tv Washington Journal Gerald Feierstein Discusses Middle East Tensions CSPAN June 11, 2017 9:06am-9:39am EDT
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feierstein. he is with the middle east institute and former principal deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs in the obama white house. thank you for being with us. we appreciate it. guest: pleasure being with you. host: let me begin with something from "the weekly secretary ofording state rex tillerson and what he called the economic blockade in the persian gulf, the nation of qatar, saying they're argumentative in consequence of the blockade, something that he says can be resolved. there is a resolution possible. explain what happened, why there is a blockade, and what is the implications -- what the implications have been. guest: well, fundamentally this is an issue -- it's a dispute that has been going on for a number of years. we have had flareups before. 2014, there was also a break in diplomatic relations between
saudi arabia and emirates on one side and qatar on the other. it is about support for political islam, the muslim brotherhood, as well as positions on iran and other issues. and so this has been something that has simmered off and on for a long time. what exactly triggered this latest flareup is a little bit unclear. there are a lot of people who think that perhaps president trump's visit signaled to the emiratis and the saudis that they could be more aggressive on qatar, or there might have been other issues and factors out there. but the bottom line was that a couple of weeks ago, there was an effort on the part of the emiratis and saudis to put more pressure on qatar to fall into line with their own views about supporting muslim brotherhood.
qatar hosts a number of muslim brotherhood senior figures, including an egyptian firebrand. they wanted that to end. they wanted some of the aggressive reporting from al i newsa, the qatar station, to end. and they were critical of qatar 's relations with iran. they went beyond where they were three years ago. they just broke off diplomatic relations. this time they imposed an economic blockade, which for qatar's extreme receivers, because most of qatar's food supplies come across the border with saudi arabia. the saudis cut the border. airwaysied qatar overflight rights, close their airspace to qatar. this is an extreme the serious economic speculation that is going on right now with qatar. host: in order to understand the
region, you have to understand at least one alliance. gulf called the gcc, cooperative council, formed in 1981. what is it, and why is it a factor in what we are seeing today? gcc is an alliance of the six gulf countries -- saudi arabia, kuwait, bahrain, qatar, united arab emirates, and oman. as you said, it has been in existence since the end of the iranian revolution in 1979, and that triggered, provoked a response on the arab side of the gulf to band together for a common defense and security needs. years, last 30-plus these countries have been working together. but there is a misconception about the gcc, that these are monolithic, that they all share ,he same political security, and economic views of
the world. and that is a little bit of a misunderstanding, because in fact, they are different, and they do have different perspectives. but the bottom line is that from a u.s. position, from where we are in terms of our own interests in promoting security and stability in the region, the gcc is and has been forced to support us come to work with us, to cooperate with us on these issues. host: and when the president, one of a series of tweets that unfolded, said, "during my recent shift to the middle east i stated there can be no longer cunning of radical ideology could peters pointed to qatar -- leaders pointed to qatar. look!" guest: the president was on the right track when he was in riyadh, is what he talked about when he met with broader arab and islamic leaders was that he wanted to build a coalition, he wanted a consensus among these parties about a shared
approach to tackling the problems of violent extremism and radicalization in the region. and he was talking about everybody working together. that is the right approach. unfortunately, if you're going to try to identify one state and say this is the problem, this is the issue that we have to result in order to move forward. then i think you are off on the wrong tension. you have got to maintain the consensus, you have got to maintain the coalition, with the understanding the different states will have somewhat different perspectives, so how do you work around that, how do you keep everybody moving in the right direction. host: our phone lines are open host: we are talking about the situation in qatar and more largely in the middle east. our guest is gerald feierstein from the middle east institute. ted is up from facebook, north
carolina -- fayetteville, north carolina. caller: yes, i was listening to the conversation. it seems to me that the united states has never wanted to promote sensibility in the middle east as her guest has stated. one only has to look at 1953 when most of that, the democratic leader of iran, was overthrown by the united states so they could install the shah and control the oil interests. if you look at the arms deal, trump is selling arms, which is a violation of human rights -- cluster bombs are being sold, which is a violation of international norms. i don't buy the assertion by a gust of the united states really cares about the stability of the middle east. italy cares about its unjust. -- its own interests. invading iraq, there was a horrible disaster. one can only look at israel, which the united states pays $10
million a day to prop up, basically an apartheid regime. i just disagree with your guests. i don't see how you can say the united states is concerned about the stability and well-being of the people of the middle east. it seems to me that the opposite is true. they don't want democratically elected governments that can think and do what they want. it is we want governments they can control for their own -- they basically want governments they can control their own interests. host: we will get a response. thank you, ted. guest: well, certainly i wouldn't suggest that everything the united states has done in the middle east over the last 50 or 60 years has been the right decision or right approach. we have made our mistakes and other people of made their mistakes. it is a complicated issue. but i don't think it takes away from the fundamental point that the united states is and always has been a country that has tried to promote the security, stability, and economic
prosperity of the countries of that region. and we have had very close relationships with an number of states. we support them through our security assistance programs and more broadly. but we also, of course, have spoken out at times on the importance of opening up their political systems, political liberalization, giving people more authority and power. i think my own experience, when i was serving in that part of the world, is that the u.s. is perceived to be by people in the region a country that is trying to find the right answers and help people come to good solutions. host: speaking of answers, this headline from "the new york times," "terrorist act inside iran, death toll more than a dozen." more than 50 were injured. what happened? guest: it is a little bit unclear. islamic state claimed
responsibility for a. host: isis. guest: and this is, of course, a serious issue inside of iran, isiluse it suggests that extremist sunni organizations have been able to infiltrate inside of iran and able to orelop some kind of cell support mechanism for itself there, and that is a change for iran and a serious new dimension to the entire issue of the fight against violent extremism. host: richard, good morning. durham, north carolina, democrats line, with gerald feierstein, now with the middle east institute. caller: yes, i would like to know if this gentleman can tell me, does he know what the racial makeup of the electoral college was? host: well, that is off-topic. unless you are tying it in to what is happening in the middle
east. caller: ok. i haveain groups like the abilitysil -- if certain groups like isil have the ability to radicalize and manufacture psychopaths, does the united states government have the same ability? guest: i don't think that is something we never really tried to do. but we do try to do is counter cracked -- counteract militarization and address the root causes of radicalization in order to prevent people from going in that direction. host: i guess is the former principal deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs at the state department. we will go to proclaim from massachusetts. doug, good morning. caller: hi. there was a report last week that an emirati minister was backdoorck to work -- conversations with our
pro-israeli, pro-zionist think tank, federation for the defense of democracies. i wonder what the hell is going on here. i used to work in the middle east and i remember when israel was a zionist entity and you had to prove you are not jewish to get an entry visa. anyway, if you could eliminate me, i would be appreciative. host: your source for this, doug? guest: well, actually, doug was leak of hacked e-mails from the ambassador of the united arab emirates to washington. i'm elected to get it -- i'm reluctant to get into discussions about hacked e-mails . we had the expense extreme of seeing these things, whether they are true or not true, exactly what the relationships kind ofreally is immaterial to what is going on in the region.
president talking atut the middle east friday a news conference with the president of romania. [video clip] president trump: a unique meeting in the history of relations were two groups agree to stop supporting terrorists, whether it be financial, military, or even moral support. the nation of qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism and a very high level. in the wake of the conference, nations came together and spoke to me about confronting qatar over its behavior. position -- we had a decision to make. do we take the easy road or the hard but necessary action?
we have to stop the funding of terrorism. host: that was the president on friday afternoon 90 minutes before -- and 90 minutes before come here is what secretary of state rex tillerson had to say. [video clip] theillerson: we call on saudi arabia, bahrain, and egypt to ease the blockade against qatar. there are humanitarian consequences of this blockade. we are seeing shortages of food come families are being forcibly separated, and children pulled out of school. we believe these are unintended consequences. especially during this holy month of ramadan. that they can be addressed immediately. the blockade is also enter in and other international business activities in the region, and has created hardship on the and the people whose livelihoods depend on commerce with qatar.
hindering u.s. military actions in the region and the campaign against isis. host: that you have it, 2 administration officials, the president and the secretary of state. your comments, gerald feierstein ? tist: the views secretary llerson works present are very much the traditional approach that the state department has tried to take, the u.s. government has tried to take on these issues, understanding we have important interests in not the issue of how to stop finalize extremism, but also in promoting -- violent extremism come about promoting the effectiveness of the gcc as a partner in maintaining stability in the region. when we have confronted these issues in the past, the u.s. has always worked to try to encourage the parties to discuss these issues. the kuwaitis are very much on effort.n a mediati
in the past, kuwait has been successful with these types of issues. we supported that. we have quietly engage with partners to encourage them to negotiate and also worked with kuwaitis to help them in their own efforts. ist the secretary is saying very much consistent with that, and in my view, that is the right way to move forward, the correct approach, the best for u.s. interests as well as regional interests. and again, there is no single answer to the issue of why is there violent extremism. some people will say that this country's religion is the root cause, and that they promote extremism through their own religious views. another group will say, well, this country is funding extremism or they are sending money to these. there are many different problems, many different issues related to climate extremism.
and again, to go back to the president's visit to riyadh and his effort to build a consensus on a shared approach is the right way to move forward rather than to single out a single country or issue. you couldn aside, if clear this up because it comes up all the time --qatar? how do you pronounce the country? guest: qatar. host: with that come we go to washington, d.c., independent line. caller: thank you. i personally think nuclear proliferation is a great threat to world peace, and there is perhaps no country that would be a worse candidate for possessing nuclear weapons than iran could i think it is a real grave threat to peace if they get it and the technology will leak out, and we here in washington, folks, we are a target. out,at technology leaks
all it takes is one container ship and we could lose a city. thank you. guest: well, certainly that was the view and remains the view of the united states, and that is really what is at the root of the obama administration's work with our p5 partners and the jcpoa, to complete the iran nuclear deal. that has taken the weapons issue off the table with iran for many years to come. i we are pleased, of course, as on thew, president trump campaign trail said he was going to tear up the jcpoa on his first day in office, but in fact, the administration has confirmed that iran continues to abide by all of the terms of the jcpoa, and we have just
rolled over the sanctions which were part of the agreement. so we are moving forward with the iran nuclear deal, and hopefully, that will resolve the issue of the iranian nuclear program for many years of the very least. and hopefully forever. host: our guest spent more than four decades in foreign service. fromry is joining us pennsylvania, independent line good morning. good morning, gentlemen. if i understand correctly,, sir, qatar is the wealthiest nation on the face of the of, and wealth is extreme. it behooves me to understand how they could apply this extreme wealth in a positive way instead of funding the extremism as far as terrorism goes. host: thank you. is thewell, qatar country that does have the highest per capita income in the world.
so a very small population with a lot of wealth that comes from their export of natural gas. qatar does many things with their funds. they have invested heavily in building up their own society. they are currently engaged in developing plans for the world cup that they will host in 2022. they invest in the united states and many other places around the world. is use their funds, as most states do, in order to advance their economic interests and in other ways as well. including pakistan, saudi arabia, iran, lebanon, tunisia, and israel, but he also served as the u.s. investor to yemen. why factory such a hot spot for terrorism? -- why is that countries such a hotspot for terrorism? well, ungoverned space,
and this goes back to the conversation about the root causes of violent acting as an and terrorism. in yemen you have an impoverished population, where opportunities are few, where government services have failed, so health and education were not available for a majority of the population. the government was unable to maintain law and order in many parts of the society. and these are the kinds of , whether and countries it is yemen or libya or elsewhere, where these violent extreme is organizations are able to take root. ,hey provide services to people they feel in the gaps where the government has failed, and that way they build adherence. yemen is extremely conservative country in terms of its religious views, but generally speaking, my own experience with yemen is that these are not
people who are generally jihad orto global violence or anything like that. but they can come if they are desperate enough, be induced into joining some of these organizations and following them. host: did you live in yemen feeling safe? guest: i did. unfortunately, the time i was there was during the arab spring, during a time where al qaeda was particularly active, and therefore i was pretty much restricted to staying inside of sanaa, the capital -=-- the capital, instead of traveling throughout the country. host: john in silver spring, maryland. caller: thank you for taking my call. you look at qatar and saudi arabia, qatar is improving in human rights. so many ways you can look at, travel to qatar, and i see
people have more freedom than saudi arabia and egypt. byhink by attacking qatar this way, it will not help. it seems to me that saudi arabia is pretending they are president of the muslims and they can do whatever they want. they can block qatar anyway possible. i think it is a power that they .ant to control qatar look what they did to yemen, saudi arabia, and they cannot damaged yemenis forever. we need to be mindful and to seek this is nothing but saudi arabia interfering with qatar issues, that is why we have to stop. it costs us more money -- right now qatar is talking to russians, and i don't know what is going to happen to the future can to you that as politics, this is not good for our country. host: thank you for weighing in. guest: yes, and certainly, that is the basis for secretary ti
llerson's comments. we agree, it is important for saudi arabia and uae and others to lift the economic embargo on qatar and get back to a negotiation. there are issues that we have as well, there are concerns we have expressed as well over the years. but you are absolutely correct that qatar is also an important security partner for the united states. it is host for the central command's formal headquarters at the air base. we have over 10,000 u.s. service personnel stationed in qatar. this is a complicated situation, and we agree that the way forward is to try to resolve these differences and reach a satisfactory way forward among all of the gcc states and united states as well. host: follow-up to that, as @cspanwj --how does the
blockade affect our troops in qatar? guest: so far it has not affected operations, but there are certainly concerns, and the defense department and secretary has already expressed some concern about the potential that this could really restrict u.s. operations, and you have to understand that from there we and the centers that we use to actually manage all of u.s. military engagements all the way from syria east to afghanistan. for is a critical hub military and security persons in the region. host: one more tweet before a phone call. "does the gentleman have an opinion on the temporary travel region or cited
countries?" guest: the travel ban that the trump administration has drafted and is now before the courts -- my own view is that we have a very tight travel and visa restrictions. even when i was in yemen some we looked at very carefully at anyone who is looking to travel from yemen to and mostd states people in our evaluation did not meet the requirements and didn't get visas. whether the travel ban takes you farther and provides greater security i think is debatable, and in my own view, it is a mistake to go down that way. laws we have in place are sufficient to provide for u.s. security. host: we know from looking at dwarfs that qatar
itself compared with saudi arabia. how big would it be compared with the state? guest: good question. relatively small. my guess is something like montana. but a relatively small area, and small population. host: how many people live there? guest: in terms of the actual qatari citizens, 100,000 or 200,000. host: jim in leesburg, virginia, final call. probably 60-40 on the liberal side, but on the topic this money come i'm a vet, my son is a combat marine from afghanistan, 2 tours over there, the pointtting to where i'm isolationist. it's the 21st century. if they can't get along, let's close up and focus on canada and the tip of south america and that the eu and saudi arabia and
qatar and china and russia worry about it. it is amazing that we are still spending blood and treasure over there. host: jim, thank you. we will get a response. guest: well, several things about that. one is that the united states has important interests in that part of the world, and certainly the availability of energy supplies that come from that part of the world, natural gas, qatari natural gas comes to the united states, and of course, the role that saudi arabia has played over the years in stabilizing and ensuring the availability of energy supplies to the u.s. and the rest of the world. this is a critical strategic part of the world. most of the consumer goods that travel from asia to the united states and europe pass through
the battle men get in the red sea. if we don't have security in that area, there is the possibility that that could be choked off, and of course, the strait of hormuz, the persian gulf side, also a critical chokehold for the passage of energy and other critical supplies that go through their. regardless of what happens with this situation, the united states has critical national-security and foreign-policy reasons to be there, and to partner with these way,ries, which, by the pay for the support they get from the united states. qatar pays all of the costs associated with the airbase could saudi arabia is the defensergest expenditure in the world after the united states and china, more than russia or any other country. these are countries that are true partners for us in trying
to promote security and stability in the region. that is important to us and will continue to be important for many years to come. jerry feirstein, now director for the center of gulf affairs of the middle east institute based in washington, d.c., thank you very much for coming by the guest -- coming b. thank you. guest: my pleasure. host: headline in "the boston gay d," it is deep--- pride weekend. and in afghanistan, three soldiers shot dead. tell us what is on your mind. our remaining 35 minutes of the sunday "washington journal."
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ms. slaughter is interviewed by denis mcdonough, former white house chief of staff in the obama administration. >> we knew that there was a s and stateate threats. today if you think about north korea or iran or china and russia, that world of state to state relations is still very, very important, and i think of it as the chessboard world, because it is the world of how do we essentially beat our adversaries. we think about a move and we try to anticipate what move they are going to make. that world is there and it is very important. equally important is what i call the world and the web, the world of criminal networks including terrorists would also drug traffickers. , which isof business increasingly a big network supply chain, global corporations, and the world of nongovernmental organizations.