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tv   Newsmakers  CSPAN  March 11, 2012 10:00am-10:30am EDT

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the armed services committee. after that, president obama tuesday -- president obama tuesday news conference. then secretary civilians discusses tobacco use among young people. >> we have the chairman of the armed services committee, carl levin of michigan, thank you for being here. we have two reporters to help us. jim michaels from "usa today." also, jim wolf, correspondent with readers. jim wolf, go ahead. >> there have been reports that israel asked the united states for arms that could help with an attack on iran's nuclear sites. can you confirm there were such requests? >> i cannot. i would not be surprised but i do not know that there was such
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a request. >> would you think of that as a possible quid pro quo to of leverage to the request to israel to hold off? united states would fire the weapons in exchange for israeli willingness to hold off on a strike? >> i think the best way to formulate this is to say what the president has said and what the israelis have said is what all options are on the table. the israelis say they may be exercised earlier than the united states. as for the. " ", i would not even know how to get into that kind of redress for the quid pro quo, i would not even know how to get into
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that. i think there is more time to put pressure on iran then israel thinks. >> would you find it appropriate for the human states in the united states to provide the kind of weapons that israel would like? but we're talking about advanced bunker busters' bombs >> i would like to leave all options on the table, including the possibility of supporting israel with weapons we have supported israel in a lot of ways. my whole speech this week was that the missile defense israel has is going to take from iran in the threat of retaliation for a strike against its nuclear facilities. if iran thinks it could retaliate and that threat of
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retaliation would deter the strike, they are wrong. the missile defense israel has, including the ones we have helped them to develop, are very strong and effective. they have been tested. that is where i think we have made a difference and can make a difference. i would like to keep the issue of what and when we do and how we would support israel if they decided to strike, i would like to keep that formula as general as possible. i think that is the most effective formula in keeping iran guessing. that is what i would prefer. >> what is your best judgment? these think israel will act unilaterally? when do you think -- do you think israel will act unilaterally. terex i think they could act to
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inflict damage on the nuclear site. publicly they would not have world support privately i think they would. i do not think it would be likely to happen in the immediate future. i would not be surprised if it happened within months i think it is likely because of iran as refusal to respond to the u.n. resolutions that have told it to rid itself of its capabilities and what it is doing in terms of uranium. because of iran is continuing refusal to abide by the resolutions of the u.n., i would say a strike is likely as long as they refused. >> what are the chances the united states would be drawn into a regional conflict should
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israel act unilaterally in the next several months? >> i think it would be unlikely it would be a direct action. it would not surprise me if there were space to support israel in a limited and indirect way. if i had to predict likelihoods in terms of u.s. involvement, that is what i would say. if it happens at all, i believe the involvement would be indirect. it could happen at any time if it is going to happen. not in the next few months -- not in the next few weeks, but most. -- but month. i think president obama has done a solid job in getting the world community to pull together on sanctions against iran. those sanctions are working.
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the u.n. -- the u.s. should be given credit for organizing the sanctions and pulling them together. i did not know of any other president, i do not see any republican candidate out there who could have the credibility president obama has in terms of pulling together the world community in support of those sanctions. >> what do you think about the possibility of a military option that does not require a immediate use of force such as a naval blockade or no-fly zone? do you think those are options the international committee to explore? >> i think is options that whoever is willing to produce great ship export, including israel and the united states. >> would they be good options for the united states and israel to implement? >> a blockade could be a very effective option. i think sanctions might have the same effect.
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we just put in place in my defense authorization bill sanctions which the president and prime minister referred to. these are the sanctions that are going to work on the central bank of iran so it will not be the fancier --financier of the government oil sales in a few months. these sanctions should be given a chance to work and they're really going to tighten the squeeze economically on iran. i am on the optimistic side that there is a real chance that iran is going to change course because the price is going to have to pay would be such a serious price economically. i think they may decide they do not get enough of a benefit from
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having nuclear weapons. >> how much time do you give the sanctions? >> i believe they are already taking a big bite and a stronger impact will be seen in the next few months when the sanctions take full effect. parks is time running out for a preemptive strike? >> i do not think so. >> i think there could be significant damage. i know the answer to question and cannot tell you. >> do you think congress should debate authorizing the use of military force by the united states? >> now, no? >> sure the president asked
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congress for the authority to go to war? >> when he decides he is going to become involved, sure he should seek authority. no president in my lifetime ever has, i should say world war ii was in my lifetime. since the war powers are was adopted -- act was adopted, no president has said they're bound by that. republican and democratic presidents welcomed congressional support. none have conceded they must have the authority. being a member of congress, i think the law should be abided by by the president. everyone of them have said they cannot bind the commander in chief. that is not going to be resolved with this president.
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it will not be resolved with the next president. >> iran has surrogates in the form of hamas in hezbollah. -- and hezbollah. what is the likely course of action iran would take if there is a strike on the nuclear facilities? >> i do not think they can count on their surrogates. there is already some distance. between the surrogates and iran -- there is already some distance appearing between the service and iran. i think it would be unreliable to be counted on by iran. it would be a major hit if they did get involved in response to an attack on the nuclear facilities by israel. there would be great risks they would take, the places that arbor them would take to do that harbor them would take.
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i think their interests are not aligned precisely with iran. >> what about iran and the strait of hormuz? >> we might decide to cut off their oil shipments. that is a possibility as one of the options. it is kind of ironic they are threatening to close the straits of hormuz. they cannot if we do not want them to rea. our milli terry capability is strong enough they could not do it without -- our military capability is strong enough they could not do it without our will. a blockade is a possibility if the world is willing to understand iranians nuclear weapons is such a threat to world peace that it is willing to release of iran -- to really stop iran by stopping the oil
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flow. stopping the oil flow with the use of the blockade, it would not be iran blocking the streets of hormuz. it would be the world naval fleet telling them we have other sources of oil and we're going to tighten the screws by not letting them export oil. that is one option that needs to be considered. >> many critics will say, why should israel have a monopoly on nuclear arms in the middle east question of what is your answer? >> one is the recent experience of the holocaust were the jewish people were threatened with extinction. that has been a threat against them throughout history. secondly because they have been threatened with extinction by some of their neighbors and some of the people were still determined to wipe out israel. it is a deterrent against that
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kind of a threat. israel has not made a threat to what about any of its neighbors, but some of its neighbors have threatened to wipe it out. those are the two reasons to distinguish itself -- its situation from others. >> what would you consider an acceptable bargain to avoid military force? could iran go on in reaching uranium to a low level below what is required for nuclear arms question will iran before to give up all enrichment activity? >> if you put in an inspection regime that is solid, the issue is not whether or not they have low enriched uranium to have a power source. that is not the issue and never has been. the issue is there is a lot of evidence they are seeking nuclear weapons that would
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unsettle the entire middle east. the saudis and others will insist they have nuclear weapons. then you have the possibility of nuclear war. that threat has been a real threat. if that threat is ended in you could be convinced through inspections they are limiting themselves to low enriched uranium, if there are inspections that would give confidence that is all we're e -- i it seems to me fin should say acceptable. >> international pressure does not seem to be moderating the behavior of the regime in damascus. senator mccain has called for some form of u.s. air strikes. are there conditions under which you would support unilateral
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u.s. military involvement along those lines? >> there might be theoretical conditions. it is hard to imagine they could come into place. for me what would be important is that you need to have the arab world and the u.n. supporting it. otherwise, it could backfire significantly. you need to have targets that are feasible. in libya, there were targets you could hit to make a difference. in syria, the targets are so intertwined with the people. it is not as though you can go after the syrian army on the move in a particular area. the syrian army is all over the place intertwined with schools, mosques, hospitals. it is part of the fabric. there is not a clearly defined target you could a man.
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the opposition is badly splintered. there was a more cohesive opposition in libya. we did not know who they were as well as we should have. intelligence was better. we knew more about them than we do about those participating in syria. you would need all of that. you would want to be effective. you would want international support so you do not have terrible blow back in the arab world. you want to have a feasible target to be affected. >> we have little less than 10 minutes. >> it sounds almost as though there are no military options regardless of what international consensus there is. >> they are very limited. that is not me talking. i do not want to be looked on as the expert on this. top military people have testified in front of us that
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those are the existing conditions. i think everybody is in agreement this regime is an abomination that needs to go and we ought to find ways to push the mount -- pushed them out. there may be leverage that can be used economically and diplomatically that can work. unless you have a military option that meets the conditions i just described, it will not be effected. it could have the opposite effect. it could be counterproductive to the goal rather than effective. >> is there a third way? is there a role that russia could play? are there some carrots to have russia help with the condition in syria? >> they have a naval base. that means they have a presence that can make a difference. they have been supplying syria
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with arms. they could stop that and stop the delivery of air to surface missiles. that is another very significant factor, to knock out the surface to air missiles. the capability in libya was much more modest. that is a huge challenge. russia could make a huge difference. hopefully they will. what would persuade russia to do that, i do not know offhand. they would have to see they are losing the impact they should want to have in the international community and they are so low in not putting real pressure on the syrian regime. the arab league has not said they would support military action but have said he should go. for russia to be on the opposite
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side from the regional people on this issue, it seems to me it weakens russia in terms of what they would want to present to have an impact on the world. that is kind of squishy. >> speaking of russia, this week there was news that the obama administration has considered sharing classified information on u.s. missile defense with moscow. the idea would be to allay russian concerns about missile defenses close to their borders. they fear it could pose a threat to their nuclear deterrent force. where do you come down on the wisdom of being ready to share classified information about
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u.s. missile defenses? >> it would be very helpful to russia involved in missile defense. it would be a huge statement to iran. this missile defenses are aimed at iran. if russia and the united states could work out a joint arrangement so that russian radar information were shared with the new missile defense system, that would be really powerful statement to iran that their threats are not going to work, that they are more isolated, and that even russia and nato are working together against them. they are pushing russia and the together. that is how much of it. the world use them. -- that is how much of a threat the world use them.
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i would not give the russians detail over whether or not a missile system could be used. we could not give them to tell. we would have to work out some sharing of the information, especially the radar information. that would be so valuable. there may be a way to give information in real time if there is an iranian launch of a missile. if that missile is going towards russia or europe, there may be ways you could share information that would be mutually advantageous. i would think we would want iran to know we would help russia defend itself against an iranian missile. in that narrow sense, i would
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not exclude it when you have an actual launch. in preparing for that launch, you might have to figure out a way to test. >> you would not preclude sharing classified data if it clears the way for a deal between the united states and russia on missile defense? >> off the top of my head, i would say sharing information which is classified in response to an iranian launch to help russia defend itself against iran or help europe defend itself against an iranian missile, i would say we probably could figure out how to share that kind of narrow band of information. i cannot tell you i have worked this down to the final t. >> a quick question on afghanistan. the current plans are to
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withdraw surge forces by october 1 of this year. after 2014, we will have removed the bulk of our combat forces. should we slow down the pace of withdrawal? what is an appropriate size of force after 2014? >> the president has said that after this summer when the surge forces are out, we will continue to reduce our forces at a steady pace. those are his words. i think that is the right approach. there will be a lot of pressure not to reduce forces after the end of this summer but to leave them in place and have a steep cliff. i think a number of our top military people would prefer not to have a steady pace after the
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fall. you would expect at. that would be normal press from our military who would always be more cautious in terms of reductions. i think there is some pressure coming from top military people in that direction. we need to put pressure on afghanistan to provide security for their own people. there has been a significant shift of security responsibility to the afghan army, which is respected by the afghan people, unlike their own government. i have always felt our mission should be to put the afghan army in a position where they could provide security for their own people. saying we will continue to reduce our forces at a steady pace after the summer is a way of continuing to get the
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responsibility shifted. in terms of the final number, it ought to be a limited number with limited purposes, including special operations forces, but not to have a traditional combat presence. i do not want to put in limbo -- put a number on that. it depends on a lot of unknowns at this time. >> new cuts are living to the pentagon budget. you have expressed concern about the sequestration scheduled to take place on january 2 with across-the-board cuts about to 10%. what are you doing to head it off and break the deadlock? >> there has to be agreement on two major items. you have to raise $1.2 trillion additional. at least half of that has got to come from additional revenues.
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every president in rican -- recent decades has done significant deficit reduction and has always included revenues of at least 40%. republicans have to get off pretty logical opposition -- get off their illogical opposition -- theological opposition to loopholes in taken away from uncle sam the kind of taxes corporations should pay. the major thing is the ideological opposition on the part of republicans that has to end. i want to restore the upper tax bracket. i have a major bill i have introduced with senator conrad.
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we got part of the bill adopted by the senate yesterday. there has got to be a revenue component. there need to be additional spending cuts. they cannot be as mindless and irrational as the automatic january 2 cuts. i think the pressure to avoid that kind of automatic massive cuts in education, health care, you name it, is so great from all directions that by the end of the year there will be an agreement. my prediction is it will likely be in a lame-duck session, hopefully long before that so people can plan on what to do on january 3, including the military. >> we have to leave it at that. thank you. we are back with our reporters. let me begin with you on the discussion we had with the
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chairman about iran, with israel does next. what did you hear from the chairman? >> it is interesting he said he considered an israeli strike likely as long as the iranians refused to back down on the nuclear program. he said he considered a naval embargo or possible no-fly zone as options worth looking at. he states the president should seek permission from congress to go to war. all significant points. >> what about the timeline? >> she suggested time is running out, talking about a strike within. the he suggested time is running out, talking about a strike within months. i thought it specified to a greater degree it with the timeframe is looking out. >> he suggested cutting off the street of hormuz as an option. >> iran in the past has
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threatened to do that. he discounted the threat and said the real threat would be from the allies in terms of closing off the street -- strait with naval forces making it difficult for iran to sell its oil. that would be way down the road. he acknowledged it would require international support. i think it would be very tough getting international support for something like that. >> where are we with syria? >> he did limit the military options with syria. clearly the regime is not moderating its behavior. there's growing pressure to do something in the face of the atrocities being committed by the regime. military is so intermingled with the


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