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tv   Atlantic Council Discussion on U.S. Policy Toward Syria  CSPAN  December 17, 2018 12:05pm-1:27pm EST

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money and we need to make sure we protect it as much as possible. it is true lenders and bankers always want collateral. one thing that is happening now is there finding other ways to make collateralized loans. a loan right now, and they take money out of every why --one of the reasons host: it would be a fee that .oes to pay back the loan >> a lot of the new lending whatever revenue coming in. maybe you don't have to pay as
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much that day or week. it is also a bit worrisome and you have to be careful of it. that money comes off the top. it is not like whatever you had left you pay the loan. fellow for ther middle east here at the council. a -- who areare twitter is illiterate, he should follow these events, you have the agenda today. a hard stop break at 120. we invited you here. the first purpose is to highlight the atlantic council's work. and aboutg atrocities
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which i will say more. ambassador james jeffrey syria engagement. there will be opportunities after the discussions to post questions. for now, let me turn to the the atlantic council's digital forensic research lab. one question hanging over the where itrtfolio to fits into the scheme of instability and stabilization documenting regime tactics and strategy atrocities. the findings were captured, among other things to reports
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titled breaking aleppo, and later, which you see on the screen over there. a snapshot about the work and how it has been done. for now, the floors to you. >> thank you. it would not be the digital forensic research lab if i didn't know before we began about it. i apologize for that. let me begin by saying the report was breaking a body of work consistent with what the lab does and what we will do trailer show a brief and i will take you line by line through what we found in the reason why we put it in that order. the point is accountability. this is one of the most hyperkinetic --
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evidence is- the right in from us and it is on us if we do not take that into account, as we look at stabilization in syria going forward. without 4 -- further do--. -- without further ado. maybe.
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♪ >> it is hard to get unverifiable information. across ease and south of the country. the experience with information, some brief information about the team, it started back in 2015.
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that point, we knew for a fact there were russian troops in eastern ukraine. we couldn't call the washington post and the new york times that we knew for a fact that there were troops in the ukraine and you can view the is on the record and i cannot tell you how we actually know that. a group that would come the lab here at the council, wrote a report to they wrote a report by looking at a lot of social media posts that russian troops happened be posting while marching up and down the contact line in the ukraine. the report was hiding in plain sight and gathered a body of evidence in one place that literally proved using open source is that again there were russian troops in the ukraine. rustedon social media by -- russian soldiers. again, this is all happening right in front of us. if you know what to look for, it is easy to do a that became a
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body of work the council has invested in in the last two years. we are set up to do three things. identify, expose, explain information with an emphasis on explaining information. we do that using open source is. the point is to not assume our credibility, in other words, trust us, we are the atlantic council. the point is don't trust us, look at the evidence and make it -- make the decision for yourself. that has been a body of work that has continued over time. it has led to reports such as breaking gouda. in the context of breaking good, our team scoured from existing -- to the ground including those in the aside russia.n
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to tell the story of gouda's fall, we looked at the wider conflict in the overall military the overall within military tactics, we broke it down into specific categories of , chemicalgality weapons, clustered munitions, and tech -- attacks on hospitals. anh tactic created increasingly dire humanitarian situation until the final group surrendered in april. a -- less effective disinformation campaign. the information has consistently been used particularly by the side and russian allies. report is there is information to get back and forth he said she said about what is true and what is not
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cure the point of this report is to rise above that back and forth and say, this is not a viewpoint, it is not opinion. we can eithergs approve or disapprove. a body of evidence that can be used going forward. in other words, a body of work to drive accountability that doesn't assume we are -- beyond reasonable doubt, for actual mechanisms. above all, it still serves as a reminder the world remains in syria. tactics. first and foremost, for the purposes of this presentation, we will look at specific instances, including the april 7 good a,n eastern chemical weapons were verifiably use spirit we will use that as a window into a consistent body of tactics and behavior we have seen across the conflict in syria. in context, consolidating the
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battlefield, the reason why good it was a watershed moment was it -- the front in the conflict was consolidated from the east to the west amount to the south. eastern good it was a stronghold damascus that led to the fall of specific fronts. going into this specific conflict, areas of control around the eastern good of from january 25 through the fall, in so in the last six months of 2017, the number of attacks was consistent below compared to 2018. 16,000as a total of documented strikes in eastern gutta, 345.6 per day.
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february 25th, 1600 and 58 attacks were recorded. some involve more pernicious inside --hat falls outside of international law to recapture the area. five of these attacks were captured by images following the attacks. we willliest attacks talk about in specifics occurred on april 7, to surrender it one day later as well as prompting international outcry. most of these were hit, killing individuals who appeared to be civilians targeted hospitals as
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-- andurgical hospital on april 7. munitions appeared to be used in at least 25 attacks. during the ground operation against eastern good -- ghouta, on the front lines. mass civilian capacities killing 100 civilians. 66s placement of around thousand people from their homes to help north. again. an average 66 thousand of 345.6 attacks per day in a civilian controlled population zone. weapons that do not really expect whether a militant or not , to be put -- precise in a way you could differentiate.
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recorded attacks in eastern gutta throughout the time, you can see despite february 21. again as a rundown, a few statistics to keep in mind. documented strikes and 49 days, 1658 attacks recorded on february 21, the heaviest day of strikes. there were at least six expected chemical weapons, five of which were verified. we can get the evidence momentarily. multiple clustered munitions attacks document to buy local act of this in five days. hospitals were targeted. locations, and this was important, they were treated for shared with the russian government. people replaced from their homes.
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because of time restraints come we will focus on chemical weapons attacks. here is a map of documented ,hemical weapons attacks specifically there has been widespread use of chemical weapons. especiallyally great within this room that chemical weapons have been used in syria. we run the risk over a seven-year conflict of saying , not actually understanding or remembering exactly what it means. is exactly what the evidence and what the impacts on civilians on the ground are. there has been widespread use on chemical weapons during the conflict in syria. the joint investigative mechanism, investigated by the security council, is confirmed security government forces, have used both agents syrian and chemical gas. the united nations chemical documented dozens of
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attacks while other organizations allege higher numbers. 198 attacks were documented 2018 by2012 in march the syrian american medical society. when we talk about the evidence, it is important to talk about where it comes from. the peas of evidence aggregated on the ground and fabricated -- not assuming the credibility, the point is to the munitions used but also locations used in. so on the left, my right in your left, the rockets used in
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january the 22nd attacks, in duma, there you have a modified by aan military -- rocket large pressurized gas so under with additional things added. the rockets have been widely used throughout the conflict. a distinct color scheme, which sounds a little ridiculous but we are talking about iranian munitions. useful method to verify exactly what we're looking at. as you can see in english, which includes the name of the rocket, the lot number, date, net weight, and the are oh likely itial number, is makes particularly easy to verify exactly what is being used. is covered in frost, as you can see, the cylinder covered in rapidlyecently
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releasing pressurized gas. the pressure release valve's, pressure filling valves from the front of the warhead are also visible. on the right-hand, you see .hotos basically, the standard of evidence is -- here you can see and munitions that didn't .xplode with civilians on april 7, aircraft spotters tracked two transport helicopters to drop chlorine bombs throughout the conflict. p.m.g towards duma at 7:15
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.he transport helicopters the two modified with an external were found at both sites. folder for where it occurred. you can see exactly what that means. site, located throughout the building, many burns,displaced corneal which i will not go into detail today, the reason why this was so deadly was chlorine gas is heavier than air. everyone looking for cover within the building on april 7 took cover in the bottom reaches of the building. some down and killed everyone within.
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reason those photos matter so much is because it is not the first time we have seen photos exactly like that. --e, used in aleppo in 2017, going into exactly why this is so difficult to prove, here is how we locate things. here are the photos we take from the day of posted on twitter. #breakingghouta. into a those together wider scenario, cross verify against open source satellite and spot exactly what happened. that is the evidentiary standard we're looking at.
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again, the evidence will not let us forget. in terms of how we get a number of other pieces of evidence, here is a good example. this is footage from the russian military posted. you can see it is an airbase in interestingcularly because of what is located on as you can see, using the same mesh it -- message i described, you have a material number and an exact munition match, and it happens to be an incendiary bomb. this,t pope -- posted didn't mean to, here was an original version and an edited version as soon as they realized they had just been using incendiary weapons in syria. [laughter]
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>> all jokes aside, using every signal source available to us is extremely important. every source of information, not to take it at face value but say, ok, this is something we can work with and give a higher assessment on the facts on the .round, extremely important the russians and the syrian regime. facts of the attack, and i encourage you to read the report because it goes into details about cluster munitions and all of it, there has been widespread disinformation campaign. you can see the commander of russian operations in syria said it on record, very useful because they are very forthcoming about the heavier. in the context of the april 7 attack, the precursor included the widespread disinformation
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campaign that was extremely personal -- effective. as to whetherubts this actually happened or not. i'm here to tell you it did. here's how disinformation works. internationalas attention was drawn in syria and stakes were heightened, with the russiantion, government and its networks began at palo disinformation campaign, ahead of this attack. workingically, i was with folks last week that track information to learn a term called news of the future. which i think is a technical term that was useful in this case. ahead of the narratives that have's --here might we might have seen rumors that the syrian rebels and white helmets and activist groups are preparing chemical weapons attacks, the narrative sounds
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ridiculous to a room like this and it gives widespread coverage and consistent pickup across different information -- disinformation environments. particularly in russia. arians, media reported workshop by former no to manufacture toxic weapons and then the duma attacks. governments, calling to this day. it sounds ridiculous in this room. it gets amplified not only in the information environments in russia. there is basically a network map to whatt gets amplified i call conspiracy sites in the united states.
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i incurred you to read the entire report. the atlantic council on the -- holding the war with syria, i cannot say it was a pleasure to read this report. it was a pleasure working with colleagues that helped contribute to the work. encourage you to read it. this is a hyper connected conflict. the evidence is right in front of us, as you can see. if we ignore it, that is on us. thank you. [applause]
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>> thank you for your tremendously important work. focus on the thorny problem of stabilization in syria. definesew of 2018 stabilization is inherently political and requiring u.s. efforts in engagement and defense to support legitimate authorities and systems to manage conflict. that's something we have been working on here for a couple of years and since we started the rebuilding initiative. , weughout the few years have gained more certainty about syria and our policies. we know what the policy is this year, at least on paper, which
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isis and the iranian military and bringing a lasting settlement to the conflict. that is why i have asked our speakers to join us today. tamara is a senior fellow at the brookings institution. stephen heideman is a professor of middle east studies at smith college. he has held a number of leadership positions, including project.y after these are not their full , but we have some questions for our speakers before we turn to audience discussion.
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i will pose the first question to you, stephen, and in the same question to you. how would you define u.s. inerests in stabilization syria? stephen: thank you, and thank you for your help with the center'sd for the assistance in putting the report together. i think there are a number of direct interest the u.s. has in stabilization. , the campaign was destructive in terms of infrastructure but also in terms of civilian casualties. i think it's in the u.s. actively seen in supporting efforts to respond to the damage caused by isis in eastern syria. i think not only because it demonstrates to the population in that area that the u.s. has a
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sometment to restoring degree of normalcy in a relatively short order which will contribute to the stabilization of the geography that the u.s. has been active in in its military operations, but also because, quite frankly, u.s. support for stabilization poses a very important contrast to the way in which russia and the regime have responded to the area in which it has conducted military operations with far less regard for responding to the destruction that has resulted in those areas. interest thecal in engagingance stabilization. here, building on what you noted as u.s. interests now that the
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trump administration has set out a strategy of pretty broad policy goals, reducing iranian , defeating isis, there interest in acquiring the leverage that will american diplomats to advance those objectives on a number of levels, and stabilization could become a very effect of mechanism in support of these broader policy aims. it in order to achieve that, think we need a stabilization policy that's aligned with those objectives, and that is designed and implement it in a way that has an understanding of how our actions on the ground feed into broader
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policy. one thing we are not really taking advantage of is stabilization operations on the , we areand as a result missing opportunities to fully employ stabilization in pursuit of our bigger policy gains. i think we can pursue that. i think in respect to broader a clearedere is vantage in taking stabilization seriously. >> -- clear advantage in taking stabilization seriously. >> at the broadest level, the objective is to prevent conflict relapse. what support and about -- what stabilizationbout is that it's not political, not roads and reopening .etting kids back in school
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it is inherently political. stabilization done in an appropriate manner to the -- it is objectives the syrian civil conflict that gave rise to isis, that created a wide open space for iranian that invited russian intervention. unless and until that civil conflict can be meaningfully resolved, those negative or currentes negative realities will remain. the challenge for the united states is that it only has the ability to pursue that stabilization policy, even if it
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is designed in the most effective manner, we can only pursue that policy in about one third of the country and not the most populous part of the country, and that leaves open the question of how even a successful implementation of this policy would interact with what happening between russia and syria, which is a political question. >> i do want to loop back to this affecting one third of the country. first, there is a you and security -- u.n. security framework. can you explain what you mean about human security? >> human security developed out of a field that recognizes that there are concepts in a number of conflict prone countries state the world in which
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institutions, state actors who constitute the most significant threat to the security of communities, the security of the civilian population. syria is widely understood to be one of the last visit: examples -- one of the most visible examples of this. the biggest threat to the security and stability of local communities is the behavior of the assad regime. when we begin to think about stabilization operations, one of the questions we need to wrestle have thehether we opportunity to improve the capacity of local populations to build governance institutions to put in place security and justice institutions that will strengthen the odds or improve will bepects that they
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less vulnerable to the kinds of security threats that originate to, fromr only institutions of governance like the military, like a justice system that clearly uses the law in an arbitrary and coercive way. to what extent can civil operations give local communities some degree of protection from those kinds of intervention on the part of an authoritarian coercive regime. in the syrian case, we have an opportunity to advance positive purposes. the argument i make in the paper is that one of the critical pathways toward achieving that goal is by lamenting
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stabilization operations that more fully reflect the stabilization doctrine you referenced -- by implementing stabilization operations that more fully reflect the stabilization doctrine you referenced. of of the principal findings that review is that stabilization operations must prioritize the development of what was described in that document as locally legitimate authorities capable of mitigating conflict and .roviding security my sense is that we have not fully embrace that objective in that objectiveed in the way we conduct operations in syria. -- is that we have not fully embraced that objective in the way we conduct operations in syria. we can go into the reasons for that if you want to. the sdf as the
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agents of local governance. what we have done is outsourced ,ocal governance of the sdf which functions as an extension as a result, the government structures we have established cannot truly be considered legitimate. local arab communities do not regard sdf authorities as locally legitimate. >> i want to ask you a specific the sdf.about but my question to you, laura, syrian,ave two friends, and -- >> at least two. >> yes. can you speak about what you think the main challenges are on ?oth fronts
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? >> i think one of the clear implications of the definition of stabilization that has now been embraced by the u.s. government is that it's long term. the biggest challenge i think the united states has had in activelyerally -- it intervened against isis, inember -- it has made clear a variety of ways that its tensions -- intentions are not long-term. mismatch of timelines that has gotten in the way. it was true in the obama administration and remains true in the trump. the one of the things report describes well and has emphasized.
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you're describing in a narrow americansoment when created a meaningful deterrent against the syrian regime. there are other political and economic realities on the ground . , thethat window closes assumption is the united states is not staying in these areas over the long term. the trump administration has cut off its own funding for stabilization assistance and the hesident himself insists wants to bring troops home as soon as he can and that the war is almost won. that window, we can expect, is
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, and syrians will be in a position to coerce in the brutal way just displayed , or bargain, down because it's a lot cheaper to renegotiate. what steve is trying to do is lay out the possibility for the united states to set some of the conditions under which this. regime will make some of those choices. these approaches can make things better than they otherwise would be. >> i also think it's important emphasize the corrosive effects of interference in syria
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without suggesting that this is going to be permanent or even long-term. one of the effects is that we reduce the incentives of our local partners in the area to commit to constructive engagement with u.s. actors on clear thatby making our engagement with them is entirely instrumental, entirely short-term, and will begin to wind down as soon as their is complete. it will be interesting to hear how the ambassador addresses that in a moment. increasesis that it incentives for local actors to begin making alternative arrangements, to begin withdrawing from u.s. as a partner and shifting loyalties we should not kid ourselves about this. eastern syria is a restive lien
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play at the moment, and i tried to -- aggressively in play at try toent, and i highlight some of the ways the assad regime is trying to re-us itself andreassert having success. and i have to tell you, this is -- perfectly rational response on the part of local actors. if you are not confident the u.s. will be there to have your back as you try to build conditions that will give you some degree of arguing leverage -- bargaining leverage, you are going to make other arrangements for yourself. we see that happening all the time in these areas even as the u.s. continues to claim it is working to support local communities.
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>> the policy elephant in the room sometimes when it comes to this discussion is the fact that with the qalliance id built on a mutual campaign against isis but we have a new policy element. how do you think this will affect the agenda? >> this relationship has all sorts of problematic implications. on where oureavily relationship with the pyd came from. that we were looking for a reliable local partner who could support the campaign, that addition, we were looking for a local actor who could play a
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critical role in maintaining security, providing services, offering some measure of local u.s.nance, and from a perspective, the partner most readily available to work with was the pyd. removingthe benefit of local governance from the u.s. as a direct responsibility of he u.s. that aligns with the skepticism and reservations within the 10 theepartment, with policy system -- within the policy system of iraq 10 the policy, afghanistan, and elsewhere. with locallution partners emerges. role, welocating that
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pandora's box, in a sense. we have given the sdf responsibility in areas where kurdish actors have never exercised authority. we have rekindled concern among the arab communities in the east ,bout kurdish ambition ambitions that have been amplified and reinforced rather than tempered and mitigated. create have done is local stabilization is a product of the sdf. i think that's counterproductive to some of the goals we have, especially if we imagine using it to the larger topline policy of the u.s. as now defined.
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>> i think one reason that happened the way it happened is the cousin when the u.s. went into syria, it went in with their he narrow policy goals. that alliance that was forged prioritized to the feet isis and establishing relationships with partners who could he effective on that front, and what happened not with a goal -- within the goal of intervention. so now it needs to be reevaluated. partners need to be reevaluated. i think there are two assumptions. i don't know if they are embedded in the policy but they deeply embedded in the way the u.s. operates in syria.
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dance with the one that brought you, basically. these guys did the job we ask them to do. we owe them our support. , in recognition of their military power, they get political power. the second assumption is rooted in the doctrine that shows order versus chaos. isis run by groups like are ungoverned spaces, and you have to establish order and then you have to hold. hold requires order. any order is better than no order.
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we learned the lesson in afghanistan that it does matter what kind of order you provide. we learn that lesson in iraq. now we need to learn that in syria. so, you accept -- >> so, you accept that there is order -- >> no, i am saying it is not correct that there is order and it matters very much what kind of order. what we have seen is a form of order that has been an of localnary driver grievances. the sdf is governing in a way thatis heavy-handed, involves arbitrary detention, forced conscription, inappropriate treatment of by the sdf, ofd
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heavy-handed management of local affairs and the council the sdf has established. we have seen resignations from some of these local councils. so the order, in my view, is having live effects on the possibility of stabilizing conditions in these areas -- is counterproductive effects on the possibility of stabilizing conditions in the area in the long run. ways, the many emphasis of the role of the sdf is going to turn out to be one of the choices the u.s. has made that we may well come to regret. >> let me ask you a geopolitical
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question about the role of turkey and the prospect of stabilization with respect to turkey and our relations with given the foundations of our current policy. let me mention sheer ways in which the recommendations i have suggested might help mitigate current tensions with turkey. clear signal from the u.s. that it is committed to building locally legitimate structures anchored in arab majority communities. that will signal to the kurds that we are come -- we are prepared to constrain the role of kurdish areas -- actors in local areas where they have played that role for an extended time. in addition, i think the idea
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that we are devolving authority away from the sdf and focusing our partnership with the sdf on the anti-isis campaign is directly in response to concerns that president erdogan mentioned a day or two ago in which he said we will not tolerate statewide structures in eastern and northeastern syria. what we are making clear with this stabilization policy is that kurdishindful a permanent build --ers them a current in an permanent or semipermanent political structure -- it seems to me that stabilization policy will not be the instrument for addressing u.s.-turkey concerns,
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but it could send constructive signals about the direction the >> i think this gets caught up in a broader dilemma for the united states in syria. does the united states have a strategy toward syria, or is its merely atoward syria subsidiary of a counterterrorism strategy, of an iran strategy, of its concern for the interest israel and like turkey? i think one of the things implicit in these reports is that the united states needs a strategy toward syria.
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the united states has not yet enunciated a theory of the case, what rules it will apply, what resources, and in what manner. it is very hard to answer the question you are posing about , because theests american strategy is not really visible yet. in a minute, we will get greater clarity. >> i'm going to take some questions from the audience. please give your name and affiliation. please try to be brief. for other people to ask as well. >> thank you so much. this is really interesting.
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when the united states got involved with syria initially, it gave military aid to individuals who turned out not to be reliable. many ended up affecting to -- defecting to islamist fundamentalist groups of one form or another. if we were to adopt your strategy and look for new partners, what is the assurance that assistance would not go to or otherl qaeda fundamentalist related groups? >> and the gentleman in the back. >> my question or something we should think about is that arabs failed to build a good governing
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.tructure they get all the support they need from the united states and they failed. the kurds build a structure. they have a structure. they are running the area very well. to challenge that , the newcomers, how would we know they have question mark do we have time to take that risk? >> barbara, there are so many ways in which a defaulting .uthority can go wrong
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i don't want to underestimate the possibility that we could process moves forward. i acknowledged that. the report is quite open about the challenges involved in building locally legitimate governments within communities in the context in which there are dense, overlapping local rivalries in which weapon variety of actors who will be competing to plate roman it rolls -- to play prominent roles in which we can anticipate all kinds of maliki content and effort -- malcontent and efforts of structures. i do not think it distinguishes eastern syria from other context in which the u.s. have worked. let us acknowledge the u.s. has andboots on the ground eastern syria since 2015. we have been working closely
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with local actors. we have been able to build up connections understanding knowledge that i would hope what informed the way in which we went about the efforts. i would hope we would use what ever leverage engagement as a ours of leverage and relations with actors on the ground, so we are not without means to build structures that are going to be less likely to collapse into the kinds of problems you described. the possibility exists, question, ito your do not think it is a choice between the team id and the blanks -- pyd and a blank story slate.
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we shouldn't imagine that the during the slate. period book for 2011, the assad regime worked in the areas without transactional bargain between the regime and local actors in which there was mythic and local autonomy and decision-making. many of those tribal relationships have been devalued and we know that our wickard then that they were before 2011. they -- than they were before 2011. we have to avoid the impression we would be starting from scratch. local actors, local authorities, establish figures authority and have resource who could serve as potential partners for the u.s. this imposes on us, an obligation to be very careful in how we go about managing those
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relationships. we will get a wrong. there are times we will get a wrong. i would like to hope we get a right more than we got it wrong. tamara: let me add one since. thene hesitation about direction it you are recommending, steve, is that it is so complex and challenging. to determine, i think it is nearly impossible for the united states even with knowledgeable folks out in the working carefully and trying to make its best evaluation of how relationships have been altered, it is very, very difficult to the united states accurately to determine and ae legitimate leader local context, who can effectively provide security
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that of population perceives as legitimate. really, and the extent to which existing social and power relationships have been disrupted by the conflict, given that extent, the only way to do it is bottom-up. your main critique of the approach so far is how top-down it is. requires going so slowly, so small and so local through the guidelines, and what point are you crawling forward so slowly that you have stopped moving? i am the last person to under emphasize the difficulties of this. i think we have to recognize the trade-offs. if we avoid engaging in an how weto reorganize
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pursue stabilization operations in eastern syria, with can already see the pathway ahead. i think it contains and a norm is number of problems and challenges to the u.s., the biggest of which it undermines our efforts to achieve policy goals. if we want to think about alternatives, i think we need to begin exploring where the opportunities are to shift how we do stabilization operations in these areas, a logo different path. slow andng to be a difficult process and i do not understand -- underestimate those concerned. i would call our attention to the larger trade-offs of staying on our current path. >> judgment in the blue shirt, next to you. ent meyer.
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should we be brought in front of the international criminal court? >> and you and the black sweater? -- in the black sweater? >> i just, you said you find as problematic and you wrote it in your research to roll predominately -- tworule -- to rule predominately arab area. i do not know if there is any suggestion that arabs are unhappy because it is led by the kurds. i have not seen any credible things like that. i think -- might be opposed because it is authoritarian and not because it is kurdish. --re are a lot of kurtz that
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kurds that are not happy. just saying that it is wrong for the etf to will the areas, and dislike they are wrong. thanks. faysal: the gentleman in the blue jackets. >> thank you very much. my question is about shifting mindset between military mindset and the forces. it is very challenging because from one side, there are powers foughtult isis at -- isis. and at the same time the we tried to work with them. the fightersork on because we know the regime
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understand that, they get it. they do not know how to do it. it couldunderstand how happen in the short term. steve: the question of sovereignty, i do not think the u.s. should be brought in front of the international criminal court. the challenges that we confronted, the arise of isis that emerged from the intentional retreat of the syrian regime from the area leaving them to local control and understanding exactly what would happen. the idea that we treat sovereignty as a blank check and a construct that has to be restraint under any and every circumstance flies in the face of ideas like responsibility to protect. our presence there certainly as problematic in many
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respects and do not endorse an open ended u.s. presence. my view, i mentioned it clearly in the report, the most likely outcome over the medium to isger term in eastern syria the reimposition of regime control over the area. i make clear that a state should contain to guide u.s. policy in that area. i think we have to distinguish between a context in which sovereignty was compromised in large part by the behavior of the regime itself and compelling the u.s. action in a that area and a longer-term context which i anticipate will bring about the restoration of syrian sovereignty. with a very difficult dishes on the ground as that occurs. that theree, i think sdf absolutely looks at its role
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in the region through the lives you described. ns you- the le described. how do you have that kind of interaction with the sdf with the devolution of power over local governments become something that sdf is willing to accept with all -- with a also included it is the abandonment of the sdf by the u.s.? it is a very significant challenge. and i forgot the third question. hnicity versus authoritarianism. steve: yeah, look, the sdf has a concept and will emerge from the bottom up. to that extent, i think what we
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are seeing is a conflation, and integration of concerns about styles of governance on one hand and the identity of those governing on the other. the more closely those become intertwined, the more difficult it is to separate them and it ends up looking like another round of long-standing kurdish-arab conflict which i do not think it needs to take on that for. -- form. . all bank --. bank -- faysal: in the back. >> i think it is important to remember that the training that the u.s. is problematic by itself. .his is where it started the people who were chosen for this program were not qualified
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or were not good or whatever. the program was problematic. i have a question, thank you, steve, for that. there is nothing blooming -- want to bet i do not optimistic, there is nothing in eastern syria that is efficient until now or that will succeed in the short term or in the future. and of the current situation where everything everything is demolished in eastern syria and there is no clear policy toward rebuilding eastern syria, what is the future in the short term? how do you see it in two or three years? thank you.
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[inaudible] >> you mentioned -- the u.s. perspective. the eu seems to be drifting from their position to assad and kind of theirf uniformity perspective of the legitimacy of assad and a normalization in syria. speaking, but when it europe and lebanon and i came recently -- i came from a trip recently and i can see lack of strategy in the eyes of the eu. solution for all of the region. that would leave the united
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states as of the only voice against assad. i needed just a few highlights. thank you. think one ofnow, i the things that comes through in a steve's report that is evident and what the united states is doing on stabilization now is at the current approach on the ground in syria isn't tacit acceptance that the united states' goal of a meaningful transaction is never going -- transition is never going to happen. in the u.s. is acquiescing assad's reacquisition of control over the territories. fulfillingy, if not a self filling prophecy, enabling one. where theis that is
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future,tates is in the it's policy does not match is on assessment. assessment. either it has another assessment in which it should share that were it should have a policy that is in line with its own realistic assessment. which gets to the point i made earlier about policy goals where we do not have a strategy. i think you are correct to say the eu also does not have a strategy. i think, therefore, in this withive mode, seeing assad russian and iranian support reacquire control over the most populated areas of the country, they are reacting.
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of the value of steve's report is that he was straight the way in which not problematic work on the ground is reinforcing a reality that the united states says it does not want. we can be skeptical about the policy direction that deceive is proposing for stabilization -- it is hard, it is complicated, we could get a wrong, it requires written engagement that were not sure this political will to read support. all of that may be true. let us recognize the political and policy consequences of what we are currently doing. not, what will eastern syria look like in a two or three years? i would expect 2 principles to dominate that part of syria over
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that time frame. one is a continuation of the negotiation between the regime and they have not proven to be very effective as of yet. future of what the the t y d -- pyd's role should be in the regime. i would expect a continuation of those and the achievement of a mutually agreeable but some limited level of local ottoman for the -- autonomy of the pyd with a dominant regime presence in a that area. , ither to the southeast would anticipate a parallel process managed by the regime engaging with local notables, tribal elders to rebuild structures of control that will
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advance the process of imposition of the regime and the reconsolidation of governance arrangement that looks a little bit like those that existed before 2011. if we do not make the kind of ships we have been -- shifts we have been discussing that is my sense of what the trajectory is likely to look like. within the eu, there are debates and differences of opinions at the member states that would like to set process of normalization. there are significant conflicts within some governments about how relations with the assad regime should now develop and normalization. france is one. interests a number of pulling him in different directions. i think for the time being, the policy of no reconstruction politicalaningful
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transaction will hold. i think it is chipped away at and i do not believe it is undermined that we will see a shift in the new -- the near future. however, there is a date to whetherich will tell us that policy will hold. may 2019, the next eu parliamentary election. there is very strong concern that the populist strand will actually produce majority representation in the eu parliament for right-wing populist parties. if that happens, i would anticipate that support for the policy would erode more quickly. tamara: i think that is a good a diagnosis. [laughter] until: we have to break 1:30. thank you for your time.
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steve'se you to read excellent report. please join me in thanking them. [applause]
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>> how optimistic is the white house and congress that this shutdown can be avoided friday night? question mark over it. they have five days. withew york times came out an interesting story saying even if they were to come up with a deal between now and friday, there is a risk of there is not enough republicans here to pass it. lots of republicans in the house
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are giving up their spaces and offices for the incoming and are not showing up in washington. is not granted and the democrats are not on board with the giving $5 billion for the border wall. that still made has not changed. , they come up with a temporary agreement to keep the government open.


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