tv Inside Story Al Jazeera September 30, 2015 6:30pm-7:01pm EDT
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welcome to inside story. i'm ray suarez. today the news out of syria came fast and furious with announcements, charges, and countercharges. the parliament in moscow approved military action in syria and bombing runs began. russia said against isil near humes. the u.s. announced it too had carried out air strikes near aleppo while also casting doubt on russia's word on who and what it struck. the u.s. military announced what's called deconfliction, a process where two forces make sure they don't attack each
other. al jazeera has been covering it all from the white house to the state department to the pentagon. is this being viewed as a day of serious escalation in the syrian war? >> i don't think there's any doubt and there's still a question as to exactly what vladimir putin is up to in syria. this is not unexpected but the timing is certainly catching u.s. policymakers flat footed as they have over the course of this military buildup in syria with the aim of backing al assad. three reasons why these officials are upset, why the who, and the when. the why, the essential conflict between the u.s. and its allies and vladimir putin. putin wants to back assad. the president obviously sticking by his policy that assad has to go. there's no future for him. you cannot go to the status quo before the civil war which is now in its fifth year. as for the who, a question as to
who was under those bombs dropped by 20 russian war planes. putin told the president obama that he wanted to fight against isil. but today secretary of defense ash carter said those bombs dropped where isil fighters are simply not known to be. as it happened, secretary of state john kerry was at the united nations and issued a stark warning. >> we have also made clear that we would have grave concerns should russia strike areas where isil and al quaeda affiliated targets are not operating. strikes of that kind would question russia's real intentions fighting isil or protecting the assad regime. >> and, mike, ash carter held what seemed to be a pretty long and detailed brief, reporters
today as well. >> this gets to the when question and it really points out the friction now that exists between the u.s. and russia not only between the president, president obama and president putin which is in such obvious display on monday at the united nations but also between their respective militaries. it turns out that a russian officer went to the american embassy in baghdad not one hour before the russian planes took off and issued a demarsh. simply asserting the fact that russian airplanes were going to be taking off and u.s.-led coalition aircraft should simply get out of the way. this was the reaction from ash carter at the pentagon. >> this is not the kaiser permanented of behavior that -- kind of behavior that we should expect professionally from russian military professionally and that's one reason why i think it's a good thing to have an avenue of communication that is less unprofessional than a
drop in where we can talk about professional defense matters. >> secretary of defense ash carter. mike, our senior washington correspondent. good to talk to you. >> joining me now, jim hansen, the author of cut down the black flag. a plan to defeat the islamic state. john bradshaw, executive director of the national security network and the senior fellow at new america and iraq director at the national security council during the bush and obama administrations. now, which russia are we supposed to listen more closely to? the one in the person of senior personnel saying that essentially they're on the same side as the united states or the one that sends a general to knock on the door of the american embassy in baghdad to
let them know that the bombing starts in a couple of minutes in syria? >> these are the russians. they certainly know how to play the game and how to play all the cards. none of this should surprise us though. the russians have long interest in syria. first the russians have been in syria for about 50 years. there are lots of russian nationals who are married into important syrian families. so there's a long standing tie between these two countries. second, vladimir putin has made it very clear he's not a fan of western nations doing regime change. he sees that happening and he saw an opportunity to stop that. third, you have a very serious coalition that has a serious view here. the putin government along with iran, iraq, syria, have a very simple view of what the problem is here. in their minds, the problem is sunni islamist terrorism. mostly isil but also other
groups. and they intend intend to fight that wherever they find it. we can argue about how seriously they take this and how much of this is just putting up a front and how much they really believe it but it provides them with a very simple narrative and the more complicated narrative that we have about how assad is really part of the problem so we can find another group to come in may be more true but it's also more complicated and they simply have no time for that far tiff. >> john brad saw, when you hear them saying we could actually be working together in this part of the world, should that be seen as a sincere offer of an ah live branch? >> first i think this idea of deconfliction has to move forward. we have some parallel interests. but in syria the u.s. has limited interest. we need to prevent isis from
launching terrorist attacks against the u.s. but in terms of what's happening in syria, russia has a much deeper tie. what's happening now is they've bought into assad's view of what a terrorist view is. -- terrorist view is. so bombing the syrian army or isis is the same thing in their eyes. that's where we part company. but there are ways where we can cooperate more extensively. >> jim, they said they were going to bomb isil. it sounds like they didn't. would they have been actually telling the truth about being on the same side if they went to fight against the same people the united states is? >> they have no interest in doing that. they're there for one reason. russia loves its warm water port. russia likes its puppet of assad. they're just flattening things
really. i mean, it's not a net bonus for anybody who wants to see less civilians killed in syria. it's a bonus for assad who is going to survive. i think the problem we're running into is this is another example of president obama seems to think a great strategy for that region issout sourcing to tyrants. heout sourced the fight against isis in iraq and now he's going to turn it over to putin in syria and i don't think the aftermath of either one of those is going to be good for the people who are going to be crushed under the military might of those two organizations. >> we had already outsourced running baghdad to the iranians so not too much of a stretch to outsource going after isil in iraq at least on the iraqi side of the border. this -- to imply that obama had
a lot of great choices in that regard, i'm not sure that necessarily fits the facts. >> we left a vacuum that isis failed. we failed to approximate vied support to the baghdad government that iran filled. and now we did nothing in syria. drew a red line and then pulled it back and putin filled that voir dire qume. that's a natural facet of the big game of power, vacuums don't last. somebody will move into them and in this case the people who moved in are not good guys by any stretch of the imagination. >> stay with us, gentlemen. are the visions of a future syria held by the long list of regional and international players so different from each other that there's no room for compromise? the u.s. has announced its concerns about russian air strikes even as it unleashed its own strikes as the united nations continues to talk about syria, did the place just get more dangerous right under its nose. not quite united nations. it's the inside story.
effective fight against terrorist groups with the united states and other countries. and the two security council members, russia and the united states, both launched air strikes in syria and doubted the other's official line about the attacks. the not quite united nations, doug, jim, and john are still with me. john, what does russia get in day one by doing these 20 strikes and what does it mean to the state of play militarily on the ground in syria? >> i think secretary carter put it aptly when he said this is just putting gasoline on the fire. this is not resolving the conflict. it's been going on for four and a half years. these russian strikes, whoever the targets wind up being are not helping. the chinese are calling for it. that's where american leadership
needs to come into play. that's what we can do. following the russians will just make the situation worse. i think that what they did today is actually pushing the whole project of resolving the situation back. >> jim, syria's not a lebanon but it's not huge. when you've got modern air forces and many of them flying around in there, is there a real risk of something going wrong in a way that really ends us all in deeper trouble if there's not decon fliction talks? >> i think the danger of aircraft hitting each other without worrying about who's who is less of a problem than the targeting on the ground. we've got people there. all right. we've got assets there. we've got friends there. we've got allies. and frenimies there. the russians don't know who they are and the russians are bombing
who they want to bomb. we can't deconflict the boxes so the real problem is there's an intelligence yell now in baghdad are iraq, iran, syria are all sharing intell. we share with the iraqis meaning our intelligence about who we're working with is now quite likely to flow to the russians. they're going to squash them and we've got people trying to help them. that's a little scarier than a couple of aircraft getting into a dog fight. >> where's isil in all this, doug? is there really still an effective fight against a pretty dangerous enemy in that part of the world? >> well, in syria, clearly, the united states is still taking air power to isil but that aside, no, we don't seem to have any proxies who are willing to take the fight to them.
the kurds have demonstrated they're very approximate tent in thepotent in their own areas bu have no interest in moving. the other free syrian army groups are in little pockets. they defend their homelands but not push out of them. and isil may fight each other but certainly not at our behest. so we really don't have a ground power force in syria to take the fight to the enemy. that of course is always why we've had an iraq first strategy. the iraqis may not be the best army on the planet but they are a reasonably effective proxy and there are several thousand of them. >> i was looking at a map of syria and where assad's government really controls the area on the ground. it's now in strips like highways, corridors between major cities, very much hugging the mediterranean coast and not penetrating much into the country. does the addition of the
russians to the equation make that much difference? >> the assad regime has been back on its heels in recent weeks and that's one of the reasons they asked the russians to come in indicating that assad really is feeling the heat. but of course he's in a situation where it's very hard for him to reach any kind of an accord. it's a crisis. there's really -- it's hard for him to find anywhere to go. maybe russia but he and his people are really facing either die or fight to the death. so it's hard to find a way that the russian intervention is really going to reverse that militarily. >> gentlemen, we're going to continue this conversation in a moment. does al assad have a future as syria's leader and does syria even have much of a future as a country? the chess pieces are in motion. iran is emerging from years of sanctions. russia is just weighing in for assad. and the next move, not quite
we cannot return to the prewar status quo. >> update on citizens of syria and so should not be involved in choosing the leadership of another country. it's syria's business. welcome back town side story. not quite united nations this time on the program even agaze the u.n. talks about peace, freedom, and security, they seem to be in short supply around the world. people flee the country in the hundreds of thousands. as the united nations general assembly meets in new york, we
asked what's next for all the countries involved in syria's future and for syria's current leaders. when the smoke clears, is al assad still in charge? >> putin seems to think so and sadly between him and barack obama obama to see who is going to blink, i'm pretty sure obama will blink. i think we've gotten to the idea that assad will stay and potentially at this point as i mentioned we've outsourced strategy there to putin. now, in a painfully and horrifically pragmatic way, if putin decides to go against isis, he can destroy them in ways we won't. part of the problem in iraq in the fight against isis is our rules of engagement and the restrictions on air strikes stop us from being as effective as we can be. they've already proven, the
who do we want to run syria? the russian position of we want assad has the virtue of being very simple and the virtue of being the existing government. it's a lot easier to support a government that exists than to try to create one from whole cloth. they're there making sure the capital doesn't fall, training and equipping, bombing. no indication of ground troops into the fight. aso you can kind of see that obviously while the purposes are different, the tactics are not that dissimilar. >> but john bradsaw, if assad was the proximate cause of the syrian civil war, how do you have a country run by him? where do his enemies go? >> well, i think assad may be part of a transitional solution and the russians have said they want to see him remain in power but in the long run if there are some remnants of his regime and assad himself is gone, that might be something that could be negotiated. as far as what putin and the russians are doing militarily, i think president obama has been widely cautious about getting too involved in this potential military comic mire quagmire. it's very difficult to find a clear military path to resolving it. they may have put their foot into a big quagmire. saying that president obama has outsourced to putin i don't think is correct. we'll see whether putin's approach turns out to be a wiser one than president obama's more more cautious and hopefully more diplomatic approach. they seem to have this stake with assad that has this deep, historical component and all the back and forth between russia
and syria over the years. that's a gamble they're going to take. it may well not be one that a pays off in the end. >> doug, there there will will be announcement, press conference, back and forth where we actually as a country announce the change in policy or is this going to be one of those quiet segues where, yes, we're going to have senior people winking at each other that we're ready to see an assad government again? >> i think we can already see that happening. and in some way that's just a reaction to facts on the ground. i mean, the russians are in damascus. they're another nuclear armed power. if they say assad stays and are willing to put the force there to support that, he stays that. we're now at assad must go but not today. at some point in an ambiguous type of future. so no, i think there will be a gradual shift but the russians have shifted the table on us. a month ago, we could really say assad must go and it looked like the momentum was taking us that way. that's simply not the case anymore. as of today, is this a longer war? >> it's either -- it could be much shorter and there could be a diplomatic solution and the only card we've got left is to
tell putin that we'll accept assad now, move into crimea and pick a tyrant of your choice to replace him so you can keep your stuff. but it could also kick off a much larger war because right now you have russian troops coming if they're not there yet. shiite troops coming. >> i want to thank my guests. i'll be back in a moment with a final thought on general assembly week and a peaceful world. stay with us. it's inside story.
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of tools and the most formal of rules. today the russian military officially informed nato that it was intervening in syria on the side of president assad. who knew you even had to do that. the russian foreign minister said today that his country was targeting isil and would work with partners to oppose terrorism in syria even with the united states. they unleashed some 20 air strikes at targets it said were associated with its true enemy in syria, the islamic state. and then several different groups said they were directed at their own fighters and not isil at all. john kerry called it a subject of grave concern. meanwhile, syria's foreign
minister says his country strongly endorses >> this is aljazeera america. live from new york city, i'm richelle carey. tony harris is on assignment. gasoline on a fire, that's how defense secretary ash carter is characterizing russia's airstrikes in syria. a major hurdle for middle east piece. the palestinian president said that he is not bound by agreements with israel. secret meetings between the pope and the kentucky clerk who opposes same-sex marriage.
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