Chairman Ed Royce of the House Foreign Affairs Committee joined me on today’s show to discuss the House’s review of the president’s request for a new AUMF:
I am pleased to welcome the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Honorable Ed Royce. Chairman Royce, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, it’s great to speak with you.
ER: Hugh, thank you, good to be with you.
HH: Let me begin with the President’s draft authorization for the use of military force. Will your committee be holding hearings on that?
ER: We are. We’re in the process of doing that. We had our first hearing on it with outside witnesses. Now we bring in the administration spokesman, and also representatives of the Pentagon.
HH: Will any authorization of use of military force that your committee passes include the authorization to strike at Iran should it continue down the nuclear path?
ER: You know, we’re just beginning the process. So as we hear from expert panels and discuss this, we know that’s not in the draft put out by the administration, but there are a lot of things which aren’t in the draft that the administration put out. And I would, I’d be happy to go into some examples of the ways in which we’re tying our hands, and the hands of our Special Operations people that are on the ground there now. But it’s important for us to realize the consequences of inaction, and that is that tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities are being slaughtered over there. We still haven’t armed the Kurds. We still have not armed the Jordanians with the weapons they want and need. And we still have a lackluster history here with this president of getting in and helping those Arab tribes who are fighting ISIS.
HH: Now Chairman Royce, I am not an expert witness, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn recently, and I did work for Richard Nixon way back in the day on the Real War. And any AUMF that comes out of the Congress ought to be broad and cover every explosion of Islamist extremism, including if Iran goes nuclear. So I want to focus back on that. Do you, personally, I don’t know what the committee will do, but would you support giving the President the explicit authority to strike at the Iranian nuclear capacity if they do not abandon it themselves?
ER: I think it is a good idea, and I will tell you, Hugh, that there are two jihads going on. One of them is the ISIS jihad, which you and I are familiar with. The other is something that’s not being talked about that much, but that is the jihad that’s coming out of Iran where you know, you just saw the government in Yemen overthrown by agents of the Iranian government. You also see in Bahrain and in the rural areas in Saudi Arabia, and out in the Shiia minority, where agents of Iran are trying to overthrow those regimes. You also see them active from Syria to Iraq to Lebanon, certainly with Hezbollah and Hamas, and in support of the Muslim Brotherhood to try to overthrow the government in Egypt. So point to a region, or an area in the Middle East or North Africa, where Iran is not engaged in exporting revolution and terror. And so we shouldn’t take our eye off of that reality.
HH: I’m so glad to hear you say that. That’s an enormous relief. As an ordering of the priority of the strategic threat to the West, which is greater in your view, Ed Royce, if the Islamic state, whether it’s 60,000 or 30,000 radicals under arms with pickup trucks and Kalashnikovs and RPG’s, or Iran with a nuclear weapon?
ER: Well, let’s take as an example what the administration did in terms of removing the defense against an Iran with a nuclear weapon. Early on in this administration, in order to show Putin that we were a different, in a different frame of mind, and weren’t going to push the issue of the defense of the United States or Europe from Iran, we pulled out of Poland and Czech Republic the Intercept system which would have defended Europe and the U.S. against an Iranian launch. Now I guess from the standpoint of the administration, that wasn’t important, because their next plan was to prevent Iran from developing that nuclear weapon. However, the people working on that project are the same team that worked some years ago with the Clinton administration on preventing North Korea from having a nuclear weapon, and we know how that turned out. So I would suggest that now in terms of the threat to the United States, the fact that you have the Ayatollah routinely saying death to America, death to Israel, death to the Great Satan and to the Little Satan, the fact that he’s willing to say that out on the balcony while he tells his military men it’s every man’s responsibility to figure out how to mass produce ICBM’s, it’s hard to believe that that’s all going to be used for a space program, isn’t it?
HH: Well, let me then extend back to, I know you can’t anticipate what your committee will pass, but this is just talking to the Chairman who’s very influential. Do you see any AUMF emerging from your committee, including the authority for this president and future presidents, to use ground troops where necessary to stop the spread of Islamist terror in whether it’s a Shiia or Sunni variety?
ER: You know, it’s early to know, but I will give you an example of the last session, and what did surprise me, was the ability to use common sense and lay out an argument and carry the day with the argument at that time that we needed to give the Ayatollah of Iran a choice between economic collapse or compromise on his nuclear weapons program. And we dusted off a plan that the Treasury had developed to do exactly that, and passed it out of committee and off of the floor of the House, 400-20, with the administration working diligently against it. So they were able to bottle it up in the Senate by not allowing it to come up. But sometimes, you know, despite what you might think would be the reactions of those in politics, when they are looking at the facts before them, they come to a different conclusion. And I think as we surface the way in which our military is engaged in the Middle East, and comparing that to the actions that the British and Canadians are able to take, I want to give you a quick example, Hugh. Right now, if you see a target, if we’re helping Kurdish forces, and we have spotters on the ground, the Canadian and the British spotters are forward deployed. They can see the target, and in real time, they can call in their air force to hit that target. With respect to the U.S. spotters, they are not forward deployed. They can’t see the target readily, and when they call in the order, it has to go through Washington. The National Security Advisor to the President signs off on this, at least this is the way it’s explained to me. And so by the time the order comes back, the target may have moved. This is no way to roll back ISIS. So once this information surfaces in the committee, and we begin to look at the way we’re failing on the ground, I think there’s an opportunity to have some measure of reason and common sense prevail here.
HH: Well, the most important thing from my perspective is the precedent that even the committee’s own language will set, because there will be a negative inference attached to whatever you don’t include in the resolution, meaning that if you say you’ve got the authority, Mr. President, to use ground troops wherever you need, and air troops wherever you need to go against Islamist terrorism, people will say that he will need to get the same thing to go against other kinds of genocidal activity down the road. So it’s very important as a matter of Constitutional law that this be broad and sweeping, because the President already has broad and sweeping powers, doesn’t he, Ed Royce?
ER: Well, he does, under the Constitution, but second, under the 2001 Authorization, which we are not going to repeal in my committee. He has the authority to go after al Qaeda and all of its offshoots, so that certainly includes ISIS and Boko Haram and all of the other evolutions of this terror network. But I think you raise a very important point, which is if we want to send a strong message, regardless of the fact that that authorization is out there, let’s send that message, because certainly not only ISIS will be paying attention, but also other potential adversaries.
HH: Absolutely. What’s your time frame for this, Mr. Chairman?
ER: We’ve got to go through the hearing process first, basically having the members here from not just the Pentagon and the State Department, others in the administration, but also outside witnesses. So it is going to be a process. But in the meantime, I will reiterate this point. There are, you know, there’s the 2001 Authorization for the use of force, and the subsequent authorization. And we need to continue to put pressure on the White House in the meantime, telling them there is no explanation for why your rules of engagement should not be the same as the British and Canadians that are out there doing these air strikes. There is no excuse for you not giving to the Kurds the artillery and the anti-tank missiles, and the long-range mortars that they need, that they do not have, because ISIS has all of that.
HH: And last…
ER: And here’s the Kurdish units, 30% of those units are female, out there fighting with small arms fire, occasionally being overrun, and we’re witnessing this. And the administration still will not give or sell the Kurds the weapons that they need to defend themselves. And how anybody can explain this is beyond me.
HH: It can’t be explained, but Mr. Chairman, we’re almost out of time. I want to pass on one suggestion. If any of your Democratic colleagues boycott the speech by Prime Minister Netanyahu, I hope you have a list of Holocaust survivors and their children to invite to fill those spaces, because that’s what the Prime Minister of Israel will be talking about, the prospect of that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon. Chairman Ed Royce of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, thank you.
End of interview.