tv House Foreign Affairs Hearing on Trump Administrations Response to Syria CSPAN December 6, 2018 5:09am-6:41am EST
way things work now, donald trump and -- in his heart of hearts believes he always wins. here's a guy who has been in new york real estate gambling, boxing, wrestling, beauty contest, television, construction. he's never been the target of a criminal investigation. that is astonishing in new york city. >> a conversation with longtime journalist and publisher, sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span q&a. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service, by america's cable television companies. and today, we continue to bring unfiltered coverage of congress. the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington dc and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite
provider. now a discussion about turkey and its role in the middle east. analyst talked about how the killing of journalist jamal khashoggi has strained relations between turkey and saudi arabia. the event was hosted by the middle east policy council. >> thank you s the subcommittee will come to order. thank you for being witness -- with us, our excellent witnesses, the audience and members, and usually, i would not need to start without my
ranking member, my good friend ted doig, or any other democrat, but they have caucus meetings, they are big shots now. if so, you know we have to pay attention to them. we are going to start with the staff saying it is okay without them. and whenever they can, they will jump right in. thank you so much. after recognizing myself and whoever might come for opening statements, i would love to recognize all the other members for their opening statements, if you can keep them brief. we will then hear from witnesses, thank you gentlemen for being with us without objection, your prepared statements will be made a part of the record, as all of the members may have five days to serve statements and questions for the record, subject to length limitations in the rules. the chair now recognizes itself for five minutes. this is part two of a series of
hearings we began in september and while it has taken a bit longer than we would hope, we are very pleased to have two of the administration officials most intimately involved with u.s. area policy here today. thank you, both of you. two weeks ago, ambassador jeffrey laid out the administration's latest plan, and objectives for syria. first, the enduring defeat of isis, second, the escalation of the conflict and removal of iranian forces, third, a political process under un security council resolution 2254. i am glad to have ambassador jeffrey and his new position as special representative for syrian engagement, and his more active and pro--- approach. this is an opportunity for the ministration to plan how it plans to achieve those goals. with at least half 1 million killed, millions more displaced, and the security of the united states and our allies on the line, the administration owes it to the american people to
put forth a comprehensive effective and most importantly, achievable strategy in syria. after more than seven years of conflict, i am deeply appreciative of our men and women in and out of uniform who have contributed so much of their time and energy and into many cases, their lives in an effort against isys, and for the syrian people. likewise too many good syrians have been taken from us, many of whom were simply families trying to escape the brutality of both isys and of the asad regime. many of whom, like the pro- democracy leader sarris, who refused despite threat after threat to give into the murders and terror that took over his country. unfortunately it was assassinated, and regime forces continued to prepare an offensive in the demilitarized
zone hanging on by a thread. chemical weapons are being used once again just this past weekend. it is important we take a more active approach, like ambassador jeffrey advocates, we thank him for that, to not only prevent another humanitarian disaster, and more loss of life, but finally to address the root cause of this conflict, which is asad and his cronies. i am concerned that we aren't prioritizing stabilization assistance in areas liberated from isys, as well as those targeted by asad. this does not mean reconstruction assistance but it does mean the kind of basic services and stabilization needs that would allow local communities to be more independent and to be more resilient and less susceptible to pro asad forces. as honey and guitar to -- as was testified at one of our meetings, sunnis are being
cleansed to create demographic facts on the grounds. if we don't help them resist, we are leaving areas of syria right for iran and asad on one side of the spectrum and a resurgent isys on the other. as we have learned the hard way in iraq and afghanistan over the past 17 years, it is not enough to take out the bad guys and hope for the best. we must with our partners creates the conditions to ensure the bad guys don't come back. i am so pathetic to the challenges of delivering aid in syria, especially when it gets diverted to the very people we are trying to defeat. in 2016, the ranking member mister deutsch and i held a hearing with the government accountability office and usaid office of inspector general on a gao report that ted, gerry
connolly and i have commissioned, which found weaknesses in our humanitarian aid program in syria. gao has found that most of our lamenting partners were not assessing the risk of fraud and recommended that usaid and state strength -- strengthen their own broad oversight program as well as those of our partners. at the same time, oig announced it had opened 25 investigations of fraud allegation. usaid and state have made improvements sense, but we continue to hear about u.s. assistance in syria including a recent incident in which according to oig, one ngos employees knowingly diverted usaid funded -- let me say that again, one ngo reported that they had seen knowingly
diverted usaid funded food kits to al qaeda. as i said i am very synthetic to the difficulty of the mission, nobody is saying it is easy. we cannot allow ourselves to be deterred, it is incumbent upon the ministration to put the most rigorous and effective monitoring we can't afford to be cutting stabilization assistance little and humanitarian aid when every other major player from asad to russia to turkey to china is deeply involved and working to shape a new syria that will undermine u.s. security interests. i look forward to hearing from both of you gentlemen about how the station plans to protect u.s. interest in syria, and exactly how each of our programs goals and objectives fit into what i hope that is an
opportunity for success. i will direct the chair to madam can secure to -- mister kissing her to direct statements. >> i sound like a broken record, there are so many deaths , 50,000 children in syria which is absolutely abhorrent. i do want to start with some good news, which is, i think, this is menstruation we spoke a good game in the last menstruation really feel like there were a lot of opportunities to basically get rid of the syrian regime, red lion for one, and they would in a way that would have ended far better than what we do in syria. i think the administration has made it clear, whatever goes on present in syria.
the land bridge to israel, and other things that i want to echo the chairwoman's concern about aid as well. i think we need to really take a solid look at how we are distributing aid. i think the un does us a disservice and some of that, in terms of legitimizing the regime. i think there are areas maybe we can do a directly, especially areas and communities near military troops as they starve and look and see wealth that american troops, and the opposition uses that, the evil folks use that as a propaganda win. i thank you both for being here, madam chair, thank you for your fantastic service it's been a pleasure serving with you, and i will yield back. >> thank you so much. you can have more time if you would like. i am so pleased to yields time to ambassador wagner for her opening statement. >> thank you madam chair, i would like to echo the accolades of the gentleman from
illinois, in saying that your leadership, not just on this committee, but in congress, for so many years, will be sorely missed. and we are grateful for that service. before we begin today, i would like to honor the memory of forests, the courageous syrian activist who was murdered last friday. for years, he founded a radio station to give the opposition a voice, and highlight the suffering that asad had inflicted upon his own people. i want to share what he said after surviving an assassination attempt back in 2014. and, i quote, when we started our revolution, we broke the barrier of fear, we are not afraid. we just want to reach our aims. dignity and freedom, and we
will get that. i offer my sincerest condolences to his family and his people of syria who have lost one of the bravest forces. i think our witnesses -- i think our witnesses for their time in service and i look forward to hearing more about the work the u.s. is doing to advance dignity and freedom in syria. >> he certainly was a remarkable human being, we are honored to have met him. i want to thank mister lahood. i know he does not have an opening statement but he is not a member of our subcommittee but he is involved in these issues, so we welcome you mister lahood. i would like to introduce our two incredible witnesses for today's hearing, we are delighted to welcome back ambassador james jeffrey, state department special representative for syria engagement. we were grateful for his insight at our hearings in his
previous role, and i am very glad to see him in this new position, there could be no one better than you, mister ambassador. in 2010, and buster jeffrey was appointed to the highest rank in the u.s. foreign service, career ambassador, he has served as the united states ambassador to iraq, turkey, and albania, as well as the deputy national security advisor, and a u.s. army infantry officer in germany and vietnam. thank you for your service -- thank you for your service we look forward to your testimony. and we are delighted to welcome mister robert jenkins who serves as deputy assistant administrator, for a terrific agency, usaid, working for humanitarian assistance. he previously served as the director of the usaid office of transition initiative and the opposition's operations coordinate. prior to joining usaid, he designed emergency relief programs, and was a thomas j
watson fellow. thank you for your service. we also look forward to hearing your testimony, and as i said, gentlemen, your complete statements have been made a part of the record, feel free to summarize, and we will ask you some questions. >> ambassador, you are recognized. >> thank you very much. it is very good to be back here with you. thank you very much for those kind words, it has been an honor to work with you over the years. madam chair, you and the other members of this committee have summarized very well the seven years of horror brought about by the asad regime, enabled by russia and iran's malign influence, not only but particularly in syria. and what this has brought us to in this horrific situation. this administration is committed to a way forward.
again, madam chair, you laid it out, i will repeat it for the record, we are here to, first of all, and sure the enduring defeat of isis, in syria, particularly in the area where we are but throughout the whole country, that is important. that can -- that is the mission we have given to the u.s. military there. secondly, the united states with all of our elements of power, is committed to the withdrawal of all iranian forces from the entirety of syria, in an irreversible political process that will change the nature of -- and the behavior of the syrian government because without such a change, we are not going to see an end to this conflict. this is not regime change, per se, it is not related to personalities it is related to the policies of that regime. as a secretary pompeo stated on october 10, these three goals
are mutually supportive of her to spend a few minutes talking about how we will try to weave these goals together to answer the question that you and others have raised of what our policy is going forward. first of all, you cannot ensure the enduring defeat of isis, that is what we experienced in iraq of any tour -- terrorist organization if you do not deal with the root causes of it. the root causes of ice is mainly in syria and to some degree in iraq has been, first of all, the horrific behavior of the asad regime against its own people, giving those people no other chance but to turn to whomever would take up arms against asad, and that was unfortunately, including terrorists. secondly, it is the role of around spreading its tentacles around the arabic sunni world. this is an outside force that creates malignant antibodies, if
the international community does not respond in the proper way. we did not respond in a proper way to iran's encouragement of these areas, so the people of the area in desperation fell victim to the false claims and promises of isis and other terrorist organizations. so we do have to do all three, we cannot simply arrive -- rely upon the military defeat of the caliphate right now, along the euphrates and the iraqi border. we have to go after the root causes in our policy. in terms of the way forward to execute these other two more political goals of an irreversible political process, and, the removal of iran, what we are looking at is as president trump laid out in the un general assembly back in september is a a de-escalation
of the conflict, and a reinvigoration of the political process. we talked first about -- let me talk first about the de- escalation of the conflict. now against villages other than the the de-escalation against isis, we have partner forces with the stf and in the south again with partner forces, the turks in the northwest, that is about 5% of the country, almost half of which is about 40% of the country, not under his eyes control across the border. we are going to work with the un and with the russians, work with the international community, to the extent that we can solidify these cease- fires, calling on of the relevant un resolution, 2254, and tried to use that to leverage the political process, which has not done well, including today, the last effort to try to form a
constitutional committee of oppositions it says opposition government and neutral representatives failed in a meeting held by russia iran and turkey. but, we are not going to give up on that path forward. there has to be a fundamental change in the way that this regime works with its own people to avoid the threat that the regime and the state make toward its own population. and, to our allies and friends in the region, which is first and foremost israel but also jordan, turkey, iraq, lebanon, and other states. this is an international situation, we have five countries outside states with military forces right now in syria, iran, russia, the united states, turkey, and the israeli air force. there is military actions as we
saw with the shootdown of the russian aisle 20. the situation is quite dangerous in terms of state to state conflict. we are working to avoid that while at the same time, building on this cease-fire to set forth a legitimate political process that is worthy of the name of the un vision for syria, being at peace with itself and at peace with its neighborhood, thank you. >> thank you very much. that was an excellent statement. mister jenkins, we have been joined by a ranking member mister deutsch, and it shows you the high level of interest he has on this issue, because, we know that on your side we have a lot going on, and competing time restraints. so, thank you mister deutsch, i
would love to have you give your opening statements. >> thank you madam chairman, thanks for calling the hearing. thanks ambassador jeffrey and mister jenkins for appearing before the committee today, mister jenkins, thank you -- thanks to the difficult work the u.s. did to address the humanitarian crisis, i was encouraged by your appointment for syrian engagement i am hopeful you will lead the ministration to finally solidify a conference of strategy for syria. thus far, the initiation's failure to really codify what we need to accomplish and how to accomplish it has been concerning to say the least, i'm sorry i got here too late but i know we will be spending a lot of time going forward. we have seen iran extend its military footprint closer and closer to israel's border. encouraged by the progress against isis which has seen the group lose to mendez amount of
territory since 2016. the administration has made tangible efforts to ensure that isis does not reach that included nord as a senior ministration have -- has a plan for our future relationship with the syrian corridors partnership has resulted in the most dramatic losses for isis in syria. the ministrations missile strikes against the asad regime, while something i support, lacks a strategic backing to actually alter behavior, and i worry it would appear thus as empty gestures. asad continues to break international law and commit crimes on a massive scale. the restriction has stated it was to find peace through the geneva process which through the last several years has failed to bring the syrian conflict to an end. demonstration is also stated it wants syria to no longer be led by the brutal asad regime, but we have seen no evidence that the administration has a plan
to achieve these goals. the state department has stated the u.s. will not commit itself to full reconstruction until there is a credible and irreversible political process underway to end the crisis. however, after the regime, iran and russia have routinely made a mockery of international visiting to lessen the suffering of the syrian people, i have little confidence in such a process. the tyrannical asad regime played the international community for a fool by hiding behind the so-called de- escalation zone that allows him to dedicate military resources to one front before breaking the agreement to bomb civilian targets in other zones. we have sat by, watching, as he continues to use chemical weapons, cluster bombs, and other illegal methods to break civilian enclaves and crush parties. the situation continues to be wrought with uncertainty, between the pro-regime forces, and opposition groups put a lot
of salt on the region with a large number of internally displaced civilians, with nowhere else to go. a full regime assault threatens to become the largest unitarian crisis of the entire conflict. in june, the secretary of state asking to prepare and mitigate such a disaster, to account for why the ministrations throws $200 million in stabilization funds which included funding for an independent radio station which countered extremist propagation is propaganda right in his area. last week the founder of radio fresh was killed, striking a blow to those of us who support counter extremism in syria, and i know many of us touched the program to address isis long- term threat and having had the opportunity to spend the opportunity with him and speak
about the number of times he was able to avoid the attacks on him, the news was particularly difficult for us to take. stabilization assistance once again cedes american leadership . the russians will be more than happy to try to fill that void, i know the ministration will also say that saudi arabia is picking up the funding, but the question is, will we be able to use that funding to use what we believe are the best strategic interest for our own country. congresses questions, -- we have had questions and we need adequate answers for those questions. the president has routinely said we are in syria to defeat isis, now how do we plan to achieve a complete iranian withdrawal and avoid direct military confirmation --
confrontation with iran. we expect russia or asad to ask around and its proxies to leave? what will happen to the stagnating peace process in the wake of regimes stepping down. finally i know meaningful axis -- action two point the political process along. the act authored by ranking member mister andel which will give us the tools to go after the asad regime and trade sanctions, if actions are taking place. i hope that the senate will finally pass this bill before congress adjourns. ambassador jeffrey, mister jenkins, i want this to be a productive hearing. i am sorry that my colleagues cannot be here, for mister schneider who i am grateful has arrived. i know today will shed light on how going forward demonstration will address what has been to
date the lack of a real syria policy, and i hope we get the opportunity to continue this conversation into the new congress. thank you for being here, thank you miniature. >> thank you very much as always, you make excellent points. now, we are pleased to hear from mister jenkins, thank you. >> thank you member doors, members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to to speak with you today. as you have already heard for more than seven years regime of bashar al-assad has read -- waged an unrelenting campaign of terror against its own civilians. including the use of chemical weapons. in 2014, the emergence of isis exasperated the crisis. imposing brutal practices including beheading and torture. nearly 11.3 million people are displaced within syria, or have fled to neighboring countries as refugees. nearly the entire population of
southern florida. through it all, the united states remains committed. our assistance is reaching 5 million syrians every month, 4 million inside across all 14 governments and another 1 million refugees in neighboring countries. using backpacks, small trucks, drops from airplanes, even donkeys. usaid works with partners who will do whatever it takes to get the job done. flex ability is key to our response. food insistence -- food assistance includes wheat and rice as well as ready-to-eat rations for people on the move. our assistance includes vouchers for local markets. since the conflict started, nearly 75% of syria's medical doctors have left the country. leaving a profound healthcare
gaps. usaid partners have stepped in to fill the void left you alone our partners responded to the health needs of almost 5 million people inside syria. their heroic efforts and courage have saved countless lives. as isis has been driven out, people have started returning home. 80% of the buildings in some areas are either seriously destroyed or permanently damaged. and half of the water in the structure is in need of stabilization. the u.s. is capable of providing safe drinking water and food and disturbing shelter and relief supplies, and providing healthcare services. i saw the impact of our existence firsthand in january, when i was able to travel to the area with our administrator mark green and joseph patel.
it was chilling to drive around the circle which became the central point after the area was liberated. three months later, the spikes on the fence around the fountain where people were celebrated had been used to display the heads of isis victims. to sit there, stand there, look at that, was chilling. despite our best efforts, the single greatest factor limiting the reach of our humanitarian assistance is access. the syrian regime has now regained control of the southwest. after that, they cut off the cross-border humanitarian operations from jordan, a major blow to our response efforts. similarly, aid groups struggle to reach people living in territories controlled by terrorist organizations. despite our best efforts, there have been failures, which we
have sought to learn from. usaid has put risk mitigation problems in place to reduce the possibility of fraud, waste, abuse and the diversion of assistance. we place the highest priority on ensuring that taxpayer funds are used wisely, effectively and for their intended purpose. humanitarian assistance alone cannot provide a solution to the conflict, but it is saving lives, and helping to alleviate the suffering of everyday people throughout the region. the united states remains committed to a strong humanitarian response. to support the syrian people and syria's neighbors. thank you for your time and in particular, madam chairman, i would like to thank you on behalf of usaid for your service and commitment to foreign assistance. i look forward to taking her
questions. >> thank you so much. i was very moved by your voice as you were speaking, and i can see how this impact the folks who are trying to make things better, as well as of course the people of syria themselves. thank you, i can see that you are a devoted public servant who feels in his heart that heartbreak which is going on in that region. ambassador jeffrey as i said in my opening statement, i am so glad to have you i appreciate your more active approach in syria, now in your testimony you stated that your confidence in russia's promise was weakened after the violation of the southwest de-escalation zone in an area agreed to by president trump and that the violation had consequences, but as far as i know, there have been no costs to russia, to date. despite two state department
warnings, telling russia not to violate the zone. can you explain why the state department issued these warnings when in the end there were no costs when the zone was not enforced, and what cost against russia is the administration compared -- prepared to make should russia decide to violate another de- escalation zone? >> thank you very much madam chairman. the u.s. had negotiated an agreement with russia as we pointed out at the presidential level one year ago. the russians did not adhere to their commitments under that agreement, and they not only allowed, but they supported, the influx of syrian forces into the southwest with the humanitarian, and other consequences. the administration issued
warnings of a diplomatic nature, absent military force, for which there was no legal authorization, the administration was not able to take further action directly at that point. what this led to directly was a series of decisions by the administration, first of all, to continue our presence in syria against diocese, because that is what they are therefore, that is what the authorization is, but to ensure that we don't turn that omission over to anyone else until it is finished, particularly anybody else who is liable to abuse the people in those areas, abuse our partners and everything else. that is one decision a second decision was to strengthen the absolute commitment we have to block any reconstruction assistance to the criminal callas asad regime until that regime starts contributing to
the political process, and thirdly, to play a much stronger role in the diplomacy designed to achieve that. and i will cite a success that we had and that is the last of the deacon flexion zones which the turks had negotiated with the iranians and the russians almost a year ago. in 7 september, putin humiliated the turkish president by saying there would be no cease-fire. 10 days later, he got a cease- fire agreement in writing from. and, which is still holding. one reason for the change was, president trumps direct and dramatic intervention not only by saying that we would take very strong action if chemical weapons were used in any offensive and you made that very clear and we work with our
allies to ensure that this would not be america alone, but secondly, the president stated publicly that this would be a reckless escalation of the conflict and he kept a drumbeat of pressure on russia publicly and privately. >> if i could interrupt him are you saying that this was a diplomatic arrangement, that there was no teeth to -- were to be violated, which it was, there was no agreement about what penalties would be imposed , and that we no longer trust russia to keep its promise? >> we no longer will rely only on diplomatic measures, to hold to agreement, madam chairman. >> okay, let me -- now, you did not mention hezbollah by name, but, you did refer to a rainy and commanded forces. can you clarify for us, do you and the administration, do you consider hezbollah one of these irani and commanded forces, and
is its removal from syria a stated u.s. goal? >> it is a stated u.s. goal, we say irani and commanded, we were thinking specifically of hezbollah, they take place outside of all of the awful outside forces that have contributed to chaos. >> is there any reason why that exact word, that term is not used? >> there are so many iranians -- >> i just want to be sure it's a relative.'s budget is. >> okay. >> i know you share my feelings, everyone thinks that the asad regime is the root cause of the conflict in syria, and you have said elsewhere, that the asad regime produced isis, and that the regime's behavior will lead to its reemergence. with that in mind, will you commit, or will the ministration commit, to asad not running any future election. are you going to have an official position on that? >> we do not have an official position on any personality other than that we think about
asad is exactly the worst person to rule anyplace. what we are trying to do in part, madam chairman, to do as this committee has indicated in many instances it wants us to do, to build up an international coalition. rightly or wrongly, the bulk of the international community is not going to follow us in regime change efforts because of a long history of them friendly not turning out very well. so what we are looking for is a change of behavior. a dramatic drastic change in behavior by the syrian government, to be a very different government to its own people, and as i mentioned, to its neighbors. >> is it realistic mister ambassador, to think that the syrian people would want asad to run again? how could an election possibly be free and fair if the asad regime is currently in place? >> un resolution 2254 tasks the un, this is one thing it is good at, for running free and fair elections, including among the diaspora, and everybody
that is not under asad control, roughly half the population. we cannot imagine the bulk of that population of voting for that individual, if there is free elections. so, if you are wondering what the solution to asad is committed to carry out un resolution 2354. >> thank you so much. i have further questions for you mister jenkins, but i want to yield time to our ranking member who will soon be the chairman of this committee, mister deutsch. >> thank you madam chairman. in a letter from the state department in september, which i was told that the president has been cleared we are prepared to remain in syria until the enduring defeat of isis and we remain focused on ensuring the withdrawal of iranian forces and proxies. investor jeffrey, how far will the immigration go to remove irani and proxies from syria? >> first of all, that is a diplomatic post, mister ranking
member, not a military goal of our forces now and it never has been. our military forces are present in a serious -- are present in syria to ensure the enduring defeat of isis. we believe one element of that is to work on the mimetic track to get foreign forces out that have entered since 2011, which would include the iranian forces, because they are a particular problem both for the situation inside of the country and the security of israel turkey and jordan. >> military forces aren't an option, is the most recent plan to use diplomatic process to achieve that goal? >> first of all, to put the regime under as much economic pressure, through the denial by us and the rest of the international community of reconstruction, the regime is sitting on top of a big pile of rubble in aleppo and much of the country, secondly, to impose ever tougher sanctions on the regime and on those people that aid and abet it, and
we will be asking and looking for help from congress in this regard. >> what is the long-term strategy for the area in northeastern syria currently held by the fcf, as we believe the regime will attempt to retake that territory? >> first of all, we think that any intervention by anyone into the northeast as we continue our operations against isis will be of great concern in placing american troops at risk as you know, there have been several attempts to penetrate, and we responded using our inherent right of self-defense. what we are hoping to do is to help stabilize that area, and then ensure that that area becomes a new syrian entity, we are not trying to change the
territorial integrity of syria, we are trying to for the moment syria, keep isis out, keep the situation peaceful, and use that to push the total process forward. >> let me go back to around for a second, what role does russia play, you talk about sections, we will put sanctions and ratchet up the pressure, i understand that. what role does russia play in this? what discussions have we had, what discussions are ongoing, to what extent will they be helpful, in helping to push iran out, or will they hinder our ability despite our efforts to push iran out? >> we talk to the russians at almost every level. including the president who spoke at length with president putin at the helsinki summit about syria, and we have at various levels, some of them
confidential, some of them at the general assembly security council, we have a is very significant with our russian interlocutors, the conversations are military has as well so there is a very rich exchange of positions, we have made it clear to the russians. what do we use as leverage? we point out that all foreign forces who have entered since 2011, which would not include the russians, who have been there for decades, need to leave the country sooner or later as part of a solution negotiated by the un and supported by the international community, that is a benefit to everybody involved, and absent fat, we will sit in the situation we are right now. >> investor jeffrey that would include the russians? i appreciate the rich exchange
of ideas, those are our ideas, what ideas do we hear back from the russians? >> the russians first of all want to secure their own interests there which begins with bases, secondly they want to run the government. what they have not yet done, you are absolutely right is defined to us how they can achieve their goals while also meeting our goals, which we have made very clear that this is still an ongoing process, and we have not yet reached that point. >> i'm glad you are now brought as part of this process ambassador jeffrey. i yield the floor back. but first, i know it is your desire, i'm glad we were able to have one more hearing before we were able to finish but in the event that the timing does not permit, i will use this opportunity to just quickly say, that for those of us, who not only serve on the committee but those of us who pay attention to foreign affairs, i
think it is clear that if you are a dictator, or a despot, or a brutal regime anywhere in the world, that violates human rights and supports terror, that for these past decades, now , and certainly for the time that my chair has been sitting as chairman of this committee and chairman of the foreign affairs committee, we understand there is no one more committed to standing up to -- for american values and principles. opportunities for that, and i look forward to embarrassing you on those opportunities, i will just simply say that for those who look at the united states house, and are fond of pointing out the inability of members of congress to work across the aisle, to accomplish things on behalf of the american people, there is no important work that we do here than standing up for the values that we hold dear and
there is no one on either side of the aisle who best represents that, and stands as the model of working with anyone and everyone who is willing to fight for those basic human rights and american values than our chairman. thank you. and i yield back. >> thank you so much. he is my friend. thank you. we don't need to continue with that. ger is recognized. are days when we are kind of miserable, in a bad mood around here, and it makes me upset to see you smile no matter what. like, could you just be in a bad mood once? but you never are. mentioned earlier in my
opening statement in this administration and frankly, the prior administration and i have a bad situation in syria of which there are no easy answers. i do think that one of the solutions we need to do is to frankly target assad. target his military. i think that can compel assad and russia to the table to a solution. i understand that may not be on the table. i'm not sure the internal discussions, but i think that would actually be the fastest way to compel the russians and the iranians and the syrians to the table. let me just ask you very quickly, mr. ambassador, has the administration taken a position on the caesar act? the cesar civilian protection act? >> i do not think we have taken a specific position on that particular piece of legislation. you know it's complicate for us to do that on a particular piece of legislation. more generally, we believe that the more sanctions we can impose on that regime particularly in key strategic areas that serve their military, that serve the
regime directly, all the better for our entire policy and if this house can help in one way or the other without endorsing specific legislation. >> i would like to ping-pong that back to you. we've passed the syrian protection act here and it is in the senate. as you know, it's been hotlined but there is at least one senator with a more exotic view on foreign policy than most people have and that's trying to slow that up, and the administration is the last hope to get that through. so you don't have to comment on that, but i think it is something worth noting because we have a limited time and that would be our best shot. given there's been a lot of attention in saudi arabia and their action with the journalists which i think the actions were abhorrent. just this week we learned the fate of laila, a chicago-born each worker helping displaced persons. she disappeared two years ago where she was detained and tortured for eight months before being transferred to a military court. this week our worst fears were
confirmed. she was tortured and executed by assad's forces just after christmas, 2016. we than bashar al assad and his russian and iranian backers have committed countless war crimes like those endured by laila, and yet we haven't acted on that and that's where i want to begin. with the news of laila's death , she became the first american citizen that we know of to be killed by the assad regime and this is an incredibly important point to note. whatever the response the administration decides to take will shape how the regime and its backers treat other americans in their custody now or potentially in their custody in the future. mr. ambassador, how does the administration plan to respond to the killing of an american in syrian soil? >> we can confirm that she is deceased and this was in syrian government hands. this is something that just like you, we take very seriously. if i can change my testimony from a moment ago, we do support the cesar act.
>> great. thank you. thank you for clarifying the administration's support of that. that is very important. thank you. do you know the status of any other americans being held in a detention and torture facilities? there are inquiries underway. none we can talk about here. >> understood. we know there are four broad instruments of power that economic, i think we've used a number of those, one is i think that's important to note this information. earlier this year, the administration decided to go to northwest syria and some of those funds have been reinstated which we appreciate. others have been ignored. as was mentioned earlier, radio fresh which i did a number of years ago, was run by a man who i had the pleasure to meet and
programming was centered around anti-extremism. it reached 2 million individuals for radicalization. it's our only way to push back against radicalization and he last friday, he was assassinated. he was a u.s. partner and one of our most effective bull works against the rise of al qaeda in syria. what do you think we can learn from his assassination so that critical programs in idlib can get renewed u.s. funding? >> mr. congressman, this is one of my top priorities is to review not just that particular program, but also the aid to the white helmets when we were able to restore temporarily in several other programs. you know the back story, i'm sure. when we suddenly lost all american assistance to the northeast where we have troops
in contact, we shifted whatever money we could into that area. we are now looking at the consequences of that, particularly with the situation around idlib which is of strategic concern to us just as much as the northeast and we'll have to get back to you on it, but it is something that we take very, very serious. >> i believe you do. thank you. nobody wants to waste money, but we want to spend it effectively. my time's up and mr. jenkins, i want to say thank you for your hard work and everyone who works for you. many times the work that you and your folks do gets overlooked and it's extremely important. so thank you, please pass that on. thank you for being here. >> that is the truth. thank you. thank you for the little chocolate. >> absolutely. thank you for all of your service and your friendship. we will miss you a great deal. ambassador jeffrey, if there are
somewhere between 25,000 and 100,000 iranian-supported troops including hezbollah in syria, that's pretty wide range, but is that estimate close? >> you are almost certainly somewhere in there. >> yeah, but still that's a lot of people and our goal is completely removal of iranian and iranian-backed troops in syria, is that correct? >> that is correct. >> let's take the upper end for a second and let's theorize that it's 100,000 and closer to that, 25,000. how in the world do we propose given our limited footprint in syria and frankly, our limited influence historically in syria. how do you propose we remove 100,000 very determined troops in foreign soil that's not
friendly to the united states? boy, is that every good question. we don't plan to do it through military force. >> you heard, that is a good question. why, because i worked for the foreign relations committee. >> i don't know that many members know it. what will we do? that is the inside joke. the more discussion, the less time. very good question. >> give us your magic solution. >> basically, this has to be done through diplomatic effort. i was personally involved in the rollback of 25,000 russian troops from georgia in 2008. we saw the withdrawal of the israeli army from the sinai in 1973.
it is perfectly conceivable and quite normal in international relations for these processes to lead to settlements that lead to withdrawals of foreign forces from somebody else's territory. >> so if i understand your answer, it's not that we have some detailed plan to do it. our answer is within the context of some kind of overall peace settlement, that would be a provision? >> that would be an absolute requirement, but we sweet 10 by saying our troops will eventually leave. the turkish president tayyip erdogan when there is a political process and the title 2254 and the u.n. resolution his troops are ready to leave, the israelis tell us they only carry out military operations because the iranians are there, and you can see theel ements of a possible solution. the turks previously had legal of the removal of the side. has that changed? is that still their goal? >> i have a tough enough time
sometimes answering questions on u.s. foreign policy. turkey, even though i spent nine years is even more difficult, but i do not believe that that is the official policy of the turkish government. what i can assure you is the turkish government sees existential dangers coming from sir wra and one of them is the current syrian government. i believe it had been a cardinal part of their policy y regarding syria. in fact, it was a bone of contention between us and turkey. well, you said multiple concerns. will one of those concerns is the role of the kurds, our allies militarily, in trying to win back territory from syria from folks who were search certainly hostile to our western values and interests. how do we reconcile our relationship with kurds who have fought and won on syrian
territory with the turks' concern, active concern because they put troops into syria and not to overthrow assad as much, but to counter influence the allies. how do we reconcile the difference? actually usedave to troops against the regime. they have used it against isis and the kurds. >> excuse me. i wasn't denying that. out, theyting actually introduced to troops. i didn't mean to say there weren't other purposes, but that is how serious they take it. >> the turks are very concerned about this. we understand this. there are various ties between some of the kurdish organizations that we deal with, specifically the pyd, and the
ypg which is an element of the sdf, the syrian democratic forces, which is the military partner that we're working with against isis and we understand ypg which is an element of the and have daily exchanges with the turks on this. most importantly, we have a major activity with the turks in the mambish region to the west of the euphrates where we are the pyd toencourage leave that area and that's from seeding all in all, quite well with the turks and we have other concerns with them, but again, our relationship with not just the specific kurdish party, but other parties are tactical and not transformational but tactical and temporary in order to secure a goal that we both share which is -- and many others do, which is the defeat of isis. we are not picking winners and losers in terms of any political movements inside syria. the way we'll try to help all syrians whether they're in the northeast or elsewhere is to find a political process that allows a better government, democratic elections and peace
that everybody can profit from. it's just like we work with groups such as the kurdish agp and the shia arab islamic revolution before 2003 in iraq, but when we went into iraq we didn't support that political party or this political party. we just tried to work with all iraqis to help provide a constitutional democratic system and this is what we're working in the international community to do for all syrians. >> well, thank you. my time is up. i would just say one must be very careful about preserving the integrity and good name of the united states. it's one thing to decide that we're not taking political sides. it's another to abandon an ally that put blood on the table when they were the only ones willing to do it. and the kurds fought and won territory and it's a fine line between saying once we get to peace, you know, you're a party
at the table, but you're not the only party or a favorite party and it's quite another to make them and to actually abandon them because of outside pressure from another country with a different agenda. >> thank you, mr. connolly. thank you so much. now we're pleased to hear from ambassador wagner. >> thank you, madam chairman. mr. jenkins. as you noted, conflict situations put women and girls at a much higher risk of violence and exploitation. i appreciate the ways in which usaid is working to protect this vulnerable population. what challenges has usaid come across in its work to prevent gender-based violence and how can congress help you overcome these issues? >> thank you very much for your question, and yes, sadly, it is a fact of modern warfare that the victims that are hurt the most are women and children and
the crisis that we're looking at and talking about right now in syria, many can say it is a protection crisis for all of the vulnerable people, idps multiple times over and the number of widows and orphans is astounding in that population and we are very dedicated to making sure that every one of our humanitarian assistance programs integrates protection for women and children into those -- that program, but also last year we spent $28 million on programming specifically to protect women and children that looks like sometimes it's as simple as creating safe spaces for women and girls to be away from other parts of the community. it involves training health care workers, training educator, training teachers for what to look out for for people who might be victims of sexually-based violence. it's working with health care workers on how you treat someone
who has been a victim of a sexually based violence and the provision of different equipment and materials for that. one of the challenges that we've had in this sector is there was a lack of people that are syrian in syria who have been trained to handle these sorts of issues before. so because almost everyone -- >> the training would be some way the congress could in terms of resources and such in this arena? >> we are thankful for the resources that congress continues to give us to allow these programs to happen. it's not necessarily something that money can solve. it's a time issue and it's about just not having enough people trained in syria that have those skills. over time they've been able to build a base for that, but i'm happy to ask my team and see if there's any actual ask that they have. >> please do. ambassador jeffrey, the united states cannot be implicit in
supporting the murderous assad regime. how do we approach supporting civil society and the many people in the opposition across the country if we restrict our stabilization funding? >> once again, we believe in stabilization programs where we have our own forces on the ground just as we believe in humanitarian assistance which we have not just for people outside of syria, but also i think in 14 provinces. we have various partners that deliver aid. so various kinds of aid are under way. the specific issue of stabilization funding. the president took the decision, and i support that decision, of course, to try to get other countries to provide funding to reinforce what we're doing on the ground in the fight against isis where we bear 99% of the on the ground, syrian combat role or advisory role and we've been
fairly successful so far. we've collected 300 million in the last nine months. that money is now being deployed by teams that mr. jenkins and i are working with, and we'll be trying to find further funding from the international community which has as much of an interest in the peace in syria as we do. >> speaking of the international community, i understand that the alternate peace talks that russia, iran and turkey are hosting in astana are a source of consternation to those of us who wish to see the unbrokered talks succeed. ambassador jefferies, can the united states leverage its relationship with turkey, a nato ally, to ensure that real peace is achieved? >> we think we can. you're referring to the astana meeting that just failed today.
it failed in good part because turkey would not yield to pressure from iran and rush onna to go along with essentially damascus' vision of where the political process would end. where we disagree with turkey is we don't think that this format that brings these three countries in as brokers between the u.n. and the real audience of the u.n. in the resolution which is you talk to the opposition and you talk to the damascus regime and you work out a peace settlement. this process has inserted itself between the two. we went along with that and we in the international community . it has failed. russia signed up in the presidential level by the end of december and it does not look like that's going to happen and it's time to move on, and i agree with you. >> it is time to move on.
thank you. i have run out of time. >> thank you. mr. schneider of illinois. >> thank you very much, and thanks to both of you for joining us today. i've said this before as i look at syria, there are three pillars of our interest there. and strategic. 11 million people displaced and 5 million people provided medical care. i will quote you whatever it , takes to get the job done is very much appreciated by us and i hope the rest of the world has a chance to see what we're doing in that respect. i'm going to turn see you, -- turn to you, ambassador jeffrey. you talked about iran and you raised other proxies and of you said there is an umbrella at which hezbollah is at the top of the list. what other groups are of major concern and who else should we have on our radar? >> first of all, all outside
groups commanded by iran and who are supporting the assad regime are of concern to us and to most of the syrian people and to most of the neighborhood, but you have certain groups that have come in groups from afghanistan , and other groups from central asia. you have certain iraqi militias who have been active in the fighting and iran has recruited some syrians as well, but the bulk of the people are from outside. >> these militias are taking the orders from rgz and hezbollah. what's the command and control? >> ultimately, it is the quds force under salamani. these people are outside of the chain of command of even the syrian government, bazd as it is and the russians worked through the syrian government and the regular army and institutions. the iranians come into the strategy in iraq. we have seen it in lebanon, iran.
create loyal that's another way they insidiously infiltrate the states. >> it's iran that makes it such a challenging threat. if you look over the last two years, how has iran's position changed over the last two years and can you cite strategies and we've implemented tactics that have successfully diminished their position? >> ending the jcpoa has been a dash of cold water to iran and all of its efforts through the region in two ways. first of all, it stripped from it its legitimacy as a trusted partner in international affairs and international agreements, at least from our standpoint, secondly and most importantly, it has robbed of iran, particularly with the beginning of the oil sanctions under the ndaa at the beginning of this month.
major sources of finances for iran to carry out its activities throughout the region. >> but even with that, my understanding is the bases that were destroyed over the summer by israel had been rebuilt and it was reported that iran continues to invest in missile manufacturing in syria and even in lebanon. are they getting stronger? are they getting weaker? or are we at a status quo? >> in my conversations with the israelis, and i have to be clear here, they're committed to do what it takes to make sure iran does not threaten israel from syria. we support israel in this endeavor 100%. we've made that clear to the russians. the israelis would have to speak to that themselves. they will act. >> iran on the border is an exist earn threat, but u.s.
forces are north and east of the euphrates hundreds of kilometers away. what leverage are we demonstrating? what effective paths have we shown that we can exert pressure on iran to move away from the border from golan and move them away from supporting these proxy militias and getting them out of the country? do we have any successes so far? >> again, we talked to the russians about the necessity of achieving the withdrawal of all foreign forces from 2011 on, and while that involves all forces who are now present from the outside, other than the russians who were there before, we particularly stress the problem of iran. at times, the russians seem to be interested in talking about solutions that would withdrawal foreign forces -- >> let me grab my last few seconds here because you mentioned earlier in one of the q&a's that the president talked to mr. putin in helsinki.
can you share with us what was shared, what was talked about vis-a-vis and what we can do to get iran out of syria? >> the president made clear essentially the policies that i've outlined here today. >> are there any notes from that? i know this committee has asked for that information and what was said in helsinki, what promises were made, and what tentative agreements might have been laid out? i think i will stay and the president made clear what our approximately sees on syria are. i don't think any agreements related to syria came out of. >> i yield back. >> thank you so much, mr. schneider. excellent questions. now i'm pleased to yield to mr. la hood, who is not on our subcommittee, but has always been very interested on this issue. thank you, mr. la hood, you are recognized. >> well, thank you, madam chair and i appreciate you for granting me a temporary visa to be here today and your service in congress, your energy, voice and optimism will be missed here
in congress. so thank you for all your work. ambassador jeffrey, i can't tell you how pleased a lot of us were that the president picked you and secretary pompeo picked you for the position of syrian engagement. i think it brings a lot of credibility to the issue and thank you for your service on this. i want to just talk a little bit and get your thoughts on lebanon. obviously, there are so many intertwining political and security issues that relate to lebanon. i look on the positive side in lebanon. we just had free and fair elections in may with the new free of law that was controversy and protest. we had a conference that pledged $9 million which was positive. they continue to cooperate with american forces and in charge of the lebanese forces. we have one of the best ambassadors in the world there with ambassador richard and so those are the positive things. however, i look at the concerns and the challenges in lebanon, can't form a government after
seven months now. refugeesver 11 million from their that continues to put stress and anxiety on the lebanese infrastructure and everything from education to transportation to the government. obviously, hezbollah continues to flex its muscle in lebanon. it's part of the reason we have not been able to form a government there and that concerns me. and also, the pawn that lebanon plays between the sunni-shia chess game in the middle east, but i'd be curious on your thoughts on the relationship and particularly with the refugees . and i know that we started to see the refugees go back, but hasn't been fulfilled to the level we need there. thank you -- need there. >> thank you very much. welcome to the subcommittee, mr. congressman. i have an agreement of acting
assistant secretary, and to only talk about syria, so i have to be careful in talking about lebanon and let me talk about lebanon. and i'll do it from the standpoint of my focus in syria and much of which is iran and the two major problems you cited of all three, the sunni-shia conflict, hasezbollah, and refugees. i see iran flashing before my eyes when you mention all three of them. lebanon is a victim of iran's encroachment throughout the arab world as much as syria is, although not to the same horrific degree. just as lebanon previously was a previous victim of syria's aggression as syria was tied up in its civil conflict and tomorrow it could be back doing the same sort of thing. when i look at lebanon, i see a problem.n that's simplifying things but i have to keep it at my syria focus level. if we can fix the iranian
expansionism, we are in a much better place in lebanon. in terms of the refugee, the opposition is clear. we do want refugees to go home, but refugee return has to be voluntary. it has to be safe. it has to be dignified and they have to go back to areas where we believe in getting information from the unacr and others, and putting them all together, are safe for them to go back to. there's very little of that in syria, particularly in the assad-held areas and these people in many cases want to go back to their homes and they do want not want to live under assad's tyranny and that's another problem. the escalation -- that's the underlying problem. zones or-escalation proposed de-escalation zones and what's your opinion on whether they're safe. it seems to be that the hurdles and the hoops to bring the refugees out of lebanon back seem unattainable at this point . but maybe comment a little bit
about the de-escalation zones and whether it's possible to bring people back. there's one de-escalation zone left, which is idlib, but the areas where the turks are in the northeast of the country have seen a certain return of refugees to the tune of some tens of thousands over the past six months to a year. we've seen a smaller return of refugees to the northeast, where we are. and again, there's been some return of refugees into assad-held areas, but of the something like 5.5 million refugees who've left syria, we've only seen the tens of thousands return to assad so people are voting with their feet, specifically not moving with their feet. >> thank you, madam chair, for your flexibility for being here. >> thank you so much, mr. la hood. i have one questions for mr. jenkins.
in my opening remarks, i mentioned the recent diversion of the u.s. humanitarian assistance to terrorist groups in syria's northwest area, and i'd like to give you an opportunity to explain exactly what happened and what was assad's response to this incident and others we've heard about and what is the status of the aid programs there and i totally understand which is a war zone. you are trying to deliver humanitarian aid. this isn't the best situation, and i don't want you to think we're second guessing, but there is concern that it's going to the very people we want to defeat. >> well, thank you for that and thank you for your understanding because it is a difficult situation. but we welcome the second
need as muchuse we help as we can, working with our down do and double everything we can and we are committed to doing this. doing everything we can to prevent fraud, waste, abuse and diversion of u.s. taxpayer dollars. we have a zero-tolerance policy. there is no acceptable amount of diversion as a cost of doing business. we don't go there. so, if you look at what happened , which you were referencing in your statement. it was very illustrative. it was our third-party monitors, third-party monitors that originally found what we thought was possible fraud. >> just to clear that up, the third-party monitors means that you contract with -- >> a group whose only job is to look at our other partners and find out if they're doing their job the right way. we also have our partners -- >> just to be clear, and those
groups would be syria-based with syrians controlling it or outside folks and they control it? is it a u.n. organization or give me a sense of who those third parties would be. >> in this case, it's a third party contractor, who has a contract. they're all syrians inside the country. one of the challenges about syria is all of these people are inside and we are forbidden from getting in and actually looking at that time. what we tend to do is triangleate, and so if someone else misses it, someone else catches it. our partners themselves have their own third-party monitors , as well. and what happened is about a year ago, one of the third-party monitors thought that there was a problem that hts was diverting or getting usaid aistance
-- u.s. aid assistance and they had it all at same time. by february, we found out that happeninge actually and we immediately suspended and ended those programs. in the northwest that's we now have three. that was one of the three programs that we have suspended. we didn't wait for the ig to come back with their findings and we immediately suspend while people investigate. what we have now put in place over the course of seven years is we've had to deal with different iterations in this difficult kinetic environment is we now have the most comprehensive, rigorous, detailed mitigation mechanism and mitigation measures and safeguards in place than we do anywhere else in the world and every time one of these unfortunate incidents comes to light, we use that to inform all of our other partners on how we have to up our game yet again. >> those are comforting words
and we realize how difficult it is, but we've got to give the american people a sense that their tax dollars are being used always in the right way and i am glad you say it's not a little line that you write off, the cost of doing business. that's not acceptable. >> never. >> thank you, mr. jenkins. mr. deutsch? >> thanks. mr. jenkins, i'll also just finish up with you. we've had this hearing and we talk about iran and weigh talked -- we've talked about russia and iran's proxies and the various we're trying to get iran pushed out. we -- can you -- can you just take a step back a second?
you gave us statistics. can you take a step back further and just remind us, for the members of this committee, for the american people, what assad has brought on his people? the overall toll that this has led taken on the country? >> thank you. you just want to see me cry again. >> no, mr. jenkins. you know what i'd like? i'm not saying this is what it take, but i would like more people to be more emotional about what's happening in syria. that's what i would like. >> i'm from pasadena, california, the rose bowl is a big deal there. build a rose bowl five times. kill everybody. that's at least how many people have died. at least 500,000 people. think about what it is to have 11.3 million people displaced,
many of them many times. 5.6 million of those made the very difficult decision to leave the country and become refugees, right? we're talking about all of the people of new york city and all of the people of chicago displaced probably forever. i've met with two amazing, courageous doctors who were married a few weeks ago. some of you probably met them at the syrian medical society . the last two doctors left in aleppo who got out barely with their lives and their 12-year-old daughter. they could have left. in fact, they come here to talk to us, but they choose to go back and are working in idlib now, and they're afraid they don't have a way to take their daughter out if they have to get out. so they're there taking their own blood in the middle of -- because there's not enough blood
for patients during surgeries, so the doctors and nurses are doing their own transfusions. that is terrible. and when we look at, why do we take the risk that there might be diversions? it's because that situation is exactly where the united states government should be spending -- spending wisely, u.s. taxpayer dollars, as an extension of our values and as an extension of our principles and because it's the right thing to do. thank you. >> mr. jenkins, the work that you and your colleagues do is the manifestation of those values and we're grateful for it. >> thank you. and i'll just say in closing, as chairman of this subcommittee for the past six years, it's broken my heart, it's broken mr. deutsch's heart to see what's
happened in syria. we've seen this unfold and with this hearing and the last that i will hold on syria, i know the oversight of our policy will be in more able hands and the pressure on you and the responsibility on you is enormous, and i -- i hope that you carry that weight with you and that heart with you and make all of the right decisions for all of the right reasons. and i encourage all of our colleagues, we both do, to give the attention to syria that it deserves. syria is too important and we've got to use every tool at our disposal to achieve an enduring defeat of isis to get iranian forces out of syria and finally give the syrian people the peace that they deserve, the democracy that they deserve, the freedom that they deserve without assad . and may it happen. and thank you so much. thank you, mr. deutsch.