tv Discussion on Iraq Protests Unrest CSPAN November 27, 2019 3:38am-5:11am EST
secretary nominee on monday when they return. he is currently the deputy energy secretary, and if confirmed, would replace rick perry. the senate will also continue work on judicial nominations. follow live senate coverage on c-span2, and the house on c-span. next, a discussion on the protests in iraq that started in october. middle east policy analysts, including the former iraqi ambassador to the u.s., spoke at the hudson institute event about iran's intervention in iraq and what the u.s.'s role should be as the unrest continues.
>> today we will talk about iran's influence in the region, and in iraq in particular, in the context of ongoing demonstrations, and how iran is working to destabilize iraq, as well as the evolution of u.s. foreign policy toward the iraqi government. first i will introduced our distinct panelist and ask that they provide some overarching remarks, before turning it to them for any directed discussion . so, first to introduce our panelists. michael, who we all know, is a
former intelligence officer with over 28 years of experience working on security, terrorism, countries urgency and politics in the middle east -- counterinsurgency and other issues in the middle east. he spent considerable time working on malign iranian influence in iraq as an advisor embedded in prime minister maliki's office. feedback] >> the iranians are interfering microphone. [laughter] >> the next guest is a political activist. he is a founder of the iraq foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to the support and promotion of democracy, human rights -- help. we need technical [microphone feedback] patricia: is that good? >> that is better.
2003cia: from november of to march, 2005, she represented in before the u.s. government as iraq's chief emissary to the u.s.. guest is a senior fellow, where he focuses on iran and iraq. he was previously a resident fellow at the american enterprise institute and the director of the middle east initiative project. before i turn it over to our panelists, and i hope the microphone is working, i wanted to make a few introductory remarks that hopefully will help frame the discussion today. first, my conviction is that to counter iranian hard power, we have to dismantle iranian soft power. for this, we need to understand its multiple and contradictory streams of messaging. iran's self power is a narrative of regional, indigenous
resistance against imperialist design in iraq. its success is largely due to the lack of a coherent alternative that exposes its contradictions and reveals its character. the alternative can be based on the unified national identity, and this is something that the ambassador will address. the iraqis need to know the nce bit by bit, , story by story about every minister and every institution. this is something michael will look at as well. for the last five weeks, more than 200,000 iraqis across this the country have been protesting on any given day. over 320, by the last count i have seen, have been killed, and over 15,000 wounded. the protesters are angry about corruption, unemployment, and also about iran's influence.
they include idealistic secular youth, and working-class as well as shia muslims, mainly from the south. i want to suggest that iraq along with lebanon, is part of the developing revolt against efforts by iran to project its power throughout the middle east. it is time to listen to the protesters, to listen to what they want, to support their demands for a new social contract, developed i and four iraqis, rather than at the behest of iran's dominion. theeveloped by and for iraqis, rather than at the behest of iran's dominion. how do we do that? what about the limits of iraqi nationalism in this context? turning it over first to rank, , iraqis have affirmed their desire to reverse the growing iranian influence in the country. what are the limits and
prospects and challenges of the reemergence of iraqi nationalism? can it break the formula that was artificially imposed after the u.s. invasion and enshrined the system of dividing power across ethnic, sectarian and religious lines? >> thank you, patricia. thank you to the hudson institute for hosting this event and hosting me. extraordinary about the protests, now called the uprising, some people in iraq call it a popular revolution is, first of all, it is in baghdad and in the south, which is predominantly shia areas. and the thing that is really boldness ofs the the protesters in the slogans
that they are raising against iranian influence. and against the political ,arties including the militias that are deemed to be supported and encouraged by iran. i say this is extraordinary, because it is actually very dangerous for these protesters. you don't open the rip down the khamenei,of how of shia militia leaders without fearing the consequences. there are consequences. and this outbreak of resentment against iranian attempts at control, including, by the way, you spoke about soft power, there is enormous economic control of iran and
particularly in baghdad and the southern region. this is something that has been suppressed for a very long time. asra in the summer of 2018, but this year, it has reemerged in a much more powerful way, much more explicitly and much more openly. this is really a turning point that shows what true sentiment is in the shia regions of iraq, abuse of the iranian attempts -- vis-a-vis a ringing attempts at controlling them. is, this is a popular protest movement, but it hits against entrenched political interests that are iran, and principally byerestes that are exercised
who in theory, are part of the iraqi armed forces and come under the control of the commander-in-chief, who is the prime minister. in practice, though, these are not under his control. they are outside of the armed forces and they behave as a team. we has seen a reaction by them against the armed forces. the two have been in confrontation. no question. because the protesters have torn down their posters, they have also burned and on the headquarters of the shia militia of cities,a number
and of course, the militias have retaliated. time after time we see videos that clearly show that militia owners, from their headquarters, allegedly in self-defense, are shooting other protesters who are trying to storm those offices. so we really do have a change. the change is the open defiance that is expressed by the protesters. patricia: do either of you want to comment on this? >> i would agree with all of that, but i think it is going to be very difficult for the iraqi political establishment to disengage itself from iranian influence because it is so intertwined. it is no secret to say, and i by thehat was hinted at
"new york times-intercept" expose, how deeply they are financially intertwined. iraq does not like to spend a up of money in building networks, but it does spend money. you can buy a lot in iraq. i think you always have to keep in the back of your mind, there is some sense that iran is the last resort. it is sort of the shiite uncle who will come to your rescue if things really get unpleasant. end i think, for the resuscitation, the iraqi community have to become more confident, they have to develop greater national pride. i think that is inevitable, as they do that, then tension with iran is inevitable. because the truth is, if you put iraqi shia and iranians in the
same room, within a short period of time, that iranians will be --.ng it really does get on your nerves. is against the long-term establishment of iranian domination, but in the short term, i don't really see an effective countervailing force. certainly, the united states is not it. it is fair to say, the iranians largely beat the united states in iraq. i don't see that really reversing. i think this is largely a game among the iraqis and between the iraqis and the iranians. point.hat i think that is an excellent point, that the united states has lost to iran in iraq, and the iraqis are actually trying to win it back. with it back for the iraqis. what is interesting about that
is the lack of the u.s. counter strategy in iraq is now being addressed by iraqis. they are willing to push back against the status quo in baghdad with their lives. like you said, they are willing to die for these things. there are ramifications for burning down the iranian headquarters,itia and basically standing in tahrir square and protesting against simple things -- water, internet, and basically, a future. iraqis want to see less and less less ofitary, less and diplomat. they want to see university professors, technocrats, private sector investment in iraq. they want a future. and this is an opportunity for the united states to get iraq right by doing what the protesters want. that may be in action, that may be nothing, but what they're asking for right now is
international support, and they are asking for the united states' government not to support baghdad. two weeks ago, the u.s. will supporting baghdad against the supporters. now, the u.s. is in. what is interesting, i got a chance to sit in meetings with the counter-isis strategists in a counter-isis coalition in d.c., and members of parliament, members of the counter isis strategy were in agreement. this is not the time to engage in baghdad, to the government. this is a time to support the protesters. how do you do that? you put a spotlight on it in international media. we know what the protesters want. what i hear is that they want anderson cooper in ted cruz square.ahrir
their complaint is a should not be ok to kill 326 iraqis in baghdad and have the world not care. because there was a benchmark in syria that you could kill 500. he cannot kill iranians without losing iran. kill persiansot in iran, but he can kill arabs in other places using iraqi shia militias. some reports that there is another group now in iraq. they are the afghan militia that were cultivated by the quds force to deploy. up to 20,000 deployed to syria. they have almost 8000 in casualties. now we are hearing reports that they are in baghdad. it is small numbers. but the thing is, they are there. this is something that is very concerning. all the iraqis are asking for is a media spotlight, for the international community to care.
recent travels to the region -- i just got back from the security conference in bahrain yesterday, and everyone is talking about the protest in iraq, lebanon, and iran, and they are seeing the mismanagement of economies in all three countries. it may not necessarily be against iran, but i would argue that it is, because the mismanagement of the economy in iran, in baghdad, and in lebanon, are all tied to the main influences in those countries. we know the influence -- we know who the influence our in iran. and in iraq, it is the coalition party. party, led by suleiani'so is so lam guy. you talk about these things because you see it coming and it is here.
it is an opportunity now for the u.s. to get iraq right by simply doing just two things. what is important here -- i talked to an iraqi who knows this well, this gentleman right here, everybody has blood on their hands in iraq. but the iraqis are asking for the americans to help, not their own government. and there is an opportunity to hear. by tricia: we will get into a lot more detail. before that, i want to ask a follow-up question in particular with regard to the differences. can we talk about the differences between baghdad and basra when it comes to nationalism, and what is the risk of regionalism? --this a dynamic that >> first of all, if i could backtrack a little bit, the figure of 320 was weeks ago.
of 450.e recent figures unfortunately, we don't have anybody keeping track. undoubtedly, the government is, the ministry of health and so on, they are not releasing them. my estimate is that it is over 450 by now. the 300 20 number, we should always say, this was weeks ago. one has to be realistic. do, ims of what can one would add something, it is not just that they want anderson , at "cnn." it is extraordinary that neither the un security council has taken up the issue. the human rights council in geneva has not taken up the issue, yet we have had reports of amnesty international human
and human rights watch, but they are not international bodies. i can tell you, a lot of the protesters are now talking about the need for international, multi-national bodies to at least begin a process of accountability of investigation. because certainly, the iraqi government has not been doing that. and people are dying every day. ofan tell you, the intensity violence against protesters has actually increased just in the last week. i think there is now a push to ell theely qu demonstrators. sort of like the irresistible in movableng the object. the irresistible force being the protesters and the object being the government. i think the government now feels that they really must crush this d this, and they are
willing to go as far as it takes. these are things that can be done. let's talk a bit about the nationalism, because i know noel mentioned that, and patricia, you mentioned that earlier. the other thing that is really salient in these protests is the ubiquitous call that you find everywhere in these protesters. protests, in arabic they say -- [indiscernible] means, "we want homeland." it is like a patrimony. it is almost like the french atrie." something that you love, that you feel loyalty towards, that you are proud of. this is what they have been asking for because they have not had that in the last 16 years. one would argue they have not had that in the last 25 years or
so and even going back. now, the iraqis want a moment to which they feel a sense of longing and of which he can feel proud. that call, by the way, has not divided baghdad from basra. it has been constant, it has been throughout all the protest in all the areas. are there differences between but that and buster -- between baghdad and basra,, and what does that look like? there are differences, rightly because basra feels far more deprived than any other province in iraq. the economic situation and the situation of services is far worse than it is in baghdad. and yet, basra always maintains that this is a double injustice because it and the problems contributes so
much to iraq's budget, they get extremely little in terms of services -- goods and services, so there is an added grievance in basra, and before the protest, there certainly was a sense of regionalism, and there were calls by the group for creating a region similar to the kurdish region. with all the rights, authorities, the quasi-independent the kurdish region enjoys. the people there, including politicians and professionals, wanted to re-create the same thing in their province. that regionalism was emergent.
it hasn't emerged during these protests. if it is there, it has been in a sense, the wave of the protest has emerged it. whether it will reemerge afterwards is not clear, but because there is this unifying call, demand of we want a patrimony, it may be a unifier in the long run, and it may actually be the alternative that we were saying that does not exist yet. it may become so. >> we will turn it over to you to comment. i want to ask about the role of the sunnis and why they are standing by presumably, the question being, what can be done to get the sunnis into the process and for them to define these events for them?
>> this question is asked a lot, but asked in a different way. why are the sunnis protesting? there are several reasons, one of them is when the sunnis protested in 2012 and 2013, the backlash from their government, they shot and killed them, and they accused the protesters of being a conduit for isis, if you will remember. they are rolled into one. >> just for emphasis. >> yes. ok. the sunnis are guilty until proven innocent. they do not want to come out and be accused again of reintroducing isis.
all of the sunni provinces have just emerged from isis occupation. their cities and communities have been devastated, not as physical infrastructure, but the communities have been torn apart, crushed, and therefore, their ability to organize together is not there. i would add a third sector. the shiite are protesting because they consider the government in baghdad to be a shiite government. >> which it is. >> which it is. therefore, the level of expectation for their government is higher than the expectation of the sunnis from the shiite government.
so, there is an imbalance expectation. the shiite feels like this is our government, but what have they given us? they have robbed us. it is not exactly, and a sense, you were talking about shiite in terms of population. >> i just wanted to jump in on that. what is interesting is the shiite protesters, there are two myths here. if he was the prime minister, it would not be happening.
the second thing is the shiite youth are not tied to him. this is not an assad movement. this was to show iraqis this is a guy we could move around. what is interesting to your point about this is the first time and when i have talked to sunnis and kurds in iraq, they don't want to protest because when they took a legal stance in the cook referendum, they were met with military force. this is the shiite youth for the first time, 68% -- 60% are under the age of 30. they know what it is like to live under these conditions. one thing i'm hearing and i would like to pose this to the ambassador, is they want a presidential system partly want
to be able to elect somebody with the popular vote in charge, and they don't believe the prime minister necessarily needs to be a shiite prime minister. those are major changes. when i talked to the sunnis and kurds, they are sitting on the sidelines to see how much power the movement has. it can be sustained and can become an iraqi movement. they believe that iraqi should be free and those are big statements. the sunnis and the kurds will be hesitant to jump on board until the human rights council and other international organizations are in there. i think it is an opportunity for international communities to take iraq away from iran finally. we don't have a coherent policy, but the iraqis may have one.
>> i'm skeptical of anything like that is going to happen in the short term. i mean, iraq is a deeply fractured place. i mean, i have the greatest sympathy for the folks down south. there are places in southern iraq where afghanistan looks a lot better. so, it is a very, very bad situation. that is the type of situation iraq can easily exploit. the whole political establishment and baghdad -- in baghdad is profoundly intertwined with iran. we certainly did not help by the way we conducted ourselves after we withdrew. so, i'm skeptical that the iranians will be disengaged anytime soon by an iraqi nationalist movement, although i think it is a very good sign, it is just one has to have patience here.
none of this is going to develop quickly and probably not in a very satisfying way. the iranians and their allies have demonstrated they are willing to use force. there is no factor on the other side capable of resisting that. so, i think we are going to have to wait this out and there are things people can do on the edges, and i think certainly, soft power loses when it comes head-to-head with hard power. there are things that can be done, but it is difficult for the united states to do this
because of their rhetoric so far. and for example, we tend to talk, when we talk about the middle east, we talk about iraq, iran, lebanon, and we tend to put the emphasis on economics, and that is completely wrong. i think economics and political factors are deeply intertwined and if you are going up and now, we're looking at another big ripple of what i will call the political reorientation of the entire region, and the potency representative of the government and democracy. those words are very difficult to articulate in the west, particularly in the united states where democracy promotions are out of fashion and one is exhausted by the middle east. but i think a serious mistake, and i would argue with what you are seeing across the region and has a particular shiite dimension to it, so i'm skeptical that we rhetorically are going to get this right.
that doesn't mean we cannot do certain things that can be highly helpful. the hardest issue for me to deal with anything on iraq is what coercive measures are within the american toolbox that would be helpful? there are not many. i suppose sanctions would be one of them, but you would have to have that argument. >> there are a lot of things we can do. your point on patience. this is on inpatient response by the iraqis. they are tired of this definitely. they are finally taking this into their own hands. i believe there is momentum behind this. i believe this can actually work. iraqis are skeptical of what d.c. will do, and because of that, they are leading the way on this.
as we learned in iraq, we use this phrase -- you have to look at the problems through your eyes. i'm a texan so they give me latitude in not saying that right all the time. [laughter] it makes sense. this is an opportunity where iraqis are leading absent a coherent strategy from the u.s. and they are not asking us to do nothing then left though world this matters. i think there is an opportunity here. >> can i? first of all, there is more than just sending cnn. i know this may come up at some point about the u.s. really needs to stop dealing with corrupt iraqi politicians. now -- >> oh lord. [laughter] >> if they stopped or exposed -- if they stop or exposed corrupt officials, they would not have to deal with any of it.
and the corruption that is going on and iraq is intimately related to the dreadful economic situation, the lack of development, and to political ties to iran. the corruption feeds all of these problems. so, i think corruption is an important of u.s. -- is an important part of u.s. policy and should not be apart of this mild rhetoric that we are against u.s. correction -- we are against corruption. also, we have to remember that when we say on any day, 200,000 people are protesting, we have to be careful about their demands so that people who want to presidential system, people who say, we don't care if it is the shiites, we really need to come up with unifying demands because they are all over the place. they want to cancel parliament, they want to tear up a constitution. we have to be a little careful about taking all of these demands as core asks. >> one thing really quickly. do your point, in 2007, general pretorius had mcmaster put together a team and i was on this team to identify the corrupt officials in the iraqi government and those tied to
iran. we presented him with 50 names. he said, i can't do this. he would basically be replacing everyone in a position. it is the same situation now. i had a conversation with him about a rock, and he said, iraq is better than it has ever been. this was a year ago. i told him, sir, everything you told me to stop is on steroids now. militias actually have privacy now. it was a much different tone. i saw him this weekend in bahrain, and a much different tone, so that is good, so leadership is getting it now. those who work cheerleaders a year ago on a rock are now protesters.
>> everyone seems to agree that the fact that the u.s. is needed. i want to focus in on one point to fleshing out, which is if the u.s., would once the u.s. ought to deny the ability of iran to use undue force? that is a question. in other words, what can a u.s. do to help level the playing field from the protection of the protesters? we talked about corruption, but are there things we can hone into identify specific things the u.s. can do? given the fact the trust issue is a big one. the u.s. is not always trusted in iraq, which is something you pointed out. the u.s.ant h -- can do? pompeo's statement was really tough, starting to sanction individuals responsible for killing protesters prior we have argued that we can give five people right now to the u.s. government and say sanction these individuals, and change military force to go after shiite militias.
we hit shiite militias when they do something. launchede 13 rockets at an air force base and we immediately did a counter fire strike and killed members of the shiite militia. there are five people. it doesn't matter who the prime minister is. it doesn't matter one state of law exist. the good thing is the u.s. doesn't have to do any of that. we can sanction individuals. that will send a strong message, but iraqis are burning down the offices of the individuals -- of these individuals.
they are tearing down their pictures and rejecting the message that you will hear from their leaders. they have been causing problems this whole time, and you have to pass by their offices to get to the prime minister's offices, and that is a big deal. i talk to someone and i said, what if i told there is a terrorist who has in office in baghdad -- who has an office in baghdad and has access to training and equipment? he said, how was that possible? will i told him his name and every time i ask someone why he still in position, they can answer the question. so, that is an individual that the iraqis blame for getting the militia to kill protesters.
there are several things we can do. a year ago when the protesters burned down the uranian consulate, -- down the iranian consulate, we condemned them. we get easy wrong all the time and it is an issue for the u.s. when you go to baghdad and you talk to bad debt politicians who give you a new story. you go to baghdad and talk to military officers who give you a good new story. i have never been an american or iraqi politician. there is no general who ever said, things have been worse on my watch. you come back with these good news stories. you see it on the streets. one of the biggest problems, and i was an intelligence officer for years, and the biggest problem is the statement that "we have not seen that in reporting yet," meaning it doesn't exist.
that is the biggest problem. we are seeing this in real time and we are waiting for everybody else to catch up. and the iraqis cannot afford to wait. >> again, there obviously isn't going to be any type of military coercion by the united states. that is inconceivable that president trump would back that. the pentagon is gun-shy. their primary concern now is force protection. i don't see that changing. if you can't do anything else, you can use sanctions.
but i don't want to underestimate the value of using that more. i think it has some value, but we are hamstrung by that. again, i don't think president trump could do that. the secretary of state has done a better job, but still, you don't really have the impression that the united states invested in any type of coherent policy. at best, it seems like an afterthought. that is certainly not going to change before the election. i think what you could do is do incremental things the embassy tries to do. i do think the idea of the united states actually being more aggressive on the issue of corruption in iraq and elsewhere in the middle east has some
value. everybody knows that everybody is corrupt. it doesn't hurt to give that a bit of detail. sometimes, these things can snap. so, i think that is a worthwhile endeavor. the united states is much, much better about handling that type of information than it used to be. i think you have to give the united states government, particularly the treasury department and elsewhere, some credit in being able to compile and investigate these things and they have become much more sleuth for with how they approach corruption. there was something to be said, to be done there. again, i don't think it is going to be earth-shaking. i think the issue here largely for iraqis, you know, it is
whether the iraqis can develop a leadership that isn't corrupted, that isn't tied or bonded to our to iran, and can stay alive. staying alive is important. >> i would agree. i would actually say that over-action by the u.s. is real negative results. trust, that you mentioned, and i am aware that this is a little bit of a controversial issue, but most of the problems we have in iraq made by iraqis are made by the iraqi political class, but it is put on by the u.s.
because the post-2003 war was conducted in the way that the system was allowed to happen or encouraged. in other words, the u.s. is not seen in iraq is the most equitable, benign entity. i agree that one has to be very cautious in taking steps, if indeed the administration of president trump has any thought of doing anything. showing that america is taking note of this and is sanctioning these people. again, i repeat that we do need some kind of international resolve on this.
it is not just a u.s. issue. at least on the human rights' question, there has to be some kind of international response to the iraqis armed forces. i would just say, caution. washington is the best policy as far as iraq is concerned by now. it is going to be very difficult. like you said, but there is a point beyond which cannot go in supporting it. >> just a clarifying statement, i did not mean to start killing iraqis in iran. i was concluding changing the authorizing force with militias.
our state department believes if we sanction their leader, it will be a unifying event for iraqis. that needs to be put to rest. that is not the case. simply sanctioning their leader, these groups is important. there needs to be a modification of iraqi political forces -- military forces. they have primacy in their security forces. these individuals, we cannot shiite -- we cannot trust the iraqi army. as soon as they do things, like the counter intuitive director who was fired, they are marginalized.
we need to identify, but the national community should identify iraqis that can lead a nationalist movement. the individuals in iraq that want a future, want a relationship with the west that is based on investment, private-sector, education, university because iraqis are identifying those. when i say iraqis, i mean the iraqi government. we need to put the spotlight on those individuals. it is not hard to remember four activists who have been detained by the iraqi security forces or disappeared by the militias. that should not be difficult to remember two names. what we do not know their names, and we should know them, and i
can't honestly recite them, but these people are dying and this is an important cause, and all it takes is a media spotlight. needs to be different than al jazeera, sky news, all of these entities are doing the right things, but they need cnn because they believe if that spotlight is put on the protest, then no one will care. -- put on the protests, then no one will care. >> i was rereading the other day, an "new york times'" op-ed, and my friend who worked under obama in the middle east and help shepherd the iran deal, and in that op-ed from 2007, he prognosticate it and said if trump were to reintroduce sanctions, and rainy ends would rally around -- iranians would rally around their leadership and united states will become the enemy.
exact opposite of course happened. i would make that parallel that if united states decides to use sanctions, regardless of their efficacy, but decides to use them more aggressively against bad players, the one thing that we can be absolutely confident about is that iraqis will not rally around these individuals. and that there is certainly a margin for maneuver there, and we do not have to worry about this type of an argument, which seems to predominate on the left, and it has no traction whatsoever on the ground.
>> because i have the privilege of asking the questions, i will ask a difficult one. before opening it up for questions, but the question is are these protesters missing the point in iraqi politics? and what will iraqi politics look like a year from now? i would like each of you to answer. >> this is a sort of prognosis we are predicting. there are several outcomes. the protests have been going on for seven weeks now. the death toll is rising. they are several possible outcomes. one possible outcome is that the government and parliament will yield, and will implement at least some of its demands contended to election law and someone, and therefore, there will be a compromise on everything the protesters want, but enough for the protesters to go home.
i think the region has had enough military coups over the last decade. the third scenario is the least likely. it is that the regime will simply wear out the protesters. people in government and parliament are sitting at home, having their meals, you getting their salaries -- getting their salaries and their electricity. they have everything to lose and nothing to gain by yielding, and they can wait it out, and they can kill more people. more brutality is coming. we have been witnessing it in the last week. and with a few cosmetic changes, in which i mean for example, there is a new electoral law being reviewed and parliament. it is a bit of a joke because it really doesn't satisfy the legitimate demands of the protesters in any way, shape, or form.
it is designed to maintain the influence of the political parties, and not to allow any new blood in. rely on the weather. meanwhile, do something slightly cosmetic, but nothing that will harm the political system. and i think that is the most likely scenario unfortunately. a year from now, not a year from now, maybe next summer, we will see a reprieve with the protesters because no change will have happened. >> i will follow. next year, i will follow that poor. they will be better organized, they will be louder, and there will be a repeat of what is
happening now, again on steroids. the one thing i am concerned about over the next year is the u.s. fall for the cosmetic change, and that is something we continue to do. the united states' foreign policy establishment believes that the prime minister would've simply won reelection, let's call it reelection, none of this will be happening. all of this will be happening because it happened under him a year ago. and it is very concerning. protests die in darkness and darkness is the lack of the media spotlight and the internet. security forces are being more brutal now. they are using bullets -- militias are using bullets in these teargas cans. they just killed a protester with a rubber bullet yesterday. international communities say use rubber bullets, but you know? i am concerned that over the next year, we fall into an election cycle and we continue to see this in the region, our
geopolitical competitors are hoping for election outcomes at favor that, and in this case, a disinterested 2021 president that doesn't look at iraq doesn't look at syria or afghanistan as a priority instantly jumps back in the iran deal. i think a lot of this is tied over the next year to whether or not we get back into the iran deal. we will maligned their behavior in the region. you did not curb it. they built a land bridge. the best thing about building a land bridge is the protesters have occupied it. the protesters in iran are occupying the land bridge. this is the first time the region is rejecting iran without a you was hand in it, which is great.
we could only mess this up. we have to continue to look at the problems through iraqis' eyes, but make sure we are talking to the right iraqis. to your point for these movements having separate agendas, i think that is great. it is organic and it hasn't turned into one movement. if it becomes one movement, it can attack other movements and become attacked. there is a strength that they don't have a coherent message. that is a good thing. >> i want to ask him a follow-up question. that we started with the cables, how can we use that to try to obtain that? >> these documents show the
level of iranian infiltration. it also shows specific individuals on the payroll. these are individuals we know inside of the intelligence community. there is an effort to get these translated. the people denying this is happening cannot deny it anymore. that is another positive thing. we have three categories in d.c., the cheerleaders, the cassondra's and the cautious decision-makers who say it is complex. the same individuals in 2015 of the same individuals killing protesters now.
the same individuals. another move the u.s. could make is to move the training program. disfavor campaign is what the iraqis are giving baghdad and i think the u.s. needs to follow suit. vice president pence did not go to baghdad. that sends a good message also. >> yeah, i mean, it is pretty hard. we don't have the perspective to know if he reached the tipping point in iraq. i am partial to modern history.
you know, i would say, i would take a wild, wild guess and say that it has been a very bad year for the islam and republic. i think you do see in lebanon and iraq and iran, most importantly, you do see a certain shiite distemper, a certain state of the clerical regimes. i don't think that is going away. the speed of acceleration, the regime striking back, you know, i think the shiites, the card iran has largely played, is distinctly different from the old, ecumenical revolutionary approach, which actually tried to seek out sunnis more than shiites.
i think they have obtained a great deal of success, but it might overreached its payback. and now, it has to deal with the after taste of that. on that note, i'm optimistic and i would say that if we are on the cusp and can have some type of translation, which is conceivable now, that has to be good news for iraq because it takes away one of the factors, which is hard to see how iranian factors in iraq has any positive side effects. so, if that happens, if we are seeing a weakening of iran's position through the region, then that is a very good thing. i am not unconvinced we are. it is possible.
i think what we have seen certainly in the arab-she had a world gives cheer, and once again, iran has erupted, and i think it is a mistake to view this islamic republic as stable. it is a very large cold era, and it could blow. and if it does, then the ramifications of that will be profound, and certainly for iraq, i would argue, it would be like a tidal wave. >> can i just say one thing?
i understand why in talking about iraq, we are always talking about iraq. this is not always the best way to think of iraq. iraq is not a function of iran, as we often treat it in washington. and when we treated that way, we only reinforce an existing problem. i think we need to think of iraq separately from iran. there was no question that at the moment there is a strong link. u.s. policy seems to be more focused on iran and the byproduct. iraq is one of the byproducts of the focus on iran. i don't think it would be right to continue to think of iraq as a function of policies towards iran.
that must have -- >> that must have resonated with people in the department of defense, the state department because they have not put them in the sphere of that influence. it is only recently that iranians have been put back in that conversation. it is a good thing we are talking about iran's influence. the narrative has been that of course they will have influence. canada is our neighbor, but doesn't pick our president. mexico is our neighbor, but they don't have primacy over our security forces. it is good that it is back in the conversation because if you said that to anyone in the last several years, it would resonate with them because i have not heard anyone in the administration talk about iraq in the iran sphere of influence. it is a good thing we're talking about the level of iranian influence in iraq now so we can remove iraq, or help remove iraq from that sphere of influence. not the united states, helping the iraqis doing it and they are doing it with their lives.
>> thank you. i will open it up for discussion and for questions from the audience. >> please tell us who you are. wait for the microphone to get to you in keep it to a short comment in question. >> thank you for hosting these. as you know, there are tens in iraq now, demanding the government's role and demanding an amendment to the constitution. the kurdish people -- just one question now, do you believe there is a kind of agenda that is been playing political games? but to that extent, it is related to the demands of iraq.
[indiscernible] thank you very much. >> i have heard some concerns about what happens if parliament is dismantled, and kyrgyzstan will lose influence. i think that is the cost of freedom, the cost of liberation, the cost of liberating iraq from iran. if you dismantle parliament, you get rid of the current iraqi government and get rid of the
laws. that would hurt the rest of iraq. it is the challenge of getting ministries. like everyone is said, the government can simply waited out. the message could resonate with government officials. it is a different situation. >> i see no reason why any change of regime should adversely affect the kurds in the constitution. i really don't see why the kurds are worried. the kurds could object, but there is no obvious reason why improving the system should have an adverse impact on the kurds. no reason i could see.
>> i just have a historical rule if it is possible for something to go rule, it will go wrong for the kurds. that is my historical rule. >> when you ask a question, i would urge you to directed to a panel or panelist in particular, if you could. >> i am from austin, texas. this question is for michael if anyone could jump in. if these protests continue, could you foresee a situation where iran would dedicate more conventional or unconventional forces to put down the bailouts?
>> what we are seeing now is it is primarily the ministry of interior that are tied to iran. i think they are getting their offices burned out, getting beat up on video. iraqis are not afraid to beat up captured fighters and execute them, that is where the violence can take the long road and help the government when they say this individual executed this
militia leader in the back of an ambulance, but that is what happens when your government will not stand in to protect you . i think we have already seen -- move into iraq and we have seen iraqi militias put down protesters in iran. i keep hearing -- i have not been able to verify, but i have heard of multiple sources that of militias in syria moved into iraq and militias in syria moved into iran. these are afghan militia men paid by the secret force that receive military training and use it in syria and iraq and other places. the more the militias are involved in killing protesters, the more it will benefit the protesters, the more it will benefit the narrative that iran is responsible for these types of things. we need not confuse iraqi security forces when it comes to the ministry of interior forces. counterterrorism forces should not be used to go against protesters. these are the things we just need to highlight. we have americans on the ground noticing any time an iraqi
general hints at being out -- able to take out militias, that general gets moved out of position, goes away. that officer goes away and that is something we need to keep an eye on. >> obviously the iranians have a great deal of presence inside iraq. i am skeptical they try to replicate the kind of force structure they have in, say, syria. i don't think that would play well in iraq. i think they have to be conscious of local sentiment and the possibility of severe backlash. that is not to say they won't continue to build bases. i think they are building bases and that is not going to stop. i suspect -- is wise enough to know his bad arabic can over go -- can only go so far.
>> actually, i am with the media network, a kurdish news outlet to read i have two questions. -- outlet. i have two questions. decentralizing iraq along geographical lines -- every province has its own authority like you have states in america. why haven't -- hasn't that been talked about? don't you see that could be a good solution for the problems in iraq today? and my second question is about the recent visit -- mike pence's recent visit to iraq. was it good he did not go to baghdad to meet face-to-face with the prime minister?
>> the problems we have in iraq are not -- did not arise because we did not have regions. they arose because we have a corrupt political class that is in cahoots with each other and they want to pillage the country and they simply won't give up power. money and power is closely intertwined. and this is not only true of the political parties who exercise
power in baghdad for the government in provinces. the governments in the provinces are no less corrupt and power-hungry and unwilling to relinquish. for example, the demands for a region over the last several years, it has always been if we had our own region, we would not be so poor, we would not be so deprived, we would not be like the kurdish region. that is utter nonsense. the provisional government's have been equally venal, equally uninterested in delivering services. basra itself has received billions of dollars to -- for reconstruction. they have been given authorities, they have not done anything.
the problem, really, is not a question whether there are regions or decentralization, it is a question of a political system that is not there to serve anyone but those who are not in power. i think we should really begin to think very carefully about this whole issue of how to devolve authority while maintaining a certain level of accountability on the provinces. it doesn't exist in a kurdish region. i am not declaring any unknown -- any secrets when i say there is discontent in the kurdish region again also about corruption, about the fact the political class lines its own pocket before it goes into -- before the money goes into services and reconstruction and so on.
regionalism is not the answer. it is reform you really want. >> the significant of pence's visit, i think it sends a message. right now, it is resonating inside the white house, at least the counter isis coalition was saying this basically rubs france, germany, and england, now is not the time to legitimize the iraqi government, it is time to support the protesters. how do you do that? we don't know. this trip to iraq where the vice president visits american soldiers, it sends a message.
it could be accidental, but the best thing about working in the middle east, whether it is true or not, if iraqis believe it, you have to deal with it. i love perception. in this case, it works in our favor, in liberty's favor. >> a lot of iraqis and where you stand determines your perspective. a lot of iraqis say vice president pence came to iraq, it is disrespectful of all iraqis for the vice president not to go to baghdad. >> have we heard this? >> i have. [indiscernible] -- may be the most prominent person who put out a statement. you have to also step over and turn around and look at the same event with different eyes.
it is not a black-and-white case, there are different ways of looking at it and some people say this is not disrespecting the government, this is disrespecting iraqis and it has to be very, very careful. >> i am hearing the opposite of that. there are rose-colored glasses. >> i am sure you are hearing iraqis on both sides. >> visiting baghdad sent the wrong message to the protesters, but this is the vice president. i have not heard the back channels yet. it sounds like it was an accidental success. >> it is a very tricky situation. >> right, right. >> i run my own consultancy firm and i recently moved to d.c.
you touched on the idea of having the international focus on iraq to see what is happening. over the best -- past two days, iraqi banned media -- from what i see, i know the u.s. government is not interested in iraq, they are busy with impeachments and everything else and it is unfortunate for iraqis , this happening at this time because there is not enough light being put on iraq to see what has been happening. you may not have the answer, but how do we try to get congress or the u.s. government to shed more light on what is happening in iraq? i know for a fact some iraqi
born european members of parliament have been taking some real cases, including the recent -- i don't know if you heard about the defense minister to the european parliament to debate what has been happening in iraq. fortunately, i have not seen any of that happening in the u.s.. do you have any idea how we can push that forward to the governmental organization within this country? not from a political point of view, but the ethical side, people have been dying, 400 plus -- 400,000 plus injured. how can we take that forward? >> can you imagine a democratic presidential candidate attacking donald trump and saying you aren't doing enough in iraq? that would be powerful if that
happened. i don't even know if it would be effective, i could see donald trump's response would not be helpful. >> i don't think it would have any impact domestically. you raise a good point. congress occasionally comes up with nonbinding resolutions and these nonbinding resolutions don't require any action by the u.s. government, but they express a symptom. i think a nonbinding resolution expressing -- condemning and it has to be on human rights grounds -- condemning the violations of human rights in iraq. this is perpetrated by unknown forces who are likely associated with the isf. i think it doesn't have an
impact in the u.s., but it has a good impact inside iraq. if we are talking about the u.s. doing things that are cautious and can give moral support to people inside iraq, that could be one of them. thef we are talking about u.s. to doing things that are cautious and can give moral support to people inside iraq, that could be one of them. >> if that is a conceivable scenario, and i am not sure it is. happens if you bring up the iran. the iran angle is the key angle to bring up to actually galvanize efficient support in any type ofhave rhetorical effect, otherwise, if you are just talking about human
rights, you can talk all day. >> the lahey law and the minutes minitski act -- there is human rights violations, suppression of the press. minitski would deal with the press. if you want to go after donald trump, go after him here. use a disfavor campaign. there are tools we can use here. i and the lahey law. dir. karam: we have time for one
more. mr. pregent: more questions, or i will just talk. i would like to add something. i know the attention of the u.s. is -- what is it called? bandwidth. ofis limited under the best circumstances and even more so right now because of what is going on in russia. about what happened in a years time. one thing i did not mention is --greatest fear by the way in a years time the protesters will have learned their lessons and will have armed themselves.
have is a war in baghdad in the south. theeen the militias and protesters. it is a dangerous situation for the u.s. because remember, the south is where the oil is. i know we do not import oil anymore, but we still have an interest in the oil market being stable, oil flowing, and so on. there is a potentially dangerous situation that could materialize in a years time. is other worst case scenario the share militias -- if violence is intensified right for militias will push martial law, the establishment
takes oil. that armed conflict that you talk about a year from now -- it is possible. that will happen based on inaction by the international community, based on bad actions by the united states. this is an important moment rock now in the rock -- i -- iraq. military iss -- the the most dangerous course of action, but when the most dangerous course of action turns into the most likely course of action, we will have what you are talking about. --need to get to a place in so when 2022 comes around, we have identified parties that are not a part of traditional
organizations. that is the opportunity here. to actually have the international community -- when i say we i mean the international community -- actually provide momentum for these iraqis who once there own voice and are tired of being tied to political parties that favor tehran over iraq. dir. karam: it feels like we are walking a tight rope. on the other hand, i hear messages that are mixed in some ways, because we are talking about cautious intervention. we are talking about treating iraq as its own case study. we're talking about what is possible and what is not with an inclination toward the not possible. at the same time, we are saying in a year from now, if we do not do anything, there will be armed conflict in iraq.
-- question is, how do we , to come back to your scenario which is basically more of the same with some tweaks -- where are we left? with the best of worst worlds so speak? or the risk of conflict? i am just being provocative. what are the other options? >> i think the reason we all have different views is because we haven't seen a spotlight on this. if we put a light on what is going on in iraq, we will have opportunities, we will see solutions. it is hard to see solutions in the dark. is whetherthe issue you can canton eyes oil cantonize oil in
iraq. cantonize oil production in iraq, you can tolerate a great deal of mayhem in iraq. it's good for us, but not good for iraqis. mr. gerecht: no it's terrible for iraqis. cedede seated much -- much of a rock to iran -- ceded .uch of iraq to iran we are not going to fight over the issue in syria. israelis may fight with the iranians, but the united states is not really going to do that. oil is a blessing and a curse.
it is a more interesting issue in iraq. maybenot clear to me -- will tolerate high-levels of mayhem in iraq and oil production will be ok. think that is a big question. dir. al-rahim: i think if you have been following the news, you have not followed the disruption of the oil industry in basra in the last month. oil industryg the is quite remarkable in the way they can repair themselves. they're so much money involved. -- there is so much money involved. if it breaks down, that will bring a spotlight. that spotlight may not be
helpful for all of iraq, but it will bring a spotlight to iraq. no, we needer that, , iinsulate the bloody thing think the disinterest in iraq will remain in the u.s. and europe. mr. pregent: that is the reason for the protests. that is why iraqis are protesting. i will leave it at that. dir. karam: thank you for our panelists, hudson, and our c-span audience. the impeachment inquiry hearings continue next week when house judiciary committee chairman jerrold nadler holds the committee's first impeachment inquiry during into president trump, focusing on the constitution and the history of impeachment. watch our live coverage
wednesday, december 4 at 10:00 eastern on c-span three. chairman nadler extended an invitation to the president and his counsel to appear before the committee. read the letter to the president on our website at c-span.org/im peachment. atlow the inquiry live or ourthree, c-span.org, free radio app. donald trump held a campaign in sunrise, florida, his first in the state since changing his residency from new york to florida. he was joined by ron desantis, ron desantis. -- vice president mike pence introduced the president. ladies
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