tv Hearing on Middle East Policy CSPAN November 22, 2019 11:19am-12:37pm EST
bush to obama from the university of virginia. explore our nation's past on american history tv every weekend on c-span3. state department officials testified on middle east policy before a house foreign affairs subcommittee. topics included relations with iran, turkey's military operation in syria, humanitarian efforts in the region, and foreign aid to saudi arabia. all right. this hearing will come to order. welcome, everyone, the subcommittee is hearing today to hear about the policy priorities in the middle east for year 2020. we look forward to hearing from our witnesses about the fy 20 budgets for the department of states as well as for the middle east. thank the witnesses for appearing today. i now recognize myself for purposes of making an opening
statement. thank you, secretary shenker and assistant administrator harvey for testifying today. nearly three years into the trump administration, the united states faces a multitude of challenges in the middle east. while the administration touts its maximum pressure policy, iran continues to destaiblize countries. despite president trump's bella koes rhetoric, tehran has bnl able to launch attacks. undermining u.s. deterrence and credibility. the iranian nuclear program is more advanced today. and the international community is more guided in con froonting it. iran continues to unjustly imprison americans and violate the human rights of its own people. iran also continues to support bashar alla sawed and -- inside
syria and in neighboring countries. this conflict in the humanitarian crisis will reshape the middle east for decades to come but our policy in syria remains ambiguous at best. president trump has now twice announced the rapid and complete withdrawal from troops from syria with little nets notice given. his approach hseeded leverage, placed american troops, in danger, removed pressure on isis and betrayed partners who fought valiantly. i commend the sesful operation this weekend to take out isis leader al baghdadi. but i caution that that should not validate our current withdrawal strategy. if anything it should show us the importance of our mission and cooperation with partners on the ground in syria. the president has also provided a strategic victory to our adversaries. russia has used force, economic
support and weapons sales to become the arbiter of serious future and to increase its influence at the expense of the united states. yemen remains ravaged. the trump administration has offered unstinting support to saudi arabia and the ua in their military campaign in yemen ignoring the bipartisan support for ending u.s. military support for coalition operations. while understand the risk posed, the conflict has led to tens of thousands of civilian casualties, shifted focus from al qaeda, and dramatically worsened the humanitarian catastrophe. it faces on going challenges. israel con fronts threats and peace with the palestinians remains illusive. gazza nz suffer. the dispute splitting the gulf cooperation council is at a
stalemate. libya is fractured and in an arena for an expanding war between regional powers. u.s. policy must not be solely reactionary and only respond to the many crises. they must also be forward looking and grasp the tuns in the region. approximately 45% of the middle east is under 25 years old presents a chance to reset with the people of the region in the coming decade. tune aisha moves forward on the difficult path of democratic development. pro tefrs took to the streets of algeria on friday for the 36th week in a row to demand they root out corruption and better meet the needs of the people. protesters have gripped other countries including eye jipt, lebanon and iraq a. more than eight years after
millions took to the streets to protest corruption, these demonstrations indicate that too many regional governments remain unakaubl to their people and opposed to open civil society, transparency and human rights. i'm disappointed that the trump administration has offered an inconsistent message. at the time when many are questioning commitment to the region, the administration has turned a blind eye to human rights ablueses and equivocated in expressing support for good governance notice middle east. it's cut the resources needed to achieve goals. for the third year the trump administration has pro posed cuts to foreign affairs budget. the budget requested an estimated $6.5 billion in total bilateral asichgs to the region, a figure that is 6% less than the fy 19 request and 11 what
they appropriated in '19. this has oversight over the bureau budgets and i hope this hearing today can help us get some better understanding of the administration strategy and a clearer articulation of u.s. policy in the middle east and how we are allocating resources. i'm grateful to the witnesses for appearing and with that i will turn it over to ranking member wilson for his opening statement. >> thank you, chairman, for calling this important hearing, dpam inning the trump administration's policy objective for the turbulent middle east. we appreciate assistant secretary david scherker and michael harvey for their extraordinary service and for their testimony before the committee today. formulating u.s. policy is not easy. but letting alone the crafting of policy of so many complexities in a region like
the middle east with centuries of conflict, but our two witnesses surely have their jobs cut out for them and we thank them for their positive efforts. indeed the middle east has vexed republicans and democrats alike. but despite the difficulties the united states is engaged. we have been invested in the people and the potential in the middle east. although we may have disagreed across the aisle, we can all agree that u.s. engagement and commitment to the middle east is necessary. it is definitely preferred to a middle east in which rogue regimes like russia, iran or china, are power brokers. to be fair, the trump administration has presided over many important successes in the middle east. today's hearing comes just days after the u.s. special forces successfully conducted a raid in the northwestseeria which led to the death of the leader of isis,
abu backer al baghdadi. but to ensure that this murderous ideology of isis does not resurrect from the ashes from syria and yaurk will require an enduring american commitment not just to the global war against terrorism but to the stability of the middle east itself. i also commend this administration for spearheading the maximum pressure campaign against iran. this is the right approach against the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism. but i'm deeply concerned about the current approach, simply not enough. in the past year alone, iran has cemented its stringel hold over iraq and lebanon and significantly increases the amount of territory it controls in syria. it appears that there is only so much that can be accomplished through economic sanctions alone. how are we working to push back the increases iranian influence
in the region in ways other than sanctions? consistently over the decades, the iranians have remained committed to exporting their evil ideology throughout the middle east fostering terrorism, sectarianism and violence everywhere. meanwhile the united states has sought to support democracy in the region, hemming and hawing about its role in the region. there are plenty of reasons for the u.s. to renew its resolve and commitment to the region. today it's teaming with potential. in the past year alone we've seen the citizens of sudan, eye jipt, algeria and iraq and lebanon take to the streets and give expression to their democratic aspirations. i'm even hopeful that the spark of liberality will one day ignite a movement in iran as well which has such a historic background reflective of the culture. just last week, the world as we
inspired as the runner up in tunisha's presidential elections met with the country's newly elected president, a sign in strengthened faith in the democratic institutions. i was fortunate to travel there last month with the helsinki commission and i was inspired to see this fledgling democracy in action. the u.s. must not concede influence to those who counter the spirit of democracy and freedom in the middle east. there is simply no substitute for u.s. leadership in the region. i look forward to hearing from the distinguished witnesses today and i yield back my time. >> i thank you. it's now my pleasure to introduce the witnesses. before i do that objection, all members may have five days to schmitt submit questions, subject to the length limitation in the rules. david shencher is the assistant
secretary at the u.s. department of state. he was sworn in in 2019. prior to joining the department of state, he was director of the program on arab politics at the washington institute for policy. he previously served in the office of the secretary of defense as levant country director. he was awarded the office of the secretary of defense metal for service in 2005. before joining the government in 2002 he was a research fellow and a project coordinator of large stra centerly funded projects. assistant administrator harvey was appointed to the bureau in january 2019. he comes to the position after serving more than 30 years as a foreign service officer with mule approximately overseas assignments including mission director in nigeria, in gausa
and iraq and jordon. he he chaired a task force to defeat the islamic state in iraq and syria. assistant add min strairtor harvey has received awards from the department of state and usaid for his exceptional service. thank you both for being here today. let me remind the witnesses to limit your testimony to five minutes. without objection your prepared written statements will be made part of the hearing record. again, thank you so much for being here today. you are recognized. >> ranking member wilson, thank you for inviting us today. >> can you pull the microphone a little closer? >> that better? >> yes. >> thank you for inviting us here to discuss us the president's budget requests. stability is the administration is impeartive in the middle east to protect the people. that core objective which
benefits u.s. interests as well as the regions drives our diplomatic and foreign assistance.the foreign assistance budget request of $6.6 billion for the region will support priorities that counter iran's influence, ensure the enduring defeat of isis, support minorities throughout the region, and maintain support key allies and critical partnerships across the region. the request also recognizes that the united states cannot alone bear sole responsibility for addressing challenges in the region. the president's request places an emphasis on burden sharing, leveraging the u.s. taxpayer dollars against investments from our regional partners in the international community. the iran strategy focuses on neutralizing the destabilizing activities. particularly its support for
terrorism. strong measures must be bolstered that support key partners. resource requested in this budget counter iran's malign influence of lebanon, iraq, lec non but working through our local partners. the controlled defeat of isis is a major milestone that should not be under estimated. it we also continue to hold isis accountable for the atrasties it committed including genocide against members of iraq's persecuted communities. in sharing the survival of the minority religious communities is a vital interest of the united states and stands in opposition to the vision isis sought to impose. they'll become a stable influence in the region.
the 166 million supports assistance. which in turn will create opportunities for u.s. businesses and jobs here at home. as you have seen over the last few weeks stablelation will require more resources than one country alone should provide. we expect allies and partners to increase contributions and ensure isis cannot return. we are working with international donors to address needs that will help create a foundation for peace. in addition, the fy 2020 budget requests $41 billion to support the yemeni people and their institutions. the 2020 budget refleshlgts our kmilt to peace which hinges on the safe and secure israel, consistent with the 2019 through 2028 mou between the u.s. and israel. a single largest foreign assistance investment in the region is requested.
continues to work towards a lasting peace between israel and pal zinp stinians. in support of these efforts, the president's budget request includes $35 million for security forces and funding in the diplomatic progress fund that could be used for assistance in the west bank. encouraging deeper partnerships will reduce israel's isolation and improve security. the fy 2020 request includes $1.275 billion. i'd like to thank the subcommittee for sharing the staunch support for the u.s. jordan relationship. the u.s. assistance has helped jordan weather the i am pact of the syria crisis. egypt the regions's most populous country is also important. the fy 2020 request includes 1.3
builds to support the capacity to counter terrorism and secure the country's land and maritime boarders. in closing, president's fy 2020 request -- achievement of priorities in the region and supports advancements to advance our interests. thank you for your enduring support to our diplomacy in the region and our foreign service investments, our ability to respond quickly to needs in the region, and allocate funding effectively requires your support. i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you, schenker. harvey, you are recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, chairman deutsch, ranking member wilson and distinguished members of the subcommittee. thank you for the opportunity to testify on the important role of the development and humanitarian assistance programming in
advancing u.s. interests in the middle east and north africa. it's an honor to be here with assistant secretary shenker and to be representing administrator green and the professionals here. usaid recognizes that most of the nations in this region are actually middle income countries. countries with young populations whose energy, education and i inspiration can be tapped to help speed their country's journey to self-relooirns. we believe well targeted invoechlts by the united states and other donors can play a critical role in helping these countries lock in democratic advances where they have occurred and drive job creating economic growth through modern free maurktd economies. inline with administration policies, usaid focuses its programming to support our friends and allies and steadily work toward graduating countries from foreign assistance.
helping partners build self-reliance is key to the broader u.s. effort to counter malign influences coming from outside while demonstrating american values in the context of renewed great power competition. in iraq, we continue to support the government's initiatives to strengthen fiscal management and improve service delivery. progress in these areas will strengthen iraqi sovereignty and provide a counter to iranian influences wij the society. another key area is support for religious minorities. building on the for hundred million dollars investment we have made thus far, the administration is requesting $150 million to support vulnerable religious and ethnic groups globally. this will help ensure these communities are able to remain
in their home lands and to thrive as crucial components of their larger societies. i want to note that as part of our effort to expand the partner base, earlier this month administrator green announced six awards to local iraqi organizations that are looking to work with communities targeted for genocide. with point with pride to our pilot early grade reading and high school programs targeting science, technology, engineering and math programs in egypt. they've now expanded these programs across the country demonstrating the capacity to take on these successes, and address and forward the country's development effort. but let's be clear, job creation across the region is a key concern. our work with the private sector is yielding results.
we recently handed dip loamas and employment contracts to the first group of logistic students who graduated in the suez corridor logistics training program and we're doing similar job matching projects across the region, helping both the firms and the young people they will employ. in tunisha with the support of congress and in particular this subcommittee, the united states has played an important role since 2011 in solidifying the democratic transition. during any recent visit there, i was very honored to officially reopen the usaid tunisha office as a full mission and to sign our first five-year bilateral agreement with them. while there i traveled to carrow won in the intierio where i had the pleasure of visiting usaid businesses now growing and with young people who are actively
participating with their local governments in setting the path forward for their communities. and before i close, a word on burden sharing just to echo the remarks. the administration's foreign assistance request prioritizes investments matched by host government commitments, and encourages international donors to share the burden of development. our work in syria is an example. usaid programs have restored water and lec stristy to hundreds of thousands of s syrians. we did all of these activities funded by our coalition partners. we will continue to put u.s. interests first and to be full partners in advancing u.s. national interests in this region with the support of congress and through this strategic efficient use of resources we will continue to present the best of the american people to the people of the
middle east and north africa. thank you, and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you very much, thanks to both of you for being here and sincere thanks for your work and service to the country advancing american interests and admirably representing values throughout the region. we'll now begin a five-minute questioning. i'll begin followed by the ranking member and alternate between the parties. secretary shenker, last week the iranian foreign ministry reportedly sent to the united states a list of people its demanding in a proposed prisoner swap. also made another proposal back in april. could you speak to the administration's view of iran's present proposal and tell us whether it would engage or does it reject the idea on prison approximate -
principle. >> the priority is to get back our americans held unjustly in iran basically hostages over there. this is not a prisoner exchange. we're talking about exchanging people who have been kidnapped, americans who are in iran versus iranian prisoners, people who have done illegal things here like try and for example kill the saudi ambassador in georgetown through an iranian plot. that said, it is a priority to get our people back. and we are looking into all sorts of opportunities if they should present themselves. but i can't get into details. >> now, can you comment on these reports of this proposal? >> i cannot. >> can you tell us whether there are any talks underway with iran to secure the release of
americans in u.s. legal permanent residence held hostage? >> i'm not going to get into those details here. what i would say is that it's a priority for us to get our people back. but there has been a history actually of these type of offers and iran generally leverages them and when you pay for this type of behavior, when you pay for kidnapping, you generally get more. >> to both of you let me ask about the administration's freezing of assistance to west bank gaza in august of 2018. if congress acts to remove the constraints imposed, should the united states resume aid to palestinians and which types and under which conditions? >> let me start by saying that the administration supports the victims of terrorism. this is an important piece of legislation.
>> does the administration support so-called active fix? >> we are willing to engage with congress on every level to fix that. >> okay. assistant administrator harvey, can you answer the question about whether aid should -- and if so which type of aid should flow again assuming the act to fix addresses that issue? >> i will let the assistant secretary address the issue of whether there should be an act to fix. that's broader. if assistance were to resume, if the political decision were made that the circumstances would justify that, we would take a look closely with our palestinian partners to determine where to start. i wouldn't want to prejudge it now, but historically water and waste water have been high priorities for the eyisraelis a i'm sure that's one place. >> let me get back to you.
assuming that -- thank you for your offer to work with us. assuming that an act to fix is achieved, should aid start to flow with the administration recognized at the benefits of any type of aid flowing to west bank in gaza? >> i think that would be something that would have to come after the rollout of the peace plan. but i can't really comment on whether -- >> and why is that? >> well, i think that there is this enormous aid package that awaits the palestinians that underpins the peace proposal. >> so let's talk about that. can you tell us what role your desk has played or you personally have played in helping to draft this peace process? >> none. >> but you're aware of what's in it? >> no. i've seen public statements from adviser kushner about this, that
talk about ways and money to under write that. >> let me focus on the one issue of u.s. security assistance. help me understand why we should wait for a peace proposal that may come soon or may never come at all, to resume the funding of the security coordinator that helps to protect pal tin janz and israelis? >> that's a create great question. we would love to spend that. we have allocated money. we are under writing that. we would like to spend the $35 million to do the training. we're being held back by the act of. >> finally -- >> that's good to go. >> any other projects? are there any other projects since my understanding assist administrator harvey is operations have wound down in west bank and gaza as a result of both the combination of at ka
and the administration's decision to withhold all funds. so can you prioritize where funds would be spent? >> i don't have a list right now that i can get back to you on that. >> i would appreciate -- >> by the way, i would think that waste water management would be a leading factor. >> i appreciate that. mr. wilson you're recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank both of you for being here. thank you for your service. both of you i know make a difference on behalf of freedom and democracy in the world. assistant secretary shenker, what is the near eastern affairs bureau of the state department doing to counter influence in the region? >> well, first of all, we're implementing crushing sanctions on the iranians. this as a result denied some $50 billion in oil revenue and
is likely going to result in a con striction of their economy by double digits by the end of 2019. this economic pressure provides them with less money with which to fund their regional proxies, terrorist organizations like hisbola, which are facing increased pressure because of the lack of funds available to them. that's on one side. we are working with our partners to multilaterally con train their malign behavior. this is building coalitions in the region, whether through the international maritime security construct, also known as operation sentinel. and also calling out iran by name, something the e-3 did to hold iran responsible for what it did in aramco a few weeks back. that was sort of unprecedented. likewise we are exposing the
iranian regime's pretality and governance problems. we are working through local partners, we are strengthening and financially backing the lebanese armed forces which som could serve as counterbalance to some of lebanon's activities. we are -- we are pressing our saudi allies and actually with some prospect of success to get a peace agreement in yemen, which would roll back with the pernicio pernicio pernicious houthian influence. >> no u.s. taxpayer funds are sent to the iraqi government, which including the iraqi federal police, which could be dispersed to the iranian-backed
militias operating in the country? >> i believe that's the case. we're not providing any fmf to iraq this year. but i'll have to check on that, on the other funds. i believe they're not funding them directly. >> thank you. and then assistant secretary, what is your assessment of the relationship between the u.n. operations within syria and the assad regime in damascus, would you say the assad regime benefits from u.s. programming in syria? >> well, if i can punt to my -- my understanding is, no, it does not benefit the outside regime. >> congressman, you're raising a very serious issue that concerns us greatly. as you know, the one place that -- the one activity that we do have in assad-controlled
areas is our humanitarian assistance program that is implemented almost exclusively through u.n. agencies, with a few exceptions. and the issue of keeping control of our resources and ensuring the interrogatory of that program is a constant challenge, but it's something we work very closely with our u.n. partners on. we watch very closely. and it's, please, do keep the attention on it as we will as well. >> i'm grateful we have bipartisan legislation on this point. and i know it's not covered very often but actually people of both parties can work together substantially. particularly in the middle east. and then secretary, are there any u.s. citizens currently held or detained by the saudi government, and what efforts is the administration making for their release? >> thank you. this is an issue of concern. there is a dual national being
held by the saudis. we have been engaging with the saudi government continuously about the case. he had been held for some two years without charge and recently he was charged and released and they are going through a trial. we view that as a positive development. hopefully that trial will be over seen and he will be exonerated and able to come home. >> thank you for following through on that. i yield back my time. >> thank you, mr. wilson. mr. allred, you're recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank our witnesses for your service to our country. i am trying to discern this administration's policy in the middle east. on the subcommittee, we have heard testimony that has been wildly ranging and, i think, been conflicting as well. the president says he wants to
support israel but i think he's taken many steps that have empowered iran. the president says he wants to destroy isis but we have handed them a life line in syria with our actions. mr. schenker you say this is to stabilize the region but you're also calling for large cuts to that budget. i'm trying to understand what our policy is in the middle east. i want to begin with these cuts to foreign aid and to the priorities that you have laid out that many of them i agree with. and the justification has been to increase, quote, burden sharing across international partners. do you believe that this is actually going to lead to our allies contributing more or are we just given russia, iran and china a bigger opening to increase their influence in the region? >> thank you, congressman. no, i believe actually our partners have stepped up.
i think the best example of that would be syria where the president -- the administration zeroed out the budget last year at $300 million for humanitarian assistance and we raised among our partners $325 million, including $180 million from saudi arabia and the united arab emirates. they stepped up and they have stepped up again and made similar commitments for this year. so, across the board we find our allies. >> you find these commitments to be sustainable? i'm wonder because we have a national security interest in this region. we don't use foreign aid out of the goodness of our hearts in all cases. we use it because it stabilizes countries. it allows us not to have to commit our brave men and women to conflicts abroad. we have a national security interest in it. if we are shaking down our allies and getting them to step in while we're not going to pay,
then maybe in the short term that's something we can do. but i don't see that as a sustainable middle east policy for the united states. >> sir, i understand your concern. so far we have been successful in raising funds from our allies. i think that we have to go every day and make the case to them and tell them why it's not only in our interest but their interest. certainly, saudi arabia and the em raemirates have stepped up on -- across the board, they see things and share in many ways the same threat perception in the region and are willing to back our efforts. >> let's talk about syria. and let's talk about how this turkish incursion impacts this budget request. is this reflective, this budget
request reflective of these current events or is this something that was formulated before these events? >> the budget was formulated before the turkish invasion. >> how is this invasion going to impact this request and your plans in the region? >> yes. well, that's a good question. we have in the budget quite a bit of flexibility. not only the president had said immediately after the invasion that we would provide $50 million plus another $4.5 million to support the white helmets and $50 million for humanitarian assistance, we have also obligated funds, if necessary, if there's a mass refugee flow of syrian kurds or syrians into iraqi kurdish area. we have flexibility through the relief and recovery fund which has $145 million in it and through the diplomatic progress fund. >> okay. i understand. we want to be -- if we're going
to appropriate we need to be part of the discussion of the houses going forward. assistant administrator harvey, if you can talk about what usdai's role could be in this potential refugee crisis we're seeing unfold in syria. >> when we were dealing with the issue of refugees, we'll be working closely with our state department colleagues in the refugee bureau. we have been supporting the humanitarian assistance program in syria, which includes people in their homes and also people displaced by the conflict. pe have about 90,000 people displaced from the recent kurdish/turkish actions, whom we will be supporting through the ongoing existing humanitarian assistance program. for the most part we have access to them and our partners are implementing programs remarkably. if there is a -- we have about
12,000 refugees who have crossed into iraq. the systems are in place and the resources are in place to deal with that population. we actually are using a planning figure of about auto 50,000. if we're lucky, we won't get anywhere near that. if the cease-fire holds and turkish operations stay where they are. my worry is less of dealing with the immediate humanitarian situation as it is re-establishing political stability in that area. that's going to be a serious challenge for all of us. >> i agree. that's why i disagree with the budget request. we will formulate what we think is necessary as we did in fiscal year '19. thank you for your time. >> thank you, congressman. >> thank you, mr. allred. mr. kin zinger, you're recognized for five minutes. >> thank you. i want to say you don't get enough credit. generally with the state department you don't get enough
credit because when you alleviate a conflict, you don't know it's been alleviated until we have -- when it's unsuccessful. i want to thank you and your folks for all the good work and specifically i thinkist important to make sure we're spending taxpayer resources effectively and efficiently in a targeted way. i think we shouldn't cut those resources simply to cut them. we should make sure they're efficient. i also -- it's important to make sure we're follow the president's priorities even if we disagree. that's where we come into play, especially in an area like this. i want to commend obviously the people who took out al baghdadi this weekend. it was a great thing. it's not the end of the war on isis. this is a generational fight. this is going to go on for a long time. i think we have to accept and understand that. that's where you come in extremely importantly as well, making sure the next generation is not radicalized. not that they aren't just radicalized, that they push back
against radicalization. the more leaders we kill, the dumber they get. it's like in iraq when we did that during the surge, you take them out, and accelerate the number you're taking out and pretty soon they run out of people to lead and it ka capitulates. >> there's a whole lot on the inception of isis and what abu bakr al baghdadi did and it seems assad will assert much control over the country. mr. harvey, you mentioned about rebuilding and usdai projects well assad-controlled territory. i want to echo what my colleague mr. wilson said. we do not want taxpayer dollars going to prop up assad. you can add me to that list. i know you're with me on that as well. as the founder of the syria caucus, i'm going to continue to
urge my colleagues to hold those responsible for war crimes in syria responsible. if president trump were to sign -- i think he's said he's willing to do it. we have one senate holdout. if he signs into the law the impact act of 2019, what kind of impact would that have on assad and supporters? >> thank you. and i share with you the pleasure that the killing of baghdadi. >> it's worth celebrating for sure. >> it's a great thing but there is no knockout blow. i think that it's important that we recognize what assad has done. we are spending money and funding projects to document the mass atrocities. we are working on record keeping and underwriting some of that.
this is a regime beyond the pale. we are focused narrowly on remaining to focus narrowly on three things in syria. preventing the resurgence of isis. we are -- we are working on preventing, you know, iranian influence in the country and rolling that back and also future through the implementation of 2254. and this is the issue about cesar. this is a regime that cannot be allowed to persist as is. the people have to have a say in the direction of their country. refugees were not ancillary to this country. assad ethnically cleansed his country of sunni muslims. he wanted to get rid of this em. the cesar act is important. >> it's going to be out of those refugee camps that assad created. were you to get radicalization
because people are hopeless, uneducated in many cases and it's easy to blame whoever. that's where you find radicalization so counter that will be important. can you also address with putin, standing up the assad regime, how are you working to counter their maligned influence in the region? >> the iranians are -- i'm sorry. the russians are playing a pernicious role across the region. it's not just in syria. it's libya and elsewhere. we're working on a number of strategies. we're trying to contain them by working with our allies. we're certainly hammering our allies with warnings about sanctions and others. also letting them know, i think having a frank dialogue about what sure sha does when they're on the ground. >> and i'm out of time. i think it's important to -- it's a lesson when they
basically showed up in 2012 or 2013 because we see em them in venezuela, prevent them from coming in. thank you for your time. i yield back. >> thank you. mr. malinowski, you're recognized. >> i'm going to start by reading a lead in "the wall street journal" yesterday about egypt and one young woman in particular, a political activist in that country. the lead of the story is egyptian security officers grabbed her from her car in the country's capital on october 12th and blindfolded her, took her to a secure facility. two lawyers who visited her in prison says she was slapped, beaten on her arms and back, threatened with election as officers demanded the password to her mobile phone. when she refused, the officers
bound her hands and legs, choked her with her own jacket, forcibly used her own fingers to unlock the phone. you know as well as i do. you know my experience and you know mine, this is a routine story in egypt and things have gotten worse in the last month. more than 4,000 people detained since protest seeking the removal of president cici started up, the largest wave of arrests the country has seen since he came to power. and, you know, i don't think i need to ask you if this is wrong, because i'm sure you agree that it is. but i will ask this since our policy in egypt is based or allegedly based on advancing our security interests, does this kind of repression, which is escalating now, help or hurt legitimate efforts to fight extremism and terrorism in the
country? >> thank you, congressman. i'm familiar with that story. i know esra. i met her several times. i think it's outrageous. to know i had the egyptian ambassador in my office last week to talk about esra. this matters greatly to the administration. egypt has a long way to go on human rights. you heard the administration made a statement in september talking about president rights of egyptians to demonstrate peacefully and the obligation of the egyptian authorities to protect demonstrators. this is something that is very important for the administration. we talk about it. >> thank you. i'm glad you did that. i guess i'm asking a more fundamental question because i remember sitting in your chair a few years ago saying something along the lines of egypt has a long way to go and it seems to
have an even longer way to go today. and yet here we have the same security relationship we used to have. you know, any progress in sinai over the last several years? once again, i would ask you, do their tactics help or hurt in the fight against what we say is our shared enemy? >> actually, on sinai, they have made some progress. i think it's incremental. they have received training that is more narrowly tailored to that type of counterterrorism mission. more importantly, they have recognized, and i think so through our counsel, that counterterrorism requires more than just a military component and i'll let my colleague, mike harvey, talk about what we're doing and what the egyptians are doing in that regard.
>> hold on. i don't have that much time. because i have a different question i wanted to ask mr. haempb. look, i would just say, the fundamental problem here is that even as the president pulls back from syria, claims it's just a bunch of sand and we need to get out of the middle east and we can't do these things forever, when the people we were helping, both kurdish and arab, are fighting and dying with us to find terrorism, many of whom share our values, incredibly brave civil society activists who we're no longer supporting because we have pulled back so much of our programming there and yet we continue to spend $1.3 billion of the taxpayers' money helping the egyptian military put on military parades with their tanks. that doesn't sit well with me. i have one quick question, mr. harvey, and it's about
yemen. when was the last time usaid or through the u.n. provided a no-strike list to the saudi military in terms of humanitarian locations, targets we asked them not to hit in yemen? >> congressman, i can't answer that question. i don't know. i do know it's a constant point of discussion between our two governments. >> okay. but we have provided them with no strike list? >> we certainly have. through our dod colleagues. >> i think that's important to confirm on the record because we have not just broad concerns about human rights and targeting we shared with the saudi we haven't always listened to but specific locations and coordinates they have hit that we have specifically given them as locations not to hit. i think that elevates this to the highest possible level of concern. thank you.
i yield back. >> thank you. mr. chabot, you're recognized. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i want to apologize for not being here to hear the testimony. i had an honor flight down at the world war ii memorial. that's obviously a priority. we see those great american heroes usinged to be mostly world war ii veterans, like my father would be 100 if bewere still alive next month but now it's korean war veterans and vietnam war veterans and on and on. it's one of those things. i apologize for not being here earlier. if i repeat some questions, i poll guys for that, too, but i certainly appreciate the tougher line that this administration has taken against iran for the most part, which under the free hand given by the vcpoa greatly expanded its influence in the region. and i'd like to focus on iran's
so-called land bridge to the mediterranean. a critical goal of this quarter is for iran to threaten and potentially ultimately attack one of our most significant allies in the world and that's israel. could either one of the gentlemen here discuss the administration's plans to curtail iran's ability to move equipment or supplies or fighters into and through syria and onto the israeli border? >> thank you, congressman. the land bridge is of enormous concern. before the turkish incursion into northern syria, the positioning of our troops there, as an ancillary benefit to being present and fighting isis there,
had limited iran's ability in some way to do everything it wanted. we still have residual presence there. that as long as we're able to provide security and stability and work with our sdf partners in these areas, which we continue to do, that may limit iran's ability somewhat. but this is a priority. if we curtail our presence, it becomes -- it would be more difficult to do so. as you know, the israelis appear to be -- they have hit iranian targets for some time. attempted weapons transfer to lebanon. this is something that's not a secret. so that in some way is also curtailing the efforts to establish this land bridge full time.
>> thank you. did you want to add anything? >> not specifically, congressman, because we're a few steps to the side of the broader debate. much of what usaid premises its development activities in this region on is enabling these countries to stand on their own as fully sovereign countries that control their destiny, it better enables them to push back from the nefarious intent of both iran, russia and others. >> thank you. if i might add, in some ways the weak link has been iraq more than syria. as you know, iran is storing ballistic missiles in iraq. iraq is not able to exert its sovereignty and push back. this is a real problem. and will remain a problem for some time until iraq can exert sovereignty. >> thank you very much. and i'm sure that my next question has probably been
mentioned and discussed prior to my being here. obviously the -- taking out al baghdadi was a huge victory. just a horrific, horrible individual. the head of probably the most despicable organization that we've seen in a long time. i want to commend the president and all those that worked with him in flish have accomplishing this. principally, our men and women in uniform who took the action to end this horrible persons time on this earth. can you ensure isis does not re-establish itself under -- on a new caliphate especially in
syria under a new leader? what are the administrations plans at this point and ensuring that that doesn't happen? >> thank you, congressman. that's a top priority for the administration, the fight against isis. the prevention of resurgence of isis 2.0. contrary to what many people say, the administration continues to work with our sdf partners on the ground in syria. we have troops embedded with units and we continue to fight isis there. and that will be a key point of our presence going forward, whether in atum or outside that area. i anticipate counterterrorism will remain a high priority for the indefinite future. as congressman kenzinger said, this is generational mission. >> thank you very much.
my time has expired. mr. chairman? >> thank you, mr. chabot. mr. kaeting, you're recognizing. >> thank you. question just following up. on iraq, it's of great concern. we've seen the demonstrations. we know the situation there in detail. we know there was an order for nonemergency personnel in may to leave. that's going to run out next month. it seems from the budget there's been a cut in security funds. does that represent what the future is there? it's such a critical area along with so many other areas, but without a presence there, it's going to be that much more difficult from the state side. could you comment on what the prospects look like in this critical area right now that often gets overlooked? >> thank you. i share your concern. the well being of the diplomats is a top priority for me.
it's my responsibility in many ways. so we are on order debar tour. we have been. in eight days or seven days, it will be six months. the security situation is such that this is what i believe is the new normal. that said, while we have not the height of the numbers that we had before, we have sufficient numbers on the ground to do our mission. in fact, even under order departure, this year, even so far, we have done more visits with iraqi -- more engagements with iraqi parliamentarians outside the embassy compound than when we had the full complement the year before. we are engaged diplomatically in a way that as we were before, even more so. our military presence there, while the smf has been -- part is the military of ctaf funding where it can fund and equip and
work with the iraqi military, notwithstanding the absence of smf. we remain engaged. we have numbers of troops there. we have a full diplomatic corps. i have been in iraq maybe four times in the past four months, so this is a priority for us. if you want to roll back iran in the region, this is the beach head. we are there and we're not leaving. >> thank you for your engagement in that. just briefly, there's been 14 million yemenis on the verge of starvation. 85,000 have died of famine. are we engaging with multilaterals? what are we doing there to help one of the worst humanitarian situations in the world? yemen, sorry. oh, your microphone -- your mic -- >> yemen is a remarkable challenge for all of us. it is one of the largest
humanitarian assistance programs anywhere. it is an extremely difficult place to do work. our -- the defacto authorities in the north, the houthis make it very difficult. yet despite that, we are extremely proud of the performance of our wfp colleagues in particular, and unicef and w.h.o. and those working in yemen. >> i wanted to touch on one other topic. i've long felt that we could have a greater significance if we could better work with our eu allies on their development program and coordinate better what they're doing and what we're doing in critical areas of the world. is there an opportunity to even have a multiplier effect beyond what we're doing now? i think there's an enormous opportunity that way? >> congressman, i couldn't agree
with you more. the eu is an interesting institution. i'll leave it at that. what's in countries like yemen where we are almost entirely dependent upon the un, it's easier because that mechanism sort of forces joint pooled funding of activities. in countries where we have more bilateral funding, there's more coordination than you might see. they are, to be perfectly honest, challenging partners because of their bureaucracy is even slower than ours. whenever i'm feeling frustrated about their bure being on racy, i feel better. it's something we're committed to. we have folks assigned in brussels. we meet with our brussels counterparts but the german, french, bilateral assistance programs are huge around the world. and those bilateral partnerships are extremely close.
i mean, i just -- having spent four years dealing with boko haram in nigeria, not successfully but that's another conversation -- the partnership we had with the brits and germans was as good as it gets. >> i hope it's something our subcommittee can continue to work on. thank you for your service. i yield back. >> thank you, mr. keating. >> assistance secretary schenker, accountability for the murder of jamal khashoggi is important to the broader focus. the press does not failing to provide consequences for the khashoggi assassination embolden the perpetrators and what's the administration doing to prevent this possibility? >> accountability is critical in
the murder of jamal ka showingy, getting to the bottom of it. khashoggi is something that matters to me personally. in 2018 the administration sanctioned some 17 saudis involved in the murder of khashoggi with the global magninski sanctions. there are some 11 defendants in saudi arabia in the middle of a trial. i think both the defense and the prosecution have finished their cases and we're waiting on verdicts. i think the judicial process as we see it fall short of full accountability. we've indicated that to the saudis. we're encouraging, nonetheless, a fair and transparent judicial process. >> certainly seems like we're not getting that at the end of
the day. under current prince, the saudi government corrected dissidence and activists. . in 2018 the directive -- it was against leading rights advocates who were seeking to end the male guardianship system that ends systematic abuse and oppression. in may of 2018 they arrested several, and accused others of great crimes, including treason, related to their activism. what's the state department's view on saudi arabia's crackdown against these activists and dissidents? >> it's a concern of the state department and administration. some of these allegations of abuse. but i like to say that it's a bit of a mixed bag here. for example, the saudi government in the last four
months lifted -- ended the guardianship law so women can travel abroad without the permission of their children or, for example, male guardian. several of the drivers have been released from jail. a dual national citizen is now been charged and is on trial but has been released from jail. you know, another issue, they've been actually very positive as well, the saudi government is working to put the yemeni government back together and. they're about to get an agreement on that. they have a de-escalation with the houthis that appears to be taking hold. at our encouragement, they gave last month $500 million to humanitarian assistance in yemen. so, let's say that saudi has
some way to come, or some room for improvement in terms of human rights but they are working on it. they are putting together a committee on trafficking human persons to look into this more closely so they don't have some sort of bad rating next year from the assessment -- from the u.s. government next year. i actually think they are making an effort and in some places succeeding. >>, it's an effort but looks like there's lots of room to go. we still have dissidence in jail. we still have lots of conversation about torture and abuse they're suffering. we still have a crown prince that has not been held accountable. yeah, progress, great. but we're not where we need to be. i think we need to continue to pressure and push for where we should be. we know morally where we should be. >> this is the topic of ongoing discussion between us and the saudis, but i think that while
we should continue pushing on the -- where credit is due, we should give them credit. >> quickly to tunisia. the election just happened in tunisia. we like to see them happen in a good direction. we cut foreign aid from $46 million roughly in half. do you have a concern about about the message that sends? >> thank you. we think that the number is right on tunisia, two parts. by the way, we, too, think the elections were a dramatic success and see this as really a positive development. i was just in tunisia before the election, met with the electoral commission. it's something that's a source -- should be a source of pride for them and certainly for the region. it's unusual. we think the number is the right figure. we are the fmf, the money we provide for security forces is
the same, basically, but some of the esf has decreased and if we need to, we can make that up with metbi. they get money from europeans, burden sharing. all this money, there's an issue of absorbed of kaft. we think we're at the right amount. >> thank you. >> thank you. i just had a couple of follow-ups. mr. wilson, if he has any. you were referring to iran as a beach head. november is the six-month statute deadline for extending departures and you have to decide the future of u.s. government in iraq. are there plans to strengthen the security of the u.s. embassy in iraq to enable the return of
u.s. personnel or tell me where that stands. >> yeah. this has been something i spent a great deal of time on actually. safety and security of diplomatic personnel in iraq in particular. i don't want to get into the details of how we came to our discussions. we think the security at the embassy is adequate. actually, better than adequate. >> sufficient for the return of personnel? to enable u.s. personnel -- >> yeah, to accomplish the mission. and we've got a number of diplomats that we think is appropriate. and i can brief you about this in another setting. but, yeah, we are -- >> right. i would like to do that, if we can arrange that. also on the topic of iran this time in syria, i think if i understood you, you said if we curtail our presence, it would
be more difficult to prevent effectively the land bring that was asked about earlier. did i understand you correctly, when you say if we curtail our presence, if we curtail our presence the way we're doing or beyond what we're doing, what were you referring to? >> basically, beyond what we're doing. as ambassador jeffrey said, i believe, during his testimony to you, our presence is a stabilizing force and to the degree we are present, it sets better continues for the right things to happen in syria. >> i'll ask. so, are you confident that the -- that current strategy effectively prevents iran from establishing that land bridge that this committee in particular has worried so much about? >> i think it complicates iranian efforts to do so. >> does the administration assess u.s. efforts to prevent
the spread of iranian influence in syria and iraq and lebanon as successful? >> sir, i think it's a work in progress. a lot of the intercommunal violence you're seeing, our belief, is because of iran's overreach. many shiite throughout the region are shiite nationalists and pushing back on this. >> let me just wrap up again on this issue of the land bridge. how many troops are in taniff? >> i'm want at liberty to say. >> but the withdrawal of troops from northern syria, the withdrawal -- i just want to make sure i understand. >> there's still a residual
presence that goes beyond taniff. >> you're confident that whatever that number is sufficient to prevent iran from establishing the land bridge through tehran and damascus over to beirut? >> i think it plays a positive role on that front. >> i'm sure some is better than none. i'm just asking whether it's a sufficient number to prevent iran from establishing that. >> i really can't comment. i appreciate it. >> anything further? >> thanks the witnesses and all of the members for being here today. thanks for your testimony, assistant secretary schenker, mr. harvey. we ask our witnesses to please respond to the questions in writing. i would ask my colleagues to submit those questions within five business days. with that and without objection, the subcommittee is adjourned.
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