tv U.S. Policy in Syria After ISIS CSPAN January 11, 2018 8:00pm-9:51pm EST
this is just under two hours. [inaudible] >> we think our distinguished witness for being here today. we regret the defense department was unable to send a witness. this is a second hearing on the searing conflict. an issue that has been raised during many meetings. for the 4000 people have been killed in the searing conflict. within 12 me million are displaced. the assad regime bears overwhelming responsibility for the extremism.
none of this would've been possible without the support of iran and russia, both intervened to extend influence in the region and country the u.s. and its partners. with the support of u.s. and coalition partners, the searing democratic forces succeeded in sweeping isis out of raqqa in october. despite losing territory, isis remains a major threat. there's also the danger proposed by affiliates which maintain significant influence and opposition -controlled areas. it's worth highlighting to developments. the u.s., russian jordan signed a memorandum of principles maintaining the arrangements in opposition held areas. iran and its proxies have deepened their foot hole potentially exasperating and
risking further instability by threatening our ally, israel. for the past two weeks the assad regime have been in the massive suburb which of the so-called de-escalation zones. the attacks killed dozens of civilians and displaced tens of thousands. i hope the investor will provide details of what were trying to do to counter those activities and assess the current prospects to solving this were diplomatically. i has been if you would like to make any opening comments. >> thank you for calling the searing on the u.s. strategy in syria. we cannot have a more distinguished witness before us. i look for to our discussion
today. there are many issues involving syria in which we have primary oversight. the use of force, and many of us question if that applies to isis what happens after they're defeated, where's the authorization to maintain u.s. troops in syria? we see an increase in the u.s. troops, i think it's close to 2000. what is the role for u.s. development assistance working with other countries. how will america diplomacy play out, what's russia's role, will mr. assad be held accountable for his work crimes. where's our concern about iran and developing a land bridge which affects israel's security.
the trump administration view syria through military lens. for example, in a pentagon press briefing the american public was informed the united states will have a condition -based military presence after defeat. however no information has been provided about the conditions about which u.s. forces will be syria. to gate i hope to gain insight. our young men and women in uniform and their families deserve to be fully informed of what they're fighting for and what when the fight will be over. i share the chairman's concern that the department of defense declined the invitation to testify. we have jurisdiction over the
authorization for the use of military force to spend significant time debating whether this covers entities like isis given the authorization was to target al qaeda in afghanistan. now even after isis is defeated our forces may still remain in syria to make sure isis cannot return. the same time forces have increased without public explanation. considered that forces mistake to mitigate against isis return ramping up u.s. forces seems like the prelude to another forever war with no congressional authorization. if we've learned anything it's that the military fight is not even half the battle. long-term sustainable ends need
stabilization activities, reconciliation, accountability of local leadership and patience, and constants diplomatic investigations. >> now the people in syria, so many who risked their lives are forced to look for another solution. it's an arena where the trump administration is ready to once with russia. i hope the reef port a release yesterday about russia and their tactics is not lost on those committed to a stable, prosperous middle east. working through moscow we bring further instability increase human suffering the same old
top-down corruption. russia is enabling iran of their militia to make themselves at home and set the stage to explore lucrative contracts. let amir putin who ensured assad's survival is fine around competing deals with base access of weapon deals. with united states absence governments are rolling out the red carpet for him. this is not a situation that benefits the united states and the people who want to look to the west but are compelled to look east. i hope we can get a better understanding of the strategy in syria. >> thank you, it's rare that i would make comments after years, i will say there is a lot of progress be in may and i think we will be in a place soon to
have a markup. were doing it in a way to gender support and input on both sides of the aisle. as it relates to what is happened in syria, to me, after watching our people in action, think what we saw was a seamless handout between one administration to another. obviously the generals were given more flexibility but i saw seamless handoff where we were very successful in doing away with the caliphate. to me this is something that has been successful in our left with the country that we have to figure out how to deal with. i want to thank the ambassador for being with us today.
is the acting secretary of state and david satterfield. one of our most distinguished diplomats who most recently served on the force and previously served as u.s. ambassador. we thank you so much for being here look forward to your testimony. >> thank you. i appreciate the opportunity to testify today. we have made significant progress since 2014 when isis first emerged and swept across iraq and syria that summer and had impacts far beyond.
we remain focused on the enduring defeat of isis and other terrorist organizations. countering iranian influence in iranian behaviors prevented the use of chemical weapons ensuring the safety of syria's neighbors and resolving the humanitarian crisis through the de-escalation of violence on a political resolution. there must be a resolution as of today, coalition backed efforts have liberated over 98% of the territory previously controlled. seven half million people free from isis domination in iraq and syria. while russian the demon announced the fight and isis in syria is over, the u.s. and our coalition partners to not regard this as a finished effort. we are committed to the total
defeat of isis and other terrorist groups ensuring they cannot regenerate and return. thanks to the generosity of the congress and american people the u.s. has provided nearly 7.5 billion come about 1.5 billion over last year. this critically assess at least 4 million syrians and name every month. in eastern syria the state department and usaid lead recovery efforts to help military gains, provide life-saving assistance to civilians and stabilize areas. unlike in iraq, we do not have a trusted government partner to work with. we are not working and we will not work with the assad regime.
until there is a credible process, supported by the searing people that can lead to a government chosen by the syrian people without decided it sent, the u.s. and our allies will not support large-scale efforts to reconstruct syria. the u.s., jordan and jordan made an agreement to reduce violence in southwest syria. on november 8 we signed a formal memorandum codifying principles that strengthen this effort. this further defines our efforts as shrines the commitment that non- syrian foreign fighters must withdraw from areas within the cease-fire lines delineated by this agreement.
president trump and president putin announced a joint statement on syria. and they reaffirmed the u.s. and russia commitment to a pluralistic and free syria. they urged all syrian parties to participate genuinely and actively in the geneva political process. on november 29 russia had to curse them to attend meetings. the opposition came prepared and ready to discuss matters. all the efforts are in line with the implementation of un security resolution 2254 which calls for searing constitution
and includes those displaced outside of searing borders can participate. a stable syria requires departure president assad. they have inflicted suffering and death on the searing and people including the use of debacle weapons. is incapable of democratically leading syria. we come to russia with a path toward a political solution. we call on russia today to pressure the regime to work seriously towards a political resolution. >> thank you. because the last portion of your statement, we are now not demanding that assembly. instead as i understand were
embracing the un resolution as putin has recently done. that would mean therapy an election that would take place. >> a constitutional reform and revision process in electoral process which would be under un monitoring supervision. >> it's my sense that people like you and others believe if that process occurs as supported right now by russia, you believe the way assad would go through a democratic election he would lose. >> mr. chairman, we cannot conceive of a circumstance with a fair electoral process overseen by the un the syrian displaced community could lead to a result where he remained at the home. >> is there any chance in syria there appear real election the
people have the opportunity to vote and it was not cropped? >> this is that goal. exactly what russia in the community want to achieve. it is a challenge. >> thank you. everything you said, i agree with. i like the way you emphasize the importance of mr. assad leaving. let me express some skepticism with russia's involvement and try to understand how we are prepared to deal with what is likely to come about. that is russia's goals not having a free syria. they're comfortable with mr. assad, it looks like they're setting him up to be a manned
from being held accountable to his war crimes. how do we -- and i agree with the reference that it's beyond reasonable expectations that syria would have a free and fair election in the near future, it would be extremely difficult to pull off. so how do we minimize russia's influence in the outcome of syria negotiated settlement? >> there are two things. i don't disagree with the points you made. they form the basis of our approach and understanding. we have an international consensus that is widely supported, there should be no granting of legitimacy, authentication to what has happened in syria minus that
credible constitutional reform in electoral process. the certification of victory from moscow or the regime. the second is money. syria needs reconstruction. the blueberries an estimate between 20,300,000,000,000 plus to reconstruct. the international community will not provide that assistance until those goals, constitutional reform, you and supervised elections are realize. that's a powerful incentive. because they do not have the funds will not be able to contribute they want stability and authentication. that's what we're withholding. translating everything we do, through the un, through the legitimacy of the security
council this is the counter or counterweight to russian initiatives which would control and attract on their own. the one have legitimization. >> this committee has been particularly strong on and u.s. deployments have been strong on traditionally. that is mr. assad must be held accountable for his activities. that cannot be compromised in the final political settlement. you committed to that goal? >> we are. >> another area that has been a major concern is iran's footprint in syria. seems likely that russia would be sympathetic to iran having a
footprint moving forward. there's great concern about jordan and i israel and their security presence. what game plan to we have to make sure we minimize the risk factors and protect our security arrangements with israel and jordan? >> the activities of iran in and through syria, i mean a greater qualitative alignment with the hezbollah is the primary challenge we face in the future in and through syria and iraq. we would hope russia would recognize that russia's long-term issues, should not way iran is a positive factor. >> we can you think we can convince russia that?
i think i agree with you. but i think mr. putin likes having a proxy of iran and syr syria. >> the focus from the russian point of view on stabilization and securing the success of the regime and putting an end to the violence, the question is at what price over the long term. in an enhancement cannot serve any regional or trans- regional interests. u.s. what we are doing. first step was the defeat of isis. as long as isis remained a potent force the space to deal with these was not there. that bandwidth is being freed up now. with the un process and
international support for credible electoral reform process we seem transition and syria as a potentially achievable goal. is going to be hard to do. assad will cling to power at every cost possible. we will treat iran and syria as a separate strategic issue. you deal with it in all places it manifests. not just syria but iraq, yemen, the gulf, other areas where their behavior affects our interest. it is a challenge for seas with right now. having a politically transformed syria will be a mitigating factor on iran and the opposite is also true.
>> with the russian concerns about assad, to think russia cares greatly about assad himself or just having the syrian leader that they can deal with? >> i've worked with the syrian puzzle since 1983. my views the russians above all us with the soviets before them treasure security affair chaos. it represents a source of stability, at a high price. we would argue instability, but i think that is the prime motive. it is stability and an end to threatening chaos. >> thank you. it's good to see you
mr. ambassador. i think a lot of hoosiers will be watching the syrian with great interest. on january 2 i attended a ceremony for 38 sustainment brigade of the indiana and national guard. for sending 38 of our best men and women into kuwait to support our operations in iraq and syria. these all-americans demand the best possible strategy for operations there. i started in the letter that my unbelief is if were going to defeat terrorist groups we need to address the legitimate concerns of community on the
ground and governance needs. do you believe the current strategy is optimized and properly resourced so far to ensure we accomplish those objectives? >> you are right without an address of this there will be an insurgence of violence. some of these are being addressed, others can be addressed that are by governments in the area. the issue forms part of our dialogue with every state in the region and our partners from outside. their systemic, long-standing generators of extremism and violence this troubled region. >> is there a particular milestone or to your watching to ensure our existing strategy
remains on track? >> there is. we watch iran emeline behaviors throughout the region. you and i have discussed yemen but there are other places we watch in terms of aggressive efforts to rollback these efforts in denying iran the ability to deploy and support these efforts, were more actively engaged today than in the past 15 years. it's a challenge on many fronts when you full cooperation as we move ahead. there is indeed a strategy. >> you mentioned yemen, i want to thank you and your team for your excellent diplomatic work. have a quick update on
humanitarian assistance and its delivery or lack thereof. >> we appreciate your efforts and those of your colleagues for helping us. we have full access to commercial and humanitarian goods. that means fuel moving. we've seen a reduction in the price and an increase in basic for fuels throughout yemen. we expected that to be the case. we've engaged in saudi with saudi's to assure no further closures of the sports. we will continue to work in the days ahead with the saudi's on this issue. the four u.s. funded world food crane should arrive at 10:00 p.m. this sunday and be installed the next day, that is a major accomplishment and we
all deserve, including congress the credit. >> in your written testimony, you say that assad has inflicted countless deaths against his own people. you also right of the need to diminish hezbollah forces and syria. is it accurate that iranian forces and proxies are in syria at least in part to help keep a man of power whose murder of many of his own people with searing gas? >> that is correct. >> i hope the people of iran heard that. this radical and oppressive regime is not only failing to respect the human rights of their own people, but there are also using the resources that
are causing some of this and have driven much of these reset protests it was notable in light of against iranian civilians back in the 80s there through the use of chemical weapons inflicting i think the people of iran it's another order shame is complicit in a directly involved i think the same as may and
slogans use it has focused on iranian money and i think one of the slogans was not syria, not iraq have a fall for us. i think there is a recognition perhaps more than we had assumed up exactly what nature of the external engagements are and what the price being paid for those engagements us. >> thank you mr. chairman. in your opening statement you noted lester the state department announced the memorandum of principles between the united states, russia and georgia that included a commitment to remove iranian back forces including hezbollah and other forces.
since then we've maintained the land through iraq, increase its own proxy forces deeper into syrian territory. meanwhile we've described the presence and syria as legitima legitimate, insist they never committed to the withdrawal of those forces. last month indicated 80% of the fighting force may be provided by ran and iran seems keen and doing the continuing land bridge to iraq. i don't understand. i heard your testimony that we do not have enough bandwidth. but is that the policy of the united states to actively remove iranian back forces from syria?
>> it is our policy to see syria be able to move forward free of all foreign forces. that includes iranian forces, fighters brought in from outside iran to fight with them and has blood elements this congress gave the administration sweeping authorities with strong congressional approval, many that have not been used yet. we're waiting to see what the strategy is. how can we effectively counter iran now after essentially focusing elsewhere? assumed to forthcoming iran strategy is a contradiction to what we've been doing in syria. how do you reconcile?
how is that going to factor into the iran strategy? >> it was the violence precipitated by isis, the chaos that resulted in serious product of that violence and seizure of territory that i loved other elements to advance interest in the presence. it's why the elimination of the isis threat was critical to credibly deal with iran. with respect to the borders received minimal movement by iran across land borders. that's in significant measure part of our own activities, not just on the syrian side but also on the jordanian and iraqi said. iraq cannot be eliminated as a critical element in our
strategy. we have worked very closely with legitimate forces in baghdad to counter iranian aspirations. it's been a hard struggle. >> you say there is not much of a lamb border but i would beg to differ that there is not much or there is any. the reality is it's a constant challenge. i asked specifically if it's a policy of the united states to actively remove iranian back forces from syria. how so? >> you gave me a generic answer russians are for an entity. if that is the policy of the united states to remove iranian
back forces from syria, how so? with force or troops? with diplomacy? >> first and foremost citizen aggressive sanctioning and measures undertaken by the u.s. in our partners to deny the physical tools and the ability to move to finance the activities. >> when will this happen? given the administration a host of sanctions that they have not use. if we didn't have the bandwidth and, i certainly have to have it now. we are engaged after the fact. a much more difficult set of circumstances i hope we gave sanctions on for destabilization
in the region and promoting terrorism i haven't seen those use. >> i would be happy to give you some -- i'll be happy to detail. >> i love to see the details. i think much of what was done was done under previous authorities. there are far-reaching authorities the administration has. i cannot wait for them to use them to get to and iran strategy. >> thank you very much. i appreciate you being here today. we talk about u.s. siena sodus chaos, instability, what, if any shared interest are there between assad and syria?
>> the first thing we come up with is you want to see stability, you're concerned about chaos into russia proper we understand that. but how does the perpetuation of her regime his behaviors have provided the fuel for the irruption of that sunni violence and extremism serve any medium or long-term russian interests? is this point that we reinforce with our colleagues in russia. we don't understand the long-term strategic thinking in russia if there is one. whether or not they concur or agree, our position is that we cannot will not legitimize a process which is independent of and not supported or endorsed by the secretary-general.
>> voice of america did a program about the peace conference and you mentioned the efforts coming up and so she. they said this is going to be great and there's broad support, same rushes trying to circumvent the peace process i will not attend the so she talks, the rebel said mediator in peace talks has to be a mutual broker. could you talk a little bit about what were trying to do this month? >> what the russians claim they have no intention to sochi or
any other channel of going beyond 2254 in the un process in geneva. there are significant doubts, reservations about whether sochi is a one and done and translate outcomes to geneva which is one possible option was like , streck second track under russian control and direction and only informing direction in the un as outcomes are dry. with that letter option which we cannot support the un brokered peace labor stations in geneva right now made only minor progress for the issue there
there could be attention turned away or delayed and prevent the progress you're looking for in geneva. >> there is a tactic in other areas of you don't have any ability to move your process f for's only we can take charge. that's a set up because we have ensured the regime will not take a serious position in geneva. we see that. there's a real test, the russians have significant influence over the syrian regime. if they wish to demonstrate this they have every opportunity to do it in the next few days and weeks in switzerland by demonstrating the regime is ready to seriously negotiate with the opposition. we will see that and be able to
make judgments. >> do we right now have any shared interest in syria with russians? >> we continue to seek demonstrations that beyond the few devices which is a shared interest that the big issue, iran, the political direction of syria that we do have a shared view. >> thank you for like to begin by adding my concern to those that you and the ranking member have expressed about the unwillingness of the departmen t
of defense to send someone here. we have heard consistently from secretary mattis that he is secretary tillerson talk on oregano basis. when they are working closely to address the conflict areas. it seems to me it's in everyone's interest to present the united pitcher before congress and do it privately. i think we should dodge a very deliberate letter expressing the concert about their unwillingness to be here. i hope you the ranking member consider doing that. investor, thank you for being here. do i understand from your testimony and for what you submitted in written form that our strategy is to defeat isis
and successfully implement the memorandum of principles and the un security council resolution 2254. is that our strategy? if that's the case can help me understand how we'll ever get to 254 implemented without further action with russia are on the ground in syria that will allow us -- >> is based on many elements. defeat of isis is the first out-of-the-box necessary precondition. second his basic stabilization. stabilize the humanitarian situation.
>> how we think that is going to happen? recent reports show the fighting is moving into another province weather had been for some time, lack of conflict. >> the northeast is the area controlled by the syrian democratic forces. this areas in the northwest deeply troubled area with al qaeda affiliate largely in control we are working on stabilization right now very successfully and with a minimum of u.s. presence. this is a highly efficient operation and it's working on the ground. the 2254 political process of
like-minded states has signed on to is the key. the key to addressing assad around foreign forces. what are lovers and tools to move forward. they are in denial of legitimacy and authenticity to any claim of victory and the withholding of construction funds which are vital to the regime and we think moscow's interests. >> i agree that that sounds good but it's still hard to see what progress we have made on the ground other than against isis which i would agree we have done well but how we'll get to the political solution.
the other question i have is there a number of officials lists you as one of those favor a limited approach and then not winding down our activities and leaving moscow's diplomatic efforts to address the remaining challenges. do you think that is an accurate report? why are we interested in leaving the field to moscow? >> that is not accurate with respect to any of the individuals. that does not represent our position. because it excludes a critical element. require strong u.s. backing. it does not take into consideration the detailed
exchanges around moscow the secretary, i and my colleagues which are focused on what russia needs to do if it's to be seen as credible. in the ice of us in the united nations. and that is a challenge out there. those are not accurate quotes. >> i'm still not clear about how were going to move fresh around. >> it is interesting as i listen to questioning. there seems to be on one hand concerns about the committee that we have to thousand troops there on the concerns that we may be leaving the train to
syria. i hope we can have more of a simple thought here. what i've seen is a seamless handoff from one administration to another and as a country tremendous success as it relates to dealing with caliphate. to me it's something that component of it should be something that we should cherish and celebrate and now figure out what we do going forward. a continuation of a policy that led to success. >> we need to know about the military mission is. and it's that has become less
severe. recognizing that we needed an economic solution for people in syria. that is not necessarily require troop levels. >> as i understand the troops that are there are not involved in combat, set correct. >> there are still combat activities. the campaign that is the structured of isis is not over. the level of fighting has diminished since the days of urban conflict. but the fight goes on. >> they are in facilitation of the efforts have consistently carried this fight since the beginning.
>> thank you for your service. i'm looking at written testimony to confirm what i thought you said that will cost to - $300 billion who has that kind of money? >> i can tell you who doesn't, the syrian regime, moscow. who does? the international community, companies, financial institutions, they have the money collectively but that will not flow into a syria which has not gone through a transition. >> does the state department estimate what it's costing to be engaged in syria? >> we can get back to would that be classified? >> senator menendez was talking about the sanctions.
i want to go back in history to impose sanctions on iran, how long did it take those sanctions and complete cooperation. >> it took some three years of concerted effort. first to bring russian china who are critical consumers of valuable in the iranian community to come on board the to go through continuous review of the sanctions. that was the hardest of all to get consensus when actively sanctioning when we got it it finally words. >> seven relaxed the sanctions. >> to have a final figure how
many dollars have come into ir iran? >> it's an excess of $100 billion any chance of having the coordinated level of sanctions of the next round? in terms of putting pressure on syria any chance of having a coronation? >> no. i think it will be extraordinarily slim. russia would not agree to participate. >> so we can talk about all the sanctions have some kind of magic effective getting the monitor but the fact that we relax relax so sanctions iraq is not use those been studies that the places like syria.
>> iran has always demonstrated an aggressive attempt to support its proxies and conduct activities route the region. it is not a factor of the jcpoa. >> it so this will not get them out of there, correct? >> unless they assemble the kind of unified sanctions regime which means russian full participation to reflect carbon flow, i believe all we are obliged to sanctions to designate as aggressively as we can to get the kind of the effect that we saw on the nuclear enrichment program will
be difficult. >> suresh is in control of that only with russian cooperation with you get rid of assad, only if you get rid of assad when he think flow in syria. i don't see that happening anytime soon do you? >> it's a difficult challenge but you talk about the factors we believe moscow wants to see more of a transitory to get that that's what moscow wants the cycling to come under the present circumstance. >> were gonna need not russia to put pressure on the regime to abide by resolution 2254 why
should russia do that because minus such engagement there'll be no money coming in. either for russia or for syria we believe that's meaningful to russia. >> thank you for your insight. >> said several times that you referred to a security council when i take a look at article for that it has wonderful visions of the syrian led process that will produce a new constitution held within 18 months and it would include the
diaspora all wonderful and beautiful but we have a geneva process in this process that is sponsored by -- with iran and turkey involved. in the geneva processes and minimal and she seems like there's no real traction toward the vision laid out. how do we get from this now that we have this goal of cooperating to assault isis which was a clear objective. now that is accomplished had a
reaction get traction toward the vision of .254? >> the first is to try to engage a positive and negative sense of the russians to take responsibilities that they have committed to and tonight and continued committed to to the secretary of the general of the un. the negative side is what doesn't happen what doesn't, they don't cooperate? no international support. no recognition of what russian the regime are doing. with respect to the un were not leaving it alone. the collective of countries in the region and the community working side-by-side with
secretary-general's special representative to make of geneva to make plates for minimal at best for progress. >> you say that it's like really committed and yet why would we have this process if there are really committed to the u.s. 2254 geneva process. i'm somewhat cynical. >> with recognition of united nations as an observer to do different thing it was to bring down the levels of fighting last year and to establish de-escalation zones. that was the goal. the moment it became clear to the united nations into us that i was really be all that
objective to political steps it challenged in the above. we see surfers to separation and so did the united nations. >> i think you've described in part where my cynicism on this comes from. the circumstances in which the u.s. would not necessarily withdraw because it was headed in a direction that didn't make sense. let's turn to the de-escalation zones. . .
it doesn't sound like like the fishing of its own influence is being realized. is there a way to correct the misdirection? the goal of bringing down the level of violence which was extraordinary and threatening at the time the initial zone was established was largely achieved. i will note with the recent exception to the pocket of the northeast, there was extraordinarily levels of violence and associated forces. by and large fighting violence in the de-escalation zone came to a close. there is an affiliate in that area which is not covered and not protected by were shielded
by the zone and there've been activities conducted against the leadership of the affiliate in that small zone. with respect to th the foreign forces at the time the principals were signed, all of us involved and i must say for the record jordan, the united states, israel recognized we had a key objective to get a commitment on the part of the russians to a goal that was important for all of us. the placement of both the republican force and hezbollah positions. not all that many in terms of people but challenging because we saw no reason for them to be their associated. whathere and associated. they were there to prepare for the presence and the front.
we and the jordanians have repeatedly noted to our russian colleagues that many of the positions remain in place. they acknowledged that he is in fact the case. this is not a satisfactory outcome and all of us in our separate and collected dialogues continue to reinforce this is a commitment that will be fulfilled. it has not been comprehensively to date. >> thank you for being here and for your commitment. i have to admit i'm frustrated. it's kind of like watching reruns in the news. he's always been a good guy and it's always been a driving force in the policy one way or another as far as we are concerned and
the middle east. if i hear you right, russia is the problem to get to the point of a solution. both russia and iran have the fundamental support for the regime that has allowed the regime to survive. each of them presents a unique challenge, russia from the standpoint of the support militarily and politically and iran because of its behaviors. when you say russia and iran, they are two different countries and they are what they are basically the same player in terms of their interest is that correct? >> we hope that is not correct. we hope and we base our approach on the assumption that we don't hold out as a fake concept to
but note to them that it shouldn't be the same as iran. we couldn't imagine how the security interests over the long-term for the region match the ambitions and the drive of iran over the long-term. if there is a short-term coincidence of interest that's something for russia to justify and explain. we don't see how it can be a long-term interest. seeking domination. >> i've never heard that word but my comment is when i say russia and iran are the same, they have parallel interests and aligned interests. i know we don't want a two track process we would like to see one process until we get there you can never hope to have one solution is the way that i look
at it. is there a catalyst that weekend caused u this to take place that might prompt the necessity of making the decision to stick with one or the other and not both? >> we've lowered the level of participation as has the united nations because of our concern and recognition. we've moved beyond the purpose for which it was created and we supported but you asked how we bring this to a single track and the answer is the secretary general, not the u.s. government for the general of the united nations has the power to legitimize or not, support or not any purported process or track said to support the process. the secretary general, and i do not think that i'm putting words in his mouth, is deeply reserved
with respect to the assurances. without validation, they are on their own and i am not sure that is a place they want to be. our position has been clear to them, the un position has been clear they have an opportunity in the days ahead in switzerland to demonstrate that credible intent which can give some credibility to their assertions. whether they do that or not is up to them. it would be my observation that tragedy the last five to six years the russians have always been in the other factor in a matter what the issue was on the other side of whatever issue we were on and until they are
committed to a solution, it isn't going to be a one track solution. is that a fair statement? it is the key to getting to a one track. >> if we elevate that responsibility we might have the chance to give to on get to onee negotiating points. >> we have been trying at every level of the government to put russia squarely in front of that responsibility. >> thank you for your work. >> thank you for this hearing and for your leadership along with the senator in passing the
accountability act i think it is important that we continue to make it clear that we intend to hold accountable the regime for their horrific crimes against humanity and we do not step back from the commitment to human rights and accountability as we tried to untangle this incredibly complex and difficult strategic situation. thank you, senator cardin yesterday for releasing an important report the details the actions to undermine democracy throughout the western world and thank you for your long service and helping us better grasp some of the contours of the administration policy. i am struck that the department of defense declined to be represented in this conversati conversation. i will agree with chairman corker there was a seamless handoff from one administration to the next that with regards to
the fight against isis, that piece seems to have gone remarkably well but i do not see a seamless handoff if anything the opposite when it comes to the refugee policy the resources needed by the department of state in order to do very difficult work not just in syria anthisarea and the region but gy and th this sort of decisive actions and the willingness to use this committee and this congress that gave strongly bipartisan sanctions authority to push back against russia for its interference and their actions in this are and refusalo use the authority against the ballistic missile program and human rights violations and regional support for trigger for
some. there've been some designations and i welcome them and only hope that there will be more because i think that the situation in southwest syria by which they now have a dozen positions just over the border. i appreciate the view that's been laid off about th out abouh forward through which there might be a un sanctioned that supervise involving the millions outside of syria and a credible process. we seem divided on this
committee in terms of our views about the importance of remaining and engaged on the ground. i think this is a valuable conversation for us to have with you as well as the senior representatives of the department of defense and other entities within the executive branch that are vital to understanding the situation. but i am alarmed about iran has succeeded with russian support and sponsorship and sustaining and transforming some of the forces into the militia they are beginning to turn them into hezbollah and serious for the long haul.
withholding to cut i because foe reconstruction dollars is insufficient. we absolutely contemplate the alternative outcome and the president has committed as a matter of strategy that we will not leave. we are not going to declare victory and go and that is not my opinion, that is the president's strategic judgment. we are going to stay for several reasons, stabilization and assistance in the vital east and northeast, protection of our allies, the democrati democratis that fought so valiantly in the northeast and try to work to help transform the political structure in that area to a
model capable of being credibly represented but for other reasons as well including countering iran and its ability to enhance its presence in syria and serving as a way to force able to help us achieve some of those broader objectives that we've been speaking about during the course of the hearing. your posit of what happens if all of them fail i comment for the reasons you will understand on the hypotheticals but i will say this. any meaningful strategy to words the maligned behaviors whether it is iraq or elsewhere will require a full toolbox spectrum of the measures involving all of the agencies and assets of the u.s. government and ideally active support from critical allies in the region and
outside. i won't go behind in my commentary but that is what will be needed. i appreciate the work of the chair and i only hope that the president uses the tools given to him by congress to demonstrate engagement against iran and doesn't further distance us from our vital partners and there is a constructive path forward we will know within days whether he's choosing to take it. >> responding to the senator i'm not so sure that the committee is divided on engagement on the ground. i think that rather than that, i think the frustration is people are willing to do that. we want to know what you're doing and where we are going and what is the strategy to get there. i've been listening to this for years and years on the committee. nothing ever changes.
before you can resolve a problem, you've got to understand it and have some clarity. it's not here. i've listened over and over again and i appreciate your statement that you and your colleagues have approached the russians on what you want and where are we going here. a deep dive into but the russians did this or is our elections are concerned without going into the classified stuff coming at the most recent and it was stunning if indeed they were trying to affect the election
they ran against each other. what is the clear statement that you believe that the russian strategy is as far as they are concerned? >> in a different setting i would be happy to elaborate on the multiple layers on what we assessed to be the objectives. we tried to reflect in our dealings all of the assessed interest that they have but in this open session i can simply say that i believe and note they want to be up to present.
it is clean and comprehensive. neither of those objectives frankly are reflected in the reality at this moment. neither that military victory nor the political victory. the best course for russia would be to work in active support of 2254 where they will have allies, colleagues and support for the meaningful resolution which at the end of today the dy doesn't portend the russian interests at all. actually we would argue the support for the long-term but i can only note that point. surely the objectives cannot be
so inept as to understand that those are in transitory. they are not achievable in the near future or anything else given the state on the ground right now we try to point that out. >> i appreciate that. good luck. >> it gave us the opportunity to have an objective and do something about it and we did it. there's a lot of people concerned. i don't know how that plays out but the one thing that we do know is certainly it is going to rear its ugly head somewhere
else. where do you think that is going to be? what we see in northern iraq is that they suffered tremendous defeat not just the loss of territory and assets but the loss of fighting in any of the urban battles that were fought but many of its core leadership avoided the fight and moved to areas that were not challenged and they remain present and coherent and we have seen both in northern iraq and northern and central syria every assertion nevertheless and i would note some weeks ago in six small towns they were re- taken from the pro- regime forces on the western side of the
euphrates. this fight isn't over and i am speaking about the real combat fight. we are convinced that with time they can be defeated to use the rubric that is quite appropriate, but not yet. >> thank you mr. chair and ambassador for your testimony. i agree with the comments that the chair made earlier that it is a good thing for us to step back and celebrate battlefield success of the u.s. military coalition partners against isis and i give you that as somewhat seamless between the two administrations with the continuity of the basic on the battlefield plan. it's hard to celebrate too much because the scale is so great and they will create problems and do things differently and try to control real estate but it's important to recognize the good work done by the coalition
and also the good work done by thank you scid state department and humanitarian commitment and mercy corps one that's done a lot of work in the medical society and tremendous work providing medical care and the american positions, so a whole lot of folks both in our defense are diplomatic but also the american ngo community so it is important to recognize that. as we enter into this new phase i have a set of concerns that are put on the table about the actions going forward. i inquired the legal justification for the strikes and eventually they provided a letter giving the domestic justification and we had a wonderful hearing recently and one of the witnesses went back and forth a little bit and i didn't think that it was that he
pointed out in the later it gave no international justification for the u.s. military strikes and we are still waiting for the answer from that nine months later. the truths that we have is more of a counter iran mission. i wondered about the authority to remain in the country against the will of the government for the mission that deals with another we are going to have some additional questions about that. i wrote a letter to the secretary of state raising a series of questions i would like to introduce as an exhibit and i am likely to pose some of the same questions. the one question i wanted to ask you about was the curds that have been some of our best part is having their own set of challenges in the iraqi central
government and your expertise encompasses a pretty wide swath. they've been excellent partners with the military and the work we've done has created tension. your thoughts about the way we handle the continuing partnership and in honor of the work they've done in that chapter that we have with the suspicion of any partnership. >> we understand the security force is concerned with many of the elements in the democratic forces as we deal with stabilization in the east and northeast it is the emergence of the local governance-based political structure which cannot
be labeled kurdish and the ethnic dominated sense but multiethnic mix. we see this in terms of the leadership in how they transition and move beyond what they have been in the past and the associations that are found objectionable. in order to be able to participate, that participation of the peoples of the north and northeast need and want to be part of the future but at this point, but the coincidence between the secretary-general's concerns and russian concerns
and our own on how you see the political transition in this type of place in a matter of fact mitigates the turkish concerns about the more specific and understandable concern on the connection. we are very much focused on this, but this is a work in progress and i'm not going to be able to tell you that a month or two will see a resolution, but the leadership understands it is an issue and they are working on it aggressively. thank you for being here. watching some of the hearings on tv before i came here, there seems to be a strong consensus that doesn't grant the immunity on the sanctions of which there is no shortage of things to go after them on and there's already existing authorities on
ballistic missiles and others and now the sponsorship of terrorism so i think it is important this committee has talked about this in the past. they are asymmetrical agents under the direct or indirect control and if we were ever to be attacked by these voice choie should make it abundantly clear we hold them responsible for the loss of life property in the united states or personnel abroad with her in the military or stat state department and the facilities it's a game they play where they use other people to attack us and 1 degree of separation is something we should make clear surviving citizens working to lay on the record.
it is good news. you see the map and what it is today in the isis territorial control has eroded over the last administration and here's the bad news it hasn't been replaced by things that are much better and whatever they changed their name to recently they are still around. we know the forces are reinvigorated and appear to be victorious. but ththe senator asked what are motives if iran is pretty transparent and they want a land bridge to lebanon and over to hezbollah which would be a major contributor that sadly appears to be a question of if and not
when given the indigenous capabilities that they've developed and in their history in the past but on the history of russia, the motives are easy to understand. one of the things they seek to achieve is to present themselves as a better, more reliable partner and power brokers in the united states. it's an argument is made and we've seen it in iraq and jordan and turkey which is a nato member and democratic forces have been to some extent seduced by this promise and i guess my question is when we look at this what is our seat at the table and why, what gives us a seat at the table in any future conversation about? >> our presence, our military presence associated is a
critical and very significant piece of the syrian territory. >> we are grateful you are here today, but have the problem is you said what gives us a seat at the table in a negotiated path forward is the department of defense presence and they are not here today. >> the other part is our role in the international community. lead and shape and correct and i use those terms advisedly, the like-minded community. >> like the united nations? >> i'm speakin >> i'm speaking of the like-minded nations of syria that holds the resources to reconstruct syria and hold the power to grant or deny legitimacy for any resolution. ..
confidence where it matters and that trust that i include those that resides squarely with united states. russia would like to present a different picture and we should not overreact that at the end of the day we are the party for fundamental defense and support. >> so with the core of the argument in some cases based in that country? >> we help them against a very real threat. >> through the department of defense? >> to the combined efforts including the military. >> thank you mr. amb. for
being here to give this testimony. but very briefly to this committee being uncomfortable with increased military presence while also raising concerns about a decreased diplomatic presence those are two very consistent worries in the sense that with additional troops on the ground they are place at greater risk from the diplomatic and political conversations that are the most relative if they result in the place becoming more rather than less dangerous so i think we can do a better job to marry together those concerns.
to senator rubio i don't think it is credible to suggest our seat at the table comes from other than our military presence we have signaled we are no longer interested to be in the lead with respect to the economic future of syria whether diplomatic or the state department's insistence of a 30% cut to do reconstruction and stability deals we have telegraphed we will not be a player the way we have been in the past so our primary leverage comes through the insertion of more troops which continues to bag the question why we don't have the department of defense here. but in their absence with the
future disposition of our troops, how do you explain the conditions for the withdrawal of american military presence? 2000 troops in the middle of the most interest place in the world they are in combat so what are the conditions by which we bring those troops home? the withdrawal of the iranian backed forces? we elections? how do we articulate the endgame for the u.s. military presence? >> the president is committed to remaining in syria to achieve goals.
that means in a diplomatic military sense not based on a calendar but assessment of conditions stabilization efforts moving forward successfully and one is the broader assessment of a political transition with the arabian projection of influence there is no specific numbers that can be attached it is something we will reveal on a progressive basis. >> i would argue you are operating in direct laud long -- a flawed idea. >> it worries me tell the
committee our military presence in syria will run so long if our conditions are met including the withdrawal of the arabians. >> i said with the assessments we are making are the broader issues. >> so what is the functionality of military presence? with those non- isis priorities? >> that would have to be provided in a different setting. >> wait a minute. that will not pass muster. generally you can state the purpose of the military is beyond isis without getting into classified materials. >> we are deeply concerned with the activities of their ran -- i ran to enhance
activities to mid to material into syria i would rather leave that discussion at that point. >> i will interject it is hard to understand your response even with the most broad au mf close to what you say. >> i take your comment senator. >> i share those concerns that the future of the u.s. military in syria is aimed at a drain line -- addressing iranian backed presence which is important for us to have that discussion. >> let me say i think that one
of the things to add to this discussion is having the department of defense here and i hope you will take that back secretary tillerson and secretary matus have these discussions all the time it is important to have them here with the american people. with the question to see the end to make sure all strategic goals are accomplished can you tell me what those are? >> first and foremost the enduring defeat the elimination of isis. >> let me stop you there because everybody who has discussed this believes isis will more -- morph over time.
so how does this not become the unending war? through the next step of stabilization in the political transformation in syria that is the only measure to prevent exactly what you describe the reemergence of another sunni islamist challenge or violent extremist. >> those are the goals for syria but with respect to iranian is a progressive constraint the diminishment to project through syria. >> can you explain what you believe of iraq's interest why they are in syria in the reasons for what they are doing? >> to have a platform support
hezbollah and the missile challenge which is a threat to israel and also a defensive asset for the regime to build a greater presence in syria itself to endure beyond any transition so iran is in the position to further influence over regional parties outside of lebanon and jordan and saudi arabia as a platform for behaviors not confined to lebanon. >> shifting in another directio direction, by supporting those kurdish forces the state department or pentagon have a plan that those arms provided to not end up in the hands of the pkk as
a recognized terrorist organization. >> yes. we have been extremely attentive to that issue but at the time they stepped forward as partners in the fight they were the only ones to do so. no other state or party were willing to take up this battle but we fully understand and appreciate the pkk and the terrorist threat to turkey and others in the region. >> how would you expect turkey to react? >> i would expect turkey would make its own conclusions which is why we are as attentive as we are where the weapons
provision to those other elements that are associated with them in the north. >> president trump recently recognized jerusalem as the capital of israel and the plans to start moving bear. this is a very contentious issue among all muslim majority countries including our ally jordan so has this helped or hampered our relationships with countries in the region and how are terrorist organizations using this to recruit new members? remake i believe virtually all the states in the region have made their concerns with this decision clear i would not emphasize from the eloquence they have already presented.
>> just a follow-up i do think we should have a classified briefing to talk what the military may be engaged in. i don't thank you view us not being diplomatically involved? >> absolutely. >> i don't think secretary tillerson feels that either so any allegations is felt differently by the state department. >> if i may on this point, we are are deeply involved diplomatically at every level with every player. there has been no diminution of our engagement or its effectiveness away certainly agree but i would make another statement. you measure efficacy of diplomatic performance by the
quality of the engagement not by the number of shoes on the ground that is a lesson learned from iraq. we are quite effectively deployed in syria partnering with our military force in the north also with the jordanians as the discussions take place there in the geneva channel this thorough engagement of our diplomatic assets around the world. >> just to follow up on senator murphy's line of questioning we do need to talk more fully what is contemplated from the defense department with all due respect to give us tremendous run aroun around. the reason it was given is they have not yet briefed the senate armed services committee and until they have
done so they didn't feel they could come here. but it also sounds based on your answers may be a change of their efforts on the ground and we need to hear more fully that if it is you said or what you indicated certainly the authorizations are not there for that activity. thanks for being here. hopefully we can answer those questions by the close of business thank you for your service and your great testimony. we are adjourned. we are adjourned b5 spee5
that to happen. >> expect us to take the house because the environment is such the american people are looking for stability and focus on their issues in terms of jobs and education and healthcare and environment and national security. democrats can provide some stability to our country with a proper check and balance in our system. when we see a president who has trouble creating stability within the white house much less within our government.