March 11, 2015

Corker Opening Statement at Hearing on "The President's Request for Authorization to Use Force Against ISIS: Military and Diplomatic Efforts"

United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Hearing: The President's Request for Authorization to Use Force Against ISIS: Military and Diplomatic Efforts

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Chairman
Opening Statement

I want to welcome our distinguished witnesses today, and thank them for being here. This is an important topic. We know that each of you have been traveling extensively, and again want to thank you for being with us today to share your insights. 

I think everybody on this committee cares first and foremost that we have a policy, a strategy, to deal with ISIS that is in relation to our national interests, that the two are aligned. And I think that is paramount and what most people in America care about, and certainly everyone in this committee. 

Secondarily to that, from my perspective, is the authorization process itself. And yet we find ourselves in an -- in an interesting place. The president, which I appreciate, has sent to us an authorization for the use of military force. That was welcomed, I think, by both sides of the aisle. 

As we have received that authorization for the use of military force, what we have come to understand is that -- and this is not a pejorative statement, it's an observation -- we don't know of a single Democrat in Congress, in the United States Senate, anyway, that supports that authorization for the use of military force. 

On the other hand, the authorization for the use of military force that has been sent up is one that is limited in some ways, both in duration and relative to the activities that the commander in chief through you can carry out.

And so, what that does on this side of the aisle is put Republican senators in the position of looking at a limited authorization for the use of military force that, in some ways, ratifies a strategy, especially in Syria, that many people do not believe is effective, one that shows -- does not show the commitment necessary to be successful in the short term.

So I think this hearing today will be very helpful in trying to come together and to understand, number one, that we have a strategy in Syria that is in our national interests, that we have a strategy in Iraq, that is in our national interest, and we understand that ISIS obviously is promulgating in many other places. 

I was in Baghdad and in Irbil three weeks ago. And regardless of how we've gotten to where we are today, and I know a lot of things have been said about decisions that have been made along the way.

One of the things that jumped out at me and [was] very glaring, is that in many ways, every single thing the United States is doing right now in Iraq, things that I support, I might add, to deal with ISIS, every single thing that we're doing is really enuring to the benefit of Iran. In other words, we're making Iraq a better place for Iran. 

No doubt, [Iraqi President Haider al-] Abadi wants one foot in our country's -- and one foot in Iran. And no doubt, he's looking for our assistance. And no doubt, he looks to us as a balance. But when you look at the way Iran has permeated the parliament there, when you look at [Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem] Soleimani and his -- the fact that he's a celebrity in Iran now and leading the efforts, the Shia militia, it's something that jumps out. And I hope that during today, all of you will be able to illuminate how we should feel about that, should we care.

I know we've had numbers of people getting exercised about the fact that we have Iranian-led Shia militia dealing with ISIS. Because of the observations that I've made, I'm not sure that that should even be an issue. In essence, we are working towards the same end. But I'd love to hear your thoughts on that. And what may occur after March 24th in the event there isn't an agreement with Iran over the nuclear program, how will that affect how the Shia militia that are very -- in close proximity to our own men and women in uniform, how that might affect them.

And in closing, I hope that what you'll do today also is to illuminate to us why some of the decisions we know are key. After being in Irbil and Baghdad, I was in Ankara with our Turkish friends. I know a decision memo has been in front of the president for some time, relative to an air exclusion zone in Aleppo and decisions about how we may or may not deal with protecting those that were training and equipping right now to come in against ISIS. I don't think we've made those decisions yet. And I think to many of us here, what that shows is potentially a lack of commitment, if you will, to really deal with ISIS in a more significant way. That may not be the case.

And I hope today during your testimony, we'll be able to understand more fully the lack of those decisions being made, what that means relative to the overall effort.

So I welcome you here. I think all three of you have been highly regarded by members of the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. And we trust your testimony today will be very beneficial to us, as we move ahead.

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For full details on the hearing and archive footage, visit: https://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/the-presidents-request-for-authorization-to-use-force-against-isis_military-and-diplomatic-efforts-03-11-15.