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Summary: Anti-Democractic Regimes: Confrontation or Coexistence?

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  • Elliot Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
  • Evelyn N. Farkas, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
  • Suzanne Maloney, Deputy Director of the Foreign Policy Program, Brookings Institution
  • Indira Lakshmanan, Foreign Policy Correspondent 

On U.S. leadership:

  • Abrams: When Ronald Reagan’s “Evil Empire” remarks reached the gulag, prisoners were convinced, ‘This president understands the nature of this regime.” That same clarity is lacking today.
  • Maloney: Obama looks at the Middle East with a very hard-headed view of someone who wants to solve problems, but sees very few there that can be solved.

On Iran:

  • Dubowitz: Sanctions may not be a silver bullet, but they can serve as silver shrapnel for a regime that’s suffering a serious economic crisis.
  • Lakshmanan: Chief nuclear negotiator Wendy Sherman said of Rouhani, “Stop using the word reformer.” He was hard to negotiate with, and he’s no reformer.
  • Maloney: The administration had a single-minded focus on getting a deal that caused it to be extremely cautious in its rhetoric on Iran.
  • Abrams: I don’t understand the administration’s refusal to endorse regime change. “Do we want regime change in Iran? Of course we do! It is a brutal, despicable ... viciously oppressive regime.”

On the Syrian civil war:

  • Abrams: No one wants to choose between the Assad regime and ISIS, but what happens if and when Assad falls? We must discuss what comes next.
  • Farkas: We need some leverage over Vladimir Putin so that, in turn, we can have leverage in any negotiations on the future of Syria.

On Russia:

  • Farkas:  This panel is entitled “Confrontation and Coexistence,” but we have to be stronger than just coexisting with Russia, which wants to challenge the international community’s right to intervene against brutal, despotic leaders.