Skip to main content

tv   Middle East Policy Council Discussion on U.S.- Saudi Arabia Relations  CSPAN  July 20, 2019 2:04am-4:03am EDT

2:04 am
speaking for so many in welcoming you back to earth. >> watch the 1969 news coverage of the historic apollo 11 moon mission on c-span and c-span.org. next, a look at relations between the u.s. and saudi arabia, and the dynamics between saudi arabia and other countries in the middle east. the middle east policy council hosted this forum. it is about two hours. >> i am pleased to welcome you
2:05 am
to this conference. the topic today is the saudi arabia united states relationship. many of us have supported this relationship from deepening counterterrorism cooperation to championing women's rights. the challenge for each side is to reconcile cooperation, national security issues, while valueing very different systems. under the current leadership of both countries, these tensions have been brought into sharp focus. the nature of our military operation, human rights violations, addressing regional bad actors and more demand attention and likely change. these issues are ripe for review, and we are fortunate to have an experienced group of panelists today to delve into factors at play affecting the u.s. approach to saudi arabia, i
2:06 am
relationship, and its future. today's turn to program, i would like to say a few words about the middle east policy council. it was established in 1981 to promote dialogue and education between the united states and countries of the middle east. we have three flagship programs, our quarterly capitol hill conference such as today's events, a quarterly journal come on middle east policy which has a strong reputation among those with an interest in middle eastern affairs, and can be found in 15,000 libraries worldwide. and i think importantly, our education outreach program. teach mideast. it provides educational resources for the middle east targeted to secondary schools and teachers. please visit us on our website www.mepc.org, and are teach
2:07 am
mideast program at www.teac hmideast.org to learn more about our organization and activities. this program is live streamed on our website, i am pleased to welcome all of you who have joined us online. the conference proceedings will be posted in video and transcript form on our website, as well as a recap of the discussion. an edited transcript of the program will be published in our next journal of middle east policy. let me briefly introduce our panelists. we will begin with mr. tom litman, a scholar with the middle east institute and with the washington post. strohlt speaker is dana a former professional staff member at the senate foreign relations committee. welcome. finally, my long-term colleague
2:08 am
and friend, ambassador joe fierstein, senior vice president and director of golf affairs program at the middle east institute. joe is a former deputy assistant secretary and ambassador to yemen. of you like to thank all for joining us today. the program will begin with each panelist delivering brief opening remarks, and this will be followed by a discussion system -- session. note that we have followed our usual practice of placing index cards on all of the seats. please use these to write down any questions you have as speakers are speaking, and hold up the card, our staff will collect them during presentations. we can consolidate the questions for the discussion period.
2:09 am
i would like to turn the podium over to tom. thank you. tom: thank you very much, and thank you to the middle east council for organizing this and allowing me to participate in it. it is 43 years since i went to saudi arabia, and in the days when there were not phones in before it was a fully developed country in a material sense, and even then it was difficult to understand the nature of this peculiar relationship between the united states and saudi arabia which had come together when they were at opposite poles of civilization. what i thought i would do is talk about the relationship as is enoughf your image to be here can be traced back to 1930's whenr the american oil company got the
2:10 am
first oil concession, and then in the 1940's the countries forged their first strategic and security relationship, when the king gave the permission t united states to build an airbase. united states was fighting a two front war. it elevated the relationship to another level, and under truman we said to create the saudi monetary authority. cents this the time relationship has been beset by serious disagreements, anger and policy differences that you might think would have left some permanent damage. they began -- i will enumerate them -- some of them are better known than others, it began when president truman recognized israel the moment it was created. wrote tob leaders
2:11 am
cancel the american concession, which he declined to do because it was the only source of real money. in 1953, the saudi's were curious because the united states refused to back them in their dispute with britain. where a piece of land saudi arabia, oman, and the uae had come together. the saudi's cannot understand. episode a little-known in which the new king gave a contract to a gentleman named aristotle onassis that would have ended the american oil monopoly. eisenhower personally gave the order to make sure that contract never went into effect. i know about this episode because it was the subject of my recent book, which is middle east policy. great book. sold multiple copies.
2:12 am
then came the or, oil embargo, when you read telephone transcripts and cable traffic, you see he refers to to the, referred to the arabs that savages whichof , will give you the idea of the esteem. kissinger, when he went to saudi arabia, received a gift from the king, which was a bound copy of the protocol of the elders of zion, which is not what i would give a jew every day of the week. in 1979, the saudi's made carter very unhappy by not only not endorsing, but refusing to accept the egypt/ israel peace treaty. the last time i was in baghdad was a time in spring of 1979 when foreign ministers got together and flew egypt out. as much effort as jimmy carden, jimmy carter had put in, it was not enough.
2:13 am
in 1988, the united states discovered by accident the saudi's had nuclear capable hinese missiles. the first thing that happened was richard armitage, that they managed to put themselves right at the top of the target list where they had not been. that episodes, episode took some doing to unravel. then, there was 9/11. 15 of the 19 -- please do not ask me about 15 of the 19. i have answered that question erday or 15 ye in 2003, when the united states invaded iraq over saudi objections, you have the famous remarks of, referred to it as an illegal occupation. then came the nuclear agreement with iran.
2:14 am
which made the saudi's very unhappy. not so much because of the contents of the agreement itself , but because it spoke to them. ked them. they thought we were trying to form equitable relationship with the iranians. then came the murder of jamal khashoggi. there has never been a time when the strategic planning or relationship in any sense was put in jeopardy or threatened by human rights issues of any kind. or the fate of any individual. every year, the state department excoriates saudi arabia in its annual report, and it never makes any difference in terms of policy. even jimmy carter made human rights the foundation of his foreign policy.
2:15 am
he went to saudi arabia and was deferential to the point of obsequious. he- wanted something from them. they did not deliver, namely endorsements. but that is the way it has always been. one side wants something from the other. now, the question is, what if donald trump is not reelected? i can imagine, let's say joe biden or amy klobuchar, who are pragmatists and centrists, holding their noses and continuing to do business with saudi arabia. it is hard to imagine elizabeth warren or pete buttigieg or cory booker doing business as usual, endorsing the arms ales. -- arms sales.
2:16 am
cooperation will continue regardless of what happens in this country. otherwise, it is possible and maybe likely that there will be quite a change especially individuals and atmospherics. one reason is, as we have seen in the votes a couple years ago, yemen, there has never been a popular constituency for saudi arabia in the united states. there is a reason why there is no congressional saudi caucus. that is because there is no political risk for anybody in congress in coming out and taking a vote hostile to or opposed to saudi arabia. there is nothing to lose. now you have a situation where
2:17 am
we do not need to oil, we do not have military bases there, and unless you have major defense contractors in your district, you have nothing to lose by coming out against the saudi's. for the first time since 1945, it is possible to envision an evolution of the relationship in which at long last saudi arabia will be treated like any other country. thank you. [applause] >> good morning everybody. i am going to build off some of those comments and talk about the u.s.-saudi relationship in the context of the congressional debate, and take it more broadly and ask fundamental policy questions for those of you engaged in framing the form policy debate for your bosses on
2:18 am
the hill, outside the hill talking about the issues. i just wrapped up last year several years on the senate relations mitty as a middle east after. i had a front row seat to a lot of the debate about saudi arabia and the relationship as a lot of these votes were taking place on the hill. i would characterize the current state of the debate in the relationship as the most serious crisis in the relationship since 9/11. what is unique about the debate right now and the focus on saudi it includesat members on both sides of the aisle, it is bipartisan. in both chambers it is bicameral. it is not unique to the current administration. debates aboutrs u.s.-saudi policy in the previous administration as well, specifically when the minister to engage incided
2:19 am
military operations in yemen, with little heads up to washington. that was the previous administration, not the current one. if you had to give one sentence to describe what the crux of the debate is right now on the hill and in washington, i think it is that the u.s. saudi arabia relationship is more destabilizing in the region, or can it be a force for stability? ?s it recklessness or not if you look at findings and legislation that is coming out of the house and the senate, recklessness, destabilizing and instability are used to describe the relationship. , werally u.s. partners create networks of alliances and use tools like security cooperation, military assistance, trade, scholarships, cultural engagement and etc.
2:20 am
because we believe we can contribute stability in the middle east. in congress, members of congress have probably taken more foreign s that somehow touch the u.s.-saudi relationship more than any other issue iran, and, it is about saudi arabia and that is whether it is the vote for the justice. vetoed by president obama and overridden in the senate. it is a strong expression about that, and here it was viewed as riyadh. a issue, but statement about the u.s.-saudi relationship, and the senate overrode that. there have been multiple
2:21 am
resolutions of disapproval on and sales both offensive defensive weapons, that is not new to this year. it has been going on for years. in the house and senate there have been multiple votes on war powers resolution, multiple votes on this issue. there have been votes on amendments to the national defense authorization act that specifically are about the u.s.-saudi relationship and weapons sales, and u.s. support to saudi led military operations in yemen. i will not talk much about that because jerry will do that. the latest series of showdowns are congresses attempt to demand credit note -- to demand accountability and assessments about what happened with the murder of jamal khashoggi. when the senate foreign relations committee asked for a determination that did not
2:22 am
by the trump administration, and finally the ant recent showdown was when emergency exception under the arms export control act was invoked for this administration to move on weapons sales with saudi arabia and other gulf without the statute required on the hill. some of this is about saudi arabia, and a start difference in opinion between members of congress and the strategic utility of the u.s.-saudi relationship. some of it is about congressional purview, where congress should determine foreign policy. all of this has been taking place over years. members of congress are not just taking votes on the u.s.-saudi relationship, they are learning about weapons sales, how do they work? what do members of congress get
2:23 am
to review? what are offensive systems? what are defense of? they are learning the legislation and the process. they are learning about security cooperation and the other u.s. programs and policies, and colors of money, and tools that form the foundation of this relationship, and have for a long time. now they can talk about professional military education, students studying in the united states, a different kinds of entrepreneurs and economic commercial engagement etc. members of congress are deeply familiar not just with the relationship broadly, but well-versed in the tools, which means when people talk to drivers of congress about the u.s.-saudi relationship, the general talking points do not cut it anymore. they are deeply educated in what is going on in yemen. they are deeply educated about how the military system goes through a process of approval
2:24 am
before they are sold to any partner. we are in a situation where it is not just about saudi arabia, but there is a debate about how military sales will go forward to the rest of the middle east. against all of these votes and all of this education, as a result of what is going on in the region, consider what members saw taking place in the region that they describe coming out of riyadh. there was a military intervention in 2015 after years of diplomacy trying to avoid that. atar, was the blockade of q saudi led. there was extension of the lebanese prime minister. there was a round up of arrests and allegedly to at the ritz -- somebody did not like me saying that. probably the ritz. a broad cross-section of
2:25 am
business elites. of women'sranting right to drive in saudi arabia, there was a detention and allegedly torture of several women's rights activists. there was also the spat with the governor of canada over a tweet about human rights. these were taken place in the region and seen driven by saudi arabia. debatingwas actively different kinds of legislation related to the different aspects of the u.s.-saudi relationship then there were, was the murder of jamal khashoggi. there were weeks of messages about what was taking place and the refusal of the trump administration to respond to congressional indication of law like the global magnets. all of this together has reached the crisis point. where are we now? there is no doubt or question that saudi officials are willing
2:26 am
-- they are very much aware of the dynamics in washington. they are aware of the debate about the strategic utility of the u.s. side of the relationship moving forward. there is an eagerness to find a way to move forward. the question here is in it just the question here for policymakers and the community around taking both in creating policy is, what are we going to do with the desire to move forward? is the debate about the voicing, divorcing the saudi's? is there an opportunity to move forward in some way? i will touch on the broader geopolitical context. we should be asking ourselves, to be except the premise of the national defense strategy that the current environment in which thatnited states operates, deeply challenge us on a multi-spectrum of threats, or do you subscribe to the premise
2:27 am
that the major threats are terrorism and fragile states and instability? stillt case, the game is in the middle east, whether it is russia or china, there is asia-pacific. we saw the obama administration tried to do their pivot and there is a lot of talk in this administration and on the hill of disengagement of burden sharing in the middle east, which means the u.s. forces should get out and shipped the burden to other people who put in resources. whether you subscribe to either of these worldviews or both, you tod partners and allies address those threats. in that context, would we prefer saudi arabia to be in the umbrella with us or not? iran policy, regardless of your views on the jcpoa, there is potential for u.s.-iran confrontation.
2:28 am
arehe blood of u.s. forces spilled, we are in a situation we have to confront militarily. do we want to use saudi arabia, use basis for maritime threats? israel, there is a debate on the hill more in the democratic caucus about the future of the u.s.-israel relationship, but there is no question that relationship between israel and gulf countries including saudi arabia are expanding. is it in our interest for these countries to work together? assistance to syria. the trump administration put off hundreds of millions of dollars of assistance to northeast syria. stepped in. if it is about burden sherry and the u.s. government not being the first entity to pay assistance dollars, do we want to talk to riyadh about where they can share the burden?
2:29 am
give the iraqis options other than iran, then that relationship will deepen. despite everything i laid out, there is an opening from the government of saudi arabia, and efforts to bring iraq into the arab world. bias, sustainable meaningful change, i view as in criminal and not necessarily on the headlines, and not the stuff of senior pleadings or senior statements. my eyebrows were raised about the new television series in saudi arabia. -- the title, i encourage you to look it up, saudi series
2:30 am
hints that changes afoot. -- that change is afoot. 100%,phone usage, internet saturation, some of the highest in the middle east. a few other points i want to mention vision 2030, articulated by mohammad bin salman as a transformational project. even if some of the goals are too lofty. it is not talking about democracy. it is a vision and some policies under that vision for economic and social change potentially more stabilizing over the medium to long-term?
2:31 am
there was an article in the "washington post" recently -- why muslims from around the world should remember the holocaust. he is working on reforming a saudi educational system. while we are having debate here, there are changes taking place in saudi arabia. i think there is a question for us and framing this as how much are we going to punish the saudis for what happened, and can we take a step back and use some of the pressure and open up new opportunities? i think there are many saudi officials eager to have that conversation. there is a new saudi ambassador eager to have that conversation. there is a fundamental question here about whether or not we want to work on this relationship, whether it needs to be updated, transitioned for 21st-century challenges -- the question is do we want to explore in cooperation or not? [applause]
2:32 am
>> can i remind you that, if you have questions, write them down and raise your hands, so our staff can come and collect them? thank you. >> i want to first thank gina and rich for inviting us to come and participate in this conversation, and demonstrate again, that for those of us who are recovering foreign service officers, there is life after the state department, which is good. and also to think tom and dana for their remarks. i think that we just saw, in dana's presentation, why she was
2:33 am
the best staffer ever for those of us who have found our way up to the hill from time to time. i want to start -- this is a conversation about the u.s.-saudi relationship. i want to begin by stressing that this is not about the u.s. relationship with mohammad bin salman. one of the things that struck me over the last couple of years is that we have lost sight of the fact that there is a relationship with a whole country out there that, as tom has said, stretches back nearly 90 years and has been based on shared interests, shared perspectives, shared policies over a number of years. not here to defend muhammad bin
2:34 am
salman, not here to defend what happened to jamal khashoggi, who many of us knew and considered a friend. one of the narratives in washington that i found striking over this last almost year now since khashoggi's murder is the extent to which we have conflated a number of different aspects of saudi policy, u.s. perspectives on saudi arabia, u.s. relationships with saudi arabia in ways i think are unhelpful for the interests of both countries. and primarily to make the point that i think this inflation is conflation ist
2:35 am
particularly egregious when it comes to how this city and this congress perceives the saudi intervention in yemen. as tom said, the relationship that we have had with saudi arabia has had its ups and downs over the years. you could probably make the same point about every country in the world. we have over the years, found reason to work closely with the saudis. a number of us were involved in the intervention in afghanistan in the 1980's, where saudi arabia was a critical partner in helping implement the u.s. policy objective of driving the former soviet union out of afghanistan. they were principal funders, financiers of a great deal of the activities. they helped facilitate, through their intelligence agencies,
2:36 am
through prince turki al faisal and his organization, working closely with u.s. intelligence community to achieve what was perceived at the time to be a u.s. security objective. today, we have worked together on iran, since 1979, and, again, largely share objectives in terms of iranian behavior in the region, iranian threats to andional security e stability. but as tom said correctly, it has not always been a positive relationship. we have had our issues over camp david, over other areas where we have not seen eye to eye. and where we have managed to
2:37 am
manage those differences and provide stability to her a relationship that was troubled. yemen fits into that pattern of up and down relationships of the year, and i think the yemenis has observed, not always positively, that the united states has tended to see yemen policy, our interest in yemen, largely through saudi perceptions and saudi eyes. that is not a wrong position that they have taken. our support for saudi policy in yemen goes back to the 1960's, when the kennedy administration worked with the saudis in support of the monarchy in yemen, primarily because the
2:38 am
saudis perceived pan-arabism as a greater threat to their stability of rule, to be greater than support for the theocracy that had ruled yemen for many, many years. in the 1980's, the united states and saudi arabia worked together to support the north yemen government, the yemen arab republic, at that time, and established a trilateral military assistance program, the u.s. providing military support to the north yemen military, that was paid for by the saudi government. and that was primarily because
2:39 am
of the concerns of the threat to the saudi stability opposed by the people's democrat republic of yemen, south yemen at that time. that continued for a number of years. we provided advice, other kinds of military support, until the saudis and yemeni broke in 1990, 1991, over saddam hussein's invasion of kuwait. then, the two governments, saudi arabia and the united states, broke. we supported the saudi decision to expel yemeni workers in 1990, 1991, to cut off assistance. but when south yemen tried to break off again and form another government in 1994, having merged north and south yemen in 1990, the u.s. and saudi arabia found themselves on different sides of the issue.
2:40 am
the united states supported the government in the north, ali abdullah saleh, and the saudis provided assistance to the south, and supported the break off of the country and the resumption of the separate north and south yemen governments. after a period of years, we came back together in 2011 and 2012, where the united states and saudi arabia worked closely as part of a larger international coalition that included all of the permanent five countries of the u.n. security council as well as the gcc and a number of the european governments, to work on a political transition document that eventually was completed and became the gcc
2:41 am
transition agreement. we worked together closely after that on the implementation of that document from the time it was signed in 2007 to the until the houthis disrupted it in 2014. and had it not been for the intervention of king abdullah personally, with ali abdullah saleh, it is likely the -- it is unlikely that the agreement would not have an assigned, and we would have out the conflict we are experiencing now several years before it actually broke out. after the agreement was signed and their transition positive was selected in 2012, saudi
2:42 am
interest in yemen declined. they became less involved in the political transition, perhaps in part because it was uncomfortable for them to promote democratic transition in yemen. it was not something they were familiar with. so the u.s. and our western partners took the lead. the saudis continue to play an important part in providing economic assistance and develop ment assistance, working closely with the world bank and the imf and with the west and ways of ensuring that develop assistance in yemen continued to flow to the development of that country. this was the status up until 2014. we remained in close touch with the saudi's. we continued to work with them, to share views and objectives, to engage with them on the
2:43 am
concerns that we both felt. we saw that some of the issues within yemen, the dysfunctionality of the transition government, the efforts of ali abdullah saleh to undermine the transition, some of the unrest that the houthis were manifesting in the north, as those issues emerged, the u.s. and saudi arabia maintained a close and positive dialogue. that reached a peak in late 2014, early 2015, as the situation in yemen continued to deteriorate. dana's remark that we had little notice of the saudi decision to intervene is correct. but i would make the point that the saudis did inform us.
2:44 am
this is a reflection of the larger change in the nature of the u.s.-saudi relationship and more broadly with our gulf allies and partners. that is as the perception has developed that u.s. interest the region is fading, partially because of the iran nuclear deal, probably because of statements by president obama as well as the policies of this current time of president trump, that they saw a decline in u.s. interest and came to the conclusion, not incorrectly, that they needed to take more responsibility for themselves for protecting our own interests and pursuing their own objectives. prior to their decisions to intervene, the saudis did come to the white house and talk to the state department and
2:45 am
others, to inform rather than request permission, to intervene in yemen. again, to make the point that, at the time they made the decision, one, they and we did not anticipate that the situation would drag on for years. the intent was to stabilize the situation. that they believed at the time that they were going to secure the stability of the government, perhaps relocate it because of the houthi control of sana'a. but it was not their intent to go beyond the transition agreement, that their intention was to stabilize the situation, allow the political transition to reach its conclusion.
2:46 am
it obviously has not worked out that way. here is another point where i have some concerns or disagreement with the way the narrative plays out in washington. two issues. one is there is an inclination in washington to look at the conflict in yemen as a conflict between saudi arabia and yemen, and somehow to see the houthis as the element defending from saudi aggression. this is absolutely incorrect. what is happening in yemen is a civil conflict. it is a conflict that goes back, its roots, a 40 or 50 years. it has erupted in violence periodically throughout that 50 or 60 year period. this is only the latest manifestation of a conflict that has never been resolved among the yemenis.
2:47 am
the saudi intervention is quite aside from that. the other point is that one needs to distinguish between the issues that drove the saudi decision to intervene versus their implementation of the decision. here, again, while i believe the saudi decision to intervene was based on real legitimate concerns that they have, this is not to suggest that the implementation is not a fit subject for criticism. it absolutely is. some of the saudi efforts have been tragic, abominable, and completely incompetent and incoherent. it is not to say that, because we understand why the saudis
2:48 am
intervened, therefore we must understand how the intervened -- that is not the case. in my view, the saudis have three legitimate concerns about the nature of the conflict. one is, as we have seen increasingly over these past months, the security of their southern border. i would say that the saudis, in particular, see an existential threat from a houthi presence on their southern border in the same way that they perceive that the israelis face a threat from hezbollah on their northern border. that is something completely unacceptable to saudi arabia. the second is the presence of the ritc in yemen, supporting the houthis.
2:49 am
again, to clarify a point because sometimes you see arguments that, in fact, the iranian intervention, the irtc presence, are a response to the saudi intervention, i can say, even when i was still in sana'a in 2012, several years before the situation deteriorated, the iranians were already involved in providing weapons and sending personnel to the houthi to provide training to receive houthi elements in iran for not only military training but also proselytization in shia religion. the second concern is this presence of irtc and hezbollah
2:50 am
trainers and assistance in yemen. the third element of saudi concern is the nature of the government. the saudis want to see a government in sana'a they can work with. it does not mean that they are opposed to a houthi presence in the government. i have been with saudi senior officials when they said explicitly they are not opposed to houthi participation in the government but as a political entity and not a paramilitary hezbollah-like entity. this war has dragged on for several years, which we have
2:51 am
supported as the saudis and other coalition partners have supported. the idea of a u.n. negotiated solution -- it is not clear that we have come closer to that solution at this point, primarily because in neither side have we seen a decision at the negotiating table than on the battlefield. neither side feels as if momentum has shifted to the other. therefore, neither side feels compelled to find a political solution. to wrap up, i would make a couple of final points. one, of course, what we are all seeing now, is the decision on the part of the emirates to withdraw their military forces from the aspect of their presence in yemen related to the houthi campaign, keeping in mind that the emirates have two
2:52 am
strictly different objectives. one is to support the saudis and their mission, the other is a c.t. mission. the emirates have been clear that they will continue their efforts on the c.t. side. it is only in relation with the houthis that they are withdrawing. they make several points in a n explanation of their decision. one is that they believe that they have trained a sufficient number of yemeni personnel, so that the yemenis themselves can take on the resistance against the houthis, without emirati intervention. there are also several thousand sudanese troops in yemen participating in that military campaign.
2:53 am
second point that they make, given the rise in tension with iran, they believed they needed their forces back in the uae, particularly their patriot air defense systems, in order to guard against a potential conflict with iran. that is their explanation, but this has serious implications for the saudis, because the emiratis have been leading the ground campaign the last several years. the saudis have been primarily involved in the air campaign. whether the saudis will be able to fill the vacuum left by an emirati withdrawal remains to be seen. in conclusion, on that point, because of what i see as a saudi perception of existential threat from yemen, i believe they will
2:54 am
carry on their campaign, regardless of what the emiratis do and what the u.s. government does. there are many people who think the saudis cannot carry on their military campaign without u.s. support. i think that is absolutely false, that the saudis, if you believe you are facing an existential threat, you will continue your efforts, regardless of what the larger international circumstance is. the final question, and i think dana left a number of questions on the table, as she finished her remarks, let me leave another question on the table. the united states and saudi arabia have worked particularly since the 1950's for the last 70
2:55 am
years or so as two countries that shared a basic perspective on the region, basic policy goals and objectives, basic national security views. and both countries, over the years, have been primarily status quo forces. we have believed in protecting the security and stability of the region and maintain the status quo. what we have seen over these last couple of years, with the rise of mohammad bin salman, and dana and tom laid out many of the key elements we have seen over the last couple of years, is that saudi arabia perhaps is no longer a status quo force in the region, that mohammad bin salman, for whatever reason, has adopted a disruptive position
2:56 am
vis-a-vis key elements of regional policy. the other aspect is the united states, under the trump administration, has also become disruptive. it is hard to argue trump policy is in support of regional stability and security. so the question now is if both the united states and saudi arabia have become disruptive forces in the region, are we being disruptive in a way that allows us to work together, or are we on a path that will take us to divergent paths these coming years? is the future of the united states and saudi partnership sustainable? and i will stop there. [applause]
2:57 am
>> first, thank you to the panel. i will start with one or two questions of mine, first from the audience. we heard about disagreements that we have had with the saudis over the decades, and we have heard about a basic kind of security cooperation and economic cooperation over the decades as well. so i think the question that
2:58 am
dana left us with, at the end, really was about going forward. does the saudi military cooperation with us, economic cooperation with us, generally speaking trying to make sure that there is oil at a regional -- reasonable price available to everyone in the market, their counterterrorism cooperation, intelligence cooperation with us, does it outweigh the current disagreements we have with them? and should we be going forward with them to deal with current, strategic challenges we have from russia, china, iran, and others. tom, you know, i could actually read something that you wrote
2:59 am
some years ago, and ask if you still feel that way, and if everyone would basically agree. here it is. the overriding consideration with strategic and economic reasons -- neither country wants a break with the other. you can have arguments and criticism, but the overarching need for the countries were require that those disagreements will be managed, even if they continue to exist. is that where we are? how do the three of you feel about that general position, that we need to go forward with them to tackle the challenges that we face in the region? tom: if i may respond to that, every year, in late february or early march, the commander of .s. central command, the
3:00 am
general responsible for all u.s. military activities throughout the middle east and south asia, submits an extensive report to congress on should teach issues and arrangements and alliances throughout the region. and, if you read that report, there is a general statement and a country by country assessment. and it becomes clear that saudi arabia is not the most important country for the security interests and policies that the united states is pursuing in that region. that is to say the saudi's are much more dependent on us. their military capabilities remain questionable.
3:01 am
the united states has troops everywhere. but really not in saudi arabia. the naval headquarters in bahrain. we have a big airbase in qatar. we have troops in kuwait. we have troops in djibouti. if you combine the fact that we could conduct our strategic policies in the region, other han terrorism, it seems to me, without saudi arabia, and the fact that the energy picture has changed completely within the past 10 years, you could make a case that you can now deal with saudi arabia on an issue by issue basis without having to ursue some kind of overall handholding framework of the time we have had in the past. keep your eye on nuclear proliferation.
3:02 am
>> erased the question at the end, where do you stand on it? >> two things i just heard. one is, can we move from the overall framework of holding the saudi's hands and the pursuit of our security interest? other than israel, that is how our relationship with countries in the middle east work. if you go to these governments and asked them to articulate how you get to a political settlement for syria, what is a power-sharing agreement in sana'a look like, how should we address the threat from iran? it is hard to get them to articulate a strategy and the ools to get there. a lot of governments are looking for others to articulate. they can either listen to us, we
3:03 am
can suggest. or they can listen to others. moscow, for example. my view is it would be better for us to be leading and articulating that vision and working with countries when interests align to achieve whatever that strategy is. we don't have relationships because they are good for others. we have them because they are good for us, it is in line with ur interest. our interest is we view russian presence and activity in the region as inherently destabilizing. we should be shoring up allies that can limit that presence in the region. that doesn't mean you have to agree on every issue. you can disagree. you can agree on issues in our interest and work within areas f cooperation. one of the comments you made is, neither country seems to want to break. right now, u.s. doesn't have one policy.
3:04 am
there is a policy articulated by rump administration which in a bipartisan way on the hill and in washington seems to be the perception that there is no questioning, no airing of grievances, expressions of concerns over specific policies -- we don't question and we don't challenge. here, there is not one unified american voice on the future of the relationship. there are different constituencies and an active debate in public. everyone understands what the debate is and the saudi arabia relationship, a lot of other partner and allies are looking at this debate. there questioning whether the u.s. will be there over medium to long-term in a relevant way. i think we can do both with the saudi's.
3:05 am
i think weanlete human rights concerns, reforms. we can continue to engage with the issues of concern to us, demand accountability for jamal hashoggi, for example. if you read the transcripts of secretary pompeo's interviews this week on the international religious freedom form, over and over he talks about freedoms, religious freedoms, political, et cetera. iran got mentioned a lot. not once, did saudi arabia get mentioned. this is an opportunity to raise issues but we can still work withou tdress ncerns with your securitynterest and hours. -- ours. i do not think we benefit by having hezbollahn e saudi' border. especially when we have so many american citizens in saudi arabia and a lot of shared even if we are a net exporter of oil, that does not mean we don't have dependency on what the political price of oil is and
3:06 am
what insurance rates, ships or tankers cannot go through the strait of hormuz, that is a problem for us. so to me, loud and clear to me, there is enough pressure and leverage that an opportunity has presented itself and we can either walk away or engage to try to make clear certain behaviors will no longer be ccepted. >> i will give a precise, it depends, answer. t depends on a number of factors, i think both tom and dana touched on. one is, there is again, a theory here in washington, in the u.s., that we no longer need energy supplies from the region, that somehow or other u.s. is energy ndependent and what happens in
3:07 am
the gulf or venezuela or whatever has no impact on u.s. energy supply. this is wrong on a number of aspects. one of course is the u.s., even though it may be a net exporter of energy, in fact, still imports 5 million barrels of oil every day. therefore, we are still in the energy markets. ven though gasoline that comes out of the pump and into your car all looks the same, the fact of the matter is, that oil is not all the same. that oil, the kind of oil that comes out of the wells in saudi arabia is in fact critical for u.s. and the world's energy equirements. to go back to dana's correct
3:08 am
point, regardless of what u.s. requirements are, as long as we have interest in and obligation to maintaining global economic stability, the fact of the matter is, what happens in saudi arabia will be critically important for u.s. for many years to come. basic underpinnings of why we have this relationship with a country which is in many ways as he virgi -- diverted from u.s. history as humanly possible, nevertheless that is a relationship that has been critical for us for many years nd will continue to be critical. but, having said that, the other
3:09 am
aspect of this is tom talked about the fact that there is no constituency in u.s. for saudi rabia. this has always been true. it was true and i was working on these issues in the 1990's. there has never been a wellspring of support for saudi arabia here on capitol hill or broadly in american society. we have worked together because we have seen it in our interest and not because we felt any motional commitment. what we have seen over these last couple years is in fact the political aspect of relations between u.s. and saudi have become more intense than ever, in part because of the very open alignment of the saudi leadership with the trump administration in ways that democrats have found to be problematic. so, the saudi-u.s. relationship has become a debating point here on capitol hill and more broadly
3:10 am
in society in a way that even in the bad days, even after 9/11, even after some of the other areas where we diverged, it is more intense and emotional, therefore where you can see that that perhaps in response, in reaction to what people have perceived as the current relationship the trump administration's unwillingness o challenge saudi arabia, to raise some of these issues, this has become something that potentially down the road, particularly if there is a change in administration 2020, could be extremely problematic
3:11 am
for the relationship. tom also made the point that a number of the candidates on the democratic side in this election will take a very contrary position on the u.s.-saudi relationship as compared to the rump administration. the last point i would make is, it depends on mohammad bin salman and how we go forward. to go back to the point i tried to make in the beginning -- even though we have this broad-based relationship with saudi arabia, founded and shared economic, security political interests and has been for many years, the tendency now is to look at it hrough the optic of mohammad bin salman and do we agree with mohammad bin salman? do we think mohammad bin salman is a monster who murdered jamal khashoggi and locked up innocent people? maybe guilty people, without trial, in prisons, civil society activists, libertarians and others? or is he someone who is modernizing, that we can work ith?
3:12 am
yes, he has made mistakes. the other side of the rgument. he has made missteps. he is someone we can deal with. r you look at it more broadly, that this is a relationship that goes beyond the leadership? do we say, yes mohammad bin salman is a problem but the nature of the relationship is more important than just the nature of the leader and we can work around that in some way? those are questions that are going to be answered. my guess is they will be part of the presidential campaign over the next year. i think that the answer is going to come out at the end of the campaign. >> tom had something. >> as briefly as i can, both colleagues on the panel that made the point that saudi arabia remains a critical part of the global energy supply, even if we
3:13 am
don't import much oil from saudi arabia anymore. the biggest single domestic anagement problem within saudi rabia in fact is a shortage of energy. the saudi's are consuming an ever escalating amount of their oil they produce, domestically, to satisfy the insatiable demand for electricity in a growing country that desalinate all water for human consumption and household use. i have seen projections by economists/consultants that show that the trajectory between saudi export capacity and domestic demand will cross as oon as 2035. when that happens, you ask yourself, and that is, like the day after tomorrow in strategic terms, then what happens to this picture? this is what is propelling
3:14 am
saudi's in their quest for nuclear energy. we will have tough decisions to make about whether to meet that demand because it could change the rest of this picture. >> right now, the saudi's consume 3 million barrels a day of their own oil and export 7 million barrels a day. they prefer to export because it is revenue. >> of course. >> they would like an alternative. i am sure they will bring technology to resolve the issue. nuclear will be one of them. one more question and then i will go to the audience. e have talked about the way we see the relationship, the way we might need their cooperation and the way we have objections to certain behaviors of theirs but to flip it over just for a minute -- she went through a list of disagreements.
3:15 am
egypt-israel agreement, they hoped there would be something more comprehensive that would resolve the palestinian issue and it led to more ettlement. king abdullah told us not to invade iraq. 2003, the king asked us not to invade iraq. we did. it let iran into iraq. it changed the strategic landscape. it brought an adversary into the northern border. they wanted us to intervene more strenuously in syria because in the case of yemen, iran was already in syria early in the civil war before saudi arabia ever entered the arena. they wanted our assistance and
3:16 am
obama administration was too reticent to get involved. you have much more iranian influence than you did before. jerry pointed out that iran was supporting the houthis years before the saudi's intervened in this 2015 campaign, which has gone badly for them. omeone asked, are they still a status quo power or a disruptor? i have heard they do not know if they can rely on us anymore. to make good judgments about policies in the region and to help them contain and even go back -- factor that into our decision-making about going
3:17 am
forward with them, is it possible a debacle in yemen is in part because we have called them free riders? we have told them to take matters into their own hands? we have set them on the pivot to asia? they decided they need to take matters into their own hands? if we were to reduce our ngagement and support for them in yemen, who would benefit from that? how would that affect the outcome of what is going on in yemen? let's get there. that leaves two questions about how do we -- that gets to questions about how we deal with them going forward? what have we done that has led to the situation? anybody can go first. >> if i go first -- thanks tom, ou have let us down the rabbit
3:18 am
ole. those are good questions. two aspects. no doubt in both riyadh and abu dhabi, you have leadership today hat has made a decision that hey are going to be more assertive, do more to pursue what their goals and objectives are, that they will coordinate and cooperate with u.s. as possible but that u.s. will not have a veto over the decisions. hat is an attribute of several factors, not just one. n one level, it is a fact that
3:19 am
you have younger leadership in both capitals who believe their fathers, their predecessors were oo beholden to u.s., too willing to accept u.s. leadership without necessarily achieving some of their own bjectives. it is not only about u.s. it is also an aspect of the way they operate within the arab world, and the arab league, for example, where they are less likely to accept ejection leadersh -- egyptian leadership in setting foreign policy for the arab world and are more inclined to assert their own eadership. you cannot question the fact that they can read the same magazine articles we can read and when the president of the united states is giving an interview in the atlantic in which he is talking about, when he is talking about these
3:20 am
countries as free riders, when he is saying explicitly that hey need to learn how to share the region with iran, when he is saying other things quite contrary to what their own analysis of their interest is, they are going to make decisions based on that understanding. all of these things have added up. talk about the desire to pivot to asia. all of these aspects have contributed to a decision on their part that they are going to pursue their agendas hemselves. again, if you look at the position of the trump administration, as several of us have made the point, the
3:21 am
administration has not changed its position that in fact these governments need to take on more responsibility themselves. that means, for us, we won't always like what the decisions are that they make. we may disagree with that. if you tell people to grow up and you know be adults, well, adults make decisions that are based on their own perspective. therefore, we cannot have it both ways. we cannot expect these governments will follow our leadership without question and at the same time tell them they need to take responsibility themselves. that is the situation we are in. i do not see it changing. >> since all three panelists to my left, please, rich, ambassadors, whenever you have a oment, please let me know.
3:22 am
i am sort of looking this way. do you want to say something? dana. >> i want to make a few comments in reaction to what was laid out. irst of all, in terms of how iyadh may be looking at u.s. and our liability, think about how they might view us and the serious wings and the pendulum of foreign policy over the last several administrations, from the invasion of iraq to the debates about foreign policy and the u.s. role in the middle east under obama and not just comments in the atlantic but the
3:23 am
negotiation of the nuclear agreement, the decision surrounding syria, how washington reacted to arab spring developments in multiple countries, to this administration. foreign by tweet. right? in terms of reliability and how we may be viewed in the region, f i were staffing any of the overnments of the region i would say, do not rely on americans. they are not consistent. they change their policy with very administration. it is in our interest to cooperate with them when we can but we need to hedge our bets. we see that behavior now. both military, security, economic, trade and energy agreements being concluded with a lot of other governments, which we would describe as adversaries. secondly, how to understand saudi actions, particularly in
3:24 am
yemen. so, we need to see how they have executed operations in yemen contextualizing in decades of security cooperation, professional military education, military training exercises that we have been conducting with them, both in huge regional context, gulf cooperation all counsel training, we have tried for decades, consistently republican and democratic administrations. in the clinton administration, they were called the strategic cooperation forum. they shared info, et cetera, et cetera. the obama administration and the bush administration, we had the gall security dialogue. it was the camp david summits in the obama administration. now we have the middle east security alliance. all versions of the same notion we can work with these militaries and beyond the military realm to coordinate and address shared interest. this is part of burden sharing. while everyone references the obama interview in the atlantic, think about the crude way in which this is discussed in the current administration. these guys are made of money. they will pay for
3:25 am
verything. why should we pay for anything? when we are feeling nice, we call it burden sharing, and then there are more crude ways of talking what it really is. we have paid enough. americans are done. someone else should pay. the region is aware of the debate we are having here in the u.s. about what the u.s. role in the world should be and in that debate the far right and the far left actually sound similar, right? authorization of the use of force. why should u.s. forces be doing this? why should the american taxpayer e paying for this? i don't understand what it gets us.
3:26 am
it is a public debate. they can read it on twitter, and our magazines, foreign affairs articles, what will be published of this discussion. they are listening and watching us. in terms of syria and cooperation, and what might have been, we need to understand how obama administration was thinking about the various conflicts that arose in the middle east during their administration as very much in the experience of the iraq war. did we pick the right partners? can we shape a political outcome based on military investment? the conclusion of obama administration was, no, we have to be humble in our approach to hese conflicts and what we can realistically achieve. now the saudi's are having a similar experience in yemen. all the military force in the world will not buy you a political settlement.
3:27 am
it is hard to get groups to the table to negotiate anything stabilizing or sustainable long-term. everyone to talk about burden haring and continue training and shaping militaries to behave in a way more consistent with our values and norms about how military operations should be prosecuted, burden sharing does not mean we train you, go. it means continual engagement. that is the choice the u.s. has to make. we may not disagree on everything. militaries make mistakes. there are serious challenges in the prosecution of the saudi military campaign in yemen but are interests better served by walking away or engaging going forward? >> chas freeman has said when he rrived in saudi arabia as u.s. ambassador in 1989, he found the elationship had stagnated or atrophied to a great extent because americans took it for granted. saudi arabia had been the most stable country in the middle east for 80 years, was always there in spite of the ifferences we had. we could count on certain aspects of saudi community, of saudi arabia as an entity, who responded in certain ways. i am not confident we know that bout saudi arabia today.
3:28 am
all accounts, i mean, here is where i differ a little from jerry saying this is not about the relationship with mohammad bin salman. he is all there is. it used to be there were multiple centers of power in saudi arabia where you could get to the king through this prince or that prince and there was always prince bandar. ow by all accounts, mohammad bin salman has neutralized every other center of power in saudi rabia. in addition to wanting to know who will be the next president of the u.s., i want to know what
3:29 am
happens next year or the year after or the day after tomorrow when king salman dies and mohammad bin salman becomes the king of saudi arabia, which will happen. who is his crown prince? tell me what he does to assuage the grievances of every other branch of the family that he has nflicted on them over the past 3, 4 years? then let's see what kind of country it is we are working with now and how it is different from the country we worked with for decades. >> if i could add to that quickly, i think you just put your finger on a critical issue. yes, when people are looking at nd trying to analyze the direction the saudi's are headed now, you see this effort on the part of mohammad bin salman to
3:30 am
eliminate any discordant voices, basically, put all the strings of policy and power into his hands, his brother is a deputy defense minister, he has liminated many potential adversaries and the senior ranks of the family. the question is, and i think this will be perhaps determinative in terms of u.s.-saudi relationship going forward, is that sustainable over time or is the family going to assert some greater control, greater leverage? my guess is you will not know the answer to that question until the day comes where he is trying to become the king. that is when this will sort out. > some of the questions from
3:31 am
the audience -- maybe i could combine one or two. a few of them have to do with how important it is the military o military relationship with the saudi's in terms of deterring, containing or rolling back iran in the region? how should we be encouraging the saudi-is really relationship -- israels relationship in terms of how to deal with iran? i would add to that, how can we use our military and economic and political relationship with them, and our leverage with them to help resolve the conflict in yemen?
3:32 am
ammad bin salman military to military relationship with the saudis in terms of to turn, containing iran in the region, how should we be encouraging the saudi israeli relationship as part of the effort to do with the wrong -- iran? how can we use our military and political relationship with them. what is the way out? that we can hope them with and then finally to come to a different question, how do we use our relationship with them to encourage age inside the kingdom? how many days do we have? can we use it to resolve some of the problems that we have, and can we use our relationship to
3:33 am
bring about change that we would like to see in the kingdom? >> is that important, is that something we can encourage? >> i would like to address that one particularly. imagine you were locked in a worldwide struggle with a rival power for supremacy in islam which is how the saudis see themselves with the infidels who are running iran. i don't believe you when that struggle and ingratiate yourself with the muslim masses by getting into bed with israel. t may well be that there are aspects of some kind of stun -- semi clandestine -- based on threats but the idea that we would encourage the saudis to enter into any kind of overt partnership with israel would be out of the question. >> i think the king is with you on that.
3:34 am
>> i don't think anybody is encouraging and overt relationship but there is no question that under the table there is all kinds of factors. some of this started out as shared perception but it ran is the main striver -- driver of this. the economic conference for economic vision for the west bank and maybe gaza regardless of how effective that compass was to lease in bahrain -- took place in bahrain. there is all sorts of public reporting about various tools for monitoring social media, context between saudi and israeli officials which should not be in the u.s. interest and we should be looking at hat.
3:35 am
it is happening, if you talk to certain israelis the most exciting development taking place in the middle east are the oals, the young people are dynamic and we need to be paying attention to it. ow to encourage inclusion in the kingdom. the lesson of the u.s. as if we point fingers at the government and say you should take this kind of change doesn't work. acknowledging the changes that are already under way to take place and figure out how we can be more effective on that. do you know the size of the scholarship program?
3:36 am
ore than 10,000? 50,000 students a year are coming to the u.s. university getting exposed to american style education. that's a way of encouraging change. it doesn't have to be articulating its programs on what you should do. my point why i mentioned the soap opera that was shown and saudi arabia during ramadan there is already changes underway. if there are some views about specific rings taking place that are antithetical to us we should raise a good as civil rights activists, we should raise it and be direct. we think some should be immediately let out of rison. a normal relationship -- how is it for what we want to
3:37 am
accomplish. the cool -- the coalition to get rid of isis. we have a regional coalition who is united with us in addressing share threat. there are other examples like that, piracy, maritime coalition in international waterways where working with partner navies, this is in our interest to be regionalized and globalized. if we care about this military edge, russia and canada doesn't care. do we have an interest in finding out way to continue making sure that the saudi military is bind to that .s.? those are a couple of examples of why the relationship remains important. >> i think we have checked the
3:38 am
box on this thing. nobody has mentioned but one of the interesting things over the last few days is the announcement by the administration that they sent 500 u.s. military personnel to audi arabia. if i am not mistaken that this the first time we have had ground forces in saudi arabia ince the first gulf war. shortly after we withdrew everybody. i think that is significant. he reality is, if the u.s. remains committed to providing security and defense in the gulf region, if we continue to seek a an iran as a potential
3:39 am
adversary in the region then you cannot achieve your military objectives without support from saudi arabia. in terms of access to their facilities, several points early on about airspace, and other hings. the reality is that without saudi arabia the other states will be reluctant to go forward. they look at saudi arabia as the security in the region and will take their cues from the position that the saudis take. it will continue to be important. in terms of the question about he way forward on yemen, it is hard. i agree, i think i agree on this point and that is there is no utility in are using our military support for saudia arabia to beat the saudis and somehow think this is going to compel them to make decisions about the things in yemen they are not willing to make. it will undermine our relationship with them. it will introduce a new component of the conflict affliction between our societies without accomplishing anything
3:40 am
in particular. i would point out that when you talk about -- that the saudis and other old states are hedging their bets and the region right now. lack of certainty in terms of what u.s. policy is. if you want to talk about the as-400 system that the turks have just employed, saudi arabia as just negotiated with russia about the possible purchase of hat. if we continue to signal unreliability in terms of our military relationship with them then the saudis have the resources to look elsewhere and plenty of other governments that are willing to provide that support. does that mean -- does that translate into ability on our part to help influence the direction of a resolution in
3:41 am
yemen. i go back to the point i made earlier on and that is the principle reason that we don't have a political resolution to the conflict in yemen which i believe the saudis at all the other coalition partners would welcome is n because the saudis are on willing to pursue that or to empower the you and o pursue it. it is because neither party, the must stick party inside of yemen has come to do the decision that is better off making a deal that they are continuing this onflict. there are reasons for that, both in terms of their vision of the potential for a military victory, you have a war economy,
3:42 am
an awful lot of people who are making money by allowing this conflict to continue. the conflict is really not binary, it is multi-polar. trying to get everybody on the same page in order to resolve this thing is tough. again, my own sense is that the solution to the problem is not between saudi arabia and yemen, it is with in yemen and it will be -- to get all the enemies ogether. if that happens my expectation s that the saudis will welcome and core rate. neither party inside of yemen has yet come to the decision that they're better off making a deal that they around continuing this conflict. is there a lot of reasons for that? both in terms of their vision of the potential for a military victory. you've got a war economy where you have an awful lot of people money. n awful lot of
3:43 am
trying to get everybody on the same page in order to resolve this thing is tough. again, my own sense is that the solution to the problem is not between saudi arabia and yemen, it is with in yemen and it will be -- to get all the enemies together. if that happens my expectation is that the saudis will welcome and core rate. >> what about iran? >> i'm going to be a little contrary and on yemen. -- country. i think it is very important, the statement that members of ongress not only them craddock have been making about our
3:44 am
participation, our support for the prosecution of the conflict in yemen and can have an impact in getting people to the table. it was taken into account with the uae decision to change the ature of their engagement. the point made earlier about that balance getting to the table, the lack of support from the u.s., military support, changes that balance. there are many who have argued that we gave them support in that conflict to alan's there distress with us of having an agreement with it ran. -- iran. was it in opportunity to reduce that support as well that we are still there. they are adults, they make their own decisions about what they're asked to daschle -- what their priorities are but that does not
3:45 am
mean that they are prior entries for us. we have to think of it in that way. t is the cost of the humanitarian in yemen, the possible war crimes in yemen that we have a connection to at this point? the incompetent or poor prosecution of the conflict from the saudis side worth it to us as the u.s.? i think our voices need to continue a lively debate on this issue. us coming out in a different place sooner rather than later is a reasonable thing for the u.s. to do and i do not think if it is a problem with the saudis that will not materially change the nature of our relationship. you mentioned change within
3:46 am
saudi arabia coming. i will say, having been there from the early 2000's there were interesting and challenging ramadan -- oil and off the boil hey talked about it. 11 -- 911, a seven-year-old boy driving his mother to the hospital and a discussion about women driving happening. my belief and understanding from my time in saudi arabia with regard to change and reaching fundamental rights there is not n issue of driving or having access to public events where men and women can be together, important of course. i would argue that it is a member -- for women in saudi rabia.
3:47 am
for carrying out your public life, these are still yet to be sufficiently addressed and those are the things that will make a difference in women's lives and n saudi lives. >> these issues are still yet to be sufficiently addressed. and those are the things that are going to be different. again, one of the things that is causing so much consternation in the u.s. is the way the war in yemen is being prosecuted,
3:48 am
unsuccessfully and with collateral damage. is there something we can do to help them improve this performance and avoid that to get a satisfactory outcome there? will provide an anecdote from a trip that i did there in 2016 with our late president -- a former ambassador there. we had a meeting with the saudi generals and they said, we need more precision guided weapons to avoid killing civilians. hey didn't say we want to kill civilians, they said we need more precision guided weapon. does it help us to reduce our ssistance and can we use our relationship to improve their performance i get a better outcome in yemen? >>et me just say again, part of the problem, and i think that
3:49 am
you and she not have touched on it, part of the problem that i have with the way this debate is carried about here in washington is that there is a tendency to look at this as a saudi aggression against yemen. it is not a saudi aggression against yemen. saudi arabia did not begin this war, they did not -- they are not responsible for this war. eight is a civil war. saudi arabia has been engaged because of what they continue to be at i agree with them, what they continue to believe a threat to their national ecurity. you cannot talk about how to stop this conflict as long as your only willing to talk about the actions of one side.
3:50 am
it is not the side that started this conflict. unless you are going to talk about the -- iran that are responsible for the tragedy that many yemenis have witnessed over these past three years, you are not talking about real solutions to the conflict. singling out the saudis and say if we stop selling them went and sat will force them to the table. there is a presumption on your part that the reason there isn't a political solution is because the saudis are preventing it. that is something i would take issue with. i don't think the saudis are preventing a solution. i think that the issues are domestic issues inside of yemen. the reason there has not been a solution is because neither side deals compelled to achieve a solution. that applies to the who tease as well as the government. the u.s. was one of the original sponsors states clearly that t for the resumption of the transition document that was fine and agreed in 2011 that would bring everybody back to a political process back into yemen. singling out the saudis and say if we stop selling them went and sat will force them to the table. there is a presumption on your part that the reason there isn't a political solution is because the saudis are preventing it. that is something i would take issue with. i don't think the saudis are preventing a solution. i think that the issues are domestic issues inside of yemen. the reason there has not been a solution is because neither side
3:51 am
deals compelled to achieve a olution. and that applies to the hoothies as well as the government. the u.s. was one of the original sponsors states clearly that the position of the international community is support for the legitimate government of yemen. whether we agree or disagree that is what the you and security sick councils set up which we felt it or. we should continue to support a resolution negotiated by the united nation's that would allow or the resumption of the g.c.c. transition document that was
3:52 am
fine and agreed in 2011 that would bring everybody back to a political process back into yemen. beating on the saudis will not get you there. in order to represent correct way forward, we need to look at the reality of the situation and not simple we to pursue shadows in -- cave. >> you don't have too much ime. >> in the two and a half years after the saudis began to ntervene in yemen, five senior officials and the military advisor to mohammad bin salman, five different objectives restore the legitimate gombert -- government, i would submit
3:53 am
that if you cannot articulate he strategic reason for waging the war you cannot find victory. hat is part of their problem. they don't know what they are fighting her. >> none of those points that you just made is contradictory. all of those elements are there. you and security resolution has all of those elements and t. they might articulate them differently, but they are all he same piece. >> the second batch of questions from the audience comes back to how do we use our relationship to bring about positive change in saudi arabia. there are a few questions here about whether their relationship can be used to improve our elationship and to encourage
3:54 am
positive change inside the kingdom on questions like guardianship and women who are etained and how to get accountability over the cut shoji matter. how do we now use our relationship to get the change we would like to see inside of the kingdom and has anybody seen evidence that inside the kingdom there is a willingness to talk about this and a willingness to listen and work with us on these ssues. >> during the truman
3:55 am
administration the state department distributed to all arab country and loss statement about our policy in saudi arabia and it said, we are not the to tell them how to run their country. we are therefore economic and strategic reasons that are important to us. e are not there to tell them that they shouldn't we had people or women should be allowed to go on covert, none -- uncovered. not our business. they don't have school shootings and fentanyl overdoses and they don't want to hear about that stuff for us at our policy has served us well. it is not our business the way they organize and run the country and we should not attempt to use our influence on hat.
3:56 am
as president bush and condi rice found out with their democracy nitiative. >> i think one point that we haven't delved into which is important for the topic at hand today is that we do hand and new saudi ambassador in ashington. it comes in the context of having very disruptive event affect their relationship which was the murder of jamaal kush oki. as someone who spent eight years living in saudi arabia i am optimistic that the new ambassador had the opportunity
3:57 am
to host an event last year, very rticulate, she was big being about youth development and saudi arabia, i think she has ome with good advice on how to turn the rhetoric that we saw in the post -- following the cut shoji murder, what we will see from her is an understanding that the u.s. does the spec other partners like saudi arabia y certain kinds of behaviors that was not understood previously. i think we will see a toning down of the rhetoric that we have seen. and the opportunities for diplomats, in saudi arabia, they have very good diplomats who
3:58 am
have served here. it is important to keep in mind that the relationship does need to be repaired to a certain extent. i think we are fortunate to have a new ambassador who are think has come well prepared and with the right temperament to help repair that relationship. i wanted to make sure that point was made in addition to all of the policy discussion that we have had. i think the diplomat to government relationship needs to be improved and i am optimistic that with the arrival of the new ambassador we will see improver -- improvement in that elationship. i wanted to make sure that point was made. i think the government's relationship needs to be improved. and i'm optimistic that it would e arrival of the new ambassador, we're going to see improvement in that relationship. >> i'm going to take the counterview here. it's not about the u.s. dictating to other countries, but this event or decisions made inside a country and we do need
3:59 am
to raise it. i don't think it is in our interest for saudi arabia to be in a group of countries that assassinate. the other governments that do that are russia and north korea. it's not in our entries. -- interest. there is a reason to raise it. what is not the business of the u.s. what takes place in other countries, then what rules are we talking about #we are having a debate here weather systems is in our interest to reinforce. should we not attempt to prevent him from dropping bombs on his own people? should we not work with other countries with mass mprisonment? this makes their countries more nstable.
4:00 am
opens the door to more malign actors because they are laying the groundwork for perpetual state instability. in terms of the united states to ake saudi arabia change -- that's not what we are talking about. but where changes already happening and there are areas of cooperation and we can find ways to partner. is there any way for us to make the saudis better and yemen. the issue, the intentionality versus capability, are the saudis intentionally intentionality versus capability. are the saudis intentionally destroying infrastructure? or is it a matter of them not knowing how to use their ammunition effectively? where you come out on that debate determines where you
4:01 am
think we can work with them. blood on ourian hands in many of the battles and military conflicts we have engaged in including iraq and afghanistan. system ofe a accountability and congressional oversight. and our military is a learning organization. is, is there leadership within saudi arabia that wants to improve the conduct of the military operations? and our methods going to shape that? and finally, we have been working for years with them to improve their operations. i think the frustration you are hearing and the crisis in the relationship here in congress is that after all of these years, it does not appear here that
4:02 am
there has been improvement. >> we have about one minute. is there anyone with a final comment? , you will find a video of this event on our website by the end of the day. if you want to watch it. you can find a transcript in the next issue of the journal at the end of september. and, i think it will be on the c-span archives as well see you can revisit this discussion and i am sure we will too. thank you to the panel and thank you to everyone for coming. [applause]
4:03 am
robert mueller testifies to congress on wednesday about possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by president trump and russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. our live coverage starts at 8:30 a.m. eastern on c-span3, online at c-span.org or listen free wherever you are on the free c-span radio app. audio" iner reporter the search box on the top of the page. kyle cheney is congress reporter for politico and he joins us for a preview of next week's hearings of special

18 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on