tv Syrian Conflict CSPAN April 2, 2018 1:32pm-3:19pm EDT
at george mason university antonin scalia a law school and rachel ray boucher, associate dean for research and law professor at temple university. watch landmark cases tonight and join the conversation. tag is landmark cases and follow us at c-span. we have resources on our website for background on each case. the landmark cases companion book, a link to the national constitution center's interactive constitution and the landmark cases podcast at c-span.org/landmark cases. >> this afternoon as a panel of scholars discuss the syrian conflict, this is an event hosted by the williams center. they will also give the influence of outside powers in the war. this is live coverage on c-span. >> on behalf of jane harman, our ceo and director, i would like
to welcome everyone to today's event on syria and outside powers -- what they want and can they have it? the wilson center is a living memorial to her 20th president and we pride ourselves on serving as a bridge between the world of academia and the world policy. we are also able to work across countries and across programs within the wilson center and provide analysis from multiple perspectives and today's event is a great example of how we can facilitate such a dialogue and i am so pleased that we are cosponsoring today's event with the middle east program. we have a very talented panel today, i want to proceed to the program as soon as possible. i will turn the program over to aaron david miller, vice president for new initiatives, a distinguished fellow, and director of the middle east program at the woodrow wilson center. for two decades, aaron served the department of state as an
analyst, negotiator, advisor on middle eastern issues to republican and democratic secretaries of state. he has written five books, the most recent being "the end of greatness: why america can't happen doesn't want another great presidents. and his articles have appeared in the washington post, new york ands and los angeles times he's a commentator on npr, bbc and many other news apps. mr. miller: thank you for coming to the living memorial to our only phd president, woodrow wilson, and the only one buried in washington so far. ,e have a terrific panel today cosponsored with canon, which is an extraordinary reinstitute -- institute dealing with russia in washington and across the nation.
and we have a terrific panel. we're going to their expertise in their wisdom to impact the subject, the coveted subject that confronts us today. briefly, i want to make a few observations in an effort to perhaps frame the discussion. the war as we watched and tragedy of the syrian civil war unfold over the last seven years, the stage has been set now for some time for expanding role by outsiders. this is the conventional wisdom and sometimes the conventional -- wisdom has the virtue of being true. in this case, several developments including a shrinking isis caliphate, the evisceration of not the defeat of organized and threatening syrian opposition and the consolidation of the assad regime has more or less cleared the underbrush and set the stage for what was involved external powers, five of them, arguably.
to play a more expanding role. three of those powers i would consider central, russia, turkey and iran. and they compete and cooperate in effort to follow and further their own interests. a fourth power, israel, seems focused more on what it doesn't want to have happen rather than how it sees an idealized outcome. and the fifth come i will make a few observations on the american role when we conclude. policy fraught with contradictions, it seems to me. and confusions. actorsay of external seems to be a kind of coalition of the unwilling, the cynical, the disinterested, the and the divided. determined above all to ensure that their interest take
precedence over the idealized conception of the free, independent, pluralistic and confessional he balanced syria. and it may well be that if this represents the will of the international community, and i suspect through seven years of syrian civil war, these of the powers, not the others that have shaped presumptively what syria is now and what it may become. it's no wonder that the syrian civil war is endured for this long. whether these external powers can achieve their interests getting into syria is a lot easier than getting out, remains to be seen. such at's why we have distinguished index regard panel here today. and introduce them briefly. associate professor of department of history and archaeology at a ub beirut. from 2005 2000 eight
as assistant professor of department of history at the american university in cairo and he had scholarships at the university. his most recent book i believe is alexander serafin the birth of the russian modern. 2015. >> 2016. mr. miller: good to know. robin wright got a dusting was fellow at the wilson center, a -- a distinguished fellow at the wilson center, with broad equities -- expertise. a longtime writer for the new yorker and a former diplomatic correspondent for the washington post, reported for more than 140 countries and has a deep and authoritative iran.ise, particularly on she is also author of the widely acclaimed book. we have something in common. we are both graduates -- i was
there for eight years and she was born in ann arbor, university of michigan. ms. wright: go blue. mr. miller: june in tonight for the national championship game. it's great you -- great to have you here. and at thellow washington is to come has had a long career in government, the state department, served as senior advisor to the broader middle east and the secretary of state policy planning staff and holds a phd in political science and studies from harvard, has taught there and that gw. he is fluent in arabic, french, and hebrew as well as proficient in several other regional languages, which is more than an entry into this region as someone once remarked, the middle east is a get a university from which one never
graduates. he is an example and even the poster child for that and perhaps for a few of us as well. and last but not least is in the associate press are of sociology -- professor of sociology. her book social unrest and american military bases in turkey, since 45 was published by cable university press and andis researching the kurds just returned not too long ago from the region. i will be a ruthless moderator in the sense that we have for presenters and each will speak no more than eight minutes. i may have an annoying question or two to ask them. and then we will your questions. paul, let me begin with you. and russian interests and
objectives in syria and can they achieve them? >> if i can start with a pun-humanitarian russian russian interests are a moving target. goal forearly stated public consumption was we want to destroy isis. and we want to make sure that the regime of bashar al-assad is stabilized and free from the threat of isis. russia began to bomb other syria, the free syrian army and others who are not necessarily islamic. and this continued and continues today, moving through various permutations of what russia may or may not want in syria. there's been a great deal of speculative article can narrow it down to a few things. russia has been terrorized sense 2011 by the events of the arab spring and many of the public
, thes with large protests liberalization objectives of these crowds in the arab world share a lot in common with the opposition within russia organize their social media and they have as their goal to destabilize the different regimes in their countries. this is very frightening to post-soviet states, including belarus and some of the ones in central asia. it's quite similar to what's happening in russia and even almost time a crackdown on to the eventsion of arab spring and find him into the present day and one by one, every time russia tried to do something to prevent the collapse of one of these arab regimes, whether it was yemen or libya, they found themselves defeated, strategically checked. ignored by the united nations and the west and they found this to be quite humiliating like they didn't matter and middle eastern politics and they are also using very real assets. russ the -- russia had
agreements with libya and yemen and long-standing from the days of the cold war with syria. raine cases which in the -- the regimes fell, russia lost those assets. they lost the penetration of oil development facilities and opportunities for economic investment and try to repair their relationship to restore those positions is a bigger has been very important to putoin. they want to check their base base, and the great naval and also now their airbases elsewhere in syria and the regard that as a very important goal, something they are very much willing to stand up to the west against. and in the obama administration, they have a very weak opponent, in 2013, obama drew his famous infamous redlined saying he would intervene in syria if assad used chemical weapons. the russian deadmarsh was to try to getting disarmament agreement in which assad would surrender
his weapons to international authorities are not use them in the americans would not intervene. united states did not intervene and assad it used chemical nothing happened. until the russians themselves intervened militarily on his behalf. emboldened by the lack of any western response at that time. since 2015, the russians have been attacking the different sources of opposition to assad, including unitarian asset in the bombings of hospital and relief convoys. supply of arms to the regime that have been used in really terrible ways and what clinton in -- iswants his was regime stabilization and whatever process ends this. in the last few weeks, if there is to be a lasting peace solution in syria, russia is also interested economically in being a part of that recovery effort.
you see a large emphasis now on russian firms that want to rebuild the destroyed and damaged areas of syria and to do as much as they can to get those contracts. i'm not naming names, but a lot of lebanese contractors are already getting involved in this and making sure that they have some piece of that as well. but that's clearly one of the kremlin's current goals. can they actually pull this off? it seems to face significant limitations. the russian state media if you follow that and its apologists in other countries including countries in the middle east really emphasize the strength of russian power and they argue that russia was quite decisive in this conflict, that it would bring an end to isis and the reality is quite different. much of the damage given to isis was done by the american forces and their kurdish and iraqi surrogates. supported very much by american arms. the russian intervention was airborne and its ground operations have been quite limited. russia has been very reluctant to place boots on the ground at least official boots on the ground and most of its
operations in syrian territory are limited to paramilitary organizations must like triple canopy were blackwater if you are familiar with american and iraqi, except the russian ones fromactual combat roles in the best reports we have come of afterrange name of wagner the famous composer that happens to be a favorite of one of the russian nationalist who organizes this, someone with close kremlin ties. these are recycled veterans from the of alteration of crimea in eastern ukraine, people with a nationalist bent how to describe them as mercenaries. send them to syria in the thousands and not at all of knowledge by the government operating with tremendous plausible deniability and dramatic case of this where they a place protected by american forces and lost dozens of not hundreds of casualties.
the kremlin in the lead up to the recent presidential election russia denied any involvement and acknowledge them as formal as jays, there were no pictures of body bags bring bought back to russia there was scandal in the russian international media -- in the international media but not in the russian press. russia wants to have maximum possible effect in syria with a minimum possible liability. in terms of losses that they have to explain to the public, and also the potential for confrontation with the west. i think we see the limitation of russian power quite clearly in regime regime -- assad's is more stable than it was five years ago but not at all and controlling and most of the country, facing significant opposition that has not been destroyed and probably won't be destroyed. they settled on did factor those spheres of influence, the dividing line he was talking about before is the euphrates and the americans have the iraqi
side of the russians are supposed to be on the other side, but there are disputes in contention about where that begins and ends. and recently on the diplomatic front, the russians have been talking about having autonomous zones of control within syria where local militias or the kurds will have autonomous power in regions of syria that the government can't control. a numberoblematic for of reasons. the russians to officially favor the territorial integrity of syria but at the same time, whether sod will agree to allow powers to parcel out his country into spheres of influence will be sending very different. this could also run afoul of russia's new rapprochement with turkey which opposes any kind of autonomy with kurdish groups when they identify with the pkk, which is a marxist organization dedicated to the destruction of the turkish state. this could come get russian involvement they are in the future. i really don't think russia has achieved its stated goals very isis was eradicated by somebody else, resolving the question in the regime's favor will have
been elusive and the future accordance that you see in the diplomacy don't suggest any sustainability for unilateral russian solutions. we have a solution that has significant russian role in it. -- we have no solution that has significant russian role in it. mr. miller: theory and lending. ms. wright: i was in russia six weeks ago looking at just this question, syria and the russian and iranian alliance and i thought it might be very useful to put this in perspective, not just in terms of politics and the moments, but in terms of geography and history. i have a number of maps. theis to illustrate interesting alliance between moscow and tehran, which in the past has been tactical militarily, practical economically and cold and
calculating when it came to diplomacy. but one of the interesting things that has happened because of syria and also because of u.s. policy recently is that this has developed into a strategic partnership and they are very unlikely allies, given a long history of animosity between russia and the old soviet union and iran. both during the shaw and under the islamic republic, given the fact the cold war actually started in the tensions between the two countries. intoow it has evolved something bigger than i think we ought to take into account when we look at what happens to syria and the risk of percussions across the region. the basic question of what is it that iran wants? west havein the talked a lot about iran and the so-called shiite present, which is the term that was first used by king abdulla in an interview he did with me in 2004.
in the immediate aftermath, his office called and said you can't use that term and i said it's too late, those of the rules of engagement are on the record. you can't say after the fact, but who knew it was going to take off like this? what useful understand is why there is real concern is i will show you later over the shiite crescent stretching from tehran to baghdad to damascus to beirut that the arabians look at it from a very different perspective. and that is that what they call the sunni circle. then as a minority religion, minority ethnically, that they sunnis, bynded by other ethnicities, and as the iranians also tell me all the way up to the foreign minister and the national security adviser, iran feels strategically lonely. this is not to say they are, but this is their perspectives on the region.
reason -- one of the things that is always fascinating to me is why iran became shiite. this is the one thing to really understand it. it has nothing to do with religious dogma. iran was a sunni country until for the first millennium. it did not become a shiite country until the 16th century and it was because of a political decision, they were afraid of the expanding on empire. they politically decided that to keep the sunnis in the ottoman empire from spreading their tentacles into persia, that they would convert the country to shi'ism. the way they did that was to turn to the shiite clerics in lebanon, which is an alliance that survives to this day as a core part of their identity and their survival and it was a shiite cleric who help them set up the seminaries, to make the
conversion which took more than a century. it kind of explains why there is this ferocious loyalty to the shiites of lebanon. syria, from iran's perspective, tool, and ways a instruments to protect the shiites of lebanon. it is an intermediary, geographically, and it is a tool, politically. invested iny little bashar assad. there is a lot invested in syria as a property of the iranians. and that is why they will invest so much. one of the things they do show with russia is that syria is the only arab ally long-standing arab ally that they really have. russia's diversified.
since the end of the cold war, the end of the soviet union. iran has not for a lot of obvious reasons. this was all reinforced, of course, by the presence of isis. border cameiran's within five miles. this, again, etc. the same, phenomenon the ottoman empire. you have the encroaching sunni caliphate threatening their security and of course, isis also went into the calamine mountain of lebanon, whether it was across syria and iraq come on the iranian border, or threatening the shiites in lebanon, there was a sense that this was a strategic threat, and exacerbated unjustified iran's intervention in syria. , you see isis on
the other. it goes back to the whole idea this is then further compounded by the attention -- the tension between sarong and saudi arabia. in some ways, it's about who is the closer ally with united states. and elijah 79, the iranian revolution, iran and israel were the two pivotal pillars of u.s. foreign-policy. after 79, saudi arabia and egypt to the place of iran facilitated by egypt's walking away from the soviet union because of its strategic importance with a hike in the price of oil. saudi arabia feels very and iran is a bigger consumer base of more strategic property, a bigger military, would be a more attractive ally.
what we see play out, whether it's over syria, that this tension between the two major powers in the gulf is really over influence. back to the question of all this stuff. at the end of the day the iranians of advocated a four point please and -- peace plan the call for an immediate cease-fire. secondly, a plan to be put in place and a constitution to be written that would have as its anchor protection for minorities. and that's a really interesting perspective. fifth, u.n. supervised elections. the goal overall is to keep
syria as one country. the territorial integrity of syria is critical. it wants, like many in the west, wants to keep syria and iraq as constituted for the last century. this is really pivotal in understanding its goals. truee same time, it is that iran is building a land bridge. and wants that kind of connection, and the same way that russia does. they want access to the mediterranean. they want influence across the region, for the iranians, is also that protection and the access to has the law and the lebanese shiites that expense -- extends beyond has law -- hezbollah. that's the biggest single factor. iran's role has grown.
the higher the price they pay, the greater the pressure to have something to show for it. because thearly price that the islamic republic is paying is growing, i make a have -- i cover wars and all my life and i make a point of going to the cemetery's to count the number of dead and i have done that in both tehran and at the hezbollah cemeteries in lebanon. there are over eight generals who died within the first couple of years of iran's deployment and they provided the ground forces in a way the russians have provided the airpower. they have been pivotal. at a certain point, the cost became so high for the revolutionary guards and they brought in the conventional army and more importantly, a lot of malicious formed from pakistanis and afghan refugees in iran. least 2000 and
some say now close to 3000 has have died.ollah that's large for a population that small. , it'sthe protests in iran very important for the regime to be able to say we have secured our place in the region. i don't think at the end of the day they are wedded to assad, they will take anyone, but he gets back to the question of do you want to see a sunni power in control, one that could be threatening to iran's interest, that might side with saudi arabia or the gulf and so iran looks at its investment as one that has long-term strategic value. it's worth the investment. and i think it will stay around for a very long time. mr. miller: thanks, very comprehensive.
holms.tin over to you. thank you very much of the introduction and the invitation to speak here. turkish policy toward syria is also a moving target. if we look at just the period of can divide this into three phases. first, zero problems with your neighbors phase, seems a century ago but that was actually between 2002 and 2011 under that foreign minister. this was one turkey was really trying to diversify its relationship not just rely too much on the united states and
the west or the eu, but to build better and closer ties to other countries in the region, including to syria. his syria town had secured a trade agreement and even a visa free travel between turkey and syria during this time. this changed quite dramatically when they are revolution began in 2011 early 2010 in tunisia. that was an expectation not just in turkey, but i think also here in the united states and elsewhere in the middle east that aside would fall as quickly as egypt and tunisia. that obviously did not happen. and secondly, there was a next rotation where i think erdogan hoped that perhaps turkey conserve as a model for other countries in the arab world, there were people talking about the turkish model for the arab world.
the idea that countries like egypt, tunisia, syria, would eventually engage in some kind of democratization or modernization, liberalization as had happened in turkey. then, suddenly, erdogan's justion via syria traded changed and they began navigating regime change. this also coincided with the change,iod of regime there was also a very crucial interlude within this overall time, where there was a cease-fire between the pkk and the turkish military. erdogan'sn 2012 under
leadership. he initiated a cease-fire with the pkk which held from 2013 until 2015. the pkk has had an interesting relationship with syria. 1970'sfound in the late and the leader of the pkk actually escaped into syria even before the 1980 military coup. turkey0 military coup in happened after the 1961 coup in had1970 coup, but the 1982 the biggest impact on turkish society in terms of really crushing were attempting to crush all forms of leftist would , butright-wing activism particularly targeting leftist groups and the pkk. becausesurvives, partly he was able to live within syria until 1998. it had living in syria from the late 1970's when he left turkey
until mice in any when he was expelled and came under pressure. and he was expelled and since then he has been held an excellent security prison in turkey. during this regime changed this time when he was talking about the necessity for assad to be removed from their was a cease-fire with the pkk from 2013 to 2014. that's important to remember. then, in 2016, things changed again when he resigned and the turkish military begin intervention in syria. that was the euphrates shield intervention of the game in august 2016. and lasted until march 2017. we don't have the map anymore. the euphrates shield essentially --s this is what everyone wants now,
is to prevent the creation of a contiguous swap of territory in northern syria along the turkish border that is autonomous of the regime in damascus and that is where you have a predominantly kurdish population living. regimeces of the assad withdrew from northern syria in july 2012 and since then, this predominantly kurdish population has established local governance inel in the north in kobani east ande and in the the west. andven't to be in kobani 2015 which is when i began my research on the ypg in the way p.j., the kurdish militias and the people's protection units or women protection units. it had been reported about quite a bit in the media.
of wish have now become part the syrian democratic forces, the sdf which are cooperating with united states in a fight against the islamic state and have been our best allies and our most reliable partner on the ground. they are probably the reason why we could liberate raqqa as soon as we did and other parts of syria. erdogan intervened to come of the turkish military intervened in the euphrates shield 2016 in order to prevent the connection. theanted to prevents creation of a continuous zone in and is thef syria turkish military cooperating a range of syrian arab militias on the ground, sometimes referred to as the free syrian army, but there is actually a whole range of groups that are quite islamist leaning in their ideology, which turkey has been cooperating with.
in these operations. the euphrates shield operation in 2016 2017 prevented the connection of these cantons in then the of syria and so-called olive of branch operation began in january 2018, on january 20 of this year. erdogan originally agreed to cooperation, u.s. cooperation with the syrian democratic forces as long as it was tactical. do not harm the ypg directly and as long as his sdf was created, which include arabs, of course, kurds and arabs within it. however, after president trump began arming the ypg directly for the liberation of raqqa, erdogan saw this is a redline that was crossed. these were two of his sort of conditions that the u.s. not harm the ypg directly and that the kurds don't control this continuous swath of territory.
what has happened in this recent , i personally find it quite shocking. syria justorthern two weeks ago and i was there in mid-march when this operation was happening. i witnessed myself how families were trying to get their family members out as it was slowly being encircled by hostile forces. smugglers were charging about $1000 per person to get people out. i met a young kurt -- turkish businessman who was running at out, $9,000members is an astronomical sum of money. they felt abandoned and isolated, especially given the fact that we have relied on the kurds providing islamic state.
although erdogan claims that this intervention is about targeting the ypg, in fact, he goes much further than that and are much more serious consequences because obviously, the civilian population is also being targeted, not just the ypg and the civilian population is predominantly kurdish, but it's christians knees and and if you recall in 2014, in iraq, st. john was actually on the map the rominger showed us, the disease also suffered a genocidal assault by islamic state in 2014. now they are essentially going to the same thing again because of this recent turkish intervention. they have been displaced again. and so the civilian population has suffered, there are 150,000 possibly 200,000 people that --e had to -- you have fled who have fled to, but not only are the civilians being
targeted, but as local model of self governance they created is also under assault. number of the local government groups and ngos that the east. i didn't go to a frame. it was not possible by was there. i just want to say, there's a lot we could talk about the local governments model, referred to as the western kurdistan resolution -- revolution. it would all four parts of , the -- what we see and we have been talking about in the western media unfortunately does not get a of very substantive coverage. but we see these images of the young kurdish women toting kalashnikovs, but who are they really and what are they really doing?
they have passed a number of important laws in this of thomas region of syria in the north that, for example, has outlawed polygamy and underage marriage and underage marriage in this of the legal age of marriage at 18 years old. although the critics of this would say this is all pkk propaganda, actually, if you look at the laws and what they have actually done, setting a legal age of marriage at 18 years old, this is the same thing that you find in the turkish civil code, the legal age of marriage in turkey is also said at 18 years old. i think you can get the consent of a judge to marry at, but if you look at the laws and what they have done in terms of women's rights, there is a similarity is between these laws they pass in the local governance models and with the local government is trying to implement and turkey's own civil code regarding women's rights. all of this is a risk because of this olive branch operation of a
so-called all of branch operation. problem for our cooperation with the sdf. basically, this turkish war threatens the civilian population, their own local government, as well as the anti-isis coalition. erdoganwhat i think wants to achieve, frankly. he's not just targeting the ypg, he's targeting this area as a whole and trying to prevents the connection to the other parts of kurdish syria. going tonow if there's be open at a turkish military presence in the north, the aleppo government, i don't know. i think that will depend a little bit on what happens in tehran is not to happy about the idea of a permanent traditional cherry presence in syria. erdogan is threatening to march to where there are american troops and sdf troops.
mr. miller: you are on the ground insights are really faceting. david. what does israel want? >> thank you. it's an honor and a pleasure to be here. on this very difficult subject. i will talkthat about this. i was asked to talk about what israel wants with the conflict with syria and some people would say the question answers itself, because what israel wants is out of the conflict with syria. to stay out of the conflict with syria as possible. there's a lot of truth in that, i think, and that if you had to andarize israel's interest policy in the last seven years or so since the syrian uprising ago, exactly seven years that would be a pretty fair bumper sticker summary.
but i have two qualifications. one is that this is changing, even as we speak. russia or compared to iran or turkey, israel's involvement in syria has been relatively limited. but there's a very good chance that it is going to get bigger. years next few months and proceed. and secondly, even looking act that israel's policy over the last seven years, israel has intervened in small ways, but important ways. in the syrian conflict, in order to secure what it sees as its basic interests. what are these basic interests? how is israel intervened until now and how is it likely to intervene in my view, probably more in the future. the basic interest is israel sees them are as follows and number one is one that is often
forgotten, but should not be forgotten and that is keep the goal on heights. israel has occupied that piece of syrian territory sense six-day war in 1967. and almost lost it and then regained it in the october war of 1973 and then formally annexed that territory in 1980. that israel has any intention of ever getting it up -- giving it up. on the contrary, there's every sign that this is now considered a crucial buffer zone for israel's security. this is not an issue of settlers,claims or for the most part, this is an issue of security as the israelis see it. issue.s very much an this is not just history, because today, right now, israel's secure control over that part of originally syrian
inereign territory is jeopardy by the presence of iranian and hezbollah and regime and other forces right on the cease-fire line between the golan heights and the rest of syria under everybody else's control. that's number one. number two, related to keep the golan heights is reduce the presence and the threat of hostile forces in syrian territory, especially close to israel, especially ones that could pose a significant threat to israeli security as the israelis see it. those forces are the ones i just mentioned. iran, hezbollah, regime forces, various jihadif militias that have sometimes on and off ventured close to
israeli controlled territory. in the golan heights or on other border areas. particularly when it comes to the security threats , of close, if necessary by force -- this is where we are coming to israel's direct intervention in the syrian conflict. oppose the transfer of advanced weapons to those hostile groups on syrian territory near israel's borders or the creation of weapons factories that could produce advanced weapons like missiles or antiaircraft weapons. missiles oruided antiaircraft weapons. oppose any infiltration across the border or any border skirmishes, whether accidental or deliberate, by anyone, from
syrian territory into israeli controlled territory. suppose the use or transfer of unconventional weapons, particularly chemical weapons, to anyone who might threaten israel's security. from syria. and finally, and this is where i think we get to the question of where we are going to go from here -- oppose the creation by ofn and hezbollah over time a whole new front against israel, similar to the one that iran and hezbollah have created over time in lebanon. that means many thousands of missiles, underground bunkers and tunnels, command-and-control centers, all targeted at israel. in the event that iran or hezbollah decides to use those facilities against israel,
whether in retaliation for israeli strike against iran or for some of the region -- some other reason. i want to tell to quick antidotes -- antidotes -- anecdotes that i think illustrate some aspects of what i just said. it so happens that i was in israel in the very moment that byma decided not to enforce force the chemical weapons redline that he had announced in september of 2013. and it so happened that at that very moment's, i was deep in conversation with a rather senior israeli security official with responsibility for this issue among others, and to my whatment, when i asked him he thought about obama's decision not to use force, not to enforce the chemical weapons
redline, but to turn it over to the russians and the assad regime in exchange for promises serious chemical weapons, this is really senior official said to me you know, this might turn out better. for us. get the manages to syrian regime to divest itself of most of its most dangerous chemical weapons without firing a shot, then he is some kind of genius. this was very much against the conventional wisdom that israel wanted to the united states to intervene by force in syria or to topple the assad regime or to get rid of even just that regime's chemical weapons in order to protect the israelis. quite the contrary. israeli policy all during this period has been to look after its and only after it's narrow
immediate border security interests and not to get involved unnecessarily in their view, against the regime, against anyone else acting in syria, whether it was turkey or andia, or the kurds basically, to stay out as much as possible, even to the point of supporting and american policy, at least privately supporting american policy, a very, very limited involvement in the syrian conflict. and here's another example from my personal experience, it little bit more recently. this was about two years after 2015, earlylate 2016 time. soon after the russians had a more serious way in support of the assad regime.
it israel, which had quietly been establishing informal unofficial contacts with the syrian opposition as a way of hedging its bets, just in the assad did fall without point of inviting for the first time a significant delegation, this is not been publicly reported until now, a significant delegation of syrian opposition figures to israel for the first time for a private conference. and there were some people in israel who consider this an important achievement, at least, potentially. as again, a way of hedging their bets because nobody really knew and nobody still knows what is going to end up in syria. and at that moment, the event israeli ministry of defense personally intervened and said cancel the conference. disinvited delegation.
we, israel, do not want to be involved with the syrian opposition in any way, shape, or form, just at the moment when russia is intervening forcibly in order to support the assad regime. that is basically israel's policy, limited intervention only to protect its immediate interests and avoiding getting tangled up in the broader syrian conflict, whether it is against anybody or for anybody on the larger arena. in the way that they have done this is with airstrikes. there have been over 100 in just the last two years, this is publicly acknowledged by the israeli government and for the first time today, publicly knowledged by the syrian government on its official website, the syrian arab news agency. in very intensive
continual consultations with all of the major parties involved in syria, except for iran and the regime and hezbollah, in other words, with the kurds, with the opposition, with united states, with russia, and with turkey. quietly. but effectively. including reaching agreements to do conflict certain areas right on israel's border in the southwest corner of syria, israel, the golan heights, and jordan. small-scale that increasingly, i would say substantial humanitarian assistance to syrian civilians just across the border. in order to try and keep the population friendly and less disposed to swing over to the side of the regime, of iran, of
hezbollah, of the jihadist, or of anybody else that might directly threaten israel. andall of these precautions initiatives, limited as they have been are eroding right now. and that is why as i said at the start, i think there is every possibility that is really intervention in syria might grow in the coming months and years. then we just list a few of the ways in which these interests are eroding right now. airstrikesl, israeli have not prevented iran or hezbollah from increasing their presence in syria. they have taken out some convoys, some factories, some specific weapons, even some iranian generals. hezbollah continue to pour money and weapons and people into increasingly sensitive areas right near
israel in syrian territory. , accordings no sign to the best israeli and american expert assessments that limited airstrikes of the kind we have seen up until now are going to score more than tactical successes against those potential enemies. strategically, iran and hezbollah in syria as the israelis pose an increasing threat, not one that can be successfully managed as in the future, as it has been in the past. states asthe united the israelis see a is not inclined to intervene itself in order to prevent this expanding hezbollah and iranian which thent in syria,
israelis see as potentially posing not just a nuisance, but a serious future threat to israel. maybe even if the iranians actually succeed in turning syria into another lebanon, and existential threat. the united states as the israelis see it is not likely to intervene and therefore, as very senior israeli officials told us at the washington institute exactly a week ago, israel sees itself as on its own when it comes to protecting it's narrow interest, even it's narrow interests in the future of syria. and therefore, and i will wrap up with this rather -- i want to alarmist, but troubling conclusion. therefore, i do expect in the future and we will probably see more israeli military intervention in the syrian theater. mr. miller: david, thank you.
to allowod transition me to make a few observations about u.s. policy. originally, i had given some thought as to whether or not we need to address this in a full-blown manner. with some hesitation, reservation, i decided not to. maybe that was the right call and maybe it wasn't. your want to pick up on point, because the way david would his early policy, i describe it as risk-averse, narrowly defined in focus, not interested in make involvement. i would argue she of that is precisely the way united states now 32 administrations has conceptualized and framed its approach to syria. we are year in to a very material idiosyncratic inevitable administration and we are now going to win this personnel changes that arguably could change that frame of reference, that risk aversion,
john bolton, mike pompeo, an event perhaps walking away from or further delegitimizing or degrading of the jcp 08 might expect -- might in fact expand the potential for american kinetic action. if you asked me to take a look at both the obama administration's policies and visit administration policies, i would have to say that the point is an extraordinary degree, despite all the bluster and rhetoric, risk aversion. in a galaxy far, far away, you could have imagined and rhetorically, both administrations have used to this sort of language. they were going to find a way to check theady and -- rainy and rhetoric. our ownoing to use
military power in the face of mass killings. this administration delivers on their own self-declared redline in april of last year, even though it has allowed scores of instances of the use of chemical weapons against civilian populations. as the last two weeks. theassumption is on which previous administration buildings policy read syria is not a vital strategic interest of the united states, it is not worth this investment of american lives, and credibility. second, the shadow of iraq was very heavy and very long. it will be the reflection point not just what it was for obama, and really for mr. trump, it may well prove to be a point for the success of administrations
against the trillion dollar social science experiments with aited states seeks to deploy massive military force, spend way tons of dollars in a weaken societies where they do not have the wherewithal or the will and arguably the skill to do so. humanitarian prevention. administration wrestled with, it was accused by abdication.of respondedh it has with a single strike against the syrian airfield which was a departure from the aircraft that dropped that sarin gas, this administration has shied away from the moral, ethical dimensions, even rhetorically. the reality is, american
intervention in the face of mass killing has been the exception. the not see how a cause, to cambodia, to darfur, to congo, to myanmar, the united states has not led the international community and intercepting any of these means. an unrealistic and , that theye standard would intercede when none of their predecessors did. i think simply this reinforces the notion that we are not going to get involved. finally, let me conclude with this observation. as david mentioned, with respect to the israelis, defining their interest for a narrowly. we too have defined ours narrowly as well. the own the reason we were involved with syria in a way had
nothing to do with the assad regime. it had to do what perceived to be as the potential threat of a groupational terrorist kalifid andquasi- using the most recent of methods posing a threat to the constant that continental united states. that is still the reason we are there. asther this will change david pointed out with respect to the israelis, it may well expand. where it will change, with respect to our role, is another matter. bureaucratically it strikes me as there is a high probability that there will be that would argue
for a more kinetic policy. , theere is, jim mattis fact that there are very few good military options, even if we choose to apply force in syria, with respect to an outcome is unclear. we have plenty of time for discussion among our panelists and plenty of time for questions from the audience. i have a question for you, paul, i know this is impossible to answer. assad --n things of thinks of assad, what he you when his thought processes he thinks about replacing him, and ensuring he and others continue after some incumbents -- how does he conceptualize
maintaining russian objectives? with respect to the russian regime. credible whoobody could replace aside -- assad. wiping out, that would serve as a replacement. in -- frommove re: bari in egypt. happened, there is no vice president waiting in the wings, and went to take over. he probably accepts them as the best of any possible option. there is nothing else credible to put in the placement let's leave him here there. that helse would claim is perfect. this is something we need to
deal with and support. >> the russians must understand they are part of a minority regime. and their own role in killing thousands of syrians with their made haveikes, they prejudged their role for a long time to come. am i not correct? think one of the problems here is because of the situation , despite being an enormous threat, he can object to russian policy when he wants to and does. he can tell the russians what not to do. he can probably resist the russian ideas of creating an autonomous syrian territory. something that is very much against his interest rat. there is no replacements of the russians have to deal with that.
supporting him personally, but also by defending their presence in syria. russianbase -- the only pace outside of the former soviet union is their major inervention for intervening the first place. keeping the going is something that has wake them down considerably. them to a massive military intervention that is opposed just about everywhere and the world and widely and the region, even if it to create this illusion of strength. they are stuck with separate there is no way out for supporting him. without losing any normal cement of prestige. >> thank you. poawe walk from the jcp how is that going to influence future iranian behavior in syria? it was always designed to be
the first step in a broader strategy to include eventual engagement with iran in a multilateral forum to deal with regional issues of common topern, syria being at the of the less. there had been tentative discussions on the sideline talking, and the americans organized the seven party talks that included the iranians. everyone thought that was a trackback could develop. say, if the u.s. unravelsy, it not only , the potential for any progress on that front. it also allows iran to counter u.s. interests, because the u.s. has taken a stance on the side of the saudis so visibly. you could see the real danger that we are back in the 1980's when i was in beirut and there
was this tension between a young revolutionary regime and the united states. issue want to address the that you asked paul. i want to make a point did we all look at the future of syria in terms of who is at the chief of the military. at the end of the day, the real determinant that has surprised everyone, there has been no single opposition figure who has emerged as an alternative. a type ofven have person in syria. as a result, that has helped him and norma sleeping -- helped him enormously. i said to you really want to , paul will agree, by the country >> assad. father, this is a
guy who is an ophthalmologist, he is a deep thinker, he has been swayed by his father's advisers. i.is just trying to survive the russians iranians say what is your alternative? what have with?me up the opposition has been divided, even in terms of who should have the power, they cannot come up ? with a common agenda. if a dictator can hold 30% of a population, he has enough to staff his police, his civil service, his military, that is all he needs to survive. he has done that because there is not a lot of attraction. the kurds are the only people who have provided leadership. as a result, they are a separate entity and always have been. they are not an alternative.
>> gwen moore for you. -- one more for you. protests, i can never really understand this notion that the regime is squandering our resources, does that resonate, does it matter if it does resonate? >> it resonates enormously. the protests in late december invest iny, you saw me not gaza, and lebanon. it was about economic issues, it was about these basic core economic problems that nudged the regime into a nuclear deal play out now. they will be enacted further if the nuclear deal implodes or arose.
-- erodes. if there is not the kind of investment for the emerging population. that will be tremendously important. at the same time, persian nationalism is very strong. even among the young generation that was born after the revolution and does not feel that commitment to the system. senseis real pride and a of the shiite minority, there is the indochina minority, as a know thathey want to iran is protected. they will not have to fight another war like they did with saddam hussein. the iranians like to point out they have not invaded anyone 200 years. it is that the fence mentality, that minority mentality that defines what they want. i think the majority would like
to see a friendly regime. is worth the it price? i think a lot of people are unhappy. we need to understand all of the factors leading to the national sentiment right now, not just the obvious one. gree, the united states on the trump factor in what appeared to be the risk factor of erdogan deploying troops, are we the driving force that this?r thied what wasn't do you think -- what was it do you think? >> i think, if we look at the more immediate cause for this intervention in january, some people would point is tilto
tillerson where he was providing security to that region. turkey said now they are not just in a tactical relationship, we are defeating the islamic state, we are providing security to the kurdish region. by some estimates, 25% of syria now. extends far beyond into the kurdish region to the north. know, i actually think, this may sound crazy. we have to remember the four different parts of whether are kurdish minorities. erdogan and turkey have the best relationship with them.
the government of iraq, that was the part that was closest to becoming an independent state. that is where turkey has the best relations. they were built on turkish banks, turkish investment, turkish people working there. it is not inconceivable. in the future turkey could come to accept the fact there are kurds in syria and they have some autonomy from damascus. be a peaceful resolution to the problem if he accepts this. there is the kurdish region in syria, they have been from damascus. they are not threatening turkey. he leads them in peace. some people speculate this is about the elections and his attempt to adopt a presidential
system in turkey. his rule,inning of everyone relied on the kurds, he was granted them rights of a had the manafort and gates. protests, in was 80 different cities in turkey againste largely seen erdogan. the kurds did not take part of that. kurds hadagine if the also called for those protests what may have happened? they did it because this was during the cease-fire. basically what happened in 2015 was the parliamentary election the, for the first time, legal political party got 13% of the vote, that is when they got vote for 10% of the
the first time. i think everyone felt threatened by that. this is one of the reasons why the feast -- cease-fire fell apart. you look at these three different countries, turkey, syria, and iraq. when he got 13% of the vote that trigger this aggressive change from the cease-fire. kurds in turkey who have , when they had good relations with the krg and when they tried to declare independence. there was a switch in the , now also inude syria with the syrian kurds. i think the u.s. is partly, this is what we have been trying to do is way our relationship carefully with turkey.
i think, what is going to happen with the new secretary of state, i don't know. we do have to weigh this carefully. >> from his perspective, is it possible to manage a relationship with turkey and the -- betically supporting energetically supporting the kurds? the question is why are we supporting the kurds beyond their utility and their instrumental value in confronting basis. -- isis. point beyond --venting basis will return isis will return.
what does erdogan think we will do? >> there is a difference between what you mentioned with the shadow of iraq toward syria. what is happening in syria, this is not nationbuilding. this is liberal government building, we are not doing it, the kurds have already done this. they have already created local , one of them is now dissolved because it is occupied by turkey and their allies on the ground. politically -- this is already happening. it is not calling for the follow of his son. -- fall of assad. they just want their local government.
other places have been liberated, there are still focusing on syria. the state department has warned they are regrouping partly because of what is happening. some of these groups have been taking part in this turkish capture of the city. there are many different groups, i will my generalized. some of them are threatening to behead kurds. they think because they promote they embraced other ethnicities and religions, they see them as infidels. they are threatening to behead them. do we want to head choppers to come back? i don't think so. who else are we going to work with? who else will stabilize that region? that part of syria would
remain peaceful and stabilize, that would be a good and for the united states, for israel, for turkey, that would be a good thing. for you and then one final question. we have quite a bit of time for you and day. one, to the best of your ability to make sense of this, what do the israelis want from us in syria? >> that is easy. ideally they would like the to cutstates to do more iran's land bridge to russia and of iranianextent influence in syria. , ideally on again,
this may not happen, and probably will not happen to take direct american military action as needed. such is to protect our forces and our friends. there and to establish a across southern syria that would keep i ran out. because they know this is not practical or at least not a sure what they a minimum .ant is to support israel israel campaign of limited military strength against iranian and hezbollah targets. let's try a q&a from the audience. please try to identify yourself.
down here in front. >> i want to ask about russia and isis. there been targeting so disproportionate relative to the opposition groups, given that they have identified russia as a same enemy that the united states is. they have a much larger population than the united states does. it seems like a core national interest for them. is it because of capability? do they have the forces to spare to attack isis on the same groups that others have? given how important that is in their patriotic narrative, they always talk about how much they are doing to fight isis. keep track of that one.
>> how did the russians react to process that iran has been pushing for syria? what is the agenda going to be tomorrow or the day after erdogan,when putin, and they are going to meet in turkey? >> what was the first half of the question? said, how have had the russians reacted to the iranian peace in syria? it has really been discussed several times. >> let's take one more.
i fear we are running short on time. the third question, right here. >> i am from north of syria. i am the representative of the democratic council to the united states. asking, in the role of 30 this is a more complicated issue. especially when they are even and occupied syrian territory. beheading of the syrians north of the border. it is in the interest
of the united states. in this case they are increasing the issue of russia. what is the solution do you think? he declared the army from russia? what do you think? >> let's do those three. >> russia certainly did impact a lot of isis targets, they also attacked the syrian army. all of the major ones. i think because russia does not like isis, it is an existential threat to russia. there are isis aligned people that are creating problems for the russians. particular,a in their overarching case is they want to protect the regime. attacking anyone who would oppose that regime, agents of
other governments, agents who are receiving support for the united states. they have focused on that. , out andthe patriarch talk about this in religious terms. nevertheless, if you look at the combat operations you can find that all over the place when the intervention began. a large number of the attacks were on non-isis targets. they want to protect him from any kind of attack. opposition.armed they extended that nation very broadly and very quickly. they were going after non-isis people. how did the russians react? the first part of the plan will form the basis for any kind of steel. ,f it is for humanitarian aid constitutional government, a you and run election? anathema toe it is
those who don't like the role in the region. i think the russians have supported the idea. there is about this, some real differences that are likely to come out in the future. the difference between turkey, iraq, and russia. it is interesting with the tragedy. none of the alliances have been very effective in in holding , the troika has been far more effective. they have taken back the u.n. process. it is a preliminary's debt. they are still odd fellows. turkey being the most odd fellow , therethis relationship are disagreements about what they are doing now in the north. i would love to be a fly on the wall for the time being, everybody is more divided.
they are more effective in achieving their goals if it is the u.s. and their allies or anyone else in the region. guess the question is in turkey. >> in my opinion the answer is no. i find it shocking. ande are american troops erdogan is threatening to intervene. he has been threat -- saying this for two months now. maybe it is just a threat then he will not do it. if the american troops would leave, i don't know. shocking that a nato ally uses this kind of language with the united states. think there are divisions between the state department, department of defense, white house, this is possibly why there has not been a better
response to this. i have been studying turkish relationships for my phd since the end of row or two is a serious crisis. the last thing i can remember is the 2003 intervention in iraq and that is winter he did not allow the united states to use military bases to invade iraq troopsnow have threatening to invade. it is a new level. to mr. trumpe withdrawing forces. i think it is impossible to provide an answer. in the year, he is determined -- to become or to become that would become in my judgment, we will not withdraw our forces from area. we are going to be in iraq for many years to come.
afghanistan for many years to come. i suspect in syria as well. this president is not going to want the responsibility of a public relations disaster for a precipitous withdrawal from syria. even though it is not clear to me what is the strategic purpose other than the narrowly focused mission of isis maintaining 2000 forces. believing we could have a significant impact on shaping the future of the battlefield or this country's political future. we have time for a couple more, . hope yo i hear that trump has not signed executive orders. like those of you who
are willing or during to step outside of the box and tell me what would happen if assad was assassinated, how would the regional players react? well, that is a fascinating question. let's take one more and then we will think about how we answer that. itlistening to all of you, seems like every country is involved in syria. syria,wants to divide they have plans on how to etc.ed, with the iranians, methe same time, it seems to with all of the countries that have really limited goals.
ity are also making impossible for syria to be put back together. i would just like a comment on that. militias, theore more different groups, all of the outsiders, the more the policy becomes -- -- weigh in? and first of all, if assad is , in many ways he made be more vulnerable in peacetime than wartime. to come to his rescue, who is going to rebuild the country. i think there are a lot of questions.
everybodyth you, country,, every everybody, they want to hold syria together, it is like iraq did the former ambassador said the only people who want to hold it together are the ones who don't live in iraq. i think that applies to syria to some degree. the danger after seven years of ethnic cleansing, displaced people, you have populations of the country that are outside of the country. element,that revenge for someone who lived during the civil war. finding a formula that will hold syria together with a strong central government is illusory and a strategic center of the middle east. whatever happens in syria will ripple across the entire region. -- we should take
the? seriously. it is a real danger. it is not like we are going to have a revolution or an assassination did i think the you cannotger is rebuild the country as it was. there is no alternative leadership outside of assad. they don't do very much to rebuild the country. way ofu look at the syria and a very different way. if you look at what happened in libya, in eight months you had a totalitarian government and hundreds of militia with 6 million people. militia, a lot00 of them are just neighborhoods. i interviewed a local one. they couldn't get together to unify high command. they were all about the neighborhood and who had control. we could see this domino across syria. that is why i wear rate, in
addressing all these questions about syria right now. we are not looking at the biggest one. >> just one thought. given this presidents seemingly part a natural -- printer to applaudermination putin. there are reasons that are not clear to me and a driven by a logical foreign policy, i think the last thing he would want to what we be to remove would argue is a central feature of the russian enterprise. >> that is not my question. if he has a heart attack, what happens next? >> i will try to be brief. on during the syrian after a year of mass casualties inflicted by the regime and its own people, i was put on the spot just like i am
now with the same question. why doesn't somebody order a drone strike and take him out? i said i thought that would be great. i still think so. i don't think it would solve the problem. it would be poetic justice. syria would unfortunately be even more militarized and controlled by outside powers and some new version of a despot accretion. -- despot regime. the problem is not only him, he is responsible for genocide. elsee question of somebody raising the question about syria. i disagree with the
sentiment that syria is falling apart. i think the regime is taking control of it more and more. that is the future trajectory of syria. supported by iran and russia and hezbollah. shiites of thousands of militia fighters from outside of the country. will -- as things are going, they will take over the country. some of the more peripheral areas in which the kurds will maintain de facto the border ofin the country where i think israel and jordan tacitly are supported may succeedd states in preventing the regime from establishing full control.
>> can i give it a try? when he drops dead you will have a post all in situation all of parts of the government tried to arrange collective leadership, you will have a syrian version of the government. they will get together and try to create this. if that would be as effective as one person doing all of the decisions, i don't know. that is something that we may possibly find out. if an executive order happens or something else. i think syria is more stable in terms of their national government than any time in the past 6-7 years. nationallapses as a attitude is for doubtful. one barometer i have of that is eirut, in syria roo
become stable, lebanon will become less stable. we have not had clashes since 2008. we have the different factionalized versions of lebanese politics. first looking now at the election since 2009 after an illegal extension of the parliamentary mandate that could be very dangerous. there is an unrest over all sorts of issues. the fact that lebanon domestically -- which could have greater instability. when syriaironies is was a mess, all of the lebanese and talkedt together about how they love peace and wanted everyone to live peacefully. it is a bit hard to believe. there are connections to iran and if they are disrupted.
he is sending thousands of his fighters to die. he has a certain amount of region to do that. i think it syria becomes more stable you will see lebanon move towards crisis. please join me in thanking our panel. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016]
>> tonight on c-span, the wells fargo ceo on his company's a following the 2017 scandal over customer accounts. here he comments on the structural features that went to those actions. >> we have so many business people wondering what the with then -- reputation they had, how could this happen to you, what is the biggest lesson you have learned about what paul was dropped? obviously there was an incentive program that was to aggressive.
how would the signals missed? >> i think part of the reason a few years ago we were organized differently. they were organized business by business. each of the business lines have their own finance departments and risk department and hr department, so on and so forth. if there was a problem in one of our businesses did the business leader works very hard to fix it. retail case, in our banking business they did not move fast enough that they did not escalated as quickly as he could. it got out of control. why is one of the reasons we fundamentally reorganized the business so we have better checks and balances. i think secondly, when we had a problem at wells fargo sometimes we looked at it based upon the percentage of mistakes we might make.
you i am going to get something right 99.95% of the time you would say that is pretty good. a.ever got th i wells fargo, given our size will give you a data point. we had 2 billion customer interactions. percent ofhalf a those wrong, tens of thousands of people don't feel good about wells fargo. changeto fundamentally about how we think about managing the business. it is not about percentages. it is about numbers and people. >> he also talked about the economy, trade, taxes, and the future of thinking. you can see it in its entirety starting tonight.
>> tonight on landmark cases, griswold the connecticut challenging a connecticut law banning the prescription of birth control. the supreme court ruled the statute to be unconstitutional. in the process established a right to privacy that is still evolving today. guests to discuss this case. a professor at george mason university. and then associate dean for research and law professor at temple university. watch landmark cases tonight and join the conversation our #landmark cases or follow us on c-span. we have resources on our website for background on each case. companion book and a link to the national constitution center's interactive constitution and the
landmark cases podcast at c-span.org/landmark cases. this week is the 50th anniversary of martin luther king junior's assassination. join us for live coverage from the this on american history tv on c-span3. on c-span tuesday at 1:00 p.m. eastern we are alive from the holiday in with a pulitzer prize-winning author and historian. wednesday beginning at 4:30 p.m. eastern live coverage of the outdoor service in front of the hotel which was the site of the assassination which was marked by religious and civil rights leaders. then on american history tv on c-span3 tuesday at 8:00 p.m. eastern archival offense including walter cronkite reporting about the assassination and his portion of his funeral. wednesday at 8:00 p.m. eastern live coverage was civil rights leaders past and present
including john lewis, diane , the 50th bellefonte anniversary of the assassination of martin luther king jr. parade live tuesday and wednesday on c-span and american history tv on c-span3. ♪ c-span wenth on feature of our student cam contest winners. we asked them to choose a provision of the constitution and illustrate why it is important to them. our second prize high school fourth-graders at capital high school in boise, indiana. winning way injury -- entry called we are all human beings. take a look.