While in Beijing earlier this month, we sat for an interview with Yang Rui for Dialogue, CCTV’s flagship interview program (which, according to CCTV, “reaches viewers across China and over 80 million subscribers around the world”). CCTV has now broadcast and posted our interview, click on the video above or here . Hillary’s segment begins at 2:50, after a brief introduction and set-up piece; Flynt’s segment starts at 18:50.
–Hillary discusses how, in contrast to Cold War competition between the United States and the Soviet Union for influence in the Middle East, strategic competition in the region today plays out between the United States and American-backed governments, on one side, and political Islam, on the other. She argues that the Islamic State and other destructively violent forms of political Islam rise when the kind of political Islam embodied in the Islamic Republic—with a focus on building independent, indigenously rooted political order—is suppressed.
–Regarding the “Obama doctrine,” Hillary underscores that, while the Obama administration is perceived as less inclined than its immediate predecessor to commit U.S. ground forces in the Middle East, it has hardly retreated “from interfering in the internal politics of the Middle Eastern states.” She goes on to describe the profound “mutual dependency” between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and how this has warped U.S. Middle East policy in significant ways. She analyzes as well the drivers for the U.S.-Israel “special relationship.”
–Finally, Hillary evaluates the U.S. response to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s downfall and to the July 2013 military coup against Egypt’s elected Muslim Brotherhood government. More broadly, she warns that “so long as the United States thinks it can buy political leaders, particularly these military leaders, it is a fundamentally unstable situation and, in the end, will be very bad for the United States. In the immediate term, it is going to be bad for the peoples of the Middle East and for other countries that need to have a stable Middle East—for other countries that have interests in energy security, that have interests in a stable Middle East, this is bad for them right away. In the long term, it will be bad for the United States, too, because it builds resentment among these populations…The resentment of the United States and of Americans today is so much more significant than it was twenty years ago.”
Flynt then discusses prospects for the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran and how Washington’s continued determination to assert “hegemonic prerogative” over Iran’s nuclear development makes it difficult for the parties to reach a comprehensive agreement.
–Turning to the Islamic State’s transnational character, Flynt explains that “Muslim resentment of American occupation of Muslim lands is not limited to the Middle East. It is a shared concern across the Islamic world…It is fundamentally a question of resentment over what many, many, many Muslims around the world perceive as occupation by the United States. And as long as the United States pursues policies that lead to it being perceived as an occupying power, it is going to lose however it defines the ‘war on terror.’”
–More generally, Flynt argues that “the Obama administration and other parts of the American political class still fundamentally look at the world in terms of how to preserve American hegemony.” As for Obama’s pivot to Asia, Flynt suggests that the United States needs to go back to the explicit rejection of hegemony in Asia undergirding the Shanghai Communique, which reopened U.S.-China relations in the early 1970s.
–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett