tv Hudson Institute Discussion on Syria CSPAN October 26, 2018 12:06pm-1:38pm EDT
largest south -- garbage that is out there. you have to be careful. there is a wall, characterized this election is like a blue trim democratic tidal wave up against red republican seaway. in the house of representatives in most not all but most states that is -- >> you can find the rest of this discussion online at c-span.org. take you live now. c-span2 to the hudson institute for discussion of use policy towards syria. >> good afternoon and welcome. welcome to hudson institute. welcome to this debate about next steps for the u.s. strategy in syria. my name is jonas parello-plesner. i'm a nonresident senior fellow. hudson, among other things working on these topics of syria
and what happens next. welcome to our audience and welcome to the viewers out there. with a pleasure being covered by c-span today, so we know it's not just all just you but broader. today's panel as us it is on next steps for the use strategy in syria. i have a stellar panel with me up here to talk about the question. i have nixed any be represented of the syrian opposition coalition to the united nations, mariam jalabi. you are also equally important a founding member of the syrian women's political movement something also address. i have my colleague, hudson institute senior fellow michael doran and a great expert on this and has worked both inside and outside administration of questions in the middle east. then we have georgetown doctoral
candidate and former senior policy analyst at the u.s. commission on international religious freedom, jomana qaddour who is also joined us. as introduction about the u.s. strategy in syria, the newly minted u.s. envoy to syria ambassador jeffrey recently was and he was in new york laid out his policy to syria these elements. first, the usual remain in syria until the feet of isis. which is sort of something that's been a policy for quite a while. then sort of real diplomatic push for the implementation of u.n. security council resolution to fight for that covers ending the conflict in syria. and then as a third point he also mentioned the removal of all iranian unita forces from
syria. i will bit as forward . he mentions on idlib, the u.s. role and have the president has personally engaged to avoid escalation which so far seems to be the case but is one of the things we also discussed up on the panel. actually to kick us off on the question of this view on u.s. strategy, three of us here were assembled back in may on a panel that with that time called should i stay or should i go, with the clash theme song based on at the time president trump had said the u.s. was going to leave quite shifted from syria which no one seems to be the case. but asked my colleague michael doran to be the first sort of assess this new use strategy in syria, how much is new and how much of it is, campy and permitted quickly and particularly with you about sort
of the iranian forces in the country of the use having a much more active policy of getting them out of there. mike, why don't you take if a? >> thanks. thanks, jonas, thanks to all of you for coming. i think what we see their and ambassador jeffrey is list of objectives of the united states is sort of the beginning of a strategy. i think there's a kind of strategic thinking behind it. i'll lay out what that is. before do that i think it's useful to go back a little bit and see historically, the obama administration identified defeating isis as the number one priority. in fact, the only priority, counterterrorism, a counterterrorism strategy, and that led to several major
developments. one was we entered into a tactical what was identified at the time as a tactical temporary and transactional relationship with the ypg, which is the most effective writing force because we didn't want to put our own troops on the ground, president obama didn't want to repeat what he saw with the mistakes and iraq and so we looked for a proxy fight isis for us and found in the ypg. that temporary transactional and tactical decision had massive strategic implications in the form of a rupture with turkey. the second thing, they give up that happened is that the russians and the iranians made major military movement into syria which the obama administration 30 much turned a blind eye to. the third development we are all
aware of was basically a disintegration of syria. so now the trump administration has followed the logic of the obama counterterrorism strategy and pretty much defeated isis. there's still some fighting going on, but basis is nearly -- isis is newly a limited period greater thinking about, thinking that should been going on from the beginning but didn't, about the political order that they want to see in the end. they have identified publicly identified illuminating iranian commanded forces on the ground in syria. i think there's another sort of unstated goal there, which is a reconciliation with the turkey. and exactly how that's going to happen and exactly how the come
how that is going to affect the ypg u.s. relationship is unclear. it's going to be negotiated. the other thing which this did is they want constitutional reform in syria. again unclear how that's going to happen because clearly the iranians, assad and the russians don't want that to happen, don't want that to happen at all. what i think i see the beginning of the strategy here at the don't think that i necessarily have a lot of hope it it succeed but there's a strategic plot here, which is that our presence, we are not fighting the iranians directly but our presence there is putting pressure on them, especially combined with our economic policy, economic warfare i guess you could say against the iranians. it's the imposing costs on them. somebody has to pay for all the
iranian dominated or iranian led forces on the ground in syria. and also there's pressure, i think with administration calculates this puts pressure on the russians, and the russians would like to wrap this up and get out. where i think the strategy is leaving here is that it's a russia-based strategy. the the idea is to put pressure on the russians to bring pressure to bear on the iranians so that we can come to some kind of agreement in syria. everyone is aware, we have five different militaries in syria, other than the syrian military. the russians, iranians, turkish, americans, israelis. each military is there fighting its own specific enemy. they are not all, not working together. i have one enemy in one or two there going after. and the united states only has
about i don't know, 1000 troops, i'm guessing, i don't know the exact number. that leads to an awareness in washington that we cannot dictate, we don't have the force on the ground to dictate a specific political outcome. but we can channel things down certain dynamics and put pressure on certain actors. the big hope here is that what's going to happen is the pressure on the russians is going to lead to a more cooperative relationship. >> thanks for those introductory remarks. mariam jalabi, will now turn to you and you are based in new york and u.n. the whole question of the u.s. as sort of second part of the strategy is really put new emphasis on constitutional consl committee, that there should be a political push. this is something when we followed syria for a number of years this is not the first time
that there should be pushed to the political conflict. it was initially a hollowing han deadline of the 31st of october for the syrian envoy. i was always given his reply by re-signing by november so that has to be somebody else to take up that mantle. the question is a little bit of mission impossible and your thoughts from the syrian opposition as well as how all these negotiations are proceeding. >> thank you for having me. i have to put this back in context that mr. reagan political process has gone to eight official ground in geneva plus the ninth try to get some kind of process that could be substantiated on the ground. with the different parties involved.
this has faced an impasse after an impasse afternoon passed because of the russians not willing to go in any political process and they keep putting obstacles, everything that is being presented, they're like no, we can't deal with this. we need to deal with this other thing sometimes they will come and maybe for the people who are following what's happening in geneva you have seen it is common to no results so far. this is combined with what's happening on the ground. of course when you're taking the lead on the ground with the air support from russia and the troop support from iran on the ground, there is very little incentive to come to the negotiations when you factor like rush the city also on the security council blocking every possible resolution. within the soul context the last four years they have tried hard
to create some kind of momentum after resignation of kofi annan and others not being able to perceive too much of the process. there was this process that was created that had four components. that is gating grid of, addressing the terrorism issue in syria, addressing constitutional issues. they called it the baskets. and elections, and the transition, transitional process. process. so the constitutional process that is now being talked about and it seems like it is taken the lead all over the conversation but syria is one component of the whole political process that we've been calling for in being involved in. i do want to reiterate the syrian opposition coalition with its components, although the people involved in it, all the parties in it have come forward always because we do want a political process. for us any progress in the
political process is actually a win for us. with the people who want to create change in c. therefore this is want to discuss the terrorism, discuss constitution, elections, everything. but one of the things we are counting on that to the geneva communiqué at two emphasis that none of these baskets actually can addressed and resolved on its own and less all of the baskets are resolved convening the conductive progress and went very with that being progress in all of the areas. within this realm since the terrorism question has been put aside for now because that's mostly on the ground and in the hands of the international community, the geneva process is focused on the constitutional committee. this was idea to mention him a push by russia just like russian is on the ground, seems like it is in the political process because unless russia agree to any process, process is not taking place. last of 20 to be involved in the
process come we said okay, bring on, what is it that you want? we ready to bring in names and ready to go to the process. this became problematic, that latitude in the conference, what happened with the russians tried to take the whole negotiation into a different place. from under the auspices of the u.n. to go into the russian territory. of course the international community with the opposition kept the fire under the united nations and they went to sochi. we didn't go as opposition group were not present because we didn't want to legitimize that process or give him credibility to having a process starting it in sochi. what happened was the united nations under secretary-general has agreed to outcome that would put forward as stated the process needs to take place in geneva.
there will be a collection of 100 people. 50 people from opposition. 50 people from the regime and 50 people that would be collected by the united nations from civil society groups, women from other components of independence so that puts the process would start. we have said yes, the regime gave the names. the opposition gave the names and now we are stuck on the third. the regime again is saying we can't go forward with this your first of all one of their biggest obstacles is that this is a steering process. i don't know if you follow the trip a couple of days ago to damascus where, during generous a couple weeks ago with the foreign minister of syria said this is a steering process. it has to take shape inside syra this has to be a syrian dialogue. you know the story of syria. there is no dialogue if there's
only one conversation happening. someone signed very violently. when the process is happening they are saying that this is one of the obstacles, one of the other obstacles they are putting forward is that first they want to have the presidency. the want to choose or they have i had in selecting who the president is. second, the want of the majority. they want to have two-thirds majority of the total so they can have the upper hand. and thirdly want also to have the decision-making mechanism to be based on consensus. that means you have a veto power on anything. if we could had consensus we would not be in the place where in now today. this has made it somewhat difficult to come to any position also on the constitution if the americans have gotten a lot more involved lately and want to push for and
more of a political solution, considering also the development on the ground, maybe you know the attack on idlib was halted. as we're hoping this would be a true push for a political solution forward. so now it's happening is that they give a deadline of 31st the halloween deadline but that deadline also shifted. what was supposed to accomplish at that deadline? were we supposed to select the name? was it to launch or have the first meeting? what are the mechanism this committee is going to be based on? that has been vague. this deadline is there but we're not exactly what that means. then we are given the of the deadline which is a departure by the end of november. we need to see what that may brinker is this going to be a push for creating real force to establish the committee so that when he leaves it is handed over to the next special envoy to curate at all or is this a process that's going to just be
obstructed by one of the parties, the regime, by not agreeing to the third third? yes, another impasse in the talks. one of the suggestions that's coming from our side is that why not start something but having only the two parts, meaning the opposition and the regime. this would have our name, committee. they are the names, committee so why don't we start? this is one suggestions to take some of the obstacles that been put forward. and see where it goes from here. >> thanks. just supplementary, a question on also because michael doran praising mention the u.s. cooperation with the ypg. one of the big things is withhold syrian opposition and machine is how our particularly the kurds represent in this. something i would like your thoughts as well on how that -- and going forward.
this is where the u.s. also has its sort of boots on the ground, is in areas primarily controlled by kurdish but which have not sort of been included the same way and are in different ways courted by russians and, of course, opposed by turkey and has a sort of difficult decision in the soul situation. i wanted you to explain a little bit more about that. >> i would like to first address when you say the kurds, , the kurds are not one thing. the kurds are different groups with different political opinions can different divisions, different groups that have different agendas and policies on the ground. so that is the kurdish council that is with us and with membership with the opposition. they have seats within the political committee. their kurdish preposition within the opposition that we are working with with united nations, with all of the beatings like part of the opposition coalition.
there are the other kurds, of the part of kurdish policy that exist on the ground that the americans are working with. there is the kurdish subsite that exist on the ground. there are the kurdish brigades that exist on the ground that are not necessarily part of either. when we talk about the kurdish question keep in mind there is no one thing. what we're thinking or what we're doing is that we part of a syria, the bigger territorial integrated syria where we want everybody to have their equal rights and the participant in this. we have communicate and declaration that states the unity of the syrian population, territory, that every citizen is equal under the law at all of this. so anybody who signed onto this is working with them together. this is the position we've taken, this is how we put forward to include in the political process and included in the political constitution committee and we are going forward from there. >> thanks.
>> aside from what's happening now in the turkish u.s. relations and how the whole area is not handled there. militarily. >> which we will talk about later. want to now turn to jomana qaddour. excreted u.s. congress which worked so i thought it would be interesting to get your perspective although that from how this also within u.s. strategy affects thinking in caucus, take it the issue of sort of bringing more u.s. pressure on iran but also more broadly. >> sure. thank you. so briefly on come in terms of utilizing congress to achieve some of our goals, obviously congress is very divided on the issue both and i want to address isis and how we want to address iran. it's not quite clear yet from the administration if they are willing to expand sort of use military force. we have about 2200 troops, mike,
in syria mostly in northern city. we have the basement the southeast. that's been sort of a bulwark. on the c-span perceived a sort of one place where we can both address isis and address of an syntactic it was erected to address isis and its mandate has sort of been expanded although it's very small. but neither ambassador jim jeffrey the others have made that we're going to expand the use of military force. but that neither one of them is actually ruled that out either. that is in terms of the military and how much congress may be willing to allow that to happen it is still yet to be seen and informal proposal been given to congress to contemplate. there are several pieces of legislation that think are important to keep in mind in order to meet our objective the present subject if it yesterday into law the sanctions if has
both are meant to address any individuals or companies that are dealing with hezbollah entities, you know, to really get at the heart of the transactional operations. and seeing how the art elements of has both in syria, very well known, part of that will inevitably have rippling effect on syria. a couple of other comp two other pieces of legislation that are important to the house resolution 1667 otherwise known as the caesar built on the note assistant for a site i picked this up and bipartisan, ongoing for quite some time. the house of pushing it. it's really meant to sanction for up to five years any contract regardless of what if it's russian, chinese, i mean, et cetera that any significant financial transaction with the regime. the aim of this issue to cripple the machine for anyone who may be looking to do with the region
especially in this time of quote-unquote restructuring with the contemplation of reconstruction. eventually to deter into the entities that may be considering that. it went to senate, modified, the senate foreign relations committee did some modifications and now sending it to the sent to vote on and he will have to go back to the house. if it's not done within this particular time before congress is out of session again it may start all over again but this is something that the administration, congress has been working on. it's a bipartisan effort. hopefully something like this would really get at the heart of addressing any potential reconstruction at least directly to the assad regime. the other one is a kensinger iran deal. the congressman there along with others in the house have really under this would mandate the state department to do in reporting on any group that destabilizes. the first is really the goal was -- particularly how to get to
hezbollah -- [inaudible] who has both then, numerous piece of legislation intended to address these two groups in particular. but recently an amendment was added by congressman joe wilson from south carolina to also add -- the afghan and pakistani groups that are fighting alongside iran in syria. this is legislation to keep in mind and there are special these guys are special development where russia and iran are doing a lot of the fight against isis. and finally there is this idea of the authorization of use of military force. this is a bit of contentious issue special on the democrats side after the president used his authority to it the assad regime twice this people in previous april after there was verified use of the regimes come
using chemical weapons. senators tim kaine has been holding up the confirmation of the assistant secretary for near east affairs. fortunately until there is sufficient explanation of the use of force and sort of really trying to put, restrict the president from being able to act on his own in the future in the event that assad decides to use chemical weapons or anything else, or that we may decide use our current military to address iran, you know, in a different capacity. >> may maybe just to add to tha, aumf, addressing al-qaeda and before isis and, of course, will be a bit of a stretch more iran
exactly fit into that which is why the question of the should there be something even you, congress should authorize which of the doesn't seem the agreement on as you are saying as well. >> apps with tim kaine is really going at the heart of. >> i wanted to come there so much interesting here but but i wanted may be, let's start with idlib and sort of the question of catastrophe averted and for how long and what this shows about a power play with all these outside powers, sort of russia and turkey now that's been really in the main seat of negotiating this, and whether come which i think really matters for all of us whether we not see a sort of a military incursion and if for the flow of refugees and humanitarian suffering but also how this will play out and sort of broader political things. i don't know, mike, that's very
much your part of your politics. what do you think will come out of idlib? >> that's one of the reasons, when of the reasons why administration believes that its posture postures putting pressure on the russians because the russians and arenas were poised to retake idlib. they want to retake it and the regime talks about vital syria. this is a last part. it's sticky in the crawl. they would like to expand the regimes led to come regimes control over, crucial to them to get the international legitimacy from the region that they crave and they were poised to move against it and then two things happened. what is president trump tweeted, not just tweeted, we signaled aa number of ways but including the presidential tweet where he said that this would be a dangerous and reckless escalation, and that was combined with moves by
the turks. the turks moved tanks and troops in the area and signaled to the russians that there are going to fight on their hands with the turks. so both of these are threatening to the russians. the russians have successfully exploited in certain ways the deterioration in relations between the united states and ankara. they now have a productive relationship in certain areas with the turks or the turks are part of nato. creating tensions within nato is a strategic goal of the russians. and so going to war basically were fighting the turks in idlib would endanger all of that so they're deter in that respect and that there deterred by the fact that the united states could possibly use military force against them. what we have is a stalemate and
at the moment the russians negotiating with the turks on some kind of interim accommodations. how long that's going to last is anybody's guess. i think we depend on a lot of these other questions as well. the question of i think as the administration sees it, when the dean makes his final report, the administration will see that as a litmus test for the russian willingness to work with the united states on constitutional process for syria. if the russians clearly signaled they will continue in the regime to continue to obstruct come that will then lead to a number of unspecified consequences by changes in america that will possibly have consequences undesirable consequences for the russians.
that's yet to be specified what that would be but i think that's the framework in which their thinking about idlib. >> there's also other issues that are connected to idlib. one of them is idlib is the last stronghold for the opposition, or the rebels are people who will replace assad. sometimes there's this dichotomy being created in the context of the syrian discourse were using as opposition within the regime and then you have the international allies. here i do want to forget about the syrian people, who came out in the revolution as demanding freedom, justice and dignity and demand for voting for the president that they choose and the parliament that they choose. what has happened is when the regime took over back -- [inaudible] there are scores of people have been pushed to the north.
like this is a fact we need to keep in mind. idlib is not the 3,000,000+ people that is portrayed in the media. this is like often have of it is actually refugees or internally displaced that are coming to the north. this is the last hole for the big of course a lot of the displaced, anyone who come to idlib are part of the rebel group sediment on the ground. even those a lot of the military that has weapons that away from them, this is crucial because it's the last day with this people are pushed to. where did they go next? there is no next. yet the place to critical to is outside syria. this is where we've had this international community waking up again to the crisis that might entail by going into work against idlib on the area where you're going to have a huge catastrophe, she military catastrophe, and refugee problem. this is one of the things that also has made international community site with turkey, try to find a solution with russia.
the other very important thing that is happening is the regime this has been maybe oculist 60% of the land which is another issue .2 think about them gaining land doesn't mean waiting because this is what has been portrayed in the media as the amount of land the regime has declared them out of control have come legitimacy they have. but in reality this is on land territory because even people who have taken the land over back from, people still want to have their rights, human rights protected which regime is not doing. this is a contentious area where the regime actually tried to route of truth to bring to idlib, to fight alongside them against whatever terrorism that they thought i did take back idlib. they couldn't get the amount of troops they wanted or even within their reigning house. one of the things they've done, some of the arena militias
dressed them up in syrian military close and give them syrian military ids so they could be fighting next to the regime. but this is not also have because they didn't have enough people they could have had to carry on this attack. there are all of these different elements that have played in the question of idlib, one of the international community had to come together and find a solution that was not based on military solutions which have now created which we consider an opportunity for a real push for a political solution. this is the crux, this is where it pushes the balance to a military solution or to a political solution and we sang that it is a military push that is used russia and its allies but what recent is this international community involved specifically with the american involvement that there is a a further push that we need to solve this politically and we're hoping this will be one of the
catalysts that will make the geneva process start insincerity again in the near future. >> can i i just reinforce whatu just said? it's not clear to me. i'm not a military expert, but it's not clear to me that the regime and its allies have a military capability to do this without chemical weapons. the reason that they been using chemical weapons is because they don't have the forces that can actually -- they need to direct everybody else out to these saves not just a weapon of terror protection the weapon of choice given the kind of forces that they have. since the 12 administration seems to have at least for the typing has taken that weapon away from them, it does put them in a difficult position where you can see the possibility of some kind of political negotiation taking place. again i should stress i have a
lot of pessimism about all of this but this is why their thinking in these terms. >> so i would just add one thing i think is important. and it's something that we can't deny also exist in the lipid there is a small contingency that no one has a solution for. we have estimates ranging from 20,000-100,000 rebel forces in the. it's not clear how many that are, however these are rebel groups that collect from all over seery and basically dumped in idlib in one location. there's about come according to some estimates, i think the institute for study for said maybe 10,000 fighters, only 10% of which they say are hard-core, foreign al-qaeda members. no one, the united states, russia, no one has what we keep hearing is a needy physically destroyed. no one has a a solution for thm quite yet, and another issue is that these groups, al-qaeda in
particular assume with iran isis, they will play the role of spoilers in the coming months, especially if there's any kind of traction on the political front. during the u.n. general assembly, there was a meeting with about 20 people and was said to me that he said -- let me find his exact quote. he said the european union, turkey, the u.s. and the syrian opposition seek to quote can military defeat into a political victory and iran will not let that happen. so i think it's important we are seeing whether it's an al-qaeda we are seeing some sort of one-off resurgent, try to attack the coast. it will continue to try to play spoiler on this. same with isis obviously but i ran and its allies are also going to but specifically iran. they really fought hard for this on the battlefield and it's going to be very difficult to get them to agree to many of the terms that was pointed out.
>> that may be on the question we could go back to what the initial questions which is really the u.s. new policy of saint can you push iranian committed forces. you were saying they fought hard on the ground. the iranian forces on the ground. his ability a possibility of pushing them out of syria within the foreseeable future? >> i want to do what mike has to say about this. i will briefly say i think once the sanctions go into effect i think that might really go to the heart about every has been funding of these operations. they're gathering they say that 32,000 she backed militias from afghanistan, pakistan, lebanon, that is gathered that you're paying for. i think part of that is trying to -- if they will be able to
debilitate that but i want to hear what mike has to say about that. >> it's the week ., the weakest point in the nation, american strategy. it's very striking to me that the americans, first secretary tillerson's within secretary pompeo give a speech in which it is 12 or 13 points in which he laid out, point of continue with iran and one of them was that we want to see the departure of all iranian commanded troops from syria. the israelis are saying the same thing. the israelis are basically in a war in syria with the iranians. there red lines, , they have several red lines but the basically at up to the point that they do not want syria to become a base for entering military base.
it is striking to me that we and our israeli allies and i think we can add our saudi allies as well and even the turks, the turks are not as directly affected by the iranians as the israelis are but the turks do not like the iranian presidency region. there's no doubt about that whatsoever. and yet we don't have a coordinated strategy to turn our aspiration, our common aspiration into a reality. i certainly hope the sanctions will fight enough so we see a real change on the ground among the iranians. but we don't have that much time. if president trump if president trump is defeated in 2020, then we have come out of welcome what is it 25, 26 months, is that right, until that time. clearly the iranian strategy and the strategy of the democrats
were at least the former obama elements in the democratic foreign policy establishment and the european union is to wait out the trump administration-to go back to the jcpoa and to lift the sanctions on the iranians. so the timeframe on this potentially, and what i would consider personal and worst-case scenario is a 25, 26 months. i don't know if that's enough time to see this happen. the only power that really has a military strategy against the iranians is the israelis but that is primarily one from the air. this is a this is a both the isd the white house i believe have latched onto this russia strategy of using russia to the pressure on the iranians to get the iranians out. and putin is understands this and so what he is saying to prime minister netanyahu is, hey
look, we have common interests in syria, and my interests in syria are not identical with the iranians. in the long-term. in the short-term i have a shared interest with them in defeating the opposition to the assad regime. but in the long term i don't need syria to be an iranian military base in order to achieve russian interests. so work with me, don't do anything precipitous, and eventually i'll be able to work with you to come to an agreement that will be mutually satisfactory. of course he goes to tehran and he says, don't do anything to provoke the israelis because the priority is getting the sought after and it comes out and says something similar. the effect of all that is the gradual rehabilitation of the
assad regime which is the primary goal of the russians. when i look at that and ask myself a couple questions is, ,f the assad regime is rehabilitated, continue to obstruct unconstitutional things, rehabilitated, once that takes place how valuable are these russian commitments to oust the iranians that were getting today? to me it's like the old popeye car t, i will gladly pay you on tuesday. we will make concessions for the russians upfront which they will pay for, pay as back in the long-term and then the long-term payback is i fear is never going to come. >> that leads to listen to mike about good question which i will pass on to you. russian has made as part of the problem. can it be part of the solution? what do you think? >> russian is like his continuing the idea that mike talked about, russians interest
in syria is very different from the iranian interest. the iranian interest is weighted to the regime. iran and machine are one or what is a cold, two sides of one coin. the russian element is a little bit different. but the russians is using this as a way for them to keep the regime to keep the interest in it. what i find from the international community or from the u.s. policy, the idea that they are unable to separate the regime from iran is a problematic issue. because now when you're talking to getting i went out and, like as it if it's just not going to work. there is no regime without a raise if there is iran in syria without assuaging. the combination powers on the ground needs to continue to keep this regime in fact, that's only
way the russians have because debbie and power, i don't know, 5000 5000 troops on the ground. they don't have the capacity to actually keep their interest protected on the ground. when you are going be able to solve this, like the israelis don't mind the assad regime. nobody minds at this point the assad regime stay in power because it has served their interest along speedy i imagine you do. [laughing] >> yes. in fact, protected their interest all of these decades. so why would it be an issue for them aside, what's happening, the conundrum is you've got a rant that is supporting decision that they want to keep. but we need to understand what i would like to see the leadership of the is actually taking upfront now because they're saying there will be no aid going into surgery unless the iranians leave. i think it should be there be no aid going to syria unless the vision changes, lest we going to transitional phase where we're trying to great a legitimate government for the three people
but we can deliver aid, start reconstruction. keeping assad is keeping iran. there is no other option for this because the minute i i release, assad false. assad is not, that it what assad. it's the russians. russians is part of the social part of the problem at this point. could we work with them? action we have. we are willing to work with anybody who is willing to create a transition in syria. from what i understand the opposition actually maybe going into moscow person to talk about idlib and the continuation. not to make the russians keep saying that's the tip or deal in idlib. that was happening out in the north that something could completely erupt and change the strategies, calculations on the ground. there is an attempt to talk with him and see how we can keep this holding. >> mike, you are itching to comment on on the. >> i just wanted and a few more
-- i want to flag something. i do we in worst-case scenarios so not saying this is missing which would happen but there's a kind of a contradiction in the american approach recuses from the 30,000-foot level and it has to do with our attitude towards iran and russia on the one hit and our attitude towards the turks. it is a priority now of the administration to improve relations with the turks. and i think the preferred long-term answer for reconciliation with the turks is a reconstitution of syria. why? the turks are afraid with the united states is doing by this alliance with ypg is building and the defendant kurdistan in syria. so the united states in the long-term wants to reassure the
turks that it is not doing that. what that means is that the kurdish regions have to become part come had has once again be part of syria exactly how that is going to happen is not clear to anybody. there is the decided on the part of the united states to see the regime in damascus, whatever complexion, we take the control in some way. if the u.s. -- the u.s. also wants to get out of syria. if it picks up and leaves tomorrow, then the ypg migrates the neatly to the iranians and the russians. russia becomes the primary interlocutor between ankara and the syrian kurds. the united states doesn't want to do that so it's answer is let's make -- it doesn't -- and knows what it doesn't want. it doesn't one independent kurdistan and knows that it does want the kurds to be under the russians.
it's answer and it's my is we want to expand control of the central state back to those areas. at the same time it wants to fundamentally change the character of the state was no longer, it's now dependent entirely on iranian forces. it can't have both of these things. it can't. it has to make a decision. the worst case scenario in the end it says what can we do about the iranians? and we will get some russian commitments that are not worth very much but calling that we need and will tell ourselves that that's a good thing. that's one point. my second point very quickly is just, i just think it's interesting. if you would ask me year and half ago which actor, turkey or israel, was going to play its hand better in syria in terms of getting what it wanted from the
russians and the iranians and from the united states, i would've said the israelis for sure. but now it doesn't look like that to me. i don't know the israelis believe that, but we now have the russians on the israeli border and israelis are taking the assurances of the russians that there will not be iranians there. but i don't believe, as subsequently those assurances are really something that you can bank on. sooner or later will have iranians on the goal line. the turks renate on syrian territory of the to this in idlib and this is give them much more leverage over the russians as was how this has played out over the russians and the iranians. it's quite interesting to me that the player with a stronger, the stronger diplomatic hand at the moment is the turks. of course if we had an israeli
representative sitting area probably say we have the israeli air force which is proving very effective in syria and that something the russians have to pay very close attention to. >> i just want to add something on golan heights. last week bibi netanyahu said that the gold lined will always remain under israeli sovereignty and lavrov responded to by saying that this would be a violation of common essay that it is part of israel, would be a violation of the u.n. security council resolution. it was interesting to see that tense moment right after this happened and so i agree with you that the israeli russian relationship may prove to be, it's not stable for sure pick and make it worse before it gets any better over the long-term. >> wanted to also try to bonn, reconstruction, could kick us off with tomorrow there will be
a meeting in istanbul where the europeans, will shop for a meeting with the turks and the russians which is primarily about idlib and continuing how to avoid a sort of humanitarian catastrophe or of course european leaders are very, very interested and concerned of course also somewhat from the self-interest in the sense that if refugee flows into your as to happened, he the still assault large degree european politics and become huge part of the european political discussion. so that's that and, of course, a mitch and russia on side would be very interested in gaining on that others in saying now is the time european money should start flowing in to reconstruction. i don't necessarily think that either are that gullible and both know the end of said, particularly macron, that's not what's going to happen but still
this is an interesting sort of evolution where russia will be playing on another front and at the same time there is a legitimate question of at some point hopefully after transition that syria also needs serious reconstruction. so miriam, what is your take on the best? >> the meeting is very interesting in one respect that it involves the russians in the turks under the auspices of the turkish government government s not include the iranians jerk so russia as we said earlier russia's interest is quite different from interests of a ring regimes in the syrian regime. the involvement angela merkel and macron in the stocks is actually positive for us because it shows that the maybe some kind of breakthrough in the russian position where they need
the international communities for an order to continue their legitimate, becoming legitimate actors international community. it's very well-known fact from our side that the perpetrators themselves who are destroying the country cannot receive any money or any reconstruction to build what they destroyed. there is no accountability to count on they will rebuild personal. that is not going to be all stolen and even if they rebuild it they could we destroyed again because it's not something that they're counting on. .. >> there will be no reconstruction money going in at no point until a transition
starts taking hold. and this is what the russians have completely objected and have been calling for reconstruction and specifically, actually, to reconstruct inside the regime-held areas which are the least destroyed. one of the areas that's completely destroyed is raqqa, actually, and i like talking about this. we're in the u.s., it's u.s. policy, it's the u.s. that has been responsible for the destruction of raqqa in fight of isis. so there are so many questions that are going to be risen in this meeting, and we're hoping that it's going to be something positive for the syrian people where the reiteration that there will be no reconstruction money coming to syria without a transition taking place will be reiterated from the different allies, germany, france and you are the the key to the russians, and -- turkey, and the russians start working with them on changing their course in how they're working with the iranians and the regime. >> could you, let me just ask you to elaborate a little bit on that, on raqqa, because that i think for a lot of audience and
viewers, the fact that there is stabilization money going because it's part of the areas controlled by the outside regime, taken over in part of the fight against isis. at the same time, as you were saying, it's really destroyed and just demining, which is still the going on -- do still going on, is really hard. and there's a difficulty to move through the stages when there is no political transition. so it'd be interesting to hear a little bit more about -- >> it's the very complicated in raqqa, because raqqa is now under the control or the work with the americans and the fdf. so it makes it very difficult to -- it's not a separate state, it's not an entity that can function outside the whole syrian territory. and the destruction in it is massive. so there has to be an agreement with the people of raqqa, the people who are not in control right now, the people who are not there now to come and see and be part of the reconstruction of this part of
syria. and i feel or, like, the stance is that there needs to be a reconstruction happening. but again, that is part of the general plan for syria, reconstruction plan for syria. and under the leadership and the legitimacy of people who should be part of the governing party in raqqa and actually deciding in how this money should go and how it should be distributed. and, of course, like having been destroyed by forces aside from the u.s. itself shows you that it is a complicated issue where they actually need to put their foot on the ground and say this is how we need to make it happen and take leadership over not returning any of the money or using any money for reconstruction unless it's done true the legitimate representatives on the ground. >> there's a meeting this weekend, are you worried the or europeans will be lured into some things by either russia or turks that are against u.s. interests, or how do you see this meeting? >> i'm always worried that the
europeans will be lured into these things. [laughter] >> that's what i knew, that's why. >> yes, i know. but, no, the position they're taking is a healthy one. and i don't have much to the add to ma miriam -- miriam said except that this is, again, from the american point of view the russians are -- the three rs, the return of refugees, the rehabilitation of the regime and the reconstruction. they want europe to pay for all the destruction that they've, that they've done, and the u.s. wants to hold all of that up until we get some kind of commitment to the russians on the things that are, the things that concern us most; the constitutional question and the iranians, and the iranian presence. i think that that should absolutely be an american red line. i would, personally i'm not going to get it, but i would
like to see us hold up all funds until the we get a regime that we can actually work with and that is not the as a sad regime. assad reseem. so they're calculating, the united states is calculating that this is putting pressure on the russians because the russians don't have the resources to pay for the reconstruction that they desire. >> i wanted to hear your thoughts and also a little bit maybe in the sense is the enough to the change calculus, is he not -- [inaudible] than actually having to leave and then getting sort of cities and houses rebuilt? >> well, first of all, i don't think there's much we can due to lure assad to cede his power. he is not going to step down even if there is money being held over his head. in terms of the reconstruction, it's important to remember that there is also the world bank that is part of this
conversation, so outside of government. obviously, governments do work through the world bank, but there are separate discussions happening there about, you know, should we give half to the regime to entice them and half to outside areas as miriam was saying. of course, especially people who have worked on iraq will tell you, i've herald specially for them the most vocal pushback on this idea that this is exactly how we wasted hundreds of billions of dollars in iraq, by rewarding people who helped fuel these wars, trying to lure them in for money knowing that they were corrupt actors and they were never going to make the kinds of concessions we were hooking for over longer term. it's interesting because in the conversation with the e.u., they're so focused on the refugees, the regime does not care about the refugees. it barely even mentions them. i was reading an article this morning that had done a review of the syrian arab news agency's reporting, and they said the world refugee has only been used
seven times in the past -- since 2007. they're not really referred to at all. most of the people who fellowed, assad is more than -- fled, assad is more than happy not to have them return. i was speaking to some lebanese generals, and it was very interesting because they are being sent into syria to sort of see so that they can facilitate the return of these syrian refugees, and not only did they come back that even bugs can't live, like, that's how badly damaged they are, but also they came backing having, you know, heard reports from the regime that said anyone who didn't leave legally -- in other words, that was not stamped on his way out -- cannot enter syria, you know, later on. and so the regime is doing all it can to also stop this. there is also recently removed off the books a law, this was the law that the assad regime
initially said it would give people a month to come back and register their property. there was a lot of pushback. they expanded it to a year. and then this past week the russians actually informed everyone that that's going to be removed off the books, that syrian regime is no longer going to mandate it. we heard the russians basically told regime you don't need this law to do what you need to do inside of syria. so you can still take the property of those who have left the country, you just don't need anything that legally says it. there's also another interesting law, there's a nationality law that's actually been on the books since 1969 that's rarely invoked, but it basically says that anyone who leaves to foreign lands, any syrian who lives in foreign lands for more than three years without a justifiable reason can have his nationality revoked. so this is something that people are saying can definitely be sort of conjured up by the syrian regime because they really -- demographics are very
much in their favor. and not just, i mean, there's been a lot of talk, at the commission i worked a lot on secretary and demographics. definitely the majority of those who rebelled happened to be from sunni-arab communities because those were largely the marginalized communities in syria before. but that being said, now it's very much also along class and loyalty lines. that is how assad is going to define moving forward who is allowed to return back to syria and who is not allowed to go back to syria. leaving most of the refugees that initially fled outside of this definition. and so what europe is seeking to the achieve will likely not happen if the assad regime has anything to say about it and if russia does not force it to actually comply with these terms which i don't know how they're going -- there's definitely going to be tension on this issue. >> that is a great point. but the russians will dangle before the europeans the possibility in order to get the money flowing.
>> that's definitely the case, and there will also be as we've seen in some european cases that are some that deevaluated more positively than the lebanese generals. oh, conditions are okay now, i think you can rush. because it's also a sort of domestic hot potato in many european countries. i have -- >> can i say one thing that hasn't been mentioned is the amount of disease and other kinds of health issues that are, that have already arisen but that will arise also from the the rubble, from, like, the fact that many of these kids are not vaccinated. so the situation that we're sending these refugees back to if we were to ever send them is also, i mean, it's going to be a different kind -- it might not be a violent massacre in the way we've seen, but it will be very inhumane on a very different level. >> may i ask -- >> yeah, yeah. >> can i ask what your, i'm curious to know what your
preferred solution to that would be or at least intermihm solution. -- interim solution. >> unfortunately, i think there's not going to be a way to do this safely if the assad regime has anything to say about it, returning these refugees. even if we give them opportunity to vote and express their opinions, etc., they're still a security state. it's the most, it's the most dominant part of syrian government. and allowing these refugees to go back there, the assad regime's security apparatus is not -- unless that is addressed, which is completely intertwined with assad's fate, the security of the refugees cannot be guaranteed. leave aside all of the other, like i said, the inhumane situations we're sending them back to. >> so would you like the international community to compensate the turks and the jordanians, the lebanese -- >> to keep them there? yeah. i am not advocating for their return that are not willing, there are some families returning, maybe a hundred a
day, what have you, trickling back. these are not people who were fundamentally against assad necessarily, but they're a very small number of, remember, there are seven million people outside of the syrian borders -- >> miriam, i'd love to bring you in here. how much is this part of the discussion in the sort of political discussion that refugees should come back and be part of a new political life in syria after transition? >> this is part of the discussions that we are also doing, actually, about the constitutional committee and within, also, the elections, the whole political process that's taking place in regards to syria, is that if you were going to have any kind of a legitimate transition, any legitimate political process, you need to have all syrian people involved in a referendum, in elections. and that means a neutral and safe environment. is there any kind of a safe, neutral environment existent for these people? people are afraid even in refugee camps this jordan and many refugee status or they're not even acknowledged as ref paw
gee -- refugees in lebanon, and it's the worst place actually right now in lebanon. it's amusing to see the generals who went to damascus and who came back to think it's actually bad because their situation in lebanon is bad. they don't have bombs falling over their heads, but it's very devastating and very poor, and the lebanese government has not signed on the convention so they don't get the kind of help and rights they get in other parts of the world. having to conduct any kind of a referendum, any kind of elections within these communities is going to be the very difficult. without creating some kind of a safe space. and that safe space in order for it to be legitimate and well it has to be in syria, it has to be through a transition. and evenyou're outside to -- even if you're outside, to not be fearing for your life because syrians are still fearing for their life outside syria, that they're going to be the attacked
or they're going to be the -- syrian security will come after them. now they're so busy inside syria, but there has been this assassination outside the syrian territory has been happening. so it is the very difficult for the people to go back, and this is one of our biggest concerns in the trying to get any of that legitimate process going in the political process. >> thanks. i as moderator have the privilege of asking all these interesting questions. i have more, but i also want to start bringing in the audience. simple names apply. as always, state your name, affiliation, if any. try to make it a question, not a long monologue because then you could have been on the panel instead. [laughter] and with that, let me start here. >> [inaudible] >> wait for the microphone to come, then name, affiliation and a question, please. >> hi. my name's -- [inaudible] and i'm the representative of the people's democratic party to the u.s. from turkey. and i want to thank the panel, firstly, for their remarks.
i just had a question for miriam about when asked about the kurds, the initial response was that the kurds are not one at, you know, they're divided in their different opinions, which is true, but which is also true of the syrian opposition s. and in any way does not delegitimize their concerns in syria, and it shouldn't for the kurds either. and actually, in fact, the kurds have proven to be much more internally coherent both politically and militarily in syria. so i want to -- my question would be then without specifying the coherence or the unity of the kurds, what would the syrian opposition's -- what do they propose for the kurds in a future syria? they have legitimate concerns in syria. what would you and the syrian opposition say differently to what has happened before, what would your project for the kurds be in syria? >> do you want me to answer
that, or do you want to go to questions? >> >> yes. >> thank you for bringing that up. yes, the opposition and syrian people and when you're talking about any people, you have a lot of different policies and different opinions and different agendas. and sometimes it's actually influenced by outside forces also because we, as a group of people, we always have our affiliations and allies from the outside and the inside. so the way we see syria or the why i joined or -- way i joined or signed on to work with is the integrity of the syrian territory, that we are part of one. country. -- one country. i agree with the arguments that this is actually a created state, it's not even -- can this is a agreement state where you see, like, the lines of the borders in syria are some of them pretty quite straight, you know? when you're going to jordan, it's quite straight. it's a deal that was made by the colonial powers in creating this kind of a syrian structure. but this is what exists, and we have created a syrian
nationality that it says arabic. i would like to see that removed because syria is very diverse, has a lot of different groups, religions, ethnicities, and it's intertwined because kurds are maybe -- i mean, sunnis and some other religions, then you've got the arab sunnis, the armenians, the drews, thal lo whites, a lot of different can groups that are e int intermingled. so the call in the future is to have an equal citizenship for everyone and also right to the people, any people who exist in syria to have their rights preserved. i know half a million kurds that citizenship has been taken away. kurds have been moved -- this is en masse by the syrian regime. like moved from an area to another area where they could be mixed within the arabs so that they are spreading them out so they would not have a specific kurdish area or a majority in any one spot in syria. so there are these issues that
have existed for a long time in the syrian context which needs to be addressed. and this cannot be addressed unless we all sit down together as syrian people. once the killing stops in syria, once the bombardment of the people stops in syria, that we come together when we're doing solutions which are when we're going through a transition where there will be given, you know, representatives from the different kurdish parts, from the different sunni parts. one example that i want to bring in now is that i am part of the founding, one of the founding members of the syrian women political movement and really loosely we're saying the syrian women's political movement of because we felt that syrian women's rights have not been addressed by the bigger opposition, the general opposition. and syrian women are 50% of the population that their specific needs and concerns and specific ways of knowing and dealing with the legality and the reconstruction of syria and the constitutional building of syria needs to be addressed.
so when we came together, there's a wide range of affiliations that we have, and that's why it's called movement, because there is a common denominator that we have agreed on. and we look at each other and we know, i have very good friends, you know, from the movement and we're working together in the future of syria we're going to be part of different parties. we're going to be calling for the norms, the changes in the legalities that we want to create. what is it specifically how we want to be addressed specifically. there is sharia law that comes in, the security, what kind of government system we want as centralization, the decentralization. there's so many issues that's going to come to governance that are going to relate to also what kind of a citizenship that we're going to, there are issues we nd to discuss. can i put that light now at the table and discuss it? it could be, but it's very difficult in the state that we are living in now. so what i call for all of the different kurdish groups or parties that we're working with is for us to come together to a common denominator which is we
want to keep the land, the syrian land, one land for now and that we're going to work to giving equal citizenship, equal rights according according to ae different components that the syrian population, the syrian citizenship can have. and that is actually something that has been used in a lot of different countries like you can see that in switzerland, in canada, in different places where specificity of a certain group of people inside a country can be accommodated. so i see, i mean, i aspire to something like that, but this cannot happen unless we sit down and discuss it and see how we can come to terms and how -- [inaudible] parliamentary government on the ground, what are the rights that they need to have and so that they are enriching the syrian, you know, culture and existence. and, by the way, my dad is from -- [inaudible] and my mom is from the golan heights, so i'm half-half, you
know, between two participants. and i would like to see syria to the golan heights in one territory, in one country. >> over here. >> [inaudible] and a former diplomat. i hate strategic surprise, and i'm wondering what happens the day after al assad gets the heart attack he so richly deserves, what happens the next day? and if i may, prospect of him remaining in power and we get stuck with that, can we make that contingent on him -- [inaudible] 12,000 prisoners and let that do be a deal-breaker for us? >> and let's take one question here in the front as well. >> thank you so much. i'm -- [inaudible] representative of syrian democratic council to united states. i would like to thank you for
your, i mean, information. i want to ask mariam, i think this -- [inaudible] they visited just maybe two days ago. they went there to empower council of -- [inaudible] do you think it is a legitimate council to be there? whereas the people now, they are in the camps outside -- [inaudible] and what do you think about their violation which is happening, ethnic cleansing, demography changing and even to torturing in order to force them to the leave their area. and this one, you were talking about the constitution, and now the constitution is going to the maybe -- they are preparing for it and for the third group of the -- [inaudible] but still there is a large, i
mean, area in the northeast of syria is not included in this group. what do you think about this? do you agree that all the syrian people should be included, represented in order to have, you know, can say fair or a good constitution? til now they are not invited. and i would like to -- [inaudible] think about the strategy of the u.s. what do you think is the strategy will be for the u.s. to have a balance between the relation with turkey and even the -- [inaudible] for the sdf which they pay a lot of prices with their thousands of people being died by liberating the areas of raqqa from the isis and the terrorists. thank you so much. >> thanks. mike, why don't we start with you. >> okay. in answer to the first question,
i expect that the russians and the iranians will get together and find somebody which within the assad system to take his place. it's such a family-based system that i think to go outside of it is dangerous. and i don't know that we -- i had never thought about what we should do in that, in that situation. with respect to the sdf, we're in a dilemma now because -- and our system is quite divided, i would say. the military on the ground is very committed to the allies that they have worked with because they have fought and they did defeat isis. but at the political level in washington, there's a great concern about there's an awareness that turkey is not
going to go away, that it has vital interests there, it has a long border and it's going to the influence this process. so they're groping toward finding a middle ground, and i think the answer of the administration is the -- [inaudible] process. we have the joint patrols now creating that kind of local governance, and i think the dream is that we'll move the manvidge process, we'll apply it all across the syrian/turkish frontier. whether we'll get to that or not is anyone's guess, but that's the, i think that's the approach they're going to take. >> mariam? >> i am with you. i have friends from the area, part of the syrian women's political movement is, actually one of our members keeps bringing up the issue. there are gross violations. there is moving and forced displacement of people.
and not only that, one of the things that i know is happening some of the people that are coming from the south are being restabilized or resettled in houses, people who are out in the camps, and their houses are being given for people who are coming -- >> [inaudible] >> yeah, see? like, so what's happening in syria, what i want to go back to, and i don't want to sound like an idealist and i don't want to address the issue specifically, but what i want to say is that the state we are living in now where the violations are conducted with impunity and where a lot of these rebel groups that are on the ground have -- don't have an actual control over them, there is so much that is coming from, actually, a lot of individual violations or group violations without necessarily blessing or the systematic violations that regime is creating. and this is because of the
nature of the chaotic state that has happened in syria, northern syria right now. and we have been working with the turkish government in trying to create -- i work with a friend who has an organization called -- [inaudible] i don't know if you're familiar with it -- [speaking in native tongue] we're working with her in trying to find ways many how to address this issue in a way that is most service to the people, to the civilians. and i want to go back to the issue that civilians are the least considered when it comes to these issues. like, the violations against the civilians are not looked at when we're looking at syria. what we're talking about is actually the military power, and this is one of the things that i want to go back to and also talk. in syria we don't talk about human rights, we don't talk about violations, we don't talk about international law. we talk about who has land, who has more power, who has more military, who has more fighters. and this kind of a discourse for syria needs to change from a discourse of power and who has
the military power on the ground to human rights, who is practicing human rights, who is violating human rights. it has to go to a court of international law, and this cannot happen unless we have a true transition that is taking place in syria. and this is what brings me to the next question to the constitutional committee. in the constitutional committee, there are kurds that are -- when i say kurds, i always feel like it's not add quad enough because -- adequate enough because be every with a few kurdish people with us, it's not representing the syrians. the same way i feel also they say, oh, we have two, three women within the opposition. within the 50 names that was given to -- to represent the constitutional committee, it was only 8% women. women represent 50% of society, and we got 8% of that constitution. so definitely the representation is not going to be accurate, it's going to be skewed about how many representatives are on ground. but this is a work in progress, and this is what we need to talk
about always, and this is what we need to bring forward and make sure that all representatives of syria or all of the voices in syria are included so that we can have -- we can keep our territory, we can create a more democratic adherence to human rights state in the future. >> do you want to jump in here? it would also be sort of concluding words as well. >> sure. then i'll just -- i wanted to address the gentleman's question about if assad released 12,000 prisoners, would we be okay with him staying in power, should the international community be okay. first of all, i'm hearing estimates more, i mean, much -- the number, from what i understand, is much higher. i hear -- >> [inaudible] >> sure. i mean, but there's people who the regime doesn't even acknowledge, right, are still within its confined, with the regime -- >> [inaudible] >> in any case, i don't think that's sufficient. i think detainee issue is one portfolio of many, and i think
what maybe we're losing sight of is how weak the state will be under assad going -- it's already only strong enough because of his, heavy involvement of his russian and iranian allies. it is not in even our u.s. national interests to allow a state like that to continue to go on indefinitely because we already, as i mentioned before, al-qaeda is already a problem. it is resurging in different parts of the country, and it's going to continue to play a spoiler. isis, they said right now it's currently -- although it's lost territory -- that it's as powerful as al-qaeda was in 2006. that's what i was reading the institute for study of war had a piece very recentlyon this. so although like mariam's saying maybe territories are changing, things are from the outside superficially looking like they've changed, the bad actors are still very much there. as an american looking at this also from a national security
perspective, it's absolutely not in our interests to just let this kind of go on and fester. assad, you know, he may -- him and hissal highs -- his allies may go after isis when it is in their interest. be they're not doing anything to him, they're not necessarily going to put all the resources there to get them. so i just, i don't think that that is, that aside from the the fact that the syrian people, like mariam is saying, at the end of this you have the syrian people who they are the ones who need to be okay with the man who has killed they say upwards of a million people and has displaced 1 million, remaining as their -- 12 million, remaining as their president. that question goes back to the syrian people to decide. so -- >> thanks. i can see there is more demand for questions, but we're running out of time, so i want to together thank our panelists. i also wanted us to end -- i mean, we've covered a lot, but i think actually what mariam was
underlining of saying going backing to 2011 where the peaceful demonstration that demonstrated for a different syria, that even though this has now all ended in the biggest proxy war, at the same time this is happening. i mean, the syrian society iser revocably changing in different ways if you would describe what you're also doing what the women's movement. so i think that's also important for all of us to take away from this apart from the destruction and the war that's still going on, that something is also -- al-nusra is also emerging one way or the other. >> can i add one comment about that? >> of course. >> i always use this example that that i'm not exactly -- if my numbers are very accurate, but close. there was about 700 civil society groups that were registered in syria before the revolution. and i want you to that -- in comparison, i want you to compare it like in egypt.
syria is 23 million, egypt is 18 million, but the civil society organizations that were registered in egypt at the time of the revolution were 30,000. we had 700 in syria, and most of those were under the auspices of the regime, and most of them were run by the first lady herself, a lott of the ones that have to do with women's issues and youth and all of the new, nice ideas that she thought she was bringing. since then, since the revolution has started, there have been over 2,500 civil society groups that have sprung up in syria. and these groups are -- this is when i'm talking about the whole dichotomy that's created between there's opposition and there's regime and people are forgetting the people who are there out in the streets demonstrating asking for their rights and demanding to choose their own president, these are the people who are taking care of the elderly, the sick on ground, the ones who are continuing the education of children, even though there are
about three million children that are at the age of schooling in syria that are not going to school. the civil society who's -- any good work being done on the ground, they are the ones who are doing it. these are people we need to count on, they have a lot of amazing experience and have kept the social fabric of society intact, and they're working with them whether it's in diaspora in the refugee camps outside or inside syria in spite of the bombs, in spite of the killing, in spite of the deterioration of all of the different aspects of the social society or the social structure that has existed in syria. so i would like to points to that as a -- to point to that as a hopeful note that people in syria are resilient, and they keep on going. no matter how long this fight is going to take for us to get our freedom and democracy, that they still exist, they're still out there, and i count on them to make it all a reality in the future soon, hopefully. >> thanks a lot, mariam.
thanks to the whole panel. i hope you'll all join me in thank the panel. [applause] >> thank you. >> thank you. [inaudible conversations] >> later told former president obama and president trump will be attending separate campaign rallies. president obama is at a rally in milwaukee with democratic senator tammy baldwin and the democratic candidate for wisconsin governor. that'll be live on our companion network, c-span, starting at 3:45 eastern. and then at 7 p.m. president trump has a rally at the bojangles coliseum in charlotte for two republicans, congressman ted bud and 9th congressional
district candidate mark harris. that'll be live here on c-span2. and with 11 days until the midterm elections, c-span is your primary source for campaign 2018. >> sunday on c-span's q and a a, james mann, author residence at johns hopkins, talks about his biography of president george w. bush. >> i don't really worry about my legacy because, you know, i'm still studying theodore roosevelt or harry truman. there's not going to be an objective history done on this administration for a long time. >> it's not too soon to judge on some aspects of this legacy. i mean, it's not too soon to judge on the war in iraq. why? because it didn't accomplish what he thought it was going to accomplish before he started the war. it cost 4,000 plus american
lives, it cost $2 trillion. and i think you, you know, i write in my book and i don't think this judgment will change that it was one of the biggest strategic blunders in american history. >> james mann, sunday night at eight eastern on c-span's q&a. >> ohio democratic senator sherrod brown is seeking a third term, he's facing republican congressman renacci. their third and final debate is live tonight on c-span. with 11 days left until the midterm elections, c-span is your primary source for campaign 2018. >> south carolina's republican governor henry mcmaster yesterday debated his democratic opponent james smith at greenville technical college. this is about an hour.