tv Jonathan Schanzer Gaza Conflict 2021 CSPAN April 19, 2022 12:12pm-1:11pm EDT
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c-span fan and every purchase helps support our nonprofit operation. shop now or anytime at c-spanshop.org. >> hello and thank you for joining us today. i'm cliff may, founder and president. we are pleased that he joining us today for an event to mark the release of my colleague jonathan schanzer is excellent new book "gaza conflict 2021".on the remains the first and only book on this topic. mainly describe the conflict as an expression of the arab-israeli conflict but that's not exactly right. more accurately, cause has become ground zero in a proxy war between israel and the islamic republic of iran. the 2021 conflict instigated by terrorists firing over 4000 missiles at israeli cities,, towns and villages was the
latest installment in a longer and larger conflict come one that we should expect to continue for many years to come. as talks in vienna continued over iran's nuclear weapons program it's timely and essential to look back and re-examine to iran's role in fueling terrorism in gaza and other theaters with the benefit of little hindsight and with the fog of war somewhat cleared. it's also essential to look at how the war started, who was involved, and what was misunderstood, or misreported at the time. with that i am pleased introduce my colleague dr. jonathan schanzer, senior vice president for research at ftd and he's a groundbreaking skull of middle eastern affairs. he proves he worked as a terrorism finance analyst at the u.s. department of the treasury we played an integral role in the designation of numerous terrorist financiers. his latest book is the 40 is
published or i'm also very glad we have a first rate journalist here to lead the days discussion, catherine herridge is senior investigator correspondent at cbs news pixies had a long impressive career covering national security and intelligence issues. she deported from nearly a dozen countries includingou israel, qatar, afghanistan and iraq. as many tuning in no ftd is now 20 years old. we are a nonpartisan research institution exclusively focused on national security and foreign policy. as many tuning in no fdd is now fdd is a source of timely research, analysis and policy options. we host three centers on american power in the areas of military, economics and cyber. which urge the use of all instruments of american leverage to strengthen american national security. we recently also launched our center onty media integrity to
address the national security threats posed by misinformation campaigns and disinformation campaigns is a different and influence operations. we take no government or foreign corporate funding and we never will. for more information on work we encourage you to visit our website just fdd.org. you can follow us on twitter at fdd. so thank you again for joining us for this important and timely conversation. katherine tai pleased to turn the floor over to you. >> thank you very much for the introduction.s congratulations on the book, jonathan. let's start with the most basic question. why did you write the book? >> good question. i obviously watch the outbreak of the war in may of last year, and thanks to the available technology which has really evolved over the last several years i was able to watch almost the entire thing on middle eastern news channel six i watched several israeli channels as well as arabic channels, and the more i watched, the more i
realized that there was a huge disconnect between the american reporting, what we're getting here, from our news television channels, but also what was being reported on twitter, even pre-journalism which is generally has the ability to wait a bit before coming out with the story. i felt like there was a huge gap. so when the war was over i took a weekend to kind of relax and i got back to work i kind of realized i wasn't quite done with the war. f the book which ws about 120 pages. wrote it in eight days, and then finally days in eight days the first hundred and twenty days all night all day all night. i told the family to leave me alone and you close the door exactly exactly turned up the music and tried to you know, just stay focused admittedly. there were a lot of pieces that i had written already about hamas in the so there was a lot of historical information that i
could bring to bear from previous pieces and previous books for that matter, but after i was done with that draft, i took a trip to israel went there for 10 days. it was right before the outbreak of the delta variant. so when i arrived nobody was wearing masks and everybody was just allowing for all sorts of public meetings by the time i left i felt very lucky that i was able to get those meetings in because the country was shutting down again, but i came home and really spent a lot of time integrating those interviews into the work that i had already written and then spend a good bit of time editing and the end result was going from ceasefire to bookshelf and 166 days quick. it was i don't think it's a publishing record, but it certainly was one for me. so just kind of set the scene for us you're watching this conflict on folder you in your study and you've got different tv screens up. is that how you it's exactly right? so i'm watching on tv. got my laptop up. i've got my my phone out and i'm
watching kind of all three at the same time. apple tvs are remarkable technology to be able to watch on the big screen, you know, two israeli channels and a large number of arabic channels. and so i'm flipping back and forth between these and i'm watching the coverage at home and i'm thinking something needs to be written about the gap and and that's ultimately what drove the project so tell us more about the gap. you're you're watching this conflict on folding real time, and you're saying to yourself. why do i feel like i'm watching a conflict through a certain lens on this channel, and then i'm seeing and hearing something is is that what was happening completely different on another channel? no, that's absolutely part of it was the description in our media that this was yet another round of arab israeli violence when in fact what we've seen over the last several years, is conflict between well, and it's arab
neighbors is shrinking right we've seen four different peace agreements emerge and kind of an overall normalization effort that's underway still underway today in the context though of recent history. we actually normalization. absolutely. so the uae bahrain sudan morocco they all normalized with israel in 2020 and that has that continued into 2021. in fact one could argue as i did in the book that the war was actually a stress test for israel and it's new peace partners and in fact, they got through the test and they're stronger for it now that the war is over, but that's not what was being reported. there were also i think a lot of people who are framing this as a palestinian israeli issue, which of course one can certainly make that argument the the fight between the palestinians and israelis persists. however, i think it's important to note that the fighting was in gaza and the of gaza are hamas
and hamas is a terrorist group that is funded and backed by iran. so let's just sort of set the table for our viewers who may not know who all the players were during that period so let's start with hamas. what is hamas? how does it operate? where does the money come from? sure. so hamas is a designated terrorist organization designated here by our treasury and state departments. they've been carrying out attacks gruesome acts of violence against israel since the late 1980s since the outbreak of what was called the first into fada. this was an organic palestinian uprising against the israelis and the organization is really made a name for itself by carrying out suicide bombings firing rockets blindly into israel digging tunnels designed to be commando attacks. they are funded in large part by the islamic republic of iran, which is the world's foremost. of terrorism now this doesn't
mean that there weren't organic reasons for these groups to want to tangle with israel, but the support that they get from the likes of iran is really hard to ignore at this point. so let's talk about the two points what first of all let's address. what would the organic reasons be and number two, what would iran's objective be financing hamas? sure. well, you know, the organic reasons are quite simple. it's a conflict between the palestinians and israelis. it's a clash of nationalism that dates back to 1948. if not before when israel was created and so there have been different iterations of groups that have tried to undermine or destroy israel over the years hamas is one of many and so they certainly have their own reasons for wanting to war against israel, but with the help of iran their abilities skyrocketed, and of iran has been since the 79 revolution
that brought the islamic republic to power in that country. they have really they've made it their primary goal other than just simply regime survival. one of their primary goals is the destruction of the state of israel and they enlist terrorist groups to help them in that regard. so hizballah's and other group that you've probably heard of in lebanon. that's another group that's on the iranian payroll. there's islamic jihad which also operates out of the gaza strip and then there are shiite militias and places like iraq and syria, there's houthis in yemen. all of these groups are part of a constellation of iranian support. okay. it's about this iranian influence what they call sort of that crescent, right? so the crescent stretches primarily from from western iran through iraq into syria into lebanon and we could probably also include the gaza strip into that sphere of influence. okay, so in the late spring of 2021 sort of tangible resources
was iran providing to hamas based on your reporting. so it's actually a great question that has a somewhat more complex answer than i think always right a little more nuance. yeah, so, you know there there were those that said there was no there were no iranian fingerprints on this war. because there was nothing that you could see where you know, iran had just only recently provided x amount of dollars or x amount of weapons. we did see some variants of rockets that we could trace directly back to tehran primarily fired by the islamic jihad organization not by hamas, but when we look at the sheer number of rockets that hamas had it in its possession, which is about 15,000 15,000. yes, when we looked at the number of drones that they had and i don't know if they're if there's an official count, but we saw dozens of them deployed during the war underwater drones as well. in addition. we saw tunnels that had been under the gaza strip commando
tunnels with the intent of having commandos pop up and kill israeli soldiers or to drag them into the tunnels in order to kidnap them all of this was done with iranian assistance over the course of decades. and so there is that sort of old adage. you know, you give a man a fish and they'll come back the next day and ask for another but if you teach a man official feed himself for the rest of his life the iranians have in essence taught hamas how to fish and they've been doing it since the late 1980s and so there didn't need to be direct fingerprints on this war for us to see the vast influence of the iranians. they're saying it's a historic historical support is what it absolutely dating back to the late 1980s training funding arming every kind of assistant not a specific shipment of weapons or curriculate it. i think everybody would be hard-pressed to say well this one thing happened, but i think you know, you could actually see at the end of the war and during the war where regime officials
were actually iranian regime officials were bragging about the help that they provided to hamas and were sort of, you know crowing about talking about how this wouldn't have happened were it not for iranian almost the sharing of tradecraft, correct? okay. okay. so hamas iran the idf. what is the idf? what was its function rule during this conflict? sure. so the idf is israel defense force. this is a an army professional army arguably the the most advanced army in the middle east and how big is it? it's it's several hundred thousand. it's not massive and it's it's massive considering the population. yes. it's looking at a population of nine million people and it's a tiny country. this is smaller than the state of new jersey and so but you know, this is a an army that unfortunately and israeli military officials will serve joke about this. they they've got a lot of
practice too much practice in terms of going to war because this just you know in terms of gaza conflicts alone. this is the fourth since 2009. so every couple of years they go back to it again. i'm gonna talk about the pattern absolutely but hamas knows that they're sparking a war with an advanced military that has been collecting intelligence and preparing for these conflicts. and you know, i think they handled himself. well we can talk about where they didn't and where they did but ultimately it was a frustrating war i think for the idf because even though they probably achieved all their military objectives hamas still rules the gaza script today, and we now see ourselves set up for another round the fifth gaza war certainly looms large right now. so just briefly what would you say? they did well and where did they fail or not perform adequately so they did well in terms of targeting their the hamas that they knew they were going to hit
well in advance. they've been collecting intelligence they did. so with precision munitions, they're very surgical in the way that they strike the total number of casualties was somewhere in the vicinity of 250 over 11 days of war with a massive amount of ordinance so you could get a sense of the care in which they conducted this war, but they perennially do a horrific job of explaining what they're doing in real time most of the time the idf likes to bear its teeth that other potential enemies that may be considering joining the war in other words. they're very fearful of a two or three front war and that is certainly possible in an area where they're surrounded by enemies. so they i think did a rather horrific job as usual of explaining what they were doing why they were doing it and hamas takes advantage of this and so does iran as they allege war crimes and other horrific things that i don't i've saw no evidence that the israelis were responsible. so in this particular, there's the importance of a settlement
or sort of like a housing development or project. what's it called? and what's the backstory there? so this is i it's an interesting story that the way that this all erupted. there were a lot of stories in the press and even to this day. we still hear about this one neighborhood. it's called sheikh jarak. it is in east jerusalem if you've been to israel, you've been to the old city. it's right outside of the damascus skate. it's right near the american colony hotel and actually near the palestinian consulate and how big is it? it's oh it's a very small neighborhood. i mean it's tiny as the entire country is several blocks. it's a few blocks a few square blocks. we're not okay to real estate exactly and there were homes that were potentially set to be evacuated pursuant to an israeli legal ruling now, the story actually goes back almost a hundred years where -- bought this territory before the creation of the state of israel. then during the 1948 war of
independence. it was taken over by the jordanians the israelis wanted back in 1967 and then a legal process began where the families tried to regain control of this real estate. it's dragged on for decades now, and he was really remarkable to meet a watch the coverage of this particular neighborhood because we saw often in our press that people were saying that it was the cause of the war and as i know it in the book real estate disputes especially ones that are being adjudicated in a legitimate legal process. they don't cause wars guns cause wars rockets cause wars explosions cause wars this was one political issue, maybe even a commercial issue that was being hammered out in a legitimate process and so the idea and we still hear it today rock caused. the war was very curious to me and i think really represented a
certain lazy level of analysis that persists in i don't think it's only the arab israeli conflict. but certainly we see it a lot. so you say lazy analysis your view. i'm not trying to put words in your mouth. but your view is that this was used as sort of the wedge issue here or as a sort of the spark on the fire. is that right? there was something bigger going on. there was absolutely something bigger going on. i mean you could look at any number of things that were happening at the time was ramadan jerusalem day. these are all kind of emotional moments and in the middle east but the biggest thing for me actually was that the month before the palestinians were slated to have elections now the palestinians without getting into all the detail they've been in a state of civil war since 2007. there's a really bitter split between hamas and the palestinian authority or the plo. in fact this there is actually a
territorial divide between the palestinians people don't really ever think about this but hamas controls the gaza strip which it won an a war in 2007 and the plo is clung to power in the west bank and there was going to be an attempt to bring the two parties together again through elections. it was a dangerous gambit by the biden administration and by the palestinians themselves because if hamas were to win there were all sorts of complications that would arise it would prompt a cut off and political relations with the united states. it would cause it would prompt to cut off in funding by the way. these are all rules that have been put in place by a guy you may have heard of named senator joe biden and so there was this moment where the israelis pragmatic arab states and the united states finally prevailed upon the palestinian authority to cancel those elections hamas was furious and it in my view it was looking for an opportunity to reass.
self-politically among the palestinian sort of within the political system political undercurrent absolutely here as well and that i think was really the driver for hamas in terms of deciding to launch the fifth round of war with israel. they reassert itself. absolutely to regain the hearts and minds of the palestinians. in fact even to this day. we see efforts undertaken by the israelis and by the biden ministration to try to strengthen the palestinian authority. it's just a biden administration question or did we see something similar under previous administrations? oh, this is been since 2007. there's this been this tug of war between the plo and hamas and we've been looking for ways to strengthen the pa at the expense of hamas and every couple of years hamas wages war again and draws attention to itself and it purports to be the sort of liberator of palestine if you will and that this is really an issue that multiple administrations have had to deal with republicans.
democrats absolutely. okay, so in may of 2021 it officially becomes a conflict. i guess. i can't think of better words for it sort of. what was that moment where it crossed that threshold sure. so it's actually interesting. the israelis won't call it a war they called an operation. they try to make a difference. so what's the difference? well, they try to basically try to tell their population if it's a war you'll really know it. this is a small localized conflict with one, you know in one small area. i mean the gaza strip. most people don't realize this. it's about the size of washington dc. population of about two million people a tiny localized conflict. it still is painful for the israelis. they're getting 4,000 rockets fired upon their cities and towns, but was that the red line is was that the red line that was crossed where it became an operation in the israelis terms. so the way that i would describe it as the israelis almost, you know.
weekly monthly they're absorbing the occasional one-off rocket happens all the time. the red line is usually multiple rockets fired and usually it is they're fired in salvos at either jerusalem or the most populated area of israel, which is that sort of slim waistline around the tel aviv area between the west bank and the mediterranean but once a certain number of been fired or the target is deemed too sensitive. that's usually when the israeli start to fire back and what would be a sensitive target again populated areas the capital these are things, you know, if it if and it's you know, it actually it's a source of frustration for a lot of israelis. you see rockets fired in the environments just outside of the gaza strip israel will simply try to knock those down with its air defense system known as iron dome and then it's back to business as usual, but if you fire into these metropolitan areas, well, that's when the israelis begin to to respond. and it's actually a source of
anger for those in that immediate area right outside of the gaza strip. so how many rockets are we talking about? i mean like what was the moment where it crossed that line? and so the first couple of salvos were in the and i think more than a hundred which was actually the largest salvo i think to date fired by hamas and the first salvos were fired into the environments of jerusalem again, this was an attempt i think by hamas to say look we see what's going on in shake jarok. we see what's going on with ramadan and the restrictions that the israelis have placed on palestinians wanting to pray at the al-aq samosk. we're now firing on jerusalem to demonstrate our solidarity with the cause, but once you start to do that that is going to trigger and israeli response. so the israelis knocked down the rockets and then start firing back at hamas and the escalation of this fourth round of conflict begins. so what does the escalation look like? it's actually fairly formulaic.
hamas fires these rockets. they are all unguided so they don't know exactly where they're going to land which by the way i would just note is technically a war crime the israelis do what they always do which is they knock down the vast majority of those rockets with iron dome. this is a system that's been around since i think it was 2007 when it was first introduced and iron dome is really i mean, it's it's all it's it's almost magical in the way that it protects the citizens of israel and by the way intern also protects the palestinians because it really what it does is by knocking down these rockets. it ensures that the conflict doesn't sort of spiral out of control. it keeps it contained. it allows the israelis to kind of breathe and take a beat before deciding how they're going to respond to each salvo and but notice it work just sort of technologically so they track a rocket that's coming out of the gaza script. they look at the speed. they look at the height. they look at the trajectory and then the evil either decide
they're going to target it because it's going to land somewhere that is sensitive or concerning or if it's going to land in empty desert. they just let it go and it's remarkable that it works in both ways. there's something like a 90 to 95% success ratio and but even as that's happening the israelis are now targeting what is known as their target bank. these are our targets that they've collected over the last several years in this case since 2014 since the last major round of conflict with hamas. so there are hundreds if not thousands of targets associated with hamas that they begin to dismantle surgically with really precise munitions, but then we start to see this back and forth with rockets exploding in the sky as a result of the iron dome system things exploding inside of the gaza script and occasional rocket getting through inside israel. it looked very chaotic, let me
just ask you so when you're talking about surgical strikes you're talking about taking about taking out operatives, right? yes, or sometimes, you know are making factories or things like this. okay. well, what about the argument that they're kind of playing judge jury and executioner in this particular case without some due process. well, they are i mean in the sense that any country that is waging war will be doing the same. you know, i don't think anyone asks the united states for permission as we targeted al qaeda or isis in iraq or syria, you know, we have a system the question is is that system legitimate and in the case of the united states and the israelis and a number of other professional militaryies, they identify those targets and then they adjudicate them internally. so israel's ministry of justice will adjudicate these targets as well idf lawyers and and others involved in in that system the shin bet the internal security services as well. so they look at the intelligence. they look at the veracity of it. they try to how trustworthy it
is and then they look for the right moments to minimize casualties into minimize collateral damage. so these areas are again, unfortunately very practiced at this and i think the record shows that they minimize casualties significantly, of course, this is a densely populated area and there will be mistakes. there will be collateral damage. it will always happen that they do a good job addressing the mistakes. i think so, i think you know, they will often hold tribunals after the case after the fact to determine whether they were serious mistakes made serious errors and judgment sometimes holding soldiers accountable. however, i would say that you know, when one looks at the fog of war when what looks at the fast pace of how all this happens one does get a sense that the israelis are not interested in trying to placate its critics after the fact what they will do is they will kind of dig in and say we had every right to defend our because this is an iran back terrorist group
attacking us and look what we did in real time. look at how we minimize casualties. we don't need to answer to you. before we talk about how this escalated over that nearly two-week period let's talk about the pattern because you've alluded to that several times. so so what is the pattern and based on your reporting? what do you see as the role of iran sort of driving that pattern sure so start now we just ended a conflict last year right now. iran is helping hamas rebuild replenish its rocket supply that is happening as we speak whether that's through help in engineering whether it's smuggling of parts of rockets or whole rocket systems that is happening right now. there are hamas commandos that are training in tehran. there's money that is flowing there are there's any amount of assistance that we could expect here the rebuilding of tunnels for example, israel is watching this activity because remember this is territory that is small.
it is identifiable for israel. they are borders to it and they've got incredible intelligence whether it's human assets. they've got satellites that pass over the area they're watching and they're collecting targets. they're adjudicating those targets as we discussed then there will be moments where rockets will fire. israel will determine whether or not it's going to respond when there are enough when the intended targets are seriousness crossed, right? what's in it for iran to instigate in your view these conflicts sort of every few years sounds like we're looking at something like this every few years. yeah. well first of all, it keeps the fire kind of burning which is in iran's interest. they want to try to kind of whip up anger against israel across the region again. i think we see it subsiding in the arab world, but it's still there. thanks to iran's efforts. they also there is a strong sense among is said i've talked
to that iran would like to see how israel responds to certain kinds of rockets variants certain salvos large numbers small numbers. they want to see if they can overwhelm the iron dome system. they want to test the system for weaknesses. well, it's an intelligence gathering opportunity as well. correct, but it's done at the expense of 2 million people living in the gaza script who may not want this war to begin with but nonetheless hamas is very willing to do it. they know they're going to lose by the way the likelihood of a ragtag terrorist organization that gets assistance from iran overpowering a regional military that is operating with precision guided munitions and f16 and apache helicopters, really think goliath situation exactly. and so there is no chance really, i mean, there's you know less than 1% chance that they're going to emerge victorious from these things, but there is a
messaging component to this. there's a pr component for hamas and then there's this intelligence gathering operation all of these things appear to be worthwhile for hamas. i've got to say i doubt that the people of gaza agree. okay, so let's talk about this escalation in may of 2021. what are the events? they're really stand out to you in this escalation. so i'd say they're probably two or three that we could point to the first was this. what i would call an information operation that the israelis likely carried out they won't admit to having done. so but they tweeted that they were about or that they had troops on the ground inside the gaza strip. this seemed very unlikely to me as i was watching this play out on tv and in fact as i watched it was really interesting the us media was reporting that there were in fact troops on the ground that there was a ground war taking place. the israeli media could not
acknowledge this they could not confirm it and we saw i saw multiple reporters standing on the hilltops overseeing the gaza script saying none of my sources can confirm. i don't see anybody behind me. i don't see columns going in so it's the confirmation coming from the tweet. it was you and then it was also there was a statement that was put out by the idf spokesperson, but as it turns out the intended audience was likely hamas they so it was an influence. it may have been an influence operation, correct? yeah, i think miss disinformation misinformation, whatever you want to call it, but they started to insert their commando fighters inside the tunnels and that's when israel started to destroy the tunnel system known as the metro the metro was dozens of miles of tunnels that were created again to kidnap or kill as many israeli soldiers as possible and the israelis took that opportunity to destroy large
portion you say large how big we're talking about miles of tunnels that they that they destroyed. i think they ended up getting less than half because they couldn't hit all of it because some of its snaked underneath hospitals and schools and apartment buildings and things like that. so the israelis had to be very careful what they hit they mostly hit the tunnels that went underneath streets that were they didn't see cars. they could destroy it and how sophisticated are the tunnels are these like sort of dirt tunnels. are they sort of somewhat finished they are semi-finished i suppose. you know what i'm getting. yeah, right. this is cement primarily and reinforced with steel often. what is actually shocking about them is i mean, they are still at the end of the day somewhat crude. however, they are made out of materials that were diverted. they were these materials were supposed to go toward the building of god rebuilding of gaza after the last war 2014, but a lot of it was diverted in one tunnel tour that took during
that visit in june. you could actually see some of the bags from the cement from the un relief and works agency, which is the agency that is designed to help the palestinian those that call themselves refugees, right so you get a sense of of the cynical nature of all of this, but nonetheless, it was a moment that getting back to the the metro moment. it was a moment where i think the american media was furious the israelis for misleading. um, however, the israelis looked at it as kind of a victory that they were ultimately able to destroy this tunnel system that hamas had tried to keep a secret for the better part of five to seven and just follow with through your sort of connection of the dots is that they the israelis indicated that they had people on the ground when they didn't to cause hamas to do what to flood that tunnel system with their commandos that were trained in highly trained people so were able to take out some of
their top personnel as well as a key military asset that hamas had been preparing for a surprise attack. so it was a trap, correct? okay. so if that's one of the seminal moments what's another one another one was the destruction of a an office tower known as aljala tower you may recall this was the building that housed ap and al jazeera the israelis decided somewhat hastily at least in the media that they were going to be destroying this building and what they did was they called the owners warn them that it was going to happen. is that based on your reporting or no? this is all open source now. okay, the also have this ability to call every cell phone inside the building or in a certain radius. so they did that to warning everybody to get out then they dropped. what is known as a knock knock bomb on the roof.
is a small explosive enough to shake the building enough to warn people what is about to come i see and then a few minutes later they destroy this building it would really was remarkable as i watched it on tv, and it was played on repeat here in the united states and all around the world. it almost looked like a controlled explosion it sort of it buckled inward as the building was destroyed. but what was so fascinating was that israel was immediately charged with trying to obstruct media reporting of conflict when you take out a building that houses media organizations, you have to expect significant that's going to be under the microscope absolutely and they'll be criticisms 100% okay, and they and they took it but what was the objective it would have to be an extremely important objective, correct? so as it turns out the israelis reported and we can now say that it's been this has been reviewed and accepted by the white house.
that there was some sort of signals intelligence operation that was being conducted out of that building that the goal was to in fact jam the iron dome system with signals intelligence tools. the israelis decided that this was crucial if they were to be able to continue to protect their citizens that this needed to be destroyed the allegations flew as expected. i think as you suggest well in quite right, i mean when you see the bombing of a media organization building right course, there were many other things in the building and that's what he israelis were alleging, but then they brought the intelligence to the white house and as we understand it this was accepted as a legitimate intelligence operation that they agreed with in terms of israel's assessment to attack now that didn't of course play kate the media watchdogs here in the united states and around the world. how did you see did you see a sort of resonance between the
coverage of this event here in the united states and the coverage of the event in the region. i would say that there were a lot of questions in the region not a lot of rush to judgment. it was more out of curiosity of what was in this building. why did israel destroy it the immediate sort of approach by many not all organizations here in the united states certainly analysts on twitter were immediately alleging that this was an obstruction of media coverage eventually the story began to kind of leak out and then the israelis actually began to tweet about it as well. but i think they wanted to share the information first and kind of get it out to their most important partner here in the united states was anyone hurt in that my knowledge. no, not a there was there were no casualties that there was they actually did a good job of clearing everybody out again with that process that i described, but it was by far the most contentious moment of i think for reasons that are
correct, correct, and i would assume as a journalist that you would you know, you yourself would i'm sure have questions about something like this. but what i would say, what was really interesting is it kind of an aftermath of all of this as people began to kind of unpack what happened there were two things that i think are worth, you know, maybe noting further one was that ap has actually been accused by some of its own employees in the past of turning a blind eye to hamas activities and hamas directives. in other words, the there's a guy by the name of monty friedman who's works for used to work for ap in the region and basically said that you know ap would abide by the rules set by hamas, you know, they were there very that's a big accusation. it is a big accusation and there was another reporter that came out and kind of echoed auntie friedman's comments as well. this was an atlantic piece from back in 2006, but it certainly raised questions.
out you know, what? did ap know did it know anything and you know, i don't know if they did or didn't but it was and we certainly don't know what their point of view would be correct would be honest. absolutely it goes to this idea. i think is what you're going because i want to leave that to one side because i don't know what their position is and could be fair to them, but it goes to your i think one of your larger questions or conclusions about the the media coverage at that time, is that fair? i think that look i don't want to say that you know that you media organizations that were complicit in some way. i think that's probably too. that's a bridge too far. what i would just say is that you know, the coverage immediately jump to israel's, you know responsible for war crimes and also it's you know, it's deliberately obstructing, you know media operations, and it's trying to you know, distort the coverage of the war isn't part of the challenge in a 24-hour news cycle the people have to move so quickly that
they don't have that opportunity to assess the information in a way that maybe they need to or should in a situation that the story starts to develop because you're describing to me a situation where there was initial allegations and then as the information started to evolve and develop that you saw a shift we saw on shift, but i would say that in many ways the the initial damage was done in other words all these accusations of war crimes and you know deliberate obfuscation of coverage. that was i think what most people took away and then it's always the case that corrections that may come later they get short shrift the other thing that i'll just note is that al jazeera was treated during that time as a, you know run of the mill media outlet people, i think forget that a this is a news organization that is owned and controlled by the government of qatar, which is a sponsor a fiscal sponsor.
financial sponsor of hamas, but also people forget and you may remember this from covering iraq and afghanistan the al jazeera somehow was on the scene of a huge number of terrorist attacks. well, we're not going to read litigate al jazeera in this conversation, but i i hear what your i hear what you're trying to to get at. so we're at an inflection point right now with the iran nuclear talks, correct, correct? okay. so what does that mean for the united states? and then what does it mean for the conflict that you put under the microscope in your book? so as you as you know, there are negotiations going on in vienna right now. there is a i would probably call it a desperate attempt by the byte administration to reenter the 2015 nuclear deal. they would like to be able to kind of get back to whatever regulations they had on iran's nuclear program. it doesn't look like they're
going to get what they had before which was in my view not probably not perfect far from it. it actually still gave iran kind of a paved pathway if you will to eventually acquiring nuclear weapons with not a lot of oversight from the international community. we appear now to be on the verge of something even weaker than that a deal that my colleague mark dubow. it's called less for less, you know, we get less out of it at the end of the day and and the iranians give us less in return but the the concern here really is that there will be as it relates to the gaza conflict is that we will see a flood of sanctions relief. flow toward iran and we know that iran will then use that cash to support a number of its proxies including hamas. and so the question then becomes will we be in the fifth gaza conflict? we just had the four.
way will be funding both sides of that next round of war and i think the likelihood is high in other words. we provide assistance to the israelis military assistance according to a memorandum of understanding and and i think you know that's sort of congressionally approved and it's broadly embraced by the foreign policy community and then there will be this agreement which will not be congressionally approved and will not reflect the consensus of the foreign policy community here in in the united states and we will likely be seeing a very large amount of money. i don't even know how to estimate it, but it won't only go to hamas it'll go to hizballah. it'll go to the houthis. it'll go to shiite militias and iraq and syria, this we know is how iran operates and so there is real cause for concern about the financial implications of such a deal let alone the nuclear stuff that that i think you know, some of my more technical colleagues are watching day and night. i think it's worth explain.
here the significance of the shiite crescent because i think this is what you're getting at with the funding of these different groups. i mean, what is the shiite crescent? what is iran's? objective and how does that work through these different proxies that is that is the big question. i'm glad you asked it. so what we always describe iran's goal in the region as hegemony. they would like to be a regional power a superpower. i mean a regional superpower. let's call it. i mean they're never going to go toe-toe with the united states, but they if they have nuclear weapons this certainly starts to put them up at that table it is it is the ultimate insurance policy for everything else that iran does in terms of its malign activity and it's destabilization how they see it like an insurance policy. absolutely. i mean there is a debate about whether the iranians would use a nuclear weapon against israel or against saudi arabia or any of its other enemies.
whether it would do that we don't know but we do know that if it wants to be able to continue to fund groups like hamas and hezbollah and to really do damage to a lot of american allies around the region. once it gets that nuke. it's almost untouchable and i think it understands this. this is the ticket to becoming that regional power that they aspire to be and it's one of the reasons why it's so dangerous. so on the shiite crescent, so they have monies released by the united states. how do they use that money in your view to start building this crescent? and what does it do for them strategically in the region? sure. so the crescent if you look at the countries of the crescent iraq, this is a country where we had a map here. yes. just imagine in your mind right? you got a rock just to you know, just write alongside that western iranian border. this is a country where the iranians have.
undermine america's presence there since our entrance into the war but over time. they've also infiltrated the country and what are shared militias that are known as pmus or pmf's popular mobilization unit or popular mobilization forces. these are forces that are funded and trained by iran and they have dual loyalties. they're not loyal to the iraqi government per se the answer to iran. and so what we have right now is a country that is heavily influenced by the iranians. there are some efforts to fight it but it is still a very precarious situation. so that's one territory next territory over is syria, right? that's the assad regime it's been under fire for years since the civil war broke out and the iranians have actually inserted militias there including his bala to prop up that state but in the process they've taken control of it. they've i mean they've got their arms around the neck of the syrian state and then you have lebanon which is owned and
controlled by his bala and this entire area this land bridge. i was going to say this creates a land bridge now, correct, right and that is smuggling of weapons including precision guided munitions, very dangerous weapons, and all of it is designed to flow west toward his bala and his bala is by far the most lethal of the proxies that iran supports and the goal really is to gain control over this territory destroy israel and establish that sort of solidified foothold in the levant in the middle east and so there is this strategy that continues to play out. the israelis are constantly fighting it wherever they have to and there is by the way a shadow war that i describe in the war as well. they call it the >> the israelis are constantly trying to root out assets that are moving for te office lands bridge.
>> what's the historical significance? this is not asking for an additional idea, isn't this some historical significance to crating this ? >> you've got an iranian nation that sees itself as wishing to reclaim its former greatness. it was once a regional power centuries ago and it would like to be that again. there's also i think a sense of that the united states is beginning to retrench . >> the us government, the previous administration who put korea and russia to one side tickets to the pacific so what does that mean for israel, the middle east that you lay out in the book? >> that's the biggest question. here's what you have neo-isolationist trends in
the us both on the left and on the right. during the trump administration we saw pressure on iran even as we looked to draw down from the middle east and now we haveno pressure on iran . >> or let's say less pressure . >> very little. we're looking at an attempt to get back into a deal to provide sanctions released r, not a lot of restrictionsput in place to keep around in check . and so the iranians see this and they smell opportunity. they look at this as a moment where we want to get out of the middle east and this is a fairly bipartisan sentiment rightnow and we want to pivot to asia . the question is i think and i raise this in the last chapter of the book, who are we going to tap to take our place when we leave? because we are drawing down afghanistan with one example but we're looking at other places as well where the us military.
>> who fills that vacuum? >> that's right, the question is are we going to empower our allies like the united arab emirates or bahrain or saudi arabia or allow the iranians to fill that void and right now i don't see clear answers to those questions and i think that's really the thing that i kind of challenge the us foreign-policy community to think about that at the end of the book. >> we're having this conversation in the third week of february where 190,000 russian troops are concentrated around the border of ukraine. i can't sit down with you and not ask your predictions of what you think is a head for that region and also for the united states. >> i would say this is a test for the united states first and foremost that there are other crises right now where malign actors are working carefully to see how the united states can box itself.
the biden administration has so far done a good job of coordinating with its allies overseas, warning about the consequences primarily through sanctions but in other ways as well. however this is far from written and if the united states does not deter an invasion of ukraine we could see an impact in terms of the way china looks at a possible invasion of taiwan. we could see an impact in terms of the way around would view possible a cash to a nuclear weapon. it could have an impact on the way north korea looks at our deterrence in the region. any number of conflicts that i think bad actors are watching so it's not done but it is certainly cause for concern. as for trying to predict what putin does next, i would say a full invasion, full
occupation of ukraine seems like a lot for him to take on. i'm can imagine him taking a slice, a half measure and then waiting to see what the responses and if there's not a concerted global response to his aggression they might see that as a green light to press forward. if he does feel like his sword meets steel so to speak and perhaps you might be deterred and there might be a way of walking him back but this is not an easy moment for american politics because i believe a lot hangs in the balance and probably more than anything it's that credibility as we enter into this great power competition with china.we cannot deal with russia which is an economically powerhouse. >> all these factors are going against russia economically, demographically, natural resources. >> correct.
people always talk about who did as a guy that's got a weak hand and plays it well. if we can't tackle this, how are we going to tackle all these challenges to waste in the realm of east asia as we're looking at china, taiwan and others? >> final thoughts before we leave the conversation on the book . >> i don't know. you tell me. first of all thank you for doing this, thank you for asking all the right questions i think . i would say and expect the middle east to remain a hotspot even as we do that to other parts of the world, even if other parts of the world continue to grab headlines but the middle east unfortunately has a way of not going anywhere. so for that reason that i wrote the book and i hope it's helpful for americans and. around the world to understanding conflict which will come back.
>> thank you so much forthe conversation today . >> thank you. >> first ladies in their own words, are a part series looking at the role of the first lady and their time in the white house and the issues important for them. >> education is such an important issue both for a governor but also for our president so that's very helpful to me. >> using materials from the award-winning biography series 1st ladies. >> i'm very much the kind of person who believes you should say what you mean and mean what you say and take the consequences. >> and c-span's online library will feature lady bird johnson, rosalynn carter, nancy reagan, hillary clinton, laura bush, michelle obama and melania trump.
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