tv Confirmation Hearing for Saudi Arabia Iraq Ambassador Posts CSPAN March 11, 2019 12:57am-3:03am EDT
we are born with them and we die with them. that is what america is. >> what does it mean to be an american? basically going back to our roots. noime where we are able to matter when, no matter where. following the second amendment. one other thing that makes us place,n is serving our locally, nationally, especially across college campuses. that's what it means to be american. anwhat it means to be american is a we are fortunate to live with something called the u.s. constitution. with that, we have the privilege of the first and second amendments, specifically which allow us to settle our importants in this system so we don't have to jump into foxholes, dodge bullets, and stand in front of tanks.
>> voices from the road, on c-span. on wednesday, the senate foreign relations committee held a confirmation hearing for president trump's nominees to be the u.s. ambassadors to saudi arabia and iraq. the hearing is two hours. s saudi arabia's interests and actions in yemen. the senate foreign relations hearing is about two hours. >> the committee will come to order. today we are going to hear a couple of very important positions. we have a couple nominees. want to be a master of saudi arabia and one to be ambassador of iraq and to introduce our nominee is we have a very, very distinguished guests from the great state of alaska, senator sullivan and he's going to make
the introductions. senator sullivan, the floor is yours. thank you, mr. chairman. and senator menendez, it is truly an honor for me to come before the committee today on behalf of my friend and great american, u.s. army retired to support his confirmation to be u.s. ambassador to the kingdom of saudi arabia. i know you've all had an opportunity to review his resume. i know many of you have talked to him. i want to highlight his personal background and experience that i've seen firsthand. after graduating from west point, general abizaid began his distinguished army career in 1973 as an infantry platoon leader. he rose to the rank of four-star general and was the longest-serving commander of u.s. central command area of responsibility that at the time he commanded more than 4 million
square miles from the horn of africa, the arabian peninsula, iraq, afghanistan, south and central asia. as he rose to the ranks he always kept his mind sharp. he achieved a master's degree in middle eastern studies from harvard university. a scholar at the university of jordan. after 34 years of service to his nation, he retired from the u.s. military in 2007 and is now a fellow at stanford university's hoover institution. in 2005 i was a major in the marine corps reserve recalled active duty to spend close to a year and a half as a staff officer for general abizaid when he was the centcom commander. pretty much as with them everywhere in the world during that time in iraq, afghanistan, pakistan, egypt, central asia and yes, yemen and saudi arabia appeared as a difficult time in
the region, especially in iraq. what i witnessed a yen and day out is everything you would want in an american general and an american public servant serving our country. a man of the highest integrity, a warrior, scholar, intellectual , a truly tested leader and yes a diplomat. during his time in the military garnered the deep respect of the leadership at the state department due to his keen understanding of the culture politics of the region for which he was responsible. there were a few people in our country who understand across current of u.s. interest, challenges and history in the middle east than john abizaid. he commands respect and trust from those around him. those who have served with him. i remember watching in amazement several times as a staff officer
when he had meetings with leaders in the region, all over the region weather was kings are prime ministers or colonels and generals where he would begin meetings speaking in arabic. general abizaid speaks arabic by the way, another element of his distinguished background. this kind of credibility and trust was so critical in the region. he's also a man with a great sense of humor and sharp wit. i remember when i was outside his office in iraq waiting for him, and the other individual waiting for him of falsely marine corps major appeared general abizaid i just had a meeting with four-star army general brady mccaffery. general mccaffrey walked out of much of the two marine major zen said john, what's with these marines hanging around your office? to which the general responded,
i like hanging out with marines. it makes me feel smart. [laughter] general abizaid is a classic example of an american patriot willing to serve his country for all the right reasons. he did not seek its nomination for attention or recognition. he was sought out by the administration because of his extensive asked. the knowledge of the u.s. saudi relationship and the issues in the middle east. he accepted president trump's nomination because he knows at this point in time it is important to have someone skilled to navigate such a multifaceted relationship in this very important for challenging region. and yes, the u.s. saudi relationship is indeed complex i know there's a lot of debate in this chamber and pressing foreign-policy changes in the middle east has a really to
saudi arabia, yemen and iran and i'm sure he'll ask him hard but fair question. but here's an issue over which i think there should be no debate. we need a highly qualified ambassador in riyadh and we need that person there soon. i don't anchor has been a nominee before this committee who is so uniquely qualified and well equipped to manage the relationship of the post for which he has been nominated. john abizaid will serve his country as he always has with integrity, honor and distinction. i urge all of you to support his nomination and move to confirm him as soon as possible. thank you again, mr. chairman for the opportunity to say a few words about a great american. >> thank you very much. we will hear from both of our witnesses in just a moment. but ambassador tueller is with us today was nominated to be
ambassador of iraq. a career member this senior foreign services of multiple tours across middle east and serve his country with distinction as u.s. ambassador to yemen since 2014. his experience navigating the complexities of the ongoing yemen conflict has afforded him unique is on reconciliation which served him well in the post -- in postwar iraq are prior to his current role he served as ambassador to kuwait as deputy chief of mission in egypt, qatar, kuwait respectively in a senior diplomat in iraq. let me say just a couple of things as we open here. as far as saudi arabia is concerned, we have a shared security interests of saudi arabia in combating sunni extremism and iranian influence in the region and we should not lose sight of that. at the same time, i think all of us have serious concern over
events following the saudi kingdom and the saudi gcc rift with qatar has made difficult u.s. effort in the gulf arab unity against iran. we look forward, mr. abizaid, general abizaid on how you work with officials to advance u.s. object is on a wide range of issues including saudi's will to yemen conflict, the gcc crisis with qatar and reported human rights. in addition to that, we welcome mr. tueller regarding the iraq post. he remains ongoing tensions between bag dad and the kurds as we all know, particularly in the north, preparing this relationship needs to be a priority for the united states. the kurds have been a good friend of ours become a good
allies and it's important to relationship in iraq be repaired or this comes at a time when the iraqi parliament is preparing to did a revolution that would significantly affect the u.s. presence there. this is a hugely concerning prospect and i look forward to hearing from you how we can work together to communicate our shared security interests with officials in iraq had with battle yield to the ranking member, senator menendez. thank you, mr. chairman. and i just want to tell our distinguished friend and colleague, senator sullivan for my travels abroad, i think it is the marine detachment that actually protect the embassy, so i don't know if they want to hear that joke. but in any event, general abizaid, ambassador tueller, thank you vote for your past service in thank you for both finding up to serve into complex countries with which the united states is critical security partnerships.
mr. chairman, think it sends an important signal that these are first two nominees before the committee in this congress especially weird because we've not had a nominee for saudi arabia in two years. while we've had two closed-door briefing touching on saudi arabia this congress there were wholly unsatisfactory in providing this committee with information. the administration's attempt to explain its failure to provide a legally mandated determination about the murder of american resident jamal khashoggi was insulting. i urge the committee to hold open hearings with the administration to understand our actions and our objectives and specifically i ask you to work with me and the other bipartisan cosponsors on this committee on the saudi arabia and yemen accountability. the president fails to act i believe congress must. and now to our nominees. you will both face challenging environments. general abizaid as we discussed the saudi arabia state a number of options that seriously strained the relationship over the past two years actions that
belied the ambitious reforms many had hoped for. under new new management the crown prince of font devastating war in yemen, isolated qatar, threatening cooperation and coordination against threats from iran and regional terrorist groups detained and tortured members of his own family, effectively hoodwinked intimidated the lebanese prime minister in just this week with publicly learned about the detention and potential torturer of the united states citizen and i'd like to acknowledge that a member of his family advocates are here today. amidst all of this we continue to cooperate in confronting real and strategic threats to the united states and saudi interests. the kingdom does continue to face legitimate threat including the who these along with iranian backing. no country should be expected to live with the threat of missiles being launched into civilian centers across its border.
as the conflict drags on, and violent houthi fashions only become more power. we cannot let this long-term interest in stability. i've been disappointed with the administration's public policy toward saudi arabia. our leaders cannot credibly call the world stage and demand accountability for humans rights abuses while giving a wink and a nod to the crown prince. general abizaid, while i buried the militarization of the state department, and i believe you have the right experience for the kind of leadership we need at this embassy. as we discussed her face not only the challenge of engaging directly with the saudi's and managing a large mission in riyadh, have to contend at the white house at times it seems to be running its own bilateral show. ambassador tueller, given your current service to yemen as is the government i also posit some of the challenges to you.
other ambassador to yemen come you been responsible for securing u.s. interest there, for supporting international led effort to promote a solution that offers legitimate interest while also ensuring that all yemeni people have a political prospect to express their interest. one that equitably and adequately addresses all equities and promote their interests. we'll face them with similar challenges in iraq. unfortunately, the president's lack of a coherent strategy for policy in iraq has only increased alan unter and challenges we face. as a growing movement in some quarters to oust american troops from the country. i believe they've invested too many american lives a national treasure, seen too many iraqis perish under brutality of terrorism and risk critical alliances that we have built to do that precipitous way. we must work with the iraqi people to continue to support building institutions to promote
a process and continue training iraqi security forces so that iraqis themselves can defend their country. we must support efforts to confront those seeking to continue destabilizing iraq to iranian political ambitions. i'm particularly concerned about closing the consulate in basra. the political process finding a way to include sunni, shia and kurdish applications with him all of which the united dates of important relationships and in that context i look forward to hearing both of you. >> thank you. thank you to both of you are willing to take this on as both myself and the ranking member has stated in her opening statement which tried to tee up for you to answer some of the questions that are really challenging. we talk about the challenging conditions in the country. both of these are very, very unique challenges.
we hear a lot of talk on this committee from the administration, from the media, from all the opinion writers about the problem of reconciling the united dates interest and having a strategic relationship with saudi arabia and reconciling how were going to do that while at the same time as the ranking member pointed out, saudi arabia is engaged in acts that are just simply not acceptable. unfortunately as i said, we hear a lot of descriptions about the problem. we don't hear any answers. there have been some modest suggestions that have been made, none of which would result. it's an ongoing conversation the ranking member and i are having internally amongst the committee. sometimes publicly, sometimes privately likewise between the committee in the administration.
knowing that she don't have a silver bullet or a magic answer, we do want to hear your thoughts coming your comments, analysis and maybe even a couple suggestions as we go forward because everyone agrees we've got to go forward and reconciled these two very competing things. iraq is not totally dissimilar, but again the kind of things going on mayor that make it very difficult for us to operate, but it is essential to have a relationship with iraq and that it be in the best interest -- has to be in the interest of both countries were won't be a relationship. gentlemen, thank you. we will start out with you. why don't you take the floor. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman and ranking member menendez, members of the committee. thanks to senator sullivan for a very over rated introduction. he is a smart brain. he's a great marine and a great
senator and i value his service to this nation so much. thank you, senator sullivan. i also want to say how privileged i am to be here with a master not to wear who served in so many tough and demanding assignments. i am honored to appear before you today as president trump's nominee to be the new s. u.s. ambassador to the kingdom of saudi arabia. grateful to the president for his nomination and to secretary pompeo for his trust and confidence. i welcome the opportunity to discuss the kingdom of saudi arabia and ask them my full testimony be submitted for the record. if confirmed by the senate i pledge to work closely with the members of this committee to advance u.s. interests and values in saudi arabia in the region. my wife kathy and my son david are both here today and my daughter sherry and christie have duties far away that they are here in spirit.
all of the kids have served the nation and my son-in-law continues to serve as battalion commander of troopers. we have spent too much time in the abizaid family dealing with wars. it is my hope if confirmed as ambassador i can play some small role in assuring that my grandchildren never see combat in the middle east. having served for a considerable part of my life in the middle east, and i am aware about how difficult this region can be and just how essential it is to u.s. national security. it is my conviction that stability in the middle east is most endangered by the continued threat of violent sunni extremism and iran's sunni shia expansionism. i'm serious to yemen come in these courses foment instability , deprive people of a
better future threat to national security of the united states. it is difficult for me to imagine today that a convoy iranian revolutionary guards cuts were sold with weapons could travel unimpeded from iran to lebanon. the good people of iran deserve a better future and that i must warn constant drain on the economy provided by the higher gc cuts force. to confront these threats come in the united states must work with and through original partners. we cannot effectively combat these threats nor promoter core interest and values without them. the united states has a long history of cooperation with the kingdom of saudi arabia. it is difficult to imagine a successful u.s. effort to undercut sunni extremism without engaging and partnering with the kingdom. this is not to say that i'm
unaware of the challenges facing the u.s. saudi partnership today , war in yemen. the senseless killing of jamal khashoggi, risks in the gulf alliance, alleged abuses of innocent people to include an american citizen and female activists will present immediate challenges. yet in the long run, we need a strong and mature partnership with saudi arabia. reform their promises to make the kingdom more dynamic, more prosperous in the region more stable. it is in our interest to make sure the relationship the sound. to assist a physician of reform and not shy away from expressing our views and our values to our partners in the kingdom. if confirmed as ambassador, and pledged to work tirelessly on the many issues that will inevitably come between the united dates in saudi arabia.
it would be on our two-liter diplomatic team in saudi arabia, to advance u.s. interests and values in the kingdom and counter the forces that threaten u.s. national security. i am grateful for the opportunity to appear before you today and i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you very much. ambassador tueller. >> chairman resch, ranking member menendez, members of the committee. i'm honored to appear before you today as president trump's nominee to u.s. ambassador to iraq and particularly to be here along with general abizaid who am i had the pleasure working with. if confirmed by work under look forward to a close in collaborative relationship. i'm grateful to president trump and secretary of state pompeo further confidence in me. if confirmed by the senate i pledged to work closely with the members of this committee to
advance u.s. interests in iraq. mr. chairman as mr. chairman s. is again i ask a full written text of my testimony be submitted for the record. >> it will be. >> other to recognize and expressed great appreciation to my wife denise and who has provided advanced support including during periods of separation when i served in unaccompanied posts like iraq and yemen and periods where she and other u.s. embassy family members were evacuated from those in egypt and saudi arabia along with her five children, denise might have the privilege of representing and estates abroad on a challenging and rewarding circumstances. two of her children are also here today, david and margaret and two of her grandchildren. i would not be here today without the love and support of my family. mr. chairman, ranking member menendez, and grateful for your consideration to lead one of our largest diplomatic missions in the world. if confirmed i'll try my leadership and policy execution the middle east.
if confirmed i'll do my utmost to advance u.s. interests there. let me stress from the outset there's no greater priority for me than the safety and security of all americans whether residing in the homeland for the middle east and iraq. our long-standing principle object was to bolster iraq is a sovereign state. we must remain engaged to ensure that iraq can fend off the internal and external threats including threats from iran to it sovereignty and territorial integrity. our determination to see iraq as a severe stability stands in stark contrast to iran's agenda which seeks to weaken statement duchenne's imposter. we cannot turn a blind eye to iran's interference in yemen. and of course iraq. iran and its proxies threaten our interests and security of our friends and allies including
iraq's and israel. iraq's most pressing need is for continuing assistance that reinforces the privacy of the iraqi security forces, strengthens their capabilities. together, we must be vigilant to prevent the return of isis for the emergence of other terrorist groups. our coalition wide approach to stabilization and liberated areas that the conditions for more than 4 million displaced persons to return home. what much work remains to ensure the remaining 128 million remaining internally displaced persons are able to safely and voluntarily returned to their communities and rebuild their lives. the work of our coalition is not over. with two dozen other countries helping iraq insure its gains against isis are lasting. this coalition must continue to assist the iraqi security forces as they combat a growing isis.
if confirmed i will work hard to boost her commercial and economic engagement with iraq and provide new opportunities for u.s. businesses and halt iraq develop its economy to meet the challenges that are growing more acute. if confirmed another priority would be assistance to iraq's persecuted religious communities that isis target for genocide. i will emphasize the priority we attach to the safety of these communities now support continued u.s. assistance to these groups and will work diligently to promote prospects for their survival in iraq. to fully stabilize from iraq also needs to move towards a vision for national unity in which all of its communities play a part. iraqi nationalism remains a potent force and iraqis are proud of their ancient heritage and culture. this is another unhelpful actors want nothing more. we will continue to support a strong and independent iraq.
the administration believes a strong kurdish regional government is essential to iraq's long-term stability and to the enduring defeat of isis. were proud of our long-standing historic partnership. senators if confirmed i look forward to the support of this committee and an ongoing dialogue to serve the interest of the american people. thank you for the opportunity to testify and i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you very much good will proceed to a round of questions. i will yield to the ranking member. thank you, mr. chairman. thank you post to your testimony and your family is that they serve in the sacrifice. we talked a little bit in the office the administration has a habit of communicating with foreign governments including foreign leaders outside of traditional diplomatic channels. how do you plan to exercise your authority as chief of mission? will uses an remaining fully informed and briefed of all
white house administration official interactions with the crown prince and other members of the royal court? >> thank you, senator. yes i will insist upon not. i'm also an old soldier and i know my chain of command. through the secretary of defense for secretary of state. freudian slip. i'm sorry. >> understandable. >> i also will join with the many interlocutors double, from washington and other places in our country and talk to them because it's hugely important for me to explain what's going on in saudi arabia from america's point of view and to give a point of view and an opportunity for them to see what's going on. >> i raised the question because it difficult to be ambassador and have someone else on the outside but you don't have to listen to that here just listen to what we tell you.
even within a chain of command that's an impossible way to operate. i hope you'll assert yourself if confirmed as our ambassador there. while working with others, but nonetheless assert yourself. i don't continue to tell you congress has become increasingly concerned over the saudi led coalition of conduct in yemen. this isn't to absolve the houthi of their abuses that we don't sell arms. they are not a legitimate nationstate with whom i shared diplomatic relations. repeated stories of u.s. supply bombs hitting weddings, funerals and school buses are simply unacceptable. the administration's prioritization of arms sales of her fundamental values is not acceptable. i have found this so incredibly challenging that i've placed a serious offensive weapons sales to the saudi government with
complete verifiable information about how the saudis are using american-made weapons. can you speak to me about how you'll address this issue if you are confirmed as well as what will you say to the saudi's about their continuing engagement in the yemen conflict? >> thank you, senator. i think it is very important that the saudi's find a path toward peace in yemen. it's in their interest, the interest of the government of yemen. in the interest of the region. it's also important that in the piece that is found it is not round in such a way that there is hezbollah like militia that is underpinned by the irgc can't force that is able to operate freely in a free and independent yemen. as far as confidence in the
operations by the coalition mayor, i think they have much work to do. it is very important for us to continue to talk to fans about the targeting system, about the way they go about hitting the various target, but the professionalization of the forces and that when mistakes are made, that they do like we do, which is convened a board of officers, talk about the mistakes and then take the correct of action necessary to gain better and better expertise. i am hopeful that there is a way to word with regard to using the humanitarian problems of yemen and we will continue if i am confirmed to tell the saudi government to need to do so. >> i appreciate that. our goal is ultimately to in the conflict in yemen and i hope you will move in that direction. let me in the last second i have
did a series of yes or no on the set of questions. we have seen alarming reports of hammurabi and saudi's transferring a serious u.s. origin weapons system to third-party fighters on the ground. will you engage with the saudi's to have them understand that we do not accept their transfer of are weapons that we sell to them to others? >> yes. >> will you continue to press the saudi government to fully account for the murder of jamal khashoggi? >> yes. >> would you ultimately commit to ensuring that if the administration moves forward, which i don't think it has in any type of civilian nuclear agreement that we move towards the gold standard? >> yes. >> thank you very much.
>> general, thank you i actually think this is a tough assignment in the world right now. saudi arabia as you well know is an important strategic partner in combating terrorism, confronting iran. they also are her most difficult partner right now because it almost asks us to agree to stay silent on grotesque violation of human rights both domestically and abroad in the crown prince is not making things easy. he is reckless. he is ruthless. he has a penchant for escalation, for taking high risk, confrontation on his foreign-policy approach and increasingly will test the limits of what he can get away with with the united states. anyone who thinks that's an unfair assessment of the young man should liquidate some in last two years. he's kidnapped the prime minister of lebanon. he kicked out the ambassador of canada, canceled flights toronto, cut off investments, recalled the students in canada
over a couple treats from the canadian foreign minister regarding human rights and he structured the important alliance with the gulf kingdoms. i believe in all the evidence i believe strongly indicate the order of your passwords to murder jamal khashoggi and to do so in a third country in a diplomatic facility. by the way, domestically he's ruthless. 10 years in jail and a thousand lashes for blocking. and then we have the case of women activists, upwards 11 at one point, but who have been brutally tortured and mistreated, whipped, beaten, harassed in the basement of what some called the palace of terror. and then we had the united date citizen, harvard trained physician who recently was slapped, blindfolded, stripped to his underwear, shocked with electricity all apparently in an effort to get him to provide
evidence against a family friend or relative or marriage and then reports as recently as yesterday and today that the families had their home raided in retaliation for family members here in the u.s. who have had the audacity according to the saudi's to come to capitol hill and tell the stories of their family members. and of course to top it all off with his operation into american company of google and apple. there is enough in saudi arabia. here's what it translates to roughly. it allows them to see where the women under their watch art. allows them to look at their travel and flight logs. google says they are going to keep selling it because it doesn't violate their terms of service. we are still waiting on apple. the point being is i guess i've given this to you. that's the bad news of this assignment you've agreed to take
onto credit to you. how do we balance all of this with this important regional and strategic partnership? this guy is making it harder. he's gone all gangster and is difficult to work with a guy like that no matter how important relationship is. and welcome to the committee. [laughter] >> is a great honor to be here, senator rubio. senator, i appreciate your concern. there are many difficult problems. i would like to make the current problems short-term problems and were quickly to fix them to the best of our ability. our relationship is bigger than just at the crown prince. it is about a government. it's about a king. it is about many, many notes of people interested in moving the kingdom forward in a better way in the 21st century. and so, i think as i move
forward and learn more about the kingdom and i wanted to emphasize how much i was at the kingdom in the people there. i will look for every way possible to find out what has gone on in the short-term problems and enhance the need to make the long-term problems work arab societies and saudi arabia in particular has many nodes of interest. these notes of entries need to be engaged by as in order to find out ways to move forward and solve these problems. >> one of the things that i think will come up during your time there is what is or even mentioned about potential for a nuclear agreement. senator mark and i introduced legislation to increase congressional oversight over any agreement or 123 agreement. secretary pompeo has said he wants a one to three agreement which would not permit enrichment and i strongly encourage you to be a strong voice in that regard because someone was a penchant for
recklessness, who was attention for escalatory foreign-policy and all the other things i've highlighted to retain the capability to enrich would be i believe an incredibly dangerous precedent to set. i don't know how you served there for two years or longer and not run into this issue at some point because i've no doubt think it will become a prime issue here shortly. >> i appreciate that issue, senator and i failed to acknowledge the issues concerning women's rights. i have two daughters and a wife. i will be very interested in helping in the reform effort to move the rights of 50% of the population they are forward in a way that brings their talents and energy to the surface. >> thank you. senator shaheen. thank you, mr. chairman. let me welcome both, you
mr. toler and thank you for being willing to consider taking on this difficult post at this very important time. i would like to begin with you, and general abizaid and add my support for everything that senator rubio said and add one more concerned to back, that the united states still is a $331 million in saudi arabia for air refueling that we provided the coalition in yemen. i think the list of human rights violations is so long it's hard to comprehend what's going on there. i would like your assurance is as ambassador that you will consistently raised the issue of human rights violations
>> ambassador to hold countries accountable to ensure that the saudi's no what we believe and what the relationship needs to be to move forward. i will ensure that those ideals, those values, those mutual interests, are conveyed as clearly as i can to the government of saudi arabia and i look forward to working with
them not in the adversarial way but in a way that promotes our ability to have a partnership move forward. >> i know several people with the khashoggi murder have mentioned with the global magnet ski act there is a responsibility for the administration to respond to that murder. can you talk about what responsibility would have as an ambassador to ensure the administration is responsive under that act quick. >> yes as the secretary of state has said on many occasions that we demand transparency and accountability we will continue to do that we probably don't have all the facts and i will convey them to the best of my ability to
the national command authority. >> ambassador one of the challenges we have heard from the iraqis with our continued presence there is the differences of opinion over the continued military presence in iraq and ambassador how can you help address the concerns the iraqi people have quick. >> thank you senator the military presence and of the coalition members is at their request many leaders and most importantly the leaders who want that presence there and understand the imprisonment - - the importance to provide
training and support. we need to rely on those who understand the impact our presence has to make sure that is an enduring contribution to iraq security. >> one of the new principles with respect to syria is the assumption we can continue to support the democratic forces here in syria with the forces we have with iraq. do you have any idea how successful that policy can be quick. >> we face similar concerns of the security threat whether isis or the role that iran or other actors play. it is my belief our engagement where third - - other with their diplomatic of course, our presence in iraq just goes beyond the borders of iraq that we are they are prepared to defend our
interest. >> thank you. i am out of time but i hope you address the role of iranian influence with the new iraqi government at some point in this hearing. >> mister chairman thanks to the nominees and their families for their past service and sacrifice and your future service and sacrifice. we are faced with stark realities we don't like in particular but we have to deal with. senator rubio was talking about we are facing and he has gone full gangster that is completely unacceptable. at the same time as you said and to have a son relationship it is the maligned influence
is the linchpin and has been for a long time and will continue to me i am confident if we face our problems with that and not mince words then we can solve that. >> i will ask slightly differently what are the alternatives if we don't have a relationship? where do we go from there? . >> it is with that relationship between saudi arabia and the main difference they want us to be engaged to address the regions underlying problems they want us out of the region with that influence
so it is very important that we work to ensure that allows us to project our influence into the region. >> none of us like the situation in my office during our meeting one of the questions i asked you is we're all counting on the peace process military solution we have to have a peace process but realistically, what incentive do the who these have to the peace process quick. >> it is complicated even the houthis are not monolithic even out of ambition or self-interest the northern tribes are elements and that
murphy. and for your willingness to serve on a strategic post and those of most vocal critics of saudi arabia don't wish for us to walk away with those incredibly important relationship between israel and the gulf states. it is completely upside down. if you know, nothing about the history of saudi arabia you watch the conduct of this relationship over the course of the last year the great power a dependent junior partner the secretary of state
went there to do a photo op with respect to foreign policy and because we need to put ourselves back in charge of this relationship to make clear that the way we have been treated and the residents have been treated and turning to a different part of the relationship and instead historically it has been a firefighter and an arsonist coming to the terrorism where
the most radical elements in the region. and with that version that one - - islam with the extremist movement but that tolerant brand and still seem to spend a lot of time into the world. so how do you predict approaching as ambassador quick. >> that is a very thoughtful question. the time that i spent as director of the combating terrorism center gave me the opportunity to look at this pretty deeply and at least i can report to you based on my last visit out there that
spending a lot of time what the crown prince has not done or has done that is maligned but he has also sent a very clear message that he favors a more tolerant view of saudi islam and i see evidence of that the whole country wants to move forward it cannot just be a puerto rico issue and i believe the country's leadership to help them move forward to the extent that we can.
and wishing to push a more tolerant version but in one specific question you have been on the ground over the last several years reports emerged a few months ago that the coalition partners have transferred american weber weapons to those fighters in yemen and in wake of these reports they admitted to having done as such. so let me ask you when did the administration learn about these transfers? . >> with the press reports recently as we saw back in
2015 i know that centcom and dod is trying to track down exactly and that they have provided to the yemeni forces we know those systems are falling out of the control. >> what are the consequences of that quick. >> we take that very seriously with the weapons transfer we expect them to transfer weapons we follow up with systems to hold them accountable. >> well thought out senator murphy. senator romney quick. >> thinking mister chairman and ranking member and thank
you in particular for a lifetime of service to the greatest nation on earth and freedom and the sacrifice you have both made in very different ways but an enormous to put yourself in harm's way over long periods of time with the country of your heritage is most commendable and to serve yet again in a place of great challenge as we contemplate the outrage and what is occurring in saudi arabia as we contemplate that extraordinary harm and pain and suffering and parts of the middle east there is that
sentiment of the people to say why are we there? why don't we just leave and get out of the middle east and let the iranians and saudi's and do what they do and we will stand back in our hemisphere and not worry about it. that is not a sentiment that i share but i would be interested to hear from both of you as to why we are involved in the middle east and why we are involved in yemen what that means for the citizens of the united states. >> thank you senator in the case of human united states has an important interest to make sure there are no terrorist groups using the territories to mount attacks against us and to make sure there is freedom of navigation to the strategic waterways and of course, to contemplate that
a man or a possible power could control that is of great strategic interest to the united states. to make sure those allies don't feel they are threatened to work on behalf of iran. and to give into hopelessness and to see if it is yemen or other parts of the world as a consequence for responsible governments. with that humanitarian challenge. and what we feel badly about it is because we have the relationships with saudi arabi arabia, we do focus on those consequences that almost 100 percent of that catastrophe has been caused
and the gdp of the country of the millions of minds around the country with those casualties going into the future and that's what the american people in need and the sectarian and violences of the middle east that isn't just the people in the middle east but occurs for all of us we will do our best for the people in the region it is
terrifying to think on the part of the good people of the region and the united states to help themselves as long as of that shia extremism on the sunni side exist it is important for us to stay engaged and it is important to move in a direction that allows people in the region to have a better future so they don't fall prey to that extremist narrative of lies if
countries can reform and embrace their own populations there is a much better path ahead. and not to believe in large presence of american forces of occupation it is counterproductive to get the job done. let's hope the people in the region to help themselves and in particular was saudi arabia, counterterrorism activities and to put a damper on the extremism that we see so frequently throughout the regio region. >> thank you mister chair and you are very well qualified for the these positions and i appreciate your service. general, starting with you, you, jamaal khashoggi was a virginia resident his family lives in virginia and another
individual who has a virginia connection to exemplify the human rights challenges i hope you will grapple with a legal permanent resident of the united states coming to richmond to study computer science at virginia commonwealth a long time ago got a computer science degree move back to saudi arabia and is a saudi citizen who is taught computer science to women for nearly 30 years. you have brought wonderful families with you today she is a mother of five and a grandmother of eight and she believes women should be treated as equal human beings. she has been engaged in the protest of women being able to drive an active to reform the guardianship system that makes women essentially the property of a man because she has been
very active in protest with the treatment of domestic violence all while raising her family and teaching computer science and was imprisoned in may with a group of women and men advocating for the saudi women to drive and imprisoned after the driving restriction was lifted in the interpretation is when it was lifted we want to send a message you have no right we are giving you are privilege but by imprisoning the activist who had been advocating it was a message you cannot protest you have no rights we are doing this as a privilege and amnesty international and others have indicated that they have been tortured and held and they can see their families once a month. a grandmother of eight and a mother of five who has spent her whole life educating saudi
women to be computer scientists and i will just say this is an important relationship but for me it is a proxy of the authoritarianism corruption right before the way they treat women before they are treated advocating that they should have basic equal rights so you have to do this job and do it well i hope this human rights aspect in the treatment of these individuals who have ties is a top priority for you. >> senator you have my word. >> ambassador, is a rack and ally? . >> i believe that relationship is important serving both of
our interest so with those, interest particularly with security and i expect to be able to work with iraq as a partner with the united states. >> i share that we are partners and allies there is a lot of work to do to make that coalition strong but we are there now at their invitation we do not occupy iran we left militarily in 2011 with the rice line - - rise of isis and they have asked us back even if there is a controversy with that it's not a slamdunk on any issue but overwhelmingly they still want the united states to be there would you agree? . >> i think we can continue for iraq to want to continue to be there after the forces withdrew with the rise up isis
over 55000 square miles in iraq they were deeply traumatized and threatened iraq they understood they needed the assistance to avoid the resurgence. >> they said the family spent too much time in the middle east you don't want your grandchildren to be there. it is interesting iraq is an ally but yet we still have two authorizations for military force against iraq pending and president trump said great nations don't wage wars i think congress should not authorize those wars. the 1991 authorization with the invasion of kuwait is a zombie authorization and that 2002 authorization with saddam hussein is active with that zombie authorization to what
we have introduced today with the first gulf war with that authorization there is no need to have the authorization against an ally and partner i hope my colleagues could see the virtue to clean that up. thank you. >> senator paul. >> thank you for your testimony and your service. it is often said iran is the largest state sponsor of terrorism and the largest state sponsor of radicalism and that shia populations mostly within the middle east and saudi arabia maligned influence most of those extremists are the sunni
extremist and those at so when i hear people say they are letting women drive part of me thinks maybe that's a public relations stunt while we imprisoned the activist at the same time. but at the same time they are letting women drive they are sending a team to send somebody up in another country so i don't think we should be fooled but in a larger context , the reason i bring up iran and saudi arabia it reminds me of the cold war where anybody sided with us we turned a blind eye to human rights violations like in africa those who did horrific things
so we have divided up the middle east the largest eight sponsor is a ring and we are starting to think of saudi arabia that way but we have turned a blind eye because of oil and iran but there needs to be a more evenhanded look that maybe both are maligned actors and also looking at the middle east to say we talk about a middle east peace process about the palestinians and israel but it is an important question but the peace process that to have saudi arabia at the same table with iran so my question for you is with all of that do you think we need to make a stronger statement about the saudi's instead of just saying
they are getting better that perhaps to restrict the arms sales so please quit funding madras this. maybe they should we should play hardball to imprison people and giving them 1000 lashes, maybe they don't deserve our weapons. general? . >> thank you senator paul. i already indicated i think extremism is the curse of the middle east on the sunni side and the shia side. and sectarianism we have to move very hard to convince the people in the region to abandon the forms of extremism. that when i think of extremism in saudi arabia or in any other arab country those in
the population that believe they fund extremist preachers and ideologies or if they fund the edgy hotties were ever the current battle may be, that they are doing god's work. it is clearly not god's work so we have to keep saying it whether it comes from saudi arabia or egypt or uae, or yemen we have to keep saying it and not shy away from that i have told him that for years i will continue to tell them that. but on the other hand, i would also like to respectfully say they have made progress. i remember having an opportunity to go to saudi arabia recently and i saw some very innovative and very
effective programs aimed specifically at reducing terrorism and on the field of battle. >> i appreciate that. ambassador, the president has said the greatest geopolitical blunder of the last 20 years was the iraq war. what is your opinion on that? . >> i think the removal of saddam hussein serve the interest of the united states. >> do you disagree with the president? . >> i don't think the president, president, . >> his was it created a vacuum and also empowered iran. >> it has empowered many with extremism. >> but are they an ally? some argue it is now more of an ally but the president disagrees and thinks the iraq war is a big mistake.
>> thank you senator now to senator booker. >> ambassador, when you comment on the humanitarian situation in yemen you said virtually 100 percent of the problems are caused by the houthis for go i found that a very surprising statement because they are coming from the cholera epidemic from the water systems for go the united nations did a study of 17000 civilian deaths and the majority resulted in the saudi led bombings. so can you tell me how you reach the conclusion how the saudi bombing of civilians is responsible for 0 percent of the humanitarian crisis in
yemen? . >> i think any death of civilians is unacceptable. >> that's not my question. >> we cannot excuse that behavior. my remarks of the houthis being 100 percent responsible in january 2014 the most important part of the yemenis with those ships that disembarked. >> please speak up. >> in january 2015 before the saudi led intervention the number had fallen to nine but i was 100 percent responsible for the houthis actions that cause foreign investment in the private sector to start investing in the economic activity.
>> i don't want to use all my time on that lengthy explanation but when you say 100 percent of t 50 percent of saudi's you are giving no responsibility for having used the missions to attack the civilian sites in saudi arabia. >> when we have seen cases where the saudi's where there was damage we have spoken very forcefully to them about that and then to mitigate those consequences we have seen improvements. >> by acknowledging that you say there is some saudi responsibility for quite will stop there but i do find that very disturbing given the vast saudi campaign to treat saudi arabia to say they are our allies so we will blame somebody else and that seems unacceptable to me. >> general, we have been
disturbed in oregon by this saudi arabia and posting bail for saudi citizens and then them disappearing and in 2016 as saudi national killed a native driving approximately twice the posted speed limit saudi arabia posted bail and he disappeared. we have the saudi consulate post bail for one who fled oregon before facing trial in 2012 on multiple sexual charges including rape. we have a saudi national who face charges in 2016 for hitting a homeless man with his vehicle and disappeared.
the saudi consulate posting a 500,000 security deposit a student in oregon and a saudi national arrested in 2015 on ten counts of encouraging sex abuse on a child before fleeing the country the saudi consulate posting 500,000-dollar bond with another university student and saudi national arrested in 2014 on the charge of rape. these crimes are being committed by saudi nationals and then the saudi government is posting bail and then taking them out of the country. is this acceptable? . >> certainly not acceptable for any government to assist their citizens that have violated our laws.
. >> are you as disturbed as i am that essentially at this moment the saudi nationals in the united states have a get out of jail free card that allows them to commit abuses against children, manslaughter, rape, wh no accountability? . >> senator, there has to be complete accountability for any government with their citizens living abroad and that means respecting the laws of the host nation. in fairness i would like to point out there are 80000 saudi's in the united states most are not the type of people you talk about. >> believe you me i am not implying that saudi nationals as a whole are committing crimes as a higher basis than anyone else for quite how that statistic but i'm making the point when a person commits a crime in the united states because they are an ally who buys a lot of stuff they allow
them to whisk out their citizens with no accountability for child abuse, rape or other sexual crimes are manslaughter or for any other crime. >> i agree any government that assist their citizens to flee our justice is breaking our laws. >> translating this into a general principle but with these exact issues are you struck? . >> what i can say is i don't know why except your stories but i don't know how they assisted in the escape. >> what we do know is that it has been the conclusion of our government they are likely to have assisted in one case at least the passport was surrendered so something
magical happened for the person to return to saudi arabia either the escape act which calls on the state department to analyze this issue and report on it that is five cases in oregon that we know of there may be more we don't know about there may be hundreds across the country. i am surprised the state department has not already investigated this. would you encourage the state department to investigate this issue and if it's happening with other nations then investigate that but the one we have knowledge of all involved saudi arabia. >> if you confer me i will encourage them to do something. >> thank you gentlemen. upon my reading of your many accomplishments you are well prepared not only to be confirmed but serve our country honorably and professionally. mister ambassador i have a
follow-up question pertaining to the issue of the iranian aligned houthis as the primary driver of the humanitarian crisis which may be a situation right now. they have been responsible for numerous violations of human rights laws but i think it is helpful over the last couple of years our saudi partners working with the emirates in the united states of america targeting assistance in planning and other activities has also been party to some actions that hurt my many briefings on the subject and classified and unclassified settings with portions of the houthis population leading to
their alignment with the iranians many would not have aligned with otherwise. they block the port where 80 percent of food and medicine and water is delivered. the bombing campaigns with a have indiscriminately bombed civilians is something that i hope moving forward we will continue to recognize and exacerbate what remains the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. yes, the saudi's must remain security partners and would be complicated partners especially with the current leadership and the crown prince with reckless behavior of this united states
senator. it is very important we are reminded of this that we continue to try to finesse this relationship. senator shaheen brought up the lack of responsiveness of the global magnitsky act. i am frustrated of the unwilling to follow up on the national defense authorization act which my colleagues and i have worked on and there is a provision which requires the secretary to certify the governments of saudi arabia and uae are undertaking a number of actions provisional that is a detailed requirement for yemen related briefings to congress and requires the administration to give a strategy for yemen. we have not seen a credible certification from the
administration i don't intend to remain silent i want this to be followed. so general would you commit to a monthly update on the following, description of saudi arabia military and political objectives in yemen and united states assistance to the saudi led coalition leading in significant progress to meet those objectives and the government of saudi arabia and the assessment of the need for existing secondary expection and the transshipment requirements of the humanitarian and commercial vessels cleared by the un verification and inspection mechanism and description of the external support for the houthis forces with weapons transfer and operational
advisory assistance and the applicability of us international sanctions that have committed grave human rights abuses and large ballistic missiles into saudi territory in the assessment of the saudi led coalition on the efforts of the us in the islamic state. word you commit to providing that information on a monthly basis to this committee? . >> thank you senator as not a member of the administration. >> i have nothing to say about that if you confer me and i become a member i can commit to assisting the administration to answer those questions. >> i thought you would answer along those lines. let me just note before yielding back to the chairman
that if the administration is not already tracking each of those things i have requested of you, it would be a matter of diplomatic security malpractice from my perspective and it is my hope the administration will follow the law and finally provide credible certification under the law. think you. >> senator cruise. >> thank you mister chairman. gentlemen, thank you both for your service and congratulations on the nominations you have received and thank you for willing to receive and nor are they altogether safe. so we are grateful to answer the call to serve your nation
and in challenging times. i want to start with you. saudi arabia is in my judgment a deeply problematic ally. the human rights record, has been sorely lacking, for many years they have been willing to find the jihadist on the principle if you feed a crocodile perhaps it will eat you last. their conduct with regard to mister khashoggi was abominable and unacceptable. on all those fronts we should be clear and explicit condemning their actions. at the same time they are an ally and critically they are a vital counterpoint to the
nation of iran as i look to the middle east the rivalry between iran and saudi arabia any conduct the united states congress does to weaken saudi arabia through ira iran, to my mind is harming the national security interest of america. because a stronger iran with the ayatollah khomeini pledging death to america funding terrorist actively trying to murder americans makes a stronger iran and makes for a more dangerous world. do you share that assessment? and what role do you believe saudi arabia plays to counterbalance iran? . >> thank you senator cruise. i certainly share your sentiments in your description
about iran. may be 15 years ago, may be but it was absolutely too much to turn a blind eye to the extremist leaving the country causing problems elsewhere so as i look at it today i don't think the problem is solved but it is getting better there are joint task forces, there are joint task forces looking at the economic flows of money into the terrorist networks we know recently osama bin laden was stripped of his citizenship and others have for their support of terrorism to al qaeda and isis were indeed even supporting the iranians.
it is incumbent upon the united states to continue to press the case that good allies do not support terrorism anywhere. >> and the importance of a strong saudi arabia as a checkpoint. >> i think you've done an adequate job of that. >> is there any coherent or rational argument that saudi arabia opposes a comparable threat to the united states to that of a man? . >> senator when i look for revision of 2030 we can support that moving forward with the economy and plan to begin the empowerment of women a plan to make the armed forces more professional it's a plan to give the people of saudi arabia the hope for a
better future. if that plan can succeed to support the national community, i believe we will see a change that will be good for all of us in saudi arabia. >> what is iran trying to accomplish quick. >> we have had this conversation before. i appreciate we have had it and we have voted before i believe the good people of iran are just putting up with the force and the beleaguered government so given the opportunity for a better future, just like the saudi's if they had a vision for the reform movement or a better future than people would move in that direction. but right now the radicals are in charge and we need to keep the pressure that causes them
to be deposed by their own people. >> i agree. ambassador, one of the more troubling developments in iraq is the growing influence of the iranian shia militia and also direct or indirect iranian control of the iraqi institutions of government. how significant do you assess that threat and what should we be doing about it? . >> it is a great threat and one of the concerns to the iraqi people one of the most powerful forces with the sectarian influence makes those differences in political parties to have a strong sense of pride they do not want to see their country weekend and they see the major threat and to empower iraqis that is what
we have to build on. >> a final question. the kurds have been loyal allies according to the united states of america and they have been neglected far too often by the united states foreign policy can you talk about the importance to ensure we don't abandon the kurds once again to leave them to their neighbors quick. >> that is a historic relationship that is very important. to make sure the united states is one that is solid that gives the sense of security that they need but never in the future that they will be dominated by that type of regime of saddam hussein representative baghdad the two that perspective with that solid relationship and i
intend to do all i can to make sure that relationship is positive. >> thank you for your service to this country it truly is grateful for your service. continuing on the conversation with senator cruise, there are certain issues or resolutions that congress could be voting on. how does that affect or change relationships to empower iran? . >> senator, first of all, i'm sorry we missed our appointment. >> i understand you were snowed in in colorado. >> united proved they are in charge. [laughter] . >> i don't think it is good for me as a private citizen to comment on legislation. i would prefer to say it's is
very important for us to set the stage to allow for reform in saudi arabia and that allows for better solutions that our transparent in yemen. and to have that us expertise about how to fight. if we want them to fight right we need to give them that expertise. another thing and with that militia reform in yemen a threat to one that we could not ignore and certainly one that saudi arabia could not ignore. >> it is important we look in
the right way that i think me commenting how that should be done is out of my place. >> you have talked about this but what about the civilian nuclear agreement and what parameters are in place to ensure the true civilian if that is the case? . >> but in some future there can be nuclear power in saudi arabia and anytime they provide us one - - nuclear power to anybody under the strictest control possible. >> i would say yes i understand the issue is not
-- >> encourages greater transparency the citizens of those countries. >> i believe it was last year. >> the call for a referendum, we opposed that. we advised many of the kurdish leaders that we thought it was provocative and unnecessary. what i am pleased to say is that we are seeing that relationship already improving. i know there's a good relationship between the kurdish leaders, the current president, andy current prime minister as well, and that some steps are being taken to repair that damage and put the relationship on a better footing. >> senator udall. senator udall: thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you to both of the witnesses. we appreciate your testimony. these first two questions are
for both of you. last fall, ambassador james jeffrey, the state department special representative to siri or stated -- representative to syria stated that it requires meddlingeak iran's influence. he went on to say that "iran will create a new daesh if we don't get to the underlying problem," referring to the arabic acronym for isis. this is odd given that daesh is a sunni terrorist organization. said we haveran he no better partner than saudi arabia and said we could be doing what we're doing the region without them. yet we know that funds from saudi arabia, donors, flow toward daesh. saudi arabia has also been implemented -- been implicated
in the murder of journalist jamal khashoggi and is largely responsible for one of the largest humanitarian disasters in recent history in yemen. comments like these and those from 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. announcing the u.s. last year, reuters reported that in withdrawing from the iran nuclear deal, trump said in may that iran supports terrorist proxies and malicious such as al qaeda. in a speech last week, pompeo said, "today, we ask the iranian people, is this what you want your country to be known for, being a co-conspirator with has been a lot, hamas, taliban, al qaeda." 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. my first question to both of you is 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? >> no. >> no, senator, i do not. >> do either of you believe that the 9/11 aumf extends to iran or that congress intended to use the 9/11 aumf to take on iran? >> senator i would have to refer to the legal advisor to address any issues about authorized use of military force. >> i would have to refer to the
legal experts as 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. so i find that a little discouraged that you are punting on that one. >> well, you know, senator, i guess i would say is i was a soldier, and we go where you tell to us go. >> yeah, 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 is 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 that you should have looked into. so 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's less water for all to go around. we must adjust to this reality. there are real and persistent water challenges in iraq, including the mosul dam 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 so the region avoids conflicts over water resources? >> senator, it is an excellent question. it's one that applies in iraq. it is one that i have seen come into play in yemen which faces depletion of its water resources and elsewhere in the middle east and syria and elsewhere. so throughout the middle east,
you often find that water resources are underlying as part of the ongoing conflict. i think it is important with respect to the mosul dam, the united states, army corps of engineers has been involved in some of the efforts to try to stabilize the dam. the iraqis themselves are taking on a greater responsibility for that. it's tremendous threat, one that we all need to remain vigilant. thank you for the question, senator. >> thank you. general, do you have a thought on that? >> sir, i would only say, senator, that the water problems in the middle east are great. and 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 thing wills follow. -- other things will follow. >> i hope we can do that, and i hope we can work on the infrastructure for water resources and the other things that are needed for stability in order to like you say move forward. >> i agree with you, senator. >> appreciate that. thank you for your courtesies, mr. chairman. i know i ran over a little bit.
>> you certainly did. >> i bow down to apologize to you. >> there will be war. [laughter] >> senator, so patient. i'm sorry i passed you over earlier. >> [inaudible]. >> [laughter] >> thank you, senator. ambassador, how extensive is iran's influence over iraq? >> of course the two countries share long border. they share economic history, family, religious ties, but i think it is often missed as you look at the broader to understand again as i said iraqi nationalism, the fact that iraqi shia clergy have their own standing, credibility, legitimacy within the country. so i think it's important not to overstate or to overreact to what is iran's presence and relationship. i would say we are not trying to sever the relationship between iraq and iran. there should be -- what we want to see is a normal healthy
relationship based on respect for sovereignty and iraq wanting to build as we want to build an iraq that's -- iran wanting to build an iraq that's strong, stable and sovereign. >> in terms of iran, they have armed militias to provide revolutionary guard forces to assist with the fighting against i says in iraq -- isis in iraq. look at the current role the iranian forces are playing in iraq, what do 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, and
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. >> united states has been encouraging iraq to end its energy dependence on iran. a "wall street journal" article from november headlining u.s. pushes iraq to wean itself off iranian energy. but despite its role as a major energy producer itself, iraq, it does rely on iran for imported natural gas to use in gas turbine power plants. 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. i'm just -- do you believe iraq is serious about ending its dependence on iran for energy? and what efforts is iraq taking to reduce or end its energy dependence on iran?
>> senator, it's correct not only the significant imports of natural gas from iran but also electricity itself is part of the grid. so it's important, for example, that iraq receive capital, improve its ability to capture its own natural gas rather than flaring it so it can be used to generate electricity. in the last few months there has been some progress in that respect, but it is time consuming. not enough has happened yet. i think an important thing to try to use as -- if i'm confirmed as ambassador to encourage u.s. companies to be able to play a role in helping the iraqi energy sector to capture that natural gas to use it for electrical generation. >> be less dependent upon iran. >> absolutely. >> general, if i can, the blockade with qatar, in june of 2017, saudi arabia entered into its -- 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 of the things that 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 forms, especially in the defense arena where 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 states be antagonistic and at each other's throats at a time when they are facing a great threat from iran to me doesn't make geopolitical sense. >> to that point that you just made, can you talk about how this dispute threatens the regional unity needed to counter iran? >> senator, the iranians are
masters at finding the small crack between forces of -- 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 the senator 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 other committees that i serve on. and i hope you will pay close attention to it. we all know their malign intent, and we realize it is complicated, like you said, but it's -- it's discouraging to hear the in-roads they continue to make into the iraqi infrastructure. so at any rate, 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 we can't afford to continue to allow the saudis fighting in yemen and indiscriminately bombing 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 understand 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 interest may align. is that your view, that we can challenge and seek to change the nature of the 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 behalf of the united states with the government of saudi arabia. and i'm 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 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 for which we may have an interest, that you can act with impunity as long as you pursue a certain interest we may have with you. that is not who we are as a nation. i just 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? >> yes. >> and will you commit to request to visit women right activists who have been unjustly detained? >> yes. >> finally let me turn to the ambassador. i don't want you to think i have no affection for you in this hearing. let me just ask you, what does success look like for us in iraq? and how do we achieve that? and what tools do we have to try to achieve it? give me a sense of that. i would like to get a sense of what we are working towards. >> i believe we do need to be guided by a long-term strategic vision. i think it is a vision that sees iraq as a pillar of stability in region and we achieve that by
working with iraqis to build up their security institutions, by building up their economy, combatting the influence of sectarianism, by combatting issues like corruption or lack of transparency in the economy. we seek that as a vision, whereas, you look in the contrasting agenda of iran, which seeks an iraq that's weak, that's divided, that doesn't have sovereignty over its own territory and forces. we are working through to bring about 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 or other dangerous products. so we need to be projecting a positive, constructive vision for iraq, and i have no problem doing that. >> what's our leverage to achieve those things? >> again, i think we have ally and partners who want -- iraqis who want that same vision, working with them, whether they're from kurds, from political alliances, wherever they come from, those iraqis that want to see a strong stable unified sovereign iraq, those are the people that we will work
with. >> thank you. >> thank you. 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 latelyic -- lately make it very very difficult and we cannot look the other way. thank you for those remarks senator menendez. senator? >> thank you. 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 an unexpected robust defense at times of the saudi regime. i appreciate your clarification. my second round is for you, mr. tueller. the [inaudible] bear responsibility for the
humanitarian catastrophe up until this day. you are the first diplomat with jurisdiction over the crisis in yemen that i have ever heard assign 0 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 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 is a contestant to a conflict, to behave as irresponsibly as they like just because they may not have been the instigator.
i can recite you the same statistics that senator merkley did but they are 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 they bear 100% responsibility for the civilian nightmare that has happened inside yemen. >> senator, thank you for the follow-up question. in describing what i think is an analytical position to exactly what is happening to the economy in yemen, that in no way or shape excuse the saudis when they violate the armed conflict or conduct their military operations in a manner that doesn't give due regard for civilian life. what i'm describing is a situation in yemen, already the poorest country in the world,
with measures of childhood stunting, famine that existed before 2014, that is absolutely had the economy, the legs of the economy kicked out from under it by the actions of them 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 most of the humanitarian suffering that we're all witnessing. yemen people have lost their incomes because of closure of private sector, small medium enterprise, the government that lost its income -- >> i get it. that's not my question. i understand what's happening there. the question is, whether the saudis bear something above 0 percent responsibility for what has -- what has happened there. >> senator, i understand and absolutely i wouldn't minimize that when there have been targeting of infrastructure, such as, roads or bridges or
transportation and that has had a very very bad impact on the economy. when you look at a solution on how to address the humanitarian situation, it is going to find a way to leverage them to enter into a peaceful power sharing agreement. it is not going to happen as a result of what the saudis will do. the answer lie in the hands of the yemen people. >> help me figure this out. are you changing your answer or not changing your answer? this is a problem for you moving forward here if you can't commit to us that the saudis have some responsibility for what's happened there, as almost everyone who has testified before this committee before you has said. are you changing your answer or not? >> sir, with the war going on and of course the saudis is 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 underlying causes of what's happening in yemen, the responsibility of all the yemen parties and what we're going to do so the yemen civilians don't continue the suffering >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator. well 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 till close of business on thursday including for members to submit questions for the record. with the thanks of the committee, this hearing is now adjourned.
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