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tv   Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  September 6, 2013 6:00am-7:01am EDT

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probably, therefore the way that this debate is playing out now with the rest of the world wavering and the u.s. congress not knowing which way to go, nos is just what he would have ordered. am i being too cynical? how would you interpret his real interest in the crisis? >> if he was listening to this, he would be more convinced he was making the right choice all along. on no intervention in syria. he has actually said that recently a number of interviews and we have seen him out and about all over the place expressing his thoughts that he has kept previously behind. assad is not the endgame in
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syria. the goal is not to see a massive mess on the map. but he thinks that we can make this a whole lot worse than it already is. in the next year he faces the withdrawal of the united states from afghanistan and he would like us to still be there. this is one area he was quite relieved that we were there. he liked the idea that we were bogged down because we may be there and some kind of way in which we would stay, not where we would be heading out like the soviet red army headed out a couple of decades previously. he he looks at syria and probably doesn't spend every day thinking about u.s. but he spent a lot of time looking at this in the kgb, studying what the u.s. is
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up to. he does not think that they have thought up of anything -- thought of anything beneficial to russia. activityin all of the in syria is to be restraining the united states from intervention. he does not know where the endgame is going to go and he would much rather have bashar al-assad keeping some semblance of control in the complete chaos that he has seen in iraq and afghanistan and libya. he is on the same page as some members of congress, wanting that -- wanting to know if this will be benghazi. until he gets some kind of response from the president, and he is following closely what the president has been saying, he wants those answers as well and wants to know what will be in syria by the end of the day. on that front, russian and
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middle east policy is misunderstood. this is not the cold war. if you look at the series of alliances that russia has, they are weird. this is not just iran, this is israel. a hezbollah attack by a ran on israel would be a disaster for russian policy. -- iran on israel would be a disaster for russian policy. he has been alarmed by the sudden shift in the middle east profile of who is in charge. he is probably relieved that the military is back in the case of egypt. springnot like the arab or any of the implications this had for the middle east or if this would create more extremist groups that turned their attention from the start -- current focus and turned to
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russia. ever since he ended the war in chechnya, he has been relieved that the extremists went somewhere else and he does not want them coming back. with the winter olympics in the new year of 2013, and the billions he has spent there. there are all kinds of things he doesn't like about this. this is not the old middle east for russia and nobody else. he wants to know what the u.s. will do and what their -- what the implications will be. >> i wanted to ask about the other al qaeda affiliates in syria. there has been concern over the last two and a half years that the course of the war has made this group grow stronger.
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there is also the concern that if we -- maybe the inaction allow this to happen but also the possibility that the strike may further strengthen al-musra. atif we step back and look the developments during the civil war -- this started out as a general nonviolent movement, for political change in syria. two and a half years later it is not that anymore. this is a very ugly sectarian war. with terrific violations of human rights by the syrian rebels. what began as the arab spring turned into a sectarian war that put 15% of the population the christian minority against the sunni majority. leaving out the kurds, who are the third player and have their own entity in northeastern syria. this conflict between the
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christian front and the sunni front becomes increasingly violent and dangerous. the opposition and the resistance is incredibly fractured. the defense intelligence agency this summer could identify 1200 separate parts of the sunni opposition movement. even if they are armed by 50%, there are only 600 -- this is a very dysfunctional movement. there was no al qaeda at the beginning, but now they have come on very strongly using their nearby base in iraq. we have two specific franchises operating in syria. one is the al-musra front, who say they are syrian in origin, but knowledge a lot of assistance from al qaeda in iraq, controlled by al-zawahiri in pakistan. and there is al qaeda in iraq -- they are in charge and running this operation. and have
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the authority from bin laden, if he was here. anyone who says these functions are 50% of the resistance your alarm bells should go off. just like anyone who tells you there are 5000 al qaeda fighters in iraq and syria. it is not clear that they know how many fighters they have in syria today. do not settle for oversimplifications. two significant groups have now moved into a rack, and become among the most robust parts of the resistance to the bashar al- assad government. if we killed the playing field against this regime, inevitably that will help al qaeda. there is no way we cannot help them, the way that we degrade
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the syrian regime and their military capability. we can offset this to a certain degree and i have written about some ways to mitigate the impact, but we should have no delusions that at the end of the day, the more we weaken, or hit them hard, we're going to end up having bigger al qaeda problems in the future. if you have a strategy that says, we are willing to take that risk up front now. we are confident that we know that we will get to the end, that is one thing. if we have the yada yada yada strategy, you have to spend more time thinking about the. helpertently, we have to
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-- we will be helping them have a stronger base in the middle east. al qaeda is at a crossroads. they were threatened by the arab spring when this began. the whole philosophy is that the only solution to the problem of american influence in the east was violence -- this was challenged by the arab spring. it was not jihad that toppled mubarak, it was twitter and facebook. now al qaeda is in position to say, it would not work. mubarak is back. what this president does for entire region right now
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will determine the vector and the importance of al qaeda for the next decade. crossing a crucial point. in the more broad middle east. >> you may have riled michael duran. i want to talk about what may be the more difficult scenario. both houses of congress in their own separate ways, both down to the idea of the strike. if they've of vote yes, what does the president do with that new permission, does he just pocket this until a future date, or you would support the strike? or has he essential committed himself by asking to their -- for their permission? >> let me start by saying something that is very obvious but that we should think about for a second. i agreed with almost everything
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the per -- that jeremy said. what i want to say that is very obvious is we have a resident who, for two years, showed not just a reluctance, basically informed the american public, that intervention in syria is pure folly. nobody can argue that president obama has been looking for a pretext to get involved. opinionfactor, public is overwhelmingly opposed to this. this is also obvious. the third factor is that the military doesn't want to do this. i have never seen body language less supportive of the military action than what i saw from the chairman during the hearings.
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want,esident doesn't public opinion doesn't want to, and the military doesn't want it. here we are, talking about a proposal to intervene in syria put forth by the president. to me, this is an incredible statement, that the president, up until this time has not defined american interest correctly in syria. all has been my point along. interests are objective things out there in the world, the meeting place between objective things in the world and the way that you conceive of them. there is a point in which your conception of the world -- the way that these objectives things -- objective things determine interests. if they are too far out you may find yourself in the uncomfortable position where, if they vote against this in
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congress this is a real political defeat for you at home. they are severely weaker at home if he gets that no vote. there has to be a paradigm shift and recognize that we are here for a reason. this slippage is not something that happened because people were trying to go that way. all along they were trying to hold the line and defined this incorrectly. i am sorry, i am going on a little bit. our allies in the region, they have all come -- they have all come to washington and said, you have to do something. the turks, this is an amazing thing. not just a sunni muslim powers but the european powers, they have said, you have to do something. first it was quiet, and then,
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this is to the white house combined with leaks to the press and now we have the politicians saying out loud, we want an intervention. i have never seen anything like this in 20 years of following the middle east. twopresident could have, years ago, taken those elements and created a coalition, and when this moment came he would have had elements that we would put out front and we would not look at unilateral american action. the start building coalition i will be there with boots on the ground. now he has the opposite. when he realizes we do have interests in the middle east, we have to take action. nobody is there because he did
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not build up the coalition. we have to build this coalition now. getss to act whether he authorization or he doesn't. because the goal of acting is not just simply to have a military effect on the ground, this is to transmit our intentions, and a willingness to put skin in the game for all of our allies to start coordinating them. part of the problem in syria is not just what the enemies are doing but what the allies are doing. the turks are turning a blind eye to all of the people coming through. they are not supporting al qaeda. they are just letting the open. supposedly we have a global strategy to combat al qaeda.
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and one of our most close partners is supporting them in syria. this is a huge strategic failure which we have to think about. >> jeremy, assuming that there is a yes vote for both houses. you would advise the president not to strike anyway? works he is not bluffing on this. he did change his opinion of the wisdom of a strike as a result of this attack on august 21. i think that from the standpoint of the u.s. government and the chemical weapons issue -- this has always been different. you see this change in the president's view on the list of intervention. a very limited intervention in the last few weeks. this was always the case that -- this will extend back into the clinton and bush administration. there is no credible institutional focus -- chemical weapons are considered part of them. we have a completely different
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process for chemical weapons within the u.s. government on syria and the u.s. government has taken that interest a lot more seriously. they have thought of this as separate. so the chemical weapons development within the syrian civil war is some and that the president was not kidding, when he drew the red line one year ago. he was not kidding. that is because of the way that the u.s. government sees chemical weapons. i don't think that this is the right way of seeing it. he will act if congress gives their permission. the reason the policy has developed in this way, the president has always been seeking a sort of balance with the audience -- they have
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balanced on this question. an anonymous official said they were looking for a response that was just muscular enough be mocked. that is sort of how they did this all the way through. every time something happened the united states had a response. the chinese did not feel the need for a response. lookingalways sort of for the minimum that could be done to satisfy the desire and the political culture for a response. but that would not get us any more involved. that is how we have gone to this place with the nonintervention and the interventionists are sort of pissed off.
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i would prefer if you mention the person you would most like to answer the wetjen. questionccept your anyhow. we will go down the line. please identify yourself when you get the microphone. we will begin with gary and harlan, and then we will go to the woman five rows back. that will be the first group. >> thank you very much. iam garrett mitchell, and write the mitchell report. i think the person i would pose this to is to michael. and his role as the moderator. it has been clear that we have differing perspectives about what we should do in syria. there is one thing that seems to me that the panel is in complete agreement on. the president has not been able to state the case for the
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american strategic interest in syria. observation the that nearly has the panel. i would like to ask if the panel could give us what they consider a working definition of america's strategic interests syria. and that assumes that there is one. we know that obama had a similar problem with afghanistan. he was never able to articulate what the american strategic interest was in afghanistan and i don't think he is an intelligent man. so it raises the question whether these terms that we love to use in washington, like america's strategic interest, if this is a lot of hooey. narrowly put, the question is, is there such a thing as an
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american strategic interest, and if so, can we take a swing at this today? >> the panel did exceedingly well in discussing a lot of these things and i want to associate my views with you about russia, which we don't appreciate in washington. i have a three-part question stemming from marty dempsey and his testimony, when he said, yes, we can degrade and determined. can the panel tell me what it will take to the terror assad -- to deter assad. what do you think that the syrians will do next? >> six rows back. >> i have worked on the protection of civilians in armed conflict and that inc. that is what we are talking about today.
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one question that has not been asked today, is, do the syrian people want intervention? it appears that on both sides there are westerns about what will happen. we are already seeing a lot of movement. we have given up on the un security council, who have dramatically failed following their resolutions on the protections of civilians. but there is a third path where the americans can take leadership but perhaps back away from what will be a big mistake, and will not make things better for the civilians at all ends. . the third path is going to the general assembly, utilizing resolution 377. this has rarely been used, but this is a way to go around the security council, and major demands such as referral for
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both assad and others, including the rebels who violated international law, and to investigate the atrocities and create an arab league u.n. proposal that has been turned down in the security council in the past. with the french and the u.s. taking on the role of the no lie zone. this would give us some time, with a lot of planning required and would allow the president to maintain credibility and take some interest in this step back and think about what is best for all the syrian people. this will help tilt to one more thing -- this would help to build support for the councils world government. the jihadists are providing food and taking leadership with
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the local people, and the opposition is doing nothing when to taking terms of responsibility for these people. this is very expensive and -- we recognize that this is expensive anyway. >> we will work down to anyone who wants to respond to one of the three questions. i should say on the more broad question, brookings is holding an event here at 10:00. the sure that you saw estimate in syria -- this is in the range of 3 million. we will ask them to handle other questions.
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we have said that inside of syria -- this does not reach the threshold of president obama. of assad has cost us a lot trouble with hezbollah, which has been tolerated by the united states and syria, president clinton and senator kerry thought that assad would the a reformist. this does not get to the syrian importance, but what we have seen three years ago, this was not a popular thing to say. al qaeda may establish new sanctuaries in the more broad public asian with her neighbors is that the syrian civil war now been correctly seen as
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something that does not stay within their borders. and ken pollack -- who is celebrating rosh hashanah today and is not on the panel -- this is the regional focus that will have to be determined. within its borders, you could argue that syria, perhaps is something that we could have ignored and it ignore for many years. michael the ran predicted that we would be heading for trouble and it would not stay within its borders. this is where the u.s. strategic interests are engaged. >> i would like to add a bit to that. since the assad dynasty took power in 1970, we have had a hostile relationship with syria. every president from nixon until now has maintained sanctions.
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we have lived with that. this is a problem, but this is a manageable problem. but the spillover from syria spills over into the things that matter to us. my own view is that israel and turkey are pretty kick goal of taking care of themselves, especially the israelis. that is why i think one thing the president has done over the last two years, that everyone will agree with, is to try to strengthen jordan to handle the spillover from syria. but now this is almost a flood. degrade and deter. no one thinks this is a good idea to bomb chemical weapons. this will disperse the chemical weapons. boots on the ground to get
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them, secretary kerry briefly hinted at that, but if he had not walked act -- they would have voted no right then and there. we will not go in and get this. this is a very complex and dangerous task. the ability to deliver the ability to deliver -- to degrade the ability to deliver them -- this is a hard task. the syrians have figured out a lot of ways to deliver chemical weapons. the way they deliver it in damascus was the way we have not seen. syria had that capability before. this is an opponent that is making it harder to be great. the israelis have a lot of experience with the president assad dynasty. they have had experience of and making whack
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sure they do not get one back. the syrians basically said nothing. they said nothing, literally. we can draw from that. the danger is this. end isnt assad feels the in sight. they will do anything. they are desperate. many christians in syria believe if they lose the civil war, it is not a question of being relegated to second-class citizens. it is a question of mass slaughter. until that impression changes inside syria, at the end of the will losessad regime -- use any weapon it has. tilt theegy to battlefield meets to think about that. >> that may add to what bruce said.
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has written a paper of military analysis on the whole again, to your question about interest, a few points -- let me make one observation that i do not think has sunk in. extremely obvious if you think about it. we have 120,000 people killed and we have 2 million refugees. the vast majority were killed by the regime. the regime has been carrying out horrific battles against its people, and if you have not seen them, go to youtube and see some of the torture videos that are out there. i do not want you to see torture
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videos, but this is what the entire sunni islamic world is looking at. we are not doing anything about it. we may feel that we are not culpable in any way. the assumption is in the islamic world that we are culpable. the assumption is we want the shiites to win and the slaughter to go on. that is a perception we need to think about it we formulate policy because the ring of misery around syria is so unbelievable it is a matter that this -- there is going to be a lot of blowback. this is no longer a civil war. this is a fight for the regional order. it is iran, syria, and hezbollah against saudi arabia and its allies. it is more complex. we have the kurdish component. we have al qaeda.
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al qaeda, iran, russia -- they understand this is the fight for the regional order. they are trying to shape the order so that it works to the advantage of their friends and them. the united states is a spectator, basically. we need to do what they do and that is shape the regional order so it works to our advantage. all the spillover that bruce mentioned is the whole regional order question. this is what we are faced with, we are going to have a middle east for the next 30 years, how do we structure this thing so it serves our interest, including our interests making sure that we do not carry out as many unilateral military operations as we will have to carry out if we do not put structures in place on the ground that can look after our interests.
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if we want to run through what the interests are other than this regional order question at stake in syria, there is proliferations of weapons and use of weapons of mass destruction, countering al qaeda, countering iran, and humanitarian -- there are humanitarian concerns, stopping the slaughter, and simply alliance maintenance. i would say all those. >> thanks. [laughter] where to begin? i think the strategic interests in syria are basically, as mike said, about regional stability. we divided it into three. first was the regional stability that he talked about, all the spillover problems. second was the weapons of mass
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destruction, the chemical weapons, and, third, the extremist issues, and those are the three core strategic interests. two internal and one external. i agree with you that the president has -- and this panel have had trouble articulating those interests, and it is interesting to think why. the reason the panel has is obvious, not that talented, but the president gets paid a lot more money, and he should be able to do it. why hasn't he? i think the reason he has had a problem is because within our political culture, as president you are expected to accomplish a strategic interest, satisfy it, and he does not have a way of doing that. he does not know how to solve the syrian problem, so he is reluctant to define it in stark
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terms as i just did, lest he take on responsibility and be judged against it. this is a core problem with american policy in a sort of age of relative decline, which is that we have within our political culture a sense that we are omnipotent, but we have within our presidency a sense of limits. and that is very difficult to explain to the american public. and so we are where we are. in terms of -- to respond to some of mike's points -- the horrific violence we are seeing in syria put upon sunnis, it has the effect we are talking about. the sunnis in syria definitely blame the united states.
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the alawites also blame the united states, and in the case of intervention, -- in the case that we would get everything they ask for, they would still blame the united states for something else. there is no greater crime you can commit against a people than to liberate them and they will never forgive you for that. i think when you get -- when you get wrapped up in domestic struggles that you do not fully understand and you inevitably become an object of domestic politics in ways that are very difficult to control. we have seen that strongly in iraq, in egypt recently where the only thing that the egyptian political spectrum agrees on it is all america's fault. the difference we have now is that we are not as involved, we can step back, and i think if we were to get involved we would not relieve that sense of blame.
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we would simply reinforce it and spread it. thank you. >> i will jump in briefly, because i am not sure the question gets at what is missing in the debate. you hear in the debate on the hill and elsewhere in washington a number of compelling arguments about what our strategic interests are or are not have been articulated by my colleagues, so i will not go over them. the problem is, as jeremy put it best, we do not have a strategy. whether or not we have the interest you can debate, but we do not have a strategy, the president has not articulated a strategy, and neither have proponents of aggressive action mccain. no one has articulated a strategy that is likely to advance our interests. the idea of getting into it will shape the regional order -- these are buzz words.
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that does not tell you how you get the end state in syria that leads to an outcome we prefer, a stable country ideally with democratic institutions which is not a threat to its own people or its neighbors. i do not see a way forward, and i continue to have ringing in my head the words said to me by and iranian senior official when i visited shortly before the american intervention in iraq, and he told me this is going to go very badly, not because we are going to make it go badly. because we have seen this movie before. they are looking at syria with very much the same eyes. it is wonderful for many allies to want us to jump in and use our resources among which they may compensate us for or not, in
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order to advance their own individual self-interested agenda. it is another thing for the president to chart a path forward which in fact does not leave us with a big problem and is a sinkhole in the middle east in a place that is already a beacon for extremism. that is already having a spillover effect. >> as i said, there is a cultural deficiency -- because i said, yes, i have seen this movie before, with peter o'toole looking rather dashing in his robe. we have been watching this movie for a long time. this is t. lawrence sitting around, not with glasses of water, but with gin and tonics talking about the collapse of the ottoman empire.
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the last time we saw this there were armenians in exactly the same way with a lot fewer tents and a high casualty rate. in 1915 we had the genocide of the armenians that led to the fall of the ottoman empire. it has not been lost on putin. he starts talking about the collapse of the russian empire. we are 100 years out from all those events -- the ultimate spillover. we are still trying to figure out that regional order. unfortunately, it is not as nice and neat as mike has been able to make it on occasions because we have no idea how this will play out. the sectarian lines are incredibly complex.
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putin has a strange set of alliances in the region. with iran, israel, and assad- syria. it is because they are not in his view proselytizing sunni regimes, and he does not want to be put on the sectarian conflict either. he is looking to israel and others. putin would like to see everything back the way it was before, the nice strongmen who were keeping everybody behind closed doors. this is the mess we're in now, and the problem is nobody knows how we are going to sort it all out. as we look back in 1914, maybe we should have a screening of "lawrence of arabia," but it would show us that what we are dealing with today.
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>> another round of questions, we will begin in the second row, and then work back. >> thanks very much. we were talking a lot about the justification and the strategic frame in the context of the american attack, prospective attack. my question is about the aftermath. bruce mentioned the lack of a syrian response to the attack on the nuclear reactor -- what is the most likely response from syria and hezbollah? are we to expect assad will take a limited attack, or do we expect a response through an attack on israel, further
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destabilization of iraq, a response to u.s. allies in the region, and what will that curve look like? what is next most likely to be indications of a u.s. strike? >> we will go to the gentleman across from each other halfway back, in the blue tie and -- >> thank you. my question is for suzanne. you described for us how you see iran's perspective on syria. i wondered if you could also go into what role you see iran and the president's decision saying that he feel he should take action in syria, but also his decision for the congress.
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>> i heard a report that a few days ago we sent 600 rebel fighters who we trained in camps in jordan back into syria and not only were they not welcome by the rebel elements in syria, but they were routed by the syrian army. does anybody have any information on that, and at least you could talk about what we are doing in jordan these days? >> why don't we start with fiona. >> most of these are more specific. we should start at this end. >> i will speak again to this issue of the role of iran in motivating a response. it has been articulated by secretary kerry and others that this strike will have an important demonstration effect
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for the iranians to demonstrate american resolve, to reinforce the nonproliferation regime, and i believe that is sincere. it has a utilitarian role in terms of persuading congress to produce the outcome the administration would like to see on this vote. iran is an easy win when it comes to getting votes on that hill. it makes sense for the administration to continue to refer back to that issue. clearly, the administration and the congress have had a contentious relationship on iran. the administration has considered sanctions that have been passed on the hill, and
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the administration has come back and thanks the hill for in fact passing those sanctions and helping to persuade the iranians to come in a more serious way to the negotiating table. i believe it is inevitable if the president were to seek a party for more forceful action against the iranian in their program he would have no difficulty. i do not worry about any precedent set by the debate we're seeing today on syrian terms of iranian resolve. clearly they are recognizing how serious this set of issues is. they do not want to be on the wrong side of a shooting war with washington at this moment. and that is why you see an awkward attempt to shift their public rhetoric on syria in a modest way, if not, in fact begin to pivot away from assad himself. >> jeremy, either of the two questions remaining. >> sure. i will try to handle the most
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likely response about syria and hezbollah to an attack. it is difficult -- the thing i the learned in the two years of trying to understand the syrian regime is i have no idea what they are thinking. i think that broadly speaks for most of us. i do not know why they used chemical weapons in this particular instance, because i do not think it was a smart move. and i am wondering to the degree to which it might have been an accident. so it is difficult to predict. having said that, i will make a prediction. i think it is unlikely that we will see either syrian or hezbollah escalation outside of syria in response to this attack. the reason for that is because they have enough problems. they have enough enemies within syria to occupy their time and they are not really looking to expand this war, either to israel, united states, or to
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turkey. they have shown a consistent pattern of that. they do have some escalation options within syria, and in particular they can drive more refugees, they can commit more humanitarian atrocities in order to expose the hypocrisy, and they can conceivably challenge the united states by using more chemical weapons in more confusing ways. they also have many alternatives to turn to beyond the weapons in terms of conventional weapons for killing people. they have not really used all of their arsenal, and they still have places to go. there is a possibility that action will make the syrian civil war bloodier.
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there is research that shows typically when there is an outside intervention in a civil war it becomes bloodier because one side feels the need to step up its game and because other external supporters feel the need to prop up their side. so that would be my prediction. >> who was it -- jon stewart said about seventh-grade diplomacy? what was the phrase? >> operating on the basis of credibility is seventh-grade diplomacy. >> that is the level i am on. [laughter] we do not have to get to seventh grade because that is basically international relations and politics in the middle east. i do know exactly what assad is thinking and i can explain it right here.
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it is a mistake that educated people make. they think it is more difficult than it is. the hard thing is figuring out what is going out on the ground. once you know that, it is simple because they want to win. they want their friends to win, they want to win, and they want us to lose. it is not hard. the tools they have at their disposal to win -- they are thugs, right? -- all you have to do is watch "the sopranos," and then you know what they are thinking. why did they use chemical weapons? for two reasons. number one, they suck -- that is a military term. their regular military cannot take and hold territory. it cannot. it is shocking the extent to which they suck as a military. for a year, for a year they have been trying to take this place and they cannot. the youtube videos are beautiful, by the way, of
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showing syrian tanks being blown up in this particular neighborhood by the -- because it has big boulevards with high-rise buildings around it and the tanks are just sitting ducks. they tried, they cannot do it, it is strategic territory because it is the gateway into damascus, close to the airfield where the iranian support comes in. if they hold on to it, this is the battle for damascus is what this is, and they have failed in conventional terms, so they went to unconventional terms -- it is clear, when our military talks about clearing in afghanistan, clearing the population center of fighters. when assad says clear, he means clear, clear the whole population out. why did he do it while the un's inspectors were there?
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he is sending a clear message to all the syrians who might think of one day taking up arms against him. you do that, i will wipe you out, i will wipe your family out, and don't you for a second think that the united states, the international community, the u.n., or anybody else will help you. i will show you how tough i am. even when the inspectors are here, i will gas you. he will go slam the population, he will brutalize his own population as he has been doing. they might do some other things externally and they have done terror attacks in turkey to deter the turks. they were probably responsible in some way for those rockets that went into israel. that is to make us fear that there maybe some wider world war iii.
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the iranians are the same thing. they created hezbollah, they are backing assad, they want assad to win. publicly they play in this way and that way. on the ground they are supporting. there's one conversation that never takes place. the ayatollah khamenei sits down with the head of the irgc, and his people they say to him, we cannot solve syria. the united states is a superpower. the use of force is counterproductive. if we use force in syria it will make it worse, so we should forget it. that conversation never happens. they say how do we cause maximum pain to the americans, and that is the way they do it.
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that is the way we need to do business as well. we do not have to solve syria. our interests are punish our enemies, create a framework that allows other people to get on the ground so we did not have to do it. that is international politics. we have to make our side stronger. >> who is our side? >> the saudis and the turks. we want to make it run suffer and we want to make assad suffer, and then we ask who can line up to do that who will not cause us pain? there is a lot of people out there we can work with. >> bruce? [laughter] >> jeremy says where to start.
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let me start with the question asked before, protection of civilians, which i am afraid we have ignored, because there is a genuine humanitarian issue here. what the syrian people want is an end to the civil war. they do not care whether there are dead from chemicals or conventional weapons. part of the debate has become lost from reality in that sense. the best thing is an end to the war. is a cruise missile strike, being told by this administration, and we are told by the administration how many missiles are there -- where is it likely the syrian conflict will be six months after that? there is a consensus that it will be worse in six months. are there no really good options here?
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let me turn to the questions of allies. i mentioned earlier since 1970 the united states have had a hostile relationship with syria. there were two occasions when that was different. one was in 1990 when the saudis asked us to be the best friend of the syrians. the syrian flag actually came down pennsylvania avenue as part of the victory parade. that did not come out so well. the successive israeli governments said we want to make peace with the assad government. we think the assad government will be easier to make peace with than the syrians. why? i would not spend a whole lot of time listening to what the saudis or the israelis have to say. their advice has been taken in the past and has not been very
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good. our new friend, the general of egypt, says do not do it. stay out. you put your all in this, you will create a hornets' nest. i would not take his advice either. there is no reason to believe he will be better in predicting the future of the middle east than his predecessors. i do not think our allies' advice should be the determining factor in what we do here. our interests, as you have rightly said, we need to hear from the president before the congress votes on national television, in a national speech, defining what our national interests are and what is our strategy to get us there. not a bunch of stuff about a red line. the strategy for the accomplishment of our national interests in syria. the reason why we have had a hard problem here articulating all that is we have not heard
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yet from the man who the american people want to hear from the most. >> very true. >> i think we will stop there. thank you all for coming. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] >> in a few minutes, your calls and tweets live on "washington journal." we're also bringing you live coverage of u.n. ambassadors met the power, speaking at the center for american progress about the situation in syria. that is at 2:00 p.m. eastern. and we will continue all
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discussion of u.s. military strikes on syria in about 45 minutes. general davidrmy barno lieutenant -- army general lieutenant david barno. who also speak with sangwon yoon of bloomberg news. she will take your questions about democratic action. philiponathan vespa and talk about the decline in the u.s. with parents of children.
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