McConnell: The United States Must Live Up to Its Commitments

‘We are nearing the end of the Obama Administration, and the next president will have a stark choice upon assuming office — whether to continue the drawdown of America’s conventional military power from across the globe or to restore our warfighting capabilities to both renew our alliances and restore America to its position as the guarantor of the international security order.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today in support of the United States’ commitment to assist Saudi Arabia in combating al Qaeda and ISIL:


“Today the Senate will consider a motion to discharge a resolution of disapproval from the Foreign Relations Committee.

“I oppose that motion because I believe it would harm our nation’s long term strategic interests in the Persian Gulf and the broader Middle East. It would further damage our alliance and partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at a time when our moderate Sunni Arab allies are questioning whether our nation is able to meet our traditional commitment to the region. The resolution would also ignore the shared interests we have with Saudi Arabia in combatting al Qaeda and ISIL.

“Were this resolution of disapproval ever to be adopted, it would further convince the world that the United States is retreating — not only from its commitments, but also as the guarantor of the international order we worked to create after the Second World War.

“I will move to table this motion and encourage all of my colleagues to do the same.

“We are nearing the end of the Obama Administration, and the next president will have a stark choice upon assuming office — whether to continue the drawdown of America’s conventional military power from across the globe or to restore our warfighting capabilities to both renew our alliances and restore America to its position as the guarantor of the international security order.

“After nearly eight years, the president’s approach to foreign policy has become all too clear: to end the war on terror, drawdown our conventional forces and capabilities, and to deploy Special Operations Forces in economy of force train and assist missions across the globe.

“The essence of this foreign policy was captured in his speech at West Point in May of 2014.

“In that speech, the president described a network of partnerships from South Asia to the Sahel, to be funded by a $5 billion counterterror partnership fund for which Congress has yet to receive a viable plan, and in those cases where indigenous forces prove insufficient, and a need for direct action arises, the president announced his intent to resort to the use of armed unmanned aerial vehicles, for strikes, as has been done in Yemen and Somalia.

“So by deploying Special Operations forces for train and equip missions, the president hoped to manage the diffuse threat posed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Boko Haram, terrorist networks inside of Libya that now threaten Egypt, the Al Nusrah front, the Taliban, ISIL and other terrorist groups. 

“This concept of operations allowed the president to continue the force structure cuts to our conventional forces and sought to manage the threat from global terrorism.

“He envisioned no need to reverse the harmful damage of defense sequestration, to rebuild our conventional and nuclear forces, or to accept that leaving behind residual forces in Iraq and Afghanistan was a means by which this nation preserves the strategic gains we have made through sacrifice.

“The threat of some of these Al Qaeda affiliates, associated groups, or independent terrorist organizations has outpaced the president’s economy of force concept. 

“In some cases, the host nation military which we had trained and equipped, had proven inadequate to defeat the insurgency in question, as is the case with AQAP, the Taliban, or ISIL. 

“And the Obama administration never answered the question: what was to be done when the host nation force we trained for counterterrorism was incapable of counterinsurgency? 

“Iraq. Libya. Yemen.

“The Department of Defense efforts to train a moderate Syrian opposition never provided sufficient reason for the president to rethink basic strategy.

“The president’s concept of operations countenanced a persistent, enduring terrorist threat from AQAP, the Taliban, and other groups in those countries where insufficient ground combat power could be generated by the force which we train.

“In Riyadh, our traditional longstanding ally Saudi Arabia warned of Iran’s efforts to arm and support Shia proxies in Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon and to foment unrest across the region — all of which was lost on the White House.

“Instead, they were called “free riders,” and Saudi Arabia’s concerns with what a Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo, instability in Libya, and the slaughter of Sunnis within Syria, would mean for the region were ignored.

“The Obama Administration had sounded an uncertain trumpet, but the words that resound in Saudi Arabia, and across the region, were the commitment to our allies, that in negotiating with Iran to end its nuclear weapons program, “No deal is better than a bad deal”.

“This proved not to be true — the administration accepted the bad deal — and in its negotiation with Iran, the administration made concession after concession; allowing Iran to retain a nuclear enrichment program, to allow for the retention of working centrifuges and a research and development program, providing financial relief and support, and lending legitimacy to the world’s chief state sponsor of terror. Under any net assessment, Iran has emerged from the nuclear deal with the Obama administration stronger than before the deal. The funds derived from the lifting of sanctions enable Iran to invest in proxy forces, conventional capabilities — such as advanced air defense systems, and to threaten Israel and Saudi Arabia.

“Even more consequential is the fact that the Obama Administration’s single minded pursuit of achieving and preserving the deal has held the other elements of our foreign policy toward Iran hostage: Iran is free to harass American vessels within the Persian Gulf, to test ballistic missiles, and to fund proxy forces.

After agreeing to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action the president gathered the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council at Camp David. At that meeting, our president made commitments to those allies that we would help them in building their respective defense capabilities.

“A vote in support of this resolution today undermines that commitment made by the president.

“Our allies in the region, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, came to understand after the fall of the Mubarak government, the decapitation of the government in Libya, and the civil war in Syria, that they must act in pursuit of their own sovereign interests whether the United States would lead or not.

“The specific Foreign Military Sale in question here is for Abrams tank structures to Saudi Arabia. We have been selling ground combat equipment to Saudi Arabia for decades. There is no evidence that the Saudis have used the Abrams tank in ground combat within Yemen. These systems have been used along the Saudi border to defense against Houthi incursions. The United States is actively working to improve Saudi targeting capability and to deliver humanitarian relief to the people of Yemen.

“Let us also remember that denying the sale of Abrams tank structures will simply lead some our allies to pursue weapons systems from other countries and undermine the goal of having interoperable equipment.

“This motion comes at a singularly unfortunate time and would serve to convince Saudi Arabia and all other observers that the United States does not live up to our commitments.”

Related Issues: America's Military, Al Qaeda, ISIL