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tv   Inside Story  Al Jazeera  November 5, 2013 5:00pm-5:31pm EST

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>> this is al jazeera america live from new york city, i'm tony harris with a look at the day's top stories. toronto mayor, his first public appearance since he admitted to smoking crack cocaine. he apologized but said he'll stay on the job. there is no confirmed date for syrian peace talks. they have been hoping for a conference later this month. things could be turning around for the affordable care website. you may recall it had a problematic roll out to say the least. a senior obama or official said that it's easier to sign up now. the website will be running smoothly for most people by the
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end of november. the election day across america. several of the nation's largest cities are voting on mayor, in virginia and new jersey where they are electing governors. we invite you to go to where you can follow stories on the key races. there is also a blog with updates on the voting, and later this evening results as they come in. i'm tony harris in new york. we have got more news coming up for you in a full bulletin in the mechanics hour, but "inside story" is next al jazeera. >> stalemate in syria and nations in the gulf are pushing for their own influence in the region. you're watching "inside story" from washington.
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hello, i'm libby casey. it's gone on and on, and shows no clear end the war in syria between president bashar al-assad forces and a myriad of rebel groups and islamist fight whose want to see him out of power. there are talks while offering small help to rebels. many are expressing frustration over the situation on the ground, and they have their own political objective. as refugees suffer and the conflict grinds on where do we go from here? first this background. secretary of state john kerry is again this week working with middle east allies to keep attention on the syrian crisis. arriving in saudi arabia over
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the weekend chief ambassador was helping the relationship between the two countries. >> i particularly wanted to have the opportunity to visit with his majesty the king of saudi arabia, and i'm particularly grateful because i know that he is not seeing enormous numbers of people these days, but right now we have very important things to talk about to make certain that the saudi arabian u.s. relationship is on track, moving forward, and doing the things that we need to accomplish. >> washington's main arab ally has concerns with the approach to the conflict in syria. they acknowledge there are divergent obviously on how to end conflict, but the goal remains the same.
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>> even a limited strike will send a message to assad that no other nation can deliver. but a targeted strike can make assad or any other dictator think twice before using chemical weapons. >> but despite president obama's tough talk a strike never happened. instead the assad regime grayed to account for and aid in destroying it's chemical weapons stock pile. for the u.s. the condition in
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syria is status quo. meanwhile 2 million syrian versus fled their homes and more are displaced in the country as war conditions. rebels have lost ground to assad forces. neighboring nations are shaking under the weight of refugees, especially lebanon. it now has more than 800,000 syrians nearly a quarter of lebanon's population of $4 million. >> lebanon has opened its borders, has opened its arms, and the international community owes it to lebanon to do everything that it can to help lebanese society adapt to this even as we work with these refugees who have gone through so much suffering. >> reporter: the u.s. is pushing for revolution through deput diplomatic means, and talks have once again been de played. the american backed leader insists on the eventually
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removal of president assad as part of any agreement when the syrian president said there is no reason for him not to run for re-election next year. it was reported that saudi arabia and gulf nations are seeking another way around the u.s. to support rebels in their fight against bashar al-assad. iran's influence in syria and the fact that the u.s. is engaged in new diplomatic efforts with iran. joining us now in the studio, director of the syrian center of political studies. he is a spokesperson for the main opposition group. from new york, saudi political affairs analysts, and nancy soderberg, former u.s u.s. ambassador to the united nations. where are things at in syria? you still have family in the country. update us. >> yes, the united nations just
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said today that more than nine million would equal to 40% of the population, they are in desperate need. add more numbers of catastrophe to the country which means they may lose second hen education of displaced people. this is the humanitarian catastrophe. it is considered as one of the wars in this century. which more important we don't see that in the international community, to put its efforts. we still see actions the international community dealing as a business rather than focusing on finding an end to the conflict in syria. >> president assad's force versus gained ground against the
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rebels. what is the significance of that? >> it's two steps forward and one step back for this regime. it's not moving. it's not going anywhere. it has essentially license to slaughter it's own people as long as it doesn't use the chemical weapons. i would agree that this is a humanitarian catastrophe. you have 100,000 dead. if we don't take up. >> apparently the assad regime has agreed to give up it's
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chemical weapons so it won't be able to slaughter its people with chemical weapons. we see increased weapons but not enough to overthrow the regime or oh depend themselves. you need to have a game changer, hopefully it comes at the peace table. unless you marry diplomacy, another 100,000 will be dead by going into next year. >> what was the general perception when the u.s. stepped forward and said we're going to engage in strikes and then pull back? >> i think there was on the side of the gulf countries extreme disappointment, and to the degree that the u.s. now is the
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target of anger and media campaign against the united states and it's president, specifically, of course, we saw that clearly in the saudi tantrum and statement by saudi officials that they would reshape their relationship with the united states. this is the first time in many years that the u.s. promised the saudi, the governments that they would do something, and then they failed to do it. that really angered them extremely, and threatened--that's why they have to threaten reshaping of the relationship. i don't think they will do that, but i think now we are talking about a new political environment where the u.s. is not the same u.s. where it can do pretty much what it wants in the middle east. >> do leaders in the region buy into the chemical weapons
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disclosures and process of investigations? >> i think to them it really has to do with the target. if right now they are not happy with the process of chemical weapons, yet the same people are the ones who supported chemical weapons used in iraq in the 80s and even provided money and agents for saddam hussein. this is not an honest claim for getting rid of chemical weapons in syria. i think that chemical weapon issue deserve it's own program, the fact that the region is plagued with this issue, and the major victims of chemical weapons not only syria, but also in iraq in the 80s. that issue has not been dealt with. there was no closure to this issue of chemical weapon use against the population. i think that's a different subject. >> let's bring it back to the rebels and their perspective.
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do they have a buy-in in the investigation and ex-pour of the chemical weapons? >> with just to comment on the u.s. policy towards syria. this is maybe the first time that the u.s. says something and do something different. secretary kerry, he three times pledged before going to geneva we need to change the calculation on the ground. none of these promises have been met. and this is make huge disappointment, and the failure of the u.s. policy laments, this is why the syrian opposition feel that even if they go to geneva, they don't have the backers like the assad regime, they have the backing from russia. this is why most groups now they said they will not attend geneva, and they don't see geneva as a critical process to end the syrian crisis and reach
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peace. >> and geneva being an opportunity for talks. we'll dig into that after a short break. stay about us. this is inside story. new york, here are the headlines this hour. >> al jazeera america is the only news channel that brings you live news at the top of every hour. >> a deal in the senate may be at hand and just in the nick of time. >> thousands of new yorkers are marching in solidarity. >> we're following multiple developments on syria at this hour. >> every hour from reporters stationed around the world and across the country. >> only on al jazeera america.
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>> continuing our discussion about syria and original interests at play in the conflict our guests, director of the syrian center for political and strategic studies and former spokesman for the main opposition group the syrian national council. director of affairs and former ambassador. what have the rebels seen in terms of aid from the obama administration. >> the obama administration has two levels of support. non-lethal equipment, and they promised to-- >> lethal equipment being what, trucks, and what's called some of food for the rebels has been provided in the last few months. but none of the assistance that
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the state department has promised has been reached to the opposition on the ground. the fear that we have because that weakened the opposition, that's the increased presence of some organizations like al-qaeda, which right now is considered one of the largest organizations as a threat not only for syria as a country but to the whole region. >> news shows that the saudi arabians are moving forward in parallel to u.s. efforts or really outside of u.s. efforts, going on their own. tell us more about it and why. >> well, i think this has happened already to say that they have not done that i think
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is untrue. they've been funding different groups in syria. they have funded, wholly funded basically islam, and they are funding the isis, which is al-qaeda and iraq and syria. they have been funded, and that's why the isis has been very able to control the largest rebel areas, especially in the region where even saudi government has been used to teach in these syrian schools there. the saudis have done that. why the saudi has not delivered despite having spent hundreds of millions of dollars or month they have not delivered greater lethal weapons to these groups. and maybe this is because the united states has not allowed it. i don't think the u.s. has to
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provide the lethal weapons, the saudis are happy to do that, but why is the u.s. against providing more lethal weapons to these groups, i don't understand. >> explain the saudi interest in the region. >> well, the saudi region is complex. number one, syria being ally with iranian government gives iranians great leverage in the region. the saudis want to break that leverage, it has not to do with syria, per se. that is the primary goal of the saudi activities in syria and iraq and other parts of the middle east. the second issue here is saudi government, the monarchy has a goal or interest in surviving, and having successful arab
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spring will threaten its survival. really, one of the things that could be considered an arab spring spoiler there will be people like religious extremists and so that will not give syria the position it could influence others in the region. >> reflect on the complicated relationships for us in the region. the u.s. and saudi arabia has been allies for decades but news reports showed that insiders in the saudi government said that they found out about the cance canceled airstrikes from syria from cnn. >> i think that the saudis are in a bit of a fit of frustration on many levels.
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some, frankly, are just not justified. their stated reason, for instance, for leaving the security council that they were just elected to makes no sense. we threaten the use of force to get rid of the chemical weapons, then there was a deal to get rid of the chemical weapons. there was no point in doing the airstrikes. there is only the use of the threat of force that those areas are under siege. i think you're still going to have lethal force by this government slaughtering civilians. and they campaigned very heavily for, for the last two years. there is some talking that they will go on anyway, we'll see what happens. but their frustration was largely driven by iran. they want to sever the link through hezbollah, threatening israel, and also in the hamas in the gaza strip.
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the saudis are frustrated over nothing that i can articulate that makes any sense whatsoever. i think they're mad at the united states for things they would like us to go in and overthrow the regime, which is not on the table. they are funneling weapons and assistance to the opposition. i disagree we're trying to stop that. what we're tryinged to is solve the peace process of solving this crisis. but this has stalled those over and over again. the assad regime backed by russia and iran are going nowhere. the rebels won't show up if the departure of assad is not on the table. so i don't see the peace process moving very quickly. that means that both sides are going to arm up and the population is going to get slaughtered in the middle. it's a very difficult time there, and it's frustrating for all. i think the saudis need to stop blaming the u.s. for a difficult
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situation and. >> we'll take a break. when we come back what is the potential for peace talks for geneva two. stay with us "inside story." >> al jazeera america is the only news channel that brings you live news at the top of every hour. >> here are the headlines at this hour. >> only on al jazeera america.
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>> welcome back to "inside story." we're focused on syria. still with us, director of the syrian center for political and strategic studies and former spokesman for the main syrian opposition group. saudi political affairs 234,589, and the director of the institute for gulf affairs. and former u.s. ambassador to the united nations, you're in new york. you've been at the united nations. what is the saudi perspective on
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the u.n. and their involvement? >> well, i wa the saudi governmt decided to go back to the u.n. supreme coursecurity council. i just confirmed that, and they said that they are going back. i think it should be this week or next week be. kerry it "s" there, and i think they have returned an agreement to return to the u.n. security council. the u.s. i think, will be more aggressive on syria, no strikes, but more aggressive in terms of trying to push assad regime out. >> ambassador, how significant is that news? >> well, it's definitely significant. the saudis have been throwing a bit of a tantrum over something that is very unclear, and i think their interest will be pursued much more directly if
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they're on the security council. it never made sense for them to say, we're going to take our malibus anmarbles and go home. they petitioned for two years to have that seat. >> looking at trying to bring parties together, and have a conversation about what is happening in syria. ambassador solde soderberg, is t significant? >> yes, it is significant because the conditions are not in place for a meaningful peace process. it's interesting who is not in geneva right now. we have the government is not there, the opposition is not there. the iranians are not there, and all of those players, they may not all end up at the table but they have to be part of the discussion. you have the u.n.'s most experienced diplomat. he can pull one rabbit out of a hat on peace process. he's an extraordinary
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individual. we're lucky to have him. there are other key countries, and but the bottom line is that the assad regime is insisting that it stay in place. that's a deal killer for the opposition, so we're not there yet. >> we'll hear from the opposition. >> yes, there are three points we have to put on the table. first, geneva, now we're in december, this is huge that maybe will be geneva. the second issue that the u.s. policy should not focus on the diplomatic efforts to bring both parties on the table. they should focus on change the calculation on the ground. that's what convinced assad to come to the table. he has killed 120,000, and he will do more. he has used chemical weapons
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against his own people, and he's willing to do more and more. if there is no such actions begins assad he will not be convinced to come to the table and negotiate. and the third point that geneva communicate one, he said clearly that about transitional body there was no opposition for this transition. this is why the opposition they need to have a guarantee. that's with all sacrifice the syrian people, they should at least have no assad in power. >> not to be cynical, but is it really about politics and power? >> it is about politics and power. look, the gulf countries who have been funding rebel groups especially those who are extremist groups in syria and undermining the syrian people
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desire for a better government, they have not set up hospitals or took care of these refugees. how many of these refugees are being taken care of in saudi arabia? there is saudi arabia to support modern government in syria. that's not going to happen any time soon. >> final word on what happens next? >> more killing, unfortunately, i think the peace process--the pieces are not in place yet, and i would agree that the balance on the ground has to shift. >> all right, thank you so much to all of you. that's all we have time for. that's it for now from the team in washington, d.c. and from me, libby casey. thank you for watching. good night.
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