tv Policy Toward Russia China Iran Turkey Panel CSPAN October 9, 2019 2:05am-3:39am EDT
the future of u.s.-u.k. relations. sunday night on q&a, the vagabonds, about the summer road trips taken by henry ford and thomas edison between 1914 to 1925. >> the idea was that they wanted to go out and have fun. they wanted to demonstrate, you get in your car and do these things. but they were not going to eat cold beans out of cans. they were not going to put a blanket on the ground. they had all these different amenities. they had a refrigerated car powered by edison batteries so they could have fresh dairy. they had chefs who would prepare gourmet meals. in the morning, they would dress in freshly ironed close -- clothes, but they were so famous and america was so grateful to them, it did not matter. the point was, we are out in
cars traveling and seeing these things. you can do it metoo. it, too.n do >> in the wake of the trump administration's announcement the u.s. would withdraw troops from northern syria, the atlantic council posted a discussion on policy with a focus on the roles of russia, china, iran, turkey, and syria. this is 90 minutes. >> russia, china, iran, and turkey.
proud of the italian ministry of foreign affairs and one of our partners into the dialogue in rome. i am happy to be here for the second year. we hold these distinguished guests and these distinguished speakers. italian ambassador already says, this meeting is part of a series of meetings, we call regional meetings. we have already hosted regional rome, abun brussels, dhabi, moscow, tomorrow in new york, at the end of these months in riyadh.
these international players in policiesn have new because the international context has changed. the configuration of the , such a order phenomenon has been ongoing for several years and has recently accelerated. the middle east and north africa region in 2011, when the united states chose to rebalance the authorities and commitment abroad. this choice shifted the regional challengedpower and
the united states' effectiveness as a provider of security in the area, leading to a sort of power vacuum that other players attempt to fill. statesend, the united has allowed for regional actors, saudi arabia, iran, turkey, and israel, have each gained an increasingly dominant position on the middle eastern stage. competition has gradually extended to a much broader array of players then in the past.
saudi arabia and iran, for instance, is having an impact where the two are fighting a proxy war, especially in yemen. ability toturkey's close partnerships with different players has expanded on kara -- ankara's network of allies in the arab world. its reach, its influence, in allowing ankara to push its ambitions. on the other end, more importantly, american troops have scaled-down engagement, making way for russia. potentially, it creates new
space for china. the roles oferline russia, china, and operational actors in the middle east. i now have the pleasure to the director for the studies atcultural the middle east institute. a call between donald trump and -- announced partial withdrawal of u.s. troops on the northern side of syria. and trump's endorsement of turkish plans to send their military force in the region, view of ther .egional politics
>> thank you so much to the atlantic council for inviting me. it is a pleasure to be here. i originally wanted to talk about turkey's broader regional role, but i would like to talk about turkey's syria policy. i would like to give you an overview. the first thing i want to say is policiesreaction, the turkey has pursued must be seen against the backdrop of president erdogan's struggle to consolidate. it is all about domestic politics. , 2010n 2000 until 2011
and 2011, that was the beginning of the uprising. turkey pursued a very pragmatic policy in the region. engaging with the regimes, instrumentsft power , pursuing closer ties with the u.s., playing a close role. turkey mediated with the syrian regime in particular. erdogan cultivated close personal ties with assad. lifted visa requirements. the two countries held joint cabinet meetings. the relationship was quite close. 2002 until late 2010 and 2011, president erdogan's ideology did not play a prominent role in the way turkey saw itself or all the region.
it did not play a role in turkey's syria policy. wasreason for that president erdogan at the time was quite vulnerable. he was taking steps to consolidate his power at home. he was still vulnerable. still had opponents, particularly the military and the judiciary. they still call the shots. called the shots. unable to consolidate power at home, he had to be cautious. pursue policies. in 2011, thatd -- changed.
the arab uprising started. by the time conflict in syria started in 2011, erdogan had already consolidated his power. silenced hisy secularist opponents. the tradition area in the military -- the judiciary and the military had come under his control. he had a lot of room to maneuver. the arab uprisings, particularly the conflict in syria, played a ofalyst role in his project islamization at home. the uprisings provided an opening for erdogan. the relationship actually and theturkey at home role it played in the arab uprisings, one affected the
other. it also transforms erdogan's struggle. i hope that is clear enough. starting from 2011, he took country'sslamized the education sector. he made sure the institutions of the directorate for religious affairs, it became a huge bureaucracy, had a large budget, and took on different social roles. raise a piousto
generation, for instance. from 2011, he paid more attention to turkey's islamic character talking to foreign audiences. 2012 was the turning point in that regard. he delivered a talk where he talked about turkey's historic leader of the muslim world. well he was pursuing those policies at home, he did the same in his regional policy in syria, too. get-go, he took a few months, but early on, in april 2011, a month after the uprising in syria started, turkey hosted a meeting of opposition in istanbul. ,urkey became -- syria became
from being turkey's foreign sudden assadf a became m&a number one. turkey became the hub for the syrian opposition and later on a jihadi highway. turkey started sending weapons and financial aid to the opposition groups. particularly the muslim brotherhood network in turkey been in turkey after the 1980's. that was when the muslim brotherhood members fled syria and settled in syria. there is a large network of muslim brotherhood members in turkey. that group behind the scenes played a prominent role in turkey's efforts to topple the
regime in syria. syriahe conflict in started, turkey's priority was upholding the regime. had open border policy, so there were tens of thousands of people fleeing the conflict turkey. to 2015,011 to 2014 or turkey heavily supported the islamist groups. eye towould turn a blind islamic state activities within its borders. turkey played a key role in the islamization and jihad is asian of the conflict in syria. -- islamization and of the conflict in syria. finally, through the arab his ideal was coming
to fruition. he saw the arab uprisings as an opportunity for turkey to become the leader of the muslim world. islamizationct of hit a roadblock in 2015. that was when he turned to nationalism. 2015, june 2015 elections, years, itrst time in lost its parliamentary majority. that was thanks to the pro-kurdish party, which intured a historic 13% national elections. that denied the ruling party a parliamentary majority. that was one president erdogan switch to nationalism. presidents when erdogan is switched to
nationalism. he decided to ally with turkish nationalists. the cease-fire that was in place for years broke down and turkey decided to pursue a heavy-handed military approach to the kurdish problems. in domestic calculations has a direct impact on the way erdogan saw the conflict in syria. from then on, i also must 2014,n it started from you see the rise of kurds in syria as well. the united states worked with the syrian kurdish militia in the fight against the islamic state. the military aid provided by americans to the syrian kurds lifted the image. that is also part of turkey's
perceptions. erdogan's domestic seen as priorities shifted. nationalismkurdish became a priority. from 2015, you see working very closely with the erdogan regime's allies. tension between turkey and russia. turkey started working with iran and russia in an effort to contain kurdish nationalism. its016, turkey launched first military incursion into syria. a kurdish region in northern syria. that happened after a green light from russia.
turkey launched its second military incursion into a kurdish enclave. that happened after another green light from russia. agreed to establish de-escalation zones. those de-escalation zones ended up empowering the regime. in a way, turkey through its actions in syria and cooperation with the assad regime, iran and kirk -- and turkey wanted to enlist the syrian opposition fighting against the regime in its fight against the kurds. that weakened the rebellion aleppo fell in late 2016. that tells you the shift in turkish priorities in syria. a final shift came recently.
turkey held elections. president erdogan and his party lost almost all major cities in turkey, including istanbul, the financial capital of the country. and the capital ankara. that is a huge blow to his 17 year rule. those cities are very important. the cities he has lost makeup about 70% of the country's gdp. this is one of the biggest electoral votes since he came to power. the key reason for his loss in the election is the economy downturn and the presence of syrian refugees. his priorities shifted again. there is a growing domestic nationalist backlash.
now his number one priority is creating a safe zone on turkey's southern border to send back millions of syrian refugees. he laid out that plan at the united nations general a simile meetings in new york. -- general assembly meetings in new york. zone kilometer wide safe the is now controlled by u.s.' kurdish allies. he wants to make sure that she's going to build 200,000 homes, schools, hospitals, football fields, that is his plan. mind a solution to all his problems, because he is not only going to get rid of millions of syrian refugees, but that will also generate revenue for the country's troubled economy.
he is seeking european international funding for that. that is his plan right now. is stillr two priority , by creating that zone, off limits to the syrian kurdish militia, he's going to create a buffer zone and further present -- prevent kurdish efforts to establish an autonomous region. toppling the regime seems to have been pushed off the list altogether. iran,t meeting between russia, and turkey recently which was held in ankara, president rouhani is telling the world that international efforts to topple the assad regime had failed. president erdogan just sat back.
picturethat was -- that of theery clear reminder transformation of turkey's priorities in syria. the final thing i want to syria, thethat conflict in syria played the most important role in the --ntry's domestic and policy and foreign policy the establishment of the republic. transformed the conflict in syria, but it was also transformed by the conflict in syria. you have to look at his domestic power struggle. vulnerable. most he will do anything, no matter how risky.
we are reading the news that turkish troops are on the border , turkish officials are talking .bout a military incursion america's partners, allies, are warning about the risk. president might have given the green light, but still. you have a congress that is willing to punish erdogan for other reasons. president trump has been working very hard to prevent congressional leaders to hold sanctions, saying turkey is an important nato ally. it is going to be very difficult for president trump to continue to standby erdogan. we might see a round of new sanctions.
obviouslys risky for to hurt american strategy in syria. it cannot hold towns. 50,000 detainees that are being held in isis camps are controlled by the ypg. the topbecause of situation president erdogan found himself domestically, he is going to make that risk. i think in the coming days we will see how it plays out. i just saw today that president again aboutd turkey, praising turkey and turkish efforts.
looking at the domestic take the riskcan because he is desperate and needs to send back those refugees. >> thank you. thank you very much. overview of the turkey foreign policy. the relation between domestic politics. a fellowd speaker is and a institute in london visiting fellow at kings college. iran is also at the center of the discussion. an object of u.s. iran also is an
active player in the region, so you have the floor. >> thank you. thank you to the lane to counsel for organizing this conference and for having me here. title ofto dispute the the panel in the case of iran. i will say in the case of iran, we are talking about an old country with an old policy. aboutt think we can talk the change in iranian foreign policy. there are a number of regions -- reasons. i'm not going to go over all of them for the sake of time. it is important to understand, and it came out briefly in the previous panel, that enron's foreign policy is characterized by a specific structure, but also specific principles that characterize its definition since basically the revolution,
but even more since 1989. the empowerment of the current supreme leader. i would argue since then we have seen continuing in the iranian foreign policy, but more specifically, on the iranian foreign policy in the middle east. definen policies that iranian policy are the standing up to hegemonic powers, namely the united states and israel. peacefule to build relations with countries, the desire to defend the rights of --lims and the intention to particularly with neighboring countries. this is not me saying that. you can go into the constitutions and read these principles, clearly outlined by iran. stated bybeen very
the supreme leader in particular as recently as 2004, but also more recently with specific dossiers. when you look at the overall framing, this is where iran stands. obviously, with specific dossiers, they will pick and choose which of the principles to apply and to find their policy accordingly. -- define their policy accordingly. iran has different tools to apply this principle. the critical tools that we know they are nonconventional, given the week conventional tools. support of proxies is one of them. together with obviously the use of nonconventional weapon capability. , in the region. whoeveres regardless of is in power with regard to the theidency and regardless of
authorities available. going back to the previous panel with regard to maximum pressure and what maximum pressure was do, allegedly, because there is lack of clarity in the u.s. policy intention, -- butthe argument was one of the arguments was the imposition of sanctions would contain iran. the influence of iran would be diminished. we have seen the opposite. one of the reasons is iran continued its policies with proxieso its support of , but also its continuation of -- in syria, we have seen continuation. in yemen, we have not seen any change. moreything, we have seen
action by iran to showcase the desire to cross the red lines of the united states and determination to clarify their interests in the region. this is also something that came up clearly before. 2004 -- 2012, you mentioned turkey policy in syria. iran started pulling resources in syria, talking about the , butyment of the ij rc also financial and military support to the syrian regime. we are talking about the time in which iran was under heavy sanctions. not just unilateral sanctions by the united states, but also the eu, the un security council resolution, a bunch of other countries.
strong sanctions against iran. onlyte that, iran not continued its policy in syria, not only continued support for assad, but poured more resources than before into syria. it is not clear what was the assumption from the u.s. policy that maximum pressure would change that behavior, given that the situation did not seem to be the case, even in the recent past. talking about a few years ago. availability of resources does not seem to affect the iranian policy in the region. but also, the government. the presidencies in power do not seem to change the iranian policy in the region. you can argue a presidency of rouhani can be considered different compared to a presidency of ahmadinejad. that is mainly in terms of tone
and tactics. when we are talking about principle and redlines, they are the same. we can say even on the nuclear dossier, i know this is not the topic, but i'm happy to explain that as one of the examples. it applies with every single dossier. we can see some of the administration pushing for more and better relations with the west. some are pushing for improved relationships with the east. has beenhe policy that one of the frameworks of iran's foreign policy since the establishment of the islamic republic, continued with different presidencies basically into the east or west policy. the redlines and principles remaining exactly the same. much explainsery also iran's policy be savvy the country -- the policies vis-a-vis russia, china, and
turkey. happy to pick them up during the q&a. if you take the principles enshrined in the iranian constitution, nonalignment against hegemonic powers very much defines iran's relationship with russia. this is one of the key elements with iran establishing its marriage of convenience, however you want to talk about it, with russia. anytime you ask iranian officials, in some cases russian officials, the line is they have that kind of principle in common, opposing hegemonic powers, namely the united states. collaboration and cooperation on dossiers to differing extents.
in syria, especially now, whatever that will look like. ,n general, non-hegemonic power standing up to hegemonic powers that putsding element russia and iran into some sort of partnership. , the 2015 2016 ships, obviously iran and turkey were on opposite sides in syria. you want to talk about the interests of opposing the nationalism of the kurds, for iran, is basically the fight against the fragmentation of syria. territory integrity is one
policy iran has maintained and one of the principles they define as characterizing their involvement in syria and their interest. gotreason turkey and iran to the point of broader cooperation is the kurdish issue. seen from different lenses, but with the same goal. with china, i am waiting anxiously to hear. [laughter] >> but from the perspective of iran, china is really the non-belligerent actor here with which relationship can be built in a complicated manner. china's role has changed. we will hear about that, i'm sure. for now, we have not seen really
an interference. we know china's principal is noninterference in the affairs of states. that is what iran really values. that is what iran perceives as one of the reasons some sort of partnership which is closer to a strategic one can be built up with china. again, i'm happy to expand on issues later on. >> thank you. for the discussion. you are a good moderator, better than me probably. the third speaker is the , nonresident senior fellow with the atlantic council middle east program.
also a of government and politics at george mason university and one of the main experts on russia. >> thank you, thank you to the atlantic council for the opportunity to participate in this program. i just wanted to start by saying, moscow has pursued broadly similar aims toward the warle east during the cold and under pruden now. -- under putin now. one of these has been to promote moscow. a second is to prevent islamic forces growing strong enough to support the rise of muslim opposition in the former soviet union or countries elsewhere closely aligned with moscow, including syria.
to pursue moscow's economic interest in the region, despite the fact moscow often competes with the region in the petroleum sphere in particular. has -- putin has pursued these goals in a different way than the soviets. theirthey often pursued goals in opposition to the u.s., putin has pursue these goals in cooperation with u.s. allies. with u.s.ration adversaries, but in cooperation with everyone except for the u.s.. the soviet strategy was to align themselves with so-called forces of change in the middle east. a policy that took advantage of anti-western trends, but of course there was a lot of success, a lot of change that occurred in the 1950's and 1960's. an anti-american, pro-soviet
direction. pushresulted in this toward the united states, a reaction to this. also at a certain point, the forces of change became islamist forces with iran in particular. anti-soviet, anti-western, and this was not so good. we saw what happened in afghanistan. a supporter of all status quo forces in the middle east. he has established good relations with all you middle eastern governments -- with all middle eastern governments as well as has below and hamas. bollah and hamas. not international groups, those concerned with their local areas. at present, no middle east
government supports such movements. managed to get them to -- putin posesf as the defender of middle eastern governments. that they have two common goals. one is that they are all against islamic radicals and against u.s. disruptive policies, supporting democratic revolution or intervention. moscow portrays the u.s. as being allied with islamist forces. formember being in moscow the conference with lavrov. with the iranian foreign
present, sergey lavrov said iran is a partner in the war on terror in syria whereas the united states supports jihadists, basically. really amazing. putine have seen is that in many respects supports multiple sides simultaneously with regard to the relations with iran and also relations with saudi arabia, also with israel. good relations with turkey, relations with the syrian kurds. we can go on and on. it is this balancing act. they don't choose sides. they support everyone. doing this can be a difficult balancing game. obviously, people don't like it when you are supporting their adversaries. so far, it has worked. no one likes moscow supporting its adversary, but all have an
incentive to support moscow so they will not support their adversaries even more. reason., part of the they court moscow is to incite the u.s. to compete with moscow. if the fear is the u.s. is losing interest in the region, the region knows the u.s. is interested in russia, is concerned about russia, therefore flirting with russia, if that helps keep the u.s. interested, that is a good reason to do so. of course, our adversaries such as iran and syria, they may not like the fact that moscow is working with israel, saudi arabia, etc., but they don't have much choice. where are they going to go? moscow is not worried about being liked. it is worried about if it has
leverage. now, what is interesting is that so, essentially moscow competed with middle east oil producers. they would not abide by opec production limits. what we have seen is since 2016 in particular, saudi arabia working together in the opec plus format to affect oil prices. this is really something that's unprecedented. some observers feel now saudi-russian cooperation is more important than opec. saudi arabia and russia make the decisions and opec ratifies them . this is an amazing accomplishment putin has achieved. boasts that unlike the
u.s., it has the ability to talk .o all sides in the middle east the u.s. cannot or will not talk below --, with has that russia is in the best position to serve as a mediator. moscow has not exactly resolved any of these conflicts. there has been no equivalent of a camp david accord or anything like this. if moscow managed to achieve something like this -- but what we have seen is that there has been so much activity. people in the region take it very seriously. the u.s. in a certain sense has been marginalized in the diplomacy of conflict resolution . either that has not been successful so far.
this is also a tremendous success. have been all these things he has managed to do, and i think what is especially amazing is when you think about the successes putin has had in the middle east, russia really is a country with a lot of problems. the economy is having difficulties not just because of the sanctions, but because putin's own plan of using petroleum wealth to develop the nonpetroleum sections of the economy just have not gone very far. they have not even done what china has done in terms of modernization. russia remains a club to craddock state. cratic state. in the middle east, they are doing really well. that putin'sto me
ability to continue to be successful does face certain limits. while the u.s. allies may have an incentive to court moscow because they feel the u.s. is leaving or they want to encourage the u.s. to say -- to stay, certainly moscow support for adversaries in the region does mean they will have a strong incentive to complain to the u.s. despite their fears. they cannot trust moscow all that far. moscow tot rely on side with them against their adversaries. moscow has demonstrated it is not going to do that. despite russian and saudi cooperation in the oil sphere, u.s. shale production combined with possible decreasing worldwide demand for petroleum may limit the value. the one thing the saudi's would
like is higher prices. meant ay u.s. shale has ceiling on how far this can go. for an economy like saudi arabia or russia, so highly dependent , this is a real limitation. sphereooperation in this is not out of being in a position of governance. it is that they are both in a weakened condition. what we saw at the end of the cold war, moscow's influence in the middle east retreated. that influence did not retreat because of any soviet failure. it retreated because of moscow's problems elsewhere. the collapse of communism, changes in the soviet union itself. we will not see anything quite
like that before, but that -- there are the possibilities of certain similar developments that we are facing at a certain point of post-putin transition. 2034, god help us, 2044, something like this. the longer it takes, the more .ifficult it may end up being russia seems to have a long history going back to the czar who staytrong rulers in power for decades and decades and who are followed by periods of weakness because no one can do with that person did, but also because that person, like putin, is not exactly grooming a successor. even not worried about -- the chinese, before xi jinping,
there was a transition of power from the older generation to a slightly less older generation. [laughter] >> we have not seen this in russia at all. eventually this is going to catch up with us. also what we have seen in russia's history is that retreats from the middle east have occurred when problems develop in europe. europe always has a higher priority. finally, we have to talk about the china factor as well. europe, russia is a revisionist power. , it's not a power. china is the great power. at a time when russia is becoming increasingly economically dependent on china
and china will eventually insert itself in the middle east, it strikes me that if -- is china going to limit russia's behavior? we are already seeing that in europe, ukraine, china is doing things, but not russia's interests in terms of supporting the ukrainian government, out competing russia. russia sees its own sphere. there may be some echo of this. not can happen whether or u.s. influence in the middle is less or not. if the u.s. is seen to have less influence, that may be when russia and china may become more involved. his russia really prepared? it is a question we don't know about, but these are real
questions. as wems to me that just have seen putin be very flirting russian influence in the region, he has amongm allies, balancing adversaries. they resent it, they look for other supporters, and also conflict really explodes, what is russia going to do? they have been very successful so far in syria with very low commitment compared to the u.s. and afghanistan. the reason they managed to be successful is because the iranians are doing the heavy lifting. iran ispens if in fact in conflict with saudi arabia or
with the israelis? the upcoming competition with the reconstruction of syria, for example. one of the things that strikes me is it's not that russia wants iran out of syria. but they want the upper hand it seems to me. allowing the israelis to do what they do serve that purpose. russia does not have to get involved. it strikes me that the news is not all good. there are a couple points i also wanted to make. i was sad the assistant secretary did not have time to answer questions. he talked about russia and china and indicated that they don't support human rights in the
middle east. saying hear my friend the u.s. and their colleagues don't either. governments are happy russia does not support human rights, that china does not either. here is one instance in which not so much human rights, but soviets may have had an advantage over putin. the soviets were able to align themselves with the forces of change for a period of time in the middle east, whereas now putin has no such ability. putin is so linked with the changes,o that if it -- i'm not sure the united there will either, but you go.
it is something the soviets were more attuned to then putin is. that is something i think that needs to be kept in mind. why don't i stop there? thank you. >> thank you. to underline the long history of , some in the middle east not new policy. .ast but not least, china , senior vice president and director of the middle east program at the center for strategic and international studies in washington. on the policy planning staff at the u.s. department of for middle eastern
affairs. he recently worked on china's increasing engagement for many reasons. us at the beginning of the event, china is increasing its political role in the region. you have the floor. jon: thank you to you and to the atlantic council for having me. to start, it's not -- china is not in a position -- mark was describing russia, describing iran. the old policy manifesting itself. i want to make four points. the first of which, china is in a whole new world when it comes to the middle east. there has been an explosion of ties really starting in 2000.
less oilchina imported from the middle east than canada did. canada had 2.5% the population of china. focused on middle eastern oil in 2000. china is focused on middle eastern oil now. 2000.s. spend most of the preoccupied with the global war on terror and a war in iraq and afghanistan. china was busy deepening all kinds of ties throughout the middle east. the chinese economy quintupled in size in the 2000. its oil imports increased 10 times. it is worth pointing out in in0, china had $3 billion bilateral trade with saudi arabia. had $41.6hina
billion. we were paying attention to something else and china was paying an awful lot of attention to the middle east. building out a middle east strategy as we were engaged in the middle east but not paying attention to china. as somebody trying to research china in the middle east in the 2000's, when you tried to talk to middle east people, don't you understand, we are fighting wars in the middle east. we don't have time to think about china. china had an awful lot of time to think about the middle east. the first piece is new engagement. goalshas really -- their and their engagement. it is reluctant and defensive. china has gotten about half of its oil from the middle east, for almost two decades. they have lost sleep over it for almost two decades. they have tried to find ways to
reduce their dependence because they think depending on the middle east for oil makes them vulnerable and the u.s. cutting off their access. they cannot figure out a way to reduce their dependence on middle eastern oil . their engagement in the region is a little bit defensive. they are not trying to supplant the united states in the region. this is not the russian experience. they don't see it as a zero-sum game. they are trying to supplement the u.s. in the region. win-win solutions, they talk about. they have really little appetite for military ties. they built to partly safeguard the red sea, but they are not interested in having partner relationships the way we have partner relationships throughout the region when they had to evacuate about 30,000 chinese citizens from libya. in 2011.
it was a total game changer. they had no idea. they evacuated about 5000 from yemen. they're content to have the u.s. do security in the middle east. i remember this conversation i had in the chinese embassy a little more than 10 years ago now. the funny thing, as you meet chinese diplomats, but with each decade, it is like you are meeting people from a different country. me as-year-old guy struck a chinese diplomat with a three dollar polyester sweater and bad english, right? and then there is the twentysomething guy with a bright red shirt and yellow tie. sarcastic diplomats not so common. he says how about you do security and we do business? in many ways, china would love
to see. the u.s. can do all the expensive stuff, the stuff that annoys people. and china can do business. it works really well. the other thing china offers is they support governments. and governments really like that. the perception is during the arab spring, the u.s. started wavering. anybody who has been to the middle east, especially the gulf and is not heard the phrase "the u.s. puts under the bus." that is the universal view and china stood by. china promises -- the chinese model of economic development which is economic growth without social and political change. governments like the idea of economic growth without social and political change because political change makes them grumpy. after 2011, neither
eastern governments still have not figure out what caused the arab spring don't know how to prevent another one. the idea that chinese will stand by you and do it without creating an arab spring is really attractive to governments. the second point is limited goals. the third point is they have a limited number of countries to care about. i would argue there are just five. their favorite, and i think in many ways the most strategically rich, is the relationship with iran. let me give you a few points about the relationship with china. first, it is a good hedge against the united states. the u.s. is not going to be able iran to stop exporting oil to china very well. in howyou are interested you ensure your economy gets oil, iran is a good call. it's great greenfield
investment. a lot of people have been unwilling to invest in china. business is business. great opportunities to invest. it is lovely for the chinese to come in because iran does 30% of its international trade with china. china does 1% of its international trade with iran. number one oil export market. iran is not china's number one source for oil. there a real disparity between the sides. that is why the chinese drive a hard bargain. that is really cool if you are all about business. it also gets the gulf countries to get better terms to the chinese because they don't want china to be in the iranian camp. they get not only benefits from squeezing the iranians, but they get the saudi's and others to give them better deals. it distracts the u.s. from the
western pacific because we only have three aircraft carriers on station at any given time. gulf, thato in the fu means there is only one in the western pacific. that is also. it helps create a wedge between the u.s. and its allies. that is really cool. it underlies the international order the uss tried to build for seven years. from a strategic and economic perspective, the chinese love having iran in play. not because they want to be iran's ally, but because iran gives them all kinds of dials to play with to advance their strategic interest. number two is saudi arabia. saudi arabia is the number one source for oil. saudi arabia has an awful lot of money. small number of decision-makers. so, the chinese love making deals with the saudi's. they love doing investments with the saudi's.
it makes a lot of economic sense for them. and if you are a country whose economy relies on energy, that is a relationship that makes good sense. the saudis see china as an important hedge against u.s. that gets the chinese better deals, because the saudis are not sure the u.s. will be there for them. china is driving global oil demand growth, not the united states. they are also interested in the uae, partly as a source of energy, partly because there is a lot of money. a quarter of gdp of saudi arabia, so not a huge money thing but dubai is a huge hub for global trade not only into the middle east but africa. 200,000 chinese in dubai. that is a big number. there are now about twice as many chinese in dubai as iranians in dubai, which is a
shocker. i don't know if many of you have been to dubai. a mile plus long mall which is basically a front office for trading companies in china. it is a way toe, meet chinese producers without having to go all the way. dubai has become this incredible commercial hub for china. fourth is egypt. partly china's really concerned with the red sea and suez canal security, to get to the european markets. egypt is the big daddy, 100 million arabs. they have an open door with president sisi who is interested in hedging against u.s. abandonment and try to make egypt nonaligned again. israel, both as a place for interesting investments, for
technology and other kinds of things. the chinese have been very interested in engaging with israel and the israelis have gotten very concerned about how they play the chinese relationship without antagonizing the united states. china really has five countries they care about in any significant way, as opposed to a u.s. strategy in which you would be hard-pressed to say exactly what country the u.s. cares about and how they fit into a strategy. the fourth thing i want to say is i think what china has been doing is a really different model from the u.s. understanding of how to engage in the world. if you like to think about imperialism 1.0, with the gunboats and all that stuff and everything. u.s.-ledsm 2.0 was the rules-based international order, where we tried to to push countries towards having open
capitalism,n trade, liberalism in all these kinds of things. we basically wanted the country to follow the path that we followed. i would argue that china sees an opportunity for imperialism 3.0, which might be mercantilism 2.0. we will do trade. we will not talk about -- sometimes i have been told in north africa, the chinese are africa, the chinese are willing to pay at the front of the deal, not the end of the deal. it's unfettered development. david schenker, who i have known for a very long time, he talked about we do it better. but, i would argue if you are an egyptian and you say the u.s. has been doing economic development in egypt for 60 years. the u.s. has had democracy governance programs in egypt for decades and decades and decades. show me how it is better.
i look at china and i see a society that is developed. i look at the u.s., and the u.s. itself is developed, but u.s. development efforts have not created the future we want. why don't we try something else? expensive doing it is and it is slow. and, i think the chinese have laid out an argument that the u.s. is doing some things somebody needs to do. the u.s. is doing things which fulfill u.s. domestic needs. it makes lawyers and accountants happy, but they don't lead to development and the rest of the world -- in the rest of the world. you could just have trade relations and maybe that is ok. i think what it prompts us to wenk about is not how do convince everybody the chinese
are wrong, that the chinese model won't work. i think what we have to persuade people again is that there are aspects of the u.s. model which really do work and are affordable for us and affordable for you, and the partnership and the work and the predictable expectations create a much better world than the world we are going to. rew in poughkeepsie, new york, which was the home of ibm. you understand, i just got here on a quota, right? poughkeepsie quota. 1980's decided to get into the personal computers business. that is cited the most expensive part of personal computers is building personal computers. they let this stupid company
named microsoft cell the operating system. the operating system you had to buy every time you bought a pc. she operating system discs cost pennies to manufacture and it sold for maybe $100. selling a $2000 computer, is in that better? ibm got out of the personal computer business because you cannot make money. microsoft and that companies like google and companies like ebay understood is the value is not in the hardware. the valley is managing to persuade people to follow the software. i think we have done too much to try to invest in expensive hardware-like solutions and not enough thinking about the
perspective of countries and people that get them to operate in the ways that we think will not only make their lives better, but make our lives better. their security iand our security. the chinese challenge requires us to rethink what we have to offer that is genuinely attractive and how to make it acceptable. i'm not sure we have done a good enough job of that because we do what we know how to do. i think itavorite -- may have been a country song. the fine line between a groove and a rut. we have to get out of the rut and think about how the world, now how it worked in the 20th century, but how it will work in the 21st. >> thank you. i think we need another session your question. now we are open to questions
very briefly. please feel free to intervene. fourllect three, questions. >> thank you. ow do youon is -- hwo see the recent visit of the prime minister to china? how do you look at it as an expert on china as well? do you think there are concerns to the administration? thank you. yes. >> thank you. ladies.ion to the two andhat extent the turkish
iranian foreign policy have imp act on the israeli-palestinian conflict? does this conflict have its impacts on international affairs of turkey and beyond? >> and the last. fellow at the german marshall fund. you mentioned five countries as of theter, let's say, chinese interest in the region. do you think this definition is static or there is some element of changing dynamics? i spent most of my time -- over the past two years, i can also mention morocco, there is a
significant increase of tunisian, not only economic activity, but also diplomatic activity. i was wondering whether you think this group of countries can change in the near future or it's going to remain the same. thank you. floor to here the because she has to go. >> the question about turkey's impact on israeli-palestinian issues. president erdogan spent a lot of time at the u.s. talking about the palestinian issue. this is an important issue for him. but, i think, first, israeli-palestinian issue is always very difficult. domestic dynamics in is rael and the regional dynamics. turkey can play a constructive important role
there. back in 2009, and even before that when turkey was a rising power in the region, when turkey had a soft power and developed close relations with everyone including israel. even then, turkey could not do anything meaningful. right now, i doubt turkey can play that role because it has begun a marginalized country. turkey is not really seen as a neutral power to play that role. as i said because of domestic dynamics, i think turkey will be an inward looking country. president erdogan does not have that political capital at the moment. the iranian --, israeli-palestinian issue is at the core of foreign policy. we have seen shifts in iran
support from the different parties, particularly the hamas group. in particular, after the syria conflict, we have seen that, less support from the iranian part towards them. the israeli-palestinian issue is something that is viewed in the domestic rhetoric, but it is not really affecting. i think when you look at one of the principles i mentioned, the defense of the muslim rights, the palestinian issue is what has been always brought up by iran as the main example of what defending muslims means. and, why they cannot really drop the issue and why, until there is no resolution to the israeli-palestinian issue, there is no real possibility for stabilization of the region. they mention it quite often. in terms of their actual statement of impact of the
issue, domestically we have not really seen it. droppingeen somehow a of the issue in the agenda, specifically because of how the trump administration has managed the whole instability with regard to the change of the embassy and so on and so forth, that did not really help in terms of prospects for solutions. in terms of their policy, that has been continuing to be the same. it is not really change depending of what the u.s. has been doing. the business with china. i don't think the u.s. government is concerned about allies visiting china. ministerli prime visited china and how it seemed to diminish ties with the white
house. others have visited china. it's not -- i think there is a sense it is sort of natural that leaders will go to china. the issue is, again, the issues of world-based order. there's a lot of issues related to iran policy were people in the administration think china's interests and u.s. interests are different. if a country wants to strongly the chinese undermining solidarity of u.s. positions, then that is a problem. china is not an issue of great concern. question about the five countries being static. what i think makes the five
countries important is they all have something genuinely strategic to offer china. hadrtainly know that china $18 billion of infrastructure contracts in algeria in the 2000s. they were building a highway that went all the way the country. that does not really make a strategic relationship. that is a purely commercial one. egypt has been a somewhat recent addition. israel's interesting. mid towas worried in the 000's when theid-2 u.s. came out harshly against the transfer of u.s. military technology from israel to china, that israel would then lose its relevance to china. the israelis aggressively sought found ways to be irrelevant to china. one of them is on cyber
technology. the other is on counterterrorism expertise. israel fought itself into the top five. possible, but i think in some ways -- iran just makes sense because of its relationship to the u.s. i think other countries who want to become strategically important to china, they have to make a case for it. one of the things that i find breathtaking traveling to the middle east is how many countries want to argue that they are strategically vital to china. the number of countries that have argued we are a central hub in the belt and road initiative. i'm looking at them like, no, they're not. but they want to be a central hub. of statecraft. the way the chinese have aligned
the world with this idea that the pe belt and road initiative, which has no definitive map, vague contours. but, there is a sense that it matters and there is a big idea and we can align ourselves with this has been a tremendous force multiplier for the chinese. i think it is possible for chinese -- for countries to drop off the list. it is not just about your volume of trade because your volume of trade within the chinese bucket is not a big deal. you have to find something strategic. you have to understand what the chinese are trying to do strategically. it is possible to do that without alienating the united states. but, i think that is something the countries have to consider carefully, how one does it. take another can couple of questions.
thank you, ronald. other one.d the china recently canceled the $5 billion oil deal with iran essentially because of trying to obey u.s. sanctions. aspect ofsignificant the relations in the middle east, the reason for the cancellation and what this cancellation will meet to iran. >> sorry. i apologize. >> president trump just announced he has invited
president erdogan to the white house next month and he has accepted. what would you say would be the optimum outcome for the u.s.? in other words, would anyone of our goal and be how to achieve that from that meeting? thank you. >> >> the very last one. yeah. you made the point that, maybe not in this town, which is no different when it comes to foreign policy or to original
policy. what would drive iran to cheat its policy? ?s it the irtc it seems to me no difference, as thesaid, between rouhani or other when it comes to foreign policy. thank you. >> there is just one thing i wanted to mention. i'm afraid it is not an answer to any of the questions that you had, but i think in terms of russianthe day, that is reaction to the trump administration withdrawing troops and then sort of talking about turkey. i think that what we are going going to that -- is revive its long-standing offer to the syrian kurds, that the best possible deal for them is
to make a deal with the assad regime or to help them do so and that they cannot rely on the u.s. and that while the turks might not like this, i think that they will find themselves in a position where it is very to counter itthem without hurting their relations with russia. i would also point out that russia has been supporting the kurds since the 19th century. supporting them and butchering betraying them alternately, and yet, they always come back, the kurds, to the russians. athink that this is ing-standing relationship and think that the current u.s. policy will lead to another sort of closer ties between russians and kurds.
>> sure. all right, so i will start with the no difference in iran foreign policy, which is not exactly what i meant to say. thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify. what i said is that iran's principles that drive foreign policy do not change. i also say that depending on who is in power in terms of the presidency and government, iran's policy actually changes in terms of tone and tactics. that is why for instance we have seen that right after rouhani was elected in june of 2013, we had two months after the first start of the negotiations that then lead in 2015 to the nuclear deal. together with a bunch of other reasons obviously, you know, but i think the importance of who is in power should not be undermined. i think we have seen differences also in terms of how different presidencies have connected or interacted with the countries that we mentioned in this
problem. so china, for instance, is one of them. obviously, the underlying element has defined china's policy towards iran is that it is not seen as a belligerent country, so peaceful relationships are established and the business element is our receiver core element -- is obviously the core element. if you look at the difference in administrations. china,led iran with which is very different from what rouhani wanted to do, especially in the first administration. we have seen a clear attempt by the erdogan administration -- by the rouhani administration to eseersify from chin economic dependence. really to move iran's policy and economic engagement towards west.
obviously, with what has happened with the nuclear deal, the jcp, that has not been , that has notjcpe been successful. we are seeing iran a shift more russia and in particular china. there is this relationship but there is also different messaging coming from china. in one sense, you're talking about a strategic partnership and the strategic role that iran plays in china. at the same time, i think from an point of view, i think china is not really doing what it was expected to do, especially with the withdrawal by thee united states -- united states from the nuclear deal. we have heard about how much oil china has been exporting to iran and is continuing to export, but
really, what are we talking about? $300,000 -- 300,000 barrels per day compared to about 700,000? and we mentioned the unraveling of the contract after 2000 pulled out and china was supposed to come in and stepan, that was one of the examples. what we have seen with iraq reactor, in general, with regard to the chinese posture, has been a continued attempt to stand by iran without taking the risk of putting itself in a confrontational position towards the u.s. i think part of it is -- yeah, it is very much in line with the strategic posture of china. this, in the eyes of iran, does not represent a strategic partner. this does not represent someone that iran can really rely on. >> rn doesn't have a choice -- iran doesn't have a choice, right? china is playing a bigger game. china is playing a much bigger game and iran does not have a
choice. if china decides because they are doing other stuff with the united states, that this is -- they are not going to pick a fight and they are not going to stand up for iran, there is nothing that iran can do, because china is the master of this relationship. >> you are absolutely right. in one sense, they know that they could play the relationship with china in a different role if they had a better relationship with the western countries, particularly, the european ones, which is what rouhani wanted to do. they know that this is no longer an option. therefore, all the cards are in the china basket. that makes it very difficult to iran to disengage from what has been perceived as a dependency from china, which was on the economic side, but with the chinese new vision, it might lead to some sort of political dependency. we don't know what the consequences of that might lead
to. isyeah, no, i think that exactly right. china is luxuriating in the fact that iran is dependent, and they know it. the iranians know it and they are not happy about it. there is nothing they can do about it, because there is no country that can begin to provide for iran what china provides for iran. so china, you know, goes along with the jcpoa and does not really help the iranians get a better deal, ok. relationship the with the united states is more important than the gas deal. ok. you can protest. it won't do you any good. again, to me, this highlights the wisdom of the chinese approach to iran. thatfor china is the gift keeps on giving and iran has to find ways to continue to make
itself attractive to china, which benefits china. i'm sorry. nobody is answering your question about erdogan. say this, and it is way out of my lane. i think u.s.-turkish relations have been going in a really bad direction for a long time. the turks keep doing things which are perceived to be defiance of american ambitions and i would hope that the president will be able to bring the turks closer in line with u.s. strategy in the region. this is not a problem that is limited to the trump administration and did not start in the obama administration. it started before. as a nato ally, our relationship with turkey has been increasingly frayed. i think there are a lot of things that are much easier to do if we are more closely
aligned. i hope the president will be able to do that. >> so the time is over and we are ready for the lunch, so -- thank very much for you very much. [applause] thank you. [corwd chat -- [crowd chatter] >> the former head of central command, retired general joseph votel, expressed disappointment in the trump administration's recently announced policy shift in syria. mr. votel spoke at the atlantic council for about an hour. [applause] >>