spread rapidly. that is also why, from a self-interested standpoint, when thinking about extremism, is it is happening in faraway places, and i have heard many people say, let's just keep that over there. it is becoming almost impossible to just have an isolated mentality that says, let me just see if i can build my walls bigger and higher and just keep that stuff happening over there so that it does not touch me.
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because what happens in the end is somehow, and we have seen this and history has repeated itself in many occasions, it does come back and affect us. so, if but for our own self interest, what is happening with the extremism growing in the faraway places is relevant to us. i just wanted to highlight this very quickly with regards to military spending equally 2.3% of global gdp. you will see of the u.s., china, saudi arabia, the u.k., and russia are in the top five. i want to highlight this because many people say that the u.s. defense apparatus is weakening. i will you be the judge of that. and then i just want to say, as secretary kerry, eliminating the terrorists of today with force will not guarantee protection from the terrorists of tomorrow. this is what i am saying here. no matter how many terrorists we bring to justice, those groups
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will replenish the ranks. we need to do more to prevent young people from turning to terror in the first place. the young people that turn to violent extremism do not exist in a vacuum. they are often a part of communities and families today and then lured into barbaric organizations tomorrow. that is a very critical point. we need to prevent them from being lured into barbaric organizations of tomorrow. that is countering violent extremism that will make the world a safer place. and i just want to mention that there are really eight factors here, that i will step out and address. and those eight factors that i think if we focus on will make us safer if we follow these over the next 10 years. not only will make us safer as americans, will make the world safer.
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that is, number one, develop a policy that aligns government policies with communal interests. here i am not just talking about a national u.s. cve strategy. i am talking about every nationstate having a national cve strategy that focuses on on aligning policies with local and communal interests. when these policies and interests are not aligned, guess what happens? revolutions like what we have seen that do not go the right way. number two -- and i must say that i do not believe in revolutions, but it is important to understand how this all begins and how it can be prevented in a more peaceful way. number two is to empower civil society. by civil society, i mean nonprofit organizations, but i also mean the private sector as well. everybody plays a role here.
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we cannot just contract this out to the pentagon or to the defense department or to the ministry of defense. this is, again, going back to the ecosystem, this is a responsibility that all of us can play a part in in different ways. number three -- number two connects to number three. expanding political opportunities for at-risk populations. we can be strategic in where we focus our soft power initiatives. for example, we can be strategic about -- as i mentioned, one of the top places is nigeria right now. what type of private sector investments are we making in nigeria? how many jobs are being created in nigeria right now through diplomatic and international efforts? over 40% of youth in the arab world right now are unemployed. you do not think that that is connected to the extremist trend that we are seeing increasing?
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they absolutely are. we can do something about that. we should do something about that. again, create an alternative to extremism. number four, promote human rights, which is also linked to number one. number five, counter dangerous narratives that create feelings of marginalization. words matter. this goes back to the feeling of being disenfranchised and not just being attracted to extremism because of being in an impoverished environment, but also being angry. and this is something we are seeing. number six, support youth suffering from mental illnesses and trauma. this is a critical point we should focus more time and energy on. think about the number of syria children who have been traumatized from five years of war. number seven, avoid generalizations about entire groups of people that may feel disenfranchised. strengthen community and policing relationships.
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large-scale sweeps can in turn promote -- they can actually help people that are trying to radicalize those same exact communities. so i will stop there, because i know that we have 15-20 minutes for questions. and thank you. but, so, happy to take any questions on that. both on the the syrian conflict, countering violent extremism, and/or how they relate. >> thank you very much. we do have runners here with microphones. we are recording the event so i will ask to raise your hand. we want short, crisp questions. no monologues or commentaries, please. >> thank you very much for your presentation. i found it very interesting. i did not see a lot of discussion in your conversation about the nature of the sectarian state. i guess a big part of the
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reconciliation process will be about how to restructure the state to make it more equitable among christians, aloites, sunni vying for power. i wonder if you could address that? samar: address the sectarian nature of the conflict? >> no, no. i think that is pretty clear. you can describe that, of course. in the future, how will the state need to be restructured to essentially create this ecosystem where any group can profit? samar: right, so that is a very good question, and as you can see, that is where we are starting off. and we have to get to a line, really, of where this, this right here, collapses over here. and you have a state versus the extremist group. that is where we have to get to. if we can. and so what you end up having is everyone working towards a common future. and we probably will not see al
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qaeda or isis working towards a common future that the rest of the world can get behind. but we will see -- we can see all of the others. and that is the majority of syrians. on the left side of the line, which would then be replaced with a g, which is one government. how do we get there? well, i think one of the conflicts that i have studied that gives me hope, and i think is a model that we can focus on is that of south africa. and in south africa, what the focus has been on is a common future. what is the common future that we can work towards? and that being, as we talked about earlier today, what are trade initiatives that can be institutionalized that encourage people who are currently divided to begin to work together? and that you have to have a vision for, but you have to have
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a vision that is something that is attractive for people across the spectrum, from aloits, to people who are living in huts, diversity-wise across the country. it is something that benefits not only people who are in damascus or other areas but the entire country. i think the other thing you have to do with that regard is tone down the sectarian rhetoric and that happens through leadership mechanisms. that comes from how we here in the west are also talking about this conflict that comes from private diplomatic discussions that are happening not necessarily in open media circles, but that's getting different leadership to commit to a different way of approaching the middle east at the moment. so i think this is not just a syrian problem. this is an entire middle east
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question that you've asked right now and that is, how do you get the sunni and the shia and the kurdish factions all aligned and moving in one direction? sort of like how we have in our country right here and right now. how do we get the republicans and democrats to cooperate together for the good of the country? how do we help them focus on what's best for america and not what is necessarily best for part of an interest. >> yeah, first, thank you for coming. second, i want to talk about saudi arabia's role in the syrian conflict and the greater middle east. specifically relating to ideological purposes. saudi arabia practices a strict interpretation of their religion while the isis state does not. i don't want to suggest that saudi arabia is propagating the islamic state. or that al qaeda does.
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i just want to make clear that when there is western promotion of saudi arabia's economic needs, they exasperate their stranglehold on sunni islam and if there's supposed to be a cohesion of democracy within their religion, which should be for allowed all over the world. how can we get to that point for their support for those who practice that type of islam? samar: if you can clarify, what is your definition of that style of islam? >> from my understanding, it has to do with the strict interpretation of economic, socio-background processes that allow for marginalization of those who might not believe in the evolution of power that started in the ad's between the death of muhammad and divided
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sunni and shia. really inherently saudi arabia practices, from my understanding. i am just, i was very confused as to how, if we're all talking about ideology and talking about wanting to stop the radicalization process. these type of sanctioned understandings where underneath, there could be that spread of extreme strict interpretations, how can we counter that and coalesce the different factions into doing something to progress that underground trend? if that makes sense? samar: yeah, i just start off by saying the strict interpretation on this issue ecomic background side is incorrect. the strict interpretation of islam focuses more on there being a balance and lessening inequality from the
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socioeconomic standpoint. so i don't think that that's -- from what i'm understanding, that's what you meant for how that branch is defined. i understand you're using the word as a philosophy that is extremely conservative and that's not representative of the majority of muslims in the muslim world. ok. [laughter] sure. and so it's a good question. it's a very good question. the answer is that you're never going to get 100% of people that will refuse to follow an ideological extremist narrative, but the majority of people and the majority of people living in saudi arabia are not interested
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in living the lifestyle of which you just depicted, and the majority of syrians aren't interested in that as well. so sometimes it could be a means to an end, or sometimes it's a pathway because no other alternative exists. that's why i'm saying you need an alternative pathway that's more in line with how the majority of muslims want to live today, and the majority of muslims want to live the same lifestyle that everybody in this room right here are living right now. it's about connecting and building bridges and offering that opportunity that i'm talking about creating here. and if we're always going to be thinking about the 2% or the 3% of people that will never pull over, quite frankly and i don't think it's all of saudi arabia. i think it's a small percentage of saudi arabia, and i think it's a small percentage of the muslim world. but if you only focus on what we never convert the 2% to 3%, we'll never move forward.
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so you can't say -- don't let perfect be the enemy of good. i would say that. you might not ever have 100%, but 98% or 97% is better than what we're currently looking at. >> hi. my name is yasim. i'm from syria. i have a question. i just wanted to ask you about something you said. it's something we worry about as syrians. i think as a people, where you see syria has, i think, not changed now after like five years. samar: yes. >> we have the same group here. we talk about the same problems from four years ago. the isis was about 500 people.
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just five years ago or four years ago, i don't remember the date. isis was about 500 people. now we're talking about 30,000 members of isis. if nothing changed in syria, or nobody do anything, where do you see syria after five years from now? samar: when you say nobody does anything, you mean -- >> nobody stopped the war there. samar: would you consider finished the start of the war? the finished scenario? >> yes, from four years ago to now, nobody did nothing. in practice. everybody talking about supporting their own way. if we could do it in their own way in syria after four or five years, how do you see the situation in syria and around syria, not only syria, because this will affect everyone . samar: as we discussed.
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i think if we don't do everything as the preventive measures i talked about or creating the ecosystem that i talked about, or addressing the injustices that have been committed on all sides, not just from the regime to the opposition, but on all sides, and you never address that, the anger is going to increase. we're going to see an increase in anger. we are going to see an increase in poverty. we are going to see an increase in a lack of trust. we're going to see an increase in a lack of cooperation across nation states. the world in which kofi annan highlighted for the reason of his resignation in the beginning of 2012 is going to magnify by 10 times as much, and i think by just what i just said, i think we can imagine where that will go and what will happen with that. but we shouldn't let that happen, because we have tools in our tool box to change that course, and that's what i want
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to get across today, and that is many people throw up their hands and say, what do we do about the middle east? just as senator corker continues to remind us, our u.s. senator from tennessee, we need a broader middle east strategy. we need a middle east strategy that is going to work. we need one that is long term and that makes sense and we simply can't just say oh, well, those people are hopeless. those people are people just like anybody else, and they have, as you know, and you've experienced yourself, they have had historical realities that have pushed them into a very unfortunate time period, but that doesn't mean we just say, oh, well, that's just unfortunate. we look and see how do we get the different interests between the different proxies right now, because this is in many ways a proxy war. how do we get them to collaborate? how do we bridge the sectarian divides that exist. how do we create jobs in
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rebuild, provide humanitarian aid? these are questions we cannot just simply dismiss to the middle east. that's what i'm getting at, this is a global security matter of where we all hold a certain level of responsibility that if we rise up to the occasion, we will counter violent extremism and provide a better future for the syrian people and one that has a common future and a common vision. is assad a part of that? that is for the syrian people to decide. the last few minutes and take you live to the council on foreign relations in washington for a discussion looking at the future of the syrian president bashar al-assad , looking back at the actions of the last five years that began with civil unrest and lead to civil war. introducing the panelist is amy davidson.
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amy: profiles are something that you can have more than one of at certainlyme, as assad has had in his career, but then there are moments when there is only one option for the power, where you cannot keep so many cases. so i want to maybe start with one of those moments for and bringbout assad the three of you back to the morning of march 30, 2011. this was a time when syria was on at, dozens of protesters, which seems like a lot of the time, had been killed. pictures of child protesters who had been tortured. a great deal of pressure on the regime. assad has not been seen in two weeks and is giving a highly anticipated speech to the syrian parliament.
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and there's an expectation that is hardened into an assumption that he will announce major reforms. that does not happen. he comes out and talks about people being duped, conspiracies. david, maybe you can start by talking about the shock of that moment, and its implications, what it meant for the idea of who he was and the exercise of power in syria. david: during the course of my asearch, involved in particular project on syria on which i'm working in the last three years. i have the opportunity to connect again with many people whoare closeo assad, some are still with him, some in exile or detected or let the government one reason or another. a consistent picture emerged when examining this. there was a lot of confusion, and potentially intrigue, certainly, in the weeks and days
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since the disturbances and the assad speech. a lot of mystery about where he was, what he would do in this speech, which i think is a seminal moment in modern middle east history. what i learned from many of these people who were involved in the preparation for the speech is that there were many different drafts. one person, a close friend of assad, who is no longer in the government, saw the draft about r went tobefore basha the syrian parliament to deliver his speech. it was full of concessions and announcements of reforms. tvn assad gave the speech on and this guy was watching, he was shocked to see it was another version. in his mind, other people i met involved in that particular situation, they believed some of
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the security chiefs got to assad . there was a tug-of-war between a number of different individuals, some counseling that he made concessions, that he cracked down. ultimately, the securities they could put down the uprising in a couple of weeks and then go back to normal. so then he gave the speech, fact that hes the is someone that a lot of people have hope for what he came into power as a reformer. in my view, this was his moment. a lot of people in syria were waiting for this moment. could he be the person that they hoped he could be? finally stand up to the hardliners and do something. obviously, he did not. there was a lot of disappointment among syrian officials and government people whom i spoke to. each draft of the
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speech represents a different profile of who assad was. andrew, why do you think he picked up one draft rather than the other? andrew: i think he saw what happened in cairo and tunisia and feared would happen to him. that would certainly be a key factor, i think. interesting,was drafts -- coming -- and not just that they were known -- but they were given full paragraphs as a prelude to this great announcement. when it ended up being the reverse, i realized we were going down a very different road. things that struck me the most living in syria, and this was something that people close to the regime used to speak with me about often, was
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how much more unpredictable bashar was from his father. they use the word booty. in this case, i think he was on the horns of a dilemma. -- moody. chose theely, he latter, to shoot his way out of it, and we have this result. >> i think that we have seen out of assad is that the regime is extremely brittle. he cannot really reform. i have very little hope that there will be any reform in the regime. what we have seen over five years is the regime shrink to a small part of syria, and it would have shrunk further, and it can expand, but cannot reform. understand, if they begin to dissemble, they will fall apart. say,let me interrupt and
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assad and his family are members of the isle of wight minority community, so also through a hell of it about what that means for the personality of the regime and assad's own connections. i am sure all of you are familiar to a certain degree. it is 12% of the syrian population. when the french arrive in 1920, a la whites were segregated almost demographically. there was no town in which lawites existed together. of course, there were servants, but they did not live there. the first census taken by the syrians showed they did not have alawites in the city.
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integration has since taken note it is important, but that important. , after they came to 1970's -- ithe heard that word living there many times when i was a fulbright or there. these are people that have come in who are alien, that come in from the outside. this has been the dilemma. muslim brotherhood, from the beginning in the 1950's and 1960's, and intellectual described the alawites as unbelievers.
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it would be like having to reconvert arabia to this long after the arab tribes pulled away. is marriedt, assad to someone outside of the community. nationbuilding. the saudi's made love, not war. of course, they made were first. they try to unite their kingdom on the marriage bed. assad was trying to do the same thing. ves,ould not have four wi but nationbuilding was part of the process. but the alawite community felt very estranged. ,hen this first shooting began the security people were telling everyone that they had been rolling up two or three cells of jihadists every month for the last several years, since the war in iraq, and if you let this demonstration of people, young
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boys -- the median age in syria is 21 -- they did not know the bloodshed that had preceded. they wanted reforms. but if you let them begin to go down that road of losing power, that the jihadi's would take over. the regime people felt sure of that. it assad have been tempted to go down the road a reform, the people around him said, you are a naive fool, you don't understand the region. we are the ones that have been keeping these jihadi is down, we had been controlling them, sending them into your rock. you cannot do this. you will be swept aside. that is where we had been ever since, and it will be difficult for him to let go without fearing terrible revenge for the community and for his family. it's interesting, on the subject surrounding the speech,
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actually, wrote a letter to him through a contact i had in the syrian government. i never knew whether he read the letter. suggestionsg some regarding what he could do in terms of reform, presidential term limits, these sorts of things, encouraging him to be the person that we thought he could be. that sort of thing. as i learned a couple years later, i learned that he did read it. what is interesting is not so much that he read it and obviously rejected anything i said, but that there were people from two different sources close to him that brought it to him who read it and wanted him for have to go down this road. josh.e with andrew and --lways thought that assad many hope that he would change the system but it seems the
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system changed in, and this is reflective of the action. an interesting question because it gets to the matter of agency. i looked back at the coverage of the speech and "the times" reporting occluded this line, what the speech accomplished, and mentioned all the things that it did not accomplish, which were many, was to explode a narrative written about the president since he took office 11 years ago, that his efforts of reform were being blocked by holdovers from errors of his father. in a way, when you are saying is it did not so much explode the they won, the holdovers won, but it begs the question, did assad have power? 2005, he was putting
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his people in. josh said it well. after the assassination and withdrawal from lebanon, he may have lost beirut but gained damascus. he may have used that episode to secure his way to power. and 2006,ited in 2005 his people were in the cabinet, in the regional command, in the military security apparatus. there are no excuses, in terms of him being forced. this was his decision and he had power, and could've gone one way. it is easy for us political scientist to say you should have done this, you should obey the reforms and fought against the system. i had a top hezbollah guy who was pro-assad telling me that he could use those people against the hardliners. have, perhaps. amy: i guess the question is
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whether he was holding the gun, or if the gun was -- the idea of this young, inspiring reformer with the fashionable british-born wife -- was this always a delusion, our delusion, shared by syrians as well? was it ever real? were we always taking the style of not really looking at the substance? a lot of syrians certainly believed it. earlier, it was easier to believe. s termrse, half of assad' had been up. they had survived. i think bashar promised a lot, and there were a lot of -- what became known as the reforms. there were a lot of reforms launched, and it was in that that i came to syria and saw
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firsthand that people were giddy with the idea of reform. what happened in the previous decades, not just under the assad's, but under political independence, they want to do to this, butanding unfortunately, that did not prove to be the case. was just a reminder, assad only 30 forward when he came to power, which is 10 years younger than marco rubio. >> and they had to change the constitution. think there is a lot of contradiction between those things. assad came to power, was fairly naive, he led most people out of prison that his father had put in. the numbers come down quite low. he thought he could modernize without changing politics, put a chicken in everyone's. -- pot. but the reality of power remains the same.
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he may not have understood that he would have to do that, that andwould face another -- come out with guns blazing, but he has learned that in five years. he has to win the war, or else he will lose. he probably did not realize that he would ever have to do this, and i think the awkwardness of those speeches he gave was who was boyish guy naive trying to deny that he was going to shoot everybody. he finally learned slowly that was what was going to happen. talking about when he came to power, the expectations, the expectations were way too high for him. the first time i met with him, after we exchange pleasantries, i told him, mr. president, the biggest president you made upon
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come to power in 2007 was letting it be known that you like phil collins music, the british rocker. he looked at me weird. i said, because that information was disseminated and reinforced this mythology that was building in the west, that because he was an ophthalmologist, nontraditional path to power, spent 18 months in london -- amy: his father had not trained him to be a dictator, the way his older brothers were. david: he was being groomed, although they deny it. he was supposed to be this modernized reformer that was going to make peace with israel and the u.s. because of this unusual background. what people did not understand and what a lot of people have been saying for years, he is a child of the arab-israeli conflict, he is a child of the --
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that is what change his worldview more than 18 months in london, phil collins, and the technological plays of the west. that was this image totally inconsistent with reality, and the reality of the syrian system, when these expectations were not met in the west, therefore the disappointment was that much greater. remember, the thing that struck me, when i realized ,ow rigid it was -- for a time i worked for a charity dealing with the world development. that charity did a load of good work, and did a lot of research in rural areas. it had mapped with you and a lot of the explosion that had ,appened after the massacre when everyone stayed home and there was a huge spike in birth
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rates. the ngo was putting on all of this information including, here , here is what we are going to have to deal with. you are essentially sharing a bed with a president, and despite the advice that would come out of that ngo, just within that, the resulting reforms did not commenting that growing population. io in a way, he had a sunny wife that was which on enough to map this stuff, but at the same time gave the president this, but could not accommodate, could not change, and then eventually those people overwhelmed the system when they came out onto the streets. amy: five years after that speech, somewhere between a quarter million and a half million people are dead, 4 million people in syria are
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refugees. give ustalked a lot -- a sense of what we know about assad to explain the brutality of the war. the barrel bombs, the city's meant to start, the way the war has been waged, not just the persistence. >> if i could take a stab at that. i have tried to compare what is going on in the larger middle east to what happened in world war ii in central europe. all of these nations pull out of palestine, parents peace conference, multiethnic religious empires. lines were drawn, people that did not want to live next to each other were stuck to each other. the explosion took place in world war ii but the borders were not changed but the people were to fix the borders. poland, czechoslovakia.
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that was true write-down through romania. 12 million germans ethnically cleansed from central europe, 6 million jews killed. yugoslavia came later. 1990. six or seven nationstates came out of it. you could argue ukraine is being sorted out today. the middle east is going through a great sorting out. we have already seen that with the jews be included out of every city in the middle east and europe. they collected a palestine minority. the only minority that have really become the majority in palestine. but all the others were minority states because of colonial experiences. s in syria. those minorities are clinging on for dear life because they see this as a zero-sum game.
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20% of christians ethnically cleansed and during the revolution. go on to iraqties as a result of this shorting out and the sunni and shiite fighting it out. syria is the same way. look at this world and say there are no more christians in turkey. the maronites lost. thists lost in iraq. they look at a grim future. if they lost, high chance they would be ethnically cleansed. so the barrel bombs. they would use any method in order to destroy their enemy. and they have. that is because they see it as a quintessentially, existential fight. the numbers have not arrived to
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eastern europe in numbers, and it is religion that defines come in a sense, nationalism in the middle east, not ethnicity. but what we are seeing, how do you put them back together? america wants to put all those people back in power-sharing units. they are trying to destroy this giant state created by isis, and to put everybody back into these make shiite and sunni and everybody else get along i fear it will be very difficult to that. play int role did assad making this more of a sectarian and less of a political conflict, which it had some in himf being -- becoming more alawite than he had been, other groups seeing it
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in religious terms. was there an attempt to repeal those senses? it is much more nuanced than the alawites versus the jihadi sunnis. syria,wite leadership in a cultivated ties with the sunni business class, mercantile class. bashar played a particularly active role in cultivating sufi orders. so it is much more mixed his power base, then most people figure. many alawites were alienated from their fellow alawites in power. now they are coming together because there is no other alternative. that assadsituation
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and his supporters have been trying to create the beginning of this crisis, that he is the only alternative, the least worst alternative. the only other alternative is and that ist state, acceptable to most syrians. he is right, it is complicated. the sunni community is externally diverse. the one thing that he has made sectarian, the biggest problem in syria for the regime is reliable manpower. of the president's response to the uprising, recruiting that manpower from the majority sunni population is difficult. so what he did, what may happen, they reorganize the syrian syrian arabjust the
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army, but you have a national defense versus which were partly organized by the irgc. also inviting in hezbollah and shia militias from iraq, afghanistan, pakistan. that is not new. what causes problems is when they start showing up in places, when these shia forces start showing up in places where there are not a lot of shia. that, unfortunately, it plays into the jihadi's narrative. iranian-backed alliance is supporting assad, which is true, but then they take it a step further and say the united states is also in this. amy: talking about power. power means you can do something. or, that is the meaning of it. this, could you
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do something that would end this? even theoretically? what would that look like? you are laughing, so you get to start. david: he could walk out the door. we have talked a lot about the structures. david: let's put it this way, he will not do it. i was in brussels about a month and a half ago. there was a group of ngos working on the situation, talking, making recommendations at the time that the negotiations were going on. i made this impassioned speech, if you will, that there is no way they will give up power. they will fight. i saw the team before the uprising.
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the well-being of the country is synonymous with his well-being. the alternate reality that roger book, thist in his alternate reality constructed around these authoritarian leaders, and they see the world in different conceptual paradigms. they define that threat and what to do about it in a very different way than those outside of the bubble, even in syria. i thinks he will reconquer the country. >> russia will help him, and that will make everything right. then the conspirators will be kicked out. then syria will be saved. that is his slogan. that is what he believes and is intending to do. i think he believes it. speaking about leaders and above all, we are about to open up to members questions, so let me quickly ask you a lightning round thing.
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next year, you are advising president trump assad on dealing .ith assad you not going to get him to read a briefing book, so what is the one phrase you want him to keep in mind when dealing directly with assad, in the way that he wants voters to keep low energy in mind when they are dealing with looking at jeb bush, what is the slogan you want them to have in his head when he is phrase that that would be helpful? >> that he would be directly engaging? i don't think any american president will be directly .ngaged with assad guy?who is this
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>> it gets back to the original set up. which guy is this? is it the reasonable reformer or the hardline dictator? the only way to cut through that is you have to put him into hard dilemmas. the only way to do that is to be willing to follow through on whatever dilemma you put him into. amy: this is president trump, so you have to give them one sentence advice. >> [laughter] >> i would say set up your dilemmas well. >> if he was meeting with a say, mr.ould president, you have to give up come if you are
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still in power and remain in power for the foreseeable future, to meet the demands of the critical mass of the population that has moved on and gone on with their lives and have been empowered with five years without the state. amy: he has to give up some power. >> it is a bad deal. that's what i would say. he said it himself many times. ofcan spend trillions dollars. get out of there. there are more shiites from one end of lebanon to iraq then there are sunnis. iran and russia are committed to a shiite crescent come if you will. a new security zone that is theirs. we can fight them for it and
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i've argued about this -- there are many who want to fight russia for that security belt. : i bet there are people here who have great questions. what about you? please identify yourself. of this conversation leave? ld assad >> many of these middle eastern states are too brittle. take a saudi family -- what would you have left? nothing. a bunch of tribes fighting each other. in syria come if you get rid of with the family generals will fight each other, just as the sunni rebels fought each other.
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they all want power come of it and played that way by assad, so they will have to fight each other. if russia were to pluck him out with his brother and his ,ttendance and his loyal people you would get a hole in the middle of that regime that would cause chaos and russia will not do it because assad has made the state into a reflection of himself. because he knows that a lot of people are trying to do just what we are talking about and america has been trying to do it for decades. proof thato coup regime. >> that is russia's main argument. what has regime change done in the middle east? whatthe u.s. in iraq and happened in libya, the collapse of the state.
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whether or not you like assad, this is keeping them together in any hopes of staying together. >> the problem is, it is not stable. i realize it can get more chaotic, but the sectarian war that contracts foreign fighters, the number of migrants, those kind of things are affecting european security. d staying will mean instability. the question is whether we can live with that or not. >> good afternoon. instability you all described in syria, iraq, to., is it in our interest
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facilitate and develop an alliance with the sunnis and draw a russia and iran into conflict there because we don't want them to dominate that area? can we do that? are the sunnis capable of doing it? neutral need to take a obama like position and say we are talking to everybody but not committed? to --avid, do you want david: i've taken the position in some places that the obama administration has the correct policy with regard to syria. with regard to what josh has said. trying to interpret and calibrate your actions in an area like the middle east, especially what it has become, is full hearted come in my
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opinion. the mistakes the obama and his ration has made is in managing expectations around us. -- the biggest mistake the obama administration has made is in managing expectations around this. by telling him to step aside or step down back to the regime inuit corner -- into a corner had to maintain balance. russia had a better understanding of the situation in syria very early on. ssad was going to stay in power.
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patrick: i served in damascus. let me congratulate you, this is the most rational discussion group i've heard on syria in the last year. i noticed that the word bosque never appeared in your conversation. is there any larger than sectarian institutions left in evant? >> yes. theoretically, the basque party is still functioning. you have the syria state. what does it mean anymore? theoretically, it is there at the core of the regime. it gives a veneer of some sort of rallying egos or whatever you would call it. -- ethos or whatever you would call it. ,t is now the primary dynamic
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what josh was talking about, .his shia crescent when i first lived in the middle east, sunni and shia did not come up as much. syria, it was always discouraged. now, people talk about it a lot. --n they come to be rude beirut, they speak in shia terms. amy: in the back? barbara: a great panel. thought assadd we do and turned out to be michael. [laughter] >> what is the purpose of these peace talks that are going to resume in geneva?
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what is the best possible outcome? just a continuation of lesser level of hostility? good question. i have a good friend of mine who is the u.n. liaison in damascus. a remarkable guy. i followed him to beirut last year. i put to him that same kind of question. you are putting your life in danger. for what? this is almost an impossible task. we have to try. we have to do something. people are dying, the country is falling apart. they have these remarkable people trying to do the impossible. grandioseven up these attempts come in many ways. some of the u.n. special envoys
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came in and announced they wanted a holiday -- a three-day holiday. those things never had a chance from the beginning, but there was political pressure to do something dramatic. there's been a change with the , you haveach to this to try this incremental slope and work on these trinitarian issues. on the other side of that -- humanitarian issues. on the other side of that, you have to build confidence and cease-fire approach. you have the u.s. and russia as regionalng to congeal allies behind a common approach and that has been a positive thing come in my view. -- positive thing, in my view.
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convinced that the russians are going to really pressure assad to proceed to a managed transition. speaking with russian officials, they all say we don't really like assad. yet, they are putting in all these troops and are committed to him being a strategic ally. committed to keeping this regime in power, which happens to be assad. in terms of staying in power, i that happening with regard to these negotiations can a particular because the kurds are not there. a major issue, in my view. think it will happen in the short term. the key is to keep it going.
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keep an process going so it does not break down dramatically. what regime people say is we theygo to any meeting invite us to come even the wedding of his son. but then they say, what are we going to negotiate with these delegations? mohammeddelegation is -- he owns half of duma. we could negotiate to get half of duma back from him. but, none of them on anything. they don't own any territory and all of syria. to go and wead will not give it to them and that is the end of the discussion because they do not own any land. >> i talked with one of the top security guys of assad in beirut after geneva 2.
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he was the guy in the back row really running things. this meeting.ng what you justy said. -- who in thises delegation can call and stop the fighting on the opposition side? it is an issue. amy: a power question on the other side. the grouping does represent a number of groups throughout the country. the problem with umbrella organizations is you don't just have one address. the russians have a different
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network. a less rigid regime. simon: thank you very much. a profile.f this is at the moment, i don't feel that than iassad any better did when i walked in the room. adjectives that you would use to describe him? we've heard that he is influenced by the hardliners, reformists, his wife. presumably a personality profile of him written somewhere in the cia. -- is he looks like indecisive, evil, delusional?
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what is the single word you would use to describe him? amy: which come again might be useful for president trump. [applause] >> i've struggled with this over the years -- amy: which, again, might be useful for president trump. [laughter] >> i've struggled with this over the years. i would say moody, which is true. it certainly does not mean he is not intelligent and able to maneuver. borderline personality. he sometimes has doubts of where he is extremely rational. there are times when i cannot figure out what he is doing. and i don't think his people can, either. >> measured and desperate. notured because he does make decisions decisively or
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dramatically. ,e likes to think things over whether an active or passive approach, it depends on the situation. desperate now because i think he come up for one, the stream he had about syria being this internationally recognized country that is integrated into the world community just is not going to happen. he realizes he has to rely on russians and iranians and hezbollah to stay in power. >> i think he is rational. he is very limited by his world. he got out to europe once. he is a syrian education, which is not a great education. the job was way too big for him. shy, a bit indecisive, but
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he's allowed the people around him -- he forms a consensus with the major security guys around him. loyal people working hard, but he is in a brittle regime where he cannot give up our. that's power. all the people around him will be killed very quickly. he is trying to keep those people alive. entire community agree with them. you can argue that he has backed them into it. -- he did save his crew. ultimately, he dragged his entire nation into this comeagration, but he may out of it with the people of the coastal life. if he does, he will see himself as being a victor. amy: part of your question was
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also about assad as a family member. family, in his view? who are the people at the table who are the people he listens to? do we know? >> yeah, we have his immediate family -- i brought this along. institute'sur website. this talks about the members of the regime. the red line, blood relations. white line, non-blood. thehardest part is visibility inside the regime in terms of the relationships between people is difficult to ascertain. if you decide to pressure such a regime or take military action against such a regime -- you
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don't know exactly what's going to happen. we know who is there, but we don't know what they would do in certain situations. >> if we compare them to the family -- both represent small minorities have dominated their country for a long time. family is very functional. they've never killed anybody within the family. they are polite. nobody in the family has ever been killed by another family member. about -- before he was a family member, the brother-in-law -- once he married a sister, they were good to go and he was made head of
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intelligence. there is the mafioso paradigm, -- he was aly -- theyy who signed came from good stock. an orphansein was taken in by an uncle who was a criminal and he became a criminal and he killed lots of his family members. he did not hold people together and using thesus soft touch. -- syria falls apart was a much more soft touch place than iraq. is held together
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because it has not been a terribly dysfunctional family. it listens to the people around them. family, whichs was extremely dysfunctional and crumbled quite quickly. mark: back to the question of power profile, you said he had tutelage until he took over. the issue i've got, if he is -- how could he have declared the damascus spring? >> it is observed in lebanon as well. a good question. the one thing that struck me early on in going to syria -- i
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wasted going in 2001 -- that somehow the expectation they would talk about that he was a westerner or had been westernized was dissolved. i think there are a couple of theories. thats that he thought there is the 100 flowers campaign. let some people out of prison and see what they say and see goes back in. -- who goes back in. they blamed everything on the old guard when it was really the security apparatus. beyond that, i don't know. we don't know what is in his head. i believe he intended to incrementally reform the system. but he just ran into the
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inherited system, the so-called old guard and realized he could not make the changes he wanted. he was not able to do so until five or six years in his tenure in power. i have this image and some people in damascus were telling radio stations and private newspapers and so forth and prisoner releases, some of the security apparatus came around and said this is not how we do things, this will cause a lot more problems. he finally realized he could not do what he wanted to do. >> you have a very difficult task, having overseen leadership , it is not an easy
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thing to do. you can get things really right and also get them terribly wrong. obviously, it is worth working at. i have a question about how the bashar al-assad. my impression over the years has been their impression is more benign. how do they view? him that's how do they view him? >> i pursued that very question in israel. i met with the chief of staff before the uprising. weak, whiche was tended to be the dominant view when he came to power. but he was weak and incompetent. i met with his deputy who
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thought very much differently. , he he had some promise could keep this thing together. there has been this divide regarding -- is it best to see him go and iran and hezbollah are weakened? or do you want stability? i had one israeli top general tell me an answer -- he that we would rather have isis on our border than iran. we can deal with those guys. iran is a much bigger problem. --my last conversations with in israel is they have been
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said we wishhey both sides well. i think that is true. isis and jihadist groups for them are a technical threat. the problem is the reliable are organized by the iranians on the ground. they don't like the fact that hezbollah and these shia militia are showing up in their sphere of influence. they say they were promised by -- promised byin utin that they would not support such a campaign. in exchange for that, they want the support of iranian forces.
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this is a big concern going forward. i honestly don't know how they will deal with it. amy: we've only got a couple minutes left. a quick question. jeff: the overall impression i get from the conversation so far is a lot of players were stuck. stuck,stuck, assad is the russians are stuck. could you open your crystal ball and tell us, what do you think will be present five years from now in damascus? project forward from where we are right now. .his is an unfair question i know it is difficult, but i would like to hear what you have to say. >> i will complete the painting i started. if the u.s. and international committee had been willing to spend real money in syria, one
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could have done yugoslavia and created a sunni state where isis conquered easily. we are not going to do that because we've stuck to our international borders and our plan of power-sharing amongst these different sects. out,means that we bowed really. america is busy destroying the sunnis of iraq. destroying the sunnis of syria. we are both cooperating, in a sense, to destroy the remaining sunni powers that remain. be oppressed, it will be unstable, side will win -- assad will win a large hunk of syria back. and there will be a shia crescent that will go for the
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next 20 years or something, defining the security zone. america will increasingly be anxious about an unstable golf with low oil prices. instability and i think we will see great instability and oppression in the middle east for the decades to come. on that note -- [laughter] amy: perhaps that's where we need to end. >> i have one last thing. a few days ago. one of the big takeaways from saideeting was that assad openly in the meeting that he was very eager to get along with and get a process going because before the general election in the nine states

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