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Senator Corker Opening Statement at Hearing on "The U.S. Role and Strategy in the Middle East: The Humanitarian Crisis"

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing

The U.S. Role and Strategy in the Middle East: The Humanitarian Crisis

Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) Opening Statement

Today’s hearing is the second in a series of hearings examining the role of the United States in the Middle East this hearing will focus on the immense humanitarian crisis emanating from the region.

The images of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children fleeing for safety should challenge every moral fiber within us. These are people just like us who want only to raise their family with dignity and cherish the same value and things that we all care about, and yet, we watch them on television in these desperate circumstances.

We all know the scale of this tragedy but it is worth, again, outlining the numbers. In Syria, with a population of 22 million in 2011, more than 4.1 million have fled the country and more than 7.6 million are displaced inside the county. So, half of Syria’s population is not at home –not living in their hometowns but in some other place. Some estimates put the number of deaths in Syria at over 300,000. I know that number –people have different estimates -with the Assad regime responsible for over 100,000 civilian deaths. Let me say that one more time -the Assad regime responsible for over 100,000 civilian deaths. In Iraq, 3.6 million are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 3.2 million are displaced.

Solutions must address why people are fleeing. I look forward to hearing the views of our witnesses today. Nancy, welcome. You didn’t miss anything actually. But I believe that after four years of war, there’s a perception that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. As Assad continues to barrel bomb his own people, the Russians and Iranians continue to ensure that he has the means to do it. More than one year after establishing a global coalition to counter Isis, we learned that the main beneficiary, Iraq, has allowed Iran, Russia and Syria to establish their own coalition within a coordination cell in Baghdad. It now appears that our administration is seriously debating some type of an accommodation with the Russians in order to fight Isis. It’s difficult to understand how working alongside the backers of Assad could in any way stem the flow of refugees who are fleeing the barrel bombs.

It is important to remember that the war in Syria began with Assad. He’s still doing the same things today on a daily basis that he was doing at the time.

I do want to digress and say that David Miliband took a very opposing view to most of the Labor Party when he at one time served in the Parliament. He felt that interaction inside Syria should be taking place by Great Britain. Many of us felt the same way, and as crass as it may sound, I think all of us, all of us, today as we watch what is on television and see these refugees and the circumstances they’re in –all of us are reaping what we’ve sowed. We didn’t get involved at a time when we could have made a difference.

I hope our witnesses help us understand the scale and effect of the humanitarian crisis and what steps the United States and others should be taking to mitigate it. But I would like to again stress that we cannot simply rely on humanitarianism alone in this crisis. And that it is incumbent upon us to work towards realistic policies that could bring back the hope of a normal life to those in need.

Thank you again for appearing before the committee, and I look forward to your testimony.