tv U.S. Special Rep. for Iran at Senate Foreign Relations Committee - Part 1 CSPAN October 20, 2019 12:14pm-1:40pm EDT
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. thi.
>> foreign relations committee of the senate will come to order. the chair would note we have a full house today and an enthusiastic audience, i'm sure. we ask you to be respectful, remind everyone that holding up signs or making verbal outbursts is disruptive and appropriate action will be taken if need be. this morning, we have a hearing on a matter that is really of pressing national security importance. that is the relationship of the united states and for that
matter the world with iran. this hearing is intended to do three things. number one, we will consider the facts behind the maximum pressure campaign against iran. we will examine the elements of iran's necessary behavioral changes that would satisfy u.s. and the world's national security interests. and thirdly, assess iran's willingness to behave as a responsible member of the international community. their pursuit of regional domination following 1979 revolution transformed the fabric of the middle east. dangerouslyregime weaponized religion against its neighbors. the regime triggered a sunni-shieh war, threatens to unravel the greater middle east. the nuclear issue is but one aspect of the regimes malign conduct.
iran actively enables assad's continued butchering of syria. they are working to subvert several regional governments below the level of armed conflict. the supportive proxies is perhaps the most nefarious. ask our men and women in uniform who faced iranian provided roadside bombs in iraq. it already has american blood on its hands. for lack of a more firm response by prior administrations has
only encouraged further iranian violence. the regime's abuses continue to be a concern inside its own border. citizens live under arbitrary arrest and torture. indeed, despite the regime's claims of religious legitimacy it is morally bankrupt. the ecliptic press he that steals from people to subvert its neighbors. that brings us to our question of the most appropriate policies to curb the totality of iranian behavior. it is my assessment that the maximum pressure campaign against iran is working and can serve as the bridge to more meaningful negotiations. i note that some of my colleagues have argued that the maximum pressure campaign is not working. i would be the first to concede that the campaign has not achieved its goals, but on the other hand, it is clearly working.
since may of last year, billions have denied of dollars in oil revenue. it will cost the regime is much as dollars annually every it the iranian economy faces unprecedented strains after rounds of highly targeted sanctions. shrinking at ais rate that should alarm tehran. nearly a 6% reduction in gdp for 2019 is estimated. , these are clear indications and clear evidence that indeed, the sanctions are working. for the first time, iran's terror proxies have seen a reduction in funding. has bola has been reduced -- has has beenezbollah reduced to panhandling.
mistake, every dollar that we deny the regime's money not spent on terrorism. for totaluests sanctions relief in order to come to the table should be and is a nonstarter. it regime must demonstrate is willing to negotiate in good faith or face continued pressure. the pressure must have an international face. for too long, our european friends have sought to preserve a moribund nuclear deal that offered iran a financial escape hatch to continue destabilizing the region. we have had numerous conversations with our european friends regarding that. i welcome the joint statement from the u.k., france, and germany following iran's attack in saudi arabia. apart from rightly identifying iran as the corporate, our partners stress the importance of addressing the regional security issues, as well as the
nuclear question. this is well received by us, but they must go further than that. musturopean partners follow the united kingdom's lead and support the pursuit of behavioral changes in iran's part. my thoughts on the jcpoa are well-known. a deal that only partly addressed to the nuclear issue and very importantly ignore the rest of iran's terrorist conduct and enriched the regimes's terrorist proxy. any new deal should address iranian conflict curbing the ballistic missiles program, ensuring freedom of navigation consistent with international law, ending iranian adventurism, and the regime's efforts to promote civil war through its proxies. the nuclear solution should not merely delay development of a nuclear weapon or sunset in a manner that allows regime scientists to sprint to the finish line.
it is in our vital national security interest and the interest of the entire world that iran never possess a nuclear weapon. finally, a topic has emerged in public discourse that should be addressed. there are many that blame the u.s. diplomatic and economic efforts as the root cause of iran's acts of violence. to you i say, you could not be more wrong. there is only one party to blame for iran's acts of violence and that is the iranian regime. there is only one bad actor here and that is the iranian regime. the iranian regime is feeling the weight of the growing community against them. absent an attack on americans or american assets abroad, we should not be moved by iranian outbursts or attacks on shipping. we should remain steadfast and continue to apply pressure until the regime -- excuse me, we should continue to apply
pressure until the regime capitulates and changes behavior. the iranian regime is faced with a sharp choice. is long time that they enter the international community is a good actor and enjoy the benefits that peaceloving nations take delight in. otherwise, it will remain a pariah state. this is an important issue and i'm glad we have the attendance we have today to examine this issue and with that, i will recognize senator menendez. >> thank you mr. chairman for holding this important hearing. i just want to urge the chair, global events come at us fast and furiously. this committee historically has played a role in fashioning the u.s. foreign policy and as we face the challenges in ukraine
and syria, i hope that the chairman, i know that the committee democrats have written to the chair asking him for a hearing in ukraine, i think that would be echoed in syria. these are vitally important issues in terms of the foreign policy of the united states, the role that russia is playing, iran is playing, so i certainly will honorhe chair those requests and hold a hearing on both of those issues as expeditiously as possible. now, this committee has not had a hearing on iran since march 2017, more than 2.5 years ago. because itfortunate has been one of the administration's biggest stated priorities and one in which i believe there is at least a basis of bipartisan consensus from which we could work. there is no doubt that and ronnie and nuclear state would
pose a threat. iranian no doubt that proxy action is ongoing and destabilizing. useunited states should strategic diplomacy with our international partners and allies to most effectively counter iran. is everyone i think in this committee knows, i did not support the joint comprehensive plan of action. when the trump administration withdrew from the deal without a strategy and without partners, i worried that this unilateral approach would put our nation in the dangerous and lonely path that would ultimately leave iran emboldened. i'm afraid to say i think i was right. seems starvedgime of some financial resources, but that is all as far as i can tell. beyond sanctions, our maximum pressure campaign only extends
to sending american troops to pressure -- protect saudi arabia. the rest of the policies across the middle east seem to only have emboldened iran. pardoned its political supporters and most devastatingly helped entrench itself in bashar al-assad's syria. you said that the two goals of the maximum pressure campaign or to deprive the iranian regime of money to stop its malign activity and to bring iran back to the negotiating table. however, application of this
policy is confusing. one minute, the president is willing to make a deal, the next he is threatening to wipe out the iranian economy. you have utilized just about every sanctions authority available to you, but sanctions are only a viable tool if they are consistent. , a man was arrested in turkey in 2016 and correction with one of the largest iran sanctions of asian schemes in history. while his criminal case was -- i understand you are at least aware of these efforts. what does that say about the viability of american sanctions or this maximum pressure campaign? the iranians are holding out because they believe they can. they will not come to the table for a kim jong-un-like photo op. my fundamental question mr. hook's where are you in the
harder diplomatic art of this campaign? how have you utilized the pressure to get iran to a negotiating table? i also would like to live in a world where we could sanction iran into stopping its support for terrorism, treating its own people with dignity and respect, and to releasing all unjustly at detained americans including a princeton university student, but i live in the real world, where i know that in order to make a deal, you have to give something to get something. now, seems like the ideal time to harness the pressure you have created. i'm curious to know if you have laid out the parameters of a deal that the administration would accept, including limitations on research and development, limitations on enrichment and stockpile thents, and whether or not iranians will seek relief in the united states. whether you have gone through
back channels to try to engage iran in that regard. in negotiated agreement with iran with buy-in from our international partner to meaningfully constrain the nuclear program and address other malign activity. a deal that includes permanent and long-term restrictions, tackling the ballistic missile proliferation and addressing regional support for terrorism. about forward to hearing your progress to address this ongoing national security priority. want to agreend i with you 100% that this hearing is important and i think probably one of the most prescient issues facing the united states. it is the issue that has the most potential for having miscalculation by the other side
and winding up with a situation that we really don't want to be in. i think that potential is there and more so with this regime than any other regime on the planet. secondly, i agree that this committee has historically played an important role in foreign policy and continues to do so. i note that members of this commit making statements, stating their opinions, giving advice to the administration, both of the state department and the white house. members of this committee regularly communicate with the state department and with the white house, and we will, of course, continue to do that. briefly, youress mentioned that i'd received a letter from you and members of the minority on the committee about wanting certain hearings scheduled, and taking that on i'm doing some
foundational work on that. i've talked with most members of the committee, not all, but almost all. i will respond to that in writing just as you did. lastly, i want to correct the respectfully, regarding your theicism of administration's withdraw from the jcpoa. you indicated that you supported the withdrawal, or i guess you didn't support the jcpoa, he supported the withdrawal. i urged the president to withdraw. i believe the president with drew with a very clear strategy, and that strategy was to go back the maximum pressure campaign that was in place before the negotiations started. it wasn't called the maximum pressure campaign, it was the same thing. what i disagree with was to stop the maximum pressure campaign when they were not a point where
they had to negotiate. we have a maximum pressure campaign, i'd reiterate that the pressure in the country, i suspect mr. hook will talk about that quite a bit more. is that we stay with the strategy that we have, the clear strategy we had since we withdrew, and that has continued to exert maximum pressure on the regime until they congratulate, and they will, -- cap julie -- capitulate, and they will, they will have to. leads thepresentative action group which is responsible for directing, reviewing, and coordinating all of iran's related activity within the u.s. state department. we could not have a better witness or a more informed witness or a more competent witness to address these issues before the committee.
on a personal note, i've had the good fortune to talk to mr. hook on many occasions about these issues and consult with them on these issues and i find them to be receptive, i find him to be well-informed, and acting in the best faith in best interest of the united states going forward. with that, or is yours. >> thank you, and thank you for your very kind words. i'd also like to thank ranking member menendez for his opening statement and distinguished members of the committee who have appeared before this committee -- i appeared before this committee number of times, so i'm very happy to have an opportunity to have a discussion on iran and the public setting. i have a longer prepared statement that i've submitted but why don't i go over some parts of that? we have implemented an
unprecedented pressure campaign, and it has two objectives. regimein -- to deny the the revenue that it needs to fund a revolutionary and expansionist foreign policy. the other one is to increase the incentives for iran to come to the negotiating table. if you look at the 40 year history that this republic and other nations have had, you see a consistent pattern that you need to have the threat of isaac larian -- force. it's one or more of these factors are what inform iran's calculus, and we have kept our foreign policy squarely within the limits of economic pressure and automatic isolation. the president has also expressed the united states willingness to negotiate with iran. we are willing to meet with the iranians without preconditions.
we are seeking a comprehensive deal. it needs to address four areas. the threatsaddress that iran presents to international peace and security, and that is their nuclear program their missile program. groupsport to terrorist and proxies, and the 40 year history of hostagetaking. this includes the arbitrary detention of u.s. citizens including bob levinson and others. deal, andexited the reimposed sanctions and accelerated our pressure, iran was increasing the scope of its activity. we now have newly declassified information that i can share today. the united states was
still in the jcpoa, iran expanded ballista missile activities the partners across the region including palestinian terrorist groups and militias in the rack -- in iraq. beginning last year, iran transfer whole missiles to a separate terrorist group in the region. iran is continuing to develop missile systems and related technology solely for exports to regional proxies. and, while we were in the jcpoa, ,ran increased its support helping them produce a greater number of rockets and missiles. this arsenal is then used to target our ally, israel. the on continuing advancement to its missile program, iran was also deepening its engagement in regional conflicts. also under the iran nuclear deal, they were given a clear pathway to import and export dangerous weapons. from october 18, we will be exactly one year away
from the expiration of the united nations arms embargo on iran. because of the iran nuclear deal, countries like russia and china will soon be able to sell conventional weapons to iran. the un security council needs to learn new the embargo before it expires. we have made this a priority. the secretary has visited the un security council to her three times to highlight the expiration date of the arms embargo. nearly every measure, the regime and its proxies are weaker than when our pressure began. militant groups in syria have stated to the new york times in march that iran no longer has enough money to pay them as much as they had in the past. there was one fighter who said the golden days are gone and they are never coming back, iran does not have the money that it used to. others have enacted unprecedented austerity plans
due to a lack of funding from iran. tvmarch, the leader went on and said his follow -- hezbollah needed public support to withstand operations. you can see pretty banks in grocery stores soliciting spare change from citizens to support the operation. we are also making it harder for iran to expand its military capabilities. 2014, iran's military budget increased every year through the 2017. billion,it nearly $14 however, from 2017 to 2018, when our pressure went into effect, we saw a reduction in military spending of 10% in the first budget,d in iran's 2019 which was announced in march, there was a 28% cut for the defense budget.
this includes the 70% cut for funding. because of our sanctions, iran will be unable to even fully fund this budget for 2019. the cyber command is now low on has totally irgc rock militia groups that they should start looking for new sources of revenue. today, this morning, the imf provides its economic outlook forecasted a gdp contraction of 9.5%. year,icipate that in this iran could be inasmuch as a 12% negative gdp contraction. so, the regime does face a choice, he could act like a country or a good act like a cause. iran must change its behavior and start to act like a normal nation or it will watch its economy continue to decline.
core aicy is at its diplomatic and an economic one. this administration does not seek armed conflict with iran. we are relying on american ,ressure and american diplomacy economic pressure in american diplomacy to raise the costs on iran enforce meaningful behavior change. unfortunately, iran has responded to our diplomacy with violence and kinetic force. in recent months, iran has launched a series of panic attacks which secretary pompeo ed and holdingick our pressure. -- to intimidate the world into halting our pressure. on two oil thinkers, and the attack on saudi oil facilities. iran's message to the international community is quite
it is important that i think people understand the regime's paradigm. it runs nations to the world is: if you do not allow us to conduct our normal level of terror, then we will behave even more badly until you do. iran has long used its nuclear program in this way, and for this reason. the world ought to recognize this extortion when it sees it. when the world comes together to push back against iran and we saw this recently in the context of people, which put enormous pressure on iran because it was denying women from attending mader message, and sica very clear that there needs to be a change and for the first time, iranian women were admitted recently into a game. they were segregated from everybody else, and they were cap in an area, but it is an
of imposing, isolating iran and pressuring iran can achieve the kind of behavior change we are talking about. we do see a change in this behavior and this administration will do it in part and we are succeeding in having others join us. on the monday of the un's general assembly shortly after germany, andrance, the united kingdom called for iran to accept negotiations on its nuclear program ballistic missiles and regional activity. this has been the position of the united states for 2.5 years, and we were very pleased to see call on the negotiations so that we can have a new encumbrances deal. case that itch the has come at the expense of missile nonproliferation in the middle east. i think i said to his committee probably a year ago, i know i said in a year ago at the, if we
do not restore deterrence, we are accumulating risk of a regional war. later inis one year the iranian attack on saudi. we remember that the longest suffering victims of the iranian forle, we wish nothing more the iranian people than a future with a truly representative government. future withetter the american people and the iranian people. devoting a for hearing on the subject and i'm happy to answer your questions. >> thank you very much. i really feel like we are in good hands with your firm hand on the tiller on this issue. want to thank you for appearing before this committee.
hadez indicated we had not one since 2017. on june 19, you appeared in a joint committee before us. others on this important issue, and we thank you for making yourself available. troubling the fact that on october 18, the human resolution is going to expire and send arms to the country. obviously we would like to pass another resolution but with russia and china having veto what do youhat, think can happen there? what is the prognosis on this whole thing? discussionsad many
about promoting a more peaceful and stable middle east. i've had several discussions with china and russia, talking about the attack on september 14 and the significance of it. we have to at least be honest with ourselves that the iran nuclear deal approach to iran's missile program facilitated its missile testing and it also allowed iran to proliferate missiles to its proxies without much cost. has not takennion one sanction against iran's missile program since adoption of the iran nuclear deal and yet, during the same time, iran has increased its ballistic missile testing and its provision of weapons to its proxies. i have seen some accounts where there's a lot of interest in the buyers and sellers a year from now.
we see a role for the un security council after the attack. act that was in clear violation of the united nation's charter. resolving international peace and security. this violation of sovereignty, it was an attack in so many ways on the global energy market. iran is trying to create shock in the global energy market. they have failed at that, to date. we hope that china and russia will play a constructive role. russia and china voted for the arms embargo on iran, resolution
1737, those series of resolutions. there's no reason they can't support it again. we think there is a clear case to be made for it. not just over since may, but during the life of the iran nuclear deal. >> i appreciate that view. the one troubling aspect of this is that it is and ask that iran has thumbed its nose at in a very haughty manner and just absolutely refuses to even agree what is appropriate international accepted conduct. different than the situation with north korea. with north korea, kim jong-un actually said i'm willing to talk about what everybody wants, and that's making a free
peninsula. the iranians are not anywhere near that from an attitude standpoint. people argue that north korea has not gotten where we wanted, and it certainly hasn't, i'm the first to admit it's a work in progress, but at least it's a work in progress. one, you have two parties that have a common objective and then once the common objective is agreed to, the two parties act in good faith. we have neither of those. what is your view on that, strictly from an attitude standpoint? we haven't seen a change of heart in the iranian regime, they seem to have doubled down on their strategy which is a for your strategy of attacks, using proxies in the gray zone to conduct attacks against american partners, american interests.
what i would highlight here are thingsber of diplomatic offered to the regime. he was the first japanese prime minister to visit the islamic askedic of iran and he trump if he thought that would be useful and the president encouraged him to go. he went. the supreme leader put out a series of tweets rejecting abe's diplomacy and while abe was in country, the regime blew up a japanese oil tanker. whohave president macron has repeatedly tried to has not metd iran our diplomacy with diplomacy, despite being offered many opportunities. the president has said many times he would be willing to meet with the regime, the secretary pompeo, when the united states was in the iran whatar deal and i attended
turned out to be the last meeting of the joint commission were the u.s. was a party to, i requested a meeting with iran's japanese foreign minister so i could talk about the hostages. this is an administration that is very open to resolving our differences with the negotiating table diplomatically. now that you have seen the e3 also recognized the need for a new deal, i would also point out that the beginning of the u.n. general sumlin, i think there was a new york times story talking about how they are experiencing a very chilly reception at the united nations. what they did, in terms of attacking the world's largest oil facility, i think more people are recognizing that. >> i think your observations about the reactions, what they did the japanese is very troubling. me istitude issued to something that is troubling.
everybody wants a diplomatic result. they just aren't showing any signs whatsoever of going in that direction. thank you for your thoughts. >> just two comments to some of the comments you made. the first public hearing and 2.5 years. i believe the public has a right to know. not had a public hearing in 2.5 years. secondly, i would just say as someone who is a staunch opponent of the jcpoa that, in fact, leaving the jcpoa without a strategy at the end of the day, without allies at the end of the day, has not left us in a better position. i don't care for the jcpoa. but by the same token, leaving without a strategy has not left us in a good position. isn't it true that iran has hijacked oil tankers? >> they did take one oil tanker
from waters. >> isn't it true that they have struck oil tankers? >> yes, they have. >> isn't it true that they had a stealth attack on saudi arabia's oil refineries? that iran has exceeded the limits imposed on its stockpile of uranium? (202) 748-80026 >> yes. that it hasue enriched uranium to higher levels of concentration than permissible? isn't it true that he has begun using more advanced strategies for enrichment? >> yes. >> i could go down to a list of other things. we are, right now, in a worse position than we were before. let me ask you something. withdrawing troops in northern syria and green lighting turkey's brutal incursion gives new life to isis and hands over the keys to our national security to putin, iran, and
asaad. does the administration have a plan for countering iran in syria? if so, could you explain what it is, and how will it account for recent gains by iran-backed forces that are filling the vacuum that we created in northern syria? >> i like to answer your first question, for i take the next one. >> i didn't pose a first question, i posed the question as it relates to this. >> can i comment on your first question? >> first, answer my question. >> the president's decision with respect to syria is not going to change our iran strategy or the advocacy of it. iran has given assad $4.6 billion in lines of credit. they have sent 2500 of their own fighters and they have helped
mobilize 10,000 fighters to support assad. our diplomatic work that ambassador jeffrey's heading is to ensure as part of a political solution, that all of the forces under iranian control have to leave syria, and we are withholding a reconstruction assistance for syria as one of the levers that we have. >> and you really think after having withdrawn and let the isnians -- what we have here something that we, by our presence, helped avoid. we have the possibility of the levers that iran has sought over syria to attack our allies in the state of israel. what commitments to we have from any of these parties that, in fact, they will prevent iran from moving fighters and supplies from iraq to northern syria? as far as i'm concerned, iran
isn't an agent of russia, they have their own interests, they have spent their own blood. russia is not going to tell them thank you for your help, get out. they are going to have their own interest. all we have done here is perpetuate their interest. created a greater risk for the state of israel. this: i think our pressure on iran threatens iran's position in syria in three ways. ofstarts the irgc operational funds. it disrupts their financial assad. to u our pressure is making it harder for iran to give assad financial report. you are also impeding their ability to sell oil to syria and we have sanctioned one oil and one oferation the ways that it has been
financing its operations is through illicit oil shipments. to keep,e are going after the oil, we are going to still keep after that. we are going to continue our pressure. again, do we have any commitments from turkish or iraqi authorities to prevent iran from moving fighters with supplies from iraq in northern syria? >> we've discussed that on a very regular basis. >> we have no commitments. no commitments. the specifics of this unhappy to follow up with you in terms of which minister or leader we spoke with about this, but we have raised this issue repeatedly at the security concerns. here'seems to me that the perfect example of what maximum pressure without a strategy that ultimately brings iran to the negotiating table leaves us in. consequences,more greater breakout, limiting breakout time to the possibility
of a pathway to nuclear weapons. a leverage in addition to the president's decisions to ignore out of syria, a land bridge for iran to attack our allies in the state of israel. if that is your measurement of success, then i have a real concern of where we are headed. thank you. >> two quick things on that. when the president got out of the iran deal, secretary pompeo release our iran strategy within a week or two. we did exit the deal with a strategy. place asecretary put in very clear articulation of the 12 areas where we need to see a change in iranian behavior. that speech that he gave in may of 2018 -- >> that's a wish list. >> it's not a wish list. >> you think you are going to get everything that pompeo listed? you are going to give virtually no relief to iran and they are
just going to succumb? >i'd like to believe that the real world, but that's not the real world. >> we don't negotiate with ourselves. , requirements, are a mirror image of iran's threats to peace and security. most of those 12 you can find in a un security council resolution. youo you believe the more asked for, the more you have to give? time, i taking up my saw he went behind his time as well. thatve heard it often said during the iran nuclear deal, iran was behaving. and since we got outcome of things of god worse. i'd like to submit for the record, this is said the what items of activities during negotiations. it is 71 items long. i think that we don't do a great service if we
ignore what iran did during the negotiations and while the jcpoa was being implemented. people can review everything iran was up to while we were in the deal. >> that will be submitted for the record. >> let me ask you some simple questions. isn't it virtually anywhere in the world that the more you want, the more you have to give? or do you believe you can get mr. hook: united states tried taking a bifurcated approach. by only focusing on one aspect of iran's threats to peace and security and it was the nuclear deal -- and that has enabled iran to expand its missile tests. to expand its missile tests. >> that is not a response to the question.
the more you ask for, do not expect the more that you will have to give austin mark --give? mr. hook: yes, and if you look at the strategy laid out in may, the conclusion of the agreement, which we will submit to the senate as a treaty -- >> which we applaud. mr. hook: i worked closely with this committee to show that we need. support for what we are doing and if we are able to get into talks with iran, we will be fully apprised. it is also the case that in that , we are prepared to end all of our sanctions and welcome iran into the international community. that is very significant and has never happened before. many of our sanctions stayed in place. many of our sanctions will start unraveling. we have put out incentives for
the regime and the decision they face is whether they are going to come to the table and recognize that it is deepening isolation, come to united states , come to the table to negotiate a full and comprehensive deal. >> thank you. senator johnson. >> i would point out during the jcpoa debate, it was my amendment that would have deemed that a treaty. we would be in a far better place today. yourook, thank you for service. as somebody who has observed ,ran for a long period of time they want to be a nuclear power, they are developing ballistic missiles, they continue to support their terrorist proxies around the world. what is their ultimate goal? do you have a sense in what they are actually trying to achieve? mr. hook: it is
you have a president, a foreign minister, a military, but it also has this revolutionary guard corps. i highlight revolutionary guard corps. opaque financial system, so that it can move money around the world for terror finance and money laundering. it is all in the service of promoting clerical oversight, weaponizing shieh grievances, undermining the sovereignty of regimes around the middle east. >> did they want to topple regimes and put in place some kind of iranian surrogates or
total iranian control over areas of the region? do they want to greater iran? mr. hook: yes, they would like a greater iran. when you look at their engagement with iraq, if you look at where they engage in lebanon, where they take a country like lebanon and that military should have a monopoly on the use of force, but then hezbollah undermines that. they are trying to do the same thing in yemen. they have an ambition to become a power broker in yemen on the saudi southern border, so that it will be in a position to attack uae, saudi, bahrain, and also the u.s. navy. a but to eventually install regime in these countries either favorable or direct control of iran? mr. hook: yes. >> we need to understand that. the situation in syria is incredibly complex. i would like your evaluation. what is the current relationship
with iran and russia as it relates to syria? i think russia has tried to have it both ways, both with syria and israel. i think russia knows that it is going to have a very hard time getting into a post-conflict stabilization for as long as forwardusing syria as a deployed missile base to attack israel. i think there are incentives for russia to direct iranian forces out. at the same time, i think russia has also said to the israelis, you should do whatever you need to do to defend yourselves against attacks coming from inside syria. president putin is playing both sides. hard forng to be very syria, they are not going to see a return to normal.
the forcesirect under iranian control to leave. i think there are incentives both for assad and putin to get to a post-conflict stabilization, but for as long as they have iranian forces there with another agenda -- >> there is not a cooperative relationship between russia and iran and syria? they are not overtly cooperating? both have aey common objective of saving assad. >> what is iran's attitude toward isis? mr. hook: that is something which during the -- there are people i would probably defer to nea for the more specifics around this and the history of that that occurred in the last administration. in our mission to defeat isis, the president made a priority coming into office of working
with secretary mattis to liberate the territorial caliphate from all of the lands under that control. but i don't have anything to add beyond that. iran, they are kind of agnostic? happy to have isis destabilize the area? there is no evidence of support in any way, shape, or form? mr. hook: this is something which i would probably defer to my colleagues who have been on the counter isis campaign. i'm happy to take that that far. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. hook, thank you for your service. in your statement, you point out concern over miscalculation in the region that could spread into a much more serious conflict. clearly, the iranians could make it miscalculation. clearly, the saudis could make it miscalculation. now, israel might make it
miscalculation based upon the increased concerns about iranian strength. toant to backup one moment assess the history here. jcpoa and ie strongly disagreed with the administration's decision to pull out of the jcpoa. and you pointed out that you wanted to go to a maximum pressure campaign against iran. i support that. support -- you point out that iran was violating international standards. it was not covered under the agreement. they were in compliance under the agreement. as president trump had indicated , you and i had indications that we now had maximum pressure with our european allies to get their
support for sanctions against iran in the ballistic missiles and other issues in which they were doing activities against international norms. in fact, we could have had a maximum pressure campaign against iran in the activities you are referring to, but the president pulled out of the jcpoa. that is the fact that you when i know that even the eu was prepared to go along with us provided the united states state in the jcpoa. i want to underscore the point of senator menendez, since pulling out of the jcpoa, look at the facts, look at what has happened. , look atboldened iran the attack against the saudi oil field, the capacity to do major damage. they have had -- they have partnered and strengthened their position with russia and the assad regime in syria, giving
them additional capacity. toy are now closer restarting a nuclear weapons program than they were when we were in the jcpoa and we have nobody to challenge that within the jcpoa. now you talk about the u.n. vote in the embargo, conventional weapons, and the united states influence is so much weaker today because we have isolated ourselves, we don't have the support of china and russia, and we have lost the credible support of our european allies in regards to iran. when you talk about a maximum pressure campaign, it seems to me we gave up that maximum pressure when we pulled out of the jcpoa and isolated america. i want to get to the most recent decision in president trump inling out of northern syria a conversation with president erdogan and then the turkish forces going in and out kurdish
fighters that worked with us in northern syria now engaged in their own military campaign. it is clear from the facts on the ground that it has given additional influence in syria by concernnd there is now that iran can be emboldened, including in the bridge to israel's border. so, i just want to get your view. the fact that we now have forces ine turkish embedded without u.s. presence to go in and fight the kurds, does that help us or hurt us in regards to iran? it is a simple question, i hope i can get an answer to that. we are very comfortable with our iran strategy in syria. >> but the specific question i'm asking us about the current
situation with the kurdish fighters now engaged with the turks, does that help us or hurt us in regards to the iranian strategy? mr. hook: it does not hurt our iran strategy. so it is helpful for us in regards to iran to have the kurdish fighters who were are stabilizing force in northern iran keeping russia and iran out? that is a positive? mr. hook: our forces in northeast syria have never had any wrong mission set. >> but now that we are not there and we now have the ability of russia to take the greater capacity of syria, allowing iran to come into that -- to be more emboldened in syria, you are saying that does not affect us? mr. hook: no, because our strategy from the beginning in syria is always been around using diplomatic leverage, withholding reconstruction assistance, so that we can get forces under iranian control out , and then our maximum pressure campaign -- while they were in the deal, they were able to give
assad many billions of dollars. >> i understand the money. i'm trying -- you don't think there is now a greater chance of a miscalculation with israel looking at the iranians having greater access to syria that could use drones in a similar type of attack that we saw against the saudi's? you don't think that is a greater risk today because of what is happening in syria? mr. hook: we don't see it as a greater risk, no, because israel will continue to do what it needs to do to defend itself. >> we know that, but israel is now in higher alert. mr. hook: i haven't seen that. i haven't seen that. if you look at our core drivers from the beginning and nothing has changed with the president's recent decision of withdrawing troops in syria, our strategy is around denying revenue and using
diplomatic leverage in syria to get iranian forces out. it is undeniable that during the iran nuclear deal iran was able andse the sanctions relief give iran many billions of dollars and 12,500 fighters. that was the big mistake. now we are trying to do everything we can to put this back in the box. it starts with denying them revenue. iran's military budget is down. >> let me make a last point on that. we could deny them support from europe in sanctions, but instead we chose to pull out of the jcpoa rather than working with our european allies. on the table before the president pulled out of the jcpoa mr. hook: let me make one point which i think there has
been a lot of the last couple of years. the president directed negotiations with the u.k., france, and germany, over six months, to see if we could fix the deficiency of the a ron -- iran nuclear deal. we met in paris, london, berlin and washington multiple times over six months. we made a great deal of progress around the week inspections , at the absence of intercontinental ballistic missiles from the deal. the biggest priority was ending the sunset clause. as much as supporters of the deal like the deal, it expires. it did not permanently address iran's nuclear program. i spent six months working with the europeans. the biggest thing we achieved was largely agreement on inspections and icbms. we were not able to agree on the sunset. we turned down greater pressure non-iran from the financial
point of view because of the -- >> we turned down the opportunity to get europe with us on sanctions against iran, because you wanted a longer term on the nuclear provisions. you turned down maximum pressure in order to get extension of a nuclear agreement there was already compliance. it is inconsistent on what you're saying now, that you ducting put original -- to put additional pressure on iran. mr. hook: i don't know who supports ending the nuclear restrictions on iran, and -- senator the nuclear agreement was a personal -- was a permanent restriction on iran. mr. hook: it was not. -- iran nuclear deal are dale will start expiring a year
from now. -- hook: chairman risch: this is a good experience to go through to litigate this, but let's go through this as simply as we can. : my reading is that iran's our position has changed significantly as a result of the turks going into syria, wiping out our friends, the kurds. the kurds that are remaining are rushing to assad and pledging to support assad. this changes for the -- this changes the dynamic for iran, i presume in iran's view, and a big way, i presume iran was smiling from year-to-year -- this changes the dynamic for iran and syria and perhaps --
smiling from ear to ear when turkey went into syria. this changes the debt, for iran and syria. has hit the hurt -- we have gone, turkey has hit the kurds, and the kurds have aligned with assad. shirley assad is stronger. assad is stronger. and this isn't good for iran? mr. hook: our military is in syria for isis, our diplomacy is focused on iran. that is why jim jeffrey and i worked together closely, because what i do on the pressure side and what he does on withholding reconstruction assistance, is mutually reinforcing. but diplomacy: has an impact if there is a
military that is strong and in the region, and if our ally now aligns with our adversary, assad, that is not helpful for diplomacy and our interest in the region. that is a dramatic perspective on your part that iran is not celebrating what is happening in syria, it's extraordinary to me. let me turn to a different area. i do agree that there is an and norma's benefit in putting pressure on iran, whether it is maximum pressure or not, i don't know. but i believe a nation that decides to go nuclear should suffer a dramatic cost for doing so. whether they are at their knees or not, i don't know, and it is very hard for us to tell from the outside what is going on inside iran. but clearly, it would have a dramatic effect if other nations were to join us in applying maximum pressure. what are the prospects for our
european friends, for other nations around the world joining us, either with a snapback not onn being applied or a snapback basis? prospects of us seeing truly maximum pressure, because it is applied by our friends as well? mr. hook: there is no president in iran's history for the kind of pressure we have put on them. the regime has said this publicly. they are experiencing the kind of economic contraction that is and will be worse than what happened during the iran-iraq war in the 1980's. ofhave done a good job drying up iran's sources of expert revenue. but we have devoted as much energy to enforcing our sanctions, especially in the case of oil sanctions. the fact that the u.k., france
and germany have acknowledged something we saw some time ago, that the iran deal is insufficient to address iran's threats to peace and security, and when you are inside the deal, you can't touch your energy or your financial sanctions. that was the deal. so being out of the deal gives us a great deal more leverage to accomplish the objectives of denying iran a nuclear weapon. ofator romney: i'm not one those who thinks we should be back in jcpoa. i believe there should be and a norma's price paid by company that decides to go nuclear. i don't know whether we will ever see iran make a different decision, but is there some prospect of us being able to get other nations to join us in applying maximum pressure on iran, or must we continue to do it alone? mr. hook: it depends. europe has done a lot.
they have not reimposed financial sanctions that were in what, but when you look at europe has done since we left the iran deal, it is an extensive list and germany and france in the u.k. have all denied landing rights to an iranian commercial airline, dual-use commercial airline that also fairies weapons and terrorists around the middle east to their proxies. did impose sanctions on iran's ministry of intelligence for terrorism in europe. and you have also had the e3 send letters to the un security council condemning iran's space launch vehicle testing, ballistic missile testing. you had boris johnson a few weeks ago, said the iran deal is a bad deal with many, many defects. that has been my position -- our
position. senator romney: letters and speeches are delightful, but crippling sanctions on the part of our ally would make a real difference in exacting a very substantial price on iran, and hopefully causing dissent within their own country. but i think it should be a high priority of our country to get to getations to join other nations to join us in those crippling sanctions. my time is up. mr. hook: can i say one other thing? i'm happy to submit for the record, this is three pages of actions by europe starting july 24, 2019.ember i talk weekly with my european counterparts. we just pitbulls and in town -- we just had poland in town. we had 65 nations in warsaw from ,lmost every continent attend
so we have made working with priority -- working with our partners a priority. i'm happy to submit for the record three pages of everything europe has done to counter iran's threats. mr. hook: those -- chairman risch: those will be included in the record for everyone. me how we arel going to proceed since both just started? is the chairman intending to keep the hearing going as members come in and out for votes? mr. hook: this is an important -- chairman risch: this is an important hearing. we should get down to the end and then everybody can take a break. i see anxiousness on my friend's parts who would like to write the apple. i want tor. hook, follow-up up on the line of questioning my colleagues have
pursued with respect to syria, because the shift by kurdish forces who were our partners in the fight against isil and into alignment with iran and russia will have serious implicates earns -- serious implications for syria and the region, and it is hard for me to understand that you appear at least to think there is no connection to what is going to happen in syria and our efforts to address what is happening in iran. the president said on twitter that anyone, and i am quoting, anyone who wants to assist syria and protecting the kurds, it is good with me, whether it is russia, china, or napoleon bonaparte. i hope they'll do great. we are 7000 miles away. that is the end of the quote. does this anyone the president is referring to extend to iran? are you concerned about a kurdish-iranian alliance and its impact on u.s. interest in the region?
syria is not going to see a return to normal until they direct forces under iranian control to leave. we do have enormous leverage in that space. can you further elaborate what our leverage is? it appears to me given our pullout of troops, and i appreciate what you are saying about reconstruction dollars, but fact is they are years away from reconstruction at this point, so we had a very small amount of troops partnering with kurdish forces to maintain a significant area in northeast syria that was stable. the united states had influence, where we were wanted, and you are telling me now that we have pulled out those troops and we have greater leverage than we had before? mr. hook: i didn't say that. campaign, because
shiite fighters don't have the money they used to, iran doesn't have the money and used two, to support assad and support its iranes, so i ran -- so will face a dilemma, they can support guns in syria or prioritize the needs of their own people at home. that is the choice we are tying to force upon the regime. senator shaheen: and have we not empowered them further by pulling out of northeast syria and giving iran more influence in the region, and more ability to negotiate with russia? i heard the obama administration talk about how we were going to starve syria of the funds they needed to engage in a civil war, and that never happened. and what our experience has been with crippling sanctions, i think they are important, but they are not the only way, the only tool in the toolbox for us to address these conflicts. i guess i would go on to ask
you, in september you noted it is clear we need to reestablish the terms, we are one missile strike away from a regional war. i think that is a quote. can you speak to how this administration plans to reestablish deterrence against iran, and what specific options other than sanctions are on the table to penalize iran for destabilizing behavior? mr. hook: the first thing you have to do is stop doing what is not working. there is no question iran increased missile proliferation and testing. senator shaheen: i don't want to talk about jcpoa. what i want to talk about is what the administration has on the table now to address iran's destabilizing behavior. mr. hook: that is part of it. we have to stop doing what we are doing, are we are going to get more of the same -- or we are going to get more of the same. we broke the paradigm of not having significant leverage.
we are really five or six months into having all our sanctions imposed. because for the first six months after getting out of the deal, we granted a few oil waivers. since may, we were five or six months into this and we have achieved record results. but we have to understand we never promised -- senator shaheen: how do you define record results? mr. hook: the regime is materially weaker today than it was two and a half years ago. senator shaheen: i appreciate that is the case, but when we look at their behavior both in the region in terms of our interests in the region, they have increased that destabilizing behavior. it is at an increase. i want you to look at all 71 instances of this. for 40or 40 -- iran years has run a steady state of aggression and used terrorism as a tool escape -- as a tool of
statecraft. they want the world to accept a normal level of terrorism as they define it, and when the world stands up they increase it to put pressure on people so they will return to their normal level. senator shaheen: i heard you make this argument this morning, and i appreciate that is an argument the administration has. i'm not buying that argument. what i am asking is, what are the plans? what are the additional plans beyond sanctions that will address their behavior? up, but i have one final question. do you believe isis has been defeated in syria? that is a yes or no. mr. hook: the territorial caliphate has been defeated. we liberated all the land held by isis. it is a separate question on the forces of extremism. believe theou forces of extremism have been defeated in syria? mr. hook: there is no one that
will claim forces of extremism have not been defeated in the middle east in any administration. there is a crisis of islamist extremism that has been going -- that has been going on for many decades. shaheen: that we just exacerbated by pulling american troops out of northeast syria. we have given rise to the potential for isis to come back in syria, in iraq, all across the region, and that empowers iran. mr. hook: it is clearly the case that iran, if you talk to countries in the region, you will hear complete agreement from israelis and other arab countries on the front lines of iranan aggression, that expanded its power over the last many years. and we came into office with a regime that was enjoying a very healthy economy, healthy military budget, strong proxies, and there was a deficit of trust
we inherited with our sunni partners and with israel. i would say our bilateral relations with these countries has been improved and we have helped to shrink the iran tumor. but we are only out this for the first, this has only been a manner -- a matter of a year and a half since leaving the deal. in march, "the new york times" ran a front-page story documenting iran's proxies are weaker, and "the washington post" ran a story about how proxies are weaker because of our sanctions. this was a story that was not written prior to our proxy campaign. paul: if we ask, do sanctions work, it's a bigger, broader question, do we do more, maximum pressure? if there had been an economic effect, nobody questions that. are they working to bring iran to the negotiating table?
they aren't really working. it is a lost of -- it is a loss of trust. iran feels we are not trustworthy because of pulling out of the agreement that was worked on for so many years. naivea matter of having expectations that they will agree to 12 points, most of which they didn't agree to in the previous agreement. it is going to be difficult to get it started because of a lack of trust and starting with some things that were not agreed to revis lee and were specifically agreed to different limits, like no enrichment and the ballistic missile agreement. iran sees elastic missiles as a deterrent and i don't think they are willing to give up a deterrent. they see saudi arabia spending $83 billion a year and we are, goodness, iran spends $14 billion. that is one 50th of what we spend and less than one fourth of what saudi arabia spends. if you add saudi allies, you can see why iran might say, please
take my ballistic missiles. they are not doing this and they are willing to keep pricking and prodding a superpower that could defeat them in a moment because we are unwilling to what we ask, and by pulling out we showed we are not to be trusted. so you have an unwilling partner. syria is different. we have been unwilling in syria to negotiate in a sense that our assad,as been, remove and no one wants to negotiate with assad. it is going to be ironic because everybody seems concerned about the kurds that actually the kurds' permanent solution is more likely to come from assad. he is there, largely is going to stay barring something untoward happening to him from his own people, but the war is largely over, assad stays. if we are going to be realistic and want to protect the kurds, maybe the diplomatic arena has gotten simplified.
now you have turkey on one side in syria on the other. everybody is going to talk about sanctions, which i don't think will work, but somebody from the state department that is involved with diplomacy ought to be saying, why don't we use our leverage to get turkey and assad to talk? but we would have to acknowledge someone is going to talk to assad. and if we did, the goal would be to allow the kurds to live in the northeastern quadrant of syria, similar to the way the kurds live in iraq. it wasn't always easy there, it has been very messy and there have been a lot of problems, but currently iraqi kurds trade with the turks and have a decent and robust trade over the last 10 years, that has actually increased. ohshouldn't look at this as, my goodness, kurds being wiped out and all of this. i think we should look at it as an opportunity, as a breakthrough diplomatically, because we have simplified who needs to talk to whom at this point. i would hope, and i guess my
question is, is there anybody in the state department looking to take an opportunity of the new dynamic of the last 24 hours that, if assad could reassure erdogan he is going to prevent incursions and respect the border with turkey and use a real government with the stability of a real government, is there a possibility erdogan would withdraw under that guarantee? that is a conversation we have prevented from happening because we wouldn't let the kurds talk to assad. there may be a breakthrough here. your comments. is hook: my understanding that there is a member briefing in the works, trying to be organized that would focus on syria. that is a question best left to my counterpart jim jeffrey, who is lead on syria. paul: do you see why the kurds could remain in
syria by some kind of arrangement with the syrian government? >> i will answer your iran question. iran has a history of coming to the table in the context of sanctions. we saw that in the run-up to the iran nuclear deal, also have seen it in various times. beator paul: you have to willing to offer something. if you offer relief of some of the export to asia for oil so you don't have a complete embargo, they would talk in a heartbeat, but that would be offering something. it would have been easier before they attacked saudi arabia, but six months ago had you offered relief of some sanctions in order to get talks started, you might have had a chance. now, nobody wants to offer relief because of heightened tensions. it is more difficult now to get started. mr. hook: sanctions relief is not granted in the run-up to what became the iran nuclear deal. you had a little more
pressure at that time it also had engagement of the obama administration actually talking to them, there was more trust than. there is less trust now because we pulled out of something they were adhering to. clearok: we have made it we are open to meeting. iran has rejected the offer. they rejected the offer while we were in the deal. iran rejected the offer to meet what we were in the iran nuclear deal, it didn't happen after we left the deal. so they have consistently rejected diplomacy. i think they have a theory that their resistance is greater than our pressure. we are comfortable with the foreign policy we have in place because we know the regime has less revenue to spend on its military budget, and we are forcing them to make very hard choices. the 40-yeard at history of it. if talking nicely with the
iranians worked, we would have solved this a long time ago, but it doesn't. this regime only respect send understands strength. senator paul: they don't consider an embargo of their main export considered being nice to them. mr. hook: but that oil goes to fund terrorism. so if you let iran sell oil, they use it for terrorist operations. so we don't want iran to sell oil. that is why we put in place the embargo, the sanctions we have on iran's oil exports. and that is tens of billions of dollars in revenue they would otherwise spend on hamas, has ah, hutu rebelsl --houthi rebels. mr. hook: we have -- chairman risch: we have some
votes going on and will be back. thank you. the senate foreign relations committee will be in recess. [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] [gavel striking block] committeeisch: the will come to order. hastor: the president deployed additional forces to saudi arabia in recent weeks in preparation of a possible conflict of iran. is congress required to authorize participation in any war with iran?