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tv   Book Discussion  CSPAN  November 1, 2014 3:15pm-4:10pm EDT

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>> thank you very much for coming to today's meeting. the history of the future of syria. we are very fortunate to have with us christian sahner from princeton university. he is the author of "among the ruins: syria past and present". which you can purchase after his presentation. he will discuss today with us what is happening in syriac, what took place in the last four years. he will pay special attention to
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u.s. foreign policy, the growth of terrorism and especially isis, and all so the fate of minorities in syria. he is a historian who spent a number of years in the levant. he is a graduate of princeton university and studied at oxford as a road scholar. he has written for the wall street journal and the times literary supplement. for those of you who are frequent visitors to our meeting, knows the we try to
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reach out to experts, new faces, new ideas so we are in for a very exciting next 25 minutes and then we will open the floor to your questions and we have an overflow of questions from the overflow. >> thank you for coming. it is nice to be here. i have admired the wilson center added distance for a long time and it is a thrill to finally be speaking here as an author. i want to thank haleh esfandiari for the invitation. thank you for being here. i want to begin briefly by telling you about the book, what am i doing here? then i will talk about "among the ruins: syria past and present". so as haleh esfandiari said my acquaintance with syria began seven years ago. i was at oxford on my road
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scholarship. there were two places to go in the middle east to get very good arabic. one was cairo which i heard was busy and polluted and too big and basically by pure chance i ended up in damascus and what a random chance it was, i proceeded to spend a few months every year from 2008 until 2010 in syria and subsequent to the beginning of the war in 2011 started living in countries around cso in beirut and i recently returned from nine weeks of research and travel. that is my acquaintance with syria, personal snapshot of syria before the crisis set in and that is the perspective i bring to this book. i write not as a policy expert, not as an expert for politics but as a historian. i wrote the book with two intentions in mind. the first was to expose to readers a sense of the deep and
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rich history of syria. precisely the deep and rich history of syria i felt was being neglected, despite dominating the world newspapers in a way unlike ever before, i felt the 1,000 word op-ed or newspaper article could not capture the true depth, could not give a true picture of the historical currents that were culminating with the events on the ground today and when i say deep history i'm talking not merely about events over the past 40 years but also about the deeper past, the collapse of the ottoman empire in the 20th century and into my area of expertise which was the world of antiquity to the formative events of islamic history of the course of the seventh, eighth and ninth centuries so that was goal number one, the deep history and the second was to give general readers a sense of the flavor of the country. what were the smells, the sights
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of everyday life in this beautiful land incredible place before it was altered in unimaginable ways by the current fight. so i set out to combine these elements, on the one hand history and on the other hand memoir and reports on agenda product does this book which came out we to weeks ago. it has a hybrid style some might call unconventional but hopefully the memoir aspect enriches the history and i hope the history enriches the memoir. in the process of writing the book i racked my brain for conversations and experiences that i had in that period of calm before the start of fighting that in any way could have anticipated what came to pass and there were many snapshots, many memories. i want to begin by reading to you a brief conversation i had with a friend in the old city of damascus and we were discussing the election of president barack obama in summer of 2009, a mere
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50 few months after his election and we will discuss in historical significance of having an african-american in the white house. to give you some background, a sunni muslim, well educated, curious about american culture and extremely serious. on the topic of diversity in the middle east. as an american you like diversity, you have all these raises and ethnicities, even a black president. what if diversity in my society is not the same as diversity in yours? what if diversity here is a source of weakness? he asked me. wasn't it diversity that created the violence in iraq, he pressed on, the existence of all those different groups, sunni, shiite, christian, kurdish? i would rather live in a place that did not have diversity and was stable than live in a diverse place that was at constant risk of falling into
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civil war. let that pregnant conversation hang in the air for a minute and i will return to at the end of my remarks in my next 15 minutes or so. i want to give you a structural overview of what happened over the last three years, where we are currently and where we were going. quick overview of the recent past, and it's uncertain future. where did we come from, the recent past? we can understand the conflict in syria by looking at three axe these about the revolution. the first and oldest is the civil war. and the regime of president assad dominated by his nick versus an opposition that comprised sunni muslims. this is an internal affair with the domestic situation inside
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syria. harnessing the current across the middle east the so-called arab spring and the syrian phenomenon. this conflict was initially non-violent, quickly turned violent, began as civil society uprising but quickly turned sectarian. we remember when president assad came to power he was an arab of the mist, a promise of reform, damascus spring. it came to abrupt end, free speech was closed. we're looking at with a crackdown in march of 2011 was the final culmination, the end of the damascus spring and ansett of the even more ominous arab spring, syrian version of the arab spring. that is the first axis of civil war, pitting regime against
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opposition. the second axis of the conflict, the next evolution was the development of this internal civil war into a regional proxy war and here the axis that is important to consider and remember is between iran and one hand and saudi arabia on the other. in other words staunchly shiite regime in tehran versus saudi arabia in a constellation of other staunchly sunni regimes based in the persian gulf but drawing in turkey and other countries. along with his regional lexus came smaller powers on the side of iran and various iraqi shi'ite brigades and on the side of the saudi and its allied groups like the muslim brotherhood, al qaeda, etc.. that is the second player of the conflict. the third layer of the conflict was what i like to think of as a renewed global cold war. this draws in conflicts and conflict zones in other parts of
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the world outside the middle east notably ukraine and the axis to keep in mind is that of russia, the united states and the european union. this axes of conflict followed a vigorous thematic axis, the rise of greater russian assertiveness on the world's stage under president putin and versus what we might characterize as exhaustion with robust and muscular foreign policy on the part of the united states government. so this is the past. three types of evolve in conflict, civil war, regional proxy war, renewed global cold war and three different taxis of struggle. regime versus opposition, iran versus saudi arabia and its allies, russia versus the united states and the european union. where are we now? the question of the present.
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i like to view this as the moment when iraq impinged on syria. when i think back to events of the year ago, i as someone who was a close syria watcher i don't think i could have anticipated what would have happened. the warning signs were there. a rather for many of us to follow the middle east and syria in particular but the syrian treasury seems so overwhelming, so deep that the manner in which syria would end of destabilize iraq and iraq would end of destabilizing syria was surprising in many ways unprecedented. here's the central actors, isis now referring to itself as the islamic state was born in the cauldron of the american invasion of iraq, or originally banneds of militant jihadists trained to cut their teeth in afghanistan where they became al qaeda in iraq, incredibly
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brutal, incredibly successful until they were squashed by a combination of factors, significantly the u.s. surge. also crushed the model to reorganize in growing strength by capitalizing on the chaos that was unfold in neighboring syria. many of you will be familiar with the origins of isis but it would be helpful to take a step back and think about what makes isis unique. the first is their claim to have established caliphate. the word caliphate is of major buzz word in our media today but i don't think the definition is widely known. the caliphate is the normative government beginning with his immediate successor perpetuated in 2 important powerful dynasties that spread islam from the atlantic coast of morocco to central asia.
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over the course of the middle ages caliphate degraded but its prestige in the eyes of men of religion never vanished so even as the caliphate became a fiction, the restoration of the beginning of islam was always in a sense a notion to reestablish it. it was's of thunder and a turk in the 20th century, various militant groups over the last decade attempted or at least claimed to want to restore this but none have done it until isis this past summer so that -- the alleged realization of the goal of re-establishing the caliphate. the second thing that makes them unique in my eyes and connected intimately to the first is as a group that wages transactional jihad isis is in the business of holding territory. this is the nature of "how google works". unlike al qaeda which is
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responsible for the terrorist attacks these groups for the most part did not have an interest in state building. isis is quite the opposite. the third thing to my eyes that makes isis unique is like many other extremist groups operating inside of iraq to a greater extent inside syria it was born in the cauldron of civil war, the bedlam that arose between the regime in damascus and the opposition. it may have been born of this cauldron but what is unique and interesting is it did so without participating actively in the conflict. this raises a final question regarding the nature of isis and where we are today. where did it come from? and astute lebanese freighter
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who writes six progenitors, the first is the u.s. occupation of iraq, self-explanatory. the second is traditional despotism in the middle east. and assertive form of iranian political sectarianism that alienated sinise throughout the middle east, the fourth is the converse of this, and assertive form of cynicism that seems to propagate itself outside persian gulf countries in iraq, syria and the middle east. the fifth is a historical puritanism, a vision of the past as a golden age we must restore in the here and now heads the claim to establish caliphate and the most public and striking feature of isis's pedigree is unusual appetite for arbitrary and spectacular acts of
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violence. this tragic present which i would say has begun this summer when i jumped on to the world stage has done many things with the syrian conflict. among them is up ended the series of taxis i spoke about a few minutes ago, tied distinctions between regime and opposition between iran and saudi arabia, russia and the united states at least for the time being these tiny distinctions have vanished in the face of common threats of isis. finally it prompted the u.s. to act in syria. president obama was famously hesitant to intervene with poll numbers on his mind, memories of the u.s. invasion of iraq, has not done much to this date. isis has pushed the united states over the edge and we are now actively involved. that is my snapshot of the
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present. my talk is entitled the history of the future of syria. i want to tell you what i think tentatively as a historian what may be coming down the pipeline. not to be pessimistic but i think president obama has a tough road ahead of him. this is for many reasons, not least of them the fact that to my eyes the united states does not have a clear and robust sense of what our mission is. there are many conflicting statements over the past weeks and months to degrade the organization altogether. and our mission is not crystal clear as it should be but the appropriate military response to meet those various missions is also not clear. eradication of isis will require a commitment of military force far beyond anything we have pledged so far, far beyond anything we pledge in the
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invasion of iraq. on the other hand if our mission is more modest, to the middle east, then perhaps we can talk about a more modest and manageable form of military expenditure the american public and our president can summon. another reason i think president obama faces an uphill battle with respect to syria is this unusually fragile coalition of interests that converge around the eradication or degrading of isis. i mentioned how isis has appended those tiny accedes of the syrian civil war but also for the time being countries as varied as the united states, russia, and sunni militants inside syria can agree the eradication of isis and benefit of everyone i think this fragile coalition premised on shared common interests will not last long term especially as it becomes clear the bombing of the military campaigns inside syria serve to help the assad regime
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which seems inevitable conclusion of what is going on right now. this connect to my next point. i believe in the medium term and long term, high likelihood of the rehabilitation of the assad regime and the international stage. given the impossible wager between a regime that has massacred cal was thousands, hundreds, tens of thousands of civilians in its own country and a radical jihadists group that controls a territory the size of great britain, seems to me the international community may in the long run hold its nose at learn to cooperate with president assad in a way that has been refused to now. another thing coming down the pipeline connects to many of us americans, 2016. regardless to the up ricans of the white house is after 2016 whether it is a republican or democrat or certain republican
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or any range, democrats or any number of republicans i think we will have a new u.s. president who is not committed to the same long string of statements calling for the ouster of the assad regime and pragmatism and the blank slate that new u.s. leader will have great freedom and flexibility to make policy decisions, arguably more muscular military and policy decisions than president obama did not. two final notes. don't need to end on a melancholy note that syria is a melancholy story and this is what i try to bring out in my book. i think the near-term future of syria will be a tragedy regardless what happens. this will be a tragedy because all the world is acting in a way that it is not before, to rescue syria from isis, to rescue the region from the cancer that has metastasized and spread, it diver in the world's attention from first order problems in
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syria. and inside the country, human rights violations, a collapsed economy, that estimates currently say require at least $200 billion to rebuild. i think isis is diverting the world's attention, that is a strategy indeed. the second tragedy connect to my research interests as a scholar. i am finishing -- espinoza my time thinking of the events that happened a long time ago in the middle east and relations a between muslims and non muslim communities, there is good reason to believe the events we are witnessing unfolding in the middle east today represent the tragic culmination of a process that lasted a century. there are certain groups in the tragedy that received more
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attention, most recently the christians, fairly consistently but many other groups. is a tragedy that touched muslims themselves in terms of segregation or gradual separation and segregation of formerly mixed neighborhoods in baghdad and the roots in this respect. it touch smaller communities like jews, armenians, greeks who once formed great numbers inside the middle east and i think the tragic circumstance of the syrian civil war and the regional conflagration may lead to the acceleration of this process happening very slowly into my eyes relatively undetected for more than a century. for this final point about a gradual homogenization in a release, the disappearance of communities rooted in the region for centuries and centuries brings us back to the conversation i had with my friend in the old city of damascus in 2009. when i think back to that conversation his comments, his
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opinions chafed against me. they seemed so other than my own sensibilities as an american coming from a society rightfully celebrating the progress of a community that had historically been marginal in our society, african-american to president obama as the first occupant of the white house. it rubbed me the wrong way but in hindsight i wonder whether there was perhaps not some wisdom but at least a certain degree of prophesying what my friend said. not the great cultural and religious diversity of the middle east will inevitably lead to sectarian bloodshed but there are major unresolved issues or there were major unresolved issues in syria and iraq before the onset of this fighting and i think we are seeing the culmination engine some respects these tensions, not clear wary are headed but i think the future is very uncertain and we will see a lot more bloodshed before it is over. with that, i am happy to take
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questions. >> thank you very much. let me ask you a question. what will it take to defeat isis? in syria and then move on to iraq? the way one read about them maybe a year for a so, ragtag fertile people, ideology for this group and also the notion of the caliphate in the 21st century is absurd even for a person like me who grew up in iran. what will it take to just defeat -- >> this is the million-dollar question.
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i don't alleged to have a comprehensive answer but maybe i can give you a few suggestions. i think there are three layers to this. one is a military solution in the other an ideological solutions and the other is a much more deep social solution. the military solution seems clear even if accomplishing that goal will be very difficult. here i think if we want to defeat isis militarily it will involve a large and comprehensive and inclusive coalition inside the middle east. it may include groups we currently do not want fighting isis such as the syrian regime. that is the military solution continuation of what is happening and arguably escalation. isis is successful not because it imposes itself but because to some extent the message of isis central soil within these communities. this seems to me a major
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unanswered question with respect to the events of the past month, who are the local constituents of isis, syria and iraq? providing an ideological alternative, a political islam that does not appeal to violence takes the way forward and this is a generational challenge but i think countries such as syria and iraq can do so in the long term by addressing what lies at the root of all this which is my opinion, in the absence of inclusive governments with in these countries that empower the diverse ethnic and religious groups that form the matrix of the society. if you have an inclusive society that -- and include iraqi state that does not disenfranchise cities, you open a pretense under which isis is doing. >> please wait for the mic and
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identify yourself. >> i was the last d.c. m in damascus when we shut down the embassy and i spent two years dealing with the syrian opposition. i wonder if you as a historian, looking at the sunnis relationship between the sunnis and the other secs in syria, a few other than the massacres of the nineteenth century, if you have found historical roots both to the frictions that seem to be coming up now being exploited by isis and to this concept of restoring the caliphate. >> you point to the historical example i would give. many scholars regard the sectarian turning point, sectarian watershed in modern middle eastern history is in summer of 1861 a combination of factors both external, having to do with politics of the ottoman
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empire, reforms by european powers, along with internal factors specific to local society leads to a massive period of bloodshed in which fighting spills from mount lebanon into the old city of damascus and estimates vary widely as to the number of christians killed in the hands of sunni monks, the estimates vary widely from several hundred to several thousand so that is not a continuous story of sectarianism. sectarianism may be a recurring phenomenon in the history of the middle east but we have to be sensitive to our sectarian changes over time. the form of sectarianism, may harness messages, a rhetoric that has been very familiar in societies in the middle east for decades, centuries but it is also very different. that is what i say with respect to your first question.
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with respect to the second question, the caliphate. even if as you said the restoration of the caliphate strikes many muslims as implausible, a pipe dream, it is undeniable as an institution in islamic history the caliphate is the prestige, the paradigmatic way muslims in the past have organized their societies and looked to leadership. and aspiration away today and what i find interesting about isis is isis has of course done what none of these other groups -- talk is cheap. you can talk about restoring caliphate but not do it. what makes unique about isis is they have done it. isis procedure itself as restoring the great mistake of the 1920s, abolition of the caliphate under ataturk. they're successful because the violence does not resonate with many muslims, that symbolic act
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certainly does. >> wonderful and informative talk, but you didn't mention israel at all. do the israelis have any goals in syria and if so i dade doing anything to achieve them? >> my sense of the syrian-israeli relationship is despite former hostility these two countries at war, israeli passport cannot enter syria, lot of anecdotal evidence, 1967, 6 day war. this is a relation of official attention but when i look at and i think what was the quietest border in the middle east of the past 40 years? in many ways it was the border between israel and syria. although there was rhetoric of hostility, they had reached a modest 70 and that explains the ambivalence of the israelis towards what is happening in
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serious all on one hand the assad regime that ferry weapons from iran to hezbollah would fire them into israel and lebanon so that made the assad wishy mad but on the other hand in comparison to many islamist regimes or alternative such as the ones that proliferated these states could have been much worse and the silence or reticence of the israelis has been very interesting and people i talked to who know the situation much better is in the state faced with the prospect of assad falling now in contrast to what happened to few years ago a different situation but i think my sense is within israel many people were content to see "among the ruins" tuesday. al qaeda is knocking on their doorstep. there's a fiasco with the capture of u.n. peacekeepers at the nature crossing last month. is real realizes it is the same wager, precarious stability may
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not like with free-wheeling chaos under this coalition you can't stomach. >> behind you. okay. >> i work with the i r. my question to you is there is a bill in the u.s. congress. this goes to your second point of the proxy war between saudi arabia and iran. there is a bill in the u.s. congress put by walter jones, steve lynch and growing support even during the recess to declassify the original 9/11 report, a missing chapter which purports to show the role of saudi arabia both officially through the embassy and charities and other institutions in the funding and orchestrating of the original 9/11 hijackers and the attacks and there has been increasing coverage of this. recently senator bob graham who
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chaired the intelligence committee and helped write the report has been demanding it be declassified was interviewed and said in the last couple weeks that saudi arabia has been playing both sides and is involved in funding isis and the creation of isis and he has been joined by many more people. my question is as a historian would you support the declassification of the 28 page chapter? >> i said at the beginning of my talk i am not a policy expert. i am a historian. i preferred to abstain on the policy question. i can comment on the general historical and cultural context. is undeniable that over the past several years and decades saudi arabia has played both sides of the aisle so to speak. on the one hand these are countries that had a convergence of energy, economic interest, security interests but on the other hand by virtue of their
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own populations, the ideology that is within the ruling families have of course been sympathetic to these extremist ideologies and on the one hand you have regimes that are staunch allies and collaborators of the united states but on the other hand appear to by all reports be mixed up with groups by standards of foreign policy are antithetical to our interests. as i said i'd prefer not to comment on the policy aspect of it but there is great virtue in realizing that it is the messy situation that goes to my comment about a messy coalition of interest and this convergence of interests around the group isis. >> we have a question from the overthrow. you think crisis's concept of jihad could extend to europe given that a large number of fighters are coming from the west? >> absolutely and this precise
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rat, up until now, isis, for all of its poisonous rhetoric and violence most of its military operations have basically been focused within the region within iraq and syria. it may not be attacking the syrian regime as robustly as it claims to but nonetheless it has been a local regional phenomenon and the great worry of president obama and the international community is isis has the potential to metastasize further and very rapidly become an organization that is not about regional jihad but transnational jihad weather in europe or the united states and the obvious factor of this are the many foreign fighters in isis that joined in over the past few years. >> that gentleman in the blue shirt. yes? >> the university of texas at austin. i just have a question, picking
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up on your historical specialty. of course this is caliphate isis, claims to be one but if you compare it to the caliphates of the past several centuries, i see striking differences between the ottoman art to deletion of the caliphate and economist governing of each community. many communities in the ottoman empire arguably, not arguably but exactly, far more diverse than what succeeded it. so do you want to address the questions that this caliphate that isis has proclaimed is actually little to do with the history of previous centuries but in fact something rooted in something much more modern? >> absolutely. i want to be clear that when i talk about the historical
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resonance of the idea of the caliphate i am not making a claim of was established in the similarity to caliphates of past centuries and i agree the manner of its behavior and how it runs itself the behavior of this caliphate is counter to that. we are talking about the ottomans etc.. we are dealing with the very different world. not only was the ottoman caliphate more practical with respect to its treatment of minority groups, you mentioned the period i studied in similar government structures and a very different worlds. the ottoman empire for much of its history was the majority, much as my caliphate and the majority non muslim worlds and a muslim political majority means something different than a muslim demographic majority. and so in essence there is a
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pragmatism imposed from without on how they regulated intercommunal relations so the harshness, the violence that is characterized, the intolerance, the behavior of isis in the name of creating like caliphate is as you save for the most part counter to the example and behavior of most traditional caliphates in history. >> to the back. >> at the wilson center, thank you for a marvelous presentation. thinking about the future of syria, will we be looking in a decade in a different middle eastern map, an independent kurdistan, both around bosnia, the assad regime, what you see as the future of that middle eastern matt? >> we see participation of the middle east already, it will be interesting to see what the international community does to
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formalize or not formalize these borders but there have been various appellations in the area under assad's control as called by people, the territory -- that is probably not the case but the notion that there will be a partition between a western syria that is under the control of the assad regime versus this kind of wild wild west wild wild east in eastern syria under control of probably a loose coalition of sunni militant groups and iraq i can see that happening. what i find interesting as a historian is many of these regimes in the middle east including those in iraq and elsewhere spent much of the past decades, this colonial adventure of the french and british according to their telling and the borders are not reflective of real communities on the ground and in many ways the exact people who decry the colonial intervention of the
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course of the 20 third century are committed to the protection and preservation of these borders. in the near term and midterm will be interesting to see what happens but we affectively see partition, and i think it will be longer before the borders become official borders if at all. >> thank you, the center for national policy. my question is about press reports that there is a lot of attainder against assad because so many of their sons have been killed in the fighting and he is not his father. the father dealt with the situation very brutal in the early 80s but survived and now we have a big mess. is it possible they could try to move against assad to preserve
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their interest and moving against assad will make the house of cards fall down, what is the sentiment from your perspective? >> this sentiment has changed. the syrians civil war, when they they would close ranks around assad or fracture and as is obvious over the past three years they have not fractured. and the threat of these militant sunni groups, so long as there's a major backer of the assad family into iran and allies etc.. i don't see them fracturing. what happens in a world in which syria calm down, in which the fighting comes to an end and suddenly the many families from the mountains sending their sons to die for assad have to cash in their ships. they are owed a great deal and assad has to catch up. there will be an interesting question and the seeming uniformity and coherence of this
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regime in which they close ranks will potentially look a lot more fragile. i think it is clear that there have not been for actors. >> schrieffer, retired international health care worker. comment on this possible analysis. this era, this period, these people are characterized by a long war between iran and iraq. out of that came a strong, capable military, dracadre , especially special forces and they form the core of the islamic state. a couple pentagon guys might be able to comment too. >> i defer to the expertise of
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the pentagon guys. from what i have read, yes. i think just -- talking a minute ago, a lot of these groups in the syrian civil war more generally appear to be a monolith from the outside, a single coherent group with the same interest. from all the reports i have read this seems to be not the case with isis. isis's leadership appears to be comprised in two groups. one, the leadership base it inherited from al qaeda in iraq and crossed by the u.s. surged and on the other hand by baptist military officers who were ousted following the invasion in 2003 and by reports were radicalized in prisons over the past decade or so and these two forces are very potent together. i wonder in the long term the
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depths of this radicalization, whether in iraq or syria, an ambivalent relationship to religions throughout its history so i wonder the depth of this radicalization. i don't doubt it but i want to know more and i wonder reagan for how long will these two constituencies stay together? >> thank you for your presentation. you mentioned assiduous -- solutions to the situation. i would like to add another one. don't you think the arab political inclusion of political islam is having another isis and i would like to know how both isis, require all this -- if it works in iraq and syria in a
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different situation militaryotherwise is a powerful that all the arab countries can come out or have a long time to be with it? >> surging -- i think we are still talking about that, we're running out of time. ..
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i can see a massive escalation in the long-term. >> thank you. as a historian i may ask you an unfair question which is to invite you to speculate on the refugee situation and the second and third order effects you see playing out over time. what do you see happening? >> the middle east has been scarred by many refugee crises over the past half-century or so whether talking about the palestinian refugee crisis or you know countries like jordan or lebanon etc. and i think the memories hang heavily over the heads of most people from the middle east. i just got back from nine weeks in jordan and spend an interesting and moving day inside a refugee camp which over the course of three years has become a third of the fourth largest city in jordan and has well over 100,000 people.
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it's incredible. my long-term prediction is just as the palestinian refugees under different circumstances became, these were temporary settlements that eventually became permanent settlements. it's hard to see how it doesn't go the same way. it essentially looks like a shanty town which at best has corrugated tin houses with tents and plastic hobbled how it will become a major city north of church and i think the same story is likely to play out across the middle east when we are talking about turkey or lebanon etc.. not all refugees are the same. there are many refugees that have integrated successfully into their society. some have come near and some have gone far so among the most desperate i think permanent cities is what we may be looking at in the long-term.
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>> thank you. i am from syria. based upon your study in a specific area and what is going on right now, do you think kurdistan the great state is about to become real? thank you. >> i think, i know know this is a long-term goal for the kurds for many years and in the midst of this crisis which is a crisis that threatens everyone inside of syria and iraq the kurds are unique in that the first time in a long time they face a gamble that could if they play it properly lead to autonomy. if you're interested in this i can command an extremely detailed article published in "the new yorker" by dexter filkins which goes into the details of this and it talks about the wager. on the one hand how do you deal with the existential crisis that
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occurred share with the government of baghdad and have the leverage this to create an opportunity for autonomy? that seems to be the current direction of history. i can put a date on it but i would not be surprised to see it happen. >> kristen let me ask you a quick question. it's about the role of the city coalition. and also whether there are currently employees in the city and government. what does the future entail for them if a hypothetical case would win. >> this race is for me the example of iraq.
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how do you, if you have a stated goal of overflowing -- overthrowing a regime how do you run the state? can these people be perceived as complicit in the crimes of state military leaders at the top people who are running the security services and directing operations for the army. it seems to me that no you can't. bath vacation was a complex and extremely difficult by the standards of many that incited a lot of the insurgency in iraq and one could imagine something similar happening inside of syria. i think for precisely this reason however you have an infrastructure that is an institution that can enforce treaties and follow-up on offense. this is precisely what i think may recommend the syrian regime in the long run to western countries such as the united states that may not currently be willing to cooperate. isis doesn't enforce treaties. isis does not have a central bank.
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to be clear i'm not endorsing this idea but i merely explaining what i see as a potential or a plausible sequence of events in the future and this is i think one of them. >> let me ask you the last question. iran. as a player in syria. recently foreign ministers are reef talked again about the syrian people should decide about their future. you mentioned ballots. is that possible or is there hope and how much influence do they have in syria? >> i'm sure the minister realizes the heavy dose of irony that the people should decide in sending economic support into the country.
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they do that along with many other groups so it's not merely the iranians but the iranians are the most powerful patron of the regime. earlier someone asked me about the difference between iran and russia in the syrian crisis. are these two players essentially the same? they are notionally on the same side on the side of the regime of assad and do they have the same interest? my reading of the situation lucidly is that for the russians for a variety of reasons for this is more pragmatic and for the iranians this is an existential crisis that they must win. the massive amount of treasure and logistical help to have put into the regime the mobilization of their allies so i think the iranians are very serious about this. the iranians have functioned very efficiently. i think their range of policy goals are much closer than we realize in syria in the long run and they -- than their opponents
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are so i will leave it at that. >> please join me in thanking christian sahner. [applause] >> thank you for coming. from booktv's recent trip to colorado springs colorado the press at colorado college. the press was founded in 1978 and dedicated the gration of --
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books. >> welcome everyone. glad to have you here. what we are going to be doing today is we are going to be talking about what we do here. we'll be talking about it in the context of your classes and we are going to look at books and look at things that are made here and talk about the process of all these different things historical aspects and we are actually going to do some printing. the credit -- press at colorado college was founded in 1978 by in our professor named jim trimble and he was a painter. actually he got into this accidentally that thing got completely fascinated and taken with it and basically taught himself how to do it. and then he belted up over the years on his own in a place tucked away at the college. he amassed all the equipment and all the sorts of


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