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tv   [untitled]    May 30, 2012 8:30pm-9:00pm EDT

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you can also follow me on twitter at abby martin and check us out tomorrow have a good night. you know sometimes you see a story and it seems so for langley you think you understand it and then you glimpse something else you hear or see some other part of it and realized everything you thought you knew you don't know i'm tom harpur welcome to the big picture. more news today violence is once again flared up. these are the images the world has been seeing from the streets of canada. giant corporations are old today.
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and. lo and welcome to cross talk i'm beautiful about syria as many wars and the aftermath of an alleged massacre of civilians the u.s. military is warning they continue to try cities in syria could make military intervention more likely is announced like an overt military intervention now only a matter of time and if this is the case what kind of syria could come into being after regime change. to cross-talk syria's continued bloodshed i'm joined by samara abby in washington
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he is a government relations manager for foreign policy at the arab american institute in london we have mark ohman he is a modern history lecturer at the university of oxford and in dubai we crossed this in in the again he is a visiting scholar at the carnegie endowment all right gentlemen crosstalk rules in effect that means you can jump in anytime you want mark if i go to you first in london we have syrian diplomats being expelled from western capitals we had this alleged massacre maybe it really was a massacre a lot of people died how we did they died we're not really sure ok we'll talk about that later in the program are we closer and closer now to a military intervention to overthrow the regime in damascus. well here we're getting closer to it yes the great question is what kind of military intervention will it be an air intervention as we saw in libya which took after all six months to overthrow gadhafi in another two months to see him killed or grounded which is a much more difficult operation to imagine and also we have to ask ourselves is it
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really just a political intervention to change the regime or is it supposed to be an intervention to make life better for the people on the ground supposed to be humanitarian and moral case or is it a case of real politik summer where do you come in on this because you know a lot of people don't like the regime in damascus but then a lot of people say it's complicated i really find that in a dark way in a black humor way you know it's complicated ok but the intent is to overthrow this regime ok it's just how you do it isn't it yeah i mean i don't think there's any question the syrian regime has lost a lot of legitimacy on the ground and certainly almost always legitimacy in the international arena the problem is that the opposition hasn't necessarily built up its legitimacy to match that and so what we're in i think is a very difficult and yes complicated place where military intervention appears to be an increasing probability and it certainly growing in policy circles here in d.c. but the question is who to arm and with what and with what result no one seems to
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have a satisfactory answer for that more than even the policy makers out here are now talking about vetting the opposition to find members the opposition that are more palatable to u.s. interests i don't think that's something that's necessarily a feasible outcome it's certainly nothing that the u.s. has done well but i mean i can say with you in washington mean. the policy circles in the united states and maybe western capitals decide who to vote who they're going to support in a civil war i mean this is fueling the civil war this is fueling violence ok there's violence on all sides ok so i mean is the united states going to finally get lucky and back the right guy. the serendipity that i mean. probably not i mean we certainly don't have a very good track record i mean it's a difficult position for us to be in and i don't think it's necessarily a question of either or in terms of real politic or humanitarian intervention i think you know policymakers do to some extent very much care about the people of syria and obviously they have their own interests as well but you know if you look at our track record of supporting insurgencies against incumbent regimes we're
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pretty much we pretty much have zero victories in that i mean the only successful example i can think of in terms of actually overthrowing the regime would probably be. in afghanistan and that didn't turn out exactly turn out exactly the way it's a sit in if i can go to you in dubai i mean how close do you think we are to a military invention intervention because western media is following the right the same tune that we heard with the invasion of iraq i mean it's a step by step drumbeat towards war what's the tipping point for you if there is a tipping point. well i don't think there is a tipping point as such but definitely while we're seeing is a growing pressure for in our side intervention obviously the western press but also the population at large cannot remain insensitive to the images that they see on television the images of massacres of children being massacred and so on so definitely the pressure is building however there is still no answer as to
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what type of intervention the we're talking about and to what end. when we look back a few weeks ago all there were actually a number of different scenarios one of them was to establish safe haven zones within syria not so much as a way of direct intervention to oust the regime. we're not talking about the iraq type or even the libya type scenario but a more limited intervention that would allow the syrian opposition to group together to gather strength and then to topple the regime itself i think there will be the way forward if the international community at some point decides that an intervention is unavoidable marketing about you in line and what kind of legitimacy does the opposition or oppositions have in syria. who all are doing this is that this is a big question isn't it we talk as though there's a sort of fight between two sides
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a dictator and democrats but there are several sides and there are big tensions amongst the people who don't like assad there are some people who probably are genuinely democratic and over the bath this regime but there are then groups who for instance from the will of the muslim brotherhood with a much more militant arm tradition than in egypt itself who probably wish to overthrow the regime establish a theocratic regime after all we have at the moment situation the king of saudi arabia is one of the big supporters and funders of opposition in syria and so tom lehrer said that when kissinger got the nobel peace prize satire died but when the king of saudi arabia becomes the advocate of human rights and democracy has really come back to life it's come back to life in a rather grotesque form and so i think one of the things we have to face is we often in the outside world talk about it as a human rights issue as black and white but it's also a religious civil war to a great extent if we look at it inside syria. the whites who are the group from which president assad families can take one side so he's taken over but also
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christians armenians but subgroups like the kurds many people i think in the west thought kurds wouldn't like the syrian regime with they overlooked but the kurds saw the hard line syrian sunni's as people who are as hostile to them as for instance saddam hussein had been in iraq who had been tensions going back before all this grew up and i think one of the big problems with the western media discussions is that it's all presented as instant response to shock horror which may indeed be a horrific situation that's come to light but nonetheless there's very little understanding that there are multi-layered conflicting parties here people who have their own agendas and agendas which may not necessarily be any nicer than what the westerners because of a long tradition of disliking the serbs family regime i've come to think of as the bad guy let's remember not just to afghanistan but also. iraq and so on the irony in iraq is the americans overthrew saddam hussein but ultimately elections there
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produce a regime that is actually one of the few regimes in the arab world friendly to damascus after all the prime minister of iraq was saved from saddam hussein's tender mercies by assad spoke of the giving him a future. if i can ask if mark brings up a really good point why can't we accept it's a civil war and if it's civil war why is the west choosing a side ok this just makes the war worse longer bloodier more violent. yeah i mean i think to some extent there is an acknowledgment of syria as a civil war the question is why why does d.c. feel like it has to not only back a certain party of the opposition and i should clarify a statement i made earlier i do think the opposition as a whole has legitimacy you know as an anti said movement the problem is certain aspects of the opposition particularly aspects that have gained western recognition and the problem is d.c.'s need to legitimize a specific group within that subset and specifically the armed component of that subset and there's a. growing unanimity around the idea that the only solution to this conflict is
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a military one. only way that assad regime can be toppled is through military strength and i think that's a egregious mistake i mean military strength is one of said regimes few strengths right it's the only thing that it's devoted a significant amount of resources and attention to right there said regime has many weaknesses that that the international community should be exploiting right the fact that it has no international legitimacy the fact that it has atrocious human rights records but instead of focusing on those things instead of focusing on a nonviolent negotiated solution of this we feel like we have to push it further and further into the civil war basically cross our fingers that. fingers again so when and if i go back to you in dubai i mean this is crossing your fingers again i mean we will talk about this in a segment of the about what what is after assad if that's what that's the game plan i mean again who are these people well. certainly i just want to go
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back to. to an issue where is the west really choosing the actors that they want to support i think not at the end of the day when you look at what the strategy has been on the countries that have been heavily involved in the syrian crisis is essentially to build a representative. coalition within the syrian opposition saw the syrian national council on the one hand which would have the ability to provide the political framework for the free syrian army but at the end of the day there were efforts to build up the syrian national council so that it would represent the wide diversity of the syrian population and it would not be all new managed by the sudanese but also it would have. in it it would have representatives from the merchant class from the minorities and so on and also from the kurds now that
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certainly was the object of of the international community however what we see today is that indeed the syrian opposition itself is fragmented and therefore that is that is really the right was difficult. to reform issue if we go to the brain here mark i mean so the united states was involved in nation building in afghanistan now it involved in political structure building in syria. you know or at least shall we say it needs first of all to destroy before it can build up a lot of the american ear const talk about creative destruction of our trade states the destructive element they've been better at than the creation or certainly than the restoration and of course one of the problems you have is if you have external intervention will you give legitimacy to the people use want to have in power will that make them seem to be foreign pockets because there's a question of american influence but also we have the elephant in the room if you like is a small state to the southwest of the israel what does israel want what is israel's
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role. in the may even be i think a bit of a gap between many israelis fears of change in syria and i'm going to jump in here a to go to was short break and after that your break will continue our discussion on syrian state.
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if you. still. want to. go back to ground stop i'm going to go to mind you were talking about the
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crisis in syria. so if i go back to i mean everyone's talking about why the peace plan kofi annan the peace plan is not working and i would posit it's because the opposition doesn't want to lay down its arms either ok you know you like or dislike the assad regime it is a recognized state in the international community and it has a right to defend itself ok so if everybody lays down their arms this is why it's not working may end and these opposition groups are being funded getting all kinds of aid maybe even lethal way aid i mean come on i mean this is why the peace plan doesn't work. well i mean i don't think there's any question that the assad regime itself bears the primary responsibility for the failure of the unarmed plant they've been absolutely atrocious in their conduct in syria specially this past week and that has been an utter tragedy but i don't think it's a secret that western policy makers in d.c. in particular have just been waiting on their hands for the anon plan to fail and
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they've never really supported it wholeheartedly you know there's always been an expectation that once it fails ok then we'll put in our real ideas into action there's been a lot of talk about establishing a yemen style model where we can you know put a vice president or somebody else to take over us that's place and so i don't think there's been a real international commitment to making me an unplanned work i think that's a real tragedy because over time even syria's allies have slowly shifted their discourse towards syria if you look at the way that russia has talked about syria the way the while has talked about syria it's changing and they're growing increasingly critical of the assad regime as they should and that's an amazing opportunity to capitalize on that to build an international consensus against the syrian regime to kind of push forward some kind of you know transition into a mode of mark here mark you know i mean you're looking at a broader picture here and you can agree or disagree with what summer just said in washington d.c. but it sounds like the western neo colonial project is still very much alive in the greater middle east in arab lands why the united states and its allies should
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determine what kind of regime should be in damascus i mean that is just it's just neocolonialism all over again and i'm afraid it's also you see it's focused laser like on one country to time and this is the context maybe has been law could survive a regime change in syria but not one brought about by u.s. led military intervention because hezbollah works out what's going to happen to it next iran won't like that so you are actually intervening to throw up a regional war but what happened in libya we topple gadhafi but would you say the surrounding states like mali have been maybe more or less stable is libya roti stable we've tended to have elites that say the problem is a specific regime in a particular country. and they throw a big stone into the pond and the ripples are very destabilizing i spent much of my year in turkey and there are lots of other whites in turkey including the turkish military who wonder if there is an intervention by nato with turkey as the leader and will it also be a religious war against the minority to which they belong and so there's
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a huge danger of regional spillover of a mega lebanon if you like of course you since this is part of the argument against intervention but i think many of the intervenors really don't think through what are the linkages to the surrounding states and as i say few minutes ago israel itself also has to ask would it benefit from having a as it were populist sunni fundamentalist regime in damascus that might have a dynamic base to it or is it not from the point of israel better off to have a weak assad who has no capacity to attack israel then if i go to a concert israelis aren't on the same ok if i go back to dubai here i mean one of the interesting things if we look at libya it's people that use force and they're not having political power here so this is something that's going to be looked at in syria if you have a rebel group that toppled the regime with western help and things like that they're going to be the ones that say we won this and we're going to have to listen to them again who do we really know who they are other than they can use force well certainly we know some of the people who are involved the had of the free syrian
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army is in turkey has been all stood by turkey near the syrian border the syrian national council has its own representatives. within but more so also outside of syria the issue is not whether we know all the people who the people are the issue is whether the people that we know are they strong enough to build a coalition that would be representative of the whole of syrian society because that's really key if there is going to be a successful internal opposition it has to give call for. to all the syrians that the area after assad the post assad era will not be like iraq. will not be like iraq it will be a much more stable place and there is going to be light at the end of the tunnel and there is going to be a managed transition for that or all of the constitution says that today support
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assad for the lack of a better alternative just because their fear of the future. the way to entangle that is really to build that sort of coalition and i think that's really that remains the secret to how we go about challenging assad's grip to power ok sam what do you think about that i mean it sounds kind of academic to me and i think would be nice if that happened what are the chances of something like that happening in syria again you know we have sectarianism that a lot of people in the west don't want to talk about because they don't understand it ok as mark pointed out you know they look to have a dictator and they have an opposition but it's far more complicated than that. it is far more complicated than that and i think that blaming the entire conflict on sectarian terms or framing it in sectarian terms is drastically oversimplifying a very very complex conflict but i don't think that. that kind of managed transition you know the idea that. you know the u.s. or western governments proclaiming the syrian national council to be the legitimate
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representative of the syrian people when even the syrian people are deeply divided over the legitimacy of the s.n.c. right there are a number of other groups there's s.r.c. there's the n.c.c. there are a number of individuals that have broken with the n.c.c. or even resigned from the n.c.c. recent sorry from the s.r.c. recently and so it's it's not necessarily a given that the s.n.c. maintains the legitimacy that it needs to lead the opposition and it's not it's not clear that the s.n.c. is even technically leading the opposition on the ground i mean it is primarily an exile organization so in terms of how that plays out on the ground and whether that group actually has legitimacy to move the uprising forward whether the s.n.c. is responsible for the mass protests or even the violent conflict that that's currently going on in syria that's unlikely at best and so even if it maintains that momentum even if the u.s. provides it with arms and weapons and things that doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to develop the legitimacy that it needs to lead you know market if i can give you a choice and two options for the future of syria partition or the lebanese ation
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and i'm thinking about the civil war in lebanon which one would you pick right now . well i'm afraid you probably can't have partition without globalization and there they are afraid so grisly sides of the same coin i think the basic problem of the tragedy of the situation is something you mentioned earlier once you get violence going even if there was a large scale popular desire for change it's the men with guns who will say we did the fighting not the not the people come in the streets to cheer when they won and we see that also in libya don't we the the people who came down from his in time still control the airport they have the guns and i think this is now the great tragedy it's a fight and if you intervene from our side you take as you were some moral responsibility and what we failed to do in libya was to protect the innocent civilians of the losing side we didn't show any concern about the prisoners and the people who were identified as gadhafi tribal supporters and or black africans i feel the same sort of thing on perhaps much of the larger more brutal could happen
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in syria there's a great deal of. anger resentment into communal violence not all that sectarian but there are all sorts of calls to be settled and by for instance the gadhafi killed by having the international to contribute more indict him and his sons we really said to assad and his brothers and cousins that there's nowhere to run to you have to fight to the end so what do you think about that every because you know if we have a western intervention military intervention what kind of legitimacy with the opposition have in syria considering it such a divided country. well again we go back to what sort of western intervention we're talking about here the scenarios that were at least talked about before do you and security council vote was not the iraq type scenario it was essentially limited western intervention setting up safe haven zones setting out nor fly zones which would allow the internal opposition to build to gather strength and to
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really be able to reach the potential to topple the assad regime we know that in any case whatever the international community does it's going to be a long protracted tragic and possibly. bloody future so there is no reason or everybody's aware that this is going to be a very difficult task but at the end of the day if there is going to be an intervention i would tend to think they will be along those lines it's not that we're not going to see a rerun of iraq or not not even a rerun of libya ok a summary anyway it is a rerun of iraq go ahead tomorrow it's a rerun of iraq it's a rerun of iraq post original goal for we did establish you know no fly zones humanitarian corridors a kind of thing that are nowhere near as benign as they celebrate the involvement of the military campaigns and you're going on board with mark you want to jump in there. no i think i think that's it and we rock is
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a terrible example the only thing i would say is who knows the creative destruction us in washington may come up with an even newer more disastrous unique form of chaos worse even than if the syrians or iraqis were left to himself a summary want to jump in i mean that makes the question about the type of intervention almost moved the idea that the us is involving itself militarily has a number of unintended consequences the most important of which is that it basically establishes as legitimate the armed struggle against the syrian regime which is frankly a struggle that they're losing their alternatives to struggle against the syrian regime there are other ways to bring it down and the more we focus on the idea that you know the free syrian army has the capability even if it's armed by saudi arabia or qatar or the united states has ability to take on the syrian army and win is you know at best going to be a very long very bloody scenario and at worst just you know a perpetual civil war ok mark i'm going to you know we're going to last or ideas i'm going to get what i was sure that was around here just to tell you last word
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from mark here how much is this have to do with iran mark. iran is is the other elephant in the room over the horizon and iran has been offered and i still own nuclear. programs if it dropped syria it hasn't brought syria to say the tension with iran is coming back and so this whole world from lebanon from syria through iraq to iran could block in our faces making what we've been talking about so far seem to have very small problem scenario ok well i'll give you the last last word of the program and by go ahead. yes i mean we have to be clear we're not talking about one scenario versus the other at the end of the day what we are going to see is building up the political pressure combine with military pressure now what the outcome of that will be you know what i mean we've run out of time gentlemen thank you very much and i can guarantee you we'll be doing another program on this on crossfire many thanks to my guest today in washington london and in dubai and thanks to our viewers for watching us here r.t.
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