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Rubio: Terrorists In Iraq Threaten U.S. Security
Rubio: “The choice before us will be whether we prevent it now, or whether we deal with the consequences of it later. And I urge the White House to take this matter for the importance that it deserves and to come to this Congress, as soon as possible, with a clear and concrete plan on how we are going to deal with and engage in this emerging emergency situation that we now face that threatens the national security of the United States now, and places a grave threat to the national security of our country in the years to come.”
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
Senate Floor Speech
June 12, 2014
“I come to the floor today, this afternoon, to talk about an emerging issue of the highest order for our country’s national security. I say that because the coverage in the news over the last few days about Iraq, I believe, have missed the greater point about the importance of the issue that we’re now facing. Much of the attention – and I understand why – has been paid to the fact that the United States invested a tremendous amount of money, and unfortunately lost many, many lives in the efforts to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein.
“And these views that we now see of Al Qaeda-linked groups taking over cities in Iraq rightfully trouble us. And we hear the question being asked of, ‘Why did we do all of this?’ This is, without a doubt, a legitimate concern and one I’ll touch upon in a moment. But the issue of what’s happening in Iraq at this moment is much deeper and more serious than simply just that.
“Let me begin by describing the emerging situation. There’s a radical Islamic group by the name of ISIL, as it’s called, or ISIS according to some – it has different terminologies. But it’s a group linked to Al Qaeda that emerged in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein in western Iraq. They were involved in efforts against Americans after we liberated Iraq. They killed and maimed countless Americans. However, thanks to the assistance we provided, the Iraqis were able to put that group on a defensive posture.
“After the United States left Iraq, however, many of this group was able to reorganize. They did so increasingly with new leadership, and they were able do it in parts of Syria that became largely ungoverned after the Assad regime began to lose control over large swaths of land in Syria. And they grew stronger. They grew stronger still when foreign fighters from all over the world, who sympathize with their Islamic jihadist cause, began flowing into Syria, providing them new fighters. And over the last few months, as I warned, by the way, in a hearing that we had late last year when we debated on the use of force in Syria. This group, based largely now in Syria, began to conduct operations in Iraq. Initially, to limited success, and then limited operations that had some success. But now, over the last 72 hours, they’ve begun to make dramatic gains in Iraq.
“In fact, they have overrun the second-largest city. And there are expectations that they are on the way towards Baghdad. The goal of this group is pretty straightforward: To establish what would be known as an Islamic caliphate. Basically, an Islamic fundamentalist area, country – a terrorist government. And, by the way, this group doesn’t necessarily respect any borders. They are looking to carve out pieces of land that they can use to train terrorists and to plan operations. And if we look at the situation in Iraq over the last 72 hours, we have legitimate concern that, in fact, that is what they are on the verge of doing, if they have not done so already – when you add the land they now control in Syria, and the land they now control Iraq.
“By the way, in many parts of the towns that they’re now taking over in Syria, they’ve already begun imposing Sharia law. They’ve banned music. They’ve forced women to wear full veils. This is a radical Islamic group. It has shown what it is capable of in its conflict in Iraq when Americans were there, and thereafter. This is a brutal and murderous group who has shown what they’re capable of doing to those who oppose them. And, unfortunately, this is a military-capable group who has made dramatic gains over the last few hours in Iraq.
“Most startling of all, by the way, has been what’s happened to the Iraqi military, which we spent money to train and equip. In many instances, the reports are they just abandoned their posts. They took off their uniform, they put on civilian clothes, and just walked away. And our fear should be, that even as I speak to you now, emerging in the center of the Middle East, emerging in the center of this area of the world, is an Islamic caliphate controlled by the most radical group in that area of the world today – and that is saying a lot.
“Why should this matter? Well, first, as when pointed out earlier, because Americans sacrificed greatly so that Iraq could be freed from tyranny. Now those gains seem to have evaporated almost overnight. But the most concerning long-term aspect of this is that in this part of the world, using territory in what was Syria and now Iraq, is the emergence of a safe haven. A safe haven is what made 9/11 possible. Al Qaeda was able to go into Afghanistan, then controlled by the Taliban – another radical Islamic group – and use it as place to train and plan 9/11, and other terrorist acts against the United States.
“Perhaps one of the greatest successes in the post-9/11 efforts has been the denial of safe havens where terrorists could do this. But suddenly, rapidly, a new safe haven is emerging where radical jihadist fighters from all over the planet are able to go and be trained. And they will not simply be satisfied with conducting efforts in that part of the world. But, rest assured, that their target and ambitions include us – including right here in the homeland, right here in the United States. If in fact they are able to hold on to this territory, Jordan, an extraordinary ally of the United States in the region and an ally of Israel’s, is directly threatened. They are the next country right next door. And already Jordan is facing tremendous challenges because of the conflict in Syria. Beyond Jordan, you could see where Israel could be threatened by the existence of the safe haven for a terrorist organization right next door. But ultimately, us here in the United States.
“The goal of these groups is to carry out western operations. The goal of these groups is to attack Americans here, to terrorize. And they believe and know that perhaps the most effective way to terrorize Americans is to not strike us in remote areas of the world – although they will do that as well – but to strike us right here in the United States. And if they have an area where they are able to do this, a piece of land where there is no government to drive them out, where in fact they are the government, where they can attract the most radical people on the planet to come, to train, and to prepare to carry out these attacks, it puts in grave danger the security of every American living here in the United States.
“This is the risk before us now emerging in Iraq. It is not simply the fact that we have lost the gains that were once made. That’s important and worthy of outrage, but what’s most startling and concerning of all is the emergence of the safe haven, and what it can mean to the long-term security of every single one of us.
“What can we do about it is the next question. And I must say that while national security issues should never be of a partisan nature, I am concerned that despite the emergence of this, we have yet to hear a cohesive policy pronouncement from the White House with regards to this. And in fact a number of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, Democrats, have shared the same frustrations.
“I want to make a couple of brief points with regards to the sorts of things we should be thinking about and outlining a response to prevent the creation of a safe haven.
“The first good news is that this group is not invulnerable. This group is vulnerable. Number one, they have not proven to be very good at controlling territory for long periods of time. This creates a vulnerability.
“Here’s the other point: This is a Sunni Muslim group, but they are not popular among the Sunni population in Iraq. Sunnis are terrorized of them, and they certainly don’t like the Maliki government, but this is not a group that is popular among them.
“Beyond that, I would say the first thing we need do is make sure our personnel are protected, particularly in Baghdad and in the green zone in Baghdad – the international area which is vulnerable to suicide attack. We must ensure that our personnel there is protected. And I understand that steps have been taken and continue to be taken to do that. I’m encouraged by that. We need to make sure that, that happens – that the men and women who are representing us or working on our behalf in Baghdad are protected.
“The second thing is we need to – one of the reasons why this is happening is because the Maliki government has been so terrible, and it is not just corruption. It is the way this government has created no space for Sunnis living in Iraq that has created the possibility of this occurring. And this Maliki government must be worth saving. And right now the Maliki government is a dysfunctional government, as evidenced by the collapse of their military forces. But also, as evidenced by the way they’ve treated their Sunni population, giving them no space or voice in their government. That must change. That must change.
“The third thing is, if in fact that begins to change, and conditioned upon that change, the U.S. must continue to provide lethal assistance to the extent possible to help these Iraqi forces, particularly those concentrated in Baghdad, to repel and push back against this group. Right now, it is my opinion, based on everything I know, that they are not capable of doing that and in many instances are not willing to do that. Without our assistance, they will have no chance of doing that.
“But ultimately, while the use of force is never popular around here, I want to be blunt and clear about something. We are going to have to take some sort of action against this radical group. That is not the choice before us. The choice before us will be whether we take action now, or we take action later. Because what we can never allow is for another safe haven like pre-9/11 Afghanistan to emerge anywhere in this world, where terrorist can plan, practice, and ultimately conduct attacks against us here in the homeland or interests around the world.
“And therefore, I believe that we should not rule out and in fact conduct, to the extent they are effective, military action from the air against this group wherever they are located.
“I don’t take that lightly. I am not one to come to this floor and call for military engagements as a response to every conflict. I have opposed them in the past when they’ve made no sense, or there is no clear plan moving forward. But this issue rises to that level of urgency.
“We must never forget the lessons of September 11, 2001, where a group of radical jihadist terrorists used a safe haven in Afghanistan to murder innocent Americans and carry out the most devastating attack in the history of our nation. It was not that long ago that this happened. And there are groups around the world that aspire to that now. What they need is a place to do that from. We cannot allow that place to emerge.
“There is no greater responsibility on the federal government of this land than to provide for the security of our people, and the choice before us will be whether we prevent it now, or whether we deal with the consequences of it later. And I urge the White House to take this matter for the importance that it deserves and to come to this Congress, as soon as possible, with a clear and concrete plan on how we are going to deal with and engage in this emerging emergency situation that we now face that threatens the national security of the United States now, and places a grave threat to the national security of our country in the years to come.”