tv Mideast Strategy CSPAN December 15, 2017 5:57pm-8:03pm EST
japanese delegation to the united states in 1860. >> abraham lincoln conducted quite a bit of business while he was here. he stayed for ten days. in fact, the first white house levy was held not at the white house, it was at the willard hotel. when he introduced himself and his wife was quite a bit shorter than him, he said i want to introduce you of the long and short of the new presidency. >> american history all weekend every weekend only on c-span3. former ambassadors to the middle east ryan crocker, erik edelman, james jeffrey and stuart jones, testified yesterday about u.s. strategy in the region, including efforts to combat isis and iran usa nuclear program. from the senate armed services committee, this is two hours. >> the hearing will come to order and the committee meets today to receive testimony on the u.s. policy and strategy in
the middle east. first of all and foremost, i want to submit for the record the statement by chairman mccain who is not here today. we're joined this morning by a group we all know well. you have all been before this committee. as i mentioned to you a minute ago, and i think most of the members of this committee have seen you in action in the field, and ambassador crocker, you have been a diplomat in residence, woodrow wilson, school of public and international affairs at princeton university. he has been all over the map, and in the last couple of decades. ambassador eric edelman, counsellors center for strategic and budgetary assessment. by my account this is your ninth appearance before this committee. does it sound right to you? yeah. and ambassador jeffrey, the philip solange distinguished fellow, university -- washington institute for near east policy. i remember being with you in turkey and other places, and, of
course, ambassador stuart jones, vice president of the colin group. your presence was visited i think by every member here in both jordan and iraq. it is great to have you all here. much of our nation's attention over the last two decades has gone towards the middle east in terms of military operations and that's appropriately so. we've faced very real and dangerous threats originated from the middle east and we've seen that the problems there are extremely complex. for example, we've formed and led and international coalition to defeat isis, and with our local partners on the ground in iraq and syria we've largely done that. just last saturday prime minister abadi announced the defeat of isis in iraq. so it is long past time for us to turn our attention to the broader strategy and the national objectives in that region as our competitors have -- are already doing,
that's iran and russia. i'm very encouraged that under the leadership of president trump america is beginning to reclaim some of its worldwide leadership that has waned over the past eight years. in october the administration released an outline detailing its strategy to counter iranian aligned influence. the president also declined to certify the sanctions relief as a part of the iran nuclear deal. it was something a lot of people didn't realize that the president has to on a periodic basis release to keep those -- keep that alive, and so we've started the process now that -- and i think it was the right decision. the president also was encouraged by the -- the recent activity that's taken place -- by the way, some of us were with
netanyahu you with when that decision was made and i've never seen a happier guy, and at the same time, of course, he was very encouraged by the recent decision to move the u.s. embassy from tel aviv to jerusalem, in concert with current law and broad bipartisan support. this is something that we decided to do 20 years ago, and finally -- finally we're doing it. so that's -- that's good news. we have great witnesses and look forward to the testimony. senator reed. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i want to commend senator mccain for scheduling this hearing and thank chairman inhofe for leading it today. it is very important. also let me thank the witnesses. i've had the privilege and pleasure of working with you. you have made extraordinary contributions to the national security of the united states in so many different capacities. when chairman inhofe mentioned that ambassador edelman had been nine times here, i think you are all recidivists in a very positive way, so thank you very
much. we are indeed fortunate to have you here today. i'm very confident that you're going to provide valuable insights for a very challenging area of the world, the middle east. working with our progress -- excuse me. working with our partners on the ground we have made great progress on our efforts to dismantle the isis caliphate. according to u.s. central command, in the last three years the coalition liberated more than 4.5 million people and 52,000 square kilometers of territory from isis control. this is a significant achievement for the coalition and our iraqi and syrian partners. it is also important to recognize that isis, al qaeda and other violent extremists are not yet defeated and remain intent on attacking the united states and our interests while taking advantage of opportunities afforded by destabilization in the middle east. despite our operational success against isis, we have not achieved similar success in addressing the political and social challenges in the middle east that gave rise to isis in the first place. our efforts to deal with isis, al qaeda and others -- to deal
them a lasting defeat must not rest with the department of defense alone. sustainable solutions will require significant contributions of the state department, u.s. aid and others. unfortunately, our ability to achieve such an approach is hampered by massive proposed cuts to the state department's budget and the fact that our current diplomats are leaving at an alarming rate. each of you have tools for the national power and i hope you will provide the committee on how such tools could be effectively leveraged. violent extremism is not the only challenge facing us in the middle east. despite our success in putting a halt to the greatest threat facing the united states, namely a nuclear armed iran, the forces continue to campaign and malign to destable across the region. coupled with an increasingly assertive foreign policy
exhibited by saudi arabia it is hard to imagine the geopolitical landscape in the middle east more complicated than it is today. if we are to successfully navigate these challenges we need to be clear in communicating our values and objectives. the president has repeatedly made it more difficult for our national security and diplomatic professionals to do jobs. the richk sk of failure in the policy in the middle east is significant and we can't afford unforced errors. i want to thank the witnesses for being here today and for the significant contribution to the country, for decades of work in the foreign service. i look forward to your testimony. thank you very much. >> thank you, senator reed. we'll start with you, ambassador crocker, and all of you know that we try to keep our comments down to about five minutes and give our well-attended meeting here time to ask questions. ambassador crocker. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
ranking member reed, members of the committee, it is a privilege to be here today. the timing i think is fortuitous. we are at, in my view, a strategic inflection point with the military defeat of islamic state to try to answer the now-what question. as you both said, the military defeat is necessary but i would suggest not sufficient. i think it is helpful to remember what happened when i was in iraq, that was '07-'09 through the surge. we pounded the islamic state's predecessor, al qaeda in iraq. we could never quite eliminate them. they could find little crevices in mosul and up the euphrates river valley.
why did they find them? important to remember then, as now, that al qaeda in iraq and islamic state are not in and of themselves the problem. they are the symptom of the problem. the problem has been -- and this goes throughout the region -- the failure to establish good governance. the failure to establish rule of law and institutions where all citizens in iraq or now in syria feel safe. that has not happened, and to take, again, the -- kind of the 30,000-foot view, if one looks at the modern middle east which is roughly 100 years old, it grew out of world war i and the versailles treaty of 1919. if there's one single consistent point of failure it is governance. we have seen isms come and go.
imperialism and colonialism under the british and the french, monarchism in some of the central countries like egypt and iraq, arab nationalism, undiluted military authoritarianism, again in iraq, arab socialism in iraq and syria, communism in south yemen. now we deal with islamism. the good news is that it too is failing. the bad news is that the underlying issues of governance which led to the failure of every other ism are still untreated. and if we are unable to help our friends in the area get to a better place on these issues, you're going to see a successor to islamic state. i don't know who. i do know that it will not be good news for us.
there is a second inflection point that i hopefully would have a chance to address today. the united states designed and led the post-world war ii international order. that leadership changed or that attitude to leadership changed over the last eight years. president obama spoke of not being able to do everything -- certainly true. too often i think it became an excuse for not doing much of anything. sadly, i think we're seeing some continuity between the administrations from president obama to president trump on this issue. are we going to lead? if not, who will? if not, what might the consequences be? so i would urge before we back
out of that international order, post-world war ii that we established and led, we need to think about the consequences. i would say, finally, it is hard to do any of this if you don't have the people to do it. the budget cuts suggested by the administration will do severe damage to both our diplomacy and our development. these things count. i would applaud the congress that has reacted to these proposed cuts. i think it is very important that they not go forward or you're going the see a weakened foreign service far into the future with some very significant consequences. lastly, truth in advertising here, i stood on the board of mercy corps international. we are heavily engaged on a number of issues. the one i would like to highlight would be syrian refugees. mercy corps doesn't do resettlement.
we focus on keeping refugees as close to their home country as we can. so we're extremely active in jordan and in lebanon in particular. why? that could be the long-term ultimate danger of this syrian problem. we saw what happened with palestinian refugees where a spirit of hopelessness in refugee camps bred an entire generation of terrorism. we are working out there to try to get the resources and the programs that will give young syrian refugees a sense that they do have a future. if that funding is cut, as has been proposed, humanitarian aid by 40%, esf by almost 45%, we may be fuelling the next wave years down the line of terror. thank you, mr. chairman.
>> thank you, ambassador crocker. ambassador edelman. >> thank you, chairman inhofe and senator reed and members of the committee. it is a privilege to be here. while i don't normally want to speak for my foreign service colleagues on this panel, i think i do speak for all of us saying that i think all of us are thinking about senator mccain today and wishing him very well in his recovery. i agree with my colleague ryan crocker that we are at an important inflection point in the middle east, and i think for that reason it is particularly important that the committee has scheduled this hearing. i cannot tell you how proud i am to sit here in this company because i have enormous respect for my colleagues on this panel. what i thought i would do is just talk about three things really, why i think the region remains strategically important to the united states. the two i think large strategic challenges i think the united states faces in the region and maybe some thoughts about what
we might do about those. first, i think there is a disposition in washington that people talk about the middle east today, after a decade and a half of difficult and seemingly inconclusive counter insurgency operations in the region and growing u.s. energy, if not independence, at least self-sufficiency to want to look at the region as something we ought to disengage from and try to limit our liability in the region. but i would argue that picking up a theme that ambassador crocker touched on, that as tempting as disengagement might be i think it is important to bear in mind that it would reverse a strong bipartisan consensus over the past 60 years that the maintenance of a stable regional balance of power in the middle east and the prevention of any external or regional
power from dominating this area of the world is vital to the nation's security. it is -- i think it is the case because, first of all, the energy resources of the region remain important to our allies in europe and asia, but also because global energy prices can affect our own economy. so even with our own self-sufficiency where large segments of middle eastern oil to go off line because of a crisis in the region, the economic impact on the united states would be considerable. moreover, i think the problem is that what -- as ken pollock at aei says, what happens in the middle east does not stay in the middle east. this region is a caldron of poor governance and disaffection, and
as a result a petri dish for extremism that frequently manifests itself in terrorist attacks against our allies in the region, our allies in europe, and ultimately the homeland here in the united states itself. since 2009 i think the united states has largely pursued a policy of retrenchment and limited liability, which i think has had the unfortunate consequence of raising concerns about the u.s. role as the security guarantor in the region. i think that's been exacerbated by some of the consequences of the joint comprehensive plan of action which has freed up resources for tehran to use for its own purposes, both to procure weaponry for itself but also to support its proxies in the region pursuing an agenda of malign activity. i agree with my colleague that
there's been more continuity than at least i would like in the policies of the trump administration, which are couched in very different rhetoric but have broadly continued the previous administration's policies, perhaps reflecting the views that president trump expressed during the campaign that the whole region, as he put it, was one big fat quagmire. but i do think it is something that requires some renewed attention and a new strategy. i mentioned the twin challenges, and those i think were touched on by my colleague and it won't come as any surprise that two challenges are iran's quest for regional hegemony and very much intertwined with that the threat of -- persistent threat of sunni islamic extremism, even after the demise of the islamic state's physical caliphate. these two threats i would stress
drive the region's many crisis, and they also drive one another. so iranian expansionism and activity and support for shia militias and proxies in syria also fuel sunni extremism and vice versa. i think the most urgent thing the united states needs to do is to develop a strategy and a plan and a policy that reflect the new realities on the ground in syria, where iran is currently at its most vulnerable and potentially overextended and where the potential for renewed sunni extremism is perhaps highest. isis has lost itself-declared caliphate, as senator reed noted, but the presence of russian forces, iranian forces, iranian-sponsored shia militias, hezbollah, et cetera, allowed
tehran and moscow to emerge as the ash ters of post-war syria and allowed iran to consolidate the -- at least the perception that they have a land bridge that links tehran directly to lebanon and to -- right on the israeli and jordanian borders. although there are few really appealing options at this point in syria, i think we can and should exploit iranian overextension there. i welcome secretary madison's statement that u.s. troops will remain to prevent the reemergence of isis, i think it is a necessary step. but i think it only will be possible if we can help our syrian allies, the syrian democratic forces, hold strategic territory that's been liberated from isis control. i think that will help provide leverage for the united states in determining syria's post-war
fate and also pose some obstacles and impose some costs on iran. i think in general we need to develop more leverage with iran so we can impose costs more effectively, and i would make a few suggestions about what we might do in that regard. first, i think we ought to have public discussion about dusting off and updating our contingency plans for neutralizing iran's nuclear facilities should iran materially breach or withdraw from the jcpoa, in response either to sanctions that this body chooses to impose or because of u.s. enforcement of the -- more vigorous u.s. enforcement of the agreement itself. just as it appears to be doing with north korea, i think the pentagon ought to be putting in place the capabilities to potentially shoot down future iranian ballistic missile tests.
iran is developing a very large, very varigated ballistic missile capability. no country that has done that on the scale that iran has done it has ever not ultimately become a nuclear weapons state. i think it is equally important for the united states to cooperate very closely with our regional allies, and i'll defer any further discussion of that because i think -- i believe all of my colleagues agree with that and will want to talk about it. i think we have to recognize that russia has been so far an obstacle, not a partner in building security in this region. i think we would do well not to allow ourselves to be de lewded in deluded in thinking we can split iran and russia from each other for a lots of reasons we can go into, i don't think that's likely to happen. i think we need to increase the internal pressures on the iranian regime. it remains a deeply unpopular
regime. i fear the jcpoa has actually mostly benefited the hard-liners in iran because they're the ones who control the economic sectors that stand most to benefit from the sanctions relief, but it has also made them more dependent on a narrowing band of loyalists to maintain stability as everyday iranians feel little benefit from the sanctions relief. i think we can exploit all of this. i think a more aggressive political information campaign can amplify international investors wariness of the iranian market by highlighting the complexities of sanctions compliance as well as the elite's corrupt business dealings and systematic human rights abuses. finally, i think we need to enforce the jcpoa to address iran's serial undercompliance, which is what i would call it, with the agreement. i think this has begun to eat
away with our credibility with iran and raises the risks of continuing nibbling at the edges of this agreement, which when it expires will put iran at the cusp of having a nuclear capability as president obama admitted at the time of the jcpoa's negotiation. through these steps, a lot of these are difficult steps to take, but i think we need the start taking them now because otherwise i'm afraid we will see further erosion in the u.s. position in the region. with that, let me stop and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you for a very good statement, ambassador edelman. we have a quorum right now so we're going to go and make sure to take care of some business that must be taken care of. since the quorum is now present, i ask the committee to consider a list of 137 pending military nominations. all of these nominations have been before the committee the required length of time. is there a motion in favor of
the report that lists 137 pending military nominations? >> so moved. >> is there a second? >> second. >> all in favor say aye. >> aye. >> the motion carries. ambassador jeffrey. see, we do business pretty fast when we have to. >> that was impressive, senator. mr. chairman inhofe, ranking member reed, members of the committee, i thank you for having us here. it is a particular honor to have a panel of fellow foreign service officers appearing before the senate armed services committee. thank you for honoring the service of all of our corps around the world. i also want to associate myself with ambassador edelman's comments about senator mccain. it is a problem when one is a witness before this committee on this subject when you're the third person to go, given that there is a great deal of agreement on the broad problem and to some degree the broad elements of a strategy.
as you've already heard, we're dealing with a dual threat. right now i think for several reasons iran is the bigger of those two dual threats, and i think this administration in its october 13th statement has agreed with that. the reason is partially because for the moment the biggest threat emanating from the sunni islamic extremis, isis, has been at least conventionally defeated. but secondly, there is a real relationship between iran's activities in sunni islamic extremism. when i left iraq in june of 2012, what became isis, al qaeda in iraq under al baghdadi, was little more than a terrorist band in west mosul. two years later it was controlling a third of syria and iraq, nine million people with an army of 35,000. not entirely, because governance is always, as ryan crocker said,
a huge issue, but bad governance was promulgated, encouraged and exacerbated by iran's decisions and the decisions of people who were being advised and supported by iran, maliki in iraq and of course assad in syria. this back and forth -- there are 20 to 25 million sunni arabs between baghdad and damascus. currently they're not being ruled by sunni arab leaders. they're being ruled by people who in the case of syria take orders from iran, in the case of iraq may or may not fall under iran's influence. and if thoese people are not protected by the international system that we've talked about here, they're going to turn, again, to terrorist forces and we'll have this same problem all over again. given the general, i think, consensus on this, then the question is, including why it is
important that ambassador edelman talked about, what to do about it. but before we get to what to do about it, or at least my views, let's take a look at why haven't we figured this out. while i have a lot of problems with the obama administration's actions on iran, i certainly don't think he wanted to turn the region over to iran, yet iran has been advancing. while this administration has a very tough rhetorical position against iran, it has done very little on the ground in the first ten months to stop further iranian successes and we've had a series of them in the last several months, largely in reaction to mistakes by our allies. so why is it so hard? several reasons. first of all, look how iran operates. it doesn't challenge conventionally like saddam hussein did, but rather it infiltrates other countries,
playing off of bad governance, failed states, ungoverned areas, terrorist groups. either they support or they use as an excuse to go in. they have people who know the region very well. they have a long-term strategy. it is all organized and supports each other. lebanon, yemen, syria, iraq, tomorrow ba rain and afghanistan. this requires a comprehensive response throughout the region with both us and our allies because we're not going to do this with hundreds of thousands of troops, and that gets to the problems with our allies. as we've seen in the last few months with the turks, picked the subject, the independents announcement, the saudis again picked the issue of yemen, harare or qatar. they're all trying to contain iran and deal with the terrorist threat in the region, but they're all doing it in an uncoordinated way that more
likely than not advances iran's objectives rather than contains them. we need to get hold of this, and we won't do so until we have a comprehensive plan to deal with iran, and we've convinced them that we are in the lead and we know what we're doing. we're not there yet. secondly, anything we do is going to contain iran to push back, will bring with it great risks, to us and to people in the region. look at the 1980s and early 1990s when we faced four threats from soviets in afghanistan, iranians in southern iraq, iranians in the gulf, and saddam in kuwait. the kind of decisions we had to take and the chaos we deliberately created for the good end of containing these people was quite significant, and we have to be prepared. there's nothing easy about this. if this was easy, the u.s. government in the last 15 years would have done better. th
the it is very hard. we clearly cannot ignore the area. that's the lesson of 9/11. we clearly can't go in with hundreds of thousands of troops for a long time. that's the lesson of iraq and afghanistan. we have to do economy of force, light footprint operations with our allies. that will produce new benghazis and new nigers. we have all been out there in the field. we know sooner or later people make mistakes. we have to be able to move on and not meltdown with these things happen because it is the right way to approach it. finally, on iran itself, again, i agree with ambassador edelman. syria and also iraq and our presence in these areas is very, very important. that is the central front in stopping iran. that will be very difficult because it requires keeping our troops on and dealing with what will be unquestionably deliberate iranian threats to our people. how will we respond? in the past we have not
responded in a way that deters iran from going after us, in part because we have kept the iranian homeland free from any retaliatory threats or action. on the jcpoa, as one who supported essentially the president's position publicly before he took it on decertifying, i would have to say cast it in doubt, do attrition warfare against the bad things in it, but if you want to contain iran in the area do not walk away from that thing. it is the best thing that -- from iran's standpoint that we could do to break up the coalition against it. i'll stop there, mr. chairman, and turn it over to my colleague and friend. >> very good, ambassador jeffrey. ambassador jones. use your mike, please. >> thank you, chairman inhofe, ranking member reed. it is an honor to be here before you and it is a distinct honor
to be here with such distinguished colleagues. i'm thinking of chairman mccain today and wishing him a speedy recovery. chairman inhofe, as you said last week prime minister abaudy announced the defeat of isis in iraq. i had the privilege to work closely with the prime minister during my time in iraq, and he's been a tireless, and his service to his nation and a reliable partner for the united states. he deserves our commendation for leading iraq through a difficult three-year struggle and for reaching this water shed moment. the fight against isis has been the organizing principle for middle east policy for the past three years, and we've known the day would come when isis would be defeated, at least as a military opponent, and we would need to reassess policy priorities to build on this success. today iraq enjoys unprecedented low levels of violence, and the prime minister is seen by sunni and shia alike as a unifying force. continued oil production, growth
and improvements in the oil export infrastructure, and support from the world bank and imf have enabled the iraqis to contemplate a prosperous economic future. iraq will, of course, however continue to face significant challenges. as my colleagues have said, i think one of the main challenges will be the malign interference of iran, its neighbor, with a 1,400 kilometer border. while isis, the terrorist ground force, is defeated we know they will go under ground and continue to terrorist. they will need our assistance to combat the threat. the government of iraq has invited a limited number of u.s. forces to remain to provide training and other support to assist them in efforts to combat extremism. helping iraq's counterterrorism service to reconstitute to face the challenge is a mission u.s. forces are uniquely positioned
to accomplish. so as i said, with the isis threat destroyed, malign iranian interference is now the primary security challenge facing the region. iran's activities threat be the security of our strongest ally in the region, israel, you also threaten jordan, a crucial partner where i had the privilege to serve as well as our gulf partners. iranian interference has posed a challenge to iraqi stability for sometime and it is now at its highest levels. the prime minister has committed to integrating the forces, some with close ties to the kurd as force, with the requirement that they leave their political baggage behind them. this will be a huge task and he will need our support for this. the u.s. administration is developing a strategy to push back and contain iran throughout the entire region. this pushback needs to be a whole of government approach. in iraq in particular we need to go beyond the security support and remind the iraqi public of the full benefit of the
strategic framework agreement with the united states, which two of my copanelists played an instrument role in drafting. iraq has a large youth population, and from my time there i can say that iraqi youth urine for u.s. technology, u.s. investment, u.s. training and education. general electric power-up program which was initiated during my time in iraq has provided thousands of megawatts of needed electricity, but also introduced cutting edge technology, created hundreds of high-paying jobs and afforded training that will transform those young workers' lives. likewise at this moment u.s. energy firms are developing proposals to assist iraq in capturing flared gas. a comprehensive solution to this problem which the prime minister has prioritized for 2018 would not only address an environmental calamity but also restore billions of dollars to the iraqi economy in a short period of time. for these measures to succeed, however, we must ensure that u.s. export promotion agencies are fully operational and target
at the problems set in the middle east, you have as they were in the bush administration. to his credit, the prime minister has also launched a war on corruption. the public response to this announcement has been positive and a war on corruption will be a blessing for u.s./iraqi strategic framework agreement because the intrinsic value of the u.s. partnership becomes clearer on a fair and transparent playing field. in our pushback against iran we should continue to foster iraq's ties to its other neighbors. saudi arabia, saudi foreign minister's visit to baghdad in february encouraged by secretary tillerson was a game changer. since then we have seen numerous high-level visit back and forth and road and air links opened, the latter for the first time since 1990. the next step should be to encourage further progress on expanding and securing the highway between imam and
baghdad. finally, it has had disastrous consequences that emerged during the mosul campaign. although we opposed the referendum, we should support restored cooperation between them. it is often said the kurds provide the essential third leg to the iraqi stool. following the referendum, the prime minister did what was needed but now he is in a position to work towards reconciliation and this rift needs to be prepared ahead, as we were talking, mr. ranking member, ahead of the 2018 elections in may so that the kurds will -- may participate fully in national politics. so, again, thank you for allowing me to join this distinguished group and to be before you today. >> thank you very much, ambassador jones, for that statement. i was thinking, ambassador crocker, when you -- we'll go with five-minute rounds. is that all right with you? we will try to get as many
people. it is a well-attended meeting here. when you made the statement, we agree with you on some of the cuts that will be necessary, but, you know, we in this committee, we sit and we look at a situation where only a third of our army and ground brigades can fight. we see only a fourth of our army air brigades, we're very sensitive and we have heard over and over again that the marines use the f-18s and the f-18s are right now 62% of them won't fly. so we have to do things. when there's a drawback on political -- on armed services, this happens. it is something that is real. so somewhere we have to give. i won't ask for a response, but it is one of the things that concerns all of us here. let me just put this in context. we are all alarmed to see how iranian influence has grown in iraq since our premature withdrawal in 2011.
despite losing more than 4,500 american lives and spending more than a trillion dollars in iraq since 2003, our hasty, i felt, ill-thought-out troop withdrawal opened the door to iran to accomplish its strategic objectives in iraq. it is not like we didn't see this coming. i and a lot of the members of this committee warned for years that the hasty withdrawal from iraq would lead to an increase of iranian influence there, and i had one of my own quotes down here, it was august of 2010 when i made the statement, obama's rush for expedited withdrawal of troops from iraq would endanger israel and the entire middle east and would empower iran. so what i would like to do is kind of -- you have all touched on this, but i would like a response from all four of you.
many people are unaware of the extent of the influence of iran, that it now holds in iraq. can each of you broadly layout iran's strategic objectives there and discuss how iran has advanced them since the u.s. withdrawal? let's start with you, ambassador crocker. >> thank you, mr. chairman. nature abhors a vacuum, and the middle east abhors it even more. when i left in 2009, violence was -- in iraq was at an absolute minimum. the iranians were on their back feet. the prime minister had moved against one of their clients -- principle clients in iraq, the sadder moved. engaged them militarily from bo
bozrah up to sadr city and with help from us he beat them back. however, you do not end a war by withdrawing from the battlefield. you simply cede the space to adversaries with with more commitment and more patience and that's what we've seen in iraq. with the presence of a number of shia militia, backed by iran, well-armed, looking for a new mission after islamic state, they take their orders from tehran, not baghdad. a fundamental understanding we should all have is iran's history and its geopolitical assessments. the shah of iran projected force beyond his borders with conventional forces. it was the shah's iran who seized the three islands from the united arab emirates. it was the shah's iran that sent a brigade into aman to help the
sultan put down a rebellion. the islamic republic is doing the same thing with different means, using militias rather than regular forces, under the command of amani, and we now see a resurgent iran in the region. the only way i can see us gaining back some of that ground is not by confronting iran directly in iraq. sadly, they have more instruments there than we do. but it would be by a sustain edden gaugeme ed engagement with the iraqi government, with the prime minister to do everything we can to build up a stronger central authority. that will be a long-term commitment. it does not take forces. it does take consistent, focused, white house-led political engagement. i hope we see that. thank you, sir. >> ambassador edelman, any
comments on this? >> yeah, i would speak, chairman inhofe, with some trepidation sitting here on a panel of three former ambassadors to iraq about iranian strategic goals there. so let me, if you permit me, to kind of open the aperture a little more broadly and speak more broadly about it. one of the things i think we neglect at our peril is to recognize that iran remains a revolutionary regime, committed to the spread of its particular ideology and emerging as a leader in the muslim world despite the fact that it represents a minority current -- a minority sect inside world islam. that i think explains a lot of its behavior. i mean for years since the revolution in 1979, a lot of us have been waiting for the thermodorian reaction that would allow iran to pursue shia
political ideology in one country, to make an analogy from the history of the russian revolution, and it hasn't happened. it remains committed, at least the leadership and the regime remains committed if not the public to this particular ideology, and that drives them to use these proxy forces that they started using in the early '80s, almost immediately after the revolution, in lebanon and now in iraq and syria and elsewhere to extend theirs influence to allow them to become the dominant force in the region. >> okay. well, thank you. my time has expired, but if we do a second round i would like to have you both, ambassador jeffrey and ambassador jones, to be thinking about this. senator reed. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. just a quick follow-on. ambassador crocker, you were there on the ground in 2008 i believe when president bush
signed an agreement with malaki to withdraw our forces in 2011. was it your advice to do that? why did we do that? we agreed to take our troops out, correct? >> thank you, senator reed. yes, i was the senior neglector for that agreement as well as accompanying security agreement. i was the senior negotiator for that agreement. we pushed hard for more open-ended language. prime minister malaki told me at an important point, he said, "look, we're going to need you here for years if not decades," b but it has to, would in an iraqi context. iraqis, including those opposed to the prime minister, need to hear at that particular point
that there would be a finite limit on how long the u.s. would stay. let the emotion subside, and then let's get working on negotiating the longer term agreement. well, that didn't happen. i would suggest that it didn't happen because, again, president obama had run on in part a position of -- to end the wars of the previous administration. again, as i said and as we've seen, you don't end wars by withdrawing your forces. there was a clear understanding at the time that our presence would be enduring. >> but there's always been a question about whether malaki was entirely sincere about his wishes for or his ability to deliver given the iranian influence. that was a factor i think all through that period. >> senator reed, could i add
something to that? >> sure, please. >> i was, unfortunately, the guy who lost the american troop presence as you all know in 2011. >> right. >> first of all, it is very difficult to keep american ground troops in any middle eastern country. the only place we have a significant number is kuwait. think much kuwait and why that's so. over time when there isn't an emergency situation, also we needed a status of forces agreement. malaki was willing in 2011 to sign a piece of paper. he as foreign minister signed it in 2014 when we came back in because it was an emergency situation and we didn't worry too much about that. in a peacetime situation it is very hard to put troops on the ground in a place like that without the guarantees. but the elements of that experience in 2011 for what we're doing now in syria and iraq and elsewhere i would say is as follows.
we -- and stu jones was my deputy as we prepared for this. we -- i'll share the blame with you. we had a plan b that we were going to cheat with malaki's acknowledgement on all of the keeping troops out. we had black soft, we had white soft, we had drones, we had all kind of things. i can't get into them in great detam detail. it was a big package including a $14 billion fms program. we had bases all over the country that were disguised bases the u.s. military was running. what happened was the obama administration, not just the president who knew about this plan, but the entire bureaucracy loses interest in that kind of deployment because you don't have a four star general petraeus, general austin to talk to the secretary of defense and directly to the president. you don't have the focus of the american people once they're gone. malaki kept coming back and asking for this little military
asset or that little military asset. we were his security blanket. we left, so he had to turn to the iranians. the second big mistake was in 2014 when we responded to the fall of mosul will by taking a decision to send at least some troops back in and support the effort, but we did not air strikes for three months. now until finally in the north we had the problem with the kurds in the mountain and the folks up there. we did that for, i think, good reasons. we were trying to squeeze malaki out. the fact that the iranians came to the help of the iraqis and we did not played a huge role in the position they're in today. so, again, they take advantage, as you've heard from my colleagues, of mistakes that we on our local allies make. >> my time is running out. this is a topic of not just iraq but of other areas, and so i hope if there's a second round we can shift focus to syria and
you can explain to me our policy there. thank you. >> thank you. senator fischer. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ambassador crocker, this week putin claimed victory in syria. he announced the supposed withdrawal of russian troops from the country. he presided over the signing of a $21 billion plan to build a nuclear power plant in egypt, and he condemned u.s. efforts in the region as destabilizing. i think it is pretty clear that the russians are working to increase their role in the middle east and to undermine u.s. interests. but looking outside of syria, where do you think their next targets in this effort are going to be? >> that's a great question, senator. i am not an expert on russian affairs, but that won't stop me from pontificating.
my colleagues who are will straighten that out i'm sure for the record. the russians under putin played a bad hand brilliantly. the russians intervened in syria not because they saw an opportunity but because they saw a very real threat that they were going to lose basically their only asset in the region, bashar al assad. they seemed up with the iranians and we see where he this got. incidentally, at the same time he declared victory and said he was bringing troops home, he announced there would be a permanent russian presence at an air base in syria so they're not going away. they will continue to use syria as a point of leverage for their broader strategies in the region. i don't know if they have a next move planned in the region. i think it is entirely possible that for the time being they're
going to sit where they are because it is a good place. >> do you think -- i'm going to interrupt you for a minute. do you think they're just looking for opportunities then, that there is no comprehensive plan? >> well, what i believe is that, again, like iran, you need to -- you need to know the history and how the world looks from that other capital. in the case of russia, no, it's not a return to the soviet union. clearly. but it looks a little bit like the return of the russian empire. i think that is the motivating spirit for president putin. and i would expect to see their next move not in the middle east, probably in europe. >> okay. thank you. yes. >> senator fisher, if i might, because i think i'm the only one up here who had a misspent youth in soviet affairs. i think you touched on the right thing. i think president putin is actually -- a tactical virtuoso, but i don't think he has a real
strategic plan here. but what i think you see in syria is the russians taking advantage of a long-time client relationship. they look for opportunities. i think the fact that they're looking at egypt, another place they've had a long-term relationship suggests they may be looking for opportunities there. and they're certainly looking for opportunities in turkey, where ambassador jeffrey and i both served. which is not a place they've traditionally had strong relations. but where they -- where they see the worsening u.s. turkish relationship as opening an opportunity for them. >> any other comments? i would ask all four of you, what do you believe the united states response should be? >> thank you, senator. thank you. i would just say that, you know, in syria, we do have to cooperate with the russians. i think that the deacon flick
shun zones are creating a positive model for future cooperation. i also think that this holds the russians to a certain standard of behavior. and also highlights their responsibility to deliver the performance of their iranian and hezbollah partners inside of syria. i think we need to also hold them to their commitment to the process in syria. so by taking this leadership role in syria, i think the russians have obligated themselves, and we need to hold them to those obligations in a very public fashion. i think -- in the rest of the region, i think we need to continue to show the value proposition of the u.s. partnership. russia doesn't bring anything to egypt that egypt really needs. russia doesn't bring anything to libya that libya really needs. and, you know, we will expect putin to seek opportunities there for domestic fulfillment.
but i think we need to show steadily our strategic partnership to these countries and show we can offer solutions. >> and how do we hold russia to obligations when they violate arms treaties? my time has expired. thank you, mr. chairman. >> good question. senator king. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. edelman, a question for the record. you made a couple of assertions that are inconsistent with the information i've had. and i would like you to supply the evidence. one is that the jcpoa is, quote, freeing up resources for other aligned activities. my understanding is that may be true in a very minor way. but if you have evidence on that, i would appreciate having it. this is for the record. you don't need to respond now. the second is, you cited serial violations by the iranians. that is also inconsistent with the information i have. so i would like whatever data or
evidence you have of that. and my -- finally, on this point, i would ask if you believe that a nuclear armed iran -- in virtually the identical situation of north korea today would be a positive for the stability and strategic balance in the middle east. that's a yes or no question. >> no. i don't think it would be positive. >> thank you. i'm astonished that none of the four of you mentioned in your discussions -- this is a hearing on the middle east -- the president's recent decision about recognizing jerusalem as the capital of israel, and moving our embassy. i just -- i don't see how you can ignore one of the most significant decisions in terms of the middle east. and i wondered -- i guess i'll
start with you, mr. jones. ambassador jones. given the fact that apparently we got nothing for that, in terms of concessions by the israelis on settlements or anything else, do you think that was a positive move in terms of stability in the middle east? >> no, senator, i don't. what i'm concerned about, i think now -- we've seen initial reactions to this. frankly, the reaction has been a little bit more muted than many experts expected. but we'll also now start to see second and third-order consequences. and this is going to have negative effects on governance inside of jordan and lebanon and other places, which have large palestinian populations. so i am concerned about king abdullah in jordan who has made very clear his opposition to this, who i had the honor to serve with very closely. and, you know, the jordanians are concerned. >> my understanding is just this
morning turkey has announced the establishment of an embassy in the west bank, recognizing the palestinian state. i guess any of you -- mr. jeffrey, is a two-state solution an important part of the peace process in the middle east? >> the two-state solution is a very important part of the -- certainly the situation between israel and the palestinians. and everybody who has looked -- almost everybody who has looked at this, has not been able to come up with an alternative, given israel's commitment to a democratic political system, given the demographics. in terms of the president's decision, again, as i mentioned with the jcpoa, any action taken that makes iran happy in the region is a mistake. and this made iran happy, thus it's a mistake. if this is the biggest mistake this administration makes in the middle east, it will be okay, because i don't think the
ramifications of it are all that strong, because right now the region is focused primarily on iran, and that includes most arab states and secondarily on the terrorist threat, where israel is extraordinary effective with both egypt and jordan. >> is it more difficult, though, to achieve a two-state solution? >> i think the two-state solution at the moment is more both on -- from a standpoint of the palestinians and from the standpoint of the current israeli government. so i don't think we stopped something that otherwise would have given us a major win in the region. i mean, i've been through this, as have my colleagues. and with the annapolis process and the bush administration, obviously, with the obama's evident in t effort in the first term, we can go back to clinton. and camp david. and, again and again, we haven't gotten there. and the region has -- the region in & our influence in it has continued. >> but i agree with your statement that we haven't gotten there, but nobody has come up with an alternative for solving this problem that would maintain israel as a democratic jewish
state. >> exactly. and thus, it's on my list of to-do things, but it's not at the top of it. >> other thoughts on the issue of moving as a capital? crocker? >> senator, i think it's too early to tell what the significa significance is. this is the immediate reaction that we focused on as -- and as jones said, was going to create an explosion of violence in the region. it didn't. the climate is not really right for that right now, for a lot of complex reasons. that doesn't mean it isn't going to have a long-term impact. i think it will. i just don't know what that will be. there are now voices in the arab world saying, right, we've got it. no more two-state solution, so let's push for a one-state solution. in which all of the citizens of that state have equal rights under law, including the right to serve in the military.
so this -- you know, be again, i don't know where this is going. but it's going to play out over a longer term, and i fear not in any positive way. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, gentlemen, for your appearance on this incredibly distinguished panel. i respect and thank you all for your service to our country. abroad and many places that don't appear on top tourist destinations. i'll follow up on both points that senator king made. ambassador edelman, i'll give you a yes or no question, as well. would it be a positive development for the middle east for iran to develop nuclear weapons in 8 to 13 years, and the key provisions of the jcpoa expire when its economy has grown songer because sanctions are lifted and the conventional arms embargo is lifted in 2020? that can also be a yes or no question. >> no. would not be positive. >> thank you.
on the point about jerusalem being the capital of israel, was it an irresponsible and rash decision of this senate to vote in july 90-0 that jerusalem is the capital of israel? anyone can take it. >> senator cotton, i think it's just a recognition of fact. and a frequent critic of the trump administration, but the president was acting in conformance with the law that he was asked to implement. my one criticism would be, i think the step would have been more usefully made in the context of a broader plan or proposal, as opposed to a one-off. but otherwise -- >> thank you. i want to turn now to syria. and i'll start with ambassador crocker, since i believe you're the only member of the panel who served in damascus, although everybody has obviously been impacted by their service. and then we can get reactions after ambassador crocker's response. what are the best steps the united states could take at this
point? not looking retroactively and assigning blame or credit for any action anyone took to this point to reduce iranian influence inside of syria? and i'd like your advice in terms of best practical steps. i don't think anyone believed the american people will support a large-scale conventional military deployment to syria. but what are the best practical steps we could take that could have the durable support of the iranian people to have influence inside of syria? >> thank you, senator. and thank you for your service. there are several things. the most critical thing in my view is pull together a policy. what we're seeing now with the syrian democratic forces that we're so closely allied with us in the campaign against isis, they don't know what we're going to do next. so they're in touch with everybody. i mean, they're talking to the assad regime, they're talking to tehran, they're talking to
hezbollah. because they know we haven't set a policy. they have got to live there. so we're into a period now, i think it's pretty dangerous. where all the actors are going to posture and take positions as though we're not there, because we may not be. so that's one. second, we need to be present diplomatically and politically. the turks -- the iranians and russians started this as a counterpoint to geneva. we weren't even in the room. now i guess we're there as an observer. we're the united states of america. you know, if we're part of a process, we don't stand on the sidelines and watch. so i would hope that we would get a grip on the political processes that are in play, as tanna and geneva, and use those as a forum to start syria's
thinking on the way ahead, which is going to be complicated and messy. but also to assert that the united states is there for a reason. these are our security interests. and we are going to be very much of a part of that process. we are not going to leave it to our adversaries, such as iran. >> gentlemen, any other response to that one? >> very quickly, senator. we have a lot of assets in syria, even though it doesn't look that way. we and the turks between us hold about a third of the country and have a lot of local allies, even though we're not coordinated with the turks. but that's a question of diplomacy. the israelis operate militarily throughout syria in the air. that's another factor. we have a diplomatic entree with u.n. resolution 2254, which means it's all about business. how syria is organized. and we can leverage the possibility of reconstruction as a means to try to force a wedge between the russians, as
ambassador jones was talking about, and the syrians and the iranians, because ultimately their interests are different. but we have to keep, not just diplomacy, but military presence there, and that means working with turkey, the kurds and iraq and the iraqi government so we can physically get in and out. because we need entree to that region. >> well, my time has expired. but thank you again for your appearances here. and i know some of you have already failed at retirement. to the extent you ever fail again, want to come back into government service, i bet there are a bunch of senators in this committee and elsewhere in the building that would be happy to vote to confirm you in another position in the united states government. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thank you to our witnesses for being here today. as we have been talking about over the past few months, local forces trained and supported by the u.s.-led coalition have retaken former isis strongholds in mosul and raqqa. and i want to follow up on
senator cotton's question. but i want to broaden the inquiry just a little bit. to ask more about what happens after we defeat isis on the battlefield. it seems like right now we have challenges both with russia and iranian forces. and their proxies. and that they're moving very quickly to take advantage of conditions on the ground in order to reach their own regional objectives. so let me just start with you, ambassador jones. what can the united states do to push back against russian and iranian assertiveness, and try to set the conditions for a political settlement that is in our interests, and in the interests of the syrian people? >> thank you, senator warren. i think most importantly, i think what all of us have touched on is the need for a regional approach to containing and pushing back on iranian maligned interference throughout the region. and this is, of course, going on in syria, but it's going on in
iraq and yemen and bahrain and in, of course, lebanon. so i think we need an overall regional strategy to help to contain iran. and then i think it's -- that will bring into higher relief the maligned interference it's carrying out inside of syria. i think it's going to be very difficult, given our limited tools, to affect iranian conduct in syria without weakening its other -- its other activities. i would also say that in regards to russia, as i mentioned earlier, you know, there's nothing very attractive about russian involvement in syria. the russians saved the bashir regime in 2015. they haven't known what to do with it since, as ambassador crocker said, this was to preserve their own status. but they are interested in cooperating with the united states for a variety of reasons. and so reaching agreement on the deacon flick shun zone in southwestern syria i think does
represent a positive model for cooperation with the russians. and also for holding the russians accountable. senator fisher asked, how do you hold them accountable? well, i think we have to hold them accountable by highlighting what they don't -- when they don't meet their commitments. such as if they are not able to facilitate or force the withdrawal of hezbollah and iranian forces in some of those areas in southwestern syria, that should be highlighted and they should be called out. and finally, i think we need to continue to press for the jean eva process. as ambassador crocker said, we need to use all of our international tools. sorry to go on. >> no, i appreciate it. and i appreciate the focus on russia. you know, it's been russian support for assad that's prolonged this crisis. and, of course, the iranians continue to destabilize syria. it seems to me the trump administration needs a clear strategy for ending the violence
for holding assad accountable. and for making sure that the other actors on the ground don't take advantage of what happens in this post isis world. there's one other thing i would like to ask about before i'm out of time this morning. and that is about the ongoing saudi military operation in yemen and the resulting humanitarian crisis there. the situation on the ground in yemen continues to deteriorate. 10,000 yemen ease have been killed in the fighting and millions more at risk for famine and disease. in june, 47 senators voted to disapprove the sale of u.s. precision-guided missiles to saudi arabia, an expression of deep concern that many of us have had about this humanitarian crisis. so let me just ask here how the united states can use our leverage with the saudis to limit civilian casualties and to
ensure that yemenese civilians receive food and medicine and other basic human necessities. ambassador jones, ambassador crocker, who would like to answer this one? go ahead. >> very quickly. i will say that i think that the -- we should be concerned about humanitarian conditions, and civilian casualties in yemen. i think the saudis can do better. i think the solution is to work more closely with the saudis. i think the conditioning assistance will be counterproductive and risks extending the conflict there. i think we're at a crucial moment now with the new schism between the hootees and the party of al aa abdallah salah that killed the former president. this is a time to push for a political resolution. but to do that, they have to see a very credible military threat. and they should not see any uncertainty from us in our
support for the saudi coalition. >> i hear your point on this. i just want to push a little bit. i think this conflict in humanitarian crisis in yemen is breeding more extremism in the region. and continues to put us more at risk. and there's no doubt that iran should stop making this conflict worse. but let's not forget that saudi arabia is the one receiving weapons from us and receiving support from us, and i think we need to hold our partners to a higher standard here. we have a crisis on our hands that's getting out of control. and so i'm out of time. so i'll stop there, mr. chairman. but i think we've really got to raise the bar on this one. thank you. >> thank you, mr. chair. and thank you, gentlemen, as well, for your committed service to the great united states of america. ambassador edelman, i'm going to start with you in regards to
turkey, and then if anybody else would like to hop in, as well, i would appreciate that. sir, you once served as the ambassador to turkey. thank you for doing that. but i think you would agree with me that our relationship with turkey has changed drastically. since your time in service in that country. er dough juan continues to consolidate power, suppresses opposition, and he is really cozied up to russia. this complicates our security cooperation as it pertains to nato, and our collaborative efforts within the syrian democratic forces to defeat isis in syria. if you could, ambassador, just simply, are you optimistic about the direction of u.s./turkey relations? >> i'm not. and i invite my colleague, jim jeffrey, who served multiple tours in turkey, including as ambassador, to add and subtract from what i say.
but i'm not optimistic. i mean, i think the relationship is likely to get a little bit worse before it gets better. i think that's largely driven by president erdogan's domestic calculations about what he needs to do to consolidate the personalistic presidential regime that he has tried to impose on turkey, and which -- he has to now face the electorate one more time for the presidency when his term comes up. and i think that's driving, you know, almost everything. and a lot of those calculations drive him to do things that make the relationship worse. i also think that, to some degree, while i, you know, obviously think it's a huge mistake for turkey to procure s-400s and to cozy up to the
russians as they have, to be fair, some of that is a reflection of the vacuum that we have created, which my colleagues have been talking about. i mean, we have let russia and iran become the arbiters of syria's future. syria sits right on turkey's border. they're housing 3 million syrian refugees on their territory, which has imposed enormous costs on turkish society. so we bear a little bit of the blame here for this deterioration in relations. i mean, talking -- going back, you know, a number of years to the outbreak of the civil war in syria back in 2011, senator ernst. but i don't think we can tolerate some of the behavior that our turkish allies are showing. and in particular, the use of american citizens and american foreign service national employees, in essence, as hostages to the desires of the turkish government, their attempt to put bounties on the head of former u.s. government
officials like bahrke and graham fuller and michael reuben, people who they are accusing of being coup plotters and outlandish sort of charges. i mean, we really have to draw the line here and push back very hard on this. >> and with that aspect, ambassador jeffrey, i would appreciate your opinion, as well, or your thoughts on this matter. then what can we do as a united states to work with and change the current trajectory of turkey? and why don't we start with you, ambassador jeffrey? >> yeah. i knew this question would come up, senator. and because none of us want to be an apologist for turkey, because the things they do are toxic. but let me make a couple of general points. we've talked about how we're going to deal with this region, and as senator cotton said, we don't want to put lots of grouped troops in there. that means we have to rely on five countries, israel, saudi
arabia, turkey, pakistan and egypt. we've already talked today about the problems with many of these countries. we wouldn't pick these allies if we were coming up with a different middle east, but we have to deal with the middle east we have. they're crucial, and they -- we can't even get to this region without them. this is from yesterday's military times. deployed to air base turkey, the 74th fighter squadron has dealt punishing blows known as the syrian democratic forces. that was yesterday. those syrian democratic forces are commanded and controlled by a pkp offshoot as ash carter told this committee two years ago. that is dedicated to overthrowing turkey. we're supporting that group, because we need it against isis. turkey complains, screams, does all these things against us, and
every day those planes fly. that's the middle east we have to deal with today. it's unpleasant, it's transactional, it's ugly. but we in turkey have very similar strategic goals. russia and iran and to some degree syria want to change the mixup of the middle east. we do not, turkey does not. and at the end of the day, we just have to push back as ambassador edelman said. but don't cut off this relationship. it is crucial to us. >> very good. i appreciate it, gentlemen. my time has expired. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thank you all very much, both for your service at the state department, as well as for being here today. ambassador crocker, you talked about the fact that we're not even at the table in the discussions in syria right now. and i would argue that part of the problem there is that we have a state department that is not functioning in the way that we would like it to. because we have an administration that doesn't recognize the importance of
diplomacy and the role of the state department and foreign policy. not even sure how much it recognizes the importance of foreign policy. but i wonder -- i'm not going to -- i'm going to ask you, ambassador jones, because you were most reasonable the state department's top diplomat for the middle east. and i wonder if you could talk about what we could be doing to better enhance endeavors with our allies and partners in the middle east through traditional diplomatic channels. >> well, i think that this administration actually has taken significant steps to improve relations with key partners in the middle east. i do think that the riyadh summit in june was a watershed moment when president trump was able to convene the islamic world and make a very strong
declaration, both out of respect for islam and also a rejection of extremism. and i think these kinds of measures are significant, and should be continued. i think that -- as i said in my remarks, too, we have to make sure that we accu ate these gestures being done at the very senior levels at the working levels. and we need to use all of our soft-powered tools in places like iraq and saudi and in the gulf and in other parts of the middle east and egypt, certainly, to make clear the value proposition of the u.s. relationship. and that means business, that means technology, investment -- >> well, that certainly makes sense. i'm sorry to interrupt. but -- i guess -- and i appreciate what you're saying about the message that that sent to other middle eastern countries, about how we view our relationship with saudi arabia and with sunni countries.
but i don't know, ambassador edelman, i think it may have been you who talked about the disconnect between our policy objectives and what we're seeing from some of our allies in the middle east. and i wonder if you would connect what ambassador jones is saying to what we could do to be influencing saudi arabia's behavior so that it doesn't try and manipulate lebanon, for example. so that it doesn't help create a famine in yemen in a way that is not in anyone's interest. how can we -- how can we encourage them to be on the same page in terms of strategic objectives? >> senator shaheen, nice to see you again. >> nice to see you. >> i think it's important to go back to what i was saying in response to senator ernst's question about turkey. a lot of the things we see turkey doing that we don't like are a function of their reaction
to having to fend for themselves, rather than rely on the security guarantees they get through nato and from their traditional strong bilateral relationship with the united states. and in my opening statement, i talked about some of the challenges created in the region by the appearance at the united states was receding from the region. and giving up its role in the region. and i think when you create that kind of vacuum, what happens is, people try to do it on their own. in the case of the saudis, i think they're doing it on their own without a lot of experience of having done this. and so it's -- you know, it's not all together surprising they will do things in a way that we think makes things worse rather than better. i think the most important thing we can do, and i think ambassador jones talked about this a little bit in his response to senator warren's question, is to make our allies understand that we are there for
the long-term, that we have their back, that we are going to be with them, but that we think maybe they want to adjust what they're doing a little bit. you get much more receptiveness to that kind of guidance, which ryan crocker excelled at in multiple posts in the region. if you've got a strong alliance basis on which to base it. >> and doesn't that speak then to a very robust diplomatic effort in the region? >> of course. >> and while i appreciate the -- you know, the singular event in saudi arabia, the fact is, we don't have an ongoing strategic response that connects what we're doing militarily and what we're doing diplomatically. that i can see. and that that, i think as all of you have laid out, is one of our challenges there. we don't have a long-term, consistent strategy for what we're doing in the region. >> very quickly, iranian
missiles and rockets in southern lebanon and in northern yemen are strategic, extensional threats to two of our key allies. saudi arabia and lebanon. 10,000 more dead civilians in the middle east in a region that's seen a million in the last 30 years, by my count, are a stable coalition government in beirut are not going to deter the saudis and the israelis from acting against this threat. how they act against it, as ambassador edelman said, is where we should be more active. >> well, i certainly agree with that. that's one of the reasons i've been a sponsor with other members of this committee of hezbollah sanctions. so that we can put more pressure on them. but as you point out, it's got to be consistent. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chair. and i want to echo other comments today about the group
we have here. i've learned so much just sitting here in the last hour from you gentlemen. after spending a couple years on foreign relations, i hope you take this show on the road over there, as often as you get asked. ambassador jeffrey, i want to move this a little bit. i think not only is this a pivot point in time, it seems to me we've got a couple pivot points in the region geographically. the gcc is having a crisis right now. and qatar is right in the middle of that. and two of our allies are creating a destabilizing influence right now when we need to be showing force against the iran/russia influence over there. you know, we've got about 10,000 troops, including central command and our air assets, plus a full brigade's worth of armor. so it's a pivot point. can you speak to us just briefly about your perception of what's this really about between saudi arabia and qatar? and what should we be doing to influence two allies to cut it out and let's see if there's alignment that we can find here?
>> i first had to do an inventory of whether any of my colleagues had served in qatar and saudi arabia so i could kick the thing -- i think those are the only two places ryan crocker hasn't served, but he probably has a view, because he did well on russia. but anyway, it gets back to what all of us -- but i think most eloque eloquent liam bass dor edelman has said. secondarily, the threat of islamic extremism. because there's a muslim brother element between qatar and saudi arabia and the emirates, as well. flail around and do things that are uncoordinated, they don't check with us enough in advance. and we wind up with a mess. i think this administration, despite a couple of initial comments by president trump, has taken a good position. i saw this at the security conference this last weekend out in the gulf. they basically are all in all,
supporting qatar, i would say it's 55/45, because we have great interest with the saudis and emirates, because they clearly made a mistake. qatar is objectionable in many ways, just as we discussed at length, turkey and saudi arabia and other places. but we can't be going at -- scratching each other because of these secondary sins, when the real sinning in the region is done by islamic terrorists in iran. and so we have to get a better hold of our allies. >> and what should we be doing with qatar specifically and saudi arabia to keep qatar from leaning back toward iran, which it certainly looks like they are in a position to do? >> they will to some degree, because it starts with the gas field. they're going to have a strong relationship with iran, because they share that critical gas field. the more we can get the saudis and the emirates to roll back,
the more the qataris presumably will eventually find they don't have to keep turning to the iranians, the russians, turkey and others. and this feud eventually blows over. there was an earlier feud, i think 2014 or '13, and it did blow over. this one looks uglier. >> ambassador? >> might i just add something to my colleague's comments? >> please. >> this is more in the nature of a problem in search of a solution than a solution. but one of the problems i think we have with both turkey and with qatar is that they house very important u.s. military facilities. and as a result of that, both of those governments have, i think, concluded that there is a limit to how much we will push them on certain things we don't like, because of the desire to keep those facilities, which are very important facilities available. i think we need to look at, you know, more diversified and resilient basing in the region so we don't become, you know, hostage to this kind of behavior, and we can push back a
little bit more effectively when the qataris do things we don't like. i have a certain amount of sympathy for the saudi and emirates position about the qatari support for the muslim brotherhood around the recently. i think they did a lot in the early days of the syrian civil war to make things infinitely worse than they had to be. so we have to figure out a solution to this ourselves so we don't find ourselves being held back from pushing back on some of the things our allies do that we think are wrong. >> you bring up an interesting point from a strictly military point of view. we talked about it in here. after 17 years of war over there, i'm shocked at our footprint -- when you see how i just got back from a trip earlier this year in pakistan and afghanistan to see how we resupply that, this is a very precarious footprint we have over there. and now russia is at lata key and at your tuesday, moving down in the horn of africa. china is in there now. so this is a key, key topic, i think, to support not only the
diplomatic effort but also the military support for that too. great point. thank you. thank you, mr. chair. . >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thank you to each of our very distinguished witnesses. a fascinating discussion. and i appreciate your service and willingness to impart some of your knowledge with us here today. you know, in michigan, i'm very proud to represent a very large muslim-american community that focuses on these issues quite a bit. in addition to that, i have a large and thriving population of religious minorities from the middle east, as well. particularly california deans and ooze i haddees. and isis has been devastating and has shown a unique brutality toward them and their historical homeland. i supported legislation that declared the atrocities committed by isis against christians, u zidees and other ethnic minorities as warm
crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. and in march of 2016, then secretary of state kerry declared isis was responsible for genocide against these groups in areas under their control. as ambassador jones mentioned in his written testimony, isis can be expected to go underground and to continue to attempt to terrorize iraqis in the months and years ahead. and so i'm concerned that despite the military successes that we have seen against isis, members of these communities are still going to face violence and persecution. but i would like to hear from each of you, based on your experience, if you could provide one and update as to how you view this situation and your recommendations as what we should be doing and should the united states be doing more. start at this end. >> thank you, senator. this is with respect to the religious minorities? >> minorities, correct. >> one of the lessons i learned a long time ago is beware of
unintended consequences of major actions. and there is no action more major than a military intervention in someone else's country. you were setting in motion not third and fourth consequences, but 30th and 40th order consequences. as we were seeing to this day, in both iraq and afghanistan. with respect to the minorities, they were doing okay under saddam. because they posed no threat to him. i mean, he wasn't equal opportunity dictator and murderer. but by and large, the minorities could live in iraq. i frankly question how much longer we're going to see a significant christian presence, particularly on the plains of mid i va. i had a conversation a year ago that i won't ever forget with one of the patriarchs. i won't go furthered in identifying him, who met with me
in europe with a prominent lay representative. the lay representative spoke first, said, support us. make a clear declaration. you'll defend us. train us, arm us, so we can look after our local security. be an ally. the patriarch then said, please do none of those things. all you will do is paint a big bulls-eye on our backs to give the religious extremists grounds to say, clients of america, and it will get even worse. so just don't do anything. that was a very sad moment for me. because i think we are looking at literally an extensional threat to the minority communities in iraq and also in syria for those who didn't get out. i don't have an answer to that, except to say, be careful what
you get into. >> appreciate that. anyone else have a comment? i'd love to hear it. >> senator peters, i just would say first of all, i think we are witnessing an enormous tragedy in the region, which is in many places the likely loss of the various christian and other hetero docks minority communities, which is a shame for the region. i would just point out that in the turkish context, there are significant minority issues, as well. we have one issue in turkey where pastor andrew brunston is being held by the government on very preposterous charges. this is very broad throughout the region. in that case, you're dealing with a nato ally, not even with a country outside of our normal alliances. >> is there anything specifically we should be doing? we have two more ambassadors in the remaining time, which is limited. >> thanks, senator peters.
i think we can be proud of our record on stabilization throughout iraq are. and i think continuing to invest in stabilization, which is an immediate, fast action, low-cost process of restoring electricity, water, education, to communities so that people return to their homes, that's probably the best thing we can do for them. i want to associate myself with all of ambassador crocker's remarks, and also add that when we meet with these christian leaders in iraq, they say, please don't make it so easy for our people to leave iraq. because we're losing our communities here. and the more we lose our communities, the weaker we become. so we have to think as ambassador crocker said, through second, third and fourth-order consequences. but the best thing we can do, i think, is help people return to their homes and help build up institutions in iraq that will protect the rights of these individuals. >> all right. thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. gentlemen, first of all, let me say thank you for your service to our country.
what you do goes unnoticed in many cases, and yet it is so critical to our long-term successes and international diplomacy, which is much more desirable than international intervention with military force. let me go back to the jcpoa for just a moment. i want to just walk through the logic of where we're at today. the reality is, it's in place. the reality is, that we have up fronted with resources that were committed by the united states back to iran. those have been receded by them. now the obligation to execute their portion of the contract, the jcpoa, is in place. and they have certain obligations that they have to respond to. i question whether or not there is built into the jcpoa the appropriate penalties involved for their failure to do so. i would like to challenge, if i
could, the thought process that i'm laying in front of you that really this is a one-sided obligation forward. this is up to them as to whether or not they respond. and yet at the same time, since there is nothing more that we have to do with this in terms of any other obligation that we're committed to if they behave, if they behave, then the jcpoa has simply delayed the time period in which they will have a nuclear capabilities. on the other hand, if they do not, then simply the jcpoa has not worked. other than the fact that we have other allies who have supported in this effort, and who are also part of the international community, who may or may not feel some obligation to condemn iran when they do or if they do fail. would you -- if i could ask each of you briefly, could you either correct my assumptions involved in the discussion, or reaffirm
what i'm suggesting? >> let me start, senator. i was involved, as was ambassador edelman, in the bush administration, which took the basic decision not to use unilateral means, which is a euphemism for war, to deal with the iranian problem, but to go to the p5 plus 1. that was during the bush administration to negotiate internationally. and when you go down that route with the iaeia and the nonproliferation treaty and the u.n. security council, you're going to get a marginal product, because that's the nature of international affairs. and what we've got was a marginal product. is also does the job for ten years for keeping them a year away from having a nuclear capability. your specific question was, do we have tools, if they don't adhere to it? the answer is, absolutely. article 36 allows any member, including iran, by the way, if the others are not living up to
their actions, to stop all or part of the commitments made under the agreement. that would include our sanctions. that's article 36. there's a process you have to go through for about three months and try to convince the others and try to resolve it. but at the end of the day, you can liunilaterally within the agreement stop doing things. again, iran can retaliate. the second thing is you have the snap back provisions at the end of article 37. we as a state that has the veto in the u.n., it leads to a u.n. resolution essentially saying continue this agreement, and if you veto it, the agreement basically dies or the u.n. aspects of it die, which is tantamount to killing it. so there are very powerful tools we do have. but at the end of the ten years, as president obama admitted,
it's it's a different ball game and we have to figure out what we are going to do then. >> i largely agree with you. and let me make three points. some of which goes back to senator king's question. for the record, to me. which is, first, i think the jcpoa was inadequate in dealing with the past military dimensions of iran's activity. and without -- i mean, the iaea ended up closing the file on that without getting to the bottom of all the issues raised in the 2011 -- november 2011 ia report, nxk, i think it was, that outlined all the different problems that more than ten countries -- intelligence services had provided evidence to the iaea about, with regard to military activities. without that as a baseline, it becomes very difficult to verify the agreement. secondly, the provisions of the jcpoa for itself for inspections
were far from the any time, any place that was originally promised, and which, for instance, were a very important part of verifying south africa's abandonment of its nuclear program. and then the third element is i think what i call the undercompliance, which we have si seen, which is the nibbling around the edges, which are activities iran has engaged in, which were then, quote, solved by side deals made after the fact. so twice iran -- and this is in answer to senator king's question. twice iran exceeded the amount of heavy water allowed to produce. once we solved it by buying it, once we allowed them to switch it out for russian uranium. they missed other deadlines for amounts of low enriched uranium above certain percentages and certain amounts, which we then solved by, again, these side
deals. so there's -- there hasn't been a major violation that the iaea has said repeatedly, but there has been this pattern of nibbling around the edges, which i think is very dangerous, because over time, it conditions the iranians to believe that they can engage in bigger violations and perhaps get away with them. >> thank you. and i apologize. my time has expired. but i most certainly appreciate all of your service, and thank you very much for your responses today. thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. you are probably aware that on monday, turkey will meet with russia to finalize a deal to purchase the russian s-400 surface to air missile system. saudi arabia has also expressed an interest in this system. i'm concerned that this trend
over this kind of action may be part of a trend, very troubling trend of our allies in the region, turning toward russia to invest in this kind of system. among its other distinctions, it is incapable of integration or at least not readily so in the united states or nato defenses. my question to all of you, and i really appreciate your being here, your insight and expertise is enormously valuable to us, as it has been while you were in service. what should we be doing to address this issue if these systems are purchased and installed? what are the implications for our military and our diplomacy around the world? >> well, as a person who knows least about turkey, let me start. it's an important question,
senator. without doubt. i think, as you suggested, there are some real issues of the effect this will have on turkey's defense capabilities. as you knnote, it's a russian system. it's not compatible with the turkey systems, which are our systems, and have been for the last 70-odd years. but i do think we need to take a deep breath on this one. turkey was a founding member of nato, precisely because of the soviet union. they have a history going back through the ottmann empire of confrontations between two great empires. theirs and the russian empire. so i think there are some natural limitations here. i would say with respect to what we should do, obviously turkey is doing a lot of things we don't like. they are a nato partner.
in a region where we don't have a choice between democracy and autocracy, that's not on the table, it's the forces of order versus the forces of disorder. turkey has always been a force of order. i think we, again, need to engage, if we could just get a few assistant secretaries confirmed and ambassadors. and start going through the relationship, as happened under ambassadors jeffrey and ambassador edelman. we need to get back to that point. where, indeed, turkey is a nato ally. finally, i would just say, the -- one of the reasons we are where we are was the consistent refusal of the european union to seriously entertain turkey's bid for membership. good enough to fight and die for nato, but not good enough to join the gentlemen's club of the eu. the turks are a proud people. they were embarrassed, i think, by that. and erdogan seized on it. so kind of everybody needs to
take a deep breath here. i think this is salvageable. but we kind of need to get on with it. >> thank you. >> senator blumenthal, i agree largely with what ambassador crocker said. first, again, a little bit of historical context, to be fair to our turkish allies. on a couple of occasions, over the past decade and a half when the issue of defending turkey from ballistic missile threats came up, it was tough to get the nato assets down to turkey because of reluctance on the part of some of our allies who disposed over the assets, and you know, debates inside of nato. and i think that's opened, you know, a question mark in turkish minds about whether nato will actually in the end of the day be there to defend them. to be fair to them. having said that, it's very clear that the s-400 is not come
po patable with nato systems as ambassador crocker said and that was true about a chinese system before the s-400 became available to them. we do need to i think engage with them and remind them of what that actually means. both for broader nato defense, but also for turkey's defense. because it means there are going to be a lot of early warning assets and won't be available to them, that will put them at some risk. and that does require an ambassador in place. we do have an assistant secretary for european affairs. which is a good thing. very capable one, as a matter of fact. but we need to get them engaged in this now, rather than way too late. one of my concerns about the lack of staffing in the administration has been that if we go back to something we discussed earlier in this hearing, which was the -- i think miscalculation of ma sued barzani about the referendum in
kurdistan, i think the united states' government was very late to publicly get out there and express its opposition to this. back in the good old days when giants walked the earth, and i'm talking about my colleagues to the left and right, we would have been engaged in this, you know, at a much earlier point in time, and have had more time to manage the problem, i believe. >> the entire nato missile defense system focused on iran that the obama administration put in following the bush administration's, is based on nato radars that then prime minister erdogan personally agreed to in 2009 or '10. >> thank you. my time has expired. so i apologize. i have a lot more questions on this. but whether or not giants ever walked the earth, i think we would settle for a few ordinary experienced human beings and
those ambassadorships today. men of your caliber would be even better, men and women of your caliber would be even better. but there is no ambassador to turkey right now. there are no ambassadors in qatar, saudi arabia, egypt, jordan, somaliia. certainly very critical roles that have to be filled. and the connection between our military strength and our diplomatic strength is inex trickable, as you know. and unfortunately, ignored by this administration. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thanks to all of you. i just would recommend to my colleagues, i apologize for being late today. but the foreign relations committee had a closed briefing on the administration's new counterterrorism guideline proposal, which is the proposal for changing the obama doctrine about the use of drones. and i think some on the committee have received that briefing, but i would encourage -- because it really
bears on this topic today, i would encourage everybody to try to get that briefing. i have been following a little bit when i wasn't here the questions that were asked. and ambassador jones, you talked about the kurdish referendum in your opening statement. but i would really like to have all of you address this issue. not just the referendum, but working down the road with us on the kurds. they have been wonderful partners. their independence, aspirations, creates real challenges down the road for a unified iraq. they have been wonderful partners in syria, but our work with the kurds in syria have been one of these agitation points, among others, with our relationship with turkey as an ally. what do you think the kind of long-term policy of the united states should be vis-a-vis the kurds, in both iraq and syria? >> well, i think in the first instance, i think, as we agreed,
the referendum has had negative effects for the kurds. and so we should focus our efforts now on reconciling between irbil and baghdad. i think many of us are here are close and warm friends with masood barzani. i think he's an outstanding leader in kurdistan. but now the kurds and prime minister abadi need to find ways to return to the level of cooperation that they enjoyed in the lead up to the mosul campaign. i'm frankly more troubled by the situation in northeastern syria, although i think it was absolutely necessary to carry out the military cooperation we have. i think now we need -- we do need to take seriously the turks' concerns about the rise of the ypg and need to make sure our military presence there does not create a political monopoly for -- a political organization that is really hostile to u.s. values and ideology.
so i think, you know, my concern about the referendum in iraq was that it wasn't well-prepared. it wasn't coordinated with us, it wasn't coordinated with the iranians so i think that's the lesson. if it kurds want to move forward there needs to be more understanding betwaen all of the parties in the region on how thisicide go forward. >> other comments. >> it region and that begins with turkey, can -- and i said it it turks are allowing us to support the pkk offshoot kurds in syria every day. reluctantly with a lot of [ bleep] but they do it. the region and turkey in particular can support autonomous, kurdish iftities to one or another degree and it
varies. in syria and iraq as long as it -- as long as we're there, the turks know why we're there and it turk's interests are taken care of and these are not violations of the unity of those countries involved. in syria i'm less concerned. but with iraq that's $5 billion of oil produced on a good day. they can do that today if they needed to and ta can go up soon to 7 or 8. that's getting into it saudi arabia category. that's a very important trump card, so to speak, in it middle east and we don't want to just break it up. the timing was wrong, the idea was wrong and it as set the kurds back terribly in terms of their ability to survive because much of the oil they were exporting is in central government hands. that's about half of what their exporting before.
650 thousand barrels and so there's major political security and economic aspects of this and they have gone from one of the best news stories in the region to another basket case. >> my time is running but but i know you're interested in this question too. could i let the other two witnesses answer tis as well? thanks. >> i'm not sure how hutch i have to add. we're wrestling here with a problem that is really in a way that last remnant of the ottoman empire because the kurds are the largest nationality in the world without a state spread among four different states. i think of all us woo have wrestled with this have by and large believed that inyou could get decently organized societies that took into account minority
rights, they would be better off as citizens of a pluralestic syria, iraq, iran and turkey. in some sense turkey might have been the best case for that and the opening that president erdogan, back with had he was prime minister did to the kurds i think was one of the most promising and constructive things he's done in his had time in office. and that now unfortunately has fallen by the way side. i think in the end of the day that's still the right answer. but we may be -- i mean right now things are so much influx in the region that we spla to revisit this whole question about what the stats of the kurds is, depending on how well these other states hold together over time. >> mr. ambassador. >> great question, senator.
we have of course a long history with the kurds of that region and it isn't very pretty, particularly for them. i think above all what we need to do now is not even with the best intentions get them into a position where they're crossing red lines inside these states or across state boundaries. because we're probably not going to be around to back them up. with the going gets rough. it's the same as i've -- sadly with the christian communities. we're seeing, broadly speaking, as a great power that comes and then goes. there's just a lot to support that in the broader region. it first thing we need to do is turn it referendum and its failure into the beginning of a discussion of now what for them.
and i think all of us feel this way. sadly there are more nationalisms than there are nations. and the one thing that turkey, iran, iraq and syria, before 2011, all agreed on was no kurdish state. until that shifts, i think it would be the height of folly and danger to encourage these aspirations on the part of the kurds. >> mr. chair, thank you. >> i thank you very much for bringing that up. we both expressed concern back in the referendum time and one of the things you may not be as aware of as we are, he spent a lot of time with all of us over a lot of years. it's been good. we had decided, senator reed and i, that we would not have a second round. however f either of you want to