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tv   Ret. Gen. Joseph Votel Others on Middle East Strategy  CSPAN  October 8, 2019 12:00pm-2:42pm EDT

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to defend the rights of the muslims. >> we are going to briefly step away from this conference on middle east strategy to bring live coverage of the u.s. senate. this is a pro forma session that you take less then a few minutes and then we return to love, to the conference. live coverage of the u.s. senate here on c-span2. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington,d.c. october 8 2019. to the senate, under the provisions of l rule 1 of the standing rules of the senate i appoint bill cassidy a senator is from the state of louisiana to perform the duties of the chair. signed chuck grassley, president pro tempore. the presiding officer: under the previous order the senate
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>> senate return for legislative business next tuesday and now we continue our coverage of a conference on middle east strategy. >> and i think this counter goes of whoever is in par with regard to the presidency and regardless of who the resources available. so i think going back to what was mentioned in the previous panel with regard to the impact of maximum pressure and what max impression was intended to decide allegedly because of lack of clarity among u.s. policy intention and strategy on iran but one of the argument was the position of sanction and maximum pressure, iran behave in a region would be contained. unrest with diminished. we clery see the opposite. one of the reasons is iran continued its policy with regard to its support of allies and proxies but also its
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continuation of the interest. in syria with continuation, and iraq and lebanon the same, in yemen we have not seen any change since 2018 in particular. if anything we've seen a more -- by iran to showcase as was mentioned before the desire to test the red lines of the united states and in determination to clarify their interest in the region. this is also something that came up very clearly before. for instance, in 2012 you mentioned turkey policy in syria, so the same we can apply to iran, in 2012 with iran started pouring resource in syria, we're talking the deployment of hezbollah financial and also military support with the receiver shim, we're talking about the time in
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which iran was under heavy sanctions, not just sanctioned by the united states but also eu u.n. security council resolution and a bunch of other countries, australia canada and others adopting also those against iran. despite that iran not only continues its policy in syria not only continue its support for a side but also poured more resources than before into syria. it's not quite clear what was the assumption from the u.s. policy here that maximum pressure would change that behavior given the situation did not seem to be the case even in the recent past, and we're not talking that case. we are talking about a few years ago. ability of resources not seem to affect the iranian policy in the region but also the governments
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the presidency and power do not seem to change. you can argue obviously a presidency of rouhani can be different convert to -- compared to a presidency of ahmadinejad. when were we talk about a principal and red lines they are exactly the same. we can say the same even on the nuclear security, i know this about the topic here but i'm happy to explain that as an example. but it think it applies with every single one. we can see some of the administration pushing for more and better relationship with the west and some are pushing for better or improve relationships with the east. we have neither east nor west policy that is been again one of the framework of iran's foreign policy since this house should of the islamic republic continued and with a different
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presidency basically stretched into the east or west policy but again the red lines and the principal remain exactly the same. this very much explains also iran's policy vis-à-vis the countries that are mentioning in this pemmican russia, china and turkey. i can't not going to go into the details of every single relationship because we will be here forever but have to pick them up during the q&a. if you take the principles that are enshrined in iranian constitution not a lime against hegemonic powers i think very much defines iran's relationship with russia. this is one of the key elements with which iran establishes its marriage of convenience however you want to talk about definitely with russia. every time you asked the iranian officials, even in some cases the russian officials the light is they have that kind of principle in common, which is
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opposing the hegemonic powers, namely the united states. that has been characterizing the collaboration and cooperation of different associates to different extent of serious one of the most coveted ones amateur again we go into details of this cooperation/competition with iran and russia especially now we talk about reconstruction and post settlement, whatever that will look like. but i think in general i think non-hegemonic power is the defining elements that puts russia and iran into some sort of partnership not strategic. and with turkey, state. usually iran and turkey were on opposite sides in syria and yet you are talking about national
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basically the interest of opposing the nationalism of the kurds. iran is basically the fight against the fragmentation of syria. the territorial integrity is one of the principles their brains have meeting since 2011 and continues to be one of the principle that they defined as characterizing their involvement in syria and their interest. at a think the reason why turkey and iran got closer in 2016 to the point of the process to broader cooperation i think is the kurdish issue. same can ultimate goal. with china i mean, i'm waiting anxiously to hear from john what he has to say about that. [inaudible] >> but with respect iran china is reconceived as the nonproliferation actor here, with which people relationship can be built obviously in a
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complicated manner and obviously china's role has changed over the past few years so we'll hear about that i'm sure from the economic policy, we known now as not only that but regardless i think for now we haven't seen really a defense policy. we know china is noninterference in the affairs of states and to think that is what iran really values and that is what iran perceives as one of the reasons why some sort of partnership which is closer probably to a strategic one to all of the countries, can be built up with china compared to the other countries. but again i'm happy to expand on all these issues later on and i will stop here. >> okay. thank you thank you to allow the discussion to others as they analyze the panel you are good
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motivator probably than the -- moderator demi so the third speaker is the professor mark katz a known resident -- nonresident senior fellow with atlantic council release program. professor katz is also professor of government and politics at the george mason university and one of the main experts on russia. please. >> all right. thank you. thank you thank you very much. to thank both the atlantic council and for the opportunity to participate in this program and when in rome as well, looking forward to that, thank you very much. just one to start by saying moscow has pursued broadly similar aims towards the middle east both under the soviets during the cold war and under putin now. one of these has been to undermine the u.s. role in the region in order to promote
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moscow's own. a second is to prevent islamist forces in the middle east growing strong enough to support the rights of muslim opposition in the former soviet union or countries elsewhere closely aligned with moscow, including syria. and third to pursue moscow's economic interests in the region despite the fact that moscow often competes with the region in the petroleum sphere in particular. important though to pursued skills than a breakable weight than the soviets did. while the soviets usually pursued the middle east and in opposition and not just the u.s. but u.s. allies, putin has pursued these goals largely in cooperation with u.s. allies. often cooperation with u.s. adversaries but basically in cooperation with everyone except for the u.s. the soviets strategy was to remind themselves with so-called forces the change in middle
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east a policy that took advantage of anti-western trends in the region but of course, there was a lot of success a lot of change that occurred in the '50s and 60s towards arab nationalism was in fact, in an anti-american pro-soviet direction. but what this resulted in was that this pushed of the forces, conservative forces towards the united states, in other words that there was a reaction to this. also at a certain point forces a change became islamist forces in that i can send with iran a particular that were anti-sobered as they were anti-western, and this wasn't so good and we saw what happened in afghanistan. putin by contrast opposes as the supportable state status quote forces in the middle east. all his establish good relations with all middle eastern governments as well as the main national opposition like
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hezbollah, hamas in particular, in other words not international jihadist movements one concerned with their own local area here while some middle eastern governments have supported anti-moscow rebels in afghanistan in the '80s and chechnya and the 1990s and early 2000 at present no middle east government support such movements. in fact, putin has managed to get to them to be supporters of people like -- who has very good relations with american allies in the region. putin opposes us as a defender of middle eastern governments despite differences with each other, that they have two common goals. what is that they are all against islamic radicals, and against u.s. disruptive policies, supporting democratic revolution or intervention leading to chaos.
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and moscow portrays u.s. is actually being allied with islamist forces. i remember being in moscow for the 2018 conference, the little one, with lavrov, not the big one with putin and with the iranian foreign minister sergey lavrov basically said iran is a partner in the war on terror in syria whereas the united states supports the jihadists basically. it was really amazing. what we've seen though is putin in many respects support opposing side simultaneously in the middle east, with regard to good relations with iran but also good relations with saudi arabia also with israel. good relations with turkey, good relations with the syrian kurds. we can go on and on that there's
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this balancing act. they don't choose sides. they support everyone. doing this can be a difficult balancing game. people don't like it when you're supporting their adversaries but it's hard work. nobody likes moscow supporting their adversaries but all have an incentive to court moscow so it will not support their adversaries even more. in fact, i think used allies during the climb just interest in the region, part of the reason why they court moscow is to incite the u.s. to compete with moscow. in other words the fear is the was losing interest in the region the region and knows the u.s. is interested in russia, it's concerned about russia therefore flirting with russia else if that helps keep you is interested in the region, and that's a good reason to do so. and, of course, and our adversaries such as iran and
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syria, they must -- they might not like the fact moscow is working with israel, with saudi arabia et cetera but they don't have much choice. where are they going to go? so moscow is not so much worried about being liked. it's worried -- it has leverage. what's interesting is that until 2016 or so, essentially moscow computer with middle east oil producers in the oil market. in other words they wouldn't abide by opec production limits, et cetera but what we've seen since we 16 in particular, we seem saudi arabia and russia were together in the opec plus format in terms of trying to limit production to affect oil prices. this is really something that's unprecedented. there are some observers who feel now saudi-russian
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cooperation far more important than opec decisions that saudi arabia and russia makes decisions and and basically opec ratifies them. this is an amazing accomplishment that putin has achieved. moscow boasts unlike the u.s. it has the ability to talk to all sides in the middle east there is conflict. the u.s. can't talk with iran, with assad hezbollah but that russia can't and therefore russia is in the best position to serve as a mediator in the middle east, many conflicts. so far we have hit a lot of diplomatic activity. moscow hasn't resolved the conflict. there's been no camp david accords anything like this. if moscow ever manage to achieve something like this, it would be a real feather in its cap. but what we see is there has
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been so much activity, in other words, people in the region take it very, very seriously and that the u.s. and a certain sense has been marginalized in the diplomacy of conflict resolution even if that diplomacy hasn't been very successful so far. this is also a tremendous success. there's been all these different things that he has managed to do and i think what's the special amazing is when you think about all the successes that putin is that in middle east russia really is a country with an awful lot of problems to its own economy is having tremendous difficulties. not just because of the sanctions but also just because putin's own plan of using petroleum wealth to develop the nonpetroleum sectors of the economy just haven't gone very far. in other words they haven't even done what china has done in terms of authoritarian modernization that russia
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remains of petro state a kleptocratic date, they have not achieved the level the chinese have done. lots of applications for russia elsewhere but in the middle east they are doing really, really well. but it does seem to me that putin's ability to continue to be successful in the middle east as face certain limits. now, while the u.s. allies may have an incentive to court moscow because either they fear of the u.s. is leaving or they want to encourage the u.s. to stay certainly moscow's support for their adversaries in the region does mean that they will have a strong incentive to cling to the u.s., despite their fears riveting. in other words they cannot trust moscow all that far they cannot rely on moscow to side with them against their adversaries. moscow estimates say it's not going to do that.
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this bright -- the rise in u.s. shale production combine with possible decreasing worldwide demand for petroleum due to the rise of alternative et et cetera, may limit the value of this. the one thing the salaries for the russians and other producers would like these higher prices, certainly u.s. shale has made there seems to be a ceiling on how far this can go and this has come for an economy like saudi arabia russia which is so highly dependent on oil revenues, this is a real limitation. in other words their cooperation isn't out of being in a in a position of dominance. it's sort of that they're both in a weakened condition. and just as what we saw at the end of the cold war moscow influence in the least
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retreated. that influence didn't retreat because of any soviet failure in the middle east. it retreated because of moscow's problems elsewhere. obviously the collapse of communism, the changes in the soviet union itself but it strikes me obviously we won't see anything quite like that before but there are the possibilities of certain similar development. in other words that we are facing a certain point a post putin transition period we don't know if it will be 2024 or 2034, got helpless, 2044 or something like this. but the thing is the longer it takes, the more difficult it may end up being that russia seems to have a long history going back to the soviets and to the sars of very strong rulers whose stay in power for decades and decades, and who are followed by periods of weakness because no
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one can do what that person did it but also because that person, like putin is not exactly grooming a a successor. he's not worried about even the chinese before xi jinping there was his periodic transition of power from one older generation to a slightly less older generation. we have not seen this under putin. [inaudible] [laughing] >> from the gray hair to the black care, yes. we have seen this in russia at all. eventually this is going to catch up us. also will be seen in russian history that retreats the middle east have occurred when problems developed in europe in particular. europe always has a higher priority and who knows if that's what happen again. finally, i think went to talk about the china factor as well. i think the way i think of it is in europe, russia, the
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revisionist power in the middle east it's a status quote power and an asian it's not a power. china is the great power. and in time when rush is becoming increasingly economically dependent on china and china will eventually serve itself in the east, it strikes me that is china going to limit russia's behavior? we are already seeing that in europe in ukraine china is doing things but not exactly in russia's interest in terms of supporting ukraine government or in other words outcompeting russia what russia sees as its own sphere. it strikes me that there may be some echo of this. the thing is this can happen whether or not u.s. influence in the east declines are not. not, in fact it might happen if u.s. is
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at least seem to have less interest in the middle east, that that's when russia, china may become more involved and is russia really prepared to work against china? it's a question we don't know about but these are real questions. so it seems to me that just as we have seen putin be very successful at reasserting the russian influence in the region, that they have no real firm ally. the trouble with this balancing among adversaries indefinitely is that they resent it, they look for other supporters, and also a conflict really explodes, what is russia going to do? we had seen they've been very successful so far in syria with very little commitment compared
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to say the u.s. and iraq or the u.s. and afghanistan. but the reason they manage to be so successful is because the iranians are doing the heavy lifting there. iranians and their allies. what happens if, in fact, iran is in conflict with saudi arabia or with the israelis? you referred to the upcoming competition with russia and iran over the reconstruction in syria, for example. one of the things that strikes me is russia really come is such a rush wants iran out of syria but they want the upper hand it seems to me, and that sort of allowing the israelis to do what they do serves that purpose that russia doesn't have to actually get involved. so it strikes me that the news isn't all good. there's a couple points i also wanted to just make. i don't know about you but i was
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kind of sad assistant secretary schenker didn't have time to answer questions and he talked about russia and china and indicated they don't support human rights in the middle east and i could hear my friend barbara slavin saying that the u.s. hasn't always quite done that either as well. now, it's true that, in fact, that middle east governments in fact are happy that russia doesn't support human rights, that china doesn't either. but here i think is one instance in which not so much human rights but that the soviets may actually have had an advantage over putin. at least the soviets were able to align themselves with the forces of change for a period of time in the middle east was now putin has no such ability.
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putin is so linked in with the status quo that if it changes it's not clear to me that russia -- i'm not sure the united states will either but to me this is something that -- may be europe there you go. something that the soviets were more attuned to then putin is. so that something i think that needs to be kept in mind. why don't i stop there? thank you. >> thank you very much. also to underline the long history of russia, soviet involvement in the middle east. so not really a new policy from that point of view. last but not least china and john haldeman, senior vice president and director -- jon
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alterman director of the middle east program for center for strategic and international studies in washington, and feel free to join the center, he has been a member of the policy planning staff at the u.s. department of state. he recently worked on china increasing engagement with countries in the middle region for many reasons investments and ports et cetera. but as david schenker pulled out at the beginning of that, china has a big political role in the region. so you have the floor. >> thank you much, arturo, faq to you and to karim and atlantic council for having me. look to start it's not china is not a position part was is
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russia vicious the old policy manifesting itself. i want to make four points, the first of which is that china is in a whole new world when it comes to the middle east. there have been an explosion of times really started in about 2000. in 1999, china imported less oil from the middle east then candidate did. canada had to 2.5% of the population of china. china was not focused on middle eastern oil in 2000. china is focused on middle eastern oil now. the u.s. spent most of the 2000s preoccupied with the global war and terror and the war in iraq, afghanistan. and china was busy deepening all kinds of ties throughout the middle east. the chinese economy quintupled
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in size in the 2000s. its oil imports increased ten times, and it's worth pointing out in 2000, china had $3 billion in high-level trade with saudi arabia. and in 2010, china had $41.6 billion in bilateral trade with saudi arabia. so we were paying attention to something else and china was paying an awful lot of attention to the middle east, building out a middle east strategy as we were engaged in middle east but not paying attention to china and the middle east. and as somebody who's trying to research china in the middle east and 2000, when you tried to talk to middle east people that china will they said don't you understand we are fighting wars in the middle east, we do have time to think about china. china had an awful lot of time to think about the middle east and build their ties. the first is china's role is new and changing. second point china has limited
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goals in terms of its engagement in the middle east. it is reluctant and defensive. china has gotten about half of its oil from the middle east for almost two decades. and there -- they have tried to find ways to reduce their dependence on middle eastern oil because they think the been on the middle is for oil makes vulnerable to the jonas middle east but also the u.s. cut them off their access to middle eastern oil. they can't figure out a way to reduce their defense on middle east oil. the whole engagement in the region is a little bit defensive. they're not trying to supplant the united states in the region. this is not the russian experience. they don't see it as a zero-sum game. they are tied to supplement the united states and the region, win-win solutions they talk about. they have really very little appetite for military ties.
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they built in djibouti partly to save the red sea but they're not interested in having partner relationships the way we have part of relationships about the region when they had to evacuate about 30,000 chinese citizens from libya. in 2011. it was a total game changer. they had no idea how to do this sort of thing so they evacuated about 5000 from yemen. this this blew their minds. they are content to have the u.s. dusek it in middle east. i still remember this conversation i had in the chinese embassy in algiers probably more than ten ten years ago now. the funny thing is as you meet chinese diplomats i don't know how many of you had this explains but with each decade of you it's like your meeting people from a different country. select the 50 year old guy like struck me as a chinese diplomat come like a three dollars
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polyester sweater right? its would cut down and out and then there's a twentysomething tied with a bright orange shirt and feel tight and you look at me sarcastic diplomat and he said how about you do security? you do business? right. what you did in many ways is what china would love to see things involve the middle east. the u.s. can do all the expensive stuff the stuff that annoys people, and china can do business. it works really well. the other thing china offers is they support governments. governments really like them. the perception is, during the arab spring the u.s. started wavering. i don't know anybody who's been to the middle east, especially to the gulf and hasn't heard the phrase the united states threw mubarak under the bus right? that's the universal view, and china stood by governments of the region. china promises the chinese model
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of economic development which is wielded economic growth without social and political change, governments love the idea because political change makes them grumpy. so a special after 2011, bill eastern governments still haven't figured out what caused air spring. they don't know how to prevent another arab spring and the idea china is reassuring and safe we will stand by you and we are on your side, she was attracted to governments. so second point is limited goals. the third point is that a limited number of countries they care about. i would argue that are just right. their favorite and to think in many ways the most strategically rich is the relationship with iran. let me give you a few points about the iran relationship with china. first is it's a good hedge against the united states. the u.s. isn't going to be able
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to get iran to stop exporting oil from china very well. so if you're interested in how do you ensure your economy can get oil iran is a good call. it's great greenfield investment. a lot of people not wanting to invest in china. chinese, business this business. great opportunities to invest. it's lovely for the chinese to come in because iran does 30% of its international trade with china. china does less than 1% of its international trade with iran. china is iran's number one export market. iran is not china's number one source for oil. there's a real disparity between the sides, this lets the chinese drive a hard bargain. that's really cool if you're all about business. it also gets the gulf countries
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to get better terms to the chinese because they don't want china to be in the iranian camp. so they get not only benefits from squeezing the iranians but they get the saudi and the emirates and others to get the better deals so they don't total turn into the iranian camp. we only have three aircraft carriers on station at any given time if ripped to a nickel that means there's only one in the western pacific and that's awesome. it helps create a wedge between the u.s. and its allies if that's really cool. it helps undermine the international order. so from a strategic and economic perspective, the chinese love having iran in play. not because they want to be iran's ally, but because iran gets in all kinds of dials to play with to advance their
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strategic interests. number two is saudi arabia. saudi arabia is the source for corporate side of it has an awful lot of money. there are a small number of decision-makers into the chinese love making deals saudi strip them of doing investment with the status. it makes an awful lot of economic sense for them, and if you're a country whose economy relies on energy, that's a relationship that makes good sense. the saudis see china as an important hedge against u.s. advances and that's gets the chinese better deals because the salaries are not sure the u.s. will be there for them. china is driving global oil demand growth, not the united states. there also interested in the uae. hardly as a source energy, partly because there's a bunch of money. the uae has about a quarter of the gdp of saudi arabia so it's not huge money thing but dubai
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has become huge effort into the middle east from china but also into africa. they are about 200,000 chinese in dubai. that's a big number here there are now about twice as many chinese in dubai as iranians into by. if you've been following the by, it's a shocker. i i do know how many of you been to dubai and dragon mart, it's a mile plus long mall to basically a front office for trading companies in china. if you're from africa, even from europe it's a way to meet chinese producers without going all the way work is done in english, and dubai has just become this incredible commercial hub for china. fourth is egypt. partly china is really concerned with red sea and suez canal security to get to the european markets. partly they see the one of million arabs, it matters and
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they have an open door with president sisi who's her interest in hedging against the u.s. and trying to make each non-aligned again. and then israel as a place for interesting investments for technology and other kinds of things. chinese have been very interested in engaging with israel and the israelis have gotten very concerned about how they play the chinese relationship without antagonizing the united states. i would say china has five countries they care about any significant way as opposed to adjust strategy which event you would be hard-pressed to say exactly what countries u.s. cares about and how they fit into a strategy. the fourth thing i want to say is i think what china has been doing is a really different model from the u.s. understanding of how to engage in the world. if you like to think about 1.0
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with imperialism with the gunboats and all the stuff and everything imperialism 2.0 was the u.s.-led rules-based international order where we tried to push countries toward having open systems and open trade and sort of capitalism and push toward liberalism and all those kind of things. we basically wanted countries to follow the path that we followed. i would argue china sees an opportunity or imperialism 3.0 which mighty mercantilism 2.0 which is really just trade will not talk about -- sometimes i been told in north africa the chinese are willing to pay bribes at the front of the deal and not at the end of the deal. they are working with governments. it's unfettered development. david schenker who i've known for a very long time talked about we do it better.
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but i but i would argue if you're an egyptian and you say u.s. has been doing economic development in egypt for 60 years the u.s. has that democracy and government programs in egypt for decades and decades and decades then show me how it's better. i look at china and is he a society that develop. i look at the united states, and the united states itself is developed but u.s. development efforts have not created the future we want, why do we try something else? our way of doing it is expensive and it's slow. and i think chinese have laid out an argument that the u.s. is doing things they don't really need to do that the u.s. is doing things which will fill u.s. domestic needs that makes
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lawyers and accountants happy but they don't lead to development and the rest of the world. you can just have trade relations, and maybe that's okay. and i think what it prompts us to think about is not how do we convince everybody the chinese are wrong, but the chinese model won't work. i think what we have to persuade people again is that there are aspects of u.s. model which really do work and are affordable for us and affordable for you and the partnerships and the rules and predictable expectations creates a much better world than the world we are going to. i grew up in poughkeepsie, new york which was all of ibm. william wechsler is also from poughkeepsie so you understand i just got her out of quarter
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right? [laughing] poughkeepsie quota. ibm in the the 1980s decides to get into personal computer business. they decided the most expensive part of personal computers is building personal computers. and then that this stupid company called microsoft so the system. the operating system, you had to buy every time you bought a pc, even if you bought a pc clone your divided operating system and operating system costs pennies to manufacture. it sold for maybe $100. ibm said we are so a $2000 computer isn't that better? but it turned out ibm got out of it the personal computer business because you can't make money in the computer business because it's just a small fraction. microsoft and then companies like google and compass like ebay understood is the value
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isn't in the hardware. the value is managing to persuade people to follow the software pic i think we have done too much to try to invest in expensive hardware like solutions and not enough thinking about the perspective of countries and people to get them to operate in the ways that we think will not only make their lives better, make our lives better with their secured and our security and it makes -- the chinese challenge requires us to rethink what we have to offer that is genuinely attractive, how to make it acceptable. i'm not sure we have done a good enough job of that, because we do what we know how to do. one of my favorite expressions i think a been a a country song but i'm not sure, is the fine line between a group and a rut we've got to get out of the rut
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and we got to think about how the world not how it works and 20 century white house when you were in the 21st century. thank you. >> thank you. i think we need another session. now we are open to question and answer session. very briefly. and so feel free to intervene. we collect three, four questions and -- >> thank you. my question is, how do you see the recent visit of the prime minister to china? how do you look at it as an expert? do you think it raise concerns to the administration? thank you.
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>> you want to take a few? >> thank you. my question to the ladies, to what extent the turkish and iranian foreign policy has been on the palestinian conflict? this conflict has its impact on internal affairs? thanks. >> and the last. >> i'm a a fellow at the german marshall fund. my question is for doctor altmann. you mentioned five countries as the center, let's say of the
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chinese interest in the region. do you think this definition is static or there is some element of changing the dynamics? i mean, i spent most of my time in the maghreb and over the past two years especially in tunis but i can also mention morocco, there is a significant increase of tunisia not only economic activity but also diplomatic activities. i was wondering whether you think these like group of countries and change in the near future or it's going to remain the same? thank you? >> if you permit i give the floor to gonul also. >> the question about turkey's impact on israeli policy. president erdogan spent time at the u.n. talking about the policy issue and this is an important issue for him. but i think first israeli policy
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initiatives difficult to domestic diamond is and is israel with the top administration stands and the regional dynamics. so turkey doesn't really, i don't lead turkey can play a constructive important role there. even back in 2009, and before that we turkey with a rising power in the region, where turkey had this soft power and develop close relation with the include issue can even in turkey could not do anything meaningful. so right now i doubt turkey can play the role because it's becoming very marginalized country. from this point if you turkey is not seen as a neutral power to play this role. and as listed because of domestic dynamism i think turkey will become very much inward looking country.
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it, president erdogan doesn't have that political capital at the moment. >> and very briefly the iranian, the israeli-palestinian issues one of the core of the iranian foreign policy, has been always the case. obviously we've seen shifts in iran's support for different parties, particularly the hamas group, also in particular after the sunni conflict we've seen that more, or less of support from the iranian part towards them. the israeli-palestinian issue is something that has been always used in the domestic rhetoric, but it's not only affecting the domestic politics. this is the impression. when you look at again one of the principles i mentioned is that the fence of the muslim rise the palestinian issue is what has always been brought out by iran as the main example of what defending muslims mean and
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why they cannot really dropped the issue, and why until there is no resolution to the israeli-palestinian conflict, there is no real possibility for the region. in terms of their actual statement of the impact of this issue, we haven't really seen it. even recently as gonul mentioned we have seen somehow a dropping of the issue in the agenda, specifically because of how the company administration has managed the whole instability with regard to the change of the embassy and so on and so forth. that didn't really help in terms of prospect for -- [inaudible] but in terms of their policy that has been continuing to be the same. it doesn't really change, to be what the u.s. has been doing. >> on the visit to china i
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don't think that the u.s. government is concerned about allies visiting china. the israeli prime minister visits china. it hasn't diminished. it's not i think there's a sense it is sort of natural that leaders will go to china. the issue is, again the issues of rules-based order i think there are a lot of issues related to iran policy where people in the administration think china's interest and u.s. interests are different. if somebody wants if a country wants to strongly support a chinese undermining solidarity
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with the u.s. solution, then that's a problem. but merely going to china is not an issue of great concern. an interesting question, are the five countries static. what i think is sort of makes the five countries import is they all have something genuinely strategic to offer china. i certainly know china had $18 billion of infrastructure contracts in algeria in the 2000s. they're building a highway that runs all the way across the country. but that doesn't really make a strategic relationship. that's a purely commercial one. egypt has been a somewhat recent addition. i think israel is interesting. israel was worried in the mid-2000s when the u.s. came out harshly against the transfer
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of u.s. military technology from israel to china that israel would then lose its relevance to china. i think the israelis quite aggressively sought to find ways to be relevant to china. one of them is on cyber and technology. the other is on counterterrorism expertise. israel fought itself into the top five. i think it's possible but i think it in some ways, i mean, i ran just make sense because of its relationship to the united states. four of the countries who want to become strategic importance to china they have to make the case for it. one of the things i find breathtaking trauma to the these, is how many countries want to argue that they are strategically vital to china. i mean, the number of countries that argued we are a central hub in the belt and road initiative
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and look at them like, no, you're not. right? what you want to be a central of in the belt and road initiative and one that, you know, just admiration of statecraft. the way that chinese have lined the world with his idea of a belt and road initiative, which has no definitive map sort of vague contours, but there's a sense that it matters and there's a big idea and we can't ally ourselves with it has been a tremendous force multiplier for the chinese. i think it's possible for countries to get onto the list. i think it's possible for countries to drop off the list. but the important thing to me it's not just about your volume of trade because your volume of trade within the chinese bucket is not a big deal. you have to find something strategic pick you up to understand what the chinese are trying to do strategically.
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it's possible to do that without alienating the united states, but i think that's something that countries would have to consider carefully how one does it. >> i think we can take another couple of questions. thank you. >> one here and the other one. >> iran recently -- china recently canceled a $5 billion oil deal with iran, ostensibly because trying to obey u.s. sanctions. i don't know if that's true but it seems to be a significant aspect of our relations in the east. i wonder if you have any opinion of the reason for the cancellation and what this cancellation will mean to iran?
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>> , first -- i'm sorry. >> president trump just announced that he has invited president erdogan to the white house next month and he has accepted. what would you say would be the optimum outcome for the u.s.? in other words would anyone of you advise should be our goal and how to achieve that from that meeting? thank you. >> do you want to start? >> share. -- sure.
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>> you mentioned a point that many people believe in but maybe -- no difference in terms of -- when it comes to foreign policy or to a regional policy. what would iran then, what would drive iran to change its policy in the middle east? is it the irgc? is it hegemony? is that both? it seems the difference between rouhani and ahmadinejad when it comes to foreign policy. thank you. >> there is just one thing i wanted to mention i'm afraid not an answer to any other questions that were asked. [laughing] but i think in terms of the news of the day that is the russian
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reaction to the trump administration withdrawing troops and then sort of talking about turkey. i think that what we're going to see is that moscow is going to revive its long-standing offer to the syrian kurds that the best deal possible for them is to make a deal with the assad regime. russia will help them do so and they cannot rely on the u.s. and that while the turks might not like this, i think that they will find themselves in a position where it's very difficult for them to counter it without hurting the relations with russia. i would also point out that russia has been supporting the kurds since the 19th century. supporting them and betraying them alternately a yet always come back, the kurds to the
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russians and i think that this is a long-standing relationship and i think the current u.s. policy will lead to another sort of closer ties between the russians and the kurds. >> all right. so i start with no derivative iran foreign policy, which is not exactly what i meant to say. and thank you for giving the opportunity to clarify. what vested was that iran's principles that drive its foreign policy do not change. what a also say on who is in power in terms of presence in the government, iran's policy actually changes. in terms of tone and tactics. that is why for instance, we've seen by doctor rouhani was elected in june 2013, we had two months after the first start of the negotiations that didn't lead in 2015 to the nuclear deal.
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together with a bunch of other reasons obviously but i think the important who is in power should not be undermined. i do think have seen differences also in terms of how different presidencies have connected interacted with the countries we mentioned in the spin. so china for instance, is one of them. obviously the underlying element has to define iran's policy towards china as the city for is the fact is that perceived as a belligerent country and the business element is obviously the core element. but i think like if you look again at the differences between ahmadinejad administration which really what it did was untangling iran not just economically but also politically, closely with china is very different with what rouhani wants to do especially in the first administration. we've seen a clear clear attempt by the iranian administration to
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diversify from china's economic dependence, with the cases of the south parts of gas and oil field, the disconnection from the contracts that were established before, so and so forth, at the temp was to move iran's policy of economic engagement towards the west. with what is happened with the nuclear deal, the jcpoa that has not been successful. .. and that strategic role iran plays in china .
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in china's landscape but at the same time i think from the iranian point of view china has not been doing what it was expected to do especially after the withdrawal of the united states from the area. we know there is concern and we heard it this morning about how much oil china has been exporting to iran and it's doing exporting but what are we talking about? 400,000, 200,000 barrels a day compared to 700,000 and we mentioned the unraveling of the contract after they pulled out and china was supposed to come in and step in, that is one of the examples and what we've seen really more broadly speaking with the iraq reactor and more in general with regard to the chinese posture has been a continued attempts to stand by iran but without taking the risk of putting himself in a confrontational position . i think it's very much in line with the strategic posture of china but i think
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in the eyes of the iran that's not a represented strategic partner, it does not represent someone around can rely on >> china's playing a bigger game. china is playing a much bigger game and iran doesn't have a choice . if china decides that they're doing a trade deal , that this isn't really going to pick a fight and they're not going to stand up for iran, there's nothing iran can do . china is the master of this relationship . >> you're absolutely right . there is a struggle for iran in that sense because in one sense they know that they could play the situation with china in a different role if they had a better relationship with the western countries and the european ones which is what rouhani was to do but this is not an option and all the cards are in china's basket and that makes it very difficult for
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iran to disengage from what's happening in terms of diplomacy with china which was on the economic side but with the chinese new vision , it leads to some sort of political dependency and we don't know what the conflict will be like each year. >> i think that's right but china is luxuriating in the fact that iran is dependent . and they don't. and the iranians know it and they're not happy about it, there's nothing they can do about it because there's no country that can begin to provide for iran what china provides for iran so china goes along with the jcpoa and doesn't help the iranians get a better deal. okay. china decides the relationship with the united states is more important than the gas deal .okay. you can protest but what do
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you get? i think this to me highlights the wisdom of the chinese approach to iran. is iran for china is a gift that keeps on giving. and iran has to find ways to continue to make itself attractive to china benefits china. i'm sorry, nobody's answering your question about everyone. let me say this and it's way out of my lane. i think us turkish relations have been going in a bad direction . or a long time . and the turks keep doing things with which are perceived to be defiance of american conditions and i would hope that the president will be able to bring the turks closer in line with us strategy in the region and this is not a problem that is limited to the trump
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administration and didn't start with the obama administration . it started before but as a nato ally our relationship with turkey as the increasingly frayed . and i think there are a lot of things that are much easier to do . if we are more closely aligned, i hope the president will be able to do that . >> the timing is over and we are ready for the land, thank you very much for our panelists. thank you . >>
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. >> when this conference continues general joseph rotella, former commander of us central command will talk about a new strategic vision for the us , that is expected to start in about 15 minutes. live coverage you're on
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cspan2. the white house announced this morning turkish president are the one will visit the white house on november 13 , day after president trump threatened to obliterate the turkish economy should be nato ally do anything off-limits in syria . president trump announced yesterday the us is pulling troops out of syria . more discussion on that situation when the conference on policy continues. while we wait go the assistant secretary of state of near eastern affairs to the group this morning . >> good morning. so it says here i'm supposed to speak on an update on current us strategy towards the region but i had seen that the title of this conference was new strategic patience and power competition in the middle east . so i'm going to speak about china and russia today. the new press to middle east
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security and stability. so thank you, will. it's a pleasure to be at the atlantic council today and thank you ambassador . and our italian coast , both the united states and italy share a deep interest in sustaining engagement in the middle east . italy remains one of our closest partners and events like this demonstrates our shared commitment to the future of the region . secretary pompeo returned from a productive visit to italy, reinforcing our strong partnership . i spent some time with my italian counterpart a few weeks ago discussing lydia. so the future of the middle east is at a crossroads from the liberation of kuwait to the campaign to defeat isis , us has played a leading role in mobilizing international communities to confront threats in the region . much of the media's attention focuses on the iranian threat to peace and stability in the middle east but i'm going to be here today to talk to you about a challenge that most tunnel and possibly more worrying where just this
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morning at the encouragement of autocratic regimes like china and russia into the region , we see partnership for the further stability of the region . they're keeping a watchful eye on actions to undermine this goal so i like to begin with our vision or the region because i think it stands in contrast to the transactional relationships offered by china and russia. the us has a long track record in working to bring peace, stability and prosperity to the middle east and north africa to defend our allies, where committed to economic growth to provide jobs and prosperity in the united states and around the world and we value individual freedom and no democracy. as secretary pompeo said, the united states is a force for good in the region and most significantly easy to tackle the region's problems by working together with our partners advancing their interest as we advance our own . for example we lead and
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organize a global coalition to defeat isis and a process on peace and security, where launching the middle east strategic alliance with our partners in the goal and together with other like-minded nations we are at the cornerstone of the international maritime purity construct to ensure navigation of the goal. all these cooperative mechanisms help build regional security . the global coalition to defeat isis is a testament to what we can accomplish when we work together for a common goal with local partners. 76 stations and five organizations in the global coalition are and should be enormously proud at the territory isis once held was liberated . the on the military campaign a real triumph of the effort has been diplomacy . organizing a worldwide network to stop isis financing and ending the flow of foreign fighters into syria and discrediting isis
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bankrupt ideology. our contributions also include significant humanitarian assistance. since 2014 alone, or iraq alone united states has contributed $2.5 billion in the humanitarian aid , conflict affected and displaced iraqis in the region and 363 million to stabilize areas liberated from isis . this is an able of voluntary return of nearly 4 million internally displaced people . neither russia or china should have a willingness let alone capabilities organize a collective effort to defeat a global threat not to mention help the people on my isis and on the assistance front according to the us tracking center which tracks a flow , china provides a less than $1 million to china in 2014 and russia has provided nothing . russia and china sought to exploit openings to increase their own influence at the expense of their partners . the united states remains the indispensable partner for the majority of the countries in the region while china and
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russia labeled sides in a range of regional disputes . the united states offers a more hands-on approach in absolving the regions was practical problems taking affirmative principle vision is not always the most positive thing to do but global , public opinion sometimes deflects that but it's a hallmark of responsible global leadership . let me be clear, we have no desire to any country choose between the us and russia and china . countries can have negative relations and recently want to ensure that russia and china's influence and activities do not come at the expense of the region's prosperity, ability, physical liability and long-standing relationship with the us . so the fact of the matter is we have a fundamentally different approach from both russia and china the reasons most pressing problems. let's start with iran. iran represents a dominant challenge facing the region and we see this in its nuclear escalation, ballistic
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missile programs and in regional behavior. iran is stoking conflict in iraq, syria and beyond and bankrolling terrorists like hezbollah and earlier this month iran staged a brazen attack on a saudi oil facility . the attack showed around aggressiveness and lack of respect the sovereign security of its neighbors and threatened international energy markets , temporarily taking five percent of the oil supply off the market . the sizable percentage of this oil is destined for china. china is saudi arabia's number one customer . and saudi arabia is china's leading oil supplier yet where was china with primary energy source was threatened ? china was playing both sides facilitating a destabilizing activities like topping up the regime to continued oil purchases . these violations give the iranian regime crucial passion needs to further its regional efforts to sow discord and terrorists . china has sold russian technology to iran . technology that can be used to threaten others in the
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region . and it's as iran has interfered with shipping in the state of hormuz, we had an effort to assemble the international maritime purity construct . to protect navigation . we've had countries from around the world join us to monitor iran's behavior and prevent them from seizing warships and where is russia in all this? russia is trying to reincarnate its failed one-year-old construct which a dusted off to diverse attention for more effective solutions . it didn't work 20 years ago and it won't help the situation today. out the present our presence in the gulf remains a bedrock of security and guarantees freedom of navigation for a critical energy resources and all other shipping through
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the straits of hormuz benefits all of us in the region and around the world. russia and china are opportunistically seeking to increase their own returns rather than contribute to the broader goal of regional stability. a behavior is not limited to iran . in iraq , iran has undermined the government by providing assistance to armed groups that more allegiance to tehran and baghdad and while china and russia pursue profit through properly mercantilist policies, us assistance in providing clean drinking water to citizens of basra, jumpstarting on worst economy and clearing minds so that displaced religious minorities can return to ancestral homes. the regions ongoing conflicts in syria, yemen and libya continued to claim lives and radiate instability . it's clear these conflicts require political solutions that cannot be resolved by military force . the us will support you and led peace efforts through the region and deeply engaged in efforts to bring relevant parties into a political process . russia on the other hand is
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playing the spoiler to advance its own narrow interests as the people of the region suffer. in syria russia's behavior has been egregious. russia intervened to prop up the assad regime under the guise of counterterrorism . yet russia along with the assad regime has not demonstrated the willingness to fight isis, rather as shown a willingness to tolerate isis and other regimes of the syrian people. russia's support for assad has facilitated brutal attacks on civilians, here in russia to use the un do not strike list as a parting list . attacking civilian sites and creating refugees and displaced persons while the assad regime by hamas rules, they raise entire cities filled with innocence to kill a handful of terrorists. the united states in contrast is scrupulous, honoring its distinction of civilians and
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terrorists and russia did nothing as assad deployed chemical weapons against its own people. we have called out the regime for its reprehensible behavior and have sought evidence to demonstrate its crime. russia has sowed out and disinformation doing everything it can to protect the assad regime from accountability and frustrate the un led process to bring an end to the conflict. russia has used syria as a forum to showcase its weapons, mercenaries and devote a platform to other regional issues and in libya russia has fueled the conflict and its so-called private military force is plain to see. it's also violating the arms embargo and where is china mark playing an unhelpful role in syria and vetoing a call for a cease-fire. ultimately , we want a constructive results-oriented relationship with china that prioritizes concrete over hopeful aspirations. while we work with china on areas of mutual interest such as humanitarian assistance,
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counter narcotics and halting the spread of infectious diseases we will push back forcefully when beijing undermines our interests. instead of taking a leadership role in these conflicts china is focused on increasing its geopolitical position . unfortunately china's silk road initiatives have fallen flat for its recipients. it's funding which rarely has been efficient or market-driven has begun to dry up. china's projects come with opaque terms with correct questionable labor practices, high rates of interest that do not provoke shared economic prosperity outed by the chinese government. china's track record in using local labor force is poor. china does not sufficiently engage local contractors , provide enough local jobs and train many local workers . these tiny practices run counter to policies in places like saudi arabia, bahrain,
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oman , designed to build the capacity of the local labor force. us and middle eastern governments both want infrastructure development that benefits local communities but high-quality development with low short-term cost such as the promises china made at the beltran road forum ring hollow when china's track record is so poor. from burma to malaysia to tanzania, governments are negotiating the terms of the debt from china and ensuing bif projects entirely in places like india. not every chinese investment project is malign but products that don't meet the high standards set by inclusive organizations like the g 20 will not produce the desired results. the most notable among these has been the disastrous outcomes of chinese
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investment projects in pakistan, sri lanka and ecuador and in each case the false promise of development has led to the harsh reality of debt, project failure and in some cases chinese control . in contrast the us has any egypt, israel, jordan, tunisia to have access to $21 billion in bonds from international market at preferential rates through the issuance of guarantees. these financial mechanisms have helped support the ability while supporting economic reforms that encourage sustainable growth and foreign investment . unlike china and russia the us offers development assistance designed to help people build better lives . give you one example 2016 us aig help element polio in egypt. the us supports immunization campaigns egypt polio free quick get some sustenance and get ready for the close of our conference . i've been looking forward to it , hearing from general joseph votel. he's the man that needs no introduction that i'm going
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to get one anyway . i enjoyed tremendously my time in the pentagon working with joe. and helping from the little that we could do from washington for the really important work that he was doing all around the world and especially in the middle east . he most recently served as commander of us enteral command from march 2016 to march 2019 . commander of centcom, he oversaw military operations across the region including the campaign against the islamic state . before he was the centcom commander, he was on the other side of the base as the commander of us national operations command and before that he was the commander of joint special operations command . there are few people i know that have such a detailed knowledge of the region from a variety of different perspectives as general votel
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and i want to thank them for coming here and welcome him to the podium. [applause] >> this is fixed right here so i feel like i'm talking to these three rows right here. i'll try to make eye contact with everyone . thanks will for the invitation and doctor ms. ronnie, i'm glad to be back at the atlantic council and especially discussing a topic of great interest to me. i must admit i spent quite a bit of time thinking and writing down my thoughts over the last couple of weeks . will reached out to me about the middle of the summer to ask me to do this though i have been thinking about it but i've been thinking about it a lot over the past couple of weeks and i struggled quite mightily with this topic . i think i got it all figured out what i wanted to say on
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sunday afternoon just a few days ago while watching the vikings dominate the giants and i got it all down in writing and i'm sorry to tell you that i've rewritten my remarks twice in the last 24 hours . so we will see how it goes. it's also good to see a number of colleagues here with whom i served while i was in uniform . i'm happy to report that retirement is going well . the other day i overheard my wife telling one of her friends for 39 years he never express a view around the house, now he has an opinion on everything . i later heard her say he thinks he's an interior decorator. so i hope i'm doing this right. seriously, it's been a good transition and i certainly miss the people that i had a chance to serve with in uniform and those that were associated with our mission but i don't miss much else about it. before i step into my comments let me give you a few cautionary notes right up front . first of all i view things as
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a practitioner and through the lens of execution on the ground . secondly i'm the victim of my own experience and i tend to look at the region through my own experience, especially those of the last 18 years . i am retired and therefore not only are refugee from accountability nearly 8 months away from the very best situation awareness and understanding i have this region and as i mentioned i'm a little uncomfortable trying to articulate a future strategic vision for a region i served them for so long as leave because i have focused principally on one dimension : the military security dimension . as a result and the finite time we have, most of my comments will be about our approach in the military security area. i'm mindful the approach i'll discuss in a few minutes , the military is not the lead and that our efforts must not only be in conjunction with other elements of power
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actually in a supporting role. i'm mindful that as we meet here today that our military commanders and young american men and women in harm's way doing their best at our nation's bidding. these comments are not intended as a criticism of them. what i'll talk about today is a little bit about our national security interests , share some observations on the environment that exists today and then i'll offer some thoughts on what i would describe as the components of a strategic vision to preserve our interests in the middle east . before i proceed however , many take a few minutes to address yesterday policy change in northern syria area for me the overall sentiment is one of disappointment . disappointment we're letting down our partners, adding to the humanitarian disaster in this region and that we may be seeking a hard one to take advantage play a role in what is admittedly turning into a lengthy and difficult process to bring a political solution
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to this troubled area. i have long held at the partnership we crafted with the syrian democratic forces is a model of how we should be protecting our interests in these very complex areas. it gave us a way to do what we do best as americans . convene, collaborate, understand, focus, enable and advise while minimizing our footprints and keeping ownership of the solution on the ground in local hands. in my previous role as centcom commander i spent time in this area and invested in this relationship . in my humble opinion they are a capable and trustworthy partner and did everything we asked them to do even when it was not something they necessarily wanted . beyond that they protected us every day. their dedication to the fight and our partnership was always evident to me. it should not go without notice that over 11,000 . democratic soldiers, kurd and era their lives were wounded in this campaign focused on
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our objectives and bears . i'm certainly aware of the many conflicting interests in this area, those of our nato ally , those of the peoples of northeast syria and those of our country and the defeat isis coalition we formed and led . i believe the approach we were taking would increase . the mechanisms in the border area was moving this in a steady albeit slow but a satisfactory overall direction although i also understood no one party would ever be completely satisfied with the solution or the seed and attaining it . importantly the civility we achieved after our military campaign was a valuable leverage for our diplomats in the future peace process. when the current national defense strategy was released in 2018 it's clearly articulated at its principal priority was maintaining our competitive advantage against great powers . i agree with this and testified to that effect in several congressional hearings . a key precept included in our defense strategy was the
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importance of partnership . especially in those areas where we will have to exercise an economy of us military resources and presents . i consider this to be the direction we were headed over time in centcom. strong partnerships can act as a litigator in the areas where we choose to accept risk and where we also retain important national security interests . in essence having a longer list of partners , allies and friends that our adversaries and competitors is always better in my view. i believe that partnership is important . this partnership certainly is and must however being north remotely and be based on mutual trust . i believe yesterday's policy shift will make it more difficult to build partners in the future. with that let me move to the main discussion topic on the future of the vision for the region . here's the big idea that i'll share with you. our strategic direction is moving towards great power
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competition and in places like this region that we've been talking about today we have to not our broader approach in ways that allow us to preserve our interests and our influence. i often get asked and i've been asked this a number of times since i retired and talk to civic groups why do we care about this area. why have we been engaged here for so long and this is a good question for our citizens in this country to ask and i usually try to answer this by addressing kind of five broad interests that we have in this area. first, i tried to remind them we must ensure countries, areas and populations can be used as platforms for attacks against our land, citizens or those of our friends and allies. this is the reason we went to afghanistan to begin with . and we must prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction . there can be no doubt that an organization like isys would use something of this capability it came into their
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hands . third, we must deter and contain adversarial influence and activities that further destabilize the region and prevent its , prevent them from selling out and affecting our interests . many of you saw the heartbreaking images of refugees trying to escape syria and the impact that had not only on policy and discussion in our country but certainly across europe. fourth, we must protect freedom of navigation of flow of commerce . while our dependence on resources from the region as decreased, many of our partners are still very dependent on it and this area does produce 50 percent of the oil and gas reserves on earth and 20 percent of the daily global commerce those through a chokepoint in the middle east. finally we must maintain a balance of influence that supports our long-term interests. this list of interests have not changed for some time and i do acknowledge an argument can be made about the
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vileness of each of these interests. with the possible exception of proliferation , i would argue these interests are not currently existential to the survival of the united states but that does not mean they aren't important to us . failing to preserve any one of them could make things more complicated and complex . that said, we cannot ignore the fact that over the last several years we've responded in some manner to at least four of these interests and the other nuclear proliferation triggered a significant and largely unprecedented diplomatic effort . interests and their priority onto the significant factor for a future vision for this region . for the purposes of discussion and argument today i will consider the interests i discussed just a few moments ago the fall under the category of importance but not vital interest meeting our very survival is currently not at risk . if we subscribe to this concept , this means future strategic visions must also
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include mechanisms and approaches that mitigate the threat to interests that don't fall in the final category. we can't conclude that something is in our interest and then not address it, maybe it or be willing to accept the associated rest . the middle east that we see today reflect both old and new realities . there are two aspects playing out that must be considered as we think about the way forward . younger leadership and the more restless and youthful population, increasing technology capabilities and faster morning cycles that are closing the gap for traditional military or technical dominance that previously existed an information environment that makes sense almost instantly known but also almost instantly manipulable . tensions in competitions in areas where we historically have considered our relationships and leadership to be solid. arise or resurgence of competitors to the united states that posed true
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strategic challenges that could affect not only the world order of the united states and its friends and allies that clash over many decades but perhaps even our long-term survivability . less than direct reliance on natural resources coming from this region and fatigue from sustained investment of american treasure in the region at home and abroad . of course, many of the same underlying tensions that we have observed for decades continued course through the region . multiple toxic narratives among them, the tune ci narrative and the turkish kurd narrative. rampant corruption, disenfranchisement and unemployment, extreme wealth and found property. extraordinary human suffering exacerbated by growing refugees and displaced persons issues and difficulty in concluding regional conflicts and a general overall lack of dialogue . so it is in this environment i now turn to the more
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difficult tasks of thinking about our vision for the region . and let me just start this part of the discussion by talking a little bit about what i consider the characteristics of a good strategic vision to be. first it must address our interests or accept and mitigate where risk is being taken. this is a theme you will continue to hear about my remarks today. we must be able to be communicated clearly and simply . it should leverage our partners and emphasize reliance . it must allow for blending, integration and balance of all elements of national power and it must be backed up by an engaged national security process that includes an element of predictability also remaining agile enough to take them opportunities in the changing environment . policy without process is dangerous and process without policy is meaningless . we can no longer afford to look at our interests in the middle east without considering our interest in
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other areas and effective strategic vision must be backed by a national security process that debates , assesses a just and implements our policies and strategies . you must ensure that our and states are well coordinated and articulated across the pillars of national power . we must avoid overreliance on the military power of national security. this does not mean we should not be stationing military forces or deploying them to the regions area what it means is that it can't be our only approach. and most likely cannot be only way we attempt to solve problems in the middle east . and preserve our interest . this will be difficult to do in this area because we made our main focus for decades but we have to have their balance . finally, a good strategy must be sustainable and if we're going to deploy forces , we need to build a sustainable sources . we need to build and sustain our diplomatic energy to
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address the challenges of the region and we must have sustainable strategic communications and information that supports our overall with that let me offer you an end state . any good strategy must document and state that is not only clear but achievable and measurable in the past two decades our strategic approach to this region has been defined by four things in my view : first , access to vital resources , second of all our desire to contain iraqi aggression during the summer friday and principally during the assad period . our desire to contain iran's revolutionary approach and forth by our concern for terrorism that emanates from the region which ends up on our doorstep or the doorsteps of our partners . all four of these relate important but in my view not of them should dominate the overall approach. our overall and state in my view should be focused on
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preserving an overall april balance of power in the region . when compared against other great power competitors and would be regional hegemon. this is not new in our approaches. i often remind people that my first roommate at west point came to the academy from tehran american high school. his father was a defense attachc. this level of balance on both sides of the arabian gulf helped us until it didn't . up until that time we didn't have large deployments of troops in the region . we didn't need them. our balance relationships on each side maintain a relative level of stability that served our interests. we can certainly argue about the tactics that fell underneath this approach , but the overall concept itself in my view was sound . and also not suggesting that we should orchestrate some kind of near-term probiotic with the iranians area i
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don't think this is particularly wise or even achievable right now although i do support sports dialogue . what does he is the united states should pursue an overall strategic approach and that makes or keeps us depending on your view the preferred partner in the region morally, diplomatically, economically and militarily . in the preferred partner will allow us an opportunity to preserve our interests in the region while at the same time getting focus to adjust vital national interests that are essential to our long-term vital . having a proposed end state , i'll refer to as preferred partner, let me address some of the ways and means we should pursue against this particular end state or objective . first we need to bring the ongoing conflicts in afghanistan, syria and yemen
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to a political conclusion. this seems like a statement of the obvious but i consider these to be the sucking chest wounds of the region. they continue to draw resources, be the , contribute to human suffering and promote more instability . they will not be solved militarily and we must pursue a full-court press us and international diplomacy. second we need to look at our security cooperation arrangements both in terms of organization and in execution of our military funding and sales program. our efforts must be backed up with an effort emphasis on responsiveness and self-reliance. in a region where we are the preferred partner our security cooperation should be the main military effort working closely to implement programs for our partners and with our combat commands to support the campaign plans. to complement this we must make our support conditional on commitment to military professionalism and sustained overreliance .
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we should use our considerable experience in polish and war fighting to help our partners in the region achieve a better level of integration and unity of effort. third we should continue to insist on and support coalition tax forces like those we have in the maritime environment . these are good , build capability and self-reliance . fourth we should triple the amount of money we spend on inet . this is a certain way to create a generation of regional leaders and their families have an appreciation for our country. during my last year at centcom we spent under $19 million for this program . in the big picture this is not that expensive but what we get from it is invaluable. we get officers that study in our schools and families that live in our communities . if you don't think this matters the defense keeps across the region overwhelmingly, they have spent time in our schools and their families have the experience of living in leavenworth, carlisle, montgomery, newport and in washington and have gained and taken away a largely
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positive view of our people and nation . look at the countries where you step these programs back . it is notable in their lack of understanding, appreciation and cooperation with our country. if we should review and update our access and fight arrangements and agreements through the region with a view towards ensuring that can support our ability to respond quickly and effectively in the event of a true emergency . six, we should routinely demonstrate our commitment to the region with deployment exercises focused on likely security scenarios . we should not forget the impact of the brightstar exercises of the early 1980s . at a time when we did not have forces on the ground the deployment of large formations for the purpose of training and reassurance and partnership in the region sent an extraordinarily strong message . seven, we should only permanently deploy forces to address those important interests where we are unable to mitigate to our partners or unwilling to outsource our
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own security. this could include checking terrorist organizations with the ability to attack our homeland or citizens . the touring adversaries and competitors in areas where our partners do not have capability or capacity , ensuring safe passage of american and allied commerce and protecting our vital installations, troop locations and other american infrastructure and supporting routine training opportunities and exercises with our partners. these are some of the types of things we should be looking at in the future. i recognize it will take time to implement and constant attention contract . as mentioned military capabilities will not be sufficient. we must bring the other instruments of our national power to bear and let me touch on a few things that i think would be supportive of this. first and foremost, well resourced diplomatic missions in the country of the regions and the region are essential.
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these missions must be backed up strong regional bureaus and the apartment of state who do their bidding . secondly, we need a better resource , more responsive organizational entity to help traverse the information environment . we should study how the us information helped us win the cold war. we need this now more than ever. third, we need technical sharing arrangements with our partners that allow them to not only have the intelligence but cutting-edge capabilities to build self-defense . fourth we need to address the strength of our global market approach and limitations of the approaches in our rising challengers . i agree with what doctor altman talked about in the previous panel . and last, we need a better way to support opportunities for american business to do what they do best . innovate, stabilize, add prosperity and bring profits and principles to our partners. let me just conclude by with a few additional comments.
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i am under no illusion that any of this will be easy area in fact, i know it will be very hard but a coherent local strategy will require that we prioritize and take risk in areas where we have been reluctant to . especially in this region . taking risk will mean we will all have to look for ways to mitigate those risks . we have the experience in doing this area as the centcom commander i was supported by a cadre of excellent policy advisers . one of the things they often reminded me of was the foreign policy principle as they sometimes referred to it allowing any single power to dominate this part of the world would be detrimental to our overall national security objectives . many of our relationships and alliances have been built around this fact . we should not forget this easily. i don't expect everyone here will agree with my suggestions and i know there
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are a myriad of other details i have left out would need to be developed in order to make this work but i think this is a pragmatic approach and it is in our grass if we are willing to take a team approach . thank you for your attention and i look forward to the discussion and your questions. [applause] >> thank you. >> thank you very much. one of the benefits of being a host of a conference like this is i get to sit up here and ask the first question or two before i go to the audience so i know we're going to have a lot but let me start with one question . it's a military question . look ahead . you know the capabilities of the kurds very well. the united states withdraws or moves our forces to the south for the president's order. turkey does what it says it's
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going to do and invades to create a safe zone. what do the kurds do? what are their capabilities ? what should be looking for western mark . >> i think the kurds will first of all defend themselves as best they can. and it becomes apparent to them that they will , they cannot deal with this very modernized army and capabilities turkey has, they will leave the area and not only will their fighters leave but i would expect that there sections would leave as well.i have the feeling they would not be secure to remain in the area and that would exacerbate the challenges and then perhaps the kurds may even move to some type of insurgent approach if you will that next away at the edges of what the area that turkey controls in this site and
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then i think we have a long-term security issue that will have to be addressed . >> thank you. let me ask you another military question before we go to the persian gulf . we provided an awful lot of capabilities to an awful lot of military sales to our partners in the gulf . for many decades now. some of those military budgets far exceed the iranian military budget by multiples. and yet the united states remains the only power capable of defending those sea lanes. why is that? why do these gaps still exist from our partners to mark . >> it's one i thought about quite a bit as a centcom
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commander, when you see modern capabilities provided out there and i'm not sure there's a particularly easy answer . some of it may have been our approach in the past is to provide equipment to partners in the region about ever any intention that they would actually use them. that it was designed as part of a much larger balancing act here . in some cases or countries are think our own organization contributes to some of the ineffectiveness of this program. when we were providing equipment to the ministry of defense, interior and presidential guard or am kind of royal guard in one of these countries and nothing comes between them , that's not an effective way to do this. i am much supportive of the idea of a single senior defense official alignment of all this activity under him and under the control of the
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ambassador in each of these countries so some of this may have been caused by our own organization in terms of how we approach that and i think the third thing would be we just have not adjusted our expectations for our partners in the region and that's why in my comments i tried to emphasize this idea of professionalism and the idea of sustaining your capabilities over time . i think one of the things we observed from a number of our era partners when they got to yemen and started this ill-fated campaign was many of their capabilities were outdated and they couldn't even operate among themselves . and they saw how that had happened . i think we have a responsibility to help provide capability to our partners but we have to come with levels of expectation and with clear understanding of why we are providing them and our organization needs to match that . >> some of these partners, i'm thinking of the ue most notably took their soft,
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worked in afghanistan without caveats and improved from a very modest level to a significant level . other countries in the region made the exact opposite decision and do you see any difference now that we can look back at that and see how capability growth has differed tremendously. do you see any changes from your time at centcom and our partners willingness to work with us in such a way? >> i do and i should say up front i don't hate all the countries with a broad stroke, i would acknowledge the uae's spot over there has been fantastic as a partner and i think you look around the region and other countries that have developed good soft capabilities and i think this is our desire that this is something they can emulate.
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it can be done, it's done at a lower scale so it's easier for them to do and there's an interest in it . i can see an immediate deployment of that what you're seeing in a number of other countries are capable thought elements. the challenge becomes when you try to expand that sale across the armed forces and i just look at our example in the united states. we have wonderful capabilities but those develop over time and we have as a former so complementary i can say this. we developed great ways of doing things , approaches to things , training methods, operating methods , sobs and things that emanated out of our special operations forces and over time became the routine in our broader conventional forces so it does take time for that to do and but that , we were unable by an intellectually incurious officer, noncommissioned officer in a very professional and institutionalized educational process that a value on
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innovation , that put a value on new ideas and that's what i think we have to look at in inculcating across the region. >> let me ask you one last question, i know there's a lot of people here that have questions for you . but the question is between the capability , the gap between actual capabilities and some of these countries and the perceptions by the leaders of these countries. one thing that i think about is when the war in yemen began. the saudi leadership gave it military. a mission to conduct intelligence driven air to ground operations against moving targets in an urban environment or you have to protect civilians . if i'm being generous, i could maybe count on one hand the number of such countries in the world that have those capabilities . if i'm not being generous i can count on one finger the
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number of countries that have those capabilities and we make mistakes sometimes. there was a huge destroyed there between the mission set and the capability set. as these countries become more willing to use the capabilities , do you see that decreasing to make us all safer or do you see it increasing likeliness of recklessness ? >> that's an excellent question and i think the direct answer is my hope is certainly that we will see it decreasing. we have long in the us military enjoyed a relationship between military and civilian leaders that has allowed for frank discussion back and forth about our own capabilities . i would share with you in my service the u.s. army and the one i served in our chief of staff and chairman made a pretty, was pretty blunt in terms of as we were being concerned about things in my
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career, one in terms of where he thought we were in terms of our ability to do that and that helped drive our civilian leadership and the department and others in a direction to make sure that we had a net so we have to promote that kind of honest discussion back and forth between military and civilians. i admit that it is difficult in many of these countries to have that discussion and there is a belief because of lack of experience or because there isn't a process of allowing for frank discussion back and forth that leaders over assume what their capabilities are and that's dangerous . i should just say in your previous lesson as if we see some indications of where countries are trying to do this and i think yes, we have. even with the saudi coalition in yemen as again , i don't think anyone's final debate that in any kind of positive light but we saw instances and uses of our own experience in reaching out the saudi's and others to
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help them develop a process that would minimize the opportunities for civilians casualties tried to more effectively employ the military capabilities we had and we saw some instances where they understood that . the challenge of course institutionalized and we make a long-term change and that just takes time and it takes commitment not just from us but certainly more from them in terms of doing that . >> let's go the questions, i'm going to start with a back because the front is has been getting an awful lot of questions . let's go to the young lady in the back with her hand up. >> . >> thank you so much. more in my with washington times . us officials and think tanks have suggested that isis leaders are planning a
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massive prison break from the regional presence in syria with the potential withdrawal of us troops in the region. do you see that as a reality? >> i don't know if i necessarily see it as a reality meaning it's going to happen but i do see that if the syrian democratic forces who have that , who have assumed that responsibility right now of protecting and safeguarding and detaining those fighters , if there attention is drawn elsewhere because i have to defend themselves, there's nothing more important . it makes the possibility of that much greater . so i think this is something that we have to be concerned about. detained foreign fighters and detained local fighters and the course a large number of family members that are not detained but certainly are encamped right now in areas here that left on their own
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devices , this could, we could see some of this in our assertions. we should remember in the beginning of isis they got a lot of their combat power by bringing people out of prison in places like mosul and other places, thousands of fighters joined like that and while we've been successful in liberating the caliphate , we certainly haven't eliminated the ideologies that drives them and this will be an important , this could be an important test for us . >> sir in the back. >> general, thanks for doing this. i wanted to ask you about the us response since president trump's decision to take us troops out of the safe zone,
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specifically the pentagon's decision to cut turkey out of the air attacking order, out of isr feet as well as trump's statement he would economically obliterate turkey for this . is this going to have any deterrent effect in your opinion ? >> i don't know and i should say i have no insight into any of that. no one is sharing that with me over my icloud account so i don't really know . i think i read like most of you did the response from the turkish government today on some of that narrative going back and forth . i don't have any way of affecting it. i had not heard we had cut people out of the air tasking order but getting congress statements that we seem to come from our administration , that would seem to be the right thing to do to make sure that we work participating in whatever it is that turkish military has
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planned . >> can explain to everyone what the implications of that are? >> the implications of being dropped out of the air tasking order is going to lose visibility on things that we are doing and we will lose visibility on things they are doing. the air tasking order forms a lot of functions and has types of aircraft and admissions that they do but it includes a significant amount of coordination and deconstruction procedures that keep all of us safe in the air and guides how these activities get done so then we rely heavily on this process every day . to help keep us safe in the airspace up there. so the chances are , it could lead to a miscalculation. it could lead to a misunderstanding .
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i certainly hope that's not the case and i'm not saying it automatically will but it makes it harder to operate in this environment and keep military forces there. >> thanks general votel. >> .. >> do they influence politics like yemen or syria clicks what don't we know about them in washington? >> one of the most keen observation that we have is
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that we wouldn't look at them just as a military force. that's not the role the general plays he is a policymaker with direct access or very close access to the supreme leader and with a certain amount of independent decision-making that often times not just reflex military activity but political policy so this is a unique organization that is exceedingly general one - - dangerous and very clearly linked into the governing regime there and it attempts to influence the day-to-day activities like iraq with military leaders putting pressure on them and militia
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groups who might be on the ground to answer back that are more beholden to them they and the iraqi leadership to orchestrate the movement of arms around the region whether that's to the houthis rebels or western syria where they can be used to threaten israel. i think this is an extraordinarily dangerous organization we cannot think of them like another military organization. equal parts military equal parts policy not only development the execution of responsibilities.
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>> general thank you for your comments you talk about the range of what centcom needs to be done i had the privilege from 2004 through 2016 sitting on the advisory board and we suffered the same issues that they wanted to do but just couldn't be implemented so do you have suggestions how we could get more influence on the military to take on the common sense suggestions you have me like combatant commanders? >> that's a great comment. sometimes what gives the clearest view of what you have been doing in the challenge to my own experience is on a day-to-day basis you are so up
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front what is happening right in front of you sometimes it's difficult to look at the long-term aspects of this. frankly the best way of doing this is a policy process approach where we try to balance the things we want to achieve with policy with building consensus across our government. changing things what the centcom commander can do by himself so these are hard problems and frankly the longer they are in place the more difficult they are to entrench and it just takes time. so the idea to go to a single
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defense official in these countries to be responsible to the ambassador and focus efforts and works very closely. that's a novel idea and frankly reflect that the whole way sometimes without bureaucracy of the partners we try to support. i think these things just take time but it is important to talk about it with the dialogue and the intellectual discussion so we can begin to address them. >> i'm from the washington institute, give me your thoughts for success or not for the iraqi government to do the necessary integration.
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>> that's a great question. this is a very difficult challenge for them. this is one that frankly we have been talking to our iraqi partners for a long time. to bring them in it was established years ago as the ambassador knows, this is a routine talking point with the prime minister and others to talk about that. certainly is not anything new but i'm not overly positive about that i want to be a glass half-full kind of thing i hope they can do that but i'm not positive that can be done anytime soon. i hope we could identify may be a roles and initiatives
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approach to this look at the forces like the army corps of engineers and the full-time civics works in helping to maintain the infrastructure of the country that could be an approach that i don't think has yet taken off. so now these organizations that are fighting for their own identities but not much is coming to gather but the fact the iraqis could get all of those elements to work in conjunction during an operation like most all is no small miracle. literally done by ferry - - very few in good officers but i think this will continue to be a very difficult challenge for iraq moving forward. >> from the atlantic
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council, general as centcom commander when the jcpoa was negotiated immediately afterward so what was the communication between us forces and iranian forces in the persian gulf during that period? how did it change after the us withdrew and do describe that quick. >> that level of communication is zero. there is no communication between the military forces in the region and in my view obviously when i came into position the jcpoa was in place we needed to figure out militarily to talk to our partners across the region i would just like to have my maritime commander talk to that one because i think we struggle we weren't sure if
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these were the actions of a rogue commander or being articulated from a more centralized position so i was a strong advocate of that. we were unable to move that forward with policy channels and perhaps if the jcpoa stayed in place that may have provided an opportunity to do that but i would say in the immediate wake of early 2016 through most of that year and early 2017 we continue to see a normal level of unprofessional and unsafe interaction in the maritime environment. a couple times a month i think it is 30 or 35 per year and then we saw a drop off precipitously. and again one of the approaches we try to take his
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call out the iranians on their actions. and appeal to their level of professionalism. there is an ethic in militaries around the world when your professionalism is questioned that bothers you i think. we made a very good effort to point this out. several times i took reporters with me on the ships. it was like we queued up the iranians. literally on the ship ten or 15 minutes there were boats around us. so you could really get a perspective on that and when you send the message that it doesn't operate like this we protect our interests but we don't operate like that to go out in the international waterways we don't do missile launches aside the transport
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in the strait of hormuz this is the action of fun professional and undisciplined militaries. resolve that drop off over the next year. i cannot really explain why that was. some may have been we didn't have his many vessels in the area so it wasn't as much of an opportunity but in general we did see a decline in that. i remain in favor of communication. in syria our ability to talk to the russians the commander and air component was absolutely vital but we d conflicted this was extraordinarily important to keep us safe and when something happened we had a mechanism and for the most part this was professional military to military conversations. i think that worked for us and
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reinforced the importance to have that mechanism. we have always been concerned. they were doing things with the houthis to move supplies they were trying to push things to the western part of iraq or syria even before that but the rhetoric probably went up certainly after we withdrew from the jcpoa but i don't know of the types of things they were doing significantly changed one direction or the other. >> with the institute in washington but in conversations over the past month in the gulf region and here in washington a number of
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senior arab government officials say they've seen the conscious absence of american political leadership in the gulf over the past couple of years. but they were really concerned over the past summer as i ran increased its attacks against infrastructure in saudi arabia. one senior interlocutor described the lack of us military response to the world's largest facility the final nail in the carter doctrine to protect the gulf. what they said was more important was the absolute lack of any deterrence provided by any military force for iranian action. do you believe the carter doctrine needs to be preserved
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in the united states needs to maintain a leadership role? and more tactically what might the united states and our allies do to restore a measure of deterrence against iranian actions quick. >> with the first part of your question yes i do think american leadership is important. under ideal circumstances that would be great and there will always be things in this region we've done in a number of times in the past we would expect to do that in the future as well and to be very carefully considered but i do think american leadership is necessary in the region especially as we try to move to a new period of competition american leadership
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diplomatically economically and information wise is very important to do this. but i do think there certainly is a role for this. in terms of things we can do or should do to deter iran as an advocate and believe her in these task forces in the region region, they were very good not just western navies but regional navies or others outside of the region. pakistan was a key contributor for a number of years to play a big role in others that came in were very important. one of the most important things we can do first of all a show unity and cohesion with
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partners and allies but in terms of what we strike back at those are policy decisions left to the president of the united state but it's important not allow them to have free reign. there are things we can do to shut down routes there are things we can do to promote more security and more understanding in the maritime environment and what is moving through that and things with our partners diplomatically in support of military leadership to hold them accountable and demonstrate we are with them. a lot of these things are tangible but overall i would argue that is the approach that i would think of.
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>> thank you. from george mason. with those us priorities have switched to power competition i presume that means competition in the middle east. so how do we do that effectively with so many allies and partners in the middle east have good relations with both of our competitors? >> i agree with the first part of your comment to the great power competition with the asia pacific not limited limited to eastern europe it will play out and traditionally has been an area
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that as we look back to the previous experience , afghanistan was a key place where the competition between the united states and the soviet union played out on the battlefields of afghanistan with support to the mujahedin. and the waterways of the middle east are key areas so i agree with that particular approach. in terms of how we become better partners than the chinese or the russians, my personal view is there is a natural proclivity to want to partner with us. they want to be aligned with us in my observation where we
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have pushback or not address their concerns to see them satisfy their goals we shouldn't give them everything they want but we have to have a very serious dialogue to be engaged with these countries all the time to talk about the security requirements and the broader approach in the middle east and dialogue matters. and being responsive with military sales really do matter with our partners and that should be the main effort
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and that's important you have to have people to do that but the numbers of people that come along or not the same as the fleets and other things that are in place. but the key is to make long-term investments in these relationships. that's why it's so darn important. look at the amount of money we are spending, that's it and it's going down right now. we just cannot put a value on many kids are already coming back and going to school so we should try to promote that with a long-term relationship and we cannot emphasize these as negotiating.
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we have shared interest and look at how we align. >> hello general. i'm an independent consultant. can you clarify in more detail about what you meant when you said us must be willing to take risks as part of the mideast policy. as a military person how would you evaluate these competitors in a particular russia because a lot of people will say without having a military background to back it up that putin took a fantastic risk militarily going into syria and i believe under the obama administration it was good for him he will be caught in a
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quagmire and it will be a disaster. >> okay let's use the example of terrorism so we have a number of different organizations in the region and a number of them have the ability not all the facts but a certain number of them do and we have concerns about those. in order to address those concerns on the scale and the policy leadership decides on that when we devote resources that takes away from something else. we truly need to concentrate in other areas then your
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strategy is reflected with your resources whether troops or whatever else it is look at where the troops are located and that gives you an indication of what it is. if we are okay with occasionally absorbing a terrorist back in the united states and one of the friends capitals causing casualties to recognize it doesn't bring the country down but causes a lot of problems, we are okay with that and can take some risk. i'm not suggesting that we do. if we are not okay with that that, and we haven't been that we look at ways we can do that
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and one way is to deploy our own capability. another is to look at a much smaller capability to have their partners develop their capabilities to make sure that's clear. we have to an important interest to ensure this area cannot be used as a platform to attack us we can deploy troops or just say we will take the risk. i'm not advocating anymore i'm just saying we have to choose if we are okay every now and then them firing a missile then we don't need to have that capability. so we have to look at how we mitigate. with those combined maritime task forces we provide
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protection for others as they provide protection for us and collectively this is a way of doing this with less resources and still address our interest and with our partners that is always a little bit of risk but that's what i'm saying is that we have to look at this very carefully. for all of our interest and get to level of sustainable presence military -wise that allows us to operate at whatever that acceptable level of interest is. >> thank you. thank you for what you have
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provided with a candid assessment but let's talk about the mobilization units but some people this town look at this as a way to solve this and in 2014 now a lot has happened toward the iraq and military fighting and all of that since. we have people on the ground the us military force to help the iraqis advise and train. is the iraq he military capable of handling in the
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country if they were to demobilize? what are those iraqi forces as you hear them? >> very good question. so what people have shared with me it is a number of months old so i'm going back to when i departed as a centcom commander. there were certain iraqi units we would say were capable of looking at those interests but on the other hand there were some units that required additional enablement's to spend more efforts to bring them up to a level of capability that the iraqis need. so this is a little bit of a mixed bag. software capable but some still required our assistance.
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that would be the way that i would expect that it would be on this. it is a remarkable transformation from the collapse of the iraqi army to where they were at the height of mosul. and rebuilding the assistance of the coalition and the iraqi civilian and military leadership to get behind it to make it a priority and get it done, and the performance on the ground speaks for itself. it wasn't always perfect or the way we were do it but it was the iraqi way. so i would suspect some are fairly self-sustaining and
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that we have to pay attention to i was very keen at looking at a mature military making assessment of where that has to occur in looking at that final disposition, not just at the cts we had a long relationship but also the iraqi army. so i think that staying with them to some degree to make sure they are capable doing what their leadership needs them to do is in our interest. >> one more minute and one last question.
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>> we spoke persuasively how we could engage with state actors to carry out our programs of coordination with us interests but i want to ask about our engagement with the irregular forces and then with syria from the more optimistic moments when the ambassador was coordinating with the syrian coalition. . . . .
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>> new formation and others, not happy ending outcome for our experience with engagement end quote irregular forces. with the treasure we did have some successes in stopping state to state irregular forces, meaning saudi kuwaiti emirates and other funds to have forces, but according to many, recognizing we could not in essence out finance we could not be, that paymasters and
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support a successful moderate islamist opposition. what do you take away from this whole experience in syria in terms of our engagement with these folks nonstate actors and thickly horses that became either work or became jihadi forces not thickly lined with u.s. interests long-term? >> are you talk about the arab forces or -- >> the air force in particular, yes. >> i don't have actually probably as much detailed knowledge of those programs as you might think that i do. i have to say i'm aware of the difficulty with some of those programs and some of the challenges we had over the control of them and things they were doing. my broader thoughts on irregular forces is that i think there is a role for irregular force but we should choose wisely in terms of those we invest in. we have some really good
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examples of regular forces we've worked with that event successful to our objectives. the afghan mujahedin the relationship we maintain with the iraqi kurds from after the 91 war up until the time we went back in and 2003. i think that served as well, i think him in terms of that and our most recent experience with the syrian democratic forces has been a very positive one. what i think when we choose partners particularly those that are irregular we have to choose very, very carefully and make sure there is an alignment of objectives and at least enough of an alignment of approaches that we can maintain our legitimacy, maintain our values all the things bring to this. we saw that. i have written fairly extensively recently relationship with the syrian democratic forces and i think was his level of alignment that really convinced me this is a
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very bad old and worthy very capable parker if they can achieve their objectives and ours. we have to choose very careful with that. i don't think this is something we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. because without some bad experiences or difficulties with some of the arab elements in the syrian environment that this isn't something we should look for in future. there is a whole wing of special operations special mission kind of things that we've pursued in the past called unconventional warfare. these are important concepts that frankly would serve us well in great power competition depend on how we wanted to do that. again, this all has to be done deliberately dina conjunction with a broader coherent policy of how we are doing this, and but i think these are important programs. but it's key to choose wisely, make sure there's alignment and make sure link back to broader policy and strategy that we're
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trying to achieve with these forces. when we can do that then where the opportunity to be successful in employing truly indigenous forces as opposed to state actors. >> with that i'm going to have to say we've come to a close. thank you very much. really appreciate it. [applause] >> thank you very much for everyone for coming. please go to our website and take down our publication multi-chapter book. thank you. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
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>> c-span's campaign 2020 2020 coverage continues as president trump host i keep america great rally in minneapolis minnesota life thursday at 8 p.m. eastern on c-span. watch anytime on and listen free wherever you are using the free c-span radio app. >> next, former cia director and retired general david petraeus spoke about


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