tv U.S. Policy in the Middle East CSPAN April 18, 2018 10:10am-12:35pm EDT
this hearing will come to order. in announcing military strikes against syria last week, the president made clear the people of the middle east must shape their own destiny. he's right. but that doesn't mean that we don't have vital national interests in the region or a reason to promote stability, tolerance, and respect for human rights. the u.s. and our allies were justified in taking limited military action against bashar al assad. we took that action in response to his barbaric use of chemical weapons. hopefully the syrian dictator gets the message. if not, i have no doubt there will be more military strikes. the world has enough security challenges without the breakdown
of the 100-year norm against the use of chemical weapons. that said, military force cannot be the only means of responding to these atrocities. we need a strategy to get a political solution, one that moves beyond assad to secure a lasting peace. the previous administration did not have one. that's part of the reason why we're confronting this crisis today. the stakes in syria are high. this chaos goes far beyond its borders, threatening allies and partners. and i again commend ranking member engel for his steadfast, years-long commitment to addressing this conflict. there is no excuse for the senate's failure to act on the seizure civilian protection act.
this bill, passed twice unanimously by the house, would make those supporting assad's killing machine and his barrel bombs and his gas attacks, pay a real cost. the committee also recently passed the no assistance to assad act, which prohibits the regime and prohibits its allies from profiting from any reconstruction. both these bills would give our diplomats real leverage. if the united states isn't engaged in the middle east, iran will certainly take advantage. tehran is already aggressive and capable as this committee has highlighted. the regime is using its bolstered position from a windfall of cash from the nuclear deal to help hezbollah amass missiles along israel's borders. they are seeking, obviously, to establish a land bridge across
syria to israel's doorstep. and they are moving fighters and weapons across that land bridge to new bases on israel's borders. this is showing ring up assad, and it is threatening our troops who are fighting isis. remember, iran is also fueling the humanitarian disaster in yemen with its support for the houtis. our closest partner in the region, israel, is threatened by the reason iranian expansion, but so are our other u.s. friends and allies in the region. the iran nuclear deal has serious flaws. this committee has closely examined them. the administration is rightly working to address iran's
ballistic missiles, strength en inspections. the french, the germans, the british need to stand with us. meanwhile, the list of the region's other challenges is wrong. our relationship with nat to al turkey is strained as never before. its military offensive against the kurds in syria has benefitted isis. the forces we back now have to divert their operations from the offensives there were taking against isis to defensive actions, defending themselves from turkish military attacks. turkey's recent military engagements with russia and iran is very concerning. in libya, radical jihadists remain strong. neighboring egypt is a critical partner in the fight against isis and should be supported. but its repression of civil society risks backfiring.
and hamas terrorists are inciting violence in gaza. as tempting as it is to say enough and retreat to our shores, smart, focused, and determined engagement in the middle east must be our approach. we need to talk strategy with the administration today about the middle east. and we appreciate them being here with the committee. and i will now turn to the ranking member for his comments. >> thank you, mr. chairman, for calling this hearing. to our witnesses, welcome to the foreign affairs committee and thank you for your service. thank you, mr. mitchell, for being here today, and it's good to see you again. i appreciate the excellent work you're doing. ambassador satterfield, our first work on syria reaches back about 15 years or so, so i appreciate your service as well. still, i wish we had a permanent assistant secretary in place,
nearly 15 months into this administration, the white house only sent a nomination to the senate last week. syria has been a large focus of mine. many years ago, i think it was more than 15, ileana ros-lehtinen and i introduced the syria accountability act which was passed into law with bipartisan support. so we have a huge number of concerns about the middle east. but today i'm going to focus on syria. it's a shame that it takes a chemical weapons attack to grab the world's attention when it comes to syria. after all, the vast majority of assad's half million victims didn't meet their ends in a chemical attack. it often wasn't sarin or chlorine that drove millions for from their homes. for those who have lost loved ones, the pain and grief are no different whether they died in a chemical attack or in a hospital
leveled to the ground or in a crowded street and a barrel bomb detonated. assad is a murderer, a butcher. his brutality is sickening and it goes on every day. yet i want to be clear. assad's most recent use of chemical weapons is an abhorrent crime that demanded consequences. the use of these weapons cannot stand. whoever would use them and whoever would support those who do cannot go unpunished. but i want to be equally clear, the administration plans ongoing military action. congress must first authorize it or prevent it. even under the most generous interpretation of the war powers resolution, the 60-day clock started ticking when the president notified congress of the attack. if anyone here feels a sense of deja vu, you're not alone. a year ago we were debating the same issue.
assad uses chemical weapons, the united states fires off some missiles, but the killing still continues. why is history repeating itself? mainly because the administration seems to have no strategy for dealing with the crisis in syria. that's why, regardless of what happens next, we need to hear from the administration. even if the president intends for last week's air strike to be another one-off response, the white house is still past due in laying out its strategy for syria to congress and the american people. as part of last year's defense authorization bill, we require the white house to come to us with a strategy by february 1st. that deadline has come and gone. i hope you'll tell us today that the strategy will be sent to capitol hill without any more day. the incoherence is plain to see. over the last year the president has publicly disagreed with his top advisers about our path forward in syria and his off-the-cuff remarks about leaving syria and reckless rhetoric have at times
emboldened assad. prior to last year's chemical weapons attack, the president said we would have to accept assad as a fact of life. shortly before the most recent attack the president suggested a precipitous withdrawal from syria. rather than forming a policy that would help to resolve this crisis, i feel that the president has only made it worse. i'm not holding my breath but i continue to hope that the administration will bring us a plan that will push for an end of violence, that will ease a political transition, and that will help lay the groundwork for a future for syria in which bashar al assad has no role whatsoever. this is certainly no easy task and i would be the first one to acknowledge that the previous administration should have done more. but there is still plenty of good ideas to help craft a policy like this. in fact, as the chairman mentioned, i've introduced two bills that i think would help move us towards those goals. the civilian protection act passed the house unanimously last year. it started with bipartisan good
work, as usual, from this committee. this bill would crack down on assad's enablers, mainly moscow and tie rehran who serve as lif lines to the mubarak regime. after the president personally overrode his administration's plan to sanction assad, i think this bill is needed now more than ever. the other bill is my no assistance for assad act which i introduced with mr. kinzinger and which this committee voted to advance a few weeks ago. this bill would restrict reconstruction funding for any area still controlled by assad. one bill would help end the violence for yonow. the other would make sure when this crisis is ended no american tax dollars will help assad cling to power. we cannot overstate the scope of the tragedy in syria. assad has the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent syrian
men, women, and children on his hands. if this catastrophe is allowed to go on for so long, it's a global failure that will leave a black mark on this era of human history. but we cannot throw up our hands in resignation. if america is to remain a leader on the global stage we must continue to work to end the bloodshed. i again thank our witnesses, i thank the chairman. i look forward to hearing how the administration intends to tackle this problem and the range of other challenges with which we are grappling in the middle east. thank you, mr. chairman, i yield back. >> thank you, mr. engel. so this morning we're pleased to welcome david satterfield. he's acting assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs. and wess mitchell is assistant secretary of state for european and eurasian affairs. secretary satterfield served in many roles including as chief of mission in cairo, deputy chief
of mission in iraq. secretary mitchell, prior to his current position at the state department, was the co-founder and president and ceo of the center for european policy analysis. and we appreciate them being here with us today. without objection, gentlemen, your full prepared statements will be made part of the record. members here will have five calendar days to submit any statements or questions to you or any extraneous material for the record. so if you would, secretary satterfield, please summarize your remarks and after the five minutes, we'll go to mr. mitchell and then the questions. >> thank you very much, chairman royce, ranking member engel, members of the committee. i appreciate the opportunity for me, my colleague, assistant secretary mitchell, to testify. from the arab spring in 2011 to the current civil wars in syria and yemen, the rise and fall of isis' so-called caliphate, no
one would argue the many significant challenges the united states and our allies face in the region. however i want to say at the beginning, in many places the u.s. has made positive strides. we're supporting the growth of a nascent democracy in tunisia. economically, the region continues to support and we aggressively pursue american opportunities for business that generate american jobs. we have supported billions of dollars of sales to our partners in the gulf, power generation solutions in libya, algeria, and iraq, major sales of locomotives and power sources in egypt. and we have made significant dramatic progress against isis. however, this said, we're not blind to the continuing issues in the region. and the u.s. is taking all possible steps to find solutions to this region's enduring challenges. on april 7th, after weeks of heavy syrian and russian
bombardment on the people of douma and adjacent areas, the regime deployed chemical weapons, killing dozens and injuring hundreds of innocent men, women, and children. on april 13th, the militaries of the united states, france, and the united kingdom executed strikes on three chemical weapons facilities in syria. russia has failed to live up to its guarantee in regard to the 2013 framework agreement that syria would cease all use of chemical weapons and fully declare its entire stockpile for verifiable destruction. and iran acts malignly in syria and through syria, pouring resources and forces to support assad and advance its regional ambitions including in lebanon. the targeted military action by the u.s., france, and the uk was a measure to deter and prevent syria's illegal and unacceptable use of chemical weapons. this sends, we hope, a positive
and powerful message to the syrian regime, russia, iran, and the international community, that chemical weapons will not be tolerated and there will be real consequences for their use. while preventing the use of chemical weapons in syria is our immediate concern, the administration's priority remains the defeat of isis. isis has lost nearly all of the territory it once controlled in iraq and syria but the fight in syria still has to be pursued to its conclusion. more broadly, the united states supports a unified and territorially whole syria. this objective is served by u.s. support for the u.n.-led geneva political process established by u.n. security council resolution 2254 in which process the u.s. believes strongly that
representatives of all syria, including all its kurdish components, should participate. our strategic partnership with iraq, including the occurrkurdi remains essential to countering iran's malign influence in the regional. now we're beginning private sector led investment reconstruction. all iraqis, including iraq kurds, will participate in parliamentary elections for the first time since 2005. iran's malign influence in the region continues to threaten our allies such as jordan and israel and exacerbates, feeds violent conflicts in syria and yemen through iran revolutionary guard corps facilitation and work.
the houthis have repeatedly used in yemen technology to threaten saudi arabia including u.s. citizens in that country. u.s. support for the saudi-led coalition in yemen serves a clear purpose to reinforce saudi and emirati activities and to allow our partners to push back themselves against iran's destabilizing actions. we all agree, as does the congress, that the humanitarian crisis in yemen is unacceptable. last month, the governments of saudi arabia and the united arab emirates provided $1 billion to yemen's hue man tar -- humanitarian response appeal. the iranian regime is taking
advantage, as i said, of regional conflict and instability to expand its influence and threaten its neighbors. we remain focused on neutralizing iran's influence, particularly its support for terror and militants, cyber warfare, ballistic missiles, and use of proxy forces. mr. chairman, ranking member, members of the committee, the middle east is a complex landscape and the people of the middle east deserve an end to violence, hunger and uncertainty. we are working with our allies inside and outside the region to find solutions. thank you for the opportunity to testify. and i welcome the opportunity to respond to your questions. >> thank you, ambassador satterfield. dr. mitchell. >> chairman royce, ranking member engel, distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you. it's an honor to represent the state department's bureau of european and eurasian affairs in this hearing. in my comments today i will focus on the strategic dimension of the conflict in syria as it
relates to the work of our bureau and specifically to the part played by the republican of turkey and the russian federation. america's goals in syria have been to defeat isis, to see a syria that is unified and stable emerge from the rubble of this conflict, and to prevent iran, a power that aids and abets hezbollah and that seeks the destruction of the state of israel, from extending its malign influence on the region. let us assess turkey and russia as they relate to these goals. turkey is a 66-year member of the nato alliance and member of the defeat isis coalition. it has suffered more casualties from terrorism than any other ally and hosts 3 provide 5 million syrian refugees. it supports the coalition through its commitment of turkish forces against isis on the ground and through close cooperation with the united states and allies.
turkey has publicly committed to a political resolution in syria that accords with the u.n. security council resolution 2254. turkey has a vested strategic interest in checking the spread of iranian influence and of having a safe and stable border with syria. despite these shared interests, turkey lately has increased its engagement with russia and iran. ankara has sought to assure us that it sees this cooperation as a necessary stepping stone towards progress in the geneva process. but the ease with which turkey brokered arrangements with the russian military to facilitate the launch of its operation, arrangements to which america was not privy, is gravely concerning. ankara claims to have purchased the russian s-400 missile system which could potentially lead to sanctions and adversely impact turkey's participation until the
f-35 program. it is in the american national interest to see turkey remain strategically and politically aligned with the west. our policy has been to combine close engagement with clear messaging that the united states will actively defend our interests. in the context of syria, we have engaged in high level interagency discussions, both to address legitimate turkish security concerns and to avoid inadvertent collision of our forces. as well as a long term factor in thwarting expansion by russia and iran as outlined in the national security strategy and national defense strategy. let us now turn to russia. it's hard to see how russia shares any of america's strategic goals in syria. moscow professes a wish to
defeat isis but directs its bombs at fighters and even civilians who oppose the regime with little regard to isis. it professes to want a stable syria but subverts the geneva process with separate tracks like the estana process where it dictates the agenda. moscow facilitates the spread. moscow wants to retain its presence in syria as an entry point with which to influence future events in the levant and eastern mediterranean. it wants to inflict a defeat on the united states, to create a negative demonstration effect of thwarting our aims here and to drive wedges between us and our allies. moscow is willing to impose catastrophic human costs to achieve these goals. russia has supported the assad
regime's indiscriminate attacks and siege tactics on civilian neighborhoods which have killed, wounded, and starved thousands of innocent civilians. as we have seen in aleppo, the russian government supports and goes to great lengths to protect an aside regime that uses weaponized chemicals, killers like sarin and chlorine to slaughter men, women, and children, even toddlers and infants. let us remember that. we are pushing russia to be a constructive participant in the u.n.-led geneva process and to bring assad to the negotiating table. so far russia has ignored these calls and has instead chosen to be a spoiler to geneva. its reckless intervention in syria and support for the assad regime has raised the risk for confrontation with the west. the failed attack by russian mercenaries in syria was one sobering example of this behavior. america has done its part to avoid escalating spirals in an
increasingly congested battle space. communication between the coalition and the russians helps minimize the risk of miscalculation, misunderstanding, or accidental engagement. we do not seek a confrontation. but our forces will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend themselves as they are engaged in operations to defeat isis. moscow's support for the syrian regime is intolerable for america and all civilized nations. in the days and weeks ahead the united states and our allies will degrade and defeat isis, support a stable syria, and limit the spread of iranian malign influence. we will work with nato ally turkey to more fully advance these endeavors and push the russian government to desist. thank you, and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, dr. mitchell. you know, our delegations have met in many of the capitals
across the middle east with governments that raise this same concern about the crescent that iran is pushing now through syr syria, iraq, up to lebanon. and, you know, this question we get a lot, is this going to allow iran to threaten jordan, to threaten israel? will it mean the end of an independent lebanon? what will it mean to the other partners, allies in the region? what's the strategy, what's the strategy especially in syria, and also in iraq, i guess, but what is to be done to prevent the consolidation of that land bridge, as i said in my opening statement, from which we see the transfer now of these heavy weapons, of these missiles, of
fighters coming right up to the israeli border, right up, you know, lebanon now is called into question in terms of their ability to be an independent state. so i want to ask you about that strategy. and given that hezbollah is iran's primary terrorist proxy, why have we not seen more designations of hezbollah front companies, particularly in the construction sector, which i think would set them back? ambassador? >> mr. chairman, we certainly agree that iran today is a real and imminent threat to our allies in the region including israel and soarjordan. the first priority for the administration was the elimination of the challenge posed to all the states in the region and to any effort to constrain iranian expansion and aggression posed by isis and its so-called caliphate.
that goal in iraq has been accomplished. and the campaign there is focused on what we might call counterterrorism efforts rather than an outright military campaign. in syria, as i noted in my opening remarks, the challenge does remain. while isis' caliphate has been dramatically reduced in terms of geographic scope and numbers, there is a remnant element up against the iraqi border in the eastern euphrates valley that still has to be confronted and destroyed as we are confident that it can and will be. the challenge posed from iran, iraq, syria, to lebanon, has to be dealt with. we have been working assiduously in strengthening iraqi forces, on their ability to control the border with syria. we've been working in northeast syria where our forces are present in ensuring that trade of illicit nature across that
border is constrained. but there needs to be continued approach by all the countries in the region with the united states to what is a common threat, not just to the u.s. and our interests, not just to jordan and israel alone, but to the gulf as well by iran's hegemonistic ambitions. >> if i could just return to the dialogue that i think we all need to have on this, there has to be a strategy with respect to syria about how we're going to deploy additional sanctions, diplomacy in terms of an effort to get a political solution, how we're going to perhaps put in safe zones and then expand those zones to protect those on the ground who are allies right now fighting isis, that obviously will be targets of assad. there needs to be a comprehensive strategy here laid
out by the administration for congress in terms of the options to pursue because of the urgency and also because of the fact that some of the initiatives we've taken here. we need engel's syria seizure protection act which has unanimous support in the house. it would pose real costs for assad and his backers for war crimes. those backers are iran and russia. the administration has said on multiple occasions that russia and iran are complicit in assad's chemical weapons attacks. so i just ask another question here. does the administration support imposing costs on the russians and the iranians for their role in the assad regime's war crimes against its own people? >> mr. chairman, the administration has taken steps with respect to both iran,
iranian supported proxy forces, notably hezbollah, and with respect to russia for engagement variously in the kind of proliferation, criminal behaviors, and actions both in syria and outside syria that you reference. and we will continue to act aggressively to use the authorities available to us to that end. >> one area that i think is, if i could just close here, i hope that the senate, with a lot of pressure from the administration and us, will move quickly on the seizure civilian protection act, the seizure syrian civilian protection act, in order to put this into law. and i think that that will help protect syrian civilians but also help lay out a strategy. thank you, and i go to mr. engel. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
i concur with all your remarks and your questions. i want to just say that when secretary tillerson outlined the administration's intentions in syria in a speech at the hoover institution, as the chairman mentioned, he laid out a whole list of goals. and i just hope that those goals remain goals that we are trying to move forward with. the problem is, while isis is obviously the worst of the worst, the way i looked at syria and still do is that our goal should not have been only the defeat of isis. that should have been one of our goals. but it should not have been the only goal. i really think that the defeat of assad was a parallel goal and
should have had the priority that it had. and unfortunately i think under both the two administrations it really hasn't been. assad is just a butcher and a murderer. and it just breaks my heart that we didn't offer support to the syrian people when they needed it the most. "the wall street journal" reported this week that the administration was looking to set up an arab force to take the place of u.s. troops in syria. so let me ask either of you some questions. who would contribute to this force, how would the transition take place, who will train the fighters, will the united states continue to have a holding force, to what extent is this feasible considering how the region is, would egypt send fighters to syrian areas not controlled by assad, will the united states continue to provide air cover, how effective will these fighters be considering we haven't seen
these forces be effective in yemen or the sinai. those are just some questions about this. can either one of you tell me about this arab force and how much have we thought this out? >> ranking member engel, the president has made clear, he wishes to see the u.s. continue and complete the campaign against isis in northeast syria. the president has also made clear he believes regional and local parties, regional and local forces need to take on this struggle as they themselves are directly exposed to the consequences of a resurgence of isis. therefore we are reaching out to partners across the region to see what form of contribution, and not just financial, they may make to sustaining this fight beyond the destruction of isis. >> you see, while i agree with everything you've said, ambassador, to me, isis is one
prong of something, an important prong, but one prong of what we should be doing. i really think to rid syria of the butcher assad ought to be as important as our isis concerns. >> i strongly agree with you that a syria in which assad remains as leader, this regime, is not a syria which we would predict to be meaningfully secure or stable or not a source of generation of threat and violent extremism under whatever name in the future. that's why we have strongly supported a political process led by the u.n. unfortunately that political process has been blocked. and the parties responsible for blocking it are quite clear. it's the syrian regime itself and the russians who through their absence of pressure on the regime in damascus contributes
to, enables this freezing of a geneva process which virtually the entire international community supports. and this is through their veto in the united nations. >> exactly, sir. >> is the state department satisfied with the current communication channels in place with russia to deconflict issues in syria, since russia became militarily engaged in syria, they've relied extensively on resupply by air. these flights, both military and chartered civil flights cross the airspace of many of our partners including georgia and iraq. what discussions has the u.s. had with our partners about closing their respective airspace to such russian flights? >> ranking member, our discussions in the de-confliction channel which is quite robust with russia, has focused on the ground and the air in syria and not on the broader areas you touched on. >> okay.
thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> we go to ileana ros-lehtinen of florida. >> thank you so much, chairman royce. welcome to our panelists. i'm hoping to get some clarification from the state department on the current status of the plo office. as we know, it is unlawful for the plo to maintain an office in the united states. but for decades, the executive has had waiver authority to allow the office in d.c. to remain open. this waiver must be renewed every six months. and last november, the administration allowed that waiver to lapse. the administration then had 90 days to issue a secondary waiver to allow the plo office to remain open. that deadline passed in february and no waiver of any kind has been issued since. interestingly, however, the administration issued its plo
commitments compliance report just last week stating, as it always does, that the plo has not lived up to its commitments. we sanctioned it by downgrading the status of the plo office, then immediately waived that sanction in the interests of so-called national security, which is used so often. so my questions are, under what authority is the plo office currently remaining open? why has it not been closed in accordance with the law? and i expect to hear that state believes this 90-day period for the secondary waiver starts the clock and is not the deadline. in other words, this waiver exists in perpetuity, the administration will never have to issue that secondary waiver, and the plo office will never have to close, despite the underlying law? is that your interpretation?
>> i would be happy, and i think it would be quite useful, to provide to you a detailed written response on the different aspects of the question. but i can give you a broad overall summary. in consultation with the department of justice, which has the direct authority in interpreting the consequences of the failure to waive originally, we have allowed the office to remain not open in a formal status, it has been downgraded, but to remain able to communicate in support of peace negotiations. >> are there such peace negotiations under way? >> we believe the continued purposes of the office meet that requirement. but again, i would like to provide you with a detailed response to the different aspects of the questions you asked. >> well, i look forward to conversing later with you and receiving that correspondence. >> happy to.
>> because i'm really interested about the authority under which it remains open. it seems to me that it's very unlawful. but moving to lebanon, their elections are in just a few weeks in which iran and iran an manage to maintain their position, probably strengthen it. secretary tillerson has said we have to recognize the reality that hezbollah is part of the political process in lebanon. could you unpack that for us, explain state's position and interaction with hezbollah. do we have the same position in regards to hezbollah and the lebanese armed forces? thank you. thank you to both. >> we regard hezbollah as a terrorist organization. we both designate members of hezbollah and those associated with hezbollah's support as well as entities that are involved with hezbollah. that hasn't changed, that remains and is vigorously pursued. with respect to the lebanese elections, we certainly support
a free and fair election in lebanon. with respect to the outcome, you will understand i don't want to purge dis by my comments those outcomes, but i would say broadly speaking we do not see the likelihood of a dramatic change in the political constellation, the balance that marks lebanese electoral politics or the national assembly today. with regard to the lebanese armed forces and hezbollah, i do want to be clear. the united states has provided exceptional support for the lebanese armed forces in recent years and not just financial support, it's not simply a dollar and cents issues. we have personnel working closely with and in the lebanese armed forces. this gives us an insight and a view into how those forces function that we have never had in the past and i can say here on the record we do not believe that the lebanese armed forces
are anything other than a legitimate institution of the lebanese state. and i would note that in strengthening that legitimate institution you effectively counter the illegitimate security structures, malicious, principle plea hezbollah, which pose a challenge to the state and its authority. >> thank you very much for a thorough answer, mr. ambassador, and i echo the chairman's desire to see more designation and sanctioning of hezbollah affiliates. >> we go now to brad sherman of california. >> take a wreather, i have about three minutes where i have preview questions for the record, you can answer those later and then i will have some questions. first, when are you going to fill all the important positions at the state departments as the ranking member pointed out that's critical. as to qatar, they have diplomatic contacts with hamas and the taliban, so do we. they have a media that some
people accuse of being pro terrorist, so do we, so does israel. the real question here is does qatar currently give money to terrorist organizations or allow its citizens to do so? saudi arabia wants a nuclear program, wants a nuclear cooperation agreement with the united states, just because saudi arabia is anti-iran does not mean they have embraced the values of jeffersonian democracy. i don't think a nuclear weapon in saudi arabia brings us closer to peace. i met the crown prince, many are impressed by the crown prince, but many were impressed by the shah of iran in 1979 and by 1980 all the weapons he had acquired were in the hands of the islamic republic. so my question is what are we doing to prevent saudi arabia from engaging in enrichment or reprocessing of missile material. japan benefits from the u.s.
defense umbrella, it seeks a veto over the terms of any deal we make with north korea. is japan contributing sufficiently to the enormous financial costs that we face in the middle east? next, turkey. should it continue to enjoy the faster review period for arms exports that we give to other nato countries given that it is at best the least pro american nato member? syria, we have three objectives there, defeat isis and enforce the chemical warfare convention, those are two objectives that we seem to have a reasonable strategy for. our third objective is to help the syrian people live in safety, peace and with good governance. congress has proposed a strategy here, we had bills passed through this committee, but does the administration have a strategy or is this something we simply can't achieve at a cost
the american people will accept? second as to syria, assuming assad is in power even two or three years from now, why shouldn't we allow the kurds to have sovereignty? why should we insist that they continue to live in a country driven by war, assad, russia, iran, hezbollah? iran, here i will actually have -- the argument is that we should renounce the jcpoa because, well, obama appreciane add it. what is the legal effect of voiding the jcpoa? well, the legal effect on iran is that they are now entitled to start enriching. the legal effect on russia is they are the custodian of the many bombs' worth of fissile
material that iran turned over when they got their money at the beginning of the jcpoa and putin could say if the deal is void i'm returning the fissile material to iran. third, and this is thought to be the good part, if the jcpoa fails to exist then the united states and its allies are free to start new sanctions on iran. so the question is is that good part of renuns yags illusion ri? john kerry sat exactly where you're sitting right now, ambassador, and told this committee that even after the jcpoa we can adopt harsh sanctions on iran, anything, as long as its proportionate to iran's wrongdoing outside the nuclear arena. well, iran hosts -- helps hezbollah, hamas and the houthi and those are just the terrorist organizations that start with the letter "h." so the question is does voiding the jcpoa or taking an action
with putin that iran could claim is avoiding the jcpoa, just play into their hands giving them legal rights and should we instead just sanction them proportionate to their non-nuclear evil? >> mr. engel, excellent questions for the record and we will respond to you in detail on all of those. with respect to your last question, it is the intent of the administration at this moment to fix the jcpoa. those efforts, those diplomatic efforts, are under way quite actively with our key european partners. we hope they produce a successful result. that's our focus at the moment, nothing else. >> gentleman's time has expire. we go to mr. chris smith of new jersey. >> thank you, very much, mr. chairman, for convening this very important hearing. welcome to ambassador
satterfield and mr. mitchell. i'd like to note that nick rayhall, very distinguished member, is here with us, great to see him again. let me just ask a few questions, i have at least five, i have many more, but i won't allow more than that. on monday american pastor andrew brunson endured a 12-hour long hearing on the groundless terrorism charges he faced with our ambassador at large for religious freedom sam brownbeck as well as senator tillerson. he was remanded in custody until his next court date in may. is it the opinion that the department that somehow diplomacy will effectuate his release or is it time when taken together with all the other religious repression that erdogan was practicing and other turkish leaders have done previous to look ataturky as a cpc country, country of particular concern, pursuant to the erfa legislation? second, in 2004 i authored a law
to establish the special envoy to combat anti-semitism. nita lowy and i have wrote an op sed appealing to the administration and incoming secretary of state. we could not get to first base, unfortunately, with secretary tillerson. i met with him, we could not get him to say let's do t it is congressionally mandated so i could do hope that the critical position will be filled and filled quickly. third, and just like my good friend eliot engel and the frustration of the frustration not taking up a bill, hr-390, the iraq and syria genocide emergency humanitarian relief and accountability act, which i worked on for four years, held ten congressional hearings, the christians were not getting helped from the previous administration despite promises to look at t i went over there, met with a number of the christians, i know that the vice president has been -- as well as the head of usaid, mark green,
looking at this. those people need help. it wasn't for the knights of columbus and others providing upwards of $60 million of private aid we would have had dead children and very sick adults and elderly in -- who the christians who escaped isis. so please, that legislation needs to pass, it also has an accountability piece so that we can bring charges with facts against those who have committed these crimes. fourth, on unra, i just looked at some recent very, very compelling testimony about the anti-semitism and anti-americanism that's contained in the textbooks. we will do a hearing on my subcommittee on this shortly. joint with ileana ros-lehtinen who has been focused on that as well. it's not getting better, it's arguably getting worse. finally, the cash payments that were made to iran, the iranian deal in my opinion was egregiously flawed on a number of fronts, anytime, anywhere, all the reasons, but where is
that money going? how has it been spent and how much? are we through that sanctions relief providing assistance to the troops that are being deployed to syria? hezbollah is getting money we know from iran, is that part of the sanctions relief money. if you could answer those questions i would deeply appreciate it. >> congressman, thank you for those questions, you have raised very important issues. let me quickly deal with two of the issues you've raised. pastor brunson, this is a matter of considerable focus and concern for the state department and from my bureau, for me personally. i visited with pastor brunson's wife, noreen in ankara not long ago. we are in close and continuing touch with pastor brunson, with his family members and with the turkish government. there was a hearing on monday, senator tillis was there and so was ambassador brownback. i would just say this, the turks claim to have a high standard of justice, the indictment suggests otherwise. the claims in the indictment were laughable. this is clearly an innocent man.
we are watching to see if the turks adhere to their stated standards of justice. if that does not happen, we are considering options for consequences. we are in close coordination and touch with the senate and the house in talking through some of those possible measures, but i want to underscore that we take it very seriously. secondly, on holocaust issues, anti-semitism is a growing problem throughout many parts of europe. the office of holocaust issues is housed in our bureau, european affairs. i established for our team when i came into my job that this would be a very high priority for us. i don't have anything -- any comments to make at this time about the role that you have mentioned. i will simply say that that matter is under consideration. >> with respect to assistance to the christian and other minority communities, this is indeed as you noted an object of special focus for the administration, the vice president has led on
this effort and we continue to engage as you know, i believe, we have provided extraordinary assistance beyond that previously or generally allocated for the communities of iraq, specifically for the purpose of assisting these communities. we see this as a very positive direction. on unra, again, the president has made very clear that we are examining quite closely every dollar of taxpayer money that has been or may be expended for the purposes of support of unra. and at present the administration does not have plans for any additional funding. we will review that issue based upon that careful consideration of where the moneys are going, what other support exists for unra amongst regional and international parties and the purposes for which it goes. finally on the jcpoa, and the specific question you posed on
monday, i'd like to be able to respond to your question in a different format. >> okay. >> not here in an open session. we can get you responses to your question. >> i appreciate that. thank you. >> we go now to mr. greg meeks of new york. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ambassador, let me just follow up on that dealing with the jcpoa real quick. in your last response to mr. sherman, i as the ranking member on europe, i have talked to a lot of the e-3, i have talked to folks about our allies, the military in israel, et cetera. they have all come back and said to me that the jcpoa for the limited purpose of which it was agreed upon is working. so they have, you know, extreme concerns about us moving out. they say for the purpose of -- limited purpose of preventing iran from having a nuclear weapon given the terms of the
agreement it is -- they are much better off, they know more about the iranian nuclear program than they have ever known before, et cetera. so you said that -- what needs to be fixed, you know, as far as what that purpose is? can you tell us that? >> there are three critical deficiencies we identify both in the jcpoa, but more importantly in the frame around the jcpoa. one is the absence of sanctions addressed to iran's icbm, that is long range intercontinental range inter ballistic missile program, the second is the matter of inspection authority for iaea in certain institutions in iran which are not in our view adequately laid out, empowered within the jcpoa text, and finally the so-called sunset clauses, that is the sun setting of restrictions on critical
elements of the enrichment program or cycle where we wish to see essentially through a frame or follow on agreement to the jcpoa and elimination of those sun sets. now, we are engaged in detailed discussions with the e-3, with our critical european partners. those discussions are ongoing literally today and we very much hope they come to a positive resolution. >> and if they don't? >> we will address that situation at the level of the president, but we are focused now on achieving a success. >> can i add a point on that, sir, if i may? you mentioned our allies and i can speak a little bit to that. i think there is a recognition in europe and among our allies that the problem of iran is growing in scale, specifically the ballistic missile problem, the problem of iran's malign influenza cross the region, even in the period since jcpoa was brokered. the scale on which iran is exerting its influenza cross the region has increased considerably. i think there's also a recognition that this is a set
of problems for which europe should take increased responsibility. that's a message that i hear on a regular basis in our bureau's interaction with ore initials from major u.s. allies and europe. snaud snaud [ no audio ] [ no audio ] >> are we ready to walk away from our allies and we are still talking about part of that agreement is china and russia and given what's going on with them right now so that we are virtually dividing the signatories of the jcpoa. so you say we will cake it up at that time, but this was a multi-lateral agreement that from what i'm getting everyone says iran has not violated and
at the same time we're in about the process of negotiating an agreement with north korea about our po word and whether we stand by it or not. >> i can only reiterate the administration is focused on success here. we are focused on obtaining support from our critical allies to cure what we regard as significant failures both in the agreement and things that were not negotiated at the time of the agreement but now pose a real threat. as assistant secretary mitchell said, the dialogue with our european allies has been a positive one and we hope it is one that leads to a comprehensive resolution. >> i don't know what the policy is because the president has said a little something else other than what you've said, that he's willing to -- [ no audio ] >> -- the message we've gotten
from the president is that we are willing to leave our allies and change what the agreement was because i think that's what the concerns of our allies are that we are fundamentally changing what the agreement was. so we will see how it goes and where we end up, but i think it's a very dangerous situation. >> we go now to mr. dana rohrbacher of california. >> secretary mitchell, last month in kosovo turkish -- six turkish nationals were kidnapped and sent back against their will to turkey where they are imprisoned. they were members of the gulen movement and it's somewhat of a scandal in kosovo.
we have in turkey now is a government that's willing not only to oppress its own people, which as we know they've been arrested by the thousands, but now is projecting itself into europe and conducting itself in like -- in instances like i just described. quite frankly, the tone of your -- of your testimony today was certainly not someone that seemed to be alarmed about the misdirection of turkey and are we going to be giving them those f-35s and do you believe that we should continue treating turkey as it evolves into this radical islamic government and continue to treat them as if they were our allies of 10, 15, 20 years ago? >> thank you for those questions, sir. let me start with the issue of
kosovo and just say that we followed that development very closely. it was a very concerning development and we have been in touch closely with officials in kosovo on this matter and underscore the importance of the rule of law as it relates to matters of extradition. >> have we be in touch with the turkish on this? >> we are in ongoing conversations with the turkish authorities about a number of matters with respect to gulen -- >> no, on the gulen kidnapping of these people in kosovo, are we now confronting the turks on this? >> we have raised it in our diplomatic conversations, it's primarily a matter for the department of justice, but let me take on the boarder question that you've raised about turkey because i think it's absolutely essential for today's discussion and i do want to be clear. we are concerned about the track that turkey is on, both with regard to democracy and rule of law in the period since the
attempted coup and in a broader geopolitical sense. russia and iran is very concerning. i would also say that the track that erdogan was repeatedly articulated publicly of closer engagement with the russians on s-400, we take this seriously and have prioritized that in our diplomatic conversations with the turks. we have been very clear that if a transaction occurs there will be consequences under catsa, that we will abide by the law as articulated in section 231. we've also been clear with regard to the consequences for potential participation in the f-35 program and more broadly our military industrial cooperation with turkey. >> well, i would hope that we also have paying attention to the fact that turkey is involved with radical islamic organizations now. i don't know how deeply. we don't know how extensive that is. but we do know that it's turned
that corner and headed in that direction. secretary satterfield, what is our purpose in syria? will we accept anything less than -- would we accept a compromise that would seep assad in power at least in part of syria, or is our goal and our purpose only to totally eliminate the assad government? >> mr. record backer the purpose of our forces in syria as secretary mattis critical care man dunford have stated is to defeat isis. the purpose of our diplomacy of our international engagement with respect to syria is to support a political process which at its end has a revised constitution, elections conducted under the auspices of
the united nations and our belief is that those elections if freely and fairly conducted amongst all syrians including the syrian communities would not produce the survival of the assad regime. >> what you described wasn't just syria but probably three-quarters of the countries of the middle east and if we made those demands -- why is it that syria we have to make those demands against syria and not against all these other countries in the middle east? >> because, sir, of the extraordinary depp pra dagss of this regime in this country against its citizens, because of the extraordinary and historically unprecedented in modern times -- >> you don't think the rest of the countries in the middle east have similar track records? you're trying to tell me that -- well, we heard the same thing of course about saddam hussein, we heard the same thing about gaddafi and we end up creating
total chaos in that part of the world. >> no regime in modern history in the middle east including saddam hussein's has killed as many of its own citizens, has produced external and internal displacement of its own citizens on the scale of the assad regime. no. it's unique. sadly. >> well, let me just say, mr. ambassador, you read history differently than i do. that is an area that is filled with dictators, it's filled with a for tearian rech sheems, filled with our allies that people rose up against them as rising up against assad. he is a bad guy, a dictator, everything you said but he is not that different from these other regimes once they are challenged, once they were challenged don't tell me the qatar government wouldn't mow down all of their guest workers if there was an uprising in qatar and vice versa with these other regimes. i'm very disturbed by the fact that we're sliding into a war
and not having an out that will not lead us to major military commitments to that region and that would be a disaster and i think it's based on the analysis that you just said that assad is somewhat different than everybody else. i don't think so. thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> we go now to albio seras of new jersey. >> thank you for holding this hearing and thank you for being here. one of the concerns that i have is the buildup of the iranians as they're getting closer and closer to israel. i mean, they now have 7,000 fighters, israel lost a plane recently. this encroachment, how are we going to respond to this? it just seems to be getting bigger and bigger and my concern is one day they're just going to try to push them in closer.
>> there is no question that the aggressive iranian projection of its influence forces associated with iran, iran's revolutionary guard core directly and aggressive proliferation of advanced systems into syria and through syria into lebanon pose a real and as i said imminent threat to israel. israel of course is taking its own actions to address this challenge, but more importantly or as importantly the u.s. and israel are deeply lashed up and i mean that in every sense of the word in terms of our own cooperation and coordination in trying to better address more effectively address this challeng challenge. >> it seems like putin wants the israelis not to do any of the strik strikes, i guess the
syrian-backed group. i don't -- you know, to me putin is just injecting himself in the middle of this again. >> i won't comment on that assertion. israel acts on its own based on its own calculus regarding risk and benefit. but i will say this, we have made very clear in our dialogue with russia and we have had an extensive dialogue with russia on the issue of syria and broader questions including that of iran and iran's activities for some time. we have made the basic question to moscow how do you see it as in moscow's interest to en twine yourself with this regime, with this iran and these iranian activities? we see nothing good in the future for russia out of this and that's a question unfortunately which has not been adequately responded to. >> thank you. going to egypt, i note that the north koreans have the embassy
there and i think through the embassy they do a lot of arm sales in this part of the world. i was wondering what kind of a pressure are we asserting to make the north koreans stop -- or have the egyptian stop this effort? >> former secretary tillerson exercised authority granted him by the congress to suspend or withhold, rather, $195 million from fmf provided to egypt and that suspension continues. there are several conditions which we have discussed with the egyptian government at the most senior levels for consideration of release of those funds, one of those conditions is a down grading and in some cases more than a down grading at the egyptian diplomatic presence in pyongyang, the north korean diplomatic presence in cairo and the general character of that relationship. it is absolutely part of a very material discussion with the
egyptians. >> thank you. one person that i have also in egypt, my thiem is running out, but i have written a number of letters regarding the situation with coptic christians in egypt. in terms of making sure that they are able to express their religion, making sure that they are safe. i was wondering what kind of pressure are we putting in egypt now that a sisi reportedly got 97% of the votes to help with this situation? >> we have had a dialogue with all elements of the government including the president who received significant support from his coptic community in his reelection. with respect to the need for full exercise of coptic christian rights in egypt, this is -- i don't have to tell anyone on this committee -- a sensitive issue in egypt, but is one we continue to pursue. >> i'm more concerned about the security of the coptic christians in this country.
>> that is an issue which president a sisi has reportedly and publicly expressed as his concern and he has taken steps to address that particular issue, the threat by radical islamist movements against the coptics. >> thank you, chairman. >> thank you. we go to joe wilson of south carolina. >> thank you very much, chairman ed royce and ranking member eliot engel for having this important hearing on turbulence in the middle east. i want to thank you for your efforts for pastor brunson. we preesappreciate raising the and i was pleased to see your personal interest as significant and all that can be done to address that issue with our nato ally, turkey. as we address the topic of turbulence in the middle east and thank both of you for being here, a concern i have always had, how do we identify friendly
or democratic allies in syria where 2,000 troops in syria who are we advising to correctly support regime change of the barbaric dictator assad? >> the purpose of our military deployment, those 2,000 troops in northeast syria is to conclude the campaign to defeat isis. in that campaign we have associated ourselves with the syrian democratic forces. a kurdish and arab group in the north and northeast who have fought alongside us in this campaign. we have made very clear the issue of regime change is not a purpose of our military deployment, it is the defeat of isis. the purpose of the international political process in syria is to see the syrian people, all of them, able to make a choice in a free and fair manner to choose the kind of regime, the kind of governance they want and we have
said repeatedly we do not believe that choice would in the end produce continuation of assad or his regime. >> well, i want to thank you. that's about the best description we have had over the years of being here and discussing syria. so thank you very much. for both of you the revolutionary guard is one of the main elements in spreading iran's maligned influence in the middle east, such as in lebanon and in syria. what specific steps is the administration taking to diminish the iranian influenza cross the middle east? what is the strategy to prevent iran from filling the vacuums created by instability in the region, particularly as isis is being defeated and withdrawing? and how active are the revolutionary guards outside of the middle east, where are they active and then another point about iranian-backed militias, why are they not being identified as terrorist organizations? >> the administration has aggressively pursued the sources of irgc support from financial
standpoint and material standpoint, has designated members of the revolutionary guard corps for their involvement in terrorist activities. that step by this administration was quite unprecedented as the irgc is an entity of a government, a state, it is extremely unusual to sanction it. we have done for their involvement in their terrorist acts. they are a multi-facetted, multi-present organization not just in syria and lebanon, but in yemen as well. they conduct subversive activities directly or indirectly in the persian gulf. we are dealing with all of these challenges. now, how do we do that? of course, there are sanctions to get at the heart, the arteries of support, but more broadly speaking by strengthening legitimate institutions of legitimate states you push back against a vacuum which iran takes advantage of. by trying and yemen is a particular case here, to bring
an end to the conflict in yemen you try to heal or close over the cracks, the fissures that iran exploits to its advantage. iran will look like the thief going down a corridor in the night for any opportunity to go through a partly open door, unlocked door or fully open door. we want to close that as much as possible. so it's a broad approach to a broad and multi-facetted problem. >> and i appreciate, too, that you were recognizing that the irgc, the iran's islamic revolutionary guard corps is separate from the iranian military. indeed acting independently, but achieving, sadly, such turmoil. additionally, the administration has not just reimposed sanctions on any entities where sanctions were lifted on the iranian nuclear deal. what steps is the state department take to go address
iran's elicit activities including support for terrorism, arms trafficking, human rights abuses and ballistic missile development? >> i think the key area or the key sector that your question strikes to is in the aviation industry. the administration is actively considering what steps would be appropriate. this is not an easy issue because the extensive involvement of many corporate entities in broad support for aviation entities in iran. we are looking at this very carefully. we have reached no decisions. >> we appreciate your service, each of you. thank you very much. >> mr. ted deutsch of florida. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thanks to you and ranking member engel for ensuring this committee has the opportunity to engage with the administration in a timely manner on recent events. i'd like to echo my colleagues in voicing our concern with continued vacancies in key leadership positions at the
department. i hope that director pompeo moves quickly to fill those roles. ambassador satterfield, we know and we firmly believe that you are more than capable of performing the job of assistant secretary. this is in no way a criticism of your abilities, but we are 15 months into this administration and there is still no confirmed assistant secretary for the middle east. i'd also like to associate myself with the ranking member's comments on the international affairs budget. we are deeply grateful to our civil and foreign service personnel who commit themselves to doing work that is sometimes dangerous, that keeps them away from their families and that doesn't get a whole lot of credit from the american people. but diplomacy and foreign aid is immeasurably critical to our national security. military might is not -- military might is not something that can be exercised in the absence of diplomacy, the two must work hand in hand. before i ask my questions i would also implore both of you
to make the return of americans held in iran, particular my constituent robert levinson, the longest held american hostage a serious priority seven as the president disengages from iran we cannot allow whatever decision was made on the nuclear file to impact our efforts to bring bob home to his family. i would ask for the commitment of both of you to make that a priority and to engage as much as possible with the levinson family. finally, before turning to my questions, i'd just like to respond to my colleague who suggested that assad is doing what any leader in the region would do. my answer to that is no. we must be horrified and furious about a butcher who drops barrel bombs on schools and hospitals, who uses chemical weapons against civilians. the slaughter of over half a million people shocks our conscience in syria as it would
and must shock our conscience in any other country in the region or in any place on this planet. now, i have many concerns about the administration's lack of cohesive and coherent foreign policy in the region, i'm confused that the administration seems to be actively pursuing middle east peace, bolstering our relations with is alley acknowledging that jerusalem is the capital of israel, although seemingly leaving israel to fend for itself while taking kinetic action when it comes to the iran's presence in syria. the administration has been unwilling to confront russia for its enabling of assad and turning a blind eye to iran and hezbollah's actions in syria. just when it seems like the administration might take meaningful steps to sanction russia for its actions in syria the president pulls back over after ambassador haley had made the announcement. to put the blame on her for being confused about the policy decision furthers the disjointed
mixed message foreign policy this administration has been sending to our allies from day one. i believe, ambassador haley when she clearly stated i don't get confused. so i would ask you, ambassador satterfield, as the president is talking tough on iran with respect to the jcpoa, he doesn't appear to be acting tough on iran and syria. what's the strategy to actually counter russia and iran's very real and dangerous enabling of assad, iran's establishment of bases in syria and support for hezbollah that threatens to seriously destabilize and threaten our allies and the region and specifically i will try to make this as clear as possible, is the united states relying on russia to influence iran? let's start with that question. >> first, let me affirm our efforts in support of all of the americans who have been detained, held hostage, missing in iran will continue. we take these concerns very
seriously. we are in touch with all the families, including the levinsons and we will do all that we can to deal with this very difficult and very painful issue. >> thank you very much. >> with respect to iran in syria, we certainly identify the threat and the challenge not justice real, but to the region as a whole. we have identified those concerns not only in our exceptional dialogue with israel and the israel security -- >> ambassador satterfield, i apologize. i don't wish to be rude, but i just had a few questions so the first one is does the united states rely on russia to influence iran in the region? >> we have certainly made clear to moscow that we see no reason, no logic in moscow enabling either by action or inaction what iran is doing in syria or elsewhere in the region. we see it as a threat to russia over time, why he. >> and if russia is unwilling or unable to provide assurances that the syrian regime or its associated forces like hezbollah
or other iranian whacked proxy forces will cease violence in these areas what's the next option for the united states policy in syria? what do we do then? >> with respect to russia i will defer to my colleague, but we have a variety of means at our disposal which are under constant and active consideration to try to bring about the kinds of mitigation of harm, mitigation of risk that we are all seeking in syria. those decisions lie in many cases with the president himself. >> i would only -- thank you for the question, sir, i think that's a critical issue. i would only add to that in addition to the humanitarian dimension and importance of the strikes i think a secondary effect was to demonstrate for all parties including the russian federation the seriousness of the situates in this conflict. i would sad there are measures under consideration including measures that stem from catsa. those are under ongoing consideration and we will take additional steps against the
russian federation as needed. >> well, with all due respect why should we believe that? when it was announced that we were going to impose sanctions only to have the president or those close to the president essentially throw the u.n. ambassador under the bus saying that she didn't know what she was doing. why should we believe you when you come here and say that we're serious about the possibility of imposing sanctions? >> well, the reason you should believe me, sir, since january of last year this administration has implemented sanctions against 189 individuals and entities in russia, including 136 under ukraine authorities and 24 under catsa authorities. so for your main part of your question i would say we have credibility with regard to toughness on russia. >> was our credibility threatened at all by the interaction over the past few days -- >> if i could make the point we are over by a couple minutes and -- yeah. so let's go to mr. scott perry
of pennsylvania. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, gentlemen. i just want to respond a little bit to my friend and colleague who i respect regarding the administration's dealing with russia. the last administration obliterated decades of foreign policy that was bipartisan that generally in large part kept russia out of the middle east and out of meddling there and this administration has been left to pick up the pieces and with regard to leaving israel left alone to be the only one providing kinetic activity in syria, i will remind the gentleman that the last administration provided none except for harsh rhetoric while this administration has had rounds impacting on the ground in syria. with that said i think i want to turn to dr. mitchell here. iran provides hezbollah with approximately $800 million annually, trains thousands of their fighters in camps in iran, hezbollah possesses
approximately 150,000 missiles, hezbollah provides construction facilities near israel to produce more of these munitions. in that context, hezbollah is -- the former secretary of state described hezbollah as part of the political process in lebanon. i think we would be tools to disregard that. i just wonder if there's any concern from state that this tends to legitimize a violent theological extremist group whose stated goal is to destroy israel? >> in no way do we intend to legitimize hezbollah. in no way do we distinguish between hezbollah's terrorist activities, it's so-called military wing from its so-called political wing. that's a distinction. many in the world make. it is one we reject completely and have done historically. it's the same. >> i want to make sure that there's no -- that there is a
bright line there. >> there is. >> and i appreciate that. let me ask you this and maybe this for you, dr. mitchell, i'm sorry if i got that wrong. the eu seems to resist designating hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. even though they are obviously wreaking havoc in syria and in europe as well. what are we doing to persuade the eu to designate, to make this designation? i think it's important. what are we doing? >> thank you for that question. we engage with our european partners on a regular basis on this matter. i would say it's fair to say from a u.s. perspective we have a lot of frustration with the europeans on in particular question of hezbollah. i've been part of conversations where we've talked to the french, the germans, the british and others. those are ongoing conversations. i think it's part of a broader mosaic -- >> what could their aversion be? >> i would refer you to the
capitals of those countries for the specifics of their concerns. >> do you have any inclination? i understand i can go ask them, but we're paying you to find these things out for us. do you know -- like did they see them as not terrorists? not sub ver sieve -- >> i'm going to resist the temptation to speak on behalf of those governments. from our perspective we make it clear all the way up to the level of the president not only on hezbollah but on the broader iran problem that there can't only be an american solution to this long-term. that we have to have greater european participation, whether it's plugging the -- >> so other than the kind rhetoric and hoping they will come to the table on this, is there anything the united states is doing from a diplomatic standpoint to urge them out? i get the carrot, where is the stick? is there a stick? >> this government has been in contact continuously with our european partners in paris and elsewhere. i participated in a number of these talks. we have a more extensive focused
lie log on the issue of iran and hezbollah, the irgc that in any kind am memory -- >> i appreciate it. >> -- now, what have we done? despite continued resistance at a political level from making the same bright line co-identification of political and military parts of hezbollah, that the eu maintains, we have achieved much more in the way of actual designation and sanctioning by critical european partners than we have done in the course of the last many years. is it enough? no. is it progress? yes, it is. >> well, i will just tell you that at least from this point on dais there is not enough progre progress. you must have success in this regard. we cannot -- and please know that this is a point of concern and when you come back we are going to continue -- >> we agree. >> let me ask one more question
with the chairman's inn dull januarys. in 2015 for iraq it is my understanding $1.5 billion, 2016, $715 million, i ask this question in the context of i feel like the american taxpayer is now left in a position to train and equip the irgc and quds force operating individually as units and individuals that are infill yated the iraqi army, local municipal elections are looming and i'm wondering what the number is that we're currently spending on train and equip funding in iraq and what's going to be done about that. do you disagree that we are not training and equipping irgc elements and individuals that are operating in uniform in iraq? >> congressman, i strongly disagree with the premise that our support for the iraqi armed forces is support for the irgc or the shia pmf, the popular
mobilization forces some of which are affiliated with iran. we have supported a legitimate institution of the iraqi state that has performed exceptionally well in the fight against isis and in the reclaiming and holding of iraqi territory. now, the issue of whether there are individuals who are present within the iraqi security forces whose allegiance may lie to the pmf, undoubtedly there are, but there is a confabulation between that reality and saying we are facilitating the irgc or the pmf. absolutely not. >> i don't want to be hypercritical and i'm concerned not only for national security but for the taxpayers and the fidelity and the future of iraq. are you willing to say that there are no irgc forces using any united states provided military equipment in iraq right now? >> i will review the record, but to my knowledge there is no
provision of u.s. military equipment or funding to the irgc -- >> i know it's not the irgc -- >> here is a strategy, how about having the ambassador -- ambassador, if you will review the record and get back to general scott perry on the issue. >> thank you, sir. happy to do it, mr. chairman. thank you, gentlemen. >> we go to david scicilini of rhode island. >> i am extremely concerned about turkish incursion into syria. i requested a classified member level briefing from your offices on the situation on february 6th. that was ten weeks ago. so in the briefing still has not happened, it's been canceled again, i know there is a briefing after syria on the entire region but i want to start by saying how disappointed i am that it's taken ten weeks and i still don't have the hearing. i'd like a commitment that you will schedule a classified briefing for members on the situation in afran in the very
near future. that's a yes. thank you. could you speak to how the turkish incursion has affected the u.s. coalition's fight against isis? obviously turkey and the u.s. coalition have different priorities in syria and how is the u.s. supporting our partners on the ground which include both the kurdish ypj and nato ally turkey. i'm hearing concern from the kurdish community that they feel the u.s. has abandoned them after they played such an important role in the fight against isis. >> i can assure you we will follow up on that request and i apologize on behalf of our bur rethat hasn't happened yet. i will take the olive branch part of your question and defer to my colleague on the kurdish question. i will say that operation olive branch has very much complicated the defeat isis campaign by creating a demand signal that draws fighters from the
euphrates valley towards afran. our focus has been to call on the turks to show restraint and address the humanitarian crisis. i have led the u.s. delegation in both of those recent conversations, but also to create a sequenced approach to some of the areas that the turkish government has concerns about and to try where possible to balance the turkish and kurdish equities on this. david can say a word about the kurdish element. >> the situation in north and northeast syria has over recent weeks stabilized. we have seen no further movement of turkish forces beyond afran. our dialogue with the syrian democratic forces, the sdf, is deep, extraordinary and at senior levels and that dialogue is continuing at a senior level literally as we meet here today. we believe that it is possible to continue the fight against isis with the support and help of the sdf.
that of course requires not just their commitment to us, but our commitment to continue to work with them. we understand that -- >> thank you. i want to try to get to couple more. thank you. and i look forward to the classified briefing. are you aware of any evidence that iran has violated the terms of the jcpoa? >> it is the assessment of the iaea that iran remains in essential compliance with the provisions of the -- >> thank you. you talked about the ongoing discussions with our european partners. is there a plan for that moment when the sanctions waiver is required to be addressed by the president that if that doesn't happen is there a plan in place? in other words, is the president willing to sign the waiver so that this process can play out, or is it the may deadline and is there a contingency? >> the administration is prepared for a number of options, depending on the circumstances, including the
outcome of discussions with the e-3. whatever decision the president may at the time take, yes, sir. >> so if negotiations are not complete, there is no assurance that the president is going to issue the waiver and that could be the end of the agreement? >> under no circumstances would i pre judge or -- the president's options. >> i okay. i want to turn for a moment now to egypt. in your view does egypt's new ngl law violate the brownback agreement by giving them veto power over u.s. funded democracy programs. >> our ability to operate assistance programs in egypt has been severely limited since the change in government in 2011 with this new law in place, what kind of economic development or democracy program is it even possible for the united states assistance to support in egypt and do you believe that the repeal of this ngl law should be a prerequisite for the united states providing continued economic aid to egypt. >> there are provisions of that
law which if executed would violate u.s. statute, no question about that. with respect to our demands of the government of egypt, they've been very clear. our strong recommendation and one of the bases for secretary tillerson's withholding of the $195 million was exactly the issue of a pledge to not implement these offending provisions of that law. >> great. and my final question for both of you really, do you think that it is inconsistent -- or, i'm sorry, do you think that it is consistent policy that we say that we must intervene militarily in syria as we've said to the world because of our grave concerns over the humanitarian situation for syrians facing chemical attacks by their own government and at the same time to severely restrict refugees from the region that we have only allowed 11 syrian refugees into the united states in 2018. do you see that as a consistent position and doesn't it present a challenge to the world to take
us seriously? >> the issue of the administration's position with respect to national security in relation to refugee admission is one that we are happy to take back for response to you. >> so you agree, it's inexplicable and difficult to defend. >> no, i'm simply saying this falls outside my area of responsibility. >> you would say not consistent. to say we are so worried about the children and women in syria that we have to intervene militarily but by the way the administration has severely restricted the admission of those same women and children to the united states and only 11 syrian refugees have come to the united states -- >> congressman, i understand your question. >> i like forward to the answer. >> our focus in syria is cw use and isis. >> we go to ann wagner of missouri. >> thank you, mr. chairman, for organizing this hearing and i thank you to our witnesses for their service. the violent assad regime in syria continues to perpetuate
crimes against humanity, aided and abetted by a revisionist iran, amid regional instability, hezbollah, hamas, al qaeda, the islamic state and other terrorist groups operate with impunity. the united states must continue to exercise leadership in holding bad actors accountable for committing human rights abuses and for their terrorist activities. dr. mitchell, you have been outspoken in your support for nato. would you advocate for a similar arrangement in the middle east? >> thank you for the question, ma'am. i consider it beyond the remit of my duties to speculate much on security arrangements among allies in the middle east on the model of nato. i will say that there are a number of states in the region who are threatened by iran in particular and i think we have both an opportunity and a
responsibility in u.s. diplomacy to strengthen our security arrangements with those states. >> you have argued for deterrence by denial rather than deterrence by punishment. as i understand it this means shoring up defensive forces to discourage adversaries, rather than relying on threats. i agree that we may need to tweak our strategic calculus, bad actors like syria and iran have unquestionably undermined the united states traditional modes of deterrents. can you explain what deterrents by denial would look like in the middle east? >> ma'am, i am so flattered that you have read my past work. i will point out that this was written in a previous life before in this job and was written with regard to the baltic states specifically. i will say broadly from the position that i hold now that i think a strong american
deterrence in many parts of the world is really the essential fabric of stability. i think strengthening that deterrence in europe and in nato and in nato, and northeastern europe has a particular set of requirements at present. i think it's a very different situation in the middle east and would refer to the ambassador on the specifics of deterrence there. >> ambassador. >> we are looking at what more can be done by individual states and in a collective sense by parties in the middle east who have consider military resources and capabilities of their own. the president has made very clear that while we are shouldering the responsibility for the destruction of the remnants of the so-called caliphate of isis, that in the period beyond the maintenance of that destruction needs to fall squarely on the shoulders of those in the region. and we are exploring right now
very actively whether and how a construct can be made. what we've termed in past years a regional security architecture that has a real ability to step in and take one responsibility which we do not believe the u.s. should have to have indefinitely. >> i appreciate that, and to that point, i know that ambassador, the united states relies on regional partners to counter iran's maligned influence. traditionally, the united states has worked closely with members of the gulf cooperation council or gcc. however, gcc member states iran, saudi arabia, and the you nated arab emirates have cut ties with qatar, which they maintain secretly supports iran. the united states postponed a planned summit with gulf leaders until september, i believe, of 2018. do u.s. officials anticipate a resolution to the qatar
diplomatic crisis before the summit? are we doing anything as the united states to try and deal with this rift? >> the president of the united states and every official in government has been focused on the issue of closing this rift since to cured. the president has directly engaged with heads of state of government, of all of the countries involved, on both sides of this divide. his message has been exceedingly clear from the beginning and has been reiterated in his recent personal phone contacts with that leadership, which is it is high time this get resolved. we face a common challenge from iran. we face a common challenge from other foes in the region and beyond. this rift serves their interests, not ours. it needs to be mended, and we hope very much that the states act on this. >> i thank the witnesses for the testimony.
yes, dr. mitchell, i do my homework. i thank the chairman again for his timeliness of putting this hearing together. i thank the witnesses for their tremendous service and i yield back. >> lois frankel of florida. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you to our witnesses for your service. i know we all probably agree that the syrian civil war has been one of the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time. over 500 million dead at the hands of assad. millions fleeing their homes, trying to escape to other countries that are -- with great impact to those countries. i think it's fair to say there's been a lot of dereliction, i would say, on the world. not knowing really what to do. so you can point fingers at a
lot of -- in a lot of different places, but since we're here now, i'm going to talk about this administration because i think mr. trump has sort of a whack-a-doo behavior about how he goes about all these things. the president acts, i don't know whether it's impulsively or emotionally or correctly, but i think all of us when we see the chemical warfare on assad, on human beings, it's horrendous. so i'm not critical of the president feeling this is horrendous action. what i don't understand is this president only allowed 11 syrian refugees into this country last year compared to 15,000 in 2016. so my question is, you know,
where is the humanity in that. then he can't decide whether he's pulling -- he's staying in syria, out syria. one week he's pulling out of syria, and the next week he's dropping -- we have these air strikes. so i think this inconsistency is not very helpful. one night of air strikes, as i think many of my colleagues have said, is not a substitute for a comprehensive strategy, which should include robust political and diplomatic engagement. one of my questions i also have is was the state department consulted at all and involved in this decision on the air strikes. i know -- i'm the mother of a united states war veteran who went to two wars. i came to this congress
purposely because i wanted to weigh in on decisions of war and peace. so i can tell you that in my humble opinion, i think the president should have come to this congress for a military authorization before these air strikes because, you know, it's not like it was a surprise. the president tweeted this out days before. it wasn't exactly he surprised anybody with these air strikes. and i think it's a dangerous precedent he is setting. back on question number one, was the state department consulted on these attacks? why are we not allowing refugees? are we going to allow some more refugees? and if you know, could you tell me what the cost of these air strikes were. >> yes, the state department was
involved throughout the deliberative process that led to this decision, as we were in all prior considerations of use of the military force in syria. >> was there any recommendation from the state department or any member of the administration that you know that congress be -- that the president come to congress for an authorization before the strikes? >> i can comment objen the authorities that were used, not the deliberative process. it was article two of the constitution that the president relied upon. with respect to the refugee question, which you and your colleague have raised, that's outside my area of authority, but we will provide you with a response from the state department on that. >> do you know the cost of the air strikes by any chance? >> that question has been posed to the department of defense. we will refer that question to osd, the office of the secretary. >> dr. mitchell, did you want to respond to any of those
questions? >> i would only add that i appreciate the questions and we're happy to take a closer look and get back to you in written form. >> and one more quick question. why did the president change his mind on these sanctions against russia? >> there has been and continues to be a discussion about future steps with regards to sanctions on russia. that's an ongoing process. i would refer you to the white house for any more recent developments. >> okay. well, i guess we're not going to get an answer on that. anyway, thank you very much for being here. i yield back. >> thank you. we go to adam kissinger of illinois. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, both, for being here. you guys have a lot of tough work to do. you've done a lot of great work. i've always said when it comes to state-related issues, you never know what you were able to mitigate. the conflicts you were able to stop that never happened. it's hard to put a price on that, so we appreciate all the hard work. obviously syria's been a failed policy since the last administration.
in fact, the failure to follow through on the 2013 red line had massive implications, not just in the middle east, but all over the world. i think there's no doubt about it. you look at the foreign policy challenges we had before 2013 and the foreign policies we have post-2013, and there's a direct correlation to when bad actors felt like they could challenge the united states of america. frankly, we said a lot of good words for a long time but followed through with no action. now it's nice to see a president that's willing to follow through with action. i think the strikes in syria were correct. the american people, according to a poll today, agree that they were the correct thing to do. i also don't think the president needed to come to congress, for every military move -- there's not 535 commanders in chief. there's one. our job is to declare if a state of war exists and to put the funding in to do that, to follow through on that war. the president has a lot of authority as envisioned and written by the constitution. but having served in the air
force and still continuing to serve, syria's been one of my big concerns as i've gotten to congress. what i worry about is a lack of a long-term strategy in syria. i think holding strong that chemical weapons have no place is a really good thing to do. but i think on the broader level, the question is what is going to be the future of syria. and i think when we talk about the destruction of isis in the middle east, i don't think these two exist in a vacuum. i think part of the reason isis has been able to grow and thrive is because of the existence of a terrible dictator that basically created an environment where somebody feels the only option they have to turn to is to a terrorist group because nobody else is coming to help them, and the assad family has been the biggest enemy of all time. you find yourself in that process radicalized. and so when we fight this generational war on terror, we have to keep in mind that it's the 7 and 8-year-olds in these refugee camps right now that are either going to be the people that reject isis within islam or they're going to be the people
that frankly join isis. you cannot look at syria and the challenges in syria in a vacuum, in isolation of the fight against isis. i think they're together. but ambassador, last month the administration ordered the state department to freeze 200 million in stabilization funds that would enable those displaced by the conflict to return to their homes, which is exactly what i think is the opposite of what needs to happen to create a better environment. early recovery efforts and the restoration of basic services and security are critical elements to establishing inclusive local governance outside of assad's control. what are the specific accounts that have been frozen, economic support fund or nonproliferation, anti-terrorism, or any related programs. >> representative, we can get back to you with the specifics in response for that last part of your question. what i'll say in general over the funding that was suspended, we are reviewing now carefully with the white house, within the government, how best to move
forward with respect to expenditure of taxpayer moneys in syria. >> if you could get back to me with the first part, that'd be great. what evidence have you seen of partner nations making assurances that no stabilization or reconstruction assistance will benefit the assad regime? >> in september of last year at the united nations, then-secretary tillerson chaired a meeting of the so-called like minded countries on syria. a broad representative group of arab and non-arab countries, all of whom supported one fundamental principle. there should be no reconstruction assistance provided to the assad regime or areas controlled by the assad regime, minus significant progress on the u.n.-led geneva political process. that progress has not taken plaits. >> right. and let me ask about iraq specifically. i'm a veteran of that war. a lot of american blood, treasure, toil went into a free iraq. as president obama said, we did leave behind a free and fair
iraq. unfortunately, we left them behind. now we have the challenges we have, as we're back there again. one of my concerns is we have an election in a few weeks in iraq. can you talk about what you've seen, either of you, in terms of iranian influence and how to push back against that because of somebody that was part of frankly fighting iranian influence in iraq. >> we can better address that question in another setting. suffice it to say, we believe there is a vigorous and truly democratic political debate and process under way in iraq, but the specifics of your question in another closed setting can be best addressed. >> understood. do you have anything to add, dr. mitchell? >> no, unfortunately, i agree with much of what you've said. most of what you've asked falls under bureau. >> you get away with that one then. i appreciate it. mr. chairman, i yield back. >> thank you. norma torres of california. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ambassador, i, too, want to
associate myself with some of the comments that my colleagues on this side have stated regarding that we need specific actions that you plan to take and specific outcomes you expect to see in regards to the forces in syria. i would really hope you can follow up. like my of my colleagues, i'm very concerned. iran is provoking israel into conflict in syria. iran is intent on building a permanent presence inside syria. it's shocking that the trump administration has failed to articulate that strategy to deal with iran's growing presence in syria. while the most recent missile
attacks on the syrian area where they have the chemical weapons has been applauded, you know, by many, i'm very concerned at our lack of care for the children that have been injured. i understand you have stated already that is not within your jurisdiction to deal with refugees. but i'm curious to know if you have an opinion to that cause since to date this year, it is my understanding that we've only received or allowed 11 syrian refugees to this country. >> ms. torres, the best resolution to the suffering of the syrian people, whether we're speaking about those who have been displaced internally and externally or -- >> i'm sorry. i'm talking about the injured children that need medical assistance and have been orphaned. >> or with respect to individual cases of suffering and hardship,
is to end this war, to end the brutality of the assad regime. that requires a political process. and while we may like to believe that the u.s. simply saying something or deploying u.s. soldiers will fix it, the issue is far more complex than that. it requires a comprehensive international approach. that is what we have been very active in trying to generate. but we have been frustrated. we've been frustrated by russian efforts which have blocked every move to place assad and his regime before their responsibilities. >> so what is our strategy to deal with that? >> and we continue to engage. we continue to hope that through our engagement, through messages both positive and negative, moscow recognizes it ought to be in their interest to move this forward. i know the images are extraordinarily painful. they are. we are trying to address them.
at the end, they're best addressed through changing the character of syria itself, allowing these people to move forward with lives in peace, security, and stability. >> so what is our strategy as it relates to russia? the white house from day to day, from tweet to tweet, they seem to have a different opinion. i'm concerned as to what does that do for your long-term planning strategy. >> russia's behavior internationally is very concerning. i agree with the premise of your question. i would say this administration takes that seriously in all of its forms, in multiple regions. our strategy broadly has consisted of two planks. the first is cost imposition. so to raise the cost of an aggressive foreign policy until the russian government decides that the cost-benefit analysis does not support further
aggression. we've done that through a variety of tools from the executive branch, tools provided to us by congress, and the second plank has been to keep channels of dialogue open where possible. the russians very often do not want to use those channels. we have channels, diplomatic channels and military channels on syria, on ukraine, in a number of field related strategics related to stability. so the strategy has been to increase the pressure and point the way to a door for dialogue. at the end of the day, the responsibility rests with the russian government for whether or not they choose to embrace those opportunities for dialogue. they have not embraced those opportunities, so we will continue to impose costs until they do. >> so how have we increased the pressure on russia lately? >> well, in the period since january of last year, this administration has brought forward sanctions against 189 individuals and entities in russia. we presided -- >> my time has expired.
it's my understanding, though, that most recently the president has removed some of those sanctions. so. i'm going to have to yield back. my time has expired. >> thank the gentle lady for yielding back. we go to lee zeldin of new york. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ambassad ambassad ambassador satterfield, it's been asked of you, but i don't want to make any bad assumptions, so i'll ask again. has iran violated the letter of jcpoa? >> the iaea has not found significant violation. >> i'm not asking the iaea. i'm asking you. >> that with s whis what we rel. >> so is it the state department's position that iran has not violated the letter of the jcpoa. >> that is the judgment of the iaea. >> i'm not asking the iaea. i'm asking you. >> i've responded. >> quote, iran will only engage
in production of centurifuges to -- >> i would have to respond in formal fashion. >> okay. well, formally, that's what annex one, paragraph 61 states. is it true that iran has acquired more than the necessary amount of centrifuge rotor eight with 16 times more capacity to enrich uranium? >> again, i would have to respond in a form mall -- >> you can respond now. >> i would have to consult. i'm not a technical expert. >> i thought you were the acting secretary -- >> i am, sir. but those questions are highly technical, and they demand a very technical and specific response, which we will provide. >> as part of the jcpoa, a plan was submitted that permitted roughly ten ire six centrifuges. are you aware that iran has
assembled 13 to 15 centrifuges which should have been limited or destroyed under this plan? >> representative, all questions of this character can be responded to in an appropriate level of classification in writing. >> but you're stating that iran has not violated the letter of the deal, so what i'm going to do right now is go through all the different ways iran is violating the letter of the deal. is it your position you're not going to respond with regards to any of the ways that iran has violated the letter of the deal? >> these technical questions will require a sufficiently classified written response. >> under annex one, photograph 76, the iaea can request access to military locations such as to verify compliance. is that right? >> representative, my response is the same to all questions of this character. >> it's a technical question. it's your position you can't tell me whether or not they grant access to iran's military sites for inspection for
verification. >> it does, sir. >> it does state that? >> that is part of the jcpoa. >> correct, okay. so you're able to answer that. now, has it not been crystal clear that it's iran's position, both before, during, and after the jcpoa was finalized that they will not grant any access to their military sites. >> i will respond to that question in writing. >> you can't respond to that now? >> no, i cannot. >> i mean, rouhani hasn't had a problem saying this over video. i don't know why that requires a classification. it is well known, open-sourced information. iran has made it crystal clear that we do not have access to their military sites. >> there is much well-known, open-sourced material that is also not correct. or is nuanced. i will provide a detailed response from appropriate u.s. government agencies to all of these questions. >> has iran acquired more heavy water than they are allowed to under the jcpoa? >> same response, sir. >> what's the response? >> we will provide a detailed
response in appropriate fashion. >> see, here's the problem. you have no problem coming before congress and others will come before congress saying in no unperscertain terms, iran hat violated the letter of the jcpoa. when you're asked questions about all the different ways they've violate the the letter, you have to, you know, respond in writing or it's a technical question that someone else's expertise. yet, you do have the expertise to come to congress and say they're not violating the letter of the jcpoa. and you do have the expertise to come before congress and explain the justification for your position, yet when asked about all the different ways, iran collecting more rotor assemblies than allowed to, assemblying more rotors than allowed to, the centrifuges. to deny access to their military sites, to collect more heavy water than they are permitted to. that list goes on.
we found nuclear particles that we wanted to follow up on. iran's new position is you can't visit. so if you do not have the technical capabilities to answer any questions with regard to the known specifics on how iran is violating the letter of the deal, then we should not have one witness after another coming before this committee and others making the flat-out statement that iran is not violating the letter of the jcpoa. >> for the sake of the record, congressman, my comment was the iaea has in its most recent reporting not found significant violations of the provisions. >> and until the iaea comes before this committee -- if they do come before the committee, i'd be happy to ask them the same exact questions. you're here representing the united states state department. i'm asking you about different specific questions -- >> and i've answered we will provide you detailed answers to all of those questions.
>> i yield back. >> we go now to brad schneider of illinois. >> thank you, and i want to thank the chairman and ranking member for having this hearing. i want to thank the witnesses for your service to our country and your patience today, staying until the end. tonight in israel, in fact with the time change, as we're speaking this moment, israelis are celebrating independence day. 70 years ago when israel declared its independence, united states was the first nation in the entire world to recognize the new state. but there were five armies from five nations, arab states, who immediately attacked. arab states of egypt, jordan, lebanon, syria, and iraq. today israel's peace treaties with egypt and jordan. today, iran controls effectively lebanon, syria, and iraq. yesterday the government released a map locating five iranian air bases in syria, two in the south near damascus, one in the east, one in the
northwest, and one in the center of the country. in february, it was the base from which iran launched a drone to attack israel. israel responded by destroying some of the base and lost a jet and had to go in and take out much of the syrian air defenses. over the past weekend, or april 8th, rather, israel again struck, taking out iranian weapons. it was announced yesterday they believe that iran was installing advanced sophisticated air defense systems. some of my concern, business insider yesterday noted israeli intelligence reportedly says trump's syria strike failed, didn't take out much of anything. that's a quote from the head line. times of israel on april 14th said israel fears trump may see job as done in syria, leave israel alone to face iran.
so my question for you today as we sit here, and i've asked this question of others every chance i get, what specifically is the united states' vat ji in ensuring iran does not get a permanent presence in syria to threaten our allies, israel, and others? what are we doing? what more can we be doing? >> we certainly are concerned with the threat which iran presents in syria and through syria. to lebanon, to israel, and to our other allies and partners in the region and beyond. our strategy in working with israel, with jordan, with the gulf states, with all the countries of the region and the broader international community is to deny to iran the ability to proliferate in the fashion that it does into and through syria. it's our work with the iraqi armed forces and iraqi government on the border. it is our work in the northeast with our own forces and our work more broadly with the
international community to deny the resources and support which iran and the revolutionary guard corps depend upon for this very threatening activity. but i have to challenge the assertion in the opening part of your remarks that iraq and lebanon are controlled by iran. they are not. they are both independent states. >> but it's hard to say that lebanon is independent when it includes in its government hezbollah. hezbollah has 150,000 rockets, increasingly more accurate, increasingly more powerful. iran has five permanent air bases in syria. it's hard to say that, a, what we're doing is working if iran is increasing its maligned influence in the region, and i'm having a hard time understanding what specifically we are doing to push back against iran's progress. >> we are working on iran's proliferation, the sources of
that proliferation, its ability to conduct the physical movements of material throughout the region and not just in syria or lebanon. in all of this, we are partnered very closely with the government of israel, as we are with other governments. >> but when the president of the united states says a couple weeks ago, within six months, u.s. troops are going to be out of iran -- out of syria, rather, we're washing our hands, what signal does that send to all our allies in the region? israel is increasing will i concerned they're going to be left alone to push back. >> the president has made clear, secretary mattis and chairman dunn ford have made clear the primary purpose of our military presence in syria is the defeat of isis and the caliphate. we look to other diplomatic, economic, and cooperative measures with israel, with other states in the region to achieve these broader goals. >> i'm running out of time. a quick response. the strike on the three syrian
chemical weapons sites. were they a part of a greater strategy or merely a punitive strike? >> the president has made clear the department of defense and other spokesmen have made clear they were aimed at both responding to and deterring the use of chemical weapons, both in syria and more broadly. >> but is that part of our broader strategy in the region? >> it's an international strategy, sir. >> i believe we have to do all that we can. we have a moral responsibility to do all that we can to make sure that not just syria but the world understands >> it's a global approach. >> that's distinct from the strategy of pushing back against iran's maligned influence in the region. >> it is a separate issue entirely. >> so that's why i have my concern. i'm over time. i thank the chairman for the indulgence. i want to associate myself with the remarks of the chairman and the ranking member, in particular with respect to syria's syrian civil protection act, russian sanctions. it is unacceptable 15 months into this administration how many open positions remain.
in particular, the importance of a robust investment of energy, resources, and money and focus into diplomacy and development. thank you very much. >> we now go to john curtis of utah. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i my appreciation to these two witnesses for their endurance. i have just a few brief questions. there's an article in reuters last week that russia was supporting assad through civilian aircraft. the house passed the cesar bill, which would impose sanctions for this type of action. my question is, realizing the bill has not made it through the senate, are sanctions being considered for this? and could you speak to the importance of getting this bill through the senate and how helpful that would be to the administration. >> with respect to any
assistance becoing provided to iran or the assad regime, we are quite keen to use all existing authorities to address any states, any entities that may be involved and that certainly includes russia. with respect to the cesar bill, we'd have to get back to a position, particularly the question you just posed. >> thank you. let me ask you for a moment to consider a different audience. consider my constituents back home, who will hopefully be watching this and are struggling to understand war powers and perhaps you could just take a minute and explain the difference between article 2 and the aumf and what was applied here in a way that they might be able to digest that. >> i'll try to take that on. volumes have been written on this topic. >> right. >> over the course of the last 200 years. the article 2 authority granted
to the president by the constitution as commander is chief is quite broad. there are requirements which follow upon use of that authority, that is the white house must report use of forces to the congress within a specified time limit. the authority itself is constitutional. and it is quite sweeping. in the case of syria, iraq, we typically deal with aumfs. one from 2001, one from 2002. our focus on substance. they deal with certain specified entities or type, categories of threat. they're sometimes limited in time. these two were not, but they could be. so an aumf is specific to purpose, often to the time they remain valid. the article 2 authorities are not constrained by either of those two considerations. >> by way of clarification, i want to make clear the strikes were based on article 2. is that correct? >> that's correct, sir.
>> right. help me and my constituents understand at what point we go past article 2. we've talked about if this happens again, we'll be back with some type of action. and how do we know where that fine line is? >> i'm going to give you a nonlawyer's response to your question for the constituents back home, which is every president, every administration in every instance where there is contemplation of the use of military force or forces, must consider what the appropriate authority, article 2, soliciting from the congress and new authorization should best be used depending on the circumstances. it is very much circumstance, condition dependent. >> i'm sure i don't need to define this, but let me for my own sake say there's obviously
some urgency in congress to be involved, balancing very carefully with this concept of 535 generals and appreciating any involvement in this as we pass the line and understanding congress is anxious to be supportive but also to be involved. >> well understood. >> let me also ask questions about our allies. i was pleased to hear we were joined by two of our allies, the united kingdom and france. i was pleased that others spoke up to support that but kind of questioned in my mind why they weren't there to be part of the strikes. can you help me understand that process and how they're in or out. >> thank you for that question. we have had ongoing consultations certainly with european allies and with turkey for a very long time on syria
broadly. there were consultations in the lead up to the strikes, particularly with france and britain. the french and british, for reasons of national interest, chose to support us. there are certain constraints in the german system on legal constraints, political constraints on the ability to participate directly in a strike. i was in berlin in the lead up to the strikes. i know there were a lot of consultations internally. the germans came out in their own system with the highest and most fulsome level of support they could provide. the italians were supportive. turkey was supportive. but i will just say that from our perspective at state department, we were pleased with the level of engagement and not only material support but in the france and great britain, this was leadership in showing the way towards the need for the strikes and taking action and engaging with us when we worked through that. >> i apologize. i'm out of time. thank you, mr. chairman.
>> we go now to new york. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i wanted to come in like mariano rivera, perhaps close the game, right. it remains essential of u.s. interest to have iran not atatan a nuclear weapon. the president continues to suggest terminating the iran nuclear deal. it is necessary to maintain it and strengthen it so we can prevent iran from attaining a nuclear weapon so that we can further build upon diplomatic efforts to combat iran's nuclear program and aggressive actions. iran's malicious actions are not just confined to nuclear actions. it supports the houthi rebels in yemen and poses a threat to the stability of that region and the continuation of this war has led to one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world. the u.s. has continued to aid
saudi arabia in this conflict despite the heavy civilian casualties contributed by all sides in the conflict. i want to ask the first question regard rg the jcpoa and the issues with the sunset provision. i know the ballistic missile program and human rights abuse issues are critical. do you see this agreement surviving past may of 2018, ambassador? where do you see the jcpoa? do you see it surviving? do you feel that the sunset provision is sort of like a line in the sand that will derail the entire agreement? >> as the president has made very clear, there are critical areas of the jcpoa and areas surrounding the jcpoa, missile and ballistic missile technology, that require
adressal. we are working actively to succeed in the addressing of those. we hope very much we achieve a success. with respect to what happens on or around may 12th, that is decision for the president, which will be shaped by what, in fact, is the outcome of the discussions under way now. >> and where do you see our allies? do they feel confident that, in fact, perhaps tackling the ballistic issue and the human rights issue without having a concrete agreement on the sunset, is that enough for them? are they with us all the way on this, or is this -- are they half stepping us? >> we're midstream, circumstances in our conversations with european allies about this. the sense that i have from our engagements, at least with the european allies, is that there's a greater awareness of the extent of the iranian challenge than there was in the past, and there's a greater political willingness in the uk, france,
and germany to take actions to address the shortcomings of jcpoa. >> okay. on the second issue of yemen, ambassador, the obama administration reduced the number of u.s. servicemen there helping the coalition due to the concerns that i stipulated earlier. the humanitarian crises that this has created. has this assessment changed under the current administration? if, so what is the justification for such change? >> the administration is quite concerned with different aspects of the yemen crisis. first it's humanitarian. this is an extraordinarily large humanitarian disaster, one of the greatest man made disasters in modern history. while the coalition campaign is not the exclusive cause or sustainer of that crisis, the houthis themselves bear very
significant responsibility. the fact is we're associated with the saudi-led campaign, not with the houthis. we have engaged the highest levels of the government, including the president, repeatedly to impress upon the governments involved in this campaign, led by saudi arabia, that there must be every possible action taken, first to maintain free and full access, for commercial and humanitarian goods, including fuel into yemen. secondly, that the campaign directed with the purpose of bringing the houthis to the negotiating table is not in our view a campaign that can success. saudi arabia has legitimate self-defense needs and requirements which do require military action. we work with them to help shape and support those actions in a way that mitigates or diminishes civilian casualties. but the campaign to force a political resolution is not one that we believe has a military calculus to it. it's political.
it should lie in enabling the united nations to move forward. we have the new representative of the united nations for yemen in washington today. and we hope very much his efforts can achieve success. >> and so why is the administration so far away from reaching the 45,000-person cap on refugees? if we have this issue not just in yemen but across the region with so many ref you fwugees, w we not carried our own load as some of the european countries have done? >> that is an issue which involves various departments of the u.s. government, beyond the department of state and broader security and policy concerns. >> thank you. thank you, ambassador. thank you, chairman. >> thank you. i want to remind committee members the classified briefing we're holding on these issues immediately following the hearing and invite them to join us. with that, i want to thank you the witnesses for appearing before our committee today. we very much appreciate your