tv Hearing on Middle East Policy CSPAN October 31, 2019 3:10pm-4:29pm EDT
ceo jeremy butler. >> the government's involvement in v.a. healthcare is the most effective way of honoring our nation's commitment to our veterans. that does not mean that veterans should not have the ability to go into the private sector when it's in their best interests, when the care is better, or specialized care is available that's not in the v.a. i think we all believe that that should be available. >> watch book tv every weekend on cspan2. up next, the state department officials discuss u.s. relations with iran, turkey's military operation in syria and humanitarian efforts in the middle east with members of the house foreign affairs subcommittee. all right. this hearing will come to order. well, everyone. the subcommittee is meeting
today to hear testimony on the trump administration's budgetary and policy priorities in the middle east for fiscal year 2020. we look forward to hearing from witnesses about the fy 20 budgets for the department of state near eastern affairs bureau as well usaid bureau for the middle east. thank the witnesses for appearing today. i recognize myself for purposes of making an opening statement. thank you -- assistant ebt secretary shanker and
administrator harvey for testifying today. nearly three years in the trump administration, the united states face as multitude of challenges in the middle east. while the administration touts maximum pressure policy, iran continues to detablize countries from iraq yemen and leb ondespite president trump's rhetoric tehran that is laufrmd attacks on international shipping and regional states. undermining u.s. deterrence and credibility in the process. the iranian nuclear program is more advanced today than the day that president trump took office. and the international community
is more divided in confronting it. iran continues to unjustly imprison americans, including my constituent bob levinson and violate the human rights of its people. iran also continues to support bashar al assad and fuel conflict in syria leading to the deaths of more than 600,000 people and the displacement of millions inside syria and in neighbors countries. this conflict is the humanitarian crisis created will reshape the middle east
for decades to come. but our policy in syria remains ambiguous at best. president trump has now twice announced the rapid and complete withdrawal of u.s. froops from syria with little notice given to international allies and partners on the ground. this approach has ceded u.s. lefrpg. placed american troops and civilians in danger. undermined credibility, removed pressure on isis and betrayed syrian partners who fought valiantly to counter isis with american support. i commend the successful operation this weekend to take
out isis leader al-baghdadi np i but i caution that the remove many one individual should not invalidate our strategy. if anything it should show the importance of the counterterrorism mission and cooperation with partners on the ground in syria. the president has also provided strategic victory to adversaries. russia used military force economic support and weapon sales to become the arbiter of syria's future. and to increase regional influence at the expense of the united states. yemen remains ravaged by civil conflict. foreign intervention and the world's worst humanitarian krietsz. the trump administration offered unstinting support to saudi arabia and the uae in the military campaign in yemen. ignoring the bipartisan support in congress for ening u.s. military support for coalition operations. and while i understand the risk posed by the houthi and ironen forces. the conflict led to tens of thousands of civilian casualties shifted focused from al qaeda in
the arabian the pens lip and worseman the humanitarian catastrophe. the region faces onning clalg. israel confronts threats on threats from hezbollah and ham asp. and peace remains ee lose of the west bank seek a prosperous the future while gaza seek humanitarian need. libya a state on the doorstep of europe is fractured and fls a regional proxy war between regional powers. however u.s. policy must not be reactionary and only respond to crisis. it must be forward looking and grasp the many opportunities in the region. a youth bulge approximately 45% of the middle east is under 25 years old. presents a chance to reset u.s. releases with the people of the region in the coming decade. tonsia completed a successful round of elections as the country moves forward on the difficult path of democratic development.
protesters took to the streets inalgia on friday for the 36th week in a row to dpa dmant demand the government root out corruption and meet needs of the people. in recent waste protests gripped other countries egypt, lebanon and iraq and let the record to the resignation of lepen ease prime minister earlier today. more than years after millions took to the streets to protest corruption in auto crazy. these demonstrations indicate that too many recently nall government remain unaccountable to their people and opposed to open civil society, transparency and human rights. i'm disappointed the trump administration offered inconsistent message on human rights and democratic values at a time when many question american commitment to the region, the administration has too often turned a blind eye to human rights abuse ds and ee give indicated on good governance. they often articulate
maximumlist goals but does not provide resources. they have proposed drastic cuts to foreign affairs budge. the fy 20 budget requested estimated $6.5 billion in total. excuse me. totals bilateral assistance to the region. a figure 6% he is that's than the fy 19% and 11% less than congress appropriated in fy 19. the sun committee has oversight committee over the nea bureau and middle east bureau budgets. i hope the hearing today can help us get better understanding of the administration strategy and a clearer articulatation of u.s. policy in the middle east and how we are allocating resources to accomplish object he was in the region. i'm grateful to the witnesses for appearing. and with that i will turn it over to eng raying member wilson for his opening statement. >> thank you, chairman ted deutch for calling this hearing and examining the trump administration policy object he was for the turbulent middle east.
we appreciate our distinguished witnesses, assistant secretary david schenker and assistant administrator michael harvey for extraordinary service and for their testimony before the committee today. formulating u.s. policy is not easy. but letting alone the crafting of policy of so many complexities in a region like the middle east with centuries of conflict but our two witnesses surely have their jobs out out for them and we thank them for their positive efforts. indeed the middle east has vexed both republican and democrat administrations alike. but despite the difficulties the united states has remained engaged in the region. we have been invested in the people and the potential of the middle east. although we may have disagreed across the aisle about specificless processes we can all agree that u.s. engagement and commitment to the middle east is necessary. it is definitely preferred to a middle east in which rogue regimes like russia, iran or
china are power brokers. to be fair, the trump administration has presided over many important successes in the middle east. today's hearing comes days after the u.s. special forces successfully conducted a raid and the northwest syria which led to the deserved death of the leader of isis, the murderous al-baghdadi. but to be -- but to ensure that this murderous ideology of isis does not resurrect from the ashes of syria and iraq will require an enduring american commitment. not just to the global war against terrorism but to the stability of the middle east itself. i also commend this administration for spear heading the maximum pressure campaign against iran. this is the right approach against the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism. but i'm deeply concerned about the current approach as simply
not enough. in the past year alone iran cemented its stranglehold over iraq and lebanon and significantly increased the a territory it controls in syria. it appears that there is only so much that can be accomplished through economic sanctions alone. how are we working to push back the increased iranian influence in the region in ways other than sanctions? consistently over the decades, the iranians have remained committed to exporting their evil ideology throughout the middle east fostering terrorism, secretariarianism and violence every with where. meanwhile the united states has sought to support democracy in the region heming and hauing about roles in the region. there is plenty of reasons for the u.s. to renew resolve and commitment to the region. the middle east today is teeming with potential. in the past year alone we have seen the citizens of sudan,
egypt algeria and iraq and lebanon take to the streets giving expression to the democratic aspirations. i'm hopeful that the spark of liberty will one day ignite a democratic movement in iran as well. which has such a historic background reflective of the persian culture. just last week, the world as we inspired -- as the runner-up in tonnisia presidential elections met with the newly the president, a sign of strength and faith in the tonnisia democratic institutions. i was fortunate to travel there last month with the helsinki commission and inspired to see the fledgling democracy in action. the u.s. must not concede influence to those who counter the spirit of democracy and freedom in the middle east. there is no substitute for u.s. leadership in the region. i look forward to hearing from the distinguished witnesses today.
and i yield back my time. >> i thank you, ranking member wilson. it's now pleasure to introduce the witnesses. and before i do that without objection all members may have five days to submit statements questions and extranz subject to the length limitation of the rule. assistant secretary david schenker in the assistant secretary of near eastern air force at the department of state. he was sworn in june 14, 2019. prior to joining the department of state assistant secretary schenker was director of the program on arab politics at the washington institute for near east policy. previously served in the office of the secretary of defend as levant country director appear awarded the office of the secretary of defense medal for exceptional civilian service in 2005. before joining the government in 2002, he was a research fellow at the washington institute and cordaerer of he internationally funded usaid projects in egypt
and jordan. michael harvey was i want appointed assistant administrator of the middle east bureau in january of 2019. he comes to the position after serving more than 30 years as a foreign service officer for u.s. aid with muchlt over seas mission direct in nigeria. west bank and gaza. deputy mission direct in iraq and jordan. he most recently served as a faculty member of the national war college in washington, d.c. and chaired usaid task force to tleemt defeat the islamic sfat in erie. administrator harvey has received numerous awards for exceptional service. thank you both for being here today. let me remind the witnesses to please limit testimony to five minutes and without objection, your prepared written statements in entirety will be made part of the hearing record. again thank you so much for being here today. assistant secretary schenker. you are recognized. >> chairman deutch.
ranking member wilson thank you for of the inning us here today. >> would you pull the microphone closer. >> yeah. is that better? >> yes. >> okay. thank you for inviting us here to discuss the president's fy 2020 budget requests. stability is the administration administration's imperative. that drives our dplokt and foreign assistance. the president's fy 2020 foreign assistance budget requests of $6.6 billion for the region will support national security priorities to counter iran as malign influence, ensure the enduring defeat of isis. support persecuted religious and ethnic minorities throughout the region and maintain the support of key allies and critical partnerships across the region. the request also recognizes that the united states cannot alone bear sole responsibility for addressing challenges in the region. the president's request places
an emphasis on burden sharing, leveraging the u.s. taxpayer dollars against investments from regional partners in the international community. the administration's iran strategy focuses on neutral ice be tehran the destabilizing influence malign activities support for mitt militants. strong economic and security measures must be bolstered by assistance programs seeking key partners and ebb seeking to deny influence to iran and proxies. requests in the bunlt counter malign influence in iraq, lep lebanon and yemen by working through local partnering .the territorial deefs defeat of iceness the iraq and syria should not be underestimated. the fy 20 supports significant progress. we also continue to hold isis accountable for the atrocities committed, including genocide against members of iraq's
persecuted communities. ensuring the survival of iraq's minority religious and ethnic communities is of vital interest of the united states. and stands in direct opposition to the extremist vision isis sought to impose on iraq. u.s. assistance will enable iraq to become a constructive stabilizing influence in the region. the fy 2020 request of as the 166 million supports u.s. assistance that promotes further interrogation of iraq into the global economy which in turn will create opportunities for u.s. businesses and jobs here at home. as was seen over the last few weeks stabilization in syria will require more resources than one country alone should provide. we expect allies and partners to increase contributions to stabilize syria and ensure that isis cannot return. in yemen we are working with international donors to address critical humanitarian needs creating a foupgs more durable peace. in addition, the fy 2020 budget requests $41 million in economic assistance to support the yemeni
people and institutions. the fy 2020 budget requests commitment to comprehensive israeli arab peace hinging on safe and secure israel. consistent with the mou between united states and cerebral. the budget requests 3.3 billion in israel. single largest in the region. and agrees to work toward lasting peace between israel and palestines. in potter of the efforts the president's 20 budget request includes $35 million in stewart assistance for the palestinian security forces and including funding in the diplomatic progress fund that could also be used for assistance to the west bank and gaza. encouraging deep he were partnerships between israel and neighbors will reduce israel's international isolation and improve regional security. the fa 2020 request includes 1.275 billion-dollar for jordan consistent with the 2018 bilateral mou.
i'd like to thank the subcommittee for sharing the administration's staunch support for the u.s. jordan relationship. the u.s. assistance has helped jordan weather the impact of the syrian crisis and supports longstanding u.s. jordanian replace. egypt, the region as most populous country is important to u.s. interests. the fa 2020 request includes 1.3 billion in smf to support the counter terrorism of sinai and secure the country's land and maritime borders including the suez canal. in closing the president's 2020 request contributes to achievement of our national security priorities in the region and supports advancements to advance our interests. thank you for your enduring support to our dlomcy in the region and foreign service investments. foreign assistance investments. our ability to respond quickly to needs in the region and allocate funding effectively requires continued support. i look forward to answering your questions.
thank you. >> thank you assistant secretary schenker. assistant administrator harvey you are recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, chairman deutch. ranking member wilson and distinguished members of the subcommittee. thank you for the opportunity to testify on the important role of the development and humanitarian assistance programming in advancing u.s. interests in the middle east and north africa. it's an honor to be here with assistant secretary schenker and to be ---en a to be representing administrator greene and the professionals of u.s. aid. u.s. aid recognizes that most nations in the recently are middle income countries. countries with young populations whose energy, education, and inspiration can be tapped to help speed their country's journal journey to self reliance. we we believe well tarlgted investments by the united states and other donors can play a critical role in helping these
countries lock in democratic advances where they have occurred and drive job creating economic growth through modern free market economies. in line with administration policies, u.s. aid focuses its programming to support our friends and allies appear steadily work toward graduating countries from foreign assistance. helping partnering build self relevantens to counter malign influences come from outside while demonstrating american values in the context of renewed great power competition. in iraq we continue to support the government's initiatives to strengthen fiscal management and improve service delivery. progress in these areas will strengthen iraqi sovereignty and a effective counter to iranian influences within the society. another key area of focus is our support for religious and ethnic
minorities in northern iraq. building on the 40 oh million dollar investment we have made thus far to help communities recover from the atrocities of isis, the administration is requesting $150 million to support vulnerable religious and ethnic minority groups globally. this investment will help ensure these communities are able to remain in their historical homeland and thrive as crucial components of larger societies. i want to note as part of ours efforts to expand u.s. aid's global initiative earlier this month administrator greene announced awards to six eric irk o iraqi oppressions working to implement our ethnic and religious programs who are targeted by genocide. we aim to target high school and reading and tarring targeting
engineering and math programs in egypt. the government of egypt has now responded the programs across the country, demonstrating the capacity to take on these successes and address and forward the country's development effort. but let'sen here. job creation across the region is a key concern. our work with the private sector is yielding results. we recently handed dplomas and contracts to first group of students graduating in the suez corridor logistics training program. and we're doing similar job matching projects across the region, helping the firms and young people they will employ. in tonnisia with the support of congress and particularly this subcommittee, the united states played an important role since 2011 in solidifying the country as democratic transition. during my recent visit i was
honored to officially reopen the tunisia office as a full mission and on the same trip to sign the first five-year bilateral agreement with tunisia. while there i traveled to the karawan in the interior. where i had the pleasure of the visit businesses growing and with young people actively participating with the local governments in setting the path forward for their communities. and before i close, a word on burden sharing. just to echo the assistant secretary's remarks. the administration's foreign assistance request prioritizes investments matched by host government commitments and encouraging international donors to share the burden of development. our work in syria is an example. u.s. aid programs have restored water and electricity to hundreds of thousands of syrians in areas liber eighted from isis. we helped revitalize
agriculture, rehabilitate canals and all of this -- all of these activities were funded by our coalition partners. we will continue to put u.s. interests first and to be full partners in advancing u.s. national interests in this region with the support of congress and through the strategic efficient use of resources we will continue to present the best of the american people to the people of the middle east and north africa. thank you, sir and i look forward to your question. >> thank you very much. thanks to both of you again for being here. and sincere thanks for your work and service to the country advancing american interests and dmirably representing the american values throughout the region. well now begin 5-minute questioning. i'll begin followed by the ranking member and then alternate between the parties. assistant secretary schenker, last week the iranian frnltsy reportedly sent to the united states a list of people its demanding in a proposed prisoner swap. the regime also made another
proposal for prisoner exchange in april. could you speak to the administration's view of iran's recent proposal and tell us whether the administration would nanl that a prisoner exchange with iran, or does it reject the idea on principle? >> thank you for the question, congressman. the united states and the administration priority is to get back our americans held unjustly in iran basically hostages over there. this is not a prisoner exchange. we're talking about exchanging people who have been kidnapped, americans who are in iran versus iranian prisoners, people who have done illegal things here like try and for example kill the saudi ambassador in georgetown through an iranian plot. that said, it is a priority to get our people back. and we are looking into all
sorts of opportunities if they should presents themselves. but i can't get into details on that. >> now, can you comment on the -- on the reports of this proposal? >> i cannot. >> can you tell us -- can you tell us whether there are any talks under way with iran to secure the release of americans and permanent residents held hostage. >> i'm not getting into the details here. what i would say is that it's a priority for us to get our people back. but there has been a history actually of these type of offers. annan iran generally leverages
anti-terrorism clarification act, should the united states consider resuming certain types of aid to plin can alestinians so, which types and under which conditions? >> let me start by saying that the administration supports the victims of terrorism. this is an important piece of legislation. >> does -- assistant secretary, does the administration support the so-called act of fix? >> we're willing to engage with congress on every level to fix that. >> assistant administrator harvey, can you answer the question about -- about what aid should -- and if so, which type of ashould flow again assuming the act to fix addresses that issue? >> i will let the assistant secretary address the issue of whether there should be an active fix. that's a broader conversation. if assistance were to resume, if the political decision were made that the circumstances would justify that, we would take a
look very closely with our palestinian partners to determine where to start. i wouldn't want to prejudge it now, but historically, water and waste water have been very high priorities for both the israeli neighbors and the palestinians, themselves, and i'm sure that would be at least one place where we would start. >> so assistant secretary schenker, let me get back to you. assuming that -- thank you for your offer to work with us. assuming e ining a fix is achie should -- recognize the benefits of any type of aid flowing to west bank and gaza? >> think that would be something that would have to come after the rollout of the peace plan. but i can't really comment on whether -- >> and why's that? >> well, i think that there is this enormous aid package that awaits the palestinians that underpins this -- the peace proposal. >> so, let's talk about that.
do you have -- what -- can you tell us what role your desk has played or you, personally, have played in helping to draft this peace process? >> none. >> but you're aware of what's in it. >> no. i've seen public statements from -- from adviser kushner about this that talk about raising money to underwrite -- >> okay. let me just focus on the one issue of u.s. security assistance. help me understand why we should wait for a peace proposal that may come soon, may never come at all, to resume the funding of the security coordinator that helps to protect palestinians and israelis. >> yeah, no, that's a great question. we would love -- >> thanks. >> -- to spend that right now. we allocated $35 million. we have a security coordinator out there. we have a fully staffed -- we are underwriting that. we'd like to spend the $35 million to do the train and
equip. we're just being held back. >> and finally, all of -- >> that's good to go. that $35 million. >> and any other -- any other projects, are there any other projects since, my understanding assistant administrator harvey, operations have essentially wound down in west bank and gaza as a result of the -- both the combination of acta and the administration's decision to withhold all funds. so are -- can you prioritize where funds would be spent? >> i don't have a list right now, but i can get back to you on that. >> i would -- >> i would think, by the way, i would think that wastewater management would be -- as mike harvey said, would be a leading -- a leading factor of public health. >> i appreciate that, mr. wilson. you're recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman. again, thank both of you for being here. thank you for your service. and both of you, i know, make a difference on behalf of freedom and democracy in the world. assistant secretary schenker,
what is the bureau doing to counter iranian influence in the region? >> well, first of all, we're implementing crushing sanctions on iranians. this has resulted, denied some $50 billion in oil revenue and is slylikely going to result in constriction of their economy by double digits by the end of 2019. this economic pressure provides them with less money with which to fund their regional proxies, terrorist organizations like hezbollah, which are facing increased pressure because of the lack of funds available to them. that's on one side. we are working with our partners to multilaterally constrain iran's malign behavior. this is building coalitions in the region, whether through the international maritime security
construct, also known as operation sentinel, and also calling out iran by name, something the e-3 did to hold iran responsible for what it did in aramco a few weeks back. that's sort of unprecedented. likewise, we are exposing iran -- the iranian regime's brutality and governance problems. we are working through local partners, we're strengthening and financially backing the lebanese armed forces which someday could serve as a counterbalance to some of iran's pernicious activities in lebanon. we are -- we are pressing our saudi allies and actually with some prospect of success to -- to get a peace agreement in yemen, which would roll back
houthi -- the pernicious houthi influen influence. >> well, we appreciate each of your initiatives. and can either of you here today guarantee to the subcommittee that no u.s. taxpayers' funds are sent to the iraqi government which including the iraqi federal police which could be dispersed to the iranian-backed militias operating in the country. >> i believe that's the case. we're not providing any to iraq this year. but i'll have to check on the other funds. i believe that they're not funding directly. >> thank you. and then assistant secretary, what is your assessment of the relationship between the u.n. operations within syria and assad regime in damascus? would you say the assad regime benefits from u.s. programming in syria?
>> well, if i can punt to mike harvey on that, my understanding is, no, that it does not benefit the assad regime. >> congressman, you're raising a very serious issue that concerns us greatly. as you know, the one place that -- the one activity that we do have in assad-controlled areas is our humanitarian assistance program that is implemented almost exculusively through u.n. agencies with a few exceptions. ensuring the integrity of that program is a constant challenge, but it's something we work very closely with our u.n. partners on, we watch very closely and it's, please do keep the attention on it as we will as well. >> and we -- i'm grateful we have bipartisan legislation on this point. and i know it's not covered very often, but actually people of both parties can work together
substantially particularly in the middle east and then secretary schenker, are there any u.s. citizens currently held or detained by the saudi government and what efforts is the administration making for their release? >> thank you, there. this is an issue of concern. with dual national being held by the saudis. we have been engaging with the saudi government continuouscont. had been held for some two years without charged and recently, he was charged and released and they are going through a trial. we view that as a positive development and hopefully that trial will be over soon and he will be exonerated and be able to come home.
>> and thank you for following through on that. i yield back my time. >> thank you, mr. wilson. m mr. allred, you're recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank the witnesses for your soervice to our countr. i'm trying to discern this administration's policy in the middle east. on the subcommittee, we have heard testimony that is has been widely ranging and i think been conflicting as well. the president says he wants to support israel but he's taken many steps that empower iran. president said he wants to destroy isis but we handed them a lifeline in syria where our actions. mr. schenker, you talked about how this budget intended to stabilize the region while you're also calling for large cuts to that budget. and so i'm trying to understand what our policy is in the lease. i want to begin with these cuts to foreign aid and to the priorities that you have laid out, many of them i agree with, and the justification has been to increase, quote, burden
sharing, across international partners. do you believe that this is actually going to lead to our allies contributing more or are we just giving russia, iran, china, a bigger opening to increase their influence in the region? >> thank you, congressman. no, i believe that actually our partners have stepped up. i think the best example of that would be syria where the president, the administration, zeroed out the budget last year of $300 million for humanitarian assistance. and we raised among our partners $325 million including $180 million from -- from saudi arabia and the united arab emirates. they stepped up and they have stepped up again and made similar commitments for this year. so, i think, you know, across the board, we find our allies -- >> you find these commitments to be sustainable? i'm wondering because we have a national security interest in
this region. we don't use foreign aid out of the goodness of our hearts in all cases. we use it because it stabilizes country. it allows us not to have to commit our brave men and women to conflicts abroad. we have a national security interest in it. if we are shaking down our allies and getting them to step in while we're not going to pay, then maybe in the short term, that's something that we can do. i don't see that as sustainable middle east policy for the united states. >> sir, i understand your concern. so far, we have been successful in raising funds from our allies. i think that we have to go every day and make the case to them about why it's not only in our interest, but it's in their interest. certainly, saudi arabia and the emirates have stepped up on syria, but across the board, if
they -- they see things and share in many ways same threat perception in the region, and are willing to back our efforts. >> let's talk about syria. and let's talk about how this turkish incursion impacts this budget request. is this reflective, this budget request, reflective of these current events or is this was something that was formulated before these events? >> the budget was formulated before the turkish invasion. >> so how is this invasion going to impact this request? and your plans in the region. >> yes. well, that's a good question. we have in the budget quite a bit of flexibility. not only the president had said immediately after the invasion that we would provide $50 million plus another $4.5 million to support the white helmets and $50 million for humanitarian assistance, we have also obligated funds, if necessary, if there's a mass
refugee flow of syrian kurds or syrians into iraqi kurdish area and we have flexibility through the relief and recovery fund, which has $145 million in it. and through the diplomatic progress fund. >> okay. okay. so, i understand. you know, we want to be -- if we're going to appropriate, we need to be part of the discussion about how this is going forward. that's what i'm trying to get to. i see you have some planplans. assistant administrator harvey, if you could, talk about what usaid's role will be in this potential refugee crisis we're seeing unfolding in northern syria. >> on -- when we are dealing with the issue of refugees, we will be working very closely with our state department colleagues within the refugee bureau. we have been supporting the humanitarian assistance programming within syria, which includes both people who are in their homes but also people who have been displaced by the
conflict. we've got about 90,000 people displaced from the recent kurdish, turkish actions, whom we will be supporting through the ongoing existing humanitarian assistance program. for the most part, we have access to them and our partners are implementing programs remarkably. if there is a -- we have about 12,000 refugees who have crossed into iraq. the systems that are in place and the resources are in place to deal with that population. we actually are using a planning figure of about $50,000. if we're lucky, we won't get anywhere near that with the cease-fire holds and turkish operations stay where they are. my worry is less of dealing with the -- the immediate humanitarian situation as it is sort of re-establishing political stability in that area. that's going to be a serious challenge for all of us. >> i agree. that's why i disagree with the
budget request. we will formulate what we think is necessary as we did in fiscal year '19 and thank you for your time. >> thank you for your time. >> thank you, mr. allred. mr. kinzinger, you're recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman, thank you both for being here. usaid, i don't think you guys get enough credit. generally with the state department, you don't get enough credit because when you alleviate a conflict, obviously, you don't know that it's been alleviated until we have -- when it's unsuccessful, so i want to thank you and your folks for all the good work and, you know, specifically, i think it's important to try to make sure we're spending taxpayer resources effecteffectivefy, efficiently, in a targeted way. we shouldn't cut the resources simply to cut them. we should make sure they're efficient. also, it's important when we make sure we do that, we're following the president's priorities even if we disagree, and that's, you know, where we come into play. especially in an area like this. but i especially want to commend, obviously, the people who took out al baghdadi this
weekend. it was a great thing. it's not the end of the war on isis. this is a generational fight. this is going to go on for a long time. i think we have to accept and understand that. that's where you come in extremely importantly as well making sure that next generation is not radicalized, not only are they not radicalized, they push back against radicalization. the more leaders we kill, the dumber they get. iraq, the surge, you take them out, accelerate the number you're taking out and pretty soon they run out of people to lead and it capitulates. so i want to, obviously, i've expressed a lot of concerns generally with syria's policy, but i'll leave those for now, but i do want to turn to the regime who i think the corruption was key to baghdadi's caliphate. and there's a whole lot on the inception of isis and what bashar al assad did. but i think now it seems all but certain that assad will consolidate much control over the country. mr. harvey, you mentioned about,
you know, rebuilding usaid projects within assad-controlled territory. i want to echo what my colleague, mr. wilson, said. we do not want taxpayer dollars going to prop up assad, so you can add me to that list. i know you guys are with me on that, too. but as the founder of the syria caucus, i'm going to continue to urge my colleagues to hold those responsible for war crimes in syria accountable. so, mr. schenker, if president trump were to sign -- i think he said he's willing to do it, we have one senate holdout, but if he signs into law the syria civilian for example act of 2019, what kind of impact would that have on the assad regime and their supporters? >> thank you, and i share with you the pleasure at the killing of baghdadi. this was -- >> it's worth celebrating for sure. >> yeah, no, it's a great thing, but there is no knockout blow.
i think that it's important that we recognize what assad has done. we are spending money and funding projects to document the mass atrocities. we are working on recordkeeping and underwriting some of that. this is a regime that is beyond the pale and we are focused narrowly on -- remain to focus narrowly on three things in syria. preventing the resurgence of isis. we are -- we are working on preventing, you know, iranian influence in the country and rolling that back and also political future through the implementation of 2254. this is the issue about cesar. this is regime that cannot be allowed to persist as is.
the people have to have a say in the direction of their countries. refugees were not ancillary to this conflict. assad ethnically cleansed his country of sunni muslims. he wanted to get rid of them. so the cesar act i think is very important in that regard. in holding them to account. >> another point on that is, look, it's going to be out of those refugee camps that said created where you get radicalization because people are hopeless, uneducated in many cases. you know, and it's easy to blame whoever. and that's where you find radicalization. so countering that's going to be important. can you also address, you know, with putin, obviously, standing up the assad regime, how are you guys working to counter their malign influence in the region? >> the russians are playing up that pernicious role across the region. it's not just in syria. it's libya and elsewhere. we're working on a number of strategies.
they're trying to contain them by working with our allies. we're certainly hammering our allies with -- with warnings about sanctions and others. but also letting them know, i think having a frank dialogue about what russia does when they're on the ground. >> yeah, and i think -- i'm out of time, and appreciate your service, but i think it's important, too, it's a lesson when they, you know, basically showed up in syria in 2012 or 2013, it's a lesson because we see them in venezuela and we'll see them elsewhere, stop them early, prevent them from coming in. thank you both for your service. mr. chairman, i yield back. >> thank you, mr. kinzinger. mr. malinowski, you're recognized. >> assistant secretary schenker, i'm going to start off by le leadilea reading the lead of a story in "the wall street journal" yesterday about egypt and one young woman in particular. who's a political activist in that country.
lead of the security is egyptian security officers grabbed her from her car in the country's capital on october 12th and blindfolded her, took her to a secure facility. two lawyers who visited her in prison said she was slapped, beaten on her arms and back, threatened with electrocution as officers demanded the password to her mobile phone. when she refused, the officers bound her hands and legs, choked her with her own jacket, forcibly used her fingers to unlock the phone. and you know as well as i do, i know your experience and you know mine, that this is a routine story in egypt. and things have gotten worse in the last month. more than 4,000 people detained since protests seeking the removal of president sisi started up. the largest, i think, wave of arrests that the country has seen since he came to power. and, you know, i don't think i need to ask you if this is wrong
because i'm sure you gragree th it is. since our -- but i will ask t s this. su allegedly based on advancing our security interests, does this kind of repression, which is escalating now, help our hurt legitimate efforts to fight extremism and terrorism in the country? >> thank you, congressman. i'm familiar with that story. i know esra. i met her several times. i think it's outrageous. know i had the egyptian ambassador in my office last week to talk about esra. this matters greatly to the administration. egypt has a long way to go on human rights. you heard we, the administration, made a statement in september talking about the rights of egyptians to demonstrate peacefully and the obligation of the egyptian
authorities to protect demonstrators. this is something that is very important to the administration. we talk about it. >> well, thank you, and i'm glad that you did that. but i guess i'm asking a more fundamental question because i remember sitting in your chair a few years ago saying something along the lines of egypt has a long way to go, and it seems to have an even longer way to go today. and, yet, here we have the same security relationship that we used to have. you know, any progress in sinai over the last several years? and once again, the question i would ask you, do their tactics help our hurt in the fight against what we say is our shared enemy? >> actually, on sinai, they have made some progress. i think it's incremental. they have received training that is more narrowly tailored to
that type of counterterrorism mission. but more importantly, they have recognized and i think through our counsel that counterterrorism requires more than just a military component and i'll actually let my colleague, mike harvey, talk about what we're doing and what the egyptians are doing in the sinai that regard -- >> actually, hold on, i don't have that much time, so i -- because i have a different question i wanted to ask mr. harvey, but i -- look, i would just say the fundamental problem here is that, you know, even as the president pulls back from syria, claims that it's just a bunch of sand and we need to get out of the middle east, we can't do these things forever, when the people we were helping both kurdish and arab, are actually fighting and dying with us to fight terrorism, many of whom absolutely share our values, incredibly brave civil society
activists who we are no longer supporting because we have pulled back so much of our programming there, and yet we continue to spend $1.3 billion of the taxpayers' money helping the egyptian military put on military parades with their tanks. and that doesn't sit well with me. i have a very quick question with very little time left for you, mr. harvey, and it's about yemen. when was the last time we -- usaid or through the u.n. provided a no-strike list to the saudi military on terms of humanitarian locations, targets that we ask them not to hit in yemen? >> congressman, i actually can't answer that question. i don't know, but i do know that it's a constant point of discussion between our two governments. >> okay. so, but we have provided them with no-strike lists. >> we certainly have. >> okay. >> both through aid and through our dod colleagues. >> okay. i think that's a very important thing to confirm on the record because we have, you know, not just broad concerns about human
rights and saudis that they haven't always listened to but specific locations and koo coordinates they've hit we've specifically given them as locations not to hit. i think that elevates this to the highest possible level of concern. thank you, i yield back. >> thank you, mr. malinowski. mr. chabot, you're recognized. >> tauhank you very much. i want to apologize for not being here to hear the testimony. i had an honor flight at the world war ii memorial. that's obviously a priority. see the world war ii veterans. used to mostly be world war ii veterans like my father who would be 100 if he were still alive next month, but now it's korean war veterans and vietnam war veterans and on and on, but it's one of those things, so i apologize for not being here a little earlier. and if i repeat some of the
questions, perhaps, that were already answered, i apologize for that, too. but i certainly appreciate the tougher line that this administration has taken against iran for the most part, which under the free hand given by the jcpoa greatly expanded its influence in the region. i'd like to focus on iran's so-called land bridge to the mediterranean. a critical goal of this is for iran to be able to threaten and potentially ultimately attack one of our most significant allies in the world, and that's israel. could either one of the gentlemen here discuss the administration's plans to curtail iran's ability to move equipment or supplies or fighters into and through syria and on to the israeli border?
thank you. >> thank you, congressman. the land bridge is an issue of enormous concern to the administration. before the turkish incursion into northern syria, the positioning of our troops there as an ancillary benefit to being present and fighting isis there, had limited iran's ability in some way to do everything it wanted. we still have residual presence there that as long as we're able to provide security and stability and work with our sdf partners in these areas which we continue to do, that may limit iran's ability somewhat, but this is a priority and if we curtail our presence, then it becomes -- it would become more difficult to do so. as you know, the israelis appear to be -- they have hit iranian
targets in syria for some time. attempted weapons transfers to lebanon. this is something that's not a secret. so that in some ways is also curtailing the efforts to establish this land bridge full time. >> thank you. did you want to add anything? >> not specifically, congressman, because we're a few steps to the side of the broader debate, but much of what usaid sort of premises its development activities in this region on is enabling these countries to stand on their own as fully sovereign countries that control their destiny, it better enables them to push back from the nefarious intent of both iran, russia, and others. >> thank you. >> yeah, if i might add, i mean, in some ways the weak link there has been iraq, right, more than
syria. as you know, iran is storing ballistic missiles in iraq. iraq is not able to exert its sovereignty and -- it is a problem and will remain a problem for some time until iraq can exert sovereignty. >> thank you very much. i'm sure my next question has probably been mentioned and discussed prior to my being here. obviously, the -- taking out the al baghdadi was a huge victory. just a horrific, horrible, individual. the head of probably the most despicable organization that we've seen in a long, long time. so our -- i want to commend the president and all those that worked with him in accomplishing this and, obviously, principally, our men and women
in uniform who, you know, took the action to end this horrible person's time on this earth. wou could you discussion the administration's plans moving forward to ensure that isis does not re-establish itself under a new caliphate under, especially in syria, under a new leader? wheth what are the administration's plans at this point in ensuring that that doesn't happen? >> thank you, congressman. that's a top priority for the administration. the fight against isis. the prevention of the resurgence of isis 2.0. contrary to what many people say, the administration continues to work with our sdf partners on the ground in syria. we have troops embedded with units and we continue to fight isis there.
and that will be a key point of our presence going forward. whether there or outside that area. so i would anticipate counterterrorism mission will remain a very high priority for the indefinite future. this is, i think as congressman kinzinger said, this is a generational mission. >> very good. thank you very much. my time's expired, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chabot. mr. keating, you're recognized. >> thank you. question, just following up, on iraq, a great concern. we've seen the demonstrations. we know the situation there in detail. we know that there was an order for nonemergency personnel in may to leave. that's going to run out next month. it seems from the budget there's been a cut in security funds. does that represent what the future is there? it's such a critical area along with so many other areas, but without a presence there, it's
going to be that much more difficult from the stateside. could you comment on what the prospects look like in this critical area right now that often gets overlooked? >> thank you. i share your concern. the safety and wellbeing of the diplomats is the top priority for me. it's my responsibility in many ways. and so we are on order depart e departure, we have been, in eight days or seven days, it will be six months. the security situation is such that this is i believe the new normal. that said, while we have not the height of the numbers that we had before, we have sufficient numbers on the ground to do our mission. in fact, even under order departu departure, this year even so far we have done more visits with iraqi -- more engagements with iraqi parliamentarians outside the embassy compound than we did
when we had our full complement the year before we went on ordered departure. we are engaged diplomatically in a way that, you know, as we were before, even more so. our military presence is there, part of this is burden sharing but part of it is also that the military ctaf funding where it can view, train and equip and fund and work with iraqi military, notwithstanding the absence of fmf. we remain engaged. we have numbers of troops. we have a full diplomatic corps. i've been in iraq maybe four times in the past four months. so this is a priority for us. if you want to roll back iran in the region, this is the beachhead and we are there and we are not leaving. >> thank you for your engagement in that. just briefly, too, i mean, there's been 14 million yemenese
in starvation. what are we doing there to help one of the worst humanitarian situations in the world? [ inaudible ] yemen. sorry. your microphone is -- your mic. >> yemen is a remarkable challenge for all of us. it is one of the largest humanitarian assistance programs anywhere. it is an extremely difficult place to do work. our -- the de facto authorities in the north, the houthis, make it very difficult. and yet, despite that, we are extremely proud of the performance of our wfp colleagues, in particular, but also unicef, w.h.o., and the panoply of american and international ngos who've been working in yemen. >> good. thank you for your work. i just wanted to touch one other -- >> yep. >> -- topic, too. it's harder -- but i've long
felt we hacould have a greater significance if we could better work with eu allies on their development programs and sort of coordinate better what they're doing and what we're doing in critical areas of the world. is there an opportunity to even have a multiplier effect beyond what we're doing now? because i think there's an enormous opportunity that way. >> congressman, i couldn't agree with you more. the eu is an interesting institution. i'll leave it at that. what's -- in countries like yemen where we are almost entirely dependent upon the u.n., it's easier because that mechanism sort of forces joint pooled funding of activities. there's more coordination can you might see, but they are, to be perfectly honest, challenging partners because of their bureaucracy is even slower than ours. and whenever i'm feeling
frustrated about a.i.d.'s bureaucracy, i look at the others and i feel a little better, but it's something we're committed to. we have folked assigned in brussels. we meet with our brussels counterparts. but let's not forget that the german, the french, the british bilateral assistance programs, especially the british and german are huge around the world, and those bilateral partnerships are extremely close. i mean, just having spent four years dealing with boko haram in nigeria, not successfully, but that's another conversation, the partnership we had with the brits and the germans was as good as it could get. >> i hope it's something our committee and the subcommittee i chair can continue to work on. thank you for your service. i yield back. >> thank you, mr. keating. mr. trone, you're recognized. >> thank you. mr. secretary schenker, accountability for the murder of jamal khashoggi is vital to supporting the rights and
freedoms of individuals. in particular, freedom of the press. does not failing to provide consequences for the khashoggi assassination embolden the perpetrators? and what's the administration doing to prevent this possibility? >> thank you, congressman. accountability, as the secretary has said, is critical in the murder of jamal khashoggi. getting to the bottom of it. i knew khashoggi, it's something that matters to me personally as well. in 2018 the administration sanctioned some 11, 17, saudis involved if the murder of khashoggi with the global magnitsky sanctions. right now, we are -- there's some 11 defendants in saudi arabia in the middle of a trial. i think both the defense and the prosecution have -- have
finished their cases. we're waiting on verdicts. i think the judicial process as we see it fall short of full accountability and we've indicated that to the saudis. we're encouraging, nonetheless, a fair and transparent judicial process. >> certainly seems like we're not getting that at the end of the day, but under crown prince, again, the saudi government's intensified its crackdown on disside dissidents, human rights activists. in '18, oppression directed against the leading women's rights advocates who were seeking to end the male guardianship system that enables systemic abuse and repression. authorities arrested a dozen prominent women, rights activists and accused several others of grave crimes including treason. directly related to their activism. there's also reports that women were subject to sexual harassment and torture. what's a state department's view
on saudi arabia's crackdown against these activists and dissidents? >> thank you. it's a concern of the administration, the state department. some of these human rights allegations of abuse. but i like to say that it's a bit of a mixed bag here. for example, the saudi government in the last four months lifted -- ended the guardianship law. now women can travel abroad without the permission of their children, for example, or male guardian. several of the women drivers have been released from jail. one who i talked about before, a dual national u.s. citizen, has now been charged and is on trial but has been released from jail. you know, on other issues, they've been very positive as well. the saudi government is working to put the yemeni government back together by fostering
negotiations between the southern transitional council and the hadi government. they're about to get an agreement on that. they have a de-escalation with the houthis that actually appears to be taking hold. at our encouragement, they gave last month $500 million to humanitarian assistance in yemen. so, let's say that saudi two has some way to come, some room for improvements in terms of human rights, but they're working on it. they are putting together a committee on trafficking human persons to look into this more closely. so they don't have some sort of bad rating next year, assessment, from the u.s. government next year. i actually think they are making an effort and in some places succeeding. >> so, it's an interest but looks like there's lots of room to go. we still have dissidents in jail. we still have lots of conversation about torture and abuse that they're suffering. we still have a crown prince
that has not been held accountable. so, yeah, progress, great, but we're not where we need to be and i think we need to continue to pressure and push for where we should be. we all know morally where we should be. >> well, thank you. this is a topic of ongoing discussion between us and the saudis, and, but i think that while we should continue pushing where credit is due, i think we should give them credit. >> now, quickly, to tunisia. the legislative -- the elections just happened in tunisia. we like to see a move in a good direction. we cut foreign aid of $86 million roughly in half. do you have concerns about the message that sends? >> thank you. we think that the number is right on tunisia for, in two parts. by the way, we, too, think that the elections were a dramatic success and see this as really a
positive development. i was just in tunisia last month right before the elections. i met with the independent electoral commission. it's something that is a source of, i think, should be a source of pride for them. and certainly for the region. it's unusual. we think the number is the right figure. we are -- the fmf, the money that we provide for the security forces is the same, basically. but some of the eff have decreased and if we need to, we can make that up. they also get a great deal of money from europeans. once again, burden sharing. and all this money, there's an issue of absorptive capacity. so we think we're at the right amount. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. trone. i just had a couple of follow-ups then mr. wilson if he has any. assistant secretary schenker, you said iraq is a beachhead. i think you were referring to iraq as beachhead in confronting
iranian aggression. is that right? november is the six-month deadline for extending the or r ordered departures and you've got to decide the future of u.s. government presence in iraq. are there -- are there plans to strengthen the security of the u.s. embassy in iraq to enable the return of u.s. personnel or tell me where that stands. >> yeah. this has been something i spend a great deal of time on, actually. safety and security of diplomatic personnel in iraq, in particular. i don't want to get into the details of how we came to the discussions. we think the security at the embassy is adequate. actually, better than adequate. >> sufficient for the return of personnel. to enable u.s. personnel and the resumption -- >> yeah, to accomplish the mission. >> yeah. >> and we've got a number of diplomats that we think is
appropriate. and i can brief you about this in another setting. but -- >> yeah. right. i would like to do that if we could arrange that. then finally, also on the topic of iran, this time in syria, i think if i understood you, you said if we curtail our presence, it would be more difficult to prevent effectively the land bridge that was asked about earlier. did i understand you correctly? when you say if we curtail our presence, if we curtail our presence the way we're doing, if we curtail our presence beyond what we're doing, what were you referring to? >> basically down to what we're doing, as ambassador jeffrey said, i belief during hve durin testimony to you, our presence is a stabilizing force and to the degree we are present, it sets better conditions for the right things to happen in syria. >> so, are you -- so i'll ask,
are you confident that the current strategy effectively prevents from establishing that land bridge that we, this committee in particular, has worried so much about? >> i think it complicates iranian efforts to do so. >> does the administration assess u.s. efforts to prevent the spread of iranian influence in syria and iraq and lebanon as successful? >> sir, i think it's a work in progress. in iraq right now, a lot of the intercommunal violence that you're seeing is based on, our belief is, iranian overreach because iran is so immeshed in the society. many shiite there like everywhere throughout the region or shiite nationalists and are pushing back on this. >> again, let me wrap up on this
issue of the land bridge. so, how many troops are in tanif? >> not at liberty to say. >> but the withdrawal of troops from northern syria, the withdrawal -- i just want to make sure i understand. >> there's still a residual u.s. presence that goes beyond atanif. >> and you're comfort that whatever that number is, that residual presence is sufficient to prevent iran from establishing a land bridge from tehran through baghdad and damascus over to beirut? >> i think it plays a positive role on that front. >> i'm sure some is better than none. i'm just asking whether it's a sufficient number to prevent iran from establishing that. >> i -- i really can't comment. >> okay. i appreciate anything further, mr. wilson. >> great. well, thanks. i thank the witnesses and all
the members for being here today. thanks for your testimony. secretary schenker, assistant administrator harvey. members of the subcommittee may have additional questions for you and we ask our witnesses to please respond to those questions in writing. i would ask my colleagues to submit those questions for the hearing record within five business days, and with that, and without objection, the subcommittee is adjourned.
u.s. house today approved the roles f rules for the impeaf president trump. 232-196. the measure lays out the next step for the impeachment investigation in the coming weeks. it was mostly a party-line vote but two democrats voted against the measure, collin peterson of minnesota and jeff vandrew of new jersey. former republican member justin amash who's now an independent voted yes with other democrats. the house is motnot in session t week. they'll be back november 12 president. the white house put out this statement today, "the president has done nothing wrong and the democrats know it. nancy pelosi and the democrats' unhinged obsession with this illegitimate impeachment proceeding does not hurt president trump. it hurts the american people." the statement went on, "that is unfair, unconstitutional, and fundamentally un-american."
follow the impeach the inquiry and administration's response on c-span. unfiltered coverage live as it happens. primetime re-airs and any time on c-span.org. sunday live at noon eastern on "in-depth" princeton university professor imani perry joins us to talk about african-american history and racial inequality. >> my mother came of age in jim crow alabama. so my mother lived here youth through a white nationalist society and it's come back. >> openly officially white nationalist society. >> yes, it's reared its head again. >> her most recent book is "breathe: a letter to my sons." other books include "prophets of the hood" and "may be forever stand." join the interactive conversation with your phone calls, tweets and facebook
messages. and at 9:00 p.m. eastern on "after words," david shelkin, author of "it shouldn't be so hard to serve this country" recalls his tame as secretaime administration. he's interviewed by jeremy butler. >> the government's involvement in v.a. health care is the most effective way of honoring our nation's commitment to our veterans. that does not mean that veterans should not have the ability to go into the private sector when it's in their best interests, when the care is better or specialized care's available that's not in the v.a. i think we all believe that that should be available. >> watch "book tv" every weekend on c-span it. next, veteran affairs secretary robert wilkie talks about reforms at the v.a.,