tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN October 29, 2015 2:00am-4:01am EDT
states are. are they to defend iraq against isil who shares shoulder-to-shoulder fighting for decades? are we going to pull out the troops in afghanistan regardless of the situation? what about red lights and syria? are we going to honor those? you can say that but i think it's clear that complement understanding of where we stand and what we are going to do for the next 10, 20, 30 years is any leader of the middle eastern nation has got to think and as we should think and a great nation, don't think we are there i really believe more work needs to be done. i'm talking to my colleagues in the senate. i believe we can reach a bipartisan policy, i really do. '. one more thing.
departmenthe defense may underestimate the critical nature of the refugee crisis. this is not like iran, iraq, a war that went on for many years. this is impacting europe right now. it is a humanitarian crisis. it is being exploited by everyone else in the middle east that would like to come to europe. europe is facing what one top diplomat told me was the greatest crisis since world war ii. i think we've got to think about get, these safe sounds, and busy -- these safe zones, and get busy on it. it may have to have some of our people at risk to try to protect those areas, but it wouldn't take a lot. you and i talked about it. can we get moving on this? how many more millions have to
line-up in areas before we act? just morally, my judgment is that europe needs to know there is a place for these refugees to go other than to flee the entire region. that will strengthen them. can we not do that? quickly. well, in sorter: far as the refugees are coming from syria, they are actually coming to europe from several areas, but to the extent they are coming from syria, this is why it is so important that the syrian civil war be put to an end. our approach to that is political, not military. we have not undertaken to achieve that goal militarily.
our approach is political. we hope that transition occurs and the civil war in syria ends. >> what if it takes three years? of't we provide some sort area the actual people who are in danger -- secretary carter: i'll just repeat what i said. i'm prepared to have shared with you the analysis we've done of safe zones, buffer zones, and no-fly zones. we have looked at the advantages and costs of those, and the president has not taken them off the table, but we have not undertaken to create any of those zones at this time. i don't rule that out in the future. i'm happy to discuss it with you in a different setting. recognize senator ayotte.
,> i want to thank the chair also thank senator donnelly. appreciate it. , want to ask secretary carter recently, the iranians have actually tested a long-range missile, in violation of existing u.n. security council resolutions. this is something that ambassador powers has confirmed, and in fact if you look at what the iranians have done post-agreement, not only have they tested this missile, but they've wrongfully convicted a "washington post" reporter in iran. we've had a lot of discussion about the cooperation between
russia and iran undermining stability in syria and our interests there. -- in brought to my attention recently that the supreme leader of iran has said about the recent agreement that any imposition of sanctions at any level under any pretext of terrorism and human rights on the part of any country involved in negotiations will constitute a violation. so here's my question to both of .ou primarily to you, secretary carter. what are we going to do about their violations of already existing u.n. resolutions when it comes to testing ballistic missiles and long-range missiles? you testified before this committee. the i in icbm is intercontinental.
is violating resolutions with no response from us. already, the supreme leader is basically saying, you impose sanctions on any reason, even terrorism or other human rights violations, we are going to walk away. that theirot agree violation of the missile resolution warrants a response from the united states, and what is that response going to the? at this point, i haven't seen any response. secretary carter: i think that it needs to be very clear, certainly clear to us in the department of defense, that the conclusion of the nuclear deal with iran, assuming it gets addressted, does not all of our security concerns.
>> yes or no, should we respond to their testing of this missile that violates existing u.n. resolutions? secretary carter: i'll describe one response. , that is our continuing commitment to does the development of missile defenses. >> i understand that we are developing missile defenses, but what is our response when they behave badly already? shouldn't there be a response from the united states of america? we had a panel of experts here and i asked each of them if we should respond. they all agreed, yes. secretary carter: in our area of responsibility, i would say let, senator -- i'll ambassador power and secretary kerry address the diplomatic side of it, but in our area of , that does not
end all of our security concerns with respect to iran. -- notsecretary, ending ending, it seems like it is just the beginning, really. as we think about the unholy alliance between russia and iran undermining our interest in syria, as we think about the testing in our faces of long-range missiles, as we think about what the supreme leader has said, i would say that it's really just beginning. i need to ask a question of you, general dunford. i had the privilege of recently, on friday, going to the guantanamo bay detention facility and meeting with our men and women who serve there.
they are doing an excellent job under difficult circumstances, as you know. one of the issues that was brought to my attention, and i know that you, one of your jobs having been a commander and serving in the highest position in our military, taking care of our men and women in uniform is so critical. yet we have a situation down there where we met with women guards who are being prevented from fully performing their mission because the five 9/11 attackers who are charged with killing 3000 americans will not allow them to perform their duties because they are women. can you tell me what you think about that? do you think that is right? senator, i feel the same way as the commander,
commander kelly, who describes it as outrageous. i read his weekly report and have read it for about seven or eight weeks. it's outrageous. he's identified it. as you probably know, that is being worked by lawyers. i'm not using that as an excuse. i'm just sharing with you, that is where it's at right now. the commander has identified it. it is outrageous. it ought to be fixed. >> i'd like to see the administration speak out against this. we talk about giving women more opportunity in combat, but this is an area where these women that we met with, that are serving there, they are not being able to perform the full responsibilities of their positions, simply because they are women, because 9/11
terrorists are manipulating the system to say that our women cannot guard them. secretary carter, i hope you would agree with me that this is outrageous. i hope the administration would do everything in its power. secretary carter: i do. i associate myself with what the chairman said. this is pursuant to the action of a federal judge. i understand that. but i think it is counter to the way we treat service members, including women service members, and outrageous is a very good word for it. >> i appreciate both of you being here. thank you. secretary, general dunford, i've known both of you for many years. i've appreciated very much your outstanding work. i'm a great admirer of both of you. i appreciate your service.
isn't helpful it a our relations when there's widely spread story stating the name of the ship, where it went, and you come and tell us that you can't confirm or deny something that is out there in the media. somebody has leaked all that information to the media, but you can't tell members of this committee who have the responsibility to exercise oversight. the second issue i want to mention is guantanamo. i understand the president has said on numerous occasions that one of his objections is guantanamo. aidend the president's top came to my office and said you were going to give me a plan. i've always favored closing guantanamo for a variety of reasons. yet we still haven't got a plan from you.
not only not a plan, until i asked you about it specifically, there was no communication. after coming to my office and saying you are going to give me that plan, and i said we needed it, we got nothing. not an update, not a briefing on what was going on. so we put in language in president, and the voices his strong objection to guantanamo. finally, this issue of whether we are protecting those people who we are asking to fight isis,t bashar assad and isn't it true that we've dropped munitions, general dunford, to a group of people who we are supporting in syria? general dunford: it is true, senator. theme we going to protect from russian air attack? general dunford: senator, we have the authority.
we have the capability and we have options. >> is it true that the russians are already attacking them? the ones we dropped munitions to. general dunford: the russians have not attacked the ones we've dropped munitions to. >> they have not? general dunford: no, chairman. to make sure that you and i are speaking of the same group, the group i'm referring to is known as the syrian arab coalition. they operate in the northeast part of the country. we recently provided resupply to those individuals. >> and if they are attacked by the russians, you will defend them? general dunford: we have the that.lity to do i can't answer that question. >> they would be interested in knowing, i think. if we are going to give them equipment and ask them to fight, and we can't answer to them whether we are going to protect
them or not, i think it is a degree of immorality. secretary carter: chairman, may i take a moment? first of all, i don't mean to be coy about the ships sailing and i know things are in the newspaper. it has nothing to do with this particular operation. there are all kinds of things in the newspaper that should not be in the newspaper. i don't like to talk about military operations publicly. you are entitled to be briefed on everything, but talking about things in a public setting -- what is classified about it? what is it that you wouldn't think- in fact, i literally every member of this committee applauds it, so i'm not sure what the reason is why you wouldn't want to just state
what has already been from somebody who works for you, the name of the ship, when it went out, but yet you won't tell us. that causes frustration, mr. secretary. secretary carter: i don't mean to cause you frustration. >> i hope you understand our frustration. butetary carter: i do, maybe my hesitation is excessive, but i don't like to talk about military operations in public. perhaps this one should be an exception. let me go on to the other thing you said about gitmo. i too favor, like you, closing gitmo if at all possible. the detainees in gitmo are not, cannot be safely transferred to another location. in order to close gitmo, as you
know, we would need to find a location in the united states in which they could continue to be detained. what has taken the time, chairman, is that we had to survey a number of sites. we've done that at a number of sites around the country. we've completed that. some of those are department of defense sites. we needed to have them nominated by the justice department. and then to do the site surveys, all of that took some time. i expect you will get your proposal shortly. >> i would have appreciated an update. at theicism on this side capital is, to my view, somewhat justified. the law was broken when mr. swapped for five
people. the law required that the president of the united states notify congress, and he didn't do it. frankly, there's a credibility got that is huge when the directnt act ins violation of the law and uses the excuse that there could be a leak. to me, that is not an excuse to violate the law. the cynicism here is immense. the president complains about the nda. to expect that the committee would act after the president violated the law and there is no not is something that is reasonable nor in keeping with our responsibilities. could i say again, my respect, i appreciate the great work that both of you do. as i said, we've known each other a long time. you, there'so tell
a certain amount of frustration here because of the lack of communication. guantanamo is one. another one is this policy or lack of policy about what people we train and equip and whether we defend them or not. the lack of strategy to say that we can take out syrian air defenses in order to establish a no-fly zone is simply not true. i'll ask any military expert. that's not true. you don't have to take out syrian air defenses. syrians can't fly into our places. we've had military members like general petraeus and general keane and others who have a very different view of the whole ,ssue of what we're going to do which by doing nothing, has triggered a flood of millions of refugees, which is a problem we are going to be grappling with
for many years to come. it didn't have to happen. i look forward to more conversations with you. i appreciate you coming to the community ittee. i appreciate your service. this meeting, i'm sure you'll be happy to know, is adjourned. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
used on the israeli-palestinian conflict and the syrian civil war. from the carting the endowment washington d.c. this is 45 minutes. >> thank you all, very much. [applause]. bill, thanks. thanks so much for welcoming me to your new home. i very touched to hear the comments from bill's caliber because as you know, he really was the state department premier career diplomat. now that you have been away almost a year i know you are missing all of the travel, the early morning meetings, the late-night calls, and you are just dying to return, right?
but all kidding aside, ladies and gentlemen, the door to the state department for bill burns is always open. from pres. obama to the entire security team, to me, to the secretary of state there is no better diplomat, no one who could be better led by then the carnegie foundation of peace then by bill burns. please join me everybody for same thank you for a remarkable career for this man. [applause]. now, if i have behave myself, which is never for certain i am going to try to restrain my voice, not be as passionate as i want to be about every word i am muttering today.
i am trying to save a little case of laryngitis and make sure i do not exasperate it. i leave tonight to be enough for two days of important meetings that i want to make sure i can actually talk during those meetings. i appreciate the chance to speak today, to you. an audience of experts and students who are on their way to being experts, but all of you who spend a lot of time thinking about some very serious issues. the truth is, for generations carnegie has been training the foreign-policy leaders of the future and generating, at the same time real time solutions for those of us who are practicing at that time. it is an understatement to say today that we are facing a very different worlds. a world of remarkable complexity
all of you have probably read henry kissinger and diplomacy, and countless other books, as i have an henry would be the first to tell you, i've had the privilege of having lunch with him during the united nation meetings, he never had it coming at him with a number of different places in crisis and in a world that is as multipolar as it is now. a bipolar cold war with the former soviet union and the united states and west was pretty clear about what choices were in many ways. it did not mean they were not tense or difficult and there were not some proxy wars avenue we have seen in vietnam and elsewhere, but it truly was not see what we see today which is a world of violence which is not state on
state. with a few exceptions, it is non- state actors who are confounding states and the global order. that presents very different challenges. so, i can tell you that despite the complexity, that i am certain of this, the united states of america is more deeply engaged today in more places, on more important issues, with impact, then at any time before in our history. i could document, i am not going to run around the whole world, i, i could start with north korea, south china sea, and then afghanistan, pakistan, india, and roll around the world, i am not going to do that. i want to focus on one particular and particularly
important area of the globe today, that is the middle east. i am not even going to go into all the aspects of it. twenty years ago, next week after attending a peace rally israeli prime minister was murdered by an extremist who claim to be doing god's will. at the funeral, king hussein of jordan, the one time enemy turned partner in peace. declare, i quote let us not keep silent, let our voices rise high enough to speak of our commitment to peace for all times, and and let us tell those who live in darkness, who are the enemies of life and truth faith that this is where we stand, this is our camp. at the same ceremony rob means granddaughter, a teenager said
that quote others a greater than i have already eulogized you but they never had the pleasure to feel the caresses of your warm, soft hands, to merit your warm embrace, to see, to see your half smile that always told me so much, that same smile which is no longer frozen in the grave with you. these quotations remind us that beyond all of the cold statistics, beyond the headlines of the daily newspapers, beyond the clapping, talking heads on one show or another, and each early, perpetual talkshow circuits, the impact of violence in the middle east, there is humanity. there is a humanity of people just like us who you're simply
to help one another and to share affection for one generation to the next. beyond all of the complexities of the region, there is also something very basic going on, a struggle between people who are intent of opening wounds or leaving them open and those who want to close them and who want to heal and build a future this is the glue that holds the components of our strategy together. we do have a strategy. whether we are backing an electoral process electoral process in tunisia, mobilizing a coalition against terrorist, trying to halt a sudden outbreak of violence, as i was last last weekend with respect to the temple, or striving to put in place new foundation for prosperity and stability. our goal is to help ensure that
builders and healers throughout the region have the chance they need to accomplish their tasks. now, i've i've heard some americans wonder aloud, why should we care about the middle east? after all, we are on the verge of independence so why not just walk away. the answer is it would be directly and profoundly contrary to our nation's interest to try to do that. we have to remember that the middle east is home to some of america's oldest friends including our ally, israel and also our many arab partners in this now, more complicated world. we also learned from 911 that regional threats become global very quickly. we have seen that id is transmitted by terrace in rocca and most will can reach
impressive bull mines in minneapolis and mississippi. we are aware as well that events in the middle east can affect perception on every single continent. people on every continent are influenced by the spiritual and ethical traditions that have their roots in those ancient lands. i hear about this everywhere ago, people are amazed. it is good to see the former prime minister here. i am amazed. he knows what i am talking about, all over the world. or and ministers, prime ministers, presidents, they say to me no matter where i visit, you have to do something about the middle east. you have you have to change this because it affects us. it is true of course that we rely less on middle east oil than we used to. but it is also true that the energy market is global. any serious disruption of gulf
oil supplies can quickly harm our financial systems, lower lower exports, cost millions of jobs, that's an interest. so the middle east matters and it matters way beyond oil my friends, it matters a lot. in the context of this world when we're trying to bring people together to see the future. that is why it is so important that carnegie is launching this ambitious project this week called arab world horizons. to examine trends that will shape the middle east for decades to come. i encourage you to begin this project with a healthy degree of optimism. before you conclude that i have had too much caffeine. [laughter] let me emphasize that i mean what i just said. i mean it. a couple of years ago we asked the mckenzie company to study
the economic prospects of jordan, syria, israel, egypt and the west bank, a good starting place for all of you is to go back to the arab report, study report report on economic growth a number of years ago which was stark in its appraisal of what had not happened that should have happened in many of the arab countries in the region. interestingly, my good friend the foreign minister recently also commissioned a separate study which similarly showed what we looked at through mckenzie company where we looked at every sector from farming, tourism, my friends, the potential for growth is simply extraordinary. the potential of this region to be a driving financial center, harnessing incredible technology and capacity in people in many of the countries is simply extraordinary. just imagine the future where
people from the nile and other places are free to work and travel as they please. where every boy and girl has access to a quality education. where. where visitors are able to flock without fear to the world's greatest tourist attractions. i mean, think about that. the world's greatest tourist attractions. i have driven by them, i have not even had time to stop at some of them. the place where john the baptist christened so many people, including jesus. the temple near it, a muslim mosque which is one of the oldest in the region and most important. the extraordinary history of the generation of struggle that has taken place in the middle east. there there is something there for everybody. even an atheist as a budding architect would have trouble not having an interesting time.
where you have neighboring countries are actually eager to trade, i hear this. i hear it from the ministers in the each of the surrounding countries, how much they wish things could change so they could begin to engage in a normal commerce of the region. they are ready to cop rate on projects that link their economies together. now sadly, we have become so accustom of dwelling on the problems in the middle east that we sometimes forget what is staring us in the face is incredible opportunities and we all ought to be doing more to focus on those opportunities, because those people and all the countries are beginning to lose it believe in any of their leaders. palestinians do not have believed, israelis do not have beliefs, people in the surrounding arab countries do not believe. what it takes is real leadership, real decisions, real events real events on the ground to begin to change those hopes.
so we ought to be doing more, all of of us. here i specifically include governments in the region, we need to take advantage of these huge opportunities that exist today. let's be honest with each other, apart from petroleum, middle eastern countries right now simply do not produce enough of what the rest of the world wants. they do not trade, efficiently even among themselves. they are are not making wise use of their human capital. only about one woman in four participates in the economy, and employment is at 25% or higher. this leads many young people because of the pervasiveness of social media are completely aware of what everybody else in the world has and they do not. everybody is connected 24/seven. you can be impoverished but they still have a smart form phone,
they can still google and facebook, they can still figure out what the other person has and they can talk to those people, and they do. and very simple declarative sentence. so what happens happens to all that energy and ambition? in the united states the average age is 35, the middle east and north africa it is under 25. many of those countries have populations where it is 60 or 65% under the age of 30 or 35. so the region's future really depends on the choices that these young men and women are going to get to make. but who are they going to listen to? we need to talk about that as you have this conference. what ideas will command their loyalty? what might excite their imagination? individually, each one of these young people is a story that will end either in frustration or opportunity. collectively they present a profound challenge because of
[inaudible] it is time we remain so engage. that is why we have invested in a variety of worthwhile programs, everything from the rule of law initiatives and jordan to public, private partnerships in the palestinian authority. we had worked so hard and i had the pleasure of working with him to implement. we also know the pace of progress will depend in part on improved security. that is a major goal of u.s. policy in the middle east, we do not just mean security of one country or another, israelis have to be secure, palestinians have to be secured, people in gaza have to be secure. everyone has to be secure. it is our common enterprise now to fight for that security. so here i go back to the struggle i mentioned earlier about the destroyers and the
builders. if the builders are going to succeed, they will have to be protected from the dangers imposed by dangers, strife, weapons of mass distraction, and america's security strategy in the middle east is precisely designed to try to aid in each of these areas. that is why pres. obama play such importance on achieving a negotiated solution to iran's nuclear program. as all of you know, this this man over here, bill burns played a critical role in helping get those talks with iran off the ground. and in helping forge the interim plan that set the stage for the final agreement that we have reached. that is an agreement that is imposing dramatic constraints on all aspects of iran's nuclear activities. ten days ago the deal became official, the implementation began. that implementation will require
two thirds of iran's centrifuges, the shipment abroad of 98% of its stockpile of enriched uranium, the destruction uranium, the destruction of the core of the heavy water plutonium reactor. the whole process will be monitored by the iaea and no sanctions will be lifted until that agency verifies that iran has done exactly what it promised to do. now, this gives iran every incentive to lives up to its commitment. just as it did, by the way during the 18 month leading up to the final agreement. people don't realize is that almost more than two years of iran's compliance with the interim agreement has now taken place, you have not heard of major breaches or anything because it has been adhered to. so, i hope now that everyone who
is for the agreement and for those who were against it will come together to support its a full and verifiable implementation, that is the goal. i promise you, i am absolutely convinced that he the united states will be safer, our allies will be safer, and the world will be safer if iran doesn't have and isn't anywhere close to getting a nuclear weapon. we believe, as our energy department, intelligence community, and military know, that because of the verification measures and transparency of this agreement, we will know whether or not they are. as you recall, when negotiations were going on there speculation about what an agreement might mean for relations between washington and iran. was it possible that a breakthrough in the nuclear issue would be able to open the door to broader cooperation?
somewhat welcome that prospect, some to be truthful, were, were alarmed by that process. so, i want to be clear, we meant exactly what we said, the iran deal was considered on its own terms, not what is he going to do here, just nuclear terms, it was it was the right thing to do whether or not it leads to other areas of cooperation. we are not making any assumptions about iran's future policies because we base our process approach on observable facts. what we we see is that iran continues to engage in play and the secretary and division in the region and it continues to detain several american citizens, and our estimation without justification, and to ransom policies are one reason why we are working so closely and supportively with our partners in the region, including the gulf states and
israel. in fact, we have established an unprecedented level of cooperation with israel on military issues, we are correlating in forcing sanctions and in trying to stop the tears organization such as has months and has below from getting financing and weapons that they seek. we also support israel's right to defend itself and its citizens, we do that in many ways. we also support all of the gcc countries in the work we did in camp david and we will continue to do, and i even reaffirmed when i was out in the region a couple of days ago. within the past week, i've met with prime minister, with king abdalla, king solomon of solomon saudi arabia, and others. we all agreed of the importance of ending the violence in israel, jerusalem, gaza, and the west bank. in making it clear that the
status quo at the temple mount will not be changed. i want to be clear the kind of violence we have been seen in recent weeks hurts everyone. the innocent victims and their families, the jewish, the palestinians who year and to have their aspirations realize, it hurts everyone. this is yet another indication of the folly of believing that efforts of permanent peace and reconciliation are somehow not worth pursuing. i cannot imagine the notion of just doing up your hands and walking away and saying, good luck. the current situation is simply not sustainable. pres. obama has said that publicly many times, i have set a publicly, it is absolutely vital for israel to take steps that empower palestinian leaders
to improve economic opportunities in the quality of life of their people on a day-to-day basis, and it is equally important for palestinian leaders to cease the violence and to offer something more than rhetoric. instead, propose solutions that will contribute in a real way to the improvement of life, to the reduction of violence, and to the safety and security of israel. firm and creative leadership on both sides is absolutely essential. a true true state solution with strong security protections remains the only viable alternative, for anyone who thinks otherwise you can measure what unitary looks like by looking at what has been going on in the last weeks. the united states absolutely remains prepared to do what we
can to make that two state, two people living side-by-side, in peace and security, to make that possible. another core element of our security strategy in the middle east is that on the coalition we have localized to counter and defeat the group now as i sell. the list of crimes for which i sold, or - is responsible is truly mind-boggling. it is truly disturbing as anything i have ever, related in my life. -our smugglers, kidnappers they butcher, they butcher teachers, burn books, they execute journalists are doing their jobs trying to report on the truth, they execute execute people just for their religious beliefs. they execute them for who they are, by birth, nothing said,
nothing nothing done, just because they are different. in iraq isil has been auctioning off women and girls, teaching people that the rape of under aged non- muslim females is a form of prayer. according to da sh they live in virtual paradise but we are beginning to see how different the reality is. they're all multiple reports of das h executing fighters who signed up and then had second thoughts and were trying to get out. consider the case of a teenage boy who had been recruited in syria and sent to iraq. one morning he approached a shiite mosque in baghdad, he unbuttoned his jacket, opened it up, up, told the guards i am wearing a suicide vest but i do not want to blow myself up.
the boy said later that he had volunteered to wear the best because it was the only way he could think of to escape, he had joined das h to serve his religion and fight a sod, but when he witnessed the execution of a young person very much like himself he decided to reverse course and get out. this past summer the terrace picked up sledgehammers and smashed half a dozen statues in the ancient city of palm era. they destroyed the roman arches, they blew up historic tombs and destroyed a 2000-year-old temple. then they sees the city director of an equities, the man was tried to protect history and they made him kneel in a public square and they cut off his head. the man was 83 years old, old, he spent a lifetime saving history. he had been in charge of
preserving the mayor's cultural heritage for more than 50 years. my friends, between this saturday night and sunday morning we are all going to be turning our clocks back one hour, das h and groups like it want to turn the clock of civilization back a millennium or more. we simply cannot allow this to continue. that is why president obama is ratcheting up what we are doing. under pres. obama's leadership, leadership, we have led a 65 member coalition to take on the ash, for more than a year we have been doing that. we have saved communities, colonic, to see 100,000 sunnis be able to return to their homes. we have seven we have seven the beginning that this would be a multiyear effort. i think we have already
accomplished a lot. we we have launched more than 7300 air strike, we force das h to change how they are attacking. we have liberated communities and made a difference in the nature of this battlefield. i spoke earlier about the impact of our policies on ordinary lives, last week, just -underscore to you the degree to which we are ready to take this fight, and the degree to which we are raising our capacity. a u.s. special forces operation carried out a rescue directed against the das h prison in northern iraq. our troops freed 6969 hostages who were about to be executed one by one with a mass grave that had already been
done. i have spoken spoken to people in our embassy, i spoke to her special person who is in baghdad, he told me and he went and visited the people who had been released. he said he could not imagine their emotion, their gratitude to pres. obama and the american people. they told. they told us the enormous debt they feel to the family of master sergeant joshua wheeler who gave his life in that operation. i think that is a debt to we all zero. i will say to you what i've said many times, throughout my life, we are deeply privileged to be represented and protected by the quality and caliber of the men and women of the armed forces of the united states. we express our gratitude to them. meanwhile, [applause]. meanwhile, i want you to know
the combination of coalition airpower and the iraq he ground forces is being felt. we are supplying iraq with armored bulldozers, my clearing equipment that is making it much harder for the ash to h to go out and resupply its fighters, and iraq he forced just retook the oil refinery, strategically located on the road that links baghdad. we have pushed das h out of 17 commenters of territory and we have secured the turkish syrian border, that is about 85% of the turkish border. the president is authorizing further activities to secure the rest. we know that some of our key allies, the the british, the french, the turks are stepping up more with their help. president obama recently gave a green light to send more ammunition and aid to our allies on the ground. the president has made clear that we are determined to degrade das h more rapidly.
i want to underscore, as well that military operations are but one of the many components of what the coalition's doing. we. we are working hard to counter the ash propaganda and deterred foreign fighters from joining it. in in partnership with the uae we have established a center in abu dhabi that is offering positive messages across the region and internet and all through social media, talking about politics, religion, the responsibilities of faith. we are striving to cut off das h funding so it becomes bankrupt politically just as it is morally. ultimately, to defeat the ash, we have to end the war in syria. that is america's goal. and thinking about how to do this, you you have to think about how the conflict be it began. early in 20 2011 father and son
had ruled more than 40 years. hassan sent thugs to beat up the young people who are protesting in the streets and looking for jobs, looking for a future, that is all they want to. but but the thugs went out and beat them up. when the parents got angry at the fact that their kids were met with thugs, they went out and they were met with bullets and bombs. that is how this started. so having made peaceful change impossible, assad made made war inevitable and he sued turn to hezbollah for help, and iran, and russia. this exasperated tensions between sunni and shiite communities and pave the way for das h to emerge. the result has been for a half years of nonstop horror.
this is a human catastrophe unfolding before our eyes in the 21st century. you know the numbers, we have a fundamental responsibility to try to do something about it. one syrian in 20, has been killed or wounded. one in five is a refugee, one into has been displaced. the average life expectancy in syria has drop ice 20 years. my my friends, the challenge we face in syria today is nothing less then to chart a course out of hell. to do that, we have to employ a two-pronged two-pronged approach. intensifying our counter das h campaign and, on the other side are diplomatic efforts to try to bring the conflict to a close. these steps are actually mutually reinforcing, that is
why we are stepping up to fight against the ash by resupplying the opposition fighters in northern syria to help them consolidate the gains they have made across territory and to begin to pressure the chief city of isil, which is iraq a. we are also enhancing our air campaign to help drive the ash which once dominated the syrian turkey border out of the last 7t controls. at the end of the day, nothing would do more to bolster the fight against the ash than a political transition that sidelines assad that so that we can unite more of the country against extremism. we have to eliminate the mindset which was encouraged by the beginning by both her side and the ash, the only choice syrians have is between the two of them. either of terrace or you have
assad, no, that is not the choice. this is a mindset that fear the dictator side with the terrorists and vice a versa. this is the mindset that has transformed syria into a killing field. field. we have a different vision, i just returned from meetings in vienna that included a remarkable session, broke some new ground where we had russia, turkey, saudi arabia and the united states. i will head back to vienna tonight to take the next step in our discussions about representatives from a broadening group of nations, including iran which will join one of these multilateral gatherings for the first time. while finding a way forward with syria will not be easy, it is not going to be automatic, it, it is the most promising opportunity for a political
opening where recognizing what is happening, where syria is being destroyed, that europe is being deeply impacted, that jordan is a being greatly put under enormous pressure, lebanon, turkey, and so many millions of syrians who have been displaced within syria itself. the most compelling of all is the tragedy that syrians are living every day. the best opportunity we have is to try to come to the table and recognize there has to be a political solution that everyone is talking about. as part of this diplomacy i have had many conversations with my russian counterparts, as everyone here knows russian airstrikes in syria began about four weeks ago. so there is fundamental choice here, is it russia there just to shore up or are they there to help bring about a solution. we we will know, we'll put that to the test. contrary to the claims of the officials in moscow, it has to
be underscore that most of the strikes thus far have been directed, not against the ash but against the opponents of the assad regime. that is not in our view, a way to bring the war to a close but that will be part of the discussion will have in the course of our vienna meetings. the likely result of that strategy, by the way will be to further radicalize the population, prolong the fighting, and perhaps strengthen the illusion on assad's part that he can indefinitely hold his power. if that is what he thinks, i have news, there is no way that a number of the other countries involved in this correlation will let up or stop. it will not happen. there is another thing that is critical, russia, the united states, and others share an amazing amount of cotton untran,
ground on this. we actually all agreed that the status quo was unattainable. we agree that we need to find a way to have a political's solution. we agree that a victory by das h or or another terrorist group has to be prevented. we agree that it is imperative to save the state of syria and the institutions of which it is built and preserve a united, secular syria. we all agree that we have to create the conditions for the return of the displaced persons and refugee. we agree agree on the right of the syrian people to choose their leadership through transparent, free election with a new constitution and protections for all minorities in the country. we agree on all of that. surely, we can find a place where one man does not stand in the way of the possibilities apiece.
so, we agree that all of these steps can only be achieved in syria can only be saved through a political settlement. so my message to foreign minister and president poon, all concerned governments, is that we each have a responsibility here to contribute to an early and to the syrian disaster, through a transition, already agreed upon in the context of the geneva communiqué which would unite the country and would give it a chance to bring back its citizens and live in peace. that is the purpose of the inclusive diplomatic process that we are continuing to pursue beginning with this trip, back across the atlantic this evening. before closing, i i would make two additional points quickly. first, to skeptics who say that democracy can't make it in the middle east and north africa, i reply with one word, tunisia.
[applause]. here, where the arab spring was born we are not finding a paradise but we are finding a place where leaders of the opposing factors have been willing to put the interests of their nation above personal ambitions. where civil society is playing a vital role in spurring political dialogue. where power was transferred peacefully from one leader to the next in accordance with the rule of law, and where diverse perspectives including both secular and religion are not being repressed, they are actually being encouraged and taken into account. what is happening in tunisia is important for the people there obviously, but guess what it is instructive of the entire region. tunisia is showing what it means to be builders in the middle east.
my second point is more of a plea. please do not accept the view of some that the middle east must inevitably be divided along secretary and lines, especially between sunni and shiite muslims. nothing kills the propaganda of dsh and other terrorist organizations more than the smith. this simplistic and cynical view is not only not true historically, it is not true today. after all, coalition to defeat dsh includes every sunni region in the northeast. last june when the ash suicide bombers attacked and killed muslims while they are praying in kuwait at the start of ramadan, 27 were killed, what happened? the speaker of the parliament
immediately rushed to the site of the tragedy, 1300 people volunteered to give blood the first day, sunni religious leaders urged their followers to show solidarity by praying at shiite mouse. the government blew the bodies of the victims for burial in accordance to family wishes. back in kuwait, 35000 people of every single sector came together and attended a funeral for others who were killed. they stood up and said the mosque would be rebuilt. a sunni businessman volunteered to do the job for nothing. das h will rise or fall on its ability to drive the people apart. that is precisely why i say it will fail. on that horrible evening, 20 years ago when i was being
descended on city hall steps in tel aviv and he walked towards his car and towards his killer, there is a sheet of paper in his pocket that would soon be stained with blood. on the paper were the words, to sheer, a song of peace. words that warn of the prominence of death and replacing hate for something better. the middle east today, my friends is still marred by the sounds of spectacle of violence but it need not be. the region is also pulsating with life, it is the homa populations that are energetic, youthful, forward-looking, and, forward-looking, and far more interested in plugging into the world's economy than slugging it out with historical foes. it is in them that we place our faith. it is for them, and for our