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they have condemned the use of chemical weapons, the russians have, the iranians have. as proof of the use more clear in the course of this debate i think it's going to be very difficult for iran and russia to decide against all that evidence that something weather defending here. this is the kind of calculations you have to make. chemical. >> we are going to be back here, asking you to respond to a greater situation. because someone miscalculated because someone believes the united states is not good for what is says. that will invite greater danger for the american people and our armed people and conceivably greater chances of a genuine
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kind of confrontation we don't want to seep. >> thank -- to see. >> thank you mr chairman. >> it's the top of the hour on al jazeera. we are watching the senate foreign relations committee. the first hearing on the possibility of military action against syria and in response to the syrian government's alleged chemical attack on its own people on 21 august. it's been a tricky and tough session so far for secretary kerry, facing several questions on the issue of boots on the ground. us forces on the ground, and also what happens if there is a response from syria and it gets out of hand in the region. let's go back to the hearing now, and this is senator ben cardon. >> we need to have it focussed on the mission. it has to be done in a way that
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protects civilians the way that we can, and it has to be a limited duration. i want to come back to the point that the chairman raised in your comments, where you say we should shut the door as slightly as possible when dealing with putting our troops on the ground in syria. i have read the resolution that you presented to us. i think it is borrowered than what you have -- broader than what you have stated the president's intentions on the mission. i understand that and ined -- and i understand the president's desire to keep the the mission tight. it certainly does not close the door on the introduction of ground troops. i have also heard your comments about the unexpected - something could happen. i would just point out that the president, as commander-in-chief, has the inherent authority to act in urgent situations where time requires that action. i would suggest, as you have come to congress for this
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authorisation, if circumstances change and there's time to come to congress, you have the opportunity to come back to congress and seek our participation. we are a separate branch the government as you recall. i want to urge you in the strongest possible terms to work with the leadership to draw up a resolution that is as tight as we can make it to allow you to carry out the mission you have defined today, so that we can go back and tell the american people that we and congress are supporting your action, but are not leaving open the door for the introduction of american troops into syria. i want to talk a little bit about the specific military operations and i'm going to leave most of this until tomorrow, in discussions. i just want general dempsey and secretary hagel to understand whether the mission is to degrade the weapons, and deter
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the use of chemical weapons. have you put into that equation the fact that obviously syria is aware that we are contemplating military action, and therefore may try to change the equation during this period of time to make it more difficult to carry out the mission. has that been brought into your planning stages? >> yes, senator, it has. you know, time works both ways. you recall about a week and a half ago there was a significant leak of military planning that caused the regime to react. so time works both ways. we have pretty significant intelligence capabilities, and we continue to refine our targets. >> both of you have indicated your concern about american military involvement in syria, that it could draw us in, in a way that we don't want to be drawn into an internal conflict. are you also putting into your
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plans ways to prevent that type of drawing in of america into the irn ternal con -- internal conflict in syria. >> senator, we are. as i noted in my opening statement, we have taken great care, and much time, in looking at not only the options to present to the president, but the contingencies that may be a consequence of the present selecting of one of those option, including what you have just noted. it is imperfect, as i said and everyone recognises there's always risk. we tried to minimise the risk in every way we can, every presentation we make to the president. the president has insisted on that. collateral damage across the board. yes, we have taken a lot of time to focus exactly on your point. >> secretary kerry you point out
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if we don't act we are liable to lose some friends. i want to point out we have a direct interest here. we not only have humanitarian reasons to respond to the use of chemical weapons, we have direct american interest in that region, and we have americans in that region that are at risk if additional chemicals are used i. see a direct connection to american interest. you say we might lose friends if we don't act. why don't we have more paption in the -- participation in the us military response in addition to just support. it seems to me that this appears to be - we understand america will be in the lead, but it does not seem like we have a growing list of countries actively joining us in the military operation. >> well, first of all, there is no definitive list at this point in time because the president
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has not made the decision as to specifically which set of choices he's going to operate on. secondly, as many countries as we could conceivably need to be able to be helpful in a limited operation have volunteered to be helpful, and they stand ready to take part in any specific operation. and we are very, very comfortable with that. the bottom line in many ways remains that we are talking about very specific kinds of capacities that in some cases only the united states of america possesses. and, so, you know, that's - remains open, it's a process that will evolve as this debate evolves, and as the president makes his decisions and the joint chiefs of staff and the military present him with options and they will evolve as you mention - people may make
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adjustments in syria, and i can assure the syrians, general dempsey and his people were making adjustments as they go along. >> i hope we have stronger international participation. is there a consideration of a role for nato to play, considering that one of nato's partners, turkey, is on the direct front line here, on the use of chemical weapons. can we - is that being considered? >> well, as you say, is it being considered. everything is being considered. all of these things are being evaluated. discussions are taking place. i will be meeting on saturday with european minister, i know this topic will come up. most of them are members of nato - most of them are, not all of them - so we'll have discussions when we are there. at the moment, this is a limited operation with the scope of support that the president makes a judgment that we ought to
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have. we will have very broad - we have already very broad. i think i have been - you know, we have had some 53 nations or countries and organisations having knowledge that chemical weapons were used here and have condemned it publicly. 31 nations have stated publicly that the assad regime is responsible, and i think we are at about 34 count ris have indicated -- countries have indicated that if the agszs are k -- allegations are true, they'd support action against syria. it's growing, the number of people that think we ought to take action. the question is whether it makes sense for whatever number to be part of it is a decision for the president and the military. . >> i'll reserve the rest of the
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questions until the closed session. >> senator rurrial. this is al jazeera, and we are watching the senate foreign relations committee against potential action against syria for the attack in syria in the damascus suburbs much the president wants a strike. the senators are debating the proposition. back in a
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. >> welcome back everyone, you are watching al jazeera. let's take you back to the senate foreign relations committee hearing on military action against syria, and this is the senator from florida mark orubian. >>... that didn't happen, instead the choice was made to lead from behind. the choice was made to watch as this thing unfolded. others advocated that we should mind our own business. what we see is proof and examples that when america ignores the problems, they don't ignore us. we can ignore them, but they grow and visit us at the doorstep. secretary kerry, you said a calculation that assad used was that the us wouldn't do anything about it. i understand why he made that calculation, because, yes, this is a horrible incident where 1,000 people died. before this incident 100,000 died, including
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snipers used to pick off civilians, women raped as part of going to the villages and carrying this out. nothing happened. of course he reached that calculation. this is a remainder of what happened when we ignore the world and look inwards - they get worse and more difficult to solve. that's the mess that we have here now. we are left with options all of which are less than ideal. i want to work through the three presented to us by different voice, and ask specifically about the one the president is considering. the first option is to decide to help syrians remove assad and replace with a moderate government. it's an ideal outcome, it has its own complications. rebel forces on the grouped are not mod -- ground. they are not moderate, they are jihadists. the forces create a real prospect that after the fall of assad, a war could be triggered - one that could involve sebbing tarian --
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sebbing tarian violence, massacres of minorities. the other that some voices advocated is doing nothing. that involves the following outcome - involved in assad and iran. increased instability, portions of the country would be ungoverned. and sends a message that there's no red line. iran will move towards nuclearonuclear weapons, korea, and iran towards the bomb. the third is the action the president is asking us to consider. what he termed, not me, what he called a shot across the bow. a military strike with three goals as i understand it that have been outlined. goal no.1 is to hold assad accountable. goal number two is to deter the
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behaviour in the future, and goal number 3 is to degrade assad's capacity. the president wants us to authorise a limited strike to accomplish the three things. the question i have, i'm skeptical that the act - that what the president is asking for will provide the support needed to achieve the objectives and they are realistic. here is the first question of general dempsey. the calculation that assad made is that the reason why he's using the chemical wepans is he's -- weapons is he's afraid if he doesn't, he may be overthrown and killed. he wants to beat the rebels. my question is this: can we structure an attack that will tip that calculation where he'll basically decide that he would rather risk being overrun by rebels than risking a limited attack from the us if he uses the chemical weapons. he has to
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decide, "i'll use chemical weapons and take on a limited attack in the future or i'll risk being overrun by the rebels." how do we unbalance that and leave him to calculate that he's better off risking losing to the rebels. >> senator, i think it may be more insidious than that. he has reached a point where he thinks of chemical weapons as another weapon in his arsenal. that makes this so very dangerous. i think that as i have provided advice on what targets may be appropriate, i certainly want to degrade his capabilities coming out of this. i want to come out stronger than we go into it. >> it leads to a second question: how confident are you and how confident can you express to the committee that you are, that we can put in place a military plan limited in scope and duration, that can effectively degrade assad's capability to carry out future chemical attacks. >> i'm confident in the capabilities we can bring to
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bear to deter and degrade. it won't surprise you to know that we will have not only an initial target set, but subsequent target sets should they become necessary. . >> this question is probably of secretary kerry, and i think this was asked earlier. it's important to elaborate on it. one concern i have, that i have heard others express is that assad could take 3, 5, 6 days of strike and emerge, "i have faced down the united states and held on to power and survived", and be involved in domestic and abroad - have we taken that into account. i understand your argument that inaction would be worse. have we taken into account what the implications could be of an assad that could weather a limited strike and what it could mean for the long-term prospects of the conflict. >> we have. for certain we have taken it into account. he will weather - the president is asking for a limited
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authority to degrade his current capacity and to deter him from using it again. he is not asking for permission from the con -- congress to go and destroy the entire regime, that's not what he's asking. he will be able to stand up and try to claim that somehow this is, you know, something positive for him. but i think general dempsey made it clear, and i think we believe deeply, as do others who are knowledgeable about this in the region, that there is no way that it will in fact be beneficial for him, it will not translate for him on the ground, that the defor examples taking -- defor examples taking place and -- defection, is that are taking place will further degrade him going forward. i
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want to emphasise this - i don't want anyone misinterpreting this. this authorisation does not contemplate and should not have any allowance for any troop on the ground. i want to make that clear. you know, what i was doing was hypothesising about a potential it might occur at some point in time, but not in this authorisation, in no way, becrystal clear, there's no problem in our having the language that has zero capacity for american troops on the ground within the authorisation the president is asking for. i don't want anybody in the media or elsewhere to misinterpret that coming out of here. as i said earlier, i repeat it now - that is important. >> thank you. i can assure you that will be in the resolution. >> thank you, mr chairman... . let's take a break and come back with more of the hearing
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before the senate foreign relations committee. you're watching al jazeera.
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. let's take you back to washington dc, the us senate foreign relations committee is meeting on a possible us strike against syria. you are watching al jazeera. a question has been posed to the panel and the chairman of the
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joint chiefs, general dempsey, by a new harm shire senator. >> our military action is focussed on chemical weapons, but will have the added benefit of degrading and supporting the diplomatic track. i'll turn to the secretary. >> the policy of that admission, and sometimes people have said, you know, questioned precisely what it is. i'll tell you precisely what it is. the president is asking for the congress to take steps that will specifically deter and degrade assad's capacity to use chemical weapons. he is not asking the congress for authorisation to become whole hog involved in
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syria's civil war, to try to change the regime through military action. this is a targeted action to deal with the problem of chemical weapons. but, there is a separate track - the administration and the country too - which is that assad must go, that he has lost all moral authority and capacity to govern syria, and he is pursuing that - the president is pursuing that track by helping the opposition, by now having made the decision to lethally arm the opposition, by upgrading the efforts for the opposition to be able to fight the fight - not the united states, the opposition, and to come to a negotiated settlement because the president is convinced as everyone is that there is no military solution. you want to get to gene eva, you want to negotiate a settlement
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and under the terms of genevai there's an agreement that the russians signed on to which calls for a transition government to be created with a mutual consent. current regime and -- consent of the current recently eem in the opposition. -- regime and the opposition. that government will transition for the syrian people to choose their government. there is no way possible that by mutual consent assad will be part of the future. the russians agreed that is genevai and the purpose of the geneva ii meeting is to implement geneva i. it is complicated and that is part of the struggle. the president is convinced as support to the opposition increases there's a greater likelihood that you will wind upultimately with a negotiated settlement. the alternative is to stand
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back, do nothing and syria implods, becomes an enclave state. thereare huge ungoverned spaces and becomes more of a threat, and it becomes much more of a sectarian configuration. >> secretary hagel and general dempsey you made a number of statements in the spring cautioning against intervention. why do you feel at this point it is appropriate for us to take action? what has changed? >> senator, thank you. i'll let general dempsey respond for himself. well, first, very clear intelligence and evidence that the assad regime used chemical weapons on its own people. so we are dealing with a new set
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of realities. it's based on facts. and i think it is at least my opinion that that needs to be addressed. that needs to be dealt with. for the reasons i have noted, i have said in public, and also addressed if my statement - i think in what secretary kerry and general dempsey said, and obviously what the president said. so that's the most specific reason. the dynamics have changed. one additional point in regard to your question on this as to your previous question. if, in fact, the president is given the authorisation from congress to go forward and as he has already said, he believes he has been his constitutional power as commander in chief to act as well, and he has given reasons which we all support why he came to the con yeses -- to
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the congress. there are parallel actions that would work with whatever action the president would take. opposition strength - which secretary kerry has noted. second, defections within the syrian government and military as secretary kerry has noted. other intelligence - other consequences. and this is about getting to ann end game. that is a diplomatic settlement. it is driving this toward what we believe, the president believes is the only way out of this if for no other reason than what secretary kerry has noted - we do not want to see the country of syria disintegrate, result in ungoverned space, which i think the consequences would be devastating for our partners, for our allies, for the entire middle east.
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then we would all have to respond in some way. i just add that on to answering your last question. >> chairman, i'll make it brief. >> i add that on to answering your last question. >> chairman, i'll make it brief in response to your question about the past year. over the past year we have provided a full range of options, and my advice on those options was based on my assessment of their linkage to our national security interest and whether they would beeffective. on this issue, the use of chemical weapons, i find a clear linkage to national security interests and we'll find a way to make the use of force effective. >> senator johnson. >> thank you, mr chairman. i'm trying to reconcile against the two trangts of goals -- tracts of goals we have going - military action and negotiated
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settlement. secretary hagel you said we are not seeking to resolve the underlying conflict in syria. is that not what we are trying to do? why are we not trying to resolve that? >> i was referring in my statement to the authorisation to use military force. that is not why we have come to the congress, why the president asked for the congresses support. as he has said, the authorisation is for a very specific and focussed military action. >> our standard goal is to remove assad and move to a negotiated settlement. why wouldn't we use this opportunity - military action - to move towards that goal. >> that is one option. if those options would range from an invasion, or a lot of military options on the table, what the president has said, what this authorisation is about
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is a limited authorisation for a limited exercise. the goal of removing assad from office, as the president has stated, is still a policy of this administration. >> general dempsey, how confident are you that you can calibrate, taylor, fine tune military action that doesn't have spill-over effect. do we keep it to the goal of degrade and deterring? >> the task was to do that, deter and degrade, not - and to be limited and focussed in scope and duration. that's the task i have been given. >> how can you calibrate that? >> we can calibrate it on our side. there's a risk of escalation on the other. they have significantly limited capabilities to do so. most of the intelligence informs us - we can talk about that in the closing. >> what planning is being undertaken now in case this does spin out of control? we are
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talking about potential for boots on the ground. secretary kerry, i'm glad to hear you are bringing into the equation, the chemical weapons falling into the hands of al-qaeda elements or hesbollah. what commitment long term do we have, how do we know we will prevent that from happening? >> at this moment in time, as the president has said, he is asking for a limited military response recognising that neither he nor most of america want to be dragged into a civil war in syria. >> our goal is to get rid of assad. >> our goal is to help the opposition. you have to look, overall - the president and i think all of us
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agree - i mean, can you imagine assad running syria? can you imagine this man, who has gassed people... . >> i'm trying to reconcile why if we are going to go in milt tarely, why wouldn't we do a knockout punch. do we have no faith that there's anybody on the ground, the rebels, to take control? is it not ready to make change. is that the problem? >> no, sir, that's not the reason. the reason is that the president is listening to the american people and made a policy decision, and in addition, that that is not something that the united states of america needs to engage in or ought to engage in. it's a broader operation. >> well, yes, it is. it is, senator. is the congress of the united states ready to pay for 30 days of 30,000 airstrikes to take out and is there a legal justification to do that. you can run through a series of
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different questions here that are serious about what you are talking about. >> what do we know about the opposition? we have been tracking them, have we - does it seem like this is an impression as opposed to exact knowledge. it seems like the opposition was maybe more werne leading, more moderate. the time has gone by, it's become more degraded by al qaeda, is that true or what has happened? >> it's basically not true. it's basically incorrect. the opposition has increase ipingly become -- increasingly become more defined by adherence to democratic process, and to an all-inclusive minority protecting constitution which will be broad based and secular with respect to the future of syria. that's critical. what is important about the opposition - it's my understanding, because i talked to the president of the opposition - he's in germany
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now. he's meeting with the german parliament. he is coming to great britain and will meet with the parliament in great britain and is prepared to come here when those meetings are over in order to meet with you, and you can have an opportunity to talk to the president and meet with the opposition and have a better sense of who they are. >> secretary hagel do you have a feel for the number of the members of the opposition? how large is their force? >> i don't know the numbers. our intelligence communities have estimates of those numbers. i think, as secretary kerry said, the momentum has shifted in the painting of our intelligence committee and others close to the situation. >> i'm a numbers guy. general dempsey, to you know the force strength of the rebel forces? >> i don't have them committed to memory, senator. >> we have them. >> the intelligence community
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has them available. we'll make it available tomorrow. . >> do you know how many are moderate or elements of al qaeda? >> i have seen documents that lay that out. >> how do we know that hezbollah - how do we know that they don't have access to chemical weapons, do we have a feel for that as well? >> we need to talk about that in the classified section. if terms of opposition numbers - you see it ranges up to 80,000, 90,000, 100,000 in total opposition. it ranges from - i don't want to go into the number, but the tens of thousands in terms of operative, active combat ants. i've seen recent data on the numbers of the extremists. actually, they are lower than former expectations. i would also say to you sirria historically has been secular.
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and the vast majority of syrians want to remain secular, i believe. it's our judgment that - and the judgment of our good friends who know a lot of this in many ways better than we do, because it's their region, their neighbourhood. i'm talking about the saudis, the turks, the jord anians and others, they all believe if you could have a fairly rapid transition the secular component of syria will reemerge... . >> that tends to argue for a more robust response. final question - you say this is the world's red line. i agree. in the intervening time period, before we act here, how many additional countries will be supportive of this action. what is the goal. what do we have now and what is the goal. >> the goal is to have a broad coalition and support as is possible. we are working that now.
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but the military and the president are going to have to decide how many they want to have take part in the action. as i said, we already have more partners ready to do something than the military feels under this particular operation we need to effect at. obviously we want them to participate because we want it to be a broad coalition. the final numbers will have to be decided by the president and the specific operation that he defines, together with you in the authorisation. >> i look forward to tomorrow's briefing. >> senator combs... . that was a fas nating 5-6 minutes there. the panel, the entire panel under strong questioning from senator johnson there. let's take a break. the us senate foreign relations committee is meeting, considering a resolution for the use of force against syria. you're watching al jazeera. ç]
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. welcome back to al jazeera everyone, the us senate foreign relations committee is holding a hearing considering a resolution for the use of force against syria. >> senator christopher coombes from delaware is questioning. >> has deployed cluster bombs
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and scud missiles. there's no doubt bashar al-assad is wanting to stay in power. the challenge now is to make sure we craft an authorisation for the use of military force responding to america's legitimate concerns, allowing the administration to act in a decisive and timely way to deter and punish the assad regime to what they have done. we have spoken to this before, but it is worth repeating. how do we strike a balance between military action which is too insignificant to deter or degrade assad's gapibilities, and -- capabilities, and one that is so decisive and overwhelming that reaches behind the scope and becomes regime-change effort. >> i won't recommend an option
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or a set of targets that won't effectively deter and degrade. that's the task i have been given. that will continue to refine that - not just based on intelligence, but the resolution that comes out of this committee. could you, in your view accomplish that with an operation limited in scope in terms of a time duration - and this has been discussed with secretary kerry - in terms of not introducing us troops on the ground. >> it won't surprise you to know as the military leader responsible for this, the broader the resolution, the less limiting, the better off i will be in crafting a set of options. i completely defer to the secretary of state to give me what i need to do then. >> our goal here is to not consider an authorisation that is so narrow that it prevent effective messages being sent, as you uds in a comtell -- as
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you said in a compelling way in your opening statement. our actions is to send a message to pyongyang, tehran to those that might use chemical weapons or seek chemical weapons. how do we take actions effective in deterring other countries watching our decisiveness and action. >> i think the language that the administration submitted worp to military action necessary to degrade and deter and prevent the use of chemical weapons, specifically is very targeted. as i said and will repeat - i know the administration has zero intention of putting troops on the ground and within the confines of this authorisation i'm confident would have zero problem in including a prob hibition there, if that makes
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you comfortable. i would not urge an excessively pinpointed, congregsally -- congregsally mann dated targets. the intelligence and military community will make it clear why that is not advisable. they have to have - the general needs latitude here. to make sure he can accomplish his task. the broad confines and constraints of this particular operation are not hard for us to arrive at in agreement, and i'm confident we'll do it quickly. >> thank you. one of my other concerns, mr secretary is the flood of refugees and their impact on the region in a visit in january to a syrian refugee camp in jordan, i was moved by the humanitarian effect they are facing and the impact on jordan, turkey - the destab illising impact on lebanon and the impact it may
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potentially have an israel, our close ally. i was encouraged to here that was a success. military test. what steps are we taking to ensure our allies in turkey, jortan andist -- jordan and israel are able to defend themselves by a response to the assad regime. >> first, jordan, we have patriot missile defence batteries in jordan. we are working closely with the israelis. they have a sophisticated iron dome and air missile defence system. we are in constant coordination with all the allies in the region, and as you may know, general dempsey was in jordan for a commanders' meeting, including senior military from the neighbouring countries, and our partners.
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so, we are closely connected with and assisting our allies on this and other issues. >> thank you. last question, secretary kerry, if i might. i'm interested in our having a hollow on conversation about -- follow on conversation about how this specific strike and authorisation that you are seeking can also lead to a strategy for support and engagement with the opposition, leading to the diplomatic resolution of the syrian war that you spoke about. i don't think these are mutually exclusive. i think it's possible to take action reinforcing a global red line against chemical weapons, but to continue to strengthen and broaden our engagement with the opposition, in a way that moves towards a post assad syria that is sustainable and secure. i look forward to your input in the next hearing on that topic. >> i look forward to it too. i'd like to get the whole committee maybe to come down to
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the department and we can have this discussion in that confine as a committee also, and i think that may be help. . in addition to what we do in the classified briefing tomorrow. >> if you want to do that, i'm happy to do that chairman. >> we'll follow up. >> thank you mr chairman and you all for your testimony. i want to thank the state department for making information available with regard to unclassifying certain information and also for the classified hearings that have taken place with regard to the chemical attacks. i think one would have to suspend disbelief, as you mentioned, to assume that the regime was not in charge of this. secretary kerry, in your initial testimony you ask us to ask ourselves what assad's calculation would be if we failed to act. i think that's an appropriate question. but i think it is appropriate for us to ask you, or the
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administration what is the calculation of assad right now when rather than after we have proof that he did engage, and what he engaged in, we are waiting for a congregsal authorisation. i think one would have to superintendent disbelief to assume we couldn't be better off attacking the targets right now, or a week ago than waiting three weeks for congress to take action. just drawing some parallel to the conflict in libya, i think the president's statement was before we went ahead and engaged in combat there, or at least along with nato, the president said, "i refuse to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves to take action." and did so without congressional
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authorisation. we had a dispute when he came back, but initially we went ahead. here there is evidence that chemical weapons were used. how can we tell our constituents that this isn't political when we - when you come, when the administration comes to the congress to ask for authorisation to take action that the president clearly has said he has authority to take. >> well, senator flake, it's somewhat surprising to me that a member of congress, particularly one on the foreign relations committee is going to question the president, fulfilling the vision of the founding fathers when they wrote the constitution, and divided power and foreign policy, to have the
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president come here and honour the original intent of the founding fathers in ways that do not do anything to detract from the mission itself. now, general dempsey will tell you that he advised the president of the united states that not only was there not a detear ration in this mission by waiting, there might be some advantages. and so, in fact, we are not losing anything by waiting, and i personally believe there are advantages because we have time to work with our friends in the international community, because we have time to make the case to the american people and share with them the evidence that we have shared with you in the last days, because we have an opportunity to be able to build greater support, and as the general has said, we can adjust to any changes or shifts that they make in that time. this does not in any way
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deteriorate the fundamental mission of degrading and deterring the use of chemical weapons. now, if at any moment assad were foolish enough to believe that this period of waiting is somehow an invitation to do more of his criminal activity, i can assure you that the president of the united states, and i think you all would probably speed up your process and/or the president would respond immediately. this is working. there are defections taking place. there's great uncertainty in syria. we are building support, a greater understanding, and i would far rather play our hand than his at this point in time. so i don't think we are losing anything. i think the president made a courageous decision to take the time to build the strength that makes america stronger by acting
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in unity with the united states congress. >> if i may, i can certainly understand if that is a secondary goal, or the primary goal that will, in this intervening time - it causes our allies to get with us, causes russia to put the pressure on, maybe the assad regime to get back to the table, peace talks, something like that. that's agreement. purely in terms of military strategy - and i don't have a military background - i would have to suspend disbelief - i think all of us would - to assume we are better off in a couple of weeks doing what we are planning to do, what we will authorise the administration to do. general dempsey, is there evidence that the assad regime is right now moving some of the targets that can be moved or surrounding targets with civilians or others to make it more difficult to give effect to our strategy? >> first, senator, for interest
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of clarity what i said to the president is the following, "the military resources we have in place can remain in place and when you ask us to strike, we will make the strikes effective." in other sessions in the principal's committee, not with the president, we talked about some targets being more accessible than before. to your question - there are, in fact - there is evidence, of course, that the regime is reacting not only to the delay, but also they were reacting before that to the very unfortunate leak of military planning. this is a very dip ammic situation -- dynamic situation. >> secretary hagel you seem eager to jump in. >> i was going to add something that you added senator, and that is the international community. in addition to what the president has already noted, a nation is always stronger when it is together, when he gets the congress and the american people
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with him to begin with. also the international community - as many of the members of the international community with us on this. i think the president feels strongly would be also an important part of whatever decision he might make, and it doesn't end with whatever military option the president decides to go with, as we have all heard. that's all the more important - we would want the international community with us. >> secretary kerry, what will happen if the congress says no and does not authorise this strike, this use of force. what will the president do. >> well, i can't tell you what the president is going to do, because he hasn't told mean. the president, as you know, retains the authority, always has the authority, had the authority to strike before coming to congress. that doesn't change. i'll tell you what will happen.
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where it matters, in - in pyongyang, and tehran, in damascus, folks will stand up and celebrate and in a lot of other capitals in parts of the world people will scratch their heads and sign a sort of condolence for the loss of america's willingness to stand up and make itself felt where it makes a difference to the world. i think it would be an enormous setback to america's capacity and to our vision in the world, and certainly to the role of leadership that we play. >> thank you. thank you mr chairman. >> senator durban. >> thank you mr chairman. on saturday i was standing with a group of friends watching the
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television screen with the announcement that any minute the president would make a statement. i turned to him and said i bet the missiles were launched and shot off hours ago, and we'll here about it now. to my surprise, of course, the president came forward and said, "i have that authority, i made that decision, but i am going to respect our constitutional democracy and give the congress - that is the american people through congress - a voice in that decision." from where i was standing that was good news. for as long as i have been in congress, house and senate i argued about the congregsal responsibility. some presidents respected it some have not. congress in writing and speeches insists on being respected and given this authority, and then starts shaking when it's given, because it calls on us to be part of historic life and death decisions. it's one of the
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toughest calls we'll ever make as members of congress, but i salute the president for respecting the constitution and giving us that responsibility, and i think the turn out today on short notice, in the midst of a break on this committee, mr chairman and ranking member - is an indication that we are taking this seriously and solemnly. i note to senator kerry and secretary kerry, and secretary haguel, we all served together 12 years ago and faced similar awesome historic decisions related to iraq and afghanistan. we saw those differently in some respects, but i voted against the iraqi resolution, in going to war in that country, and felt that event that transpired afterwards gave me some justification for my vote. but i voted for the war in ask, believing that it was a clear response to 9/11. we were going after those
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responsible for killing 3,000 innocent americans, and we were going to make them pay a price. i believe that was the right thing to do. i didn't know at the time that i voted for that authorisation for the use of military force, that i was voting for the long ers war -- longest war in the history of the united states, and an authority for several presidents to do things no one could have envisioned at that moment in history. secretary kerry and secretary hagel i take it seriously. i understand the president and his values. i take it seriously that the language be as precise as possible when it comes to the question of expanding this mission into something much larger, something that would engage us in a new level of warfare or a new authority for this president or a future president. i hope that we can have your word and assurance that we can work together in a bipartisan fashion, to craft this in a way
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that carefully achieves our goil, but does not -- goal, but does not expand authority beyond what is necessary. >> senator, thank you. an important statement. you not only have my word that it will not do that, but we will work with you very, very closely, with the white house in shaping this resolution. there is no hidden agenda, there's no subdetuj, there's no surrogate strategy. there's one objective and that is to make sure we live up to our obligations of upholding the norm with respect to international behaviour on the use of chemical weapons, and that is what the president is seeking in this authorisation. >> let me speak to the issue of chemical weapons, i don't know if general dempsey, secretary
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hagel or secretary kerry is the appropriate person. the french did an assessment of what they believe the syrians have in terms of chemical weapons arsenal. are you familiar with it jemp dempsey -- jemp dempsey are you familiar with it. >> i'm not familiar with the french assessment. i am familiar with our own. >> we talk about sirin gas and other agents. what we here, and i ask if it's close to what your assessment is - the syrians have more than is 1,000 tonnes of chemical agents and precursor chemicals, several hundred tonnes of sarin. it's been suspected that they have missile capability of delivering the chemical wepson? israel -- weapons in israel, portion of turkey, iraq and beyond. what is your assessment of their potential when it comes to the
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delivery and their capacity when it comes to the amount of chemical agents they have available? >> our assessment closely matches the french assessment. >> i guess my question to secretary kerry is in light of the vulnerabilitiy of these countries, what is the response of the arab and muslim world to this dash - and you listed four or five that support our efforts. it seems if this danger is so profound, that we would have greater support? >> senator. hello, this is al jazeera, and we are watching the senate foreign relations committee hearing on possible military action against syria for the 21 august chemical weapons attack in and on the suburbs of damascus. the president wants a strike. the senators are questioning the panel, including


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