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tv   [untitled]    December 14, 2012 5:30pm-6:00pm EST

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check out the dot com slash r.t. america and check out my twitter page at meghan underscore lopez c n eight. you know sometimes you see a story and it seems so. you think you understand it and then you glimpse something else you hear or see some other part of it and realize everything you thought you knew you don't know i'm sorry welcome to the big picture. taken. alone welcome across the computor a house divided against itself the sunni shia conflict rages across the arab middle
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east and beyond is this sectarian division being used to topple regimes and redraw the map of the region and is the sunni shia conflict politicized by outside powers . and. cross-talk the sunni shia divide i'm joined by joshua landis and norman he is director of the center for middle east studies and associate professor of middle eastern studies at the university of oklahoma in dubai we have moved to jabber he is an expert with the center for middle east studies and public relations and in washington we cross to our resident nader he is a senior international policy analyst at the rand corporation right gentlemen cross-talk rules in effect that means you can jump in anytime you want josh if i can go to you but the security and difference here between the sunni and the shia have been around as long as islam itself virtually but how is it different in the arab spring and what events being played out in the region and we can't forget
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about iran. well it's become very politicized ever since the iranian revolution nine hundred seventy nine america was boosted was kicked out of iran and went to saudi arabia to build up its major center of power and to keep its hands on gulf oil saudi arabia has become the armored base of the united states and increasingly the u.s. has has sided with the sunnis now that the other big factor was going into iraq when the united states actually sided with the shiites thinking that they would be more arab than shiite but today by putting the shiites in the top and in iraq iraq has moved on the side of iran creating the shiite crescent iran iraq the syrian government under our side which is shaky and hezbollah in lebanon and that alliance is the united states is hoping to bring it down and wants regime change in syria and iran and wants to get rid of his mullah so it has politicized to
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a large extent a sunni shiite struggle with saudi arabia and turkey being the two pillars that increasingly egypt the pillars of a sunni arab world against against increasingly iran and iraq ok move it what do you think about that and is it a good strategy is it going to work. well no it's not going to work because by alienating iran from this equation they're making a lot of problems for themselves precisely in iraq because as you know key previously was much more willing to compromise with the americans than he is now so now the strategy by the us continuing to alienate the shiites in the middle east which was one of the main policies of the of the bush administration this policy of alienating the shiites in the middle east has effectively led to a certain radicalization of the shiites in iraq. as we know nobody in maliki was to
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a certain extent standing up to iran and so i would not agree with the. you know saying that the shiites in iraq are somewhat more shiite than they are arabs because as we know you know there is they do have a history of being having fought you know the main rank and file of the iraqi army during the the the war with iran was basically a shiite army and this is also true today so while we have there is a certain affinity towards iran in iraq today. iraqis were to a certain extent more willing to compromise with the americans and with the worst but this this policy by the by by the u.s. has effectively caused the shiites in throughout the middle east to become alienated and to join the certain axis of resistance to western interests and what do you think about that axis against western interests. why one blame the united states for the sectarian divisions they've existed in the middle east for hundreds
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of years and they were exacerbated by the iranian revolution you have. a theocracy in iran that has tried to shape the region according to its own interests and a lot of the sunni states resigned this and of course the united states is allied with a lot of them including saudi arabia but that's different than just saying the u.s. created this situation there are alliances the u.s. remains committed to preventing a nuclear armed iran and this is a regional and global issue so it's it's not so black and white ok john should use it a good idea for the united states to be so closely aligned with saudi arabia as events unfold in the region. well it's not it's a rather it's a very it's a confusing alliance and i think it's confusing for many americans because. the united states claims that it wants separation of church and state in the world affairs and it's pro secularism and here we have
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a light ourselves with the hobby country that pumps out the religious doctrines and supports schooling for wallabies for islamic schools and so it does make a very strange alliance but we want oil and we want bases in the in the persian gulf in the arab gulf and we want to support. saudi arabia so that that is what we have and we saw in bahrain when our principles came up against our national security interests in other words supporting democracy which would be supporting the shiites in bahrain. we have done it only rhetorical but in actuality we've supported the monarchy and we've supported. the counter democratic forces if you will because those are the ones who are allied with and that helps us retain our interests national security interests in the gulf when moving on how does that look in the region i mean if the u.s. and saudi arabia are so aligned is that empower the shia. it causes a great deal of animosity on part of the shiites towards the us and this has been
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the case. since even before the iranian revolution because the us has always been supportive of these dictatorial regimes which effectively used to repress the show its be it in iraq saddam pre pre pre before the one nine hundred eighty s. also the regime of the shah in iran which was one of the main are those of the us and also the us support for the regimes in regimes precisely lebannon where the shiites for so long on to the one nine hundred seventy s. were among the most disenfranchised and oppressed community and also because of u.s. support for the saudis and saudi being the main exporter of what your ideology across the world which was caused so much extremism to grow across the world specifically because of saudi funding this is causing more and more animosity towards us among the shia of the shiites and i you know it's very interesting i mean if you look at
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al-qaeda you know the going after the united states nine eleven except here in the united states continues this relationship and it is same time talks about democracy but just not there that's kind of strange isn't it. well we have some very common interests with the saudi government a right it's a big oil producer we're both committed to maintaining security in the persian gulf well our all of our values and interests converge of course time and we don't have that kind of relationship with any country in terms of the democracy movements and arab spring sense a started the u.s. has promised promoted democratization and the arab world especially in countries like egypt now it's kind of accomplice that complicated situation in the persian gulf with saudi arabia for example how far do we push political reforms and are part of the world are the countries in that part of the world ready for these
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reforms you can argue yes but how will that affect our relationship the u.s. relationship with those countries and pact some of our key objectives like containing and you clearly run josh i've just never understood it i mean so he may be has a lot of oil i mean whatever regime is there is going to export it to make money right so why not have a democratic one or push for that. well it's not really about saudi arabia it's about. control of the second world control of the gulf persian gulf at the end of the second world war america learned a very important lesson we in a sense defeated hitler because we took away his energy his oil his panzer units his air force skein to a screeching halt because they didn't have supplies this is the point of the hinge of fate stalin grodd and el al a main a where he was turned back he was trying to get soviet oil he was trying to get middle eastern oil yeah but don't want to buy if i don't dance joshua i mean the
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united states will be self-sufficient relatively soon in oil recent report it's about the world it's about keeping your hand it's about keeping your hand on the world's tap of oil if you can deny oil and energy to your potential opponents we don't even know who they might be then they cannot you know in a third world war well america is still the world leader if we relinquish that. a lot of a lot of major oil importers want the united states to protect shipping in the persian gulf so it's not just about the united states having it's a hand on oil in the persian gulf there's much more to the europeans. japanese than the chinese count on the united states to maintain stability in that region look at their region it's very unstable. what do you do you are right and i think that's one reason why you know you can be reduced to the you can go ahead and you can achieve stability avoid supporting the main saudi arabia which is the main trouble
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maker in the region which does cause the bulk of stone to be to become such. a haven for extremists because of its exporting of ideology which was represented in the deal bundy's school in pakistan which did not exist decades ago and this is also the case in syria where because of so the funding and precisely because of so do support you have all of these judges pouring into syria so you can truly talk about stability when when you are. actually supporting the saudi arabia which is which also is responsible for the for funding you know funding and support the. iraq which is would schwartz you know the main reason for all of the sixty six destroyed in iraq and josh you want to jump in there before we go to the break thirty seconds well i think i think i think this is a point america has killed almost a quarter of a million middle easterners in the war in tower terror and they're almost all
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sidney's so the al-qaeda movement the terrorist movements have been and that are anti american are largely sunni it's and. you know this is this stirring up the religious strife and i think that alley is right it's not just america's fault this is a regional problem and it is that only middle easterners can come to terms with but america is stuck in the middle of it all right gentlemen we're going to go to a. very short break and after that short break we'll continue our discussion on the sunni shia divide stay with hard. slog and you can see just screw over the fuel. costs whom.
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welcome back to crossfire computable belt remind you we're talking about the sunni shia conflict. came if it if i go back to you in dubai after everything that's happened with the arab spring and what's going on with syria do you think that the west is rethinking its neo colonial project in the region or is it just recalibrating using the sectarian divide. i would say it's just trickle liberating because. as you can see the muslim brotherhood is becoming just as aligned with u.s. interests as was as was the mubarak regime just slightly less there is nothing that
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they can really do about that this is also the case in tunisia where french and american influence is not likely to diminish and you time soon the main problem here is syria where the u.s. is trying you know as we know trying to gain more influence by effectively trying to topple the regime through all of its you know through the its clients saudi arabia and qatar which are funding the jihad is going into syria so i wouldn't say that there is this is causing an end to the new york colonialists project that is just changing changing the equation just roughly ok joshua changing the equation when you think about that. well united states is trying to withdraw from the middle east largely and consolidate its interests in the gulf region around saturn arabia because we have pulled out of iraq we've pulled out we're trying to pull out of afghanistan and we're trying not to get into syria although we are creeping there is a growing mission creep we've just recognized the new government but we prescribe al
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qaeda in in syria so we're treating syria in a much more gray zone than the old bush you know with us or against us where we're prescribing al qaeda we're coming out against assad we're recognizing a new government that's that strong it's hopefully pro western so this obama is trying to complicate this and not just turn it into a sectarian you know slugfest and i think i think washington is very conscious that they do not want to be siding on one side of a religious war they have it all if i go to you it looks like it will in the end as things are going to go ahead in washington well. in a lot of ways what we see today in the middle east is a sectarian war a conflict between the sunni shia specifically a major rivalry between iran and saudi arabia and it's not a neo colonialist project there is no such thing and the us has a specific set of interests in the middle east we work with our partners to achieve
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them sometimes there are tensions a lot in lot of countries the united states doesn't have that much influence we can't shape the outcome of the syria conflict exactly to our liking we have to deal with the situation we have in the middle east so looking at had this son the divisions will be a big part of what's going on in the middle east if you what do you think i mean i use new york colonialism you seem to agree he didn't. this is not a green i think this is just semantics the u.s. is behaving just a. imperialist new clueless but we're so this isn't changing regardless of all we made try to see things differently the u.s. is trying as much as it can to gain influence i wouldn't agree with with the saying that the u.s. is effectively trying to retreat from syria over the middle east and concentrate on the gulf you know to some extent perhaps in egypt but the u.s. is trying to gain
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a lot of ground. you know trying to the outcome of the crisis in syria to the advantage of the jihad and the and the armed opposition josh are you afraid that syria is just going to explode we had libya imploded but syria could explode and then again let's say with the sectarian issue well i'd not sure i think that has been overblown the sort of first world war in the middle east because syria sectarian problems are just going to sweep over the rest the region it is true that the sarah sectarian problems and particularly the outflow of refugees. is weighing down the neighboring countries and lebanon is fragile jordan we've seen demonstration. it's fragile iraq is still unsettled with a war going on between sunnis and shiites in iraq so and it has it has increased sectarian tensions in turkey shiites particularly amongst the heterodox communities the isle of eason the alawite to different shiite inflected groups are very
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distressed where they are of this policy of supporting the muslim brotherhood in syria so it has increased tensions but i don't think the middle east is going to collapse although syria the future of syria looks very bleak today that is for sure and it's going to be a constant engine stoking this religion this religious tensions only if i go back here in washington all of the borders were designed by western powers after the first world war are we seeing a redrawing of borders in a way i mean maybe not officially but i mean because of populations and sectarian beliefs and some ways we're seeing the system being undermined not necessarily by the united states or the west but by the realities on the ground for example the syrian nation state is made up of many different ethnic religious and sectarian groups and the syrian regime maintain order through fear through force through oppression that really works for so long so there are
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a lot of these states that are not natural nation states like turkey or iran or egypt and we see instability in those countries more than anywhere else so in some ways this is a breaking down of the old order. movement when you think about. the breakdown of the older just to what degree west has control over that change i think. ok i'd just like to go back just a little bit to what josh was such regarding whether or not the conflict in syria is going to spill over into other countries i would say that of a certain regime were to come to power in syria there is a very great possibility that the sunnis lebannon who do not have a very strong leadership. as opposed to the other communities might feel empowered and especially the more radical groups to try to provoke a certain suspect area in strife within lebanon by attacking by attacking hezbollah and shiite populated areas this is also the case in iraq you know or you might very well have certain sunni and sunni extremist groups who might not for the majority
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but might be powerful a powerful enough to initiate or try to restart the civil war there in iraq so yes there is and we believe very strong possibility that what is happening in syria as a result of a lack of leadership among sunnis in iraq and a limit on this might eventually lead to these families trying to instigate the sectarian strife in these two countries. yes ok josh would you want to reply that you agree or disagree. well i do you know i i think it's true it's going to put the coming to power of a sunni government in syria which looks very likely is going to give a real boost to the sunnis in iraq who are very unhappy that they've been completely pushed out of power by the maliki government and it's going to cities in lebanon who feel like they're the natural leaders of lebanon are quite bitter about the power of hezbollah so those those two those two things are going to have an
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effect will it greatly change the balance of power in the region i don't think so on the other hand i do think we're seeing you know the biggest redrawing that we're seeing is amongst the kurds because the kurds were very were left out as a national group of the first world war settlement in the middle east and in eastern syria the kurdish region is now largely autonomous and there are many who would like to break off and secede from an arab syria and and join kurdistan in iraq and of course this is caused kurds and recrudescence of violence in eastern turkey where the pe k.k. is once again. engaged in violent acts in eastern turkey so that that has you know that is going to definitely be an area of some conflict and mean the arabs fight in the kurds when. i don't know if the kurds when but i agree with josh i had the
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kurdish issue is huge in the middle east it tends not to get a lot of attention we've been focused very much on the sunny shared divide but the kurdish issue is very important because turkey syria iraq iran all have big kurdish minorities that are arrest so i think that's an issue we should really keep an eye out on because that will be a big part of what's going on in the middle east today but it is one of the things that really bothers me is that these jihadist that are paid and trained or whatever and however they're related to the saudi arabia it's really easy to get them moving but it's hard to get them to slow down you know you fire them up and once they're fired up that they're almost impossible to control do you worry about that when it comes to syria yes you know the soldiers are not very picky about who these supports and who would be front and this is exactly what up in the gun a stone with the soldiers from the. the chickens are coming home to roost in saudi arabia and in yemen and elsewhere and so this is going to be the exact same thing in syria because it is
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a policy for saudi arabia to fund as we all know extremism outside of saudis so that they wouldn't start any problems at home but eventually funding all of these groups that are becoming so well organized this is going to cause problems for saudi eventually but more importantly it is going to cause a great deal of problems for both syria iraq and iraq and also lebanon you look like you are skeptical there you want to reply to that. well i think the jihadi threat is very real i wouldn't just say that the threat comes from one source or one government really there are number of individuals across the arab world that are funding these groups and this is the risk of having bashar al assad government in syria collapse i'm not arguing that we should try to promote change in syria we should but it's understandable that the u.s. government is cautious when it comes to the situation because we don't fully
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understand what's going on on the ground who will succeed succeed but shiela sad will be groups linked to al qaeda and this is a real danger ok josh i'm going to give you the last word we've seen the birth pangs of a new middle east right before our eyes. real quick well we are seeing the birth pangs and this getting back to the end of the first world war the whole idea of nation states has not really been adopted in there was always a minority sentiment that nation states are a foreigner imposition on the middle east and that the kayleigh fed and that we should go back to an islamic rule and al qaida represents that sort of thinking and represents that sort of rump islamic thinking it's a minority but it's still an important element in the middle east and it shows the weakness of the national sentiment which i think we're seeing coming to the fore in this this is a battle in some ways between an older islamic vision of a caliphate than a unified islamic world against nation states all right on the note i was happy to
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hear him saying we have run out of time fascinating discussion many thanks today to my guests in dubai norman and in washington and thanks to our viewers for watching us to see you next time and remember across troubles. in.
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