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tv   Future of Syria  CSPAN  December 29, 2017 12:50pm-1:48pm EST

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like when they bought beats for $3 million, they had to announce that. and the other guys are doing the same thing. i do lament. i think it is a little harder for small companies to get all the way to the end line and become a big company because it is very hard. in some cases, it is legally impossible to refuse a very good offer. >> see the entire interview with the technology writer and a notch up a newer tonight at 8:00 eastern. part of our series "the communicators." >> next, a first cousin and opponents of the syrian president spoke about the issues facing the futures of his homeland and middle east. al-assad is the leader for
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an organization in syria. it is about 55 minutes. [applause] ribal: thank you. thank you for inviting me. i would like to thank them for this amazing opportunity. start with a warning that i have some qualitative things to say about president trump. i appreciate it is not fashionable in many parts of the world's now but your president is now one year into his first term. the results of elections that were entirely democratic are baffling to many.
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as a syrian whose children are yet to see their father's homeland, i pine for democracy and have dedicated my life to achieving it in syria. not so long ago, this war-torn state was the most diverse and forward thinking in the entire middle east. it's people celebrated the country's unique mix of faith. we should celebrate any fair and democratic election, even if the winner would -- [indiscernible] however, to understand that syria has become the hotbed of extremism and proxy wars that have raged for many years now, so much so that even the press is beginning to understand. to truly understand what must be
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done to solve it, we must take a high-level view and see the crisis as a combination of three levels of trouble. there are internal syrian issues, those of the wider middle eastern region, and then the cold war, which impacts are growing by the day. these are interlinked. what began on the streets of syria as part of the long forgotten arab spring with peaceloving syrians calling for freedom and western-style democracy became a ground for a proxy war being fought by regional powers, including iran, turkey, qatar, saudi arabia. this was a region already crucially important to sociopolitical events, and the conflict between russia and china and the west has added to the complexity of the situation in syria. as a result, the crisis spread like a forest fire, sparks flying across borders and igniting.
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you would have heard about lebanese prime minister announcing his resignation on a visit to saudi arabia. trump sent to u.s. secretary of state to stop using lebanon as a proxy battlefield. to the southeast, you will know about the horrific civil war in yemen creating a new have humanitarian disaster, as well as creating more further instability and bloodshed. the former president was murdered by his former allies, who are doing iran's dirty work . meanwhile, terrorism drives, mainly banks to political backgrounds enabling extremism. they train them openly and then send them on with instructions to kill. fastogma of islam travels
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-- the dogma travels fast. these incidents in the west from brussels and paris to london and here in the united states received the majority of news coverage, but there are incidents almost daily across the middle east and africa, and most recently in egypt, that are causing mass casualties, and every casualty breeds more division, animosity, and dry wood for that fire of conflict. the world is not short of problems. the financial crisis instigated global intervention. poverty, slavery, climate change. when it comes to the global phenomenon of islamic extremism, the world is either unwilling to help or divided on how to best do so. while in decision -- indecision has reigned, the crisis has accelerated into the greatest you crisis of the modern age. i spoke about this for many years in vain, but there are
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renewed grounds for hope that coincided with the arrival of president trump. under the previous administration, there was a complete lack of understanding of the syrian conflict. successive secretaries of state publicly supported what they described as the moderate opposition to the regime. sadly, this was a myth. these days when liberal, peaceloving syrians waving flags in protest at the government and democratic peaceful change has long gone. when isis thrived, the supposedly moderate opposition was fighting against groups which are actually al qaeda's branch in syria. remember them? yes. they say that fact is the stranger than fiction, but the west was actually sending money and equipment to be used by the same group directly responsible for 9/11, and yesterday the bbc investigative program "panorama" found that taxpayer dollars have been diverted to extremists in
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syria from the u.k. nobody in this room should be surprised. general petraeus openly suggested the u.s. should support groups to fight isis, but the twin towers were brought down by al qaeda, not isis. your new administration frankly speaks about the need to destroy all extremists who share the same perverted ideology and single desire to bring death upon others, including the muslim brotherhood, whose sinister modus operandi has been tolerated and ignored for so long. the u.s. now has a simple strategy, to unite forces with other global powers in the greater fight against the islamic state and every other group that shares its dogma. trumps administration has also benefited from president obama's instructions to the pentagon in almost his final act in the white house to target leaders of the syrian affiliate of al qaeda.
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i, like so many of you, wish obama well, so i will give him the benefit of the doubt here and agree that late was certainly better than never. although the middle east is still an inferno and peace is a distant prospect, at least we have now prioritized our enemies. as we look to bring security to the world, we need to understand three simple but crucial truths. number one, islamic extremism is not a local issue. it threatens every peaceful citizen of this planet from australia to austria and from new delhi to new york. there may be many brands of islamism, but they hold a single objective to establish a caliphate under sharia law, and stretching from shyness to spain. indeed, any country or city where they believe muslims are the majority. to that end they will create atrocities not only in syria, but as a have issued -- as we
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have witnessed in russia and china and and europe and here in the united states. we have seen is again and again. there is no point in the global powers arguing for other issues with a share this existential threat. we find it hard to empathize, but at least we can understand that they are rational players with clear interest in room for compromise. radical islamists have no rational agenda, no boundaries to secure, no people to protect, no trade balance to improve, no diplomatic network no measurable army to contain, and no interest in peace. focusing our defense against our traditional enemies in this environment is like sending a message via carrier pigeon in the internet age. to not take my word for it. here the words of lord richard. he says " it is not state actors like isis that are the biggest threat to our security. it is the lack of understanding and empathy with each other as
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big powers that is a risk to us at the moment." yes, there are many reasons to dislike russia's support of syria and blind support of the brutal regime, including her plan to decide the outcome of the conflict by creating a new opposition group working solely in the interest of the regime in moscow. but i argue that she would have had no need to do so had the west always approached islamism with its current sharp focus. to return to my analogy of fire, the u.s. and russia have taken different stances in the region like blowing oxygen on to be troubles, allowing flames to burn even stronger in defiance of each other rather than working together to for water. finally, that coordinated effort is happening. the results on the ground have been swift and positive, so the superpowers must prioritize and continue to work as one can but that is only our first issue.
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the second is to encourage a genuinely secular, liberal, and democratic opposition in syria, a process that requires engagement rather than saber rattling. and yet the middle east is in crisis. the superpowers have not just been disagreeing on the best ways to deal with the problem, they have continued and continued to clash elsewhere. with russia and china threatened to see by what they see as u.s. encirclement. there's a new missile shield in south korea, which, with events in the north looking increasingly dangerous, the extreme eerie pace of north korean missile ascendancy of kim jong-un on could not have happened without major support from another power. the russian military general staff referenced this and said, if one of the gladiators picks
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up a shield, it will give him a modest advantage. what would another gladiator do? naturally he also would pick up a shield and a longer and stronger sword. this is what is happening now as a result of the u.s. missile deployment. 60% of the u.s. navy is now based in the north pacific. and now maneuvers are able in the south china sea. it was announced that zones around the russian and chinese coastline will no longer be accepted. that is hardly an integrated approach on syria. the aggression is, of course, not one-sided. japan joined in patrols and china responded as recently as november by sending a fleet of fighter jets and bombers close to japan's okinawa island. russia is increasingly explicit in its support. russia was aggrieved, yet
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it is yetis year, and another step to rock international security and start a new arms race. no surprise that earlier this year, russia deployed nuclear capabilities on the polish border, including three submarines, and their only aircraft carrier in the mediterranean. meanwhile, they deployed missiles inside syria. russia is also following the u.s. by increasing its presence across the world. just last month, the head of the russian upper house defense and security committee suggested that the best response to u.s. aggression would be to reopen bases in cuba and vietnam. the russians and chinese do not see syria as a separate event from the ukraine to the pacific. the west must understand the
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biggest picture and treat these issues differently. the arms race is increasing at its fastest rate since the 1980's, but with multiple players. there is an increasing chance of being misinterpreted and of a potentially disastrous preemptive strike. it is no exaggeration to speak in terms of a new cold war, quite the opposite. and the german foreign minister said a year ago that it is a fallacy to think that this is like the cold war, the current times are different and more dangerous. and as for the recent collaboration over the policy in syria, there were moments, including the threat of direct action against the syrian regime, when things became almost instantly hot. you will notice my second suggestion for a syrian democracy focuses on events elsewhere in the world, and this is the reality. we can all talk a good game, but there is no hope for anyone inside syria until the global powers start to work together.
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and i ask any of you if it is possible to develop strategy for syrian peace and harmony in one region when sabres are being rattled increasingly loudly in many other areas. i believe ever more strongly that the west should take a lead by de-escalating sanctions and talking to russians and others about how to make progress. the third and final thing we must do is to understand why things are developing as they are in syria on the ground, not just from our perspective, but from that of the people inside the region who must understand the vested interest of all global powers who wish to redraw the map of the middle east. each has sphere of influence to consolidate and if the people of the region must take responsibility for determining their own future. let's turn the clock back to the end of the first iraq war, where maps were drawn back in countries divided into smaller states on ethnic, sectarian, and religious grounds, along greater kurdistan. and surprisingly, even though part of their own nations were divided, turkey and iran are
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both happy with this. they believed they could control the outcome, with iran becoming the leader of the shia and turkey the leader of the sunnis. after all, both are islamist regimes, albeit shia and sunni's respectively. they clashed over the arrangements about giving access to the mediterranean and turkey access southward to the gulf to form a sort of new ottoman empire in sunni eastern syria and iraq. but turkey had only just understood that it was never actually considered a partner by its western allies and the new middle east. just a tool to bring it about. they did not understand until recently that the new kurdistan would not only be in iraq and has become apparent more recently in syria, but would also include the kurdish part of turkey, which would mean losing territory and having a hostile neighbor.
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this is why they have begun to see the kurds as an existential threat that they must fight beyond their borders. no wonder that president burdick on said something that would be unspeakable five years ago. he may speak to president assad, as they are both fighting the same enemy. hence of the fight to the death against the kurds that the president of turkey persons outside his own borders and he had warned the iraqi prime minister that turkey had arrived take the fight wherever they must. at the start of the syrian conflict, turkey and russia sat on opposite sides, but despite the shooting down of a russian jet, followed by hard-hitting sanctions from russia and the bombardment of the turkish border, president erdogan demonstrated realpolitik in action with president putin. the russians cultivated the turks, whose army is the second largest in nato, as an ally, giving them permission to enter civilian territory to fight the kurds and keep the u.s. in check. they also signed a deal to build
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a major gas pipeline under the sea, and helped erdogan avoid a coup just last year. last friday, turkey's chief prosecutor issued an arrest warned for attempting to overthrow turkey's government. not so long ago, turkey was lined up for membership of the european union and the turkish president more recently said that in full membership is not offered, then it will be the end of the game. turkey wants to have its cake and eat it. last week, she was given millions of dollars for u.s. funding to help the country become a fully fledged member. this is not syncopated the leader of the turkish opposition -- this is not the leader of the turkish opposition in the people's democratic party's has
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criticized turkey's dealing with the islamic state. and the israeli defense minister is on the record stating that turkey has paid isis for oil. but why should we be surprised? president erdogan stems from the muslim brotherhood, which it continues to support. do not be fooled by erdogan turning on isis. it has long supported and continues to support extremist groups, including the president himself many years ago said that democracy is a train that we ride to reach our destination. he was also jailed for saying the mosques are our barracks. the dorms are our heritage -- helmets, and the faithful are our soldiers. hardly the words of an elected leader of the western world. and under his leadership, liberals have been persecuted and up to 500 jihadists have been given a free passage to syria and iraq. many returning under the guise of refugees to spread back home. this has long been recognized by
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key players from obama to defense secretary ash carter. if you need more proof, me western out explained the u.s. congress that turkey was that islamic extremists to europe as a matter of policy. david davis of the british cabinet currently reading the negotiations to lead the eu, quoted the islamic brotherhood as seeing islam's peaceful conquest of the west taking place to the eu. they did so because they do not want to share membership with turkey. two weeks ago in washington, lawmakers crafted a letter calling on rex tillerson to designate the muslim brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization. this comes on the back of a bill introduced by senator ted cruz proposing the very same. president erdogan has of course objected to these. just last summer, he published information detailing the
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position of all u.s. military positions in northern syria in -- which has of course angered the u.s. and directly leading the pentagon to admit it has 1500 more troops on the ground than the 500 had previously declared. erdogan remains a danger to any potential peace. he cannot be trusted. but there are others within his regime who offer some optimism. they include prime minister who seeks to act as a catalyst in bringing together the u.s., russia, turkey, and iran to bring an end the bloodshed in syria. russia is allied with turkey and on three they're all motives without wanting to truly succeed. yet, or ever you look, russia is involved. she has benefited from the vacuum of clear strategy and prioritization of enemies. the west must recognize this and learn from her past mistakes. what were these?
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there is no rocket science involved in defining them. the first was supporting the wrong allies in syria. hillary clinton took 18 months to realize the so-called syrian national council did not represent the syrian people. but was a turkish backed front for a muslim brotherhood. those were 18 months in which it syria was transformed from a peaceful area to rivers of blood. lessons learned? sadly not. the west transferred its to the -- its support to the syrian national coalition formed in qatar, which included the muslim brotherhood, but added other groups to please the saudis. it's representation of those on -- it's representation of those on the ground was an army whose supreme military council -- it has been four years since eric holder confirmed that the army was led by an spreading the philosophy of al qaeda, and was chillingly accurate in his
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forecast that left in check, the spread of violence and terrorist activity emanating from syria would result in a long drawn out conflict that extends from beirut to baghdad to yemen. well, that is where it is now. despite john kerry having bizarrely claimed that there was no al qaeda presence in syria after its existence had been long established. mistake two, branding. if you wish to save the world from disparity and discover the -- from obesity, and discover the magic solution is to be found in banning sugar drinks, you'll not give a far if you only ban pepsi and have the rest continue that as they did before, particularly if you fund some of their competitors. absurd, i know that, but that is what the west did for too long in syria, claimant that they -- claiming that to go to war in islamic extremism, when it was only fighting islamic state. meanwhile, other equally cancerous groups were allowed to
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operate as before, and in some cases were even given u.s. backing. we do now appear to be defeating the group called isis, but they are the effect, not the cause. extremism is rife. and we cannot defeat it by targeting anyone group or brand. we must defeat the entire ideology. first on the ground, and then more significantly in the longer term, we must win the battle for the hearts and minds of the poor, the disadvantaged, and the afflicted. because if we cannot produce a positive alternative, the allure of any islamism will be hard to contain. how do we have an effect on weapons and on social media and the internet? let's go back three years. because, that is when wikileaks cables revealed, and i quote
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hillary clinton, "the governments of saudi arabia are il anding support to is other radical groups. and also "donors in a saudi contributed the most significant sources of funding for terrorist groups worldwide." vice president biden explained in 2014, that our allies in the region were our largest problem in syria. he explained how they had started a proxy sunni war to bring down the syrian regime by funding and arming groups like the muslim brotherhood and the islamic state. incredibly, the vice president was later forced to apologize for these comments. the second in command of the most powerful country in the world apologized for telling the truth, when in fact he and the administration should have been acting on it. qatar was identified directly by the former chair of the u.k. parliament intelligence security committee, he pointed out its role in promoting terrorism and
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insisted that those in qatar must choose their friends or live with the consequences. saudi arabia poses a more complex problem. it has long poured millions of dollars into support for global terrorism. and the previous head of the french counterterrorism intelligence agency had phoned into saudi intelligence who are supporting extremist groups from afghanistan to syria to egypt and mali. it is hardly surprising, given the kingdom which is fundamentally islamist. isis and saudi explains the news reported of stonings and beheadings. this is positioned as opposing the syrian regime, but humanitarian aid to syria is being stopped from some countries because it is stopped by extremists, it is not
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surprising that weapons are falling into the hands of terrorists. russia actually challenged that, not least because the groups told them to carry on fighting. and if we remember, in 2014 the u.s. government invested $500,000 to create a new rebel force in syria, beneficiaries ended up fighting up alongside. all five of them. yes, as general austin admitted to a u.s. senate committee, that was the precise number of rebels trained by the state, $100 million per soldier, quite an apprenticeship program. imagine the impact if that money had been directed towards schools and hospitals in syria. fast forward to 2017. worryingly, the bbc published a detailed investigative last week about how in the ruins, hundreds of isis fighters and the families were allowed to escape right under the gaze of british led coalitions.
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they were taken out in convoys and set free. this came only a month after the guardian newspaper reported something identical on the syrian border with lebanon, where the lebanese government and hezbollah allowed isis fighters to return to syria. there are pictures of them on coaches in the likeness of a football team. she feared the west would continue to support extremist groups and make significant gain. she was understanding with the new administration and had gave more and more. defeating isis in eastern syria. if only the collaboration had taken place five years ago. it is now where we returned to president trump and the change in strategic direction. he may not communicate in a subtle way, but he gets to the point fast and he understands that choosing between islamist groups is akin to choosing a terminal illness.
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the new brave stance taken by the prince of saudi arabia this year, promising to tackle extremism internally and abroad and has led to qatar being marginalized with sections and they are imposed, including a trade on air embargo, and forced not just by saudis, but by significant allies in the region. it is an uplifting custom and such terrific times. we must commend these visionary leaders, because extremism can only be fought on the ground, but it is also capped at source. in early september, king salman order the authority to scrutinize leaders, sending action for the profit for positive views. and a week ago in riyadh, the crown prince gathered defense ministers from across the region and stated that we will not allow terrorists to disturb our peaceful religion. and about the pursuit terrorists until they are waived -- wiped from the face of the earth.
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a few days ago, the french president said that he would draw up a list of extremist organizations to convey to saudi . first person perspective, this has made me extremely proud. have been asking for the u.s. and saudi to take this stance for many years, and i have called on the west to do with qatar, his money they take for investments while ignoring their beneficiaries. your president has done that, calling them out for supporting terror and applauding the sanctions of saudi. qatar is desperate in need for partners. they have made -- with iran. this creates protection in the short term with a saudi alliance. they have deployed a 5000 troops, turkey, at its own military station in qatar. france is trying to get their sanctions lifted. rex tillerson has pointed out the logistical problems the blockade has caused. but trump and saudi must hold firm.
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the egyptian foreign minister has described qatari funding for islamist groups in war-torn libya, and ma the head of the national army described -- accusing qatar supporting terrorist groups in libya by financing mercenaries and extremist groups, she remains a severe threat to international security. i appreciate that my focus has been on islamism. this is not a mistake. i truly believe this is where lurks the greatest danger to syria, the middle east, and the world. but this does not make me a supporter of the regime, despite my surname. far from it. the key has always been to find an alternative. iraq and libya have demonstrated it may be easy for the west topple the regime, but it is much more difficult to control what happens afterward. we must plan a viable alternative, when it is not take sides in the current war between the two polar opposites, but one that represents the silent majority of syrians i referred to earlier, the unique group of
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ethnicities and religions who want democracy no more than they want dictatorship. which is why i founded this organization, because we must be democratic and we must be free, to commit to equality under the rule of law, which conveniently would pull in other islamist groups. that is the future. and despite the desperation and tragedy of the past six years, and the prospect of more to come, there are genuine reasons for optimism. russia has succeeded in the region by often pointing out our hypocrisy in dealing with states and groups who support the thing we fear most. and had i spoken to you earlier, a year ago, i would have included saudi arabia, who has called for the demolition of those in the arabian peninsula, but endorsing the muslim
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brotherhood leaders to take up arms and kill. but the recent events present an alternative. the u.s. president is prepared to stand up to extremism, who has also been clear that extremists provide a great threat for global security. and let us not put russia on too high a pedestal. they have no intentions of paying for the reconstruction of syria and it will not let the national unity government form unless they have a say in the formation of the opposition. and this is our next challenge. because the question of what next looms ever closer. once putin and trump have driven isis from the battlefield, there will be an opportunity to form a unity government. this process has already become a game of charades. the russians are pulling the strings. first they announced they would host a conference of the so-called syrian conference at the end of november. this was intended to gather the regime, the proxy opposition groups and those vetted by russia.
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the invitations were sent to 1000 participants who were invited to pay their own way. the real motivations were to pressure the syrian national coalition and the eu backers to accept the new deal orchestrated by russia, with agreement by the u.s., iran, and turkey. the eu was furious and said that if the sochi deal bypassed the geneva conference and the coalition, it would refuse to contribute financially to syrian reconstruction. simultaneously, russia and saudi gathered all opposition groups, including the syrian national coalition and others, but excluding all elements of the qatari backed muslim brotherhood. the turks agreed as long as the kurds were not invited. the outcome was a proposed group of 36, only eight of whom represented the interests of the previous opposition, in the form of the syrian national coalition. and this newly formed delegation is the one now sitting in geneva having a dialogue with the blessing of the eu.
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the eu now feels they have not been completely marginalized. meanwhile, two factions are underrepresented or completely not represented, the kurds. and the oldest and largest opposition party in syria. they are too moderate for either side in the game of international politics. the most likely outcome right now is a coalition that would include the regime with its president assad, backed by iran and russia, and it has not been invited by the government. this would bring back northern syria under the control of the regime. with the kurds marginalized. as president trump has assured president erdogan that they would no longer armed them. the kurds would be surrounded by iran ran, turkey, iraq, all of who have good reason to destroy them.
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the kurds should be represented as equal citizens of syria. they are fundamental to the beautiful mosaic i've already described. it is an opportunity to create representative opposition, open to any group, i thought they commit to equality of all citizens and the rule of law. that must be our only goal. if it is -- if this inherent division of syria is to end, of not been apology able to prove in our u-boat substance behind them. many of which have had the gaffney impacts on syria, but there is alternative. after years of making speeches to government think tanks and democracy groups, i think that events are taking a turn for the better, albeit within the context of global aggression that needs to be tempered. at least until the biggest war of them all is won by the middle east and the surrounding areas. we must cease to believe that we can resolve issues in the region
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by deposing tyrants and hoping for the best. we must seek solutions for syria and iraq, including a federal system, if that is what will keep the country united. we are gathered within the greatest federal solution of them all, and your democracy has stood the test of time. whatever happens, we are in fact witnessing a new time in the middle east. but this time, it is not colonial powers shaping the borders and frontiers, but the people of the middle east themselves. unfortunately, they are doing it on sectarian, religious, and ethnic grounds. but they cannot blame the bloody consequences on conspiracies and foreign interventions. they can only blame themselves. there has been no shortage of more stable, wealthier, bigger powers looking to use their involvement in syria to further their own interest. iran, turkey and other states have all done so, often in the mistaken belief that they will be left to carve out their own future influence.
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in fact, there is another tier of interest, bigger, wealthier and more powerful looking out for their own interests. the u.s. and russia must ultimately answer to their own public back home. they know that the popularity is one of foreign policy, but through economic benefits that accrue, which is why the although i implore the u.s. to act in a certain way, i do not ask you to take responsibility for our future. it is time for the people of the middle east to take responsibility for our own destiny. religious and sectarian divisions only tickets in one , direction and it is bloody and catastrophic. only by embracing each other and extending up to those who will -- standing up to those who will not do so can we create a better way. thank you very much. [applause] [indiscernible]
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>> we have places for you to ask questions. >> sorry? >> [indiscernible] mr. al-assad: the syrian regime has been responsible in large part for bombing syrian hospitals, with their allies the russians, but of course there have also been terrorist attacks from isis and other allied groups who have also done similar terrorist attacks on such hospitals. it depends actually on kind of the sectarian war, where the groups are really fighting on sectarian lines and ethnic lines in syria. >> thank you for your comprehensive discussion on these complex issues. you did not mention israel very much. i wanted to ask the question,
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what is your view of the united mr. al-assad: yes, i think that every meeting of the world council, wherever i went, i had this question. i do not think with all the problems i mentioned i need to mention israel. [laughter] i think they have no new issues. they have been -- they have had the most stable year since what has been going on in the middle east since the arab spring. i am for peace in the region. i think the palestinians are the ones to decide what should be, if that is the best solution for them. i heard that recently there's a kind of agreement between, you know, president donald trump, through his son-in-law kushner and the saudi crown prince to
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pressure for a solution. and if you could look at everything that has happened in the past month, you could see that there is a kind of international agreement between not so much europe, i think the u.s. and russia have bypassed europe, but by having an agreement between the u.s., russia, saudi arabia, iran, turkey to resolve regional issues, as you have seen in the killing of the former president of yemen, yesterday. which i think is -- i think it is the beginning of an understanding between iran and saudi arabia that yemen should be resolved in exchange for allowing the bashar al-assad regime and others to stay in power. >> since any negotiations must be between russia and the united states in the region, is there a permanent foothold in the area -- that you believe that makes
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it worse? mr. al-assad: that is because of your former administration that russia has a foothold. i mean, before the russians entered syria, as i said, i mean the u.s. had a great chance to support democratic groups in syria, and have been coming for many years, i have sent many letters to mr. demize-toura. i don't know how many genevas we have had. that we have to fix. there has been so many failing genevas. after so many years of conflict. we can't present to the syrian peaceful majority. with two alternatives -- the dictatorship, and the extremists on the other side. imagine you lost everything, and you who wanted a genuine democracy in syria and were looking west to having a democracy as we have here, many
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people would tell you that arabs do not know anything about democracy but that is not true. most people, it is true that there is a certain perception, a tiny percentage of islamic extremists who want -- in syria, but the peaceful majority are educated and they want the country to to be democratic and we cannot offer them the choice between a theocracy and dictatorship. last time i was in new york, somebody asked -- he wrote an article saying, it seems that you are an an opponent of your cousin, but now you are pro-regime. i said i'm with the regime, but if you give me a choice between someone that will kill me anyway because i happen to be born in that area, i'm a saudi alawite, and the other that will let me live if i keep my mouth shut. i would certainly keep -- you know, let me live. people do not understand. people want you to be, if you are against you have to be against no matter what. you have to join forces with isis and al qaeda and whoever.
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i do not accept that. most syrian people do not accept that. >> why do you think the sunnis, and the shias, hate -- so much and do you think that one side is more involved with terrorism than the other? mr. al-assad: no, i don't believe any side is more involved than the other. they are both guilty, they are fighting for a stupid notion. a few thousand years ago who should have been the caliphate. after the death of the prophet. honestly, we cannot even -- it is 2017, you know, you people are -- i am sure that you have more important things to discuss and argue about than who is supposed to have taken the place after jesus christ was gone. it's silly. honestly. it is just silly. but it is something -- i think it is cultural. something that, because of lack of education in all of the
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middle east region, because of authoritarianism, not just in syria, but the middle east. it gets people, uneducated people to follow religious leaders. and those religious, uneducated leaders wait for the people in the mosque and brainwash them. they teach them about ideology that, you know, any normal person, if he has not lost everything in his life would not adhere to. i always tell people here, culture has a lot to play with. a lot of people in the west feel suicidal. some people, some guys fight with their girlfriends and wives and feel like they need to commit suicide. but many people go to psychiatrists, get medicines, and they go to some sessions and they get better. in the middle east seeing a psychiatrist is taboo. because if somebody learns about that, for example you have a daughter in your family that goes to see a psychiatrist, nobody will marry somebody from your family.
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they will understand that you are crazy people. even alzhiemer's and other diseases is seen as craziness. which people hide -- like if somebody had alzhiemer's, they say no, no, there's other issues. so with the authoritarian regime people have no right to complain, if they are hungry they cannot complain to the government. if they need to send sick children to hospital, they cannot do it because they do not have the money to do it. at the end of the day, they go to god to help them. where do they seek refuge? in a mosque. and in a mosque you have the extremist people sitting there, telling people, you know, my son, you don't have to commit suicide. you would go to hell. but if you die and kill infidels, you'll go to heaven, and have a palace and virgins. and you would have all of that, so that is, if you have nothing to lose on earth. you try it. [laughter]
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>> to think there is a realistic chance of getting iran out of syria, and if so how do we do it? mr. al-assad: getting iran out of syria? that is a very difficult one. i think today the only one that is able to get iran out of syria is the russians, but it's still very difficult. because they have wanted for the past six years, they have jagged -- dragged the region into sectarian war and many minorities in syria, the jews, the shi'ites, the alawites and others wanted the protection, and they have not. they were not able to find this protection with the united states, with france, with the u.k., and, you know, and when there was colonialism, french and british colonialism. minorities were protected. so today, the only country that
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provides that is the iranians. the only people providing the support for the minorities was the iranians. and today, if you ask the people on the ground, they will tell many shias in lebanon are not with hezbollah, but tell you if hezbollah gives up their arms, who will protect us from extremists sunnis for example. the majority of sunnis, of course, are not the majority are majority are peaceful sunnis, who have nothing to do with extremism. actually, i myself believe it's wrong to even divide between people, christian, jews, and muslims. i have an organization, the imam foundation, to promote intrafaith dialogue, which is important. because i think it's silly that this day and age we talk about christian, islam. and we talk about judaism and
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buddhist -- who cares, we are human beings. when i meet with you for the first time, the first question i ask is not where you are from or what religion and sect are you. i don't care. i meet you because you are a human being, i want to make friends. it does not matter the background. i think the differences actually make us stronger, when we unite. this is why this country, is the strongest country in the world. because it has all of those people uniting together, working together for prosperity, and, for you know, nonsectarian, and that's the most important thing. >> are there people locally in syria that have -- that can bring change from within, or is it all coming from the other side? mr. al-assad: the ones that have
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my views usually do not carry arms, so it is difficult for them to fight the syrian regime and the islamists. and the syrian regime from the beginning let the islamic groups target those people who are pulling for democratic changes, to make them run out of syria, because they wanted to put the international community in front of two choices, us or the extremists. it looks like the international community chose the regime. >> if you are able to kind of -- [indiscernible] how would you envision syria emerging out of this? is there any, is there any acceptance of democratic rule in this country? is it possible? mr. al-assad: it is very difficult. it is very difficult, because as i said, most people who are left inside are the poor regime
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people, who are holding the arms on this side. and the islamists on the others. most people left and they paid to leave. they are, you know, 5 million registered refugees and another 2-3 million that left. many that did not register. there's 7 million internally displaced people in syria and they all live under the regime controlled area. if you ask them where do they live better, they prefer damascus than other areas, or under sharia law, it's difficult. but it is still a possibility. but it is not by doing what they are doing today. today, the russians think they won. so they will, they are the ones that are going to lead the outcome of the negotiations in syria. the russians, what they do, now they have defeated isis that's a, win for the russians and president donald trump.
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they have done in a short time what the previous administration is not able to do. now there's a vacuum. the regime cannot say we leave the dialogue until we have withve finished extremism. now we have defeated them. what is the next step? the next step is to bring the opposition on board. how to bring it? there was a coalition, you remember, there was a syrian coalition, recognised by 120 counties. this coalition was the main one that was going to have dialogue with the syrian regime. today russia put pressure to say, do you know what, if you come, you come with our conditions and if you do not we will make a different platform and we will re-create a syrian government. with the opposition you will be left out. the europeans were very scared of that, because it means they will never have control in syria for a century. so they said, at least leave us a few seats.
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a few from a group that was mainly recognised even though it didn't. it didn't deserve that recognition to be the representative of the syrian people, even though they are individuals to a group among 36 people. they have eight seats. say,row, the russians ok, you come back to syria. bashar al-assad will give up powers, he'll keep the military, security and others. and leave the economic ministries and others that need a lot of money, if you don't have the money, you'll be out soon. and i think the regime knows that. that is why they are putting their money on that. they think whatever opposition comes, they'll come without enough funds. and then the people, the syrian people will look at bashar al-assad and say, you know, we were better seven years ago. what you people calling for democracy have brought for us, what did you give us? your allies with the u.s. and
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europe? where is the money? that will be the difficult start. [applause] mr. al-assad: thank you. thank you. thank you very much. thank you. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> coming up, efforts to fight online sex trafficking. that is followed by a look at how social media is being used by violent extremists, and what can be done. eastern, our c-span cities tour, in concord massachusetts. tonight at eight eastern, here on c-span -- two episodes of from "the communicators," ssberg of thet mo case, who talks
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about the need to create an economy that isn't centered in a few areas like silicon valley or new york. book, you talk about the 20-40 scenario. is not goinggoogle to be a big company that everyone talks about. peak -- arounde 2000. about half of all internet traffic was through aol. rise and fall. cities rise and fall. it is a natural evolution. exactly who the leaders of the pack are in 2030 is hard to predict, but some of them will be new brands that didn't exist 20 years ago. we need to make sure we are leveling the playing field, so krishna companies are being
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built everywhere, not only in a so new companies are being built everywhere, not only a few places. capital went only to three states. we need to support entrepreneurs everywhere. lots ofecent election, people set up they felt left out by globalization. hate --to make sure we have a more inclusive innovation economy and creating startups that are creating jobs everywhere. not only in silicon valley. 75% going to california, massachusetts, new york. surprise that washington state was not included. stats,n you have another only 15% of venture capital went to the red states, the ones that voted for donald trump. we are backing entrepreneurs
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in places like san francisco, new york, boston. innovative, but also disruptive things, some of which are destroying jobs and that parts of the country. that will accelerate with artificial intelligence and robotics. mossbergse and walt talk about business trends in the technology world. the entire interview, tonight at eight eastern on c-span. we're hearing on combating online sex trafficking and reviewing legislation that will allow states and victims to sue websites. from the house energy and commerce subcommittee, this is one hour and 15 minutes. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017]


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