Transcript for Roundtable III: Focus on Syria
looking out for more than 70 million Americans. That's health in numbers. UnitedHealthcare. Bashar assad, promising to prevail in syria's civil war. Tough talk for israel, too, AFTER john McCain's visit to syria this week. All that seemed to dim the prospect of peace talks and upped the pressure on president obama to consider military per intervention. Here to discuss. Christiane amanpour, bobby ghosh, and aaron david miller, vice president of the wils center. Thank you for being here. Feeling that assad's -- the europeans lifted the arms embargo. The russians saying they're going to send defense systems to syria, as well. The rebels reluctant to join the peace talks. I know you've been talking to all sides here. Where do you see this going next? I've been speaking to fighters in a town strategically located. If the assad regime wins -- they have been turning it. They have, with the help of hezbollah, which has been a huge, new introduction into this war. Hezbollah fighting on behalf of the outside regime aided by iran. Rebels barely hanging on. I talked to two russian officials, whose policy appears to be putin's policy saying to shove it to the united states, stick it to the united states, spending these advancements out. Saying, don't even think about intervening because we now have these huge surface-to-air missiles going to syria, to assad regime. Despite pleas, practically on bended knee from john kerry, from the israeli prime minister, benjamin netanyahu. Both went to moscow to beg putin not to send the missiles. You think the united states should push against that? I don't see this is an option. This is a vital part of the world. American allies are already being disrupted in the neighborhood by the events in syria. And by russian and iranian intervention. Pushing back against iran, and pushing back against hezbollah is important. I don't think the united states can sit this one out. What does it mean right now? What do you do? What it means is arming and training rebels. And working with the countries that are willing to get involved. Turkey, saudi, jordan, qatar. And beginning to empower the rebels to take the fight to assad. You see assad is going to get large weapon systems from the russians. Yes, we can't give the rebels similar kinds of weapons systems. That's not what it's going to take to win the war. The weapon systems are not directed against the rebels. The rebels have shown they can take territory with relatively little help. And that help has dried up. It needs to be brought back. You're putting up a big go slow sign? Yeah. I think it's going to get worse before it gets worse. I think to say there's no good options is an understatement. There's bad options for this president. My judgment has willfully and wisely decided at no application of military power, unless he's prepared to define a strategy, literally to design a comprehensive military strategy to undermine -- including u.S. Troops? No. Not necessarily. Arm and train, no-fly zone and sophisticated weapons to carefully-vetted rebel groups. That's a military strategy that the administration could, could address. The problem is, and I know afghanistan and iraq are false analogies here. No one's talking about boots on the ground. The point is this. The relationship between the application of military power and the state. That's the greatest strength this president is facing. How does the implication of american military power, not only degrade the outsides. But how do you deal -- exactly. Without owning it? And that question -- these are all straw men and all red herrings because you can't keep fighting the last war. What's happening here -- we're witness right now. It's not too dramatic to call the alarm right now. That a regional sectarian war has broke out. Lebanon, iraq, sunni, shiite. American allies buckling under the pressure of refugees. This is spreading out. Israel, involved. Involved. Using its own power. That gets to my question. Do we want to be in the middle? It's not about being in the middle, george. A regional civil war? It's not really about being in the middle. There's many choices. What my reporting has told me, there's many people in the united states, the obama administration, national security and defense organizations, who want to see arm and train. The president doesn't want to do it. And you articulated why. The president has vetoed, as you know, former cia director, petraeus. Former secretary panetta. On precisely this thing. And people still want to do it. Arm and train. It's the only thing you can do. And let's not forget that united states does not have skin in the game. We already do. All of our allies are involved. Before any important weapon systems are going to go up, israel will have a say. Israel has flown flights into syria to take out systems. Let's not imagine that this doesn't have ramifications for us. Even if israel acts alone, the message sent to the middle east and to the wider world, that the united states has already has involvement through israel in syria. Let me ask you this. If the russians are so determined to stick by assad, is there any way that the comprehensive strategy you laid out earlier can work? The president of the united states declared it was the interest of this country, to assume responsibility for the quote/unquote new syria. Stabilization that the billions of dollars to put humpty dumpty back together again. The united states could do that. But governing, george, as you know is about choosing. It's not about the middle east. It's about the middle class. This president, second term, out of 17 in american history, believes his legacy is transformational at home. It's a domestic legacy. His role is not to get america into additional profitless wars abroad. It's to get america out of them. And that priority is extly important. The question would be, how can you put a limit on the strategy if it is necessary, in your view, to take more action? It's not my view or not. It really is unfolding on the ground. And bobby has articulated and aaron two different views here. Either you can sit it out and watch this thing to come back to bite you, because it will. It will. These american allies around syria who are besolutely undermined and compromised and full-scale war. This is what assad wanted. I remember at the very beginning. Assad loyalists who defected said this is what he wants to do. He wants to make it bad in syria -- I'm sorry, lebanon and iraq. And sort of say, oh, I'm the only one who can be trusted to have some kind of stabilizing force. And I think that, look. A year ago, president clinton, former president clinton, a year ago, when there were 10,000 dead in syria, said the longer we leave this, the worse it will be and the more bad actors will come in. Now, 80,000 people dead in 1 year. That's 70,000 people that's been killed. A huge humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in syria before our eyes because we can't see it. And this is what's happening right now. The bad actors are in there, on the rebels side and assad's side. You get the last word. This is not iraq. And aaron's right. The battle should not be made with iraq and afghan another battle that she understands than most people, are the balkans. We should look more closely at the balkans and our experience there, to understand what needs to be done in syria. There, you had the russians taking one side. We had genocide taking place within the country. Eventually, it took american, nato military involvement to get it right. It was successful. Fascinating discussion. Thank you all very much.
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