tv Cross Talk RT November 17, 2013 10:29pm-11:01pm EST
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following welcome to crossfire all things are considered i'm peter lavelle tongue tied in stumbling this is one description of american foreign policy in the middle east today take your country iraq afghanistan libya saudi arabia israel egypt syria turkey and even iran and each washington finds itself either the odd man out leaving alone or leading from behind in a muddled pack gives the us simply out of touch or is history in the region nearly going on. to cross that washington stumbling policies in the middle east i'm joined by my guest host in washington she is a journalist and antiwar dot com we also have stephen slawson during new york he is a senior fellow at the century foundation and author of the book act of creation
right crosstalk rules and a fact that means you can jump in it anytime you want it's only the three of us so please do jump in keli if i can go to you first in washington it seems that there is no narrative right now in looking at it washington's and its western allies but its approach to the to what some people would call the greater middle east which of course includes around i mean i and i'm an avid reader of antiwar dot com and i just don't see any kind of narrative i used in the introduction of this program the word stumbling and that's what appears to be stumbling go ahead. yeah and i would take a different tact i don't think it's stumbling but i think what washington's approach to the middle east and its foreign policy over the last several years has been you know as a tale of lost opportunities when obama came into office he was pretty much handed a narrative he was handed a narrative of the arab spring and as a young fresh face who had promised much on his campaign in regards
to. liberation and revolution. particularly with his speech in cairo he has it's pretty much fallen down on the job there he had a chance to you know defend advance the agendas of the revolutionary movements across the middle east and he decided to basically to succumb to the elites in the middle east to the agendas that competing agendas. in that in that time he has pretty much drowned under those agendas and can't seem to find his footing there is no coherent theme to his point foreign policy whether it be in the middle east or in the broader global sphere and i think that has caused some critical damage to the confidence that both domestic front and globally in in america in terms of what it's you know what its role is as
a dominant power. and as a leader and without that coherent theme without that coherent strategy he comes off is a second guess or a guy who doesn't follow through on his on his goals and and and i think the time is running out for his administration. to advance some sort of legacy where his foreign policy is concerned you know i have to agree with. him. the map of the middle east in my head right now and i'm just going from country to country and i'm going you know like libya egypt israel saudi arabia of course syria is a little bit different in iraq i mean nobody in those countries particularly cares what the president of the united states says about anything these days they most of them don't even seem like they want to even answer the phone i mean how did this happen and i don't want to make this into an anti obama program because i did say in the introduction is it is this historical process sits in front of us is it's
uncontrollable it's no one country can. deal with this coherently because it's impossible to deal with in a coherent way go ahead stephen i'm trying to get a way out here not just to say it's obama's fault because that's an easy thing to say go ahead. i don't think any american president could get a grip on what is happening totally on the arab spring consequences and developments the fact is that you know i certainly there are problems that i have with the obama foreign policy particularly in the middle east and elsewhere but on the broad vision of what he promised in his campaign his presidential campaign in two thousand and eight he has fulfilled his promises he got us he has gotten our troops out of iraq he was starting to the withdrawal of our troops from afghanistan and in his second term he has now asked his secretary of state to start talks between israel and palestine which was not something that happened for years
particularly under the bush administration and he is tried to see that stephen i'm sorry spin and see if we. see that but obama's been essentially humiliated when it comes to that issue i mean time and again when an american official shows up in tel aviv if there's more settlements being built i mean it's really quite insulting and it seems to be intentionally that way is that and i even said i was going across all the countries i mean the israelis don't particularly care what obama has to say about anything they're just waiting for him to leave. i think you're being a little unfair i mean the point of negotiations is perseverance you can't have and expect of a settlement the day after it begins i mean this this is these talks have been going on for only a few months and they're going on since we've been going on in the senate when the solution would be going on during the conflict and to give me a break give me
a break also was. still going to be going on again kelli if i can go to you when we look at all of these countries here the united states the decision and i don't understand your point you would prefer just continuing what is going on without any negotiation without any torpedo and united states government. to it to get a conflict going moderate fair or broker it's shown itself repeatedly not to be a fair broker and that's my point here if we look at the greater middle east here you have the united states with very different principles in interest in there colliding go ahead keli jump in i have to agree with stephen that no one president can control the events involving advance in the middle east right now and i and i didn't mean to suggest that at all i think what as a journalist and as a consumer of news and current events i think the problem that i see is that.
president obama is not projecting the image of a strong and confident player on the global stage right now. that said the diplomacy that seems to be coming from washington it appears to be just falling down and falling sure of expectations of the united states as a superior negotiator as a superior diplomatic player we see what happened in egypt i'm going to go out on a limb here i mean after the arab spring after the. resignation of the forced resignation of mubarak and the jailing of mubarak and the election of morsi and the brotherhood party very was a space there where the united states could have played a critical role in maybe helping guiding just assuring more morsi on a path that would have maybe brought some advancement of jobs economic
development i don't know i am i am not the mad here but it seemed as though that in that period of time the united states faltered in its diplomacy there were so many competing interests and i think that the obama administration often follows victim to all of the competing voices on the stage that he does it make a strong path ahead he doesn't he doesn't just he doesn't project that strength as a leader that's going to do the right thing and i think in that space. in the first rule i think the. last ok and just one piece of it. it's ok you don't like that you are coming in and telling him how they should conduct i understand that in any case when the morsi thing they did try to put pressure on him to produce create a coalition government bring in the opposition he refused to do. to that there's
not much more the u.s. could have done as it is right now we've suspended some of our military aid but it's had really very little impact on egypt i think the more crucial issue is iran's now in iran the u.s. is trying to start talks with the iranian government and yet it's getting clobbered in the middle east by the saudis who don't want to do it by the israelis or don't want to do a very good friends good friends of the. you know congress itself the doesn't want to do it here he's trying to do a good thing for the world for bring peace of media nature to the middle east and he's getting you know killed from all sides i mean you can't win in these situations but you've got to believe in what you want to do when you want to bring some sort of settlement. both in syria and iran and al and israel and palestine and if you don't do that well all right forget it you just withdraw from the the whole area and let it go into
a conflagration well it probably will be that way if we stay or if we go it's really it's a no win situation i think at this point go ahead kelly. well i and i and i and i i completely agree with steve and i think the point that i was making and just to to launch off of what he said yes obama has to believe what he's doing and i am going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he does believe that negotiations need to go forward is just that he does he is not doing that in an effective way in terms of controlling or at least reaching out to members of congress so they don't they don't torpedo his efforts you know in the iranian negotiations and getting back to israel you know maybe he believe the right thing to do was negotiating with morsi and was helping them on a path but he didn't do it personally and it is about image it is about the show it is about appearances you know he had he had lower level diplomats going over there
he had and i you know i believe it was secretary hagel was working on that on the case but he didn't show up personal interest and what was going on in israel and i think it's the show it is the appearance it is public relations it is imagery and i think that he's fallen down on the job or that were that were there where that is concerned and that that is exactly what's happening in iran now he might believe that negotiations are the most important thing as opposed to sanctions but he's letting all these competing voices drown out his his mission ok we're going to go to a short break here showing strength we're going to short break here now for a short break we'll continue our discussion on washington's foreign policy in the middle east with.
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welcome back to cross talk where all things are considered i'm peter lavelle to remind you we're discussing washington's foreign policy in the middle east. ok i'd like to go to steven in new york steven in the first part of the program we were talking about the lack of a narrative coming out of washington when it comes to the middle east what narrative should it be to be effective because it seems very ineffective at this point. well you know he gave a speech in egypt in three or four years first year of his term in which he talked about the need for democracy in the middle east and that was his narrative and it's a narrative which is traditional to american presidents goes back to the founding of our country so i don't i don't i think the vision is there i think the question
is the tactics how to how do you promote democracy in a in a troubled area in an area which is going through turbulent transitions it's a very difficult conundrum and i don't think that any american president has any weapons that it's his his or her disposable that will magically make everything better the fact is that we are observers were not people participating directly in the process that's up to the egyptians the syrians the iranians the saudis i mean this is something that they have to deal with in the end we can simply start oil talks we can promote negotiations we can give economic aid but in the end it's their problem to deal with ok kelly i mean if we go ok if we can go back to cairo it's been mentioned here i mean why in the world with the united states speak about democracy when its closest friend in the region is a tyrannical regime called saudi arabia and saudi arabia is moving to bahrain i
mean you know i think these are horrible things in the united states has really deplorable and all through the middle east they were these horrific dictators and how can we turn around and say we want democracy when hamas has an election they don't like the outcome forget about hamas has a law gets elected you don't like the outcome forget the i mean i find this truly hypocritical and i think it damages the united states and it damages the perception of the united states with people on the ground because they say these people these want these americans they do support dictators saudi arabia is the best example. well yeah no i mean it is a conundrum of the president he did inherit this i mean unfortunately you know he did he did you know cast the cast the first stone and he said in cairo that he that he. was going to advance this new vision of democracy and he was going to support these democracy movements unfortunately got very complicated and which he was he
was facing a host of allies in the middle east the elites the monarchies who were counting on him also to stop these rebellions and so what did he do he did nothing unfortunately and i don't know what the answer is but i mean if you take one example you mentioned bahrain maybe he should have took a ricks there maybe he should have took a risk and sided with the democracy movement and bahrain and said to the allies listen we're going to do what's right here ok i mean we have enormous investments over there i think that we would have been able to leverage very well when it came to supporting the democracy movement to supporting and following through with a vision that i had brought had been cast in cairo we could have leveraged and we didn't we did not take any risks and i think that people across the world who would
have more appreciation and confidence in washington if they saw that they were there that we were taking some risks in favor of doing the right thing and that is supporting freedom and democracy just like we said we were going to do it's about follow through and unfortunately when you look at iraq and you look at afghanistan yes we're leaving those places we left iraq for leaving afghanistan but where was the follow through where is the diplomacy in iraq to make sure that that's a better place for people to live and we know it's not going to happen in afghanistan and people see this all over the word. and they are lacking confidence and america right now because of it ok stephen you want to jump in in new york go ahead i would disagree with the proposition that somehow obama is responsible for to happen in iraq and iraq obama opposed the war in iraq he wanted to commit our troops to afghanistan where the where the and al qaida came from originally and had we not
gone into iraq we would have focused on in afghanistan a might of. the rebellion there of the taliban much more quickly and efficiently and helped rebuild that country any way we're talking about the past the present is what we see the bomb is inherited i think you have to play he has a bad hand to play he's playing it about as well as any person really could play it given the realities he has to deal with the saudi arabia which is our authoritarian he's not about to you know commit american troops over three for the saudi arabian government produced marcus lee i mean first well you know they did it in afghanistan certainly not to live a good days i mean you were democracy in iraq turned out to be a disaster you think that's the kind of example that american americans will give you a break and that was even the war we see legal it never should have happened in the first place ok but i have to tend to agree with kelly but you know you don't believe and you don't want to blame obama for the war incident but it would leaving
a broken country a failed state ok we can look at libya another failed state ok and i don't exactly why we shouldn't have done it yeah you're right ok ok we'll finally have agreement here kelley. go ahead kelly go ahead well i you know and i don't want to suggest that the way that we have the resolve these things is to send troops and occupy other countries i guess maybe this is my naive today but i would i would like to believe that we have the diplomatic prowess as the united states as we've always had during previous administrations to fox. better relationships to get in there to advance the plough mysie so that perhaps we might not be able to change who the saudis are or who these dictators are but to put to basically make a one hundred percent effort to try and to to steer them away from some of the hard harshest tyrannical behavior that they make i have to believe that you know ninety
percent of our foreign policy should be better diplomacy and i don't i don't see the bush the obama administration tending to relationships like in europe and dancing and creating better relationships personal relationships with other leaders so that they can get in there and it's talks can happen. i don't want to advance war i want to advance peace and i just don't see the obama administration as as as is putting the best effort into making those those things happen. again and i disagree i think rahman ministration has an excellent diplomats but look at giving let me give you the situation we're trying to make a peace deal with a room who's protesting most recently saudi arabia i mean the problem is who's very complicated you work on many different levels and you're not always
going to get total agreement on what you're trying to do you do try to stick to certain principles and i'm trying to bring peace to the middle east. and i think we both kelly and i would agree with you but you know i mean the united states is using sanctions against iran to get certain political outcomes why can't the united states sanction saudi arabia to get political outcomes as well. saudi arabia is a peculiar situation when you know the u.s. government first had its relations with under franklin roosevelt one of the great promoters of human rights i mean there are certain realities that any american president have to deal with and one of them is sort of arabia we're not going to change the government we hope that out of evolutionary change out of pressure from the outside saudi arabia will change i mean there now at least the women in saudi arabia are not define the government by trying to show that they can drive cars
alone so these things will happen gradually but meantime the most important issue is bringing peace to syria to iran and to the israel palestinian conflict isn't that what american president should be focusing on that's the most crucial issues that face us as a country well kelly you know all these great values are used and in a very specific way a very discriminating way you if it's a friend you overlook all of their. deficiencies if you don't you don't get in line then you get the the worst of the worst i mean everything stephen just said about you know waiting and development you could say that easily about iran as well but that's not part of the narrative inside the beltway is it. no i don't i don't think it i don't think it is and just to get back to to us even said about saudi arabia middling in scuttling you know the negotiation process with iran i mean this goes back to what i said perhaps this is an outgrowth of the fact that obama hasn't
built up the confidence and shown the right amount and the right balance of strength and outreach so that he is drawing he's creating a situation where you have the congress you have israel you have saudi arabia you have france all trying to scuttle you know the president's vision in the negotiation process and iran because that maybe they're just they don't see him as a former you know as formidable as he should be i mean i realize you don't want to make this an obama and anti obama program but i think it all goes back to how he presents himself and i think that he hasn't he hasn't shown. his formidable the formidable side where where these these these players whether it be israel or saudi arabia or france or the congress are seeing are afraid not to go
after him publicly or go after his his vision publicly and i think you're seeing the outgrowth i mean look at what happened in syria look at what's happening what happened in libya no follow through there in afghanistan and the pivot in china we are supposed to have a pivot to south asia we were supposed to start and you know a whole new era of trade and military influence there and what does obama do he cancels a major trip to the summit there a major summit there and what happens china fills in the void and everyone in asia right now is scratching their heads saying the homeowner have been hit with going to this nor does a two dimensional. gun. we gave our viewers here to bring visions of american foreign policy in the middle east and i'm quite satisfied with that many thanks to my guest in washington and in new york and thanks to our viewers for watching us here see you next time and remember crosstalk.
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