tv Hearing on Russian Military Involvement in Syria CSPAN November 11, 2015 4:13am-7:01am EST
say at the time. the courtroom is an extremely unruly place. so that's one piece of it. also we don't happen to believe in witchcraft today. >> sunday on q&a, author stacy schiff talks about her book on the salem witch trials and the scope and effect that the trials had on the massachusetts community. >> the interesting part about the accusations, especially given the way we think of salem is that wealthy merchants were accused as witches, sea captains were accused as witches, homeless 5-year-old girls were accused to be witches. this is not an incident where all of the victims are female. we have five male victims, and we didn't burn the witches, we hang them so in addition to the speed, there was so much encrusted in myth and so much misunderstanding here i felt it was important to dispel. >> sunday night on c-span's q&a.
the house foreign affairs committee last week held a hearing on russian's involvement in the syria civil war. this is a 2 hour 45 minute hearing. this hearing will come to order. this hearing is on u.s. policy after russia's escalation in syria. and it's now nearly five years into the syrian conflict. that conflict has claimed more than a quarter million lives.
there are 14 million people right now that have been driven from their homes in syria. now, through it all the administration's response has been tepid. it has been a series of steps that were micromanaged by the white house that were very ineffectual. we had a situation here where we had hearings during the time, a one-year period in which as isis began to move out of syria and take major cities, during that period of time as we were calling for air strikes, as our ambassador in baghdad was calling for air strikes, there were 14 major cities that fell to isis, fell at a time when in pickup trucks on an open desert road these were clear targets that could have been taken out.
a choice was made. sometimes indecision, the decision not to make a decision is itself a choice. the choice was made in the united states not to stop isis then when it could have been stopped. the choice was also made not to arm the kurds. three trips out here by the foreign minister of kurdistan asking for the mortars, artillery that they needed. 30% of their troops are females fighting on the front lines against isis on a 600-mile front. the decision was made not to arm them. so isis now stands where it stands gaining ground as a result of our failure to act. today the president still hasn't put forward the broad overarching strategy needed to defeat this brutal movement,
this movement of terrorists. and, frankly, to secure vital u.s. national security interests here. but instead, it is now russia that is taking the decisive role in shaping syria's future and not in a helpful way. putin saw assad losing ground, so russian jets have teamed up with iranian ground forces to solidify the syrian dictator. and the focus of the russian and iranian's joint offensive is not isis. it's not their strongholds, but it is the opposition forces backed by the united states and saudi arabia. russian bombs, according to the ngo groups that report on this -- and they say over half of the russian attacks have now
been on civilian targets. russian bombs have flattened markets, schools, villages. and the russians at one point were bombing more targets, more targets in one solitary day than we hit in a month. and our air campaign there is even more anemic. for those of you that have followed what has happened as a consequence of russia moving in to these operations. the administration claims that it lacks targets. yet the special forces it is sending to syria won't even be spotting targets. russian attacks on the opposition and the slowdown in coalition air strikes has actually allowed isis to gain territory. isis is expanding.
let no one be under the delusion that russia is focused on isis. while the president characterizes russia's moves as a sign of weakness, it is assad who is growing stronger. slowing. russian cargo aircraft have been seen running iranian weapons into syria, a violation of the u.n. arms embargo, a violation that i assume is not going to be called to attention or challenged. but it is a clear violation of that agreement with the united nations. and this is especially troubling as we begin another attempt to restart talks between the regime and the opposition on a new constitution and elections. here is why. russia claims its goal is a united secular and democratic syria, but its efforts to prop
up the assad regime prove otherwise. how do we expect the opposition to sign on to any sort of cease-fire as long as russia and iran are demanding that assad, who has murdered over 200,000 civilians -- for those of us in this hearing room, we have heard in the past caesar come forward with his photographs that he took, 50,000 photographs of people tortured by the regime. that kind of conduct by this regime means it has lost all legitimacy with the syrian people. so the russian plan is to have him stay in power and to ask at the outset that he stays in power. the statement from vienna didn't even demand that the assad regime stop using barrel bombs against civilians. that would have been a minimum step that the russians could have supported. but their planes, they provided the air force originally to
assad. a diplomatic solution is only possible with a strong, coherent, moderate opposition that can serve as a bridge from assad to a new post-conflict government. yet the administration has done little to help the opposition. its feeble train and equip program is defunct. washington bureaucracy and deference to the iraqi government has held up desperately needed weapons shipments to the kurds. no one believes friday's announcement of 50 special forces will be decisive. ultimately, it is president obama's responsibility to step up and outline a plan to engage our partners and allies and bring stability to the middle east. he is the commander in chief. but here is where i would start,
as i have already said, we have urged for the longest time decisive air strikes against isis. we have urged for the longest time the arming of the kurdish men and women out there on the front lines with the weapons they need to turn back isis. if we want an opposition to negotiate from a position of strength, why not help create sanctuary areas in syria? this would help the syrian people escape both the assad regime and the islamic state. this would also allow for more effective humanitarian relief and even slow the exodus of refugees. we must also push back on russia and iran's destabilizing intervention in this conflict. that means passing tough new sanctions on iran's terrorist proxy hezbollah, because it's hezbollah that is taking over homes in this region that used to be inhabited by sunnis as the ethnic cleansing continues. we need to pass that legislation as the house has done and take action to uphold the u.n. arms embargo on iran in the face of
russian violations. everyone but the white house seems to know the status quo cannot stand. general david petraeus recently testified to congress that syria is a geopolitical chernobyl and like a nuclear disaster, the fallout from the meltdown of syria threatens to be with us for decades, he said. and the longer it is permitted to continue, the more severe the damage will be. those were his words. i will now turn to the democratic side for any opening statement. yes. >> thank you very much. thank the witnesses for being here today. i know you will be able to well handle the questions that are going to be asked of you.
mr. chair, i want to just express a little different point of view. i want to say this. thank you for this hearing. i think you have raised some very good questions. you have expressed the great frustration that a lot of us feel about syria. i mean, it's horrific what's going on. but here is -- some people would say that isis or daesh, whatever we call them today, came about not because of something president obama did but some would argue that it was a previous administration decision to go into iraq erroneously that started this mess that we see there today with a failed occupation of iraq, a new government that was not inclusive. you have a void and then you see isis come from that void. but i do want to say this.
i don't think -- i don't want to play the blame game, that's what some people say. i think what's important now is to focus on the here and now and what we need do. i just -- i don't believe -- this mess in syria and the middle east is not the fault of our president. there's a lot of blame to go around, but i'm going to put it on terrorists more than the president of the united states. i would be very interested in hearing what our two witnesses have to say. thank you, mr. chair. >> will the gentle lady yield? >> yes. >> thank you. we have time left in the opening statement time. i just want to set a framework here as we have this discussion. i will say this with the administration and frankly with the critics of the administration, i for one did not see the value of pursuing with a vetting of the syrian rebel army. i can say that myself looking at what happened.
the one thing i want to have emphasized in this hearing is that you can't have things both ways. you can't say we should be putting in u.s. troops on the ground there and you can't do that and do even a modicum of security for the troops unless you are willing to hold that troop and have a huge investment of our troops. the people that say, the president didn't come in and he should have come in with troops, you just can't come in, drop them in, pull them out. we didn't have intelligence on the ground in syria to make that safe for those troops at the time. number two, we have to be prepared for those people that say that that those troops have to have the support of tens of thousands of other troops. so let's not have it in this hearing both ways. if you are going to take that tack with the president, you have to be able to say, well i support ground troops for the long-term, tens of thousands on
the ground because you can't put them in there without supporting them safely. i hope when we have this discussion today we bear that in mind. if people have that opinion, then i respect their opinion. but i don't think that that's the best thing for our country at this time. i yield back. >> thank you. i would like to make it clear that that's not the opinion of the members of this committee. what the members of this committee called for for a full year of indecisive action was the use of our air power was a memory that we had had 116,000 air strikes during the first gulf war against 42 divisions of saddam hussein, these were armored and it was very successful. what we called for here was not the introduction of u.s. brigades. what we called here was for the president of the united states to use the authority he had in
order to take out the beginning of an insurrection that started in pickup trucks. if you can take out armored divisions, you could certainly from the air take out pickup trucks from the open desert. and the frustration that i'm expressing is over the fact that for one year, nothing was done as city after city fell to this terrorist organization. but i should transition to the witnesses today. it's partly that frustration and it's partly with meeting time after time on a bipartisan basis with the kurdish and yazidi opposition asking for arms and being denied the arms to defend themselves. those are the issues i'm speaking to. at this time i would like to go to ambassador anne patterson. she's a career member of the
senior foreign service and previously ambassador patterson served in multiple posts including egypt and pakistan and as assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs. then to ambassador victoria nuland, before assuming her position as assistant secretary for the bureau of european affairs at department of state, ambassador nuland served as the department of state spokesperson. she served as the united states permanent representative to the north atlantic treaty organization from 2005 to 2008, focusing heavily on nato-russia issues. without objection, the witnesses' full prepared statement wills be made part of the record. the members will have five calendar days to submit any statements or questions or extraneous material for the record. ambassador patterson, if you could begin. >> thank you, mr. chairman. members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to explain our strategy for resolving the devastating conflict in syria and defeating isil there. coming after the president's
decision to intensify the campaign against isil and secretary kerry's meetings in vienna to design a path forward for political transition, this hearing is particularly well-timed. secretary kerry said it best in vienna. our task is to chart a course out of hell. sense the start of the syrian war as you outlined, over 225,000 syrians have died and we face the largest refugee crisis since world war ii. the conflict has become a magnet for extremists seeking to change the map of the middle east, destroy economies and cultures and terrify entire populations. that's threatening syria's neighbors with major consequences for u.s. national interests and beyond. we are pursuing four goals. one, to defeat isis militarily in syria and iraq. two, to develop a political transition that gives syria a future without assad. three, to ease the suffering of
the syrian people. and four, to stabilize our allies as they cope with massive refugee outflows. our strategy is to leverage military action and diplomacy to achieve a political transition in which syrians ultimately have a government that respects the rights of its people. this political transition is critical to rooting isil out of syria and ending isil's ability to threaten iraq from syria. as secretary kerry said in vienna, there is absolutely nothing that could do more to fight daesh than to achieve a political transition that strengths the capacity of syria, side line the percent we believe attracts so much foreign fighters and so much terror and unites the country against terrorism. we cannot defeat isil in iraq without also defeating isil in
syria. moving forward, we first are intensifying the military campaign against isil through air strikes and cooperation with local partners who have already pushed isil out of all but 68 miles of the nearly 600 mile border between syria and turkey. we and our coalition partners have launched over 26 strikes in syria and thanks to turkish support we are deploying f-15s to expand our strike capacity. the president, as you mentioned, has ordered the deployment of up to 50 u.s. special operations forces in northern syria to work with our arab and kurdish partners. we will support them with additional air power. next, the united states is providing $150 million a year to the moderate opposition to meet humanitarian needs and provide support in areas liberated from isil. as the largest single donor since 2011, we have provided over $4.5 billion in humanitarian assistance to syria. this includes nearly $2.5 billion for aid inside syria,
almost $1 billion for unhcr programs in lebanon and over $650 million to jordan. we are enhancing military assistance to help our regional allies, including jordan and lebanon, repulse extremist threats. we are leading a to global 65 member coalition working to degrade and defeat isil. mr. chairman, let me address head on russia's dangerous military intervention in syria. moscow deployed forces because the assad regime was losing territory and even iran's support was insufficient to protect it. moscow has tried to claim that its strikes are focused on terrorists. so far, 85% to 90% have killed civilians in the process. despite our urging, moscow has yet to stop the assad regime's
horrific practice of barrel bombing the people. we know that russia's primary intend is to preserve the regime. in vienna, secretary kerry brought together all those who can help in the conflict. iran was invited for the reason that it's an active participant that needs to support a political transition. it will come as no surprise to you that this group disagreed on several subjects, most notably the fate of assad. they did agree to convene regime and opposition representatives on the basis of the geneva communication of 2012 which set out goals for the transfer of power to a transitional governing body and to explore modalities for a cease-fire. they also agree we must preserve syria's unity and integrity, ensure state institutions remain
intact, protest the rights of all syrians, assure humanitarian access, defeat isil and other terrorist groups designated by the u.n. security council and establish a political process leading to a new constitution and elections administered under u.n. supervision and standards. we will convene parties in the next few weeks to discuss next steps. mr. chairman, no one has any illusions about the difficulty of these efforts. but one thing is clear, assad cannot unite and govern syria and we cannot continue to hold the lives of the syrian people hostage to the desire of one man to retain power. the syrian people and our all lies need a political transition that ends isil's reign of terror and allows syrians to return home. thank you, mr. chairman. i would be happy to take questions. >> we go now to ambassador nuland.
>> thank you for the opportunity to join us and my colleague assistant secretary anne patterson today. while syria is in patterson's area of responsibility, the conflict there increasingly imperils turkey, the eu and the rest of europe as refugees stream out of syria and head both north and south. russia's new direct combat role in syria has exacerbated a dangerous refugee outflow, straining even the most generous european's ability to cope. turkey currently hosts 2.2 million refugees and by its account has invested over $8 billion towards their care and well-being. this year the turkish coast guard rescued an estimated 68,000 individuals attempting a dangerous sea voyage. just since russian combat operations began in syria,
greece has recorded its highest level of migration flows per week with an estimated 48,000 refugees and migrants crossing into the country in one week. the western balkans is stretched thin. these countries report an average of 5,000 to 8,000 migrants passing through their borders daily. germany is under strain. it has recorded over 577,000 arrivals just in the last nine months. inside syria, just over the last month, while the russians have been active, the u.n. reports at least 120,000 syrians have been internally displaced as a result of the regime's attacks aided by russian air strikes. 52,800 people were displaced from northern hama alone. these numbers validate what we already know and what you yourself, chairman, pointed out, while moscow asserts its actions
are directed at isil, the vast majority of russian air strikes are targeted in areas where the assad regime has lost territory to forces led bit moderate opposition. now russia's fielding its own artillery and other ground assets. greatly increasing russia's own soldiers vulnerability to counterattack. moscow failed as you said and as assistant secretary patterson said to exact any humanitarian concessions from the assad regime as the price for russian support. the regime continues to barrel bomb its own citizens with impunity, perhaps even emboldened by moscow's help. none of this has been cost free for russia itself. in pure economic terms, the price is estimated at 2 to $4 million per day. this at a time when average russians are feeling the pinch of recession brought on by economic mismanagement, low oil
prices and sanctions applied for the kremlin's last military adventure in ukraine. russian casualties are also reportedly on the rise. although, kremlin is again working overtime to mask them and silence the loved ones of the lost. and as the dumb bombs that russia is dropping inevitably hit the wrong targets, a market in damascus, an ammunition dump of the free syrian army, russia is paying a steep price to its reputation in the fight against terror. that's why for now we have limited our own military cooperation with russia to the most basic of aviation deconfliction procedures to protect our own air crews. what would positive cooperation by russia look like?
first, russia would turn its guns on isil and stop the carnage in and around syria's western cities. as the price of its support, moscow would insist that assad ground the helicopters and planes that he is using to barrel bomb innocents on a daily basis. it would urgently work with us, our allies and u.n. envoys to turn the statement of principals that secretary kerry, foreign minister lovrov and 17 other ministers released last friday into a true cease-fire, a transition process and hasten the day that assad's bloody tenure comes to an end. the quality of our cooperation with russia in syria depends on the choices that moscow makes. in the meantime, as the setting has said and as assistant secretary patterson outlined, we are accelerating the work we are doing to support the syrian opposition and protect syria's neighbors, including those in my area of responsibility, turkey and the countries of europe. turkey has increased its
participation in the isil fight opening its bases to u.s. and coalition members and conducting its own air strikes on isil targets inside syria. as we accelerate our own work with turkey and other like-minded partners to roll back isil in northern syria, a collateral benefit could be the creation of a space where syrian civilians are free from assad's barrel bombs as well as isil's atrocities. a large number of europeans have contributes aviation assets for strike operations in iraq and some are also considering strike operations in syria. we're also working with our allies and partners to address the refugee crisis. we provided turkey with over $325 million in assistance through the u.n. and private ngos. we have provided $26.6 million for unhcr operations in europe, including to help with food, water, legal assistance for refugees, including 600,000 now
to respond to requests from western balkan countries for equipment and training in the area of border management. as the secretary's diplomatic efforts make clear, it's going to take leadership and resolve by dozens of countries and by the syrians themselves. 17 assembled nations, the u.n. and the eu reaffirmed the path forward to peace and a political transition. it remains to be seen whether russia, iran and the assad regime will join us in walking that path. we look forward to your questions. >> thank you, ambassador nuland. i mentioned my frustration with how the administration has approached syria and isis and the fact is that we had the state department here officials in front of this committee two years ago sounding the isis
alarm, explaining that action had to be taken. the iraqis and our own officials pushed for air strikes early on. and pushed for those air strikes when isis was most vulnerable in syria. but the white house sat paralyzed. once the air strikes did start -- and that's after a year of watching cities fall from fallujah to mosul and the central bank being taken over by isis, after that we finally saw air strikes averaging 19 a day. but in a circumstance in which three-quarters -- because of exceedingly restrictive rules of engagement. three-quarters of the planes flew back without dropping their ordinates. if we compare that and consider the first gulf war, desert
storm, those air strikes averaged 1,000 combat sorties per day, not 19. and now enter the russians. the state department said that this wouldn't impact our air mission over syria. and yet, the numbers that the committee put together say otherwise. in october, while the russians did 800 air strikes for the full month, mostly aimed by the way at the opposition, we managed just 100 against isis. assistant secretary patterson, are we giving the skies to russia here and in effect allowing the isis threat to grow because after all, isis has gained territory here during this time frame? so say the ngos on the ground. >> mr. chairman, obviously, i'm not for dod, but let me try to
answer this question. actually, this question came up at a very high level meeting and i will quote to you what a senior military officer said, which is we don't hit targets we can't see. this was in reference to the very bad weather that had overtaken the area last week when the strikes were limited. we can't be compared to the russians in any moral or operation or tactical sense. the battlefield i might subject, mr. chairman, is very different in a very complex battlefield mixed in with civilians. there are very high standards, collateral damage and civilian casualties that i would suggest the russian air force is not subject to. and that we are appropriately subject to, which is different -- very different in the first gulf war and the amass of conventional forces. so that i think is at least a partial answer, mr. chairman, to your question.
>> well, from the way i perceive it here, especially given my frustration with the first year of this conflict and not using -- utilizing any air power when it could be very effective, we have a situation today where we're hitting the bad guys in this, isis, 100 times, and the russians are hitting those that are opposed to isis and assad 800 times. that's my takeaway in a broad sense of where we are now. but ambassador nuland, this isn't just russia reaching out to save an old ally when we look at those remarks. we're seeing russia and iran work together in ways most had not expected. i certainly don't think the administration expected it. i don't think they expected would would find hezbollah fighters and iranian forces and russian headquarters working
together in this kind of a circumstance. but this was the general traveling to moscow in the middle of our nuclear negotiations and putting this plan in place. twice, as i understand it, he made that travel in violation, by the way, of the embargo. again, something that wasn't objected to when i raised the issue that the head of the forces -- who was responsible himself indirectly for the death of some 600 americans i'm told by the pentagon, that he was in moscow making arrangements with the russians. there was no protest that i am aware of of this being a violation of the travel ban. and of late, russian aircraft have been seen running iranian weapons into syria. again, that's a very clear violation of the embargo which we all support. so what steps are being taken to uphold the u.n. arms embargo on iran in the face of the russian
violations? >> mr. chairman, i'm unaware of those reports. but let me -- about the movement of iranian arms into syria on russian aircraft. but we will certainly get you a report. >> thank you. >> as soon as possible. i'm out of town. i think karen bass of california is next. >> thank you, mr. chair. in light of the president's statement last week that we were deploying 50 special operation forces to syria, i wanted to know what you see as their mission. do you expect them to be engaged in direct combat? and how can we be sure that this
limited deployment won't be a slippery slope to involve u.s. troops? i would join my colleague, miss frankel, who said that had we not invaded iraq years ago, the region wouldn't be destabilized as it is now. in light of that, i wanted to know if you could respond. i want to ask you a couple of questions regarding the transitional government, a bco future transitional government in syria. >> thank you. let me say that i was in a briefing yesterday, and some of these responses on the activities and location of the special forces are classified. >> sure. >> and so perhaps we will come back to you in a written answer on that. >> okay. >> we would be very happy to do so and their exact role is also a classified response.
but let me also say that we're also deploying, as i mentioned in my statement, additional aircraft. the president is looking at a number of other options to intensify our efforts in this battle space. >> in terms of the future transitional government in syria, there were talks held in vienna last week. i wanted to know if you could talk about those. in future, what do you feel is the best way to compel the regime to a negotiated transition? that's for either one of you. >> let me give you an outline, if i might, a brief one of the secretary's conversations in vienna last week. he brought together 20 countries, including the russians and the iranians and our gulf allies and the turks to discuss a way forward. we agreed, obviously, to disagree on the future of assad. but he did plot a way forward on
a transitional government constitutional reform. a series of meetings and working groups that would take place with the international community, with the u.n. and with the opposition to try and implement the geneva communication of 2012. the next meeting will likely be in vienna within the next two weeks. there will be groups in consultation with the u.n. beforehand and with the opposition. the idea is to have a transitional government to work on a timetable for assad's departure. let me be clear that's a critical element of this policy. and then to work on constitutional review and ultimately an election in syria. that's the basic outlines of secretary kerry's strategy. >> at this point, if there were to be a transitional government, who do you see composing that? >> well, a number of opposition figures and people already on the ground. it would be key -- this was in the communication, that syria's institutions, the military intelligence, police, civil service would remain intact. so you wouldn't have a total collapse of state authority. the idea is just to remove
assad -- >> like what happened in iraq? >> -- and his cronies from power. >> thank you. ambassador nuland, what makes us think russia would agree to that? what y would russia agree to a transitional government? did you get that commitment? >> congressman, russia did agree to that general framework in 2012 when it signed on to the original -- >> that's before they started bombing and military activities on the ground. it's now 2015. you had a meeting in vienna. did the russians agree? >> so as assistant secretary patterson said, they agreed to the general framework that we need a cease-fire, a transitional government, elections. the area of dispute is at what stage in that process assad departs the scene. >> i must say, my time is up, but given what's happening on the ground, that sounds like fantasy to me. >> mr. smith of new jersey.
>> thank you very much. thank you, mr. chairman for calling this important hearing. welcome to our two distinguished witnesses. let me just ask a couple of questions. first, i chaired a hearing last week with the helsinki commission on refugees coming out of syria. and the high commissioners regional representative testified. his bottom line was there were two big trends that have left to the mass exodus. one, political solution will not be found any time soon to the war. secondly, that after so many years of exile, many people's resources have dwindled to next to nothing. he said the third factor is the trigger. it is why people have made their way into europe. he said the trigger was that a few months ago there was a lack of funding for the world food program. they cut their assistance by 30%. he testified and said, as a consequence, many refugees felt
that the international community could be starting to abandon them. he pointed out that the syrian regional refugee plan is 41% funded. people are living on less than 50 cents a day. he said they decided to go into flight in order -- my question would be, i know we are generous supporters of the wfp. i'm glad that congress and the administration has done that. but did we anticipate that this might be a trigger that there was such a huge cut to the world food program? as iran reaps its billions of dollars in windfall attributed to the nuclear deal, what is your assessment? of course, you can provide this in a written form to elaborate on it. what is your assessment of how that cash might be used to assist assad? i also ask the assistant secretary richard last week
about establishing a p-2 program for especially minorities like the christians who really don't pose a threat. i know we have a very robust vetting process as we ought to to ensure that we don't have isis or any other al qaeda types embedded in the refugees that come here. but a p-2 that target people far less likely to be a threat to americans seems to be something i hope is on the table being actively discussed. i yield. >> mr. smith, let me go through those as quickly as possible. on the question of the reduction in wfp assets, let me say first that we have done everything humanly possible to increase our contribution of wfp. and also solicit contributions from some of our more prosperous allies in the gulf, who in truth
have come forward with up to $2 billion for the syrian refugees. >> now, is that -- pardon my interruption. but is that getting to the people so we know? >> did we anticipate it would be a trigger? i can't answer that. but we certainly anticipated that it would be a huge problem and deprive these people of desperately needed resources. so we are doing everything we can to beef up our humanitarian support. on the question of iranian resource, i know this has been a frequent discussion with this committee and other committees, the iranian economy has been in freefall for the past several years of sanctions. we have consumer demand nat iranian government will have to meet. i don't want to be naive, mr. smith, some of the money won't activities.
and then finally, i know that you would ask my colleague about the p-2 program. and let me say, of course, that there is a frankly, a lot of concern, mr. smith, about people coming out of this area that they are properly vetted and reviewed given some of the history. but i know you have asked that. believe me, it will certainly be under consideration. and we will get you a staffed out answer. >> mr. bell keating of massachusetts. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i realize you're not speaking for the department of defense as assistant secretary patterson had mentioned. however, i just want to ask you if you have been at briefings and things you could disclose. because in open hearings with this committee and subcommittees, we have had witnesses, generals, military experts time after time saying
that the unilateral approach just bombing itself would not be effective strategy. that it had to be accompanied by the ability with troops on the ground to hold that area that they had bombed or otherwise it was basically a worthless military strategy and approach. so it brings me back to opening comments where i said simply bombing by itself without the ability whether it be through sunni arab troops or other troops on the ground, or in absentia u.s. troops. it has been to be incorporated with land force. are you familiar with those kind of discusses, assistant secretary? >> yes. mr. keating.
those are topics, as you suggest, are frequently discussed within the administration. let me first say that i think the campaign has had considerable impact on the leadership of isil. a number of prominent leaders have been essentially taken off the battle field and removed from office. >> can i just jump into -- thank you. can i just jump into this. can i talk about the rules of engagement? it is a very difficult issue. russia is approaching this in a manner where without discrimination they see content bombing and killing innocent civilians. not even trying to make efforts to avoid doing that as opposed to the u.s. policy, which takes that into consideration, as most countries in the world do. can you comment on the importance of following rules of engagement to try, as the u.s. does, minimize civilian deaths? >> yes, mr. keating.
as i mentioned, particularly in this campaign, we have strict -- the u. s. air force has strict rules of engagement on collateral damage. and that's in accordance with the president's instructions. our job is to minimize civilian categories in every way possible. not only, might i mention, mr. keating, a moral issue, but it is also an issue of practicality. you don't want to alien ate the people on the ground. if i might go back to your issue on ground forces, one of our goals is to work with partners on the ground who can serve this role as ground troops in support of a u.s. air campaign. we have supported, as you know, the syrian kurds, and it has been very effective i think in closing the border both to the influx of foreign fighters and to the export of refined
products that provide -- >> is it fair to say -- is it a fair statement to say, not to categorize the russian bombing actions as decisive but rather immoral? is that a fair statement? >> yes. i read yesterday graphic reports of the civilian casualties that they had inflicted on a village near ramadi. it seems indiscriminate, if i might say so. >> thank you. i yield back. >> thank you, mr. keating. to jeff duncan from south carolina. >> that you, mr. chairman. thank you for holding this hearing. we are seeing a tremendous migration crisis in europe as a result of the syrian civil war and isis in western iraq and in syria. this migration crisis is really threatening regional stability in europe. and really to the tune we hadn't
since probably the 1930s. it is mind boggling when you watch the videos of the number of migrants streaming in to eastern european countries and now western european countries. i just have a question for ambassador nulund. ambassador colleen bell works for you, does she not? okay. ambassador of hungry for the record? >> yes. >> you were also ambassador to nato, so you understand the key role that nato countries play with security of the world and with cooperating with the united states, correct? hungary is a nato ally. why after months of seemingly improved relations between the democracy and allies, did the
u.s. ambassador decided to launch an unprovoked attack on hungary last week? you're familiar with what ms. bell said, correct? >> congressman, i'm not sure specifically what comments of hers you may be referring to. she gave a speech last week reaffirmed u.s. support for hungary that is increasingly democratic. we have had concerns about government policy with regard to attack and corruption. we have concerns about repression of media. i think she was probably -- >> she chastised the sovereign's nations the a ability to serve its own borders and put fencing up if they so chose, did she not? >> again, i would have to go back and look at precisely what she said. we have had concerns about eu member states erecting fences against eu policy between each other. we have tried to support the policy of the eu as a whole to work together and to be in solidarity with each other in
addressing the migrant crisis by -- >> i mean, i disagree with that some of based on what you said. is it going to scold those we need in nato in order to mettle in their domestic affairs while stroking whatever egos are satisfied by such actions? is that our diplomatic mission there? >> congressman, even with our nato allies, it's been the long-standing, one might argue, 50-year policy of the united states, to support an increasingly democratic, stable, clean europe. so when we have concerns that a country is not attacking corruption in its midst. when we have concerns about the rollback of the democratic principles that under gerd nato membership, we're going to speak out about it, yes. >> madam ambassador, i disagree that -- i do think you
are meddling in the affairs of a sovereign nation. when we look at the mass may dwrags that's coming disagree. are you going chastise slovenia or some of the other nations who are having to deal with this? they're having to deal with this huge, almost a million migrants have made their way into eastern and now western europe. it's an issue, a crisis for them. the demographic's going to change the political atmosphere in those countries, these are sovereign nations that have going to have to deal with this. it's going to be a strain on their social programs, on their ability to do things for their own citizens. the demands being placed on them by these migrants, it's a game changer in europe. is the u.s. policy one to interfere with sovereign nations in europe and their ability to provide services for their own citizens and deal with the migration crisis? is that the policy of the administration? >> on the contrary, congressman.
we are strongly supportive of the overall eu policy that they are putting in place now, which is to support each other in resettling these migrants appropriately and treating them toll rantly, in sharing the burden, in contributing to host country, providing more funds to those countries where refugees are coming from -- >> my time's just about up madam ambassador. >> so when they start building walls between themselves and among themselves in contradiction of the policy -- >> i would recommend that you listen to ms. bell's statements and have a retraction on that. i yield back. >> we go now to lois frankle of florida. >> thank you. well, first, i thank you for being here. i just you are think you're hearing some frustration, not to take this personally from anyone, but thank you. first of august, i just want to say and applaud, i think, the
administration, the president, mr. kerry, trying to get as many of the relevant world leaders together to try to come to grips with what's going on in syria is going in the right direction. that is a good step. it sounds to me that you, from comments, especially -- i forget which one of you said this -- but it sounds to me like it's your opinion that russia's actions in syria are such that they will, it will be self-destructive, i think that's what i glean from your comments. but in the meantime, before, before russia self-destructs themselves, with what they're doing, there are so many innocent people who are being harmed. so i wanted, my question is, what kind of strategies or actions are you taking with
russia that can maybe change their course. that's my first question. second, is what are we doing to actually protect these syrian civilians within syria, and are there any further plans, or is it hopeless to do a safe zone or a no-fly zone? or is anything else being considered that we have not heard about? >> ms. frankle, let me say that first, we don't think this is a slam dunk from the russians by any means. they have basically got the whole sunni world against them now, and i think it's an analytical fact that we may not have seen anything yet in terms of jihad. because we've already seen imams in the gulf call for increased
jihad against the godless russian presence in syria, so i won't say they've bitten off more than they can chew, but they certainly have issues that they're going to confront, not the least of which is their huge islamic population inside and on the perimeter of russia. vis-a-vis, the syrians inside syria, half the assistance is provided, our humanitarian assistance to the tunes of billions of dollars provided to syrians within syria. of course there's zones we can't reach. but in terms of safe zone, and i'm glad you asked this, there's been a lot of the discussion about their. this is a huge resource intensive issue. and the administration has looked at this over and over and over again. and there is no option on the table for recommended by the department of defense that does not require a massive, massive amount of air support that would
then detract from the effort against isil. we continue to look at this, we continue to study this, but there is no viable option on the table at this time. >> ambassador, did you have anything to add? >> simply to say that we've been very clear with the russians about what we're seeing in terms of the results of their strikes. the secretary of state has spoken just about every day about their existence that they exact some kind of restraint out of assad for the support that they're giving, at least in the area of barrel bombing. and we will continue to share, not only with the russians directly, but with all of you and publicly what we see. i think, as assistant secretary patterson said, what the secretary's hope here is if you rope them into this diplomacy they will see a better way to a peaceful solution than what
they're doing. >> just one more question, i think weal all have heard that the conditions for the syrian refugees are dire, especially at the borders. i heard stories yesterday that were -- i, it's, my hair would go up straight if i, if it could do that, but it sounded horrible. what kind of action are you -- i mean, i heard people living out in the open. no sanitation. very little food. what's the response? >> ms. frankle, occasionally, the neighboring countries close the border. and these poor people get caught in these pockets. usually that's short-lived and the countries will open the border again and so we work with them constantly on it ththat iso get these people into their countries. most of these countries are hosting these refugees in host
communities, and it puts a very significant strain on their public services, which is not an education, which is why support from the international community and continued financial support is so important. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chair. >> thank you, thank you, ms. frankle. okay. mr. darrell issa of california. >> thank you, mr. chairman, ambassador, ambassador. subject of syria, i made my first trip a few years ago to meet with the unknown assad. he's pretty well-defined in the last 14 year, and the dictateship -- dictatorship he leads has been defined. more than four years ago, this administration called for regime
change and not only did very little to make that come about but then directly and through the russians, negotiated various agreemen agreements, including, obviously, the chemical weapons departure. at this point, isn't it time to ask the question of what, what do we really want to achieve in syria, since one, the so-called free syrian army has cost us some incredible number that i'm not even going to say on television again, because are it has been a complete failure. we have no free syrian army. more sunnis are fighting independent of us than with us, by a factor of probably 1,000 to one. let me ask you in a suck sintsd way. ambassador, isn't it time we figure out what is possible in a syria that allows the millions of syrians, sunni, shia, al
white christian, to return to their country? >> mr. issa, we don't believe it's possible to have any sort of settlement there, either a political settlement or any military defeat of isil without the departure of assad. these two issues now are inex-orably linked. he has turned out to be, as you know, a magnet for terrorists all over the world, particularly, well, for many countries, even including our own. i guess i would differ from you, that the free syrian army has been a bust. i think there are efforts under way that have corralled and i know that you're aware of these efforts under way that have corralled our gulf allies and our european allies in a common effort in syria. so i think there's really no alternative but to talk about his departure. >> ambassador, i'm not, i'm not for a moment trying to
predetermine the departure of bashar assad. i happen to agree with you, that a future syria should be a syria with greater sunni representation, with rights of christians respected and that he is probably not the ideal -- he is a failed leader in many ways, and i think history has already borne that out, but my question, and the reason i'm asking you this way, if i were to ask you, do weva an effective battalion of free syrian military you would have to say no. if i said do we have an effective company, you'd have to say no. if i said do we have an effective platoon, you'd say we have a platoon, but it's not quite effective. and i gist left the marines 240th birthday, and trust me, if i sent marines in to evaluate those people, they would come up short of effective for any of them. and it's been four years. isn't it true that the effective forces against assad today are, in fact, non-isis fighters who
disagree, but are not aligned with us. in other words, sunnis who oppose assad, who are being bombed by the russians as we speak? >> that's true in the north, mr. issa, i would say that it's not true in the south. but certainly, in the north, nusra front, which is an al qaeda affiliate, has absorbed, as have other smaller groups, have absorbed a number of what we would have previously called the moderate opposition, yes, that's correct. it's not true in the south, mr. issa, where i believe the moderate fighters are holding their own and holding territory. >> well, and let's go to the moderate fighters in the south and the effect on lebanon for just a moment, which is the lead question people always assume i'll ask. today, in lebanon, it's been widely reported, unclassified, that in fact the sectors that are being protected in lebanon from isis are in fact a
combination of the lebanese armed forces wherever possible and hezbollah protecting their own. is that a workable solution, and is the united states able to ensure that the lebanese armed forces continue to get what they need while not unreasonably emboldening hezbollah in the future. >> i think the lebanese have done nothing short of a remarkable job no protecting lebanon. we have tried to increase material to them. we have, as you know, a robust training program by some of our highly-trained american forces, and we have worked particularly with the saudis to get them some additional funds to buy military equipment. it is an extremely high pry o. i think they just had an encounter day before yesterday with isil, and they've done, contrary to many expectations, it seems to
be working. >> and you want to thank you, mr. chairman for this opportunity on syria, and i want to thank the ambassador for pointing that out. >> joaquin castro of texas. >> thank you, chairman and thank you, ambassadors for being here today and for your testimony and service to the country. my first question is on migration. what effect has the russian bombing campaign had on the flow of migrants, whether it's changed it? >> as i said in my opening, we believe it has led to an acceleration of migrants into europe in particular. we've seen those uptoicks in greece and germany just since the russian bombing.
>> have we found that the migrants want to stay in europe or want to come back. >> what's our understanding of that? >> with regard to syrians, what we're getting from our european friends is that it's a mixed pictu picture. those who have hope that their guntry c country can come back together, have left relatives there, but many have lost hope, which is a question europe is struggling with. >> what about our gulf partners? what role have they played with regard to migration and refugees? >> our gulf partners have been generous with funding. the kuwait eis have hosted try donors conferences, given hundreds of millions of dollars. the united arab emirates as well. prance the question is on resettlement. the gulf countries do not take in refugees. what they do is basically take
in guest workers. and a number of the gulf countries have a large number of syrian employee, really, but you cannot say that three aey are refugees, but they have been generous with their money. >> my second we is question is chemical weapons. russia agreed to extract the chemical weapons from syria and they are now bound by the chemical weapons convention. what have we seen recently with regard to chlorine gas? >> we believe that we have seen chlorine gas. it would be a violation of the chemical weapons convention, of which syria is a signatory. we have referred it to the organization for prohibition of chemical weapons, and they are going to do an analysis and a report. once we receive that, we will decide what steps to take. >> have we determined that it's
the assad regime that's using the chemical weapons, or could it be other actors as well? >> it's our assumption that it's the assad regime because they from dropped from helicopters which are not in possession of the opposition. >> thank you, i yield back. >> thank you, mr. castro, now we go to mr. mull brooks, of alabama. >> is forbes in syria good or bad or counter-productive. >> congressman brooks, i think we've been pretty clear here that we do not believe russia's military intervention is leading to a settlement of the syrian conflict, that instead, it is giving assad confidence that he can stay in power. >> using words such as immoral to describe how bad russia's conduct in syria is, is that fair? >> assistant secretary patterson confirm thad word and i don't
have a problem with it either. >> what thought has been given to using a diversion strategy where we force the russian military to be engaged in different parts of the globe there by weakening their abilities to prosecute their military aggression in syria, more specifically, how would a more aggressive military action in the ukraine impact russia's ability to expand its military operations in the middle east. i'm talking about trying to protect the territory that they have either unlawfully invaded themselves or assisted their proxies in unlawfully invading. >> congressman, i think you know that we've had a cease-fire in ukraine that has largely been
holding. not completely, but largely been holding since september 1st. i'm confident that you would not be suggesting here that the ukrainians reignite the war to draw the russians deeper into conflict there. i don't think that would be good for ukraine or for the stability of europe. >> well, is this cease-fire, in actuality just a way in which the russians anaproxys can consolidate their territorial gains? is that putting ukraine in a position where they have to forfeit hopes of recapturing the land wrongfully taken by russia and its proxies? >> congressman, under the minsk agreement, the first step is cease-fire, the second is pull back of weapons, then political progress and then return of the territory and closure of the border. so what we are now starting to see for the first time in the two years of this conflict is some pull back of russian and separatist weapons, so that is a good thing. we are seeing that in lieu hafx
a and now in donetsk. so, again, if you want ukraine to get that territory back, if you wanted minsk implemented, what's most important is to lean on russia and the separatists to complete those obligations, pull back their weapons and allow real elections and return of the border. >> as of today, given the shifting of military equipment, has any of the territory taken by russia or its proxies been returned to the government of the ukraine? any significant amount of territory. and if you could, if you're going to be able to answer that, give us all an idea as to how much, what percentage of territory has been returned to the ukraine after russia's invasion and how much has been kept in the hands of the russians, keeping in mind that the cry me yeah itself is a rather large land mass. >> about 7% of ukraine, if you count crimea, plus the occupation of eastern ukraine is
loews to the control of the ukrainian government, as i said, with this cease-fire and the beginning of pull back of weapons, ukrainians have not had access to that territory, but increasingly monitors have had access and we need to accelerate and encourage that process. if we can get to -- >> so the answer to the question is zero? >> zero. >> zero land has been returned to the ukrainian government. >>s after today, zero. >> how much has the united states delivered to the ukrainian government in order to defend its territory? >> congressman, through bipartisan generosity of both halves of this congress, we have supplied over $266 million in security support for ukraine. that includes extensive training of the national guard, now moving on to training the military. we've provided lots of kinds of non-lethal assistance. >> i'm talking about weaponry,
what weaponry has been given to the ukrainian government to enable it to defend its territory or recapture territory taken by russia. >> it depends on how you defin it. we have not provided lethal assistance to date. >> no tanks. >> we have provided humvees, combat protection. >> may i have 30 more seconds? >> yes, mr. brooks. >> the reason i ask this is due to the leadership of congressman ingle who is not here at the moment, the house passed a resolution in march of that year, by a 348-48 vote. about an 88% to 12% bipartisan vote, which is overwhelming in the united states house of representatives, and to some degree, a little bit unusual. and that resolution of the house
of representatives and a wleming bipartisan fashion stated, quote, that the house of representatives strongly urges the president to fully and immediately exercise the authorities provided by congress to provide ukraine with lethal defensive weapons systems to enhance the ability of the people of ukraine to defend their sovereign territory from the unpro sdwroeked and continuing aggression of the russian federation. i would hope that you would carry back to their administration that message with a double benefit. one, is we haep ukraine fight against russian aggression and two, i would submit it weakens russia in syria and helps to alleviate some of the problems we have there. thank you for your indulgence. >> thank you, mr. brook. robin kelly of illinois. >> thank you, mr. chair. about 10,000 isis fighters have been quikilled their past year,t it seems despite that they've been replaced by new recruits. new fighters. how do we cut off those new
fighters, those new recruits? >> that's a big challenge, congresswoman. and let me tell you the steps that are being taken. first there's a step through under general allen's leadership, regrettably he's soon to leave the position. we've develop add number of working groups with our allies, for instance the united arab emirates to try to message and get to these young minuen and persuade them that isil isn't a viable future. to close the border and most of the border now is closed. we've worked with them to deport individuals who try and cross over into turkey, into syria. we have worked with our gulf allies to increase their message and surveillance of individuals who might undertake extremist
activities. but it's a big challenge, because isil has managed to tap into sunni grievances in a big way, but we continue to press on this. i believe we're having some minor success. >> what do you think about the americans going over. have we had success in decreasing those amounts? >> all told, congresswoman, there are really just a handful of americans, and frankly, our law enforcement agencies and the kplubtss that they work with, i think that's key in the united states is to have good relations in these communities who then will alert law enforcement to a young man, mostly young men, who are sus septemberable to these brandishments. but the use of the internet and sophistication of these messages is very alarming, but i think as
time goes on we're getting better and better at understanding the counter message and how the counter message differs by culture and by country. >> we don't talk much about the al nusra front in syria. what's our strategy to deal with that group of fighters? >> the al nusra front is an al qaeda affiliate. they're a designated terrorist organization. they have been successful on the battlefield in the north. and they have absorbed some, what i would call non-extremist fighters, because their own groups have been affected and because they essential lay haly nowhere else to go. so our strategy is they are a terrorist group. they will not be part of any political settlement that is developed over time. >> i yield back the balance of my time. thank you. >> would my friend yield?
i thank my friend. ambassad ambassad ambassad ambassador, russia's been violating airspace. is there an understanding that they will cease and desist against our nato ally? >> the day of the incursion into turkish airspace, secretary lavrov was called immediately. >> did you get an assurance from the russians they would cease and desist was my question. >> my understanding is that the turks have now sought and got and reassurance from the russians that they will cease and die cyst. >> but not us. >> we have said it is unacceptable to be incurring tur kwish airspace. >> did we get any kind of assurance? >> they have made clear to us that they do not intend to do it
again. but obviously, we have to watch what they do rather than what they say. >> do we have any understanding of rules of engagement in terms of their operations in syria? this hearing is about russia's involvement in syria. >> the department of defense conducted a very limited air de-confliction exercise. >> my question isn't collaboration. it is rules of engagement to ensure there is not an inadvertent collision between their air force and ours, our counselor and ours and the like. >> that was the hope that we will stay away from each other. we have emergency hotline. we have emergency communications. >> so they're in place. >> pilots, particularly, because
of the kind of flying that they do. >> thank you, and i thank my colleague for yielding. >> we go to mr. randy weber of texas. >> before i begin, mr. chairman, i'm not going to yield to you. you've got more time than all of us combined. just kidding, jerry. >> were you yielding? >> no, no. ambassador patterson, let me follow up with your exchange with congressman keating when he said some of the generals said the air war wouldn't do it at all. and you said you had been involved in those conversations. do you recall that exchange earlier today? is the president aware of those conversations? >> the president and our senior leadership meet very frequently on these issues. of course. >> how long do those conversations been going on? >> quite a while, mr. webber. >> a year? two? >> eeasily, easily.
>> just curious. ambassador nuland, you said russia was spending $2.5 billion a day in their incursion into syria. >> what i said was $2 million to $4 million a day. and it may be more than that. you know, in a country like russia, where there's only one prime decision-maker, if russia chooses to make this a priority over the welfare of its own people it could sustain it for some time. >> what is the u.s.'s outlay of expense on a day? do we know that? >> mr. webber, the last time i asked, it was about $8 million a day. >> so four times our, if you use the two, two to four times the amount russia's using, but we're
getting one eighth the amount of airstrikes? >> that would include iraq, the entire air campaign, but, again, we're not the russians, and we have different standards. >> and then you said earlier, it might have been ambassador nuland that the gulf countries were not taking any refugees but they'd been very generous with their money. was that you? >> that's right. i have the list of -- >> i'm fascinated by my colleagues, mo brooks idea of arming those in the ukraine to maybe divert some of russia's attention to maybe help deechd ukraine and increase russia's cost and deflect them some from syria. if the gulf countries are, as one of you said, i think you said it was you, are very generous with their money, would they help in that regard? to arm some of the ukrainians
against the russians? has that question been raised to them? >> as far as i know, that question has never arisen. >> how about the question, why won't they take refugees. >> >> because they have very different, they have very different types of societies. and i know that -- >> but they do want their society to continue as they know it, right? and if isil overruns their societies, it will be gone? >> yes, and they have a very, we have a very close degree of intelligence and military cooperation with our gcc gulf cooperation partners, gcc partners on cyber, on military, on intelligence. we have a very close relationship, so yes, we work closely in anti-isil activity. >> but they could put up temporary camps, tent cities, if you will, and they could actually take refugees and house
them and feed them, probably, with a lot more money than some of the european nations, wouldn't you agree? if they were willing? >> i'm not sure that's true, actually, because the level of social services and infrastructure is vastly better in europe, but, of course, we do want the gulf to play a more active role, and we do encourage them, and we do want them to provide funding for these activities. >> okay. now what happens, and jerry conley asked what if there was a problem between the united states aircraft and the russian aircraft. in your peninsula, what's going to happen when the russian military drops a bomb on some of our 50 advisers over there? what happens? >> well, we have thede-conflict procedures in place, these de-confliction procedures that were designed to avoid any conflict between russian --
>> if that happens, would our pilots be authorized to shoot that plane down that dropped the bomb? ambassador nuland, do you have any knowledge? >> without getting into classified information, i would simply say that where we anticipate these special operators being, the russians have been very far from that territory, because, as you know, these special operators are operating against, would be operating against isil. and our concern is that russia is operating in support of assad. >> well, let's keep our fingers crossed. i yield back. >> dr. aumy barra of california. >> our goal is to defeat and destroy isil. and it's clear that we don't have the forces, but we have had some success in terms of forces on the ground. i think that ms. kelly pointed
out that the anti-isil coalitions killed about 10,000 isil fighters, and part of our challenge is that they're being replaced. we can have success, but some of it is stopping the replacement, i think ambassador patterson, you talked about doing what we can at the border, certainly, doing what we can tracking the fighters that, you know, are leaving europe, leaving some of the north african countries, some of the middle eastern countries and even some of the western states. i do think we're losing the propaganda war, though, right? i think isil has shown to be able to use the internet very efficiently, social media very efficiently, and maybe ambassador patterson, this is a question for you. are we doing fluff to counter this propaganda war, to slow down their ability to recruit? >> it's a big challenge, but i think we're getting better at it. for instance, we have a joint
center with the united arab emirates, and it has to be in an arab country, because it's a -- and they've begun to put out products that are designed to encourae discourage young men from joining isil. and we have a very large operation at the state department and with the intelligence community that works on designing the most appropriate message for these individuals. so i think we're, we're making progress. we're also making progress, let me take tunisia. tunisia has the most jihadis per capita of any country in the world. but in the past year, we've worked intensively with them on intelligence issues and counter messaging and training religious leaders to counter that message. so, again, i certainly don't want to overstate this, but i
think we've gotten better and are making, at least, some marginal progress. >> i think i'd echo the chairman has certainly led us on a number of hearings here. we've got to redouble our efforts on the propaganda war, because if we can stop it on the front end, we won't have to fight them on the battlefield. i do think we are losing that front and propaganda war through social media and the internet. ambassador nuland, i agree with you very much so that russia's involvement is very counter-productive. it's exacerbating an already challenging situation in syria and certainly is escalating the refugee crisis. and, you know, does threaten to, you know, wreak havoc in some of our allies, jordan, turkey. you're seeing our european allies struggle with this refugee crisis. i know there has been some discussion, and it's not easy, but creating a safe zone within syria, where, and a no-friday
zone whe -- no-fly zone. i would be curious to see what it would take to create that. >> it would take at least, it would take a massive commitment of air power. and there are, it would take a massive commitment of air power, and it would detract the air assets from the fight against isil. there's no option, congressman that's been put on the table so far within the administration that's considered viable because of the enormous resources that it would require to protect the population within it. >> great. again, i think, is that ha optian option that's being discussed? >> if's c >> it's constantly being discussed and constantly under review, but that's the status of it. >> mr. chairman, i'll yield
back. >> thank you, mr. bera, we now go to our chairman emeritus. >> thank you. i continue to be extremely frustrated by the administration's inability to implement or even articulate a strategy in syria or in middle east as a whole, despite the public facade. it does not appear that the president really wants assad removed from power or that we have any understanding of the long-term tragic impact that assad's policies are having on the syrian people, on the region, our enk7allies, on our national security or else we know it and don't wish to do anything about it. do we really need additional evidence to prove that the current chaos is not working? the president, it seems to be running out the clock noll it's someone else's problem, and i don't think history will look kindly on the choices that that
administration has made on this issue. some questions for you, and i would like to get yes and no answers if i could. do you believe that isil and assad are separate issues? >> no, at this point. >> thank you. >> they're linked. >> and do you agree that assad's atrocities against his own people are a recruiting tool for isil? >> absolutely. >> is it possible to defeat isil while assad's massacres continue with iran and russia's haep? >> no. the two issues are linked. >> is it possible to negotiate a solution with the opposition while think continue? >> possibly. >> are we pressuring iran and russia to stop assad's massacre?
>> absolutely. on a daily basis. >> should we infer that the president agrees more with russia and iran's goal of keeping assad in power than he would have us believe. >> >> certacertainly not. the president and the secretary of state have said many times that assad's departure is absolutely critical to any future in syria. >> what has the white house and secretary of state communicated to you about the administration's desired and state and national security objectives in syria, and is it possible to achieve those goals when russia and iran's goals are the complete opposite? >> the secretary, of course, we have different goals in syria, but i think the secretary's goal is to find sufficient common ground, through a process of negotation and a political settlement that we find a way
through this. he's not naïve about this, this is what the whole vienna process and follow up process is about. >> does that entail keeping assad in power? >> no. absolutely not. but it might entail some negotiation on a timetable for his departure. >> and we would be working with who to try to achieve that settlement, to have him go where else? >> we're working in the vienna process, 20 different countries. obviously, our gulf allies and the turks, the turkish are intimate lay involved wiinte intimately involved with this. and we're constantly in touch with the u.n. and armed opposition within syria and those civilian leaders in exile. >> and if those allies, do they see assad's removal from power as imperative to deal with this
situation? >> certainly our european allies, our gulf allies and turkey do see that. they're absolutely determined that he will not remain in power. >> and to follow up on ms. frankle's questions, are are are are are are are a there's a lot of talk about whether we are doing enough to protect civilians from the regime. how is that priority manifested? >> certainly, we try, we've provided over $2 billion, $2.5 billion for humanitarian assistance inside syria, so we're certainly trying to feed and support syrian populations who are under, under great stress. and we've certainly, as you mentioned, raised before, we have certainly talked with the
russians about preventing assad from attacking his own people. >> and the bombs that we have seen that have been attacking some of the forces with whom we are dealing and we are protecting and we are arming, and yet, some of those airstrikes seem to be targeting the very folks who are supposed to be the good guys in this battle. what are we doing to make sure that that ends? >> that's, that's absolutely true, congresswoman, we mentioned i think, that 85% to 90% of the strikes were against anti-regime forces, and on your second question, we can talk more about that in a classified setting. >> and just one more question, there's been a lot of discussion in the open press about like-minded factors, like the nusra front being part of this
coalition that will then defeat another band of bad guys. are we in that coalition building with folks who we would normally see as our enemies? and the enemies of our values? >> nusra front is an al qaeda affiliate. it is possible that some, some members of the opposition have been forced to adhere to join to al nusra, because they had nowhere else to go. the al nusra group and its front are terrorist groups. >> and we will remain with that thinking and not help those groups with other alliances. >> no, we have designated nusra. >> thank you very much. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, eliana. we go to david.
>> really a failure to define what success continues to plague usna syria, and the best way to press the administration to do their is vigorously debate the authorization of military force during which the president would be required to articulate a strategy and persuade the american people and congress of the likelihood of success of that strategy, and i recognize this is complicated. there are not easy answers. but i think it's compounded, frankly, ambassador patterson. in your written testimony you inld kwatd that our strategy remains the same, using diplomacy and military action to achieve a political transition. of course that's not a strategy. that's a goal. and so i think what we're really looking for, and what we need is a detailed plan of action with, you know, goals and a plan to mobilize resources to achieve
those. that's a strategy. and i think that's really what we're missing and what i think is critical. but i want to ask some very specific questions, you said ambassador patterson that the coalition has made progress in our military campaign against isil. but, according to al arabia, isil controls half of all the territory in syria as jonesed to july 2014 when they controlled about a third of syrian territory. first, is that correct that isil yoels more territory now than think did in the summer of 2014? and if so, how is that progress? >> i think they do, they may control more land territory, but certainly, there has been progress against isil in tikrit and beiji, and the efforts in ramadi. and there's been considerable progress against the leadership. the top of my head, i think 60 leaders of isil, including some very important ones, have been taken offer the battlefield. the effort by special forces
against abu sayyaf. they said this is going to be a multi-year campaign that's going to require considerable resources to prosecute. >> with respect to the moderate opposition, there's been a lot of discussion about supporting the moderate opposition and that it appears to be a tactic in our syrian response. who is the moderate opposition? we've just, the president has just authorized another $100 million expenditure, so now totaling $500 million. there are reports that there are as many as 1,000 armed militia groups and that much of the success of the larger groups, the fsa, comes about as a result of working alongside some of the most hard-line groups. so who are we talking about
whether we're speaking about moderate opposition, and do they, in fact, include elements of al qaeda and al nusra and other more extremist groups? >> well, let me take the civilian moderate opposition, too. and that's the assistance figure that you're referring to. and that's groups within syria and groups that lafe in turkey and lebanon and other places. and what that project is designed to do is to keep these people not only alive physically but also keep them viable for a future syria, because we have managed to, even areas under control of isil, i won't mention them, but we have managed to provide money to city councils. to health clinics, to teachers and police men, so these people can still provide public services and form the basis for a new syria, so that's a good portion of that money goes into efforts like that. there's also the opposition on the ground.
and i think they've sort of got and bum rap in this hearing, because i think they're more extensive than is generally recognized, particularly in the south. and yes, of course, in the north. some of the individuals have affiliated with nusra, because there was nowhere else to go, but i think there are a wide range of moderate commanders that we've worked with closely. and i think they, they are viable and will be able to play a part in the future of syria. >> ambassador, and finally the president obviously has just announced 50 special forces will be dispatched to syria to advise and assist kwurdish forces in that region. can you tell me what the end goal of this is, what's the objective? how can we be sure that this limited deployment doesn't begin a very slippery slope and a wider diaper military engagement in the syrian civil war, and finally, the, you've mentioned the financial support of the
gulf nations for the refugees. we've heard from a number of refugee organizations that there is not sufficient financial support from gulf nations. i know you mentioned qatar, but are there other nations in the gulf who are not doing as much as they should? because we're hearing a different representation from organizations that are actually dealing with the crisis on the ground. >> let me provide you, right after this hearing, with a list of support i have from the gulf. i think some of the traditional refugee agencies, they're, there's not enough money. there's simply not enough money for this enormous humanitarian catastrophe. let me stress that, but i think the gulf nations have both been generous with the u.n. and often their money is put through o local red krecrescents and ngos. so pranc
so perhaps there's concern about that, that they're not going through national ngo oenngos? >> and what about the 50? >> they are to work what the syrian/arab coalition, which has had considerable success in closing the border and to improve their capacity. and i think anything else would, will provide it to you in a classified letter. >> thank you. i yield back, mr. chairman. >> thank you. we go back to mr. rohr backer of california. >> let me just say i am very frustrated by talk about russia, and i spent my entire life trying to defeat the soviet union, and i was i have pleased to be part of the reagan administration that helped accomplish that goal. bringing down a regime that
wanted to impose an eighth yils dictate orship. and russia is expected to be treated as friends after the fall of communism. and what has risen instead is a hostility that is so wleming that it is damaging, not only has it been damage being russin their ability to establish themselves in a new world role. after all it is a major power in the world. they are a major power with interests, just as we are. but the double standard that we have been judging russia and even as present in the hearing today is just overwhelming. we sit here and say, oh, well russia wants to keep assad in power. how horrible that is because assad is a dictatorship, as if saudi arabia isn't a dictatorship and wouldn't murder thousands of people to stay in
power? what about other gulf states run by kingdoms who would murder their people in great number? they're no different than assad. in fact some of them might be better than assad because some are religious motivated sort of like communism was a religious conviction. their form of islam, sometimes, puts them at odds with sunnis or shiites killing each other. the double standard that we have been judging russia with and basing our policy on that double standard has caused us great harm. great harm. putin, five years ago, tried to work out a compromise with us, and we turned him down, that would have created, at least some sort of semblance of stability in syria. and now it has totally gone to hell, and we still can't get ourselves to look at putin as a
possible partner in cooperation to make things better. i believe it is our hostility towards russia that has prevented us from creating a policy that will create a more stable middle east. a and gaddafi, we made made an agreement about gaddafi. and broke that. and it maid the non-gaddafi, nonislamic power, did that make it any better there? no. half of libya is controlled by people who want to murder us because they're radical muslims. had we been working with the russians all along in good faith, i brielieve this situati in the middle east would have been totally different and better. more stable and let me just note that we, i can remember the charges, the monstrous charges against us in iraq.
how horrible it was, our troops were murdering people by the thousands. most of those reports were false. were wrong. they were lies by people who wanted to achieve a political end by claiming that we were massacring people intentionally in iraq. well, i don't know. is it possible that some of these reports that we're getting, yeah, assad is a murderous dictator, but some of the magnitude of his oppression and murder of his own people might be exaggerated to achieve certain political ends? i would think so, and i just about, got a little time to give you a question so you can, please feel free to disagree with everything i say. i believe it and i know you have your beliefs too, and they're honest disagreements. let me just ask then, about, if indeed assad is removed and we
get this third alternative, why won't it be just the same as happened with gaddafi, where the radical islamists who hate us now see a weaker adversary, and it will come in and replace whatever regime that is very quickly with a regime that will control all of syria, and they will be radicals that will be our worst nightmare? why wouldn't that happen in syria the way it happened in libya? >> i need to say something, mr. rohr backer. >> please feel free to retort. >> i can't let it go by the comparison of bashar al assad with our gulf ally the. these countries are not in our image, but there is no way they gr oppress their citizens to the extent assad is. >> you are saying they would not do that? they would not engage in the military to suppress their people if their guest workers
decided to rise up? >> yes, i'm saying that. >> that's very naïve. >> they would not do that. that's not how it wourks there. but let me try and answer your question about syria. there's broad consensus in the international community that the institutions in syria would remain in tact. the intelligence, the military, the police, the civil service, the ministerial structures, and that the goal is to remove bashar al assad and his closest advisers and have this political process that would lead to a new government. so it is not to destroy the institutional structure. in libya, i would argue, there twrnts any institutions. >> you've outlined it well. why is it in our -- why do we have to go in and make that decision in syria? why is it for the united states to step in to this far-off land, rather than going to perfect,
there's lots of places we could go and poer, why is it for us to do that when we know we have radical islamists who are waiting on the sideline for some type of instability that they can take advantage of? >> because our national security is at stake in the region. and the security of our allies, israel and gcc and turkey are affected by what happens in syria. >> and our policies are making it worse, and in fact, dealing with putin instead of trying to demonize him, perhaps we could have had more stability there, and our friends would be actually better off than the current policy of whatever we do, don't work with russia, and get rid of assad. putin's also helping us, by the way, with general cici, who we only give a lip service to try to help the man who's a pivotal
role in stability in the middle east. >> we need to go to grace ming of new york. time's expired. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you to our witnesses for being here and all that you do for our country. my question is about growing concerns of advanced arms entering syria at unprecedented levels and the possibility of arms to pass to syrian forces and even to groups like hezbollah, which is high. what is the u.s. prepared to do to counter this. what have we done? what could we do more of to ensure these russian arms don't end up in the hands of hezbollah? >> well, we have the same concerns that you do have the advanced weaponry flowing into syria from russia, from iran. we have raised these concerns regularly with the russianrussi including at the presidential level, and we are continuing to
monitor what exactly happens with them. the russians, as you know have now made a decision to put in ground artillery, and that is exacerbating the conflict further in homa and in homs. >> some strikes, which are only about 30 to 40 miles from the israeli border, iran has also sent troops and military advisers to shore up assad's rule, including on the golan heights, bringing iran's influence directly to israel's doorstep, jihadist groups including isis and al nusra also continue to gain territory in northern and southern syria, including along the golan heights. in your opinion how likely is it that fighting in syria could spill over into israel, and what are the major concerns from the israelis, and what can the ouu.
do to snep >> congresswoman, nothing's more important to us as a national strategic interest than israel's security, and all of these elements that you have raised, the russian strikes, the pressure on nusra in the golan heights. the iranian presence, we are in constant contact with the israeli government, and are working very collaboratively on this. i would say the israelis can pretty much take care of this problem, and they have shown that in a number of ways that we can perhaps discuss later. but we have, we have lots of collaboration on this issue, and on a broader issue, the prime minister, of course, will be here. we have given billions of dollars, including our dome, and we will discuss ways to enhance israel's security generally, but these are concerns that we share
with israel and we meet with them and address them in all kinds of ways. >> thank you, yield back. >> thank you. my question, first, on syria, then iran. i have been briefed on the target packages in syria. and i think, as you indicated, i think this is, let me say, first of all, when you don't have a strategy, and you fail to have a strategy, you end up with a power vacuum. and now we have russia filling that power vacuum. not unlike the terrorists do. and now, it has really created a complicated situation from my perspective. when i look at the target packages of russian strikes, it, as you mentioned, 90% are
anti-assad. only 10% are even remotely targeted toward isis. it raises the question of why is russia there? what is their intent? i've talked to our partners in the middle east. some say that russia's told them it's to defeat isis. and others tell me that the only reason they're there is to support the assad regime. very briefly, what do you believe is russia's intent in the region? >> i think their main intent, they have several intents, but their main intent was to shore up bashar al assad. he was losing ground, significant ground, when they decided to come in. they also want to protect their interests. they want to reassert themselves, but their primary interest was to shore up bashar al-assad. >> i tend to agree with that. and here's the problem this now presents, is when i talk to the
50 special forces guys, they're our best, but that's not going to win the day. and i would argue they're in harm's way right now. the, if there was a strategy, it was fighting the sunni extremisting, and when i talk to nations like turkey and jordan and the gulf states, they're willing to put a ground force in there to defeat isis, but they would never do so if it would embolden assad. now that the russians are in there backing assad, it doesn't look like he's going anywhere anytime soon. so where do we get our ground force now? >> ambassador nuland can speak more about this. we've been working very closely on an enhanced effort with the turks to close the border, as i mentioned, the syrian arab coalition which will be supported by our special forces, and frankly, mr. mccall, we've
ha lotting of discussions with our gulf allies and with jordan about the possibility of introducing ground troops. i think they've probably told you that too. so that's the status of that at this point. we work very closely with the jordanians about the issues in southern syria. >> jordan has been one of our behrs frie best friends in the region, but it's going to be very difficult to get a sunni ground force now that asaid -- it's going to be very difficult to get assad out now that the russians are in there. >> let me stress that that is our goal to get assad out, and we don't think the russians are going to have such an easy walk through syria with the opposition of the entire sunni world. so there may be a political opening here that we can exploit to move him out. >> i think it, if you could reach a political reconciliation, and prance even
partition the alquite, do you see any possibility of a joint strategy to defeat isis with the russians? >> the only way we'd end up in a joint strategy is if the russians agreed to the general premise that we have to have a cease-fire, a transitional government and a decision on getting rid of assad, that's what the sdeecretary's been working on. in the meantime, we're working on isis, and they're working in a different part of syria to defend assad. so i don't see it until it's all efforts on a transition, and that would allow us in turn to focus. >> and i would be very careful in trusting them, but i will tell you, based on the boston bombing experience, i learned that we have a common enemy, and that's the jihadists, the
chechen rebels, we know there are thousands of them joining isis. i predict that russia's going to have a homeland security problem of their own. and, as that becomes more of a problem for them to, their desire to move away from protecting the regime to attacking isis hopefully will shift. >> i think that's what's so frustrating to us is that we ought to share a goal of defeating isis and defeating those who come from russia to join isis, but that's not what the russian military is currently focussed on. >> my last question is with respect to iran. we've reached agreement which i disagree with, but nevertheless it's novembering forward, and since that time, iran has taken several provocative actions, including ballistic missile tests, the jailing of americans on frivolous charges and support of terrorist activities, via the irgc, the iranian revolutionary
guard. the quds force. i have asked they be placed on the terror list because they are the terror arm of iran. this would not lift the sanctions. it would keep the sanctions in place on the very area that iran wants to take the $100 billion and shift them toward these activities. what is your response as to whether or not designating them as an fto, whether that is a good decision? >> i'm virtually certain they're already subject to sanctions, aren't they, mr. mccall? >> they're not designated as a foreign terrorist organization, which would make a difference. >> i can't answer that question, mr. mccall. i'll have to get back to you. i would not think they'd meet the legal criteria, but i don't really know.
>> i would think the irgc, with the quds force would qualify to be a terrorist organization, though, ambassador nuland? >> again, i defer to anne on the questions involving iran. >> i look forward to the president's response. to date i have not received one. the chair now recognizes mr. shorem sherman. >> hear people say what is injure strategy. that the outcome is determined by what goes on here in washington. that's a very dangerous viewpoint. we can be a force group for good. but to control the outcome, i would ask anybody to put forward a strategy that would lead us to