tv Syrian Civil War CSPAN November 4, 2013 1:35am-3:36am EST
targets every single component including the christian ideology. but al qaeda use the same ideology of fear against muslims and christians. they kill everybody including christians and the christians are part of our history, of our country. her good peaceful citizens. they love their nation. they are committed to supporting it but al qaeda believes they should kill all those who do not think alike. and many of them were victimmed but this say case of all the iraqi people. they targeted churches and mosques and religious places. .hey killed christian leaders but because the number of the
christians is limited, it seemed that they were targeted but we supported them strongly. we protected them and provided all possible protection to churches, to holy places, to all the christian political leaders. and when i met the pope in the vatican, i asked him to direct a speech for the christians in iraq and ask them to remain in iraq and tell european countries not to encourage iraqis who are christians to leave iraq. i told him we are fighting al qaeda and i told him i do not want to see a middle east that is void from christians or a west that is void from muslims because christian in the east and muslims in the west are necessary for the cooperation and the co-existence of the two relidgens.
the situation of the christian at this point is much better. we are supporting them. we respect them. we love them because they are respectable. but i do not deny that they were targeted as all of the iraqi people were targeted. i think i might know the answer to this already, have you decided to seek another term at prime minister next year and if so, what are your plans for the lection? >> well, until now i don't know what justifies this question that i've been asked every single day. are you a candidate that want a further mandate. this is up to the iraqi people. they decide. and i do not want to speak for
the iraqi people. now it's a very difficult job. it's harmful and destroys people but the interest of iraq come first and the one that has the decision is the iraqi people even if it's at the expenses of my own nuves i will act responsibly as did all of my partners in the previous two governments. but it is up to the will of the people if they are looking forward for change, i welcome that and i'm part of it. >> iraq's success is success of the middle east which is success for the world which is success of course for the united states. we want to be as helpful as we possibly can to iraq. i want to thank you for coming. ai thank for your willing tons respond to some difficult questions. i want to thank the audience for
your patience to start out with and your attendance and some good questions. i think the meeting is adjourned. if you'll wait for the official party to leave, we'd appreciate it. thank you all. [applause] >> next a senate foreign relations hearing on the tuation in sir yafment >> tomorrow u.s. news and worl
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foreign relations on syria will come to order. we have two panels today. first panel is robert ford, ambassador to syria, the ssistant administrator for the ureau of democracy at usaid, and an assistant for international security and onproliferation. our second panel we will have an ambassador for the center of the atlantic council. we welcome you all. i look forward in this hearing to hear your respective on the realities we face in syria, the state of play, the progress we have made, and where we go from here strategically, especially given the catastrophic human crisis that is spreading across the region. 7 million syrians have fled
their homes. more than 2 million refugees have fled to surrounding countries. the regional impact is normous. in lebanon, the presence of 750,000 refugees is equivalent to 58 million refugees entering the united states. with 4000 refugees fleeing syria every day, for the sake of the region of the world we must find a resolution to this humanitarian crisis. now we read reports of the breakdown in syria's health services with the world health organization warning of confirmed cases of polio which ill be the iceberg and a setback in the campaign to eradicate polio worldwide. while players seek to address the humanitarian crisis, there is no one in sight. despite the fact that most of us today would agree that a negotiated settlement is certainly preferable to any military action or the collapse
of the syrian state, the lack of consensus on a traditional plan portends continued bloodshed and suffering. while the international community holds meetings about meetings, the assad regime continues its brutal assault on the syrian people backed by iran, russia, and hezbollah. the consequences of failure to achieve a political settlement are frightening. a failed syrian state bordering iraq or lebanon, turkey, jordan, and israel becomes a haven or training ground for extremist groups in an unstable region. i am concerned about what comes next strategically, at the political, diplomatic and humanitarian levels. i would like to hear what -- achieve could be going forward in your assessment of the conflict. will the geneva conference take place in november? how can it take place when the opposition remains fragmented?
how can it take place without empowering assad? what needs to happen for the opposition in a governance plan, and will the u.s.-recognized syrian opposition speak for syria? how can we galvanize support when assad is backed by those who see a different set of goals? what is the impact of the concerns raised by our partners about u.s. commitments to addressing the crisis? what are the consequences of a failed state in syria? i want to take note of some very important progress that was largely fueled by the vote of this committee for the use of force that allowed the president
to make it clear of what would be his intentions, that there could not be a negotiation, and that is the purpose we are making on destroying and dismantling the chemical weapons infrastructure supplied. today the u.n. confirms it has destroyed equipment syria used to make chemical weapons with. so far inspectors have visited 21 chemical sites identified by syrian authorities within the timeframe specified. the two remaining sites are in contested areas where the challenge of getting there is more difficult, but i hope ultimately can be succeeded at as well. let me conclude by saying i want to make clear my views at the outset, the united states cannot and should not be the key that resolves every dispute in this egion, but we have a very real
strategic stake in this region to make sure that syria does not become a failed state. we need to increase our humanitarian assistance and insist on humanitarian access as well as increase our support communities hosting syrian refugees in lebanon and jordan and to getting others in the international community to live up to their responsibilities in this regard. calling on donor nations to join us in this time of greatest need, because syria is a global problem. we need an answer to what we need to do to push all sides in this conflict toward a settlement and a future for syria does not include assad. the people of syria, the region, nd the world, and we need to have a comprehensive strategy and an answer to the basic question about what comes next? > thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank the witnesses of both panels for being here today, and i look forward to
your testimony, and i want to thank the committee. in your leadership, mr. chairman, we have had two really big steps that have taken place, and one was laying out a strategy, and regardless of how people voted, i think it was one of the finer moments of this committee, and, secondly, if you remember, i think everybody remembers secretary kerry came in on september 3 asking for the authorization for the use of military force, which was passed out of this committee at his request and at the president's. at that time, the secretary said there was a strategy relative to syria. it was a strategy similar to what was laid out in this committee. obviously, things have changed pretty dramatically on the ground since that time. and with the issue of the chemical weapons, basically, as far as i can see, there is no real strategy relative to the opposition. i know we are still formalizing that there is a strategy. i look forward especially to
ambassador ford's testimony egarding the opposition. let's face it, guys -- what really happened when the russian offer came forth was it was less about seizing an opportunity, and it was more about our country not having the stomach to follow through on a strategy over the longer term relative to syria. look, i very much hope that we are successful and think we will be relative to chemical weapons. but in the process, we have diminished our standing in the middle east. i think everybody watching understands that in essence we have thrown out any real
strategy there and are just trying to figure out a way out of this. we have empowered assad. we have weakened ourselves relative to other issues in the middle east. i'm very disappointed. i hope somehow there would be good come out of this for our nation, and i want to support any and every effort that is taking place. i think we ought to realize, there is no strategy right now for the opposition, none. there's no strategy. for that reason it's unlikely to be a very successful geneva ii conference, because who is it we are going to be dealing with, who will we be bringing to the table? we have weakened ourselves. i hope there's a good outcome, and hope there are other opportunities for this committee to be involved in these outcomes, but i look forward to our witnesses. your testimony, and i look forward to them helping us, will help the administration and help
our nation develop a better, longer-term and better long-term strategy for syria. i thank you for calling this hearing. >> thank you. ambassador ford, we will start ith you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ranking member corker and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to come and give you an update on the united states government's syria policy. i have submitted written testimony for the record. i have been alternating one week in washington and one week in the middle east for the last month, as we work to provide assistance to the moderate opposition, and as we push for political settlement. at the focus on those two elements, strategy with the opposition and focus on the political settlement, and i will let my colleague's assistants talk about humanitarian assistance issues. the conflict is a war of attrition. regime is suffering serious manpower shortages. it has brought in foreign fighters from hezbollah, from the iran revolutionary guard, and even iraqi shia militiamen. the moderate opposition that we support is fighting on two fronts, both against the regime and against militants, extremists directly linked to al qaeda in iraq, the same al qaeda in iraq that we used to fight. the battle front in syria now, but neither the regime nor the various opposition factions can throw a knockout punch in the foreseeable future. and our strategy is based on that assessment. secretary kerry, therefore, it working extensively with russia, with other concerned members of the international community, including countries like us that strongly support the syrian opposition, and he is working the united nations to promote a political solution. last week, on october 22 in london, 11 countries that
strongly support the syrian opposition can together and we all reaffirms our support for a negotiated settlement based on the full implementation -- and i want to underline that -- the full implementation of the june 2012 geneva communiqué. this full implementation of the geneva communiqué is also what we have agreed upon during the summer with the united nations and the russian government. we, the russians, the london 11 countries, and the united nations all agreed that a geneva peace conference should result in the creation and transition the governing body established by mutual agreement between the syrian regime and the opposition. this is a political solution which most syrians and those countries supporting the opposition and supporting the regime would back. we have confirmed with the russians during our summer discussions and among the 11 countries that just met in london, that mutually consent -- i mentioned mutual consent to set up this government -- would mean the opposition has a veto on the formation and the details of that transition government. speaking frankly, no one who knows the groups that are resisting and fighting the regime now thinks they will ever accept assad. the regime also has a veto, and so if we do get to a geneva conference, we can expect very tough negotiations. the syrian opposition has a role to play here. it needs to tell other syrians not only what it rejects, but what it proposes that in terms of your reasonable alternative to the existing assad regime. it needs to put that on the table. why? because many of the people who support the regime now do so fearfully. and i have heard this repeatedly from them, from people i have met. they want to know, is there a way out of the conflict? and the russians, who backed the regime, but say they are not tied to assad, they too want to see the opposition put forward an alternative. so the opposition has a lot of work to do in this regard. and that reasonable alternative is especially needed now, because of the growing competition between extremists and moderates inside syria. and, mr. chairman, members of the committee, i really want to emphasize that we have to weigh in on behalf of those who promote freedom and tolerance within the syrian opposition, people who resist the regime, but who also resist al qaeda-linked extremists. i said that last spring when i appear before you, and it is more true today. our nonlethal support of the opposition is vital, and it is a point that a general has made me
repeatedly. more broadly, since the start of the conflict we provided over $250 million in nonlethal assistance the coalition and a range of local council groups to help preserve institutions of governance in places where the syrian regime has withdrawn. as i said before, syria presents incredibly difficult challenges. we will push forward on a political solution. we look forward to working with congress as we move ahead. i will be happy to take questions. thank you. >> secretary countrymen -- and all of your statements will be included in the record. >> i want to thank the ranking member for this opportunity for review of the progress made in the elimination of syria's chemical weapons program. today was the date that the organization for the prohibition of conventional weapons is able to announce that it had met the first target date in the program completing the distraction of production, mixing, and filling of equipment, and i agree with both of you that the action of this committee last month attributed notably to the results we have achieved so far. since you have my written testimony, i would like to make just three quick points. first, our timetable, our target dates are ambitious, but
it needs to tell other syrians not only what it rejects, but what it proposes that in terms of your reasonable alternative to the existing assad regime. it needs to put that on the table. why? because many of the people who support the regime now do so fearfully. and i have heard this repeatedly from them, from people i have met. they want to know, is there a way out of the conflict? and the russians, who backed the regime, but say they are not tied to assad, they too want to see the opposition put forward an alternative. so the opposition has a lot of work to do in this regard. and that reasonable alternative is especially needed now, because of the growing competition between extremists and moderates inside syria. and, mr. chairman, members of the committee, i really want to emphasize that we have to weigh
in on behalf of those who promote freedom and tolerance within the syrian opposition, people who resist the regime, but who also resist al qaeda-linked extremists. i said that last spring when i appear before you, and it is more true today. our nonlethal support of the opposition is vital, and it is a point that a general has made me repeatedly. more broadly, since the start of the conflict we provided over $250 million in nonlethal assistance the coalition and a range of local council groups to help preserve institutions of governance in places where the syrian regime has withdrawn. as i said before, syria presents incredibly difficult challenges. we will push forward on a political solution. we look forward to working with
congress as we move ahead. i will be happy to take questions. thank you. >> secretary countrymen -- and all of your statements will be included in the record. >> i want to thank the ranking member for this opportunity for review of the progress made in the elimination of syria's chemical weapons program. today was the date that the organization for the prohibition of conventional weapons is able to announce that it had met the first target date in the program completing the distraction of production, mixing, and filling of equipment, and i agree with both of you that the action of this committee last month attributed notably to the results we have achieved so far. since you have my written testimony, i would like to make just three quick points.
first, our timetable, our target dates are ambitious, but achievable. we have partners who are prepared to contribute financially and in terms of technology to achieving this goal. we have a very determined cadre of federal employees who are working hard to make sure that we have thought through a plan that is complicated, but achievable in terms of logistics and security. and i am increasingly confident that we will be able to complete this task, the elimination of syria's cw program, within the target date of june 30 next year. secondly, a couple of key factors that will contribute to the achievement of that target
date, and that so far are going well. first, we discussed back in geneva with the russians that the removal of dangerous precursor chemicals from syria, the bulk of which are not weaponized, not inside shells, are crucial to completing this task on time. the plan embraces exactly that concept, and we are confident that we will have a host country that can work with us to effect the destruction outside of syria of these precursor chemicals. secondly, our cooperation with the russian federation has so far been strong. we will continue to expect the russian government to press the syrian government for full compliance with its obligations.
this will be essential as we move ahead. third, we continue this process with our eyes wide open. we are about to enter what could be the most complicated phase in terms of both logistics and security, that is, there are mobile of chemical precursors and large oddities from several sites within syria, to the coast, for removal on a ship to another country. that has both big logistical problems to think through and certain security risks. the same time, while the record so far is acceptable, we do not assume or take for granted that the syrian government will continue full compliance with its obligations. we have the tools we need opcw executive commission and the united nations security council. we intend to do so.
that is why our statement here reflects the cautious optimism that we have at this point. thank you, and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you. >> chairman menendez and ranking member corker and members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today, and this is special thank-you for your support for humanitarian programs around the world. they're making a difference in the lives of many. since i last testified seven months ago, there have been 30,000 additional deaths among the syrians. in the last year, the number of deaths has increased to more than 100,000, and the number in need inside syria has gone to more than 6.8 million.
this is equivalent to the total populations of vermont, new hampshire, maine, and connecticut combined. the pace of escalation is staggering. according to a recent u.n. report, in the two years of conflict, syria has lost 35 years of human development progress. with the 2 million refugees, this is a national crisis that has become a regional crisis about putting serious strains on neighboring countries. there is a toll on the syrian people, the kids who have not gone to school for two years, women who've endured rape and abuse, and the 5 million displaced syrians who do not have a place to live or enough to eat. as the crisis has escalated, we have accelerated a response, and our assistance is now reaching about 4.2 million people inside
syria, and we are helping to support 2 million refugees. the same stubborn challenges that i talked about seven months ago, access, security, and resources, continued to prevent us and others from reaching everybody who needs help to get it and the need continues to escalate. in early october, fueled by the momentum of the resolution to eliminate the chemical weapons, the un security council unanimously passed a presidential statement on humanitarian access. this statement urges all parties to the conflict to facilitate immediate access to all those affected, including going across borders and across the front lines. this agreement or presents the first and the most significant show of global political will to help those who need it most. and the challenge now is to translate that commitment into real action on the ground. recent reports of starvation campaigns underscore the urgency. the u.s. government is working to mobilize the international community to act with the same
intensity as it did around chemical weapons to ensure life- saving assistance reaches those who need it desperately. we are continuing to provide humanitarian assistance through all possible channels, through the u.n., ngo partners, through local organizations, and since this time last year usaid has doubled the number of partners inside syria so we can we reach all. medical care -- we have set up hundreds of medical facilities and treated hundreds of thousands of patients. we are working with an unbelievably courageous group of syrian doctors and health workers who put their lives at risk on the front lines everyday every day. we are particularly concerned about the 10 cases of polio confirmed by who, and are calling on all parties to allow access for the vaccination
campaign that the u.n. has underway. we remade the second largest donor of emergency food crisis. counterpart is now reaching more than 3 million people in syria and a million refugees each month with food. there are millions more displaced. we are focused on protecting the most vulnerable. women and children always very vulnerable in a war. this crisis is no exception. we have elevated our focus on the scourge of gender-based violence and work to provide assistance inside and in the camps. the single greatest factor limiting assistance remains the ongoing and intensifying conflict. the u.n. estimates 2.5 million people in need have not received help in almost a year. the regime is actively blockading whole communities. we aren't urged russia and china
supported this agreement, and we must now see that support translate into meaningful pressure. a quick word on the neighboring countries. we are working to combine at development and humanitarian resources so we are providing help not just for refugees but for the host countries that are putting under the strain of this influx of refugees. we work closely with the international humanitarian donor community to make those resources count for the most. in conclusion, humanitarian assistance will absolutely not end the bloodshed in syria, that it is saving countless lives and it is alleviating real pressures
in the region. your support has been absolutely vital, so once again, thank you very much, and i look forward to questions. >> thank you all for your testimony. we will start the round of questions. let me say, ambassador ford, i heard her statement and i appreciate your incredible service, but i did not hear a strategy. that to me is challenging at this stage. i understand that in syria there are not great options. this is a pretty bad hand that the region, as well of all those who care about it, have been dealt. but in the midst of that there has to be some effort of a strategy to get us to where we need to be. assad says he will attend geneva if there are no preconditions. that is a red line for the opposition. the opposition is fragmented, has its own work to do to offer what will come. assad is talking about running for president in 2014. he sees himself as an indispensable partner when it
comes to the chemical weapons program elimination. the russians, in a war that you described in which there's no one to deliver a knockout punch, will continue to stand by assad. so in the face of all of that, what is our strategy? what is our strategy to get the russians, whether we need -- we need a stretch, what is our strategy to change their calculus? what is the strategy to get the moderate elements of the opposition to be able to come together with a plan for the country? what is our strategy to be able to at the russians to help us, assuming that can be done, to press assad to ultimately leave? what is our strategy to move forward on the chemical weapons infrastructure, and, as we are trying to do all these things
together -- i just do not get a sense that we have a strategy. i wish the resolution this committee passed in may would have been used at that time because the dynamics were different. and i think we could have far better affected the efforts towards a negotiation that we still aspire to. but the administration chose not to use that at the time. so give me a sense of what the strategy is, because i do not glean it from your remarks. >> senator, it is a two-track strategy. first, keep wishing to get the two sides to the table. but we understand that the assad regime is a very tough, brutal regime. nancy went to the details, the suffering inflicted on the syrian people.
we'll have that pressure on the regime to get them to make concessions at the table. the pressure can come from a couple of places. one, it will be on the ground, and so we, the americans, have organized a group of 11 countries who are the primary backers of both the political and the armed opposition, and we coordinate our efforts on that, and we call that group the london 11. it includes the gulf states, european states, and the main backers of the syrian opposition meets regularly, both at my level and at the secretary level, most recently on october 22. push for negotiations, but help the moderate opposition be in a position itself to press for concessions from the regime when it gets there. secretary kerry has talked extensively with russian foreign minister lavrov. they speak several times a week on syria.
the russians share an interest with us in syria about not having that country become a place of extremism. they have their own national security interests in that respect. they are concerned about the country, were assad to leave, becoming totally an anarchical place, and talk about needing a managed transition. you cannot have that until the opposition is forward proposals that the russians and the others can look at, senator. otherwise we are in an absurd chicken-and-egg situation. i've been talking extensively to the opposition about putting some things on the table that the russians and the rest of the international community and, most importantly, other syrians can look at to say -- >> give us a sense of what that would be that would assuage the syrian people and the russians to find this opposition?
>> for example, if assad to go, who would replace him and what would their authorities be? we have talked to russians extensively about what that would be, and we agreed with them that the new transitioning governing body will have the authority over the intelligence establishment, military establishment, or the financial charge of the country of the government. we agreed on that with the russians. now we need the opposition to come forward and say this is how we would put it together. very frankly, senator, they were so busy pushing us to intervene militarily that they have less pushed to put this together, which should come. were they to put that forward
now, the russians would at least have an opportunity to study it. i do not think they would accept it at face value, but it is something where you can begin a process. that is our strategy -- to get a process started, for all of us, moderate opposition, the united states, international community, including russians, put pressure on the regime and the opposition to come to a final deal. >> let me say that in the midst of the civil war, having a desperate group of opposition, the financial agenda needs a lot of assistance at the end of the day to achieve it. it also needs to have some understanding of what our baselines for the russians are
going to achieve it and see if they cannot be commensurate at the end of the day. when i talk about a strategy, i would like to hear and i will move on to senator corker, but i would like to hear in some setting the detail of what our effort is, because i just to not get the sense that we are headed anywhere there. one final question, mr. countryman, while i applaud the work being done in the chemical weapons, it is a major concern. but originally published reports had it he believed there were 45 sites, and as i understand it, the syrians declared 23 sites. what is how we are ensuring access to the entire inventory of what we believe exists in syria? >> thank you, mr. chairman. on your earlier comment, i wanted to say that while assad may see himself as indispensable to the elimination of chemical weapons, that is not our view. syria -- the syrian arab republic -- has accepted an obligation that is binding upon this government and binding upon
the next government, each we hope to see soon. that is what increases the urgency of both destroying and removing chemicals as rapidly as possible so that the regime cannot cling to its fantasy that it is an essential part of the process. we have a strategy to move forward on chemical weapons distraction. we have a great advantage in this task over all the other tasks in syria, in that there is no opposition to it. russia, the regime itself, the opposition, the united states, and the world all want to see these chemicals removed and destroyed rapidly. it is therefore not a political issue, not an issue on which there is a disagreement between the u.s. and russia, it is rather a logistical and technical issue. i would be happy to come back at any time and briefed on the details of how we will get to complete elimination by the middle of next year.
on your specific question, we have long tracked the sites that we believe are associated with research department, production, and storage of syria's chemical weapons program. the number of sites, as you note, that we have checked is more than 40. the opcw has talked this week both about visiting 21 of 23 sites and has also talked about visiting 37 out of 41 facilities. it is not just a semantic issue, whether we are talking about sites and facilities, whether we are double counting. it is, as you know, a serious question that needs to be addressed. you have received only on monday syria's 700-page inventory of its holdings. we're studying it closely.
it is a classified occupant that we would be prepared to speak about in a classified setting, but we have the tools under the opcw and under the un security council resolution to resolve any discrepancies between what we believe and what the syrians have declared. >> we will look forward to having a classified session to get to the bottom of how many of the sites we believe are going to be pursued. and what needs to be done. senator corker? >> thank you, mr. chairman, for your opening statements. i appreciate it. mr. ford, you are a figure that is held up by many in syria and i want to thank you for having for us today because you have to be incredibly embarrassed at where we are and coming in and testifying, knowing what you know is happening in syria, to many of the people that you know. i know it has to be tough for
you to do today. let me ask you this -- the opposition that you know personally in many cases -- are they faring better today since we moved towards trying to destroy the chemical weapons that are on the ground? are they faring better since we decided not to go ahead with military force than they were before this discussion began? >> they are deeply disappointed, senator, that we chose not to use military force. i have heard anguish from people that i have talked to over there. i have had to explain the administration's rationale. i have had to emphasize to them
that our primary goal here is to find a political solution. >> i am not so concerned about the military force component. what i am concerned about is i would just like for you to tell me that since we have gone through this pursuit with russia, relative to mr. countryman's work, which i appreciate, is the opposition on the ground faring better or worse since we are now pursuing the destruction of chemical weaponry? the position on the down ground is not changed very much. opposition has made some gains in the south. , is an awfulore
and grinding civil war. really hampering. the bidder divisions between the armed forces. called the islamic state actually started fighting with the people that we support that were fighting the regime. those people have been fighting 82-front war among which has been -- have been fighting a two-front war, which has been seriously hampering their efforts. >> you know these folks. some of us have become familiar with these folks in refugee camps after multiple trips. we had a strategy that we were building in early september. administration has been incredibly slow, and obviously, this covert policy that everybody in the world knows about, where we will train folks
covertly so we do not have to talk about it in committee settings like this, but basically, we have trained about 1000 folks. our intelligence folks can train 50-100 per month. we had a minor strategy, but basically, do we really have a strategy at all relative to the opposition? and building their strength against al qaeda on the ground and against the regime? >> senator, we do. today, for example, we delivered trucks to the people there inside syria. >> they were going to deliver those trucks when i was there in august, and then next week. it is unbelievable. so he -- so you delivered trucks. does he have weaponry? >> he does have lethal weaponry. i'm not here going to talk about
anything except what the state department is doing. click the state department is delivering weaponry echoplex i did not say the state department is delivering weaponry -- >> the state department is delivering weaponry? >> i did not say the state department is delivering weaponry. we have delivered trucks of supplies. >> i sat down with him in august and those trucks were coming the next week. now you have delivered trucks. are you satisfied with the strategy that we have in syria right now with the opposition? do you feel good about it? when you talk to people on the ground and in these refugee camps, do you feel good about the strategies that we have for these people that we have left out on a limb and told them we would support their efforts against this regime and against al qaeda? do you feel good about what our
country is doing with the opposition right now? to allow them to have some kind of say-so in the future of this country? >> there is not a person on my team in the state department that does not feel frustrated, frustrated by the syrian problem in general. but i have to say, we do provide support. we provide a lot of support. you may discount what we do, but it matters to them. every time i talk to them, he thanked us for what they -- what we do. with a like more? of course they would. they would like a lot more from a lot of countries. but for those who are trying to old things together in places like aleppo and elsewhere, just to keep the hospitals running, to keep electricity in the hospitals, to provide clean water, it matters hugely to them. are there greater needs? of course there are. but our resources themselves are not unlimited. we are doing what we can with what we have.
the problem itself is tragic. i know people myself who have been killed. it is tragic and we want to help them. but honorably, -- ultimately, syrians must fix this problem and ultimately, it will require them to sit down at a table. the sooner they start, the better. but in the meantime, we will keep helping the opposition. >> i think our help to the opposition has been an embarrassment. and i find it appalling that you would sit here and act as if we are doing the things we said we would do three months ago, six months ago, nine months ago. they must look at us as mother as one of the most feckless nations they have ever dealt with. for you to say that these trucks are being delivered today is laughable.
these things had been committed months ago. i have to tell you, i respect your care for syria. i really do. i could not be more embarrassed at the way our nation has let people, civilians, down on the ground the way we have. i know that russia is driving this now. what we have really done is turned the future of syria over to russia. they have their hands on the steering wheel. i don't know how you could feel good about the humanitarian crisis that is taking place. i don't know how you can feel good about how our partners, how they are feeling about our reliability.
but i want to tell you again, i appreciate your concern about the people of syria. i cannot imagine that you can sit here with a straight face about what we have done. i hope at some point, this administration will sit down and develop a strategy not only for syria, but for the region. it appears to me after multiple, multiple trips to my this administration acts on an ad hoc basis, looks for opportunities to slip the news as they most recently did an syria. i hope you will help them to develop a longer-term strategy. >> let me thank all three of our witnesses. ambassador, for your service, your distinguished career in- depth nomadic service, and all three of you for what you have done. -- in diplomatic service, and all three before you have done. but we have here is a civil war and we have picked the side. i would agree with the ranking member, it has not been clear what our role is with regard to that civil war. although we have picked a side and we are providing help to the opposition. and then there was the use of weapons of mass destruction chemical weapons in which president obama was very clear that we would not tolerate that for my and if necessary, we would use force. this committee supported the president in that decision, that chemical weapons cannot be used without a response from the
international community. you are here today to say that you are following up on destroying those -- or removing those chemical weapons. but i did not hear any one of you say anything about the person who was responsible being held accountable. i hear you say that we will be negotiating between the government and the opposition on a new government. i heard you say that assad will probably not be part of that because the opposition has the veto right. but it seems to me that we are so quiet about holding those responsible accountable for their international criminal actions, and we seem to be timid in raising that subject because we are afraid it makes negotiations more complicated. but if you don't mention them, and we will not get that type of accountability. maybe they will use these weapons -- maybe they will think, we can use these weapons that maybe they will try to take
them away from us, but we will survive. they should not get that message. can you reassure americans that our commitment is to make sure that a thought is held -- that assad is held accountable and that those who used chemical weapons, that part of our negotiating strategy will be to old them accountable for their criminal actions? >> senator, we have her. the stated, repeatedly, that -- we have repeatedly stated, repeatedly, that regime officials will be held accountable for the august when he first use of chemical weapons in the suburbs of damascus. we specifically highlighted that. and many times i personally and the secretary himself have talked about accountability. they couple of things on that, number one, with the support of
congress, we are actually training syrian investigators on how to investigate and develop war crimes dossiers. we are doing that now. secondly, we are in discussions with colleagues at the state department with international jurists about what would be the best structure to try these war crimes dossiers that will be developed. we take these actions extremely seriously and we do intend to help syrians hold people accountable with the work of international partners. >> will this be a subject on negotiations between the opposition and government? >> i have no doubt of that, senator, because the opposition
will insist upon it. >> will the united states insist upon it? >> senator, we will absolutely support the opposition putting that forward. the united states, senator, is not negotiating. >> i understand that. we are prepared to use our military to stop the use of chemical weapons. are we prepared to use our military might to make sure that those who did are held responsible for their actions? >> absolutely, and i've already talked about the resources we are deploying to help make that happen. >> this humanitarian disaster in syria today, one third of their population has been displaced. 2 million are externally displaced. half a million internally displaced. the challenge of getting into serious to help those who are victimized is challenging.
what support are we receiving from the international community to help deal with the humanitarian crisis during this civil war? >> there has been a massive mobilization of humanitarian assistance. the u.s. is by far the leader. but there are substantial contributions, especially from europe, kuwait -- from europe. kuwait hosted the u.n. appeal conference last january and has itself contributed a little more than $300 million. notably, russia and china have contributed very small amounts. there is a goal, especially as we look at the extraordinary needs that continue to amount -- to mount, to bring as many people into the financing of this humanitarian effort as possible. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator rubio. >> let me begin before i ask my questions -- i don't want the tone of my questions or
direction in any way not to reflect on my admiration for your service to our country. and not only that, where you have shown consistent interest in the syrian people. but we have a chance to ask a question about the strategy. let me begin with something i think i know the answer to. you have referred repeatedly how the future of the syrian people belongs to the syrian people. but you also believe that what happens there is in our vital national interest. >> senator, just the fact that syria has the risk of destabilizing the region and become a base for terrorism, absolutely. >> i just want to make that clear. why do we even care about what is happening in another country? it is not just a civil war. it has implications in the region. in a few moments on the second
panel, we will hear from an ambassador who will testify based upon his written testimony that syria on its present course is becoming the worst of all seek -- worst of all conceivable scenarios, a failed state that is divided between assad controlling a portion of the country, kurds controlling a portion near the turks used -- the turkish border, and a vast majority controlled by the jihadist who will use it as a base of operations for destabilization in a rack, and eventually jordan. would you disagree with that assessment? is that the not -- is that not the short-term to reject free it is headed in? >> i would agree with that statement.
but i would like to add something. that is why it is important for countries in the region, for the russians, the chinese and the members of the security council, the permanent five, the united nations -- everybody has to do more. right now, it is going in the worst direction. >> i don't want to get into a debate about it, but i'm not sure that the russians care about the destabilizing of syria. they may view it at -- as geopolitically advantageous to them. the right goal here would have been to try to empower non-- jihadist opposition forces within serious to do two things, never one, have the capacity to drive a thought out of power, whether negotiated or otherwise, and create a functional state to replace him, and never to, to leavewithin syria for these foreign fighters, these jihadist and number two, to leave no room within serious for these foreign fighters, these jihadist. it would have required us to identify who these non-jihadist opposition forces were and then to empower them within the region to do so. i want to again go back to testimony that ambassador hoff will offer. he will point to the fact that it took us until december, 2012 to finally recognize the syrian national coalition as legitimate representative of the syrian
people. and even after that, two things happened. one, the united states and united nations continue to recognize the assad led government, which had an enormously bad humanitarian consequence for the syrian people. and number two, many syrians stuck with the devil they know having been denied an alternative that they could see and evaluate. lest we think this is only limited to syria, i want to go to the testimony we will hear in a moment from dr. bell among who will testify that yet another major reason for fall -- for policy failure is a lack of vocal hair and -- another major reason for policy failure is a lack of a coherent strategy. they do not know what the policy
is toward the region. they say it is vague and ever- changing. you say in your testimony that the conflict in syria has fostered an environment that grows with extremism and hide a link groups are working to exploit the situation for their benefit. -- and al qaeda-linked groups are working to exploit the situation for their benefit. we need to weigh in on behalf of those who promote tolerance and freedom. i take it that you're saying that is by not empowering these folks, you are actually de facto empowering the people who do not promote freedom. here is my question. why didn't we do it sooner? in foreign policy, doing the right thing is not the only thing. you also have to do the right thing at the right time. why did it take so long to reach this conclusion? and now we find ourselves in a situation where fighting on behalf of those who promote
freedom and liberty and tolerance is harder than ever and may be impossible. why did we do this, but sooner? -- why did we not do this, but sooner? >> the syrian opposition from the beginning was atomized. that is how it survived the regime's oppression. there was no national leadership. it is very hard to build up something that itself is still very incoherent. it took a long time for the opposition coalition to come together. you are right, we only recognized it in december, 2012. but it was only formed in mid- november. we recognized it as the legitimate representative three weeks after it was established. we have reduced the syrian embassy to the officer. and frankly, that officer is there because a lot of the
syrian americans here want a syrian task force and he is able to issue them. if i may continue, though, about the it ministration's policy, with respect to the opposition it is still a problem in terms of the divisions. they fight each other sometimes with the same vigor that they fight the regime. even politically. it took an enormous amount of listening from us -- and i was there personally. as well as some of the other members of this group of 11. to bring in this opposition coalition of the kurds, to bring in an armed opposition so that they would reflect the people fighting on the ground, and to
bring in these local councils that are referred to, so that it is not purely an expatriate organization. they themselves only moved forward at a syrian speed. i wished they would go faster. our assistance, as i said, is not unlimited. do they need more? sure, and we are trying to help them generate resources from other countries as well. in a sense, it is a multilateral effort. we have helped organize the countries that provide assistance. >> senator shaheen. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for your service and for being here today. ambassador ford, there has been a lot of discussion so far about what our strategy is in syria. and you have laid out what you
believe that to be. can you talk about how we are judging whether we are being successful or not, and at what point we may determine the strategy is either successful or not successful and where we may need to make a change? likes senator, we think that the discretion of the chemical weapons is a huge success, if it is carried out fully. that was a core u.s. national security interest. i remember when i came to this committee as the nominee to be ambassador three years ago, we talked about those chemical weapons. that is a success. can i say that our efforts to create a political solution or to contain the civil war are a cisco has -- are a success? know, we are still working on it very hard, but the situation in the country is still deteriorating. we do not see a way for this to be solved militarily in a community where they think it is existential, where they think if they surrender, they will be murdered.
we have to build a political set of agreements between communities, otherwise the fighting goes on indefinitely. >> to what extent are our efforts with the london 11, as you say, actually having an impact? are we coordinating closely with others who are interested in what is happening in syria? >> senator, when i compare it to 14, 15 months ago, it is a lot at her. there is better coordination and assistance flows to the political opposition and military opposition.
it is better, but not perfect. there could be better coordination still, frankly. >> and how much gleeful assistance do we still think is being provided by the russians? -- how much lethal assistance do we still think is being provided by the russians? >> i have never seen an estimate of the dollar value of it, but i can say that it is substantial, that it has increased from a year ago. there are more deliveries. and in some cases, they are militarily extremely significant. for example, the general was telling me about how these refurbished syrian air force jets -- he said they don't have
many, but the ones they have when they are refurbished make a huge difference. i think the russians would help everyone get to the negotiating table faster if they would stop these deliveries. >> i'm sure there are efforts underway at the u.n. to try to address this, and in bilateral discussions. is there more that we could be doing? are there more international partners that we can bring to bear to try to address this? who are they and what are they? >> there is no real effort at the united nations that i am aware of. >> should there be? >> i don't think the russians are going to pay much attention to recommendations from the u.n. but i can tell you that we have had, including at the level of the secretary, we have had a lot of discussions with the russians. if i can take the time to share a quick story, working with some members of the london 11
countries, we were able to actually turn back a russian delivery. we convinced an insurance company to withdraw the insurance coverage for the ship delivering it. but that is a rare success, senator, frankly. it would be great if we could make better progress with the russians. >> the russian deliveries have become more significant, probably more significant than what iran provides in terms of military assistance. i noted senator corp. -- senator corker's statement of concern about the russians having their hands on the steering wheel to syria. there is something to that, but what is not notice -- not noted is the cost to russians with the rest of the arab world and the entire region when they give
their unswerving support to the syrian regime. >> thank you. mr. chairman, i am over my time to my but may i ask one more question? for mifflinburg. you talked about the vaccination challenges as we are looking at the potential outbreak. -- the potential polio outbreak. is there more we should be doing before it extends across the middle east? does that have implications of health and safety for people throughout the region? >> there is an actual outbreak. the concern is that, as you have probably seen in the papers, each of those cases represents the possibility of another 2000 cases. who has already mounted a campaign to vaccinate inside
syria as well as the region. they are driving forward. the key will be to ensure that all parties grant access to those workers who are administering the vaccine. >> i understand that. i would hope we are doing everything we can to pressure the russians, they rainy and, the iranians, and everyone else in the middle east to support this campaign. >> absolutely. >> i thank you, mr. chairman. i thank the witnesses. ambassador ford, i would like to point out that you articulated goals, not a strategy. to call the categorizing and removal of chemical weapons a huge success, that may be. but we are now in the orwellian situation where the russians are assisting us and rna replaceable part of the scenario in identifying and removing -- and are any replaceable part of the scenario in identifying and
removing chemical weapons and they are replacing them with conventional weapons. as someone pointed out, a mother watching her child starve to death is not really comforting that the child has not been killed by a chemical weapon. your continued reliance on the russians i find just such defiance of history of russian behavior that it is absolutely remarkable. you continue to call this a civil war. this is not a civil war anymore. it is a regional conflict. it has spread to a rack. we now have al qaeda -- it has spread to iraq. we now have al qaeda insurgents in iraq. hezbollah has 5000 troops there. for you to describe this as a civil war is a gross distortion of the facts, which again, makes
many of us question your fundamental strategy because you do not describe the realities on the ground. a usual spokesperson for the obama administration is mr. ignatius. he writes this morning in the "washington post," with the more restrained approach in syria, obama has decided to limit the u.s. effort there to chemical weapons and providing for refugees who may experience massive suffering and loss of life this winter, and catalyzing a political process to replace president bashar al-assad.
what obama is not prepared to do is topple assad militarily. while the united states will continue to provide covert aid to the rebels, the goal is to strengthen their negotiations and an eventual peace conference in geneva, not military victory. then he goes on to say, but let's be honest, this is basically a formula for stalemate in syria with a continued carnage and not growth there. did mr. ignatius adequately describe the obama administration's strategy? >> senator, we do not think there is a military solution to the conflict in syria.
>> do you believe that if bashar al-assad has the military vantage on the ground that there is a solution? >> i don't think bashar al-assad can win militarily either. >> do you believe he has the advantage on the ground now? >> only in a few places like up around aleppo. he has a disadvantage on the ground in the east and the south and other places. >> is killing remained unchecked, ambassador ford. come on, it seems that is a satisfactory outcome to you. the fact is, he was about to be toppled over a year ago, and then hezbollah came in and the russians stepped up their efforts. and then the revolutionary guard intervened in what you call "a civil war" and he turned the tide. and he continues to maintain his position of power and slaughtering innocent civilians.
and you are relying on the geneva conference, right? >> senator, i would agree with much of what you said in terms of the balance shifting against him and the intervention of hezbollah helping the regime. more and more, the regime is dependent on foreign manpower because of the manpower shortage, as i mentioned. but our goal ultimately is to get teary and communities who are afraid of each other to somehow come to a political agreement. i cannot emphasize that enough. until the community that is backing assad feels they will not be slaughtered, they will keep fighting. that is why i talked about the need, while we support the moderates and the opposition, and also to put forward political proposals. now is the time. >> again, realities of warfare are that someone believes they can stay in power, which obviously assad can, and they are not ready to negotiate their departure. that is a fundamental principle. for you to think otherwise is bizarre.
let me say again, the reason why the saudi's have divorced themselves from the united states of america is because of what you just articulated to senator corker, trucks. that is a great thing, trucks. as shiploads of weapons come in from the russians. russians. as planeload after planeload land providing all kinds of lethal weapons, and we are proud of the fact that we gave them trucks.
i am now at a position, tragically, where i will have to rely on the saudi's to provide them with the weapons they need because it is patently obvious that the united states of america is not going to do so, and in the testimony of the witnesses who follow you, we are seeing an endless slaughter and this is a shameful chapter in american history. >> thank you for holding this critical hearing. and i want to thank our panel witnesses. there are many questions that remain with regard to our path forward in syria. while i am these that we were able to provide for the need without the use of force, we cannot forget that a thought has ordered 100,000 of his own people. not only through chemical weapons that killed 1500 innocents earlier this year, but through the medieval warfare that was described in your testimony. i am pleased that some progress
has been made in the removal of chemical weapons and that we are in the process of exhausting diplomatic alternatives to military force, but i find it jarring at the same time that six weeks ago, we sat in the same room and approved a strong policy, directed in part by president obama, a holding assad accountable for his crimes. but today we do not seem to be making progress on a number of those essential shared commitments. let me start, if i could, with the assistant administrator lindell. when i visited earlier this year in jordan, they expressed extreme frustration, anger, disappointment about the delays in the promised delivery of u.s. assistance and support. in your testimony, you have documented some of the ways we have delivered a significant amount of support all across the country. will you say a little more about what has been done to address logjams, ensuring deliveries to syrian's, but also to refugees in jordan and in turkey, and also to mitigate this hugely destabilizing impact to the region and to those vital american allies?
>> there has been a huge amount international focus looking at how to address this crippling burden of the refugees in jordan and levin on. -- lebanon. one of the challenges that many are not in camps, but living in families -- with families and in host communities where vital interests are stressed. we have moved to shift a lot of our development programs in jordan, particularly in cooperation with the government of jordan, so that there is increased development within communities that are having stressed water, infrastructure, electrical systems, schools, clinics. we have something called the complex crisis fund that is working with communities in the north in particular to increase access to clean drinking water and to clean drinking water and two drinking water for their animals. this is happening across the international donor community and there has been a lot of work done to create what is called a to create a comprehensive platform to get the sides working together to understand this is a severe and protracted crisis. we need to think about how to maximize our resources. >> if you will forgive me, we
have very short time. i will welcome more detail. assistant countrymen, i want to thank you for your work and your testimony. i have a high level of concern on my part as regard has blood and this terrorist organization that you and others have spoken to, that is a threat to israel and targeted americans in the past. is there any inference of transfer of chemical weapons to hezbollah? what you think is the risk as this conflict continues? >> there is no such credible evidence. it is one of the things that drives u.s. russian cooperation on this particular topic, that they share our concern that the
longer these chemicals hang around syria, the greater the risk they could be diverted to extremist groups of any complexion, inside or outside syria. >> thank you. ambassador ford, if i might -- one of my concerns about the path that we have taken is a very deep sense of abandonment by the syrian opposition. and the syrian people more broadly. and this is a quote from your testimony. they fundamentally do not trust assad regime and are concerned that external parties will cut a deal at the opposition's expense. while i recognize the challenges that you have spoken to at length, how has this frustration and internal division manifested itself in terms of ongoing
radicalization on the ground? what do you see as its trajectory? and how would you provide vital support on the ground for the opposition, the vetted opposition, in a constructive way that pushes toward negotiations, and how are we dealing with a significant sense of abandonment on the part of the steering opposition by our recent actions? >> it is really important, senator, in order to undercut recruitment by groups like al qaeda for the syrians themselves to not feel abandoned. i think that is vital. we, ourselves, on both a political level -- for example, the communiqué that we issued last week out of london with the other countries ministers was actually very well received. it underlines our support and said that assad thought had no role in a transition government. it said that the regime was responsible. politically, they got a good message out of that.
it is not the first time, but it was needed then, because of their disappointment about -- >> this is the statement that says, "when a transitional body is established, assad and those with blood on their hands will have no role in that." nt about -- >> this statement says, "when a transition governing body is published, assad and their associates with blood on their hands will have no role in syria." >> correct. >> can we deliver on that? >> we can, senator, when we get to one day a political negotiation along the lines of the geneva communique we can solidly defend the opposition's right to veto whoever and whatever goes in that transition government. as long as the opposition doesn't want assad in and they veto him, we'll back them up. >> i have to move forward. thank you. i'm sure we'll have the ambassador available to you.
senator cain deferred to senator markey. >> thank you, mr. chairman, very much. thank you each of you for your service. you've got very tough jobs. i think we all know that. i also think we have to approach all of this with a lot of humility given what we've learned after we intervened in iraq, in libya and afghanistan. after what we've seen go on in egypt we should have a little humility in the united states in terms of our ability to control events on the ground in these countries in a way that allows us to basically in eye-watering detail be able to move the pieces around inside of any country. i just hope we all keep a little bit humble here begin what we've already gone through over the last several years. not with standing our concern for the humanitarian crisis and our desire to see assad be
removed. may i ask you, mr. ford, if you could give us a little bit of an update at the al qaeda forces coming from iraq, on some of these other extremist groups. where they are making it. and where that support is coming from so we can understand the nature of the threat that we see to the moderates being successful. >> first, senator, i appreciate your understanding about the amount of resources we put in and our ability to control everything. i think that is exactly right. ultimately, this is a syrian conflict. it's not an american conflict. with respect to al qaeda, they
have taken control of borders. their control of borders delayed our aid deliveries in syria. there was frustration expressed about the delays. the delays were because we had to wait until our friends in the opposition recaptured border points so we could get aid back into them. they have mainly focused on building up islamic courts and structures of governments well beyond the fights of the regime. in my mind, whether intentionally or not, they are almost acting as allies of the regime. it is a huge problem for our friends in the moderate opposition. the support comes mostly, not entirely, but mostly inside syria. they captured oil wells in eastern and north eastern syria
and they sell the oil. so they in a sense are becoming more and more self-financed, which is a real problem. now we are going to have to work with our friends such as turkey and jordan to shut off oil cells like tanker trucks. >> are we working to accomplish that goal? >> we started. we had to. they also rely on things like extortion. they run rackets in cities they control. that's why they are now beginning to generate an anti-al qaeda reaction on the syrian street in some places they control, which to my mind is a very positive development. >> who funded these groups initially in order for them to have the resources to take over the oil wells or take over these cities which are terrorizing the more moderate elements of the syrian people? who financed them?
deal with the external resources that have been supplied in order to accomplish those goals for the most extreme groups. >> early on in the syrian conflict when they didn't have control of oil wells and didn't have control of borders, they were absolutely getting financing from outside of syria through several private networks that were funneling money from places like the gulf and even places like europe. >> can you name the countries, please? >> if i say gulf in an open hearing, senator, i think that's enough, and europe. we have now opened discussions with those countries, as well, about shutting down those networks. >> may i ask, the iranians are still providing massive support for the syrian government? so even as we are negotiating with them on their nuclear weapons program, they are
simultaneously undermining our efforts to bring a peaceful resolution to the war in syria. if i may, in the past week it's been reported the iranian government wants to actually purchase eight new nuclear power plants. how much would that complicate our ability to ever get a resolution if they ever did build eight new nuclear power plants in iran? >> the iranian government in the russian federation have long been in discussion about an expansion about nuclear power in iran, russian technology in iran. they make announcements about it regularly. i think it is unlikely to proceed very far, very fast until bush-air which has been on the verge of opening many years does begin to function. the negotiation of the five plus
one with iran is complex enough as it is. i do not believe that an expansion of nuclear power or intention to expand that will happen much later really adds to the nature of the negotiation we're in right now. >> may i just say that iran is a big part of this whole puzzle because of assad, hezbollah. there it is sitting there with a separate agenda totally contrary to our national interest. we are fortunate our deal with the shah to sell six nuclear power plants was not completed before he fell or the ayatollah would have had six nuclear power plants with uranium and plutonium in that country that. would have been a disaster. for us to let them repeat history because that's been their plan to use the civilian nuclear power plants as a cover for nuclear weapons program, that we have to deal it with now rather than later. we have to make it part of a program that says do you not
have an inherent right to these nuclear power plants and we'll block it if we don't, we'll return to this whole issue in another 20 years when those programs get converted to a nuclear weapons program with the next regime. i just say it's very important for us to look down the line here to understand what the iranians have as their goal to create a regional and assad is part of that. i don't think article 4 is valid in terms of the iranians and their ability to actually qualify for our civilian nuclear programs in the future. i think it has to be halted. i will work very hard to make sure those eight nuclear power plants are never constructed and no one who is in alliance with us is ever allowed to transfer those technologies in the future under the guise of an iaea from the history we already lived there. >> thank you, mr. chairman and
members who are testifying today. an observation on a couple of questions. much comment around the table about our frustration, what is our strategy, the frustration you feel doing this work, the disappointment that members of the opposition felt when we did not undertake military action, so we are all grappling with this frustration and loss in the u.s. prestige in the area over this and other items. i'm wrestling, mr. chair, with at the root of this, having voted for the authorization with many members of this committee, and it's a vote i would willingly cast again tomorrow. i felt like crossing that line of use of chemical weapons against civilians necessitated that strong response. the fact you both led us to that point changed the equation for syria and russia and created an opening to have the dialogue about chemical weapons. that is good that these weapons are being destroyed as good.
the production being destroyed is good. we are still seeing a whole lot of bad. we have to grapple with one thing. even for such an obvious good as punishing a country for using chemical weapons against civilians, the american public was not into the mission. we were into the mission as measured by what i was hearing from my constituents. they were telling me we don't want to do this. if the effort had been described we are doing this not because of chemical weapons but to change a regime away even from a murderous dictator like assad, i think the population would have been even more overwhelmingly american public saying we don't want to do this because there is a fatigue that the american public are feeling now about the limits of our efforts in this part of the world.
we had hubris and now have to have humility about the outcome. i hope as a committee we have a time less back and forthwith witnesses and with each other to talk about what our public is telling us. i would vote authorization tomorrow because crossing the line with civilians has got to have a consequence, but the notion of being more deeply involved and more aid to shafting and fragmented opposition. our public is telling us they don't want us to do it. whether that causes us to lose prestige abroad or not, that's what the public is telling us. either we have to make a case differently, explain the stakes in a different way or grapple with what it means that our public, after 12 years of war in the general real estate is
feeling fatigued about it. those are big tough questions. let me jump to some -- i don't have answers to them. i'm struggling with them here. specific things. mr. countryman, you were asked a question by the chair about this discrepancy in the sites. you might have addressed it when i was out of the room. the opc, we have intelligence suggests a number of sites. opcw looked at 21-23. i'm assuming that the intel we have about additional sites that weren't on the inventory is material we share with the opcw. we are trying to get them as much information as we can so they can expand the list of sites to be reviewed. this is the first time i dealt with an issue about opcw and inspections. talk about what we share with them and how they follow up with this information we give them about insufficiency of inventory. >> we share information appropriately with the opcw.
it is a cooperative process. let me start here, which is to say we have received only on monday of this week the comprehensive declaration by syria of its holdings. it's over 700 pages and quite detailed. we are assessing it now. there will be a point at which we'll have some of the assessment of the gaps in that document, differences between what's declared and what we believe we know that we could discuss in a more closed session. on the question of sites, we have the tools to reconcile any gaps, any discrepancies. part of it, i think, may have a simple explanation. for example, opcw in its statement yesterday refers to 23 sites, but also refers to 41 facilities. covering differences in definition between sites and
facilities is part of the answer. i don't want to speculate on what the rest of the answer is. only to emphasize we have the tools, the resources to resolve those differences, and we will. >> one brief additional, if i may. does the united states have confidence in the opcw and their technical capacity, their independence and objectivity? >> in their technical capacity and objectivity, absolutely. they have done a remarkable job in a difficult security environment so far, and we salute the organization and the inspectors of many different nationalities who have done that job. >> great. thank you, mr. chair. >> senator murphy. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you all for being here. i'm sorry i missed a portion of the hearing. i had another one around the corner. a few brief questions, some which you may have touched on already. ambassador ford you spent some time already talking about the infighting currently happening
within the rebel group structure. we had a lot of conversation here during our debate about reauthorization about the influence that the extremist groups had within that coalition. some of which as it turns out had come from people that were partially on the payroll of some of those opposition groups. i know you touched on this a bit, but having just come from a conference in africa which we were seeing some pretty unbelievable numbers of foreign fighters coming in from europe and pretty fierce competition amongst different rebel groups to recruit those foreign fighters, more now, more dangerous and more extreme than jabat itself, can you talk about the infighting even now within the extremist groups? forget the infighting happening in very public ways with large
numbers of fighters being killed between the mainstream opposition forces and the extremist forces. we now have just growing competition amongst their competitors to bring foreign fighters in. one of the benefits seems to be we can track it pretty well. they spend so much time trumpeting their success that we have a good idea who is going where. it suggests that the fractures within the opposition are not just about mainstream versus extremist groups. >> senator, you're absolutely right. there is more. there are two al qaeda groups in syria. there's one we designated as a foreign terrorist organization affiliated with al qaeda and iraq last year, 11 months ago. now in the last, i would say seven months, the islamic state
for iraq in lavonte appeared as a separate entity and foreign fighters. to have more syrians but it is connected to al qaeda and to al qaeda's leadership. but at the same time, there is this competing group, the islamic state, with direct ties out of iraq. they are fighting each other in some places in northern syria and also in the northeastern city. in some places, just to make the battlefield even more complic e complicated, there are tactical alliances between elements of the free syrian army and the nusra front against the islamic state. in some places, then, senator, it becomes even more complicated because you have kurdish militias fightsing along other secular militias and it becomes
a hodgepodge. i would point out one thing if i may, senator. just in the last month we've started to see some efforts by non-al qaeda groups to begin to try to reunite, recentralize. i don't know where that's going to go, exactly, but it wasn't there two months ago. i find it as a phenomena interesting. in fact, my next trip out to the eej, that's a question i'll be looking at in some detail. >> there's a desire on behalf of a lot of people on this committee to have america weigh in with greater force to try to allow the nonextremist elements to essentially win the fight within the opposition. how does the fracturing of the extremist wing of the opposition either help or hinder our efforts or others' efforts to try to empower the fsa and others to win the battle within
the opposition for who sits at the negotiating table ultimately? >> in my last trip out to the region center, i had a number of meetings with leaders of fighting groups in north and northwestern syria, and i can tell you, i mean, these were the real commanders. we met them in turkey. they were happy to get tactical-level help wherever they could get it, and they were very up front about that. if they had a unit fighting down the street from where they were but against the same enemy, they were happy to take that help. i have to tell you, we, in the administration, regard this with a bit of caution because we do not want people that we support to be, in turn, in bed with the nusra front. so this becomes really a challenge for us in terms of directing our assistance.
>> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. let me thank this panel. i know several of us would like to engage you further in another setting. we're going to want to pursue some of those questions in a classified setting. but with our thanks to all of you, let me call up ambassador hoff to our next panel. as we call them up, let me say that i want to apologize for my need to go to the senate floor. i have a new colleague from new jersey who is about to be sworn in. i need to be there for that event, but i have read your testimony, and i appreciate your insights. i have several questions that i'm going to submit for the record that i'd love to -- and maybe we'll call you if you'll be so gracious as to give us some of your time to engage.
i think senator corker has also -- >> it's my understanding what we may do, we have some outstanding witnesses, is to listen to their testimony and then adjourn the meeting and ask questions formally in writing. is that acceptable? >> so with that, let me ask senator kain, who's been gracious enough to preside during this period of time. >> well, thank you to panel two. it's a gift to us, and i'm sorry there's so much turmoil, but it's at least a positive to be swearing in a new senator. that's a good thing. sometimes the turmoil isn't so positive. that's why many members are
going, but the written testimony that you've each submitted is superb. so we do welcome ambassador hoff and leslie gell, known so well on this committee. in that order, i would like you to begin with opening statements and then we will see how we are in time when you finish those statements to determine whether with might ask questions before some of us need to go to the floor. thank you. >> very good. senator kaine, ranking member corker, thank you so much for your invitation. i'm delighted that you think i can contribute to something to your deliberations on what is truly a problem from hell, this problem of syria. you have my full statement, so i'll just compress things a bit in the interest of time. first point i'd like to make, if i may, is that the chemical
weapons framework agreement recently arrived at and blessed by the united nations security council is most definitely a good thing. we have news this morning that syria has beaten the deadline for the destruction of its production facilities. much work obviously lies ahead, but an assad regime that's deprived of these materials is a good thing for 23 million syrians and for the entire neighborhood. and yet, the problem of syria at its root is not an arms control problem. chemicals are the tip of a very deep and very deadly iceberg, one that will surely, if left unattended, kill all attempts to create a political path, a negotiated settlement to this
problem. the iceberg itself is a deliberate, systematic policy and practice of the assad regime to target civilians with artillery, rockets, aircraft, and missiles for murder, mayhem, terror, and flight. consider the words of the independent international commission of inquiry reporting to the human rights council right after the atrocities of august 21st. and i quote -- it's very brief. government and pro-government forces have continued to conduct widespread attacks on the civilian population, committing murder, torture, rape, and enforce disappearance as crimes against humanity. they have laid siege to neighborhoods and subjected them to indiscriminate shelling. government forces have committed gross violations of human rights
and the war crimes of torture, hostage taking, murder, execution without due process, rape, attacking protecting objects and pillage, unquote. this independent international commission did not give a free pass to jihadists supposedly opposing this regime in their own dep ri dagss. but the commission clearly, clearly identified this practice of systematically targeting residential neighborhoods as a thing that is driving this unspeakable humanitarian crisis that's not only victimizing syria, but it's swamping the neighborhood, including some important american allies and friends. now, i think the obama administration understands that the chemical agreement itself, as good as it is, only seeks to
saw off the tip, the visible part of this iceberg. and this is why our secretary of state is scrambling to try to put together a diplomatic process that moves syria in the direction of political transition from this regime to something that's actually civilized. on its current course, as we heard from the first panel, syria is indeed rapidly becoming the somalia of the lavante. one set of terrorists, the assad regime is consolidating itself in western syria. other sets of terrorists, some affiliated with al qaeda, are implanting themselves in the east. the administration is trying to jump start a diplomatic process that would pre-empt this worst
of all worlds scenario. yet the obstacles are very daunting. the entire purpose of a geneva conference, or if it develops this way, a series of meetings, would be to replace the assad regime with a transitional governing body that would exercise full executive power in syria for an agreed period of ti time. this body would be be created by negotiations by the regime and the opposition on the basis of mutual consent. this means anyone participating in the exercise of full executive power would have to be accepted by both sides. the regime, however, has made it clear in public statements that the person, the position, the prerogatives of bashar al assad are not up for discussion at geneva. the syrian national coalition, which would lead an opposition
delegation, is undecided whether or not to attend. mr. chairman, in the interest of time, let me just skip to my bottom line. i would conclude by pleading that we not avert our gaze from the humanitarian catastrophe that's unfolding before us, victimizing millions of syrians and harming all of their neighbors. mr. assad seems to have concluded that he can do anything he likes, provided he does it without chemicals. his external supporters, russia and iran, seem to be not at all disturbed by his military's concentration on civilian populations. if, as i regrettably suspect, political transition will not be on the table in any meaningful
way any time soon, then our diplomatic effort, all of it, seems to me, has to focus on persuading tehran and moscow to get their client out of the business of war crimes and crimes against humanity. and if we want there to be a civilized alternative to this access of code dependency, the assad regime and its jihadist enemies of choice currently dividing syria between them, then we will have to be more serious about overseeing the process of who gets what inside syria from external sources in terms of arms and equipment. >> thank you, ambassador, hoff. mr. geld. >> i'll do my best to be brief.
the start of any effort to make sense out of what we're doing in syria is to have a serious mideast strategy. we don't have it. i just talked to the leaders of the nations in the area, and you'll see that they're confused and dismayed and their willingness to help us on syria, to follow our lead on syria will depend in good part about our getting our act together in terms of dealing with iran, iraq, arab-israeli negotiations. these things all fit together in the real world. as far as syria itself is concerned, we do have no strategy. i think all of you touched on that point very well.
we started out wanting to get rid of assad. we didn't take any efforts either militarily or diplomatically that could get rid of him. we drew red lines and then didn't do anything about them, walked away from them. and now we're in a position where it seems we're just going to let this war drag on with terrible consequences that fred hoff described. you know full well the horrors of it. what i would like to do is get you to think about another possibility, one that i think could hold some promise in some shape or form. and that is this. i don't think we can supply enough arms to the good rebels, the sunni moderate rebels for
them to prevail. even if we added to that some kind of american bombing presence, which our military does not want and which would be very costly indeed and we don't know how effective it would be, even then i don't think there would be a military solution. the russians, the iranians and others would support the assad regime all the more and we'd have a stalemate at a more horrific level for the people of the region. so what i would do is this. i would focus on two things. one, what's the real threat to united states' interests? focus hard and relentlessly on that issue. and the answer is, the jihadis, nusra al qaeda and the islamists who are threatening to take over that state or good chunks of it. they are the real enemy to us,
to the russians who fear these sunni nusra al qaeda radicals also. to the iranians who fear them. to the iraqi regime. and to the sunnis seeking to overthrow them. they all understand that the worst thing that could happen to all of them would be a takeover by the islamist extremists. that provides a basis over time for us to cajole, push both the alawite regime and our sunni friends in cooperation against the jihadis.
i think there's a real basis for it. now, there would have to be political understandings as well. and i agree with all of you who feel that in the end assad must go. very important. but the alawites have to be protected. you're not going to get the cooperation from iran or from russia, from any of these other countries unless you do protect those alawites. so focusing on the real threat allows us to focus our military aid and our diplomacy. if we don't try to do something like that, i think the only result is what we're seeing, more fighting, more killing, more horrific suffering for the syrian people and their neighbors. thank you. >> thank you, mr. gelb. let me check with the staff. starting right now, it will likely be a 15-minute vote. let me just -- i want to ask a
couple questions, and some of us will depart. we will leave the record open for questions by committee members until 5:00 tomorrow for these valuable witnesses. the statement that ambassador ford made earlier was that at the current time, neither side has the ability to deliver a knock-out punch to the other. is that an opinion -- i'd like each of your opinions about that statement. >> senator, i think ambassador ford was exactly correct. at this point -- at this point, you don't even have -- you don't even have a civil war in the sense of much going on in terms of units firing and maneuvering. this so-called civil war looks nothing like, pardon the expression of grant marching on richmond, senator -- >> a little sensitive where i come from. >> what