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tv   House Foreign Affairs Hearing on Syria Study Group Report  CSPAN  October 20, 2019 10:38am-12:15pm EDT

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he was a fact witness. and he wasn't honest with the president. he didn't say to the president, by the way, mr. president, i've agreed to be a special counsel to investigate you. he wasn't forthright. he wasn't honest and truthful to the president, which to me is unconscionable. >> watch it tonight at 9:00 eastern on book tv on c-span2. >> after the trump administration decision to withdraw u.s. troops from northern syria, a house foreign affairs subcommittee held a hearing on the final report from the syria study group. the group's co-chairs testified on the findings of the republican and how they can be applied to the current situation with syria and turkey. and turkey.
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this hearing will come to order and we welcome everyone. the subcommittee testimony on the findings and recommendations in the study group's final report. given the timing of the hearing we will have the opportunity to discuss the ramifications of the policy changes in syria and a study group recommendations to still address the challenges that are. for the purpose of an opening statement. >> thank you very much for testifying today and for your work and the final report of the study group. your report as a thoughtful
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review of the conflict and provides pragmatic recommendations for how policymakers can protect u.s. interests and destabilize syria. now it is well known president trump does not like to read but i wish that he had skimmed over the executive summary before the recent phone call with the turkish president. your assessment notes do not eliminate the threat to the united states. it also notes the detainee population is a long-term challenge is not being adequately addressed and iran continues to entrench itself in russia and iran show few signs of divergence. the turkish incursion would represent a major setback at a crisis for the relationship and despite the challenges the united states maintains letters
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that protects the core u.s. national security interests. to withdraw u.s. forces in northeastern syria and consent to the invasion in the region, your assessment has in fact sadly worn out. rarely as a foreign-policy decision by the united states president yielded this many disastrous consequences this quickly. most importantly the choice makes the american people less safe. deliberately releasing the detainees and tigers and as your report notes they've transitioned to the insurgency and in the absence of pressure against it will utilize for constructing the external attacks. tragically like other aspects of
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your assessment i expect this to ring true in the coming weeks and i'm spent also forced to reach an agreement allowing them to expand into northeastern syria. yesterday, russian media circulated a video showing the soldiers and their proxy is taking over the recently abandoned u.s. bases in the region. this outcome will also benefit iran by reinforcing the position of its ally is unclear how allowing them to fortify the land bridge to the mediterranean and enabling it to threaten our ally is consistent with the maximum pressure policy on iran.
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both placed american troops typically in harms way to protect president trump's choice and he is reducing the presence in terminating america's endless war but they said a sen to saudi arabia, secretary of defense noted friday. on fridayn additional 14,000 american personnel have been the plate in the middle east since may. patriot air and missile defense and the b-52 bombers and aircraft carriers to support the objective of the increase to the tour iran but the claim that he is reducing the role in the middle east is a lie and the american people see right through it.
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one of the notable successes in the middle east yielding u.s. leverage and putting them in danger undermining the credibility, dividing nato, removing pressure on isis for the partners that fought valiantly in recent to counter them with american support. this is not just my opinion but one that most republicans share. it's the biggest blunder of the presidency and noticed we are witnessing ethnic cleansing, the destruction of the reliable ally in the reemergence of isis. the choice was impossible to understand. the former ambassador argued that they were instrumental in
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the successful fight leaving them to die is a big mistake. not one decision could unite democrats and republicans and deal yields this result it epitomizes the approaches of the world and i would urge my republican colleagues to remember that it's not the only example president trump would help $391 million since the ukraine and stayed at war with russia in a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people as part of an effort to compel them to dig up dirt on the political opponent that should unite us all in rejecting a foreign-policy experts ambition over national interest and so lead ousullyour nation's honor d credibility. i look forward to the
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testimonies and suggestions on how to achieve the national interest. with that i will yield to mr. wilson for his opening statement. >> thank you for calling this important hearing. the united states and syrian policy has been an example of the american strategic failure at every point from the notorious red line by president barack obama that was never enforced in the recent days that i believe that our failure is far greater than a strategic misstep. the policy over the last eight years represents a challenge to all of us. we said here over eight years
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after they began butchering people still tr trying to figure out what the policy should be, but it's not just us it is the international community that is complicit. the international system was founded in the aftermath of the humanitarian catastrophe of the holocaust but has failed to prevent the tragedy that it was supposed to act against. they've hijacked the multilateral institutions instead of promoting liberty they are exploited to cement tyranny and oppression. it developments over the past week have underscored the importance of the work that our witnesses here today have spent so much time. i was deeply disappointed by the administration's decision to
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withdraw and putting our kurdish allies in a great bill if warned against the withdrawal and the consequences that we are witnessing today like the chairman, i am increasingly concerned about the research of the heels on the withdrawal. it creates dangerous breathing room for the elements in the region which can ultimately endanger american families back home from safe havens overseas. in order to prevent them from coming here, we must fight them over there. about a thousand american soldiers was a minuscule percentage of all the military forces in uniform today that the role of this was outsized. they helped protect the world from the dangers of establishing safe havens to threaten american families.
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this was extremely cost effective in the military investment. it seems to be the only real winners of the withdrawal are russia, iran, turkey and the despotic regime in addition to the isis took her breasts. but the problem is that the withdrawal could have consequences in virtually every other arena of the u.s. foreign policy. the move solidifies a concern and fear america is receiving from the world stage inspiring and enabling the forces everywhere which has not been the policy of peace through strength. the reports over the past few days indicate that russia has intentionally bombed over a dozen hospitals and dissent in t
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important that an adversary. how many must be killed until we take action to stop this killing machine, there is simply no solution for syria. we know that america has been the actor on the world stage. we've always aimed to do the right thing and the people of the world know that. they know that the values america has stood for. we believe we still can return to that idea and in my opinion there is no substitute for the american leadership to preserve peace or strength. i will yield back the balance of my time. thank you mr. chair and ranking member wilson for your opening statement. i don't object to withdrawing the troops. i object and how it was done
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because the impulsive decision with no planning and no coordination we now have the isis theater risks that have been set free and turkish forces and russian military forces taking over the u.s. military facilities. the i think that it's appropriate for the american people to ask the question when it comes to vladimir putin, why does it always seem like donald trump bends the knee? i yield back. >> the situation has been a tragedy to watch unfold over the
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past eight years we've witnessed how brutal he truly is and the length he is willing to go to hold onto power. hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions forced to flee creating one of the worst refugee crises today. the civil war also created a vacuum for groups like isis and al qaeda while opening a doorway to advance its goal of regional hegemony and further enabling it to threaten our key ally in the region, israel. i look forward to discussing the report especially in light of the changes on the policy since it was released and how we can move forward to accomplish our objectives.
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huge bipartisan majorities rejected a half an hour ago on the floor. we saw northeast syria stable now they are subject to slaughter and isis may very well be liberated. it is a mistake made in good faith at a level with the american people, the president decided to pretend that this was some sort of a voluntary withdrawal. this cutting and running will not only imperil our policy in the middle east but it will
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undercut our alliances everywhere in the world. i yield back. president trump sealed the fate when he gave the president of turkey the green light to invade setting off a humanitarian disaster and reigniting chaos. i believe this callous heartless decision will go down in history allowing them to go free and seeing the influence like many i'm mystified by the administration's decision to allow them to go forward in their attempt to clean up the mess that they have made no matter what they do the administration can't bring back burger to kurdish children or reclaim the position and they can't bring back the credibility
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that has been squandered as we portray the trust of our kurdish allies. thank you to the witnesses and i look forward to your views on the efforts we can make and what actions you would recommend to the administration in this situation and with that i will yield back. >> without objection, all members have five minutes to veto days subject to the length, limitations and rules and it is now my pleasure to introduce the witnesses. the senior fellow in the policy's program and previously served five years as a senior professional staff member on the state of the relations committ committee. before capitol hill she worked in the office of secretary of defense and at the u.s. embassy
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and political affairs at the institute of peace and civilian military relations in iraq and the national democratic institute on the gulf affairs. also the cochair of the study group is the managing director of the washington institute for policy and previously served as a director for near east affairs and the white house from 2007 to 2008 and for several middle eastern countries including iran and syria on the staff of 2005 to 2007 he also served as a special assistant to the secretaries of state colin powell and condoleezza rice. thank you for being here today your statements will be made part of the hearing record. thank you both for being here at this moment in particular and we will now start.
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you are recognized for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman for this opportunity for the report of the mandated group. it was an honor to cochair the group of experts along with my colleague. when the study group released its final report last month, we intentionally started by articulating why they still matter. making this case isn't something our group took for granted especially at the time of heightened public debate about the role in the world and what we should invest to achieve u.s. objectives. they are unanimous in their conclusion that what happens moreover we argue it is resourced and prioritized the compelling forms of life rich in
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the specific assessment and recommendations but needless to say it still matters. the fundamental drivers of conflict and violence are unchanged today. notably there is acknowledgment of these points in congress and the conflict was largely delegated to the margins of public attention before last week. now it is front and center of international headlines and it's captured domestic attention. as the executive and legislative branches of the u.s. government worked to articulate for the u.s. policy can realistically achieve when the majority of the forces in syria are withdrawn, the report proposes a series of specific nonmilitary recommendation to. but it's also important to take a step back and remind ourselves of the orders of this conflict and situate within the broad strategic landscape of the u.s.
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national security. syria opposes five strategic challenges. international terrorism, iran, russia, refugees and international norms. the current conflict began as peaceful protests against an autocratic dictator, one of the many uprisings in 2011. though many hoped the protests might open up the door to positive change, those hopes were quickly dashed as the result into a crucible of intersecting conflicts that had reverberated well beyond the middle east. the regime survived in power for decades by operating at the intersection of criminality and terrorism. the united states designated syria as a state-sponsored and service him in 1979. we know the nature of this regime. they facilitated the movement of the operatives during the iraq war to attack the forces and he will seek to leverage al qaeda and fighters again when it suits his syria today provides a safe
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haven to the world's most dangerous terrorist groups. greateste to the concentration of foreign fighters in afghanistan in the 1980's. ice is no longer holds territory, but was already reconstituting as an insurgent force and will replenish its ranks of fighters breaking out of detention facilities today and will prey on vulnerable communities as the humanitarian situation deteriorates. iran seeks to turn syria into a base with missiles and advanced weapons and has asked where the conflict to entrench itself in serious economic and social fabrics. israeli strikes and u.s. sanctions prevent iran from consolidating these gains, but, the increased risk of war that has now increased today. russia has exploded the conflict. inough its intervention syria, moscow established itself as a major player in the middle east for the first time in decades. u.s. partners across the region have expanded ties and look to
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moscow, not washington, for mediation. russia is positioning itself to broker an agreement between a side in turkey and also play a role in the agreement reached between the syrian democratic forces and aasad. the arc of crisis in xenophobia discourse follows syrian refugees who fled a deliberate campaign of violence against civilians by assad, russia, and isis. refugees have strained the economies, yet conditions in for safe,not suitable voluntary, or dignified return. itslly, the regime and partners have smashed every norm of conflict by targeting hospitals and schools, deploying chemical weapons, and using starvation and mass murder is weapons of war. today, there have been no meaningful consequences for these actions. expect that future authoritarians, when faced with peaceful protest, may look to
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the syrian case and assume that maximilian homicide will not be challenged in any credible way, setting new president for conduct in war -- precedent for conflict and war. concerns, it is not a conflict that can be contained or ignored. the rapid development shaping both the battlefield and political realignment syria will not end this conflict, it will only set conditions for the next phase of war. group's final report remains relevant today, which my colleague will now detail. thank you. >> thank you. your recognized for five minutes. thanks so much for this opportunity to testify and thank you to congress for the opportunity to serve as cochair of the study group. it was an honor to serve alongside my cochair.
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syria does matter in syria has resisted all of our efforts over the years to ignore it, to contain the conflict, to cauterize the conflict as some used to say. it still matters. the report that we put out just a couple weeks ago offering what i think is a pretty sobering assessment of the conflict. i wouldn't want to give the impression that everything was hunky-dory before we reached the decision, it wasn't. but in the last few days, things have gotten much worse, i would say. the report at its core is a consolidating our gains in northeastern syria, working towards a political settlement to the conflict which is ultimately what is necessary to address all of those problems , and taking steps to protect american interests in such a settlement -- if such a settlement could not be reached. at the time we put out the report, our view was that the
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u.s. had such a strategy but essentially, that strategy was undermined by a couple big things. one was inadequate resources. a good example of this was the administration's decision not to spend the funding in northeastern syria that congress had appropriated. it was also undermined by the perception around the world that in theh-level leadership u.s. government sibley wasn't committed to the strategy we were talking about. when our officials were going around the world trying to recruit other countries to intervene militarily to the conflict, the question that they had in their minds was, is the united states going to be committed to this? i think that question has unfortunately been answered in the negative in recent days. fast-forward to today, the united states lacks a strategy for syria. if i could put it bluntly. u.s. officials are going to need to scramble to reverse engineer a strategy to conform with the decisions that have been made by
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the white house. rather than consolidating our gains, my fear is those games that we made in northeastern syria are now going to be reversed, and a political settlement on terms favorable to u.s. is now less likely. ais is not just the result of poor decision being made by the white house. i think this is also the result of poor planning because, as i think was said, in many ways this was a long time coming and yet, we see no evidence that turks wasion by the met with any kind of contingency planning by the u.s. government. have u.s. forces retreating under fire, withdrawing under fire for the first time since somalia, except that fire is coming from a nato ally and i if we all stop for a moment and let that sink in, it's really extraordinary. the consequences of the u.s. withdrawal, i'm worried that we are going to see a cascade effect in syria.
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obviously, the report does not get into this because it is relatively new and is based upon what we learned in the course of our briefings. now, you have seen already syrian democratic forces moving forward to meet the turkish incursion and the u.s. forces moving out of syria. most ofates a vacuum in eastern syria and isis will use that vacuum to regroup and potentially not just break out of prison, but to conduct attacks, try to re-consolidate some of its control of territory. noted, facedy been with this choice between asaad and the turks, and we have seen regime forces movement is in syria. with regime forces come the iranians and russians, that raises the prospect of iran linking its syrian and iraqi proxies in a way that will also perhaps prompted expansion of israeli airstrikes and increase
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the chance of outright conflict between the two. we will also see security conditions deteriorate as the population is brutalized and eastern syria as it has been elsewhere in area the regime has retaken. we may also see a breakout of al qaeda groups from along the northern border corridor. there are still problems elsewhere in syria which are not linked explicitly to what happening in the northeast. those include things like the security generating in other regime held areas. the entrenchment of iran and syrian society, the stalled political process and the shattering of international norms with no real justice or accountability. so, what does the united states to do? and i will just take a few seconds more. in the northeast, it is vital that we halt and or limit the turkish incursion and press the ,urks for humanitarian access sever their links to terrorist groups, and not the forcibly resettled refugees in kurdish areas or in areas that they
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don't want to go back to. it's important that we try to keep pressure on isis. tot probably means trying keep american troops in eastern syria if that is viable. certainly keeping up the air campaign, the airstrikes against both isis and al qaeda groups. also, it means ensuring that we hold on to the u.s. cousins in iran which -- presence in iran which has also come under pressure in recent months both politically and perhaps here in washington. i think it's important to keep pressure on iran by supporting israeli airstrikes and by maintaining that which i anticipate itself may now come under some pressure as russians, iranians, others try to complete the withdrawal of american forces from syria. and, i think we will need to see a diplomatic push, to hold our anti-isis and anti-asaad coalition together. maintaining this policy of emboldening sanctions, and diplomatically isolating the assad regime.
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many of our allies may now be inclined to peel off of that coalition. just in closing, our report warned that this was not a conflict that was over, that it remains dynamic, remained dangerous. i think that unfortunately, recent events have shown that out. it's important that we stop relinquishing our leverage and we start using that leverage. my fear is that we are not going to cnn's to the endless war -- to see an end to the endless war, we are going to find that american forces were sort of helping to keep the peace and stability there. what will really contribute to endless conflict is that deterioration of american credibility throughout the region. >> thank you. now we begin the questioning, we are going to have that subject to the five-minute rule. you may begin following, mr. wilson. , i wanted to start with where you left off, talking about american leverage.
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you laid out the five areas. i just want to suggest, i want to ask you this question. if our actions over the past couple weeks in syria mean that we are at risk, a greater risk of terrorism, expanded number of refugees, russia is stronger, iran is stronger, that when you talk about international's, which i think is too often left out of this, massively topside as a policy, chemical weapons targeting hospitals and schools, starvation, hasn't won the international norms for decades been american leadership? and if in all five of these are weaker, not to mention the fact that we have left our partners to be
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slaughtered, then isn't that fundamental norm of american leadership and american influence challenged and weakened dramatically? what leverage do we have? after we take action like this? >> thank you, congressman. i think we do have leverage. obviously a very capable and powerful actor on the world stage. we have obviously this coalition that we put together to conduct airstrikes against isis. , we haveanctions withholding of the economic reconstruction funding or diplomatic recognition of any settlement for the assad regime itself, but i do think that you make an important point about the role of american leadership, because i think that without the to assemble an international coalition to put together these tools, not just our tools, but contributions from others, they won't do it
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themselves. they will say the writing is on russial, aside has one, is calling the shots. we had generally exercise that leadership for a couple of reasons. one, because we have always found it to be in our interest to do so, to be the ones setting up the initiatives and having others hopefully sign up to those initiatives. second, because we have worried about the vacuum that is created in the absence of that leadership. i think those who step in our other states, weaker states like russia, like iran, who lack the ability to challenge us directly except when we back off. actors who, inte certain areas where there frankly is no government, no authority, step in to provide some about themselves in ways that are quite disruptive. >> i agree, and on the issue of weaker states with more power, how does providing iran a freer
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hand in syria undermine the administration's maximum pressure policy? that has been our policy and apparently continues to be? the study group -- thank you. the serious study group talked about sanctions to some extent being successful in denying iran the opportunity to consolidate sanctions in syria but on its own, a sanctions-only policy was not sufficient to remove iran or eliminate iranian influence from syria. i want to return to what mr. singh was discussing in your first question as well. the reason the study group talked about needing to retain a u.s. military presence was not only about completing the anti-isis fight, it was about the broader leverage of that one third of syria which is the
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part of syria which provided us leverage to influence the political outcome in syria. in terms of u.s. leadership is going to be much more difficult going forward, there are three categories of leverage that still, if properly resourced and the state leadtment are empowered to a coalition, potentially provide some leverage to us. the first is reconstruction. russia and iran simply do not have the financing to reconstruct syria. regains control, he does not have the resources and his backers do not have the resources to construct and provide economic stability or security for those areas. that comes from the united states active international financial institutions. right now, that remains relevant. sanctions. many other governments are at this point contemplating whether or not to go back into damascus, especially as we see what happens with assad on the ground, but the risk of secondary sanctions and what it
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means to materially support the regime and his akers remains a possible form of leverage if we apply it now. and finally, political recognition. we still have leadership with the europeans, and with international organizations to deny political recognition and international legitimacy and that still remains relevant today. >> before i turn over, i will respectfully suggest and we will see how the rest of this discussion goes, i a knowledge what you are saying. it feels as though you wrote it only weeks ago. it feels like it's from another time talking about properly resourced decisions of reconstruction and sanctions and political recognition all based on american leadership when you talk about america being a powerful actor on the world stage. that is true. we are a less powerful actor when we leave our partners open to slaughter, the partners that we have relied upon to help us
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in this very difficult battle against isis. that is why this feels so, so problematic, but i'm sure you will get to more. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. indeed, it is a bipartisan concern about everything we are discussing today, in a bipartisan manner. we are all concerned, and that's why we appreciate so much both of you leading the efforts of the studies, providing the study. for each of you, the events of the past weekend have been really, completely upended. to have thise do strategy to address which occurred in the last week? >> the u.s. forces present on notground in syria, we were
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fighting isis directly, we were working through a partner but we were also collecting a largeence and we had air campaign as well. we don't have to abandon the air campaign, our coalition partners in the defeat isis coalition have not collapsed yet. i would add that the anti-isis coalition has many elements, not just military force on the ground. counter-terrora financing element, there's humanitarian aid, there's working on countering isis propaganda and its global, ideological appeal. these are still things that we can work on and at the end of the day, turkey is still our nato ally. they have said that they are going to accept responsibility for the rest of the the isis campaign. there's a lot of reasons why that's very problematic, but at this point, they are still our partner in the nato alliance. while we need to write now think about what tools we can compel
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to shape turkish actions and prevent destructive turkish actions that can cause the next cycle of conflict, there may still be areas where we can work with them and get to a cease-fire on going forward with the anti-isis campaign. that, to theth extent we can, we have to use the tools that we have. whether it is keeping some forces in syria, which is not something we should take off the table assume is not possible, we need to examine whether that is, in fact, viable in current circumstances. we need to keep that pressure on. not just isis, but groups like hds that probably will benefit from the situation as well, because now there is this corridor created along the turkish-syria border which might allow them to escape it live where they are currently holed up and spread into other areas of syria. in particular, external plotting. risk thatlso this
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president trump has talked about quite extensively, isis members now x will trading syria -- iniltrating members now syria. it is important that we work very closely to the extent that we can. given the relationship with the on makingh europe sure that we are tracking that, arresting them if possible, and countering them as well. i think all this is more difficult now in the circumstances we are in because, as dana was saying, part of the reason we had those forces there was to enable other activities in eastern syria to promote stability and good governance, which really would have been necessary to keep isis from reemerging. it already was reemerging before this. thoset looks like missions just won't be possible in the current environment and that is going to reduce our effect. >> i would like to thank both of
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you because i was really a hopelesse were in situation but indeed, we are not. remember thatys turkey is a member of nato for 70 years, has been such a valued ally, and the turkish people, their relationship to the american people has been so strong, it is just shocking to that it is occurring now believe will be just temporary. on another note, the united nations has different associations with this dictatorship. from each of you, what is your view about the relationship of the assad regime with the u.n.? the united nations and the various organizations that have been providing humanitarian assistance inside syria have received much criticism for acquiescing to the manner in which the assad regime would
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like that to be delivered to communities inside syria. our report highlights a very important security council resolution coming up for renewal at the end of the year which provides the international underpinning for the united nations to enter in the areas of syria without the assad regime acquiescing specifically to it. without that cross-border resolution, all humanitarian aid delivered by the united nations and by syria would be subject to assad regime approval which means the delivery of that assistance would be weaponize and politicized to suit assad's purposes. >> my time is up, but i think both of you very much. >> thank you, mr. wilson. i will recognize myself for now for five minutes. i just want to thank you both for your work. i'm sure it must be frustrating to have finished these recommendations and to
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immediately thereafter have these events,. group was put together to develop copperheads of an thought the policy for the future. president trump has instead acted on a whim and has thrown our allies under the bus, and has embolden our enemies, and i am deeply, deeply concerned about this. of course, you've seen today with the vote that we just took how bipartisan that projection has been. i'm most concerned and want to ask you first about the reputational damage that has been done. i have seen that this is a stab in the back. why would anyone ally with us going forward? your comments about what we can do and the leverage we may still maintain, it seems to me that it relies on the fact that anyone would believe our word at all, which i find to be quite suspect right now. >> i think it's a valid concern, this question of, what will the broader reputation and damage be
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to the united states? we have already seen other allies who are not necessarily heavily engaged with this issue suggest that this does raise questions about our reliability. i think we saw some of that from some commentators from the region, some british mps have raised this question, does britain now need to play a stronger role in some of these conflicts? that we want say other states to step up and play greater roles in some of these conflicts. burden sharing is something we can all agree on. to do itn't want them because they don't think they can rely on the united states because they view the united states as unpredictable. because my worry is that that will produce strong, allied coalitions that are pursuing strategies that advance american interests, it will produce things like hedging behavior where they reach out to adversaries of the united
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states, whether that the russians in this particular theater, china in other theaters, because they view that as something they need to do for their own national security. i think that even if we decide we are going to intervene less, we are going to try to push others to share burdens, still, you want to be doing whatever we are doing around the world in a multilateral way as part of a simplyon rather than retreating to fortress america, as it were, and saying to other countries, you're on your own. address, i want you to specifically know the people in this region and how a message like this will be delivered and is heard in this region because we are talking about great powers, our allies the u.k., the russians, the iranians. but how, in your assessment, having done this work now for months, how will this affect the kurds, the people on the ground
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who we may hope to be able to work with? >> thank you for that question. one of the things the serious study group did over the course of our work was trouble throughout the region. we could not go inside syria, but we went to turkey and jordan and israel and lebanon. and what was striking, i lead a delegation to turkey and lebanon. much of the damage to u.s. credibility in leadership had already been done from last december, 2018, when there was the first attempt to withdraw u.s. forces without much of a plan or much consultation with either our local partners or our neighbors in other partners in the coalition. general, most of the discussions we had, whether with outside experts in these countries, with government counterparts, with humanitarian activists in these regions, generally already doubted
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whether the united states had the commitment and staying power to follow through on what we said we were going to do. when it comes to the kurds, very much the same thing. i think a lot of the damage had already been done. we were very clear to look at u.s. official talking points that our relationship was andorary and transactional, even though no one expected the relationship to change the way it did over such a short time, they understood whatever and tactical men's, which is why they were always talking to everybody else anyway. of our entire course relationship, they maintain communications with damascus, they always talk to the russians, they will talk to whoever can do anything to ensure their survival. >> thank you. to illinois. >> think you guys for being here and your good work. i must say, and i'm also, the report is frustrating to me. not because it's a bad report, it's a good report. but with how quickly everything is changed. i don't want you to think that
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your work is useless. i think sunday it will be a very studied report and you will look ithow history went and how could have gone, the recommendations to prevent it as wtf this whole thing looking back in history. a couple things and want to i was being for nostalgic about reagan lately. remember a quote, let's set the record straight, there is no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there is only one guaranteed way you can have peace, surrender. i saw a tweet by the president really talk about peace and creating peace and we are creating peace everywhere, and i will tell you, if you surrender and leave, you can create temporary peace for yourself. but i don't think that's the mission of our country. at the post-world war ii border, when we finally realized that isolation wasn't
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in america until we had this strain of weird isolationism that came back into our politics, but in history, when we won the second world war, we inherited the industrial capacity of germany and japan to have this massive industrial revolution which we all look back on today and we talk about bringing manufacturing back. that was the result not of american isolationism, but it actually america being involved in the world. when we turn to post-world war ii on its head, i think the consequences are really difficult to see in the short term, but we are able to see the immediate result of that in the decision made the other day. i want to compare that quote of reagan's the one that was just made. our soldiers are out of there, our soldiers are totally safe. syria may have some help with russia and that's fine, they've got a lot of sand over there, and there's a lot of sand that they can play with. real difference in
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leadership styles, to put it quite politely. this idea of war fatigue that i hear people talk about really ticks me off. yes, you are tired of seeing on television. in congress, we are probably tired of talking about it, but if anybody has a right to be fatigue, it was my grandparents after world war ii. what happened, america, and so the leaving europe and saying that a lot of destroyed property, america said we are going to say. and three generations of americans staying there, finally the third generation behind the iron curtain tore it down because they were desperate for a taste of a we had. and there's a whole world that is basically free right now because of that. 50 soldiers were presenting an invasion by turkey and i want to be very clear, anybody that believe those 50 soldiers that turkey would have attacked if the president said we will defend our soldiers with the might of the u.s. military, you are fooling yourself, because
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turkey never would have been that stupid, it would have been a short i. nobody wants to fight a nato ally, the especially. but i do want a president that is going to stand up for american positions, and this is weakness. i think there's no other way to put it. instead of turning away from the world now, we are spending a lot of time in congress fighting each other like we are enemies because we are drama queens and we have to be addicted to drama, so we got to fight somebody, so we just argue here, we can't get anything done and we forget that there's a real enemy out there that wants to rest. so, let me just ask you a question. turkey, imes to introduced the united states-turkey relations review act, a bipartisan bill. it would require the administration to review u.s.-turkish relations and report to congress the feasibility of relocating american personnel and assets because this is going to be a big problem, the airbase there. let me ask you. the president said that his chief campaign promise was to
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defeat isis. it was to the isis. he said he was going to stay in syria is one of them is that there is activity. has iran withdrawn their support of the assad regime? if not, what kind of support do they still send to damascus? >> know, iran has absolutely not withdrawn it support of the regime. sending notranians only their own forces, you do have revolutionary guard officers in syria, but we see them cultivating and sometimes as well asr proxies i have any impact if any forces as well as syrian forces that they themselves have recruited and organize and paid. but we also see iran entrenching itself in the economic and social fabric of syria, which tells you that they are there to stay. would be turning syria into an operating base for missiles and other power projection tools if it weren't for israeli
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airstrikes which effectively stopping doing that. but the rate -- israelis themselves with tiger those airstrikes have stopped iran but they have not deterred them in continuing to focus on syria as a power projection face. >> thanks. your recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you guys. i want to completely associate myself with mr. kissinger's remarks from start to finish. first of all, you did a fantastic job, and i wish we were here under circumstances that were different. but, here we are. which therears in was such a thing as the trump administration that was , and i don'tmp think there is an administration anymore. we have a president who is acting on his impulses. and the policy of the united states right now is that syria is not our problem.
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that's what he said. of sand, andunch they can all play in their sand. it is now the official policy of the united states that russia hates isis as much as the u.s. does. -- that the pkk is a threat bigger threat than isis. these are all things that the president said today. anyone who wants to assist syria and protecting the kurds is good with me. russia, china, napoleon bonaparte. that's our policy. the second, third, fourth or consequences can be catastrophic. happened, theas kurds have struck their lines with the assad regime and with russia and that will provide some protection. i'm more worried about the assad regime now moving into eastern and northern syria. which is populated not just by kurds, i'm worried about the inevitability, i, of turkey now
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deciding that in order to deal with its security problems, it no longer has any interest in dealing with us because it's not our problem. they are going to be dealing with the russians and with iran. we saw to it was in the united arab emirates and saudi arabia telling them, i'm sure he knew what he was saying. you can't trust the united states. i have some things that i will offer to you and you know that i will act in the defense of our interests. i think worst of all, he's a step closer to getting the world he wants, a world with new values, no norms, no. the world where powerful countries and leaders can do what they want to whomever they want. america, you go do your thing, russia can do its thing. that makes me incredibly sad. and i wonder, what can we do about it? and struggling with certain things. one question is, do we, as a congress, push for maintaining some troops in syria?
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there was a bipartisan bill relevant a few days ago. it basically says we can go below 1000 in syria unless you can report back to the congress, the answers to certain obvious questions. the questions we've been talking about. is that still a relevant approach? i'd also like to ask you both about our relationship with turkey. there's a lot of sentiment right now that we need to punish turkey hard for what it did, and i hate what turkey did, it was despicable. but i also worry a little bit now we are obsessing right over punishment of turkey because we want to solve ourselves of a decision the president made and frankly, to be nonpartisan here, to absolve ourselves of mistakes that are made in the obama administration as well. it's very convenient to say that this is all now the fault of one country that did a terrible thing rather than looking at ourselves. and so, i wonder what your advice would be on those questions.
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on troops, is there something that congress can and should do? and on turkey, is it actually wise to sanction turkey severely for doing something that the president told them that they could do? is in our interest to concede a nato ally to russia as well? what should we do? ? thank you, congressman. i think they are both very relevant questions. say that, had we negotiated a security mechanism or saison with turkey, which ambassador jeffrey was in the process of doing rate for this decision to withdraw, presumably, we would have taken south of that buffer zone or security zone.
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in theory, there isn't a reason we can't do that now. my question would be, because the security of american forces was largely being provided by the sdf, we had a very small number of troops. if they have left these areas on the regime had moved in, the question of turkey, i think that we need to recognize as many of you already have, that the seeds of this crisis were sown when we made this decision to work with the kurdish militia knowing that it was considered a grave security threat by turkey. said, we gaveyou turkey the green light to do this, the ministration has said that we didn't, but it doesn't seem like there was opposition to the idea.
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i think we have to take these things into account in our response to turkey. my own view is that we should be now trying to shape turkish actions using sanctions or the threat of sanctions, not to punish turkey, but to try to lay red linesositions or for turkey, whether it's you military, whether it's limiting their incursion, whether it's severing their links with some of these extremist proxies that they seem to be using. to use sanctions, to use them in a way which is sufficiently strong, that it will cause turkey to really reconsider some of these actions. think, is overall question hanging over the u.s.-turkish relationship especially because of turkey's apparent targeting of u.s. troops. that's not behavior which is compatible with this nato alliance that we have. i think there will also be a long-term cost, for sure, to the u.s.-turkish relationship but in the near term question of sanctions, how would say use this and not punish. the serious study group spent
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a long time thinking about the u.s.-turkey relationship and i would just like to highlight and underscore what we did today. we did not call for severing the relationship with turkey, we at knowledge the links between the pkk, a u.s. designated foreign terrorist organization, and turkey, and the ypg element of the syrian democratic forces in syria. we acknowledged that u.s. was a majorthe sdf irritant in the u.s.-turkey relationship. we did not call for severing the u.s. relationship with the sdf at this time, and we also did not say that turkey offered a viable alternative military force to continue the anti-isis fight if not for the u.s. relationship with the sdf. there were very clear things that we said. at this point, could the threat of sanctions shape some turkish behavior that would otherwise be very destabilizing, for example, the forceful relocation of
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certain refugees into areas that are not their homes in syria? of atrocitiess and war crimes being committed by turkish supported proxies. -- well, ihings that don't know the content of the president's phone call, clearly these are things that sanctions may be able to shape. so, i would leave it there. dark cap thank you. your recognized. >> for the last decade, syria has been ground zero for the devastating proxy war. the country presents some of the most pressing the military and and national security challenges that our nation faces. it is essential that the united states maintain a strong footprint abroad. i'm not going on with my might.
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-- with my mike. >> it is essential united states maintain a strong footprint abroad as history has shown when the united states turned his back, our enemies fill that power vacuum. mys refreshing to give colleagues across the aisle have concern over syria and present a position of having strong u.s. presence abroad. i wish i would have seen this kind of figure one president obama allowed assad to ignore the red line, and i would hope this figure transfers when speaking about venezuela, about defending the hong kongers and others seeking liberty and freedom across the world. but i applaud the new positions that my colleagues across the aisle have found, and i also applaud president trump's continued actions to hold the syrian regime in check by
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attacking military targets after its chemical attack on civilians. and for imposing sanctions on officials in authoritarian governments. i also commend the president's swift actions in turkey, whose irrational actions have endangered a key u.s. ally, empowered iran and assad, and set us back in global fight against isis. these are not the actions of a nato ally. and i'm proud to cosponsor a sweeping sanction bill introduced by republican conference chairwoman cheney. with that said, i have two questions the witnesses. first, on august 25, the israeli air force acted in syria to prevent an iranian drone attack on israel. recommendthe report related to u.s. support for allies confronting threats from syria, in particular, israel? >> thanks, corfman.
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the israeli campaign against isn i think if you step back really extraordinary, in many ways. to limit managed iran's activities in syria through these airstrikes, and yet, iran has not had an effective response against israel. they've managed to do this in coordination with russia, which is in this alliance with iran. and so, i think that the israeli campaign really sort of deserves accommodation. we should support it however we can. whether that's intelligence sharing, whether that it will not a coverage if they need it. our ownso, frankly, use tools to counter what iran is doing. sanctions and whatever other tools are available to us. >> i associate myself with mr. singh's comments. >> you guys are making it easy. one more question. how do we ensure the situation on the border between northeast
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syria and turkey is not abused by a ron to expand its presence in the country and solidify what i'm seeing as a land bridge between tehran. is where mr. singh talked earlier about the u.s. forces that remain at the garrison which is not in the area of northeastern syria that turkey is currently focused on. in the view of the serious study group, maintaining those u.s. forces at that garrison is critical for presenting iran from consolidating those lines of communication through syria. movement or limit of other u.s. forces, it's highly likely that assad, russia, the iranians or iran proxies will challenge our position. they've done it before. was under former secretary of defense mattis who responded with overwhelming incentives. this would, in terms of maintaining that u.s. presence,
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our adversaries need to believe that there is a credible threat of military or's on the table, and that's something that hopefully, the executive frank will be contemplating making quite clear. >> thank you, i commend you on your work and i were me -- yield the remainder of my time. >> mr. vargas, your recognized for five minutes. >> thank you very much, and i thank the witnesses here today. the first time i had the opportunity to meet the kurds as a group, it was former caucus members darrell issa and we traveled to baghdad and we were briefed by our embassy and also military personnel. leadership that we met with the military. during that time it was interesting because our military and our special forces a particular told us how we were allied with the kurds and how, in fact, they were doing very heavy fighting alongside us, and
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we could trust them. and how they were our allies and our friends. from then, of course, i heard of the situation in syria also. very similar they said, was the situation. anyway, i came away thinking that we were allies, we can be trusted by them and they can be trusted by us. what has happened recently i think is a disaster, a terrible disaster. to listen to some of the military personnel, our military say how they are ashamed of what we've done is particularly devastating for the think of how our military, each and every day, put their lives on the line, they are out there fighting with those that expect to have their backs, and it has been sad. that being said, i am very nervous about the kurds now in syria, in particular, ethnic cleansing.
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i know that they're trying to cut deals now with assad, and it's like trying to cut a deal with the state. what assures them that they will be wiped out? i knowi say this and for two yee have a family live with us because of ethnic cleansing. i'm very familiar with that and i want to know, what can we do? what can be done? we saw the atrocities already happening. what can we do? >> think you, corfman. i think it's a valid concern. we could be concerned about this on frankly both sides of the turkish line of advance. because we have not really had insight into what has been happening in the other turkish occupied enclaves of syria, the shield pockets. one thing that we will want from the turks, if we're going to go there and try to talk to them, if we are going to be threatening them with sanctions, we will want transparency and humanitarian access into any zones they occupy to ensure that these things are happening.
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whether it's turkish authorities or more likely at the hands of some of these extremist proxies we've seen up to no good in recent days. on the other side of that line, i think it's even more challenging because obviously, the assad regime has brutalized the population in areas that it has reoccupied and so, too, have russia and arabian backed forces. i think they will view the fighters and officers as a threat to the assad regime reconsolidation of that rule. so, i think it's going to take things like not just sanctions, but one of the things we talked about on the board, we should be willing to threaten the assad regime with the use of force if it is deliberately targeting groups for war crimes and atrocities and so forth. it shouldn't necessarily be the case that that type of response is only used with a chemical weapons -- when chemical weapons are used. i think iran, they need to understand that we are watching
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them and they're going to be crimes, for for war atrocities, for ethnic cleansing, as you said. >> i agree with what mr. singh said, and i would only add that, when it comes to the kurdish neverities in syria, they put all their aches in the american basket. for them, this is about survival. nother that survival is autonomy and no integration of the structure that they created into assad's army which has been one of the requests for desire for language in schools, but it ad with russia providing a security guarantee, the united when faced not between turkish operations which could result in ethnic cleansing or demographic reengineering, likely see in places like the euphrates shield area, the
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subjugation to damascus, they are going to pick damascus, and the next level of question for the united states is, what is our policy, what is our approach to syria look like if our former partner is working with damascus and russia? but i do wantup, to say that i think it's very important to have this transparency and is humanitarian act because idle think anything good is going to come from this, anything at all. thank you. you.ank mr. chairman, your recognized for five minutes. >> the main point of the report is that russia and iran share many interests when it comes to involvement of syria. both are looking for increased regional influence and it got a partner now. the withdrawal of u.s. counterterrorism efforts directly enables russia and iran shed and assert greater influence. what concrete steps for the u.s.
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need to take given the recent events to combat the outside russian and iranian influence in the region? is it even feasible? we spent a lot of time debating whether or not what unites russia and iran and backing assad, were there areas of contention or fracture that we could exploit to break that alliance apart and provide us some opportunities via political process, our own leverage or military operations to then move forward. our conclusion is that russia andiran have more in common both have the goal of keeping the united states out and unfortunately, recent developments probably only solidify for them that their alliance and their backing of assad is working. >> so you found no divisions of interest at all? >> there is certainly tension about security force activities for certain security forces operate, whether or not behavior
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of the assad regime could be monetized. for example, russia is a member of the u.s. security council. it would probably like to enable some sort of political process that could pull aside back into the international community. i pariah state, not in the international community, in that sense, so it probably doesn't share the same objective again, our conclusion at the end washe day is that there more unified russia and iran specifically in their opposition to the united states and minimizing the u.s. leadership in the region. >> ok. what does the serious study group recommend regarding iran's presence in syria? some of you believe iran should not maintain a military presence in syria, so what recommendations do you have to achieve that goal? >> if you look at the report, we have some recommendations, largely we have focused on things like exposing iran in syria because a lot of what they are doing is not an overt
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military nature. a lot of that is very much in the news because you see the israeli airstrikes for example against iranian missiles and things like that. but there is an economic and social element to it as well. i think that activity doesn't get sufficiently exposed. i think we should have a greater effort to sort of putting into the sunlight, as it were. i would also encourage us not to think of what iran is doing in syria as somehow an isolated issue that we have to respond to. one of my concerns is that we now have a very significant presence across the middle east, but there's a lot of people questioning our commitment to that presence. i think that's actually a dangerous position to be in. we've seen the iranians escalate their attacks on tankers, reportedly was attacked in saudi arabia. i think that's this adds even more important to the idea that we need to respond to those types of escalations.
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lest they look at this decision and say where else can the press on the united states? to get them out of other places in the region? i think it's important that we look at this from a regional perspective, not just a syria perspective. >> they look upon us as an easy mark. >> if we have the carter doctrine and then the reagan corollary, we saw a vital interest in the gulf, we were willing to defend that interest militarily. but we didn't have a happy presence in the region. again, we have the opposite. we have basically said that we are not sure we see the vital interest of the united states. president trump has said he's not sure he sees a vital interest in the united states whether it's with traffic in the gulf war here in syria. and yet, the u.s. military presence is much, much larger than it was at the time of the carter doctrine. asymmetry, kind of receiving commitment, it will either embolden or encourage
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members like iran to take shots at us. >> quickly, russia has indicated entering northeast syria without withdrawal. what is russia's objective in the region, and how it responded to turkey's incursion? syriasia's objective in is to take back all the syrian territory under a sod, to deliver a win for assad not just militarily, but politically. not the russians want is just full consolidation of territorial control, but reconstruction, return of refugees, and an international legitimacy for the assad regime. >> and i will just say, congressman, that they also want to deal a defeat to the united states. i am one who would like to say that we don't need to have a zero-sum approach to russia, not everything russia does is inherently threatening to the united states. i would like to be able to say that maybe syria is a place with ideal conditions were you could
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find room to agree or cooperate with russia. but i think that's just not the case because i think moscow doesn't see it that way. show theoscow wants to rest of the region that the united states is not reliable, they want to support what they see as a regime change effort by the united states. they want to paint our policy in those terms. and they are not interested in win-win solutions. >> thank you. chairman, and miss jackson-lee has joined us here today. without objection, happy to recognize her for five minutes of questions. >> thank you, mr. chairman. let me acknowledge the chairman and ranking members for their courtesy of the committee that i used to be on. i have a great respect for all of the leadership of the committee i haven't to serve on the homeland security committee. the subcommittee of crime and terrorism.
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what irmingles with think is crucial in diplomacy and the work that you've done, let me and for you, for the work i went to syria many years before 2011, went to damascus, spoke to the fresh a sod which some thought there might be a difference. there was zero difference from his father. but in another era. to post these questions, and as i do so, he just read this statement. from an army officer who formerly served, i can't look at he said, ofes, videos posted online, of turkish backed fighters executing kurdish the billions. the isis mission is going to stop. isis is going to have a resurgence, they are going to
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have to go back in five years and do it all over again. now, i want you to comment on that, but you are obviously doing your study. what is your assessment or maybe people who you met for calling you about the violence and loss of life, particularly among, because for member, when the conflict first started, doctors without borders and the united states was saying we were seeing just the sheer miserable violence that the syrian people were going through. certain the kurds have taken their share. help us understand how deep the violence is, how children are impacted, maybe from your discussions that you had on people calling in. thank you. thank you to both of you. >> thank you so much for that question. withn focus broadly humanitarian and human rights activist and organizations as well as the syrian-american
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community and those organizations that are collecting evidence, documenting evidence of atrocities, abuses, and were crimes. fromwe heard consistently all of these communities and individuals was a plea for the united states to prioritize issues of protection and a perception that that has not been a front and center policy priority of the united states. thatask us to recommend the united states make very clear its willingness to use response toce in civilian cavities and the mass homicide tactics of the assad regime that is not just chemical starvation, torture, etc., and that these issues are not front and center and not talk about enough area that gives the perception that we don't care. >> you would think that it is
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now >> and you think that is exacerbated? thehe perception that president brings that turkish operation firing on civilians i , detainees escaping from prison, and the discussion of involuntarily resettlement into areas where they historically do not come from they all send a signal that protection is not a priority of the united states. >> you mention the fact that at the time, the conflict was not winding down, and you saw -- you call that dynamic and dangerous. what is it now in light of the actions of the president that allowed turkey to come without restraint and killing without restraint. >> i think it is quite dangerous now, more dangerous now than it was before in large part because
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you will now have potentially isis breaking out of prisons, you will have a reduction of counterterrorism on isis as well as other jihadist groups. you may have an expansion of iran into eastern syria, and a linking of syria and iraq proxies and perhaps an expansion of the war that has taken place between israel and iran over these issues. to the very first part of your question congresswoman about the u.s. military operation, i think that this lumping of syria into the endless wars category has been incorrect, frankly. i think that if you were opposed to the u.s. intervention in iraq, skeptical about our military presence in afghanistan, in no way you should be pleased about the way the intervention in syria been conducted. you have a very small american military footprint, rallying a partner force out front and
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them really doing the bulk of the fighting and u.s. forces playing advisory role. the u.s. military has considered that to be a very significant success and perhaps even a model for future interventions. and it is a shame that we have now relinquished a lot of those gains which that model was able to deliver. i think that, again, to put it together in this category is a big mistake and i do not think that is how folks see you in the government. >> if i could just squeeze in this national security question if i might. in the report says the liberation of isis-held territory does not eliminate the threat to the u.s., which is in your report. we now have a circumstance of a free-for-all turkish fight attack. we have bombing, fleeing. you already indicated in your report preceding this how
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dangerous -- and let me for the record put on my dismay of 2000 troops in saudi arabia, and troops that wanted to stay and were being affected in syria -- and i want to use the term imploded, u.s. troops are being scattered. thathairman, you mentioned we might have had a success we could have modeled after. few soldiers. but they were a powerful -- but your assessment now of the level of the national security threat that this region may be in light of where we are in the aftermath of turkish actions. >> even though isis has been pushed out of the territory that it holds, its command and control, its leadership structure is still in place. it still has the ability to raise funds. now those 2000 foreign fighters that were in detention mention thenot to
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thousands of syrians and iraqi fighters that were in detention, are likely not going to remain in detention for much longer, which means the ranks of isis will be replenished, access to finances, plus leadership. we still have baghdadi, the leadership of isis, giving speeches that end up on the internet talking about its plan for raging -- waging a long-term war. the threat for -- >> i did not hear you. >> it is high. isis still maintains the means and desire to use territory in syria to plan external attacks. >> i would add just a couple specifics to this. criticized our european partners for not repatriating their own cynicism's -- citizens. he was right to do so. is the way things have developed over the last few days, this process of
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repatriation which read -- requires visited camps is now essentially impossible to do. even if folks are remaining contained within this area, getting to them to bring them out and put them into a judicial process of some kind for a national security process is going to be impossible. another question would be to what extent were we able to have completed the process of cataloging the fighters who were in these camps. do we know who was there and who may now be on the loose? we talk about this in the report, but my understanding is that was ongoing. i do not know if it was finished before the decision was taken or not. that might be a question to ask the government. >> thank you. one military person causes a real mess. i think he was being more than polite. i am appalled at where we are today. us a goodu have done service but all signs are the
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national security threat is heightened. i hope congress can work together to try to bring some aid, comfort, and redesign of where we are today. your committee is very important in this and i thank you for allowing me to be here. >> thank you for being here and thank you for your contribution today. finally mr. sherman, you are recognized for five minutes. and i would note to other members who may be on our way that we have a hard stop at 4:30. you have time and you are recognized. >> the turks are relying to a significant extent on these arab tribal militias. to what extent is turkey relying arehem, and to what extent they ideologically simpatico with isis? thank you you, congressman. i am not sure they are tribal militias. >> they have been described that
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way. >> if you look at who they are they are probably composed of some people who were refugees, displaced persons from other parts of syria. some may be former isis or other certain members of other rebel groups. there were over 1000 of these different rebel factions in syria in the past. so some had probably made their way into these groups were now fighting at turkey's behest. i cannot tell you to what extent turkey is relying on them versus its own forces. i just do not have that information. clearly if you look at what we have any open sources it seems there is a very heavy component of these arab proxies being used by the turks. -- to what extent are these groups that have similar ideology to either al qaeda or isis? >> over the course of eight years of conflict in syria,
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there are no longer groups that we would describe as moderate. we try to support moderate forces, the free syrian army. that no longer happens. because many of those fighters we wish to work with do not meet u.s. vetting standards in terms of what their affiliations were. >> let me point out the kurds qualify as moderate. >> congress put in place very serious vetting standards before the u.s. could provide assistance in equipping, so i assume before u.s. forces provided that support, those fighters and units met u.s. vetting standards. i would also add a lot of the forces and maliciously turks appear to be working with, there has been some good work done by other individuals trying to study what their motivations are. a lot at this point is criminality. for yournot much left average syria to do.
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there is no economy, no economic opportunity. so some of this is ideological or unsavory types that the u.s. would identify as violent extremists. and on the other hand there are criminals and thugs that are working on behalf of the turks. >> let's see. so, how far do you expect turkey to go into the region? are they going to limit themselves to 70 km south of their border? or is there goal to take over all of the territory? i realize they may not achieve their goal because of the russian, iranian and assad forces. >> the real answer is i don't know and i am not sure anyone in the administration really knows. the turks have talked about creating a 30 km deep buffer
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zone and then 300 miles across, which would have been both a security zone for the turks as well as an area in which to resettle some of the arab refugees that have been in turkey. we have heard u.s. officials say that they have gone farther than anticipated. by the turks they really mean these proxy forces you are asking about. so i assume they will be guided by whatever military objectives they have as well as by this move by the regime, plus iranian plus russian forces. in a sense to interpose themselves between the turks and the areas further south. so there may be a little bit of a competition between the turks and the regime forces. >> over the last year or two when the kurdish forces in syria had control of territory, to what extent was that territory used as an identifiable source of terrorist action inside
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turkey? >> we asked that question to multiple different people in the u.s. government and when we travel throughout the region. and while it is clear to us that there are ideological affiliations between the pkk and the ypg, and our report calls for specific actions for the ypg to differentiate itself from the pkk, we did not find examples with the u.s. provided arms to the ypg in syria made it across the border to turkey. >> i will add that you will find plenty of examples, especially from earlier parts of the war, support for isis coming out from across the border, which is one thing we have not been able to successfully address with the turks. so, the turks did a terrible job of presenting -- preventing isis from going into syria, and the syrian kurds have done an excellent job of making sure that malevolent actors do not go
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from there territory into turkey, and yet turkey begins this terrible conflict. i yield back. >> thank you very much. i think the witnesses and all members for being here today. thank you both for your testimony. thank you for your very thoughtful leadership of this important, serious study group and thanks for the report that you produced. members of the subcommittee may have some additional questions for you. we ask them to please submit those within the next five days. we ask that you respond in writing. i just want to thank you again. over the past nine years we have had many, many hearings on syria both here and in the full committee. we sit here at this moment, assad has slaughtered over 6000 people and almost 6 million refugees and 6 million people displaced inside the country. and though the world's largest
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-- the country most dedicated to selling discord and fighting democratic norms is stronger there than they were before. and what you have offered us here i think is a really important and useful tool for discussion. to i urge my colleagues all take this seriously and to read it and informs the work that we do going forward. thanks again for being here. and with that, we are adjourned. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
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c-span's washington journal come alive every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up monday morning, we will preview the week ahead in washington with jason of roll thenand a of axial spirit rob astor reno, member of president trump's reelection advisory board, discusses the impeachment inquiry and campaign 2020. be sure to watch c-span's washington journal, live at 7:00 eastern monday morning. join the discussion. announcer: next, a senate foreign relations hearing with brian hook, he serves as the state department special representative for iran. he was asked about iran's nuclear capabilities and the potential impact of withdrawing u.s. troops from syria. this is just over 2.5 hours.

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