WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on global security challenges and U.S. strategy, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) questioned Dr. Thomas Wright, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Lt. General H.R. McMaster, Former United States National Security Advisor about threats ranging from Iran’s destabilizing actions to white supremacist terrorism. A transcript of the Senator’s full exchange can be found below, and a video of the Senator’s full exchange can be found here.
ROSEN: Today, I’d like to continue to build a little bit on Iranian aggression. One of the most pressing security challenges that the Biden Administration faces in its early days is the rapidly escalating crisis with Iran. Iran continues to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and a threat to the region and U.S. interests via its ballistic missile program.
Last year, Senator Toomey and I co-led a bipartisan resolution, cosponsored by 58 Senators, that called on the UN to extend the arms embargo on Iran. That embargo, which limited the flow of sophisticated weapons to Iran and restricted Iran’s ability to provide its proxies with arms, expired last October. Dr. Wright and then General McMaster, now that the UN embargo has lapsed, what policy options do we have to curb the flow of advanced weapons to and from Iran?
WRIGHT: Senator, I agree that this ought to be a concern of the U.S. I think that we ought to see continued action to push back on Iranian assertiveness and aggression in the region, and I agree about the continuation of an arms embargo. I think, obviously, we’re seeing a particular sort of space open up where we mix with diplomacy, but I think a precondition of the success of that diplomacy is regional stability and a broader conception of the problem, which I think is being understood and then acted on.
MCMASTER: Senator, thank you for that question. I agree that this is a huge problem and our allies have to work with us. Saying stronger alliances is great, but it has to be a better atmosphere than at cocktail parties in Paris, right. And, when you look at the Iranian regime, I think we have to consider two fundamental aspects of the threat from the regime that we often overlook.
First of all, the regime has been fighting a four decade long proxy war against the great Satan – Us, the little Satan – Israel, and the Arab monarchies, and they haven’t let up in that proxy war, and in large measure they’ve been able to escalate it with impunity at will.
The second is that the ideology of the revolution drives the regime. There was over time some tension between conservatives and reformists, or you might want to call them the Republicans and the revolutionaries. But, the revolutionaries won, and we keep talking to the shop window of Rouhani, who is about to be voted out here in an election where they only let people who support the ideology of the revolution run in the election. And Zarif, the foreign minister, they are powerless. It is the Supreme Leader who is getting up there in age. What’s going to happen next? I’m glad the Pope is going to visit Sistani. And, this is going to be very important for Shi’ism, and the direction it takes, and maybe a rejection of the Vilayat-e Faqih or the rule of the jurisprudent. And the IRGC, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Court, has preponderant influence over foreign policy decisions.
This is why, combined with their irresponsible behavior, the attack on an Israeli ship just in the last couple of days, the attack on our bases in Iraq, this should get our allies to help us with sanctions. We know that Russia and China are going to throw them a lifeline, but our European lifelines should not be aiding and abetting a regime that is permanently hostile to the United States, Israel, the Arab countries, and by the way they are hostile to Europe too. And so, I think this should be top on the agenda for better cooperation with our European allies is to force the Iranian regime to make a choice, that you can either be treated like a responsible nation, or you can suffer the consequences of economic isolation.
ROSEN: Thank you, I want to build on what Senators Duckworth and Peters talked about, white supremacist terrorism.
Violent white supremacists are increasingly interconnected and international – transcending national boundaries and exploiting the same technologies that ISIS used to create a decentralized network of global terror.
People have traveled to [fight in] Ukraine, [and] the Russian Imperial Movement [was designated by the State Department last year as a terrorist group]. There’s so many things going on, but in the interest of time, What more can the U.S. government do to keep Americans safe from white supremacist terror, and to gather intelligence on the global nature of this threat?
WRIGHT: Just very briefly senator, I think two things. Thing number one, making it a priority on intelligence collection, and making it a domestic priority, which I think the Biden Administration has done, and secondly to the extent that this international network problem, and I agree that it is, I think working with allies and partners particularly in the security services and law enforcement internationally is an important part of the response.
MCMASTER: Senator, I think a way to think about this longer term is a cycle. A cycle of ignorance, hatred, and violence. Ignorance is used to foment hatred, and hatred is then used to justify violence against innocents. So, I think you have to break that cycle at all points, and it begins with education. There is a study that is going to be announced this afternoon, results of civic education and what we need to do to teach our history and build our confidence in who we are as a people, to recognize the great gifts of our republic and for all Americans to work together toward our inalienable rights that all men and women are created equal. I would just highlight education as a long term solution and to recognize that this is fundamentally a destructive cycle.
It’s part of the problem of centripetal forces that are pulling us apart from one another. It has a lot to do with the information sphere. It has a lot to do with those who feel as if they don’t have a voice, they feel disenfranchised, they feel left behind economically. There are a lot of causes of this, but I think we have to attack it holistically and begin with education. I think if you look at the curricula to which many of our young people are subjected in primary and secondary education, I would characterize it as a curricula of self-loathing. Not that we should replace it with a curriculum of a contrived happy view of our history, but we should recognize the great gifts we have in our democracy, and recognize our common identity as Americans, and our ability to work together to build a better future.
ROSEN: Well, I love the idea of investing in education. Investing in good, quality, diverse, broad education is always a great thing. We agree on that one for sure.