tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN October 28, 2015 9:00am-11:01am EDT
conversations with the russians about this, but this impacts israel with respect to the freedom of its operation, with respect to threats it has from syria as well. so we share a tremendous amount here. i think that the core fundamentals remain in place and those are -- those emanate from the president. i had a lot of experience before i came into this administration as well. brought that as an asset and tried to build that while i was national security adviser. >> dennis, anything further on this? >> look, i just wasn't trying to single anybody out, although obviously there was an interpretation that i was. what i was doing was highlighting, "a," the contrast between tom and his successor's approach to dealing with the
israelis, including on the dialogue, and this is a mindset that is a very traditional one. it's not unique. it's not unique to this administration. it's been in every administration from truman until today. and one of the things i tried to highlight in the book, that perspective that sees that if you don't partner with israel, somehow you're better off, is one that i try to show analytically and repeatedly actually doesn't serve your interests. it doesn't serve your interests with the arabs. it doesn't benefit you there. it makes the israelis more suspicious and the behaviors frequently we don't want to see. one of the things that is repetitive throughout history is an unease when the israelis act unilaterally. you make those actions more likely if the israelis have many
more doubts about you and about the nature of your readiness to work with them and what's driving you in the region. and so what tom embodied, as i said in my mind, an exemplar of how the most senior officials ought to be working with the israeli counterparts and the great irony i show is ironically that also pays off in terms of affecting those israeli behaviors you would prefer not to see. >> very good. and just lastly, tom, this book is titled "doomed to succeed." when you look at american politics, when you look at changes in american attitudes, when you look at the changes in the middle east, is the u.s./israeli relationship doomed to succeed? >> if you look at the fundamentals, yes. deep shared interests and
strategic goals. there are political circumstances that drive in different directions and personalities come into play as well. that's been the case all through the history of the relationship. i do think it was of late a mistake to in any way drive the debate over iran to a partisan place. one thing that has been consistent over the decades dennis describes is a bipartisan commitment to the relationship and we saw some damage to that, frankly, the way the debate unfolded on the iran agreement. i think we have an opportunity to do some of that correctly. >> i agree with that.
there's a number of suggestions i make about where we go from here and one is to reinforce what has, in fact, been the key underpinning of this relationship besides shared values, interests and shared threats, israeli has been an american issue. george h.w. bush got 11% of the vote and democrats got 11% of the republican -- got 11% of the jewish vote. and at the time there was an effort on the part of democrats to try to exploit that and now we see it on the part of the republicans to exploit it. you don't have the u.s./israeli interests in mind and that's in a sense if you want this relationship to stay on a solid footing it has to be on a
nonpartisan basis. >> it's interesting. president obama personal ly, he is a fiercely intellectual person. and the arguments that he makes on these issues and the discussions on the weighs process with netanyahu and others are from two points. one is a commitment but additionally coming from deep consideration of the analytics and the facts. >> okay very good. an excellent place to end our conversation and open up to your questions. we'll start over here with my colleague david and then move to peter. the mikes are right above you so just stand up and ask. have at it. >> fascinating conversation.
tom, just to pick up on the last points about separating the overlay of the relationship of principles from the common strategic objectives and recent iran example versus going forward. it's quoted in israeli media, i don't think it's come from him but from others saying that israel was not fofd about the talks. and going forward is that same distrust of netanyahu and obama even though they share common strategic objective. despite what dennis said about a common approval, the more i share with the israelis, the more who knows if it will be
used to unravel the deal. no, the more they pay attention to it, the more embedded and committed to it. you could see the argument going forward that says i want to keep israel -- i'm not talking about hezbollah and i'm not sure where the prime minister is at. look back and look forward on these two examples and do you have some second thoughts on what happened in the past on that point? >> let's start with the past. with respect to moving forward here it is in the interests of the united states, in my judgment, to have the kind of group dennis described to have
an accurate implementation. it should be a platform that we continue to talk about. that's my strong view. in both countries the military services are quite professional. and give their leaders their best analytical advice. and i think the way to have a common view whether iran is complying or not complying or if they're not complying, how bad the noncompliance is, is to have these exchange. i believe that very strongly. people have to look to their analytical teams to give them information on which they might
base very serious decisions with respect to how they might -- with respect to actions they might or might not take. with respect to the iranian negotiations looking back, the line that was drawn was that we needed, the united states needed, to ensure that there was a conversation that was going to be held and once there was, we were engaged on the substance. with respect to the first point on was it real? we had to -- a long history to this, as you all know, right, with respect to negotiations or talks between the united states and iran. and it was absolutely incumbent on us to ensure that the people we were talking to were authorized, that there was a real conversation, that they were authorized not just by the
state government but also with the authority of the supreme leader's office. and prior to that, and prior to our testing that, which we did through a series of interactions and a lot of different dimensions, prior to that, we kept this as a private channel. but the line after that when we got into actual substantial negotiations, the united states engaged in, i think -- my understanding is pretty deep and consistent and intensive briefings and information sessions with the israeli government including getting reaction from the israeli government with respect to positions we might take in negotiations. but in the first instance, david, it was important for us to test whether or not this was real. was it authorized? was it going to go anywhere? did the people who were reaching out to us have the kind of
authorization, again, not just from the governmental entities but also from the supreme leader because having an extended set of negotiations and conversations about substance with a bunch of folks who we were -- might have been authorized with the supreme leader stepping back and not taking responsibility for the talks and having complete deniability and the ability to push away at any point wouldn't have been a productive path. so that's a little bit of insight into the mindset. >> so no second thoughts on that. peter, in the middle. >> the last year of a two-term administration can be a time of reduced energy, but also can be a time of opportunity, as you both know, for getting things done. getting difficult issues off the table in advance of the successor coming in who may be more politically constrained. we've heard about the joint
ideas. are there two or three other ideas or issues or problems that could be addressed in the waning days of the obama administration given the facts on the ground, the context of the relationship between the two leaders, in i go that comes to mind about things we haven't talked about that might be good to get off the table before obama leaves the white house? >> well, if the president made a commitment to finalizing and mlu, the obama administration inherit it had from the bush administration, it would be nice for the next administration to inherit the same ten-year mlu on assistance to israel. i think that would be a very good one to get off the table. i hope that on the peace issue that the approach of the administration is going to be rooted in what i call what's possible? i think it would be a big
mistake to adopt a posture that our choices are do nothing or solve the whole thing. if we do that, we'll end up doing nothing because we can't solve the whole thing now and when you do nothing, you create vacuums. i would like us to take, if we're going to do something on this and i hope we will do it, we take a practical approach. we focus on first how you restore calm, secondly, how you can do different things on the ground, third, how you can begin to try to restore belief between the two sides because it's the level of disbelief between the two sides that is problematic. the fourth thing we need to think whether or not you can bring the arabs into this, whether that's going to be possible right now. i don't know given all the other demands on the region. but i think the palestinians are at a point of such dysfunction and such weakness on their own they can do very little with an arab umbrella they might be able to do something. certainly the impulse to do anything without getting something from the arabs is
going to be minimal. there needs to be a kind of effort, at least a practical effort on this and i hope the administration will adopt a practical approach. >> tom? >> i agree with all of that, peter. one is we should work through the next iteration of the defense understandings with the israelis and that shouldnñy ge we should make every opportunity to do that between now and the end of president obama's term. second, i'm glad to raise the issue of interim or partial steps versus trying to solve the whole problem. because this can lead to -- if this is the binary choice that leads to disengagement by the united states and the history of this is when the united states is disengaged and the vacuum emerges, as dennis says, things go in a negative direction. the vacuum is stilled by the forces against cooperation.
a set of ideas around certainly a political horizon but the kinds of practical steps that could be taken. on both sides to build confidence. calm and cooperation would be an important set of steps. third, as we discussioned, it's very important for the administration to work through and have the mechanisms in place after the initial implementation period. we're now and the beginning of november this could take another six, eight, or ten months to put this in place. there are a number of concrete things. having that in place and having the oversight mechanisms up and running i think is really important for the administration to finish by the time it leaves. i do think the united states
needs to develop and articulate a comprehensive anti-isis strategy. and implement the next phase of that strategy and be seen to have done so and to have taken some concrete steps and i think the effort under way in northern syria to move on raka is an important step to break the n narrative of success that isis has. this is the recruiting element, the tool that's a narrative of success that it took on the leaders and the rest of the world successfully. it needs to be broken. if at all possible to work through a political next step in syria and i do think as i said in my earlier reports it's important to in a very concrete way put in place the reassurance gulf council states.
>> clear ly we need to have a strategy on syria. the risk right now is that if we're carrying out more attacks in the area and the russians are everywhere else, we run the risk of undercutting one of the things we want. you have them seen as being unsuccessful but they cannot appear to be the only ones protecting sunnis. if there's a parallelism where we're hitting isis and they're hitting the non-isis/sunni opposition, then we run the risk that in a sense we will actually instead of discrediting them we may add to their appeal.
we have to have the more coherent strategy than we have today. >> is it fair to say from the answer that you both gave that neither of you think that the last year of the obama administration will witness a major push to settle the israeli palestinian conflict coming from the white house? >> i don't see an enormous appetite within the white house to do a major push. i just don't want that lack of appetite to translate into doing nothing. and i worry. i worry that if you create a binary choice the instinct not to do a big push translates into doing nothing. there is a different instinct to be active and, again, the key is be active in the right way. what we don't need are more failed initiatives. we don't need failed initiatives between israelis and
palestinians because there's too high a level of disbelief. we don't need failed initiatives in the middle east where we need to look more successful. one of the examples i cite in the book, there are echoes from earlier periods, kissinger describes in the fall of 1969 after gadhafi removes king itrus in libya that every single leader from an american friend in the region, every single arab friend, sends a message to president nixon in which they're basically saying, look, the radicals are on the rise here. the one thing that began to change things was the aftermath of black september. when the syrians sent 300 tanks
into jordan and we moved some forces but was getting israel in the golan heights, doesn't commit the syrian air force and the jordanians are able to expel the syrians. it looks like an american friend just did okay. we need a manifestation that have right now and it will translate -- you'll get a disproportionate payoff. >> the administration has a lot of things to do between now and the end of its term. and it's confronting in the middle east, as dennis alluded to, the breakdown of the arab state system. we have seen the re-emergence of great power competition.
we've seen move to posterity in terms of the russians. we have the transpacific partnership agreement. dennis is exactly right. and i'm pretty certain this is not where secretary kerry is. but a disengagement will lead to a vacuum and will lead to a worse situation facing the next president of the united states. when you get beyond the binary structure that we're in. >> susan? >> you both touched on the
question i'm going to ask but i want to push it a little bit getting into the timing. we are observing the 20th anniversary of the murder. yesterday it was observed. is oslo dead? if it's not dead, is it on life support and what will it take to revive it? there is a bigger picture. he said in march he was no longer bound by oslo. where are we going up to 30,000? where are we in terms of a framework for having substantive discussions? it doesn't seem like there's much will on either side right now.
>> thanks, suzy. i would say the following. the structure of oslo still exists. he may say he's not bound but it but that does not mean he's not implementing security cooperation. it goes on now. as far as i know they're transferring revenues that they are collecting and you have the designated areas of a, b, and c. so the structure still exists. now you don't have an active peace process. you have instead something that is a wave of it terror violence. it isn't organized the way the first intefadeh was or the second intefadeh was. it's being carried out by those 15 to 25-year-olds. it is being driven by incitement
and social media. a lot of videos go viral. a young palestinian kills an israeli and they're killed, they don't show the stabbing. they show the result. plus there has been a false narrative out there that israel is trying to do what exists in hebron meaning the assume of abraham which is untrue and you have an agreement this i think we contributed to. between the prime minister and the king of jordan. to show the status quo is not being changed. i would like to see more done in that regard. more done in terms of spelling out, explaining what the status quo is, repeating this over and over. doing more to highlight this and
acknowledging this is what the reality is as a way of, again, trying to stop what is a level of taking on a life of its own. that's the good and the bad news. it's hard to bring it to an end. first things first, you're going to have to find, we have to find a way to calm things down. you said at the end of your comment, anyone who thinks a bi-national state is a prescription for anything except what you're seeing right now. and the kind of conflicts you see are terrible. they're the worst form of bloodletting. and the idea that a one-state
outcome is anything exception a prescription for enduring war is an illusion. that is what it will produce. so if you are a believer. if you're a believer in the state of israel, if you're a believer in the idea of a jewish democratic state, you need a two-state outcome. i don't see how you produce the two-state outcome because on the palestinian side in particular i don't see the capacity to make decisions. you can't pursue an finiinitiat in public. you have to test it in private. but you have to create a context first and the context has to require a change of reality on the ground. so you start by creating calm. this has been a siren song.
i think one of the problems we face is that very few people accept the outcome, a genuine two-state outcome. very few believe they'll accept a palestinian state and what you need to do is be able to construct an approach, even if it's coordinated unilateralism where each side takes steps that demonstrate, no, look, when we say we're for two states, the prime minister of israel said he was for two states with two peoples. one way to show he believes in two states for two peoples would be to declare i'm not going to build outside the blocks. i'm not going to build on what would be a palestinian state. this is my demonstration that
israel believes in two states for two people. it would be nice on the palestinian side maybe actually to either show that they would put israel on a map. that would be a nice thing. at least say two states for two people because there are two national movements. i acknowledge there is such a thing as a jewish people. a very interesting article where it seems so hard for palestinians to acknowledge that. they're entitled to it. there's a real commitment to a two-state outcome is for each side to at least even if it's to us take those actions. it's not going to transform things overnight. it begins to take a basis to create a second look. and if we were guided by a
strategy to transform the situation, so what isn't possible today can be possible tomorrow, that's the way we would approach things. >> on any future peace agreement it will be based on the oslo structures. i don't think starting from scratch is in the cards and, indeed, lots of the practical things that go on continue today. the first point. the second point, dennis, is a question because i agree, as you know, fully with taking interim steps which reinforce a path towards an ultimate agreement. it is an important question to ask, why did it take the u.s. secretary of state to go to amman for there to be concrete steps taken with respect to maintaining the status quo in terms of access to the holy sites? why is that? >> it shouldn't. >> i think it's an important conversation for us to have with both sides, frankly. >> but i'll add given the
climate right now even though there's a capacity to communicate, each side needs the excuse it provides. what secretary kerry provide d was an umbrella. again, it's a reminder we do have a role it to play but we have to structure our role in a way it has a chance to succeed. >> thank you. yes, in front right here. >> i wanted to ask in light of prime minister netanyahu's visit and in light of the bitter debate over the iran deal, what do you think is the best tone for the prime minister to strike at the visit. try to heal the wounds.
>> what matters is what he says and where he says it. this has been a partisan issue. i hope that he reaches out in a way that's unmistakable to democrats and republicans alike but emphasizing the nonpartisan nature of the relationship and i think i would expect this meeting will go well. do i think in the aftermath of this they're going to be the closest of friends? do i think the chemistry will be perfect? no. because i think they actually do have different world views. but i think they do recognize the points of convergence. they do recognize the common needs right now and i think both have an interest in elevating that at this point.
it comes back to thinking about those things that bind us and divided us on iran. even points of disagreement with the israelis on this, we knew our objectives were the same. the objections were the same. now a threshold has been crossed. there's an agreement that will be implemented. the question that is critical is how is it going to be implemented and is it a certainty there will be a price? the key to deterrence, the key to the iranians' understanding that 15 years down the road when there are no qualifications on the size of the program they can build, there are thresholds if they cross it produces a price that they don't want to pay. >> it depends on what the prime minister says. there's a constructive conversation to be had here about, as dennis said, our shared goal.
the support of the international community. the topic of discussion. >> very professional. >> on that, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in thanking tom donilon. congratulations, dennis. the book's right outside. get them while they're here and thank you, gentlemen, for being with us. >> live now to capitol hill for a hearing on u.s. strategy in the middle east with assistant secretary of state anne patterson and before the senate foreign relations committee.
the foreign relations committee will come to order and we thank very much our witnesses for being here. as a matter of fact, i'll start there. i have enjoyed the service of anne patterson who is not leaving, so i will not focus on her this morning but we thank her for her professionalism and in her various assignments around the world and appreciate her professionalism. general allen, i have to tell you, we admire so much your service to our country over the last 40 years. your willingness to do it in the
state department. you're direct, transparent, always helpful manner in dealing with all of us. i know you don't like to do these hearings. >> i love them, mr. chairman, actually. >> we tried -- we planned to have general allen in a closed session. and i've always found him to be so much more helpful to us in that type of setting just because of the tremendous knowledge that you have about what's happening on the ground and your ability to communicate it effectively. i know that it was decided that we were going to have an open hearing in this manner and hope that won't inhibit you much especially since you're on your way out the door. we cannot thank you enough. general allen will focus more on
seyria and iraq. ambassador and secretary patterson will focus on the entire region. yesterday we had a two and a half hour session with secretary kerry. secretary patterson was a part of that, or at least witnessed what was said. i know today she'll have the opportunity to talk more broadly about the region. i know general allen will focus more so on iraq and syria. look, we're having a series of hearings i think the american people and all of us are somewhat confused about what our efforts are. i know many americans believe that we are disengaged from the middle east and yet we have 40,000 troops stationed in the middle east in various capacities. we certainly have robust economic efforts that are under way. this gives us an opportunity to be open and honest about where we are.
i'm sure there will be pretty strong questioning that will take place, but we thank you for being here. with that i'll turn to our outstanding ranking member, senator cardin. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i first want to join us in welcoming both of our witnesses, secretary patterson is doing an incredible job in a very challenging region of the world. of all the regional secretaries, you picked the one with the most challenge. so thank you very much for your service. i agree with the chairman and his observations of general allen. we thank you so much for your service. let me, if i might, quote from what secretary kerry said because he expressed our views of all the members of congress when he said about general allen he has worked relentlessly to build a vision among diverse groups of nations and bind them together with a common purpose. general allen traveled to more than 30 capitals around the world and in so doing garnered international support for multifaceted approach to attack
and diminish the threat posed by this brutal terrorist group. i think general allen, i just wanted to express appreciation of the members of this committee for your incredible public service throughout your entire career and thank you very much for that. as the chairman pointed out, we've had a series of hearings in regards to the middle east. some have been very specific in its focus. this one's more general as to the current challenges in the u.s. role on strategy in the middle east. i think first we need to underscore our interests. it is to stop the spread and use of weapons of mass destruction. it is clearly to make -- to underscore our commitment to israel's security. it's for counterterrorism and the spread of extremism. it's good governance and respect
for human rights. that's one area i have concentrated on because i think the u.s. makes it very clear without good governance and respect for human rights you cannot have long-term stability and security in a country considering the energy resources in that part of the world ensuring freedom of navigation, free flow of commerce and it's certainly ending the regional civil wars. recognizing that that is critically important not just for stability and security in the region but the humanitarian crisis that we see today from the refugees fleeing the civil war in syria. so against this backdrop of broad u.s. interests, what are our objectives and what considerations should shape u.s. strategy going forward? and that is the purpose for today's hearing to understand the strategies that the united states is employing. we certainly want to enable all citizens to live lives with dignity and equal opportunity.
so there are substantial challenges in so many countries in that region. we have now completed the iran deal. what are the consequences moving forward? we don't expect iran to change its behavior. how do we counter its problematic activities in that region concerning terrorism and its ballistic missiles operations? how do we deal with the problems in yemen? how do we deal with the problems in so many other countries in that region? and i look forward to a robust discussion with our two witnesses today. >> thank you. thank you, senator cardin. our first witness is the honorable anne patterson, assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs. again, thank you for being here. a second witness today is general john r. allen, special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter isil. we thank you both have been here before. please summarize your comments in about five minutes if you would. we have your written testimony.
without objection, it will be entered into the record, and we look forward to q&a. if you would start, anne, we would appreciate it. >> thank you, mr. chairman, ranking member cardin and members of the committee. thank you for the opportunity to appear today. i'm honored to appear with general john allen, our accomplished special presidential envoy. we are both just back from trips to the region. i know you received a full readout of the secretary's trip yesterday. i have submitted a full statement for the record. the roots of the unprecedented instability we are witnessing in the middle east are deep and systemic. to protect u.s. interests and volatility we have to recognize and cope with the challenges that states across the region face. weak political legitimacy, ineffective institutions, and enormous democratic, economies, religious sectarianism, and a lack of con sevensensusconsensu. our most urgent is to combat isil which is preying on weak
states to terrorize citizens and create a massive humanitarian disaster. there are no easy or quick fix for these daunting challenges. there are success stories, notably in tunisia and i look forward to next week's ceremony to celebrate the national dialogue winning of the nobel peace prize. we are determined to continue helping tunisia stabilize its fragile. likewise in iraq, the prime minister has courageously tackled corruption. we have a long road ahead, but we have stopped isil's territorial expansion and are helping stabilize areas liberated from isil. the administration succeeded in signing an agreement to remove the biggest threat to our security, iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. we are fully cognizant of the challenges ahead with implementation of the joint comprehensive plan of action.
the u.s. will lift nuclear related sanctions only after the iaea has the nuclear steps completed. building on the historic summit that president obama held at camp david in may, we are helping our gulf allies counter iran aggression by building defensive capabilities and by limiting tehran's ability to support proxies like hezbollah. in lebanon we are strengthening the armed forces targeting hezbollah's financial support structure and urging the government to elect a president. egyptians are voting in parliamentary elections and we are helping cairo fight isil-affiliated terrorists and sign on, strengthen the border with libya, and create jobs necessary for political stability. at the strategic dialogue in august, secretary kerry emphasized the need for egypt to improve its human rights record and we will continue to press for expanding freedoms for the
egyptian people. secretary kerry initiated meetings last week with prime minister netanyahu, palestinian authority president abbas, and jordan's king abdullah that resulted in a path to ease tensions to ease israeli/palestinian tensions. we condemn the violence between both in the strongest possible terms and welcome the steps the parties have agreed to calm the situation. libyans are inching closer to a government of national core due to the work of the u.s., our european allies and the u.n. a national unity government will give us the counterterrorism partner we need to stabilize libya. in yemen the representatives of former president sallah and president hadi have agreed to direct consultations we hope will begin soon. we are pressing the sunni coalition to de-escalate its military campaign and ensure unfettered humanitarian access to the yemeni people.
syria has been the subject of intense u.s. diplomacy. there is no military solution, and the international community cannot afford a continuation of the status quo which yields only unending humanitarian catastrophes and refugee flows. russia's venturism is aimed at u.s.-supported moderate opposition forces and was prompted because the assad regime was losing territory and control. but we know moscow does not want an unlimited commitment in syria. secretary kerry told you yesterday he believes that now is the time to make a maximum effort to end the syrian conflict. the solution can only come through political transition. the russian, turkish, and saudi counterparts brought together last friday agreed on this. and in two days secretary kerry will bring together a larger group to help begin a political process amongst syrians to negotiate a political transition. we have no illusions about the
prospects for success. our differences with russia, iran and the assad regime are very substantial. but the benefits of ending this conflict and giving the syrian people a government that respects them are even greater. mr. chairman and members of the committee, the middle east and north africa is a deeply troubled region where profound challenges impede the better economically successful and politically stable future that the vast majority of people across the region fervently hope to achieve. at the same time most of these countries are counting on the united states for support as they navigate this period of instability, for security cooperation, for economic partnerships, and for a leg up in the 21st century. thank you. >> general allen? >> chairman corker, ranker member cardin, esteemed members of the committee, thank you for providing me this opportunity to update you today on the progress
of the global coalition to counter isil. i'll refer to isil, the arab acronym as we go throughout the day. i'm honored to appear alongside one of the pre mere diplomats of our time, anne patterson. as the committee knows, the challenges in the region are great and i returned to washington on friday from consultation with our gulf partners and on the heels of a trip to amman, baghdad, and met with leadership on the counter isil strategy. this in turn follows immediately on heels of the u.n. general assembly where president obama convened a meeting of the coalition and other key international leaders and groups engaged in countering violent extremism. it's been a busy time. at the u.n. general assembly three other nations announced their membership to the coalition, tunisia and malaysia.
it's important to take stock of the dire situation unfolding a year ago. isil had advanced unimpeded into iraq. those in baghdad were under severe threat and isil laid siege to the sinjar mountain where they intended to annihilate the population. tikrit had fallen and we witnessed atrocities unparalleled in our experience. a year later there was significant pressure ton this group hitting isil with 7,500 air strikes nearly 6,000 of which the united states has conducted and taken out just as a measure of the effect 70 senior and mid level isil leaders from may. roughly two every other day. with 18 coalition members having trained more than 14,000 iraqi
and peshmerga soldiers to date, we've denied them to operate in over 80% of the populated territory in iraq held just last august. 75% of the population of tikrit has returned. iraqi air force, aircraft flying u.s. supplied f-16s have provided air support to operations on the ground and four columns are closing in on ramadi, the capital of the al anbar province, which we a anticipate will be the next liberated city. it is no less challenging as ambassador patterson has mentioned and the russian presence has further complicated matters completely, which a. ambassador patterson will also address with us in the questions and answers. the united states continues to support ground forces to take back territory. we now have cut off isil from 68
miles of the 600-mile border with turkey and today some of those forces are within 30 miles of isil's nerve center, if you will, itsraqqah. beyond the military aspects of the campaign that will inevitably receive the most attention, we must not forget the pressure that we exert against this group along other mutually supporting lines of effort. while we have taken back isil's primary border crossing from foreign terrorist travellers traveling between turkey and syria, we must stress the turkish border is the last line of defense in combating this as i have mentioned. we're working with turkey and local part noerz cleners to cle from the further 6 mi8 miles of border. the russians will make this more complex. we need all nations working together at each link in the chain of the movement of foreign fighters from the point of radicalization to the point of violence and to the point of return and rehabilitation.
you will recall earlier this year in may, our armed forces conduct aed a special raid. we took information, hard drives, thumb drives, dvds, cds and paper. the exmroe taploitation of that material is giving us insight into the organization of isil and its economic portfolio. as isil continues to brutal iiz the coalition is coordinating. several nations, including the united states with the support of congress, have made sizable contributions to a fund for immediate stabilization in iraq which we created with the u.n. development program. this fund multilaterally supported has enabled iraqis to
re-establish critical and essential services such as water, electricity and medical services. the communities isil leaves in its wake bear witness to isil's true nature, one we are working to expose, ensuring a muslim voice and arab face is our messaging strategy. one example, the state department's center for strategic counterterrorism have managed media generating 900 news articles and reaching an estimated population of 90 million. to that end, we must never, ever accept that organizations like isil can become the new normal. we must never lose our moral outrage at what we have seen this organization do and is doing every day. taking the fight to isil requires that we be flexible and patient in our efforts. it requires close coordination with this committee and our colleagues in the congress. we can constantly evaluate our tactics and strategy and that
we're resourcing them appropriately. i want to thank you chairman for this opportunity to continue this process of coordination and consultation. as i end this term, i wanted to tell you, sir, i enlisted in the service when i was 17. i spent my adult life in the military. i have spent the last year working with the state department. i want to thank this committee for the support that it has given to the state department, the foreign service and the magnificent professionals in that organization. when i thank americans, when i thank those who serve today, i call on americans to not just thank our men and women in uniform, they should be thanking our diplomats and employees of the state department as well. thank you for that support. >> thank you. thank you very much. i think i will start with secretary patterson. you know, with the -- especially with what happened with the iran nuclear agreement, there's been an effort to try to try to understand what our middle east policy is and for congress to play a role in that. i think the administration is
attempting to do the same. as i look at libya where we basically went in for the short term and left a country ungoverned, still ungoverned in many ways, as i look at egypt where we had folks that were trying to cause the country to become not a sector country but one that was very focused on religious ideology and so someone comes in to change that and then all of a sudden we're not really helping them or holding back support because we don't like the way they did it because of human rights issues. in iraq we had in 2011 a check the box mentality where we're done with iraq and over and obviously we're back in in a different way now. and syria, our policy has been assad must go. and yet assad is there. we really haven't done much to cause assad to go. we had certainly extended
testimony yesterday. in yemen, the folks supporting the government but not really for them. in iran, obviously we have just totally turned the tables relative to our relationship there. obviously, they will be at the table on friday if they accept. israel, it's hard to -- somebody has been a longtime friend. it's hard to tell whether they're friend or foe at present. i wonder if you might lay out for us what the middle east vision has been and if that has changed because of circumstances, what it is today. because it's really hard as you look at all the pieces to understand if there's a congruent middle east policy and something that we might learn from the administration today, at least what that is. >> well, thank you, mr. chairman. obviously, as i said, it's a deeply troubled and conflicted
region. but i do think that we have certain overriding principals in the region. the first is our count counterterrorism policy. that's obviously been a challenge in increasing challenge in libya and other places and yemen as well. i would say that's our first priority. the second is human rights and democracy and economic growth. we have tried to promote those. i think they're very much under the radar, particularly some of our economic policies at this time. to promote entrepreneurship, to promote employment, to try and get some of these enormous youth bulge issues that are destabl g destabilizing the region. finally, i think i would be the first to admit, mr. chairman, that we have been absolutely absorbed by the crises in the region such as isil and syria and in libya and we have been unable in many respects to implement successfully these longer-term strategies and focus
on the underlying difficulties in the region. let me point out, however, that i think we have made very considerable progress in some parts of north africa. i think relations with our gulf allies have improved quite dramatically. due to the work on the camp david summit and our security guarantees in trying to reassure them of our permanent commitment to their security. so i think there are some positive elements that we can point to in our policy. but, again, i would be the first to admit that we have been quite absorbed by crisis management during this administration. >> my sense is that three years ago maybe the administration had one view of the middle east. and today, that's evolved to a degree. has there been shifts, if you will, that might enlighten us relative to how the administration is looking at the region just because of these kree seize that you are talking
about? >> mr. chairman, i think if i had been here three years ago -- i was in egypt three years ago. i think there was perhaps an overly optimistic impression that we could focus on democracy promotion and economic growth in places like egypt and north afri africa. that has proved to be exceedingly difficult. so over the past three years, our focus has really changed to the counterterrorism initiative which was always a high priority and essentially to develop what general allen is carrying out, which is a coalition to fight isil and other terrorists in the region. we shouldn't forget about the presence of al qaeda in yemen. so i would say that we have evolved. >> general allen, this friday, there was a meeting that i know secretary kerry seemed very optimistic about yesterday in our closed briefing. it's hard to square for me
anyway -- it's hard to square sort of the facts on the ground with the potential for some grand diplomatic solution on friday when you see what russia's efforts it seems have been more towards the free syrian moderate groups than they have towards isis. you have iran on the ground there working with them. i'm wondering if you have any thoughts about -- from your perspective, since your military background is so extensive and so respected. as you look at the facts on the ground today, where do you see a diplomatic solution going in syria that is reconcilable and ends up being something that represents u.s. national interest? >> chairman, as you -- as we have said before in our conversations and i've attempted to portray, this is one of the most complex situations that i
have seen in my career. the ground in syria is rife with conflict in a number of different levels and a number of different directions. much, of course, of what we see in syria, if not virtually all of what we see in syria is a direct result of the assad regime, a direct result of during the spring of 2011 when legitimate voices of the syrian people called for reform rather than to listen to those voices and perhaps embrace the opportunity for reform, he turned on them. and that created the situation that we see today. which is that large segments of the population which we might call moderate syrian are seeking to defend themselves. elements of the population have gravitated tolds al qaeda. so al qaeda has put down roots in country in a very serious way. and that isil found itself free
to incubate, if you will, to create the organization it has today, which nearly pushed syria over the edge and nearly pushed iraq over the edge. we have a very complex environment on the ground which until just recently, the last several months, i didn't see that we had many options, frankly. in terms of being able continue to influence the ground. in terms of our work with syrian elements that we could work with, having taken back much of the syrian turkish border, that has given up options in terms of closing off the border but having access to syrian partners with whom we can deal. as well, turkey is now in this game in a way that we had not seen just months ago. and that i think has given up a platform regionally to have options. at this juncture, we're trying to develop the situation which is to contain ultimately degrade
and defeat isil, which is a strategy in and of itself. we have a policy objective to seek to reduce the violence in the region and to undertake some kind of a political transformati transformation, transition away from assad. the connective tissue we hope between the two of those, the strategy on the one hand and ultimately the policy objective on the the other is to do what we can to support the syrian elements within the population that can both defeat isil and be credible voices in the political transition. i think secretary kerry is trying to leverage that opportunity. i think the russians have made that -- have given up opportunity and a challenge in that regard. i'm not giving the russians any credit for what they have done. the point i'm trying to make is that the russians are going to find themselves i think in the near future in a difficult situation. it's going to be very difficult for them to disengage or ultimately to justify their
presence in syria. for a whole variety of reasons. i can be more expansive on that if you like. i don't think assad is in a particularly strong place. i think the russians intervened because assad was teetering on the edge. i think the russians are attempting to assist him to be stable and to perhaps to protect and recover the heartland. we had hoped the russians would help us to reduce the violence in syria. but i think what they're discovering relatively quickly is that if they're not part of the political transition, they're going to be for a long-term, they're going to be part of the problem. that problem will come home to roost for them in ways that will be -- make it very difficult. it's a complex situation at various levels. i think what secretary kerry is seeking to do is to leverage any potential opportunity that we have right now to begin the conversation that can put in place a process of political transition. >> thank you.
>> thank you, again, very much, both of you for your testimony. first, secretary patterson, i want to underscore one point you made with a comment. that is that one of our objectives is good governance and human rights issues. as we start to talk about a negotiated settlement in syria, if president assad is not held accountable for his war crimes, it will be a clear message that we're going to see this scene play out again somewhere else in that region. and i just urge you that the way that the united states must provide leadership is to make it clear that we understand syria's future will be without assad. that's been a clear message that we have made. but it's also important that president assad be held accountable for the atrocities that he has committed to his own people. you said in your testimony we
believe russia's decision to intervene militarily in syria say losing bet. they know full well that there is no military solution in this conflict. general allen, you have said the same, basically the same message that we have to move towards a diplomatic and in russia's case they clearly are intervened militarily to bolster the assad regi regime. all of the information that we have seen is that the interest in isil is secondary at best and that their primary interest is to deal with the stability of the assad regime which is contrary to a lot of our military interests in that region. so, secretary carter indicated yesterday that -- before the armed services -- senate armed services committee that changes to the u.s. strategy are under way. general allen, can you share with us how our military strategies in the region are being re-evaluated recognizing
that there is no military solution here? we need to get a diplomatic solution. how do we readjust our military strategy in order to reach that objective? >> thank you for that question. i would say a couple things. first, we see this as a regional issue. we try not to view this as a segment that's in iraq and a segment that's in syria. as is the case in an environment where we had to deal with daesh -- my point a moment ago, i talked about how far we have come in a year. where daesh was for all intents and purposes splintering iraq in an irreconcilable way. had done enormous damage to syria. we took them on head on for aun intents and purposes. the intent of the first year of this coalition and our operations was to grind them to a halt, stop their momentum and
set the conditions ultimately to begin the process of containing, degrading and defeating them. that's what's been under way for the first year. i think what secretary carter is referring to is that we fine ourselves now in a position where we're able to bring pressure to bear on daesh, if you will, around its periphery. so, for example, the bilateral agreement that we have entered into with the turks to facilitate the closure of the border, the final 98 kilometers of the border, to empower syrian opposition elements, to drive on and to pressure raqqah, to empower syrian elements to push south, to pressure other daesh areas in iraq, to see that the peshmerga, who have been so effective, continue the process of pushing out and interdicting key lines of communications
between mosul and raqqah, to recover ramadi. all of those activities is what we are seeking to accomplish. >> is it more complicated today because of russia's military escalation in syria? >> not really. the russians are operating primarily in the northwest of syria. and along the spine of syria, which is well west of most of the daesh. we would have been, i think, happy if the russians had truly joined us in what they said they were going to do, which was to deal with daesh. but the vast majority of the targets that they are attacking and the vast majority of the assistance that they're providing is to stabilize the regime and to attack other elements of the syrian population besides daesh. that would have been helpful, but that's not what's happening. so the coalition -- >> in regards to the anti-isil campaign, russia's presence has not been a major problem. in regards to dealing with the underlying problem in syria, the
fact that they are so active in fighting the opposition, i assume, secretary patterson, that does present a challenge for us? >> yes, senator. but it may also present an opportunity. and that's what the secretary is trying to leverage. i think it's important to remember that russia went in to syria because assad was weak. and under very considerable pressure from a variety of directions. and i think they will soon find out that the entire sunni world is against them. we have heard from many of our gulf partners that in terms of jihadis and extrooemists yet because they will be drawn in to fight against the russians. the russians have their own problems with domestic extremismed extremism and on their border. they may find out this is not such a good deal as they
anticipa anticipated. >> could you share with us, switching gears to iran for one moment, in the post-iran deal environment, can you share with us what steps are being taken to deal with the fact that iran is moving i think more promptly than we had anticipated in order to obtain sanction relief? we know that they participate and sponsor terrorist activities. what steps are being taken to trace iran's ability, which would be enhanced by sanction relief, to be able to counter their nefarious activities working with our partners to make it clear that we won't tolerate that type of activity? >> thank you, senator. chairman dempsey testified in
front of this committee some months ago. what he said was well put, which is along the lines of the nuclear agreement is one of the elements that we're -- that we have great concerns about. the first step we have taken, senator, is to work very closely with israel and with our gcc allies to help them combat this iranian threat. we're under no illusions about what iran is doing in the region. and, in fact, some of their activities have stepped up in recent months. but we're working with our gcc colleagues on issues like protection from cyber incursions. we're working with them on an anti-ballistic missile defense system. we're working with them on things like special forces training. we have a very robust intelligence sharing effort with our gcc allies. and, in fact, have helped them counter some iranian terrorism, extremist terrorism on their
soil. so we have a lot of activities under way. we have a very specific intelligence focus. we, of course, have our large military presence in the persian gulf. so we are very mindful of iranian adventurism in this region. on the financial side, we have continued to designate -- i think we have designated 44 designations since this was under way. so i think we're taking steps. >> will we be mron toring their activities considering sanction relief will give them an opportunity perhaps to help their own people but also to increase their terrorist activities? >> very much so. when the money is released, the iranian economy is simply in shambles. there will be great demand to provide for their own people and to rebuild energy infrastructure and other public services.
but we're very mindful of some of this money could be directed at their activities, for instance in yemen or in bahrain. we will watch that closely. >> prepare to take action, i assume? >> very much so, sir. >> thank you. senator johnson. >> secretary patterson, thank you for your service. general allen, thank you for yours. prepared to take action. there's an interesting article written in the wall street journal yesterday talking about iran violations of resolution 2231 and the new demands made by the supreme leader. i would like to get your reaction to that. the test firing of the new generation ballistic missile. the demands, as he wrote, were best described in the middle east media research institute. demand one, the u.s. and europe must lift rather than testimony tearily suspend economic sanctions.
demand two, sanctions against iran for its support of terrorism and its human rights abuses must also go. changing the timetable for iran to ship out iranian and must modify its reaction toor in ira. secretary patterson, you said the administration is under no illusions about what iran is doing. it seems like that agreement i think you are under an illusion, dilute yourse delude yourself in terms of what iran is planning on doing here. they have been enboldened by the agreement. i'm not seeing any modification to the positive. the general, days after the agreement was reached, flying to moscow. then we see iran and now russia cooperating in syria. by the way, i don't see them
wanting to disengage in syria. they want to be embedded. how are we going to act? >> senator johnson, let me try and answer this question about iran. we know that there are enormous tensions within the iranian government. i won't say a reformist agenda, but he realizes the iranian people have to see some benefits. again, the economy was in an absolute shambles. they had to respond. sky high inflation. contraction of the 25% in the past few years. there was enormous incentive to try and restore the economy. then there are the hard-liners from 1970 who really haven't -- >> address the actual behavior that -- we are about to see tens of billions of dollars being
interjected into the economy possibly. but in the military of our self-proclaimed enemy. how is that going to turn out well? >> let me give you one example. that's the ballistic missile. i read the article. i actually read him a lot. we think it's entirely possible that this is a violation of the u.n. resolution that you mention. and how this is handled, we have gone do the security council. we have asked for an appointment of a group of experts. the experts will report back to the security council. we will decide what action to take. >> we will continue to lift the sanctions. we will allow tens of billions of dollars to be injected into the military of our enemy. are we going to shape that? >> there's a snap back. we can stop the sanctions relief at any time. >> will we? the question is, will we? >> depending on what -- of course, if they're in violation. but this is the -- let me say about the ballistic missile
defense. here is where we're trying to work with our allies. we have worked with the gcc countries very intensely in the past few weeks to develop a regional ballistic missile defense system. we are taking steps with iran, but we're also taking steps so our allies can better counter these aggressive steps by iran. >> we're looking at arms buildup in the middle east as a result of the iranian deal is what you are describing here? is the administration happy with the results -- is the administration happy with what iran's actions are following the iranian agreement? >> senator johnson, the administration is under no illusions nor is anyone else. >> it seems as though they are. we were told yesterday that iran actually wants a secular syria. do you agree with that? do you think iran wants a secular syria? do you believe that's true? iran is looking for a secular syria, is that why they're
involved? >> i don't know whether they're looking for a secular or religious syria. they're looking for a syria that protects their interests. >> general allen, appreciate your service. i realize that as a military man you certainly have been constrained. it is complex. i have been told by a number of people, military experts, i'm not one, that although difficult and obviously with sacrifice, if we were -- if we were really willing to bring everything we can, could bring to bear against isil or daesh, we could defeat them militarily relatively easily. but again, we have been constrained by the fact that we certainly won't put boots on the ground. we haven't got a coalition that's putting the type of military assets to bear against isil. what would it take? is that true? is what i'm hearing false?
is this -- do we have to be patient? do we have to be patient because we're not willing to bring the assets to bear to defeat them sooner rather than later? >> to be very clear, of course, it is the role of the chairman and the secretary to bring these kinds of recommendations to the president. that's out. let me make a couple of points. the united states has unparalleled military power in the world today. it's enormously effective. our capacity to generate and to deploy that military power is unquestioned. and irresistible. if we chose to do that. in dealing with this crisis, you have to ask yourself one of two questions. the first is to do it yourself or to empower the indigenous forces to do it for themselves. the result of the first is that you find yourself with large numbers of your forces and large numbers of casualties and some extended period of time on the ground in an area that's already
destabilized and with the very great likelihood that the kinds of antibodies formed against the united states will make it difficult to pull out in any short period of time. the alternative is to empower the indigenous forces, which is the course that we have taken. it's less satisfying up front, because we haven't been able to deliver the massive capacity the american military machine against this enemy. we would love to crush these folks. let me finish, senator. in doing that, what we're seeking to do is to build the capacity of those indigenous forces, whether they're iraqi security forces or the tribes or partners on the ground in syria in whatever way possible so that when the solution is ultimately achieved it has been achieved by the people that have to live with it. that is a very effective way of doing it as well. the first gets you the outcome that you look for in a quick process. but the tail end of that is very difficult outcome. the other takes longer to gain
momentum and to achieve your objecti objective. but it's the people who have achieved that objective. that's what we seek to accomplish in this case. >> very quickly, what about the middle ground. assembling a coalition like we did with the first gulf war where the u.s. provided about two-thirds of the troop strength, half a million soldiers, but coalition partners, about 250,000, coalition partners paid for 85% of the effort? that was a true coalition that was obviously very effective. we're not assembling that type of coalition. if we did, just quick question, how quickly with the -- how many -- what would the troop level be? what would we need to actually defeat isis sooner rather than later? >> i will not speculate on the troop to task requirement there. i think we can assume that if the coalition sought to put together the kinds of combat power that was put together for desert storm, the outcome would be different than it is today. the result of the liberation of kuwait was that we were able to hand kuwait back to the kuwaiti
people who then ultimately governed it. we don't have that kind of a partnership on the ground in syria. we're desperately attempting to hold on and develop the capacity of the government in iraq so that it in the end is able to govern a territorially restored and sovereign iraq. we're seeking an outcome of two different environments, two different operational environments. the one coalition worked very well for that moment. president bush was wise in his administration put that together very well. this is a different environment. an environment where when we're done we want the solution to this crisis to have been handled and solved by the people that have to deal with it. >> thank you. >> on u.n. security council resolution 1929 that iran just violated -- i don't think there's any question about that. we know that russia is going to block any action being taken. i know you are going through the steps. that are necessary.
but we know they're going to block. i think what the vast majority of people on the committee want to know is knowing that we know the outcome before it starts, there won't be sanctions, there won't be penalties put against iran because russia will block them, we want to know unilate l unilaterally what the united states is going to do. because we know functionally, nothing is going to happen at the u.n. i think that's the question we all have. i think you will have another letter coming when the vast majority of us want you to spell that out. i think -- >> confusion there. okay. absolutely. i mean, we know russia will block this. the real question is unilateral sanctions and what we will do. >> there isn't a snapback around this particular issue. >> no. but we will go through the process at the u.n. security council and the panel of experts and then decide what we're going to do. >> all of which we know will lead to a dead end. therefore, we're going to have
to take unilateral action or we will begin the process by letting iran violate on the front end, the very agreement that we just negotiated. we know that. so we would like something a little more clear coming from the administration. senator menendez. >> thank you, mr. chairman. let me thank both of you for your service to our country. i truly appreciate it. i want my questions to be viewed with the full respect that i have for both of you but trying to pierce the veil of optimism and understand where that optimism flows from. because both of your testimony were pretty optimistic. i would like, madam secretary, for you to explain to me not where supposedly the confluence of russia and iran's interests are with us in syria but where they diverge.
>> senator menendez, they diverge in all sorts of way. the iranian presence there, of course, is to -- as i believe i mentioned, is to ensure a role -- a continuing role for hedz be hezbollah in the region. that's a high priority. the russians are there not only to shore up assad but also to exert regional influence and to preserve their naval base. so those are two obvious ones in which they differ. >> so what i'm trying to understand -- and i believe there are more that they diverge on, because when i listened to the administration, i hear the s aaspirational goals that make them potential partners. it seems to me that if what russia wants, for example, is
the permanency of their base, their naval base there -- seeking to close the door on russia's sphere of influence in the middle east, it seems to me like we're swinging it wide open. that's a concern. if russia just wants its space and influence in syria, that's something that i'm sure we would have negotiated without having to have gone to the depths of the crisis we have. if iran truly wants a secular syria, which i find incredible to believe, then that's something we could have negotiated for some time. we didn't even need a nuclear accord for that. so i find it difficult to
understand how iran and russia are going to end up with the same end goals that we have at the end of the day, which is a -- assad has to go at some point. now it's after a transition. we want a unified country. we want a country that is -- all people can live in. so how does that reconcile with russia wanting greater influence in the middle east, which is the message he sends when he has assad visit him in russia? that message is, you have to come through me at the end of the day to the region. so all of a sudden we see regional partners flocking to have conversations with russia. whereas, basically, their conversations were largely with us and our partners in this
coalition. so i think we are opening the door to an influence that is not going to serve us well. >> senator menendez, i respectfully think the prospects for russian influence in the region are exaggerated. our allies in the gulf, for instance, and a number of them have paid visits to moscow recently, live pretty security, very securely under a large u.s. defense umbrella that protects them from iran and from other threats. they know, because they're not stupid, that the russians cannot replicate that. they know that the russians may supply some military equipment, but they also know that the partner of choice for their military development is the united states. so while, yes, we see them pay visits to moscow, i do think that the chances for russian penetration of the area are
frankly exaggerated. >> you don't have that concern. why did we have to -- if all russia wants and all iran wants is the same end goals as we want, why have we had to have thousands of people die, millions displaced and at the end of the day we could have negotiated the same opportunity that we are now talking about negotiating with these two countries? >> senator menendez, i don't think we said we had the same goals. i think we said there could be a con grew e grew answer of inter >> if they don't end up in the same goals, how does the end game end up being the one that you want to see? urine viyou are inviting these s to engage with you because at the end of the day i would have thought that the end result of what we want is going to be shared by these two countries. if not, why would you ask them
to be involved if the end goal is not going to be achieved with them? >> well, from a practical matter, senator, they're on the ground. so they have to be involved in the process. i think, of course -- >> so before they were on the ground, when russia now got engaged -- by the way, you said that iran is going to need all this money for domestic purposes. but iran has upped its participation in syria even in the midst of the economic difficulties it faced, which is counter to the argument that when they are flush with money that they're going to use that domestically. when they're lacking money, they are still engaged in upping the ante as they are with hezbollah and their participation inside of syria. >> senator, the iran and russian involvement in syria is nothing new. what we have seen is -- so this is, yes, a question of degree and a question of acceleration. but it's certainly nothing new. they both have been there for years. they have been active for years. and it's not a question that our
interests coincide across the board. it's the question -- this is what secretary kerry is trying to do -- is to find an opening that he can leverage and not just with the russians and iranians. remember, the saudis and turks and europeans who are being decimated, who are being very seriously affected by this refugee crisis are also involved in this process and trying to find an opening through which he can move a diplomatic solution. >> well, the purpose of leverage is to come to the ultimate goal that you have. and you have said to me that while they may have interests at the end of the day they don't share our ultimate goal. so i find it difficult how we get to the ultimate goal of what we want to see in syria with partners who don't share our ultimate goal, who may have interests but at the end of the day their interests may not be sufficient to ultimately be assuaged or taken care of and then still have our ultimate
goal. i don't get it. let me just make one comment. my time is up. i want to be courteous to my colleagues. on the question of iran's ballistic missile test. this is a critical test of the administration's willingness to challenge iran when it violates international norm. and if it fails to do so, it will send iran a message that the international agreement that they signed can also be challenged and violated with impunity. and i don't see -- i don't see the difference, because you have security council resolutions that call for iran not to have had the missile test that it did. it freely did it, blatantly did it. and it seems to me that iran's view is that the expectations or aspirations of the united states
to make it a partner will ultimately overlook their violations. and if that is the case, we are in an incredibly dangerous period. so i hope that regardless of what happens at the u.n., which i agree with the chairman will be a dead end, that we are poised to act by ourselves and hopefully in concert with other countries who may feel the same as we do in actions that send a very clear message to iran, because otherwise the nuclear agreement is bound to be broken time and time again. >> thank you. >> thank you for your testimony. i would like your candid assessment -- i'm not making a value judgment on the direction it seems that we're going. i'm not sure that we have that many options. but we're talking now of a transition in syria which would be started with assad in place but would not end with assad in his place.
how realistic is that assumption that we can back a transition like that and assume that he will begin the process but not end the process? >> senator flake, i think yesterday the secretary said that it would be extraordinarily difficult, this process. and we have been trying to do a version of this and many of the elements in the transition process were laid out in this geneva accord several years back. but i think there's certainly renewed impetus to undertake this again with the russian involvement, with the refugee crisis in europe. sure, i think it will be very hard. but assad cannot remain in place because he is fundamentally destabilizing. and we won't be able to effectively combat isil if assad remains in power. it's going to be hard, of course.
>> general allen, do you have any thoughts there? >> a degree with the assistant secretary. i agree with the assistant secretary. i think this is going to be difficult. but i think beginning the process of the conversation is worth the effort, frankly. >> assistant secretary patterson, give some sense of where the eu is and how much more motivated perhaps they are now after the refugee crisis has reached its peak, hopefully its peak, how much more motivated are they to help seek a solution with partners there? >> they seem very focused on it, shall i say. yesterday there was a meeting in paris and then there was this meeting in vienna that will involve not only the eu but also the major european powers.
so i think the refugee crisis which has potentially very disruptive affects through europe, i think we have seen a renewed interest on their part. >> general allen? >> they're very focused on it senator. i think that the concerns that they have both in terms of the effect on their societies, their border control, all of those things i believe has focused them very significantly on this. which is not just an issue for europe but it's also an issue of their renewed willingness to work with us within the coalition as well. >> do they have any demands that we don't have? are they entering in with the same -- obviously, they understand the difficulties as you put it starting this process of diplomacy here. but are they comfortable with what seems to be the framework given the reporting that we have seen that we would be comfortable with a transition period that would start with assad remaining in power?
are european partners with that? >> well, it's difficult to make a generalization. but i believe the process that secretary kerry seeks to undertake will take us through the modalities for that transition. various voices that will be raised in that process as to whether he has to go immediately or during the transition or is gone by the end. that will be worked out as a modality in the process. but i strongly believe that our european partners, whether in the coalition or just the eu as an entity, are keenly interested in this political process. we are clear that this is not going to be resolved in a military sense in syria. this is an opportunity, if this is the moment when that conversation can begin to bring all of the relevant external players in the table to begin this conversation, this is an opportunity we should seize. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator cane. >> thank you, mr. chair. thanks to our witnesses. since the beginning of the war on isil in august of 2014, we
have seen united states troop deployment levels increase. we have seen deaths of u.s. citizens, first the execution of american hostages after the bombing began in august of 2014, then the death of american servicemen who were deployed in the area, not combat related deaths, and then sadly the death of master sergeant wheeler last week. we have seen isil presence growing. and then we have just deployed troops to cameroon to counter boko haram which claimed an alliance with isil. we have seen the acceleration of the worst refugee crisis since world war ii with the syrian refugees fleeing syria and camps in neighboring neighbors. we have seen violence between turkey and the kurdish populations in turkey and northern syria. now we have seen the russian military entrance in an
accelerated way into the theater in syria. we had testimony yesterday in both armed services and foreign relations hearings from secretaries kerry, carter and again dunford. some of that was classified. i will be delicate the way i describe it. the thrust of the testimony seemed to be that we are about to -- it has been reported we are considering -- we're about to additionally escalate u.s. military activity against isil. that will have a cost and that will likely take some time. would you agree that the stated mission that the u.s. has of defeating isil is one that is going to take some significant period of time? >> senator, i agree with that. we have said that all along. the countdown of issues that you have presented us, the witnesses, are an accurate
accounting. and those are going to have to be addressed not just with regard to daesh but more broadly as the assistant secretary has sought to portray this morning in the context of regional stability and ultimately addressing some of those causal factors that create the instability that give rise ultimately to organizations like al qaeda and daesh, because many, usa corre -- as you corre out, the emergence of global isil, but global isil, has been less about the spontaneous development of isil as an organization that we know in iraq and syria than it has been the potential for the creation of activity between existing groups in various places. each of which emerged from the fabric of society there because of various causal factors. so the ability of daesh to gather them together in a network is something that we're obviously very attentive to
right now with the idea of how we can both deal with the branchs, deal with the network, while we continue the process of dealing with the platform, which is the core isil platform in iraq and syria. >> i don't mean to undermine the fact that there have been successful efforts that the u.s. has undertaken -- i'm going to get to one of those in a second. i go through the lit ais to sho isil threat has been growing and threatening. it's going to also have to grow and spread and it's likely to take time. let me move to an area that we have been successful. that is in our partnership with the kurds. i was in irbil in july and was very impressed with the cooperation between the united states and the peshmerga in military operations in northern iraq. and then discussing our
operations, we had success in working with the kurds in northern syria as well. no success doesn't have the worm in the apple. there has been an inflamed tension between our nato ally turkey and the kurds right on that border and atrocities back and forth across the border. how do we propose to maintain the partnership with the kurds in northern syria that has been somewhat successful militarily while also maintaining the level of cooperation we need to with turkey to shut the border and do the other things that they are doing to battle isil? >> it's one of the most complex challenges that we face right now. we discovered the potential for the relationship with the ypg last year when you will recall this was unfolding. the many defenders were supported successfully. many defenders. it was not just kurds. there were others in the city as well.
in the aftermath of that discovered that the syrian opposition elements in that area, kurds and others, could, in fact, be empowered and advised ultimately to deal with daesh, to recover the border and to seal the border from infiltration from daesh from syria, turkey into syria. >> at roughly the same time in july when we completed the agreement with turkey to open their air bases and to close the final 98 kilometers of the border, that's when the problem with the pkk lit off inside turkey. and you are correct, turkey is an old friend. it's a treasured nato ally. and the pkk went to work inside turkey once again. the turks responded. we supported the turks. pkk is a designated organization. the turks did, in fact, take steps to defend themselves. we worked with the turks in a very delicate, diplomatic
process for us to maintain the relationship with the pyd and the armed wing, the ypg south of the border so long as there was no aggression across that border one way or the other. we have worked very lahard to t to manage there. there has been some reporting that there might have been some. we're not entirely sure that's accurate. we're watching it very closely because of the implications. the potential tension that we have with the turks over this real opportunity to take advantage of the capacity of opposition elements in syria that can, in fact, liberate large segments of the population and the region from daesh. so we're going to watch this very closely. it requires that we acknowledge the very delicate diplomatic relation that we have with turkey over this issue. and turkey, of course, is attempting to defend itself from the pkk at the same time manage the border and our relationship with the ypg.
i think we have worked well with them at this point. >> one last point. i would like to underline the point made by colleagues about the importance of u.s. action against iran. i actually have a slightly different diagnosis than my colleagues. but almost an identical prescription. i think that the missile test was less about threatening the united states as it was about the internal battle in iranian politics. big chunk of the government love this deal and a big chunk of the hard liners hate this deal. one of the chief negotiators of the deal was threatened on the floor of the iranian parliament saying, we will kill you for what you have done. and than tension between the hard liners who hate the deal and the reformers who want to achieve the deal, i think that explains the missile test. i think we need to take action immediately to show that we're not going to be pushed around and we will be the test of our willingness to implement the deal. we need to do it in a way that empowers the reformers who want the deal and further
marginalizes the hard liners. this is especially important from a timing standpoint, because of iranian elections in early 2016. i agree that we need to take strong action. >> if i could, since you brought that up, i think one of the concerns that many had with the iran deal is that it's not a country that controlled its infrastructure the same way we do. >> it assumes a fact not in evidence, your honor. sg >> the point is, i think probably you are right. the fact is there's an incon grew ensy within the country that means that some factions would want to cheat and do things as they did. and i agree the prescription is the same. we need to push back. i think that the administration could be frozen like they have been with syria with decision memos, decision memos, decision memos, no action. i fear that's what's happening right now in this particular issue. hopefully, collectively we can push so that that doesn't become
reality here. >> mr. chairman, let me point out, i think there is unanimity, i would think, on this committee to the point of making sure that iran is held to the strictest compliance of all its international agreements. it really does not involve whether we support or oppose the iran agreement. we want to make sure that there is strict compliance and the violation of the u.n. resolution -- the clear violation of the u.n. resolution requires u.s. action with our willing allies to make it clear that we will not tolerate that type of infringement, regardless of the reasons why the iranians did it. >> and i would say regardless of where people were on the actual vote on the agreement, it is an agreement that is now in place. and i think all of us want to ensure that iran does not get a nuclear weapon. so with that, senator isaacson. >> i want to associate myself with the remarks on the iranian
deal regardless of my vote or anybody's vote, we have to be steadfast in seeing they live up to their side of the bargain. if we don't, we're a paper tiger and there will never be any goody mrogood diplomacy. i want to take it back one additional year to 2013, because it was october of 2013 when the administration declared it was going to make a limited strike against assad because he crossed the red line that had been drawn in the sand in seayria. the congress didn't get him the support. the administration, although they could have made a limited strike, decided not to. we became a paper tiger at that point in time. that was in 2013. in 2014, isil knew we were getting ready to leave iraq open in terms of any american troops being left there. we created a vacuum in iraq which isil immediately filled by claiming for a territory. we're taking some of it back with our coalition partners.
we took a terrible setback because we withdrew from iraq. the beginning of my statement is, i think we made a mistake, by backing by away from doing a definitive military lesson in syria in 2013 when we had the opportunity and there was a clear line that had been drawn in the sand. i understand the need to do diplomacy. i prefer that any time over war. i lose every war i have with my wife. with diplomacy i sometimes can win. it's important to have a good diplomatic solution. diplomacy only works when there's a threat of force otherwise. yesterday in the armed services committee, general dunford and secretary carter said the door was open for more direct action against isil. that's in the eyes of the beholder statement, but did sends the signal they may be looking at other options in terms of isil. i think isil is the focal point upon which a military action or
an expansion of military action is not only appropriate but instructive in helping us with diplomacy, personally. refugee issue. i just got back from greece and italy where we have seen half a million refugees, 70% through greece trying to get into europe. hungarians in their border. it's going to get worse next year than it is next year pause of the things taking a place right now. my question is if we don't consider forcefully and practically the use of force against isil to wipe them out militarily or to send a clear signal, that cancer is going to continue to grow. you can't negotiate with with somebody who will cut off your
head, burn you in town square. you can't do it. i think we have a great air force. the air strikes are fine. but you don't win them with air strikes. we cannot let that cancer continue to grow. i would just like for you to comment for just a second. on what was said yesterday by general dunford and secretary carter. if you believe a possibility to have a more robust military action would be a positive result. general allen? >> senator, i absolutely agree with what you said. this is -- i've been around a little while. i have never seen anything like this organization before. it is definite vacation and depri deprivity. i think the testimony yesterday from general dunford and secretary carter pointed to
recommendations and thoughts that they are going to provide to the president of the united states on the potential means to a deal with or to enhance the means by which we want to accomplish the ends. and direct action. as i was describing earlier, the idea of pressuring da'esh around the per relatively, one of the values of direct action is going after the nervous system inside. this is where no one on the planet does it better than we do. the targeted direct action strike force supported raid. and i won't go into the operational details associated with it. but i think that's frankly a positive development in the thinking for how to deal with da'esh. i will make one key point. when our special operators entered the compound, killed him and the other two in the meeting with him and wiped out his
personal security, and then his wife, who was responsible for the slave trade of isil and liberated yazidi sex slave, it wasn't because we did that raid spontaneously. you can imagine as we did every night across the country, it was a well-developed mission which had a very high likelihood of success when properly supported. it not only accomplished a military objective but an extraordinarily important intelligence directive as well and other isil leaders have met their end directly as a result of the sensitive site exploration. and i believe that's what the secretary and the joint chiefs were saying yesterday. i would certainly support it. >> well, i appreciate your answer. because i'm up in 2016 for
>> has anything changed? can we successfully support the moderate syrian opposition so long as our support comes with a significant string to it, that we will only support them if they are only fighting isis? or is the only way for us to be effective in an increased level of support for the opposition to admit that we need to help them fight isis and we need to help them fight assad at the same time? >> the president has been clear it's not his intention to support the moderate syrians in a go to war strategy against assad. we sought to support the moderate syrians to be able to defend themselves. we've sought to support the moderate syrians so they could carve out an area in syria in
which they were secure and to support them to fight and ultimately assist us in defeating isil. but either the reality or the perception that they can only fight isis has been an impediment. and it's been difficult obviously in both the recruiting and in the development of the commitment necessary from syrian elements to be committed to the program. that was one of the difficulties of the program. the groups that we're supporting today beyond the adaptation of the program is that it will evolve over time. but as we have evolved in the last several months, the support to those other elements within syria that we have found has the capacity of both the fight and the will to fight, has been by virtue of their location in syria. primarily focused -- our focus
is on da'esh and their focus on da'esh. particularly in our relationships, this has worked out to our benefit. >> mr. patterson, does the administration have the authority to open up a front against assad should that be the recommendation in order to effectively recruit individuals into the moderate syrian opposition or effectively coordinate with them? is there the belief that there is legal authority right now to make a decision to empower the syrian moderate opposition to fight both isil and assad. is this a legal question or strategic question? >> it is a legal question, senator and one that i am not qualified to answer really. but there are important legal
elements of that. we can certainly get up here to answer that question for you. >> the state department has not made a determination that it does not have the legal authority. it is an open question within the state department. is that what you're suggesting? >> i would rather not comment on this because it is a complex legal issue and one i have been on the periphery of a critical discussion. so i would like to get somebody up here who is qualified to answer you. >> you have done a good a job as anybody in explaining the roots of the program in the region. of course there is a military component. in the end you can't solve this problem unless you solve the underlying political regions of the country which drives the extremist groups. you talked about what's