tv Inside Story Al Jazeera March 25, 2016 2:00am-2:31am EDT
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♪ ♪ >> we're rapidly approaching five years of civil war in syria. hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost many of them innocent women and children. while i.s.i.l. and other rebel groups undoubtedly committed war crimes, syria has blood on its hands as well. vladimir putin pulling some russian jets out of the region, are we turning a tide on the war torn country? it's the "inside story." >> welcome to "inside story." i'm sheila macvicar in for ray suarez. today forces loyal to syrian president bashar al-assad
entered palmyra, which has been under full i.s.i.l. control for almost a year now. omar al saleh is there, near the syrian border. >> syrian where officials say syrian officials are near, they describe the situation as very tense and the fightings is fears. fierce. people are called to leave palmyra. earlier in the month they start he the campaign to regain palmyra which fell to i.s.i.l. last year. the importance of palmyra, aside from the historical aspect and the archaeological side, to the north is raqqa and that's a i.s.i.l. strong hold. to the east is are deir ez zor,
so the road between them, is tremendous key for i.s.i.l. . >> the move the retake palmyra comes days after ar russia pulled its forces out of syria. u.n. envoy says he's aiming at restarting peace talks next month. but the biggest idea is a political transition from the assad regime to a diplomatically based government. james bays from geneva. >> reporter: these talks have been underway for element two weeks and the key issue, no progress at all, the syrian government has not properly engaged the opposition says on that issue. now u.n. special envoy will announce a next date for these talks.
we're told it's likely to be the 9th or 10th of april. that puts the syrian government under pressure because they wanted to delay the start of these talks until after parliamentary elections held by the syrian regime. also putting them under pressure i think is this paper that staffan de mistura is giving oboth sides. interesting the title of the paper, essential solutio positions to diplomatic solutions in syria. what's different is right at the center of what he's talking about is what's been agreed to by the international community, the u.n. security council, the idea that a transitional government leaving syria after 18 months to free and fair elections and that's the issue that the syrian government hasn't engaged in over the last two weeks. >> pressure has been mounting on president obama to take a more aggressive approach in syria since war began in 2011.
but with russia pulling back a new hope for peace talks, are we finally turning tide? joining me, steven hideeman, rhonda swim, track 2 middle east institute, and kurt volker, state. thank you all for being with me. the place i'd like to open this up and begin to discuss is listen ing to what james bays has said in geneva what represents progress there ambassador? >> honestly you're not going to see any progress in geneva any time soon as i look at this. the tide that has turned is that with russian support, assad has gone from being ton defensive to being on the offensive. and able to retake territory to push back against moderate rebels and also now a little bit also pushing back against i.s.i.s. he is not about to negotiate his
way out ofen power in syria. things continue to develop on the ground. >> when you sa say develop on the ground ron da how do you say notions of development on the ground? >> what i look at is assad is trying to do fait accomplis. plit chiz he's going to -- politically he's going to hold elections next month, nobody ask pressure him to do otherwise. and militarily, we just heard from your correspondent what he's trying to do with recapture of palmyra, to present himself to the international community, especially to the europeans who are becoming more open to the idea of partnering with assad, outside the brussels attacks and the growing jihadi threat in europe, trying to prevent
himself to them as a reliable partner. >> steven we have the ceasefire on the ground, just about a month, later on this week it will be a month. how did that ceasefire, clearly there is a ceasefire but excluded from the ceasefire is the el nusra and i.s.i.l. how is the ceasefire holding in the rest of the country? >> other than the areas that have been held out of the ceasefire, we have be seen the knowledge ceasing of the barrel bombs, from the syrian government and access for humanitarian assistance, including to some of the areas that have been under siege for very, very long periods of time. but there are some significant
gaps of coverage even in some areas where the ceasefire is supposed to be holding and where humanitarian aid is supposed to be arriving. we know there are significant lags and delays of access. we know that civilians are being rerouted by the regime for its own purposes. while we see progress i think we have to be very modest on how we assess that progress. it is the case that the scope of compliance with the ceasefire i think exceeds some initial very low expectations. but we need to be aware that there are still some problems that need very, very urgent attention. >> you know there's another diplomatic initiative taking place today. secretary of state kerry flew omoscow where he met this morning with vladimir putin. and they both made the usual kinds of welcoming polite noises that they make on those occasions. but there was a statement from president putin that took my quite by surprise and it was at the conclusion of the remarks.
and he turned okerry and he said, "we are aware that the groundwork we have on syria has only been possible thanks to the supreme political leadership of the u.s. specifically the position of president obama." what was he talking about? >> he's just trying to butter up john kerry and make him think that putin is on his side. all there is to it. putin doesn't say things because they are true. he says them to influence people. >> i think he also understands that president obama is under significant pressure to change course in syria. i.s.i.s. just launched an effective attack in brussels. we've seen that the regime is not behaving the way the russians might like in geneva. there are a number of factors that are pressuring president obama to take a different course on syria. and i think president putin understands at a president obama
has by and large been a fairly good partner for russia in syria. he's been far more conciliatory i think than russians had anticipated. and so anything that president putin can do to reassure peum no president obama not to change course works to russia's advantage. >> rhonda. >> the visit of deputy crown prince of united arab emirates, the crowns print smeet meet -- meeting with putin, the united states can be a significant player but also the regional players, saudi arabia, qatar, turkey. so the visit 50 deputy crown prince can also -- have it by the deputy crown prince can also create some groundwork for new
rapprochement, for russia's support ever assad and escalation in syria recently. we have to wait and see what is going to transpire out of these talks. what is the message that mr. kerry is going to carry from his be conversation with mr. putin. so far, the outcome of the conversation between mr. kerry and mr. lavrov, not much has transpired so far about what moscow and mr. putin, specifically, he is the plain decision maker, whether they are going to push forward with some pressure on assad to where negotiate seriously about political transition. >> are we turning the tide in syria? stay with up. it's "inside story." >> al jazeera america - proud of telling your stories. >> i wanted to dance, and eventually i started leaving the gangs in the street alone. >> we're pushing the envelope with out science every day,
>> welcome back to "inside story." we're talking about the situation unfolding in syria and the possibility of peace talks leading to permanent ceasefire. i'm talking to rhonda swim and kurt voal kerr. there was a surprising move by the russians to draw down some of their air force sent into syria and participating in a bombing campaign throughout syria. why did the russians do that, it
took everybody by surprise, we're not expecting putin the do this. >> we don't know what that means just because they said it, we don't know what they mean in practice. they wanted to bolster the assad regime, the assad regime was on its heels. they wanted to turn that around, get momentum on the ground, they did that. they wanted to protect russia'ss military base on syria. they're going to do all of that. it makes russia look like they have been an effective player, putin can make decisions, be active, move on, that's a great image of strength for russia in syria in the region as compared to what is united states looks like. putin, domestically, he wants to show he's strong and capability. given russia's other activities,
it is a signal to people in russia's nakerussia's neighborhe ukraine and georgia. >> what does the u.s. look in the region? >> i think our regional partners have significant questions about how much they can rely on the united states. about the credibility of the united states. i think they have looked at how president obama has managed u.s. policy towards syria with a great deal of concern. they people quite strongly that -- they feel quite strongly that great powers like the united states should not draw red lines around issues like use of chemical weapons and then not act when those lines are crossed. i think president obama is seen as having been too weak in the amount of support he's given both to regional partners and to the syrian opposition and that he has, i in effect, created a
position that has emboldened the assad regime including russia. so mience is that our partners in the region and in fact assad regime and the russians as well, look at the u.s. administration, see the extent of its disengagement and feel that they either have more scope for their own intervention, their own engagement or that they need to take steps to protect their own security that they might not need to take if the u.s. had been more involved. and so my own feeling is that the u.s. is in a position in which it is struggling to find leverage at this point to try oadvance its diplomatic objectives and finding very little on the ground that it can use to do so. >> you know, today in be buenos aires, president obama was asked about this, obama rejected that
but he added, he said -- he framed it this way. he said how do we do this in an intelligent way? how do we do this in a way that does not create blow back and a whole are lot more problems for us? and i'm wondering rhonda if you've had a thought about what that intelligence really is? >> so far the intelligent way so far has been two pronged, according the what the administration has done. is to focus on i.s.i.s. and rightly so. because i don't see, neither russia nor iran expending much effort fighting i.s.i.s. so it is the united states with the coalition at least focusing on i.s.i.s. and the second track in the u.s. administration approach is to focus on the diplomatic process, ton political negotiation. however, i agree with steve in
that there is a problem here, is that we are negotiating in -- i mean we are guiding this diplomatic process along with russia without the kind of leverage that russia has. as steve has rightly pointed out, our allies in the ream who are supporting and arming many of the rebel armed groups that are fighting assad and fighting you i.s.i.s, are concerned to say the least about where the administration is heading. but more importantly, as this administration has how many months, not too many months left in its term, many of these regional powers are now starting to position themselves for the next administration. and that's why i'm very skeptical about any kind of break through or major diplomatic process, progress before the end of this year.
what i think they're gu going to is just run the clock, hope and focus on keeping the cessation of hostilities working. increase the pace and the scope of humanitarian assistance delivery. but when it comes to the real tough concession that are needed to make the political negotiations work, i think everybody is going to be positioning for next u.s. administration and what it's going to be doing. >> are we turning the tide in syria? >> pushing the boundaries of science. >> we are on the tipping point. >> we can save species. >> it's the biggest question out there. >> it's a revolutionary approach. >> we are pushing the boundaries. >> techknow is going to blow your mind. >> our experts go inside the innovations, impacting you. >> this is the first time anybody's done this. >> i really feel my life changing. >> techknow, where technology meets humanity.
>> after nearly five years of bloodshed is there a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel in syria? i'm speaking with steven hideman, rhonda swim, and ambassador kurt volker as a former u.s. ambassador to nato, also former deputy secretary of state. what is the answer to the question that president obama posed today in buenos aires, how do we do this in an intelligent way? is there an answer? >> i have to say, i think president is asking that question not because he's looking for the intelligent way but because he's try to discredit the idea of more military action.
in fact i think if you are looking at what we can and should do you have to come back to the military question. there's a war going on, one side is winning, one side is losing, one side is i.s.i.s. which is terrible. how does this sort out? there will be some sort of military solution on the ground. iran, russia, hezbollah h are al in there trying to slaip what's going on. shaib what's going -- shaips the other questions. what do we do on supporting allies and communicates, what do we do about a close contact political organization, once there is a balance of forces on the ground. you have to get to the military side of the equation that's happening now. >> in those terms we reality are talking about in the way in which we have defined this, the way the u.s. has defined this about two separate conflicts. we're talking about the assad
rebel conflict and then we are talking about the i.s.i.s. conflict which is over here. and so there is this diplomatic track that's trying to deal with the assad rebel side. and then on the other side it's full blown all out let's just go to war. >> yes. it's a fallacy to see these as that disconnected. the assad regime in many ways has helped create i.s.i.s, by bombing sunni populations, they have to go with the people with the most effective guns even though they don't like i.s.i.s. we would certainly like to have these neat dividing lines where we so be be protect and assad goes away. >> in a situation that is this complex steven going forward how do you separate, is it possible to separate out those issues, is that the way we should be going? is it possible to have two tracks? >> no, i think into the ambassador is
absolutely correct on that point. comprehensive strategy that recognizes the role of the assad regime in enabling and facilitating the rise of i.s.i.s, and the continued engagement of i.s.i.s. as a key player in syria. but i also wanted to return to this question of the future. and an intelligent way forward. my concern is that it's not only our regional allies and others who are preparing for next administration, it is also the obama white house that is preparing for another administration. it isn't at this point seriously considering how do we get to this conflict, all it really cares about i think is establishing some conditions that will be able to hand off the syrian conflict in the least bad shape possible. what that means to the swhows there's a political -- white house is there's a political process in place, that levels of
violence are down and there's some sense of the humanitarian aspect of the crisis being addressed so we don't have headlines of people starving to death and we don't have tens of thousands of syrians fleeing to greece. beyond that i don't think this white house has a compelling plan how to bring this conflict to a close. so there's critical questions we are confronting about the longer term, how we get out of this, how we assist syrians getting out of this conflict that i think the white house has decided are beyond its mandate at there point. and that's going to be i think a very, very significant challenge for the incoming president to deal with. >> rhonda let me bring you into this, when you look forward to the next administration in january 2017 acknowledge what will we have seen in the intervening months even as far as refugee
flow into europe for example? >> what's happening in mosul, iraq, iraq's first strategy is no longer there, i think we need not to start thinking of i.s.i.s. as a regional problem. syria, iraq, establishing bases in libya, it has bases in yemen. so we need to start developing a comprehensive strategy for i.s.i.s. beyond syria and iraq. i think be i agree with steve, that right now, this administration is -- does not have that kind of comprehensive strategy in place and is not interested in developing one, does not have the time to develop one. i agree with him, it's going to be handing over the situation in the least bad shape possible to the next administration. for the next administration, it is a comprehensive strategy dealing with i.s.i.s, that requires not only fire power. it requires development
assistance, intelligence, better communication, it requires getting at the root causes of this phenomenon called i.s.i.s. it used to be al qaeda, now it's i.s.i.s, if we don't deal with the root causes we will have a more virulent form of extremism if we were to get rid of i.s.i.s. so -- >> ambassador volker if we look forward and it takes to the next administration for them to come in, set a plan in place, a strategy to deal with i.s.i.s, given events we have seen in paris, in brussels dmm ankara and other cities in just this very short period of time, don't it risk leaving a whole lot of landscape for i.s.i.s. to occupy? >> it does. we always make this assumption. and we can't help ourselves, that if we don't do something the rest of the world stays still. it's exactly the opposite. if we don't do something, the
rest of the world moves and does things and changes things, takes steps forward. and i think more that we waste a year and don't have a stronger effort and place to go after i.s.i.s. and deal with the syria conflict now it's going to continue to get worse and worse. and we're going to see more of the kind of terrorist attacks like we saw just the other day in belgium. >> i'd like the thank my guests, steve hideman, rhonda swim and kurt volker. ray is back tomorrow, with the controversy surrounding hillary clinton's e-mails. i'm sheila macvicar, good night.