John McCain: I thank you, Senator. I have been asking that question for a long time, and I keep getting the answer well we haven’t made that policy decision. And it’s shameful, shameful to send people in and not assure them that we will defend them against tax by barrel bonds. Senator Graham.
Thank you. To, to build on what we’re just talking about do we have the legal authority to assist the Free Syrian Army that we train against Assad? Is there a doubt about that?
Secretary Carter: I am not sure about the legalities of it, Senator, to be quite honest. I'm not...
Well, let’s just put it this way. If there’s any doubt about whether or not we have the legal authority to protect the troops we train against Assad, please, let the committee know. You don’t have to answer right now, but that’s a big decision. If there is a lack of legal authority I want to know why and what can we do to fix it?
Secretary Carter: I appreciate it, and I’ll take that back. I appreciate that though.
Yeah, General Dempsey, thank you for decades of service. I really appreciate that. General Dempsey, would you agree that there are more terrorist organizations with more safe havens with more weapons with more capability with more men to strike the homeland than any time since 9-11?
General Dempsey: Thank you for your service. I know you retired recently. Yes.
Okay. Do you believe that ISIL is expanding in other countries as we speak?
General Dempsey: Yes.
Okay. When it comes to Iraq do you both agree that partitioning Iraq into three separate countries is probably not a viable strategy?
Secretary Carter: I certainly agree with that, yes.
Do you agree that the Sunni world would object to giving the southern part of Iraq to Iran? That would that’s what would happen, right? If we partitioned the south? Do you all agree with that?
Secretary Carter: Yeah that sounds like sectarianism to me and we know what lies down that road.
Yeah. And independent Kurdistan is gonna create a lot of upheaval with Turkey and the region at large, do you agree with that a separate independent state?
Secretary Carter: For the Turks a separate independent state would be very problematic and within Iraq I think a substantial autonomy within a decentralized but integral Iraq is still possible. That’s what Abadi is trying to do.
I agree. Do you agree with that, General?
General Dempsey: I do, sir.
Yeah. So partitioning I think is not a viable strategy. Now, as to the Kurds do any of you believe either one of you believe that the Kurds have the ability, will to go in to liberate Ramadi?
Secretary Carter: I’ll, I’ll start that. I, I think they may have the ability, and we are obviously trying to facilitate their movement south. Whether they have the will is another matter. The only reason that I say that is that they’re getting at that point to the edge of the territory that is Kurdish.
Well, that’s my point is for anybody to suggest that the Kurds are the answer to all of our problems they don’t quite frankly know the Mid-East. I mean, the Kurds are not gonna liberate Syria. Do you all agree with that? They’ll be part of the component but they’re not gonna be the liberating force.
Secretary Carter: Right, part of the component absolutely.
As to Assad, what’s more likely? President Obama leaves office in 2017 or Assad goes first?
Secretary Carter: Well, it’s certain that President Obama will leave office.
Right, I know I know that.
Secretary Carter: So that’s an easy question, but then it ends up turning on...
What’s gonna leave...
Secretary Carter: Whether Assad will...
Who’s gonna leave, yeah who...
Secretary Carter: Will be in power then.
Yeah. Who leaves first, Obama or Assad?
Secretary Carter: Well, I certainly hope it’s Assad.
Yeah I do, but I don’t think so. So the bottom line if Assad stays in power do you worry about Jordan and Lebanon being a victim of the war in Syria if it continues the way it’s going? That Jordan and Lebanon will become a casualty of the war in Syria?
Secretary Carter: I think Jordan and Lebanon are already suffering from the effects of the war in Syria.
I mean, I mean...
Secretary Carter: They’re hosting refugees...
We could have, right. It could even get worse?
Secretary Carter: That’s exactly the concern we should all have about one of the concerns we should have about what’s going on in Syria. It’s not just the Syrian people. It’s the neighbors as well.
Do you agree with me that no Arab force is gonna go in and fight ISIL alone unless you put Assad on the table?
Secretary Carter: I see what you’re getting at, and it gets back to our train and equip program and we are finding people who are, who whose principle security fear for their own people, and this is really for their own villages, is ISIL.
Secretary Carter: And so they’re willing to go and fight against ISIL.
Mr. Mr. Secretary...
Secretary Carter: There are others who want to fight against Assad.
Secretary Carter: And that’s a, that’s another matter entirely.
Here here’s my, here’s my point. They’re recruiting more foreign fighters than we’re training Free Syrian Army. The math doesn’t work. This is never gonna result in Assad or ISIL being degraded or destroyed. The only way I see ISIL to be degraded or destroyed is for a ground force regional in nature to go into Syria. Do you believe do you agree with me that no ground force made of Turks, Saudis, Egyptians you name it are going into Syria to fight ISIL unless one of the goals is to replace Assad? They’re not going to give half of Syria to Iran?
Secretary Carter: That sounds sensible to me and I certainly wish that such a force would be created. One of the great disappointments in all of this is that the Sunni world more broadly isn’t...
Secretary Carter: More involved in this fight.
Well okay let’s, let’s dig into that for a moment. If we went to Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia tomorrow and said we would like to use your armies we’ll be integrated. Would you agree with me for them to say yes that we would have to make Assad a target of that army? And are we willing to do that?
Secretary Carter: Let’s see I would guess that I, it’s very it’s very hypothetical because sadly none of them has indicated a willingness to do...
Well here’s what they told me...
Secretary Carter: Anything of that kind under any circumstances.
Here’s what they told me.
Secretary Carter: But I, I see what you’re driving at.
Secretary Carter: Which is will the rest of Sunni the Sunni Middle East...
Secretary Carter: Participate in this conflict more. I certainly wish...
Secretary Carter: They would. The one answer I know, Senator, is for the Turks.
Can I say...
Secretary Carter: The Turks have stated their...
Secretary Carter: Position which is that they definitely want Assad to go and the conditions for any other participation so far...
Secretary Carter: Has been that they want to fight against Assad.
Well, I would suggest you do the following. And you travel a lot. We went to Qatar, we went to Saudi Arabia we went all over the Mid-East. And they told us to a person we would gladly join forces with you upon the condition that Assad is part of the target set. And nobody in the United States will tell them whether or not we’re willing to take Assad on militarily as part of the, the ground force. So I would suggest instead of being upset with the Sunni Arab world that our problems lie within ourselves. That we’re not putting Assad on the table militarily. Do you agree with that? Do you think Assad is on the table militarily?
Secretary Carter: Senator, as I'm sure you know his position on the battlefield is more tenuous today than it has been for a long time. Our...
And I don’t mean, yeah it is. But, but the point is, is our efforts designed to take Assad out militarily or are we focusing just on ISIL?
Secretary Carter: No our approach has been as, as I think has been stared clearly for some time to try to find a political exit for Bashar Assad rather than a U.S. led military exit. That is the, that is the approach.
Q = John McCain, Secretary Carter, General Dempsey
A = Lindsey Graham
U = Unidentified Speaker
(INAUDIBLE) = Areas that could not be heard due to background noise, tape/phone line quality, muffled speaking, etc.