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tv   U.S. Senate Sen. Rubio on Middle East Security Bill  CSPAN  February 1, 2019 9:36pm-9:55pm EST

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washington. be sure to watch c-span's washington journal, live sunday -- live saturday morning. join the discussion. >> the senate is considering a bill that would change u.s. defense and security assistance in the middle east. on thursday senator marco rubio talked about the legislation, and an amendment sponsored by majority leader mitch mcconnell to keep u.s. troops in syria and afghanistan. amendment, the pending amendment we're going to vote on in here in about 25 minutes and it is an amendment that says it is a mistake to proceed with withdrawal from syria in the pace and scale that is currently proposed or that the white house has announced that they're going to undertake. this is -- what i'll say here today is what i said initially about it, my position that i thought it was a bad idea. i said it then. i said it to the president in a subsequent meeting. and i thought it was important to restate it here as we begin
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to vote since i believe this issue is going to be covered in the press more as a political issue than it is a foreign policy one. and it's unfortunate that a lot of these issues are wrapped up as political decisions. these are not votes on political decisions. these are votes on the conduct of american foreign policy which oftentimes have no partisan lines but rather ideological in some cases or simply different ways to view an issue. i share the white house and the president's desire that as quickly as possible, the key being as possible, that we end conflicts abroad. it's in the best interest of our nation and our families and the families of the service men and women who are stationed abroad and involved in conflict zones that this be the case. the problem is that if you do so in the wrong way, you end up increasing dramatically the likelihood of a future conflict
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that will involve even bigger wars with an even higher investment of lives and resources to win. our foreign policy in the middle east today particularly in this region we're talking about with syria and iraq is focused on two primary objectives. as clearly stated by the policymakers, the first is the threat, the regional the threat of iran, its growing influence, its l spreading reach. and the other is counterterrorism. these are the two linchpins of why we are there in the first place. the iran threat is self-explanatory. they pose a threat to our allies in the region, particularly israel, but ultimately to the united states. the terror threat is one that reminds us of how quickly we as a nation have a tendency to forget things. no one has forgotten september 11 of 2001. but sometimes we fail to
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remember is what made it possible in the first place. what made september 11, 2001 possible in the first place is that a terrorist organization -- al qaeda -- led by bin laden. al qaeda didn't run. that was the taliban. but the taliban allowed them to have a safe haven in afghanistan. and from that safe haven they were able to plot terrorist attacks against america and ultimately strike us here in the homeland. it was possible because they had a place that allowed them to do this. it is in fact the key to any terrorist organization that would like to conduct external attacks, that would like to attack america. they have to have a place to operate from. and it cannot be a place where they are being followed, where they are being attacked, where they are being wiped out by american or coalition forces. it has to be a safe haven. and my number-one concern about
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this decision that has been made is that it could lead to the reestablishment of safe havens inside of syria from which isis and al qaeda can reconstitute themselves, conduct external plotting and ultimately attack the united states. we already face this risk. northwest syria today there is very little sustained pressure on isis elements. in italy, there is virtually no pressure on al qaeda. imagine now with even less coalition pressure being put upon them how capable they can become quickly of establishing a place from which they can plot against us. and to understand why isis needs to plot against us and conduct sphek tack lar attacks against -- spectacular attacks against europe and the united states, this is a group that needs to prove it's still alive and still strong. if they can't prove it, they can't recruit people, they can't raise money. they're also in competition with
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other terrorist groups. in fact, isis is a spinoff of al qaeda. these groups actually compete with one another for members and for resources. both of them have a vested interest in attacking us abroad not just in fulfillment of some ideological aims but as a means of survival. because if these groups are able to conduct or inspire these kinds of attacks, it gives them credibility, it atracts members and fighters to them. it allows them to raise money for more attacks. some people will tell you, well, let the others that are in the region take care of them -- turkey or iran or the regime or the russians. the problem is none of these groups have shown any interest in fighting isis or limited interest. the turks are largely interested in a buffer zone in the northern part of syria, a buffer zone which the kurds do not dominate because of their own internal politics. i'm not claiming that the turks are fans of isis. i'm saying that isis is not their number-one priority.
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their number-one priority is defeating kurdish forces and gaining control of a buffer zone in the northern part of syria. that is what they are going to prioritize above anything and everywhere else. they are not a reliable partner nor do they have the capability to be a reliable partner in sustaining pressure on isis. interestingly enough, if you look at what turkey will need, even if they wanted to be a sustained partner against isis, you know what they would need? logistical support from the united states of america. in essence, they can't even do what they're promising dpoo unless we're there with them to do it. but they don't want us to be there, which tells you they really just want us to leave so they can create this zone in the northern part of syria. the regime only cares about isis if they are in population areas or if isis is threatening critical infrastructure. so if isis has taken a hold of an oil facility somewhere they'll care. if isis is in the middle of a
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big city, they'll care. but all these other vast spaces, they don't have the resources and, frankly, they don't care, as long as they don't pose a threat to the regime and they don't pose a threat to population centers that they want to control and they don't pose a threat to critical infrastructure like oil. if they're not there, they're not going to spend their limited resources. now all things being equal, they probably want to defeat them, but they don't have the wherewithal to sustain pressure on them. they have limited resources and they are going to invest those wroarses in controlling -- resources in controlling population centers and critical infrastructure. so here's the answer: if the united states and the anti-isis coalition is not in syria and operating until isis is completely wiped out, there will be no sustained pressure on isis or on al qaeda. and they will both grow back stronger and they will have the capability to plot against the homeland and american interests around the world. and that is something we cannot
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allow to happen. we cannot have that happen. now some may say, well, we can target them. we just don't have to have 1,500 or 1,800 special operators on the ground. we don't need to do that. we can do it through the air and so forth. isis is becoming an insurgency. an insurgency is much different than a group with a flag that controls buildings and territory. those people you can fin -- find them and you can strike them. an insurgency are people that blend into the population. by day they are a baker or accountant or a merchant, but in the evenings and at night, they are an isis fighter planting bombs and killing people. insurgencies are very difficult to fight and almost impossible -- if not impossible to fight from simply air power. which is why the situation in syria has been so positive. 2,000 american servicemen,
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special operators, alongside thousands of syrian democratic forces and kurds who are primarily doing the ground fighting with our logistical support and air support have eroded isis's control of territory in the country. but they have not eliminated them. and there is enough of them left that they can reconstitute itself. in fact, it's in the process of doing so already. they are clearly capable of killing american servicemen, as they did a few days ago. and since that time, there have been a series of other i.e.d. attacks inside syria, some of which could have killed americans. this is a group that has talked about openly their desire to possess chemical weapons which they could use at any moment potentially against syrian democratic forces and kurds in that area, and by the way putting directly in danger our remaining service men and women that are on site. this remains a dangerous group, capable of not just conducting attacks in syria but potentially, especially if they
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have a safe haven abroad and here in the united states. that's not to mention a group that doesn't get talked about enough anymore, al qaeda. al qaeda still exists. there is a part of syria in which they are completely uncontested. no one is coming after them. they completely dominate the area. they do whatever they want from there. i promise you they are not there starting a car wash. they are there working to expand their brand and reach, to resurrect the al qaeda brand around the world, and what's the fastest way to do that? by conducting an attack against the united states and our interests. we should be worried about that alone. and so the first reason why i am against this policy and why i support this amendment is because this policy directly undermines one of the two pillars of our strategy and our policy in this region, and that is counterterrorism. the second is the spread of iranian influence. and let there be no doubt that this withdrawal as currently structured is a win
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perceptionally at a minimum, but i believe in reality for iran. let's begin in southern syria, the areas of the border, israel and jordan. our wrawl means iran will now -- and their pro-iranian forces that include hezbollah militias will now have even more operating space from which to target israel. will now be able to set up an even more reliable ground route in which they can send weaponry into lebanon to support hezbollah so that one day they can attack israel from there with rockets, precision-guided munitions and the like. you see already, for example, where the u.s. still maintains a presence very near a huge refugee camp, you can already see the pro-iran, pro-regime forces beginning to encroach closer and closer upon the american position to the point where we may have to leave simply because we no longer have a defensive posture we can sustain. but what the withdrawal has done
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is it's allowed iran and the pro-regime forces to go to our allies, to go to the groups on the ground that we have been working with to fight isis and say to them the americans are unreliable, the americans are leaving. you might as well partner up with us now. we're the only ones that can protect you. or you can lay down your weapons and just go back to your families if americans are leaving. and i fear it's working. i fear they may dictate the pace of our withdrawal because that announcement alone has undermined our credibility in the eyes of the partners we have worked with in southern syria. this is true what i have just outlined as well in the north, where the kurds are facing the risk of military attack from the turks, and they are saying america's leaving, and the only people left that we can partner up with to protect us is iran and the regime and/or the russians. in fact, we have left them no choice but to join up with iran and the russians and pro-regime forces because of the choices
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between annihilation by a turkish military attack and joining up with a regime to stop a turkish intrusion, they're joining up with a regime in iran, further increasing iran's power in this country. and it's not just contained within syria. this announcement has actually accelerated the process of putting pressure on us to also get out of iraq. all of the pro-iran political parties inside the iraqi parliament are pushing very hard, very aggressively to pass a law that kicks america out of iraq. and they're moving quickly on this. you see their tent tackles in -- their tentacles in afghanistan where they are returning political pressure to their part of the body to force america to pick a date. tell us when you are leaving and a date certain. people may say what's wrong with this? get out of syria, iraq,
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afghanistan, why are we fighting other people's wars? we're not. this is not other people's wars. this is ours. these people who are going to operate in these safe havens and iran, we are their target. we are who they want to strike at. and if you're not in afghanistan and you're not in iraq and you're not in syria, then where exactly are we going to conduct operations against terrorism? from where exactly are we going to be postured to defend ourselves if iran decides to strike our other military facilities in the region? the answer is we won't have anyplace to do that from, we won't. not to mention what it says to the region, because understand this. the iranians and our enemies in the region have been telling everyone for a long time, and the russians echo this, americans are unreliable, they always abandon their friends, you can't count on them. or america is a declining power. that's the other argument they use openly. america is a great power in decline. and every year that goes by, you will see that they can't back up
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their words. that's why you can't count on them. america is weakening. i don't believe that's true. in fact, we know that's not true. but halfway around the world, they do. and when we take actions that prove it, it makes it true in the minds of a lot of people and a lot of countries, and it actually is dangerous. because it could invite someone to take a reckless and irresponsible action on the behaves of -- on the basis of miscalculation. someone may believe america's now weak, let's attack them, and then we're in a war. the best way to prevent a war is to make sure those that want to fight you have no chance of winning. but if you give them any belief that they have a chance to win because you have withdrawn and as a result reinforced the narrative being used against you i believe it even increases the chance of war. this is being used against us right now. iran is openly parroting this. they are holding this up as an example of an iranian win. they're saying this proves our strategy has been working. the americans are leaving syria.
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they're going to have to leave iraq. they are going to leave afghanistan with their tail between their legs. we are winning and they are losing. it reinforces a narrative, by the way, that's also used against us by the chinese and other parts of the world. this is a very dangerous situation. that's why this is a bad idea. this is about a lot more than just pulling out and not wasting any more money in these other places. guys, there is no one in the world that wishes that more than me. i wish the money, i wish the lives, i wish all of this investment had not had to be spent. i openly wonder how much more could we be doing if we doesn't have this? but here's the problem. whether we wanted it to exist or not, the iranian threat and the threat of terrorism exists. we cannot deal with the world the way we want it to be. we have to deal with the world the way it is. we didn't create the terror threat, but it's there. we can ignore isis and we can ignore al qaeda and we can ignore iran, but they will not ignore us. we can decide not to go after
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them, but they will come after us. and i think it's a grave mistake because if we allow al qaeda and isis or both to have a resurgence, they will attack the united states of america. they will attack our allies and our interests around the world, and they will try and they will plot to attack us here at home. and the iranian influence operation and their growth of influence in iraq and syria, now in lebanon, increasingly in yemen, god forbid in the future in bahrain, poses an an anise -- an existential threat to all those in the region, not only israel. that's why i support this amendment. that's why i hope all my colleagues will support this amendment. it is important that the legislative branch in the united states senate who has a constitutional role to play in the setting of american foreign policy, they cherry blossom to us to confirm people. they come to us to fund these
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things. that we play our rightful role in the setting of american foreign policy. and it is important that the united states senate be on the right side of this issue so that we can hope to influence future actions and policies before they are taken and we can help change them once they have been taken in places headed in the wrong direction. mr. president, i yield the >> the senate voted to move ahead on an amendment by majority leader mitch mcconnell, which would put the senate on record opposing president trump's announcement that he is pulling troops from syria and afghanistan. the senate continues work monday on the middle east policy bill, with several votes related to the amendment, and the bill scheduled for 5:30 p.m. eastern. reports on marcos congress for "the


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