Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Iraq - The Crocker-Petraeus Report
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SEN. JIM DEMINT (R-SC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, General, Mr. Ambassador, for your service. Whenever I'm frustrated and worried about our country because of the political process, I'll tell you, General, I'm never more proud or optimistic about the future of our country than when I'm standing with our troops somewhere in the world. And I thank you and all of them.
I particularly appreciate both of you for enduring our hearings. As you have found, our hearings are more about listening to ourselves than listening to our witnesses, and I promise to continue that tradition myself.
I think many of us or most of us would admit at this point that when we went into Iraq, we got into a lot more than we bargained for. We were unprepared politically and militarily for the task. The loss of life and injury to our troops with makeshift bombs should shame our military and political leaders for our lack of forethought and planning.
Perhaps an even bigger issue is that our approach in Iraq has demonstrated that our own government no longer completely understands how and why freedom works. We've established a premature democracy in Iraq, and it's become increasingly apparent that the private sector institutions that are necessary to sustain a democracy and a free society do not yet exist in Iraq.
Nevertheless, we're there now and are asking our troops to provide security and maintain order while we work desperately to create a functioning government, military, police force, economic system and a free society. Our only other choice is to abandon our mission, disgrace our country, dishonor our fallen troops and leave Iraq and the whole region in a deadly turmoil. Our mission is overwhelmingly complex. The fact that you're both here today reporting some success and that you now believe our goals are attainable is in my view a cause for celebration and will certainly encourage the American people, who in large part have been convinced that the war is lost.
We know that your report will be resisted and maligned by many who have staked their political future on the belief that America's goals in Iraq were wrong and that our mission has failed. In my view, the only relevant question now is, where do we go from here?
General, your recommendation to draw down troops to the pre-surge levels is encouraging. Your plan to further reduce troop levels as soon as possible is very welcomed.
Ambassador Crocker, your report that some leadership is emerging from within the Iraqi government is heartening. And I frankly believe that if Iraq was located anywhere else in the world, that a functioning democracy would likely emerge in the relatively short term. But it's not located anywhere in the world; it's in the Middle East with the world's biggest sponsors of terror on its borders and nearby in the region.
So my question to you both is this: Is there any reasonable expectation for long-term viability of a peaceful, democratic Iraq as long as the current regime rules in Iran and the conditions in Syria and Saudi Arabia remain the same?
And, Mr. Ambassador, I would just ask you to maybe make a political observation, and, General, just some military and security implications of the border states in the region for Iraq.
AMB. CROCKER: It's a great question, Senator. Iraq's problems are difficult enough in their own terms, but they don't play out in their own terms. Iraq's in a rough neighborhood, and that complicates the issue considerably. I think it can.
Iran has been a malign actor in Iraq. But even with the worst of intentions, there are limits on what Iran can do. Iran is not an Arab state. Iraqi Shi'a Arabs are not Persians. There is the legacy of an eight-year bitter war between the two countries in which tens of thousands of Iraqi Arab Shi'a died for Iraq against the guns of Iran. So Iran's influence has its limits and popular tolerance for Iran has its limits, particularly when Iran overreaches, and that's what I think is the significance of the incidents in Karbala about 10 days ago.
An Iranian-backed militia element, the fact that it attacked shrine guards on one of the most holy days of the Shi'a Islamic calendar created a lot of Shi'a anger, and a lot of that anger is directed against the militias, directed against Iran. So there are limits to Iran's hostility or ability to turn its hostility into deeply destabilizing action.
The Arab neighbors may be turning a new page. I mentioned in my testimony that Saudi Arabia has now decided to reopen its embassy in Baghdad. I met with their delegation when they came through, and they said, look, it's time to get on with relations with a key Arab country and that's Iraq. Jordan's made some positive statements. There are still reservations, there's no question. There is still more they can do, but I think this may be moving in a more positive direction.
Syria is, as I said, problematic. They've hosted a number of -- almost a million Iraqi refugees, but they've also allowed a certain number of foreign fighters, suicide bombers, to cross their border. They need to do more.
SEN. : Thank you.
GEN. PETRAEUS: Senator, I would just pick up on that and say that, first of all, the ambassador and I have on several occasions said that you cannot win in Iraq just in Iraq. And so you're absolutely right about the importance of neighboring countries and the influence that they have on the activities in Iraq.
Iraq very much needs Syria to tighten its airport Damascus, Aleppo and also its borders much more to the movement of individuals that come through, their foreign fighters, some of whom become suicide bombers, and then move through the borders into Iraq. We believe there are also some training camps over there. This is something the intelligence is still certainly developing to try to determine how accurate that is, but there are concerns about that as well. But tightening that, because again, although al Qaeda may not be the source of the most violence in certain areas of Iraq, it is the organization that again has ignited the ethnosectarian violence, and it is the Sunni-Arab organization that generally was carrying out the ethnosectarian violence in Baghdad as well.
With respect to Iran, we have learned a great deal more about Iranian activities in Iraq since the capture some months back of the head of the so-called special groups that are associated with Sadr's militia.
These are individuals who have been trained, equipped, armed and funded by Iran. And along with that individual, we captured the deputy commander of Lebanese Hezbollah Department 2800, which we had not been aware of, but it turns out to be an organization that has been created to support Iran's activities with respect to these special groups and some of the other militia extremists in Iraq.
Again, that makes the situation vastly more difficult for Iraq, obviously, than it otherwise would be. A lot of the munitions that are shot at innocent civilians, shot at our forces, Iraqi forces, certainly those used by these militias, a very large number of those in fact come from Iran in the form of the rockets, the explosively formed projectiles and some of the other arms and munitions that are provided to them.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.
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