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tv   Confirmation Hearing for Saudi Arabia Iraq Ambassador Posts  CSPAN  March 18, 2019 8:01am-10:06am EDT

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extremism, unfortunately, isn't just a curse for the people in the middle east. it's a curse for all of us. recently see what happens when an extremist attack haps between two nuclear armed powers like india and pakistan. we have a responsibility to do our best to help the people in the region, keep extremism from gaining the upper hand. when i think back to the days of the isis offensives not far behind us, it was terrifying to me to think of the idea that iraq could become an isis dominated state. extremism requires constant work on the part of the good people in the region and the united states helping people help themselves to defend themselves
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against it. as long as iranian state backed shia extremism and isis and al qaeda type extremism on the sunni side exist, it's important for us to stay engaged. and it's important for us to move in a direction that allow people in the region to have a better future so they don't fall prey to the extremist narrative of lies. when i think about the future of the region, if countries can reform, if countries can embrace their own populations, there's a chance for a much better path ahead. i do not, by the way, believe in large presence of american forces in occupation. it's counter productive to getting the job done. let's help the people in the region help themselves. in particular in the case of saudi arabia, their counter terrorism activities in
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conjunction with our own have been very, very meaningful in putting somewhat of a damper on the extremism that we see so frequently throughout the region. >> thank you. senator kaine. >> thank you, mr. chair. congratulations to each of you. you're very, very well qualified for each of these positions and i appreciate your service. general, i'd like to start with you. jamal kashoggi was a virginia resident, family lives in virginia. i want to raise up another individual who has a virginia connection. aziz al yusef. she came to richmond to study computer science at virginia commonwealth university a long time ago, got a computer science degree, moved back to saudi arabia and is a saudi citizen who has taught computer science
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in saudi arabia to women for nearly 30 years. you have brought wonderful families with you today. she's a mother of five. she's a grandmother of eight. and she passionately believes that women should be treated as equal human beings. she has been engaged in the protests about women being able to drive. she's been active to try to reform and end the guardianship system that essentially makes women surveilled property of a man. she's been very active in protests with respect to lax treatment of domestic violence against women by men. she was imprisoned in may with a group of women and men who had been advocating for the right of saudi women to drive. she was imprisoned after the driving restriction was lifted. the interpretation of that by most has been when the driving restriction is lifted, we want to send the message you have no
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rights, we've giving you a privilege, but by imprisoning all the activists, it was essentially a message to everyone you cannot protest, you have no rights, we're doing this as a privilege. amnesty international and other organizations indicate that she and the others in prison have been tortured, held. they can see their families once a month. this is a grandmother of eight, a mother of five who spend her whole life educating saudi women to be computer scientists. i just will say this is an important relationship, but for me it's sort of a proxy of a nation's authoritarianism, extremism, corruption. if they treat women the way these women are being treated for simply advocating that they
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should have basic equal rights, so you have the background to do this job and do it very, very well. but i hope the human rights aspect of the portfolio and the treatment of these individuals who have ties to the united states will be a top priority for you. >> senator, you have my word, it will be. >> thank you. >> ambassador, is iraq an ally? >> sir, i think that the relationship between iraq and the united states is an extremely important one that serves both our interests. so i think that i've outlined some of those common interests particularly in security in the region. i expect i'll be able to continue to work with iraq as a partner and ally of the united states. >> thank you. i share it. i think we're partnerepartners. as you pointed out, we are in iraq militarily now at their
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invitation. we're not occupying iraq. we left militarily in 2011 with the rise of isis in 2014. iraq has asked us back. and even if there's some controversy about that with some, politics is not going to be a slam dunk on any issue. overwhelmingly iraq still wants the united states there to be that kind of partner. wouldn't you agree? >> i think we can count on iraq to continue to want the u.s. involved. they understand what happened after the u.s. forces withdrew back in 2011, that a rise of isis controlling over 55,000 square miles in iraq, this deeply, deeply traumatized and threatened iraq and they understand they need the assistance of united states and other partners to avoid that threat. >> general said the family has spent too much time in the middle east and you don't want your grandchildren to be there at war in the middle east. it's interesting that iraq is now an ally and a partner and yet we still have two
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authorizations for military force against iraq that are pending. president trump said in his state of the union great nations don't wage endless wars. i think great congresses shouldn't authorize endless wars. the 1991 authorization is still live and active. it's never been repealed. the 2002 authorization to go after the government of sad dam hussein is active. senator young and i have introduced today a bill to repeal both the first gulf war and the 2002 iraq authorization. there's no need to have an authorization against an ally and partner. i think my colleagues might see the virtue in cleaning that up. thank you, mr. chair. >> senator paul. >> thank you both for your testimony and for your service.
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it's often said that iran is the largest state sponsor of terrorism, said over and over and over again. i think it's often forgotten that i would say saudi arabia is the largest state sponsor of radical islam. they act in different ways. saudi arabia's malign influence is world wide. most of the extremists we've seen have been sunni extremists. the saudis fund tens of thousands of madrasas. they have killed our soldiers in afghanistan. so when i hear people say they're getting better, they're letting women drive, part of me thinks maybe that's a public relations stunt to let women drive while we imprison the
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activists at the same time. at the same time they're letting women drive, they're sending a team of thugs with a bone saw to chop somebody up in another country. so i don't think we should be fooled. but i do think in the larger context of things, the reason i bring up iran and saudi arabia is it remind me somewhat of the cold war where anybody that sided with us, we turned a blind eye to human rights violations. there were dictators throughout africa who did horrific things to their people and we just looked away and said, they're on our side against the soviet uni union. we never say a thing about saudi arabia. we're starting to because of this horrific murder. i think we turn a blind eye because of oil, because they tend to side with us against iran. there needs to be a more even handed look at this. not saying iran is good, but maybe both are malign actors.
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we talk about a middle east peace process and it's all been about the palestinians and israel. i think that's an important question, maybe an impondaberab one. i think the big peace process would be somebody recognizing it could be having saudi arabia at the same table as iran if you want to solve the middle east peace process. instead of saying the saudis are getting better, should we say perhaps we need to restrict the arms sales until they quit funding madrasas. we should play hardball with our weapons and say people that imprison people and give people 1,000 lashes and all the things that saudi do, maybe they don't deserve our weapons. >> thank you, senator paul.
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i already indicated that i think extremism is the curse of the middle east and it's extremism on the sunni side and the shia side and really sectarianism is the twin curse of the middle east. we have to move very, very hard to convince the good people in the region to abandon forms of extremism. but when i think of extremism in saudi arabia or extremism in any other arab country, there are elements within the population that believe that if they fund extremist preachers, if they fund extremist ideologies, if they fund jihadis to move to the sound of the guns whenever the current battle might be, that they are doing god's work. it is clearly not god's work. so we have to keep saying it. it doesn't matter whether it
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comes from saudi arabia or egypt or the uae or yemen. we've got to keep saying it and we've got to keep working against it. ly ni will not shy away from that. i have told them that for years and i will continue to tell them that. on the other hand i'd also like to respect lrespectfully say th made progress. i remember having an opportunity to go to saudi arabia recently where i saw some very innovative and very effective programs aimed specifically at reducing terrorism both financially and on the field of battle. >> i appreciate that. president trump has often said that the greatest geopolitical blunder of the last 20 years was the iraq war. what is your opinion on that? >> i think that the removal of a leader like saddam hussein in the region for the long-term
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serves the interest of the united states. >> you disagree with the president? >> i don't think the president -- i can't take his remarks -- >> his point was removing hussein created a vacuum, created endless war over there and also empowered iran. >> it's empowered many of those forces of sectarianism and extremism. >> are they an ally? some would argue that iraq is more of an ally of iran than the u.s. the president thinks the iraq war was a big mistake, emboldened iran and we shouldn't have done it. >> thank you, senator. we will move to senator murkile. >> when you were commenting on the humanitarian situation in yemen, you said 100% of the problems are caused by the houthis. i found that a very surprising
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statement. extensive deaths are being caused by the cholera epidemic that comes from the saudi bombing of water systems. the united nations did a study that said of 17,000 civilian deaths between 2018 and 2017, the majority were the result of the saudi led bombings. can you explain how you reached the conclusion that the saudi bombing of civilians somehow is responsible for zero percent of the humanitarian crisis in yemen? >> i think any death of civilians in conflict is unacceptable and we should -- >> that's not my question. >> well, i think that we want to -- we cannot excuse that. however, my remarks about the houthis being almost 100% responsible. there's an anecdote that i often relate to people. in january of 2014, the most important port in yemen used by
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the private sector had 111 ships that disembarked during that month of january 2014. in january of -- >> mr. ambassador, could you speak up, please? >> in january of 2015, which was before the saudi led intervention but after the houthi takeover, the number of ships disembarking had fallen to nine. that was almost 100% responsible for the houthi's actions that caused foreign investment to flee the country to stop investing in that economic activity. >> i don't want to use all my time on the lengthy explanation there, but when you say that if 100% of the houthis, zero % is the saudis, you are giving them no responsibility for having used their munitions to attack civilian sites in saudi arabia. i found that astounding. >> we've spoken very forcefully to them about that.
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we've worked to mitigate those consequences. >> by acknowledging that you're saying there is some saudi responsibility. i'm going to have to stop there. but i did find that very disturbing given the vast deaths caused by the saudi bombing campaign and to treat saudi arabia as saying, oh, they're our ally so we'll blame someone else for all these deaths they're causing seems unacceptable to me. general, we have really been disturbed in oregon by saudi arabia posting bail for saudi citizens and then those citizens disappearing. in 2016, mr. nora, a saudi national, killed a 15-year-old portland native driving approximately twice the posted speed limit. saudi arabia posted bail and he
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disappeared. we had the saudi consulate post bail for mr. al hamad who fled oregon before facing trial in 2012 on multiple sex crime charges, including rape. we have a saudi national who's faced charges in 2016 for striking a homeless man with his vehicle, who disappeared. we have the saudi consulate posting a $500,000 security deposit for mr. al harti, a student in oregon and saudi national, who was arrested in 2015 on ten counts of encouraging child sex abuse before fleeing the country. we have the saudi consulate posting $500,000 bond for another university student and saudi national who was arrested
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in 2014 on the charge of rape. we have these crimes being committed by saudi nationals and the saudi government posting bail and whisking them out of the country. is this acceptable? >> certainly not acceptable for any government to assist their citizens that have violated our la laws. >> are you as disturbed as i am that saudi nationals in the united states have a get out of jail free card that allows them to commit abuses against children, manslaughter, rape and have no accountability? >> senator, i think there has to be complete accountability for any government and their citizens living abroad. and that means respecting laws of the host nation.
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i would, in fairness, like to point out that there are 80,000 saudis studying in the united states, most of whom are not the type of people you talked about. >> and believe you me, i'm not implying that saudi nationals as a whole are committing crimes on a higher basis than anyone else. i don't have that statistic. i'm making the point that when a person commits a crime in the united states, we shouldn't because they're an ally who buys a lot of stuff from us allow them to whisk their citizens out with no accountability for rape, child abuse or manslaughter or any other crime. my sense is you agree with that. >> i agree that any government that assists their citizens fleeing our justice is breaking our laws. >> i know. you're translating this into a general principle. but aren't you disturbed by
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these exact issues regarding saudi arabia? >> well, what i can't say because i don't know -- i accept your stories, but i don't know that the government assisted in the escape. i just don't know that. >> yes. what we do know is that it has been the conclusion of our government that they are likely to have assisted and in one case at least a passport was surrendered so something magical happened for the person to be able to return to saudi arabia. i've introduced the escape act, which calls on the state department to analyze this issue, to report on it. if five cases happened in oregon that we know of, there may have been hundreds of these cases across the country. i'm surprised that the state department hasn't already investigated this. would you encourage the state department to investigate this issue and get to the bottom of
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it? and if this is happening with other nations, then investigate that too. but the ones we have knowledge of all involve saudi arabia. >> senator, if you confirm me, i will encourage them to do so. thank you. >> senator young. >> thank you for your lifetime of service, gentlemen. by my reading of your many accomplishments, i think you come in well prepared to not only be confirmed but to serve our country honorably and professionally. mr. ambassador, i have a follow-up question pertaining to this issue of the houthis, the iranian aligned houthis being the primary driver of the humanitarian crisis, which may indeed be the situation right now. they have mined the ground. they've been responsible by my latest briefings for numerous violations of human rights law. i think it's helpful that we
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remember recent history. over the last couple of years our saudi partners working with the emirates in the united states of america, who have assisted with refuelling, targeting assistance, military training and some other activities, has also been party to some actions that per my many briefings on the subject in classified and unclassified settings has helped to radicalize portions of the houthi population leading to their alignment with the iranians when many would not have otherwise aligned with the iranians. they have blocked the port where 80% of food, medicine and water is delivered. they have the bombing campaigns where they have indiscriminately bombed civilians is something they hope moving forward we will
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continue to recognize, help to exacerbate what remains the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. yes, the saudis must remain security partners. they will be complicated partners moving forward, especially with their current leadership and their crown prince's impulsive and sometimes reckless behavior by the reading of this united states senator. so i just think it's very important that we're reminded of this and are sort of sober minded as we continue to try and finesse this relationship. i remain frustrated by the administration's unwillingness to follow another law, specifically the national defense authorization act in section 1290, which my colleague
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senator shaheen and i worked on. there's a provision in section 1290 which requires the secretary to certify that the governments of saudi arabia and uae are undertaking a number of actions. the provision also includes a detailed requirement for yemen related briefings to congress and requires the administration to submit to congress a strategy for yemen. i have not yet received, congress has not yet received a credible certification from the administration. i don't intend to remain silent on this. this is the law of the land. i want it to be followed. so general, would you commit to providing myself and other members of this committee a monthly update on the following, a description of saudi arabia military and political objectives in yemen and whether the united states' assistance to the saudi led coalition has
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resulted in significant progress toward meeting those objectives, an assessment of the need for existing secondary inspection and clearance processes and transshipment requirements on humanitarian and commercial vessels that have been cleared by the u.n. verification and inspection mechanism, a description of the sources of external support for the houthi forces including financial assistance, weapons transfers, operational planning training and advisory assistance, an assessment of the applicability of the u.s. and international sanctions to houthi forces that have committed grave human rights abuses, obstructed international aid and launched ballistic missiles into our saudi partner's territory. and an assessment of the effect of the saudi led coalitions military operations in yemen on the efforts of the u.s. to
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defeat aqap and the islamic state. would you commit to providing that information on a monthly basis to this committee? >> thank you, senator young. as a citizen of the great state of nevada not a member of the administration, i have nothing to say about that. if you confirm me and i become a member of the administration, i can commit to assisting the administration in answering those questions. >> i thought you'd answer somewhere along those lines. let me just note before yielding back to the good chairman that if the administration is not already tracking each of the different things i have requested of you, it would be a matter of sort of diplomatic malpractice, security malpractice from my perspective. it's my fervent hope the administration will follow the law and finally provide a credible certification as required under the law.
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thank you. >> senator cruz is next. >> thank you, mr. chairman. gentlemen, thank you both for your service. congratulations on the nominations you have received, but thank you also for being willing to serve. neither of the countries to which you've been nominated are easy postings, nor are they all together safe postings. therefore we are grateful to both of you for answering the call to serve your nation in challenging times. general, i want to start with you. saudi arabia is in my judgment a deeply problematic ally. their human rights record has been sorely lacking. they have for many years been willing to fund jihadists on the
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principle that if you feed the crocodile, perhaps it will eat you last. that i reca their conduct with regard to mr. kashoggi was abombabinable unacceptable. we should be clear and explicit condemning their actions. at the same time, they are nonetheless an ally. and critically, they are a vital counter point to the nation of iran. as i look to the middle east, the rivalry between iran and saudi arabia, any conduct that the united states congress does to weaken saudi arabia vis-a-vis iran to my mind is harming the national security interests of america because a stronger iran
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with an eayatollah -- a stronge iran makes for a more dangerous world. do you share that assessment? and what role do you believe saudi arabia plays in counter balancing iran? >> thank you, senator cruz, for the question. i certainly share your sentiments and your description about iran. maybe 15 years ago, maybe, i would have shared your description about saudi arabia. there was absolutely too much turning a blind eye toward extremists leaving the country and causing problems elsewhere. as i look at it today, i don't think the problem is solved but i think it is getting better.
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there are joint task forces were combatting terrorism. there's joint task forces look at the economic flows of money into the terrorist networks. we noticed that bin laden was stripped of his citizenship. that others have been forced to pay a price for their support of terrorism to al qaeda, isis or indeed even supporting the iranian state. so it is inducumbent on the unid states to continue to press the case that goodall l allies do n support terrorism anywhere. >> can you describe the importance of saudi arabia as a check to iran? >> i think you did an adequate job of that. i don't know what i could add. >> is there any coherent or rational argument that saudi
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arabia poses a comparable threat to the united states to that of iran? >> senator, when i look at the reform vision of 2030, if we can support it moving forward, it's a plan for diversification of the economy, it's a plan to begin the empowerment of women, it's a plan to make the armed forces more professional. it's a plan to give the young people of saudi arabia a hope for a better future. if that plan can succeed with the support of the international community, i believe we will see a change, an important change that will be good for all of us in saudi arabia. >> what do you believe iran is trying to accomplish in the middle east? >> we've had this conversation before and i appreciate we've had it.
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as we've noted before, i firmly believe that the good people of iran are just putting up with the government. given the opportunity for a better future, just like the saudis, if they had a vision for a reform movement, if they had a vision for a better future, the people would move in that direction. right now the radicals are in charge and we need to keep the pressure to cause them to ultimately be deposed by their own people. >> i agree with you. ambassador, one of the more troubling developments in iraq has been the growing influence of the iranians, both iranian shia militia and also direct or indirect iranian control of the iraqi institutions of government. how significant do you assess
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that threat and what should we be doing about it? >> i think it is a great threat. it's one that concerns us and the iraqi people. i think one of the most powerful forces in iraq is iraqis share a strong sense of pride in their iraqi arab identity. as we empower iraqis to build the kind of country and future they want that's what we have to build on. >> final question. talk to me briefly about the kurds. the kurds have been loyal allies. they have spilled blood supporting the united states of america. they have, i think, been neglected and mistreated far too often by united states' foreign policy. can you talk at the assurance that we don't abandon the kurds once again and leave them
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subject to the predations of their neighbors. >> i intend if i'm confirmed to make sure that relationship between the united states and the kurdish people is solid, that gives the kurds the sense of security they need that they're never going to be dominated by the type of regime saddam hussein represented in baghdad. >> thank you both for your willingness to serve in these new poests. continuing on the conversation you had with senator cruz, there are certain issues, resolutions that this congress may be voting on regarding yemen and other resolutions. how would that affect or change
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relationships in saudi arabia, perhaps empowering iran if you could talk a little bit about that? >> first of all, i'm sorry we missed our appointment. i understand you were snowed in badly in colorado. >> united once again proved they are in charge. >> senator, it's a good question. i don't think it is good for me as a private citizen at this point to comment on legislation. i would prefer to say it is very important for us to set the stage that allows for reform in saudi arabia, that allows ultimately some day for reform in iran and that allows for a better solution to the many problems that are transparent and obvious in yemen. one thing we can't afford in yemen, we can't afford to
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withdraw u.s. expertise to the coalition about how to fight. if we want them to fight right, we need to continue to give them that expertise. another thing we can't afford is that a hezbollah like militia were to form in yemen. it would be a lethal threat to the region and one that we couldn't ignore and certainly one that saudi arabia couldn't ignore. so it's important that we work in the right way in your legislation and i know you are. but again i think me commenting about exactly how it should be done would be out of my place. >> and you may have already talked about this with other members of the committee. could you talk a little bit about the civilian nuclear agreement and what parameters ought to be in place to assure a true civilian nuclear agreement, if that is indeed the case? >> senator, i've had this
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discussion with many of you in our consultations. i certainly think that in some future there can be nuclear power in saudi arabia, but i think any time the u.s. provides nuclear power to anybody, it needs to be done under the strictest controls possible. >> with the standard gold plated agreements that have been in every -- >> i would say yes that's certainly the standard, but the issue is all about let's not allow plutonium or other type of substance move to somewhere where it can be used as a bomb. >> right. thank you. ambassador, we discussed some of the challenges in iraq obviously with corruption. how does the united states proceed addressing government corruption and the tools that you could bring to the position? >> again, our engagement and whether it's through advocating for u.s. businesses to be
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present to competing to contracts and the responsibility and the transparency that u.s. companies bring when they're engaged in an economy, also i think continue to empower the iraqi institutions that that have been stood up that so far have been able to continue to exist within the new iraq that are intent on promoting greater transparency. the issue of corruption throughout the region and in fact through many developing countries is one that as u.s. diplomats when we encounter, we see how toxic it is. >> what effects do you see remaining from the separation, the referendum? the attempt last year. >> of course the call for a referendum, we oppose that. we advised many of the kurdish leaders that we thought it was provocative and unnecessary.
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what i am pleased to say is that we are seeing that relationship already improving. i know there's good relationship between the kurdish leaders, the current president and the current prime minister as well and that some steps are being taken to repair that damage and put the relationship on a better footing. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman and thank you to both of the witnesses here today. i appreciate your testimony. these first two questions are for both of you. last fall ambassador james jeffrey, the state department special representative to syria stated during a defense one conference and i quote here, it requires stability ops to break iran's meddling influence. iran will create a new daiish if
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we dent get to -- referring to an arabic acronym for isis. in tackling iran, he said we have no better partner than saudi arabia. he added we couldn't be doing what we're doing in the region without them, yet we know that funds from saudi arabia donors flowed towards daiish and many clerics were an inspiration to isil's leaders. saudi arabia has also been implicated in the murder of jamal kashoggi and is directly responsible for one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent history in yemen. comments like these and those of secretary pompeo and president trump last year trying to frame iran as a supporter of al qaeda and other sunni terrorists without proof should get our attention. just last year reuters reported, in announcing the u.s.
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withdrawal from 2015 iran nuclear deal, trump said in may that iran supports terrorist proxies and militias such as al qaeda, end quote. last week pompeo said, today we ask the iranian people is this what you want your country to be known for, for being a coconspirator with hezbollah, hamas, taliban and al qaeda. reuters noted that a study cast doubts on these claims, claims if true would give the president some legal argument to say that the 9/11 aumf applies to iran, a claim that i as a member of congress who voted in favor of the 9/11 aumf find to be without any basis in reality. do you believe that a war with iran is in the best interest of the united states or either of the countries you are nominated to serve in?
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>> no. >> no, senator, do i not. >> do either of you believe believe that the 9/11 aumf extends to iran or that congress intended to use the 9/11 aumf to take on iran? >> i would have to defoer to th state department legal advisor to address any issues about authorized use of military force. >> i would have to defer to the legal experts, because i don't have any expertise in the issue. >> but you guys were both around when all of this happened and you know how targeted we were with the 9/11 aumf and what our objectives were, which we long ago, long ago have achieved. a find that a little discouraged that you're punting on that one. >> you know, senator, i guess i would say i was a soldier and we
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go where you tell us to go. >> yeah. well, i understand that. but you're also a very smart gentleman. you understand the realities of the congress. it's congress that has the authority under the constitution to declare war and it's also congress that if it decides to do so and thinks it's appropriate that ends wars. and so an aumf that's been in place since 2001 and is being used around the world as the reason for going into countries, i think is something you should be worried about as a soldier and something you should have looked into. anyway. >> thank you, senator. >> we all know that climate change is real and that the result is that in places like new mexico and iraq there is less water for all to go around. we must adjust to this reality. there are real and persistent water challenges in iraq
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including the mosul dam and lack of sufficient drinking water supplies and trained staff to manage these important infrastructure investments. what role can the united states play and what role can you play to help facilitate a sufficient water supply in iraq including mosul dam's stabilization. >> it's an excellent question. it's within that i've seen come into play elsewhere in the middle east. throughout the middle east you often find that water resources are underlying as part of the ongoing conflict. so i think it's important with respect to the mosul dam, the united states has been involved in some of the efforts to try to stabilize the dam. t it's a tremendous threat, one that we all need to remain vigilant. >> i would only say, senator,
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that the water problems in the middle east are great. the number one thing we can do to help solve them is first get these conflicts under control to the best of our ability. once we do that, then other things will follow. >> i hope we can do that and then i hope we can work on the infrastructure for water resources and the other things that are needed for stability in order to move forward, i. >> i agree with you. >> thank you for your courtesies, mr. chairman. i know i ran over a little bit. >> you certainly did. senator barasso. >> thank you. ambassador, if i could, how extensive is iran's influence over iraq? >> of course, the two countries
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share a long border. they share economic history, family, religious ties. but i think it's often missed as you look at the broader to understand again as i said iraqi national nationalism, the fact that iraqi shia clergy have their own legitimacy within the country. it think it's important not to overstate or overreact to iran's presence in the relationship. i would say we are not trying to receiver t sever the relationship. iraq wanting to build as we want to build an iraq that -- iran wanting to build an iraq that's strong, stable and sovereign. >> i'm thinking in terms of the iran -- they have armed militias who provided revolutionary guard forces to assist with the fighting against isis in iraq. looking at the current role of the iranian forces are playing
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in iraq and what you see in terms of the force activity there. >> the issue of the popular mobilization forces that exist in iran is one that's complicated. i know that the prime minister and other government officials are trying to bring all of those forces under the control of the government. many of those forces in fact are nominally under the control of the prime minister. what we're really concerned about is particularly those popular mobilization forces that are not responsive to the iraqi government but are taking their directions, their leadership from not just iran, but from the iranian revolutionary force. that is what is going to pose a great challenge, i think, moving forward for iraq to emerge as a strong, sovereign, normal country it has to deal with that issue. >> the united states has been encouraging iraq to end its energy dependence on iran. there's a "wall street journal" article from november pushing iraq to wean itself off iranian
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energy. despite its role as a major energy producer itself, it does rely on iran for natural gas. iranian natural gas generates about 45% of iraq's electricity. upon the reimposition of u.s. sanctions against iran, the united states has provided iraq a couple of waivers. do you believe iraq is serious about ending its dependence on iran? >> it's correct not only the significant imports of natural gas from iran but also electricity itself is part of the grid. it's important for example that iraq receive capital to improve its ability to capture its own natural gas rather than flaring it so it can be used to generate electricity. there has been some progress but it's time consuming and not
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enough has happened yet. an important think to try to use if i'm confirmed as ambassador, to encourage u.s. companies to play a role in helping the iraqi energy sector to capture that natural gas. >> and be less dependent upon iran. >> exactly. >> the blockade with qatar, in june of 2017 saudi arabia ended the diplomatic relationships with qatar and saudi arabia led a blockade against qatar in terms of its arab gulf neighbors, egypt, uae, bahrain. you know all the things that have happened there. can you talk a little bit about what the current status is of this dispute with saudi arabia and qatar and what progress has been there in terms of resolving the dispute? >> to be honest, senator, i don't think there's been much progress in resolving the dispute. i know there have been some
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forums especially in the defense arena where qatari representatives were allowed to attend opportunities to meet with their gulf colleagues. my opinion is that it's important to solve this problem having gulf gulf states be antagonistic and at each other's tloe throats at a time when they're facing a great threat from iran to me doesn't make geopolitical sense. >> to that point you just made, can you talk about how this threat weakens iran? >> iranians are masters at finding the small crack between forces that they face. and they have a small crack because of this dispute. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator. ambassador, i think what senator barrasso has raised about the iranian influence in iraq is a really serious concern to all of us. we keep hearing more and more reports of that. not only in this committee, but
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other committees that i serve on. and i hope you'll pay close attention to it. we all know their maligned intent and we realize it's complicated, like you said. but it's, it's discouraging to hear the inroads they continue to make into the iraqi infrastructure, so, in any event, i hope you keep an eye on that. senator menendez? >> thank you, mr. chairman. general, i'm very inclined to support your nomination, but i heard a few answers here that create a little cause of concern for me. so let me try to follow up with you. in several answers, you said, we can't afford -- and went on to describe elements that we can't afford saudi arabia not to do "x," "y," or "z." from my perspective, eckn't afford to continue to allow the saudis fighting in yemen and indiscriminately bombing
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civilians and ultimately violating international law. we can't afford to allow the killing of an american resident journalist with impunity and no consequence for that. we can't afford to allow u.s. citizens or permanent residents to be detained and, if some of these allegations are true, tortured, without consequence. and the list goes on. so, yes, many of us understood that the saudi relationship is important in our broader national security question, particularly as it relates to iran. but that doesn't mean -- that does not mean that we cannot challenge our relationship with a nation, even when our security interests may align. is that your view? that we can challenge and seek to change the nature of the
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relationship? or is it that we have to accept what they have done in order to pursue our greater national security goals? >> senator, i thought i was clear in saying, we should not accept these outrageous sorts of problems, such as the killing of jamal khashoggi. that we shouldn't accept the torture and detention, the alleged torture and detention of an american citizen, and so many other things, as i mentioned in my opening statement. these short-term problems have to be solved now. and it requires forceful discussions on the behalf of the united states with the government of saudi arabia. and i am prepared to have those discussions, if you confirm me. >> all right, because that's important, because i get concerned that somehow, we create this aura that the relationship is so important
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that we cannot challenge those things that are horribly wrong about it. and i don't buy that. because if at the end of the day, you can kill a journalist with impunity and because of our interests, we'll look the other way, that is a dangerous message to send across the globe. and it is a dangerous message to send to any other country to which we may have an interest, that you can act with impunity, as long as we pursue a certain interest we may have with you. that is not who we are as a nation. i want to make sure you're going to have no problem pursuing those challenges. >> i have no problem saying what i need to say in that regard. >> and in that regard, will you press the saudi government on the continued detention of american citizen, dr. walid fatahi? >> yes. >> and will you continue to request access to women who have have been unjustly detained? >> yes. >> and i don't want you to think i don't have any affection for you in this hearing.
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so let me just ask you, what does success look like for us in iraq? and how do we achieve that? and a tools do we have to try to achieve it. succinctly, give me a sense of that. it's a broad sense of your mission, but i want to get a sense of what it is that we are working towards. >> sir, i believe we do need to be guided by a long-term strategic vision. and i think it's a vision that sees iraq as a pillar of stability in the region. and we achieve that by working with iraqis to build up their security institutions, by building up their economy, by compounding the influence of sectarianism, by combatting issues like corruption or lack of transparency in the economy. we seek that as a vision, whereas if you look in the contrasting vision of iran, an iran that's weak, that's divided, that doesn't have sovereignty over its own territory and forces, we are
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working to bring back in areas of iraq clean drinking water and government services to people, where iran is flooding the market with cheap goods, and in fact, even with heroin and other dangerous products. so we need to be projecting a positive, constructive vision for iraq and i have no problem doing that. >> and what's our leverage to achieve those things? >> again, i think that we have allies and partners who want that, iraqis who want that same vision. and working with them, whether they're from kurds, whether they're from political alliances, wherever they come from, those iraqis that want to see a strong, stable, unified stable iraq, those are the people that we will work with. >> thank you. >> thank. we hear a lot of partisan talk up here, but -- so there is no mistake. i think the ranking member probably articulated as clearly as it's possible that when we have an ally, we try to support those allies as best we can, but the kinds of things that have been happening lately make it very, very difficult. and we cannot look the other way. thank you for those remarks,
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senator menendez. senator murphy? >> thank you very much. thank you for giving us the opportunity to have a short second round. i appreciate your follow-up answer to senator menendez. i, as well, was a bit concerned with what was to me an unexpected robust defense at times of the saudi regime, so i appreciate your clarification. my second round, though, is for you, mr. terrell. the houthis no doubt bear significant responsibility for the humanitarian catastrophe up until this day. but you are the first diplomat with jurisdiction over the crisis in yemen that i have ever heard assign zero percent responsibility for the humanitarian disaster inside yemen to the saudis. and it seemed as if you resisted amending that answer in the follow-up from senator merkley and although senator young didn't ask you a question, i think you understood the
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beginning of his query to you. just because one party starts a war does not give carte blanche to the other side to conduct themselves in a manner that makes the humanitarian situation on the ground worse. and by saying that the saudis bear no responsibility for what has happened there is a permission slip to the saudis and anyone who's a contestant to a conflict, to behave as irresponsibly as they like, because they might not have been the instigator. i can recite you the same statistics that senator merkley did, but they're pretty overwhelming in terms of the consensus among the international community as to the effect that the bombing campaign targeting civilians, the months-long blockade had on the worsening humanitarian situation. so, i want to give you one last shot before we end here, to amend your answer that the saudis, that the houthis bear
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100% responsibility for the civilian nightmare that has happened inside yemen. >> senator, thank you for the following question. and describing what i think is an analytical position as to exactly what is happening to the economy in yemen, that does in no way or shape excuse the saudis when they violate the law of armed conflict or conduct their military operations in a manner that doesn't give due regard for civilian life. what i'm describing, however, is a situation in yemen already the poorest country in the world, with measures of childhood stunting, famine, that existed before 2014, that has absolutely had the economy, the legs of the economy kicked out from under it by the actions of the houthis and the iranian-backed proxies. the u.n. humanitarian coordinator, i think, has described the situation best when she said, yemen is not suffering from a famine of food. yemen is suffering from a famine of incomes. that is what is really driving
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most of the humanitarian suffering that we're all witnessing. yemenese who have lost their incomes, because closure of private sector, small and medium enterprises, the government that's lost its income -- >> i get it. i get it. i understand what's happening there. the question is whether the saudis bear something above 0% responsibility for what has happened there. >> senator, i understand, and absolutely, i wouldn't minimize that, when there has been targeting of infrastructure, such as roads or bridges or transportation and that has had a very, very deleterious impact on the economy. but if you're looking for a solution of how we're going to address the humanitarian situation, it's going to be able to find a way to leverage the houthis into entering into a peaceful power sharing agreement. it's not going to happen as a result of what the saudis will do. the answers lie in the hands of the yemenese. and so i think many, many yemenese would tell you exactly the same thing that i've said
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here today. >> so are you not -- so help me figure this out. are you changing your answer or not changing your answer? because this is a problem for you moving forward here. if you can't -- if you can't commit to us that the saudis have some responsibility for what's happened there, as almost everyone who's testified before this committee, before you, has said. are you changing your answer or not? >> sir, with the war going on and the saudis as one of the participants, absolutely, of course, they have had an impact on the humanitarian suffering. i'm not saying that. and i think, again, going to the specific question, when there have been violations of the law of armed conflict or undue consideration for collateral damage, we cannot overlook that or excuse that. but, sir, when i'm looking for answers of how we are going to, as a nation, resolve the humanitarian crisis, we've got to look to the underlying causes of what's happening in yemen, the responsibility of all the yemeni parties, and what we're going to do, so that the yemeni
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civilians don't continue this suffering. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator. with that, thank you to both of you and your families. you have been very patient with us and we really appreciate that. for information on the members, the record will remain open until close of business on thursday, including for members to submit questions for the record. with the thanks of the committee, this hearing is now adjourne adjourned.
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once, tv was simply three giant networks and a government-supported service
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called pbs. then, in 1979, a small network with an unusual name rolled out a big idea. let viewers decide all on their own what was important to them. c-span opened the doors to washington policy making for all to see, bringing you unfiltered content from congress and beyond. in the age of power to the people, this was true people power. in the 40 years since, the landscape has clearly changed. there's no monolithic media, broadcasting has given way to narrow casting, youtube stars are a thing. but c-span's big idea is more relevant today than ever. no government money supports c-span. its nonpartisan coverage of washington is funded as a public service by your cable or satellite provider. on television and online, c-span is your unfiltered view of government, so you can make up your own mind. earlier this month, historians gathered for a civil war symposium to discuss its
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causes and the roles of african-americans and southern unionists. speakers included pulitzer prize winning author jon meacham and elizabeth bairn of the university of virginia. the event was co-hosted. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 eastern on c-span3. now, producers of the pbs documentary "the facebook dilemma," talk about their investigation into the social media platform and its impact on global privacy and democracy. stanford university hosted this event. it's an hour and 25 minutes. >> so, tonight's symposium follows the mantra, think globally, act locally. sitting here in encina hall,
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