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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  January 18, 2018 2:53pm-3:31pm EST

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>> guys, can you push up a little bit? >> thank you, everybody. we're just here to support the general and all of the generals. we are here to support our
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country's military. if the country shuts down which could very well be, the budget should be handled a lot differently than it's been handled in the last long period of time, many years, but if for any reason it shuts down the worst thing is what happens to our military. we're rebuilding our military. we're bringing it to a level that it's never been at and the worst thing is for our military. we don't want that to happen. i'm here to support our military. our military has to be the best in the world by far, and as you know, it's been depleted over the last long period of time, and when we finish there won't be anything like it. we need that now almost more than at any time in the past. so i'm here for our military. i'm here to support our great, great and very powerful military, and we're going to keep it that way, but we're going to make it much better and that's what we're doing. it also means jobs. you see what's happening with
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respect to jobs. you see what happened yesterday, apple and now it was just announced that they're giving each employee a lot of money. so our tax cuts and tax reform has turned out to be far greater than anybody ever anticipated, and i'm sure the democrats would like to blunt that by shutting down government, but again, the group that loses big would be the military and we're never letting our military lose at any point. we are going to fund our military. we will have a military like we've never had before because we've just about -- just about never needed our military more than now. thank you all very much. thank you. >> it could happen. we'll see what happens. it's up to the democrats. >> mr. president, what about border security?
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>> and you can follow the government funding story, hearings, briefings and house and senate floor speeches on the c-span networks, and on the free c-span radio app. tonight, journalist michael wolff, author of "fire and fury" talks about his book on the inner workings of the trump administration's white house. live coverage of that starts at 7:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span3. and tomorrow is the anniversary of the u.s. supreme court decision legalizing abortion and roe versus wade. it is also the 45th annual march for life. live rally in march coverage begins at noon eastern on c-span2, and with the free c-span radio app. and saturday, power to the polls, the one-year anniversary of the 2017 women's march on
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washington will be live on c-span starting at 11:00 a.m. eastern, the event will focus ensuring the goals for women in 2018. >> this weekend on "american history tv" on c-span3, saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on "lectures in history," depaul university professor mark pollack on president abraham lincoln's portrayal in art and photographs. >> mr. lincoln, give me back my 500,000 sons, meaning the soldiers that have been lost in the war. so this is during the civil war. 1860. this is the darkest on hours of the civil war, 1864 and then lincoln who the artist shows with his legs slung over his chair like he's a country bumpkin, right? his reputation for being so inelegant and crude. he says, well, the fact is, by the way, that reminds me of a story which was another part of his reputation, that he was
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always telling stories and homilies and tall tales and jokes sometimes to a really irritating extent. >> at 10:30 p.m. from the american historical association's annual meeting, a discussion on free speech on college campuses. >> intellectual diversity, i think, is healthier than many people suspect. that doesn't mean that there isn't an issue where certain students' views and certain groups have felt that they have received less active attention from the faculty and the administration, and i include conservative students in that group. they have received less public attention, and i think we need to meet those students where they are and to help them to develop a place in our public conversation where they feel more included. >> sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern on real america, the 1987 film drug abuse, meeting the challenge. anyone that says cocaine is not
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addictive they lie. when you do cocaine, you lie to yourself about being in control. cocaine is not hip. it's hype. anyone who tells you it's okay is a liar. watch american history tv every weekend on c-span3. >> up next, david satterfield, the acting assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs testifies before the senate foreign relations committee on u.s. policy toward syria and challenges posed from iran and russia's presence in the region. >> we thank our distinguished witness for being with us today.
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we regret the defense department was unable to bring a witness. this is on the syrian conflict, but it's an issue that has been raised during many of our other meetings. today more than 400,000 people have been killed in the syrian conflict, more than 12 million people and roughly half of all syrians are displaced and the assad regime bears overwhelming responsibility for this destruction and the extremism it has spawned. however, none of this would have been possible without the support of iran and russia both of which intervened to extend influence in the region and counter u.s. -- the u.s. and its partners. with the support of the u.s. and coalition partners, the syrian democratic forces succeeded in sweeping isis out of the capital of raqqa in october. of course, despite losing much of this territory in syria and iraq isis remains a major threat, and there's also the
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ongoing danger posed by al qaeda-syrian affiliates which maintain significant influence and opposition-controlled areas. so it's worth highlighting two recent developments. first, the u.s., russia and jordan signed a memorandum of principles on november 8th maintaining arrangements and opposition-held areas in southwest syria. yet iran and its proxies have deepened their foothold in southern syria potentially exacerbating the conflict and sectarian nature and risking further instability by threatening our ally, israel. second, for the past two weeks the assad regime has pummeled idlib and the damascus suburb which are the so-called de-escalation zones. these attacks have killed at least dozens of civilians and displaced tens of thousands so far. i hope ambassador satterfield will provide details of what the u.s. is doing to counter iran's
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activities in southern syria and assess the current prospects for resolving the syrian civil war diplomatically. with that i'll ask the distinguished ranking member if he wishes to make any opening comments? >> thank you, mr. chairman and thank you for calling this hearing on the u.s. strategy in syria after isis. we couldn't have a more distinguished witness before us and mr. satterfield, it's wonderful to have you here and we look forward to our discussion today. there are many issues involving syria in which this committee has primary responsibility on oversight. the use of force, the fact that we're using a 2001 aumf and what happens, many of us question whether that really applies to isis, but what happens after isis is defeated? where is the authorization to maintain u.s. troops in syria? we see a rapid increase in the number of u.s. troops. i believe the number now is close to 2,000, at least it's
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been reported about that. what is the role for u.s. development assistance working with other countries. as we all know, there's no military-only solution here. how will american diplomacy play out and what is russia's role here in the future. will it be effective in preventing mr. assad from being held accountable for his war crimes. where is our concern about iran and developing a land bridge between tehran and beirut which certainly affects israel's security. on each of these issue, the trump administration appears to view syria through a military lens and make decisions on troop levels and military missions in a policy vacuum. for example, at a pentagon press briefing last year the american public was informed that the united states will sustain a conditions-based military presence in syria after the defeat of isis. however, the administration has provided no information to congress or to the american people about the conditions
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under which u.s. forces will leave syria. are those conditions political or military? i hope to gain insight into this issue during the hearing today because our young men and women in uniform and their families deserve to be fully informed as to what they're fighting for and when the fight will be over. i am deeply disappointed and i share the chairman's concern that the department of defense declined this committee's invitation to testify. this committee has jurisdiction over the authorization for the use of military force and has already spent significant time debating whether the 2001 aumf covers successors entities like isis given that the authorization drafted almost two decades ago was intended to provide authority to target al qaeda in afghanistan. now the administration is arguing that even after isis is defeated, our forces will still remain in syria to make sure that isis cannot return. at the same time u.s. forces
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have significantly increased without any public explanation. consider together the notion that the u.s. forces must stay in syria to mitigate against isis' return while simultaneously ramping up u.s. forces seems like the prelude for another forever war with no congressional authorization. if we learned anything from the experiences in the last decade it is that the military fight is not even half the battle. long-term, sustainable, ends to conflicts demand political agreements and international donors and stabilization activity, reconciliation initiatives and development expertise and accountability of local leadership and above all patience, constant diplomatic and political engagement. there is no sustainable solution in syria even after isis is defeated without a long-term political solution. now the people of syria, so many of whuchl risked their lives and lively hoods to challenge the assad regime are forced to look
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to help rather than washington and geneva. this is yet another arena where the trump administration is ceding ground and influence to russia. i hope the report i released yesterday on russia's challenges to democracy and egregious tactics is not lost on those committed to a stable, prosperous middle east. working through moscow, we only bring further instability more aligned to iranian influence, increased human suffering and the same old topdown corruption. russia is enabling iran and iran's militia to make themselves at home in syria and setting the stage to exploit lucrative reconstruction contracts. russia's president vladimir putin, the man who enshourd bashar al assad's survival is flying around the middle east with completing -- and completing the deals for base access and weapons seals. with the united states absent from the scene governments
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across the region are rolling out the red carpet for mr. putin. this is not a situation that benefits the united states or the people of the region who want to look to the west, but are compelled to look east. so i hope, mr. chairman, that today's hearing will help us clarify some of these points and that we have a better understanding of a winnable strategy in syria. >> thank you. it's rare that i would make comments after yours. i will say that there's a lot of progress being made on the aumf and i think we'll issbe in a pl really soon to have a mark-up and we're doing in a way to engender and support input on members on both sides of the aisle. as it relates to what's happened in syria, to me, after watching our people in action, i think what we saw here was a seamless handoff between one administration to another, and obviously, the generals were
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given a little more flexibility on the -- with the new administration, but what i saw was a seamless handoff where we were very successful in doing away with the caliphate. >> so to me, this is thus far as it relates to isis has been something that has been successful and now we're left with a country that we've got to figure out how to do -- how to deal with, and i want to thank -- i want to thank the ambassador for being with us today. he is the assistant -- acting assistant secretary of state for middle eastern affairs. ambassador david satterfield. he is one of our most distinguished dip the mas and he served as director general of the multinational force in observers in the sinai peninsula and previously served as u.s. ambassador to lebanon. we thank you very much for being here and i look forward to your testimony, and i know there are questions. thank you so much. >> thank you very much, mr.
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chairman, ranking member cardon and members of the committee. i appreciate the opportunity to testify today. we have made significant progress since 2014 when isis first emerged and swept across iraq and syria, that summer and inflicted suffering on thousands of civilians in the region with impact far beyond. however, despite the advances made, our job is not yet done. we remain focused on the enduring defeat of isis and other terrorist organizations, countering iranian influence and behaviors and preventing the use of chemical weapons and ensuring the safety of syria's neighbors and resolving the syrian conflict and humanitarian crisis through the de-escalation of violence and there must be a plate caltrans formation and resolution that is in accordance with the u.n. security council
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resolution 2254. as of today, coalition efforts are 98% of the territory previously controlled by isis. with over 7.5 million people free from isis domination in iraq and in syria. while russia may deem and announce that the fight in isis in syria is over, the u.s. and our coalition partners do not regard this as a finished effort. the u.s. is committed to the total and enduring defeat of isis and al qaeda and other terrorist groups in syria and the region ensuring they cannot regenerate and return. thanks to the generosity of the kick and the american people, the u.s. has provided nearly $7.5 billion in humanitarian assistance since the start of the syrian crisis, about 1.5 billion over the last year. this critical aid assists at least 4 million syrians in need every month inside that country. in eastern syria with support
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from our colleagues and the department of defense, the state department and usaid lead recovery efforts and designed to help consolidate our military gains and provide life-saving assistance to conflict-afflicted civilians and stabilize the liberated areas. as this committee well knows, unlike in iraq, we do not have a trusted government partner to work with. we are not working and we will not work with the assad regime. until there is a credible, political process and by credible, we mean supported by the syrian people that can lead to a government chosen by the syrian people without assad at its helm at the end of the process, the u.s. and our allies will not support large-scale efforts to reconstruct syria. on july 9, over six months ago, the u.s., jordan and russia made an arrangement and the principles in its initial form
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to reduce violence in southwest syria. on november 8th, the u.s.-russia and jordan signed a memorandum, and this memorandum further defines our efforts and most importantly enshrines the commitment of the u.s. russia and jordan that non-syrian foreign fighters including iranian and iranian proxy forces hezbollah must withdraw within the cease-fire lines delineated by this agreement. on november 11th, president trump, president putin issued a joint statement on syria in da nang, vietnam. they endorsed this memorandum of principles and they reaffirmed the u.s. and russian commitment to a pluralistec and free syria. they also reaffirmed their commitment to syria's sovereignty, unity and independence, territorial integrity and non-sectarian character and they urged all syrian parties to participate
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generally, actively in a geneva political process. on november 29th russia had to coerce the syrian regime to attend meetings in geneva. the opposition came prepared and ready to discuss matters. all of these efforts are fully in line with implementation of the u.n. security council resolution 2254 which calls for a new syrian constitution and for parliamentary and presidential elections including those displaced outside syrian borders. a stable syria has president assad and its regime. they've inflicted suffering and countless deaths on people including use of chemical weapons. this regime is a magnet for terror. it is incapable of democratically leading the whole of syria. we, our allies have come to russia with a path towards the syrian political transition,
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towards a political solution on many occasions and we call on russia again today to pressure the regime to work seriously towards a political resolution to this conflict. thank you, mr. chairman. welcome to take your questions. >> thank you. i was going to typically defer to -- to senator cardon first, and i do because of the last portion of your statement. we are not now demanding that assad leave. instead, we are embracing the u.n. resolution as putin has recently done, is that correct? >> that's correct, mr. chairman. >> that would mean that there would then mean there would be an election that would take place. >> there would be a constitution reform and revision process and then an electoral process and it would be under u.n. monitoring and supervision. >> is it true, it's my sense that people like you other ands believe that if that process occurs as has been laid out and as supported right now by
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russia, you believe that the say assad would go through a democratic election that he would lose? >> mr. chairman, we cannot conceive of a circumstance which genuinely fair, electoral process overseen with the u.n. with the syrian, displaced community could lead to the result where assad would remain at the helm. >> would there be a real election where people would have the opportunity to vote and it is not corrupt. ? this is what rausch committed to see achieved. the task to see it is the challenge for us all. >> thank you very much, senator cardon? >> thank you, mr. chairman. ambassador, thank you. just about everything you said i agree with, and i like the way that you emphasize the importance of mr. assad leaving,
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but let me just express some skepticism here with russia's involvement and try to understand how we are prepared to deal with what is likely to come about and that is russia's goals of not having a free syria. they want to have a footprint in syria. they're comfortable with mr. assad. they certainly are -- it looks like they are setting him up to be immune from being held accountable for his war crimes. how do we and i agree with senator corker's inference that it is beyond reasonable expectations that syria would have a traditionally free and fair elections in the near future, and that that would be extremely difficult to pull off? so how do we minimize russia's
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influence in the outcome of a syrian negotiated settlement? >> senator, there are two things to achieve that goal and i don't disagree with any of the points that you just made. they formed the basis for our own approach and understanding. we have an international consensus at this moment which is widely supported that there should be no granting of legitimacy, authentication to what has happened in syria minus that credible, constitutional reform and electoral process. that is, no certification of victory either from moscow or for the regime for the international community. that's the first tool. second tool is money. syria needs reconstruction. the bill varies in estimate and say between 200 and 300 billion plus to reconstruct. the international community has committed itself not to provide that reconstruction assistance
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until those goals and the constitutional reform and u.n.-supervised elections are realized. that's powerful incentive because our assessment is syria and iran, but they want a certain stability and they want authentication and that's what we're withholding until we see the progress made. the second and final comment eid make is translating everything we do, u.s. and the international community through the u.n., through the legitimacy of the security council and resolution 2254. this is the counter or counter weight to sochi, to russian initiatives which would control and contain a track on their own. it won't have legitimization minus the validation of the secretary-general and the u.n. >> let me add one more point that this committee has been particularly strong on and the united states senate and congress have been strong on and u.s. diplomats have been strong on traditionally, that is that
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mr. assad must be held accountable for his activities and that cannot be compromised in a final, political settlement. are you still committed to that goal? >> we are, senator. >> thank you. >> let me mention another area that has been a major concern and it's iran's footprint in syria. it seems pretty likely that russia would be sympathetic to iran having a footprint in syria moving forward. there is great concern among both jordan and israel about their security interests with iran's presence in syria. what type of game plan do we have to make sure that we minimize the risk factors and that we protect our traditional security arrangements with israel and jordan. >> senator, the presence and activities of iran in and through syria, and by syria i mean a greater qualitative
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enablement of the hezbollah threat in lebanon. is the primary strategic challenge that we and our partners face over the future in and through syria, and i would add iraq, as well and we would hope russia would recognize that russia's long-term and strategic interests, risk assessment and risk calculous should not weigh iran as a positive factor and iran poses a challenging threat to russian interests, as well. >> do you think we can convince russia? >> i agree with you. i think it's just a reverse of mr. putin. i think he likes having a proxy of iran and syria. >> i think the focus has been right now from the russian point of view on stabilization on syria, securing the success, victory of the regime and putting an end to the chaos and violence there. the question is at what price over the long term and an enhancement and a permanent sense for iran's role there
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cannot serve any regional or transregional security interest, but you ask what we're doing about this challenge. the first step was the defeat of isis. as long as isis remained a potent, fighting force in syria, the bandwidth, the space to deal with these broader strategic challenges including iran, and of course, assad and the regime simply wasn't there. that bandwidth is being freed up now. with the u.n. process and with international support for a credible, electoral and constitutional reform process, we see political transition in syria as a potentially achievable goal. we don't underestimate the challenges ahead. this is going to be hard and very hard to do and assad will cling to power at almost every cost possible, but with respect to iran, we will treat iran in syria and iran's enablement of hezbollah as a separate, strategic issue. how do you deal with it? you deal with it in all places that it manifests itself which
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is not syria, but iraq, yemen, the gulf and other areas where iran's maligned behaviors affect our allies' national interests. difficult challenge and not an impossible challenge and it is one we are seized with right now, but having a politically transformed syria will in and of itself be a mitigating and minimizing factor on iran's influence and the opposite is also true. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. before turning to senator young, what the russian concerns about assad, do you think russia cares greatly about assad himself or just having a syrian leader period that they can deal with? >> senator, i have worked with the syrian puzzle since 1983. my view is that the russians, above all, as the soviets before
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them, treasure stability and fear chaos. assad represents in their eyes, i believe, a source of stability at a very high price and we would argue, ultimately instability as a generator of further violence, radicalism and terror, but i think that's the prime motive. it's not assad, it is stability and an end to threatening chaos. >> senator young. >> thank you, chairman. good to see you, ambassador, thanks for being here today. >> i think a lot of hoosiers will be watching this hearing with great interest. on january 2nd i attended a ceremony for the -- the 38 sustainment brigged a of the national guard. we are sending 250 of our best men and women in uniform into kuwait to support our operations in iraq and syria and these
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hoosiers, all americans demand the best possible strategy for our operations there. >> i asserted in the letter to secretary tillerson back in february of 2017 that my own belief is that if we're going to in an enduring way defeat terrorist groups we'll have to address the legitimate concerns of sunni communities on the ground and governance needs moving forward, something that's already been spoken to. this won't be easy, i understand, but do you believe the current strategy is optimized and properly resourced so far in order to ensure that we accomplish those objectives? >> senator, you are quite right in signaling that without an address of sunni concerns there is going to be a resurgence of violence. some of those concerns are being addressed. others can be addressed better by governments in the area, but
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the issue itself very much forms part of our dialogue with every state in the region and with our partners from outside. there are systemic, longstanding generators of extremism and violence in this troubled region and they cannot be ignored in any instant strategy to deal with particular eruptions. is there a particular milestone or two that you are watching to ensure that our existing strategy remains on track? >> there is. we watch very carefully iranian maligned behaviors throughout the region. you and i have discussed yemen in particular in this regard, but there are other places that we watch. in terms of our aggressive efforts to constrain and roll back these efforts and to deny iran the ability to deploy, proliferate, support these efforts, we are more actively
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engaged today than at any point in the past 15 years. it is a big challenge ahead of us and it's a challenge on many fronts and we need the full cooperation of our partners in the region as well as in europe and elsewhere as we move ahead, but yes, there is indeed a strategy here. you mentioned yemen and you opened the door, but i want to thank you and your team for your excellent diplomatic work on this front. do you have a really quick update on humanitarian assistance and its delivery or lack thereof? >> i do indeed, senator and we appreciate the effort of you and your colleagues in helping us with this initiative. we have now full access to commercial and humanitarian goods through the ports and that mean, in particular, fuel moving. we have already seen a reduction in the price and an increase in the availability of basic fuels throughout yemen as we expected would be the case. we have engaged with the saudis.
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i spoke with the foreign minister yesterday to ensure that there would be no further closures of these ports and we will continue to work over the days ahead with the saudis, with the emirateis on this issue. the crane, the four u.s.-funded world food program cranes should awry at 10:00 p.m. on this sunday evening and be installed the next day in hodeda. that is a major accomplishment and we all deserve, including the congress, credit for having made that possible. >> thank you. in your written testimony you write that assad has inflicted suffering and countless deaths including the heinous use of chemical weapons including sarin gas against his own people and hezbollah and iranian forces in syria, and is it accurate that iranian forces and proxies are
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in syria at least in part to help keep a man in power whose murdered many of his own people with sarin gas? >> that is absolutely correct, senator. >> okay. i hope the people of iran heard that. this radical and oppressive regime in tehran is not only failing to respect the human rights of their own people, and the civil rights of their own people, but they're also using the resources that are causing it in tehran and have driven much of these recent -- these recent protests to keep a man in power who has murdered his own people and that's, i think, notable in light of the history where saddam hussein used gas against iranian civilians in the
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'80s and thousands of iranian citizens were killed through the use of chemical weapons inflicting some -- just some horrible scars on that nation, on many families and i think the people of iran needed to know their own regime is complicit in and directly involved in these activities. >> senator, i'm glad you raised that because one of the most interesting aspects of the statements made, slogans used by the protesters in iran over the past two weeks has indeed focused on the involvement of the iranian money and iranian forces outside of iran and one of the protesters' slowingance was not syria, not iraq and have a thought for and that is iranian citizens at home and i think there is perhaps a recognition and perhaps more than what we had


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