tv Hearing on Middle East Strategy CSPAN January 22, 2016 5:21am-8:03am EST
dangerous in the middle east. all across the region, we see a dangerous breakdown of state authority and the balance of power. as henry kissinger testified before this committee, there's a struggle for power within states, a conflict between states a conflict between ethnic and religious groups, and an assault on the international system. as general petraeus also told us last year, almost every middle eastern country is now a battleground or combatant in one or more wars. for the past seven year the obama administration has sought to scale back america's involvement and commitment to the region. assuming that a post-american middle east would be good for the region and for us and that regional powers would step up to police the region themselves. results of this massive gamble should now be clear to us all. no new order has emerged in the middle east, only chaos. a power vacuum has opened up in the absence of america and has been filled by the most extreme
and anti-american of forces, sunni terrorist groups such as isil and al qaeda or shiite extremists such as the islamic republic of iran and its proxy sis and the imperial ambitions of vladimir putin. these challenges were always going to be present and difficult but it did not have to be this way this dangerous. instead of acknowledging failures and changing course as previous administration of both parties have done, the administration has all too often doubled down on its reactive, incredibility -- incremental and inadequate policy. now more than a year into the campaign to roll back and destroy isil, it is impossible to assert that isil is losing or we are winning. to be sure there's been some tactical progress including the recent recapture of ramadi. s that testament to our civilian and military leaders, but serious challenges remain. isil has lost some territory on the margin but has consolidated
power in its core territories in both iraq and syria. it maintains control of key iraq cities like mosul and fa lieu jasm they estimate that this key the rain will not be retaken this year. the u.n. reports that since isil's invasion of iraq in 2014, nearly 20,000 iraq civilians have been killed. nearly 3,500 people, predominantly women and children are children, are estimated to be isil slaves in iraq. it is no surprise that the training of iraq security forces has been slow. the building of support for sunni tribal forces even slower. in syria, there is no possible strategy to achieve isil's the feat on a timeline that would result in the tragic deaths of tens of thousands of syrians. there is still no ground force
that is both willing and able to take cities, nor is the realistic prospect of one emerging soon. in the absence of a realistic strategy to create the conditions for the achievement of u.s. goals, the administration has fallen back on hope. the hope that diplomacy without sufficient leverage can convince russia and iran to abandon bashir al-assad and ight isil. yet we read just this morning that russia's air campaign continues to target moderate pposition groups, may be gaining traction in stabilizing the assad regime. meanwhile, isil continues to metastasize across the region in places like afghanistan, libya, lebanon, and egypt. its attacks are now global, san bernadino, and most recently in istanbul. these should be a wake-up call that the threat to the homeland is real and growing. we need a strategy to destroy isil, not ultimately, but as quickly as possible.
the administration cannot continue to assume that the time is on our side. one element of the administration's middle east policy clear from the beginning is its policy toward iran. instead of negotiating a deal to force iran to give up its nuclear program, the and menstruation signed a deal that would, as dr. kissinger said, went from prolonging -- preventing proliferation to managing it. despite the talk, the islamic republic's behavior has not changed. rather than empowering iranian moderates, the nuclear deal appears to be doing the pposite. emboldening hardliners. iran as now conducted 2 advanced missile test since october in violation of the human security council by aleutians. -- resolutions.
it fired rockets within 1500 yards of u.s. aircraft carrier. iran seized 2 u.s. navy vessels, illegally detained 10 american sailors, and propagandized the entire incident in total violation of international law and centuries of maritime tradition. i must add, as a former navy person, that is the most humiliating thing i have een. members of the u.s. navy subjected to in my or their ifetime. i am sure that the iranians use those pictures of american servicemen and women on their knees much to their great success throughout the world, as well as the region. shortly after the result, the release of 4 american hostages in iran, we learned that 3 americans were kidnapped in baghdad, apparently by in iranian backed shiite
militia. i have no doubt the obama administration has pursued a new relationship with iran because it believed doing so would release sectarian ensions. but the reality is the in -- administration's overtures exacerbated nly these tensions among our traditional sunni partners and allies, such as israel and turkey. this dynamic has only grown worse because the administration has been so slow to offer support to those allies and partners. as we have recently seen with delayed fighter aircraft sales to qatar and kuwait. to prevent competition from breaking down into open war. this is the responsibility that we are now advocating. we are being a very heavy price for doing so, that is only growing.
i hope that our witnesses today can help us better understand the cost of our current course and contemplate a better alternative. senator reid? they have an extraordinary wealth of experience. this past weekend we saw a number of significant developments, and most notably, implementation day of the joint comprehensive plan of action or the jcpoa, exchange of participating in the united states and iran. individually these are notable developments, but combined they have the potential to represent an inflection point an opportunity to shift the course of the united states and iranian relationships, and the opportunity for these kinds of changes are rare indeed.
share concerns about iran's he stabilizing actions in the middle east. iran will need to change its course. the president's hope for new portunities, and -- i hope the witnesses will provide their assessment of these events and what opportunities and cautionary notes they would present for consideration to the committee. i recently returned from a visit to iraq. i had an opportunity to meet with the country's leadership, and our military commanders on he ground. by visit came on the heels of successful operation by iraq security forces to take and retake ramadi. the success which was enabled by the coalition air pod gave a significant confidence boost, and i hope this momentum will
ontinue. in syria as a result of the violent agendas of the assad regime and isil, the humanitarian situation is increasingly dire and the human cost of conflict is staggering. our military has embarked on the campaign to ensure that isil is under increasing pressure. with respect to the overall conflicts in syria, secretary kerry is pursuing an ambitious agenda to facilitate a diplomatic pathway in the conflict and should be recognized for his persistence. i look forward to hearing from the witnesses on their assessment on whether the current peace talks might be pproved. one other issue that struck me during my visit to the region was government efforts to counter isil in the information environment, an area where the dministration is appropriately and necessarily try to breathe new life into interagency efforts on this front, creation of the global engagement center.
we must ensure it is adequately resourced and powered with necessary authorities. i look forward to hearing from our witnesses and what they hope to hear from the center, ore importantly we can effectively begin to win the information war, which isil has been so effective at. given that ambassador carter here, i will briefly mention afghanistan. the security situation is challenging, but afghan national security officers remain responsive. further complicating the security situation has been the emergence of the so-called islamic state in the province. from the political standpoint, the national unity government has held together through a difficult year, providing an opportunity for progress on key reform issues, including
governance and corruption. evaluation and lessons learned for the past year may yield new ways in which the u.s. and coalition partners can improve our operations and political process by the afghans going forward. i'd be interested to hear from ambassador carter on what we should do and must do in this era. thank you, gentlemen. >> welcome, general keene, chairman of the institute for the study of war, and the former vice chief of the army, and the dean and executive professor of the george bush's school of government and public service. and the honorable phil h -- philip h that gordon, senior
counsel on foreign relations, and white house middle east coordinator. general keene, due to your advanced age, we will begin with you. >> ok. hank you, chairman mccain, ranking member reed. i'm honored to provide testimony on the challenges of the middle east. this committee's persistence in keeping us focused on the unparalleled of people in the middle east is commendable. thank you for your hard work and much welcome reforms that are included in the national defense authorization act. i'm honored to be a part of this distinguished panel with the honorable phil gordon and particularly to be reunited with ambassador crocker, who remains today america possible successful and preeminent diplomat whose extensive service throughout the middle east is legendary. i was privileged to work with ambassador crocker during the iraq and afghanistan surges while assisting general petraeus. in previous testimonies before
this committee i have purported details on how to defeat isis in iraq and syria and on russia possible involvement in syria. today my focus is yours, and what you have asked us to do, and that is to deal with overall u.s. policy and strategy in the region. i brought along a couple of maps for you to look at, and i think they will put them on boards when we reference them and you should have them at your seat as well. the middle east has experience one of the most tumultuous periods. in its history. radicalized islamists taking advantage of the political and social upheaval, and the islamic state of iran using proxies to achieve regional influence and control. some issues in the middle east have been simmering for some time, and are certainly underlying factors such as historical sectarianism, oppressive regimes, political and social injustice, and a lack of economic opportunity
exacerbated now by the price of oil. one cannot simply blame these larger forces operating in the region and absolve the united states of specific policy decisions that has had unintended adverse consequences. let's name a few. egypt. in 2010, the arab spring begins. in looking back, while most arab countries were in some form of pre-revolutionary phase, it was strategic surprise. the united states in the face of major civil unrest in cairo abandoned mubarak, a multi-decade i like -- multi-decade ally. the result is the muslim brotherhood, who move quickly without any u.s. opposition, to transition egypt to an islamic state. iran supports the muslim brotherhood. the muslim brotherhood quickly loses the support of the people and are deposed in a military
coup. libya, in 2011 after gadhafi's deposed and killed, a newly elected moderate islamist regime requests support to train a national security force to repress the radical militants. the united states refuses. some of the same militants burned down the u.s. consulate, killed the ambassador and three others, forced the evacuation of a covert base, and the following year forced a u.s. retreat from libya. libya is now a failed state, a breeding ground for radical islamists, and the largest isis presence outside of syria and iraq. iraq, where the 2003 -- whether the 2003 invasion was righteous, it are should in the first arab democracy in the middle east while giving rise to al qaeda in iraq, who was efeated in 2008. in 2009, the new u.s.
administration began to distance itself politically from iraq, culminating in a total military pullout from iraq in 2010. the prime minister immediately begins a purge of political opponents and military leaders, and al qaeda reemerges that same year. syria's civil war growing out of the arab spring in 2011 is stalemated because the rebels initial games are thwarted by iranian proxies. the hezbollah and iraqi shia militias and much-needed supplies and equipment from russia and iran. the rebels in 2011 and 2012 seek assistance from the united states, which is recommended by secretaries clinton and panetta, general dempsey and director contrasts. the united states refuses. al qaeda in iraq is incentivized by the protracted civil war in syria.
moves out of a rock with several hundred iraqi fighters, establishing a sanctuary in northeastern syria, and grows a terrorist army of some 30,000 to 40,000. this decision baghdadi made is transformational for him and the most critical decision has made since being the leader of al qaeda in iraq. two years later, isis invades iraq and expands its territory in syria. isis as we know it today would not exist without the opportunity that syria provided. in 2013, a chemical weapons red line is crossed, the united states does not respond as promised, arab allies are dismayed and dissolutions. assad continues to conduct a comprehensive depopulation campaign, killing 250,000 civilians, displacing 11 million people, resulting in thousands of syrians joining
tidal waves of others in the region to migrate to europe. in yemen, iranian backed houthis in 2014 forced the u.s.-backed yemen government to topple. the much touted u.s. counterterrorism operation is in full retreat with the closing of u.s. military operations and the united states embassy in yemen. this is an extraordinary chronology of events, where u.s. policy will not necessarily the primary cause of these disturbing events, was a least a factor and further destabilizing the middle east and losing the confidence and trust of our allies in the region. so much so that russia is seeking to replace the united states as the most influential out of region nation, and many of our allies are listening. however, the most critical policy failures are essentially strategic, and therefore have the most profound impact.
simply stated, they are the united states and allies strategic failure to organize, plan, and defeat radical islam, and to successfully counter iranian regional hegemony. as to radical islam, 23 years after the first world trade center bombing in 14 plus years after 9/11, we still have no comprehensive strategies to defeat radical islam. radical islam is morphing into a jihad, with expansion of al qaeda and the extraordinary success of isis, which has rapidly become the most successful terrorist organization in history. still growing at 2000 per month, and expanding into affiliate organizations throughout the middle east, africa, south and southeast asia, and developing a worldwide following where elievers are willing to kill
their fellow citizens, foment terror and unrest, and and paula risa population between muslims and non-muslims. see the map provided by the institute for the study of war, which depicts isis' desire to expand into affiliates in the near abroad in orange, and the far abroad in yellow. with the number of current affiliates as represented by the black stars, and affiliates in process of approval in blue stars. most of the far abroad will not have affiliates but rather radicalized followers who are inspired by isis to act, either as individuals or small cells. the united states strategic failure arrives not from -- derived from not understanding the nature of the conflict. the bush war on terror, and the obama counterterrorism war are simply tactics. the battle is within islam itself, wherein the arab world
is intersecting with authoritarian regimes and family monarchies, failure, politically reform and to adjust to the needs of their societies. therefore we are fighting a political and religious ideology which draws its origin from the very strict interpretation of the koran, as well as the intolerance of wahhabism. political leaders such as lcc and king abdullah have referred to it as a religious revolution, yet the current u.s. administration fails to define radical islam or explain it -- nor explain it, nor understand it. how can we possibly defeat radical islam if we don't understand it? knowing the kind of war you are fighting is the first ird of a national or military leader. given this purposeful misunderstanding, or self-deception at best, by not acknowledging this narrowly focused islamic ideology, it
creates an unnecessary condition where all muslims are brought under suspicion. law-abiding, faith-based, traditional or modern muslims who would do no harm to the fellow man and resent any association with radical islam deserves better treatment than that. this is a 21st century, generational, ideological struggle someone from the 20th century -- the 9/11 commission recommended a global alliance design a strategy and to work together to defeat radical islam. king solomon of saudi arabia is organizing a 34 member alliance to combat radical islam. it remains to be seen if it amounts to anything substantive. i do know it begs for the united states to play a leadership role. the next president of the united states will likely defeat isis in iraq and syria
having the resources necessary to do the job. isis and radical islam is a global movement. it's not a question of whether we want to combat radical islam, is unavoidable. the only question is how. i believe global alliance members should design a strategy and not the united states. there are some elements that are obvious and critical. national leaders and muslim clerics must undermine the political and religious ideology with not just what is wrong, but what is the right thinking and ideology. arab-muslim countries must change the levels of intolerance and the influence of wahhabism. political reform and social justice are essential. financial and economic support must be countered. countries permitting such behavior by the citizens should be held accountable. intelligence technology and selected equipment should be shared. partnering for training and
military education is essential to raise the level of operational confidence. there is no substantive for an effective ground force. airpower is an enabler, it is not a defeat mechanism. this is about alliance members providing the predominant military response. it's not the united states military. the united states military would provide a certain level f support. enemy combatants should be pursued aggressively and ruthlessly. destroy and defeat radical islamic sanctuaries, sanctuaries are safe havens by themselves, protract the conflict and drive up the casualties. syria is a sanctuary. pakistan for 14 years has provided two sanctuaries and has unnecessarily protracted hat war. as to iran, in 1980 iran
declared the united states as a strategic enemy with its stated goal to drive the united states out of the region, achieve regional hegemony, and destroy the state of israel. it uses proxies, primarily as the world's number one state sponsoring terrorism, and to fight proxy wars. beginning in the early 1980's, it began jihad against the united states by bombing the marine barracks, united states embassy, and the annex in lebanon, something our ambassadors intimately familiar with, united states embassy in kuwait, the air force towers in saudi arabia, and attacking the united states military in iraq using shia militias trained in iran with advanced engineers. during the 1980's, iran began an aggressive kidnapping and assassination campaign which resulted in numerous american hostages and the death of cia station chief buckley.
a policy of hostage-taking for political gain continues to this day, as we are very much aware of. to date, the result is u.s. troops left lebanon, saudi arabia, and initially iraq while iran, the changing middle east maps in red, has direct influence and some control over ebanon, gaza, syria, iraq, and yemen while strategicically desiring to influence not only the major shipping in the gulf, but the shipping entering and eparting the suez canal. let me just add -- when you talk to a leader in the middle east, and arab sunni leader, this is what they think of when they think of iran. this is how they see iran and what it is doing in terms of their future security of stability. excuse me.
is there any doubt that iran is on the march and systemically moving towards the regional hegemonic objectives? some suggest that iran is agreeing to a delay in a threshold capability towards a nuclear weapon is a transforming event. that may lead to iran joining the community of nations seeking stability and ecurity. given a return of $100 million and sanction relief funds and a proven track record of belligerence and armed violence pursue its goal, a tough-minded skepticism is in order. to force compliance on the nuclear deal, as senator reid mentioned, and finally, once and for all, the first development of a regional strategy to counter iran. a remarkable fact is that since the killing of americans and hostage-taking by iran, and as proxy wars began in the 1980's, no american president, democrat
or republican, is ever counted iran's regional strategy. no more than ever with iran -- now more than ever with iran developing a ballistic missile capability and likely to cheat on the conditions of the nuclear deal, because it can, it is an imperative to join with israel our arab and european allies to counter iran's strategy of regional hegemony. a part of that strategy is concrete steps should be taken. in syria, the reverse of the decision that assad can stay, which guarantees there will never be a negotiated peace, a concession, i believe, to the russians just to get them to participate. establish safe zones and no-fly zones in syria to change the momentum against the assad egime. and protect syrian people.
move eventually to a transition government, and eventually independently observe national actions. -- elections. in iraq, establish a key political objective to reduce iranian influence in to gain the prime minister's strong political, military, and economic support for the sunni tribes and kurds. dispatch ambassador crocker to iraq to was again assist and iraqi government in achieving political unity, something i've been saying publicly since the 2014 invasion. in yemen, and the gulf states against pushing against the houthis, with intelligence targeting and striking targets if necessary. ballistic missile testing, maligned regional behavior, hostage-taking, and of course any nuclear deal violation should all be met with tough, unrelenting economic sanctions. failure to counter iran's
maligned influence is encouraged their aggressive and estructive behavior for. 6 years. in conclusion, the united states should return to its historical role as the major out of region power pumping out allies to secure a stable and prosperous middle east. the united states major policy challenges in the middle east surround the development of comprehensive strategies to defeat radical islam, and to counter iranian aggression and maligned behavior. if these competencies are not addressed, the middle east will continue to be in freefall, as the middle east problems become the world's problems and confronting global jihad. the potential of middle east war between the kingdom of saudi arabia and iran, and supported by their allies, is real. and nuclear middle east
proliferation leading to the car of the world's first nuclear exchange is real, which is secretary kissinger's major concern as a result of the nuclear deal. the risk has always been high in the middle east, and the challenges certainly complex, but now in adequate strategies and misguided policies are driving up that risk exponentially. thank you, and i appreciate you giving me an extra few minutes to explain that. honor to be with you this morning. you have my written testimony, i believe, mr. chairman. i will make a few brief remarks so we can get on with the questions. i would start where general teen left off, in a region experiencing unprecedented to mold in its 100 year modern history, there is an urgent need for a reassertion of u.s. engagement and leadership.
i will have some specifics, i was just in the middle east last month talking to some longtime friends and lebanon with saudi's, with some syrians. there is a perception that the united states is absent and maligned forces are therefore having a field day out there. our friends are uncertain and scared, our adversaries are gaining ground. you need to make this clear that what happens in the middle east is of vital national importance to us.
at a time when states are failing and nonstate actors are rising, it has become all too clear that as my good friend and former wingmen data try us has said, what happens in the middle east does not stay in the middle east. that was the lesson of paris. we have an urgent national security imperative here. let me say briefly on iran, since that is the issue of the hour around town, some pretty momentous developments. i think the implementation of the jcpoa is important, for regional security and global security. we are going to have to be very vigilant to see that iran follows through. we are delighted that our hostages have come home. as i look at this over the sweep of recent history, these are transactions. they are not transformations. i'm reminded of our arms control agreements with the soviets in the 1980's.
he made the world a safer place with a nuclear power, not just an aspirant nuclear power, but they did not transform anything. the cold war continued, we continue to stand against the evil empire in spite arms control transactions. i was in lebanon when some of our hostages were taken, and i was in lebanon when they came home. i loaded the remains of my former ambassador onto the helicopter. the syrians were also instrumental in holding those hostages, as was iran and hezbollah. they're released to not transform anything, did not transform a relationship with syria. syria remained on our list of state sponsors of terrorism, as it should have. what has happened. in this past
week i think is important. it is transactional. a broader point is that we are witnessing in the midst of these hot conflicts a middle eastern cold war. iran is on the move. the radical shia militia that sponsors them in iraq, hezbollah working with the revolutionary guard to support assad in syria, we need to stand clearly not in the middle of this cold war, we need to stand on one side of it. and that in my view is with our traditional allies. saudi arabia and the other gulf states, with turkey, with israel, with egypt.
we have differences with some of them, particularly with saudi arabia over yemen. but we have to take a stand here, mr. chairman. the russians have taken a stand and they are all in with iran and assad. i think we all know they are not there to fight islamic state. they do not care about islamic state, nor does iran. they care about shoring up assad. that axis, damascus, tehran, moscow, is perceived in the region as an axis. the more we don't take sides, the more that perception takes hold among the sunni arabs, the considerable minority of the population of that volatile region. the more islamic state can make may out of it -- hay out of it.
you i would mention several specific steps we need to take. i would agree with general keen on the importance of establishing a no-fly zone. it has gotten harder now that the russians are there. i would like to see us pursue it. i would imagine this committee is heavily engaged with the administration, looking at its feasibility. it is important politically. signal to sunni arabs in syria and beyond that we stand with butchery of bashar al-assad.
as knows a prize moderate sunni resistance groups in syria -- it is no surprise that moderate sunni resistance groups in syria are more focused on assad than islamic state. not to drive him from power, but to weaken him and change the calculations in damascus and tehran and moscow as to what prolonging this conflict will achieve. then, but only then, might me we get to the table. we will not get to the table under these current conditions. i have talked to russians in the middle east, they are on a roll. we are not interested in trying to negotiate the transitional regime. we have to change the facts on the ground, this would be one way to do it.
there are several other things we can do to indicate we are serious. we have an anti-isis envoy with whom i worked in iraq. it should be a presidential envoy. we should reinstitute the deputy national security adviser that general douglas so ably filled during my time in iraq, to coordinate and interagency effort against islamic state. and, from a political perspective, and i -- i would argue we should -- governor patrice made this point -- we should move our headquarters from kuwait to baghdad. it made a lot of difference to me to have my military counterpart in the next room and not in the next country. these are small steps, some of them, but symbolically important, showing that we are in this fight, we are serious about it and we're going to work
with our allies to develop the comprehensive strategy that general keen indicates is so important. i hope that in the wake of the events of the last week, we can take a deep breath, understand where our long-term strategic interests are, realize that relationship with iran is transactional, they are pursuing their agenda with full force, we need to refine -- we need to pursue hours with equal force with our allies. >> thank you. mr. gordon, welcome. mr. gordon: thank you for having me back before the committee. i'm honored to be here and testify along with my two distinguished colleague spirit given the vastness of the topic, i submitted a few articles in more detail.
i would like to ask that they be submitted in the record so i can use my time here to make three broad points about the region. the first is that the middle east today is going through a time of powerful tectonic change that the united states did not create and cannot fully control. in the wake of the arab spring in 2011, the state institutions have crumpled in syria, libya, yemen, and elsewhere. if we are honest, we have two at knowledge those institutions are unlikely to be put back together anytime soon. on top of that, you have sectarian tensions that are rising across the region. this issue has persisted for decades or centuries, boost by the iranian revolution in 1979, it got a further boost by the 2003 iraq war, which gave iran more say in iraq and prodded a sunni response. even in the past years, even more than those two developments, and the result of the arab spring where the question of state institutions and control is up in the air, has created space for even more sectarian tensions and just last week, obviously, we saw those tensions inflamed further with the saudi execution of a permanent shia cleric and iran's violent response.
the saudi irani and is a geopolitical conflict that is on top of a sectarian conflict, and as long as it persists, the biggest conflicts in the region in iraq and syria and yemen which have sectarian conflict will be difficult to resolve. we should also remember on top of that that the sunni population across the middle east is itself equally divided. sunni terrorist groups such as al qaeda and isis are aligned against sunni regimes, and the sunni regimes themselves are deeply divided between those who embrace political islam such as turkey and qatar, and those who are threatened by it, including saudi arabia, jordan, united arab emirates, and egypt under al-sisi.
even though most sunni majority states stand together when it comes to sectarian conflicts like iraq and syria and yemen, where the sunni states are aligned together, when you face conflict in places without sectarian dimension, like libya or egypt, the sunni states divide amongst themselves. i mentioned all of these points and complexities at the beginning not to suggest that the region is so complex and unstable that there is nothing we can do, but to underscore the in normandy of the challenge we face, and frankly the need for humility, as we consider our policy options. we should be extraordinarily careful about assuming there are quick fixes to any of these region's problems, and very cognizant of the potential for
unintended consequences of the actions that we take. i expect we will talk more fully about that during the hearing. our second main point is that in the context of this immense regional turmoil, the implementation of the iran nuclear agreement last week by valuable time and presents a real opportunity if we use that time wisely. everybody here knows, when the united states initiated the talks with iran in early 2013, iran was essentially on the threshold of a nuclear weapons capability. and now with the mothballing of 2/3 of its centrifuges, the shipping out of it uranium stockpile, the ending of its production of 20% uranium, wholesale design of the heavy water reactor in iraq which would have by now been capable of producing weapons grade uranium for one or two bombs per year, we are no longer faced with the terrible choice between using military force to set back the program for a couple of years, less time than it has now been set back i the agreement, or effectively acquiescing to its further development.
none of this is to say, it may be clear the nuclear deal solves the iran problem. even proponents of the jcpoa should admit that in some ways it makes the problem worse. we've heard some of the consequences referred to here, including concerns about the long-term and the concerns of some of the key players and our friends in the region, others -- and those are real and we shouldn't knowledge them. -- we should acknowledge them. i think the right response to these realities is not to deny them, and it is not to scrap the nuclear deal, because doing so would isolate the united states, impede our ability to impose effective sanctions, and frankly leave us with no good options for stopping the iranian new their program.
think about north korea, which i was in the news just the other day, the other week for testing of a nuclear weapon. think about that situation where we indeed isolated, sanctioned, contained, but the result is not a nonnuclear north korea, it's a crazy dictatorship with its hands on numerous nuclear weapons, and a real possibility of potential u.s. responses. that is why we're in a better position with the jcpoa and in iran. the alternative is not to deny these problems, but to rigorously enforce the deal, use all the tools at our disposal to confront and contain iran in the region, and use the time it eyes us to cautiously explore whether a better relationship with iran as possible in the long-term.
my third and final point concerns the war in syria. my bottom line is we have enormous national interest in prioritizing the, de-escalation of this conflict. you really need to think through the strategic consequences of the status quo. the conflict in syria is killing or maiming hundreds of thousands of people, innocents, forcing millions of syrians to flee their homes, destabilizing neighboring states, radicalizing an entire generation of young muslims, provoking a far right backlash in europe and problems with the european union, fostering religious intolerance in the united states and beyond. i think you could say that
almost any piece in syria at present would be better than the current war. to reach this objective, i believe it's necessary to decouple our attempts to reach a comprehensive political settlement in syria, one that includes assad's immediate departure. while we would all like to see the immediate departure of assad and his cronies who should face justice for their atrocities, and we would like to see the installation of an inclusive moderate regime, there is almost no prospect for near-term agreement on a new detailed institutional arrangement in syria, let alone knew leadership. we have to be honest about that. the probable delay this week and the syrian talks that were scheduled for the 25th of this month is disappointing, but not surprising. some argue and we've heard previews of that today, and i suspect we will discuss it, that we can produce political transition in syria that we seek by providing more military support to the opposition, or even by intervening military ourselves.
however, given the strong commitments by russia and iran to support the regime, we have maintained significant support among syria's minorities and majority sunnis. such an escalation would lead not to the regime's capitulation that we want to see, but rather to a new counter-escalation which after all has been the pattern for nearly five years. we should not underestimate the degree of force it would take to displace the regime, and that is what we're talking about, we're not talking about modest concessions by the regime, we're talking about it agreeing to disappear. i do not think we should underestimate what it would take to do so, or the unintended consequences of doing so.
as an alternative, i put forward a plan along with two colleagues in the rand corporation, one of the publications i admitted for the record, to seek a nationwide cease-fire in place that would defer the ultimate disposition of political power in syria, including the question of assad's fate, and include the region -- and include regional save zones. the resumption of humanitarian deliveries, and a collective focus on destroying isis -- i will be the first to admit even this outcome would be a norm is achieve and when not be without downsides and risks. i do believe it is a more realistic gold than the current one of a comprehensive political agreement, i think it's far better than the status quo, and it's more practical than any of the available alternatives. i fear if we just persist with the status oh, -- quo, we could be having a hearing infour years, talking about even more
strategic consequences. i look forward to discussing these questions. senator mccain: i wish the american people and all members of congress could have heard that testimony and discussion we are about to have. obviously, it is a transcendent, and our direct threats to the united states of america is evidenced in san bernardino and other places. it's a very complex situation, and one that requires a lot of understanding. and i respect the views of all the witnesses. ambassador crocker, i especially am grateful for your incredible service as well as other witnesses, but i will never forget your testimony before this committee at a crucial time in american history.
on the issue of how we take care of isis, before we get into syria, there are many of us that have been advocating for a long time and additional several thousand in iraq to retake mosul, beat back isis, including elements of air power. in addition to that, the force mainly composed of sunni arab countries, including turkey and saudi arabia and others, with the attention not just of defeating isis but also replacing bashar assad. we have proven to anyone's satisfaction that if the object is only isis, you will not find
more than 4 or 5 young men who are willing to fight. that was the testimony before this committee. and yet there is question, what is our priority? and should we try to assemble that force to go? and take it out? it is pretty obvious that they are developing chemical weapons. we have seen films in a published of bomb factories. they are directing acts of terror throughout the world, using the internet, and as long as rocca remains in isis' hands, they are going to be able to foster terrorism throughout the entire world. at the same time, we are seeing a situation involved and i mentioned in my opening
statement this morning that russian airpower is having an effect of reducing any capability we might have, to prevail on the battlefield, thereby hardening the position of bashar assad in power, who is the godfather of isis. it's a very complex situation that is -- has evolved over the years. ambassador crocker: thank you, mr. chairman. you have outlined the complexity of what is truly a problem from hell. we have never really seen the formation of a collective arab combat force. arab armies fought against israel, 1948, 1967, did not go well.
certainly not without substantial u.s. engagement. then we would have to ask ourselves since islamic state has said repeatedly in its propaganda, the crusaders will come and we will destroy them, whether that would be a further rallying cry for them and their recruiting. we would have to think that through, which is what i started. in terms of weakening the regime, stopping a humanitarian slaughter and signaling to sunnis in syria as well as outside that we stand with them. right now, i do not think they are persuaded. to get support in or the region for an effort against isis, we will have to deal with what is the number one threat, which in syria for the sunnis is assad, and in the region it is iran backed by russia. we are going to have to stand up to those forces and show we mean
it before we get any serious traction for a serious sunni effort in syria or iraq. i see my time is up. >> yes, sir. the russians are in syria for one reason only, to support bashar al-assad. they talk the talk about confronting islamic state. islamic state does not really threaten assad. they have almost a tacit understanding to leave each other alone. it is the groups we would like to support, should support, that are really locked in with assad, bearing the brunt of russian airpower. they are all in on this.
they are all in against us, but we are not doing anything to demonstrate to anyone that we are pushing back. >> that was a great question, senator. i agree with much of what the ambassador said. syria is isis center of gravity. what they're doing in iraq is occupying sunni lands. in syria, it is from syria they have expanded into those affiliates i described on those maps, and from syria they are creating a worldwide following.
syria truly matters, but it is a much more complex problem. when you talk to leaders, sunni leaders, unequivocally they will tell you that iran is her number one problem. that is their issue. and, i put that map of there because sometimes a visual picture tells an incredible story of what their concern is. that is the number one a sister jill threat to the state's stability and security of their nation. isis is a threat, but it is second. when you enter into a discussion with them about we want to do something about isis in syria and we will need your forces to do it, they said what they will do is defer that and come back with, we have to do something about assad first. we have to do something about assad. assad is being propped up by the
iranians. that is why the ambassador and i both agree that while there are no military solutions to syria, military action does play a role in getting political solutions, it has since the beginning of time. our thought is that it's reasonable to establish safe zones and no-fly zones to turn the momentum against the regime. the regime is by no means 10 foot tall. this is an organization that used to be joined by thousands. they have been narrowed down to 21% of syria is what they control, and after a four-year civil war, the initial year they nearly lost a war to the rebels. 5,000 hezbollah -- good they were about to lose the state. that was four years ago.
unbeknownst to many -- we were tracking this daily at isw -- the rebel forces -- so is the cia trained rebel force that we can't talk about in terms of numbers and equipment, but that also is a powerful player on the battlefield. they put this regime in a precarious situation. we have got to take some action. they waited until that nuclear deal was almost finalized and the russians put their base into syria, for one reason only -- even the aloe white enclave was being threatened, and that would force the collapse of the regime.
here's the rebel forces, four years later, putting that kind of pressure on the regime. the russians thought this would be easy. months later they had been making some progress. they will eventually wear down these rebels. it is not possible for the military assisted by russians and the iranians to reclaim syria. all they can get is a security buffer for themselves. that is it. they may go to palmira. and also, because of the significance palmira has.
military action against this regime fortunately still has a practicality of its own, if you shut down airpower and establish a no-fly zone. that then can move to some kind of transition of power. i'm not saying assad has to go tomorrow. there's no way the rebels are going to stop fighting until you get some promise that this regime is going to go. after 250,000 dead and many of their families displaced, these are pretty tough fighters and they are not giving up on what they have been trying to achieve for four years. iraq, a different situation. the political component in iraq is paramount importance. we need to deter the influence the the iranians have with prime minister. we are after the same goal. the goal is political unity.
i'm frustrated here because we spent so much time on this nuclear deal. we should have been in and out of baghdad with officials routinely working with this new administration to achieve the political unity the united states said was their political objective, but were not even close to achieving that. the kurds are still looking for money and the weapons they need and we are not even close on the tribal force that we need from the sunnis. isis is occupying sunni lands exclusively. the kurds have been able to retake their territory back. therefore, common sense tells you a sunni tribal force will be able to hold the territory even if the iraqi army was able to reclaim it. that is why i've said give got to put more advisors and more traders in there. you've got to up our ante
considerably, but convince the sunnis we are serious about this and move the political situation in that direction as well. then, you start to get some answers in terms of how he will take mosul. >> thank you, mr. chairman. others that you summarize the complexity and challenges very well. point, mr. chairman, about 1000 more troops for iraq, i think there are serious, legitimate military things that we can and should be looking at two strengthen our ability to deal with isis in iraq. they usually come in the categories of more joint tactical controllers, were -- more special operations forces. >> and apaches. >> and apaches. absolutely. the question of each of those is the balance of benefit versus risk.
there are risks, and there are risks of americans dying on the battlefield or being captured , but i think if the military advisers on the ground think there will be a significant additions,m those they should absolutely be made because as you suggested, mosul, where some big compliment like that, would do a lot regarding the propaganda campaign and messaging. it would be a visible defeat for isis on the ground, like in ramadi, but followed by mosul would be important. that cost benefit should be assessed and potentially revised. on the question of taking rocca and taking territory directly by the united states there, again, it goes without saying that we have the military power to do that alone if necessary. the question there is, with the benefit of doing so outweigh the cost of the consequences? here is one of the unintended consequence areas i was referring to.
one is of course, the whack a mole situation. if the same fighters and commanders move to mosul or aleppo, then you have sort of displaced the problem and you have 10,000-30,000 american troops on the ground as a recruiting poster for isis without really having dealt with the problem. arab forcecal of an doing this for us. it has been on the table for some time and we tried to work with the saudis and others to create it, but let's just say they are a long way from being able to deliver it. look at the situation in yemen, where you actually do have a 10 mostn of more than muslim and arab countries
led by the saudi's, willing to fight with and support the saudis, but no ground force or political willingness to deploy that ground force in yemen. and that's just yemen. let alone the ability of these forces to go into syria or iraq. i think we should be really cautious in thinking we don't have to do it, we will get some arab forces to do it for us. finally, but maybe most centrally, i think most of us agree that syria is at the heart of most of these questions. i am more skeptical than others that modest military steps will lead to the political settlement we would all like to see. whether it is special forces or a no-fly zone, politically i think we have to recall that we are not talking about a compromise for the regime. we're not talking about a goal of getting it to the table. we are talking about getting rid of it and raising questions about their livelihood. idle think we should
underestimate what it would take or assume that a modest amount against the opposition. we know this because we have been doing this for five years and there have been significant amounts of arms and support the have gone to the opposition and the result has been a doubling down by iran and russia. to deal with it we would have to directly confront them and apply a lot more military force than has been considered. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. thank you gentlemen. let me first start with ambassador cocker. thank you for your extraordinary service in so many different ways. the issue of a no-fly zone implies to me the issue of an adjacent country. the cooperation of an adjacent country. there are really only two, jordan and turkey. the impression i have is that the jordanians feel they have a sort of de facto no-fly zone because they have worked out an
arrangement in the south and therefore, are not subject to aerial attack, more or less. and the turks are the most problematic. in fact, their behavior sometimes is totally unpredictable. what they have done in iraq with sending troops there, what they have done in terms of helping . they were not helping us close the last 50 or 60 kilometers on their border. what would be the no-fly zone if you get limited buy-in by the turks, as it seems to be the case right now? mr. cocker: it's a great point, senator. zones, north and south, would have to have these support of jordan and turkey in the north. it is not going to work otherwise. again, the general is far more
confident than i am to speak of it. we would have to enforce a no-fly zone over turkish airspace and probably, from patriot missile batteries in turkey. they would have to do it. the turks have said and have been saying for some time now that they favor a no-fly zone and a safe zone. i certainly would like to call that bluff if indeed it is a bluff. they have said publicly that they would like to work with us on support for non-isis arab fighters to take care of that gap. i would like to explore putting the two of them together, doing both. again, do i think this is easy? obviously not. i'm not even sure it's possible. but as we look at a horrific landscape out there, and the
politics inside syria and the region that make it highly unlikely there is going to be any sustained effort i anyone by anyone against islamic state under the current dynamics, i think we have to seriously look at it. >> first of all, the humanitarian situation is such that we should constantly review whether there is anything we can do to stop it. it should be on the table . it constantly. beyond that, i would say three things. first, you have to think about where you are doing the no-fly zone. often people who support it limit it to just the sort of northeast of the country or maybe a sliver in the south to avoid coming into direct conflict with the regime and the
russians. but if you only put it in areas where the regime is not really flying any way, it will have limited effect. obviously, it does not work against isis because isis does not have airpower and the regime is not significantly flying in those parts of the country. to really have an effect, you would have to put it much further west, including over places like aleppo, and then, if you are going to do that, you have to possibly take out their defenses and you now have a pretty huge problem with the russians. that, in turn, to get your question about turkey, has been the problem with the turks. because again, when i spoke with the administration, we spoke extensively with turkey and try tried to figure out a way to do it together. they actually had an interest in us getting into a direct military conflict with the regime. the slippery slope many here were concerned about was their objective, in some ways.
that we would have to take out their defenses and they might challenge it. that would make the regime weaker and then, we would be in conflict with the regime. the last point, essentially, is what are we trying to accomplish with it? i am skeptical. again, if there is a way to do it that protects people and helps the humanitarian situation , great. but it seems unlikely that the russians and uranian's would it will give us leverage that will lead to the departure of assad. senator mccain: you would think after 250,000 killed, mr. gordon, you might consider this seriously. that we don'ted focus, when he to consider the political ramifications, mr. crocker. what happening in europe as a
result of refugee flows is incredible. three senior european officials tell me the european union is threatened by the very existence of it. would you agree it has -- i think perhaps the military is a little less focused because they are not recognizing the enormity of the political danger. >> it's a great point, senator. what we are watching with the refugee flows is worse than at any time since world war ii, far worse. it isn't a regional problem. it isn't a european problem. it is a global problem, but it is falling on the region. obviously, the syrians themselves, but turkey, lebanon, and jordan, with enormous refugee populations, and, as you say, in europe, where the european union as a political construct, not economic, but a
political construct, is threatened. we have seen germany, which i consider one of our strongest nato allies under angela merkel, she has now been weakened by this, by trying to do the right thing. so, taking steps in syria that can save lives and reduce flows of people out of syria, i think, is an imperative. it's a humanitarian issue, but it's also a political issue. it's using military assets for political and humanitarian purposes. i wish we could get on with it. they are obviously very complex questions as to how far you have to go to make a difference. i am all for taking out air defenses. you know, this is not going to
take us to total war. if that's what's required, you know, we should look at it. again, i am in the delightful position of total irresponsibility since i represent nothing but myself, but i think these are questions for the administration, for congress, and for this committee to look very seriously at. senator: i have felt the difference in north korea after they got a nuclear weapon than before. were in a position to be defeated and now, they are in a position to lob bombs into seoul, at least, if not the united states. isn't it an enormous objective to prevent iran from getting a nuclear weapon? isn't that an enormous event if they get nuclear weapons?
>> absolutely. it will lead to the nuclear proliferation of the middle east. the middle east will just go nuclear. i take heed of secretary kissinger's warning that he believes iran with a nuclear weapon is the most calamitous event in his lifetime in terms of its threat to global security, because it would likely lead to the first nuclear exchange ever. >> i think it -- >> so, certainly, and i think there is common ground on that. i mean, nobody wants to have iran acquire a nuclear weapon. the issue we have all been arguing about is what is the best method to stop that from happening? instability.es ambassador, let me ask you something that you raised that is hugely important. you said we need to take sides
with our traditional allies. basically, the sunni state. they are some who believe iran can somehow be brought in from the cold. this revolutionary regime. if we could just get shia and persians to moderate, the world would be better and we could transform the middle east. how do you respond to that? >> it is a series of hot wars and cold wars. the iranians have taken sides with the russians and with assad in syria. they have taken sides in iraq with the shia militias who have, as we sadly remember, kidnapped and executed americans.
these are the sides iranians have taken. russia and syria have taken a side. we need to be clear that we stand against this and stand with our allies. saudi arabia, yes, we have differences. there is no doubt. but saudi arabia has been kind of the bedrock of our regional security policy sense fdr met saud on the deck of the quincy in 1945. this is unraveling. us. the saudis went into yemen without consulting us. they told us a little bit in advance, but they didn't consult us. for my generation, that is unthinkable. we have to shore up some of those relationships. you start with your traditional friends.
then, emu to your adversaries. not the other way around. >> it's an important question. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you for bringing a tremendous amount of wisdom and experience to the table. we really appreciate that. it seems the more we hear the more confused it becomes as how we approach this. i am concerned basically since 9/11, basically, when most people in america think we started our gauge min in that area.ment in that this thing has been brewing for quite some time. that being said, 9/11 seems to be the start of it. what is the greatest mistake we have made as a country since 9/11? as quickly as you can because my concern that we have now is that mr. gordon, you had said even our allies and i think as said, they arer
not willing to take the fight on the ground. is still't do it, it going to be done. if you could just give me an oversight very quickly on our greatest mistakes and the simplest direction forward to make sure we do not repeat those mistakes again. >> i had it in my testimony. i fundamentally believe that the single strategic mistake we have to develop a strategy dealing with radical islam and to not just focus on one particular group and embrace the intellectual challenge that this ideology presents to us. , embracet politically it in terms of what we must do financially, economically, and militarily. bring nations together to have a common interest in this and deal with it. we will defeat isis.
there is going to be something after isis that will threaten our national interest in the middle east or someplace else that is going to get us involved and concerned and we will have meetings about it and people will follow me here and tell you how to deal with that problem. and that is the single problem i see that we have not faced this problem strategically to deal with radical islam itself and stop -- well, we have to stop and defeat isis as we had to stop and defeat al qaeda senior leadership in pakistan. until we deal with a comprehensive strategy, we're going to find ourselves in the same situation we're in now with isis. this is a generational problem. we have to understand it for that and take a page out of the weh century and look at how came together to deal with a common problem. >> ambassador? >> senator, that is a profound
question. i thought a lot about it. i opened our embassy in afghanistan shortly after the fall of the taliban. the force on the ground then was the special forces, the cia, and one marine expeditionary unit. that was it. >> that was after 9/11? >> after 9/11. the pentagon at that time was absolutely opposed to introducing anymore forces to help karzai secure cities outside of kabul. i think the biggest mistake we made is not understanding the reach of time and the resilience of those who are our adversaries. >> just watching what happened with russia being there for 10 years, you would think we would have had some insight into the resilience these people have.
>> which may have been behind the thinking of the pentagon at the time in not wanting additional forces. >> got you. >> so, we kept our force footprint down and a resilient enemy came at us. as it did subsequently did in iraq -- a different enemy. there are no easy answers. it is hard to say. i mean, i will not go to the extreme position of saying that the overthrow of the taliban and and the expulsion of al qaeda was a mistake. as an american, i cannot bring myself to say that. >> what about the war in iraq? >> i'm coming to the mistakes. but afghanistan is worth spending some time on because it's hard to argue that we should not have taken military
action after what came to us out of afghanistan. but the mistake, if there was one, was not understanding that you can't kill them all, and the effort to create a strong, stable state in afghanistan probably wasn't going to happen. so, then what? in iraq, senator, i have learned maybe two things in all most almost four years in the middle east. i thought one lesson every couple of decades was a pace i could sustain. the first lesson is be careful what you get into in the middle east. and the first time i learned that lesson was in lebanon in 1982, the israeli invasion. we all thought it was a good idea. get rid of the plo. well, we got rid of the plo and we got hezbollah, and we got a chain of events that led to the bombing of my embassy with me
in it and the bombing of the marine barracks. be careful what you get into. the second thing i learned is be just as careful what you get out of. disengagement can have as great a consequences as what you get into. we did not follow those lessons at all well, either of them, in iraq. >> thank you, ambassador. profound andt is a difficult question. and with respect, it may not even be a helpful question. we should be reluctant because of these complexities to identify single things. i think many would argue and identify a single thing, but it would be the iraq war. not just because of the financial and human cost, but because it tipped the strategic balance in the region. it put iran in charge in iraq. it led to sunni disempowerment,
which is partly fueling al qaeda in iraq and isis. it made people wary of our engagement in the middle east. arguably, even over-wary. but i think we have to acknowledge that for every mistake of action, there would have been costs of inaction too. i am not willing to say it is the greatest single mistake because had we not done it, we might be sitting here talking about the mistake of leaving saddam hussein in power. that is why i am reluctant to identify single things. when you think about the region, in iraq, we intervened and occupied. and it turned out very badly. in libya we intervened, but did not occupy and it turned out very badly. in syria we neither intervened nor occupied and it has turned out very badly. the lesson is overall caution that there is no single answer or model.
i would say there is not a single mistake. just like there is not a single answer for what we should do going forward. >> thank you, chairman. i want to thank all of you for being here. general, i want to ask you, we have seen iran twice test ballistic missiles this fall, and we know that recently the administration has issued some minimal sanctions, frankly, recently after the hostage release to address those ballistic missile test. do you think the response to the testing of the ballistic missiles is in clear violation of u.n. rules is efficient? no matter where you stand on the iran agreement, we have to be quite vigilant going forward. what do you make of this? >> to directly answer your
question, i think it is a totally inadequate response. these are u.s. unilateral sanctions we were imposing. this is a violation of a u.n. resolution. the united states should lead an effort in the security council to impose tough economic sanctions and set that as a bar, certainly, because the iranians have already told us they're going to continue to test ballistic missiles. these are medium range ballistic missiles. they will eventually be testing long-range ballistic missiles. the iranians are totally capable of moving to intercontinental ballistic missiles. 36 year pattern of not doing anything, and look where we are with the iranians. i am of the mind that we have to have tough-minded economic sanctions. they have worked. it is what brought the iranians to the negotiating table over the nuclear deal, primarily, in my judgment.
so, yes, i think every time they take a hostage, there should be some kind of sanction. and we have refused to do that. we have incentivized hostage taking, as the ambassador is painfully aware of. they have been taking hostages since the 1980's. this is a cottage industry for them. they take hostages. we scream and holler. we eventually get our hostages back. tragically, they killed states ion chief buckley. the reality is, we have not stood up to them. and that gets their attention. so, i think, yes, we have to take a stand on this and demonstrate to the iranians and to our allies in the region that despite the nuclear deal we made with the iranians, we are not giving up on standing up against their malign behavior in the region and as it impacts our interest and the stability and
security of the region. we are going to be there, and when we don't do that, then we do what we just did, these unilateral sanctions for missile testing. that's inviting more missile testing. senator: can i also ask, ambassador, i was very curious about your statement about where does the united states stand. i thought it was very direct. as we look at allies like saudi arabia that, right now, we are giving them the impression that we are not standing with them. in fact, we have seen that iran and russia, you very clearly laid out, have taken aside here, and it is a side against our interests. and against peace and stability in the region, which is, of course, in all of our interest. -- against all of our interests.
i see this as connected. when the iranians act badly and we don't respond, this gives a message to some of our allies who are concerned about iran's hegemonic behavior in the region. what would you like to see us do in relation to our allies? and how do we turn this around to address the isis threat and from the malign behavior going forward? >> thank you, senator. west, make it clear that are going to stand against malign iranian activity. i can give you some suggestions on what we might look at doing in syria. in iraq, i would like to see not ryan crocker, but john kerry
go out -- anybody but me go out prolonged time out there. >> don't tell us, because then we will want to send you. >> condoleezza rice did this when i was out there. in this administration i think there have been two secretary of state visits in seven years to iraq. one by secretary clinton and one by secretary kerry. >> that's telling. the space we vacated, the iranians stole. they are not seeking a unified iraqi state that is friendly with iran. they are seeking basically, the destruction of an iraqi state and division into kurdistan, a shia-stan, and islam-istan that islamic state can control and who cares?
i would start making a major diplomatic push. there is a prime minister we can work with. he has not had many options in tehran. i would like to see us give him one. those would be a couple of things. when the secretary needed a break from baghdad, he could move around to amann, tel aviv, riyadh, repeat as necessary. and it will be necessary. your business on this hill and the business i left has one thing at the center of both. it's about relationships. i am concerned that we have let our relationships atrophy the in the region. we need to show resolve and we need to take them seriously and engage with them.
finally, i would say with respect to the ballistic missile test, i would agree with general keane -- and maybe we are doing this -- that we are active in the united nations with the security council. it's probably a good time to be a little bit quiet while we do the prep work, but i think we should make the same effort there that we did on the nuclear issue. >> thank you, mr. chairman. first, general keane, i agree with you completely that a comprehensive strategy that involves everything from military force to information, to ideology, to ideas, is needed to deal with the threat of isis, which is the long run threat. testimonyeciate your on that. i think that is exactly right. just a small question. ambassador crocker, you noted that you thought prime minister
merkel was suffering politically doing the right thing for taking in syrian refugees. i presume you think that this country has some responsibility to take in syrian refugees. >> yes, sir, i do. more profoundly, i believe this country has an obligation to lead on a global crisis. not to leave it to the europeans -- >> you are talking about the refugee crisis. >> the refugee crisis. we have a broad responsibility, i believe, as america, as a global leader, to lead on a global crisis, to help the europeans sort out what they are doing with these people, to support as actively as we can the lebanese and the jordanians and part of that -- you know, we are not going to be able to lead effectively if we don't walk the walk. >> that was going to be my question.
>> in my view, that means taking in a significant number of refugees. they are not going to take us very seriously in europe. angela merkel has 1 million and we have 2100. that doesn't mean -- i am all for the vetting process. it's essential. i would just like to see it be more of a priority to move refugees faster. again, this crisis is an to get n't going to get any better and with the kind of approach of dealing with it that has emerged without a single state stepping forward and saying, let's get together and figure out how we are going to deal with it, i am just afraid we will see more and more of this. >> i thank you for your testimony. i am sitting in a senate seat that was occupied by a senator
whose father was an immigrant from poland and a mother an immigrant from lebanon. , the central question about syria you have touched upon and we have talked around it, where does the ground force come from? i think i heard agreement that it shouldn't be us because that is a recruiting poster, that's what isis wants. that would be a gift. but then i'm hearing that the muslim countries don't want to step forward with ground troops. where do we -- this has been the problem with the strategy for three years. where do the ground troops come from in syria to confront isis? syria, much like isis in iraq, is occupying sunni land. its land we are dealing with the kurds on. the kurds have effectively reclaimed it in syria as well as in iraq. by the way, we should use that as evidence that isis is not 10 feet tall.
they have put together a fairly , supportednd force by some effective airpower. we can defeat isis. >> would about ramadi? >> the problem is, the ground force is fighting assad. it is the largest force fighting a sunni syrian arabs. >> therefore, getting rid of assad should be a priority. >> that is what i have been saying with the ambassador. assad remains a priority. certainly, to get off the status quo and the humanitarian catastrophe we are facing, which is contributing to migration challenges, but it also enables isis to thrive. are not going to cross that border and fight isis while the iranians are propping up the assad regime. that is not going to happen. went, you would have
the syrian army and the opposition. he would then be able to focus on isis. i not being argumentative here. you have an interest in a no-fly zone. that was a lot easier when it was just the syrian air force. the testimony is -- we talk about a no-fly zone. you talk about shooting down russian airplanes. >> this is the problem we have had from the cold war to the present. because the russians have the capability and we have the capability, and we fear that use of that capability. it paralyzes us from taking action. then, we are taking a knee. i don't think we need to do it. to be quite frank, i would have resolveated america's right from the beginning. when they first bombed moderates we trained, we should have bombed the runway. not killed a single russian, but
bombed the runway and said if you do that again, more of that runway is going to go away. this is something we learned in the cold war. the russians have stepped up. they have brought to the table a very limited russian capability. they haven't been active in 35 out of the region in 35 years since they went to afghanistan, a failed operation as we are all aware of. they are an inferior military to the united states. they know that. they have select capabilities that are good. i think, if we establish a no-fly zone and we are going to put people there to protect them, i don't really see the russians coming in to bomb it. they would be a pariah on the world stage for doing something like that. the more likely attempt at protecting a safe zone would be from infiltration or suicide
bombers where you would need some kind of ground force to protect it or, firing a missile or rocket at it. that means you would have to bring up from jordan and turkey missile defense systems that good help protect the no-fly zone. so, i don't think the fear of russian intervention in a no-fly zone should paralyze us from establishing that very thing. >> i share your analysis. going back to the soviet union, the best analogy i ever heard is that they are like a hotel thief. they try all the doors until they find one that is open. >> ha ha ha. i have not heard that one. >> by not showing any level of resistance, they are going to maintain their presence. of course, the danger is some kind of counter escalation, and i wrote down, "be careful what you get into." that is always a good piece of advice.
>> to continue on this russia point. began significant operations in syria in late september. they had small incursions into turkish airspace in october and november. in late november, turkey shot down one of russia's aircraft. do you know how many times russia has invaded turkish airspace since then? >> i have no idea. i would suspect they have not. >> what do you think that says about the connection between those two events and to their willingness to respect a demonstration of force in airspace rights? >> yes, the pen of the russians is exactly what we see in that situation. turkey was protecting their sovereign airspace. they took what they thought was reasonable action to do that, and the russians have stayed away from it. i think it would be the same situation dealing with a no-fly zone.
listen, the russians at the end of the day are not fools. they are practical. there in syria for one reason only, to prop up the assad regime. they have a very limited military objective. that is their goal. i cannot see them extending that to bomb a place where we are trying to protect innocent people. >> ambassador crocker, would you agree with that assessment? >> i would, sir. i would extended to iran. iran and russia are going to push into syria until somebody like us pushes back. >> if we could stick with turkey for a moment, because they are in many ways, a linchpin with our efforts in syria as far as refugee flows. based on past conduct, how would you assess that the turkish government prioritizes the various fights they are engaged
in? the kurds, the assad regime, and the islamic state? >> that is a great question, senator. it highlights something we have been talking about this morning. we want the non-jihadi syrian groups to fight islamic state. their archenemy is not the islamic state. it's assad. we want the arab states to come in to fight islamic state. that's not their biggest issue. it's iran. the same thing applies with turkey. the islamic state is clearly a threat to them, and they know it. we have seen that in syria. but the kurds are a much greater threat. so we have the dilemma that the most effective on the ground force we have found in syria the
is the one the turks fear the most. particularly, since the syrian-kurdish groups are andliated with of the pkk thousands died in that complex inside of turkey, both kurds and turks. this is the problem from hell at every dimension. it is an going to get better on its own. a startling revelation, i know. it's going to take sustained dialogue and engagement with all of our traditional allies in that area. we just need to be having that conversation. >> continuing on priorities, which sunni arab state views the islamic state as a greater threat than it views iran and shia aggression in the region?
>> i am not totally current on this. i would say based on my last interactions -- and king abdulla was just here so you may have had that conversation with him -- i think the king would put the islamic state ahead of iran. the arabian peninsula states, it would be iran. we did not get much notice. the kuwaitis made some arrests in the last week or so of individuals accused in a massive terror plot involving tons of explosives that they traced to iran. for them, it's an existential threat. between isis and iran, the iraqi leadership would probably put
them on par. >> my time has expired. infer from i cannocan your nodding that you agree with his perspective? >> i agree. i think the united arab emirates, jordan, egypt and iraq would say isis is the greatest threat. the rest would be focused on iran. >> thank you, gentlemen. >> thank you, mr. chair. i want to continue on this issue of priority and scale because we heard a lot today about the threat of iran and its influence in the region, the threat of assad in syria. on scale, we have heard a lot less about isis. secretary gordon, how would you prioritize or rank in scale
those three threats in the region in terms of the greatest threats to our current interest and security? secretary gordon: isis, iran, and what was the third? assad. secretary gordon: you know, i don't like the choice, but we should acknowledge that we have major problems in iran and we have an interest in containing iran. we also have a strategic interest in defeating and destroying isis. i don't like the choice. >> obviously, they are all related, so i am not necessarily asking for a one, two, three, but how do we prioritize to address these threats? >> i think we have to do them all at the same time. in the question of syria, i think amid clear that the
prioritization needs to be the escalating the conflict, rather than displacing assad. would i like to get rid of assad? absolutely. would that resolve into a unified syria turning on isis or an all-out battle against dozens of other groups? my priority would be de-escalating the war rather than getting rid of assad. >> the other question is undermining russia and iran. is it in our interest? absolutely. we could put it at the top of our list and do whatever it takes to accomplish that, but i think the consequences outweighs
it. that is a nice summary for the entire hearing. we have a lot of goals. >> in relation to that, one of the challenges we have, especially regards to isis, is that while we all recognize that turkey can play a strong and geostrategic role in all of this, their approach has been oftentimes ambiguous. how do we leverage greater focus on isis from turkey given their concerns about the kurds and other priorities? secretaryo you think, gordon, prime minister erdogan's strategic goals and objectives are in this engagement? >> that is another great question. is, we all have
different adversaries in the region and we prioritize them differently. turkey i would say prioritizes the war with the kurds because they are internally threatened and has lost 30,000 people in a conflict over three decades. next is assad. after that is isis, which they don't like, but they have a strategic interest in avoiding a conflict with, so they have been reluctant to poke too much. i would say hours are the opposite and we would put isis first. assad is next. the kurds are not only lower down, they are actually a partner. i would note that in the last week alone, we have seen turkey oppose kurdish representation in the group it tried to meet, and it's hard to imagine excluding the kurds from the opposition. and turkey taking military action against the pyg, which is
one of our strongest forces and fighting isis. that really underscores the differences we have with turkey. i think you used the word leverage. turkey is an ally and a partner, and we need to have an absolutely frank conversation. because we have different priorities, only a certain trade-off on some of these issues can head us on the same page. >> ambassador crocker, he pointed out that germany has one million refugees or more. jordan has one million as well. the u.s. is willing to take 2100. do you have an opinion on the act and its potential impact on being able to deal with refugees from iraq and syria? i appreciate the fears in this country in the wake of paris and san bernardino. these are real fears. i just think the legislation is
aiming in the wrong direction. the refugees are not the source of the problem or terror, they are the victims of it. it's also very important, again, to keep a regional perspective. i follow islamic state media as closely as i can. it was very interesting. back in september, chancellor merkel made a statement that refugees were welcome in germany. islamic state social media went nuts. don't believe it. it's a trap. they are trying to lure you in so they can imprison you or worse. on it went. it defeats a key part of the islamic state narrative if the west, including the u.s., is seen as welcoming of the refugees that they are helping to create, that we are the protectors of muslims, not them.
they are the tormentor and we are the protector. that's the message we want to get out there. i just hope we do it. i understand what the legislation is intending to do. i think it's counterproductive. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ambassador crocker, you noted that we need to stand with the ran,s because others, i have taken a position. what concrete steps do we need to take to reaffirm our relationship with saudi arabia and turkey? there are internal issues going on in both of these countries that make it difficult. for example, in turkey, they are very concerned that we are depending on kurds to fight. in syria, that is the biggest concern that president erdogan
has. in saudi arabia, there are succession issues. some internal posturing that is going on there. so, how do we shore up our relationships with these two important allies and let them know we stand with them? what concrete steps would you suggest? >> there are two sets of issues, senator. first, taking actions that demonstrate that we are on the same side of issues critical to them as well as us. that is why i have been saying it is important to take a stand against what iran is doing in the region. both in syria and iraq in particular -- they are slightly different cases, but to show the
saudis and others that yes, we are serious about the same thing they are serious about. turkey is a nato ally. it's in a special category. they stood with us in korea. we should be having the kind of high level, sustained dialogue that befits a critical treaty alliance. to listen to them, to understand their concerns, to see how the region looks to erdogan in some detail and depth. it starts with that kind of engagement. we also need to be careful, i think, in understanding the very real limits of how helpful the kurds can be.
when you get outside of areas of their traditional influence -- and we saw this when they led the effort to retake the singe our region in northern iraq from islamic state, some real frictions developed. that was not a traditional kurdish area. in addition to turkish fears, trying to push the kurds into arab areas is not a good idea. one final point on saudi arabia, senator. i followed saudi affairs for a long time. i am never going to figure out how their internal political dynamics work. what i do know is that for most of the last four decades, elements of the west have been predicting the collapse of the house of saud. it is still there and i think it is going to be there for a good, long time. let them worry about how their internal politics are organized. let's deal with them is a
as a government. >> with the saudis, there is the potential for a 30 year old to take over leadership. the middle east is fraught with peril. mr. gordon, you said de-escalating the conflict in syria is a more immediate concern than getting rid of the assad. isn't that the path the u.s. is taking right now? de-escalating the conflict there? mr. gordon: i think the u.s. is interested in de-escalating the conflict and is trying to find some middle ground between what might have been and ideal initial objective of complete regime change in syria and living with assad. they are looking at, could you have a certain amount of time that he could stay, or could you reduce his powers in the meantime? i think these are important to
explore diplomatically. insistence on immediate departure perpetuates the war. it would not be ideal to have a cease-fire in place. many questioned whether the operation whatever accepted. if you could offer them what has never been offered at all in five years, which is control over the areas, and and to the offensive operation, humanitarian assistance, prisoner releases, and a path and process to deal with syria more generally, i think we would be better off than where we are right now. >> my understanding is that, as ambassador crocker said, because the what you get into and what you get out of, i do not think that that is what we are doing. i think we are trying to figure out a way to achieve a cease-fire. that would go a long way toward addressing the humanitarian crisis.
thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> where is our moral compass? where are we satisfied to leave someone in power that has illed 250,000 men, women and children, sent millions into refugee status? ambassador crocker addressed the result of this failure. so let's leave him in power for a while and let's live with saad. for what? so he can kill more people? so he can starve them? so he can slaughter them with poison gas? is that the moral compass that the united states has followed? i don't think so. i think the greatest example of sticking to your moral compass is the ragan administration. for us to sit by and say well maybe saad is stay for a while
-- assad is stay for a while. it is immoral. if we lose our moral compass, then we are just like every other nation in history. >> thank you, mr. chair. you know i strongly support and have long supported your proposals with respect to umanitarian no-fly zone in northern syria. a couple of questions for a couple of witnesses. i apologize for stepping out. who is a bigger enemy to the united states, isil or syrian efugees? who is a bigger enemy to the united states, isil or syrian refugees? >> well, clearly isil is a bigger enemy, and i certainly
don't think syrian refugees are an enemy, period. >> other witnesses? >> agreed. >> yes, sir. we had something of a conversation on that before you came back in. i agree completely. >> the reason i ask is we are did he baying a bill this afternoon, and the title of the bill is securing enemy against foreign enemies acts of 2015, and the enemies refered to in the bill are refugees from syria and iraq. we haven't had a debate or vote about isil. he president sent a draft arch mf authorization to congress in the middle of february. i am not critical of the administration. i think they should have sent t early oher, not that wild -- earlier, not that wild about the content. not only have we not voted on it, there has not been a debate or vote in committee or on the floor in either house on the question of either the
president's authorization or an alternate authorization in the 11 months since the president sent it. are you aware of any other time in our history where the president asked congress for a war authorization, sent a proposed authorization to congress, but that it was not even taken up for debate in committee or on the floor of either house? >> i'm not aware of any precedent like that. i provided testimony on this very subject to aumf. i believe it should be taken up, should be debated and voted on. i think it is very appropriate it. he president to send >> other thoughts? >> it is an important question. >> i would look at it in practical terms. are there situations out there
to which we could not respond militarily because the existing aumf is not adequate? if the answer to that is yes, then speaking as a citizen, i would find it incredible that congress has not acted on it in almost a year. >> i am always not aware of any such precedents. i agree it is a problem. i think we have a legal basis for what we are doing. i don't know of anything that we immediately would like to do but can't do to do. but i think the basis on which we are acting is mushy and far removed from what we are trying to do. talking earlier about military slippery slopes, this is a legal slippery slope. you get in the habit of not having a specific authorization and then you are years away. i don't think that is a habit the united states should want to develop. >> ambassador crocker, i want to ask about one last item.
i want to try to answer this for myself. you were candid that in this iran-saudi arabia tension, which is now really accelerated, long-standing in origin, but accelerated, and that we really need to pick a side. what i have been worried about, are there unfortunate consequences of picking a side that we may not want? one analysis of this conflict is it is a sunni-shiah divide. we would all agree the u.s. doesn't have a theological debate about which
islam we would prefer. it is a nation-state battle. there is a rory about iran's competitiveness. there may be a little revolutionary guard against monarchy component. there are layers to this. how do we pick a side without making it look to that region on of the world that we are just planting our feet on the sunni side of a sunni-shiah sectarian fight? >> it is a great question. we should not be in the position of having to pick a side in my view, senator, in that area. we should be leading. we should be deciding what the strategic agenda is and then lining up support for it where it is most appropriate. unfortunately, now we are playing catch-up. the sides have been formed. we are very late to a very critical game and are in that sad position of having effectively to choose a side. when we do, and i hope we do, then we need to work to start shaping that side, because there are some things going on
there now that are not good for our allies or for the region as a whole or our long-term interests. just sitting on the sidelines doesn't really let you effect out the team is going to play. >> dr. gordon? >> let's be clear. we do pick a side. nobody should misunderstand. we do have allies and partners. even with rune, we will have unilateral sanctions on iran, we will confront them in matters of terrorism and human rights. whereas with the other side we have extensive relationship, ses, ship, missile defense cooperation, billions of dollars of strategic partnership. we have partners, and we have an adversary.
that is clear. the question is -- and i do agree with my colleagues, that notwithstanding everything i have said, we have a perception problem, and we have to deal with it. and we should. but nobody should misunderstand that we are somehow right in the middle between iran and our gulf partners. the question is does picking a side take you all the way to doing things that might not be in your interests, like not having a nuclear deal with iran or going directly to war in syria? there is a limit to the degree to which we take sides. we have our own national interests, and that has to be a part of our dialogue with our partners. >> i think the model with the soviet union is a good one. we clearly took a side because we felt it was an existential threat to the country. re we believe iran's geopolitical strategy to dominate the region is not in
the united states' or our allies' interests. we have not done enough to counter this behavior. we obviously formed political military alliances against it, but it never stopped us from seeking opportunities to work with the soviet union for common purpose and common interest. i think when you do -- when you operate from a position of strength like that, it actually enables you to get more done with your adversary. i think that is what ambassador crocker and i are arguing for. this train has already left the station, and we have disengaged from the region. and without our involvement in it, this could get to be a very dangerous situation between saudi arabian the iranians and their supporters. we have to get back in it, and we have to rally our allies, and we have to have clear political and diplomatic objectives of what we are trying to achieve to counter
the iranians' advance in the region. >> thank you for your service and testimony, senator? >> thank you. we were running back and forth between the foreign relations committee upstairs. thank you for holding on until ippingd get down here. first of all, let me thank all three of you both for being here this morning and for your service to the country. it truly is impressive, and your willingness to continue to engage is also impressive. i wanted to just follow up on some of the specifics thaw raised in your testimony. ambassador crocker, one of the things you said, and i may not be putting this exactly accurately, but i think what i understand stood you to say is the more we appear to take sides with russia and iran, the more difficult it becomes to get a resolution with those people who have been our friends in the middle east. did i understand that correctly? nd i ask you this because it
seems to me as i look at syria that if we are going to get any kind of a political solution, that iran and russia have got to be at the table. do you disagree with that? >> i think they do have to be at the table. my concern is that with the current dynamic in syria where russia and iran both feel they are on a roll here, that their is being quite successful in propping of assad , that not only will woe not of a successful negotiation, we are not even get to the table. that is what i think we are seeing now as these talks scheduled for next week sort of slip away from us. so yeah, there has to be a negotiate end to this conflict. my belief is for that negotiation to succeed or even
take place, we've got to change some of the dynamics on the to back up assad, run force ssia, to re-enforce our friends in the region. we just don't have the terms for it now. >> well, i agree basically with what all of you have said with the need to intervene more to try and force the forces supporting assad to the table to come up with some resolution. the question that i still have is based on what each of you had to say. it is still not clear to me how we do that.
i like the idea of the no-fly zone. that sounds like one of the positive things that we could do. on the other hand, we have had testimony from members of our military, some of our military leaders, that that would require a significant military presence. we would take casualties, and we would have a difficult time destroying syria's air defense system. and i have always heard from representatives of the refugeecommunity who say it would put a target on refugees because it would be a place they would be forced to go, and they would become targets of isis.- of i do think the involvement of special operations forces, that seems to be one of the things we have been trying to do more of. i think there -- i certainly
believe there has been some success with that, and with air defenses. but again, it is just not clear to me how we accomplish the successes each of you talk about in reality without putting back on the ground the kind of military force that we had in iraq and afghanistan, and we are now seeing the impact of with drawing those forces. enlighten me, if you would? general keane, i will ask you to go first. >> i think we are talking about syria, s, assad and and the military and political extension of that. syria gives you a headache just thinking through it. reasonable people can disagree certainly on what to do about it, and they certainly do. but in my judgment, and we have been discussing this on and off most of the morning, the
political dimension in syria is critical, and we have to change the momentum against the regime to be able to get a political solution. the russians are there and the iranians are there to prop up and preserve this regime in their own national interests. >> i heard most of the testimony. >> so that is critical. the no-fly zone, i disagree with my melo terry colleagues who may have made it appear too difficult to achieve. i don't think for a minute we are going to have a problem with syrian air defense systems, which if we did, we would destroy them all, quite frankly, and they know that. i also don't believe -- >> i don't want to be argue men take itf, and i am out of time out gument itf, and i am
of time. we have had direct testimony from military leadership expressing concern about the losses that would be incurred from the to go in syrian's air defenses. maybe the situation has changed. can you speak to that? >> no. that is their job, to lay out the level of risk in association with any option that takes place. because there is a level of risk doesn't mean we don't do it. there is always the potential for casualties. that is the reality of it. i have spent a lot of time on this issue, and i am very convinced that we can establish a no-fly zone with minimum interference from syrians to be sure. if we were going to put innocent people in there, i don't see the russians or the syrians bombing that. certainly not the russians. the syrians have bombed their own people in the past, but
they would pay a price for it. the threat would come from the ground in the form of suicide bombers and the like. so you would have to have some sort of force on the ground to protect that site. we have had a history with no-fly zones in the past. we have done this successfully, and i think we can do it here. it would have been better to do it a long time ago certainly, as it would have been better to eal with the syrian arabs in terms of helping them a long time ago. but it still should be a realistic option that should be on the table to help move towards a political solution. >> can i add a word? i just think it is important to remember that it is all about the political objective. if the political on thive remains that the regime is giving up power, i think changing the balance on the ground modestly, or even putting in a no-fly zone is unlikely to bring about that objective. if you think about precedents, there is not a lot of precedent for this type of operation where you gradually increase
support for some armed opposition, and the regime decides to hand over power, certainly not when it is backed by major powers like iran and russia. think about libya, who wasn't backed by anyone. we started with a no-fly zone. a number of our all eyes were supplying arms to the opposition. it ended nd up -- with the death of gaddafi, the leader. we were just trying to get security forces out of part of the country. bombing 8-day nato campaign. in iraq we have no-fly zones for years, and it didn't bring about the political settlement. there may be other reasons to do these things, but i would be careful about thinking that those steps will lead to the political transition that we are trying to bring about.
>> thank you all, and thank you, ambassador crocker, for your statements with respect to refugees. i appreciate your willingness to speak out on that. >> thank you, senator. i am going to continue your line of questioning. so i hear from at least the answer you gave to senator shaheen about the difficulties of the response. but given that turkey has the second largest standing in nato with 700,000 active personnel and 4,000 in reserves. jordan has 90,000 active troops, 60,000 reserves. however, up to thispoint, iran has been the most active regional power in providing ground troops to fight isil. what should we do to get our allies to bear a larger burden in the fight against isil, and what can we do to encourage
them to actually participate on the ground? >> senator, the first thing we need to do is indicate that we take ies, and as such their strategic and security concerns seriously. for saudi arabia, isil isn't the primary threat. it is iran. for turkey, isil isn't the primary threat. it is the kurds, our allies. >> but not all the kurds. we just met one someone who said we have lots of kurds who our friends. he will take the kurds and say we get along with these kurds. we just don't get along with the p.k.k. he will be assertive about that. >> but the kurds in question are the y.p.g. in southern
syria, and they are affiliated with the p.k.k. so it is a problem. at is why i have advocated a re-invigorated u.s. engagement with traditional allies and partners. we have differences with riad. what i am concerned about is we are not talking about the differences as friends and allies with the view to developing del monte ground, common understandings and a common strategy. without that, any notion of regional forces intervening in syria against islamic state is fancyful. they are not going to do it. >> so you are recommending more engagement. we take a codal of eight senators. meeting with saudi defense forces, they were grateful for all our intelligence efforts.
they wanted to amplify everything we were doing together. from some of the more anecdotal conversations, they are looking for more engagement, not less. the same thing with turkey. they want to increase trade. he has taken two million refugees. he wants the united states to engage on a far more aggressive level. he seems to be asking what is happening with regard to u.s. policy and what are we not doing that we should be doing? >> i understand all too well the pressures on any administration, and particularly its senior members, the president, the secretary of state and so forth . but i think at that level we have just got to be more involved in the region. a lot of this can be done by telephone calls.
but there is nothing like a secretary of state visit. earlier in the hearing -- >> as opposed to a congressional visit. >> we are just eight senators who flew all over the country. chicken feed. . they are really important i know it is probably as hard for you as members of the administration to get away. but having hosted many of them over the years, particularly in saw a whole lot of the chairman, that is just crucial. >> so you recommend the secretary of state go to the region and engage more aggressively? >> yes, ma'am, i do. that the earlier iranians have kind of filled the vacuum in iraq. it is a very, very bad
situation. i would like to see the secretary go camp out there. and when he needed a break, he could go to riad, and tel aviv, and cairo and ankra. we have to ramp this up. as bad as this situation is now -- i will try to say something uplifting -- we are going to look back on this day with fondness and nostalgia. because the way things are tracking, it is going to be a whole lot worse in a couple of months. >> mr. gordon, you said in fact we should not be dealing with the sims of isil, but going straight to the cause of isil. i am past my time, so maybe you can submit it to the record. but how can united states have an impact on the causes? and obviously it is not just a military effort, it is diplomatic as well. but what is the message or approach that you think could actually resonate? >> that indeed would be a longer answer than we have time
for. i will give a brief one. by focusing on the causes more than the symptoms, what i meant was we can, should and need to do all the things people talk about in a comprehensive isis strategy on borders, opposition and factions. all of those things can and need to be done. but to really zero in on it, so long as the 20 million susanies who live between damascus and baghdad are feeling disadvantaged, repressed and killed by iranian backed shiah dictators, we are going to be facing this problem, and they are going to be radicalized in the region and beyond. it is a longer conversation on how we do that in iraq. among us we have a consensus there needs to be something more done politically for the sunies in iraq and make them feel they are a part of the country. and in syria, i talked about de-escalating the war.
it is true that assad is a magnet to isis. the daily bombing of syria is a cause for isis. if we de-escalated the war in syria, we would make more a contribution to this contribute than any special forces. >> thank you. >> thanks, mr. chairman, and thank you for continuing this ries of very significant and illuminating hearings. i want to thank all three of our witnesses, particularly ambassador crocker, for hosting us as you have in afghanistan, and for your insight and advice to this committee and to me afterwards. i know a lot of ground has been covered. i have been in and out of the hearing and had an opportunity to follow it as well remotely. i want to focus for the moment on the refugee issue.
nd most particularly on on rafficking of survivors, refugees, particularly women and children. i met recently with a young s.e.d. trafficking survivor, , o told me about her escape very courageous escape from systemic rape and brutality that women and children have endured at the hands of isil. the situation has been detailed by a number of the media as well. rape has been increasingly used as a tool of terrorism to de-stabilize communities and exert control over women, girls in communities there. and in the case of isil, of sely to hold thousands
men, women and children in captivity. i think we should try to find a way to expand and intensify our efforts to assist these victims. let me begin, mr. gordon, by asking you what role the united states and its coalition partners should have in securing the safe release of these women and children still and maybe open it the other witnesses, and how to ensure the partner training exercises conducted in iraq are taking an interagency approach to this issue? >> senator, thank you. it is impossible to overstate the humanitarian and strategic consequences of the refugee crisis. you mentioned it from the humanitarian standpoint. there are more than 10 million displaced.
strategically, it threatens the neighbors. some of us may be surprised that a country like lebanon is still functioning, notwithstanding the fact that maybe a quarter of its population are now syrian refugees. we have talked about how it spills over into the u.s. and the european union as well. the united states has been a leader. we have provided more than $4 billion, but as you are implying, it is not even close to what is necessary. so we need to do even more. we need to lead. i think one of the arguments for america's embrace and willingness to take refugees is not just the humanitarian one, which is enormous. otherwise leaving them to their fates in the region or a squalid refugee camp, but showing that america is a welcoming country and not anti-muslim is a big tool beyond this struggle, beyond what we can do to the individuals. final it it comes back to the political points we are all talking about. whatever we can do for
individual refugees is obviously hugely important. but we need to stop the flow. the sources of this problem that we just discussed in response to the senator's question. i fear, too, that if we don't deal with those causes, we are going to have a hearing two or three years from now on the same problem, and it is going to be many times bigger than it is now. >> ambassador crocker? >> thank you, senator. of course the community you are talking about are neither muslim nor refugees. they would love to be refugees. because however bad that was, at least they would be out of the hands of islamic state. >> they are right now captive. >> they are captives, they are slaves, sex slaves. it is a reminder that islamic state is evil, and as long as
it exists, as long as it holds ground, it about will use it for evil purposes, whether that is attacks into paris, planning attacks in the united states, enslavement of innocents, executions of others, they will do it. i am grateful to you for recalling that there is such a thing in this world as evil. assad is evil. isis is evil. and as the chairman said in a different context earlier, we need to keep a moral compass on these things. we are america. >> thank you. >> i thank the witnesses. this has been extremely helpful, i am sure to all of us and those who are observing on c-span. i don't think we could have had of a group embers
of people who have served our country with honor and distinction, and we are proud to have all three of you before the committee today. jack? >> just to commend you, mr. chairman, for holding a very timely and important hearing, and to thank the witnesses again for their service and thoughtful comments. >> adjourned. ca]ptions coright national [inaudible conversations] >> [inaudible conversations]
>> i've been watching the campaign this year, it's far more interesting to look at the republicans than the democratic side. that may have something to do with why there's more interest in these candidates and their books. >> sunday night on q&a. >> so many of them. everyone does have interesting stories in their lives, and politicians who are so single-minded in this pursuit of power and ideology could have particularly interesting ones, but when they put out these memoirs, they are sanitized. they are vetted. they are there for sort of minimum controversy.
>> sunday night at eight eastern on c-span's q&a. >> senators chris murphy and bill cassidy recently introduced a bill at improving mental health care. at a senate hearing medical professionals and mental health advocates discuss ways to improve how mental health services are provided. this hearing is an hour and a half. >> us in getting on health, education, labor and pensions will please come to order. senator murray and i will have an opening statement and then we'll introduce our panel of witnesses. senator mikulski will introduce the first witness at and after eyewitness testimony senators will have, each have five minutes of questions. and four we begin today's hearing i want to briefly mention for the information of the committee of our progress on
two or three items on our agenda. yesterday i announced that we placan't hold our first mark on february 9 to consider the first set a bipartisan bills aimed at spurring biomedical innovation for american patients. senators and staff have been working through 2015 on this on a number of bipartisan pieces of legislation. the house has completed its work on the 21st century cures act. the president has reiterated his support for precision medicine initiative and in a state of the union address for cancer moon shot. so it's urgent that the senate finished its work and turn into law these ideas that will help virtually every american. we have also been working for months together on legislation to achieve interoperability of electronic health care records for doctors, hospitals and their patients. we have a lot of credit for what to do about that and the kidney
will be releasing today i bipartisan staff draft of that legislation for public comment. .. on making sure the department of education implements that the way the congress wrote it and the way the president signed it. and we've done a lot of work reauthorizing higher education which expired at end of last year.
we have number of bipartisan proposals that will make it easier and simpler for students to attend college and more administrators manage our 6,000 colleges and universities. we have a lot we ought to be able to do this year and one of the most important of those items has to do with the mental health crisis that we're discussing today. i hope, and senator murray and i agree on this, we can move promptly to offer bipartisan recommendations on how to address the mental health crisis. we've already done a lot of work on it. we passed it in september the mental health awareness and improvement act that senator murray and i introduced. the senate passed that in december. senators cassidy, senator murphy have introduced legislation and senator murray and i are working with them. we hope to move promptly to bring combination of those recommendations to the full committee. not everything the senate may want to do is within our jurisdiction.
so we're working with senator blunt and senator murray runs the health appropriations subcommittee on ideas that senator blunt has proposed. we're working with senator cornyn on issues judiciary committee is considering and finance committee will probably have to be involved as well. we want to move promptly within the committee to have things promptly with our jurisdiction have them ready for the floor, to work with the leader to bring them to the floor if he chooses to do that. the reason there is such interest in the mental health crisis today, about one in five adults have a mental health condition the past year. according to the tall health services administration. that is nearly 10 million adults with illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression that interferes with major life activity. 60% of the adults didn't receive mental health services