IN AN OPEN MEMO, CRANKY CLINTON'S FRIENDS ATTEMPT AN INTERVENTION, TELLING HER THAT SHE IS THE PROBLEM.
REACHED FOR COMMENT BY THESE REPORTERS, CRANKY DISMISSED THE CONCERNS OF HER FRIENDS AND INSISTED SHE DID NOT HAVE A PROBLEM.
"I AM JUST FINE!" SHE SNARLED. "NO, NOT FINE! I AM PERFECT! I AM PERFECTION! I AM ALL I NEED TO BE, ALL ANYONE NEEDS TO BE! AND I'LL BITCH SLAP ANYONE WHO SAYS OTHERWISE."
SINGING THE LATE AMY WINEHOUSE'S BIGGEST HIT '"THEY TRY TO MAKE ME GO TO REHAB, I SAID NO-NO-NO," CRANKY SHOOK HER TIRED CABOOSE AND EXITED THE BUILDING.
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
On the topic of politicians, let's drop back to Tuesday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. The Committee Chair is Senator John McCain and the Ranking Member is Senator Jack Reed. Appearing before the Committee were Gen Martin Dempsey (Chair of the Joint Chiefs) and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.
We've noted Senators Joe Donnelly, Kelly Ayotte and Joe Manchin in Wednesday's snapshot. We're going to note the line of questioning from two other senators today. Senator Martin Heinrich had some important and basic questions.
Senator Martin Heinrich: Let me start by saying that, 'surge' or no 'surge,' I think it's pretty clear, at least to my constituents, that the Iraq War remains one of the greatest US foreign policy mistakes of the last century and one that I've hoped we've learned a few lessons from. I want to follow up, Mr. Secretary, on what Senator Hirono raised. One lesson I feel that we should have learned by now is that eliminating one terrible Middle Eastern dictator can too often lead to even more brutal influences filling the leadership vacuum. We've seen that play out too many times. We've seen that to some extent in both Iraq and Libya. Should we be concerned that in Syria, a post-Assad reality could create a vacuum that ISIL is far better positioned to fill than any of the other regional forces? I'm not sure we should be -- I think we should be almost as concerned with forces like al Nusra Front [a splinter of al Qaeda which is operating in Syria]. And if Assad does fall, shouldn't we have more than discussions on the table? Shouldn't we have a plan to make sure that some amount of governance remains, particularly in Damascus?
Secretary Ash Carter: Uh, well, yes, we should and we do. That is our strategy with respect to the political transition. Now, uh, I've -- for reasons that are easy to understand, our influence with Bashar al Assad, our -- that is US -- influence is not great and so we are trying to influence those who influence him to remove himself, uh, from the government of, uh, Damascus while keeping intact the structures of governance for the very reasons that you adduce which is we know what happens in these Middle Eastern countries when the structures of government disintegrate and we would like to not see that happen in Syria even though we know that the persistence of Assad at the helm in Damascus is in fact a fuel for ISIS and others who are fighting him so he needs to go to remove that fuel but we don't want to see the structures of governance go at the same time. And that is the challenge but that is what we're trying to achieve.
Senator Martin Heinrich: Well I think that's certainly the right goal, I just want to make sure we're prepared for that because we've sort of missed that goal in the past and Syria is an enormous country and if we saw it lose its governance capability, the implications for the region and the entire world would be enormous. Secretary Carter, as you mentioned as well, to be successful on the ground against ISIL, the fight needs to be led by local, capable ground forces. I don't think we should give in to impatience. These should not be western forces. These should not be American forces. We've certainly heard that from our partners in places like Jordan. This means we need to place a great deal of importance on training motivated and reliable partners. And you've gone a little bit over the small number of Iraqi security forces recruited, what those challenges are, the bottle neck related to the vetting process but are there other factors you would attribute for the lack of trainees? And I guess one of the questions I have related to that is what steps, in addition to the steps that you're taking, what steps is the Iraqi government taking to address this shortfall in order to meet those training targets.we'd like to see?
Secretary Ash Carter: Uh, uh, thank you, Senator. I think in Iraq, the principle limiting factor on Sunni trainees -- which is one of our focus -- our focuses -- has been their belief that the government in Baghdad was not fully supportive of them. That is the challenge before Prime Minister Abadi. He says he wants to do that and, uh, that's critical because only Sunnis can take back Anbar [Province], only Sunnis can govern Anbar when it's all over. So if we are going to wrest Anbar from the likes of ISIL which we must do, we must have Sunnis on our side. And so Abadi is saying all the right things, as the Chairman noted. We're trying to support him in doing all the right things. And --
Senator Martin Henirich: Mr. Secretary, I agree with you wholeheartedly in your analysis. I guess my concern is is Abadi doing enough to begin to generate confidence in the Sunni population in that region?
Secretary Ash Carter: Uh, I think he is doing everything he personally can. Uh, I think he is challenged in Baghdad by others who would have it the old way, the sectarian way. And so he's not able to make everything happen when and as he says. And we've had some delays and some frustrations as a result of that. I think things are getting better. We are getting more trainees. It was noted earlier that there is some confidence among Sunni tribes that we will help them train, equip them, support them and get them back in the fight -- that there's a future for them -- not even withstanding the difficulties of multi-sectarianism governance in Iraq. That's the path we're on and, in the meantime, just to get back to something that Senator [Mike] Rounds said, I-I-I think and I-I said this before, I just want to restate it. We need to take action to defend ourselves against ISIL, not just in Iraq and Syria, but elsewhere particularly foreign fighters even as we defeat them from the place from which they arose. They have metastasized now, they aspire to be a global network and we have to fight them where they are. We can't wait for that. We need to do that -- and by the way, we do it every day.
Senator Martin Heinrich: Secretary --
Secretary Ash Carter: We did that just this past weekend.
Senator Martin Heinrich (Con't): -- I want to leave you with one last question. It's a very general one. You may have seen the POLITICO article from a couple of days ago that examined what it called the "Da-aesh effect" -- and it's sort of a modern example of the ancient proverb that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Whether it's Hammas or al Nusra or Iran, there are a number of entities that may be enemies to the US, certainly are enemies of our allies but currently share the same opposition to ISIL or Da'aesh. What are your thoughts on that observation generally and wouldn't you agree that it's that reality that is part of the reason why this is such a complicated nut to crack.
Secretary Ash Carter: That is the reason why it's so complicated and, again, sectarianism is what brought us to this point so we are willing to -- and we are -- and have supported elements of the Iraqi security forces that have a very large Shis composition to them but if and only if they're under the direction and control of the government of Iraq. And there are Shia forces in Iraq that are not under the direction and control and we will not support them because that's sectarianism, that sectarian civil war. We know what leads down that road and we're trying to stop Iraq from going down that road.
The hearing was Tuesday. Wednesday this exchange took place at the State Dept press briefing moderated by Mark Toner:
MR TONER: Sure thing, Said. Go ahead.
QUESTION: The fight against ISIS?
MR TONER: The fight against ISIS.
MR TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: I mean, now that we’ve had time --
MR TONER: Wouldn’t be a briefing without some discussion on --
MR TONER: No, go ahead. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: No, I just wanted to follow up on some of the things that John said yesterday --
MR TONER: Yep.
QUESTION: -- but I (inaudible). He cited that when there is a – basically, implicitly, when there is a will to fight, such as the Peshmerga and the north fighting ISIS and the Kurdish fighters also in the north of Syria fighting ISIS, then we can see the outcome on the ground, that ISIS can be pushed back. Is the implicit suggestion there that the Iraqi army is not fighting or will not fight?
MR TONER: Not at all. We’ve long said that some of these local fighters have been absolutely integral to combating ISIL. But everything we do is through the Iraqi military and the Iraqi Government, and all the equipping and supplying that we do is conducted through them and with their concurrence. So there’s a recognition, I think, that this needs to be locally owned, if you will; that we need to really build the capacity of local forces, and that includes the Iraqi military itself, to be able to push back and combat ISIL.
QUESTION: Would that implicitly suggest that you – maybe you ought to give direct aid to the Peshmerga directly – heavy equipment, I mean. Not --
MR TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- just rifles and guns and so on, but things like tanks and other battlefield equipment, heavy duty that they can use.
MR TONER: Well, again, we have been providing some assistance to the Peshmerga, again, through the Iraqi Government. We feel like that’s getting into their hands expeditiously. We don’t feel like there’s a delay mechanism or anything. We feel like that the system currently is working pretty well in terms of getting them what they need. In terms of additional support, obviously, we’re always looking at that, but nothing to announce.
In his exchange with Senator Kelly Ayotte on Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made clear the US was directly arming the Kurds (as were the Germans and others, Carter also made clear).
Why does the State Dept not know this?
How stupid and uniformed is the administration that one group doesn't talk to the other and that a spokesperson does not know what's in public testimony?
This was what Senator Joni Ernst started with in her line of questioning, was the US government arming the Kurds as Ayotte had asked and as Carter had replied. His only clarification was that they were providing these arms with the consent of the Iraqi government out of Baghdad.
But with that clarification, he again insisted that they were doing this.
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