Global Stuff Joshua Landis

Episode 3 February 27, 2024 00:56:58
Global Stuff Joshua Landis
KMUD Global Stuff
Global Stuff Joshua Landis

Feb 27 2024 | 00:56:58


Show Notes

Joshua Landis is the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He recently wrote the article that appeared in “Responsible Statecraft”: “US troops should have left Syria and Iraq long ago”. While Congress and the World focus on the wars between Israel and Hamas and Ukraine and Russia, less attention is focused on the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Joshua grew up in the Middle East and spent many summers in Syria before the Civil War that started in 2011.  In this episode, recorded in February 2024, Joshua discusses the current dire situation in Syria and the ongoing conflict there, as well as US involvement in Iraq and the turmoil in the region.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:15] Speaker A: Welcome to the show. This is global stuff. My name is Jimmy Derschlag, and if you haven't heard this show before, the years and years and years that we've been doing it, we try to cover topics that have global import but also affect us locally, certainly in the news pretty frequently. We're still, I guess, waiting on our guests to arrive for this evening. We have Joshua Landis, Professor Joshua Landis, who is the Sandra McKay chair and director of the center for Middle East Studies and the Farazana Family center for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies at the University of Oklahoma in the Bourne College of International Studies. He also writes and manages, which you can also get to through Joshua And he has a book coming out soon, Syria, independence, nationalism, leadership and failure of republicanism. So that's going to be published by the Arab center for Research and Policy Studies in the coming year. And he's also appeared very frequently as a commentator on the region, on PBS, on NPR, and also writes in many publications. So we're really pleased that he could make time to be with us this Friday evening. Welcome to the show, Joshua. Thanks so much for being with us. [00:01:54] Speaker B: Thank you for inviting me. It's a pleasure being with you, Jimmy. [00:01:57] Speaker A: And one thing I didn't mention, which is a good place to start before we get into some of the specifics of what's going on right now and your recent article, U. S. Troops should have left Syria and Iraq long ago, which will give us a chance to deep dive into what's happening in those countries and in the region. But you actually grew up in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Syria, and have spent quite a bit of time there. Maybe you can tell the listeners something about your background there, right? [00:02:30] Speaker B: Well, I did. I grew up in Saudi Arabia. My father opened the first bank, a us bank in Saudi Arabia in 1957, eight. And so when I was first born, we moved to Saudi Arabia, and that's where I grew up for the first four years. And we moved to Beirut, Lebanon, where I stayed until I was ten. So that was a wonderful place to grow up, very exciting. And it had beautiful mountains and beaches and skiing and so forth. And then I came back to the United States, moved around New England a bit, Vermont, Connecticut, settled in Pennsylvania, went to Swarthmore College, then went to teach, went back to Beirut to teach for a few years in Beirut, went on a Fulbright to Damascus in 1981, which was the year of the Hama uprising, a very brutal period, an uprising against the regime which was put down very brutally, sort of a prelude to the civil war there, and then went to Harvard and Princeton and have been teaching in Oklahoma for the last 23 years. And I married a Syrian. I've gone back to Syria many times. My kids both speak Arabic, although they haven't been to Syria for a long time because the civil war, and that's who I am. I write about Syria all the time and do lots of write for newspapers and other things, do podcasts. And so it's a pleasure being with you. [00:04:11] Speaker A: Well, thanks for filling us in a little bit. And you mentioned the syrian civil war that started in, I guess, 2011. In July 2011 was the incident in recent history that sparked that uprising by the army. And you haven't been able to go back there since then, is what I'm guessing. [00:04:32] Speaker B: That is correct. I haven't been back to Syria since the uprising in 2011, and I was kicked out shortly, just a year before the uprising because I'd been too critical of the regime. You have to be delicate and play a game not to be too critical. A little criticism was okay, but it was easy to go overboard. [00:04:57] Speaker A: And at that time, here we have, we're in 2024, so that's 13 years later. And at that time, and you've written about this, when the Clinton administration or the Obama and Hillary Clinton were talking about overthrowing Assad, this arab spring, and there was this feeling that his regime would fall, and at that point, you were one of the few who were saying, don't count your chickens yet. This may not happen within. Maybe it'll be a year, maybe it'll be two years. But here we are, what, 13 years later, and the Assad regime is still in power in Syria. [00:05:49] Speaker B: You're absolutely right. In April 2011, about a month after the uprising began, I went to a CIA confabulation, Virginia, and I was put on a panel with Elliot Abrams, who was a big muckety muck in the State Department and so forth, had worked in Latin America a lot, Africa, very pro Israel. And so we were different voices. And he know the outside is going to be toast soon. And I was arguing, saying, don't count your chickens before they're hatched because there's a lot of reasons why he could hang on for a long time because the military supports him. It's not going to split away like Egypt did, or any rate, that was the dynamic that was going on. And it was quite clear that the CIA and us intelligence community felt quite strongly that Assad was going to fall on his own very quickly. And he was weak. And that was clearly what motivated, I think, President Obama, who did not want to get into another middle eastern war, to say, assad has to step aside. And it was a mistake. I understand why he did it because he wanted to be on the right side of history. And of course, he was projecting history as Assad is going to fall so he wouldn't have to do anything about it. And interestingly enough, the second line of that famous phrase when he said that Assad has to step aside, the second line is that United States is not going to make him step aside. So he basically was saying, this has to happen, but we're not going to make it happen. And those were fateful words because nobody listened to the second line. Everybody listened to the first line. And it motivated the syrian opposition and others to really go for broke because they thought America would jump in on their side, as they had in Iraq and so forth. [00:07:50] Speaker A: So after that time, I mean, your recent article, U. S. Troops should have left Syria and Iraq long ago. I know those situations are very different, although there's, I'm sure, similarities as is. When you look at the map of Syria, it's kind of divided up and controlled, although the majority of it controlled by the Syrian Arab Republic, which I guess is Assad's administration. Still, there's a lot of different. [00:08:25] Speaker B: I. [00:08:25] Speaker A: Don'T know if you call them forces or governments or influences, including America, the US, and what they call the revolutionary commando army that are controlling regions of this country. So it's really a country that's in incredible turmoil still right now. [00:08:45] Speaker B: Well, you're right. And there are three major zones. One where the turkish army is really the deciding factor, and the second where the american army is the deciding factor. And then there's the government zone, which is about 60, 65% of Syria. The US zone is about 30%, but it's very valuable percent because it's up next to Iraq. It's a northeast, and it's got most of Syria's oil and good agricultural land. So America is in possession of a very choice honk of Syria, which allows it to beggar the government, to keep the government extremely poor and weak, and to starve the syrian people, which it's doing by withholding both energy and agriculture, as well as very strict sanctions that are being put on Syria. So it has a lot of leverage. That leverage hasn't won America anything in the sense that Assad hasn't compromised in any way because he's controlling the other 60%. But it does mean that Syria remains very weak, which is really the fallback plan of the United States, just to keep Syria poor and weak. [00:09:55] Speaker A: And when you say controlled by the US, is that directly with troops? And if so, what kind of involvement? How many troops are in there and how do we exert our control? [00:10:07] Speaker B: Well, there are only about 1000 troops, but the place is very weak. What we do do is we have given that oil, Syria's oil, which used to be enough to pay a big hunk of the government receipts. It's not a lot of oil, but it's enough to feed Syria, for example. So that oil goes to the Kurds, who we have armed and trained to be, in a sense, a proxy army for the United States in that region. And we have to remember that the Kurds helped the United States defeat ISIS. When ISIS had taken a big hunk of Syria and looked like it might take all of Syria, we switched from supporting the syrian opposition, the sunni arab opposition, to supporting the kurdish opposition, who were willing to shoot at sunni Arabs and ISIS and destroy them with America. And so they helped the United States a great deal. We have continued to arm and train them and give them the Syria's oil so they can run that 30% of northeastern Syria for the United States. That means we only need about 1000 soldiers there, our own soldiers. But what we really do is we have a no fly zone. We send our jets over that area all the time, and we don't let russian jets come there. Syrian jets or turkish jets fly over the area and they'll get shot down if they do. So that protects the Kurds, which who would be destroyed otherwise. So it's really through our air force. And that air force is being flown, a lot of it, from Iraq. So were we to be kicked out of Iraq, we would have a very difficult time supporting our position in Syria. [00:11:55] Speaker A: So you talk about also one of the other major zones controlled by the turkish armed forces, and I guess they call it also the syrian interim government. I guess the US zone is the revolutionary commando army. Must be the Kurds, I'm guessing. But the Turks and Turkey is battling the kurdish regions of Turkey as well. So is there almost like this civil war that's been going on and is still going on, is like between all three of these regions? Is it the Kurds fighting the syrian arab republic region, that's 60% of the country, plus the region controlled by the turkish armed forces fighting the military action against the region, the 30% that's controlled by the Kurds. So is this like just a constant battle between all of these different groups. [00:13:02] Speaker B: It is, there is sort of a low grade war going on. The turkish zone, which is about 10% of Syria, is run by the sunni arab rebels who were defeated in most of Syria and pushed into this northwestern part of Syria near the turkish border. And there they're being protected by turkish jets which don't allow syrian or russian jets to attack them. And they have declicted with the United States. The trouble is that by arming and supporting the Kurds of Syria in the northeast, the United States has alienated Turkey. Turkey considers those Kurds to be terrorists because they're connected to turkish groups in Turkey, kurdish groups in Turkey, excuse me, who are fighting for a large measure of autonomy in eastern Turkey and are considered terrorists by the turkish state. So the Turkey accuses the United States of supporting terrorist organization, and Turkey is furious and says America needs to stop doing that and that this is causing Turks to be killed and they want them out. And Turkey has been constantly sending in drones and artillery as well as arab rebels into that zone to kill leading kurdish leaders. And those are the same leaders that America is training and supporting. So Turkey is killing them. We're trying to re up them and retrain and supply them. We haven't retaliated against Turkey and told Turkey, don't do it because that would get us into a fight with Turkey. So what we're doing is we're sacrificing the Kurds, slowly but surely to this constant turkish attacks, which we're closing our eyes to, really, because we need good relations with Turkey, because of Ukraine and many other things. [00:15:17] Speaker A: I want to remind the listeners, this is global stuff. My name is Jimmy Derschlag. My guest for this live show is Joshua Landis, professor Joshua Willandis, director of the center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He has a blog called Syriacoment you can find at Joshua, talking about a recent article and a lot of his many writings that he's done on the region. And he has spent a good part of his life, as has his family as well, in Syria and grew up in Saudi Arabia, also spent time in Lebanon and very expert on that region. And I noticed in your bio that your book is coming out as well on Syria at independence. Is that later this year or you still? [00:16:13] Speaker B: I'm hoping some. I'm pushing my publisher to get it out. It's all done and it's in their hands. That's really about the 1940s and 50s in Syria. It's not about the civil war, which I wish it were more on the civil war because it would sell a lot more copies. But that's the reason. What we were talking about previously is the reason why I have advocated and tried to explain why we should leave Syria. Because we've gone there to support the Kurds and then it turned into, and to fight ISIS, but then it turned into a mission to really weaken Syria, frustrate Iran and Russia because Syria is their ally. And so to weaken Russia and Iran, many us policymakers said, we need to stay there. We also have a commitment to the Kurds, they said, because Kurds helped us fight ISIS. The trouble is there are only about 2 million Kurds, two point something, maybe million Kurds in Syria. They can't stand on their own two legs. They don't have enough money to set up an independent state. They can't survive without America. So America is going to be stuck there forever. And that's not a good policy. It's just to be there forever. We've promised, we've told the Kurds we're not going to help them get independence and that they're not going to get independence. So it's just a matter of time before we withdraw. It depends on who's going to do it. We have a thousand soldiers, many of which are in these small bases scattered across the syrian desert. And everybody's beginning to attack them, particularly groups in Iraq and Syria that are supported by Iran and have said that have intensified their attacks because of the war in Gaza. And America's hunkered down. Three of our soldiers recently got killed. [00:18:27] Speaker A: That was in Jordan on the border there, right? [00:18:30] Speaker B: Right. And that base on the jordanian border is just a few kilometers away from another base on the syrian side. And there have been number of drones and rockets sent at that base as well. But it's well defended. The Jordan base was not so well defended because nobody thought it was going to get attacked in the same way. But it did. And that's why they were taken by surprise. They didn't have the anti drone rockets that they needed and they missed it. And the drone went into the base. They knew in which dorm the american soldiers were sleeping because there are also jordanian soldiers and others there. So they knew what they were doing. And they attacked the american dorm and blew up three poor us servicemen who were in their early 20s. All three of them were black Americans. And it was very sad, but America immediately tacked back and killed, oh, I forget how many. 16 Iraqis and 20 something Syrians and no Iranians. But then we assassinated a top iraqi official which caused a great deal of outcry in Iraq. We blew up his car on the streets of Baghdad, killed him and two others. And that caused a major outcry from one end of Iraq to the other saying we're a sovereign country. America cannot just blow up who they want to and America needs to get out. Now the prime minister of Iraq does not want America to leave because he wants to balance Iran with America. On the other hand, with the country screaming at him. These were top shiite officials who were killed by America and they're part of the government. So he needs to keep his government alive. And he had to make an outcry and say we cannot be used as a punching bag. We don't want Iran and the United States to have a war on our property and killing our people. Anyway. There was a big outcry and they're asking America to redefine their mission and to shrink their mission. But Iran is provoking and provoking with the hope that America will kill top Iraqis so that Iraq pushes America out. And America's stuck in this very awkward situation where we want to teach Iran a lesson. We want to strike back and get revenge if they attack us. Iraqi groups that are pro iranian attack us. We want to go and kill them and we need to do that to show Americans that we're doing something. But every time we go and kill a whole bunch of Iraqis, the iraqi government says you need to leave and that's going to weaken our position in the region. And it's a vicious cycle and Iran has a much stronger position than we do in the iraqi government in the region. And it's a matter of time. Turkey doesn't want us there. The syrian government doesn't want us there. Iraq is increasingly trying to push us. So, and there's a lot of little armed groups that also want to kill us. So american soldiers have got a big x on their backs and it's a matter of time before more are picked. [00:22:06] Speaker A: The, in the article where you talk about both leaving Syria and Iraq and you see those two as connected, we were talking about 1000 soldiers in Syria. And I think back to the Iraq starting in 2003 when the US got involved, when the US seemed to be the one controlling the government in Iraq. Certainly our presence in Iraq, even though we're going after these top iraqi officials, is a lot stronger. How much of a presence do we have there? [00:22:43] Speaker B: We have about 2500 troops. There's other coalition troops, smaller number there as well. But were America to leave the coalition troops would also leave and there would be very little. So we're trying to hang on because those are our backed bases. That's where our air force can fly off of them to protect the Syrians, those forces that are in Syria, it provides the iraqi oil can be exported. The syrian oil that America controls and has given to the syrian Kurds can be exported through Iraq. And that's how the Kurds can get some money. It can't go through Syria. It can't go through Turkey, because both those countries are hostile to the pro american Kurds in Syria and don't want them to sell their oil and get stronger. So only through Iraq can they do that. And America is protecting those convoys that go through Iraq to get the oil sold. So without american protections, that whole edifice of american influence and control and protection for the Kurds would begin to collapse. [00:23:54] Speaker A: And if the US did pull out, wouldn't that of Syria, for example, in the region we were talking about, the 30% controlled by the Kurds with american support, wouldn't that leave the Kurds high and dry there? [00:24:09] Speaker B: More or less, it would leave them high and dry. That's a moral dilemma for the United States. That is the moral dilemma. Now the Kurds can make a deal with the syrian government. The syrian government wants them to make a deal. It does not want the Kurds to have their own army and virtual independence. And that's where the real problem comes. Because under America, they've had complete independence. They don't have to do anything the syrian government wants. There's no syrian government troops anywhere near their zone. They have their own army, which is trained and equipped by the United States. So they are a quasi independent country and they enjoy all of Syria's oil. The moment America withdraws, first of all, Syria is going to move in and take that area, will begin to bomb because they have an air force, Turkey. I mean, the Kurds do not, and they'll be sitting ducks. And America will wipe out the Kurds who've cooperated most closely with the United States. I presumably the United States would have to give them citizenship or asylum, as they did to the Afghans. But unlike Afghanistan, the government of Syria wants the Kurds on their side because they have ISIS and the sunni arab rebels who've attacked both the government and the Kurds. And so the Kurds and the syrian government, which is dominated by minorities, particularly the alawite minority, but with lots of support from Christians and Druz and other minorities, the syrian government would like to have the Kurds on their side and make a deal without giving them independence. So the Kurds have a place to bargain with. They're just going to lose most of the independence and the oil revenues that they have enjoyed under american occupation. [00:26:17] Speaker A: And would you see similar blowback if the US left, other than the impact, obviously, on the Kurds? Like happened in the United States with the pullout from Afghanistan that the Biden administration initiated, which made a lot of sense but ended up kind of being an issue for his administration. [00:26:43] Speaker B: Yes, I think you're absolutely right, Jimmy. This is going to give Biden a black eye if he does it, and I don't think he will do it. He'll wait for after the elections. Now, he doesn't want to have a pull out of Syria, which will raise a whole nother foreign policy issue for him and make him look like he did after he pulled out of Afghanistan because bad things are going to happen. Doesn't matter how he organizes it, who he tells. There are a lot of people who've collaborated and come to depend on the United States, and they're not going to be appreciated either by Turkey or by the syrian government. And they're going to have to flee the country and America will have to take care of them. But that's the price of american occupation. But at some point, it's going to have to end. And now Trump tried to end it, and he said, we're pulling out and everybody scream bloody murder in the foreign policy establishment. So he didn't do it. But he said, why are we sitting in the middle of Syria? And he said, no, let Turkey and have it. He basically just wanted to get out, but he didn't do it. He might, if he's elected, do it this time, and Biden might also do it. We've got a lot of fish to fry. We want to spend a lot of money in Ukraine, we're spending a lot of money in Israel, and we're going to need to spend more. We've got all of China to take care of. And China is building up its military very rapidly. We're trying to continue to win over the Gulf Arabs in Saudi Arabia and so forth and keep them from moving towards China. So we have tons of ways to spend our defense dollars without worrying about Iraq and Syria, two countries which we really don't care about anymore and don't have a lot of interest in occupying or having lots of military bases, particularly when they don't want us. You know, the mission was to destroy ISIS, but ISIS has been largely destroyed. There are still ISIS cells that have been attacking people. But ultimately, the iraqi government and the syrian government are going to have to be able to take care of ISIS, which they used to do before America had invaded and destroyed the iraqi governments. But they'll do it again, and America can help them do it. Doesn't have to have its troops there on the ground. [00:29:15] Speaker C: KMud is a community radio station in the redwood region of northern California. Donate to support people powered [email protected]. [00:29:27] Speaker A: Again, this is global stuff. My name is Jimmy Dershlag. My guest Josh Orlandis, the director of the center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, who has written and commented on the Middle east, especially Syria, Iraq, other countries in the region for many years and spent and lived a lot of years in that region, grew up there and talking about some of his writings and us troops, the recent one us troops should have left Syria and Iraq long ago. Talking about what that means, I'd like to go back to what, and I do want to remind listeners, might as well take some calls if people have any brief comments or questions. 707-923-3911 is the number here. If you have a question or comment for Professor Landis, your comment about ISIS being destroyed, which has really been destroyed, which is not the general perception that you have in the US. I think there's still a lot of fear mongering that's going on about ISIS or whether it's called ISIL or the Islamic State. And they do control, I guess, a small portion of Syria. So you really feel that believe that they have been controlled. [00:30:53] Speaker B: They don't control a small part of Syria anymore. Their state that they built up to be of the size of Great Britain at its maximum expanse, which is 2015, has been completely destroyed. There are ISIS elements that do attack Syrians, shoot up syrian buses of soldiers and attack people in the desert. They assassinate people. That's still going on both in Iraq and Syria, but they don't own any land. They're hit and run. But part of the reason that they can survive today is because there are these three zones in Syria that are warring against each other and are hostile. And this leaves ungoverned space in Syria. And it means that they can move between these different spaces. They have allies in all three of them, and they can run between the legs of the various governments. And America's, as we started out this program saying America's policy in Syria is to keep the government as weak as it can and because the syrian military doesn't have access to its own oil and because it's deprived of just big hunks of Syria. It is very weak. And that keeps the syrian military and police force from being able to really put paid to these terrorist groups. I mean, gangs that are still hiding in the desert. America is having the same problem. We're doing a lot of hit and killing little groups when we get intelligence. But ISIS is still active in the american zone of Syria. It's assassinating kurdish leaders that are helping America almost every month. Some are getting killed by ISIS and it's also attacking in Iraq. So it's there. America says if we leave, it's going to get a lot worse. I think America can do what it needs to do from over the horizon, from bases in Turkey, in Kuwait, in Qatar, as it's doing in Afghanistan without being on the ground. But it can help the local governments go after ISIS and so forth. [00:33:19] Speaker A: Let me jump in here briefly because we do have a caller. Hi, you're on the air. Welcome to the show. [00:33:28] Speaker D: I just had a couple of questions, and I came in kind of late. So I apologize if you've already discussed this, but I assume that it was my understanding perhaps that along with our wars, we end up saying, okay, now, Iraq, you have to pay for some of our costs of doing the war on you or what have you. And that comes from the oil revenue, essentially. And I don't know if it's kurdish oil or what have you, but I'm sure there's agreements with those Kurds to go, yeah, we're going to get that oil really cheap or whatever and kind of make out that way. So that's one question I just had, was the connection with the oil revenue and how we benefit from it. And the second issue I want to just say is it seems like the Hawks in the US have been vying for war with Iran forever. And that seems to be a kind of obvious reason why the US wouldn't want to walk away from what bases we have there. With that said, the fact that we're there and we're supporting Israel and its massacre of the Palestinians is just completely inflaming all the countries around it. And so us being in those surrounding countries like Iraq and Syria does put even more of a target on it. So I'll just listen to your comments off air. Thanks for the discussion tonight. [00:35:21] Speaker A: Thank you for that. And I know you've mentioned that briefly, Joshua, but certainly the issue with Israel and Gaza and the Palestinians is front and center, and we know that definitely influences the region. But why don't you respond to the caller's question. Comments? [00:35:39] Speaker B: Right. Well, there's two parts. That one is the oil and money. The caller is absolutely right that the United States has captured most of Syria's big oil wells. And in order to do that, it raced the syrian government and russian troops, who were all shooting for these oil fields that ISIS had previously controlled. But as ISIS collapsed, there was a scramble, particularly for these valuable oil fields. And America got there first. And when Russia got to one, made a move on the big Esso well just above Derazor, America killed 200 Russians who, mercenaries who were working with the syrian government to help take those back. And so America has used that oil not for itself directly, at least that's the argument that America makes. But it's turned it over to the Kurds that America has trained and armed, and so it's used to support the american occupation and the proxy army that America has built in northeastern Syria. So it isn't going into american pockets, but it is supporting this quasi independent state that America has protected and built up in northeastern Syria. So in that way, America has interests to be there and is using the oil, if you will, for its own purposes. And the syrian government, of course, sees this as stealing their oil, redirecting it towards an independence group, carving out a separate nation, and that all this is illegal and should be condemned by the United nations, et cetera, et cetera. [00:37:39] Speaker A: So the oil that they're getting in that region that they control 30%, that they're able to send it through Iraq because of arrangements there, and the revenue from that is going to the Kurds. And so some of that oil must end up in the US or in other countries. [00:38:00] Speaker B: I'm assuming, you know, we're net exporters now, so we don't really need their oil. But you're right, it gets sold on the open market in Iraq, and Iraq has pipelines both to Turkey and through to the Gulf and so forth. So Iraq can sell that oil, and it just gets packaged in with other iraqi oil and sold out that way. So the Kurds sell it at a little bit of a discount to the Kurds in north Iraq, who then sell it on forward. [00:38:30] Speaker A: We do have another caller. Hi, you're on the air. [00:38:35] Speaker E: Good evening, and thank you for an informative program. Apparently, war is very profitable. Well, not apparently. So, a very simple and direct question. I saw today that the United Arab Emirates pledged 35 billion with b to Egypt to, quote unquote, develop the mediterranean coastline. What, in your learned opinion, is that in order to buffer the Palestinians who are fleeing this catastrophe. And my real question about many of these actions, in an age when we're watching the diminution of the need or even the desire to burn fossil fuels, and these wars are creating an exigent amount of excess co2, the environment is suffering greatly because of these wars. So as we move to clean hydrogen, it will make the Middle east and all of this oil war stuff petty. I mean, people are dying when we have the technology to change this stuff. At any rate, very curious about that 35 billion pledge to Egypt today. Thank you for stating facts and not opinions. Journalism should be factual. And if it's going to be your opinion, then you'll let us know that. [00:40:15] Speaker A: All right, thank you. [00:40:15] Speaker E: It helped you all to you too. [00:40:18] Speaker A: You want to respond to that, Joshua? [00:40:20] Speaker B: Right. Well, your callers brings up a very good point, which is that Cairo announced today that it had signed a deal with the United Arab Emirates to develop a prime stretch of its mediterranean coast that will bring 35 billion of investments to the indebted country over the next two months. Now, it's within one of Abu Dhabi's investment funds and they haven't really spelled out where this money is going to go. But Egypt is almost at the brink of bankruptcy. It spends almost 80% of its government receipts just refinancing and paying for debt. It has been bailed out by the World bank and by the United States, but also mostly by saudi and other Gulf countries. So there is now a view towards making some kind of a deal that will bring money back to the UAE and back to the Gulf countries. So they want to be able to develop these coastlines which have tons of potential for tourism where there is gas in the Mediterranean and particularly tourism along the Mediterranean. So this is just looking towards the economic future. And Egypt, I'm sure Egypt government is going to be accused of selling off their coastland in order to subsidize their debt. But we don't know the details of the story yet. [00:42:03] Speaker A: So thank you for that. Is it does bring up the issue. Now, we've talked mainly about Syria and some about Iraq, but it does bring up the question of how the US presence there, but also the supposed allies of the United States, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE and Egypt. And ironically, even Turkey is supposedly an ally and here we are in conflict with them there as well. I know nothing is simple, but what kind of actions are they taking to support some of what the US is doing there? Are they basically hands off with Syria and Assad you're talking about? And mainly like our allies like Saudi Arabia, and he brought up the UAE. [00:42:59] Speaker B: Yes, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have both welcomed syrian government back into the bosom of the arab community. At the beginning of the civil war, 2011, they threw Syria out of the Arab League and they began to fund. And Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE, were the biggest funders, biggest funders of the syrian opposition with the United States. And so they all worked hand in glove to try to overthrow the Assad government. But they began to realize that America didn't want the government in Syria to be overthrown, didn't want the military to be overthrown. They wanted Assad to leave, but they didn't want to destroy the military as they did in Iraq, because they thought the country would fall apart and that ISIS and al Qaeda would take over Damascus, which was going to be a disaster from their point of view. So they wanted to weaken Syria, the syrian army, without destroying it. And at some point, the Saudis and others became disenchanted with this because it wasn't going to work and the Assad was going to survive because he and the military are connected very closely. And so they have then come to the conclusion that they need to re embrace the syrian government, try to rebuild the syrian economy so there aren't so many syrian refugees and radical groups. And Syria has become a big manufacturer of captain drugs, which is this amphetamine, and that's coming into Saudi Arabia and others. And if they want it to stop producing this, they're going to have to allow it to get out of sanctions and to have other means of economic growth. But that's where we differ. The United States differs with Saudi Arabia and the others because we've been passing bill after bill and sanctions after sanctions, trying to stop gulf countries and other arab countries from rekindling relations with Assad or investing anything in Syria. For example, the UAE offered to build a big solar electric plant outside of Damascus. Syria has almost no electricity, about an hour to a day. And that's because the Americans have all Syria's oil and they're not letting other oil get into Syria. But UAE has offered to build this about three years ago, but it can't do it as long as sanctions, because America will punish any company that does business with the syrian government. So this is increasingly causing friction between our Gulf allies and the states government. [00:46:01] Speaker A: You mentioned that, and I wanted to address that briefly, at least, that the situation on the ground for the civilians in Syria is still pretty dire. You mentioned maybe an hour of electricity today, but water, food, the amount of destruction that's happened in the cities in Syria, the conditions there are pretty abysmal. [00:46:24] Speaker B: Yes. I mean, when I talk with Syrians or family members of my wife, they're sitting in their apartments with their winter coats on, and you can see the breath condense out of their mouths, smoky because it's freezing cold in their apartments, and they don't have the oil to put on central heating anymore. They sit around. They have these small little stoves. They sit around, cluster around. But my brother in law, for example, has to run a wire for city blocks to the local hospital where he can buy electricity at kilowatt at the time to keep his refrigerator running. But most Syrians don't have working refrigerators because they don't have electricity. So in order for them to go get a pound of chicken, they have to go at 04:00 when the butcher is butchering the chickens and he cuts up the chicken, but the butcher doesn't have a refrigerator, so he needs to sell all of his chicken. And he does it at a particular time of day when everybody knows. And they run to the chicken shop and they get their little bit of chicken and they throw it in their stew or soup or whatever they're making. But a lot of people don't even eat meat because it's too expensive. So life is very impoverished in Syria. 90% of Syrians live under the poverty line. The World Food Program used to feed 5 million Syrians or help them out with food aid and humanitarian aid, but they've just decided to end their program Syria because in part because of Gaza but also Sudan. There are just too many other needs and they don't have enough money. The donors aren't increasing, and so they've cut the Syria program, and that's going to cause widespread privation even more. Yeah, very bad situation. [00:48:20] Speaker A: Going back to Iraq a little bit. There's not a lot of time left in the program. And that, of course, was another focus for you. And we've mentioned it a little bit. You were talking about how the iraqi government kind of is playing both Iran and the United States. They don't want Iran, as you mentioned in your article and in other writings, is a major player in the region, obviously, and is bringing, I don't know if they're doing it in Syria at all. They're bringing some of the services that are not available otherwise, or at least attempting to do that. But in Iraq, is there an exit strategy for Iraq? It's a different situation than Syria, of course. And then I just saw, like two days ago, the iraqi prime minister announced this bilateral, a transition to a bilateral relationship with the United States in accordance with the strategic framework agreement. I have no idea what that. [00:49:28] Speaker B: Well, you know, the basic situation in Iraq is that when we entered in 2003 to overthrow Saddam Sane's government, we cast the sunni arab population, which is about 20% of iraqi people, from the top of society to the bottom. Saddam Hussein was a Sunni Arab. Most of the ba'athist leadership was Sunni Arab. And the top military generals, Sunni Arabs. So this, you know, religious ethnic group. Sunni Arabs controlled Iraq and had controlled Iraq for the previous hundred years. And in order to displace them, we catapulted the Shiites, 60% of the iraqi population, up to the top of iraqi society. And we cast the Sunnis down from the top to the bottom of society. And we thought that we could balance this and somehow create the power sharing, but leave the Shiites in a dominant position. And we believed that the Shiites would be loyal to us because we had helped them out of this bad situation of living under Saddam. But what it did is it sparked a massive civil war within Iraq between Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis, all fighting for supremacy. The Kurds were fighting for their own independence in the north of Iraq. And that led to this explosive war which America discovered. And all the iraqi army soldiers, sunni army soldiers and top Ba'athists who'd been banned from work and given no pensions or anything and kicked out of the army immediately joined Ennis uprising and became led by Zarkawi, al Qaeda because they knew how to fight and had been training in Afghanistan, came over to Iraq and helped them organize and kill, you know, they began attacking Shiites in order to undermine the Americas'control. And the Shiites turned to Iran and got a lot of help from Iran, which, of course wanted America out as well, but also wanted to put down al Qaeda and later ISIS. So the iranian Shiites, who we were hoping would be loyal to us, many of them formed strong connections to Iran, which is, of course, a shiite state itself, and supported them against the Sydney Arabs. And this legacy meant that the prime ministers of Iraq, who are all shiite now have to constantly look over their shoulder at Iran because it's got deep influence in the militias of Iraq, in the military of Iraq, and there's a religious brotherhood between Iran and the shiite Iraqis that now rule Iraq. So for America to go against Iran inflames the passions of many Shiites against. So this has left Iran in a very strong position. Now, as long as America is just killing ISIS. That's, I suppose the iraqi government is grateful. It's grateful for a lot of military supplies, weaponry, support. And it knows that if it kicks America out of Iraq, America is likely to put sanctions on Iraq. Why? Because Iraq is helping Iran break its own sanctions that America has imposed on Iran. A lot of the banking, Iran can do its international banking through the iraqi banks and it can buy stuff through Iraq because they're neighboring countries. And America has had to close their eyes to that sanction busting that Iraq is helping the Iranians do because they want to keep their troops there. And so they have closed their eyes to it. But the moment America is forced out of Iraq, Iran is likely to do more of sanction busting through Iraq, and then America will put sanctions on them. So in a sense, what I'm getting at here is that the iraqi government is quite pro Iran itself. It understands that it has to play rope a dope with the various pro iranian militias in that. But it doesn't want America out because the moment America goes out, it loses its protection. It loses a lot of its military supplies and armaments and it loses some foreign aid, but mostly it's going to lose protection that can balance against Iran, and it might end up getting sanctions imposed on it. So it doesn't want to kick the Iraqis out. Excuse me. It doesn't want to kick the Americans out completely, but it doesn't want Americans shooting up and killing leading iraqi politicians who are pro iranian. It's a dilemma. We're in a very difficult position. [00:55:04] Speaker A: Well, thank you. I do have to jump in here. We're running out of time. So much appreciate you making the time. Professor Joshua Landis, director of the center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Hope your book on the history of Syria, syrian independence, nationalism, leadership, the failure of republicanism, will come out soon. Maybe we can have you back on to discuss that as well. And as you say, a difficult situation there in the Middle east, and we're not even jumping into what's happening, although that's, of course, affecting everything in the region now with the war between, ongoing war and genocide between Palestine and Israel against Palestine. But so much I really appreciate you making the time to discuss the situation and share your expertise with us. Professor Landis. [00:56:06] Speaker B: Well, thank you, Jimmy, and thank you for the many good questions. You clearly did your homework, and it was a pleasure talking with you. [00:56:16] Speaker A: For me as well, and I'm sure for the listeners, hopefully, as well. Thanks to Dennis Meyer. This has been the global stuff podcast I'm your host, Jimmy Dershlag. Our next month's podcast will feature a guest on International Women's month, so stay tuned and thanks for listening. [00:56:38] Speaker C: This has been a Kmud podcast. To listen to other shows and more episodes of this show, find us on all the platforms where you get your podcast channel and also on our website, Our.

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