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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  October 1, 2015 4:00am-6:01am EDT

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we should not discount al qaeda, which has its own unit from russia and the republics of central asia. that unit counts about 1500. imagine what would happen if all these individuals came home, whether because isil prevails or because isil was defeated but these individuals were not apprehended or eliminated. i should note that both isil and al qaeda have maintained ties with insurgents and terrorist networks in the north. this summer saw isis establish a province in the north caucuses. the emirate caucuses, the umbrella terrorist organization operating in the north caucuses has had long-standing ties with
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al qaeda, and its leaders have raised their leader. no surprise that russian foreign officials including the security minister and secretary of the security council have described isis as the main threat to russia and the main threat to global security, respectively. n the u.s. side, there is less agreement of whether isis represents a top threat. so, since neither the united states or russia can tolerate the existence of isis in the middle east and both countries need to come -- counter al qaeda and keep it on the run, i would argue there is definitely grounds for potential cooperation.
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that is impeded by different approaches toward syria, although i believe, and russian officials have said officially that russia is not married to bashar al-assad. i believe in the long term there is a possibility for ransition. or now, the u.s.-russian ooperation could be limited to fighting isil in iraq in joint operations, which is something u.s. and russian special forces have done on a low scale in afghanistan. it could include providing more fighting isil in iraq in joint operations, which is something u.s. and russian special forces have done on a low scale in rms and more training to the iraqi forces and kurds fighting isil, and of course, it could include disrupting financing, which is not a counterterrorism tactic, per se, but which is an important element of countering these organizations.
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counterterrorism alone would not suffice. there are certain root causes iraqi forces and kurds fighting not list but are in the statement. both russia and the united states need to address and contributing factors i will them. if they think how to defeat terrorists, not only in the middle east, but within their own countries, i would point out social economic deprivation, historical grievances, poor governance, and political instability. i would point to the spread of violent ideologists, particularly militants. finally, in the motivational causes, i would point to an abuse of population. if there is anything that
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creates grievances, it's the abuse of populations in the hands of authorities. cooperation between the united tates and russia against terrorism in general, isis and al qaeda in particular, can not only significantly advance international efforts to contain the organization's expansion within iraq and adjacent countries, but can also help stop a new cold war between western roche -- russia in the wake of the ukraine crisis, although there is no bargain. the ukraine crisis will have to be resolved regardless, but that cooperation, let me repeat, will help stop the slide toward a new cold war. thank you.
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mr. katz: mr. chairman, distinguished members, thank you for the chance to speak to you today. i would like to address the syrian aspect of this issue. unlike ukraine, where moscow has declared that its motive for intervention is being undertaken to counter the west, russian officials have characterized their support for bashar al-assad is actually in western interest, even if western governments do not seem to understand this. it serves a common goal of combating the islamic state. vladimir putin recently described bashar al-assad as an important ally in the fight against the islamic state. he stated that without participation of the syrian army and authorities in the fight against islamic state terrorists cannot be expelled from the country or the region on the whole. the russian foreign minister described the assad regime as a crucial ally. he said they have a capable
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ground force of fighting terrorism and to give up an mr. katz: mr. chairman, distinguished members, thank opportunity and ignore the syrian army as a partner in the fight against islamic state means to sacrifice the entire regions of security to geopolitical moods and calculations. while the west may not like bashar al-assad, commentators are saying his authoritarian regime is preferable to one islamic state would establish. furthermore, in order to stop islamic state from taking over more or the rest of syria, the western insistence that bashar al-assad must step down as foolish and would weaken the forces fighting islamic state. we should work with the regime against the common threat and not against them. this argument is based on the premise that the regime is actively fighting islamic state. there have been numerous
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reports though that the regime and islamic state have not been fighting with each other, or not doing so very much. a widely quoted study by the ihs insurgency center noted that the assad counterterrorism operations skew heavily toward groups whose names are not isis. ust 6% are likely targeted isis through 2014. in february of this year -- directly targeted isis through 2014. in february of this year, various forms of cooperation between the assad regime and islamic state were described, including buying oil, how serious to main mobile phone operators provide service and send repair teams to isis controlled areas, and how damascus allows food shipments to the isis capital. the u.s. embassy in damascus
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accuse the syrian government of providing air support to an advance by islamic state militants north of aleppo. in july, turkish intelligence sources claimed that an agreement was made between the us shot -- the assad regime and islamic state in the north. why? both have an interest in weakening their common foes. other syrian opposition groups being supported by turkey, saudi arabia, qatar, and others. the numerous reports that this is what is happening, as well as the compelling nature of the enemy of my enemy is my friend logic, points to their credibility. if these are true, certain implications follow. if islamic state and assad are not really fighting each other and islamic state is losing --
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and assad is losing ground, that is primarily due to the forces from turkey and the surrounding states. assad is most likely to use forces most threatening to damascus and not against islamic state, which is less threatening to it. russian calls to the west to work with assad in the fight against islamic state are really intended to elicit western acquiescence as well as to divide western governments that fear islam asked eight more than the assad regime on the one hand from -- islamic state more than the assad egime. all of that suggests that the recent increase in russian military involvement in syria is motivated much less by the desire to combat it islamic
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state of then by the desire to protect the assad regime from its more proactive opponents rather than to blunt middle eastern actions aimed at supporting them. thank you. chairman: thank you all for chairman: thank you all for this quite diverse view of what is going on and what we should o. i hope maybe by the end of this hearing we can come to some conclusions. you are much wiser than i am. all right, dr. aron, dr. katz basically called into question whether assad is actually as anti-ice own -- anti-isis as we have been led to believe. could you give us your assessment? dr. aron: i am sure mark went deep into that.
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i was concentrating largely on the spread of fundamentalism and militancy inside russia from the north caucuses. but, intuitively, gangsters usually find common language, as stalin did with hitler, for example. so i would not be surprised if that is the case. in any case, they do come to blows, but first they take care of the progress of liberals. again, that may not apply directly to the free syrian army, but historically, i would think that is probably quite accurate. as somebody who has been studying vladimir putin and his ideology and his goals, i agree that even regardless of what putin's plans are with respect to a solid per se -- two bashar
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al-assad per se, i think they are secondary. i think the most important thing to putin in syria is what i call the implementation of the putin doctrine, which is the recovery of geopolitical assets lost by the soviet union in the fall of the soviet state. he wants to establish the presence of russia in the middle east as the dominant outside player. that's the first thing. the second thing, let's not forget, assad or no assad, the only thing going for the putin regime is putin's personal popularity. you look at the public opinion polls. how does he get this popularity? by embodying the thirst and hunger for reestablishing russia as a great power. this is what happened with
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crimea. this is what happened with regime is putin's personal popularity. ukraine. and now, this is what happening in syria. i think this is the key motivational force, the key motivation for putin to be present in syria. and one less -- last thing, again, which has nothing to do with his support for a solid -- for bashar al-assad, there is a very serious concern -- you mentioned churchill before. let me apply to her chills definition for the soft i hope maybe by the end of this underbelly of russia, which is -- apply churchill's definition for the soft underbelly of russia, which is central sia. this is another issue that i think motivated putin. chairman rob walker: we have how many minutes before we vote question -- chairman: we have how many
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minutes before we vote? seven. i am going to yield to you now and we will come back immediately after the two votes. >> i will win to you come back. chairman: all right. we are in recess until immediately after the second vote. the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] national able satellite corp. 2015]
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chairman: i will finish my questions after mr. saradshyan and now, this is what happening in syria. has a chance to -- ok. look, again, it was a wonderful iversity of opinion here and a whole new concept, which i had not heard. et me just ask then, from your testimony, you are suggesting that bashar al-assad is not someone who is as anti-radical testimony, you are suggesting that bashar al-assad is not someone who is as anti-radical s we have been led to believe, nd that he would, if we -- and with mr. putin's involvement, is not going to direct them toward a soul -- isis, but toward his own nonaligned movements. dr. katz: obviously, he is
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opposed to jihadists, and they are opposed to him, but the way they look at the question is in a highly machiavellian manner. who is threatening him most now? it is not isis so much as other opponents. therefore -- and who threatens isis in many respects? in other words, it's a competition among other syrian opposition movements. they have a common interest at present that both would like to see the other opposition movements weekend. that does not mean they will be friends later on. they are probably both preparing for the day they will turn on each other, but at the moment, it seems they are not so interested in fighting each other. they both prefer to weekend --
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chairman: so those two groups soul -- isis forces at this point are not attacking assad's military bases? chairman: so those two groups are not interested in fighting each other and at least one of them is interested in fighting bashar al-assad, and bashar al-assad will then focus on, if we help him only on that group, on isil, so you are saying i y the way, i voted against arming that third force. i thought it would turn out the way things did in iraq. you are suggesting that group now is indeed leading the fight against bashar al-assad. dr. katz: it's many, many groups. it's not even as complicated as a three cornered conflict. dr. katz: it's many, many groups. it's not even as complicated as a three cornered conflict. there are loads of actors involved here. but what it does seem is that at the moment the opposition
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groups that are not isis that are most threatening to bashar al-assad, therefore, it is not surprising that he is concentrating his efforts on these particular -- chairman: but we have seen reports of defections by that reports of defections by that third force, supposedly, to isis. in fact, one of the major leaders of that group defected, and the report i read is that he now commands a force that has made up -- half of which is made up of people from chechnya. dr. katz: my memory is that the moderates defected to a group hat is hardly better, but is not isis. not isis. we are not a major actor in terms of external actors upporting the syrian
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opposition. obviously, it's the saudi's, urks, qataris, and others, and they have their own agenda. i am a sure if it was ever possible to create this oderate third force -- not ure if it was ever possible to
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chairman: could you tell me what group was the third group you are thinking about or was it isil that just captured the ibdlib airbase? it was a huge victory for -- i assumed it was isis at the time. it was a major defeat for bashar al-assad's forces. dr. katz: i am not sure which one it was who captured it. i just remember -- chairman: so, if it was isis and not this third force, the basis of your -- that would go totally contrary to the basic of your testimony today. dr. katz: i would like to refer to the u.s. embassy damascus statement from earlier in june indicating that the u.s. issues the syrian government of providing air support to it fans islamic state militants and opposition groups north of aleppo. -- advanced islamic state militants and opposition groups north of aleppo. there seems to be an alliance in many respects between bashar al-assad and isis. if he has to give anything up, he would rather see it go to
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isis at present there and his other opponents. chairman: but that airbase was one of the major atolls -- at resent rather than his other opponents. chairman: but that airbase was one of the major attacks. if it was isis, that contradicts your theory. dr. katz if it was an isis attack. chairman: correct. i will look into it. the group that did it was a loser a -- was el nusra. dr. katz: that makes sense. chairman: and that is a radical opponents. islamic a group? dr. katz: does that go contrary to what you are testifying? dr. -- dr. katz: they are a radical group. chairman: does that go contrary to what you are testifying? dr. katz: i think what we are seeing is that as assad regime weekends, ultimately, we will see a conflict between it and isis. they are not going to kiss and makeup, because they are both radicals. chairman: with that, mr.
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saradshyan, and then -- with hat, go ahead, and i will have some questions later. some questions later. >> i cannot help it be a little confused about everything that was said here. first, let me make an observation. for the last few weeks, we have been hearing about how the syrian army has been weekend and how -- weekend -- weakened and everything else. i thought that was a setup for the russians to come in to syria.
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today, i understand the russians bombed the free -- i wrote it down here, the free syrian army. but that wasn't isis. today, i understand the russians bombed the free -- i wrote it down here, the free o what does all of that i mean, i assume that they were here to fight isis.
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the people in the area are opposed to isis says the vice president of the coalition, speaking by telephone. his account could not be independently verified. mean? this is the heart of the matter. putin claims he is there to fight isis, but he is really there to protect the bashar al-assad regime against forces that protect -- that oppose him most strongly, which are not isis. he is not going to put until he asleep avoid those forces -- punk tilia's -- punctiliously avoid those forces. dr. aron: putin is there to show that russia does not bandon its allies. >> in complete contrast to what people are saying about us. dr. aron: make your own conclusion. that point does not escape putin, definitely. immediately, almost coincidental, iraq now is cooperating with russia on intelligence matters, and we are not worried what secrets our iraqi -- i guess allies --
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are going to give russia. it was a headline today. so, putin is there to show the ussia does not abandon its allies. on a more strategic level, if i may reiterate, it is for putin to regain a very important geopolitical asset. russia is back in the middle east after assad through the soviet union out in 1972. ussia is back. whatever economic difficulties they have russia is a great power again, whether it is in ukraine, whether it is in the middle east and god knows what is going to be next. o these to me i think is how
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putin calculates it. nd frankly, so long as the regime of that he supports is in power, i think that is utin's strategic goal. who he has to bomb, he will leave it to the people on the ground. >> what do you think? >> i haven't seen reports what russian war planes have bombed what. my understanding is that russia's interests in syria require that russia has a say country.ture of this but the notion that russia would bomb any of assad's opponents i think is mistaken. russia has hosted negotiations between some members of the
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southeastern opposition and southeastern officials. russia has discussed according those opposition potential participation of opponents in future government. those opposin there is, i think as long as on it, the syria is continuing military industrial cooperation with syria, and ensuring that there is no failed state in syria which is the largest concern of russia, t would be open to accommodating potential transition to a coalition government in the long run. i would -- again i haven't seen -- >> that would be in favor of russia. >> that would take into account -- that would take into account russia's interests which would
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include ensuring stability of syria so it doesn't become a failed state and therefore does not become a haven for terrorist groups that would then attack russia and its allies. ensuring that russia's presence syria has it has been and ensuring that russia continues to trade with syria in goods that let syria has rus diversify its economy which is mostly about oil and gas. syria is a major buyer of russian machinery including arms. so as long as there is interest, russia will remain open to dialogue. and the notion that it would bomb any of assad's opponents i think are mistaken. if you read what the spokesperson for the foreign ministry said openly what had been said privately by russian officials for a long time that russia is not married to the dea of keeping assad
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necessarily in power. >> somebody talk about the challenges that the russians military presence in syria poses to the united states in terms of its conflict in syria. what challenges do you see for us there? >> well, clearly if in fact the u.s. has its own bombing campaign against isis and that's certainly russia has its bombing campaign, too, that is the main question is deconflicks. we want the make sure that the two air forces don't run into each other. and so this i think is -- this is a serious issue it seems to me. on the other hand, other than that the not sure russian military presence can really be seen as a threat to the united states. russia has fewer troops in syria than we now have in iraq.
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and so it strikes me that our presence in iraq we're not exactly being able to defeat isis with that. i don't think that what presence -- what russian presence we've seen in syria is going to enable russia to defeat isis if in fact that's what it wants to do. i think that at best what they're there to do is to olster the assad regime. i have to disagree with my colleague about who russia is or is not willing to bomb. i think that russia is there to help the assad regime. the assad regime has certain very urgent opponents and therefore i think that if that is what was necessary to attack, then that is what they will attack. i don't think russia wants to get deeply involved in syria. in that case i think putin may have bitten off a little more than he can chew. but i think that -- i've heard certainly people from the
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pentagon say that russia can live with the facility off the coast of syria. it doesn't threaten up very much. w i don't think we are opposed to russia having favored relations with syria. i think at the beginning of the conflict our thought was that, well, just as moscow complained that after assad russia wouldn't have any influence in iraq because the iraqi government would be pro american and what we have seen is that increasing cooperation between iraq and russia i think we expected was that with a change of regime in syria which of course didn't happen was that the new syrian government would after a certain pause would have -- would restore relations with russia as well.
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but of course this is not what's happened. >> what challenges do you think it poses? >> no comment on that. i thought that -- the actual topic the threat of islamic xtremism in russia we expectedk syria does enter this simply because syria has become a training ground for the jihaddists, from central asia. north but my point was i think we may be seeing something much more threatening. and that is the russian muslim minorities inside rashe are eginning to go that route. they have very significant presence already in the troops of the jihaddists in syria. frankly, if we thought that the chechens were a problem, there are 1 million of them and there re 6.5 million and there are
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another 5 to 6 million inside ssia including 2.5 million migrants from central asia who are constantly going back and forth and central asia is completely now penetrated by is recruiters and isis propaganda. so talking of danger to the united states, those things are very rarely contained within national borders. so this to me is one of the offshoots regardless of what putin does and what we do i think that train is already in motion. >> do you agree or disagree? >> i agree. and as i said in my original statement, the primary threat that originates in that area, is no whether assad stays for a bit longer or not is whether this threat of violent
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jihaddist ks be contained and eliminated. >> so you don't think it poses any challenges to our efforts in syria? >> i think whoever does anything, if it focuses on violent islamists in syria and iraq, whoever goes after them is in interest of the united states and it doesn't pose a threat. just like it's in the interest of russia. >> we're going to have another series which gives me an excuse to ask questions as well. and then if you would like to ask some more we will get that in as well. i would like to place in the record a letter from john quincy adams to his fellows out his observations about russia even as far back as john quincy adams, who i believe was our first ambassador to russia. he pointed out in his letter
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and lengthy analysis that the rush character had been developed in great part due to islam stant fight with on its borders. so the russian character of actually -- and their national spirit had been brought about by this fact that islam was in russia expansion and and the russian people bore the brubt of that. -- brunt of that. thus, the idea that something could happen in the islamic world thammed be a great threat to russians is something that is not just what putin believes but something that is ingrained in russian people who over the years have had tragic incidences with, for example, a
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in business lamb who i went -- bizzlam and i went to see that school and to talk to the local people. and they end up with hundreds of their children being murdered, basically. and but that's not only -- but you go through the years, this has been part of russia's psyche. i don't think -- look, is there -- i don't think there's anything wrong with a country being led by a ruler who wants their country to be a great country. and i heard plfmentputen's remarks to the united nations d he readily admitted that ussia had discarded the soviet union and this was a new situation. nd they're back to what normal
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countries should be judged by, not by standards that were established during the cold war when russia itself was being directed by an ideological zealous click in the communist party the same way radical islam is having such a major impact on islam the radical islam sists have that type of ability to impact on policies in large numbers of people through their violence. so i really reject the idea that, well, putin is only down there and russians are only down there to help assad their friend. although part of being a great country is making sure that when you make a deal with somebody that you keep the deal even when it gets tough and you don't leave your friends in a lurch after they have risked everything for you.
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and it seems that in the last few years the united states, as my colleague accidentally indicated, the united states -- well, we have left a lot of eople behind here and also the united states' policy was we d to get rid of shaum -- saddam hussein and now we field compelled to make sure that assad in some way doesn't hold power. i don't get that. i think it was a mistake on our part and i voted to support president bush when he went into iraq. that was a horrible mistake. and shaum was not our enemy. -- saddam hussein was not our enemy. and guess what. i don't think assad is our enemy. and if russia is indeed there simply to help assad and what
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might happen to syria, even if assad is overthrown with onisil forces, i don't think that it was the radicals that necessarily overthrew qaddhafi. but when the moderates overthrew qaddhafi with our help we ended up with half of libya now being controlled by radical islam. and a threat to the stability of the whole region. maybe assad is like that. maybe, no matter who overthrows him, as mr. putin was mentioning in his remarks at the u.n., that maybe this will create an unintended consequence of total casstass if i not just assad being overthrown by someone who is radical but by the fact that u have a power va accumulate d chaos that will be
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exploited by these radical forces that are clearly present in that region. so i personally number one think that we ought to start analyzing russia. that is one of the reasons why we have this hearing. make sure that we understand what motives are going on here. and i don't think it is the motive that we had the same motive that when cruise chef put the missiles into cuba i don't think that's the type of attitude that we're facing in the world today. and that is a lot different and that deserved the outrage that we had at that time. but for assad being helped by russia in the face of this type of turmoil, i don't see that this should be on our list of things to thwart. it seems that our government is. back to the actual nature of russia and radical islam. do you think, with all the testimony we've heard today, it seems to me that isn't --
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wouldn't a government of russia be justified in being concerned to hear that there are 5,000 at the people who might home and come back start commiting the types of terrorism that is being experienced in different parts of the world? isn't that a justified fear? please feel free to comment. whatever. >> of course it is. and the fact that russian language is now -- the russian language is now the third most popular. and that i have all kinds of stuff that you cannot fit in 5 minutes but there have been reports that there were graffiti in russian and syria which read putin we will burn your palace. that jickstan to
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russia which was the slogan of several groups. this is a very vulnerable area. >> the tajic -- a city was just taken over by the taliban. it's not that somebody is worried that russia will fall to these radicals. the issue is whether or not because these radicals feel that they are now motivated and backed and have experience that they might go into that country and start killing people in large numbers whether it's herding a butch of kids into a school and surrounding them explosives or whether it's setting off the type of explosions and thing that is we have seen in railroad cars in western europe. there are fewer muslims in western europe than what we have in russia and they are suffering from attacks, terrorist attacks there. so again i think that the
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threat to the western civilization to the nonmuslim world from radical islam or islamic terrorists is real. and it makes sense if someone is also a target for that that we don't try to do everything we can to undermine their efforts but instead at least try to find ways to cooperate. that's what this hearing is all about. my colleague will now have his questions. >> ok. i just have -- trying to associate ukraine with what is going on in syria. do you think it
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the reaction from the russian analysts was -- one of the reaction. remember i mentioned to you that there is a domestic political dimension to this. that is that putin is popular not because of the russian economy any more. he used to be popular because they grew 7, 8% every year between 2000-2008. he is popular because he embodies this dream of russia becoming a super power like the soviet union used to be. >> that's called patriotism. right? >> well, we all want our
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countries to be great. the question is how we achieve it. that is a separate issue. >> we call it something else. > but the bottom line is the -- some of the analysts, some of the most respected independent analysts said one of the reasons -- not the whole reason but one of the whole reasons to go to syria is that ukraine is no longer generates enough of this patriotic heat that makes not all russians but quite a few to forget about the economic hardships, the 15% inflation that the economy is probably going to shrink 5 to % this year, the pensions are growing smaller and smaller due to inflation, that food products are now 1520rks, 30% more than they used to be because of the man on the imports and because there is no subtuition any more.
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so -- >> like the oil. >> the price of oil is down the ruble lost half of its value. but you see the headlines, we are in syria now, we are present. they listen to us. they are afraid of us. they respect us. this is all very important. and this is, answering your question, this could have been one of the motivations. and you said what's the connection to ukraine. and i could talk to ukraine for a long time. it's a very interesting subject. but for whatever reason, putin put ukraine on hold. i don't think it's forever. i think he is going to return to that issue. but there is something else now. he is like that man on the bicycle. i mean, that thing that when you put all your eggs in this what i call patriotic mobilization, you have to give people fresh meat. you are riding that tiger which is great but the tiger requires fresh meat. and bloody meat every now and
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then. so ukraine is on hold. but syria is in the headlines. >> anybody else want to take a crack at that? >> thank you. yes. i think in addition to what dr. aron had to say about the domestic political aspect the link between ukraine and syria i think there's also an important aspect in terms of relations with the west. the sanction that is the west has imposed on russia as a result of actions in ukraine are hurting the russian economy, are hurting them pretty badly. i think for putin in particular by making this argument that we can work together in syria against isis that this is a way to sort of restore relations with the west and to some extent i think we have seen it starting to work. the french president came out and said maybe we should reduce the sanctions on russia now that we have to deal with syria together.
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obviously this is what he wants. although i did notice that most recently the french president indicated said what he wants to see is russian actions against isis not just words about it. so i think that -- and of course putin is taking advantage of the migration crisis. in other words, for a lot of europeans and the public when it comes down to it, which is more important to them is that the migration crisis or what's happening in ukraine, it's the migration crisis. and if putin is going to provide a way out of this. but the question is, can he? just to get back to something i think an important point that congressman roar balker indicated. that in addition to the geopolitical competition between the u.s. and russia there is a basic philosophical difference about how to deal with syria. there's the russian argument is is is sad as bad as he
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less worse than isis therefore we should support assad. the obama administration's argument is that isis is so awful that he has contributed to the rise of isis. and isis therefore we should support assad. the obama administration's argument is that isis is so awful that he has contributed to the rise of isis. and the trouble with -- the real trouble i think is that both might be right. in other words, that both arguments have a degree of validity which -- and what that implies is that whether assad goes or stays, isis is going to be a problem. and that is the situation i think that we are really stuck in, that we can argue about how to deal with the syrian situation but the real bottom line is that neither we nor the russians really have an adequate response to this. that it's gotten out of hand. and sort of whichever way we go t's going to remain a problem. >> thank you. >> let's give our panelists each one minute to summarize what they would like to summarize on the issue but one
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minute and please then the chairman with his prerogative will have a final statement as ell. enough.inute is i think if indeed -- and of tip of gave you the the iceberg on the evidence. if indeed we are witnessing a tipping point at which of the iceberg on the evidence. if indeed we are witnessing a tipping point at which fundament list militant islam migrating from north caucuses into russia itself, i think this is a huge threat to russia and the world. in addition to that, these types of things usually are enhanced by domestic political and pressures, and
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russia is in a very precarious state economically, politically even though putin would not admit it there are all kinds of strains. and i think while we are worried about the failed state in syria, i think we should also worry about how the terrorism could become an issue for russia and us. >> i would like to reiterate that c1 strains. and i think while we u.s. and r common interests in countering terrorism and proliferation threats that emanate from syria and iraq, meaning terrorist groups. and i think the government so far disagreements on the future of assad both countries can and should work together to counter the threat which is much more threatening, much more superior han the intcrassies of
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transition in syria. thank you. >> the rise of jihadism in russia obviously not in moscow's interest and not in the i want rests of america and the west either. but this rise just isn't occurring in a void. the real tragic situation is that russia's muslims are not treated very well by the russian government, by russian society. and i think part of the problem that we face in dealing with this issue is that we can't either force or convince vladmir putin to treat his muslims nicely. and that i think is sort of the heart of the problem is that it's -- the muslim issue in russia is not one that america is in a position to address. only moscow can do that and at the moment it doesn't want to do so very effectively. >> thank you all for joining us today. just a few short thoughts and that let us remember
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when saddam hussein was eliminated it brought chaos. when qaddhafi was eliminated it brought kay ofments there were alternatives there. and qaddhafi in particular but also with saddam hussein and we were told that the third force was our alternative to assad and i think the russians are very concerned that even if assad is eliminated by this even if that's the case, you're going to have just what happened to these other countries -- chaos, which is then exploited by the most radical islamic forces within those societies. and what would that impact on russia, as what we described today, there is this is a greater concern than actually is in even if that's western eu and we can see what's going on in -- the frantic way western
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europe is dealing with radical slam and the impact of it. president putin just gave -- not just. several months ig, i think six months to a year ago now, went down and provided the president of egypt $2 billion worth of credit -- $2 billion -- even at a time when we've had testimony f a weakness in the economy of russia. now, why did that happen? is that because he wants russia to dominate egypt? listen, russia is a, like england and other great countries in the world, in china and japan and india, these are great countries of the world that their leaders calculate what is good for their country. in the long run i believe the
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reason why that $2 billion and that help was coming forward was because putin acknowledges that if radical islam were to that these egypt, other countries would be swept away in the gulf and you would have radical islam pouring into central asia and that would dramatically impact the security of his country and the future of the world. and i think that there is some strategic thinking going on rather than simply he's a tough guy showing his muscles to the world and he's a gangster thug. which is usually the answers you get when you're trying to come up with a real analysis of what the hell is going on with russia and these various parts of the world. so with that said, i think we need -- and i will end this, i think the united states needs
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with people who are going to help us defeat radical islamic terrorism, whether it's putin or assad or who that is. because those people especially have the united states in target for their terrorism. if a nuclear bomb goes off from a terrorist group in the united states, it won't be from russia. it won't be from assad. it won't be probably from japan or any of these other countries. it will be from radical islamic terrorists. and if we're going to protect our people we've got to be rational and reach out to those people who are the enemy of our enemy. and i buy that formula and i think it will make us safer. with that said i appreciate the insights that this panelist has given us today, and having good
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thoughts about strategies we can use. this hearing is now adjourned.
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>> defense secretary ashton carter told reporters air strikes were like pouring gasoline on the fire and questioned whether the strikes were hitting the militant group isis. ashton carter: good afternoon everyone. let me begin with syria. last week i observed from this podium, as i had observed privately with the russian minister prior, there is a logical contradiction in the
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russian position, and now actions in syria. russia states and in tent to fightisil on one hand, and to support bashar al-assad and his regime. fighting iso--- isil without pursuing a parallel political transition only risks escalating be civil war in syria, and with it the extremism and instability that moscow claims to be concerned about, and aspire to fighting. this approach -- that approach about, and aspire to fighting. this approach -- that approach is tantamount as i said then, to pouring ethylene on the fire -- gasoline on the fire. in contrast, our position is clear that a lasting defeat of isil and extremism in syria can only be achieved in parallel with the political transition
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in syria. we will continue to insist on the importance of simultaneously pursuing these objectives. i would hope that russia would join us in pursuing these objectives, which they claim to share in parallel, rather than in a sequence that cannot succeed. during my phone call with the minister, i told him i was prepared to send the team to meet with russian defense counterparts at a location to be agreed upon to ensure we avoid any inadvertent incidence of syrian airspace. esterday i directed my team to proceed with that meeting as soon as possible, and the next few days -- in the next few days. our goals are the following --
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to facilitate flow of information between coalition forces and russian elements that will help us maintain the safety personnel in the region, which is critical. to ensure that any additional russian action does not interfere with our coalition's efforts to defeat isil. nd to clarify that broader security in the region remains unchanged. s i said before, we will deliver a lasting defeat to isil with a global coalition of over 60 nations, we are taking the fight across the physical, and ideological battle space. the coalition has constructed over 100 airstrikes, hampering their movement and systematically targeting this terrorist group leadership. the coalition will continue to fly missions over iraq and syria as planned, as we did
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today, in support of our mission to degrade and destroy sil. as we pursue talks with syria, want to be clear that these alks will not diminish our strong condemnation of russian ggression in the ukraine, or change security support in response to those destabilizing actions. that subject, and the fact that if russia was to end their international isolation, and be visited a global tower, it must stop aggression in eastern urope train -- ukraine and
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live up to its commitments under the agreements. let me say a few words about the immediate budget impasse that we find ourselves facing here in washington today. it appears at this hour at least, that we will avoid the trauma of a government shutdown for now. that is not enough. it is not enough for our troops or the defense of our country. this is more, this is about it is not enough for our troops or the defense of our country. this is more, this is about more than just the short-term damage of a temporary shutdown. live up to its commitments it is also about the acute relating and lasting damage that comes from a paycheck to paycheck approach to budgeting for the defense of our country. we need to innovate. we need to continue to attract the best people. we need to develop the next generation of capabilities and meet the current generation of threats. again, we face the real risk that political gridlock will hold us back. without a negotiated budget solution in which everyone comes together at last, we will again returned to sequestration level funding, reducing discretionary spending to its lowest real level in a decade, despite the fact that members of both parties agree that this
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result will harm national security. he alternative to a budget deal, a long-term continuing resolution is merely sequester level funding under a different name. the longer the continuing resolution is, the worse it becomes. eventually resulting in a $38 billion in resources for military if congress chooses to pursue this path for the full year. the department of defense has done its best to manage through this prolonged. of -- prolonged period of udget uncertainty. they are making trade-offs between five, capabilities, and readiness. the world has not stood still. russia and china have advanced their new capabilities and imperatives, such as ensuring a lasting defeat of isil. in this kind of environment, we
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need to be dynamic and responsive. what we have under sequestration is a straitjacket. we would be forced to make irresponsible reductions and our choices should be carefully selected. making these kinds of cuts is managerial inefficient, and therefore wasteful to taxpayers and industry. it is dangerous for our strategy. frankly it is embarrassing in front of the world. most importantly -- most important to me come up for our men and women serving in national defense and their families, it adds an undeserved element of uncertainty about the future. finally, as we plan to the force of the future, i note he reports that will be submitted by service leaders today to the chairman with their recommendations on positions
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they plan to open women, as well as any exceptions to opening all combat specialties to women. when i myself reviewed these over coming months, i will be focused on the quality of information and analysis behind recommendations. i want to hear from everyone, but i am less interested in who said what, but why they are saying. to be clear, i will carefully review the information and analysis from all services and special operations command to make my final determination. as secretary of defense i am committed to seeing this through because attracting the best and sing the best -- staying the best means that wherever possible we must open ourselves to the talents and strengths of all americans who can contribute with excellence to our force. as i said before, everyone is able -- who is able to serve and meet the standards required, should have the full opportunity to do so.
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thank you, i look forward to your questions on this and any ther topics. >> mr. secretary, do you believe based on what you have seen and heard -- that russia has been targeting isil, or do you believe that they attacked some other opposition forces that have been waging war gainst us on -- assad. ashton carter: we have been observing russian activities that we do not want to go into detail about at this time. the reason -- one of the they are making trade-offs reasons why the russian position is contradictory is that exactly the potential for them to strike, as they may
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well have, in places were in fact that i sold --isil is not present, others are. this is one of the reasons why the result of this kind of action will inevitably be to inflame the civil war and syria -- in syria. therefore it is ill-advised to take this kind of action in support of a solid -- assad only without pursuing a political transition their. that is why we are trying to et them in that same osition. your question exposes exactly what is a fallacy in the russian approach and why it is doomed to failure. >> i want to make sure i understand -- are you saying then that the strikes were in a place where you believe there
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were no isil fighters? shton carter: i want to be careful about confirming information. it does appear that they were in areas where there were probably not isil forces, that is precisely one of the problems with this approach. >> you have been dealing with the russians for years, a russian general shows up at the embassy in baghdad, and apparently read your people a note saying that airstrikes will begin in one out -- one hour. what do you make of that? as secretary of defense, is that acceptable relations? where does this leave you if you sit down and talk to the russian military about a way ahead? is this not the bar? -- bizarre. ashton carter: you are right, his is not the kind of
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behavior we should expect professionally from russian military. that is one reason why i think it is a good thing to have an avenue of communication that is less unprofessional than a drop-in, where we can talk about professional defense matters. i think also, this is something that will occur independent channels, it is important to see we can get russians in a position where they are coming to understand the contradiction in the position that they now half, and the possibility that a political transition and defeating extremism is something you have to pursue to succeed in syria, maybe they could make a constructive contribution, but they are not on the cap to do that -- half -- path to do that. >> what are your concerns? ashton carter: we are always concerned about the possibility of inadvertent incidents, and a lack of communication. that is why it is important to have medication and their. -- in the air. >> what have you spoken to your russian counterparts about? getting back to barbara's question, given the fact that
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there is a considerable risk, are you taking action to circumvent a potential -- ashton carter: the next step and the next dialogue will be in a professional defense channel. that is precisely our next up. -- step. that is the next step that the efense minister -- when we talked, it is one that our president and president keaton -- britain p --utin had. think these discussions are good, it does not mean you will agree, it does mean you have
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the opportunity to clarify, in this case the russians, where i think they are making a mistake. >> do they speak to your counterpart? ashton carter: i do not rule that out. i think these contacts are good, i have done that many years in the course of my career. that is not the next step, the next up will be detox -- next steps will be these talks. >> there are indications that the militant -- marines have asked for a waiver in barring some women from some infantry units, is that true? ashton carter: me back up, i want to emphasize there were no recommendations made to me yet. remember the process, the services are doing analysis.
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what they owed to first the chairman, and ultimately to me y the end of the year is their analysis. their studies, and their thoughts both about which stuff -- specialties, if any should be left close to women, and importantly how they intend to ake any adaptations that are required. there are many different aspects to this. it is all important. the only point i want to make at this juncture, since at least several months before these things make their way to me, i want to get the chairman time to -- of the time that has been planned. the only point i wanted to make is i will be very facts and analysis based. i want to see the grounds upon which any actions that we take at the first of the year will be made. that is the frame.
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>> in summary, women are less lethal. ashton carter: these things have not come to me. >> back to syria, the secretary -- as secretary of defense, did you have the intelligence that the russians were missing -- moving towards the target? ashton carter: we have been watching their deployment of aircraft, certainly both -- both conversations with our president and our secretary of state, and in my conversations with the minister, they communicated a desire and a -- and in tension to conduct operations -- and an intention to conduct operations.
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hat is the way we have learned to conduct. >> back to the deacon flexion -- deconflition, is it important for us to communicate to russia that -- does that go both ways? ashton carter: let's see what to conduct. comes out of these conversations about exactly the best way and the kind of information, that is the purpose of the talks, to decide what kind of information it is important to exchange to avoid impotence. >> secretary kerry said that russia's involvement with syria would be an opportunity for the united states, do you
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agree? ashton carter: i said it could be, but not in the forum in which they now conceive. i tried to distill that into the contradiction between on the one hand saying we want to fight extremism, on the other hand, supporting assad. we believe that those are in contradiction. that a position that would sustain perhaps two of russia's objectives in a different way, but they would have to change their position is one in which they fought extremism, we also must be fought, but they backed simultaneously a transition from assad to a government that can end the civil war, and preserve some level of decency and good order in the state of
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syria. though things -- those things cannot occur in sequence. if it occurred in parallel, i think our interest could have some overlap. whenever that happens you have the possibility of cooperating. i hope we get to that point, that would require a change from the current position which is as i said, just not logical. >> mr. secretary -- >> going back to the timing. since you just announced the military -- you announced a yesterday, were you not surprised that the russians began their airstrikes before the season started? when he talks to start, how could that not slow down the us-led campaign against isis. you have to de-conflict. ashton carter: they have indicated for quite sometime they would begin to conduct air
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operations. we have agreed for quite some time that we would get these talks underway just as soon as we could agree on a mutually agreed-upon place and time. we have agreed upon it now. those will get underway within days. i think they will be constructive. to the second part, we intend to continue to conduct the air operations the entire coalition does to combat isil and other extremist in syria, as we have een doing. we do not intend to make changes in our air operations. >> he said that the russian strikes were not in an area where isis was present, others were. if those others were syrian pposition, as you were saying,
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what responsibility does the coalition have protect those opposition forces and fighters from airstrikes? ashton carter: it your question what responsibility does the point of the whole contradiction here in the russian position, which is that by taking -- by supporting assad, and thereby seemingly taking on everyone who is writing -- fighting assad, you re taking on the whole country is syria. that is not a physician, we believe that some parts of the nti-assad opposition belong as part of the political part of the political transition going forward. that is one of the reasons -- that is the central reason why the russian approach is doomed to fail. i hope that they come over to a point of view where they try to pursue their objectives in a different way, that makes more sense first of all, and second
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of all, is one in which we can share to some extent, and therefore work in a common way, we are not there yet. i think it is worth trying to get to that point. >> what is the responsibility for that as we heard in the past? i believe you testified on the hill that the coalition has responsibility to protect the opposition forces, particularly those trained by the u.s.. but a larger forces, what is the coalition responsibility if they are under airstrikes that the russians -- by the russians? ashton carter: we have conducted air operations ashton carter: we have conducted air operations against isil, and every other target that is not our practice to conduct air operations against all of those who are fighting assad for the reason hat i keep coming back to,
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which is that to simply defend a sod -- assad, and not to pursue eight political transition is only going to fuel the opposition, and therefore the extremism and violence. >> get you on the record, on the national defense authorization, you laid out the budget, are you going to recommend that they veto a bill? ashton carter: other advisors already have. he indicated it was present -- presented in the form it will be presented to him, it will be vetoed. this is the national defense authorization act, yes, that is unchanged. same position. >> you are recommending vetoing the defense policy bill, isn't
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that a contradiction? ashton carter: no, what we need is an appropriations l that funds the department -- bill that funds the apartment -- department. at the moment, the authorization bill makes no appropriations at all, as you know. number two it attempts to again -- evade the question of overall fiscal responsibility with the o cole gimmick to me nd other agencies, it is offensive. finally, it contains other provisions also objectionable. i will give you examples. we have -- proposed for several years now changes in reforms. they extend from health care to poor structure to better spend the defense dollar in areas where better national security
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benefited -- benefit is obtained. in the defense authorization act some of those reforms are key reforms, billions of dollars of reforms are disallowed. that is not ok with me. that is taking dollars, which i already regard as short for national defense and using them in a way in which we, the epartment's leadership has for several years determined is not in the national interest. i need to be able to say to the taxpayer both that we need every dollar we are given, and that we are using it in the best possible way. the national defense authorization act, several provisions of it -- this is not new, this is long-standing, several things do not take into
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account what has been the judgment of the department. these are not mysteries, we have been clear. we have been clear about all of these things. i do not think there is a doubt about what our position as. -- is. >> i have two questions on syria, the opposition is saying that civilians were killed in the attack by russia today. syria's president is encouraging a no-fly zone to project -- protect civilians. is that being discussed at the pentagon? you mentioned that he talks will be to avoid incidents and avoid actions that would interfere with the fight against isil. does that mean a russian general asked the u.s. to stay out of airspace, is not already interfering?
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ashton carter: you have several things there. to get the last part, i will say again, we intend to continue our air operations unimpeded. i think you are asking about the possibility that the russian airstrikes may have hit civilians. i cannot confirm that. that would be, yet again, i reason why this kind of action by the russians is ill advised, and will backfire. civilians. i cannot confirm that. that would be, yet again, i reason why this kind of action we are, on the contrary as you know, very careful to make sure that those whom we are targeting our -- are isil or other extremist. we are very careful about trying to away billion casualties. that is something we work hard at. it is something that requires a
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lot of care and practice and exterior -- experience. i cannot confirm that that occurred, but if it occurred, it is another reason why this kind of russian action can and will backfire very badly on russia. i would like to get them in a different place. >> do you think the russians re messing with you? ashton carter: i take the russians at their word. their actions now seem to reflect what they said they were can endure -- were going to do. my problem is not that i do not understand, my problem is i think what they are doing will backfire and is
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counterproductive. >> do you believe they will? >> mr. secretary, aside from the sequencing aspect that you have talked about, the bombing of isil, and then working on a political transition -- putting that aside, with you and -- would you and your leaders welcome russia's bombing of i soul -- isil and other groups hat are state led? ashton carter: i think it is clear -- it ought to be clear o anyone, if anyone wants to
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join in the fight against isil or join in the coalition, 60 countries have made that decision. this is an evil that must be defeated. you are right, it is isil and other extremist groups, yes those are the ones that we and the coalition are combating. obviously, we welcome contributions to that. again, if the russians change their approach to one that is -- does not have the contradictions that this one does, that would be a basis of join in the fight against isil -- a welcome aces of cooperation -- basis of cooperation. it is easy to understand why the russians are concerned. they have extremism experience. i can well understand. on the other hand, i think that this kind of action is only going to exacerbate that tendency for them to find
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themselves the bull's-eye. >> when you are chief, you predicted there would be more mergers and acquisitions between defense companies. we have been seeing more that recently culminating, there have been concerns that deals like these will eliminate competition. i was wondering your assessment. ashton carter: i cannot comment on a particular case being determined at this time. i do remember back then what i aid then, and still believe is that it was important to avoid excessive consolidation in the defense industry to the point where we did not have multiple vendors who could compete with one another on many
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programs. to the point where we had so-called vertical integration and companies to an extent that made competition among subcontractors for work on primes less competitive. we do need a competitive marketplace to the extent possible within the defense industry. at the time i indicated that i at that time, in that role, i feel the same wine -- way now, did not welcome further consolidation amongst a large contractors. i do not think it was good for our defense market place. > you have been saying -- i am giving you an opportunity to clarify. i want to make sure we understand, you believe that the russians are being true to heir word. giving you an opportunity to
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you are taking them as honest? ashton carter: let me be clear, there is no contradiction, they have said quite clearly that they intend to deploy forces in syria, and conduct strikes there. they have done that. if you're asking if i am surprised, i am not because they have been saying for a few weeks they were going to do that. as many in this room have reported, they have been a key bleeding the wherewithal to do it -- accumulating the wherewithal to do it. thank you. >> arizona senator john mccain was also critical of russian airstrikes in syria. senator mccain spoke on the senate floor. t objection. the senator recognized. mr. mccain: mr. president, we now have information that the russians have now launched airstrikes in syria, ostensibly
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against isis. in reality it is not clear. in fact, there is information that some of these strikes were at homes, and the latest information is that these syrian observatory -- the syrian observatory for human rights reports that at least 27 people were killed and that six children were among the dead. these strikes near the city of homs is not under control of isis of the islamic state. so already we are seeing the true intentions of vladimir putin, which is to maintain a strong position in syria, his foothold in the middle east, and his propping up of bashar assad. bashar assad, who has killed at
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least 250,000 of his own citizens through the horrible process of barrel bombing, has driven millions into refugee status, with the full and complete support of iran and vladimir putin. i say to my colleagues, over the past six and a half years, president obama has sounded retreat across the middle east. in fact, it was one year ago at this time when the president of the united states said, our strategy is to degrade and destroy isis. a report yesterday, some 28,000 european and some americans have come into the fight on the side of isis. mosul and ramadi remain in the hands of isis and, of course, the continued advances of isis
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in syria are well known. in short, a year ago after the president made that statement, there is no strategy, there is no success, in fact we now see the result of this failure, which is a flood of refugees out of syria and iraq because they have given up hope of ever returning to their homeland. our hearts go out to those who are victims and have had to flee their homeland, and we see these refugees, and it breaks our heart when we see a little baby's body washed up on the beach. it didn't have to happen. it didn't have to happen. everybody knows that when the president of the united states said that we've drawn a red line with syria and didn't do it, it had a profound effect on the middle east, including sunni-arab states as well as
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shia. everyone knows when the president turned down the recommendations of his secretary of defense, secretary of state, which happened to be secretary of clinton at the time and his secretary of defense, to arm the free cernin syrian army, and hed it down was another seminal moment. this is a series of decisions or nondecisions which has led to the situation we see today where vladimir putin may have inserted russia into the middle east in a way that russia has not enjoyed since 1973 when anwar i sadat, - anwar sadat threw the russians out of egypt. we're still on course to continue this nightmare by withdrawing all forces from afghanistan as well as, as we see in the last couple of days, the taliban capturing the
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strategic city of kunduz. kunduz is in the northern part of afghanistan, where it was believed was fairly stable, showing the ability of the taliban and the effects of our withdrawal. but i come back to syria and the russian activities today. after four years in syria, the united states has stood by as bashar assad, his war on the syrian people goes on and on and on. and as it slaughter -- it's been the single-greatest contributor to the rise and continued success of isil. have no doubt, it was bashar assad that gave birth to isil. the president has said for years -- for years -- that assad must go, but he has done nothing that has brought us any closer to achieving that outcome. my friends, i.t it's not that we have done nothing. but what it is, we have not done
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anything that would reverse the trend and in any way further the goal that the president articulated a year ago that we would destroy the great -- de-groidegradeand destroy isil. this administration has encouraged our enemies, mistaken an excess of caution for prudence and replaced the risk of action with the perils of inaction. into the wreckage -- into the wreckage of this administration's middle east policy has now stepped vladimir putin. as in ukraine, as elsewhere, he perceives the administration's inaction and caution as weakness, and he is taking full advantage. over the past few weeks, vladimir putin has been engaged in a significant military buildup in western syria, deploying strike aircraft. and by the way, he's also deploying aircraft that are air-to-air, not air-to-ground.
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nigmy friends, isis has no air force. the buildup of russian tanks and military personnel. meameanwhile, our secretary of state calls va and asks what's going on? it was obvious when vladimir putin was doing and these airstrikes are a logical follow-on to his ambition, which he is realizing to, one, play a rage role in syria, re-serve the port of vladikia, prop of bashar assad, and play a major role in the middle east. all of this is not lost on countries in the region. last time i -- today vladimir putin escalated his involvement as russian pilots carried out their first airstrikes in syria. initial reports, as i mentioned,
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that they are hitting targets which are not controlled by isil. that should control -- that should fool no one because vladimir putin's primary authority and responsibility and ambition is to prop up bashar a sad against all -- assad against all of his enemies. the white house has said -- quote -- "it's unclear exactly what russia's intentions are." my friends, i am not making that up. the white house has said, it's unclear exactly what russia's intentions are. if the white house is confused about putin's intentions and plans in syria, then the united states is in even worse trouble than many fear because it is not hard -- it is not hard to discern what vladimir putin wants. in fact, from russia's military buildup in syria and i military
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coalition with syria, iran, and iraq -- remember, iraq is the country where we lost thousands of american lives and now the iraqi government announces sharing intelligence with syria and iran. amazing. amazing. putin's ambitions are obvious, my friends. he wants to prop up assad, play kingmaker and any trans-auction undermine the u.s., to a degree unseen since 1973. this week at the united nations president obama said -- quote -- "the united states is prepared to work with any nation including russia and iran to resolve the syrian conflict." it requires self-delusion of tremendous scale to believe that russia and iran have any interest in resolving the syrian
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conflict. they seek only to keep the murderous assad regime in power. russia's intervention in syria will prolong and complicate this horrific war, and the main beneficiary will be isil, which has fed off the ethnic divisions fostered by the assad regime. it is tragic, my fellow men's, that -- my fellow americans, that we've reached this point. a syrian conflict that has killed more thank 200,000 people, celt created the worst refugee crisis in europe since world war ii, spawn add terrorist army of tens of thousands ages no and now creata platform for a russian autocrat to join with a syrian theocrat to prop up a syrian dictator, it did not have to be this way. this is the inevitable consequence of hollow words, red
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lines crossed, tarnished moral influential, leading from behind, and a total lack of american leadership. my friends, today in the "washington post" is an article by david i ignacious. mr. ignacious quotes ryan crocker, one of the great diplomats that i have ever had the honor and privilege to know. ryan crocker says -- quote -- "russia has played a horrible hand brilliantly. we folded what could have been a pretty good hand, argues ryan crocker, a retired u.s. diplomat who has served in nearly every hot spot in the middle east and is among the nation's wisest analysts of the region. 'the russians were able to turn a defensive position into an offensive one because we were so completely absent."
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ryan crocker is right. i would also remind my friends that because of american inaction, the countries in the region are making their own accommodations. syria -- excuse me, saudi arabia , u.a.e. and qatar have all been to russia in arms deals. the saudia arabians have bought $17 billion worth of republicans from russia. the u.a.e., $7 billion. qatar, $5 billion. would that have ever happened 10 years ago? of course not. but they see america leading and they are accommodating. -- but they see america leaving and they are accommodating. and we have -- and we have, of course, refused in many respects to give the kind of weapons particularly that the -- that the kurds need. mr. president, i won't go on too much longer. i will -- i will summarize by saying that this is a very, very, very sad day for america
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in the world. the world is watching. it's not confined to the middle east. we see vladimir putin continue to dismember ukraine and now some phony separatist elections are going to be held in the area that he now controls. the chinese leader made some nice comments about how they would stop the hacking that is -- that they have been able to compromise our most important industrial, military and other secrets. we'll see if that happens. but they're also continuing their expansion of the islands in the south china sea. throughout the world, an absence of american leadership is very visible and very understood by nations throughout the world. and today we see vladimir putin attacking with his airplanes not
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just isis but others who are enemies of bashar assad. but i would also like to add that these airstrikes are indiscriminate in nature and there has been no attempt whatsoever to stop the horrible barrel bombing, as general david pa tray -- david patreas just recommended before the armed services committee a few days ago. so this is a terrible day. and it's a time for american leadership. and it's time that president obama woke up to the realities in the world and reassert american leadership. and that does not mean that we're going to send thousands of ground troops back into iraq or syria. but it does mean that we develop a policy. in the case of -- i am told that these bombings that the american government has said that
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american planes should not fly and that we have somehow approved of these airstrikes. i do not know if that's true or not. i hope that it's not true. what we should be saying to vladimir putin is that you fly but we fly anywhere we want to, when and how we want to and you'd better stay out of the way. that's the message that should be sent to vladimir putin. so i hope that the american people understand how serious this is and that this rogue dictator named vladimir putin, who is a thug and a bully, can only understand a steadfast and strong american policy that brings american strength back to bear. we are still the strongest nation in the world. now it's time for us to act like it. mr. presiden
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we begin with remarks from secretary kerry. i appreciate the fact that russia's presidency has chosen to focus on this sthu, and i welcome the opportunity to awkthe urgent challenge of countering terrorism in the middle east, north africa, and elsewhere. this is a topic that the council has explored many times going back to 9/11 attacks and even before we have come together fairly often to condemn terrorism. and also to take concerted action to counter violent extremist organizations.
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.o this is not a debate we all oppose the atrocities and want to end the suffering that they continue to inflick. so there is no debate about that. the question is that we face is how to best do it. there are basic principles that we believe should guide our strategy. first, we have to take a comprehensive approach. that was quite eloquently talked by our heads of state at the countering violent extremes at summit that president obama hosted. there was a great deal of discussion. i thought there was some very articulate statements about how one approaches the root causes. we have to deny safe haven,
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disrupt the flow of foreign fighters, block access to financialancing and expose the lies that terrorist groups prop gate and that is particularly challenging in this world of constant media constant access 24/7, 365. we're living in a very different world and terrorists have learned how to exploit that media in all kinds of ays. we need to exert pressure in support of peace. one of the important components, in places such as libya where instability feeds the kind of chaos and fear in which extremist organizations thrive and we see that now with the presence of isil in libya. so this is the fundamental strategy that we have laid out for countering violent extremism. we have adopted this strategy.
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we are strongly engaged in implementing it. we welcome the large number of nation that is have o joined as international actors in the counter isil coalition and the global counter terrorism forum and other regional organizations. but obviously more needs to be done. we have been able to counter some foreign fighters kept them from traveling but still too many have been able to travel and still been able to reach their destination. we've been able to slow down and stop some elements of the financing. but still, there is too much money that still is able to reach terrorist activities and actors. o our goal is to take urgent actions against immediate threats while also facing up to longer term measures that prevent the recruitment of future generations of terrorists and improve go nance and enhance economic
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opportunities so that radicalization is less likely. this is an enormous challenge for all of us. we know it. there are countless countries where 60, 65% of the population in some cases are under the age of 30, under the age of 25, the age of under 18 in majority of many countries. and unless they find opportunity and options, their inds will be stolen, their opportunities will be robbed forever by bad actors who grab them in that vacuum. we also need to improve governance and enhance economic opportunities so that radicalization is less likely too many places still see too much corruption. and corruption rocks the populations of their due and of their possibilities. in each of these areas we intend to work hard with all of
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you and with others not here to improve our chance for success by working with the concerned elements of civil society including ngo's, religious leaders, and the private sector. meanwhile, we have to continue our efforts to alleviate the immediate harpships that terrorists are causing. while we've been pushing humanitarian relief into areas, the international community absolutely has to do more. e are staring at the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding not in one or two places but in multiple places simultaneously. and the humanitarian disaster that we are witnessing in and of itself should be enough reason to take on isil. this has been a major topic of our discussions here over the past a days. but it has to remain a core concern for all of us in weeks to come. every nation can do more. two u.n. security council
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rezzlations, 21 39 and 21 65 clearly require and everyone around this table voted for require ly humanitarian access to beseiged areas. and they call for an end to barrel bombs specifically and the use of starvation as a weapon of war. now, i i would like to add a few thoughts about syria specifically. isil and russia. the united states supports any enuine effort to fight isil. if russia's recent actions and those now require ongoing refle genuine commitment to defeat that organization, then we are prepared to welcome those efforts and haverpbed and to find a way to deconflict our operations and thereby multiply the military pressure on isil
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and affiliated groups. but we must not and will not be confused in our fight against isil with support for assad. moreover, we have also made we would have grave concerns should russia strike areas where isil and al qaeda affiliated targets are are not operating. strikes of that kind would question russia's real or ntions fighting isil protecting the assad regime. we have informed russia that we are prepared to hold these talks a early as
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cobanie, where east of the uefraties river. at the same time, we have mounted a comprehensive campaign to cut financing, curb recruitment and expose the lie that is aisle is perpetrating. today as we speak south of kirkuk kurdish peshmerga are heroically liberating villages from isil under the cover of
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coalition air strikes. we continue to admire the courage and resilience that has been demonstrating by the years of struggle. let me remind this council that coalition air operations are grounded in well established military procedures firmly based in international law and the request of neighboring states for collective self-defense under article 51. that foundation has not chake i thinked and we will continue our mission with the full sanction of international law. pursuant to these procedures in syria over the past year the coalition has now conducted nearly 3,000 air strikes against isil targettings and we are now in position with france, australia, canada, turkey, and other partners joining the campaign to
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dramatically accelerate our efforts. this is what we will do. over the coming weeks we will be continuing our flights out of ins lick base in turkey to apply constant pressure on strategic bases in northwest syria. we will also sustain our support to ant isil fighters in northeast syria. these will put greater pressure on their areas and we will ensure through precision air leaders do isil not have you any sanctuary anywhere on the ground in syria. so isil will soon face increasing pressure from multiple directions across the battlefield in syria and iraq. but as we have said from sphere. it will require a political solution. one thing is certain, the vast majority of states around this table no that the isil forces, i
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sold itself, cannot be defeated as long as assad remains resident of syria. it cannot happen i definition of the lines of this battle. it cannot happen because who is lined up with whom. because of the nature of these protagonists. the reason for that is defined in the beginning of how this strike began. this strike began when young syrians looking for a future, wanting nothing more than opportunity and jobs and education, they went out to demonstrate for the future. to claim the aspirations of young people. assad sent his thugs out just to beat them up. the parents were outraged at the fact that there children were beaten up. they went out with their kids and they were mewi