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tv   Inside Story  Al Jazeera  September 3, 2013 5:00pm-5:31pm EDT

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it comes to the amount of chemical agents they have available? >> our assessment closely matches the french assessment. >> i guess my question to secretary kerry is in light of the vulnerabilitiy of these countries, what is the response of the arab and muslim world to this dash - and you listed four or five that support our efforts. it seems if this danger is so profound, that we would have greater support? >> senator. hello, this is al jazeera, and we are watching the senate foreign relations committee hearing on possible military action against syria for the 21 august chemical weapons attack in and on the suburbs of damascus. the president wants a strike. the senators are questioning the panel, including secretary kerry as it considers a resolution on
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the use of force against syria. >> as a photograph that is riveted in my mind, as a father and grandfather of the children on the floor in shrouds, victims of this chemical agent and gas attack. what the administration is asking us for is military authority to launch additional attacks. what have you been charged with in terms of the issue of collateral damage from the attacks as it would affect incident people and civilians in the nation of syria? >> senator, the guidance that we have received on targetting is to maintain a collateral damage estimate of lull. i briefly, on how we come up with our assessments of collateral damage - it's based on how much we know about a target through intelligence, its proximity to civilian structures and weapons effects as we decide
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what weapons to use against it. collateral damage estimate of low is that, we'll keep collateral damage lower than a certain number - wii i'd -- which i would rather share in a constrained setting. it is a separate issue damage to regime personnel. this that case i can tell you more in the classified session. >> i look forward to that. >> senator mccain. >> i thank the witnesses and may i say, john, it's good to see theresa here with you in good health and spirits. thank you, therese i apologise for what i'm about to do to john. john... . >> my... . >> john, when you tell the enemy you are going to attack them,
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they are obviously going to disperse and try to make it harder. i'm looking right here at an ap story report. syria is said to be hiding weapons and moving troops. there's open source reporting that they may be moving assets into the russian naval base. let's - it's ridiculous to think that it's not wise from a military standpoint not to warn the enemy that you are going to attack. secretary hagel in the wall street journal we read the following. the military was warned not to strike assad from power. a senior military officer said. is there any truth to that. >> as i said, the president asked us for a range of option, and we provided him a range of options. >> is there truth to the wall street journal... . >> our options are not limited. >> is there any truth to the
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story in the wall street journal. >> no. >> secretary kerry in the same article, "the delay to providing arms to the opposition reflects a broader us approach rarely discussed publicly but underpins decision making according to former and current us officials. the current administration doesn't want to tip the balance in favour of the opposition for fear the outcome may be worse for us interest and the current stalemate", is that story accurate. >> no. on the warning issue, i don't disagree with you about warning. in fact, the general wouldn't disagree with you either. we are all... . >> the general said it would be just as easily - let's not get into that. >> all i want to say to you is there were leaks which are the bane of everybody's existence and the fact it that the newspapers began to carry stories about a strike and targetting well before any
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decisions were made and that began a process of moving. so now there is... . >> i got it. i would like to move on to more important questions, if you don't mind. >> all your questions are important, john. >> thank you, john. that's good. i'll try to remember that. the president said today that the purpose of the military action in syria is not just to respond to assad's use of chemical wep jobs, but to -- weapons, but to degrade his chemical weapons and allow syria to free itself." do you agree with that assessment, john? >> i said up front several times here, there will automatically be as a result of degrading his ability for chemical weapons, there'll be downstream impact having an impact on military capacity. i agree with the president. >> general dempsey do you agree
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with the statement of the president? >> i agree. i have never been told to change the momentum. i have been told to degrade capability. >> do you think general, without a change in momentum syria could free itself, secretary hagel? >> well, senator, i think they all are connected. degrading military capability, as you know, is a pretty significant part of momentum shifts. >> secretary kerry, over the weekend the wall street journal ran an article by dr elizabeth obagi, a syrian analyst. she spent a great deal of time in syria including this month and i'll read her assessment of the situation on the ground. i quote the story. the conventional wisdom holds that extremist elements are mixed with the more moderate rebel groups. moderates and extremists wield
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control over distinct territory, contrary to media that warn syria is not entirely or predominantly having dangerous islamists and al qaeda dye hards. jihadists pouring into syria are not flocking to the front lines, they are concentrating efforts on consolidating control in the northern rebel held areas of the country, moderate opposition forces are - a collection of groups known as the free syrian army lead the fight against the syrian regime. while travelling with some free syrian army battalions, i watched them defend christian villages from government forces and extremist groups. they demonstrated a willingness to submit to civilian authority, working with local administrative councils and struggled to ensure the fight against assad will pave the way
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for a flourishing civil society. >> john, do you agree with that assessment? >> i agree with most of that. they have changed significantly. they have improved and as i said earlier, the fundamentals of syria are secular, and i believe will stay that way. >> i think it's important to point out as you just said - it's a secular state. they would reject radical islamists and in some cases in the areas at which they have control, the people are demonstrating against them, is the information i have. so when we see the common tators say, "we don't know which side will win, we don't know who the bad guys are", if you agree with this assessment, we know who the bad guys are - is that correct? >> i believe we do. for the most part. >> for the most. >> there are some worse than al-nusira and they tend to be in the northern area, and the east. >> i thank you. and again i'd like to ask
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again - can you assure the committee that the administration does not see a protracted stalemate and conflight in syria -- conflict in syria is a good thing for a goal of us policy. >> the goal of us policy is not a stalemate, it's a negotiated solution resulting in the departure of assad and free choice for the syrian's future. >> finally, i would like to ask again: if we reject this resolution doesn't it send a serious - as you already said, a seriously bad message to our friend and allies alike. it encourages our enemies, and would dispirit our friend, particularly those fighting in syria - not only there, but around the world. >> senator mccain, i have gotten
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to know my counterparts in the middle east particularly well because of the number of crises and initiatives that we have had to deal with in that region. i cannot emphasise enough how much they are looking to us now, making judgments about us for the long term and how critical the choice we make here will be not just to this question of syria, but to the support we may or may not anticipate in the middle east piece process, to the future of egypt, to the transformation of the middle east, to the stability of the region and other interests that we have. there's no way to separate one thing from all of the rest. relationships are relationships. they are integrated and that is why this is so important. >> i would also emphasise if it's the wrong kind of res hugs it can do just as much --
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resolution it can do just as much damage. >> thank you chairman. we are listening to the hearing of the us senate foreign relations committee - the committee is considering a resolution for the use of force against syria. we'll take a break and come back with more of the hearing. you are watching al jazeera
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. welcome back to al jazeera everyone. we are listening and watching the us senate committee foreign relations hearing as the committee considers a resolution for the use of force against syria. tom hudel from new mexico is questioning the panel. >> we need to know whether we exhausted all doimentic and -- doiptic and economic options to effect syria's behaviour.
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we need to increase attention on the source of assad's ability to continue to ruthlessly kill his own people. and that is support from nations, including russia and shina. who are trying to hold the moral high ground. assad will not be able to maintain his grip on power if he were not being supported from outside. the full force of international outrage should come down on those nations that are refusing to allow the un to act and find a solution. finally, i see this potential bombing campaign as a potential next step towards full-fledged war. we have been here before. the iraq war began as an international effort to kick sus an out of cue -- sadam hussain out of kuwait. and years of airstrikes to stop
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him reconstit using an arsenal of chemical weapons. the this military action eventually led to what is one of the biggest blunders in us foreign policy, a wore i voted against -- a war i vated against. -- i voted against. many who voted for it regret it. america is weary after iraq and a decade of war, how can this administration make a guarantee that our military actions will be limited. how can we guarantee that one surgical strike will have any impact other than to tighten the vis grip assad has on its power or allow rebels allied with al qaeda to gain a stronger foothold in syria. i take the role extremely seriously here, like many of the other senators have said. and i will hear the president and his team out. the president made the right decision to pursue an authorisation for the use of
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military force. i hope these hearings will give the american peel the answers they deserve. but there are troubling questions that need to be answered. secretary kerry, i want to start with you. you have assured the american people, i watched your national television performances - that the us action will not include. i think you said this here today, will not include the use of ground troops, that it will be limited in nature to deter assad and others from using weapons of mass destruction. yet the draft authorisation of force proposed by the administration states it would allow the president to use the armed forces as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict with syria. this is a very open-ended proposal with no specific limits
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on types of forces that would be used, with no limit on their duration. why was it proposed in a way that it conflicts with the statements of no ground troops and what kind of language secretary kerry, or the precise language are you willing to back in terms of showing the american people that we really mean what we say in terms of no boots on the ground? >> senator, all good questions, and i will respond to all of them. i want to address sort of the suspicion and concern that you have, which is appropriate. i think everybody understands that iraq left a lot of folks reeling for some period of time. so it is appropriate to ask the questions you've asked, but please try to let me emphasise.
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this is not sending a message per se. this is having an effect, an impact. this is taking action to achieve something more than just a message. it is to degrade his current capacity, to make it harder for him to do that in the future, and it will facilitate our ability to hold him accountable in the future if he does. he will know that. this will affect his calculation. that's number one, not just a message. >> by degrading his capacity, don't you make him weaker and the people out there, like alnusera and al qaeda and other extremist forces stronger. this is what i want general dempsey to talk about too. before you answer that, could you answer that - by degrading him, you make the extremists' forces stronger, do you not?
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>> no, i don't believe you do. as a matter of fact, i think you actually make the opposition stronger. the opposition is getting stronger by the day now. and i think general idris will tell you that, that he is not sitting around and his daily concern is not the opposition but assad - what he's doing with his scuds, aeroplanes, tanks and artillery to the people of syria. it's important to look at this because you raised the question of doesn't this make the united states the policeman of the world. no, it makes the united states a multilateral partner in an effort that the world 184 nations strong has accepted the responsibility for. if the united states, which has the greatest capacity to do that doesn't help lead that effort, then shame on us. then we are not standing up to our multilateral and
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humanitarian and strategic interests. that said... . >> can i stop you secretary kerry. >> any time. >> if you are talking about multy lateral efforts, what we are talking about is the world being able - this is a breach of a treaty. and the world put within the united nations that enforcement mechanism and what we have done here with russia and china, holding up the ability of the un to act - we have turned aside. >> with all due respect... . >> we should be standing up, making sure they are condemned, those countries not allowing us to move forward, to find a solution where the solution should reside. >> i don't disagree we should find a solution where it resides, but the fact is a few weeks ago at the un we saw a
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condemnation of a chemical attack. without blame, without sighting assad, without saying who was responsible, a condemnation of a chemical attack and the russians blocked it. >> right. >> we have no illusions. yes, is the un security council having difficulties performing its functions? yes. does that mean the united states or the rest of the world think we should shrink from it. >> no. i would urge you - how do we know if won't result in x, y or z happening if we don't do it. let me ask you - it's not a question of what will happen if we won't do it, it's a certainty. are you going to be comfortable if assad, as a result of the united states not doing anything, then gases his people yet again and the world says, "why doesn't the united states act?" history is full of
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opportunity of moments where someone didn't stand up and act when it made a difference. whether you go back to world war ii or a ship that was turned away from the coast of florida and everyone on it lost their lives to german gas - those are the things that make a difference. that is what is at stake. it's a guarantee if the united states doesn't act with other countries, we know what assad will do. that's a guarantee. i can't tell you what's guaranteed that some country will do if we do act. i know what will happen if we don't. i'm pretty darn clear that a lot of things people think will happen won't if the united states doesn't act, and that we will enforce the international standard with respect to the use of chemical weapons. if the multilateral institutions is set up to do it, the security council is blocked and won't do
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it, it doesn't mean we should turn our backs and say there's nothing we should do. that's not the case. we did it in bosnia, made a difference, and i believe and the president of the united states believe we can do it now. >> i don't believe that we should have given up so easily on using the united nations... . >> we haven't given up. >> yes, we have, we haven't taken russia to task or china to task. and that is what we should point out at this point. i want to respectfully disagree with you and say i very much appreciate your service. i know that you are trying very, very hard to find on the diplomatic side a resolution. thank you for your courtesy, sorry for going over. >> senator. >> thank you mr chairman for being here. over-labor day weekend in wyoming i heard from people who
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believe what is happening in syria is awful, despicable and have concerns with the administration, and what the plan and strategy is. they want to know what the core national security interests of the united states are that are at stake in syria, what is our ultimate goal of proposed military strikes, and what happens if the strikes are not effective. to that end, mr chairman, i would ask you what it is that we will be voting on. is it what the white house set forward. will we see - senator durbin asked about the narrowness and expanse, and will we vote within the next 24 hours. >> the chair is working with a ranking member and others to come to an agreed upon tax that we believe would meet the goals of achieving the ability for the administration to pursue the military action. they have sought the congress's
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support for in a way that will allow them to have a maximum ability to succeed. by the same token it is not an open-ended engagement, specifically not with boots on the ground, american troops on the ground. we are not there yet. it is our aspiration to try to get there before the end of the day and then to look forward to the possibility of a mark up tomorrow. we'll see if we can get there. if we do we'll give more members ample notice of that time. we start off in the morning, as i said with a classified briefing and will move from there. >> thank you mr chairman. i appreciate you coming to congress to seek authorisation. pamma asserted on -- pamma certed ( -- president obama said
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that he would respect the will of the action of the american people. where does president barack obama stand with that by coming to congress? >> he intends on... . >> we are not contemplating that. it is too dire. we talked about the risks of delays. there are reports that by delaying the military action that assad is moving military assets, hardware, troops to civilian neighbourhoods. reports indicate that russia plans to send an anti--ie submarine ship, missile cruiser. i wonder what this means to contingency planning and what this impact will be for military operations. the movement - there's four russian war ships in the eastern
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meed. >> they are staying a respectful distance, i don't see it as a factor. >> has the administration conducted a threat assessment of how russia, iran, hezbollah, how they will respond to a us-led attack. what response to be expect from syria's allies, including russia, iran, hezbollah to military action? >> we all agree that that would be best handled in a classified session. . >> in terms of what success look like. senator. you specifically - you know, said what happens if gases are used again. i'm wondering if we do a limited strike as proposed and still assad goes back and uses chemical weapons on his people, and that gepders an entire -- genders an entire new set of hearings, how does this end.
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where are we a month from now? >> as i said senator, we are preparing several target sets, the first of which would set the conditions for a follow-on assessments, and the others would be used if necessary, and i'm - we haven't gotten to that point yet. what we do know is we can degrade and disrupt his capabilities, and that should put us in a better position to make the kind of assessment you are talking about. >> let me add to that. senator finestein brought it up at the meeting at the white house. it would not be sensible to pass this resolution with a view to degrading and - degrading its capacity and presenting him to do it, if he were foolish enough to do it again, the general has
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follow-on possibilities and since the objective would remain the same, it would be important for assad himself to know that you have not limited this to one specific moment with respect to chemical weapons. you can still have a limited authorisation but with respect to chemical weapons, it would be a huge mistake to deprive general dempsey and company of their options to enforce what we are trying to achieve. >> trying to achieve, mr screctry, a negotiated departure of assad. you keep mentioning trying to get him to do this from the negotiating table. it seems to me that somebody as senator coon said, will go to any length to stay in power, to the point of using chemical weapons against his people, that - would he be driven to a
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serious level of determination to keep power, rather than the negotiation table. >> it's an appropriate question. i don't believe so, and there are a number of different reasons why i don't believe so. most of them are best discussed and i look forward to it with you in the private session. there are strong indications from a number of - a number of discussions that have taken place between countries and individuals over the last months, that assad would not necessarily avoid making a different decision under certain circumstances. i think we ought to leave it at that. but in the private session i think we ought to dig into it. >> i was going to ask about chemical weapons stockpiles. maybe you want to reserve this for the discussion in terms of steps we can take in terms of
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command and control of the rag eem's chem -- regime's chemical weapons stockpile to make sure they are not used in a way they shouldn't be used. >> i want you to know - this should be done in the other session - but general dempsey and his team have taken pains at the instruction of the president of the united states to make certain that whatever we do doesn't make it - doesn't make people less safe or potentially more exposed to weapons or that those weapons would have less control and so forth. all of these things have entered into the calculation. . >> thank you mr chairman. >> thank you senator. i want to add on to my original response to you - the resolution as sent to us by the administration will not be the administration we'll be working on. it is a good opening as to what the desires are intentions are, but w

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