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tv   U.S. Policy on Lebanon  CSPAN  October 11, 2017 2:06pm-3:25pm EDT

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that's what i'm going to do. and then come back. we'll hear you and we'll begin questions. two different bills. these democrats are always partisan in things like that. no. i'm going to vote twice on two different bills. thank you, senator warren. the hearing is recessed for 20 minutes. you can see the second part of this hearing on our website cspan.org. now we take you live to the house foreign affairs sub committee on the middle east for the hearing on lebanon. the head of the middle east bureau for the u.s. agency for international development will testify about u.s. efforts to promote democracy and economic growth in lebanon. florida congresswoman layton chairs the hearing.
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this is live coverage on cspan3. >> sub committee will come to order. after recognizing myself and ranking member duetch for five minutes each for opening statements. we will then hear from our witnesses and without objection the witnesses prepared statements will be made a part of the record. members may have five days to insert statements and questions for the record subject to the length limitation and the rules. as prior, we hear that this is your first congressional testimony so we'll ask you the really tough questions. kidding, kidding, kidding. the chair now recognizes herself for five minutes. since our sub committee's last hearing on lebanon, much has changed in our by rilateral
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relationship. the picture in neighboring syria continues to look dire. isis appears to be on its last legs yet again. but despite these changes and in some cases because of them, many of the same challenges and concerns about lebanon and u.s. policy remain. as one of my israeli friends put it, lebanon is essentially a constitution without a state. weak political institutions combined with the influx of refugees from syria have strained the lebanese government where it struggles to provide the basic services. most syrian refugees are living in sub standard shelters or apartments, struggling to find work, facing increasing hostility from neighboring -- from native leb niece. refugees now make up about 1/3 of the country's population.
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wow. economic challenges including the syrian war's damage to lebanon's tourism, real estate and construction industries means that lebanon's unemployment issues are set to continue and get even worse in the future. the terror group that controls many parts in society is only getting stronger as its fighters come back armed with new skills, with new weapons and with its ally assad sadly still in power. this is not only a threat to the future and stability of lebanon but it presents one of the greatest threats to our ally, the democratic jewish state of isreal and to our own national security interests as well. especially when you consider that lebanon's new president is a long time ally of hezballah at one point stating it's necessary so that it can battle isreal.
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i am aware there are those who argue that supporting the lebanese armed force system essential to developing strong security institutions that could serve as a counter weight. while i understand the need from an laf that can protect the borders, its territorial integrity mitigate the influence. have long given me concern over the u.s. commitment to supporting the laf launched simultaneous operations against isis along the lebanese syrian border with reports of coordination between the two groups. the message we should be delivering to lebanon is if they want u.s. military assistance,
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the laf can either cut off ties with hezbollah or they have to go at it alone. we must not allow any equipment to fall into the hands or any other terrorist organization. we provide more than military assistance and u.s. aid has its work cut out for itself. essentials, clean water, food, economic opportunities, especially when considering the influx of refugees. i'm interested in hearing what kind of work u.s. aid are doing to prepare for lebanon's legislative elections last year with the stakes higher than ever as hezbollah and iran try to cement control. i'm also interested in hearing current status on the state and u.s. citizen zakoff.
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by now we should familiar with his story. invited to obtain a conference, then detained, then arrested and tried and convicted of trumped up espionage charging to exact political and financial concessions. we heard from his youngest son omar just a few months ago. he sat right here in this room in front of us and he described what he and his family have gone through with his father's future and his father's health which is failing. i hope to hear some positive updates on what state is doing and what lebanon is doing to bring him home. as we talk about the best way to confront lebanon's numerous challenges, i worry that our short term objectives in lebanon are getting lost in what needs to be a broader strategy in the middle east. with assad consolidating power
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damascus, tehran continuing to reap the benefits of the jcpoa and hezbollah gaining more power in beirut, the land bridge to lebanon appears all but complete. chairman royce and ranking member engel have a great bill which would up the sanctions pressure on the terrorist group and i'm hopeful that it gets signed into law soon. i'm looking forward to hearing from our witnesses on exactly how u.s. policy has changed over the past year. how the administration's budget request for lebanon sprecorresp. u.s. policy in lebanon must be calibrated to sale back hezbollah. i have serious concerns about whether we're having the impact
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that we all desire. with that i'm pleased to yield to my ranking member. >> thank you, madame chairman. thanks to our witnesses for joining us. lebanon is a nation long defined by the role of outside forces and internal struggle. the borders of lebanon as a sovereign state were drawn by france after break of the umpire at the end of the world war i. sunni muslims and christian whose disagreed on the direction of the country. spent 15 years in civil war and continued strive since that ended in 1990. today it's the civil war neighboring syria that has opened its arms to help its suffering neighbors that's really altered the reality in lebanon. because lebanon has opened its arms to help its suffering neighbors, but has struggled to keep up with the shear scale of the influx. lebanon has observed over one million syrian refugees in a
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nation of just four million people. more than 25% of the entire country's population. it would be i 85 lent equivalen- the united states has stepped up offering hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, improved water, and infrastructure services and to help ensure good governance. at a time when syrians represent about 40% of lebanon's public school students, 40% of the public school students, we would build new schools and train teachers to care for the flow of traumatized students. while we look and see the chaos, hezbollah has looked on and seen opportunity. rather than adhering to u. this security council resolution which calls for the disarmament for all armed groups in lebanon has done exactly the
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opposite. they're built up their military capacity, propped up the assad regime and entrenched itself in the lebanesge government. earlier they called hezbollah a resistance arm. they now hold roughly 10% of the seats in parliament. some shiite populations have no choice but to rely on it not just for security but for social services, school and health care. and i think its worth repeating the obvious here. a legitimate lebanese government can't function when it is in constant power struggle to govern with a nonstate actor. calling themselves a resistance movement or political party does not diminish what they truly are. an iranian backed terror organizations. they have destabilized the entire region that have killed americans, europeans, israelis
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and arabs. when we held a hearing in lebanon in this room three years okay i noticed hezbollah had 75,000 rockets aimed at isreal. today as a direct of support from iran, they have over 150,000 rockets capable of reaching every corner of israeli territory. just before lebanon's elections i expressed my concern that the selection of a new president who is beholden to hezbollah would greatly diminish efforts to ensure that lebanon armed forces have sole responsibility for the country's security. sadly my concerns have proven to be well-founded. we are now seeing lebanese armed forces who have a monopoly coordinate with hezbollah to fight isis with syria. so i hope our witnesses today can help us unpack this dangerous trend, help us understand the administration's strategy for working with our
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international partners, to help l lebanes society overcome the influence and i hope we can take this opportunity to discuss an issue not only pertinent to u.s. policy in lebanon but also more broadly in the lesion. former national security adviser to vice president biden jake sullivan testified earlier today that this administration strategy in syria, as he put it, has created open running room to assert greater control over syria including areas adjacent to the border with isreal. current policy has been casual about allowing iran and hezbollah to exploit zones to their advantage krcreating the risk they set up awe permanent presence. has indicated that russia and syria have taken advantage of the deescalation zones to change the balance of power on the ground and to retake the
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territory that that previously controlled before may. you helped to negotiate these de-escalation zones so i hope you can provide us with the process of how it -- to help end the blood shed in syria. i appreciate it and thanks so much for our witnesses again. >> thank you so much. now i'm pleased to recognize members who if they could make an opening statement. i first turn to mr. isa who is a renowned expert on lebanon and has more than a familiar interest in the region. madame chair, you said something i want to set the record straight on. the anger toward the refugees, although it could exist, appeals
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in -- pail pales in comparison what-to-what we have in the united states. the lebanese have been incredibly tolerant and helpful putting basically double shifts on all their schools even though they can't afford it in order to try to educate and maintain these people. i visited lebanon and saw what is essentially pieces of wood, cardboard and a piece of plastic along the edge of a road, but it's still the best that could be done with the funds available. the one point that i think i would take personal privilege with is there are three parties. yes, one of them is christian. but the mosaic of lebanon includes orthodox and plenty of other religions that have historically been both together and at odds. in fact, to paraphrase winston church hill, the worst form of government there is is for democracy except for all the others. the reality is lebanon is a
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dysfunctional democracy because it is a captured state. they do the best they can. it is not good enough. but i would say here today that if we disengage from lebanon inevtably we give that country to those who have taken it hostage and only through active engagement through backing the moderate forces that are in fact in control of lebanon do we have an opportunity to guarantee that they will not have that land bridge all the way to the edge of isreal and to the mediterranean. madame chair ranking member, thank you for the opportunity and i look forward to both of our witnesses. >> thank you for setting the record straight. you're quite right in making that. >> as a lebanese american of orthodox faith, i just had to go one past that dominance that was assumed. >> well, thank you. now please to yield to mr.
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boyle. >> thank you. i applaud the subcommittee chair and ranking member for holding this hearing. i believe that a country we pay too little attention to in a very busy and active middle east is lebanon especially for its ability and potential to further destabilize the region. i'm looking forward to hearing the testimony today. when i ask my questions, i'll really be focusing on those 150,000 rockets that ranking member spoke about and some comments that i was given from a couple of israeli generals the last time i was there about the prospects for a third israeli/lebanon war. but anyway, i'll reserve that until it's time for questions. thank you. >> thank you so much. in further request for time i will introduce our witnesses. but i want to point out that i'm so very pleased that president trump and secretary tillerson
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have nominated dr. pablet for the position of secretary of state, verification and compliance compliance. it happened just today. for nearly 20 years he was my senior adviser on foreign affairs matters and served as the chief of staff and staff correct or for a full committee. we wish her much success and i hope that the senate approves her nomination quickly. i'm pleased to welcome our witness. first michael ratney who serve z as the deputy assistant secretary for the state department. prior to michael appointment he served as the u.s. special envoy for syria and as the u.s. consul general in jerusalem. since joining the foreign service, mr. ratney has done multiple tours in the middle east and beyond. thank you so much for being here. i'm sorry that we missed you the last time we were traveling
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through isreal a few months ago. we look forward to your testimony. and next we welcome jean pryor. she's the acting deputy assistant administrator for the middle east bureau of u.s. aid with a focus on lebanon, jordan, the west bank and gaza. ms. pryor has also held various positions for u.s. aid in afghanistan and other countries in the region. thank you so much, jean, for being with us. we look forward to your testimony. i want the members to than we had invited the department of defense to come and offer a witness for this hearing, but unfortunately repeated attempts to confirm a witness went unanswered. so we thank you for coming. we'll begin wu. >>. >> distinguished members of the subcommittee thank you for inviting me here today to
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discuss our bilateral relationship with lebanon. i'd like to request my full opening statement be submitted for the record. >> without objection. >> lebanon has a critical role to play in facing our foremost national security challenges. from the campaign to defeat isis to our efforts to pushback against iran's influence. a safe stable and prosperous lebanon is key to advancing n. july president trump welcomed -- and reaffirmed our continued support. the threat of isis and other violent extremist groups as well as the refugee situation. president trump expressed our government's deep concerns regarding hezbollah's activityinactivit activities, particularly those in syria. he prledged the government's assistance, especially the lebanese armed forces as a work against extremism and instability. to that end the united states is
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and will remain lebanon's top security assistance partner. the united states has provided more than $1.5 billion in security assistance including the provision of training and military equipment. there's no better evidence of the impact of this support than the lebanese army's successes against isis. the lebanese armed forces or the laf has been defending lebanon's borders since isis first invaded lebanon in 2014. what they've accomplished in such a short time and under difficult circumstances his been extreme le impressive. lebanon faces many challenges. few countries have suffered as much as the crisis in syria. today one out of five is a refugee. this is as you've noted an incredible number for a country smaller than the state of connecticut. the united states stands ready to help. since the start of the crisis, the united states provided
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nearly $1.6 billion in humanitarian aid to the refugees. we've also provided $1.2 billion in economic and development since 2006 to the lebanese people strengthening the government's ability to provide basic services for its people. i know my colleague from u.s. aid will further address our efforts on that front. lob none faces another challenge the terrorist group hezbollah. they've long been a menace to the region. with iranian support it continues to grow its military arsenal. and of course hezbollah exists to threaten isreal. whose citizens face the horrible reality of tens of thousands of hezbollah rockets pointed southward. hezbollah continuely attempts to undermine the laf. it also works to undermine the
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lebanese government's authority and through the actions in syria it further destabilized an already fragile region. one step, one recent step we've taken to pushback against hezbollah is to work with the u.n. security council to strength the mandate. the new strengthen resolution passed on august 30th demand it enhance its paroles and inspections in southern lebanon, something we think is necessary to ensure hezbollah cannot continue to build up its military arsenal so close to our ally. the new resolution also calls for time lines and benchmarks to help build up the laf capacity. we continue to coordinate with our colleagues at treasury and in the intelligence community and this effort. just yesterday the state department announced rewards for justice offers for two senior hezbollah operatives. these and many other ways we're working to promote a safe,
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independent and stable lebanon which is in the interest of the american people as amuch as the lebanese. i thank you for the opportunity to testify. >> thank you so much. ms. pryor. >> thank you. chairman, ranking member, distinguished members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to discuss usaid assistance to the lebanon. since 2006 with the support of congress, the united states has provided approximately $1.2 billion in economic assistance to the lebanese people. today with the technical experti expertise these funds have played a role on good gov -- lebanon is facing many challenges. the spillover from the syrian crisis has weakened the economy.
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investment and trade with neighbors has slowed, tourism is down and unemployment has nearly doubled since 2012. in the context of these challenges i would like to talk about how u.s. and its programming are helping deliver partners and services across lebanon supporting lebanon's private sector and enhancing growth. one program i would like to highlight is the middle east north africa investment initiative which supports business startups. these are the entrepreneurs who are pushing forward and creating jobs. among them is a 28-year-old woman who studied in montreal and returned home to open a small food processing factory in northern lebanon. today this woman owns the first wheat free bakery in lebanon. when i was in beirut i had a chance to visit her cafe. her products are now available at grocery stores in lebanon and she's looking to expand to international markets. they work with small producers
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and cooperatives in lebanon. as part of the program we have helped more than 1,500 families and sales in it is production of marketing honey. this is an example of lasting impact the aid can have in lebanon. currently working in partnership with municipalities to promote stability and counter malign influences by improving access to public services, empowering civil society to promote a culture of good citizenship and offering an opportunity. to strengthen the quality of lebanon's public schools by training teachers, improving reading skills and increasing access for -- to education for vulnerable lebanese and syrian refugees. last month i visited a public school where children attend in two shifts because of the increase in students due to the syrian crisis.
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this school and 150 other schools across lebanon benefit from the retention support program which provides academic and extracurricular help to prevent lebanese and nonlebanese children from dropping out of school. another aspect of our education support is the university scholarship program that gives financially disadvantaged youth an opportunity to study at either the american university of beirut or the lebanese american university. since 2010 with the support of congress, us aid has funded nearly 900 undergraduate scholarships with 110 expected to start in the next academic year. last month i spoke with 18 recipients who spoke how the scholarship as affected them, their families. one student told me the support allowed her to be the first person from her village to attend university. these scholars are leaders and change makers in the communities. the the program also plays -- while in lebanon i traveled
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where we helped the regional water company with new equipment, assistance and techniques for water management and treatment. with our assistance, the water establishment establishment can sustain its own operations and has improved the supply of clean water to around one million residents including syrian refugees. u.s. aid is also providing food assistance through the world food program. approximately 670,000 in lebanon receive food aid assistance through food cards that are redeemable at shops nationwide. we believe these programs contribute to helping to secure a more peaceful and stable lebanon. we continue to work to promote prosperity. thank you for the opportunity to today testify and i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you so much. excellent testimony. we thank you both for being
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here. as i mentioned in my opening statement i'm hopeful state can give us an update on u.s. permanent resident and lebanese citizen who was being held unjustly in iran. mr. ratney, can you tell us what both state and lebanon are doing to bring him home? >> ma'am, we're well familiar with the case. like you, we've meet with his family and we all it. there's some privacy considerations associated with discussing the spsecifics of it. for the purposes of this hearing, suffice to say that we are painfully familiar with the injustices of people trapped in the darkness of the iranian justice system. what i'd like to do is go back and see if we can get you some more details in a different setting. >> thank you so much. totally understand. mr. ratney, many of us are concerned about hezbollah's influence over the lebanese
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government, especially the lebanese armed forces, laf, considering the increased hezbollah/ hezbollah/laf, can you explain our assistance to the laf. you know you call it laugh, but it doesn't seem right. laf helping to gather our goal of rolling back iranian influence throughout the region and do you support conditioning our aid to the laf on the laf cutting its ties with hezbollah. >> it's a very important question. in beirut, lebanon gets a lot of visitors from senior military officials from the department of defense who consistently regard the laf as a reliable and credible partner in the count counterterrorism campaign. they regard it as a partner
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worthy of our assistance and partnership and we share that view very much. as i think one of your colleagues has said, lebanese armed forces and lebanon in general is operating in a complicate difficult sometimes fragile environment. but we hold them to certain standards. as we have seen or i should say what we have not seen is evidence of the sort of actual military cooperation, maneuver cooperation that would really cause us concern between the laf and hezbollah. we have seen at times things to us we would consider deconfliction. these are two military forces operating in the same battle space. it's important they don't start fighting each other. there's times including during the recent campaign to oust isis in which we did start to see signals of higher levels of communication between the laf and hezbollah, things that do start to cause us concern. i can assure you that those are foremost on our agenda when we
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talk with the lebanese leadership. i know it was foremost on the agenda when the prime minister was here both in his meetings with the administration and i'm quite sure when he was meeting with your colleagues here on capitol hill. it will continue to be so. i think that's the way we will continue to take it, to have a forthright conversation with them. what i don't think we can do is simply abandon them and cede the ta territory to hezbollah. to your point about pushing back on iranian influence, hezbollah is clearly a major tool, an expression of iranian influence and expansionism. if we abandon lebanon to hezbollah, we effectively abandon hezbollah to iran. >> good point. ms. pryor, lebanon as we know is scheduled to hold parliamently elections in may, 2018 in which pro western parties will be challenged by resurgent hezbollah dominated coalitions.
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it's my understanding a lot of the work that we were once doing in lebanon were having to scale back over last year at least and may not be renewed. can you tell us what the u.s. is doing to support the 2018 elections process, what is our role there, how much is embassy beirut currently spending to help pro western political parties and actors in lebanon without interfering in the electoral process? have these numbers changed at all? have these figures in the last few months? if so, why the change? thank you. >> thank you. we still maintain robust support to civil society groups. we intend to do that in the future years as well. it is a vibrant civil society as you may know and valuable in holding, especially municipalities accountable to their citizens. in terms of elections planning,
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we currently in discussions with the embassies in beirut and what is the best approach for. that we're happy to deep you updated as those plans come together. i defer to michael on the embassy side. >> how much is embassy beirut currently spending? are we involved in helping governance, rule of law, civil society, political parties, not that we're involve in pushing a political party, but in the realm of governance, the rule of law, human rights, fostering democracy, those big ticket items. >> let me get you a breakdown of all of. that doii don't have all of tho numbers but i'm happy to share that with you. >> thank you so much for being here. mr. deutch is recognized. >> thank you. i want to take a moment to acknowledge ms. pryor. we have lots of -- we have lots
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of debates here. we talk about the budget and why it's so short sighted and inadvisable to make drastic cuts to our usaid budget and at a time when there is so much bad news, your description of the students and entrepreneurs and kids who are being helped with the work that you do, deserves our deep appreciation. i just wanted to tell you thanks. mr. ratney, this committee passed a resolution, and i should probably thank all of those out in the field doing good work, too. it's not limited only you to. we passed a resolution calling on the european to designate hezbollah as a terrorist organization. in 2013 the eu designated hezbollah's military wing but not the -- that's a false distinction. last year the gcc both
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designated as a terrorist organization. they made to distinction between military and political wing because they understand how the organization works as a single entity. the eu shouldn't make that distinction either. europeans argued until 2013 designating hezbollah as a terrorist organization would hinder their ability to work with the lebanese government. today they argue that the full designation would hinder their ability to help syrian refugees inside lebanon. i hear their concerns. first, i think it's worth saying that artificially distinguishing between two wings of hezbollah sends a deeply troubling message of le jet myselfing hezbollah's activity. second, i want to thank you for stating your testimony that the administration has called on all governments to designate hezbollah in its entirety, but i'd like you to speak to what specifically we are doing to work with our european allies on this issue and the broader issue of countering hezbollah. is it your view that an eu
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designation would have real tangible benefits like improved cooperation to freeze hezbollah's assets in europe, block fundraising activities and help prevent the types of devastating attacks that have been a signature of their terrorist activity, all of which would ultimately be beneficial in lebanon as well? >> thanks. i fully agree with you. hezbollah is not an organization with separate wings. it's a single organization. it might undertake political activities, but it's the same organization that undertakes its terrorist activities and all of the nefarious activities that cause us and isreal and others in the international community so much concern. it's a false distinction. we've had some progress in convincing all of our allies and they've started to designate hezbollah as a single organization, a terrible organization. eu continues to draw what we regard, you regard as a false distinction. to their argument that it complicates their relationship
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with lebanon, we continue to have a fine relationship despite the fact that we designate only a single hezbollah as an organization. likewise our assistance to refugees, we're probably the largest provider of assistance to refugees inside lebanon and our designation hasn't affected that at all . it continues part of the diplomatic engagement with the european union. we want them to understand how we perceive this. tom bosser at the white house wrote an op-ed that addressed this issue specifically. we i think all need to stop pretending that hezbollah is something that it's not. it is a terrorist organization. it conducts activities and plans for activities that threaten us, threaten the lebanese people and threaten lebanon's neighbors. >> thank you. i appreciate your strong statement and your efforts. and just quickly, i want to go back to the issue of the deescalation zones and the
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suggestions that russian and syria have taken advantage of them to change the balance of power on the ground. can you speak to the de-escalation zones, whether they're doing what was intended. are these allegations true and if so what can be done about it? >> thanks for the question. we have been heavily involved in negotiating and trying to implement these de-escalation areas. there's pieces of that i'm happy to talk about and other elements i'd prefer to talk about in closed session with your permission. the deescalation area in the southwest in particular is the one we've been preoccupied with over the past months. we've worked with the russians and jordanians since early this summer and began with a cease-fire that started on july 9th. it was to accomplish two things. one, to stop the violence and freeze the conflict between the regime and the opposition. in doing so, to stop those principle drivers of misery of the syrian people, the violence
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that's afflicted those communities. that's driven refugee flows, that's destroyed property and lives and families by freezing the conflict it helps create a condition in which nor mal tee can return to people's lives and we can create an opening and a pathway to a real political resolution. it's also supposed to do something else which is to start to exclude iran and its proxies from syria. we have a view on this. it's the same view as the israeli government. we don't think iran should be in syria at all. we don't think hezbollah should be in syria at all. they've been a curse on syria. we have to start somewhere. by beginning with deescalation, beginning with elements by stopping the violence and stopping that core conflict and by undertaking activities which i'd be happy to discuss in a different setting, start to chip away at this proxy presence in those areas. we think we'd make a contribution not just to the lives of the syrians, but to the security of neighbors,
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particularly isreal and jordan. >> i would like to continue the conversation in an appropriate setting. appreciate it. >> i as well. thank you so much. now we turn to mr. cook of california. >> thank you very much madame chairman. i appreciate your candor on some of these responses. i've got to tell you, it's very, very hard for us i think to show or feel any empathy for lebanon as a whole because i think most of us feel that hezbollah controls the country. i think they have a strong influence on the lebanese army. obviously the iranians are supplying through the ground weapons. everything like that. so i almost have the israeli viewpoint and that is as was
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previously mentioned the number of missiles on the northern flank of isreal, that the country right now that has a terrorist group that has had a history of being at war with isreal and other individuals as well as killing 173 marines and other military personnel. i believe it was 1983. as well as kidnapping a u.s. marine observer. excuse me, a u.n. observer by the name of rich higgins, torturing him, cas traiting him, killing him. there's a lot of history. to get over that when somebody that has military background and on the armed services committee, i think it's most serious threat right now to isreal, because of the rockets, because of their history and everything else, and
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of course isreal unfortunately, i don't want to get too military, but they're faced with iran. they're faced with hezbollah. they're faced -- the situation in yemen. could i don't know if that's been confirmed about the scud missiles going into saud. sawed d -- i feel like sooner or later if anything happens in iran it's going to happen in lebanon at the same time because you have to accept in who runs that country. i know you e will laborated. if you could agree or disagree with me because it's very -- i understand the schools, but all those schools are going to be destroyed when you have an exchange of that many missiles going into isreal. it's going to be total
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devastation. and i cannot see any way out of that box with those -- that terrorist organization having that much control. >> it's certainly unnerving the picture you paint and the reality on the ground. you use the word empathy. i guess i feel a certain amount of empathy. maybe it's because i lived there at one point. maybe it's because of very longstanding and ties between the united states and lebanon. there's connections that are undeniable. empathy doesn't address those hard nosed questions of security that we have to grapple with. it doesn't address this question of hezbollah's presence in lebanon and the effect that has on the stability of the lebanese state and the security of isreal and those are serious questions we need to grapple with. we need to grapple with the tools that we have in our tool kit. some of that is strengthening the genuine national institutions that the lebanese state and the lebanese armed forces, the laf, foremost among
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them. this is a genuine institution recognized by the lebanese people as an institution of stability, one the lebanese people can be proud of. one that can represent and defend lebanese sovereignty. that's one way. what we did in the u.n. last month, trying to strengthen the mandate of unifil, an imperfect creature, but both israel and lebanon recognize that its presence there has a deescalatory calming influence on the ground and we fought hard, ambassador haley fought hard to ensure that it wasn't simply business as usual. we were putting in place the ability of unifil to address these concerns, to monitor in the first instance times when unifil is blocked from being able to do their job, being able to conduct inspections. if that happens, they're obliged now to report that back. so this is how we're pursuing it. and, again, i go back to a comment that i made earlier, that in an imperfect world and imperfect region, i think it
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would be a mistake to simply abandon lebanon to those forces, to hezbollah, to those forces of evil. i think we're duty-bound to at least try to reinforce those elements of lebanese society that can start to push back on those forces. >> well, once again, i just want to thank you very much. i'm running out of time here. and i appreciate, as i said, your candor. and i kneel and i yield back. >> mr. boyle of pennsylvania. >> thank you. as i previewed when i was briefly speaking at the opening, i wanted to talk about the rockets -- or the prospect of what would be a third israeli/lebanese war. right now there are approximately 150,000 or so rockets in southern lebanon being pointed at israel, far more than was the case a decade ago. but it's not just quantity.
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it's also quality. these aren't rockets that can only reach hifa and be fired randomly with a big variance in terms of where they would actually land. these are, of course, iranian-funded, all of them, much more accurate missiles that can reach throughout israel. so given that, and given -- i mentioned or previewed what a couple israeli generals told me. when i was in israel two years ago, a few of them independently use not the word "if" but "when" there is a third war with lebanon. needless to say, that is deeply concerning, given, as you pointed out, mr. rat knee, just how much damage would be done between a third war between israel, lebanon or israel/lebanon/hezbollah. so i was curious what you think
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the prospects are of a potential third war between israel and lebanon, how likely or unlikely that is, and what sort of events you would look for that would bring it about. >> thank you. i'm a little reluctant to estimate the likelihood of it. but i will very much agree with you, just how unnerving, what a daunting proposition this is. you're absolutely right. the quantity and quality of weapons in hezbollah's arsenal is vastly greater than it was in 2006, during the last war. and you don't even have to be in northern israel. you can be in any part of israel to feel that palpable sense of what it would be when war broke out between israel and hezbollah. the israelis certainly have the right and ability to defend themselves. that's the first thing we would recognize. we also recognize that neither israel nor lebanon nor hezbollah, to my knowledge, want to get into a war. >> if you're not going to talk
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about how likely or unlikely it is, that's the point i want to get to. unfortunately, just in the middle east, so many things going on, unfortunately, lebanon has not gotten the attention that i think it warrants. so how much should this be on our radar screen that hezbollah would be gearing toward this, or is it, as some people think, something they would not want at least right now because of all of the other things they're involved with? >> yes. so i think, despite a lot of the bluster you hear from hezbollah leadership, and there's some particularly obnoxious statements about the sort of damage it would inflict, i think they also recognize a war with israel would result in unimaginable damage to lebanon, to the lebanese state. not just to hezbollah, not just to their military arsenal, but much more broadly within lebanon, including in areas far afield. and i think they recognize that. and i would hope that they wouldn't want to own that, because that would be the
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responsibility that they would bear in the eent vent of a war. for obvious reasons, israel doesn't want a war. there would be material damage and human damage that is hard to calculate, but something certainly they would avoid at all costs. i don't think any side, the government, hezbollah itself, or the israelis are in any way enthusiastic about those prospects. that leaves us with what do we do to try to avoid it. some of that is making sure that lebanon and hezbollah understand the cost of such a war. and some of it is the steps that we're taking, some public, some quiet, to try to push back on lebanon's expansion, efforts that were taken to try to squeeze hezbollah -- i'm sorry, hezbollah's expansion. efforts that we're doing to try to squeeze hezbollah's access to financing, money, moving money in the international financial system, to raising money overseas. and, of course, what i was saying earlier, steps that we're taking to try to strengthen
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genuinely nationally responsible institutions of the lebanese state that can perform the functions of a government and begin to marginalize hezbollah and push them on to the fringes. >> well, i only have 20 seconds or so remaining. but toward that last part, that sort of institutional building that very much segues into the important work usaid does, and why it's important that this sort of soft power of the united states is not cut at this critical time. so with that, i will yield back. >> good points. thank you so much, mr. boyle. am now pleased to recognize mr. issa of california. >> thank you. mr. secretary, the round line of questioning included a discussion of 2006. and even though this isn't a military-oriented committee, if you don't mind giving your opinion of what you think, if this is correct. in 2006, israel made a decision to take out hezbollah. they rolled heavy equipment,
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tanks, into south lebanon. they bombed virtually every institution and every bridge in lebanon, completely destroying the ability to move anywhere in lebanon. at the end of more than 30 days, they withdrew with their casualties and essentially have not been back in. so when i look at that, isn't it reasonable to say that at least at that time, with the defensive weapons available to hezbollah, the israeli army was unable to defeat hezbollah? >> so that's a judgment i would rather not make. >> well, let's go through this. was their goal to diminish or detour hezbollah? >> so -- >> no, just please. because i've got very little time. >> certainly. >> i'll get to my point if you just answer a couple questions. >> yeah, for sure. >> there were rocket attacks actually after they pulled out, weren't there? >> israel is going to use the tools and means at their disposal to deter hezbollah and
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they would do it again. >> okay. so they may be willing to try what failed before. and the reason i'm getting to this, i was in both israel, all the way to the border, literally watching tanks come back destroyed with dead crews in israel. i was in the north literally looking at the destruction in both hezbollah areas, perhaps. but throughout the christian communities, including the destruction of the environment there by destroying the oil reservoirs and taking down hospitals. i saw a war at both sides 11 years ago. and at the end of it all, hezbollah was still there. and israel had not defeated them. and the reason i say that is not to diminish the fact that hezbollah is a cancer on lebanese society, and has been for my 16.5 years in congress. but if we, in fact, assume that israel cannot -- could not, at least, at that time, take out hezbollah, then it's fair to say that all the things we will do
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to strengthen lebanese society, and to strengthen lebanese armed forces, are not effectively meant for a moment to believe that they can supplant hezbollah effectively, but rather to begin or continue moving lebanon away from a dependency that could cause hezbollah to be a bigger factor in lebanese government and lebanese society. >> so for all the reasons you say, and many more, that's why i don't think the lebanese nor the israelis relish the prospect of a war at this point, nor should they. and so rather than calculate or try to calculate the impact of such a war and who might prevail, better that we focus on how we avoid such a conflict. >> so back to the avoiding. since 2006, we have continued to support the lebanese armed forces, an armed forces, i understand has never lost weapons. they have, in fact, been successful in at least -- in part, in keeping isis out of
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their country without u.s. military on the ground. we have provided them aid, including even missile firing, propeller-driven aircraft. and they have used them effectively to maintain a isis-free lebanon. that's the good part, right? >> additionally, i'm going to ask you this one closing question. and this is in your wheelhouse. both of yours. if the lebanese government were to collapse because of another war or other activity, who would likely prevail? hezbollah and the shias? isis and the sunnis? or, in fact, would we be back at a civil war? i and do want conjecture here, because those are the three possibilities if a multiconfessional government were to fall. >> so with respect -- i'm not going to pick one of those three, but the fact those are
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the three options really illustrates the urgent, absolute need to ensure it doesn't happen. that you have a viable, credible, dependable lebanese state, one that we support. so those -- neither of those three prospects ever come to pass. >> so in closing, the three pillars of lebanese society, of course, are multiconfessional democracy, a banking system, and maybe i'm putting the order backwards. and a level of tolerance for refugees, including the palestinian refugees who still are in great numbers, and now over 1 million syrian refugees. as we look at threats to their society, if you would comment briefly on the threats to the banking community, should it fall, the threats we've already talked about to multiconfessional democracy. but the last one, if we are unable to ensure that sufficient aid is provided for refugees in order to keep those quasi camps from becoming hot beds of terrorism.
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>> you know, having visited lebanon the last time it was about a year ago, i can tell you that that last issue, the presence of that huge number of refugees, seems to be the one that is foremost on the minds of lebanese. and i can understand why, when you have such an enormous percentage of your country to be refugees, not just -- frankly, not just syrians, but refugees that have been there from other flows of refugees in the past. who are appreciative of the fact that lebanon has been willing to host these and we're aware of the burden it places. we try to help with some assistance, as do other donors. the end of the day, we're dependent on lebanon's ability and willingness to welcome all those refugees. they're clearly keen to see them leave. one of the reasons that we have been focused on deescalation of the conflict in syria, and i don't want to overstate the prospects for this. but one of the reasons is, you start to create the conditions in which refugees can return to their home. i think initially, you'll start to see internally displaced persons who are still in syria return to their homes. but eventually, you start to
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create the conditions in which refugees feel safe enough they can return voluntarily to where they're from. that would be an unmitigated good. we're going to try to continue to work with the lebanese government to ensure they can bear the burden of these refugees and work with the security services to ensure that those refugee communities are not infiltrated by bad guys, including isis. and i know they work very hard to prevent that. so there's an area where we can see where the u.s. can actually make a difference in helping lebanese society maintain stability, despite those challenges. as you point out, the banking system also kind of a pillar, national institution, if you will, of lebanese society. something that's been a backbone of their economy. i think maintaining the viability of the banking system is important, but also, as we tell them and advise them very forthrightly, ensuring that that banking system is not exploited by bad elements doesn't become a haven for money laundering, the record thus far has been good. we want to ensure that continues to be the case. and the broader issue is a much longer conversation about
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maintaining con investigational coexistence with a country that has been riding that balance, sometimes just barely and sometimes not at all over the course of its -- in fact, its entire existence. that's where it sometimes gets tricky. and that's where sometimes even our ability and obviously the situation that lebanon is experiencing now, where the good news is they have a government. the bad news is that hezbollah is a participant in that government. it's kind of symptomatic of just those sorts of societal forces that are at play. >> thank you. and thank you, madam chair. >> thank you, mr. issa, very much. mr. schneider of illinois. >> thank you. and, again, thank you, madam chairman, the ranking member for hosting or calling this hearing. and to our witnesses for being here this afternoon. i want to associate myself with the remarks that my colleague from florida, mr. deutsche, made, ms. pryer for the work that you and usaid do, not just in lebanon, but around the world. and we have talked about this in
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this forum many times. but the need to emphasize the three pillars of not just defense, but diplomacy and development, and working to protect and pursue american interests around the globe is critical. so thank you for all that you do. i'm going to pick up the conversation where we were, talking earlier on hezbollah. and two-and-a-half years ago, congress passed and the president signed hezbollah international financing prevention act. and to what extent has that legislation had in affecting hezbollah's ability to execute its strategy to achieve its goals? >> so that piece of legislation and others that we have are among the tools in our tool box. and one of our objectives, one of our overriding objectives, is to deny hezbollah access to financing. where they move their money, how they move their money, how they get access to funds. and that's a tool that we have. and as information in the case of this particular piece of
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legislation, particular tool that we have, as we get information, as our intelligence community and treasury and state department have information to act on, we'll pursue those cases. we've also pursued designations of individuals who have been involved in moving lebanese -- i'm sorry, moving hezbollah money. designated them under various authorities that we have to ensure that they don't have access to the financial system. it's a challenging environment. in many cases, hezbollah doesn't use the legitimate financial system in order to move money. so working with our partners, and that's a global problem. it's not simply a regional or u.s. problem. global problem. to look for all of the ways in which hezbollah and groups like it are able to move money and able to raise money internationally. and that continues to be an enormous priority for us. >> so it's not just with respect to money. it's with respect to acquiring arms, one of the things we have talked about here today is the 150,000 rockets that hezbollah has stockpiled in southern lebanon, aimed at israel. there was also growing concern of hezbollah developing an
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indigenous rocket manufacturing capacity. can you touch a bit on that, something we have introduced legislation last week to try to address that issue, but what specifically you think we should be doing? >> so there's elements of your question that i prefer to answer in a closed session, if i could. but clearly, where you're going is an important -- very important point. principle source of most of the rockets and weapons is from one place. it's from iran. this is the sort of mega problem that hangs over so much of what ear doing in the middle east and certainly in lebanon and finding ways to prevent those flows of weapons is a major priority of ours. it's hard. but it's extremely important. depends not just the security of lebanon, security of israel and stability of the region depend on us to find ways to push back on that. >> and that's a good lead into my third question, which i suspect we'll have a similar answer that we'll need to have in a different location. but the deescalation zone in syria. the real grave concern, not just
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militias aligned with iran having personnel there, but literally irgc personnel on the border with israel with jordan, destabilizing that region, creating that land bridge from tehran into lebanon, through syria. what steps are we taking? what steps should we be taking further to make sure that doesn't happen? >> so as we've -- as we have undertaken these discussions with the russians and the jordanians, and that's been the principle trilateral kind of group that has been discussing the deescalation area, the israelis have been fully knitted into that process. and as many times as i go to i man or elsewhere to meet with the russians or jordanians, their views, their concerns, their information about what's going on is critical to our understanding of that part of syria. and clearly one of the reasons we entered into this is because it's not just for the stability and security and ending the violence inside of syria. it's to take steps that is going to -- that are going to address the security of syria's
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neighbors. israel and jordan foremost among them. they're very much part of these conversations. i'm leaving friday night for another trip to israel and that's going to be number one topic of my discussions there. >> i wish you a good ask successful trip. what more can we do to help what you're trying to accomplish to make sure as we talk about the security issues and the security issues are obviously paramount, but also continuing to address the -- in many cases, overwhelming development issues in lebanon? >> thank you. your continued support. because of your support, we're doing some amazing work in lebanon. taking the stress off some of those host communities. you know, for example, i was in a city in which half the population is now syrian refugees. but because of the support you've given us, we're able to help them address those challenges, and find win-win projects so that it isn't just syrian refugees getting help,
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but disadvantaged lebanese, as well. and bringing the two groups together and having them see that they really share the same problem set and they can also find solutions together, as well. >> and if i can just say in one closing second, that the investments we make in these projects, as was referenced earlier, may be at risk of being destroyed in a conflict. but i think making this investment today are the best path we have to avoid those future conflicts that hopefully can stand for a long time. so with that, i yield back. but i thank you very much. >> thank you, very much, mr. schneider. mr. donovan of new york. >> thank you, very much, madam chairwoman. i'm disadvantaged. i came from another hearing, as did my friend, tom swazy. i just wanted to ask both of you one question. kind of three parts. in each of your area of responsibility, state, usaid, and my colleague of illinois touched on it a little bit. what do you find is each of your greatest challenges in the
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region? what are you guys doing in each of your various areas of responsibility to address those challenges, and what would you need from either the subcommittee or full committee, this entire congress, to help you further your efforts? >> that's a big question. [ inaudible ] so this is a big, complicated region that we're dealing with. and the parts of it that i deal with it are a microcosm of that complexity. and within it, whether we're talking about our subject today of lebanon, syria that i deal with extensively, jordan, the israeli palestinian file, which we're still preoccupied with. all of these are individually extraordinarily complicated questions, in which we're trying to find a measure of stability to bolster our partners, bolster the cause of moderation and decency and the ability and will to fight back against extremism.
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whether it's iranian or jihadi or what have you. so that's the complexity. that's the environment we're dealing with, and the tools we have, whether they're military, whether they're development, whether they're diplomatic or all critical. finding the way to knit that all together is our biggest challenge right now, to assure that all of those tools work in concert. it's what we have been trying to do in syria after a six or seven-year war that has left so many people dead, and we're trying to end the conflict in a decent way, decent way for the syrian people. and we have certain tools at our disposal. some military, some assistance, some diplomatic. likewise, on the file, the lebanon file that we're talking about today. that's the challenge, is making sure we're coordinated and knitted up, and i felt -- i will tell you my own personal experience, we've had a considerable degree of support from congress in doing that. >> thank you. we've talked a lot about the refugee crisis already. but there's another challenge
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that lebanon faces that i'm equally concerned about. and the impact of the syrian war on lebanon's economy. lebanese farmers have been particularly impacted, because they have lost the land roots to their traditional markets for their produce. so we have been working with these farmers to improve the quality of their products, pursue more cost effective techniques, and help them locate alternative markets. but the impact -- >> interrupt you. when you say lost their routes, is that because of terrorism? >> the closure of the border with syria. >> i see. >> so -- and i've seen devastated rural communities. but with very small targeted investments, we've been able to see some of these communities come back to life. so, again, i would just say, your continued support is what's most helpful. thank you. >> thank you both for your service. >> thank you so much for those -- that question. thank you. and mr. swasy, i'm just so happy
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that i finally learned how to say your name that i'm just going to say it a lot. >> thank you. so does unifil recognize the existence of the rockets on the southern border of lebanon? aimed at israel? >> sorry. do they recognize the existence of them? >> yes. >> they're certainly wear aware them. >> have they confirmed them, have they documented it? >> i don't know that they undertake to document those sorts of precise numbers. i don't know if that's within their mandate. but certainly -- >> do they take actions to address it? >> i mean, their very presence -- they're not a peace-keeping source in the sense of undertaking those sorts of active measures to confiscate weapons, if that's what your question is. >> what role could unifil play in helping to identify and locate and if necessary eradicate those missiles? >> so the role of unifil is a
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modest one. we'll acknowledge that, first and foremost. it's one -- however that both the israelis and lebanese regard as useful. their mere presence there has the effect of lowering tensions. what we've tried to do with renewal of their mandate just last month is to strengthen it. they can't just be a force that has people on the ground wandering around. they have to be -- when they -- they have to be actively out there inspecting. they have to be actively out there reporting back to the u.n., if there's instances where the efforts to inspect are blocked. and they have to be setting the stage in which the lebanese armed forces ultimately can take up that role themselves of policing and monitoring their southern border. so that's the ultimate objective. and it's a slow process of working with unifil to try to ensure they take a more active role. >> is there any indication the lebanese armed forces have taken on that role of trying to identify and eliminate those rockets? >> so they have started to take on the role of redeploying to the south. and that's an important step. and the more their capacity builds and the more we're able to build that capacity and build
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that credibility and in the process reduce the influence and pervasiveness of hezbollah, we would hope their ability to do that would grow. >> so if the ultimate objective is to try and eliminate those missiles from existing in that location, what role can we ask unifil to play to try help us accomplish that objective. >> to continue monitoring what they see and reporting what they see, and tell us instances in which efforts to monitor the situation is obstructed. >> and do you see that -- i apologize again. do you see that that's been done? have there been -- is there a document that says, we have identified these missiles and these locations? i mean, most of our information comes from intelligence sources. as opposed to unifil. so wouldn't it make sense that unifil would say we have this document that says we think these rockets exist in these locations, and, you know, we think that somebody should do something about that? >> it's a fair point. and i can try to round up the
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sorts of reports that unifil files with united nations. >> about locations? >> i don't know the level of detail, but i can certainly endeavor to find out. >> would it be reasonable to try and request unifil to do something like that, to take on a more detailed role in giving us more detailed information about the existence of these rockets? >> so we're trying to take this step by step. we're trying to get to the point where they're taking a much more active role of monitoring, inspection, and a much more active role in reporting in which those efforts have been blocked. this is a gradual process. i think it was an important -- small, but important step when we incorporated those measures into the mandate renewal last month. we have to continue working with them. we made clear when that mandate was renewal that business as usual -- the approach of unifil in the past can continue. we need something that's more active. >> so would it help your efforts if the congress was to take some sort of role to make that formal request of unifil to provide specific documentation of the detailed location of these
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rockets? >> so can i take that question back and think about that and give you a considered answer? >> yes, you can. >> thank you. >> thank you very much. i yield, madam chairwoman. >> thank you so much. and mr. radny and ms. pryer, our subcommittee looks forward to working with you and our evolving u.s. policy toward lebanon. very interested in the upcoming elections and we look forward to hearing from you in a classified setting to know the efforts that we're undertaking to seek the liberation of the united states permanent residence. zacha always in our minds. with that, our subcommittee is adjourned. thank you.
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american history tv on c-span3 is in prime time. this week, starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern. tonight, the 60th anniversary of little rock central high school's integration with former president, bill clinton. thursday night, a discussion on the leadup and response of the 1957 forced desegregation of
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little rock central high school. and friday night, from american history tv's oral history series, interviews with prominent photo journalists who documented major events throughout american history. watch american history tv, this week in prime time on c-span3. thursday, we're live in nashville, tennessee, for the next stop on the c-span bus 50 capitals tour. former governor, phil brettson, will be our guest on the bus during "washington journal" starting at 9:30 a.m. eastern, discussing the top public policy issues facing tennesseeans. and join us thursday for the entire "washington journal," starting at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. tomorrow, housing and urban development secretary, ben carson, testifies on the future of housing in america. he'll speak before the house financial services committee, and it starts live at 9:30 a.m.
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eastern here on c-span3. also thursday, testimony from energy secretary, rick perry, on future energy missions and management priorities at his department. he'll speak before a house energy subcommittee, and that begins live at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span 2. you can also watch both hearings online at c-span.org or listen on the free c-span radio app. c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. late last month, democrats in polk county, iowa, held their annual steak fry to hear remarks from three u.s. representatives. sherry boostos of illinois, seth
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muscleton of massachusetts, and tim ryan of ohio looked at the future of their party and what lawmakers have to do for democrats to retake the house and senate in the 2018 elections. this is an hour. >> good afternoon. i'm lindsey paulson, co chair, along with kimberly of the polk county democrats committee. i would like to thank more than our 100 volunteers here today to make our event successful. this event was built entirely on volunteers. and one of the most inspiring things for me has been to watch our political veterans and our political freshmen come together to revive an american tradition. so as you're leaving today, please stop and thank some of those individuals in those light blue t-shirts. those are your volunteers, and those are individuals that have worked hard to make today a success. it's now my honor to begin the

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