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tv   Washington This Week  CSPAN  October 19, 2014 7:00pm-8:01pm EDT

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sense of what are the chances that the united states, that the administration can now address that issue, which i think we all agree on that one of the fundamental problems that's going on, how do we get the sunnis to buy in, whether it's the sunni tribes, whether it's the sunnis that mike was speaking about in mosul. >> we lost a lot of leverage with the sunni population when we assured them that the sons of iraq program would turn into drops in the iraqi security forces and other jobs in the ministries. that didn't happen. a good friend of mine who actually recruited a lot of these individuals was often met with hugs and kisses when he saw these guys in jordan. the last time he met them, he had one of the individuals grab all of the unit coins out of his pocket from other u.s. army battalions that they had worked with over the years and
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thrawtheam at his feet and say what good are these? they're all broken promises. so we have to reestablish the leverage but how do we do that when we're not projecting that not there? we're not taking vienna, we're not doing it 100%. we're simply doing air strikes at night or against targets of opportunity as opposed to having a concerted effort to -- at this point, you're not going to take mosul with peshmerga and u.s. air strikes. you have to take mosul with the sunnis that are in mosul. but how do you get them, how does the u.s. get them to fight? absent a protracted commitment without an end date, you're not going to. the iraqi government -- there's so much iranian influence in the iraqi government rightnow. i don't know if you know this but the iraqi security forces went from 55% shia-45% sunni to 95 or greater percent shia in the last four years. all the militias have been deputized. they are now part of the iraqi security force.
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shia militias are now part of these national guard regional units that we're supposed to stand up and fight isis. the problem is that these militias don't differentiate between a sunni military ishmael and the insurgency. and isis is counting on that. so as they push into baghdad and the baghdad belts, they're fomenting a violent response from the shia militias who are legitimate iraqi security forces. so as the sixth iraqi army division, the seventh iraqi army divisions try to reinforce seventh iraqi army division primarily sunni in al-anbar, there's no trust there. and the sunni military is falling. and that just legitimizes baghdad's concerns that we can't trust the sunnis and the iraqi security forces. they will not fight these guys. >> we spoke before about the appointment of general allen. so does that auguster positive things for american policy in iraq?
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what do using? -- what do you think? >> the selection of general allen, the anbaris were begging him to come back to restart, to help restart the awakening because he is a credible figure. the same thing with general petraeus. you could hear of cries but they're weren't from isis. they were from the very sunnis that we need to fight isis. that was until we started seeing some of the powers initially general allen was going to be the guy in charge of this. there was a kinetic flow of the line of operation. -- line of operation. stemming threat finance. and there was the coalition building where we say to partners you don't have to provide air strikes or boots on the ground but give us the intel, stop the flow from turkey and other countries. you have 2500 guys coming from tunisia, 2500 guys from saudi arabia, and guys froming from morocco able to come in from turkey into the fight. and that's a problem.
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so there are things coalition partners can do. but general allen is the right guy to do this. he just needs to be empowered to do it. >> empowered how? >> authorized. we have a cadre of american military that would be willing to go back right now if asked. we have -- general allen was asked by the tribes. maliki asked petraeus, come back, i'll do whatever you want. but the administration did not allow either one of those gentlemen to go forward and do this. you can't do it to you've got to be sanctioned by the u.s. government to do it to be effective. so with general allen being in charge of this and the cadre that he can put together, you have relationships that we've established over the years with the iraqis, sunnis, shia nationalists, peshmerga, and other groups in the iraqi government that actually want to see iraq stay together. they want to see everybody be part of this process. one of the things we say is we need to do the same thing isis did. they established temporary alliances. to take mosul.
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we need to do the same thing to take territory away from isis. if you have five guys in a room that hate each other. if there's a snake going across the stage we're going to kill the snake first and then we'll -- we can go back to hating each other. we'll do that afterwards. and maybe if we kill the snake together, maybe we'll say maybe you're not as bad as we thought you were. but we need to do things like that. the problem is that we say things that resonate in the sunni population centers saying the end date is two months away. there's going to be something from the administration that's going to say air strikes will end on this date. and as soon as that happens you're not going to get sunni buy-in to do anything difficult. and absent putting pressure on iran to get abadi to absorb sunnis in the security apparatus, it's not going to happen. and then again the sunnis why would they trust abadi in the first place? >> i want to come back to putting pressure on iran regarding isis which seems to be something that the opposite is happening. but in the meantime, you ended
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your introductry statements very depressed, not optimisticically. but i want to say, what would it look like, how could the united states put enough people in a room to kill the snake what -- snake? what would that look like regarding the tribes in you say it's unlikely. but what would have to happen? american military leadership and political leadership as well? you expressed skepticism regarding anthony lincoln. >> i completely agree with what michael said. and i'll try to give it the tribal dimension. first, with an anecdote from 1261. [laughter] the mongols swept the region. they took baghdad and they kept sweeping through and reached a point in the la vanity a town, and this town is the jew's area. and there he met an army of the
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mamulucks and there was -- there was have been a battle. then the jews they tried to pick a winner because they were hedging. so they decided to split into two teams and to fight on each side and whoever wins will retain the loser. so this is how tribes act. they need to work with winners. this is very important for them. and in 2006, they told david of "the washington post" that at that time was the time when the arab-berlin wall had fallen and he said he was ready to join the u.s. campaign to spread democracy. and then a year after that, when the hezbollah fighters swept through his areas and that of the sunnis, their area, he called him and he said i have confirmed news from washington that the americans are coming to our rescue. and then he said are you crazy? we will swim from here to the destroyers. through the american destroyers.
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-- the american destroyers. so they learned that you can't bet on the united states. and this is the same lesson that they learned -- when michael says that they shout this but when they see general allen this is because in the tribal mindset the personal is very important. and i know that way of democracy we can't keep on sending the same people all the time. they have to change. but we have to understand, we have to learn from the mistakes. we sent lincoln who handed the sat wave to maliki, to the shia rival and to iran. and then maliki just got cut the salaries, he cut the army and then they were on their own. and yesterday the white house put out a press releases saying we're sending lincoln again to the people who do not trust him anyway. so i completely agree, i'm not saying we should just send all the old team. but to win the tribes over, we have to prove that the u.s. and the coalition is the winning
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side and they have an interest in joining it and they can trust the united states and then this will be a long term. they will not fight if this is something about the short term, two-year thing taking on isis and degrading capability. they will not fight if this is only for the sake of the united states. they will not fight if this is counter terrorism only. they will fight if this means beating the other tribe that has been beating them since the year 200 bce. that's how the tribes fight. and by the way, most of the fighting that you see now in kobani between the tribes and for isis now, we call them isis. between isis and the kurds, this pre-dates isis and pre-dates the syrian revolution. and these guys there has been , tension over time. . think you know this, michael in mosul and kirkuk, the full flag between the kurds and the sunni arabs have been there even before saddam and the iraqi states.
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we have to take these things into consideration. so we have to entertain these tribes. we have to get some allies and we have to treat them the way iran treats its allies. if you are a member of hesbollah now you're sitting in bay lute -- beirut and getting hebs blah security paychecks. it's such a long-term thing that they do. everyone who has joined hezbollah is now fighting in syria. everyone who joins saut wave is on the run from some shia policeman or they don't have money or are trying to get support from isis or whoever. >> let me just ask quickly without getting the tribes on side, what are the odds of success against -- and again i guess there's two different ways to put it. what are the odds of success in defeating isis and what are the odds of success in quelling a sunni rebelion letting the sunnis know that in spite of the
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tossing over saddam hussein that the sunnis are still a part of iraq? what are the chances of either? >> well, so far isis has been in the tribal areas. they haven't had any big wins except for mosul. and over there it's mostly -- it has 2 million people. but many of them are still tribal. so we're talking about tribal areas. so the tribal would be the instrumental fighting force in that part. to defeat isis i would say we have to get the tribes that are still out of isis. for example, one of the strong tribes were pro-assad. you might know one of them, the syrian ambassador in iraq who defected he is from that area. they defected early on and they wanted to join the free syrian army and the opposition and to fight. potent force and
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know how to fight. except that like i said, we call them carpenters and no arms or radicals, whatever. now, in july by the way when isis was expanding and winning pledges of allegiance from other tribes, they -- in three hours, in eastern syria, they killed 800 men from an area part of agada. so these are the guys trying to join us. and they were dying. so what we have to show is we have to show resolve long term and then you will see the tribes. and of course funds of money. and then you will see the tribes coming to our side. and then you can use them maybe in combination with the u.s. air power and beat isis in their areas. >> that's a good transition into this. i did want to pick it up in syria, especially the background. how do you earn the trust of the tribes? how do you earn the trust of any iraqi sunnis if people would look to syria and they would say this administration has sat on its hands while more than 200,000 arab sunnis have been
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slaughtered? azhidis,mped to defend y christians and kurds. , however, when the sunni lives seemed to matter nothing at all. and as they keep saying the administration has kept insulting the fsa saying they're doctors, pharmacists, carpenters. how do you get if you're looking at syria's and the administration's policy has been to not intervene in the war, how do you get the sunnis in syria or iraq or anywhere in the region to buy in? >> i can think of a couple ways. one would be to -- first of all i think it's very important for the administration to realize it's in a hole in this regard and to stop digging. what i mean is -- i'm not trying to be flippant. >> no, though. >> but it's -- we have to
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understand that the nonstrike incident of september 2013 -- that's what it's called in the government. that got about 96%, 95% of the declared stockpile cw out of syria, not all of it. that's a good thing. but that came at a tremendous political price for our relations with -- i think our relations with the -- and our reputation in the entire world. and that's a larger -- larger than this discussion. but it also sent a terrible message to the sunnis inside of syria. why? why is this a problem? because it's 75% sunni. it's easier to do tho wink and nod stuff when the minority -- when the number of sunnis inside of a country like iraq is smaller. it's a little easier to do. you can pick them off, probably divide them. in the case of syria, you need to have a political and military program. the sunnis inside of syria would like a replacement to the minority dominated assad regime.
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it's alway dominated regime. the shia offshoots supported by iran. they would like to have a ny kind of transition away from it. that's one thing we can help them with. and we have a stated policy to go in that direction anyway. until now they haven't seen it. second would be in order to achieve that both tactically , strategically, and in terms of cost that's a conversation for , the united states, cost. i understand that. is you have to get the sunni powers in the region on side to finance this operation which they say they've been willing to do and -- but the problem is that unlike our iranian adversaries, iran has a cudse force and they're very good at what the president call the proxy game. they're very good at it. and our sunni allies in the region are not except for the
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jihadists. and so from a state-centric point of view it's very difficult to get all the sunni powers to work together toward that common end. and they want the united states to step in and be that arbiter. to sort of point things in that direction. and they will be willing to finance it. until now, the president has said no way. now, again, that strategy would make sense in terms of both ending the war in syria and eliminating isis. the president's strategy would make more sense if the number of sunnis inside of syria were much smaller. but it's not. it's a huge amount. and we haven't been able to find that alternative. we have to find that alternative that takes into conversation sunni asfrations that they don't join jihaddists on a strategic level as these two gentlemen have outlined and then also don't hold animosities against the united states and carry out terrorist attacks. so that means not only helping in this overall fight in terms
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of inside of syria. but not putting the country in a situation where it lays down a red line and doesn't enforce it. that's going to lose american power and the perception of power all over the world and it costs us tremendously among the syrian opposition and sent many more syrians over to the jihaddists because they were seen as, to steal a line from a book, the strong horse. and the way to solve this at the moment it's very simple. ok? the reason why the president takes the approach he does is -- because it goes back to when he was elected. he was a reaction to what was perceived by the american people and those in the region as american aggression in the region. this is well known. it's not controversial at all. and there was a political fallout to that. and he was elected. and because over time what's happened is we've seen that it's passivety overall. it's throwing your hands up in
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the air and saying we can't do anything. what's required at the moment is a smart policy based on something that americans do very well. it is called assertiveness. it means working with allies in a smart way and in creative ways using their resources to defeat a common foe. we've been doing this for years. and this is what's required to truly defeat isis. if we don't do it now, we will not defeat isis not only this administration but it will become even harder during the next administration. >> that's great. one of the things that reminds me of -- and there's a lot of talk in the region about moderates and extremists. this is one of the things that you're talking about in terms of the tribes. i want to come back to that. one of the things that strikes me is whenever the -- and it's not just this administration. the bush administration did the same.
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they want to encourage the position of moderates and for moderates to stand up against extremists. however, as hussein has also outlined, mike has outlined, everyone has outlined. the united states has done a bad job of backing moderates in the field. to back moderates rhetorically is one thing but to let the extremists, the nuts come in. whether it's isis or islamic republic of iran and hezbollah, these are big issues to really put your money where your mouth is. i think this is one of the thing that is we're getting at. this has not been happening. i want to come back to cobe ani. -- kobani. one of the things you were talking about hussein, you were saying that this divide pre-exists isis. i want you to talk about that for a second. mike, i'm going to ask you to talk about your sense of isis' actual military capabilities and what it takes militarily to handle them. >> sure.
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well, what we know is that one of the ways that assad kept tabs on the kurds was to use these same tribes to not sort of beat them but animosity between the two. of course, the animosity started in ancient times over maybe cattle or the bath river or , you know, these mundane things. but we know that there's a line between these two. and assad used these tribes to beat these kurds repeatedly. and when there was -- when assad's power was on the decline in that part of syria, then the kurds did not pick up arms against assad by the way. the ones in kobani. they just tried to stay out of the whole thing. and now the offensive that you see from these isis fighters, the sunni isis fighters, is to an extent not related to syria proper. and this started from the very first day that assad's power weakened. there were tensions.
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and the reason why the kurds formed these militias, these self-defending militias, they call. they formed them after the revolution. not to fight assad just to keep -- and by the way in 2007-2008, assad did the same thing. he armed the tribes in the south against the jews because they were educating the jews against assad. -- agitating the jews against assad. so these fault lines now predate isis. now they can pick up the isis flag. representatives for ideology -- >> but it's really sunni-arab tribes. >> it predates the actual whates going on now. >> very interesting. mike, if there's anything you want to add. bani. ko but i think that's one of the places where we've seen isis' military capabilities come out. if you want to talk about that for a second. >> yes.
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with kobani, i want to back to the military question with isis. but one of the things when we started air strikes in syria, we were only doing them at nighttime so isis developed a battle rhythm so they were like ok, the air strikes is over let's move this equipment towards town. we weren't doing anything during the day. why? because we didn't want to lose pilots. 's were afraid of assad defense capabilities. we allowed isis to move captured u.s. equipment, captured syrian equipment in support of the fight when they're out in the open. so the air strikes happening during the daytime. the problem is all that equipment was already there. they had already moved. into kobani. so now one of the good things about the targeting effort is the target packets are generated by kurds. and you've seen peshmerga move from iraq move into syria and into kobani to fight. rival kurdish groups fighting a common enemy. and that's common. and one of the things we want to go back to isis. we've given isis too much credit for a lot of things. mosul wasn't done primarily with
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isis. it was done with all the sunni insurgent groups who didn't like the fact that the military now was shia and they were telling mosul always what to do. and that their charismatic sunni leaders were being put in jail because of the accountability and justice law and the terrorism law, two laws have very ambiguous language. if i know you and you know a terrorist i go to jail because of the affiliation. it's an easy way to marginalize political opponents and replace effective commanders. so when shia militias fight isis, remember that's various groups. we can't just give one of those groups credit. but we're doing that with isis. any time isis has successes we're saying it's just isis that's doing it. it's not. they're temporary alliances and when they have a common enemy they fight together and we have to be cautious about giving isis way too much credit. the fight in baghdad along the
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baghdad belts -- motor attacks on the airport, it's not just isis. it's these other groups, 1920s brigade, other units. but the thing is, is that when they have a common enemy they'll fight together. absent the shia militias and security forces, any time isis exerts primesy over these groups they resist. there's schisms and opportunities to do things. and a lot of those groups they fought with, this is a road. right? at the end of the road is the caliphate. in the middle is the return to bathist power. they'll support until they get there. after that i wouldn't be surprised if a lot of these nationalist groups turn on isis. there don't want it caliphate in iraq. they want to return to bathist power. the thing about partition -- just real quick.
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sunnis want the whole country back. the shia are happy with the current set as long as kirkuk remains somewhat in a special status and they're happy it fell into responsible hands with kurds. the kurds want kirkuk and the other areas. they don't want it all. they're happy with what they have right now. sunnis want it all. and that's the issue is this is a sunni rebelion. but there were factions within the sunni rebelion that simply want buy in. they want legitimacy. they want to be part of iraq's future. and they want a return to legitimate positions in government where they're able to actually hold sway over what's being done. and defend against an external threat. that being iran. >> i'm going to come back in a second i have a question for him. but. >> let me ask quickly. this explains why turkey has been behaving the way it's been behaving. because the conflict predates all the isis counter terrorism thing. you know, and the turks thought, ok, the ypg is on our terrorism list.
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these tribes we have no interest in confronting -- >> who is wpg. can you explain. >> they're the group that's fighting that belongs to the pkk, which is a kurdish insurgent group that has been fighting turkey since the 1980s and the turks consider them as terrorist. and now the american terrorist s are fighting turkey's terrorists. and we ask them to join us in fighting only america's. and they said no. to us these are terrorists as well. so instead of striking isis, the turks are striking the kurds who are fighting isis. so this becomes complicated. but the reason is it predates the whole situation that we have. >> thanks. that's great. andrew, one of the things i wanted to ask you and then we are going to come back to iran. one of the things i wanted to ask you is what right now is the administration's anti-isis campaign in syria? how is that affecting -- how is that affecting assad's campaign
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regarding the fsa, regarding the rebels? my understanding is that it's opening, or giving him room to attack different rebel units now that the americans are going after isis. but if you want to fill that out or correct me. >> yes. the american air campaign against isis could benefit both the fsa and the assad regime. because both the assad regime and the fsa nominally consider isis to be ab enemy. -- an enemy. the assad regime is in its usual double-faced janus kind of position in that it buys refined petroleum products in particular from isis because it can't refine enough of its own gasoline and diesel fuel as well as crude oil. but at the same time it does fight isis.
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it's not true that it doesn't fight isis. it does. and they clash. but not -- they don't fight them very well. >> who doesn't? the regime does not fight them? >> the regime doesn't do very well against jihaddists in general. they don't fair that well. there are a lot of reasons for that. and we can get into that another -- in another part of the discussion. so what's happened is the assad regime, there has been a sort of quid pro quo. american jets are flying every day over syria. and syria's formidable air defense system is not shooting at them. so then the question is, what does the syrian regime get in exchange from that? and what they get in exchange for that is the united states is not actively trying to overthrow the assad regime. instead the assad regime is now focusing its power on the fsa
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more moderate units. they're not all nationalists. some of them are jihadists. they're focusing their attention on them. to try and gain ground. the assad regime is garrisonned in the middle of the country in palmira and could try to go out in the euphrates valley and try to retake some of these. i don't think they're going to. instead it's easier for them trying to take a run and encircling aleppo their largest city. they encircle it first, starve it out and get everyone to agree to a cease fire. and so i think that what we're likely to see, if the administration's approach continues, is that we'll see the assad regime regaining in some areas vis-a-vis isis and the f .a throug
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but it will be unable to go into the main heartland of isis where isis is located and administer any kind of ruling, ie to retake and hold these areas. >> because of its own deficiencies. >> yes. it has a lot of problems inside. it's well known. you can hear these from lebanese circles. the regime forces are very tired. it's very hard when i think not just psychologically but also just militarily for three years for a group of minorities to just savagely mow down a majority of the population and try to shoot your way out. it's very hard to do that. i mean it's very hard to , convince people over and again. so we've seen a couple of even minority factions inside of syria say no i don't want to go serve in the military. there have been some protests in allied areas but most notably protests in drew's areas last week in swayeda where they say -- said, though, we don't want to volunteer for
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these death swauds. and the reason i say death squads is very little important points which gets to the iranian area of this. look at the death toll figures inside of syria. in the press they'll break them down between regime and opposition. but look closer. in the story, you will find it lower down. the number of national defense forces, which are forces that are trained by iran's cudes force, almost all minorities and increasingly christians. they're enrolled in this militia. and their percentage of the death toll is going up rapidly and it's leading to a lot of communities protesting against the regime and its policies. because they're the ones putting their necks on the line with hezbollah and others in the country. that just numerically has ra -- a real limit because the population, the sunni population is not only bigger, it's far younger. sunnis have a lot more kids that alwites and other minorities. it's well known. you can look statistics bare it out. that's the problem the regime
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has. and that's why they're so desperate, i think at the moment , to try and get, to try and finesse themselves with america's current air campaign to save themselves. at least in their own areas. but the problem the united states has is unlike this old formula we have between ceasefires and trying to overthrow the assad regime is i think we're looking at a state now of just partition. i don't see the assad regime moving into the euphrates valley and i don't see the opposition factions all getting together agreeing on one flag and taking damascus. and that is a big problem that will take a lot more than what we're doing to solve. clerks great. -- >> great. one of the -- i do want to come back to that now because you mentioned the iranian trained national defense forces and mike you talked about like what's the kind of pressure that we can put on iran to get the iranians to convince abadi to let the sunnis
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have a fuller role than their own government. and of course this seems to be right now from reports, as i've mentioned before it seems to be the opposite. what seems to be happening is that the administration may be providing certain concessions in the nuclear talks because they're eager to have the iranians buy in on isis. so it seems to be going in the wrong direction. i guess the first thing i want to ask is i want to ask you what kind of pressure could we put on the iranians if we were predisposed to do it. hussein and andrew, what i want to ask two of you, we may have a few minutes for questions after that, how did we get here where it seems right now in washington the main strategic issue is isis , when in reality the main strategic issue has been since , this president took office has been the iranian nuclear program, iranian nuclear weapons program. but right now, with all the
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concentration on isis it seems that the iranians have slipped to the back of the screen and so i'm going to ask the two of you to talk about that a bit. mike? >> the one thing that as you look at the middle east the last 20 years, russia has had a consistent strategic message when it comes to the middle east. china has had a consistent strategic message when it comes to the middle east. iran certainly has. saudi arabia to one extent. the one country that everybody is looking to to fix these things has not had a consist it -- consistent strategic message in the middle east. ebb and flow with how much we will support somebody. that is a problem. peshmerga ine 2008, and he said, it is better to be an enemy of the united states, because at least you know where you stand. what he meant was, we support israel, but we support them this much because this administration is in power.
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our message is to be more consistent. iran?you put pressure on pressure on russia. if this isis register is enough that we need to go after it as an international community, the only people looking to can kill it are the sunnis. you can kill the ideology of -- the onlynis thing i can kill the ideology of isis are sunnis. it can't be westerners that are trying to do this. one of the main things when you talk to sunnis in iraq and we've said this over and over again is they believe that the central government is simply an iranian puppet. and how do we change that? we're not going to be able to change that. we have to get iran to change that. we can't do that so we have to get these other powers to try to push that. i am concerned about the nuclear concessions. i am concerned that we say ok well the nuclear thing's a strategic issue we can deal with two years from now in order to kill this short tactical target or 50 meter target we used to
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see in the military. -- say in the military. that concerns me. and when we see the administration meet with iranian officials it's always about nuclear issues but it's never about, hey can you pressure , abbadi to get more sunnis into the military apparatus or release sunni rivals from detention or release key sunnis in detention right now that could send messages to the sunni community such as the former minister of defense. on -- so. and former republican guard commanders that are charismatic sunnis that were simply arrested -- i shouldn't say that. they were arrested because of their affiliation with the bath party. but any time they sigh a see a charismatic sunni leader they get detained using the terrorism law or the accountability and justice law. used to be a bathist so he needs to go away for a while. or simply removed from a position. >> do the iranians really care
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about isis or is it good for them? but the arabs kill each other. -- let the arabs still each other. we have hezbollah are a bunch of arabs, shia. let them all fight. it keeps things safe on our borders. are they concerned about this? >> i think they love it that they have isis. they have a good excuse to deal with. sometimes they are concerned. but, you know, if we think about the way we've been handling iran so far -- and forget what's happening behind closed doors. just look at the public statements. then you get iranians saying, ok, you know we go to the iranians and the president says we think you're a responsible power and we're ready to share. and the iranians say great we'll replace you in the region. and then the iranians say we hate you. and we say yes we love you too. this is the kind of dialogue we've been having with the iranians. if you're someone in that part of the world you see that the united states has been swinging back and forth.
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we gave up on our best ally mubarak, only to replace him with a guy who is worse and we're not even bringing up issues of human rights in egypt . even the courts center closed down yesterday. and this swinging back and forth between ok now we're supporting democracy. ok now we're not. now we're talking to iran. the thing is we have to be consistent. the policy has to be consistent. and, to my mind, the best successful policy that we've had over the past ten years in iraq was the surge of troops that saved iraq from al qaeda. and that surge of troops was ordered by president bush when he was taking all sorts of political heat in this town from both republicans and democrats. so he went against the politics and he ordered what was right, what was consistent. and this administration is doing the opposite. they look at the polls and say, ok, now air power is fine. ok, we'll use air power.
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even if air power is only good against regular armies not against militias. >> do you think they have? -- i mean, do you think the administration has a -- look, maybe we should have phrased it like this. does the administration actually have a real policy toward isis or do you think it's -- look, i'll ask in a second about the messaging campaign regarding syria. but are we talking is it a messaging campaign or is it a policy? >> i don't think they do. and i think the leader of jews in lebanon he just orded the building of two mosques one in his hometown of muck tada. he ordered the non-muslim jews to pray like them. he doesn't believe the u.s. has
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a viable counter terrorism or counter isis plan. if he thought otherwise then he would probably think that's not a threat and we can survive. >> interesting. andrew, again, i will ask for the same question. how did we get to this place where three years ago or a little more than three years ago, march 2011, when the syrian rebelion started and the strategic common wisdom was to help topple assad would be a good thing because it would weaken the iranians. and now, more than three years , where we are where we are our concern is isis and we're protecting assad and the iranians are someone we seek help from? how did this happen? if you want to talk about it a little bit not just what's happened in the region but what's happened here in washington. yeah, i think -- the best article i've ever seen summing up the administration's approach more recent article, i guess, there have been lots of light footprint, leave them behind. -- lead from behind. and then the minimalist approach. i think that's what the president is doing.
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he's ramping up things slowly in a minimalist way hoping for the best outcome. and it's hedging. right? i mean this is not new. , it's not -- i think the problem we have is that it's increasingly apparent to the american people that we're not achieving our objectives. and that's a big problem. it's a big problem on a number of levels particularly when you have the growth in a group like isis in a very chaotic war -- civil war inside of syria where we had stated policies and we didn't achieve them and that's why isis exists there to the degree that it does. if we had armed the rebels earlier would we have jihadists in syria? yeah we would. , would we have larger factions that we have way over? yes we would and we wouldn't be starting from scratch. so the problem is i see is the minimalist approach will not take care of isis. and that's a problem for the united states. the other problem is that our minimalist approach to syria
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isn't going to end the war there. and the reason this gets to the iranian part here. right, ok? the iranians and hezbollah, who they support in lebanon, and a lot of shia militias they intervened in syria. it's a whole fascinating story in all this. they intervened to prop up the syrian arab army and to devpl -- develop the national defense forces to train minorities to kill the majority sunni population and to shoot them into be submission. and that intervention is due to a couple of things. it's their resolve to prop up their ally which backs up hezbollah and lebanon but part of a larger issue i think. and that is you have this thing called the stability-instability paradox and there are a lot of nonproliferation people in the region, who know more about this. but basically when a country gets nuclear weapons or nuclear capability, or approaches that
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capability, their relations and their ability to deter stronger nuclear powers goes up. that would be here, israel, the united states, and so on, because you can't wipe out the regime. you have a nuclear weapon you can launch on someone else. makes sense. and your relations become suddenly stable. but your tendency to wage proxy wars in the countries around you goes up dramatically. thus, the stability-instability paradox. i think that's where the iranians are. they are pushing into areas that have traditionally been arab or arab speaking for centuries. and they're doing it at unbelieveably strong ways. unfortunately, what they've done in this -- started out as a war between a tyrannical government, minority government supported by iran against a peaceful uprising in the country. it turned armed. sunni countries in the region are deadset -- they are desperate to break this iranian-shia access that comes out from iran, through iraq, through syria, and over to
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lebanon. and in a regime sense. and the way to do that, unfortunately, is to fight them to the last dead syrian. and that's the dynamic here. >> you mean the sunni powers? >> yes. that is exactly -- that's the fundamental misreading of this administration and a lot of other people in washington too , to be fair. this is not a police action, this is not a counter terrorism action. this is a larger war in the region that we can -- we can have all the meetings we want with the saudis and the turks and everybody else about shutting off the tap to this and to that. good luck. because they're not about to do it. because there are a lot of other -- they don't see things the same way that we do. it's not because they're bad. it's just they see them in different ways. and unfortunately, jihaddists, who are against the united states, crop up in these ungoverned spaces and create a lot of mayhem for our national security.
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>> i was just going to say it's very interesting the way you're describing this. because of course the way the president has put in a number of interviews is that these sunni-shia conflicts are bad and proxy wars are bad. and that may be true. but the people in the region would have to look around and say i'm sorry that's what we've been doing for a long time. you heard hussein talk about the conflict between the sunni-arab tribes and the kurds and this is a part of kobani. this did not start with isis. it's gone on for a long time. so the administration clearly needs to get down there and address serious issues. whether it like it or not -- it doesn't necessarily have to address it this way but it has to understand how the people in the region see it. i'm going to open it up now for ten minutes and see if there is a question. and if you would wait until -- do we have someone in the room with a microphone? yes, we do. thank you. this gentleman here sitting right there. if you would just wait. stand up, please, introduce
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yourself and ask your question. >> my name is norris. thank you so much for the amazing presentation. i'm an american jew and i will ask you the question of every minority in that region. basically, if, in the future we're going to have u.s. troops on the ground, they will for obvious reasons they will definitely work with iranian - affiliated groups. and this will legitimize their work. and i'm talking here about the militias and hezbollah. so how does that affect the longer-term stability in the region in lebanon and in syria? thank you. >> hussein, would you like to -- -- >> did you say american jews? so yes. >> ok. please. well, i think the point is at this point you need to hear
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because we know the surge was based on three elements, clear, hold, and transfer. and now the first two elements are missing. or maybe the three of them. so we can't clear. before we hand over to whether tribes or minorities or anybody else. so, i mean, talking to the iranians, yes, there was a joint effort with the shia militias, what they call hish abis in iraq. was a joint effort. the u.s. fighter jets gave air power, air cover. and then these shia militias retook turk men shia town from isis. and of course the first to take his pictures in this liberated area. so, you know, at the end of the day if we clear the towns will go to their native people whether they're druse sunni or
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druse sunni or shia. and if we see it as of isis and then when we pass to them or the tribes, that to my mind should work. >> mike? >> that's good. >> ok. if you could -- the woman in the front row here. >> i'm penny. news.ns i wanted to ask michael. you said earlier about maliki saying to petraeus, come in and we'll do anything you want. we heard from the obama administration for a long time that the war -- he wanted to end the war, it was going to end at a specific time. and even with the status of forces agreement, we couldn't stay any longer. so what you said seemed to completely contradict that. could you expand? >> sure. we were the only ones -- back you have to remember 2008-2009 after the surge. we went from 57 attacks per day in baghdad in 2005-2006 to 10 attacks nationwide after the
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surge. and after the sons of iraq were in place. and at that point, we said, ok, we're going to treat the iraqi government like an independent government. a sovereign government. we were the only ones doing that. the iranians were heavily influencing maliki not to sign the status of forces agreement. ok, but that didn't mean we couldn't have pushed harder and done more things. and we should have. the only thing you could depend upon when joe biden -- i'm sorry vice president biden came to baghdad would be rocket attacks. if he would show up he wouldn't be able to go in for three hours. and then he would leave. and there would be rocket attacks in the meantime. he was given the portfolio to push this, make this happen. we all knew at the time when we were there that, ok, how do we keep a force here? we do it by doing an advise and assist. we do it military equipment and training and we stay that way.
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we could have stayed under the caveat of something else. but we chose not to because the protections weren't offered to american soldiers. you were going to be tried by this iraqi government. and we couldn't put any soldier in that kind of danger. but more could have been done. that's the biggest thing. 57 attacks. >> do you want to elaborate? when you say more could have been done, what do you mean? >> we could have pushed for the status of forces agreement. if you want the f-16s, if you want the artillery, our special forces and intelligence capabilities, then we need a status of forces agreement. then you use the kurds and the sunnis that you have leverage in -- leveraged in both communities to put treasure on the central pressure on the central government to do exactly that. relied too much on the shias and government to make those decisions would f without using leverage and took our hands off. said it is a sovereign government. they were able to sit there and watch lawrence of arabia walk in
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for a year, the guy who didn't want to be here walk in for a year. the guy who simply thought you could have a two-hour dinner and thought he could change your mind. they develop a playbook. what we need to tell the americans to get what we want? this is too hard to do. i need more money. you need to back us up when we go after these certain targets. we could have done more. there were a lot of great americans who tried. and there are a lot of great americans who said don't try. let's respect see what the grn oi does. >> with without being if a -- facetious i'm going to ask all of you because we're about to wrap up here the answer. we all believe this is important, that the president also has his point as well. how long are the american people supposed to commit resources , both their sons and daughters and their loved ones as well as money to iraq? and we can say now well if you don't then you wind up with a phenomenon like isis. and the counter argument is isis really a threat to the united states? yes, they might put some nuts on airplanes and come here.
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but we may have that anyway. so what is the importance of -- importance about commiting resources to iraq? that we shouldn't have withdrawn resources. and now we need to again. what's the argument? >> real quick in 30 seconds. we coined the phrase recently operation inherent resolve. if the iranians coined that same operation phrase, it would be believed. because they've demonstrated that in syria. they've kept assad. they've demonstrated their willingness to fight in iraq. but the way we approach this with this limited approach, it sounds more like incoherent resolve. and that's the issue. because the sunnis that we need to fight this thing don't believe us. they don't believe we're there for the long haul. >> hussein, anything? >> i agree. we could have withdrawn. but at least we could have kept the sat waves on the pay rolls the sunni fighters. we could have kept the leverage. there's no need to throw allies
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under the bus at er corner. -- every corner. by the way when we speak about commiting resources think how much iran is paying. the money that iran is commiting to this fight is peanuts compared to what the united states is paying. so again, it's only needs consistency and not that much more -- not that much money and resources. but if we're swinging -- we have to think of the visual of when we want to beat isis we -- our secretary of state goes and talks to the minister of iran. that's the message to the sunnis. we're beating isis by talking to your enemies, the shia. so we have to keep this in mind but i don't think we are. we are making mistakes visual or otherwise and we look at ours and say why is that happening? >> andrew, do you want to -- take a stab at this? i mean -- >> i had an opportunity to go to moscow earlier this year in a
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conference by the russian defense ministry. and it was very interesting. and what i think i learned -- it was fascinating just the messaging. they think that president obama is actually sort of some sort of mastermind. they think that he that president obama is behind what they call the color revolutions all over the world. ukraine, what have you, in syria. and that what he does is through this low minimalist approach he gets people to rise up against their governments and then it starts a civil war and then it is used as a pretext for a u.n. resolution which allows for an american intervention to flip that country over to its side and that's the way it projects its power. >> organized chaos. >> right, organized chaos. and i thought to myself, i was one of five americans there. nato boycotted and i remember saying to a russian colleague.
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do you really think there's a plan? i mean really, i can assure you , this is not a plan. ok? i've seen plans. >> not as far as you know. >> you're not in the inner circles. >> what i mean is i think the problem that we have is very simple. that it's very difficult -- autocracies, in general, are much better at projecting their power than democracies. it's amazing. even though we relate on an individual level to the people inside these countries and their aspirations but we're just not good at projecting our power because, what we are saying, what do i have to say to this american to get what i want? because they know how to divide us. they know who to invite over. what do you want to do if you want -- you invite the following journalists over. they will write that the american government is behind all these secret things and all we need to do is back x. tyrant to shoot their way out of this problem. and the one thing that the arab
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spring did it -- it is still is it challenged that notion. >> how? >> i think it was -- it's about stability. what is stability? and in the case of syria, we can definitely say -- i mean, look at the middle east now. right? you have the arab spring being reversed in egypt. and in other places. but there are other -- and egypt is a nation state, a long historical nation state with a -- with a very strong military with a long tradition. but you have all these other weak states. so the problem i see with the stability argument is it would make a lot more sense and therefore the russians issue would make a lot more sense if you didn't have the reality that their central governments and their militaries are too weak to retake and hold all the territory. so it's like when you go to a kissinger lecture, right, and it's like listening to a symphony or watching a master
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chessplayer, and it's just beautiful because all the squares are clear, black and white. god, it'sght, my a like when i was a kid. but then once it's over you look at the situation you realize all the different squares on the chess board now are broken. so you can move your piece over there but you can't over into these squares. i think that's the challenge for not only americans but everybody. and if we work together to solve that, i think we can make the regime -- >> you mean to fix the chess board or how to play a chess board that is broken? >> all use another analogy. i do not mean to go on. >> no i like it. >> my first job was with the "new york times" in the middle east of cairo. we used to have a layout quark.m called some of you have worked in publishing. so as young journalists we would sometimes to no end try and depict reality as best we could on the pages of the newspaper and to the middle east credit they allowed us to do so. so we put everything on the page we write our words and put
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graphics, but there was this really tense moment when we had to see if it would work. there was this button called snap the grid. and you would hit boom, snap to grid. if what you laid out on the page which depicted reality didn't match the grid, the designer looks and said we can't do it. but in the end i found that the only way that we ever really published the paper was we had to address the grid. i mean, there really was no way around it. right? because if you didn't, you didn't end up actually solving the problem. these problems are ones that humans have been dealing with for millenia. it is normal for political entities to grow and to contract and to break into pieces. i don't need to -- many european friends. these things are solveable. americans working with their allies can do this. right? but we need to do it a in a way that's smart that makes sense and actually we try and achieve our objectives that we outline. because if not we'll just be --
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then the russians will continuously be able to do what they've done in the last year, and that is use the militia, like -- seize territory and then annex it over to its own territory. and be able to get away with it. they have sanctions, but they get away with it. the we can counter that, we're going to have a prosh projecting our power. >> i'm afraid we have to close on that. we will reconvene in a few years to see if we got the grid right or what happened. thank you all for coming. thank you to the c-span audience. [applause]
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>> tonight on c-span, "q&a," richard norton smith discussing his book, "on his own terms: a life of nelson rockefeller." questions,minister's and at 10:10, ebola response. >> this week on, "q&a," our guest is author richard norton book, "on wrote the his own terms: a life of nelson rockefeller." the wealth, privilege, and


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