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tv   House Foreign Affairs Hearing on Syria Study Group Report  CSPAN  October 16, 2019 9:15pm-10:53pm EDT

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the group's cochairs testified on the findings of the report and how they could be applied to the current situation with syria and turkey. this hearing will come to order and we welcome everyone. the subcommittee testimony on the findings and recommendations in the study group's final report. given the timing of the hearing we will have the opportunity to discuss the ramifications of the policy changes in syria and a study group recommendations to still address the challenges that are.
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for the purpose of an opening statement. >> thank you very much for testifying today and for your work and the final report of the study group. your report as a thoughtful review of the conflict and provides pragmatic recommendations for how policymakers can protect u.s. interests and destabilize syria. now it is well known president trump does not like to read but i wish that he had skimmed over the executive summary before the recent phone call with the turkish president. your assessment notes do not eliminate the threat to the united states.
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it also notes the detainee population is a long-term challenge is not being adequately addressed and iran continues to entrench itself in russia and iran show few signs of divergence. the turkish incursion would represent a major setback at a crisis for the relationship and despite the challenges the united states maintains letters that protects the core u.s. national security interests. to withdraw u.s. forces in northeastern syria and consent to the invasion in the region, your assessment has in fact sadly worn out. rarely as a foreign-policy decision by the united states president yielded this many disastrous consequences this quickly. most importantly the choice makes the american people less
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safe. deliberately releasing the detainees and tigers and as your report notes they've transitioned to the insurgency and in the absence of pressure against it will utilize for constructing the external attacks. tragically like other aspects of your assessment i expect this to ring true in the coming weeks and i'm spent also forced to reach an agreement allowing them to expand into northeastern syria. yesterday, russian media circulated a video showing the soldiers and their proxy is taking over the recently abandoned u.s. bases in the region. this outcome will also benefit iran by reinforcing the position
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of its ally is unclear how allowing them to fortify the land bridge to the mediterranean and enabling it to threaten our ally is consistent with the maximum pressure policy on iran. both placed american troops typically in harms way to protect president trump's choice and he is reducing the presence in terminating america's endless war but they said a sent an addl 1800 troops to saudi arabia. they noted on friday an
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additional 14,000 american personnel have been the plate in the middle east since may. patriot air and missile defense and the b-52 bombers and aircraft carriers to support the objective of the increase to the tour iran but the claim that he is reducing the role in the middle east is a lie and the american people see right through it. one of the notable successes in the middle east yielding u.s. leverage and putting them in danger undermining the credibility, dividing nato, removing pressure on isis for the partners that fought valiantly in recent to counter them with american support.
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this is not just my opinion but one that most republicans share. it's the biggest blunder of the presidency and noticed we are witnessing ethnic cleansing, the destruction of the reliable ally in the reemergence of isis. the choice was impossible to understand. the former ambassador argued that they were instrumental in the successful fight leaving them to die is a big mistake. not one decision could unite democrats and republicans and deal yields this result it epitomizes the approaches of the world and i would urge my republican colleagues to remember that it's not the only
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example president trump would help $391 million since the ukraine and stayed at war with russia in a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people as part of an effort to compel them to dig up dirt on the political opponent that should unite us all in rejecting a foreign-policy experts ambition over national interest and so lead ousullyour nation's honor d credibility. i look forward to the testimonies and suggestions on how to achieve the national interest. with that i will yield to mr. wilson for his opening statement. >> thank you for calling this important hearing. the united states and syrian policy has been an example of the american strategic failure
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at every point from the notorious red line by president barack obama that was never enforced in the recent days that i believe that our failure is far greater than a strategic misstep. the policy over the last eight years represents a challenge to all of us. we said here over eight years after they began butchering people still tr trying to figure out what the policy should be, but it's not just us it is the international community that is complicit. the international system was founded in the aftermath of the humanitarian catastrophe of the holocaust but has failed to
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prevent the tragedy that it was supposed to act against. they've hijacked the multilateral institutions instead of promoting liberty they are exploited to cement tyranny and oppression. it developments over the past week have underscored the importance of the work that our witnesses here today have spent so much time. i was deeply disappointed by the administration's decision to withdraw and putting our kurdish allies in a great bill if warned against the withdrawal and the consequences that we are witnessing today like the chairman, i am increasingly concerned about the research of the heels on the withdrawal. it creates dangerous breathing room for the elements in the region which can ultimately
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endanger american families back home from safe havens overseas. in order to prevent them from coming here, we must fight them over there. about a thousand american soldiers was a minuscule percentage of all the military forces in uniform today that the role of this was outsized. they helped protect the world from the dangers of establishing safe havens to threaten american families. this was extremely cost effective in the military investment. it seems to be the only real winners of the withdrawal are russia, iran, turkey and the despotic regime in addition to the isis took her breasts. but the problem is that the withdrawal could have consequences in virtually every other arena of the u.s. foreign policy. the move solidifies a concern
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and fear america is receiving from the world stage inspiring and enabling the forces everywhere which has not been the policy of peace through strength. the reports over the past few days indicate that russia has intentionally bombed over a dozen hospitals and dissent in t important that an adversary. how many must be killed until we take action to stop this killing machine, there is simply no solution for syria. we know that america has been the actor on the world stage. we've always aimed to do the right thing and the people of the world know that. they know that the values america has stood for.
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we believe we still can return to that idea and in my opinion there is no substitute for the american leadership to preserve peace or strength. i will yield back the balance of my time. thank you mr. chair and ranking member wilson for your opening statement. i don't object to withdrawing the troops. i object and how it was done because the impulsive decision with no planning and no coordination we now have the isis theater risks that have been set free and turkish forces and russian military forces taking over the u.s. military facilities.
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the i think that it's appropriate for the american people to ask the question when it comes to vladimir putin, why does it always seem like donald trump bends the knee? i yield back. >> the situation has been a tragedy to watch unfold over the past eight years we've witnessed how brutal he truly is and the length he is willing to go to hold onto power. hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions forced to flee creating one of the worst refugee crises today. the civil war also created a vacuum for groups like isis and al qaeda while opening a doorway to advance its goal of regional
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hegemony and further enabling it to threaten our key ally in the region, israel. i look forward to discussing the report especially in light of the changes on the policy since it was released and how we can move forward to accomplish our objectives. huge bipartisan majorities rejected a half an hour ago on the floor. we saw northeast syria stable now they are subject to slaughter and isis may very well
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be liberated. it is a mistake made in good faith at a level with the american people, the president decided to pretend that this was some sort of a voluntary withdrawal. this cutting and running will not only imperil our policy in the middle east but it will undercut our alliances everywhere in the world. i yield back. president trump sealed the fate when he gave the president of turkey the green light to invade setting off a humanitarian disaster and reigniting chaos. i believe this callous heartless decision will go down in history
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allowing them to go free and seeing the influence like many i'm mystified by the administration's decision to allow them to go forward in their attempt to clean up the mess that they have made no matter what they do the administration can't bring back burger to kurdish children or reclaim the position and they can't bring back the credibility that has been squandered as we portray the trust of our kurdish allies. thank you to the witnesses and i look forward to your views on the efforts we can make and what actions you would recommend to the administration in this situation and with that i will yield back. >> without objection, all members have five minutes to
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veto days subject to the length, limitations and rules and it is now my pleasure to introduce the witnesses. the senior fellow in the policy's program and previously served five years as a senior professional staff member on the state of the relations committ committee. before capitol hill she worked in the office of secretary of defense and at the u.s. embassy and political affairs at the institute of peace and civilian military relations in iraq and the national democratic institute on the gulf affairs. also the cochair of the study group is the managing director of the washington institute for policy and previously served as a director for near east affairs and the white house from 2007 to 2008 and for several middle eastern countries including iran and syria on the staff of 2005
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to 2007 he also served as a special assistant to the secretaries of state colin powell and condoleezza rice. thank you for being here today your statements will be made part of the hearing record. thank you both for being here at this moment in particular and we will now start. you are recognized for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman for this opportunity for the report of the mandated group. it was an honor to cochair the group of experts along with my colleague. when the study group released its final report last month, we intentionally started by articulating why they still matter. making this case isn't something our group took for granted especially at the time of
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heightened public debate about the role in the world and what we should invest to achieve u.s. objectives. they are unanimous in their conclusion that what happens moreover we argue it is resourced and prioritized the compelling forms of life rich in the specific assessment and recommendations but needless to say it still matters. the fundamental drivers of conflict and violence are unchanged today. notably there is acknowledgment of these points in congress and the conflict was largely delegated to the margins of public attention before last week. now it is front and center of
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international headlines and it's captured domestic attention. as the executive and legislative branches of the u.s. government worked to articulate for the u.s. policy can realistically achieve when the majority of the forces in syria are withdrawn, the report proposes a series of specific nonmilitary recommendation to. but it's also important to take a step back and remind ourselves of the orders of this conflict and situate within the broad strategic landscape of the u.s. national security. syria opposes five strategic challenges. international terrorism, iran, russia, refugees and international norms. the current conflict began as peaceful protests against an autocratic dictator, one of the many uprisings in 2011. though many hoped the protests might open up the door to positive change, those hopes were quickly dashed as the
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result into a crucible of intersecting conflicts that had reverberated well beyond the middle east. the regime survived in power for decades by operating at the intersection of criminality and terrorism. the united states designated syria as a state-sponsored and service him in 1979. we know the nature of this regime. they facilitated the movement of the operatives during the iraq war to attack the forces and he will seek to leverage al qaeda and fighters again when it suits his needs. today they provide safe havens for the world's most dangerous to business groups. for example, it is the home to the greatest concentration of foreign fighters since afghanistan in the 1980s. oasis no longer holds the territory that was already reconstituting as an insurgent force. it will replenish its ranks breaking out of detention facilities today and will prey on vulnerable communities as the humanitarian situation deteriorates. it seeks to turn syria into the
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base for its missiles and advanced weapons and has exploited the conflict to entrench itself in the economic and social fabric. the strikes and the sanctions prevented iran from consolidating these game that the increased risk of the war between iran and israel it is now increased today. russia has exploited the conflict. though its intervention in syria must establish itself as a major player in the middle east for the first time in decades the u.s. partners across the region have expanded the thais have moved to moscow not washington for mediation. refugees have strained with the
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neighbors and politics in europe, yet the conditions are not suitable for the safe and voluntary dignified return in the enormous conflict by targeting hospitals and schools, deploying chemical weapons and using starvation as offensive or. to date there have been no meaningful consequences for these actions. we should expect future authoritarians when faced with peaceful protests may look to the case and assume that nasa civilian homicide will not be challenged in any credible way setting precedents for calm in the war. i only have a few seconds left. it's a conflict where the great concerns international terrorism and great power rivals come together. it is not a conflict that can be contained or ignored. the development of shapin shapie battlefield and political realignment will not end this conflict.
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it will only set the conditions for the next phase of the war. the report remains relevant today which my colleagu colleagl not detail. thank you. >> thank you for the opportunity to serve as the chairman of the study group and it was an honor to serve alongside. they've resisted our efforts over the years to the more it and to contain the conflict and as is to say it still matters. the reports that we put out just a couple of weeks ago offers what i think is a pretty sobering assessment of the conflict. i wouldn't want to give the impression everything was hunky dory before the recent decisions, but in the last few days things have gotten much
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worse i would say. the report at its core strategy of consolidating and working towards a political settlement to the conflict which is ultimately what is necessary to address all of those problems and taking steps to protect american interests if such a settlement could be reached in this proven elusive. at the time we put out our report, our view had such a strategy that essentially the strategy was undermined by a couple of big things.
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trying to recruit other countries to contribute militarily to the conflict u.s. officials are going to need to scramble to reverse engineer strategy to conform with the decisions that have been made by the white house in recent days. rather than consolidating, my fear is those that we've made in northeastern syria are going to be reversed and the political settlement on the terms favorable is now less likely and this is not a decision being made by the white house. this is also the result of poor planning because as i think the
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congressman said, in many ways this was a long time coming and we see no evidence that this decision by the turks was met with any kind of contingency planning by the government. we have u.s. forces under fire withdrawing under fire for the first time since somalia but it's coming from the nato allies and i think if we stop for a moment and let that sink in, it is extraordinary. the consequences of the u.s. withdrawal i worry what we are going to see is a cascade effect in obviously the report doesn't get into this because it is relatively new, but it's based upon what we learned in the briefings. my concern is now using the force was moving north to meet the turkish incursion into u.s. forces moving out of syria. this creates a vacuum and to potentially not just break out
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of prison but to conduct attacks to try to be consolidated some of its control of territory. it's already been noted between the al-assad and the turks to make a deal in which the forces now moving to eastern syria and come the iranians in the russian that raises the prospect of linking the proxies in a way that will also perhaps prompt an expansion of the airstrikes and increase the chance of outright conflict between the two. we will also see them deteriorate brutalizing as it has been elsewhere and the regime has retaken and we may also see a breakout of al qaeda groups along the northern border corridor. there are still problems elsewhere that are not linked necessarily to what's happening in the northeast and those include things like the security that's deteriorating in other areas, the entrenchment of iran
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in a society, the political process and shattering of international norms is no justice or accountability. so what does the united states need to do, and i will take a few seconds more. in the northeast i think it is vital that we hold in our limit the turkish incursion and press them for humanitarian access for the terrorist groups and often forcibly resettle the arab refugees in the kurdish areas or areas that are not from or do not want to go back to. it's important we try to keep pressure on iss and that means trying to keep troops in eastern syria if that is viable, and certainly keeping of the campaign airstrikes against both isis and al qaeda groups. also it means ensuring a whole bunch of the prisons in iraq which has also come under pressure in recent months, both politically and also perhaps here in washington.
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i think it's important we keep pressure on iran bthe pressure y supporting the strikes and by maintaining that on top which i anticipate itsel it self may noe under the same pressure as russian, iranians and others try to complete the withdrawal of the forces from syria. and i think we need to see a diplomatic push to hold our anti-isis and sort out anti-al-assad coalition together. while maintaining the policy of withholding the economic reconstruction fund, imposing sanctions and isolating the regime. many of our allies may be inclined to break away from the coalition. in closing, the report warned that this isn't a conflict that was over but remained a dynamic and dangerous. and i think that unfortunately the recent event has borne that out. it's important we stop relinquishing the effort could start using that. we are not going to cn and the endless war as a result of the
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recent decisions. we are going to find american forces were actually helping keep the peace and stability. we now will begin the questioning. i want to start with where you left off talking about american leverage. you leave out the five areas. i just want to suggest and ask this question, if our actions over the past couple of weeks mean that we are at a greater risk of two rivers on, expanded number of refugees, russia is stronger, iran is stronger and when you talk about
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international norm, which i think is too often left out of this as a policy and schools and starvation, has entered one of the international norms for decades been the american leadership and in all five of these areas if we are weak not to mention the fact we've left our partner to be slaughtered, then isn't that a fundamental norfundamental normof the amerid american influence challenged? what leverage do we have after we take action like this? >> thank you, congressman. i think we do have leverage. we remain obviously a capable actor around the states.
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we have obviously this coalition that we put together to conduct airstrikes against isis. we have sanctions and withholding of the reconstruction fund in order diplomatic recognition of any settlement. but i do think you make an important point about the will of american leadership, because i think that without the united states to sort of assemble international coalition to put together the tools, not just our tools but the contribution from others, they would say the writing is on the wall. russia is calling the shots and i think you will see strategies from those allies. we have exercised this for a couple of reasons, one because we always found it to be within our interest to do so to be the ones setting up the initiative and having others sign up to those initiatives in the second, because we worried about the
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vacuum that is created in the absence of the leadership that might step in and those are other states frankly like russia, iran. and the nonstate actors who in certain areas wherconcert in are frankly is no government, no authority step in to provide some of that themselves. >> i agree on the issue of the states with more power. help us providing a free hand in syria undermined the administration's maximum pressure policy that had been our policy and apparently continues to be notwithstanding where we stand? >> the study group talked about distinction to some extent being successful in denying the opportunity to consolidate.
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but on its own, the sanctions only policy combined with the target connectix strike was not sufficient to remove iran or eliminate the influence from syria. i want to return to what he was discussing in the first question as well. the reason the study group talked about needing to retain a u.s. military presence in a one third of syria was not only about completing the anti-isis fight, it was about the broad left edge just the resource rich part that provided leverage to influence the political outcome. there are three categories of leverage that if properly resourced the state department and resources are empowered to lead the coalition potentially providing leverage to us. the first is reconstruction. russia and iran simply do not have the financing to reconstruct.
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so, even if they regain control of the one third, he doesn't have the resources and his backers do not have the resources to reconstruct and provide economic stability or security for those areas. that comes to the united states, europe and access to international financial institutions. right now that remains relevant. many other governments are at this point contemplating whether or not to go back and, especially as we see what happens with a sob on the ground, but the risk of secondary sanctions and what it means to materially support the regime and the staffers now remains a possible form of leverage if we apply it and finally, political recognition. we still have leadership with the europeans and with international organizations to deny political recognition and international legitimacy and that still remains relevant today. >> before i turn it over, i would respectfully suggest coming and we will see how the rest of the discussion goes -- i
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acknowledge what you are saying. it feels as though yo you were s only weeks ago. it feels like it's from another time you talk about properly resourced positions on the reconstruction and sanctions and political recognition all based on american leadership. when you talk about america being a powerful actor on the world stage, that is true. we are a less powerful actor when we read the partners open to those we have relied upon to help us in this difficult battle. that's why this feels so problematic. it is indeed a bipartisan concern about everything we are discussing today it is quite obvious in a bipartisan manner. that's why we appreciate so much both of you leading the efforts of the study and providing the
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study. for each of you, the events of the past weekend attended the counter isys strategy. what should we do to have this strategy to address what has occurred in the last week? >> the u.s. force is present on the ground we were not fighting isis directly. we were working with a partner collecting intelligence, and we had a large air campaign as well. we don't have to abandon air campaign. our coalition partners, the coalition hasn't collapsed yet and i would add the coalition has many elements, not just military force on the ground. there was also a counter terror
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financing element, there's working on countering the isys propaganda and its global ideological appeal. these are still things we can work on and at the end of today they are still our nato ally and they have said that they are going to accept responsibility for the rest of the defeat of by this campaign. there are a lot of reasons but is a very problematic, but at this point, they are still our partner in the nato alliance, and if while we need to right now think about what tools we can come help to shape the turkish actions and to prevent the destructive actions that can cause the next cycle of conflict there may still be areas we can work with them if we can get to a cease-fire going forward with the campaign. >> i agree with that whether it is airstrikes were keeping some in syria which we need to
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examine if that is viable in the current circumstances. we need to keep the pressur than and off just isis but groups like those that hold benefit as well because now there is a court order created along the border which might allow them to escape where they are correctly sort of hold up and spread into other areas. syria in particular we need to pay attention to that. there's also this risk and president trump has talked about it quite explicitly. isis members now actual trading in places like europe and so there is an intelligence in thee task that comes along with that as well. so i think it's important that we work very closely to the extent we can end the relationship with the turks and other countries along the borders with europe on making sure we are tracking that and finding those folks and arresting them if possible and countering them as well.
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i think all of this is more difficult when the circumstances because part of the reason we have the forces was to sort of enable their activities in eastern syria to promote stability and good governance really would have been necessary. it already was reemerging but now it looks like they just won't be possible in the current environment, and that is going to sort of reduce our effect. >> i'd like to thank both of you because i was really concerned we were in a hopeless situation but indeed we are not and we should always remember turkey is a member of nato for 70 years and has been such a valued ally. and the turkish people, their relationships with the american people that hav it has been so t was just shocking to see the divisions occurring now that i believe will be temporary. on another note, the united
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nations has different associations with the dictatorship. from each of you what is your view about the relationship of the regime and the un organization's? >> the united nations and various organizations that have been providing humanitarian has received much criticism for which they would like that assistance to be delivered to communities in spite of syria. our report highlights a security council resolution coming up for the renewal at the end of the year for the cross-border resolution which provides the international underpinning for the united nations to enter into areas without the regime quiescence specifically to it. all humanitarian aid developed in spite of syria would be
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subject which means the provision would bthatprovision d politicized to suit the purpos purposes. >> my time is up, but thank you both very much. >> thank you, mr. wilson. i will recognize myself now for five minutes. i just want to thank yo wanted h for your work. i'm sure it must be frustrating to finish these recommendations and immediately thereafter have these events come up. the group was put together to develop comprehensive thoughtful policy. but instead they've acted on a whim and have thrown our allies under the bus and in holding our enemies and i deeply, deeply concerned about this and of course you have seen to date in the vote we just took how bipartisan that rejection has
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been. but th the reputational damage t has been done you might have seen what i've seen from the scsa this is a stab in the back. why would anyone align with us going forward, and your comments about what we can do and the lethbridge he still may maintain it relies on the fact that anyone would believe our word at all which i find to be quite suspect right now. >> i think that is a valid concern, the question is what with thwould the broad reputatil credibility damage beat the united states. and we have already seen other allies. we are not necessarily heavily engaged with this issue but suggested this does raise questions about the reliability. i think that we saw some of that from some commentators in the region. some have raised this question of do they now need to be a plaa stronger role in these
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conflicts. .. >> where they reach out to adversaries of the united states and this particular theater because they see something they need to do for their own national security. so even if we decide we will intervene less and to push others to share with a multilateral way as part of a coalition rather than simply
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to say you are on your own. >> also specifically note to the people in this region and how this will be heard in this region with great powers the russians and iranians but how in your assessment now they've done this work for months. >> thank you for the questions one of the things the study group did was travel throughout the region we could not go inside syria, but we went to turkey and jordan and israel and lebanon. what was striking i lead a delegation that much of the
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damage to the us credibility was already done from 2018 on the first attack to withdraw us forces with our local partners or those in the coalition. and those outside experts with those counterparts and he merit one - - humanitarian activist in the region already doubted if the united states had staying power to follow through. and when it comes to the kurds very much the same thing. damage had already been done and we were very clear that relationship was temporary and transactional and even though nobody expected the relationship to change over a short period of time that's
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why they always went to everybody else anyway. the entire force of the relationship was to mean communications with damascus to do anything to ensure their survival. >> i will yield to the gentle man from illinois. >> i'm sad that the report is frustrating to me because how quickly everything has changed but i don't want you to think your work is useless. someday it will be a very studied report and you will look how history went and how it could have gone as we look back in history. a couple of things i want to address. i was looking at being
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nostalgic about reagan lately and to set the record straight there is no choice between peace and war but there is one guaranteed war in the other day talking about peace in canadian peace or creating peace everywhere and i will tell you that you can create peace for yourself but if if you look at the world war ii order with this strain that comes back into politics that we inherited that capacity with that revolution we all look back on today to bring manufacturing back that is the american isolationism so with
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that world war ii order on its head the consequences are difficult to see in the short term but the immediate result of that perk i want to compare that quote. our soldiers are totally see - - safe syria may help with russia they have a lot of sand over there there is a lot of cna can play with. so this idea of war fatigue. and we are tired of talking about it but but after world war ii is and they said they
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will say one - - day. with that third-generation behind the iron curtain so basically the world is free right now because of that. fifty soldiers with the invasion by turkey. anybody that believes 50 soldiers that turkey would have attacked to say we will defend our soldiers with us military you are fully - - fooling yourself because it would have bitten a short fight nobody was to fight a nato ally me especially but i do want a president who will stand up for america's positions and there's no other way to put it. now we are spending a lot of time likelier enemies and drama queens so we have to fight somebody and then an
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enemy that wants to destroy yes. and with that it would require the administration to regrow us turkish relations with that feasibility to relocate american personnel because this is a big problem at the airbase. so with the chief campaign promise that's new it was to defeat isis but iran is doing nefarious activity. and in support of the asad regime. but then i'm damascus. >> iran has not withdrawn it support not only their own
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forces but those in syria but we see cultivating proxies as well as those forces they have but really to introduce itself in the social fabric. iran turns syria for its missiles if it wasn't for the israeli airstrikes so it will tell you that they stop iran from engaging activities and from focusing on syria as a power projection base. >> you are recognized for five minutes. thank you. i completely want to associate
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myself with the remarks from start to finish you did a fantastic job i wish you were here under circumstances that were different. but here we are. may be two and a half years that there was such a thing of the trump administration of resisting trump there is no administration but a president acting on his impulses in the policy of the united states right now is not our problem. is just a bunch of sand and they can all play in the sand. is now the official policy of the united states russia hates isis as much as the united states and pkk is a bigger threat than isis these are all things the president said today. anyone who wants to assist syria is good with me russia or china or napoleon bonaparte
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we know the second third order consequences can be catastrophic now right now turkey massacres the kurds we know with their alliance with the asad regime that will have protection i'm more worried about the asad regime moving to eastern and northern syria which is populated not just by the kurds but i'm worried about the inevitability of turkey now deciding in order to deal with these problems it no longer has any interest because it's not our problem. we saw putin in the uae in saudi arabia. that you can't trust the united states but i have seen loan - - some things i will offer. and worst of all closer to get
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a world he wants where powerful countries and leaders can do what they want america you do your thing and russia does its thing that makes me incredibly sad and what can we do about it? i'm struggling with certain things so did we as a congress have a bipartisan bill that was relevant a few days ago that you cannot go below 1000 and syria msc report back to congress so these are obvious questions is that a relevant approach also the relationship with turkey their sentiment to punish turkey hard i hate what turkey did. it is despicable but i'm
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worried we are obsessing over punishment of turkey because the decision the president made not to absolve ourselves in the stakes of the obama administration as well it's very convenient to say it's all now the fault of one country who did terrible things rather than looking at ourselves. what are your advice on those two questions? with troops something that congress can and should do in with turkey it is wise to sanction turkeys severely for doing something the president told them they could do is it really in our interest to pull out now to cede a nato ally to rush as well? what should we do.
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>> thank you congressman they are both very relevant questions. had we negotiated him mechanism with turkey which the ambassador was in the process of doing presumably we would have taken the troops moving them south to that security zone so in theory there is a reason why we can't do that now but because the security of american forces we have a very small number of troops if they themselves with the regime to move in is there an environment? i don't know the answer that's a congress question congress has to ask but on the question
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of turkey we need to recognize the seeds of this crisis were sown when we made a decision to work with the why pg kurdish militia knowing it was the greatest security threat apparently we gave turkey the green light to do this. the administration said we didn't but it didn't seem like there was opposition to the idea. so with our response of turkey now we are using sanctions not to punish but lay down conditions or redlines whether limiting their incursion or those extremist proxies and if we do need to use sanctions use them in a way that is
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strong that would cause turkey to reconsider these actions but right now it is the turkish relationship because of the targeting of us troops that's the behavior that is compatible with this nato alliance so there will be a long-term cost to the turkish relationship but in the near term. >> they spent a long time thinking about the relationship so i would like to highlight what we did today we did not call for severing the relationship with turkey we acknowledge the link of the pkk and the why pg element of the syrian democratic forces in syria and us support was a
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major irritant and we also did not say turkey was a viable military force so there were very clear things that we said so could the threat of sanctions threat in behavior like the forcible relocation of refugees? there are reports of atrocities and war crimes committed by turkish supported proxies. i don't know the content of president ergogan but sanctions may be able to take
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shape. >> the last decade syria has been ground zero for a proxy war for some of the most pressing humanitarian challenges our nation faces its essential i'm not sure what's going on with my microphone. it is essential the united states maintain a strong footprint and when the united states turned its back chaos arrived and the enemy went into the power vacuum. for my colleagues to have
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concern over syria to have a position of a strong us presence abroad i wish i would've seen this when president obama allowed aside to go over the red line in this newfound transfer talking about venezuela and other seeking liberty and freedom. bad i applied the new positions also president trumps continued actions to hold the regime and check after attacking on civilians putting sanctions on officials to commend the president swift actions in turkey whose irrational actions are in danger to power iran and asad against isis these are not the
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actions of a nato ally and with the sweeping sanctions bills so now i have two questions for the witnesses. first on august 25th the israeli air force ask it - - acted to prevent the iranian drone attack on israel what does this recommend to us support for allies or in particular israel? >> the israeli campaign if you step back is extraordinary because they have managed to limit syria through the airstrikes but yet they have not had a plot they did this in coordination with russia that has been an alliance.
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so the israeli campaign deserves accommodation we can support that with intelligent sharing or diplomatic cover and frankly use our own tools to counter what iran is doing with sanction tools and whatever else is available. >> i associate myself with his comments. >> how do we assure the situation on the border is not abused by iran to expand its presence to solidify as a land bridge? >> this is where he talked earlier about the us forces remaining at the top which is not the area of concern that turkey is currently focused so to maintain those forces is
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critical for preventing iran to consolidate those lines of communication through syria. given the redeployment of us forces it's highly likely russia, iranians will challenge our position that is under former secretary of defense mattis so in terms of maintaining that force our adversaries believe there is a credible force on the table that hopefully that's it they are making quite clear. >> i commend you on your work i yield my time. >> thank you very much mister chair and the witnesses. the first time i had the
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opportunity with darrell i.c.e. we traveled to baghdad and were briefed by her embassy we met with kurd leadership around passion for guy and doing on - - during that time our military and special forces told us how we were allied with the kurds with very heavy fighting so we could trust them how they were allies and our friends also i heard the situation in syria so thinking that we were allies and they can be trusted by s so this is a terrible disaster listening to the
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military and how they are ashamed is devastating if you think how each and every day they fight with those who expect to have their backs. that being said, i'm very nervous about the kurds in syria in particular with ethnic cleansing they are trying to cut deals but what assures them they won't to be wiped out? we had a family live with us because of ethnic cleansing is an coast of oh so what can we do so they are not wiped out as those atrocities already happening? what can we do? >> that's a valid concern.
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apparently on both sides with this line of advance not only those other enclaves so one thing we will want from the turks is to go there and threaten them with sanctions and with that in the zone that these things are not happening whether at the hands of turkish authorities or are these extremist proxies. on the other side obviously the asad regime in areas it has reoccupied with those russian forces to view those fighters and officers as a
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threat to the asad regime. so not just sanctions but we could be willing to threat in the asad regime with use of force if it's celebrity targeting groups for war crimes and atrocities but that type of response is only used with a chemical weapon you need to understand we are watching and the talking points for war crimes and ethnic cleansing. >> i agree and i would add when it comes to the kurdish communities they never put all their eggs in the american basket they think this is about survival whether no
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autonomy or integration of those struck sure that they created or desire for language in schools but if they can provide a security guarantee that the united states will not between those turkish operations to be in demographic reengineering versus subjugation's to damascus they will pick damascus and then the next for the united states what does our policy look like if our former partner works with russia quick. >> it is very important to have that transparency to humanitarian access.
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>> so looking for increased and there's a woman partner now with those terrorism efforts with russia and iran to assert greater influence. given those recent events to combat that full invasion is it even feasible? >> we spent a lot of time in the study group whether or not in line - - unites russia if there was fracture to break that alliance apart with the
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military operations to move forward. and to have more in common with those recent developments will need to solidify that this is working. >> there is tensions about security force activity whether or not this could be modified of the security council and would like to enable some sort of political process to pull them into the international community and that doesn't share that same objective but there was more unifying russia and iran
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opposition to the united states with that leadership in the region. >>. >> so regarding iran's presence in syria you believe they should not maintain a military presence so what recommendations do you have quick. >> we have some recommendations to focus on things like exposing iran and syria it isn't the overt military nature but to see the israeli airstrikes but there is an economic and social element as well. that activity doesn't get sufficiently exposed we should have a greater effort to put it into the sunlight but also
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we shouldn't think of what it's doing as an isolated issue to respond to. one of my concerns is we have a significant presence across the middle east but a lot of people are questioning our commitment and that's a dangerous position to be in we see the iranians escalate reportedly the attack in saudi arabia and this is more important to the idea that we need to respond to those escalations so if they say where else can we press on the united states to get them out of other places. so it's important to look at this as regional and not just serious specific spirit the carter doctrine in the reagan corollary that says in the
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gulf we can defend that interest but for us to have a heavy presence basically we have said where not sure we see that vital interest in the united states whether traffic and the goal for here in syria but the military presence is much larger than the carter doctrine heavy presence but receiving commitment but to try to take shots. >> now the russian force has indicated syria what it is the objective in the region how does it respond to the turkish incursion quick. >> it is to take back all territory under aside not just on the ground but politically
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they went full consolidation of territorial control but return of refugees and international legitimacy for the asad regime. >> they also want to defeat the united states i would like to say we don't need zero-sum not everything russia does is threatening to the united states i would like to say that maybe ideal conditions you could find room to agree or cooperate but that's not the case because moscow doesn't see it that way they want to show the rest of the region the united states is not reliable as a regime change effort. and they are not interested in the win-win solution.
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>> going through without objection i'm happy to recognize her. >> thank you mister chairman i would acknowledge the chairman and the ranking member for your courtesy this is a committee i used to be on a great affection and respect for all the leadership of the committee i happen to serve on the homeland security committee and a subcommittee of crime and terrorism. so what i think is crucial is the work that i thank you have done. i went to syria many years before 2011 and went to damascus of which some thought there might be a difference to my dismay. there is zero difference from
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his father but in another era. i want to pose these questions so let me read this statement from an army officer i cannot look at the atrocities from the videos posted online of those going after kurdish civilians that will stop isis will have a resurgence to go back in five years and do it again. but first of all obviously you are doing your study but what is your assessment for those that call you with the sheer violence and loss of life? remember when the conflict first started with doctors without borders and the united
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states we just saw miserable violence the syrian people were going throug through. help us to understand how deep the violences for that discussion that they had. >> thank you to the cochair. >> thank you for the question. we consult brat broadly with humanitarian activists as well as the syrian american community with those atrocities of war crimes. what we heard consistently was a plea from the united states to prioritize protection and the perception that has not been a front and center policy priority of the united states
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for us to recommend the united states makes very clear the willingness to use military force in response to civilian casualties and those of the asad regime is not just chemical weapons starvation, torture et cetera and these are not front and center or talked about enough in the us-led situation that gives us the perception we don't care. >> you think violence or decapitation quick. >> the what the president brings that turkish operation firing on civilians i think escaping from prison and the discussion of involuntarily resettlement in those areas that are not historically where they come from they all
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send a signal that protection is not a priority of the united states. >> you mention at the time you call that dynamic and dangerous. what is it now in light of the actions of the president that allowed turkey to come without restraint quick. >> i think it is more dangerous now than it was before because now you have isis breaking out to that counterterrorism presence as well as the other jihadist groups with the expansion of iran into syria and linking of those proxies that has taken place between israel and iran. so the first part of your
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question about the us military operation into the endless wars category i think if you are opposed and are skeptical of our presence in afghanistan or the way it was conducted because you had a very small american footprint to rally at 50000 strong with that partner force doing the bulk of the work to play the advisory role. the us military considers that to be a success and a model for future interventions and how we relinquish a lot of those games and if they deliver but to put it together.
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>> i just want to squeeze in the national security question so this was in your report. we now have a circumstance of a free-for-all turkish fighter jets and bombing and you have already indicated in your report of this and of those troops in saudi arabia that say they were being effective in syria but now they are just being scattered brick i mean the us troops but you mention you might have had success with soldiers but your
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assessment now of the national security threat in light of where we are with turkish actions. >> even though isis has been pushed out of the territory it holds that command and control of leadership structure still has the ability to raise funds now the 2000 foreign fighters in detention facilities not to mention the thousands of syrians and iraqi fighters in detention now will not remain much longer so now they will be re- punished and the global brand appeal we still have the leader giving speeches and up on the internet talking about regional long-term war so the
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national security threat is very high. isis still retains the means and the desire to plan external attacks. >> just a couple of specifics president trump criticized our european partners not repatriating their own citizens and he was right to do so frankly but the way things now have developed this process of repatriation is now not only essentially possible even if they are contained getting that to put them into a judicial process or a national security process will be impossible so to what extent could we have completed the process if they catalogued the fighters in the camps?
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do we know who is on the loose so that is ongoing of that was a decision but that may be a question to ask. i am appalled that where we are today you have done us a good service but also with the national security threat that hope congress can work together to try to bring some aid and comfort. >> thank you for your contribution to your committee today. >> you are recognized for five
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minutes. >> the turks are relying on the tribal militias to what extent is turkey relying on them and to what extent are they somehow to go with isis? and with those other parts of syria. there are over a thousand of these brambles sanctions to make their way into these groups that are now fighting.
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>> i cannot tell you in with those open sources. with those proxies used by the turks. and those that have similar ideology. >> over the course of eight years of conflict in syria there are no longer groups they describe as moderate. it with those affiliations.
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so with those serious standards so to do that with the forces and those setting standards i would also add those forces that the turks appear to be working with is done by other individuals to study their motivations and men - - much of that is criminality there's not much left there is no economy or economic opportunity. so on the other hand there are criminals working behalf of the turks. >>.
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>> how far do you expect turkey to go into the region? limit themselves to 70 miles? or south of the border or do they realize they may not achieve that goal. >>. >> i'm not sure anyone of the administration knows with a 30-kilometer deep 300 miles across which would've been a security boon for the turks and with those refugees. with these proxy forces.
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and with those military objectives that they have. and those that interpose themselves with the areas further south. >> and those to have an identifiable source. >> we asked that question and while it is clear to us with the pkk and why peg calling for specific actions with the pkk we did not find examples with us provided arms to make
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itself across the border into turkey. >> to find plenty of examples for those coming from the other direction across the border. >> so the turks did a terrible job to prevent them from going to syria and the syrian kurds have done an excellent job to make sure they do not go from the territory they control into turkey thinking mister sherman thank you for your thoughtful leadership of this important serious study group
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we may have additional questions for you over the next five days so thank you again we've had many hearings on syria. we sit here at this moment with almost 6 million refugees. with the largest state sponsor that is most dedicated with those democratic norms. >> and what you have offered us here is important as a tool for discussion as it informs the work going forward take
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you for being here. with that we are adjourned. [inaudible conversations] tv on.
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"washington journal" continues." host: jennifer cafarella is here to talk ab >> jennifer is the director at the institute talking about the us withdrawal from syria. let's begin of the key players in the region. so what has been happening before the president made this decision? the key players are turkey that as the turkish material one --dash those that conduct the offenses on the ground the turkish proxy war is members of the syrian opposition


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