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Senate Hearing On Syria Military Action

Aired September 3, 2013 - 18:00   ET


SEN. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: They provide the military assistance, the training to Syria. Are you concerned in any way that a strike by the United States could increase the amount of military assistance that Russia sends into the Syrian regime?


There is some indication that they have assured the regime that if we destroy something, they can replace it. But that's not a reason for me to hesitate to act. And to the -- to your point, there's always unintended consequences of conflict. But as the secretary has mentioned, we know what the consequences could be, probably would be if we do not act.

MARKEY: Thank you.

Mr. Secretary -- and, Teresa, you look great. You look absolutely fantastic here today.

It's my understanding that the U.N. chemical inspection team left Syria on Saturday, and that U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-Moon has directed the team to expedite the mission's analysis of the samples and information it has obtained.

When do we expect to obtain that data and the analysis made by the U.N.? And when do we expect that information to be made public?

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm sorry, which information?

MARKEY: The United Nations inspection team.

KERRY: Senator -- and, by the way, Mr. Chairman, I'm looking over here at my successor in the United States Senate. I don't know if there is a new initiation process here on the committee, but I notice he doesn't even get a name plate. Oh. All right. I was worried about you.

MARKEY: In the House, they put it up for you. I'm learning what the protocol is over here.

KERRY: We're dealing with sequester. So you have to do it yourself.


KERRY: I thought -- I thought Massachusetts was on an uneven keel here for a minute.

Senator, first of all, welcome to the committee, and welcome to the Senate.

MARKEY: Thank you.

KERRY: It's good to see you here.

With respect to the U.N. process, we're hearing somewhere three weeks, anywhere from two to four weeks I suppose is the range. But I think about three weeks is what we have been told.

MARKEY: So would it be wise for us to wait for that information from the United Nations in order to ensure that there is a signal sent to the international community as to the veracity of the analysis by the United States that chemical weapons have been used?

KERRY: Well, let me speak to that, because it's a very important and legitimate question.

First of all, the mandate of the United Nations inspection team, which we have great respect for, and we're grateful to them and to Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon for their courageous effort to go in under difficult circumstances. And we have obviously pushed for inspections in other circumstances.

The distinction here is that their mandate will only allow them to say that a chemical weapons attack took place. They have no mandate to assign blame, who did it. And Secretary-General Ban Ki- Moon has reaffirmed that this is in fact what they won't do. They won't assign blame. They will confirm what happened.

Now, can they provide additional information in terms of details and some additional evidence? The answer is yes. But will they tell us anything that we do not know today beyond a reasonable doubt? The answer is no. They can't tell us because they don't know have the technical means or the intelligence operation or the capacity to put together what we have released to the world in an unclassified document.

And when you add what we have in classified form that I obviously can't go into here, we have an even more persuasive case about what has happened here. Now, let me add to that, if I can, just one more thing. Iran and Syria itself have both admitted that a chemical weapons attack took place. So Iran and Syria are already telling us an attack took place, but they have chosen the improbable and illogical notion that the opposition did it, not the regime.

MARKEY: My only suggestion would be that the United States declassify a higher percentage of the information that we have so that the American people and the international community can see it.

And I think that would be helpful in this whole discussion, that if we declassified, I think it would actually give more assurance to the international community.

KERRY: Senator, I understand. And I have to tell you, the unprecedented level of declassification already according to the intel community could possibly put at risk some sources and methods.

Now, one of the reasons that it was chosen to release one is somehow it leaked from some place in the world, and it was already in several newspapers. So, as a result of that, it was -- it was further declassified. But that itself is an intercept, an actual conversation now out in public that shows the regime acknowledging its own culpability, and expressing fear about the U.N. discovering it.

So there is already it seems to me a sufficient level without tempting fate on sources and methods.

MARKEY: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

And, Secretary Hagel, if I may, just quickly, on the administration's draft resolution, would that draft authorization allow the U.S. military to conduct military operations outside of the Syria?


MARKEY: It would not. And would it allow military operations against foreign governments other than Syria?


MARKEY: And would it authorize military operations against non- state actors?


MARKEY: Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Thank you, Senator Markey.

Let me on behalf of the committee thank all of our distinguished witnesses. They have been testifying for an excessive three-and-a- half-hours, and I appreciate their information they have imparted with the committee.

Let me say that I appreciate the thoughtfulness with which each member has come to this issue at this hearing and expressed their concerns and their views. And I have listened closely and understand some of those concerns. I have listened to my colleagues particularly express concern as to whether the actions we conceive would in fact deter or degrade the ability of Assad to pursue chemical weapons attacks in the future.

And I'm reminded in a much different context of an experience I had in my own life. General Dempsey is actually originally from my area, Jersey City and Bayonne. And I grew up in a tough neighborhood. And we had a bully in the neighborhood.

And I was walking along the street one day, and he just slapped me in the face and I went away and told my mom, and she said, avoid him. Avoid him. Just avoid him. And a week later, I saw the bully again, and I did all my best to avoid him, and this time he punched me in the nose. And it was bloody, and I went back to her and said, you know, mom, I tried to avoid him.

She said well, just avoid him. And it wasn't until the third time when we were by a construction site that I got a piece of wood and whacked the bully, and that was the end of it. I never got whacked again. It's not quite this. But there is a lesson to be learned.

Assad has made a calculation now through inching up several times that he can use chemical weapons, or he believes he can use chemical weapons without consequence. And in doing so, there is a global message that in fact other state actors and other non-state may believe they can do so as well. That's a critical challenge for the national security of the United States.

And I hope members will consider that as we move towards final action. I want to advise members that I think we're close to a text on a resolution, and so that they should consider that it is likely that we may very well be in a business meeting some time after the classified hearing tomorrow morning. And we look forward to working with all of the members of the committee.

Senator Corker, is there anything else?

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I think you have said it well enough. I want to thank the witnesses for spending this much time, not only in the hearing, but also in advance of the hearing. I look forward to the classified meeting tomorrow.

And I want to thank all the members for incredible thoughtfulness throughout all of this. And I appreciate everybody coming back to be a part of this and taking it so seriously.


CORKER: Thank you.

MENENDEZ: With the thanks of the committee, this hearing is adjourned.