[House Hearing, 113 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
AL-QAEDA'S RESURGENCE IN IRAQ:
A THREAT TO U.S. INTERESTS
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED THIRTEENTH CONGRESS
FEBRUARY 5, 2014
Serial No. 113-116
Printed for the use of the Committee on Foreign Affairs
Available via the World Wide Web: http://www.foreignaffairs.house.gov/
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COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California, Chairman
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey ELIOT L. ENGEL, New York
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American
DANA ROHRABACHER, California Samoa
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio BRAD SHERMAN, California
JOE WILSON, South Carolina GREGORY W. MEEKS, New York
MICHAEL T. McCAUL, Texas ALBIO SIRES, New Jersey
TED POE, Texas GERALD E. CONNOLLY, Virginia
MATT SALMON, Arizona THEODORE E. DEUTCH, Florida
TOM MARINO, Pennsylvania BRIAN HIGGINS, New York
JEFF DUNCAN, South Carolina KAREN BASS, California
ADAM KINZINGER, Illinois WILLIAM KEATING, Massachusetts
MO BROOKS, Alabama DAVID CICILLINE, Rhode Island
TOM COTTON, Arkansas ALAN GRAYSON, Florida
PAUL COOK, California JUAN VARGAS, California
GEORGE HOLDING, North Carolina BRADLEY S. SCHNEIDER, Illinois
RANDY K. WEBER SR., Texas JOSEPH P. KENNEDY III,
SCOTT PERRY, Pennsylvania Massachusetts
STEVE STOCKMAN, Texas AMI BERA, California
RON DeSANTIS, Florida ALAN S. LOWENTHAL, California
TREY RADEL, Florida--resigned 1/27/ GRACE MENG, New York
14 deg. LOIS FRANKEL, Florida
DOUG COLLINS, Georgia TULSI GABBARD, Hawaii
MARK MEADOWS, North Carolina JOAQUIN CASTRO, Texas
TED S. YOHO, Florida
LUKE MESSER, Indiana
Amy Porter, Chief of Staff Thomas Sheehy, Staff Director
Jason Steinbaum, Democratic Staff Director
C O N T E N T S
Mr. Brett McGurk, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran,
Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, U.S. Department of State....... 6
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
Mr. Brett McGurk: Prepared statement............................. 10
Hearing notice................................................... 54
Hearing minutes.................................................. 55
The Honorable Ted Poe, a Representative in Congress from the
State of Texas: Material submitted for the record.............. 57
Responses from Mr. Brett McGurk to questions submitted for the
record by the Honorable Alan S. Lowenthal, a Representative in
Congress from the State of California.......................... 58
AL-QAEDA'S RESURGENCE IN IRAQ: A THREAT TO U.S. INTERESTS
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2014
House of Representatives,
Committee on Foreign Affairs,
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:07 a.m., in
room 2172 Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Edward Royce
(chairman of the committee) presiding.
Chairman Royce. This hearing will come to order.
This morning we consider al-Qaeda's resurgence in Iraq. An
unfortunate reality is that al-Qaeda in Iraq, now known as the
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS as you see it in
the papers, is growing steadily in size, it's growing steadily
in power and influence and its militant ranks have blossomed.
Last summer, ISIS carried out attacks on two different
prisons in Iraq and in those attacks freed hundreds of
experienced al-Qaeda fighters and leaders. The group is now
able to carry out approximately 40 mass casualty attacks every
Multiple car bombings struck the capital this morning. The
nearly 9,000 deaths in Iraq last year made it the bloodiest
since U.S. forces departed in 2011.
The civil war in neighboring Syria only further strengthens
this group. Militants are able to flow freely between Iraq and
Syria, providing ISIS an advantage as it works to advance its
regional vision of a radical Islamist state.
Their gains have been dramatic. Last month, these fighters
took advantage of a security vacuum in Anbar Province, entering
the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in columns of trucks mounted
with heavy machine guns and raising the black flag over
Of course, Anbar Province is where U.S. Marines fought so
hard to push out al-Qaeda. In recognizing those and other great
sacrifices, I should note that this committee benefits from the
first-hand experiences of Mr. Kinzinger, Mr. Cotton, Mr. Perry,
Mr. DeSantis, Mr. Collins and Ms. Gabbard, all of whom served
with distinction in Iraq.
This threat is evolving. Earlier this week, al-Qaeda's
central leadership declared that those operating in western
Iraq and Syria were no longer an affiliated group.
We will see how this power struggle develops, but ISIS'
independence is a reflection of its unprecedented resources,
including weapons and personnel and cash and its resulting
This is a threat to Iraq but also to us. ISIS has
reportedly been actively recruiting individuals capable of
travelling to the U.S. to carry out attacks here.
While al-Qaeda in Iraq has been powered by prison breaks
and by the Syrian civil war, it has also been fuelled by the
alienation of much of the Sunni population from the Shi'a
dominated government in Baghdad. Al-Qaeda has become very
skilled at exploiting this sectarian rift and Maliki's power
grab has given them much ammunition.
This is a point that Ranking Member Eliot Engel and myself
raised and underscored with President Maliki when he visited
Washington last fall.
This committee will play a central role as the United
States moves to send military equipment to help the Iraqis
fight these terrorists. Appropriate intelligence can be shared
But Iraqis should know that their relations with Iran and
the slow pace of political reconciliation with minority groups
raise serious congressional concerns.
While we may not be--as head of state, while he may not be
up to it, Maliki must take steps to lead Iraq to a post-
sectarian era. The Iraqi Government is far from perfect and
only the Iraqis can control their future.
But if we don't want to see an Iraq with large swaths of
territory under militant control, and we should not, then we
must be willing to lend an appropriate hand.
And I'll now turn to the ranking member, Mr. Engel, for any
opening comments. Mr. Engel from New York.
Mr. Engel. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you for holding this important hearing on al-Qaeda's
resurgence in Iraq and the threat this poses to U.S. security
interests. I appreciate the close collaboration that we have
working on this and so many other issues on this committee.
Last month, al-Qaeda extremists occupied the city of
Fallujah and parts of Ramadi in Iraq's Sunni-dominated Anbar
Province. To be sure, this has serious implications for Iraq's
security but it also has a deeper, symbolic meaning for
As all of us know, U.S. Marines fought two bloody battles
to secure Fallujah during the Iraq war. I want to acknowledge
our brave men and women in uniform who lost their lives, as
well as their families who continue to grieve their losses
every day. It breaks my heart when I see what's happening in
Iraq continues to be ravaged by sectarian violence and the
situation is getting worse. Last year, more than 8,500 Iraqis
were killed in bombings, shootings and other violent acts, the
most since 2008.
I should note that on Monday of this week, the senior
leadership of al-Qaeda excommunicated and disowned their
affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS, as a
result of that group's tactics in Syria. For the purpose of
this hearing, ISIS remains a threat to stability in Fallujah,
other areas of Anbar Province and the whole of Iraq.
Some may argue that the lack of an enduring U.S. troop
presence in Iraq has contributed to the resurgence of violence,
especially Sunni terrorism related to al-Qaeda.
But let's be honest. The dire security situation in Anbar
Province is much more about Iraqi politics than it is about the
In any case, the direct use of U.S. military force in Iraq
is virtually unthinkable at this point. We've withdrawn from
Iraq and we aren't going back. Although we no longer have boots
on the ground, however, the U.S. does maintain a huge stake in
Iraq's security, and I believe we should continue to provide
appropriate assistance to the Iraqi military in their fight
But we must also recognize that the current situation in
Anbar cannot be resolved through military means alone. An all-
out assault on Fallujah by the Iraqi security forces would play
right into hands of ISIS, reinforcing the perception among
Sunnis that they have been systematically victimized by Prime
Minister Maliki's Shia-led government.
To defeat al-Qaeda, the Iraqi Government must take a page
out of our play book from the Iraq war and enlist moderate
Sunni tribes in the fight. I understand that Vice President
Biden recently discussed this issue with Prime Minister Maliki,
encouraging him to incorporate tribal militias fighting ISIS
into the Iraqi security forces and to compensate those injured
and killed in battle.
By taking these steps, I am hopeful that Maliki can begin
to bridge the widening sectarian gulf in Iraq. The
deterioration of Iraq's control over Anbar is also linked to
larger regional dynamics.
We saw how al-Qaeda in Iraq expanded its franchise into
Syria, and we now see violence from that brutal war spilling
back into Iraq. This has strengthened ISIS and served as a
recruitment vehicle for thousands of foreign fighters.
The slow bleed in Syria has been a clear hindrance to
progress in Iraq. Iran's nefarious influence in the region also
contributes to instability. It is well known that some senior
Iraqi officials have a very cozy relationship with Iran, and
Iraq has not done nearly enough to prevent Iranian overflights
that deliver weapons to Hezbollah and the Assad regime in
In order to stabilize Iraq, the Iraqi Government will need
to be a more responsible actor in the region. Chairman Royce
and I made that--emphasized that point when we met with Mr.
Maliki several months ago.
The discussion today is important to understand how we can
encourage a political solution in Iraq that will give Sunnis a
meaningful stake in the future of their country. This is the
only viable way to build a safer future for Iraq while helping
to curb Iranian influence and hopefully reducing the violence
I'd like to thank Deputy Assistant Secretary Brett McGurk,
one of the foremost experts on Iraq, for being here today to
address these issues with us.
Mr. McGurk, I look forward to your testimony and our
discussion. I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Royce. Thank you, Mr. Engel. We'll hear for a
minute from Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the Middle East
Subcommittee, followed by Mr. Ted Deutch, who is the ranking
member of that subcommittee.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and in
addition to the biggest issue, which is that we don't have al-
Qaeda on the run, there are two issues which I continue to be
very concerned about.
First, is the safety of the residents of Camp Liberty. They
still have very little protection. When last you testified, Mr.
McGurk, 192 T-walls were up. Then the big progress supposedly
is that 43 T-walls are now up in addition. This is out of
17,500 T-walls. T-walls save lives. Put them up.
Number two, the Iraqi Jewish archives--Ted Deutch and I and
many other members are very concerned, don't want them to be
shipped back. The Iraqi Government incorrectly states that
these papers are theirs.
That is not true and we hope that you continue to work on
that and the bigger issue that brings us together is that,
obviously, since the departure of our troops al-Qaeda's
reemergence has caused Iraq to be--to take a very worrisome
turn for the worse.
We've sacrificed so much blood and treasure there to watch
it descend into full sectarian violence and al-Qaeda's safe
haven so we've got to rebuild our influence there.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling this hearing.
Chairman Royce. Thank you, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen.
We'll go to Mr. Deutch of Florida.
Mr. Deutch. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Ranking Member
Engel for holding this extremely timely hearing.
Emboldened by instability within Iraq's Government in the
searing conflict, al-Qaeda affiliated--the number of al-Qaeda
affiliated fighters in Iraq has now reached levels not seen
Al-Qaeda and Iraq's offshoot, the Islamic State of Iraq and
Syria, is now the primary perpetrator of the worst violence,
and as my colleagues have noted al-Qaeda has now disavowed the
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria for its use of tactics deemed
to be too violent.
Let me say that again. Al-Qaeda, one of the world's worst
and most brutal terrorist groups, has disowned this group for
being too extreme. I fear the siege of Anbar and Fallujah in
January has definitively turned the page from simply ladling
this spillover from the Syrian conflict to a full scale
resurgence of terror in Iraq.
Various reports count the number killed in January at close
to 1,000. I'm particularly concerned for the 140,000 who fled
their homes as rockets were indiscriminately fired at needed
humanitarian aid. The security risks posed by this resurgence
are too great to ignore and, Deputy Assistant Secretary McGurk,
I hope today you'll be able to shed light on what level of
assistance we're providing the Iraqis and our comprehensive
strategy to prevent the growth of the security threat.
And I look forward to that testimony and I yield back, Mr.
Chairman Royce. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Deutch.
Now, lastly, we'll go to Judge Ted Poe of Texas, chairman
of the Terrorism Subcommittee, followed by Brad Sherman for a
minute of California, who's the ranking member of that
Mr. Poe. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is back, certainly not on its
last legs. The United States has paid a high price to help
liberate Iraq from the menace of al-Qaeda.
It's frustrating that al-Qaeda is gaining ground back in
Iraq. Al-Qaeda's resurgence is directly related to Prime
Minister Maliki's mishandling of his government. Incompetence
and corruption seem to be the norm.
He centralized power, alienated the Sunnis and brought back
Shi'a hit squads. He has allowed Iranian-supported operatives
to kill MEK Iranian dissidents now on seven occasions without
The last time you were here, Mr. McGurk, you testified
before my subcommittee and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's subcommittee.
I predicted that there would be another attack.
Seven days after you testified in December, Camp Liberty
was attacked again. All this chaos has created an environment
ripe for al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda is reestablishing a safe haven to
plan and launch attacks outside the region.
That is a totally unacceptable trend. The question is what
is the United States going to do, and I yield back the
remainder of my time. Thank you.
Chairman Royce. Thank you. Mr. Sherman.
Mr. Sherman. In the 1940s, we occupied countries. No one
doubted our right to occupy. We took our time, we created new
governments and those governments created new societies.
At various other times we've invaded countries, achieved a
limited military objective or as much as could be achieved at
reasonable cost and we left. The first example of that was
Thomas Jefferson's military intervention in Libya.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, we established a bad example. The
world and even some in the United States doubted our right to
occupy so we hastily installed Karzai in Afghanistan and in
Iraq we installed a structure which is now presided over by Mr.
It is not surprising that Afghanistan and Iraq continue to
be problems since we have--we hastily handed over governance to
those who are ill prepared. Iraq is not the most important Arab
state strategically. It does not become more important in the
future because we made a mistake in the past that cost us
dearly in blood and treasure.
We should not compound that mistake. On the other hand,
Iraq is important in part because of its proximity to Iran,
which I believe is one of the greatest threats to our national
Finally, I agree with several of the prior speakers that we
need to with regard to Camp Liberty and the T-walls, and I
Chairman Royce. Thank you, Mr. Sherman.
This morning we are pleased to be joined by Deputy
Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Mr. Brett McGurk. Prior
to this current assignment, Mr. McGurk served as a special
advisor to the national security staff and as senior advisor to
Ambassadors Ryan Crocker, Chris Hill and James Jeffrey in
Baghdad. He also served as a lead negotiator and coordinator
during bilateral talks with the Iraqi Government back in 2008.
Without objection, by the way, your full prepared statement
will be made part of the record and the members here will have
5 days to submit any statements or questions or any other
extraneous material for the record.
And Mr. McGurk, if you would please summarize your remarks
and then we'll go to questions.
STATEMENT OF MR. BRETT MCGURK, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR
IRAQ AND IRAN, BUREAU OF NEAR EASTERN AFFAIRS, U.S. DEPARTMENT
Mr. McGurk. Thank you.
Good morning, Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel and
members of this committee. Thank you for inviting me to discuss
the situation in Iraq with a focus on al-Qaeda's primary
offshoot in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or
My brief statement will discuss the threat from ISIL, the
current situation in Ramadi and Fallujah and how we intend to
help the Iraqis combat it.
ISIL is well known to us. Its former incarnation, al-Qaeda
in Iraq, or AQI, was the focus of U.S. and Iraqi security
efforts over many years, beginning with the rise of its first
leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, more than a decade ago.
Its current leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is a designated
global terrorist under U.S. law and we believe is currently
based in Syria. His mission, as clearly stated in his own
statements, is to carve out a zone of governing territory from
Baghdad through Syria to Lebanon.
The Syria conflict over the past 2 years provide a platform
for ISIL to gain resources, recruits and safe havens. While the
precise number of ISIL fighters in Syria is unknown, Director
of National Intelligence James Clapper last week testified that
there are likely 26,000 extremist fighters in Syria, including
7,000 foreign fighters. Many of these fighters are affiliated
ISIL in its earlier incarnation, AQI, inflicted mass
casualties attacks in Iraq over the years 2011 and 2012. It was
not until early last year that we began to see a significant
increase in its attacks, most notably suicide and vehicle
Suicide attacks, we assess, are nearly all attributable to
ISIL and nearly all suicide bombers are foreign fighters who
enter Iraq through Syria. To give one notable statistic, in
November 2012 Iraq saw three suicide attacks throughout the
country. In November 2013, it saw 50.
ISIL is now striking in Iraq along three main lines of
operations. First, it is attacking Shi'a civilian areas in an
effort to rekindle a civil war. These are the vast majority of
Second, it is attacking Sunni areas to eliminate rivals and
govern territory. In one 30-day period between September and
October, for example, ISIL suicide bombers attacked three small
towns in Anbar Province.
Third, ISIL is now attacking the Kurds in northern Iraq and
disputed boundary areas to incite ethnic tension and rest. ISIL
likely staged and planned many of these attacks at remote
encampments in western Iraq. The Iraqis began to spot these
camps late last summer but proved unable to target them
effectively due to unarmored helicopters and the lack of other
necessary CT equipment which is needed to deny terrorists safe
Today, thanks to close cooperation from this committee and
the Congress, we've begun to address this problem, as I will
discuss in more detail. By the end of last year, signature ISIL
attacks, vehicle and suicide bombs matched levels not seen
since the summer of 2007.
Overall, violence remains far lower mainly because Shi'a
militias have yet to respond en masse to ISIL provocations. But
the risks of such reprisals rise as ISIL attacks rise. Also,
over the course of 2013 political instability and continuous
unrest in Sunni areas enabled but did not cause ISIL's rise.
There was a protest movement that began after a number of
bodyguards to former Minister of Finance Rafa al-Issawi were
detained by Iraqi security forces. These protests placed on the
national agenda a number of legitimate demands such as ending
the process of de-Ba'athification and ensuring criminal due
We supported these legitimate demands and we worked with
all parties to shape a package of legislation to address them,
which is now pending in the Iraqi Parliament. Ongoing violence,
however, has made it difficult for Shi'a and Kurdish blocs to
support this package of legislation absent concessions for
their own constituencies.
Over the course of the spring and into the summer, the
protest movement became more militant with al-Qaeda flags
spotted in protest squares. This accelerated a vicious cycle.
ISIL exploited unaddressed grievances and increasing
violence but long overdue reforms further out of reach. This
brings us to where we are today and how we intend to help the
Iraqis fight back.
On January 1, 2014, convoys of up to 100 trucks with
mounted heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns flying the
black flag of al-Qaeda entered the central cities of Fallujah
and Ramadi. They deployed to key objectives, destroyed most
police stations and secured vital crossways. The police in both
cities nearly disintegrated.
The domination of these central cities was a culmination of
ISIL's 2013 strategy to govern territory and establish 7th
century Islamic rule. In Fallujah, days after seizing central
areas, ISIL declared the city part of an Islamic caliphate.
This message, however, is not popular in Anbar Province. In
Ramadi, in the hours after ISIL arrived in force tribal leaders
organized and asked for funds and arms from the central
government to retake their streets.
The government responded with money, weapons and assurances
that tribal fighters would enjoy full benefits of any soldier
in the Iraqi army.
I have been to Iraq twice since the new year. In meetings
with Prime Minister Maliki and other Iraqi leaders, I have
pressed upon them the urgent necessity of mobilizing the
population against ISIL.
I have also discussed the situation directly with tribal
and local leaders in Anbar Province. These coordinated efforts
have begun to produce results. Fighting continues in Ramadi's
outskirts but local leaders report that the central city is
increasingly secure with tribal fighters working in
coordination with local leaders.
The Iraqi army has remained outside, helping where
necessary to secure populated areas. The situation in Fallujah
is more serious with hardened ISIL fighters and former
insurgents in control of the streets. One week ago, ISIL
fighters captured a group of Iraqi soldiers, paraded them
around the city flying al-Qaeda's black flag and then executed
Further complicating the situation, we assess that some
tribes in and around Fallujah are supporting ISIL while others
are fighting ISIL and many others remain on the fence. The
hardened fighters inside the city are seeking to draw the army
into a direct confrontation.
Thus far, the army has not taken the bait, focusing its
efforts on the outskirts and keeping tribal fighters in the
lead. But make no mistake, the Government of Iraq, working in
full coordination with local leaders and the local population,
has a responsibility to secure Fallujah.
Under the plan that is now being developed as explained to
us by local and national leaders late last week, tribal
fighters will lead this effort with the army in support when
The United States is prepared to offer advice, make
recommendations and share lessons learned based on our deep
experience in these areas. General Austin, in a visit to
Baghdad last week, had a series of candid conversations with
Iraqi officials and commanders about the importance of patience
ISIL is also planning to consolidate control of Fallujah
and move 30 miles east of Baghdad. In a rare audio statement,
on January 21st ISIL's leader directed his fighters ``to be on
the front lines against the Shi'a and march toward Baghdad.''
Were there any doubt of potential risks for the United
States, he added what he said was a direct message to the
Americans: ``Soon we will be in direct confrontation so watch
for us for we are with you watching.'' We take such threats
seriously and through cooperation with this committee and the
Congress we intend to help the Iraqis in their efforts to
defeat ISIL over the long term. Here's how.
First, we are pressing the national leadership in the
highest possible levels to develop a holistic security
political economic strategy to isolate extremists from the
population. This means supporting local tribal fighters,
incorporating those fighters into the security services and
committing to April elections to be held on time.
Second, we are supporting the Iraqi security forces through
accelerated foreign military sales, training and information
sharing. The Iraqis have now equipped Caravan aircraft, for
example, to fire Hellfire missiles thereby denying ISIL safe
haven in the western desert.
Such assistance is offered pursuant to a holistic strategy
and we've made clear to the Iraqis that security operations,
while a necessary condition for defeating ISIL, are not
Third, we are actively encouraging an aggressive economic
component to mobilize the Sunni population against ISIL. In the
5 weeks since ISIL entered Ramadi and Fallujah, the GOI has
allocated over $35 million to Anbar Province in assistance and
payments to fighters.
Throughout, our message to all Iraqi leaders is firm.
Despite your differences across a host of issues, you must find
a way to work together when it comes to ISIL, an organization
that threatens all Iraqis.
This is particularly true for Prime Minister Maliki who, as
the head of state, must take extra measures to reach out to
Sunni leaders and draw critical mass of the local population
into the fight.
I want to thank you again for allowing me to address this
most important topic. I look forward to working closely with
you in the months ahead to protect U.S. interests in Iraq and
throughout the region and I look forward to your questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. McGurk follows:]
Chairman Royce. Thank you, Mr. McGurk.
The first question I was going to ask you related to
something that happened last summer. There were militant camps
and training grounds spotted in western Iraq.
So we could see this brewing, and yesterday we heard the
CIA Director note before Congress that there are camps inside
of both Iraq and Syria that are, in his words, used by al-Qaeda
to develop capabilities that are applicable both in theater as
well as beyond.
So you noted that the Iraqi Government could spot these
camps but did not have the ability to target effectively,
leaving safe havens just miles from populated areas, in your
If these al-Qaeda camps present a direct threat to our
interests and the Iraqis can't deal with it, then why weren't
we doing more against these camps?
You know, how would this gap that the Iraqi capabilities
obviously can't meet be closed? How could you effectively move
Mr. McGurk. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let me kind of walk through the last 4 or 5 months. Really,
late last summer the Iraqis spotted some of these camps and
they tried to target them. They flew Bell 104 helicopters out--
47 helicopters out there.
The helicopters were shot up by PKC machine guns. They
tried to send the army out there. The army was IED'd on the
roads, which are heavily booby trapped. So it was pretty clear
that despite a very strong Iraqi security force capability they
were not able to target camps in these remote areas and their
special forces also could not operate effectively in those
And that is when we began to accelerate some of our foreign
military assistance programs and also information sharing to
get a better intelligence picture. So two notable developments
over recent months.
First, the Iraqis have become very effective with the
Hellfire missile strikes through their Caravan aircrafts and we
are helping them in the find, fix and finish mission in which
they're undertaking, and second, we believe, as we've had many
discussions with this committee--many good discussions--that
Apache helicopter platforms are really a critical platform for
denying safe haven in these areas over the long term, and I
want to thank this committee for helping us with that sale,
which was recently approved.
But this won't be immediate. It won't be until later this
year that the first leased helicopters get into the country and
are operational. But that is really a long-term solution to
Chairman Royce. The other question I was going to ask you
was in your testimony you called suicide bombers a key data
point we track and noted that these suicide bombers operating
in Iraq are in fact foreign fighters that have come in.
Where are these foreign fighters coming from? We've seen
reports that close to a 1,000 have come from Europe, some from
the U.S. I was going to ask you how do you assess the threat to
U.S. personnel, not only that threat to personnel and our
interests in the region but also here in the United States.
Mr. McGurk. Mr. Chairman, the foreign fighters in Syria are
coming from all over the world. This is a problem we faced in
the years 2006 to 2008 when foreign fighters were coming into
Syria and also making their way into Iraq through what was then
the al-Qaeda in Iraq network.
They're coming mainly from the region. But we do assess
from our best intelligence assessments that the suicide bombers
are foreign fighters. Right now, they do not pose a direct
threat to us or our personnel but they pose a direct threat to
the stability of Iraq.
The suicide bombers, and again, about five to 10 a month
over 2011 and 2012, now about 30 to 40 a month, it has a
pernicious effect on the political discourse in the country.
Car bombs--the Iraqis have been able to protect against car
bombs. You don't see mass casualty car bomb attacks like you
used to see. There are still a lot of car bombs but casualties
It's the suicide bombers that are able to get into
funerals, mosques, populated areas and cause mass casualties,
which has just a devastating effect on the country. So it's a
very serious, serious problem and a regional problem.
Chairman Royce. And the last question I'll ask in my
remaining moments, you were just in Baghdad meeting with Iraqi
officials and you state that you detected for the first time
acknowledgment that Government of Iraq missteps may have made
the problem worse, and as I noted in my statement this is not
the feeling that Ranking Member Engel and I received when we
raised this issue with the President of Iraq in our meeting. So
that was a few months ago.
I am somewhat encouraged by this but how encouraged should
we be? Because our concern has long been that this lack of
reconciliation is compounding the problem seriously.
Mr. McGurk. I have found, frankly, Mr. Chairman, an
attitude among the Iraqis that was similar to the tactics that
we used in the early part of the war, that the security problem
was simply a security problem and not a problem that was fused
with politics and economics, and we had a series of
conversations over the course of last year as the ISIL attacks
increased in which Iraqis saw this mainly as a security
All I can say is that I've been there twice this month
since the entry of ISIL into Fallujah and Ramadi and I have
heard from across the board from the Prime Minister on down
that unless you enlist local Sunnis in those areas you will
never defeat and isolate ISIL.
And we have seen that now manifested in a commitment. The
Iraqi cabinet has passed a number of resolutions saying tribal
fighters will be given full benefits of the state and, most
significantly, Prime Minister Maliki has made a commitment that
tribal fighters who oust ISIL from these areas will be
incorporated into the formal security services of the state--
the police and the army.
That did not happen with the Awakening fighters that we
worked with in 2006 to 2008. So that is a very significant
commitment. We now need to stay on the Iraqis to make sure they
Chairman Royce. Thank you. We'll go to Mr. Engel.
Mr. Engel. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. McGurk, let me ask you about al-Qaeda in Iraq. It's
been reported that al-Zawahiri, the head of al-Qaeda, has
disowned the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. So if that's
true, what does that mean for al-Qaeda's presence in Iraq?
What are the repercussions for ISIS operating without the
al-Qaeda umbrella and how will this affect the rebel infighting
in Syria now that al-Nusra has the blessing of al-Qaeda?
Mr. McGurk. Well, ISIL and al-Nusra were both kind of--came
out of al-Qaeda in Iraq. ISIL basically is al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Its leader was the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader since 2010.
Nusra was a bit of an offshoot and is focused more on
Syria. As you said, there's now this message, which seems from
Zawahiri, saying that ISIL is no longer affiliated with al-
I would defer to my intelligence colleagues on the long-
term effects but what we have found is that ISIL has such a
media presence, such a propaganda presence and is able to self-
sustain itself by controlling facilities in eastern Syria
including oil facilities and also through extortion rackets in
cities in western Iraq that it'll be able to maintain its cycle
In terms of those who are recruited and come in to ISIL,
it's really--their message, and it goes all the way back to
Zarqawi 10 years ago, is just very perniciously sectarian, that
Shi'a Muslims in particular simply don't have a right to live
and they should be killed, and those who believe that tend to
gravitate toward ISIL.
Nusra is more of a al-Qaeda central-like message and also
including a threat to us. But I think--despite this new
statement we've seen I think ISIL is going to maintain its pace
of operations and continue to be a very serious threat.
Mr. Engel. Thank you.
I'd like to ask you some questions about Iraq and Iran and
the relationship. When I look back at the war in Iraq, what
really breaks my heart is that we lost so many Americans, so
much American blood, and now it's almost as if we didn't do
Nothing we did was positive. It's all been eroded, and it
really just breaks my heart for people who lost loved ones
We're the ones responsible, in my opinion, for making Iran
the hegemonic power in the region because Iran and Iraq for
years fought wars, checked each other and once we blew up--not
that Saddam Hussein was worth anything but once we blew up the
minority Sunni regime in Iraq and it seems to me it was only
obvious that the Shi'as in Iraq would gravitate to the Shi'as
in Iran, and the sad thing is that Iran has more influence, in
my opinion, in Iraq now than we have.
So there are reports, and Chairman Royce and I raised this
with Mr. Maliki when he was in Washington, that Iraq is
allowing Iran overflights as Iran seeks to arm Hezbollah.
Hezbollah, obviously, is now fighting the war in Syria on
Assad's side. It's helping Hezbollah expand its presence in
Syria, defending the Assad regime.
So can you characterize that relationship that Prime
Minister Maliki and other senior Iraqi officials have with Iran
and how would you describe Iraq's commitments to the U.S. on
the overflight issue? Does Maliki understand how this
destabilizes the region?
Mr. McGurk. Iraq's relationship with Iran is multifaceted.
We have found repeatedly over the years that Iraq acts
primarily in its own interests.
We found very few instances in which we've seen Iraq acting
at the behest of Iran in which it did not see it acting in its
own interests. You can look at that in terms of Iraq's overall
oil production. You can look at it in terms of Iraq ratifying
the additional protocol.
You can look at it in terms of Iraq supporting the Geneva 1
communique, a number of steps in which we know the Iranians
were pressing the Iraqis not to do things and the Iraqis did
them. The issue of overflights is something where the Iraqis
have not done enough. We have seen the number of flights come
We continue to press this issue. Inspections go up.
Inspections go down. It's very frustrating. It's often very
difficult for us to get a precise intelligence picture of
specific flights and what's on a flight.
We know that material, we believe, is coming on civilian
aircraft. So it's just--it's a problem that we focus on all the
time. It's the one area where I can say Iraq is simply not
Mr. Engel. I just--thank you. I just want to make one final
comment and that it's--it was my opinion when the chairman and
I met with Mr. Maliki that he was a good listener but I didn't
think he provided too much in terms of answers to the questions
we had, one of which was overflights.
I think that he just came to listen but, really, didn't
come to put his head together with us and help solve the
Mr. McGurk. I have found, Congressmen, that the--since the
Prime Minister's trip that your meeting with him, other
meetings he had here on the Hill, he spent about 2 hours with
President Obama in the Oval Office, he got a very direct
message on a number of issues and we have seen some fairly
significant changes from that visit.
So I want to thank you for the meeting you had with him. I
think you made an influence. On some of the issues which I know
were discussed with Camp Liberty we've seen some changes, and
particularly in the need for a holistic strategy to defeat ISIL
and enlisting the Sunnis into the fight at the local level we
have seen some fairly dramatic and significant changes from
Mr. Engel. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Royce. Thank you, Mr. Engel.
We go now to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome once again, sir. The Iraqi Jewish archives--you
have been engaged in discussions with the Iraqis on this issue
and your staff has spoken to--with representatives of the Iraqi
Jewish Diaspora and the Jewish community as a whole.
But could you give us an update on progress of these
discussions? Have there been alternative plans proposed? On the
issue of the T-walls at Camp Liberty, why have there been only
235 out of 17,500 T-walls put up and why have we only seen an
addition of 43 since our November subcommittee hearing? Can you
please commit that you will put extra effort in saving lives
And then thirdly, as far as al-Qaeda's resurgence, a large
part of this is due to the failure in the Iraqi Government and
Iraqi leadership since we left the country. There are national
elections planned in Iraq in April.
We were successful after the surge in getting the Iraqi
Government to participate in a more inclusive power sharing
government that kind of mollified the Sunnis of Iraq and left
al-Qaeda marginalized. Then after we left the Iraqis took
another step backward.
Now it was the Sunnis who were marginalized, drawing many
of them toward al-Qaeda. What steps are we taking to ensure
that the Sunnis are participating in these elections and that
Iraq can return to that sort of power sharing government we saw
in the post-surge Iraq?
And continuing with the Shi'a-Sunni issue we've seen over
the last few days that the Iraqi military has been bombarding
Fallujah, which was taken over by al-Qaeda late last year,
presumably preparing the way for a ground assault.
However, the Shi'a-dominated Maliki government cannot
successfully take Fallujah on its own without the help of the
Sunni tribal leaders in the region. Can you describe the
current--our relationship between the Maliki government and
these tribal leaders and do you think Maliki will be able to
gain their support, given Maliki's crackdown on Sunnis in Iraq
for these past few years?
Thank you, sir.
Mr. McGurk. Thank you.
Let me take the topics in order. On the Jewish archives, as
you know this is a very sensitive topic. I've been working
directly with the Iraqis on this. I was just in Iraq and raised
it with those officials who are charged with the file. We are
engaged in sensitive negotiations with the Iraqis.
In the coming weeks, the director of Iraq's National
Library and Archives will be coming to the United States and,
again, I hope to report progress on this. But we're engaged and
it's a sensitive negotiation but I will keep you fully informed
of those talks.
On Camp Liberty, on specifically on the issue T-walls, I
have, again, made a number of trips to Iraq and every time I go
from Maliki on down I raise the issue of T-walls. We got T-
walls moving back into the camp earlier this month. They
I raised it again last Thursday with the Iraqi national
security advisor. I understand this morning T-walls are moving
into the camp again. I visited the survivors and residents at
Camp Liberty earlier this month. I told them I promised I would
do everything I could.
I also urged them to do everything they could and that
meant showing up at these camp management meetings where plans
are made to move the T-walls into the camp. This is an issue
I'm going to continue to stay on top of.
On the issue of elections and Sunni participation, as I
said in my testimony we are focused to holding elections on
April 30th. This will be the third full term election for a 4-
year government, first one December 2005 and then 2010 and then
As you may know, the head of the main Sunni coalition,
Osama al-Nujaifi, was in the United States 2 weeks ago. He had
meetings with the President and the Vice President. He met the
Secretary of State at his home.
So we are very focused on making sure that the elections
happen, that they produce a genuine and credible result and
that they allow a government to reform that reflects the make-
up of Iraqi society with all represented.
In Fallujah, as I described in my testimony the plan is to
have the tribes out in front but with the army in support
because this is--they face--ISIL is an army. They have heavy
weapons. They have 50-caliber sniper rifles. They are very well
trained and very well fortified.
So we have to have the Sunnis, tribal local people out in
front but they will require security support. And General
Austin was in Iraq last week for direct talks with Iraqi
military commanders. We are advising the commanders as best we
can, building on the lessons that we learned in these areas for
tactical and strategic patience, for planning and to make sure
that civilian casualties are minimized.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much.
I know how hard you have been working, and to paraphrase
Ambassador Crocker everything about Iraq is hard all the time.
So please keep making progress.
Thank you, sir.
Chairman Royce. Mr. Sherman of California. Thank you.
Mr. Sherman. There was bipartisan support for leaving a
residual force in Iraq. That required a status of forces
agreement with the Maliki government, and the status of forces
agreement would have had to have included immunity for our
soldiers so that they would not be subject to Iraqi courts.
We ask our soldiers, Marines, airmen, et cetera, to take
many risks. One of them we don't ask them to take is the idea
that their actions would be held up to judgment in a court in
Iraq or a court in Afghanistan, for that matter.
We didn't get a status of forces agreement. One theory is
the administration blew the negotiations. The other view is the
Maliki government was in place when this administration got
there. Maliki didn't have to give immunity to our troops and
chose not to.
We've seen that these immunity agreements are difficult for
a host country to provide. Karzai isn't providing them and
there are several elements of Iranian history going back 70 or
80 years where the Shah was held up to great ridicule for
providing such immunity agreements.
Did we fail to get a status of forces agreement because we
blew the negotiations or, given the political reality starting
with Maliki, was there simply no way to get the immunity?
Mr. McGurk. First, keying on the history is really
important here. The history of immunity agreements,
particularly in this region, is really what colors the entire
The negotiation in 2007 and 2008 took almost 18 months, and
while we got those two agreements passed, the security
agreement which allowed our forces to stay for 3 more years
with immunities and a permanent strategic framework agreement
they barely passed.
They passed on the last possible day and almost by the skin
of their teeth, and I was working on that issue with Ambassador
Crocker for almost 18 months.
Mr. Sherman. This is passing the Iraqi Parliament?
Mr. McGurk. Yes, the Iraqi Parliament. Our legal
requirements in 2011 were that another follow-on agreement
would have to go through the Iraqi Parliament.
It was the assessment of the Iraqi political leaders and
also of our leadership that it was unlikely to pass and
therefore the decision was made that our troops leave by the
end of 2011.
But we still have a permanent strategic framework
agreement. That agreement has passed the Iraqi Parliament. It
was ratified in 2008 and it provides us a strong basis for
providing security assistance to the Iraqis.
It does not provide us a basis for having boots on the
ground and a training presence. But we do train Iraqi special
forces under our Office of Security Cooperation through the
Embassy and we're also in discussions with regional partners
for having a training presence.
Mr. Sherman. Okay. I want to move on to another question.
Has there been discussion of the U.S. Air Force or other
air force--naval air forces bombing these al-Qaeda camps rather
than us providing huge amounts of weaponry to Maliki so that he
can try to do it himself? And has there been discussion of U.S.
Air Force's preventing overflights by the Iranians since the
Iraqis say they can't control their own airspace?
Mr. McGurk. No, there's not been discussion of a direct
U.S. role in controlling Iraqi airspace or in targeting the
camps. We're very focused on increasing the Iraqi capacity to
be able to target camps and they've proven effective in recent
Mr. Sherman. I would point out that if only we were bombing
al-Qaeda camps before--the years before 9/11 we may have had a
very different history.
We see the residents of Camp Ashraf, 52 of them killed last
September--in December, another four killed. The Secretary of
State has appointed a special advisor on MEK resettlement.
What is the status of protecting these folks while they're
there and insisting that Iraq meet its legal obligations to do
so and of finding homes outside the region for some of the
Mr. McGurk. Let me make a couple points. When I was here in
November, I explained that there is a cell, we believe, trained
by Iran and it is dedicated to attacking the MEK at Camp
We had cells trained by Iran dedicated to attacking us when
we had a military presence in Iraq. We did everything we could
to root those cells out and it was very difficult. We were
never able to do so.
So the only place that these people will be safe is outside
of Iraq and that's why we are focused, as you said. Jonathan
Weiner has been appointed to work this issue full time as a
senior advisor for MEK resettlement to find a safe secure
relocation for the residents of Camp Liberty.
But while they're at Camp Liberty, the governor of Iraq has
an obligation to do everything it can to keep them safe and
that means T-walls and that means protection and that is
something we raise constantly to make sure that they are
getting as much protection as possible.
You also mentioned some other notable developments and
there's finally some real international tension to this urgent
humanitarian crisis. First, there is a U.N.-created
We have notified Congress for $1 million to put into that
resettlement fund. When I was in Iraq last week on Tuesday, the
Iraqi cabinet authorized $500,000 to be allocated to that
The United Nations has also appointed Jane Holl Lute full
time basis to focus on MEK resettlement. So we are getting some
progress and I look forward to working with you and the
committee and the Congress to try to move this forward in the
Chairman Royce. We go now to Mr. Chris Smith of New Jersey.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and Secretary
McGurk, thank you for your service and thank you for being here
today. Just a few questions.
You mentioned that on January 1st and reminded us 70 to 100
trucks entered Fallujah and Ramadi. Was that a tactical
surprise on the part of the ISIL or did we have intelligence
that suggested they were mustering and that they were about to
move or did the Iraqis have that intelligence, and if we did
what was done with that?
Secondly, you talked about how the suicide bombers in a
turn of twisted logic has become the most precious resource
and, ominously, you point out that in November 2012 there were
three suicide bombings and that has gone up to 50.
What is the glide scope on that? Is that continually
expanding as--do we expect it to be 100 by November of next
year or has that ebbed? If you could speak to that issue.
Third, you point out that ISIS has set their sights on
Baghdad in the south. You quote Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on January
21st. How seriously is that threat to Baghdad?
Fourth, if you could, you point out the ISIL execution of
Iraqi soldiers, that the Maliki soldiers did not take the
bait--the army. But is that something that's ongoing? Are they
executing police? Are they holding prisoners in center city
Fallujah or the central part of it, I should say, of Fallujah?
And then when it comes to the issue of Christians, the
USCIRF report--the Commission of Religious Freedom points out
that the Iraqi Government continues to tolerate systematic,
ongoing and egregious religious freedom violations and that is
against a number of the smaller sects, many of them going back
2,000 years including the Chaldo-Assyrians.
What is happening? What kind of pressure are we trying to
put on that government to get them to mitigate and hopefully
completely end their repression of Christians in Iraq?
And finally, you talked about the low boil type of
insurgency that this represents. Are we looking at the
possibility of another Syria in Iraq?
Mr. McGurk. Thank you, Congressman. Let me try to address
these issues, first, in terms of the entry into Fallujah and
We started to see, as the Iraqis started to hit some of the
encampments, kind of moving around of the ISIL forces and
trying to relocate. Their entre en masse on New Year's Day was
Again, I think it was a tactical mistake on ISIL's part.
This isn't going to turn overnight but there has been a
response. As I described in my testimony, in Ramadi the
response developed fairly rapidly to actually expel them from
the streets. In Fallujah, it's going to be far harder.
But one thing that--the Sunnis in Anbar Province they may
not like the government. They may not even trust the army. But
they really don't like these foreign jihadist fighters.
So we're trying to kind of gather common cause against
them. In terms of the suicide bombers, the average now is about
30 to 40 a week. I don't think this will be an exponential
rise. I'm hoping that the--kind of 50 might be, you know, a
We saw this problem and phenomenon in the past and what we
did in 2006 and 2008 was a very concerted regional wide
effort--how do you get these people with a one-way ticket--then
they're flying into Damascus--military-age males with a one-way
to Damascus off the airplanes, and we were fairly effective
actually at draining the flow, and one thing that drained the
flow was increasing security in western Iraq. So we're going to
try to recreate that strategy throughout the region.
ISIL's strategy to attack the south--they are trying to
attack the south. I would not be surprised if they're on the
same play book from 2006. You may remember that after the
election in December 2005 it was in late February that al-Qaeda
in Iraq then attacked the Samarra mosque, which really kind of
led to the sectarian violence which you saw for the next 2
I think they are going to try to attack very high profile
targets in the south, particularly religiously symbolic
targets. I hope and I don't think they will be successful. I
think the Iraqis have those areas pretty well protected. But
it's definitely part of their strategy.
In terms of Fallujah, yes, we do believe that Iraqi
soldiers are being held in Fallujah and, as I said, these
extremists are fighters. They're trying to goad the army into a
direct urban confrontation.
So far, despite some rhetoric you might see about storming
Fallujah, that is not the strategy that is underway. But the
government does have responsibility working with the local
people to secure Fallujah and I think there will be--there will
be fighting, particularly in the outskirts and then later in
the central city.
But we're going to try to make sure it is as contained as
possible. And on Christians, a very good question. We're very
focused on the plight of Christians in Iraq but also throughout
When Prime Minister Maliki was here he acknowledged in his
public remarks the importance of taking care of the Christian
community. In October, he met with Patriarch Sako, the head of
the Chaldean Church.
When I am in Iraq I try to meet with Christian leaders. I
met with Archbishop Warda in Erbil a couple months ago and
tried to focus on some of their land disputes they're having
there. The Iraqi cabinet recently passed a resolution to talk
about carving out a Christian province to allow them some
autonomy and security.
Again, this is something that we continue to develop. I'm
going to be meeting with an Iraqi Christian leader tomorrow in
my office. So we're very focused on it but it's an extremely,
extremely difficult issue. Christians are threatened by these
extremists as are Sunnis and everybody--Sunni, Shi'a,
Chairman Royce. Thank you.
Mr. Sires of New Jersey.
Mr. Sires. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for being
You know, the ties between Iraq and Iran seems to be
getting closer. They signed a defense--have a defense treaty
that supposedly they put together.
I am concerned that maybe the safety of people at Camp
Liberty the Iraqis are not making the effort that they really
need to secure these people. If I'm making an arms contract
with--a treaty with Iran, why would I be so intent on the
safety of these people?
Just in December they keep firing rockets into this--into
this camp. So how sure are you that they're making the best
possible effort to bring security to this camp?
Mr. McGurk. Congressman, the issue remains extremely,
extremely difficult. There was a rocket attack in the camp
earlier this month and I would just remind you there was a
rocket attack at Camp Cropper, which is right near Camp Liberty
which used to house our soldiers, and we took casualties as
late as summer of 2011, and that's when we had about 70,000
troops in the country trying to stop this kind of activity.
It's very difficult to deter and to root out a well-trained
team with rockets and that is why we're trying to move as much
protection into the camp as possible. That's why I went to the
camp myself--to see it, to meet with the residents and to try
to assess the security and protection. It remains a very
I'll be honest. The MEK doesn't like the Iraqi Government.
The Iraqi Government doesn't like the MEK, and it's a very
dynamic issue and all we got to do is stay on the MEK to do
everything they can to cooperate, to move the residents to a
safe and secure location and stay on the government.
Every time I meet with the leaders of the government I
mention this issue. Despite all the other issues they're
dealing with, I mention it every single time and as I said, I
just received a report this morning that T-walls are moving
back into the camp and we're going to make sure that they
continue to move back in the camp tomorrow, the next day and
the day after.
Mr. Sires. How concerned are you about the treaty between
Iraq and Iran, this defense treaty, the arms going into Iraq?
Mr. McGurk. The Iraqis have been pretty careful to draw a
line in terms of security cooperation with Iran and so far
they've kept that line fairly firm. So I've seen reports like
that but I would not take it too seriously.
Iraq has made--the Iraqis have made clear they want a long-
term institutional relationship with the United States and they
want the United States to be the backbone of their military,
and that's why they want platforms like an Apache helicopter
When we sell a country an Apache helicopter we're not just
giving them an attack helicopter. We're actually--we're buying
a 30-year relationship in terms of training pilots, logistics,
maintenance and that's why we feel it's so important.
The F-16 program is the same. We want Iraq to have a long-
term institutional relationship military to military with the
United States. In General Austin's visit to Iraq last week he,
of course, knows the Iraqi commanders. They've led together in
the streets and the fields of Baghdad and the outskirts and all
throughout Iraq and they have very deep, deep relationships.
And I was in those meetings and you cannot get a deeper
relationship than people who have fought side by side, and that
is something that we are going to continue to develop. You
know, Maliki is the Prime Minister now. He might be the Prime
Minister after the coming elections. He might not be.
What we're focused on is building an institutional
relationship with the Iraqi Government and the institutions--
the military, the Parliament, something that's going to last
for many, many years.
Mr. Sires. And the sale of Russian arms to Iraq, are you
concerned about that at all--$4 billion, whatever it was?
Mr. McGurk. Yes. I don't want Iraqis buying Russian
hardware and, you know, but I have to be honest. Given the
security situation there's a lot of strategic competitors in
Baghdad showing up, knocking on the same doors we're knocking
on and saying hey, we're here to sell you an attack helicopter,
just write a check.
We have a system through our foreign military sales system,
which is a good system, it makes sure that the stuff arrives
with a long-term institutional relationship, as I discussed.
But it's slow and cumbersome.
Earlier this month, I was in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and
other countries and there was a lot of, you know, complaints
about our foreign military sales system is too slow. We hear
the same thing from the Iraqis.
But I want Iraq to buy U.S. equipment because that buys a
long-term strategic relationship. So yes, you know, it's
unfortunate that they bought the MI-35s from the Russians but
on the other hand, you know, they kept telling us they were
going to do it if we couldn't get them the Apaches fast enough.
Mr. Sires. And there's no consideration to giving them
drones, right? Selling drones to the Iraqis?
Mr. McGurk. Well, we are selling them unmanned UAVs. Not
armed drones but we're selling them----
Mr. Sires. I meant armed.
Mr. McGurk. Yes. No, armed drones is not under
Mr. Sires. Okay. Thank you.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you.
We now turn to Mr. Rohrabacher for his questions.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Thank you very much, and we're all
impressed with your knowledge level you're able to do this and
from your memory and we're impressed by that. I'm impressed by
that. But that doesn't mean that I agree with your assessment.
Let me just say that the idea that--we're talking about
Camp Ashraf. It seems that fundamentally you're suggesting that
our approach to try to stop the massacre--the ongoing massacre
of the people at Camp Liberty that we basically have to go to
the Maliki government and ask them and the problem is they're
not providing enough security.
The Maliki government is responsible for these deaths. I
don't understand. The military, the Iraqi military, invaded
Camp Ashraf and murdered people. These are the people under
Maliki's command did that.
They recently went into--the 50 that were so left at Camp
Ashraf, tied their hands behind their back and shot them in the
back of the head and it was Maliki's own military we know who
We know that the Camp Ashraf and these people were attacked
numerous times by the Iraqi military. This isn't whether Maliki
and his people are not protecting the MEK. This is a crime
against humanity. These are unarmed refugees in which Maliki's
own troops are murdering.
We're not talking about, you know, rockets that we don't
know where they come from. We're talking about actual--by the
way, I would suggest that they probably know about those
rockets as well.
Maliki--let's make it very clear. As far as I'm concerned
and as far as many people in Washington are concerned, Maliki
is an accomplice to the murders that are going on, and as an
accomplice we should not be treating him, begging him, to have
a residual force of U.S. troops in order to help his regime.
I don't understand why the United States feels like--we
feel compelled to be part of all of this. Why do we feel
compelled that we have to go in and be in the middle of a fight
between people who are murdering each other? Thirty to 40
suicide bombers a month? Thousands of people are losing their
lives to this insanity.
Why should the United States, tell me--this is my
question--why does the United States feel that we need to
become part of this insanity and does that not instead turn
both of the parties against us?
Mr. McGurk. Congressman, the suicide bomber phenomenon, it
is complete insanity. I agree with you.
When you look at Iraq and you look at the region and you
define our interests, and I don't go with any leader and beg
for anything but we protect and advance U.S. interests as we
define them, and in Iraq, whether you like it or not, oil, al-
Qaeda, Iran, vital U.S. interests are at stake in Iraq. So we
need to do what we can without putting U.S. personnel----
Mr. Rohrabacher. Why shouldn't we let them kill each other?
Let them kill each other. I'm sorry. If it means that we're
going to spend our treasure and more of our blood--we've
already spent thousands of lives of American soldiers.
We've done enough, and I'm so happy that you now can report
to us that your negotiations to provide a residual American
military force in Iraq was not successful because I'm very
happy that we don't have a bunch of American troops in the
middle of that mess.
And if we're not even--we are not even capable of letting
Maliki know that we're holding him responsible for the murders
in his own ranks, for the people--for the military that he
commands to go into Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty and murder
This is a no-win situation for us. Both sides seem to be
evil--both sides or all the sides. One last question. I've got
Who is financing? You talked about 100 trucks and all of
this equipment costs money. Bullets even cost money. AK-47s
cost money. Rockets cost money. Who is paying for all of that,
the mayhem on both sides of this fight?
Mr. McGurk. Congressman, I defer to my intelligence
colleagues for the specific funding. But we believe it's the
whole source of funding but private funding from throughout the
region funding the global jihadist movement which is now really
based in Syria and the region.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Is that the Saudis?
Mr. McGurk. Again, I would have to defer to my intelligence
colleagues for that sort of information. But a lot of it is
private--you know, private funding.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Private funds. Thank you very much.
Chairman Royce. Mr. McGurk, while you're on the subject--
while we're on the subject, did you want to share any details
in terms of the attack on Camp Ashraf and, in your judgment,
who you believe was involved in that, since that was the
question at hand?
Mr. McGurk. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I think the last time I was here I discussed what we know.
We believe it was a militia. We believe the militia was trained
by Iran and that's really the primary responsibility, and we
have--since that very horrific attack we worked to get the
survivors out of Camp Ashraf, which is about, you know, 40
miles from the Iranian border, and onto Camp Liberty.
Camp Liberty is not safe but it's safer. We have the U.N.
in the camp every day monitoring the camp and, again, when I go
to try to go to the camp and meet with the survivors and the
residents there. So we're doing----
Chairman Royce. And you're making efforts right now to
relocate the survivors?
Mr. McGurk. Absolutely. Yes.
Chairman Royce. Okay. We're going to go now to Mr. Gerry
Connolly from Virginia.
Mr. Connolly. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and welcome, Mr.
Couple of questions first. The authorization for the use of
military force, the administration has indicated it would not
oppose the repeal of that. Is the issue the timing with respect
to, say, pending elections in Iraq? Might it disrupt things
you're doing in Iraq if we were to do that now?
Mr. McGurk. Congressman, I don't think there's much focus
on that in Iraq so I don't think it would make much of a
Mr. Connolly. Okay.
Mr. McGurk [continuing]. In terms of from the Iraqi
Mr. Connolly. That's good to know. Okay.
Elections in April still on schedule?
Mr. McGurk. We--our team at the Embassy is talking every
day to the United Nations assistant mission in Iraq and the
Iraqi High Electoral Commission, which are planning elections,
and the information I have received most recently is that
elections do remain on track.
We have tens of thousands of displaced families from Anbar
Province. We have been assured by those planning the elections
that displaced people will still be able to vote and the vote
will count as if they were in their home province.
So we are still confident the election will be held on
April 30th and our consistent position and very firm position
is that those elections have to be held on April 30th. There
should not be a delay.
Mr. Connolly. What a novel thought, allowing people to vote
remotely--a thought here for the United States.
But Fallujah--help us understand what happened. I mean, the
United States has been involved now for 12 years. Billions and
billions of dollars--we've reconstituted the Iraqi military. We
have trained, you know, law enforcement forces.
We spent our military's blood and treasure to gain a
foothold, to gain Fallujah, and, you know, al-Qaeda's success
or organization manages to occupy it. And if I understood your
testimony correctly, we're now once again relying on tribal
support to essentially dislodge the occupying forces in
How in the world--isn't that an indictment of the
investments we've made in the Iraqi military and its inability
to hold its own territory secure?
Mr. McGurk. The Iraqi military would have the numbers and
the equipment to go into Fallujah tomorrow and clean out the
streets. We believe that were they to do an assault like that
that it would actually exacerbate the problem. So----
Mr. Connolly. I guess--excuse me 1 second, Mr. McGurk.
I don't mean--but before you get there, but how did it
happen in the first place? How is it that the Iraqi Government
was not able to secure something as symbolically important if
not really important as Fallujah?
Mr. McGurk. As I tried to explain in my testimony, there
was a series of events throughout 2013 including a protest
movement which kind of added to the political instability in
the region, and in Fallujah in particular it is an area, as we
know, any outsiders coming into Fallujah are resisted and that
includes the Iraqi army, it included us and it includes, we
hope now, these al-Qaeda extremists.
You know, all I can say is we are where we are right now
and we're helping the Iraqis develop a plan--they're developing
a plan, one that will lead--I say tribal fighters. What we
really mean is that the local people, local population who know
the streets, who are able to actually identify the foreign
elements and push them out.
But right now in Fallujah, it's a mix of al-Qaeda, former
insurgent groups and former Ba'athist networks who are in
control of the streets there. It has always been a very
difficult place and so it's just a very difficult territory to
Mr. Connolly. The tribal support we're relying on or
cooperating with what is their attitude toward the Maliki
government? I mean, because doesn't some of that support and
cooperation, isn't some of that a function of how they view the
Mr. McGurk. Yes. Certainly, there's tremendous mistrust in
the area of Fallujah toward the central government. There's no
question about that.
Mr. Connolly. And does that impede our ability to try to
dislodge the occupation forces in Fallujah?
Mr. McGurk. It does. It makes it--it makes it harder. As I
said, some tribes are actually working with the extremists.
Some are now working to oust them and many others are on the
fence, and that's why it's incumbent upon the central
government through resources and through dialogue and
communication to mobilize the population against them.
And when we worked with the Awakening we did three things.
We trusted them, we funded them but also significantly we
protected them. They thought they were going to win.
Sheikh Abdul Sattar, who was the head of the Awakening in
the early days, we parked two M-1 tanks in front of his villa
and he was still killed by a suicide bomber.
So, you know, this is a very tough area and these are tough
folks. But the tribal leaders need to know that they're going
to be supported and they believe they're going to win, and
that's why Maliki's commitment most recently to give tribal
fighters all the benefits of an Iraqi soldier and to
incorporate those fighters into the security structures of the
state, meaning they'll have a livelihood going forward to
protect their people, is a very significant commitment.
It's one that's never been made before and we now need to
make sure that we hold the government to it and follow through.
Mr. Connolly. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Royce. Judge Ted Poe from Texas.
Mr. Poe. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to talk about what you probably thought I would talk
about today is the MEK. The last time you were here and you
testified before my subcommittee and the chairwoman, Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen's, subcommittee I made the statement that there
would probably be more attacks on Camp Liberty and,
unfortunately, I was correct. Camp Liberty was attacked again--
four people killed, seven injured. One young man lost both of
Since 2009, there have been seven attacks on Camp Liberty
or Camp Ashraf. During that time, 19 times members of the State
Department have testified. Most of those or many of those were
about Camp Liberty in addition to other things.
In all those attacks, to my knowledge as of today, not one
person has been captured or charged with any of those
killings--not one, and they're still on the loose.
As I alluded to in my testimony, I personally believe that
the Maliki government is in cahoots with the Iranian Government
to let Camp Liberty, Camp Ashraf be subject to attacks. These
last attacks, from my understanding, were rockets came in that
were three meters long, 40 of them.
It seems impossible to me that a rogue Iranian militia
could sneak those by anybody and then fire them over a period
of time and cause this chaos and murder, and I bring this up
for several reasons.
One, it hadn't been resolved. But this has become very
personal to people who live in my district. I represent people
who are Iranian-Americans. They know these people that are
being killed. They are family. They are friends. And they come
and they visit and they tell us it's happened again, Judge Poe,
with tears in their eyes.
So it's become personal. Many of those people are sitting
behind you and they come up here wanting help. That's all they
want. The United States has, you know, said that we promised to
We've just--we no longer recognize them as a foreign
terrorist organization. They just want their loved ones safe,
safe first from the constant attacks by the--well, I believe
the Iraqi and the Iranians working together, but long term they
want to leave. They want to be in a safe country.
Now, when you visited, and I commend you for going to visit
the camp, did you see these--what looked like graves but they
are really--what these are used for the people at Camp Liberty
are in such fear of their lives they no longer stay in these
trailer houses here.
They have dug themselves what looks like a grave to hide in
when the attacks come from the rockets and they dig these and
they put sandbags around them and then they're ready for the
They jump in these things. Some of them sleep in these
things at night, even in the rain, to try to be safe--literally
digging their own graves.
This is--it seems to me this is a fairly tragic situation
when people live like this in fear of where they are, whether
it's the Iraqis, whether it's the Iranians or both. Were you
able--did you see any of this when you were there, these--what
they use as now foxholes to hide in from the rockets?
Mr. McGurk. I didn't see that particular lane but I saw
some of the bunkers in the--at the camp.
Mr. Poe. Well, I'm sure you'll see it on your next visit.
But, now, this is what they have resorted to for their own
safety. I think that is an international human rights concern.
It should be.
The T-walls--you mentioned T-walls are coming. My
understanding they hadn't gotten any T-walls today. Seventeen
thousand of them were removed in a short period of time. Now
they're wanting to put them back in slowly. It's a safety
They just want these T-walls to be safe. They ought to move
them in now. The other concern that I wanted to mention is the
resettlement issue. They want to leave Iraq. We want them to
leave. The Iraqis want them to leave.
The Iranians want them to--I'm not so sure what the
Iranians want. But the West constantly says because the United
States has not taken any of these people we're not going to
take them either. When the U.S. starts leading by example
rather than just talking about removing these people then maybe
we'll take them as well.
Why haven't these folks been sent to other countries? Why
haven't we taken some of them or all of them? That's my first
question. And the second question is when you visited with the
survivors of the Ashraf Camp attack, did they tell you who they
believed was responsible for attacking them and killing their
families and their friends? Those are the two questions I have.
Mr. McGurk. Let me, first, say in terms of accountability,
a Shi'a militia leader who took responsibility for the attacks
openly and was on Iraqi television giving interviews, taking
responsibility for attacking the camp. We thought it was
ridiculous that this guy was walking the streets inciting
people to attack the camp.
He was arrested by Iraqi security forces and is detained
and is being investigated. So that is something that happened
in the last month. I agree with you that this is an
international human rights concern.
That is why, as I mentioned in my response earlier, I find
it encouraging that there is now United Nations focus with the
resettlement fund, a full time person at the United Nations to
focus on this issue.
And as you also correctly point out, very few countries
around the world, despite the international human rights
concern, have agreed to take the residents into their
territory--Albania, Germany, a total of about 350. So we still
have almost 2,900 people at the camp.
This is an international human rights concern and it has to
be treated with the utmost urgency. As you know, we are
considering options to relocate and integrate camp residents in
the United States, in close coordination with the White House
Department of Homeland Security and other relevant agencies,
and any eligible residents would have to be fully vetted, of
course, under our standards by the Department of Homeland
Security. That is something that we are actively, actively,
actively considering, I can assure you.
But we also, and I would encourage those who care about the
residents as do we to lobby other capitals around the world,
given that this is an international human rights concern, to
take residents into their territory because so long as they are
in Iraq they will not be safe.
And you're right, four residents of the camp lost their
lives, tragically, this month. Nine hundred Iraqis also lost
their lives this month.
Iraq is a very violent place and particularly the residents
at Camp Liberty will not be safe until they leave and that is
why we have a full time person working on it.
We encourage the U.N. and they have now appointed a full
time person to work on the problem and we have a U.N.
resettlement fund to encourage other countries to take the
residents in, and until they're out of Iraq they won't be safe.
Chairman Royce. And now we go to Mr. Ted Deutch of Florida.
Mr. Deutch. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. McGurk, thanks for being here. Thanks for your
Last year, we wrote a letter to the Prime Minister about
the flight--the overflights of Iranian aircraft. There are
reports that the number of overflights from Iran has increased,
that these are flights that Iran sends to arm Hezbollah to
expand their influence in Syria to defend the Assad regime even
as it slaughters--continues to slaughter its own people.
How do you characterize Prime Minister Maliki's
relationship with Iran?
Mr. McGurk. Let me say a couple words about Iran's
nefarious role in Iraq.
Just like al-Qaeda has exploited the grievances of the
Sunni community, Iran is exploiting the fears and apprehensions
of the Shi'a community as they are attacked by these al-Qaeda
So it's a vicious cycle that Iran very much takes advantage
of in their most extreme elements of that regime and the Quds
Maliki, and we discuss this with him all the time, you
know, tries to balance all these many pressures that come at
Baghdad from the region and from internal debates.
He is under great pressure from his constituency,
particularly among the Shi'a who continue to get attacked by
these extremist groups. But so far we have seen the Iraqi
Government resist the Iranian efforts to have a direct security
role in Iraq.
Iran still, we believe, controls certain militia groups in
Iraq, although their activities are not nearly to the level
that they were 4 or 5 years ago.
Mr. Deutch. So they've resisted Iran's efforts to play a
more significant role in Iraq but they've resisted the efforts
of many of us here to convince them to play a more significant
role in stopping these overflights. Why don't they do it?
Mr. McGurk. Again, the overflights are something that--all
I can say is we continue to raise the overflight issue. We
believe some of this material, a lot of it, is coming on
We do have certain agreements with the Iraqis, which we
look forward to testing as soon as we have intelligence we're
able to share with them in terms of actually catching a flight
in the act. But we've not been able to test that yet. So----
Mr. Deutch. I'm sorry. Say that again. You've--explain
Mr. McGurk. Well, we have agreements with Iraq. It's very
hard to get a precise intelligence picture in terms of what's
coming on a flight and when. It's just very difficult.
But when we do--and we've worked with countries around the
region in similar circumstances--when we do we hope to be able
to work with the Iraqis to be able to make sure that we're able
to stop or deter that flight.
Mr. Deutch. Right. Here's what I'm--here's what I'm trying
to get at. It is difficult to identify what's on the planes. I
Much of the frustration that I have on this issue is
frustration generally with what's happening in Syria and the
ongoing assertion by so many that it's hard.
So much about Syria is hard, and it's difficult even as
there are now more than 130,000 Syrians who have been
slaughtered. So this is one very small area where it is
Yet, do you believe that the Maliki government, that the
Prime Minister discounts the suggestion that there are planes
flying from Iran full of weapons that are flying over Iraq with
those weapons to be delivered to Hezbollah, used to prop up
Assad's regime and to kill the Syrian people?
Mr. McGurk. Do I believe he believes that and knows it's
Mr. Deutch. Mm-hmm. Right.
Mr. McGurk. I think we've given him enough information to
provide a reasonable assurance.
Mr. Deutch. Then when do we start--how do we test these?
You said we need to start testing some of this. When are we
going to start testing? How do we do that?
How do we--this is--again, this is one very discrete and
this--I'm just bringing in everything else that goes into Syria
at the moment, which this committee had focused on extensively
and will continue to focus on extensively.
But with this one very discrete area, one very discrete
point--that is, weapons from Iran to Hezbollah that fly over
Iraq--it's one very discrete area where perhaps we can have
some--play some greater role in making it even slightly more
difficult for Hezbollah to help Assad as he murders his own
people, slightly more difficult if our ally in Iraq plays a
more constructive role.
So how do we test that? How do we get--how do we make that
Mr. McGurk. First, I would be happy to come discuss in a
different setting specifically some of the issues related to
But I can just put you in the picture. When we have these
conversations with Iraqi officials and leaders, as soon as you
mention Syria what they talk about in Syria is the threat that
is coming from Syria into Iraq and it's a very real threat, and
that is, like, their primary threat perception coming from
We explain that the reason the terrorist groups are
entrenching in Syria is partially due to Assad who, as the
Secretary said, is a terror magnet, and so long as the Assad
regime is able to be strengthened this vicious cycle is going
to go on. The Iraqis have signed up to Geneva 1 communique.
They've done some things consistent with our efforts to try
to put pressure on Assad, and on the overflight issue all I can
say I've been in Iraq twice this month and has raised this
issue specifically to get inspections increased again, and the
next time I'm here I hope to report some progress.
Mr. Deutch. Thank you very much, Mr. McGurk. Yield back.
Chairman Royce. Mr. Deutch. We go now to Mr. George Holding
of North Carolina.
Mr. Holding. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. McGurk, I appreciate your level of knowledge and
facility with the facts and your ability to communicate them.
In numerous answers you detailed the support that Iran is
giving to militias in Iraq and to al-Qaeda-related and
successor al-Qaeda groups in Iraq who are propagating this
violence and undoing, I think, a lot of the good work that we
were able to do in Iraq.
In addition to that, where the Maliki government may be
able to disavow it and say that, you know, we're not supportive
of what Iran is doing in Iraq on that level, there are other
areas which are in contravention of the sanctions that we've
placed on Iran such as in the energy area--the energy sector.
You know, it's come to light that in the Basra Province,
you know, Iran and Iraq are negotiating the building of a
pipeline to supply gas into two new power plants there, this
all in contravention, you know, of the sanctions.
Are we putting Iraq on notice that this is in contravention
to the sanctions and detrimental to what we perceive as our
Mr. McGurk. A very good question and this is also an
ongoing topic of conversation. They share a 3,000-kilometer
border so there is trade. There's cultural ties. It's
impossible to stop everything.
The Iraqis have been very conscious of trying to enforce--
make sure that they are working consistent with our sanctions.
In fact, they have not paid Iran for arrears that they're owed
for certain electricity payments because they believe that it
might be sanctionable even though the banks in which they would
pay are not sanctionable banks.
So the Iraqis have tried to even go an extra mile in terms
of a sanctionable--making sure that they are staying and
keeping with our----
Mr. Holding. And with regard to financial institutions, I
mean, there's a great deal of evidence that, you know, the
nature of the relationship between Iraqi financial institutions
and Iranian financial institutions goes way beyond what would
be permitted, you know, under the sanctions.
Mr. McGurk. I have to--maybe I could follow up with you
specifically on this because it's a very detailed topic. But
Iraqi banks have cut off many transactions with Iranian banks
simply due to reputational risk.
Iraq has also increased its oil output while Iran has asked
them not to do that because we've taken 1 million barrels of
Iranian oil off the market.
So, again, this is constant. But the pipeline you mentioned
is concerning. If that pipeline goes forward that could indeed
fall afoul of our sanctions.
Mr. Holding. You know, considering the extreme, you know,
detriment to our interests from this Iranian support of
militant groups in Iraq, is there any part of the nuclear deal
that the administration is currently negotiating that would
address these issues to, you know, put it as a condition? You
know, Iran you've got to stop doing this.
Mr. McGurk. Congressman, the nuclear negotiation is focused
solely on the nuclear proliferation issues but that does not
mean that we are not also focused on----
Mr. Holding. So we're not using any leverage or any of our
capital in lifting the sanctions for the nuclear enrichment
part of it to try to solve some of the other problems we're
having in Iraq with Iran?
Mr. McGurk. Given the existential threat that a nuclear-
armed Iran would pose to our interests in the region, we
focused the nuclear negotiations specifically on the nuclear
issue to try to get at that.
Mr. Holding. As far as Iranian support of Hezbollah which,
as you say, pointed out that you've given Maliki clear, clear
evidence of, you know, what's going on as far as the
overflights go and the supply of Hezbollah with Iranian
weapons, is there any part in the nuclear negotiations that
we're doing now with Iran which would address Iranian support
of Hezbollah fighters in Syria?
Mr. McGurk. Again, the nuclear negotiations are focussed on
the nuclear proliferation issues specifically but that does not
mean we don't deal with the other issues on parallel and
Mr. Holding. But, again, we're not using any of the
leverage that we have in the nuclear negotiations to try to
address the situation we have with Hezbollah and Syria?
Mr. McGurk. We're not discussing those through the nuclear
Mr. Holding. Okay. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Mr. Kinzinger. The gentleman yields back. Chair now
recognizes Mr. Cicilline for 5 minutes.
Mr. Cicilline. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr.
McGurk, for being here and for your insightful testimony this
As you can imagine, events in Iraq are particularly
difficult to hear about in light of the heroic sacrifice of
American heroes and the billions and billions of dollars of
taxpayer money expended in this region of the world and you
acknowledge that in your written testimony, and I thank you for
I'd ask you to first speak a little bit to the difference
of events in Ramadi and Fallujah. It seems as if the turnaround
in Ramadi was quick and fairly effective and, obviously, that
is not the case in Fallujah.
Would you speak a little bit about why that is, the extent
of the coordination between the tribal fighters and the Iraqi
Government and resource allocations between these two cities
and any other factors which are contributing to either
different outcomes or different strategies?
Mr. McGurk. I think Fallujah has always just been the most
hardened--the most hardened part of the insurgency when we were
fighting it and it's just--it's a different environment.
If you look at the protest movement over 2013, the protests
in Ramadi remained generally of a moderate tone focussed on the
legitimate grievances of the community. The protests in
Fallujah, which also took place every Friday, were far more
militant, far more extremist.
So it's just a different environment, just like many, you
know, cities in different countries have different cultures and
Mr. Cicilline. And if I could just follow up on Congressman
Deutch's question, I think you said that most of the foreign
fighters were Syrian. Is that right?
Mr. McGurk. No, foreign fighters who come in to Syria. So
from the greater region and global jihadist-minded people who
come in to Syria to fight jihad and are----
Mr. Cicilline. Are then coming into Iraq.
Mr. McGurk [continuing]. Put into a suicide bomb track.
Mr. Cicilline. And so would you speak a little more about
what the relationship is between the Maliki government and
President Maliki in particular and President Assad? And so do
they understand that by allowing these flyovers and potentially
strengthening or prolonging the Assad regime they actually are
undermining their ability to take back their own country from
these same extremists.
I mean, do they make that connection? What is the
relationship between the Maliki administration--Maliki regime
and the Assad regime?
Mr. McGurk. Maliki and the top leaders of the Iraqi
Government, there's no love lost with Bashar al-Assad. If you
look at 2009, Maliki was calling for Assad to be brought to a
criminal court at the time based upon some bombings which
happened in August 2009 that the Iraqi Government blamed on the
Syrian regime. Again, they've signed on to the Geneve
communique which prefaces that there will be a transition
without Bashar al-Assad.
I'll be perfectly candid. When we explained to them that
Bashar al-Assad remaining in power is a magnet for jihadis and
terrorists who are coming into Iraq that is a train of logic
that many Iraqi officials don't agree with, frankly. They
believe that if Assad left that the regime would collapse and
make the problem worse.
So this is a constant--you know, just seeing the same
picture we do they don't see it but we believe very strongly,
as the Secretary has said a number of times, and the President
that Bashar al-Assad in power is a magnet for these foreign
fighters coming into Syria to fight a jihad.
And until he is removed from power, we're going to continue
to be in this very vicious cycle which is going to have
pernicious effects on all of Syria's neighbors--Iraq, Lebanon
and Jordan, in particular.
Mr. Cicilline. But, I mean, what other tools do we have at
our disposal to persuade the Maliki government that that is the
case? Because otherwise we're going to be left in a position
where they're going to continue to implicitly or explicitly
support the Assad regime in the context of flyovers or other
Mr. McGurk. I think--you know, I just have to be really
candid. I think over the next--particularly heading up to the
election, Iraqis are going to be increasingly focused inward on
their internal issues and internal politics and our hope is
that after those elections with a new government up we will
work with that government to really get at this problem.
Mr. Cicilline. And which leads to my final question. That
is, is it clear to President Maliki and to the Iraqi leaders in
general that the responsibility to defend their country is
their responsibility and that their expectation should not be
that the United States is going to fulfill that responsibility,
that they have to--after a very long commitment from this
country they have to take this responsibility of defending
their country and doing the hard work of bringing stability and
peace to their own country?
Mr. McGurk. Absolutely, and when General Austin was in Iraq
last week, and I was in those meetings with him and Iraqi
leaders, they all stressed four or five points.
First, they want all of our support to be under the
strategic framework agreement, which is a permanent foundation.
That means institutional, military to military. They want
training support and we're talking about doing some training in
Jordan or in the region.
They want intelligence support and they want to let us know
when they feel that they need weapons or systems that we can
help them supply. So that is what they want, and they also want
advice and recommendations for how to actually plan
effectively. They do not want us to be in the lead in this
fight. It's their fight.
Mr. Cicilline. Thank you. I yield back. Thank you, Mr.
Mr. Kinzinger. Gentleman from Rhode Island yields back.
Chair recognizes himself for 5 minutes.
Mr. McGurk, thank you for coming in. We really appreciate
it. I appreciate your service to your country and dealing with
these very tough issues.
I'm, obviously, not very happy with what's happening in
Iraq and I've been very clear that I thought the withdrawal
from Iraq was one of the biggest mistakes, I think,
historically that'll be shown that the United States has made
in modern foreign policy.
So I'm going to express a lot of concern with that. It's
not necessarily directed at you but it is directed at the
decision by the administration.
I'm a Air Force pilot and I served in Iraq a number of
times and I remember specifically going there in 2008 and
still, you know, watching the environment and seeing people
hunker down, in essence, as there was still a threat of
terrorism but they were starting to emerge.
And I then I remember going in 2009 and seeing an Iraq that
had completely turned around and actually as, you know,
somebody there thinking hey, you know, we're serving a purpose
here--we've brought freedom to people, kids are out playing
Even though most of our operations in some cases were
directed against Iranian assets Iran is now--is known to be
responsible for directly or indirectly the death of about half
of the Americans in Iraq, including EFPs. And by the way, I
might want to mention that we are now negotiating with Iran in
terms of giving them their ability to enrich uranium.
I'll tell you another concern I had is I remember I was
actually getting ready to fly a mission into Afghanistan back a
few years ago when I heard the Senate majority leader from the
other side of this building say that the war in Iraq was lost,
and he still has his powerful position but he very quickly said
that the war in Iraq is lost and it's time to withdraw all the
And then President Bush made what I think is a very brave
decision to not only not withdraw but to actually surge more
troops and then we saw a great deal of success.
I think the reason it's important to revisit these
decisions is not beating a dead horse but it's the fact that
we're getting ready to face the same kind of decision in
Are we a country tired of war and we're going to pull out
and have to deal with this shameful thing that we've seen in
Fallujah, the equivalent of that in Afghanistan now, or are we
going to learn lessons from the past? And I think it's very
important to learn those lessons.
I've got a question--a couple of quick questions. There
used to be a policy in this country that anywhere al-Qaeda
exists they should know that there's no safe haven. I think
President Bush talked about that there's no safe haven for
terrorists anywhere in the country.
We see in Iraq right now they in essence appear to be
somewhat safe. Hopefully, the Iraqi Government can push against
them. We see the same type of situation in Syria and I'm for
intervention in Syria. I want to be very clear about that.
Has this--does this--is this a change in the administration
from the Bush policy of no safe haven anywhere in the world and
now we accept safe havens in Iraq because we just lost the
political will to do anything or is it still kind of the Bush
policy of no safe haven for al-Qaeda?
Mr. McGurk. First, Congressman, thank you for your service
and I think particularly now everybody who served in Iraq and
has experience there it's really time for us to have a constant
ongoing dialogue because we can all bring our experience and
relationships to bear at this very important moment.
Again, I can just speak to Iraq and in working with the
Iraqis in terms of intelligence support and Hellfires and, as I
mentioned in my testimony, we are confident that Iraq will deny
al-Qaeda safe havens in western Iraq.
One of the reasons we believe we saw the convoys moving
into Fallujah and Ramadi is because the Iraqis started hitting
their camps and safe havens in the remote regions of western
So I am confident, particularly as the Hellfire missiles
and they develop even more sophisticated ability to deploy them
and also with the Apache helicopters and with the other things
we're able to do with our Iraqi partners, that al-Qaeda will
not have safe havens to plan and plot in those areas and that's
one reason, though, they're moving into urban areas because
it's harder to root them out of those areas.
Mr. Kinzinger. Thank you, and I'd like to say too I have
called for and believe that the United States should help the
Iraqi Government in a limited way using air power--American air
power to take out these safe havens because this Congress, this
House, has passed a use of force agreement that says attack,
basically, al-Qaeda and so I think we have the authority and we
have the responsibility to do that.
Let me ask you one more brief question. Israel foiled and
dismantled what the Israeli officials describe as an advanced
al-Qaeda plot within their borders.
There's kind of this far war grand strategy with al-Qaeda
and a near war grand strategy. The near war is co-opting, for
instance, Iraq--you know, all those places.
The far war would be a threat to the U.S. homeland. Do you
believe that the situation we're seeing in--and that it's the
goal of AQI to be part of a far war strategy, a.k.a. an attack
on the American homeland eventually?
Mr. McGurk. Again, my file is Iraq so I'm focused on Iraq.
I would just----
Mr. Kinzinger. But, obviously, Iraq has huge implications
for the homeland?
Mr. McGurk. Again, I think al-Qaeda is a real threat. If
they're able to entrench in the heart of the Arab world it'll
threaten our interests throughout--vital U.S. interests
throughout the region.
Mr. Kinzinger. All right. Thank you. And, again, thank you
for your service to your country. I appreciate that.
Chair now recognizes Mr. Vargas for 5 minutes.
Mr. Vargas. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Appreciate it.
You know, I think for most Americans trying to keep score
at home it's becoming very difficult to understand the
I think a lot of the nations there become somewhat confused
and complex. I mean, Iraq, Iran, Syria--it's all kind of
running together and the issue of the Sunni-Shi'a discord and
what's happening there.
But what is very, very clear, I think, is the terrible
price that Americans have paid. As you know very well and,
again, thank you for your service, I mean, the amount of sons
and daughters that didn't come home alive, the number of
parents--mothers and fathers that didn't come home alive and
those that did that brought the demons home with them that will
haunt them and their families for the rest of their lives, I
mean, we've paid a terrible price.
And so, I mean, today I heard even from some on the other
side they were saying, you know, to hell with it. Let them kill
themselves. You know, let them just fight it out--what should
we be doing there. I don't hold that same feeling.
I think that, you know, the price that we paid has to mean
something and the sacrifice that these people made, our
brothers, our sisters and our country and the price that they
paid has to mean something at the end of the day and we should
do as much as we can.
I mean, I personally am very concerned about the Christian
community. You know, the Christian community has been
slaughtered. I mean, the Christians that we saw killed on
Christmas--you know, very unified attacks against Christians,
37 murdered. The Chaldean community before the war was about 1
million Chaldean Christians.
Now, I think, there's less than half, maybe even a third of
that. We're very thankful in San Diego that many Chaldeans have
been able to come to San Diego and a great community that's
forming there and continues to form.
But I'd like to hear from you what we can do and what we
should do and what we're not doing to help not only the
Christian community but especially the Christian community but
other communities as well. I mean, what else should we be
Mr. McGurk. Congressman, thank you.
I've visited the Chaldean community in Michigan and I would
welcome the opportunity to come to your district also to visit
the community there.
Mr. Vargas. You're invited, then. Love to have you.
Mr. McGurk. And these extremist groups, as I mentioned, are
threatening Christians, Muslims, everybody in the region. It is
a phenomenon throughout the region that is a regional problem,
and one thing we're trying to do is work with the Christian
leaders in Iraq to make sure that they have the resources they
need from the central government and also the Kurdish regional
government and making sure that their areas are as secure as
In Iraq, the Chaldeans and other Christian minority groups
are located in the Nineveh Plains. There is an al-Qaeda
extremist presence south of there.
We are working to try to make sure that local people,
Christians in that community, have the resources to protect
themselves and to police their own communities and we've made
some progress in that area over the last 6 months.
In the north in Erbil and the Kurdish region, when I was in
Iraq a few months ago and I met, as I mentioned earlier, with
Archbishop Warda--the head of the community there--and linked
him up with the Prime Minister of the Kurdish region to talk
about schools for the community and making sure that they're
getting the resources they need from the Kurdish regional
So what we can do as a neutral player in Iraq with
relationships between everybody, because we've been there for
10 years and we're seen as a neutral player--one of the very
few--is try to make sure that the connections are made between
the governments--provincial, regional and national--so that the
Christian and minority communities have the resources they need
to protect themselves but also for schools and for children and
Mr. Vargas. Now, I do have to say, though, I've heard from
many that the central government--they claim that the central
government is not doing much at all to help the Christians. In
fact, just the opposite--that they leave them exposed, that
their churches are exposed, that the schools are exposed.
I mean, could you comment on that, that they haven't been
doing enough and not nearly enough to protect the Christian
community and especially the churches?
Mr. McGurk. Since a series of church bombings, if I recall
correctly in 2009 or 2010, the Iraqis have really buttressed
the protection of Christian sites in Iraq. But as you
mentioned, there are still attacks on these sites.
Mr. Vargas. The Christmas attacks, I believe, killed 37
Mr. McGurk. That's right, and I have found the Prime
Minister, when you discuss this issue with him, fairly
emotional about it, wanting to protect Christians, just like
everyone else in his country and looking for ways to do that.
But it's something that, again, we're going to have to keep
focusing on. But I think the more communication the better from
the Christian community--Iraqi Christian community here in the
U.S. who have deep ties back into Iraq and with us.
There's a lot that, if your constituencies tell you
something they're seeing and you can let us know we can--we can
work those problems.
Mr. Vargas. Thank you.
I yield back. Thank you, sir.
Mr. Kinzinger. Thank you, Mr. Vargas.
Chair recognizes Mr. Yoho for 5 minutes.
Mr. Yoho. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. McGurk, thank you for your testimony. I feel like
you've been sitting there a long time. You might need to get up
and stretch. But I appreciate your endurance.
What are our military assets in Iraq and are they purely
advisory and, if so, how many? Can you divulge that or----
Mr. McGurk. We have, under our Embassy--under the chief of
mission and Ambassador Beecroft, the Office of Security
Cooperation which works very closely with the Iraqi military.
The numbers ebb and flow but it's about 100 personnel and
they do everything from advising to running the FMS programs to
making sure that that is running efficiently, and a very small
contingent of half a dozen or so of our special operators who
train some of the higher end special operators as a training
component. That's all done under the Embassy chief of mission
and the Office of Security Cooperation.
Mr. Yoho. All right. So we have a very small footprint as
Mr. McGurk. Yes.
Mr. Yoho [continuing]. Americans there. What can be learned
from how we left Iraq and applied to the draw down in
Afghanistan so we don't make the same mistakes or repeat what
we've done there so that we've got the benefit of the effort we
put in there, you know, that both sides benefit from this?
What do you see that we need to do different? If you could
write--rewrite a post draw down of troops in Iraq, especially
with the announcement which I think was wrong, of the end date
announced, what would you do differently so that we don't
repeat that in Afghanistan?
Mr. McGurk. I think, Congressman, you'll have to forgive
me. I think I'm--when I'm out of government I might look back
and work with historians on the history or also make
comparisons to Afghanistan. But right now, I'm focused on the
situation at hand and trying to protect our interests as we
face right now.
Mr. Yoho. All right. Let me switch over to a different
I've talked to many veterans that have fought both in Iraq
and Afghanistan and we've talked to members of the Iraqi
Government, and what they have said is that we have come to a
stalemate between the Iraqi military or the Iraqi men and our
military and a stand-off. In the meantime, countries like
China, Japan, South Korea are going in there, building
infrastructures and trading.
Would it not benefit us to put more effort into that so
that we do have economic trade and that way we can help them
build an economy where they own more of trying to solve this
I know they're--I know they're working hard on it but if we
can help build that infrastructure and work with developing
Mr. McGurk. I agree with you 100 percent, and while the
focus of this hearing has been the al-Qaeda threat and the
rising extremist threat our policy, as I discussed last time,
is really multifaceted and one of them is developing economic
ties and economic relationships.
We do advocacy for U.S. companies. We are proud that Boeing
has signed a major contract with Iraqi Airways to be the
backbone of the--of Iraqi Airways.
We're proud that Hill International Company, a U.S.
company, has contracted with the provincial government of Basra
to lead the effort there to try to modernize Basra in a very
long-term 5- to 10-year project. I can go through a number of
companies--General Electric and others who are doing very well
But I agree with you, we need to get the private sector
involved and invested in Iraq and there are a lot of
opportunities, particularly in parts of the country that are
Mr. Yoho. That's where I'd like to, you know, help focus
our foreign policy and that's why I was asking you if you could
With Fallujah, do you think the Iraqi Government can
control Fallujah and defeat the ISIL? Do you feel like they can
go in there, they have the willpower or the assets to do that?
Mr. McGurk. As I said in my testimony, I think without the
support of the local population it'll be extremely difficult.
That's a lesson that we learned in Iraq.
Mr. Yoho. All right. What about with--you were talking
about the backbone--U.S. is the backbone of the Iraqi military.
Were you meaning with our military assets?
Mr. McGurk. With equipment and training the Iraqis
consistently look to us to be their primary supplier and
Mr. Yoho. Okay. And then Chairman Royce was asking about
where the foreign fighters were coming from and I know a lot of
them are coming from Europe. Is there any estimate how many are
coming from the U.S. that go into Syria, then go over to Iraq?
Mr. McGurk. I don't have those numbers. I'd have to get--
I'd have to go to the intelligence community and get back to
you with those numbers.
Mr. Yoho. All right. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back. Thank you.
Chairman Royce. Thank you, Mr. Yoho.
We go now to Mr. Collins of Georgia--Doug Collins of
Mr. Collins. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the
opportunity and thanks for answering a multitude of questions.
I want to turn back a little bit that was asked earlier
about the elections and, really, from serving in Iraq and back
in '08, as my colleague has as well, the understanding of the
relationship between the Sunni and Shi'a is something that is--
I think there's a huge mistrust that goes back generations.
There's a multitude of issues there, and it looks like the
current government has done very little to really relate with
that or work on that relationship.
Experts in Iraq have talked about al-Qaeda in Iraq, Islamic
State of Iraq some and increasingly building the alliances with
Sunni tribal leaders, and has adjusted its message in 2013 to
try and win more Sunni political support. How would that
translate into the next round of Iraq elections?
Can we see--really see a move from Shi'a to Sunni and what
does that mean for the region, and then answer that and then I
want to talk about Iran's possible influence there as well. And
I want to--just speak to the elections at this point.
Mr. McGurk. Thank you. First, Congressman, thank you for
your service and it's a very important question--an insightful
This election coming up is going to be pivotal and also
extremely interesting. The first national election in December
2005 there were really three main lists people could vote for.
There was a Shi'a bloc, a Sunni bloc and a Kurdish bloc.
The 2010 elections there was a little bit more choice,
really--two Shi'a blocs, the Sunni parties were under one main
list also with some Shi'as, kind of a cross sectarian list, and
then the Kurds.
This election everything is really fractured so you have
about four Shi'a lists, you have three Sunni lists and even the
Kurds are running on four different lists. So what's going to
happen out of those results are going to be a number of
different permutations in terms of forming governments and
So the hope is that this election will give rise to the
more possibility of cross sectarian kind of issue-based
politics emerging. As difficult as that is going to be, if you
look at the candidate list and the coalitions there is that
But as I mentioned earlier, what al-Qaeda does very
effectively is targets the fault line which has existed for
1,400 years, targeting symbolic areas and trying to increase
fear in particularly the Shi'a population, which just rises the
sectarian debate and discourse in the country.
So on the positive side, you have an election that's
shaping up with a number of different choices, kind of number
of different lists which will allow for cross sectarian
coalitions. On the negative side, you have extremists who are
trying to incite and inflame the sectarian dimensions in the
Mr. Collins. And I think that's sort of what we're heading
in here and looking at, especially with the Iran influence in
Iraq, the Shi'a population, and Iran's influence in one is what
we're seeing there.
There's also the reports that, you know, I've read and
others with dealing with the rest of the Arab world--Sunni Arab
world--having to deal with this dynamic of Iran and Iraq and
what's going on there.
Do you see or is there a sense that there is more push in
the Shi'a with the Iran influence there and especially with
everything else we've talked about here? Not encouraging
discourse maybe is the best way to put it.
Mr. McGurk. Yeah. We've seen--if I could say, you know,
2011 and 2012, and I described in my written testimony this
kind of low boil stage of insurgency, Shi'a militias and the
most maligned Iranian influence were unable to really gain much
traction because the violence was at this low boil.
As the al-Qaeda attacks went up this year, we've seen an
increase in Shi'a militia activity, which has also given an
inroad to the most nefarious Iranian activities.
So this is something that we continue to have to work with
Iraqi not only political leaders but civil society leaders and
everybody to try to isolate those most extreme groups.
Mr. Collins. And I appreciate it because I think and,
really, what we look at and it's been mentioned, you know,
several times here is we look at the world of Iraq right now
and the issues of Fallujah and the Anbar region and then the
price that we paid in those areas that are continuing.
We've got to maintain pressure on this administration in
Iraq, whether it would be the protection of those that are at
Camp Liberty to Ashraf, the other things. This is not something
that this congressman is going to let go.
We got to continue this process. We owe that, in a large
sense, to what happened there. So I think, really, in these
elections that's the concern that I would express to Maliki is
you've got to do the process of working to sustain your own
country without the division and I think that's what we're
When we see stuff like what happened at Fallujah, when we
see this action it tells me that maybe we're spending too much
time doing other things and not doing the things that will keep
that country, you know, on a path toward a sustainable future.
So I appreciate, and with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Chairman Royce. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Collins.
We go now to Mr. Weber--Randy Weber of Texas.
Mr. Weber. Thank you.
Mr. McGurk, you were last here in November. There's
something--I think it's been 78 days as we count and with Iran
fostering all of the unrest over in Iraq there's been 312
executions. If you divide that out it's one every 6 hours. It
is four a day, 120 a month, hence, the 312 in 78 days.
It's been 78 days since you were here. We have a regime in
Iran that is built on sending terror throughout its own
citizenry and, of course, exporting it into Iraq. How many more
executions do you think is acceptable before we take the
Iranian regime to task over their executing their own citizens?
Mr. McGurk. I can address that from the Iran standpoint.
Again, the human rights situation in Iran is quite despicable.
We have seen President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Sharif
talk about wanting to make inroads and improve the human rights
situation but, quite frankly, we have yet to see them make
inroads in that area.
Mr. Weber. So really, I mean, we need to be--we need to
really be focused on this, even in our negotiations with or, I
should say, the administration's negotiations over relaxing the
sanctions because they don't--you know, we're getting played
for fools, quite frankly.
I want to--I know that you're here to testify about al-
Qaeda in Iraq so I have a question for you. The residents of
Camp Liberty--are they as dangerous as al-Qaeda?
Mr. McGurk. No. No, certainly not.
Mr. Weber. Okay. And yet and we promised them that, did we
not, that we would protect them and that we would take care of
them back during the conflict when they were repatriated, so to
speak, to the camp?
Mr. McGurk. There were agreements between our kind of
military commanders at the time when we moved into Iraq at Camp
Mr. Weber. Right, and you're aware of how many of them have
paid a terrific price with their lives to live there under the
agreement that we made?
Mr. McGurk. I am, sir. Yes.
Mr. Weber. Okay. And you're aware that they're basically
having to live in graves now--we're not getting T-walls, the
protection installed that they used--we had? I mean, it's just
unbelievable the paper thin walls that they're living in and
the attacks that are coming from outside. You're aware of that?
Mr. McGurk. Yes, sir. And as I said, I was at the camp this
month and talked to the residents about what it's like to live
in a trailer when colleagues of yours are being killed by
rockets in trailers. It's something that many of us can recall
Mr. Weber. Well, good news and bad news. The good news is
most of them, as I understand it now, are not living in
trailers. The bad news is they've had to dig out a 3-foot wide
by 6-foot grave, basically, and live in it to avoid the rocket
How long should--how long does that have to go on? Should
we not be pressing for, A, to get them out of the country and,
at best, while we're working diligently on that should we not
be getting them protection? How much longer do you estimate
that going on?
Mr. McGurk. As I said earlier, we need to do everything we
can to get them--to get them out of the country.
Mr. Weber. Well, you were here 78 days ago. Has their
Mr. McGurk. Some more of them have been able to relocate to
Albania, which--and we have to thank the Albanians for being
very gracious for taking about 210 residents into Albania.
Mr. Weber. Okay.
Mr. McGurk. And we wish there were more countries willing
to do the same.
Mr. Weber. I'm told your comments earlier--I was--I was
late from another hearing--that you made comments that the T-
walls are currently being installed.
Mr. McGurk. That was the information that I received this
Mr. Weber. Okay.
Mr. McGurk [continuing]. That they would--the T-walls would
begin moving in again today or tomorrow.
Mr. Weber. Would you be interested to know that we've had
cell phone communication from the residents inside the camp and
that's not the case?
Mr. McGurk. All I can say, Congressman, my understanding
was there was a decision made this morning to begin moving T-
walls back into the camp. Whether or not that's actually
started or not, I don't know.
But I can assure you, based upon the information I've
received that we will follow up and if in fact T-walls are not
being moved into the camp that will be a very serious matter
and I will follow up with you as soon as I receive the
Mr. Weber. How soon?
Mr. McGurk. I can follow up with you in the next 48 hours
to make sure that T-walls are moving back into the camp.
Mr. Weber. Okay. And is there a third party verification?
Because when the Iraqi Government--I'm sorry, they just--for me
they don't have a lot of credibility. It's almost as if the
residents of Camp Liberty are the enemy and not the victims
that they are.
Is there a third--I mean, surely you're not saying that
you're going to call them and they're going to say of course?
Mr. McGurk. No, no, no. We will--we will talk to our
colleagues at the United Nations mission in Iraq and the deputy
there, George Bustin, who is at the camp regularly and he will
be able to verify with eyes on whether or not.
Mr. Weber. As we watch Iraq descend, I hope you make it an
extreme priority to get them out.
Mr. McGurk. We will do so. Thank you.
Mr. Weber. Thank you.
Chairman Royce. Thank you.
Well, let me just begin by thanking Mr. McGurk for--not
just for your time this morning but for your work on this
issue. As you know--as you can tell, this committee is
extremely concerned about the resurgence of al-Qaeda, the
impact that's going to have there in Iraq, the impact it's
going to have on the region and, of course, even here to us in
the United States.
So we thank you for that. We look forward to continuing to
work with you on the concerns that we have in the House. There
is one other issue that I meant to raise with you and that's
just turning for a moment to discuss the inclusion of the
Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
and the PATRIOT Act's Tier 3 designation--terrorist
My understanding is that this has become a sort of catch-
all designation that has inadvertently mislabeled the KDP and
the PUK as terrorists even though they have been a stabilizing
force in the region and consistently loyal to the United States
As al-Qaeda and associated groups expand across the Middle
East and beyond, it seems like a good time to take count of our
remaining friends in the region and maybe take a look at this
inappropriate designation and recognize that that's harming our
very important relationship with the Kurdish people.
So would the administration be supportive of a legislative
solution to this issue that would exclude these Kurdish groups
from the Tier 3 designation?
Mr. McGurk. Mr. Chairman, thank you for asking that
question and for allowing me to put our response on the record.
As you said, the Kurdish people, the PUK, the KDP have been
among our closest friends in the region going back decades. We
think they should be removed from this list as soon as
possible. We think it is an imperative. We understand that it
requires a legislative fix.
It is nothing that we can do by executive action alone and
therefore we are 100 percent supportive of an immediate
legislative fix to this problem and we look forward to working
with you and the relevant committees in Congress to get that
Chairman Royce. Well, thank you, Mr. McGurk. We did have to
get you on the record for that and the Senate is working on
this with the House, and we very much appreciate once more your
testimony here today.
Thank you, Members. We stand adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:10 p.m., the committee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
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