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tv   Hearing on Islamic Extremism Threat in Russia  CSPAN  October 3, 2015 5:00pm-5:34pm EDT

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the rules and requirements and teacher tips, rubrics to help that incorporate into their classroom, prizes, incorporating c-span video and if they have any further questions. 20,deadline is january 2016, which is one year away from the presidential inauguration. >> next a committee hearing on the threat of islamic extremism inside russia. they share their thoughts on russia's military presence in syria and the potential for a u.s. russia partisanship and regional counterterrorism. this is an hour and 15 minutes. >> there you go.
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boy, you could hear that. so, this afternoon, we will hear testimony, expert testimony, on a topic not thought to be, but in reality of great concern and importance, the threat of islamic extremism inside russia, and what that might mean to the united states and global security. islamic terrorists have declared war on the modern civilized world. their barbaric actions in syria remind us daily of their depravity. they must be stopped, and they must be defeated. the future of america, russia, and yes, western civilization, depends on that. the lives of millions will be in jeopardy if we don't do what is
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right today. given the global nature of this fight, it is in the interest of our national interests to understand the growth of extremism in other parts of the world and in other countries such as russia. it is alarming to read reports of muslims living in peaceful and free democratic countries being attract it or recruited -- attracted or recruited into radical islamic terrorism. this frightening reality is happening in europe and elsewhere. media reports indicate that over 2000 russian born fighters may have traveled to the middle east to join isis. our collective inability to stem this tide is both shocking and unnerving. this afternoon, i look forward to hearing from all of our witnesses. i know dr. erin. we are pleased to welcome back
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as a witness. he has some unique insights regarding the spread of extremism into muslim populations in russia. we do not normally associate this behavior with russian ethnic groups like the tartars and others, but we do need to know what those details are. we will learn about this and other things in your testimony. in the aftermath of the boston bombing in may of 2013, i lead a congressional delegation -- please join us -- i lead a congressional delegation to russia where we met with the russian government and intelligence officials and discussed the threat of terrorism and how our governments could potentially cooperate. i have been disappointed that due to the up evil in ukraine,
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moore has not been achieved in -- upheaval in ukraine, moore has not been achieved in this area. extremists continue to plot attacks in the united states and russia. it seems plain to me that if we work together we will be better able to protect our people, stop attacks, and kill violent terrorists, something i am personally in favor of. as a matter of policy. please let me note, our discussion today about russia and the question of finding possible areas of cooperation in no way down plays or overlooks the disappointing situation in ukraine. as a result, our government has imposed sanctions on russian officials and institutions. even with that millstone around our next, our two governments
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still managed to achieve -- our necks, our two governments still managed to achieve cooperation in other areas, such as the international space station. perhaps we might also make a joint effort to stop the spread of islamic extremism and the terrorism that flows from it. without objection, all members will have five legislative days to submit written questions or extraneous materials for the record. i will introduce the witnesses after opening statements. [no audio] >> now russia has shifted its attention to increased support of the bashar al-assad regime and increased role in the syrian conference.
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at the u.n. is weak, putin continued -- at the u.n. this week, putin continued to support a thought. -- bashar al-assad. this directly contradicts with u.s. diplomatic roles. to have bashar al-assad transition out of power. it is unclear whether russia's motives are self-serving or stem from growing concern over her those fighting in north syria who could pose a serious problem to moscow should they return to russia. i look forward to hearing from our esteemed panel of witnesses on the possible outcomes and solutions to the current challenges. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. mr. brooks has no opening statement. how about mr. weber? mr. weber: no, let's go.
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[laughter] chairman: he's great. so, i will ask the witnesses to summarize your prepared statements, and then hopefully, we can have a dialogue and have questions and answers. first, i am going to introduce the witnesses. dr. leon aron is a resident scholar and director of russian studies at the american enterprise institute. he joined the organization that oversees operations of international broadcasting, such as voice of america, and he is a widely published author who
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earned his phd at columbia university. simon saradshyan is the director of the u.s. russian initiative to prevent nuclear terrorism. he worked as a journalist in russia for 15 years, where he covered several major events, including the terror attack in islam. next, we have mark katz, a
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professor of government at george mason university. he has authored many books and articles. he is the author of books and articles, for example, "leaving without losing," "the war on terror after iraq and afghanistan." outstanding, thank you. he earned his phd from the massachusetts institute of technology, so we have an esteemed group of witnesses today, and we appreciate you being with us. again, summarize and five minutes and we will have a good dialogue. dr. aron, you may proceed. dr. aron: thank you very much. on the morning of july 19, 2012, gunshots rang out in russia's largest autonomous republic and home of its largest muslim ethnicity. the bomb went off under the chief.
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he was badly injured. another was killed. appointed only a year before, both men were modern clerics determined to strengthen the traditional moderate up, one of the five major branches of sunni islam. the cavalcade of cars under the black-and-white banners of global jihadists raced through downtown shortly after the attack. i think the july 19 attack, in retrospect, could be viewed as a watershed.
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two days after the first chechen war, the russian jihad may be reaching a tipping point at which the center of gravity of military islamic fundamentalists is shifting from north caucuses to the more densely populated european and russian heartland. russia's second-largest muslim group is very close to tartars both ethnically and geographically. russia has an estimated muslim population of 20 million. it could be ominous. let me mention five underlying factors, all of which continue to operate today as risk factors that increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks in russia and heighten russian vulnerability to such an attack. number one, russia has not been able to invade the pan-european
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phenomenon that is to islam a fraction of the european muslim population. two, the exposure after the fall of the soviet union of an estimated tens of thousands of russian muslims in the course of theological studies in the middle east. in their return, some of the newly minted imams have increasingly turned away from the traditional moderate views. according to russia experts, imams preach at dozens, over 1000 mosques. russia is now home to millions of guest workers, muslims from central asia. an estimated 2 million. there are in estimated two and a half million of only registered migrants from central asia and now alone, making the russian capital the largest muslims to the in europe. often without work permits, marginalized culturally and
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ethnically, and often subjected to abuse, extortion, and racist violence, many of the men understandably turned to the faith and the faith of their grandparents as a means to sustain their dignity. unfortunately, as reported in russian media, at least some fall under the influence of radical clerics and recruiters from isis. according to reports from russian media, most if not all fighters from central asia have been recruited at construction sites in russia, including rat -- especially moscow, including those fighting in syria. all were recruited outside uzbekistan. number four, given the permeability of borders, the recruiting and proselytizing efforts at has been doubled and tripled by isis in central asia,
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given the flow of people, such efforts are likely to result in increasing radicalization of the elements of the central asian dias breath -- central asian diaspora. adding to other risks of putin's decision is also the fact that the probability of retaliatory terrorist strikes inside russia are increasing. final point, the secretary of the russian security council said that at the moment, russian authorities do not have the means to stem the flow of volunteers to isis. the russian foreign ministry estimates there are around 2400 russian speakers among the
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jihadist's in syria, while total russian nationals and those from the former soviet union in the ranks of isis could be as high as 5000. russian is the third most popular language in isis after arabic and english. how long will it be before veterans of i say this coming back -- of isis coming back to russia decide to fight for a russian caliphate? let me conclude with this. i the overwhelming majority of muslims everywhere, most russian -- like the overwhelming majority of muslims everywhere, most russian muslims practice peacefully, a poor violence, and are good citizens and patriots. yet as we have learned since 9/11, the radicalization of even a small minority not registered in public opinion polls can cause incalculable damage and loss of life. if the evidence i outlined today
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does not amount to a significant increase in national or international terrorism, i will be the first to acknowledge and celebrate my error. but having been remiss in technology adding al qaeda and -- in acknowledging the rise of al qaeda and isis, i would rather be safe than wrong. mr. saradshyan: thank you for inviting me to participate in what i believe is a very important event. i will represent my view for the prospects in countering terrorism, and i will start with an observation made by winston churchill, who is often quoted as saying that russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. if you remember the remainder of that saying, which is that perhaps there is a key, and that
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key is russia's national interest. there is no strict t chick document -- strategic document or statement that would offer a hierarchy of national interest, but i have taken the liberty to distill certain statements into a hierarchy. at least three of seven vital national interests in russia are affected by the political violence in the middle east. this could prevent terrorist attacks on russia, save lives, and prevent weapons of mass distraction from getting to
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these countries. at least three of these interests converge with u.s. national interests as for mated by the commission on american national interest -- formulated by the commission on american national interests. both countries share an interest in ensuring that the dual threat is contained. that comes to countering the rise of isis, continuing to his mental -- dismantle or keep al qaeda on the run as well as denying any terrorist organization access to weapons of mass destruction, in particular nuclear weapons. i should note that although there are 30,000 recruits reportedly from foreign countries in isis, and many are estimated to come from the west, russia and its allies are more exposed to the threat posed by isis if only because of proximity. as dr. aron pointed out, the latest estimates eight when a
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hundred russian nationals are in isis -- estimates 2400 russian nationals are in isis. 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
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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 al qaeda, and its leaders have praised 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. on the u.s. side, there is less
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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. 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 transition. for now, the u.s.-russian cooperation could be limited to fighting isil in iraq in joint
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operations, which is something u.s. and russian special forces have done on a low scale in afghanistan. it could include providing more arms 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. counterterrorism alone would not suffice. there are certain root causes and contributing factors i will not list but are in the statement. both russia and the united
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states need to address 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 creates grievances, it's the abuse of populations in the hands of authorities. cooperation between the united states and russia against terrorism in general, isis and al qaeda in particular, can not only significantly advance
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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. 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
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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 ground force of fighting terrorism and to give up an 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.
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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 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. just 6% are likely targeted isis through 2014. in february of this year -- directly targeted isis through 2014.
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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 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
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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 -- 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
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fear islam asked eight more than the assad regime on the one hand from -- islamic state more than the assad regime. 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 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 this quite diverse view of what is going on and what we should do. i hope maybe by the end of this hearing we can come to some conclusions. you are much wiser than i am.
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all right, dr. aron, dr. katz basically called into question whether assad is actually as anti-isis as we have been led to believe. could you give us your can you give us your assessment? >> i was concentrating largely of the militancy inside russia from the north caucasus. intuitively, gangsters usually find a common language. stalin did with hitler, for example. i would not be surprised if that's the case. .f they come to blows
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first, they take care of the pro-western liberals. again, that may not just apply to the free syrian army, but historically i would think that .s probably quite accurate as somebody who has been putin and hisn -- ideology and his goals, i agree, his plans with regard to assad are secondary. the most important thing is 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
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player. the second thing, let's not forget that assad for no assad, the only thing that a russian pollster told me -- the only thing that is going for this regime, the putin regime, is putin's popularity. popularity?get this he gets this popularity by embodying the thirst and the hunger for reestablishing russia as a great power. this is what happened with crimea. this is what happened with ukraine. now this is what is happening in syria. this is the key motivational force for putin to be present in syria. one last thing that has nothing to do with his support for a sod serious is a very concern, and both speakers
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touched on this, a serious concern -- you mentioned churchill, so let me apply churchill's definition of the underbellythe soft of russia. it consists of unstable regimes. the isis penetration and the taliban subversion of those states brings telegram to russia's borders. this is another issue that motivated putin. we have how many minutes before we vote? >> about seven minutes. >> about seven minutes. i'm going to yield several minutes to you now, and we will come back immediately after the votes. we are in recess until immediately after the second vote.


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