tv Cross Talk RT May 13, 2013 12:29am-1:00am EDT
celebration just doesn't matter now with your mobile device you can watch your t.v. anytime anywhere. below and welcome to cross talk we're all things considered i'm peter lavelle manufacturing consent for determining a foreign policy consensus in washington in the halls of power in western capitals drive foreign policy decisions particularly when it comes to iran israel and syria is public opinion constructed to fit the interests of special groups and lobbies and is american foreign policy in the country's own interest.
to cross-talk american foreign policy i'm joined by my guests in washington judith kipper she is director of middle east programs at the institute of world affairs and we also have flynt leverett he is a professor at penn state and author of the new book going to to run why the u.s. must come to terms with the islamic republic of around there's just the two of us and myself could cross talk rules in effect that means you can jump in anytime you want and i really encourage it flipped if i can go to you first what drives american foreign policy towards iran very simple question maybe a complicated answer i think that what really drives american foreign policy toward iran is a post cold war determination on the part of the united states to dominate the middle east to to play hegemonic role in the middle east to micromanage political outcomes in key middle eastern states so that those states strategic orientation is subordinated to us. foreign policy preferences and the middle east has
a regional order which is essentially run by the united states from that perspective the problem with the islamic republic of iran is that it won't play along with this with this kind of hedging monic ambition it said it's very open to improved relations with the united states but that has to take place on the basis of equality and american acceptance of the islamic republic that's not the washington agenda for the middle east and it drives this very hostile posture toward toward iran judith agree or disagree with what we just heard please. i partially agree and partially disagree i think that what drives american policy in iran remains the fact that the arabian revolution was hostile to the united states we lost a key ally it was very costly to the united states and the revolution like so many
revolutions turned out to be quite brutal. the memory the american embassy hostage is that were taken is still very fresh in our minds so i think that that's probably one of the really major factors that shapes thinking and policy in the halls of power here in washington but right now the united states has two major problems with iran which are quite urgent the obviously the iranian nuclear program and secondly iran's assistance to the brutality in syria that is being perpetuated by the syrian regime in order to get iraq as cooperation is flowing to say we need to accept the islamic republic of iran we need to recognize that we don't like that
that iran too like any sovereign state has legitimate security concerns and we need what we negotiate with the iranians be it in the group of six or face to face or in directly or through the swiss we need to make it very clear that there's a package on the table that incremental steps will result in the incremental removing of saying shin's and. capacity to be part of the international community ok so flynt around has to be a good boy and everything will be fine. i think that is very much an agenda you know on both of the. fair fair enough but i think on both of the issues that judith raise though if you look at the american position on the nuclear issue the nuclear issue could be solved diplomatically in
a matter of weeks if the united states would recognize iran right to enrich uranium under international safeguards what the but but that would mean the united states was accepting the islamic republic as a legitimate political entity with legitimate national interests and the united states isn't prepared to do that instead it keeps insisting that iran has to surrender that right for diplomatic progress to be possible if you look at the position on syria you know there's been the meeting between secretary kerry and foreign minister lavrov in moscow and people are looking toward the possibility of a conference but you know already the planning for this is getting balled up because the russians quite reasonably think if you're going to have a conference on iran you need all of the relevant and important players there which
means you need iran there and the united states is already bulking at having iran take part in a conference on syria that is just not diplomatically serious it's privileging this ambition to have gemini in the middle east over really serious diplomacy judith would you like to reply to that. well i think that a good part of that is correct but. the problem of iran is very very complicated it hasn't cruise huge impact on the entire region and i think that the carry law for a meeting was a good start but it's not enough a conference raises expectations and doesn't usually accomplish very months very much it may not hurt anything but i'm not sure it's going to help in the end i think that. the us russian cooperation and coming to
a consensus between the two powers on what needs to be done yet to shoot on should be there and should shouldn't be at the table during this conference should when. all the party all the party should be at the table but all the parties will posture all the parties have said it genda and so far we haven't seen any willingness on the side of any party to move toward political solution so the u.s. and russia needs to move in very powerful ways to be more persuasive and include the european community the arabs and others of course iran in moving toward a joint position that is held by both moscow and washington because that will be a very very powerful way to approach the problem but i don't think that's going to happen i don't think iran is going to be invited. you know i think i think the u.s.
is really digging its heels on this which which means if you go ahead with the conference it's going to be a sham it's going to be the charade and i think i would differ a bit with judith in that i think that you know russia iran china the players that are usually associated in common parlance as in in some ways be being supportive of the syrian government i mean if you look at their position and even the position of the syrian government they have been open to a political process to having a dialogue with the opposition aimed at some sort of political settlement which would produce a different kind of political order in syria but it's the opposition elements backed by the united states which have been sisted not just on preconditions but in effect on pretty results from a meeting where they have to have
a front commitment that assad is going to step down before this process even gets going that's not a serious diplomatic position you know if you want to stop violence in syria you have to get all parties to the table you can't have these kinds of absurd preconditions and you have to get down to the business of diplomacy i think russia frankly china iran have been trying harder to do that trying the harder to get that kind of process off the ground than the united states has been because to do it for the united states to do this means it's it's acknowledging it can't just dictate outcomes in this part of the world it actually has. other party's interests as to accommodate on the ground reality judith jump in go ahead judith. ya i have to disagree with with what said though i have great admiration for his views on
on iran i think that the united states right now for a lot of different reasons that we don't need to get into here doesn't really have a middle east policy so this notion that we want to patrol things and guide all the internal affairs of all the countries i think is silly and it's nonsense we can't do it we know we can't on the part of china russia and iran. they may make pronouncements from time to time but there is absolutely no evidence that any of those powers are willing to put pressure on the brutality of the. brutality of the rebels what about the brutality of the rebels can the u.s. let me you. know i know no one is the government still though it's not governing all of its territory there is
a ragtag different groups of people and let's remember two years ago when this started more than two years the syrian people went to the streets peacefully it was the government that began to shoot and that can never be forgotten the government has killed most of the seventy thousand people who have been killed so the violence and the western powers have chosen iran and western powers have chosen the side in giving them in training correct. these are islamic groups i think it is not only important point i mean i going to say the arab world has most in the arab world most of the world except for iraq and china and russia have had to give it up on our side he is not able to govern his country and he has to go because he also wrote an. adequate no i don't think so this
syrians are terry had a part but the outside world is doing nothing to help. a lot of trouble in the outside world in medicare i have to jump in here there i apologize i have to jump in here we're going to go to a short break and after that short break we'll continue our discussion on american foreign policy in the middle east day with our do. you believe these. technology innovations all the developments around russia we've got the future or covered. you know sometimes you see a story and it seems so you think you understand it and then you glimpse something
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ok flinty got a bit heated in the first half of the program where you want to pick up go ahead. yes i think that you know when you when you look at the situation in syria i mean it's obvious that that many many and it's and people have been killed and that is that is a profound tragedy but i think that the narrative in the west that this was basically just a peaceful protest by syrians that was responded to brutally and these people took all of this violence and till you know a year later eighteen months later they had to start responding by only i just i don't think that's really the way things played out i think from very early on violence was within. grasp breaking out that yes and that and that i
think that outside power others were pouring money and weapons into syria from a very early point the agenda was not to bring democracy to syrians i don't think the saudis care about that frankly i don't think the united states cares all that much about about that the agenda was to topple asada as a way of hurting iran's regional position ok seventy thousand dead syrians later this project has not worked you know that was the agenda and it has been a strategic failure and now now countries like the united states face a choice they can either you know except that this project of toppling asada hurt iran has failed and they can get serious about a diplomatic process that might produce a political settlement and end violence or if they keep doing this if they keep supporting the opposition we're going to be looking at literally years years of continued violence and who knows how many more tens of thousands of dead syrians
that is that is the choice ok that's an interesting scenario when you think about what we just heard. it's interesting but i'm sorry to say it's really wrong i mean i think flint does really so iran centric these days that the fact that the syrian people took to the streets says they didn't need to yemen tunisia and elsewhere in a peaceful way to to make change in the country and at the beginning they didn't ask for us to go it's only much later after the government was so brutal syria is syria we have to think about the country of syria twenty five percent and they're displaced or refugees the humanitarian problem is really really catastrophic it has strategic implications for the region iran's help syria is a different thing the u.s.
certainly didn't start this didn't support the rebels in order to get rid of assad it all happened by itself and in the end outside powers can meddle but they can't really do very much internally which is why the u.s. but one russia forty. saudi that continues to support. how do you know that retains the support of about half of syrian society what about them. judith go ahead that's what you think that's what you think but that's not what you what we know we don't know a lot of people worked for the bureaucracy a lot of people are in the intelligence the army is totally practically of the verge of collapse the brothers fourth division of course they have to be loyal to the regime because their paychecks their lives and the future of their
families depend on it i don't think there's any way now to manage here who is really in support of this brutal dictatorial regime which has really hampered syria's development and growth we have no way to know that. we past a certain point now because you know it seemed realistic a year ago to have negotiations with the folks on the ground don't want to negotiate now not the people that the saudis are supporting for example. yes and as long as the opposition groups have outside supporters like the saudis like the united states who are and it sends them on they have absolutely no incentive to face political reality and to some kind of negotiating process i mean you're absolutely right about that they don't have an interest in doing that because they're outsiders who will help them keep the violence rolling
along indefinitely. as one puts talk about the role of israel know that a lot ok go ahead judith you want to reply that's the point of the program let me just say a word here i don't know the last time that that flight and sat with syrian syrians i happened to be with a group of people who are very active in the opposition who are in touch with everybody there and you know nobody is risking their life because they are being egged on by the united states or by saudi arabia or anybody else they have nothing they're being killed as a very good piece in the new yorker this week by dexter filkins who just returned helicopter gunships are killing them left and right and they have absolutely no protection not to fight for the you don't you think what are the saudi arabia or anybody who don't you think one of the problems is when you say the opposition who are the opposition who are in the opposition if you want to mention. if you want to
mention mainstream media and n.p.r. had this very interesting article about. saudi jihadi it's going there ok being paid to giving tickets ok how do you feel about that is that the opposition you're talking about there are many many syrian groups that are that are fighting and there are also now because it's gone on so long a lot of foreigners from mainly from the region but also from europe we have seen yes yes that are coming there to. work with the opposition if we could if russia had not had not. said it would veto a un resolution two years ago maybe we would have made it all russia it's all russia is all this isn't it no member if you remember libya libya you member may have finished go right ahead maybe a maybe a maybe if the u.s. had had taken the steps that were absolutely necessary when the violence started in
the regime was using aircraft to have a no fly zone if probably would have been no right now so i think all sides external powers that have a new influence there have made strategic mistakes which have been deadly for the for the syrians you know flint i think i've always wanted to. go always been a very curious when the americans say someone has to go and it's usually a strategic mistake go right ahead. no i absolutely agree with that and you know your reference to libya is very important i mean the russian and chinese veto it was at the u.n. come against the backdrop of both russia and china having let the libya resolution go through in march the libya resolution which authorized the use of force to protect civilian populations on humanitarian grounds but which the united states
and others then turned into basically a regime change campaign with nato aircraft flying missions where they're out to kill gadhafi and you know from a russian perspective from a chinese perspective i think from a decent international legal perspective that is and it does say the least an extremely problematic scenario and russia and china were not about to let this scenario repeat itself in syria and you know as far as you know the united states doing. what was necessary early on i mean there is this small matter of sovereignty there is this small matter of international law that says you only get to use force when the security council authorizes or under a fairly narrow interpretation of self-defense in the un charter the united states has no right it may have a hedge monic parag it ever think it does but it has no right to impose no fly
zones over sovereign states in order to get rid of a leader that it doesn't like ok judith when you want to reply to that. first of all of no fly zone wouldn't that be an international effort secondly it wasn't to get it would not have been intended to get rid of the leader it would have been intended to protect the syrian population seventy thousand of whom are now dead we don't know how many are wounded and maimed and twenty five percent of the country's displaced or internally or are refugees so it would no fly zone would have stopped the violence and i believe there might have been a chance for negotiation yes i know that russia and i know all of the russian policy makers on the middle east they are absolutely allergic upset worried that the west will again take use nato
as an instrument in syria and this is i think the main reason for russia's reluctance to work positively the and this conflict because of the libyan experience what russia has been for now i'd like to point out the. russians were. a magic solution for two years the only major country going to go right how how why don't they say it now saying negotiation to go all the way back to geneva last year best example go ahead flynt yeah yeah i think there's a lot of talk no question the matter is the i would i would i would challenge judith to find one case in which the united states applied military force ostensibly for the protection of civilian populations in which part of its agenda was not also regime change in that country i mean if you look at the balkans
if you look at iraq if you look at what we did in libya if we look at what we say we want to do in syria and every one of those cases you know the argument for you may. in a tarion intervention is an extract that we bound up with the argument for coercive regime change and you know frankly i think i think russia and china are eminently justified in and saying they're not playing june if we have run out of time and judith won't have time to reply we have run out of time i'm very sorry many thanks to my guests today in washington and thanks to our viewers for watching us here at r.t.c. you next time and remember crosstalk pools. please .
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