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tv   House Foreign Affairs Hearing on President Trumps Syria Strategy  CSPAN  May 23, 2019 3:09pm-5:57pm EDT

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president donald trump. and supreme court associate justice, sonia sotomayor. our commencement coverage starts memorial day at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. watch online any time at and listen on the free c-span radio app. next, james jeffrey, the trump administration's special envoy for syria, testifies about the president's strategy in the region before the house foreign affairs committee. ambassador jeffrey outlined the situation on the ground and the administration's military and diplomatic objectives in the civil war-ravaged nation. this is about two hours and forty five minutes of the. isys. this hearing is just over two and half hours.
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[ banging gavel ] the committee will come to order. without objection, all members will have five days to submit statements, extraneous material and questions for the record subject to the length, limitation and the rules. excuse me. the committee convenes this morning to address the crisis that has been raging in syria for nine years, as well as the trump administration's approach to this problem. we're glad to be joined by ambassador james jeffrey, the state department special representative for syria engagement and special envoy to the global coalition to defeat isis. welcome, ambassador jeffrey. i've known you for many years and i want to thank you for your time and many years of service doing a fine job. welcome to members of the public and press, as well. i now recognize myself for an opening statement. i view the crisis in syria as one of the greatest tragedies of our time. i have dealt with the syrian issue for the entire length of
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time that i've been in congress, even when very few people were talking about syria. but now these past years, it's just impossible. it really makes you cry. hundreds of thousands of innocents murdered at the hands of a brutal dictator, a butcher, bashar al assad. barrel bombs and chemical weapons used against civilians who have seen the images of his cruelty on shocking display here right in this room when we hosted caesar, the military photographer, who defected to show the world the barbarity of the regime. millions upon millions more driven from their homes. a massive humanitarian crisis. and from the outside, a clek collective failure of global leadership to put a stop to the violence year after year after year. it breaks my heart, and it's a failure of leadership in this country, as well as around the world. anyone who has followed our work knows that syria isn't a new topic for the foreign affairs committee or for myself.
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more than 15 years ago, i authored the syria accountability act to push back against the syrian government's presence in lebanon and crack down on a range of harmful activities. earlier in the civil war, i called on the obama administration to support the free syria army and its fight against the brutal ashad regime and introduced the free syria act, the first legislation to train and equip the syrian opposition. i've authored legislation named for caesar to track down assad's enablers, moscow, tehran, and to make sure american recognition -- sorry. to make sure american reconstruction dollars don't ultimately end up in the regime's hands. so i bring some experience to the issue when i say how deeply i am concerned by the trump administration's policy, scatter shot policy towards this country. the previous administration didn't do anything either. so it's just a matter of nobody
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is doing the right thing, as far as i'm concerned. and this is one of the reasons why we got ourselves into the mess we're in. i remain particularly baffled by the precipitous withdrawal that president trump announced late last year that would have been an utter disaster. it would have emboldened assad, russia and iran and given them a license to run roughshod over the country in an unimaginable cost of innocent life. it would have snafld to tsignalo the united states the was with drawing, and leaving our partners and allies twisting in the wind. it was remarkable to see a secretary of defense, mr. mattis, resign in protest. and i take my hat off to him for doing the only thing he could have done. that's just how ill-conceived that announcement was. though the administration swiftly went into damage control and walked back the announcement, damage had already been done. what does it say about our credibility on the global stage, what sort of signal do our friends take from this whip
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sawed foreign policy, or adversaries. it's a mess. and i worry the administration may now be compounding that mess by signaling to turkey they can wade further into the fray. we have all these reports that president trump changes position on syria, and said that the united states would leave after he had an extensive conversation with mr. erdogan of turkey. if that is true and that is the case, it's really a big mistake. turkey has been playing a destabilizing role with its campaign against our allies, the kurds, in northeast syria. following the president's recent call with president erdogan, another strong man with whom president trump seems strangely enamored, turkey seems emboldened. this cycle of cornage and death is simply going to repeat again and again and again. i've had a friend send me recent
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emails and other things showing me what's been happening, just this week with the barbarity in parts of syria and the world just looks the other way and talks and talks and talks and meanwhile civilians are being murdered one by one or ten by ten. it hasn't stopped. and it just breaks my heart. every march when we mark another year of this tragedy, i wonder what more we could have done to try to prevent the next grim anniversary. the legislation i've introduced would give the administration more tools, but the administration needs to device a real strategy and flex the muscles of american leadership to help break the status quo. again, i'm glad we have the administration's senior official on this situation with us today. as i said before, he has a long and distinguished record of which i certainly approve and certainly have worked with him
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and know how smart he is. so i look forward to hearing your testimony. but first let me recognize our ranking member, mr. mccaul of texas. >> today we're investigating signs that the assad regime used chemical weapons in an attack in northwest syria on sunday. if true, this is very grave, serious news. i thank the administration for their foreleaning statement that if the assad regime uses chemical weapons, the united states and our allies will respond forcefully. ambassador jeffrey, i want to thank you for being here today. i want to thank you for your service. we're grateful for the leadership you have served, both as a special representative for syria engagement and the special envoy to the global coalition to defeat isis. you certainly, sir, have a lot on your plate. and i want to thank you for
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everything you've done for the country. in 2012, president obama told the world he had a red line in syria. the ba similshar al assad dare cross or would have to deal with the united states. in 2013, assad crossed that line, using sarren gas on his own people. i remember seeing the pictures of dead men, women and children and writhing in pain as they died. the world cried out against this crime against humanity, and yet the obama administration did nothing. because we were absent, putin was able to intervene, and his russian forces continued to enable assad's carnage in syria today. under assad's reign, buoyed by russia, isis grew, millions of syrians were forced to flee and terrorists hidden among them attacked innocents in france, england, spain, turkey and
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northern africa. anywhere they could go to attack in the name of isis. thousands of foreigners remain in iraq and syria. these include isis fighters, their families and children born under isis' rule. i encourage nations around the world to bring their citizens home and deliver justice as america has done by example. i was greatly concerned by the announcement that the united states, as was the chairman, that we would draw our military presence from syria. fortunately, the administration has slow-walked its time line for withdrawal. i would argue that we cannot afford to withdraw and leave a vacuum, just as the obama administration did in iraq, which caused isis to rear its ugly head. as violence and instability continue to playing iraq and syria, the world must support a sovereign democratic iraq and counter the meddling of nations
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like iran that we heard in our classified briefing yesterday. compounding an already dire situation, bashar al assad continues to consolidate his hold over syria through unrelenting brutality. most recently, he and his russian backers escalating their attacks on innocent civilians in idlib, contrary to international agreements. chairman engel and i have called on assad and putin to stand down immediately. i'm encouraged that the senate also is marking up our seeser serious civilian protection act today. this bill holds assad and those that back him accountable through sanctions for his brutality against innocent people. he cannot be rewarded by us offering assistance to rebuild his regime. millions of civilians have fled assad's oppressive oppression and violence causing devastating humanitarian -- probably the
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most devastating humanitarian and refugee crisis in the world. neighboring host countries have done their best to help, but are reeling from the influx of refugees. in turkey, jordan and elsewhere in europe. the united states has been a key partner in providing this assistance, but this crisis will only intensify under assad's continued control. the united states cannot accept a butcher like assad as a leader of syria. can he cannot normalize relations with him, and we should be doing everything we can to urge other countries, similarly with hold normalization, including economic ties with syria. earlier this month, the "new york times" published an in depth vast net of prisons. over 100,000 people entered these prisons and never came out. we saw the pictures, the chairman and i, with a man named omar, who escaped one of these prisons. and it was nothing short of a
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holocaust. the world cannot and must not pretend assad is a legitimate head of the state. and assad-run syria should never be open for business. the problems with the regime are not only assad himself, but his cozy relationship with iran and hezbollah. as this committee knows well, iran is using syria as part of its land bridge connecting iran to the mediterranean sea. from their perch in syria, iran and its proxy hezbollah, they can easily transfer weapons to lebanon and threaten our ally, israel. so ambassador jeffrey, i look forward to hearing your assessment of these threats. what, if anything, can be done in terms of political reconciliation and what could be done in terms of solutions. and before i close, mr. chairman, i'd like to ask unanimous consent that representative french hill be recognized to participate in this hearing, as specified in committee rule b4.
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>> without objection, so ordered. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> well, thank you, mr. mccaul. i certainly agree with the bulk of your testimony. and i think that this is not a partisan issue. this needs to be handled by all of us. so i thank you for your very, very good statement. so, ambassador james jeffrey, currently serves as the secretary of state special representative for syria engagement and special envoy to the global coalition to defeat isis. he's held several senior national security positions, including deputy national security adviser and ambassador to iraq, turkey and, of course, one of my favorites, albania. so without objection, the witne witness' prepared testimony will be entered into the record in its entirety and to summarize your remarks, ambassador, i now
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recognize you for five minutes. >> mr. chairman, mr. ranking member, members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity for me to brief you on the administration syria policy today. the policy we have laid out in my written testimony that you've just entered into the record is based upon the report entitled report on the u.s. strategy for syria submitted in classified form to the u.s. congress by the president at the end of february. and is broadly consistent with voices from the congress, including the recent letter by many members of both houses on how we should go forward on syria. our bottom line is, this conflict must end and it must end now. the committee leadership has laid out the many tragedies associated with this conflict, and the many crimes of the assad
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regime. there are so many, i'd like to just add a few and emphasize a few others. first of all, the refugee flow and i.d. internally displaced persons flow together has amounted to well over 11 million people. almost half, or half of the country's population have fled their homes, mainly to avoid what assad does to his own citizenry. this has not only put pressure, as you noted, congressman, on turkey, jordan and lebanon next door, but also by a flood of over 1 million refugees very precipitously towards europe, tremendous pressure on european states. the assad regime, either inadvertently or deliberately contributed to the rise of isis, which we have just finished defeating as a state, but still have to deal with as a terrorist entity throughout the middle
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east and beyond. this regime, as you noted, has used chemical weapons repeatedly. the regime has threatened its neighbors, all of them, but we're particularly concerned about the threat of iranian power projection forces in syria aiming at israel. and i'll touch on that in a second. finally, we now have five outside military forces operating officially or unofficially inside syria. the russian, the iranian, u.s., turkish and in the air the israelis. many of these forces are in close proximity to each other pursuing differing goals. we have had some serious incidents such as the shootdown of a russian military aircraft back in september. and a crisis can break out at any moment. this is a new danger. we've seen many problems in the
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middle east in the last 40 years, but not since the yom kippur war in 1973 have we had so many military forces in such close proximity in a combat environment. so what is the administration's strategy? we are first going to ensure the enduring defeat of isis. we will press for the withdrawal of all iranian forces from the entirety of syria, and we will achieve a political solution to the conflict through the u.n. process under the 2015 security council resolution 2254. our top line goals for a syria that we in the international community can live with is one that does not support terror, one that does not use weapons of mass destruction, one that does not provide a base for iran. one that does not threaten its neighbors. one that is accountable for what it and its officials have done to its own population, and one that creates an environment that allows its half of the population that has fled to come
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home. so how will we specifically try to achieve this? as the president said, in the u.n. general assembly in september, we want to deescalate the military campaign, essentially freeze the battlefield, which we have pretty well done since last august. and secondly, reinvigorate the u.n. political process. we are working closely with our partners and allies to this end, offering a step by step implementation of the deescalation and political process provisions of resolution 2254. for example, in secretary pompeo's recent very positive meetings with president putin and foreign minister lavrov. in so doing, we have broad support of the u.n., our nato and eu allies and partners, and arab league states. if the regime and its sponsors do not accept this path forward, we aligned with much of the international community will continue the very broad economic and diplomatic pressure on this regime.
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it currently occupies only 60 me60% of its territory, and as i said, half of its population is not under control. it is under crushing u.s. and eu economic sanctions, complemented by the additional sanctions against iran and hezbollah that this administration has put on. it faces strong u.n. security council demands for political change, and is subject to a boycott on reconstruction assistance and on diplomatic recognition, including any return to the arab league. we would much prefer to pursue the positive agenda of deescalation and political reinvigoration i just described, but we are prepared to maintain our policy of pressure, including full support for israeli actions in defense of its national security as long as required. thank you. >> thank you, ambassador. let me ask you a quick question. i am hearing from my sources
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that there are terrible ongoing attacks against the civilian population every day in syria. mr. mccaul mentioned it in his remarks. can you tell us what's happening? idlib. >> about two weeks ago, the regime launched ground attacks into idlib. this is the first time that ground attacks have occurred, mr. chairman, since the sochi agreement between turkey and russia to impose a cease-fire in that area back in september. there have been both attacks by the opposition, particularly a group that we consider terrorists, highater eara asham, against the regime and against the russian base to the south off and on in that intervening period. and artillery exchanges. but this is the first ground offensive. it's been going on for two weeks. it's taken about 74 square kilometers of territory, not
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very much. actually, not in idlib, but to the south and northern hamma province. but right now the opposition is reinforcing its positions. it's launched a counter attack. it's retaken some ground. turkey has a military presence there. observation post. turkey has reinforced generally its positions. and so we see a seesaw battle right along the perimeter. meanwhile, as you noted, the bombing attacks, which have been indiscriminate and very vicious, have sent some 150 to 200,000 people in idlib, whom most are already internally displaced people to move again to temporary housing and create a huge burden on our very broad humanitarian effort that we and the rest of the international community are making. so we're watching this very closely. also, the reports of chemical weapons use. so far we cannot confirm it, but we are watching it.
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>> in terms of idlib, what are we -- what message are we sending to the russians? are they complying with cease-fire obligations, or are they not? >> we have pressed the russians repeatedly, including in the visit of the secretary to sochi last week, with president putin to return to the cease-fire that the russians agreed to. the russian argument is -- and it has some limited credibility, is that it receives attacks from this terrorist group. and that the turks had agreed to deal with that group and they have not. that is true. but nonetheless, we think that these attacks are not all that significant, and what we really need in idlib and throughout the rest of the country is a cease-fire. it's called for in the u.n. resolution. it reflects the reality on the ground. these conflicts or these back and forth exchanges are not going to change very much in the
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future of syria. they just put tremendous pressure on civilians and they raise the specter of one kind of nation to nation clash as we've come close to having in the past. so we are very much engaged in trying to get this stopped and get it back to the cease-fire we've had basically since september. >> when the president -- when the president mentioned that we were going to get out of syria, which was a huge mistake, and i'm -- i hope they're walking it back a bit, one of the reasons that i think it's a terrible mistake is because we have had the kurds fighting side by side with us as our loyal and faithful allies and friends. they have absorbed lots of casualties. prevented americans from being killed. and so now to leave and abandon them, i mean, bad enough that this war has taken a turn that's
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not kno-- no one is happy about. bad enough there are so many civilians murdered in cold blood. but now if we're going to send a message that the united states is an unreliable ally and that you're going to -- we're going to abandon you the minute it's convenient for us, what kind of message does that send, and why would anybody want to be our allies in the future? >> i think if you look at the specifics of the original decision and then the february modification of it, i think that we're maintaining our creditability. here's why. the president was talking about american ground troops in his december decision. he made it very clear, he wanted the coalition, the anti isis coalition, under which the american forces are working, to remain on in the northeast after the defeat of the caliphate. he thought our coalition
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partners, many of whom are nato states, could take on that ground role. we never said we would pull out our air deconfliction and essentially air presence over the northeast. we said that as the president said publicly when he was in iraq, we are willing to go back in if there are isis concentrations. we need to take out with our open forces. and that we would closely monitor it. and he made it clear both publicly and also to our turkish nato ally that he was very concerned about the situation with the kurds. so we -- we're pursuing that track. but then many of our coalition partners said we are not going to remain in or go in if there isn't some american presence. so the president in february stated that while we would continue our coordinated and deliberate withdrawal, we would be leaving a residual american force to work with what we hope will be a larger coalition presence to continue the overall
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stabilization mission in the enduring defeat of dash in the northeast. so i think that we are in a good place with our allies on the ground, the syrian democratic forces. and with the rest of the coalition. >> well, let me just say that, you know, you have the hand of erdogan again, turkey's president erdogan has made no secret of his desire to expand turkish control over a section of northern syria, extending as far as 20 kilometers south from the currently internationally recognized syria/turkey border. turkey claims this is in order to ensure its security. but many view it and i view it as a thinly veiled attempt to suppress the syrian kurds who have been our partners in fighting isis. what did the president promise president erdogan with respect to the presence of u.s. troops and our support for the sdf?
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what progress have you made achieving the compromise you spoke about with turkey that both addresses their border security concerns but minimizes the threat to the syrian kurds. and finally, as recently as early march, general massloom publicly stated u.s. forces must remain in syria. and stand by commitments to syrian kurds. what concerns has he raised with you? i want to give you a chance to expand -- expound on certain statements. because i think this is crucial. >> what the president has told president erdogan and also what he said publicly is, first of all, he does not want any action taken against sdf allies, many of whom are kurds. secondly, he also does not want any attacks from the sdf or from the syrian kurds against turkey. the president is aware of the traditional and political links between much of the sdf kurdish
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movement and the pkk and the long and tragic history of the pkk and its efforts to try to overthrow the turkish government. so the turks do have security concerns. we recognize. but also our allies have security concerns, as well. our partners in the northeast. and the way we have done this is to work with the turks and with our local allies and partners to set up a safe zone of indeterminant depth where only local essentially police would be present, and the turks would have eyes on, we would have eyes on, and we would work this in a way with the sdf who we're negotiating with and with the turks. we do not have an agreement yet, but our position is that this is the only secure way forward for all the people involved. us and the coalition and the fight against isis. the sdf and the people of the northeast. and our nato ally, turkey. so we'll continue with that. >> thank you. mr. mccaul.
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>> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to associate myself with your remarks in terms of i think an american presence is absolutely essential in syria. i think a complete withdrawal. we saw what happened when we did that in iraq. we should learn from our mistakes in history. it would only create a parra vacuum which would then create more chaos and destruction. the russians and assad would have free rein. the iranians would move in. the turks would destroy, absolutely slaughter the kurds. and god knows what would happen in those prisons where we have 2,000 jihadists that are not that well secured, in my opinion. it would be a complete disaster. and so my question -- i think this is probably the most complicated foreign policy challenge that we face. and somehow you got that assignment. congratulations to you. but we've got, you know --
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you've got sdf, you've got assad. you've got the kurds. the sunni arabs, the russians, iran, turkey. all forces and israel to some extent. and, of course, we have a presence. i know there is a sort of plan for a political process, and i think 2021, some sort of election. is that -- can that be done with any legitimacy, and what role would assad play in that? >> thank you. congressman mccaul, it is a complicated situation. i've been involved in other ones that were pretty difficult, as well. and for better, for worse, i was the ambassador in iraq in 2011 when we mistakenly, as you said, withdrew all our forces. the political process under the u.n. has the support of almost
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all of the nations of the united nations. and thus, we are able to turn to people and say, no reconstruction assistance to assad until he allows free and fair elections. no return to the arab league until he does far more to have his own population return to their homes. so this has been working to essentially freeze the political side of the conflict until we do have the u.n. process move forward. at the same time, we're doing everything we can. we talked about idlib, but throughout the whole country. there were these various pockets where we are, where the turks are, where the opposition is. and we're doing everything we can to freeze these deconfliction lines and to turn them into under 2254 cease-fires that are administered or at least managed by the u.n. that's what the resolution calls
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for. and since last smerummer, theres been no significant change in this. meanwhile, we have been able to use our freedom of action inside syria to deal a final defeat to the isis caliphate or state. we still have isis elements functioning these terrorists, similar to insurgents in the northeast and elsewhere, but it's a very different threat now. we have made progress on isis, basically frozen the military conflict and continuing to maintain the political and economic pressure on the regime. is this a perfect policy, can i promise an election in two years, and an end to this? no. but i can promise that we and all of the people i'm talking to and throughout the middle east and in europe are pretty much committed to keeping the pressure on until we do see this political process that you described. >> and, again, do you think assad -- i think there is an election today, assad probably would win by 95%, and it would not be a legitimate election. and so i guess this pressure we continue to put on, we're going to -- the senate is marking up
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again the caesar bill today, which is -- will put pressure on assad, which is good. i just don't know how you get all these various factions in a coalition of some form of governance. >> we have tried in other countries with some success and some cases, iraq is today a functioning democracy. with an awful lot of effort, to be sure. on the -- any election involving assad, i think you're absolutely right, based upon history with those areas that he can control with his secret police. but as i said, half of the population is not under his control and the u.n. mandates this specifically. everyone votes, including the e deas practice. so i think he would be quite surprised at the results of any election if he behaves in the
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future as he has in the past. and it's one reason why we're pushing for elections. you don't get to a resolution of this conflict without 2254 and the center of that is a free and fair election. >> and let me close by saying, i chair the homeland security committee for six years, and 2014 through '16 period was terrifying. the number of external operations being plotted. i'd say 95% of which we stopped. and now we have the collapse of the caliphate. i want to commend you for your great work in that effort. but i do agree, while their governance has been taken away, they are still embedded and are still a threat. and i see the threat actually moving to places like northern africa region, as well. so we have to maintain a watchful eye on them. >> i agree. having just had the job for three months, i can't take
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credit for destroying the caliphate. i will say that it's been american leadership through two administrations. it has been an 80-country, an organization coalition, a true international effort. and the courage of the people on the ground, particularly in syria and iraq, to have done the fighting that has led to this result. it's a good example of how we can succeed by, with and through the international community, and local partners. and it's a good model for the future. >> thank you, sir. i yield back. >> thank you. mr. deutsche. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thanks, ambassador jeffrey, for testifying for your service to our country. we're grateful. as i told you when you appeared before the subcommittee last fall, many of us were encouraged by your employment, the syrian conflict has led to the deaths of more than half a million people displaced, close to 12 million. but the inside syrian neighboring countries created a
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humanitarian crisis that's destabilized neighboring countries and the region. likely for decades to come. the war created a vacuum that was filled by isis, allowed iran to expand its influence throughout the middle east and threaten our ally, israel. and since its military intervention in 2015 russia has attempted to reclaim status as a great power and offer itself as an alternative to the united states leadership. and because of russian and iranian assistance, the assad regime has remained in power, continues its assault on syrians, including the reports of chemical weapons attacks, just yesterday. preventing the return of isis and ending the syrian conflict through negotiated political solutions are keys to stabilizing the middle east. that's clear. mr. ambassador, i commend your effort to do so. i'm concerned that your very serious efforts are perhaps being undermined by what appears to be a chaotic policy coming out of the white house. in your testimony before the
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subcommittee, the end of november, you said russia presses for a premature withdrawal of u.s. and coalition forces, such an untimely u.s. military departure would enable isis to return, allow iran to fill a vacuum and increase the threats to syria's neighbors such as our key allies, israel, jordan and turkey. our presence indirectly helps galvanize diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict. we are making progress towards these goals, foremost among them the enduring defeat of isis. but in december 2018, just a few weeks after you testified, president trump announced the rapid and complete withdrawal of u.s. troops from syria, giving little notice to international allies, partners on the ground. his decision, you recall, prompted the resignation of secretary of defense mattis, special envoy brett mcgurk and the administration now publicly says it plans to keep anywhere from 400 to 1,000 trips oops in
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syria. the request he is, do you believe the current your of troops is sufficient to achieve the goals you articulated and achieve a political solution. and in november you argued that the military presence bolsters diplomacy and did the president's announcement in december undermine the very serious diplomatic efforts that you've been engaged in? >> we continue to have talks after -- first of all, i stand by what i said in november. we continued our diplomatic talks with our partners and allies. once again, we were not withdrawing from syria or from the northeast. we never said that we would withdraw from the south, for example. we were drawing ground forces from the northeast, about ybut keeping our military and if you will diplomatic presence there. and our expectation was that our coalition partners would in the
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spirit of the burden-sharing that this administration, i think, is very commendably pursuing with all of our allies and partners around the world, would take on a bigger role. >> so let's -- if i may, ambassador jeffrey, so what's the status of that? six months later, president announced the rapid withdrawal of our troops. the hope was that our coalition partners were going to step up. so what commitments have we seen there? >> they are stepping up. we're still working and the lead is secretary shanahan and chairman dunford. they are stepping up. we do a lot of supporting work with the foreign ministries and the chance larrys throughout europe and elsewhere. i am absolutely confident we'll be considerably more than the numbers and countries we had before, which we don't talk about personally, officially here, because we let them do it. but they have been -- >> is the current -- i'm sorry, ambassador jeffrey. i don't have a lot of time.
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is the current number of troops sufficient to achieve the goals that you've laid out? >> yes. >> and let me just ask about one other thing. the 11 million, 12 million syrians have left their homes. half of them over 6 million to other countries. we talked a lot about the role of our military on the ground in syria. we haven't talked enough about the other kind of leadership which is to confront the crisis of the 6 million syrians who have fled the country and the other 6 million who are internally displaced. isn't there a greater role for the united states to play setting an example for the rest of the world in opening our shores to more of those refugees? is that something we should consider? what kind of message would that send as we attempt to work our way through this crisis? >> the message you're sending,
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and i'm glad you raised this, congressman, the message we're sending is american leadership on this crisis. specifically we have provided, the united states, almost $10 billion since this conflict began to deal with the refugees and idps. we deal with both. we deal inside syria. we deal in regime areas, nonregime areas. we deal in turkey, lebanon and jordan. we're very proud of that. we're by far leading the international community in that we believe that it's best these people to return to their homes, for these people to be settled to the extent they need to be settled away from their homes as close as possible to syria or within syria in safe areas. our goal is to continue that humanitarian assistance pressing for a way to get back home. >> no greater role for us to play here. >> our greater role is to encourage the international community by our example to solve this conflict and to take care of the refugees and igps.
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>> thank you, ambassador. >> thank you, mr. deutsche. mr. wilson. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ambassador, thank you for being here today. can you please describe iran's current entrenchment in syria, how many troops and proxies does it have on the ground, and are they participating in the offensive. >> thank you, congressman. iran that thousands of advisers, elements under sul mani of the revolution corps this country recently put on the list, long overdue. a much larger number, i don't have the specifics but it certainly would be in the 10,000 category of iranian backed proxies from third countries.
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most promise hezbollah movement from lebanon, who have been active fighting the assad sources. what really concerns is more is iranian power projection systems. long-range missiles, drones, radar systems, air defense capabilities you do not need to fight an internal civil war against a lightly armed opposition force. that's not what those voices are there for. they are there to threaten syria's neighbors beginning with israel. in tirerms of idlib, we've seep russia, syrian, but iranians active in other areas holding other parts of the overall front in the country. >> this increasing concern about assad's involvement and exploitation of the activities in syria, for example, is it true u.n. food and agriculture department has given more than $13 million to the syrian ministry of agriculture for seed and fodder?
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and additionally is it true u.n. spends $10 million annually for the sour seasons hotel in damascus held by assad regime money laundry remember currently under eu sanctions? >> thank you. i can confirm the u.n. does have headquarters in the four seasons hot hotel. we are looking at him and the u.n. has sanctioned him. i can't commit to the $10 million figure, i have to look it. the u.n. does provide some assistance to government agencies in syria as do our agencies, syrian red cross. most cases theset 1200man.
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as the tremaine stated in his opening comments, what's happened in the area is a tragedy and there've been missed opportunities at the outset of the civil war certainly missed
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opportunity when they crossed the red line and we are now in there's been missed opportunities out out set of the civil war, when he crossed the red line. we are now in a mess here. dr. jeffrey thank you for your service. i alsoo want to commend our prin special envoy who really dedicated a lot of time and effort into solving this issue as well as solving isis. the frustration i have and it's not directed at you, ambassador jeffrey, but i agree with the goals you've laid out. what we're looking at is not something that's going to happen in a year or two years. what we're looking at is a sustained commitmenton over you, particularly when you look at the reconstruction if the goal is to allow the syrians that have fled to return to their homeland. this is going to be a long sustained international effort.
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ands, the president's failure t engage congress, because presidents are here two years, maybe another four years, et cetera, but congress will be here for a long time. we've got to have the sustained commitment and partnership. what frustrates me is the interagency joint decision-making process.s i was in the region last december. we metl. with brett mcgurk, our commanders in the field. everything was going well. we came back next week. a policy shift said we're with drawing. not to our knowledge. secretary mattis didn't know. general vaughtel talked about he wasn't informed about it -- i'm
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not questioning the president, but if we're going to do this, we have to s have the full teamn the same page working together.r that's just my statement, the members of congress are sharing your desire to find a solution overe the long-term for syriaed a it is in our interest to do that. you've given where we are today, assad currently controls about 70% of the country. his forces look like they are continuing toth make advances. this is not someone we like. this ishi a brutal dictator who should be held accountable to crimes. but it was their solution at this juncture politically that doesn't involve bringing assad to the table. what is our strategy and how do we do that. >> right. any strategy involves the syrian government under assad or if they decidee he has to stand fo
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elections in 2021. somebody else to come to the table. that's how the u.n. works. but there is a big price if they don't come to the table. as i indicated in my opening remarks, we're pretty confident that that package of measures we in the international community are imposing on the assad regime are making them think about options and making their supporters, both russia and iran, think about ways to get out of this mess rather than stay in it, because it's dangerous and very costly for anyone, beginning with assad, iran, and russia.o so that's the general way forward. we will continue this pressure until we do get a conclusion that meets our partners and allies security interest. that is absolutely essential to us. i think that, again, our presence in syria, including the northeast, while in the long run
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we are planning on leaving there we are keeping our residual force. that's in response to concerns of c allies and partners and response quiteth frankly of concerns electr concerns from u.s. congress. we adjusted the policy. we'll continue to listen to you and people around the world who are working with o us in this collective effort. there is agreement on the in state to try to do the best job we can.nd >> so thank you for that. going forward, as you go back to the administration and share withes them, look at congress a an ally and share with the administration both democrats and republicans in a bipartisan way on this committee share that goal of trying to find a peaceful resolution here and understand that long-term same equipment and we are allies and not adversaries. >> we all appreciate that. thank you. >> thank you, mr. berra. mrs. wagner. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ambassador jeffrey, over here
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thank youa. mrs. wagner. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ambassador jeffrey, over here thank you for your time and lifetime of service in the diplomatic arena. i know we're talking about it but i i want to ask more diplomatic questions in this arena. in september a colossal crisis averted when turkey and russia helped broker a cease-fire between assad and regime and active in idlib, option uc strongho stronghold. yet russia and assad escalated violence in the monthsll since e truce was agreed to killing at least an additional 170 civilians and displacing thousands more. a few q days ago russia again claimed that syrian government forces would, quote, unilaterally cease-fire in idlib. opposition forces say shelling and air attacks have continued. i am deeply concerned about the safety of the 3 million
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civilians in idlib. what does this development mean forso civilians and displaced or persons? >> if the fighting continues, and in particular if it gets worse, because it is only in a very small section of greater idlib, across the borter into hambo as and latakia province. we're very, very concerned about this. we're concerned about the use of tem cal weapons which we're still looking into. any time this regime is willing toth consider chemical weapons aid its ground attacks because it has the world's worst infantry fighting fored it, against people who really will fight for their lives and theiro freedom. secondly we're very concerned about the refugee flows. beyond that, and president trump summed it up back in september as t you indicated, which gave impetus to the agreement because 10 days early putin rejected a cease-fire and the president
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came out on the record and said it would be a reckless escalation of this conflict if there was a massive advance by the syrian forces. so beyond chemical weapons, beyond refugees, a major military shift on the ground is not conducive to a settlement of this conflict. there can be no military assessment. two meetings in the last ten days, a statement by the secretary-general of the u.n., the top eu three britain, france, germany issued a statement. we arere mobilizing the international community. we are working closely with them and they are working closelyri with us to put pressure on russia. that was the major purpose of the trip to sochi last week and i think it's having some effect. >> speaking of russia, iof know russia is playing an essential role in the talks, the regime's process. peace opposition groups have said they doubt russia's trustworthiness
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but had been willing to take the risk in the hopes of ending the war. considering russia'sn willingnes to continue strikes on civilians during j even this cease-fire, their doubts are more than, i think, justified. how can russia credibly broker a peace agreement and as turkey provided a counterbalance at all? >> we don't turn to russia to broker and agreement, we turn to the u.n. to do it. it's the u.n.'s job. the u.n. has appointed a special env envoy. pettersson.o we support him 100%. >> that's my point. they are trying to broker this deal, estonia talks and seems untenable to me. >> we haven't seen much success in the t so-called talks. we continue to urge aurl parties to put efforts in u.n. effort in
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geneva. we work closely with russians. they did broker cease-fire with erdogan over the weekend. it was violate bid both sides but we did see a diminution of the s fighting at least. probably if experience is a guide see other pathetic, sorry and much broken cease-fires that will eventually slow down the conflict. that for us is what victory looks like in this awful war. >> just awful. civilians in idlib they fear mass extermination again by the regime as assad consolidates his territorial gains.ny can you assess any more those concerns, anything you anticipate the state department is going to be able to do to preventpr further mass atrociti? >> again, we have our military presence in the region. and while its purpose is to
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defeat isis, our military presence inside syria, we have -- we support the turkish military presence in the northwest as ain way to maintai stability without the regime pushing in. we support israel's effort -- very strongly israel's efforts including while not official overer syria against iranian targets as well as diplomatic and economic measures that i've talked about here. it's a very broad gamut of activities we're t trying to manage and orchestrate here. >> thank you, timambassador, a thank you for indulging, mr. chairman. >>sa thank you. mrs. wagner. >> thank you for coming to testify. the longmeme drawnout civil war
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syria and terror campaign in isis is extremely concerning to all of us. i am concerned with the involvement of all the actors in this savage conflict that has led to the death of hundreds of thousands of syrians and unleashed a major exodus of folks who have been maimed with dirty bombs and all kinds of nasty warfare. for example, you have the russians. let's go through this. the trump administration has a yet there are external actors in all of this. you have the russians. trump administration has a friendly if not complicit relationship with the russians. you have the iranians. they have not shown any evidence with an attack but yet went
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ahead to threaten them. you have turkey, which president trump just lowered their tariffs on steel from 50% to 25%, sending them to the 18 levels. you have the saudis and mds and khashoggi incident and how he was chopped up in little pieces. and yet seems to be an ongoing relationship with the white house. you have qatar selling arms as well as saudi arabia to the rebels or if not terrorist groups in syria. so you have all these external actors with which we have sometimes a good relationship and sometimes a threatening relationship. this is a mess.
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now, can you unravel this for us? can you tell us exactly where we stand as a nation? are the russians our friends or our enemies? we know they hacked into our elections and maybe getting ready to hack in again. is iran a circumstantial ally to us and sometimes an enemy? turkey who has shown to be very brutal what is option and the kurds. can you go down these countries and unravel this for us, turkey, iran, kurds. this is a mess. >> you've just described my workday, mr. congressman. >> i didn't mean to start your day in a bad light. >> as a diplomat, you know i'm going to tread gingerly into my response to your question. i will say that we believe that
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russia can play an important role in resolving this conflict just as it played an important role in making it worse. that was the reason secretary pompeo went to sochi and that president putin met with him because president putin also, from everything i heard in a meeting and have seen otherwise, would like to find a solution to this conflict. it's a dangerous one for russia. they have lost troops. they have lost a lot of airplanes. they are in a fairly precarious situation with a real loser of an ally in assad. turkey is a nato ally. turkey on most issues related to syria is pretty closely aligned with us. that's very important. it's a country of 80 million population right in the center of the middle east. it's the 17th largest economy in the world. it's crucial for anything we're trying to do in the region. in most areas we cooperate pretty with them not on the
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domestic situation where we've had issues but on foreign policy. we are concerned about the relationship between turkey and our sdf partners in the northeast which is why we're working with negotiation with the turks in a safe zone. we think we've made progress and we're looking forward to more. if i go down the list of allies that we have human rights -- >> saudis and qatar, they seem to be fueling and giving arms to some of the rebel groups. what role do they play in this? >> let me start with iran, because you raised iran. there's no doubt including in the white house that iran is an extremely dangerous expansionist force in the region. almost everything we're doing in the region to some degree in afghanistan, certainly lebanon, iraq, syria, yemen, bahrain,
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threatens partners and allies. partners through the region, you've named some of them, they all have their faults but none of them are trying to expand throughout the region the way iran is. most of them are trying to do whatever desperate measures it takes to provide for the security and safety of their own populations. we disagree with their choices sometimes but we think in all cases that we're dealing with it is sincere with one major exception and that's iran. >> thank you. in the interest of time, mr. chairman, thank you. this is a mess, ambassador. it shows our poor our foreign policy efforts are as a country. we are involved in a serious mess. i don't know how we can unravel this. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you mr. espaillat. let me acknowledge many syrian american groups who played such a positive role in trying to end the carnage in syria, it's really been helpful to me and to
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others on the sometime as well. mr. wright. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ambassador, thank you for your outstanding service to our country. you've mentioned israel before. i wanted to ask you about if you could talk about the landscape of security interest in israel -- for israel and syria. and what we're doing to work with israel to help them navigate those issues and protect israel's interest. could you speak to that? >> certainly. israel is a major player in the middle east. its own security and its work with other countries, for example, to defeat isis and to push back on iran is absolutely vital for our overall strategy for the region. by the same token, israel is also under immediate threat by iranian forces in syria who if
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they can be allowed to embed themselves in that country with long range systems would be able to open a third front on israel next to lebanon and gaza. therefore israelis are determined at every level to let that happen, we are supporting them 1,000%. i have met twice myself and once with mike pompeo with prime minister netanyahu since september, so that shows you the intensity of the meetings. our national security adviser bolton and defense chiefs are constantly working with the israelis to try to coordinate our policies. we share what we're doing with them in great detail. they do with us. they are an important player in our overall effort to try to bring this conflict to a close. >> great. i wanted to ask you,
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i believe the worst cases of cowardice that occurred in syria when obama drew the red line they walked away. when america abdicates his people die. so what i want to hear from you is does this president understand will he keep the promises he makes with regards to any redline that might be drawn in the future? . >> i have the assumption this administration would stand by its commitments and hold on on syria. >> i yelled back would you
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yield to me? . >> yes, sir,. >> i want to follow up on something you have said. you seem to be characterizing with the quality of the syrian army i want you to expand on that. so without chemical weapons then to have success on the battlefield? . >> napoleon once said the worst the infantry the more important the artillery. from syrian helicopters and fire support. not only on those military targets but. >> i under . >> i understand that. i thought there was an implicit
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criticism about what you said, maybe accurately about the fighting quality and readiness of the syrian army without those things. >> yes. they are incapable from what we've seen of defeating isis, for example. they with much russian helped took pom ra. they had not done well against idlib. they are not an effective fighting source because as far as we can tell they don't believe in the leadership they are posed to die for. >> i think that's important testimony. the narrative is assad is about to prevail, as if that army is a conquering, successful army. it's really a much more complicated story. >> every day we come to our jobs in the state department and in the u.s. government working on syria, our goal is to ensure that that assad regime does not gain another inch unless we have a political process and
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everybody wins, not just him. >> thank you so much. i want to thank my friend, mr. wright, for yielding. >> mr. wright's time is virtually expired. i'll call the gentleman from texas. >> thank you, chairman. since 2015, russia has involved itself in syria in order to support bashar al assad's government. a recent report reveals russia and turkey cooperating in syria to contain u.s. influence. russian forces, along with iranian-backed shiite militia have succeeded in stemming local insurgent groups that the united states supports. we've remained focused on the geneva process as a roadmap to political settlement. russia, iran and turkey have independently hosted their own peace talks to the astana process where we are not a party. so my question is, in last week's meeting between secretary pompeo and president putin, did
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syria come up? if so, what was discussed? >> i think i'm next. >> certainly. first of all, generally speaking we don't see russia and turkey conspiring or cooperating to our disadvantage in syria. we're aligned with turkey on most issues. we don't like the astana process very much because although we're invited, we are not a member of it. generally turkey takes the side of the opposition and pretty much shares with us their positions in the astana process. we don't think it's an effective mechanism. not that we criticizes turkey's role in it per se. in terms of russia, what we talked about, as i out lined in my comments, step by step implementation of constitutional process under the u.n., then elections, and then a gradual freezing of this conflict. again, u.n. resolution 2254 december 2015, calls in
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paragraphs 5 through 9 for a step by step cease-fires with u.n. monitoring and management and then an overall process that will bring the country back to something resembling normalcy. that's what we talked about with the russian, we're willing to work with you on this. the russians have had bases. they have an interest in a stable syria that does not become a refuge for terrorism nor do we. the difference in particular iranian presence, russians turned a blind eye. we don't see them having interest in rainyian systems. >> two questions. i think you said you don't see turkey acting contrary to u.s. interests. do you believe russia is acting contrary to u.s. interest with respect to syria of prosecute russia's report for the assad
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regime is a mistake. i think there are other ways for russia to achieve, we talked about in sochi, achieve it's minimum interest, maintain its long-term military presence and have a stable syria that's not a homeland for terrorist. we share those two latter goals. we don't think pursuing this assad regina military victory is the way to go get it. >> you also mentioned that -- i believe you mentioned that russia turned a blind eye to iranian activity in syria. is that right? >> a blind eye to long range systems that, for example, threaten israel and saudi arabia, jordan and turkey. russia knew that iran was coming in because it had been in there in the fall of 2015, that iran would provide essentially first class infantry to make up for the problems of the assad fighting forces such as hezbollah movement out of
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lebanon and some of the militias from iraq. >> in addition to that and the fact that we disagree on assad, what are the other differences between the united states and russia with respect to syria? is that it as far as the administration is concerned, is that the totality of our differences? >> basically it is the future of the assad regime. we think that this regime needs to subject itself to the u.n. process free and clear elections, new constitution or reformed constitution and a nationwide cease-fire. we think that is a political result that will meet russia's interest and meet ours. we're still trying to persuade them of that. >> thank you. i yield back. >> claihair recognizes himself five minutes, building on the gentleman from texas's inquiry, i assume one of the things russia wants is to maintain and expand their naval base on the mediterranean? is that an additional thing
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russia is trying to do? >> they have what we particular see is commercial interest. the russians have had one or another form of military presence in syria for many decades. they have done some additional basically legal negotiations with syrians on extending the base and that kind of activities they can do that. not all that dissimilar what we spend our life as diplomats trying to do for dod partners. >> you don't see russia -- you don't think russia regards their presence in northern syria as an important asset for the russian navy? >> they do. they have done that for many decades. >> and they would like to maple tan it. >> of course. >> i think the chairman was right when in one respect he was on the right side of history when he introduced the free syria act backed in 2013.
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this was the first piece of legislation which would have armed and trained the syrian opposition and the democratic elements thereof. we are now in a much worse position than we were then and we're in a much worse position than we would have been had we followed his lead at that time. we now have the civilian protection act passed in this committee, i believe the senate. ambassador, i believe the administration gemelli supports this bill. it provides for sanctions on those individuals involved with assad in construction airline energy industries. how strong would we expect implementation to be? >> we do support the caesar act.
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we are very grateful for everything this house has done to impose sanctions on assad regime. this is a joint legislative, executive branch and it has born real results putting the regime under tremendous economic and political pressure. it has reinforced our diplomacy. the more of it you can do for us, the better we'll be able to perform. >> i'm going to return to the focus on turkey, erdogan seems to want a 20 kilometer strip along northern syria. he says that's to ensure the security of turkey but it seems to be for the purpose of suppressing syrian kurds who are the bulk of the fighters for the syrian democratic forces. if we actually do completely withdraw, what is the threat of
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a turkish massacre of syrian kurds? >> it's not a question of a massacre of kurds, turkey has a very large kurdish population that are not being massacred, many of whom vote for erdogan or many vote for people opposed to him. it is a concern about a second what we call in the middle east world condo mountain. it's an area in northern iraq where pkk, which is a separate kurdish terrorist movement has had a headquarters supported at -- terrorist attacks in turkey since 2004. they have concerns about being created in syria. we understand their concern. we talked to president erdogan and we think a safe zone -- turk
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sh request for 30 kilometers. we think -- we don't think we can do 30 kilometers so we're going back and forth on how deep the safe zone would be. >> you're saying we would recognize the right of turkey to occupy northern syria for how long? >> i didn't mention anything about the right of turkey to occupy -- >> everybody is for safety, what does that mean? >> what it means specifically is a withdrawal of those from the pkk from that zone and how we in turkey would ensure the zone remains. >> ypg, which have been our most essential allies against isis would be excluded from this zone but otherwise not massacred. >> the ypg -- the idea would be ypg forces would withdraw and
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leave local forces and turkey and the united states to figure out what we could do in the safe zone. >> i'm not sure that's a workable approach but my time has expired. i recognize the gentlelady from pennsylvania. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you ambassador for being here today as our chairman often states, one of the nice things about the foreign affairs committee is we often have bipartisan consensus on issues. i think that concerns about this region of the world, and particularly syria, is one of those areas that we share a lot of concerns across the aisle. i thank you for the work you've been doing. i do have very specific -- a number of questions, i'd like to run through them. first is there's been a lot of discussion of this victory we had over isis that was announced in i guess it was march of this year. how secure do you believe that
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victory is? >> over isis as a state, which at one point was as large as england with 35,000 conventional -- quasi conventional forces under its control and well more than 5 million people in its way, that is a huge and consequential victory because it was right there in the middle of the middle east in key areas, baghdad and arrest south of iraq and into much of syria. we should be proud of the people on the ground who destroyed the calipha caliphate. that is an important necessary but not sufficient threat to end the isis threat. isis has ways, as does al qaeda, to infiltrate various opposition movements, islamic groups throughout the middle east and beyond. we're watching that very closely.
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we have a very active program of going after them wherever they are. >> isn't it true that many of the isis fighters have moved to iraq where they will be able to operate more clandestinely? >> there are certainly in excess by estimates go back and forth as all numbers do, an excess of 10,000 isis fighters who are now operating clandestinely from syria and iraq. frankly they go back and forth without a whole lot of problem crossing that very porous border. >> how is the reduction in our troops going to assist us in identifying and doing something about those individuals you just mentioned? >> first of all, most of our troops panned very important coalition troop contingent in the fight against isis in iraq and syria are staying on in iraq. the president made that clear when he announced in december -- >> let me stop you there. how many troops are we talking
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about? >> i try to avoid numbers because i'm not d.o.d. but i'll cheat a little bit and say we have some significant thousands of u.s. troops in the single digits in iraq, and our coalition presence is quite strong as well. in syria, we don't talk about the numbers because we're in the process of a withdrawal. >> i understand that. but doesn't it cause frustration for our european allies to commit to continuing to support our operations in the area if they don't know what our level of commitment is? >> in dealing very much with european partners and allies that are pretty high level, our basic commitment to maintain security and stability in the region as a whole and pursue vigorously the fight against isis, nobody doubts that.
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we took the lead in the coalition. we did the vast majority of the airstrikes. we provided at one point probably close to 15,000 troops on the ground as advisers, special forces teams and such. we spent many tens of billions of dollars thanks to this house in defeating isis. they all made significant and important contributions but nothing like what we did. so they all understand that. would they like more predictability? would they like us to be more solicitous of their various concerns? absolutely. have i seen this in my entire career since 1977? i've also seen it. >> would you agree with me that we have to avoid abrupt statements -- statements of abrupt withdrawal from the region in the future? >> i'll try not to predict what we do in the future. >> that's not my question. my question is would you agree we need to avoid those kinds of
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statements of abrupt withdrawal. >> consultations with our allies before we take decisions is always very important, congressman. >> thank you. my last question is what are we going to do about the tens of thousands of captured isis fighters in the region that are in, as i understand it, makeshift prisons. >> right. that came up earlier. having had experience elsewhere with terrorist held in middle eastern detention, i'm confident sdf is doing a good job holding these people in facilities. in the facilities we have eyes on in terms of humanitarian provisions, that sort of thing, both for the detainees and displaced people which we have 74,000 in the camp in northeast syria. so we watch this very carefully. there's 2,000 terrorist fighters in captivity. these are people who fought with
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isis not in iraq and syria. probably 6 or 7,000 more from syria and iraq who are also being detained. >> the gentlelady's time is expired. >> my time is expired. i'm not sure eyes on is enough but i don't have further time to inquire about that. thank you very much. >> recognize the gentleman from michigan. >> thank you very much. ambassador jeffrey, thank you for your long service and your presence here today. i want to return to something at least one of my colleagues asked you about and you've talked about, which is secretary pompeo's meeting with mr. putin sochi, which you attended, i guess. i wanted to ask whether the assault on idlib came up during this meeting, the russian
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assault. >> it did. >> how did the conversation go, in ways you can -- >> to the extent i can talk about confidential diplomatic exchanges at the highest levels, it was a very strong concern of secretary pompeo to bring this battle to a close, the sooner the better. we received insurances from the russians, some of which they seem to try to carry out in the days since we were in sochi trying to slow down or stop any military conflict with dozens of groups on the ground is not easy. we've had a lot of experience, much of it bad, elsewhere. we do believe we made some progress with president putin. >> well, but so as you know better than i, the situation there has been very bad. we have a lot of evidence that
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russia and syria together engaged in week long bombardment including targeting hospitals and civilian infrastructure, and people are fleeing toward the border with turkey. we don't see any real evidence of change here. yesterday reports indicated assad may be using chemical weapons again. is that true? do we have evidence of that? what can you tell us about it? >> thank you. we're still looking into that. at this point we do not have any confirmation that the substance that was suggested or alleged has been used. but again, we haven't finished our review of that. in terms, again, trying to measure sincerity on a battlefield, it's kind of tough, but the fighting in idlib has generated a large movement of civilians. we're trying to get this thing stopped but it still is a very
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small portion of idlib region subject to the attacks, to the ground attacks. air attacks are going on all over idlib and we've called on the russians to halt them repeatedly. >> so it's very frustrating for us here to hear this. you with mr. espaillat were going back and forth with what a mess this is and so forth. this is a humanitarian disaster in a string of humanitarian disasters that have just devastated the people of syria. what more can we do to stop this? >> continue doing what we're doing. >> we specifically here in the congress. >> first of all, pass the caesar act. secondly, continue the very generous humanitarian spending. as i said, it's almost $10 billion. thirdly, if the administration at some point needs
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stabilization funds, does not ask for them, but actually put it into several budgets, that's very helpful. oversight is always a good thing. meetings like this may be difficult for administration witnesses but very important. finally, i will say in defense of what we're doing that at one point several years ago, pretty close to the present, you had idlibs happening all over syria. right now we have it happening in less than 74 square kilometers. that is unfortunately by the miserable standards of this conflict progress, sir. >> all right. well, i appreciate that, and i credit. i want to associate myself with representative wild's comments about how this particular committee achieves
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bipartisanship. i feel like administrations have not had policies. certainly governing by tweet has been a disaster. we need a stronger policy that advances u.s. interest and protects human rights in syria and we're not there yet. my time is expired. thank you, mr. chairman, i yield back. >> in the spirit of bipartisanship i recognize mr. yoho. >> thank you for what you've done. this is one of those situationings that must end. as you said, it must end and it must end now. my question to you, can a political conclusion occur with assad remaining in power? >> i tried twice to answer that a little earlier, congressman, badly and corrected myself. so i'll be care foreign minister here. >> let me hear the goodly one.
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>> a political solution is hewell unlikely with the current government acting the way the current assad government acts. whatever process is necessary to get that government to behave differently towards its own population and to its neighbors, that is absolute essential precondition to this conflict. >> is there nip in the batting cage, so to speak, that's ready and willing to take over? i know we're talking about free and fair elections. with the players, as you pointed out in your testimony when i read it, russia, iran, turkey, israelis, not so much worried about them or us, and i think you've got to throw isis in there behind the scene. is it possible to have free and
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fair elections, to where somebody could stand up that would be the future ruler of that country. that would put the syrian people and the people of syria first. >> first of all physically, and it gets back to my defense of what we're doing now with the idlib thing and 74 kilometers. three weeks ago there was essentially no fighting anywhere in syria and only a few terrorist attacks. so by the standards of -- the low standard of that part of the world, you have an environment that would allow free and fair elections in most places certainly compared to what i saw in iraq in 2005. in terms of carried out, the u.n. is ready, the u.n. is good at this. the u.n. can certainly carry it out among half the population not under assad's control and doing it under those areas in assad's control is part of the art of the negotiation to try to get the syrian government to
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agree. >> i guess my concerns are, one of the questions i had, was when you look at when syria is supposed to get rid of their chemicals of mass destruction, and john kerry worked that deal out with the russians, claimed they are all gone, but we know they are not. russia is supposed to be the guaranteer that they are gone, yet russia backs assad and they are still being used. this administration is going to have to make a decision in the report that came out that they are still using them of what we're going to do. with people like russia and iran, the last thing they want is a democracy in that area, because it weakens their form of government. if you have players like russia, who is a member of the u.n., that's supposed to be part of the security counsel that's supposed to enforce these things, we see over and over again, we look at north korea, they voted with sanctions. they don't enforce the sanctions. they work against the resolve of
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the problem. so as long as russia is there and/or iran, i don't see a peaceful solution coming out that's favoring stability. i don't see anybody willing to stand up, so i see a drawnout conflict. i think more importantly to me is if we look at the western hemisphere, and i know that's not what this meeting is about, i have those same players in venezuela. then you throw in the cubans and they are propping up maduro like they did assad because it worked in syria. there was no way assad was going to be able to stay in power with the atrocities. over 10 million people have left, run out of the country by fear, over a half million murdered. there's got to be a better solution to this. i wish the u.n. had more bite in them, where we could come together and say let's bring an end to this. any thoughts on that, a better
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way of doing this? >> in a nutshell, syria, u.n. has been good objective interlocutor on not only documenting the use of chemical weapons but increasingly reporting on who, mainly the regime, has used them. again, the u.n. special envoys with current predecessors have been very balanced. the teeth of the u.n. is something that the international community has to give to the u.n. that varies from issue to issue. on this one, the international community is about as united behind the u.n. for fixing syria as i've seen on any issue. the problem again is getting russia to go along because russia can block any progress, the security council. >> mr. chairman, thank you. thank you for your time. >> now recognize the gentleman from minnesota. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and
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thank you, mr. ambassador. your career and dedication to service to our country is remarkable. as someone who lost his father in vietnam in 1969, i'm particularly grateful to you. my first question is retrospective. i'd like to hear your thoughts on what we should have done, could have done to alleviate the conditions that have led to this humanitarian disaster in syria. >> my focus, of course, is on looking forward. >> as is mine. >> what i try to do is draw lessons from this and try to be as apolitical for them as i can. i deal with different audiences with different backgrounds. the first one is america needs to play a leadership role as soon as possible. with a few delays, we got the defeat of isis.
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previously, the first in the obama administration to get it, you saw a cohesive, coherent international campaign backed by congress that did the initial job of defeating the caliphate. we have not had that same consistency, that same unity on the syrian problem since 2011. we're trying to put it together now. that's why we're working with you, working with the international community. again, i think we're making progress. >> moving to the here and now, i'd love a concrete example or examples of how our policy has been successful so far, especially anything you may not have mentioned yet, concrete examples. >> i've been trying for the last half hour to give you every single one i could think of. >> anything you missed. >> i'll start off with repeating myself. the battle lines have been basically frozen since last year, almost a year now.
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that was not the case before. that under lines the argument which even the russians say there is no military solution. we were hearing those words, and you were hearing thunder of guns and barrel bombs indicating assad did thing there was a military solution. he may still think there's a military solution but we in the international community are doing everything we can to make it clear there isn't. that's the first and most important thing. secondly, we have managed to maintain this international coalition. at the end of march the arab league met. there was a major effort by assad and its friends to allow assad regime to come back into the arab league where it was thrown out at the conflict. they got nowhere. that was an example of diplomacy beginning with arab league friends who did a great job leading that effort. that was supported by the rest of us. the european union has passed very, very tough sanctions.
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we heard one example of them, a notorious ally, mr. fauz, the four seasons. i could go on, a lot of concrete examples. >> my next question is d.o.d. collaborating with state for strategic objectives in meaningful ways. >> as well or better than any of the conflicts i've been involved with. secretary shanahan -- acting secretary shanahan and the secretary coordinates several times a week along with john bolton. i have dialogue on the safe zone with general dunford. the sent com commander and now general makenzie speaks with us all the time. yes. >> prospectively in light of this experience, where should we be turning our attention and
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what manner, middle east, that have similarities to prevent. >> more generally you have two basic forces in the middle east. at the 100,000 foot level, th on in syria. you have a -- an american-led collective security system that's based primarily on the states of the region. >> um-hum. >> preserving both our interests, anti-terror, anti-wmd, flow of oil, allies and partners, and you have forces for one or another region who want to overthrow that order. and establish something like in inner's case. hegemony. in the case of the russians a return the 19th kreb half dozen powerful countries. run the place and go back andforth. and everybody else gets what they can. we are very strongly supporting this idea of a collective
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security system led by the people of the region. that was the logic of the president's riyadh speech two years aigt. but with american leadership and basically skin in the game. and that's what we have now. >> thank you, mr. ambassador. i yield back. >> the gentleman from kansas is recognized. >> thank you. mr. ambassador, thank you. sir, hi. >> hi. >> turkey. what are turkish's object he was with respect to syria? and how strong is our dialogue with turkey to coordinate our object he was compared to their obje objectives. >> turkeys objectives are like all of the countries on the borders of syria is to survive the horrific syrian civil war. turkey has been impacted beginning with 3.5 million refugees where turkey spent many tens of billions of dollars
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doing by all standard as commendable job taking care of the people that its welcomed into its midst. secondly turkey has a whole series of threats emen eighting from -- potentially emen eighting from syria. i've discussed theed threat of the second condo minute where the p. can k were to establish a offensive capability out of syria on northeastern syria for that matter. secondly turkey has a strong enmitty back to the beginning of the clkt with the aed is regime. and turkey nas pennsylvania traditional rivalry with iran, talking about many hundreds of hours, for power within the northern middle east. and turkey is generally not very happy with russian moves to itself. turkey has to deal with all of these things. and it deals with them in a variety of ways using military presence in the northwest. use negotiations with us on the northeast and the safe zone. negotiate negotiating with russia while also -- and we see
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this in idlib, essentially reinforcing positions. turkey has troops in idlib, not pulling them back even though some have been wounded buy syrian regime fire. and generally pushing back to what the russians and assyrians are trying to do. while at the same time northbounding with the russians and the iranians and the the process to end the clsk. jennerly turkey supports the opposition as we do. generally turkey is trying to change the behavior of the syrian government. we grow with it as well there. all in all, we coordinate with it. president trump has had multiple phone calls with president erdogan. i companied secretary pompeo when we president with president erdogan back in ankara back in the fall and we have contacts almost monthly at the foreign minister level and at my level with the turkey counterparts.
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>> thank you. obviously we know iran -- we know the assad regime backed by iran. how is our recent cmo of force -- i'm talking in erms of uss abraham lincoln, prepositioning the b-52 bombers, a couple i believe in the area, a couple more -- how does that change the balance of power? how does that influence the situation? >> i can't talk about the military balance of power by adding airplanes and weapons loads. i can say diplomatically every time we take a step like that it tends to reassure our partnering. that's what my focus is on, our partners and how our partnering evaluate what we are trying to do. so that moves like this are generally well regarded by the vast majority of countries in the middle east because the vast
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majority of countries in the middle east are our allies and partners. in terms of iran's perception we are still sorting it out. acting secretary shanahan and secretary pompeo were up here yesterday going through this in great detail. they know better than i. from the standpoint of syria, any time the united states shows a willingness, as we did -- because there was clearly just retaliatory this was not preparations for a military conflict. i think the two secretaries made that clear -- in tends to make the other side think twice before it acts in an aggressive fashion towards us or towards our partners. and that's a good thing. >> thank you, mr. ambassador. i yield my time. mr. chairman. >> the gentleman from california. >> thank you, mr. chair. thank you, ambassador jeffrey for your long career of public service in both republican and democratic dmrkss. as we all know, the president launched cruise missiles into
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syria and did that because assad used chemical weapons on civilians. and that is a heinous war crime isn't that right. >> that is correct. >> and the u.s. takes very seriously war wriems, whether committed by our adversaries or even our allies. isn't that right. >> i will limit myself to we certainly took that particular war crime very seriously. >> you served in the u.s. army and you were taught to obey the law of armed conflict also known as the law of war kr correct. >> of course. >> the u.s. goes to great lengths to make smur our own personnel don't engage in wars crimes isn't that right. >> that's what i was trained to do and did on the battlefield. >> the reason we do that is not because it's just a moral thing to do. it's because if we start engaging in war crimes and violateth the law of armed conflict it not only invites recalculation tesla talgs by our adversaries it's a great recruiting tool for terrorists. land that be correct, right?
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>> i am trying to see where you're going, congressman but i have to agree with everything you say. >> okay. thank you. earlier this year army first lieutenant michael benaha was pardoned by donald trump. he was convicted of war crimes. he was convicted by a military jury for driving an unarmed ironingy prisoner into the desert, stripping helm naked and shooting him in the head and the chest. do you think it was appropriate for the president to do that. >> i do not see pennsylvania conflict between the pardoning of people who have been convicted of crimes regardless of the crimes and the underlying legal and moral issues. >> public reporting is that the president is thinking about pardoning additional people who are charged with war crimes. one of them is navy seal chief edward gallagher. he was charged with killing, murdering an unarmed civilian girl, murdering an unarmed old man, stabbing a defenseless
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teenage captive and then indiscriminate will i shooting machine gun fire into a neighborhood. what kind of message is sent to our adversaries if they know that the president is going to pardon people who commit a war crime or are charges with war crimes. >> again pardoning is a legal and constitutional authority granted to the president. the president is elected by the american people. and the president takes decisions. >> i get that, sir. i'm just asking the message that is going to be sent. >> i would decline to comment further on that. >> all right. republican congress member dan crenshaw stated he believes, as i do, that a military jury should first decide whether chief gallagher has engaged in the war craniums. in fact seven navy seals reported him to navy authorities because of his alleged heinous acts. do you believe a military jury
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should have the first opportunity to look at the evidence in this case before the president pardons him? >> again, this is not my area of expertise nor what i am here to talk about today. but i will say that it's my belief that we should adhere to our constitutional, legal procedures and processes in each and every case as a general rule. >> all right. so let me move on to the troops we have in syria. how many troops do we have in syria? >> i can't comment on that. first of all, it's a moving target. and secondly we are in the process of a reduction. it's considerably fewer than we had in december when the initial announcement was made. >> it's less than 1,000, correct. >> i'm not going to get into numbers. >> okay. donald trump said he was going to withdraw 2,000 troops from syria so it's less than 2,000, correct. >> it certainly has dropped from where it was when it began. i'm trying to dance around this without giving you a pesk number
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but you know what i'm trying to say. >> what the mission of the troops. >> the mission of the troops is ensure the enduring defeat of isis and maintain in that process stability and security in the northeast and in the -- >> our troops are deployed in combat zones? syria. >> yes they are drawing combat pay. >> you mentioned isis there is still iceness syria. >> absolutely thousands of them. >> all right so when donald trump said on february 22nd that ice sis 10 oh% defeated, that wasn't true, right. >> if no, that was true what he was talking about was the isis caliphate which was defeated along the euphrates. >> that is that wasn't what he was talking about. he was saying he was withdrawing all troops from seer because isis has been 100% defeated in you can say what he clearly think he pent but he said he is withdrawing the kroops. >> you're saying no no, behe we still troops are there because isis is not defeated. >> he talked about a gradual -- i believe it was coordinated and deliberate draw down but some
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residual troops. >> so we can all read the tweets and see what he said. but let me just just ask you the last question. what is the authorize authorization for military force that the administration is using to have our troops deployed in combat zones? syria without congressional action? >> it is a congressional action based upon the 2001 authorization for the use of the military force. further, by the appeal to the u.n. under article 51 of the u.n. charter by the state of iraq in 2014 for assistance and help from its partnering, one of whom under the strategic framework greem the u.s. is. a memorandum of understanding written at that time between the two governments. and u.s. engagement on the ground first in iraq and then because the threat to iraq was coming across the border from ungoverned areas of syria into syria. that is the basis for the authorization congressman. >> the time of the gentleman is expired. i think the founding fathers would find it absurd to think an
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action by the united nations could shift parcels power from article one to article 2 of the u.s. constitution. i recognize the gentlewoman from pennsylvania. >> thank you, mr. chair. and thank you for coming today. my questions lebron jamesly have to do with the displaced populations of the -- dsh in syria. countries ut throughout the region shouldered the ut brunt of the syrian conflict and absorbed more than 5 million refugees obviously putting enormous kpk pressure and strain on the countries politically as well. just wondering what is the u.s. doing to support the communities that are hosting the refugees, particularly to reduce tension and ensure the refugees aren't pushed back into the country prematurely? >> thank you, this is a major, major effort on our part. i talked about the nine and a half -- almost $$10 billion we provided. >> was it million or billion. >> billion, i'm sorry. billion dollars. leading the international community.
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secondly, we watch very closely -- i can't get into the diplomatic discussions or i would -- or more say debates or disputes we have to ensure exactly that, that nobody is pushed back against his or her will into the arms of that awful regime. and the regime itself and some of its supporters have been trying to do that. there were times plans for an international conference to encourage people to return and encourage states to have their people return. our position is people have to decide themselves. it has to be vaerlt, has to be dignified, has to be safe. and either the u.n. organs or other international agencies have to provide information on where they would be going back to. we have a whole series of criteria. i can assure you of the various things we do with various varying levels of competence and aggressiveness this is high. >> you can't provide examples or detail how we are in fact making sure that those folks are able
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to stay? >> that would require criticizing countries with whom we have friendly and close relationships and would abuse the trust they have in us. i will say that we have very tough conversations with a number of countries. and so far they have recognized not only our interests but their obligations under various u.n. and other international treaties and um tanner provisions. >> are you able to elaborate taufl on what we are doing specifically for women and children refugees in that region. >> the programs that we have -- that is the almost $10 billion -- and we can get the specific information to you -- has very specific provisions, very specific programs for women, children, people who have health problems and that sort of thing. that is simply part of the system that we in our agencies and partners who actually deliver the aid set up for us.
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>> i would love to have that further information if that would be possible. >> okay. >> my second question has to do with the humanitarian issues as well and the fact that we effectively -- the president's 2020 budget zeroed out the economic support and development for in area. $130 million was originally. and now in fiscal year now 19 nothing. how do you request cutoff and reconcile that with asking people in other parts of the world to support this important area and who else do you think will pay for that in. >> as one of the people who goes out and does that, i have no moral, political or diplomatic pains of conscienceness and i'll tell you why. thanksgiving of what we have ton in this conflict. $10 billion in humanitarian aid and that money thanks to you as much as the administration is continuing to flow. diplomatic leadership of in conflict -- of the efforts at least to end this conflict, and military action and presence to defeat isis in the iraq/syria
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area. those are all major steps that we have made. what the administration is saying is, a as we have with the troop drawdown in northeast syria, as we do with stabilization funds, is can't somebody else step up and do at least some of this? we're only 17% of the world's economy. and so why don't others? and in fact others do. germany, saudi arabia, the uk and the united arab emirates provide over $300 million of stabilization funding in 2018 for the northeast. we just had a stabilization- >> just to be clear you said you don't have any moral sesstation to zero out that line item. >> i have no moral hesitation in asking other countries to do more and the americans to do less. >> and us. >> i absolutely do not. >> and how would you ask other people to do that if we are in fact the leaders of the world and here in this committee and this hearing we have heard that over and over again when we
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leave we've created a vacuum, we're the leaders, beacon on the hill, the shining light, that we go to zero and expect that we're going to find it from other people? i just don't understand how we can be the moral leaders of the world. >> i think it's not difficult, because we're not going to zero in the syrian conflict. we are still, again, by far the largest contributor to the most important funds programs which is humanitarian assistance that's a separate category than the disable stabilization funds. number one in tirls of the military effort and in syria and iraq for the defeat of isis and everybody know nas nobody could have done it. frankly other countries could have come one as the 10 billion with you but nobody could have come up with the military effort. in this area the administration has said can't others provide a few hundred million dollars for stabilization. it's a good question. and they are. >> i'm sorry that i've run out of time but i do believe that it is a real question for what the message is that we send to the world and specifically to allies
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when we do things such as this and i appreciate your time, sir and i yield back. >> the gentleman from massachusetts is recognized. >> thank you, mr. chair and thank you ambassador for your service as always. we talked about the importance much working our with our european allies in terms of the military part, the intelligence which is extraordinary. but on february 16th president trump just tweeted out a message saying, you know, to britain and france and germany and other european allies, take back your 800 isis fighters that we captured in syria and put them on trial. uncle fate is ready to fall. the alternative is not a good one. and that will be forced to release them. now, i happen to be in europe at that time. and i've got to tell you when in tweet came out, our cotel including the speaker was dlujd
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with the press as we met with leaders. inside the meeting rooms there was enormous concern from diplomatic -- from the state and diplomatic side that this is how they are getting the message. and what that was doing to alarm the people that they serve. in their regions, in their countries in their districts. i just -- you're a person well faufd to really stress the importance of having the proper communication and how damaging something like a tweet without any foundation laid for anything, how that can alarm people. they serve constituents the wait we do as elected officials. this was -- i saw it firsthand. this had a real effect. and creates a greater guy with the people we count on the most. can you stress the importance of making sure that this kind of thing doesn't happen again? >> every president decides how he or she will communicate both to the american public and to
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allies, partners and adversaries. on that particular issue, i can assure you that well before that tweet we had made our position abundantly clear that these countries should do essentially what the tweet said. and we also have in the case of a certain number of americans who are in that category we have taken them back. and the -- >> then the gap exists somewhere. because i was dealing with foreign ministers, ambassador be that's who we were meeting with at that time. and their reaction was shock. wherever the gap is i guess we should all work to improve it. the second question i had was, when the president -- when president trump had a telephone conversation with president erdogan and in that conversation he said -- he communicated to him he was going to pull out u.s. troops in syria immediately, what i noticed during that period is this.
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president erdogan and turkey were extremely active at the time publicly talking about the need to get to the bottom and investigate and have information about the murder of jamaul khashoggi. coincidence. ever since that happened i've noticed turkey went so silent on that issue. was there any discussion in that conversation about the khashoggi investigation at all? >> my dsh zbloosh by the president. >> my understanding, of course i wasn't on the call was that the conversation was about the security situation in syria. i follow turkish politics fairly closely because of the negotiations we are doing. and i can assure that you the khashoggi case is raised at various levels all of the time from erdogan and his public statements on down. it remains a very important issue for the turks.
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>> yeah, lastly, you did talk about the issue of a security zone with turkey. and the fact that we are in discussions about that and part of that. and one of the things i just want to get a sense of too is aside from recognizing the need or the discussion or the importance from turkey's side on that, what things can we do from a concrete nature and are building the ability of having something concrete about how we can protect the ypg in that region? how we can protect the kurds in that region as part of that? i now know we were talking about the other issues you mentioned. but is there affirmatively something in discussion you can talk about where we'll make them more secure? >> at the end of the day, it starts with, first of all, accepting the territorial integrity and the unity of
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syria. secondly, a political if that sees every syrian citizen having the same sort of rights and obligations that we take as normal here and elsewhere around the world. the example i would give -- and people just sometimes shrug and say well this is a special part of the world. well iraq is right next door. and we had very close allies and partners, the puk and the kdp kurds in the north and the supreme council for the islamic revolution in the south in the period running up to 2003. we did not give them lifetime guarantee that we would take care of them. what we said is we will work with you to create an iraq that is democratic, that is has rule of law pan that is secure backup now, with some problems but still all in all this is what we have delivered. we have not maintained a special guaranteer status over internal groups and in countries.
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that would not be in the long run appropriate for us or appropriate to ask the american people to bid. what we do is aim for solutions where countries are able to provide the security for their own people inside recognized borders. that's what we are doing in syria. >> thank you, ambassador thank you for your service here. and thank you for coming in front of in committee and communicating the way you have in the past and you currently do. it's so important. i yield back. >> the gentleman from rhode island is recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you mr. ambassador for being here. first i want to ask you with respect to -- since march of 2011, over 11 million syrians have been displaced from homes. more than 470,000 killed. after eight years the assad regime as consolidated control of the majorities of the country and shows little sign of political reform or willingness to implement any of the stipulations entitiesed in the u.n. security council calming for a cease fire, political
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settlement. safe and voluntary return of all refugees and other conditions. it's not clear what our strategy is? syria and object he was what are the strategies to achieve the object he was but i'm particularly interested to know how the withdrawal from u.s. troops from syria and the u.s. assistance wrul from syria advances whatever the goals are. if you could say whatever the goals are and how does the withdrawal of troops and withdrawal of assistance advance those in. >> again, i'll fwhook this beginning with your final question and then get for the larger strategic one quickly. we are maintaining a residual u.s. presence. but more importantly we are maintaining a coalition overall presence in the northeast which has an air component which was always going to continue to be an american-led and largely american-supported air component. and a ground component to continue the enduring defeat of isis and stabilization with a
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residual u.s. component and a larger coalition component. and finally, questioner working with the international community to provide stabilization funds. we got 325 million last year. we have pledges right now of somewhere between 140 and $180 million. and we are looking for other ways to fill the gap to probably $30 oh million more this year. so we are in the abandoning anything. we are shifting the focuses from an exclusively american-funded, american boots on the ground -- or languagely american boots on the ground to a mar balanced. and there is nothing wrong with this as national policy. that's burden sharing. every administration for decades has sprus sprused it. in terms of overall strategy, basically, as i indicated earlier, a step by step implementation of the cease fire demilitarization and political process under the u.n. control
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or the u.n. aegis as the falter under 2254 which everybody including russia agreed to, or until we can convince everybody -- and it's hard to convince assad to do this -- then we will continue the maximum pressure campaign that is diplomatic, and economic, and financial. >> thank you, mr. chairman. the most you mentioned our effort to defeat isis. i think you agree the most important u.s. ally in syria has been the syrian democratic forces which has been fighting isis with some success. their region includes afrin a city with huge human rights abuse sees. exited by the turkey irk forces a turkey is occupant occupying and over 250,000 people are displaced. how do you propose the u.s. government promote peace negotiations between the sdf and turkey when turkey is still occupying appear afrin. and you mentioned in earlier testimony that you would propose
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the creating of a safe zone. but that would require the ypg to leave the area. and i wonder how is that possibly to be executed? like what -- under what circumstances is that even conceivable. >> i think it is conceivable to have a drawback of forces. i've seen it in a half dozen conflicts. it's a draw back of forces. it's something that is -- we did this after 1973 in the sinai. there is all kind of examples of us drawing back forces. when we if you would our own forces back from the demilitarized zone in doctoria at a certain point. these are basically tools of the trade. we are not trying to negotiate any peace agreement between turkey and anybody. what we are trying to do is set up a safe zone so that everybody feels secure enough to continue doing our common efforts to defeat isis and find a solution to syria. >> and my final question, mr. ambassador, the congressionally
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mandated bipartisan syria study group recommends stopping the drawdown of u.s. troops from syria. passing and sign in into lieu the cease syria. resuming u.s. assistance to syria and protecting the syrian assistance response team. forward teams, the professional in northern syria complementing practice programs sought to hold territory formerly held by isis do you support the recommendations? if so why, if not why not. >> i would have to review the report. i and many others have met with the members of the commission. i would say we certainly supports getting our start teams back on the ground and working on that right now. knows are the people providing the assistance. we certainly support a rebust stabilization program in northeast syria. we think for the moment it would be a good idea if others would provide the funding given we have asked the american people for $10 billion almost in support for refugees in idp's. as you know, the -- we have
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every intention of keeping a coalition military presence on to defeat isis which would include some form of residual u.s. force. so i think that we are meeting the spirit of that recommendation as well. so while there is some -- again i would have to look at the details of their recommendation, i think that we may be pursuing slightly different tactics but all in all the overall objectives are ones we are consistent with. >> thank you mr. ambassador i yoeld back, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. cicilline. mr. burchett. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, sir for being here. there have been several reports that iran is utilizing their soft power in syria. by that i mean they are meeting shiite meeting hauls mosques and schools to replace communities with people friendly to the aassad regime and iran. do you feel that's reversible? >> first of all, we have seen
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similar reports. most anything in in world, congressman, if you have enough time and effort is reversible. other than death. but i think that. >> you mean, money and time and effort? does that equal money. >> all of the above. >> yes, sir. >> i think it's a really big problem, not only for us, which it is and for syria's neighbors beginning with zrl. this is a problem for the assad regime and russians. it's one of the areas where we warned everybody, watch what you are getting in this country. >> okay. do you think that the -- there is something the state department can do that can -- or they can implement to deter and impede iran's goal of winning, as they say the hearts and minds of the syrian people? >> first of all, we have various programs for those people who have fled assad. and we have very close relations with the political opposition
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headquarters in riyadh with the groups in turkey, cairo and moscow. and we maintain contacts with all sorts of syrians. we have a lot of people doing that. and we have various -- both in the context of the enduring defeat of isis but also in terms of our overall policies toward syria, we have various outreach -- public outreach measures. we could always do more though. >> you say public outreach. i'm curious what does that mean. >> well working with the media, working with -- we have a center, for example, that responds to extremist islamic propaganda throughout the middle east. we have aet an operation in london specifically focused on countering isis propaganda. there are many such activities like this. >> okay. can you also -- could you comment on the situation in the
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sunni areas of nar under the control of the syrian democrat forces, sdf and do the sunni resent the lifrpgt under sdf control and if so could this allow ice toys stage a comeback. >> there are tensions. we are watching it closely. >> okay. thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back the remainder of my time. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ambassador jeffrey, thank you for your service. we are very frpt to haortunate you there. i want to come back to the question of stabilization funding. i think we should start by being honest about the context. i think we all understand though some of us have to be more diplomatic about it that at a certain point the decision made to pull out of syria entirely. there was significant bipartisan pushback including in the
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congress, which resulted fortunately in a decision to maintain at least some military presence in the country. but we are still entirely pulled outlet as far as our stabilization. we have not yet had the same decision that was made with respect to the military mission to resume our stabilization efforts. you said that you feel that at at least some of this should be done by our allies. of course all of us would agree. but let's just to establish for the record at this point we are doing none of this. all of in is being done by our allies. is that correct? >> i would have to check. we put about almost $1 become of stabilization funding into syria in the northeast which is what we are talking about now. roughly $220 million. i would have to go back and check. you know accounts and the federal government. we may be still spending money from 2016. but basically the bulk of our funding and we are running low on it is from the $$325 million
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we received primarily from the four countries i named earlier. >> right. >> but i have -- i have no -- how should i say diplomatic or moral or political problem with us deciding in a certain campaign, given our global presence and importance, of turning to our collective allies and partnering whose gdp and total forces under arms are several times ours worldwide and saying in this specific area we want you to do more for funding. we want you to do more to put boots on the ground. >> yes, there is a difference -- of course we want them to do more. >> i know. >> but the point is we are not doing -- yes we are spending old money but there is no new money. stabilization funding was suspendening. the start team pulled hout in december. >> we're trying to get it back? they were not pulled out for financial but security reasons. >> that's good to know. significant share of foreign fund something provided by saudi arabia and the uae.
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do saudi arabia and the uae have the same interest as ours in syria. >> they certainly do not put conditions on their funding other than that it be spent wisely. and in re overall goals for syria are closely aligned to our ours and we have seen in the arab league decision in syria nom coming back for example. >> according to the oig report onable stabilization punditing stabilization if the reconciliation. social comeetings and dialogue and civil society capacity building are not covered under the funding provided by the saudi arabia and the uae pch they're happy to fund bricks and mortgagorer but what we were doing and we are best at in terms of actually working with the syrian people to build democratic governance, humane human rights respects women rights respecting government it doesn't seem the saudis are interested in that? isn't there significant cost to the interest to subcontracting stabilization to country that is
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do not share fal values and interests. >> as a general rule you have a point congressman. that is if you turn to other provide are countries to provide funding for stabilization program tishlly as we have the administrative structure, the start teams to do it, you get a different perspective than ours. if you want to have the specific american goals supported, then that's an argument for providing some u.s. funding or finding other countries, for example we have also tender to germany and the uk. they have a very similar view of that kind of the usefulness of the utility of that sort of program as we do. and that's where we get the funding for the programs. >> well, good. and we have provided funding as you know. >> right. >> in fact, we funded the relief and response fund. >> um-hum i know. >> specifically destined for post isis stabilization. mo my understanding is that as of april 5th, that not -- not a single dollar of the $500
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million that we provided in fy 18 or of the 200 million that we provided in 2019 for this fund has been notified to congress. that was explicitly tide to stabilization in syria. do you expect that's going to be notified sometime soon? >> we are looking into that question. >> a diplomatic answer. >> a correct answer. >> well, we hope to see that soon because this was money that we specifically provided for this purpose, precisely because we agree with you that if we want in program to be managed according to our interests and values, we should be funding some of it, even if we of course ask our allies to do more. >> beal take that back, congressman. >> thank you, sir. >> thank you, mr. costa. >> thank you mr. many chairman for your patience and this important hearing. mr. ambassador, i may remind that you we first met i believe
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in 2011. >> yes. >> in a interesting meetings with prime minister maliki we can talk about later. >> perhaps not. i remember that meeting. >> yeah, do li so do i. perhaps not. thank you for your service to our country. and without being redundant, i had to depart for another hearing when one ever our colleagues was talking about what a mess we have in syria and you inherited in mess. without being redundant, i guess my view of syria and see it's a series of proxy wars that are place concurrently. and we know that that has occurred throughout the history of mankind. and with -- one could, you know, say that there is maybe as many as four proxy wars taking place there concurrently. as we look for a way out of this conundrum and the difficult job that you have, i believe that nations ultimately do what they
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believe is in their own interests. so can you describe it in this way to me? what are the threads of your efforts that lead you to believe that there are some concurring interests among the nations most interested there, i.e., russia, of course syria that's engaged in the civil war, israel, iran and other sunni nation states that lead us to a way to figure out of in connun nun drum? what are the concurring interests? >> thank you for raising this. sinces i was a teenager during the vietnam era, this question has come up of our role in the world. and i would use a reverse argument. . if we don't play the kind of very costly and at times very difficult role that we play in the world, then you a syria.
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you get a law of the jungle in a very important area where you do have as i said five armies. >> right. >> and i think your characterization of four wars within a war is absolutely accurate. that is, you get chaos and degeneralitying global system. >> knows are under the categories of lessons learned where do we go. >> we basically try to convince everybody that if they all compromise and all tom kogt. >> that would be in their interested, individual interests. >> their interest not just ours. you inventory russia's interests, even iran's interests such as they are -- although their main problem is that they're a threat to the entire region and in re interests are not combat kpa compatible with ours. but certainly turkey, saudi arabia, israel, jordan ablebanon, and then we try to see if there is common ground. there is. everybody wants the war the li to end. everybody wants refugees and
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idfs to return and everybody wants the fighting and danger of escalation to stop. so we pursue on the basis of the u.n. resolution which is good as u.n. resolution goes a peace process. >> the u.n. playing a constructive role. >> constructive role. we are happy with the u.n. across the board on the syrian process portfolio. there are complaints but that that with everybody. of course we lay out a course a which is try to pursue the u.n. process step by step. we pitched that to the russians and others. or we will continue the economic and political diplomatic pressure, and assad will see 40% of his territory being held by others. and he is going to have a hard time getting that back. that's our alternative strategy if we. >> and does assad kind of think what the end game is for him, some sort of retirement villa in someplace somewhere else? >> he has shone little willingness to be flexible on
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any issue. and at the moment may be concluding that it's better to the sit on a pile of rubble with half his population and 60% of his country than to compromise. we're trying to convince him. >> otherwise. >> -- that's wrong. >> and the cadre around him which is critical. >> which is critical. >> yeah. and so russia's being responsible thus far in this effort? >> that's a broad adjective. >> depending who you ask. >> russia is listening to us. and russia is aware of the downsides of a policy of -- >> how much resources are they expend sfloog. >> it's relatively limited. >> okay. >> a few thousand troops. >> something they can still afford. >> absolutely. >> it's not an afghanistan. >> it's not afghanistan of the 1980s, no. >> all right. well my time expired. but continue the good work. >> thank you. >> and we will provide whatever support we can on our end. because it is truly difficult
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but it's something that there are lessons to learn from here. i hope we learned the lessons in the future. i was disappointed when president obama designated a red line that we never followed through with. but i'm not so sure that our policy these days is that clear either. >> it is to me. >> okay. well good. i feel better. i'll go home and sleep better tonight. thank you my time is expired. >> thank you mr. connolly. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'm awfully reassured ambassador jeffreys that the policy is clear to you. because some of your colleagues resigned over changes to the policy that either weren't clear to them or made no sense to them, in fact they saw as deleterious to our objectives in syria. so maybe you're the lone wolf. i don't know. but let me ask about one aspect of the policy.
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according to cent com, absent sustained counterterrorism pressure isis could likely resurge in syria within six to twelve months, even without holding territory isis will likely seek to increase recruitment by exploiting popular discontent over the lack of infrastructure in areas affected by the conflict per a recent operation herntly resolved ig report. based on those two reports and others, it's clear that a robust stabilization effort seems to be key to prevent the reemergencyens of isis but the administration has frozen stabilization aid to syria. and has begun withdrawing forces that would be critical to enable such aid. how do we square that with our goal to prevent isis from resurge sng. >> all right. first of all, i grow with the cent com assessment. ice sis still there in the
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northeast and throughout syria. what they are talking about is an expansion of isis's influence even if it doesn't hold territory and it sees that correctly as a threat. in terms of our stabilization. we have stopped our stabilization funding but we have reached out and last year received $325 million worth of stabilization funding from other countries notably saudi arabia, the emiraties be germany and the uk and others as well. and we are doing the same thing this year. we have pledges for iraq and syria of $$450 million. >> so your view is others can do with we don't need to. >> we are doing it for example in iraq. we just pledged at the same stabilization conference $100 million for anbar province alean. again, this -- this and the last administration have put up almost $10 billion for humanitarian assistance for syrian refugees and idps.
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you know the military effort we made in the defeat of isis. so i would say on the overall gamut of u.s. engagement in the syrian conflict, we have made huge financial, military and diplomatic efforts. the we are looking for help. >> i'm trying to understand the policy you support that's clear to you. our policy is we have done our part, we're not going to do more with respect to the stabilization fund. >> our policy is to see if on this small area of our -- of the overall coalition effort we can get others to take those small parts of it. as we saw with the president's decision in february, when we couldn't, when we couldn't get the coalition to agree to replace all of our forces that we thought would be necessary in the northeast, the president decided to slow down the withdrawal and to consider a residual force. we adjust based upon the response we get from our
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partners and allies alling the time. but we consider disable stabilization of the northeast to be a vitally important effort to defeat isis in the long term and to provide security and stability in syria. so we are looking at how we do with the effort to get foreign troops and money. >> so let me ask, this question, switching subjects but following up on that, what is current u.s. policy with respect to our kurdish allies who fought side by side with us, were tand and equipped by us, and actually had victories on the battlefield up unlike most other insurgents? given turkey's stated opposition to the continued nature of that relationship and to territorial occupation by the kurds, what is u.s. policy with respect to the kurds. >> well, the policy towards -- it's fallout to the kurds flea.
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imthere are kurds all over the middle east. >> i'm talking about the fighters we have worked with. >> right. and. >> to help defeat isis. >> and over half of them along the euphrates were arab. it's a combined form a ho sdf we deet deal with the sdf as a military partner in the fight against isis and the stabilization of the region. we don't have a political agenda with them other than we are in an area that they control administratively and militarily. and so we have to have reasonable relationships with them which we do and we have a debt to them for having fought with us against isis. those are two important things. but we don't have a political future that we offer for them. the political future we offer for them is the political future we offer for everybody in syria, which is pundit 2254 a democratic, peaceful and -- government. >> follow up to clarify just to clarify ambassador jeffreys. the turks insisted in territory,
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towns and parts of regions hard fought for and won by our kurdish allies coalition allies, that they need to vacate that land because it's too coalesce to the turkish border or else the turks would militarily intervene. does the united states have a point of view about that. >> the point of view we have is that first of all we do not want anybody threatening turkey. and there is a long history of turkey not watching what happens on the other side of its border and being dramatically and existentially threatened since 1984. we take that into consideration and also take into consideration, again, our debt to the sdf, and thus our concern that we have a compromise way forward which is what we are trying to do with the sdf and the turks right now. >> i think i'm going to spend months trying to decipher that answer. >> i know. >> congratulations. you're very successful diplomat.
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>> let me -- let me say to the gentlemen from virginia, that i share his concern. i mentioned it before. and frankly i hope that the things that we heard -- we talked about this a few hours ago -- about leaving -- about our leaving syria is not going to happen and leave the kurds in jeopardiy it would be just the wrong thing to do morally, the wrong thing to do in so many ways. it would send the wrong message to in the future that the united states is not a loyal and trusted ally. that you can do business with us but when the going gets rough, you know, we're going to dump you and walk away. i don't think that's true. and i don't think it's something that we want to be known for. so i -- i just want to -- since you raise it again, i wanted to agree with you. >> i thank the chair.
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>> this is important. it's just really really important that we look out for the well being of the kurdish people in that region. >> i thank the chair. and i share his concerns. >> thank you. ms. omar. >> thank you, chair. as a survivor of war, accountability and justice is really important to me. so i wanted to talk to you about what kind of mechanism could be put in place to eventually find justice for both assad and isis's victims in syria. if this war ends, as it seems likely to with assad still in power, what hope could there be for justice for these victims? we know that there is going to be a guaranteed veto from russia on the security council. how is the united states
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planning to hold them accountable? and is there consideration being given early on right now to -- to what could possibly happen? >> right. s in a very important question. of the six criteria that we say are necessary to return to a normal state of syria and a normal relationship with us in the international community -- and this is in the president's classified february report to congress on strategy. one of them is state that holds itself and its officials accountable for war crimes, given particularly the syrian degree of war crimes, that's very important. it's also very important for getting half of the population that's fled to return, another one ever our six goals. so we have a variety of mechanism. the u.n. has an independent monitoring commission. the syrians themselves do a great job through a variety of
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organizations. and right now the -- >> i mean, if i can interject. it's rare that in a civil war usually that war ends with the head of state still in power. and so my question to you is with him still being in power, are we prepared to hold him accountable? >> we are prepared to hold the state accountable for -- as is the international community -- and there we've got a lot of support from the u.n. and eu. we are prepared to hold them accountable. i would put it this way because otherwise we go down the slope of regime change. we think we need a syrian government and state that behaves dramatically differently to its own population and to its neighbors for there to be peace in the region. how we attain that, other than the general model laid out in u.n. resolution it 2254 is what we are doing with diplomatic exchanges. butty, yeah a regime that continuing to behave like in neither deserves to nor will get
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the rest of syria nor get its people back. >> that we can all agree on. some members of the senate have proposed transferring isis detainees to guantanamo. is that still be being considered and do you believe you need congressional approval for that. >> i have had no discussions or heard any discussions on that. right now, our goal is to get the detainees to return to the countries from whence they came. >> and following up earlier about sort of the expansion or the possible expansion of isis, according to some of the intel that we have -- very the shortly after the president announced the withdrawal of troops isis attacked and killed four americans. do you think that the timing was a coincidence? might they have been responding to us. >> from everything we know about that particular attack -- and i
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was in that location fairly recently before the attack occurred -- there was no link between the two. but we did know that after the defeat of the isis caliphate, that is the physical state occupying territory, that we would have a significant terrorist and insurgency problem with isis elements in iraq and syria. and and we still have it. and we have to focus on it. it's why we have thousands of troops in iraq, for example. why the president decided to keep a residual presence in northeastern syria for the moment. >> up um-hum. and it seems like the particular clvgt in syria is being birthed out of a need for the people to have freedom and to actuallyize democracy. and i'm concerned that most of our cues right now is being taken from russia and turkey, and israel.
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and so i'm wondering if that sort of is a countermessage to what we say we are interested in achieving in syria. >> before i did syria i spent a decade doing iraq. believe me in this chamber there was a lot of understandable skepticism about us bringing democracy to iraq. well first of all we didn't bring it. the iraqis wanted it. and in the end they have a constitutional, democratic system. it has its faults. but it will stand up pretty well in that regard. i think the syrian people when they marched in 2010 wanted the same thing. and they still want the same thing. and the u.n. with our strong support is committed to giving it to them through free and fair elections, monitored by the u.n., including the diaspora. that's half the country. if we can have an election like that the people will speak their will. >> that's wonderful, ambassador. i believe democracy should not be given they should be earned
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by the people and we should be in partner with them i appreciate you for being here and for updating us. i yield back. >> thank you. >> the gentlewoman yields back. and ambassador we are now at the end. and i want to say personally thank you for excellent testimony. and for excellent knowledge. this is a terrible, difficult part of the world. but i've always had good faith in our ambassador corps. and you certainly have proven through the years that you are a-1 in my book. i know gnaw understand the issues. and understand the depth that we feel strongly here. and frustrated that it's been so long, and this butcher is clinging to power. and might very well wind up staying in power when we all saw
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the arab spring, and certainly in syria people were demonstrating for more freedom. and unfortunately, many of them were killed. and the syrian people have just had unthinkable tragedy happen to them. so america is important in the world. people look up to us. and with you at the helm, i feel much more comfortable with you working on this every single day. and i thank you for your service. and thank you for your testimony this morning and this afternoon. so the hearing is now over. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> adjourned. >> thank you.
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medical experts and health care today trade seven- day forecast leaders testified about efforts to protect patients from surprise medical bills. rogers and porter talked about their personal experiences with surprise bills. watch that tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern here on cspan3. also tonight on cspan it's the hearing on the use of facial recognition technology. witnesses pointed out some of the flaws in the technology by programs that could not accurately identify people of color in women. you request see that house oversight and
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reform committee hearing tonight at 8:00 eastern on cspan. here's a preview. >> again, my position is if we are not going to regulate, we should push the pause button on this technology now because it is as dangerous as you are expressing. >> it seems that it's time for a timeout. time not. 50 million cameras. real concerns. i guess what troubles me too is just the fact that no one in an elected position made a decision on the fact that these 18 states the chairman said this is more than half the population of the country. that is scary. particularly in light of what we have seen. you have to remember the frame work. it was just eight years ago the irs targeted people for their political belief. it doesn't matter which side of the political spectrum they are on. this is why i appreciate the chairman's work on this issue in the bipartisan nature
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of this hearing. >> you were recommending a moratorium; right? >> yes, i was. >> until what? until we can pass legislation? >> until there is subtle scientific evidence that shows that these technologies have reached maturity. because with what we know with human centric computer vision systems as they are base onstatistical methods, there is no way the technology will be 100% flawless and trade offs that need to be made. yet the academic research doesn't exist to say this is what it looks like for it to meet meaningful thresholds. >> that is a portion on the use of facial recognition technology by the government and commercial entities. watch this hearing tonight in its entirety at 8:00 eastern on our companion network c- span. sunday night on q & a. yale university historian joann freeman on her book the field of blood. violence in congress and the
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road to civil war. >> just a mass ball so in and of itself it is dramatic. guys throwing punches. it's massive encounter. but what was merely interesting to me was people at time looked at it and what they saw was a group of northerners and southerners running at each other in the house ofrepresentatives and several of them said this doesn't looks like a normal congressional site. this looks like north against south. this looks like a battle. and that is striking. certainly it did look like a battle. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c- span's q & a. starting memorial day may 27th all week in prime tim c-span has coverage of commencement ceremonies taking place at colleges
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and universities across the country. featured speaks include elijah cummings, acting defensible secretary patrick shanahan, stacey abrams. president donald trump, and supreme court justice sonya sotomayor. our commencement coverage starts memorial day at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. watch online any time at or on the free c- span app. testifies on president trump's 2020 budget request for his department. he also discussed indian triable nations, offshore drilling, and damage to national parks. taking place before a house appropriations subcommittee this is two hours. good afternoon,. this hearing will come to order. we're joined here by the 53rd


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