tv Center for a New American Security Discussion on Syria - Michael Mulroy CSPAN May 2, 2019 7:58pm-8:30pm EDT
phone calls, betweens and facebook questions. and then at nine eastern on "after words," stanford university professor jennifer eberhardt offers her insights on implicit racial bias in her book, "biased." >> a lot of people talk about that it's old-fashioned ray self, but this implicit bias is something that you may not even know you have, something that you don't know is affecting how you're thinking even. and even if you, we know what the stereotypes are about various social groups, we don't always know that those stereotypes are influencing what we're doing, how we're treating someone, how we're evaluating someone. >> watch this weekend on booktv on c-span2. >> sunday night on "q&a," lincoln scholar harold holzer and best selling author amity shlaes will share their perspectives on c-span's new book "the presidents."
noted historians rank america's best and worst chief executive. sunday night at eight even on c-span's "q and a." >> next, a discussion on u.s. policy in the middle east. the center for new american security hosted the event hooking at policies related to syria, iran and rack. this and iraq. this is 30 minutes. [inaudible conversations] >> thank you, everybody, for joining us. welcome to center for american security. i run the middle east program here, can is today we're going to spend a couple hours talking about the future of the middle east. and specifically, you know, how we think about american policy
in the context of, you know, the aftermath of at least the end of the isis caliphate but, obviously, isis very much remains a factor as we saw just last week in sri lanka. and if also looking more broadly at the region and all the various challenges we face. .. ultimately for american policy in syria based on level of
commitment the united states wants to make on the level of investment the united states wants to make as well as looking at the question of how we want to and what posture we want to take toward a thought. second report to counter regular work there there is a lot of research in the past on why efforts for the united states to work together with arab partners have failed in this capacity especially in dealing with challenges posed by fellow jihadists and also challenges posed by iran is this below the high-level conventional conflict and much more lower level of asymmetric warfare question. we have an opportunity with a great panel to discuss that but before we do any of that we have an excellent keynote speaker here and we will have a bit of a chat, myself at him, nick mulroy deputy assistant secretary of defense for the middle east and
he runs ost policy in the middle east and we were talking about before how it includes everything from egypt to iran one of the most important and influential offices inside ost policy, and prickly in the u.s. government, challenging set of questions that keep the office credibly busy people who work there that can tell you from experience working very long hours from time under constant pressure and unprintable things that come in. he's a retired paramilitary officer who used to work for the cia and had a number of overseas to finance during his distinguished career and senior overseas assignment and awards include intelligence * in combination middle and the career intelligence medal national intelligence exceptional achievement medal among others. someone who knows how to work and deal with challenges that conflict region and some of the
challenges facing the middle east and is a perfect person for this position. with that welcome neck, great to have you here. let's start by asking you a question at the middle level which is to say talking about the middle east and washington seems passé these days you know everything about color competition and national defense strategy and shipping to china and russia but we still have real interests in the middle east and we can't get those up and how we think about those how do you think about the overall region and how you try to protect american interests in this environment were looks like there's debate about potentially pulling back? >> first, thank you for having me. thank you for everyone who came out today. think were talking about the middle east and will start with as you referenced the national defense strategy which as you know came from the national
security strategy which is in 2017 and the next year we had the nds and it does prioritize russia and china as our competitors in north korea and iran as world state actors and lastly our priorities is counterterrorism. i will say a few things that it is not the first time we tried to pull away from middle east and counterterrorism 2001 are busy before 911 attacks and then 2011 but that is the priorities and we are committed to implanting in that order. when it comes to the middle east russia and china play a active part in the middle east so part of the dialogue we are trying to eject in this is not just geographic but resources in a geographic region and that might not be the most effective way to
push back against the influence of russia and china when you're building bases in africa and middle east. but specifically toward iran i know you want me to focus on that but the world we look at the comes from iran primarily is just in five years. first one is the concern that we would get a nuclear weapon. obviously, we have to prevent that from happening in fully clear it is intent not to let that happen but the second part is that maritime security which folks that aren't familiar with the region you have [inaudible] and a substantial portion of our energy trade in commercial goods. go to those traits. the iranians are constantly but he knows and we have plans to make sure that doesn't happen and we keep those trade routes
open. third threat and secretary matus used to hold up his hand when he did this, five of them. is there support to proxies and terrorist organizations so i know we will go more in detail but that includes lebanese, hezbollah, hoodies and other units in iraq and their housing a cal the al qaeda leaders. other issues i'm sure it will get into but the third one is the ballistic missile threat which we see emanating from areas of control in yemen toward our allies in saudi arabia which there's a substantial amount of american citizens present and of course on the border with israel all the advanced weapons systems they have their and their spread is of high concern. last one i point out is cyber.
cyber is something that comes up and literally every discussion about anything else and from my perspective having started my career in the agency right around the time of september 11 ct was something that was fragmented -- that we figured out how to work with the inter- agencies. i see that now that we have someone specifically is cyber so it is not me. i see those growing pains going through right now. >> if you could dive into deeper into iran and i don't want to get into a long discussion on the nuclear question would focus on the regional question which is one many in the region focus on even if we need an american perspective the nuclear still remains the first and foremost
global. on the regional question one of the things we talk about in one of our arab irregular warfare reported he had one in ministration after another come in and say that democrats and republicans and say we will push back against iranian behavior in the region we will figure out how to deter or stop their use of militia but has not really worked thus far and pretty cheap tool and it's one they had been able to use pretty effectively in the places like iraq against us the place like syria where the event hugely supportive of assad like yemen to some extent. what can we do to be more effective and how do you think about that? >> we can get into the maximum pressure campaign by the state department but i'd would start with the way the dod approaches the problem which is largely.
[inaudible] as aci person i was super impressed with how much the military plans for everything and iran is no exception. there are plans to do essentially everything defend allies from getting them for weapons and obviously responding to any pressure. that is continuous and the general spent time on that in general mckenzie for placement on the central command is also dedicated to that. the next one i would say is i know we'll get into mesa, middle east strategic alliance, essentially requires us to build up our partnerships and i will say most of the discussion on that our posture we have bases throughout the middle east and we are on basis with key allies that the middle east that limits
the iranian freedom of movement and projects the key straits and key chokepoints of a maritime trade and very important in that regard and i know we get one question so i will answer one of them we are committed to the nds. nds does prioritize and any strategy that prioritizes should allocate resources accordingly. there is a shifting of resources but the one thing i would add to that is the united states is by far the most capable when it comes to expeditionary warfare and their ability to project power anywhere in the world to create a fact. that is what we call where we routinely have forces show up in an area that may not be expected and shows our ability to do
that. when it comes to shifting forces that is something we do to make up for it. >> something that when i was at dod which i do remind yourself working on the iran problem in particular they are not 10 feet tall like were quite capable of doing and i want to shift to syria and iraq because that's another focus on the report that was put out that officially came out overall sitting here but you know we've had the feet of the caliphate itself but there is still uncertainty about where things go in syria and in iraq going forward. and so, how are you guys thinking about this now? what you most worried about concerned about -- is it syria, iraq, long-term american presence like iraq and syria and maybe walk us through the latest in terms of beauty and meditation are considering.
>> i would agree with your paper that the model we use it syria is a good model for future activities. relatively small contingency of your sources. with a very capable and willing partner in this case the syrian defense forces supported and enabled by our air support, combat advisors and combat logistics which are sometimes most important part of the partnership and it's a diplomatic effort which was [inaudible] bill roebuck and now jim jeffrey so paired with them and followed eventually by stabilization and we have a whole section on that but i would highlight that was a good model and that the only time we've use that. at the beginning of afghanistan and alliance small groups of special forces and in iraq essentially the same model that
the kurds did operation biking hammer at the beginning of the war [inaudible] that model is effective and it's something to be highlighted. the good part 40000 square miles were liberated, tonight the people pulled out the vices and that is something i think we should highlight but there's no victory dances going on at the pentagon. we lost 40 people in a fight and our partners told us they have lost 11000 and un estimates up to 400,000 syrians died and 5.5 million people fled. it is a good thing that isis no longer control territories and i think there are costs that will do any kind of celebration
necessarily. some of the things that lessons learned, i think, came out of this and i will do with this going ahead is something we are still dealing with is a foreign terrorist fighters. we have enough on state actors with limited resources that have over a thousand foreign terrorist fighters from 50 different countries. i don't think the international community should sit on the sidelines and watch them deal with it. the response ability of the international community to step up. that is one thing i definitely don't think it necessarily lessons learned but something i think is important. >> in terms of a way forward especially at say both maybe talking about iraq in the way forward in iraq -- how do you see that? obviously, challenging situation but also one where i pulled back
and look at iraq and say this is in some ways it's a good story and completed in hard and we have iranian influence and american influence and there's a lot of competition going on in the gulf states increasingly re- engaging and how -- duty takes about long-term stability of iraq and what are you thinking there and how you engage with your -- >> you asked me what we worry about the most and it's important to note physical caliphate is defeated but isis is not. upwards of 10000 isis fighters support elements within syria and iraq. they are completely unrepentant. that is something we intend or are expected to do it for many years to come. this is transition to the entering the defeat of isis but
i would say that in a way that does not minimize how important that is because it's not going away. italy is essentially the largest collection in the world right now. a minute inside into what is going on and it is to your question that we worry about a great deal. specifically to iraq a lot of dod in my former organizations spend time in iraq building up their security forces and i think they can be proud of the effort to win that. especially the counterterrorism services highlights one in particular in its proven that effort was worth it and i spent considerable amount of time ridding their country with support but they did it of isis. long-term stability i think it's important that we are there. i think our presence in iraq is hugely significant in one of the biggest factors when it comes to u.s. influence in the middle east. we are there alongside geo i
wear your at their request from the strategic framework agreement was signed ten years ago. i think we are part of that and part of ensuring that their military and security services are capable of defending the sovereignty of iraq. >> do you think it syria would you say the same thing -- we are there at this point looking at a long-term continued commitment to try to maintain stability there? >> right. this is something ambassador jim jeffrey who is our special envoy for syria says a lot. [inaudible] we have a very capable partner and they have the territory that controls oil resources and arable land for agriculture and we are there with them and we do expect to be there for the long haul. our presence, although military presence, to ensure the entering
the few devices will provide portable influence and we have several objectives in syria and only one of them are the defeat of isis but when it comes to pushing for the un resolution 22 people crosses to the board which ambassador jeffries is at the helm and having us there both in the northeast and down in the garrison does provide leverage. when it comes to pushing back against iranian controlled militias that are in syria that really have a threat to our allies in our presence is not there for that but it does give us influence when it comes to dealing with that consequence. >> wanted to shift again as we do this tour of the reason and i know kevin is an area that you focus on a lot yourself and been there a number of times and so maybe -- obviously, yemen is an issue that washington gets
attention and there is concern in congress about the saudi led campaign as well as i think concerned that quite frankly the american ministration has given the saudi's are concerned a blank check to deal with these [inaudible] in yemen which has been problematic and i wonder what your assessment is of the current situation there from your trip there and how we're trying to approach us with our arab partners? >> that is correct. i have spent time on yemen and i think short decide i've been in this position because are looking for someone who spent time in conflict areas. if i had a specialty that is actually it and you're looking for a political person to do that. i travel schedule relates to that so spent time in syria and iraq and sinai in yemen and was just in yemen last week.
we support [inaudible] the only answer for yemen is a peaceful solution and an end to the conflict that has caused a tremendous humanitarian problem there. secretary mattis, myself, my team has a very strong relationship at the un special envoy and we support him and his team particularly with the general who is on the ground in data and they are pushing for the agreement to be able minute and a lot of us would like to see that happen faster and there's concern that they frankly have not quite lived up to their agreements that they made specifically in stockholm but they keep pushing and we hope they see that it's in their best interest to relieve the stress and to make sure that there's never a cutting off of
humanitarian aid that goes to that into the northern part of the country. i would say we certainly spent time discussing issues with the coalition cannot talk about ct but we start with the hootie issues. they are supportive by iraq in the provide weapons and right here whatever bases if you want to get to it there's analysts that specialize in sight why we know we come from iraq or confident in clear that is what is going on. but the concerns on the hill is to patients of legislation that we've been at their even longer in the first one is the worst part resolution and senator sanders that is specifically about u.s. not be involved in combat operations. we don't think we are involved in combat operations but we don't herby don't send aircraft
anymore and the only thing we do now is essentially side-by-side coaching to help mitigate casualties and teach them our techniques to basically strike we are going after and not strike on and so not innocent civilians in a force the conflict to push for more investigations that lead to real change. that's all that is left that we deal and if you look at that legislation or the saudi current ability i don't think this is their [inaudible] essentially all that would cut off is our coaching them the federal coalition to avoid civilian casualties but i'm sure that's not with the intent but i don't see that the way i see it. obviously not helping the situation. >> so, do you think there are things we can do with the saudi's that would try to
improve the situation or lead to a better outcome or approach to how they're dealing with the conflict or start to lean into the next question or second report which talks about how we work more with our air partners? >> first, i would like to continue our efforts to work in their joint force command we have americans working side-by-side but what i would like to highlight is need to start focusing on the yemeni people and the yemeni people are moving out with everything they need to do to take their country from built state to a fragile state which is in the right direction but i was i had a new prime minister was just appointed and endorsed by the prominent ms with most of the staff and first time i met him but i was eight my impressions are highly motivated people who really want to do the right
thing for the country and want to start building their own security forces both the border coast guard and local security forces to prevent the flow of weapons in our country and and secure the population it came from to talk about what they want to happen and i think there voice needs to be more heard. we are also this is something started by the previous secretary working with the un on the company is a plan that would look out to assist the people of yemen by building and international plan, copy the plan of economic talent political grass roots efforts and political efforts and building up the security forces. we spent time trying to get funding to do just that. that is up in the will hopefully take shape.
>> let's take us to a topic that i want to dive into. which is working with our arab partners this mentioned and then one of the things we found one of the reasons we undertook the second report was because our experience has been that there's a lot of struggles and challenges with trying to be with all these different challenges whether syria or iraq or yemen in different publics owns the role of the u.s. military working together with arab military has been mixed at best and i was there at the dod ten years ago and we were trying to get our golf partners to quarterly or effectively on missile-defense and maritime security and counterterrorism and all these things and we are still trying to basically do that. and so i'd be interested to get your take on we now have this middle east strategic alliance
at the latest initiative but it's another effort that have been tried in the past and i was curious to get your take on how well that is going and what you guys are trying to do and what success. >> to your point, not the first time and there's a reason behind it because it's important. the middle east treats strategic alliance from the u.s. perspective we wanted this to be a holistic argument and by that i mean we wanted economic part or political part or security part. i fully recognize there are challenges and we start out with the political part that we currently have a rift between specifically with qatar so that has to be addressed. economically there are diverse economies and there's a lot of pre-existing agreements that we don't intend to be superseded by
by mesa but specifically on the security point i can see we started out by having book army of sand so we took a realistic approach to what we're doing and but we do think we made progress and i would focus on three areas that we are going to focus on when it comes to building the first one is capability. they are very similar to secretaries by fingers here but we will build a center where we teach best practices when it comes to maritime, air defense, order, cyber, asymmetric warfare and then command and control. there will be spread to other regions and look for places like we've already have structure and this is about not spending more money but about us being in the role of facilitator and instructor in the countries
themselves adding to basically it is at their expense. i would also say that i think he will focus on and it's consistent, i would say your paper at least the security part not that it means you need to change ideas but we are lined up pretty well. >> the common picture i would say the second one when it comes to joint strategy in identifying the thoughts for example so right now that's our jihadist, terrorist and the proxies of the iranians. it is important to point out this is not an alliance to counter iran but to defend ourselves and that is the current threat and could change the future. also i would say it is or requires a collective effort. >> we leave this now to return to the washington institute for near east policy and teddies at