Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on the Posture of United States Central Command and United States Africa Command, March 15, 2022 (Excerpts)

March 16, 2022





REED: I'd like to call the hearing to order. Good morning. The committee meets today to receive testimony from General Kenneth McKenzie, Commander of the United States Central Command, and General Stephen Townsend, Commander of United States Africa Command. Thank you both for your service. And I'm grateful to the men and women serving under your commands.

And I understand this will likely be last appearance before this committee for both of you. And I thank you for your dedicated diligent service to the nation, and to the men and women you've led over all these years. And thanks also to your families who stood by you and sustained you throughout this distinguished career. Thank you.

Central Command remains one of our most challenging theaters. And one of its many responsibilities, CENTCOMs top priority is deterring the Iranian regime's destructive and destabilizing activities without undue provocation. This is a complicated and urgent mission. Just this weekend, Iran claimed responsibility for missile strike near the American conflict in Ebril, Iraq.

This strike comes on the heels of escalating malign behavior by Iran and its proxies who continue to mount drone and missile attacks in the region, including against military bases in Iraq and Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. On the nuclear front in the five years since then, President Trump pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA.

Iran has made key advances. It has decreased breakout time to several weeks from a year under the agreement. It has increased uranium enrichment to 60 percent instead of just under 4 percent allowed under the agreement. Iran has hardened its infrastructure and replaced damaged equipment with more advanced models. And while negotiations to return Iran to the JCPOA are in the final stages. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has introduced new complications.

General McKenzie given these current dynamics. I would like your thoughts on how best to respond to Iranian malign behavior in the region. Including collaborating with allies and partners to counter drone missile attacks, while preserving space to return to the JCPOA. Last August marked the end of our 20-year military mission in Afghanistan. Despite transitioning our forces from Afghanistan, the Biden administration has maintained its commitment to ensuring that Afghanistan cannot be used as the base for ISIS-K, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups to conduct attacks against the United States or its allies.

As such, we have assumed and Over the Horizon Posture to counter integrate such stress. And I would ask for an update on our capabilities, and whether additional regional agreements have been reached to ensure we have a robust counterterrorism architecture to address the threats from these terrorist groups. AFRICOM presents a similarly complex array of responsibilities.


In the Middle East and Central Asia, Russia continues to leverage hybrid warfare capabilities to expand its own influence and stymie Western security interests. China has also increased its presence in the region. Including by deepening economic and security ties with Iran. And on the African continent, both Russia and China are looking to expand their security and economic investments and may seek to leverage such access to undermining U.S. influence in critical regions.


INHOFE: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I join you in welcoming our witnesses and thank them for their decades of service and I think particularly with - didn't get the quarter of that. But anyway, its - appreciate the time that we've worked together and in the short time remaining for certainly some of them. I see three challenges in CENTCOM, Iran's terrorist proxies acting more aggressively, our partners increasingly doubt in America's resolve, and Russia and China trying to fill that void.

These challenges are a direct result of my opinion of the President Biden's misguided policies. He even downgraded support for - to our partners against Iran and its proxies, and he reversed it. President Trump's tariffs designation of the Houthis, and he offered Iran massive sanctions relief to rejoin the failed 2015 Iran Deal. Even as Iran increases its aggression against us. Iran is the foremost threat in the region.

Yet our partners see the administration's appeasement of Iran and ask themselves are we really on our own is America abandoning us? Last summer's disastrous draw down from the Afghanistan which culminated in the killing of 13 service members only reinforced these questions. We also face significant challenges in Africa, including the growing presence and capability of the Jihadist groups across the continent.


MCKENZIE: Chairman Reed, Ranking Member Inhofe, ladies and gentlemen, the committee. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to testify for the final time regarding U.S. Central Command posture in an area of responsibility that encompasses 21 nations and 600 million people. And it's at the strategic nexus of the world's most important corridors of trade.

Much has transpired since I last delivered my annual posture testimony. Most notably the conclusion of our military campaign in Afghanistan and Russia's recent invasion of Ukraine. America's interests in the central region, and the challenges we confront there have proven remarkably resilient. CENTCOMs mission to direct and enable military operations and activities with allies and partners to increase regional stability in support of enduring U.S. interests is essentially unchanged from the day of the commands founding.

The primary threats to that security instability are also very familiar. CENTCOM was established nearly 40 years ago, to counter the malign influence of a revolutionary regime that had seized power in Tehran. And to compete with a great power that had, in spite of international condemnation, invaded the sovereign state of Afghanistan and imposed a puppet regime.

Today, Iran is no less of a threat to American interests, or the stability of the region than it was in 1979. To the contrary, the threat posed by Iran is graver than ever. Russia's invasion of Ukraine, moreover, has violently demonstrated its willful regard for international norms. Just as we have seen through Russia's actions in Syria, and elsewhere. In fact, anywhere it sees an opportunity to diminish confidence in America's leadership.


I'm talking specifically about ISR assets and strike platforms. CENTCOM has the tools it needs to perform this mission, but the margins are thin. And the risk will increase should resources diminish. I'd like to specifically address our posture in the Middle East. Here Iran continues to pose the greatest threat to U.S. interests and the security of the region as a whole.

Through its proxies and clients, Iran is fomented conflict and an arc (ph). Tracing from Yemen through the Arabian Peninsula across Iraq and Syria into Lebanon into the very borders of Israel. Saudi Arabia endures regular attacks on the Houthis, who will some of the most advanced unmanned aerial systems and cruise missiles in the region, courtesy of the Iranians. Recently, the Houthis expanded these attacks to include urban centers and bases with U.S. forces in the United Arab Emirates.

Tehran also enables its allied militias in Iraq and Syria to carry on a persistent low level campaign of indirect fire and unmanned aerial system attacks against U.S. and coalition forces. Hoping to drive us from the region. Of light this campaign has been relatively constrained, but Iran only loosely controls the militias that conduct these attacks.

And as recently as 2020 Iran demonstrated his willingness to target U.S. forces directly with his highly capable ballistic missile forces. Iran's ballistic missile forces can constitute an existential threat to the security of every state in the region, among them our most important and enduring partners. They continue to look to the United States for assurance that we the historic partner choice in the region will remain a reliable one.

China and Russia are also watching closely for any sign that America's commitment to the collective security of the region is wavering, and they are poised to capitalize on whatever opportunities emerge. In closing, let me thank you again for this opportunity to testify. I'd like to thank the soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and guardians who have served and sacrificed in the CENTCOM AOR.

It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as their commander. Thank you.


REED: Well, thank you very much, General Townsend. General McKenzie, do you assess that successfully concluding a nuclear deal with Iran will provide additional stability in the region? Particularly with respect to proliferation of nuclear weapons, not just in Iran, but in other states. And also give to the United States and to the west, essentially, almost daily insights into the nuclear posture of Iran.

MCKENZIE: Chairman, a primary objective of our policy in the region is for Iran not to possess a nuclear weapon. I think the best and most effective way to get to that position is through a negotiated agreement. It's which I fully support.

And I think that's probably the best way to actually get to that and then be able to talk about other Iranian activities in the region that are equally threatening to states that are non-nuclear in character.


GILLIBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. General McKenzie, thank you for your testimony. How has Israel's integration into CENTCOMs AOR improved coordination among U.S. regional partners? Particularly as it relates to countering Iran and the Middle East and supporting Over the Horizon Counterterrorism Capabilities?

MCKENZIE: Senator the entry of Israel into the AOR has given us great opportunities, particularly in the area of integrated air and missile defense. Which I think is one of the most pressing issues that all of the states in the region confront when they think about Iran.

And so, I think of Israel coming into the AOR is sort of the operational effect of normal - the other normalization of Israeli relations across the Gulf and with other states. We have great opportunities here. And I'll be prepared to talk a little bit more about it in closed session.


FISCHER: OK. Let me shift gears a little bit then with you. And we'll continue the CT and in closed session. We look at Iran's proxies throughout CENTCOM AOR. And they continue to pose a significant threat to our partners, and also to our own forces in the region. What more do you think can be done to deter Iran from their malign activities?

MCKENZIE: I think we've established a very clear set of red lines with Iran. And I think as a result of that, over the last several months, their attacks have tapered off. Particularly in Iraq, which I believe Iran views as the principal battleground for confronting the United States and our partners in the region.

And we've been able to do that by very - by increasingly effective counter UAS and other systems to defend ourselves. And at the same time, they're finding it increasingly difficult to gain any kind of political traction with the Government of Iraq. I think, for a long time, Iran frankly, tried to pursue a political solution in Iraq, that is not open to them anymore.

FISCHER: And do you believe that we have a good working relationship with our partners in the area in providing them defense against missiles and drones?

MCKENZIE: I believe that we do. You know, I worked very hard at the military-to-military channel with my peers, the chiefs of defense in each of these countries. I believe we do have a very good relationship with them.


KING: Thank you. I want to return to the chairman's opening questions about Iran. A deal by definition is something where there are things on both sides' advantages or disadvantages, one side gives up something one side gained something. How do you assess - let's assume for a moment that there is a renewed JCPOA Which significantly limits Iran's nuclear capability for the foreseeable future for some period of years.

At the same time, sanctions are relieved in some way that enables them to have additional resources. Which they could put into their malign activities in the region. Would you view that as a reasonable trade off? In other words, realizing you can't have everything? Do you view that a nuclear Iran is more dangerous than an Iran with more money in their pockets?

MCKENZIE: Well, Senator, as you know, CENTCOM is the land of less than perfect solutions. So, I'm always comfortable with a less than perfect solution. It is an overriding national policy objective of the United States for Iran to not have a nuclear weapon and be able to possess a nuclear weapon. So, I think that's a very important goal. And you might have to make some tradeoffs to get to that point.

But as - at the military level, my concern is, first of all, that they not have a nuclear weapon. But I'm also very concerned about the remarkable growth in number and efficiency of their ballistic missile force, their UAV program, their long range drones, and their land attack cruise missile program.

KING: That was going to be...

MCKENZIE: All of those concern me.

KING: That was going to be my next question. What's our current assessment, if we can do this in a unclassified setting of the range of the of Iranian missiles? In other words, can they get to Paris? Can they get to London? Can they get to New York? Are they simply regional - a regional weapon?

MCKENZIE: They have over 3000 ballistic missiles of various types. Some of which can reach Tel Aviv to give you an idea of range. None of them can reach a Europe yet. But over the last five to seven years Senator, they have invested heavily in their ballistic missile program.

Their missiles are of greater - significantly greater range and significantly enhanced accuracy. We saw that in the attack on Al Assad in January 2020, where their missiles hit within tens of meters of the targets they were intended to hit.


MANCHIN: Putin's war on Ukraine with the energy. It's an energy war. Putin's war on Ukraine and what we're going through there, and also seeing us now, I have a little bit of a concern with the administration's position on the energy we produce in our country. And we could do a little bit more working with our Canadian and our Mexican allies.

With that being said, the Iran situation that we're talking. I think things have stalled there on the Iran deal again. But also, I'm concerned about Iran, the way we - the last deal that we made with Iran was not made on basically winning, you're - or earning your way back into a productive society. From the standpoint we were giving them too many reliefs on their sanctions up front, and then having to come through.

With Iran's situation right now, and the oil that we have in the sanctions that removed Iran (ph) back into the old business or a bigger, and also in Venezuela. What effect do you think that would have on the Iranian government for them to have that flow of cash again?

MCKENZIE: Senator, I'm probably not the best witness to answer that that part of the question, I can tell you from a military stability perspective, which I am competent to talk about. My principal interest in Iran is ensuring that they don't attack us or our partners in the region, directly or indirectly. To keep Iran to tear it from take undertaking those kinds of activities. We have had some success of doing that over the last couple of years. Not complete success.

MANCHIN: But they're still I mean, indications are still basically one of the largest proliferators of terrorist attacks in that part of the world, correct?

MCKENZIE: That is absolutely correct.

MANCHIN: And basically, with Yemen and all that they're still very much involved there, supplying them?

MCKENZIE: Iran is the principal reason that the conflict in Yemen can't be brought to a conclusion in my judgment.


COTTON: OK. General Mackenzie, I want to turn to a topic that Senator Reed and Senator King addressed as well about a nuclear deal with Iran. They both asked you kind of in the abstract, if it's better to have a nuclear deal with Iran that prevents them from getting a nuclear weapon, irrespective of their aggression in the region. In the abstract, I would agree with that. I think you did as well. But the deal actually needs to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon or becoming a threshold state to achieve that goal. Right.

MCKENZIE: Senator, I would agree. Yes.

COTTON: Yeah. And I would say just like the 2015 deal, did not achieve that objective. Certainly the media reports about the directions of the current negotiations when achieve that objective either. What kind of message are we sending to both Iran and Russia, who's acting as Iran's lawyer in these negotiations, and to allies like the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, when Iran is itself shooting ballistic missiles into Erbil as they did over the weekend or supplies you said, their proxies in Yemen with the missiles and drones to shoot into downtown Dubai or downtown Abu Dhabi, or into Al Dhafra Base where we have soldiers. What kind of message does that send to Iran and Russia on the one hand, and our allies like.

MCKENZIE: Senator, the primary my share of the task is to deter Iran from large scale attacks. And we've had some success doing that. Our success has not been perfect. But Iran has largely been deterred from launching direct attacks on us over the past couple of years. I wouldn't speak for the future. And I would agree that they're actively fomenting malign activities across the region. Their intent is to do it at a low enough level, that it will not in their view, at least disrupt the negotiating process, again, from it is my judgment, that's a dangerous position for them to have.

COTTON: And well, that that would be the intent, usually of weaker revisionist powers throughout history to always operate right below the level of retaliation and to therefore gradually accumulate more strategic advantage, right?

MCKENZIE: Senator, it's an isometric approach that's founded in history, as you noted.

COTTON: All right. Thank you.

REED: Thanks, Senator Cotton. Senator Cramer, please.

CRAMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you both for being here and for your service.

I want to drill down a little bit on where we just wrapped up General McKenzie with Senator Cotton as he ran out of time. I guess for me there a couple of things. And by the way, your characterization of CENTCOM is the land of imperfect solutions describes the United States Senate as well, and where some would do better to realize that sometimes as a body. But anyway, that that said, there are a couple of things specific to I think were Senator Cotton was going on while you're going. One is -- what are the timelines themselves, the sunsets create almost an implication of licensed to accumulate the very thing we're trying to prevent them from getting.

There's that and then there's just how to compel compliance. And maybe you could elaborate a little bit for me, a better understanding of you know, the relief of sanctions, again, get getting back to Senator King asked the relevant question in the give and take so that the sanctions relief that provides money, and then the time that the sunsets provide, how -- are we balancing that right, maybe that's the way to ask the question.

MCKENZIE: Sir, I would defer to the Department of State and our negotiators for the details on that. But I would tell you just from where I sit, my guidance is clearly we don't want Iran to possess a nuclear weapon.


MCKENZIE: And so that, you know, the best way to get to that solution is to for them to agree not to pursue it. They may be closer than we like when we reach that level of agreement. I don't know that's a matter for the diplomats, not for me.

CRAMER: Let me ask this and do you -- in your opinion, do you think that the IRGC belongs on the Foreign Terrorist Organization list? And should that be under consideration in this negotiation?

MCKENZIE: Well, from everything that I can see from where I sit, the IRGC is a terrorist organization.

CRAMER: Well, I'd say you have a pretty good seat, a pretty good view of that. So thank you for that.


ROSEN: Thank you, Chairman Reed and Ranking Member Inhofe, for holding this hearing. I'd also like to thank generals McKenzie and Townsend for testifying today and, of course, for your service to our country.

And General McKenzie, as this will be the last time before our committee, thank you for your decades of distinguished service to our nation for leading the brave men and women of our armed forces and navigating the many challenges within central command. Thank you.

And General McKenzie, I want to talk a little bit about combating Iranian aggression. As I've noted in several previous hearings, Iran and Iranian -- Iranian-backed militia groups are increasingly targeting U.S. installations and service members in both Iraq and Syria via drone and rocket attacks. We don't even have to look beyond this weekend when the IRGC claimed credit for missile attacks in the U.S. consulate in Erbil. On a regular basis around, the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism threatens U.S. and allied interests in the Middle East and around the world via both direct attacks like the ones we've just witnessed and through its support for Hezbollah and Islamic Republic's other terrorist proxies.

So, can you discuss the threat Iranian-aligned militia groups in the Middle East pose to U.S. troops and our allies? And how do you believe the U.S. should respond? How are you addressing the threat, and does CENTCOM have the necessary authorities to target these militias, other than the ability to act in self-defense?

MCKENZIE: Senator, first of all, you're right, Iran is a foments, a particularly virulent form of anti-Americanism across the -- across the theater it is a long-term objective of Iran for the United States to be forced to exit the region. They see the principal battleground for that as being Iraq because that's where we're the most distributed. That's where we're the most vulnerable. And for the last couple of years, they've actually tried to pursue a political solution to that that has not worked out for them. The seeding -- the seated government of Iraq is interested in maintaining a long-term relationship with the United States. And in fact, with NATO.

And what's that done -- what that has done is it has driven Iran and its proxies, its proxies, in particular, to seek kinetic solutions to push us out. They believe that by causing a significantly high level of pain, we're going to leave, and that actually, of course, has not proven to be the case. For one thing, over the past several months, they have attacked us; they have not been particularly successful with those attacks. And there are a number of reasons for that. First of all, commanders on the ground, our commanders on the ground, have been very, very aggressive in protecting their men and women by actions that we take when we learn -- when we learn of an impending attack. Second, our anti-drone systems are beginning to work. It's taking -- taken us a while to get to this point, but I'm gratified to see that capability coming forward. And finally, their own attacks have not always been the most artfully conceived and executed.

One point I would make is we do not believe the attack of this last weekend, the ballistic missiles were actually targeted against us, we believe it's going against other targets hit near us and could affect would have been the same, and I can talk more about in the closed session. But in order to close out your question, ma'am, I do have the authorities I need to act in U.S. central command against Iranian proxies should -- should the threat require me to do that.

ROSEN: Thank you. I want to move on a little bit to Israel. And now that Israel is within CENTCOM's area of responsibility, it is my sincere -- sincere hope that this transfer will potentiate even greater military cooperation between the U.S., Israel, and our shared goals, as well as greater cooperation between our Arab and Israeli partners.

So, Senator McKenzie, building on Senator Gillibrand's question on leveraging the Abraham accords. Are there plans to integrate joint exercises with Israel and Arab states who signed normalization agreements with Israel? And what do you see as the greatest benefits and opportunities to Israeli inclusion in CENTCOM?

MCKENZIE: Senator, I would say that bringing CENTCOM into the AOR really operationalizes the Abraham accord and sort of makes -- it puts a military component to the normal -- broad normalization that is already proceeding with Israel and many of its Arab neighbors.

Now, in terms of practical things, we can do right now. Number one is integrated air and missile defense. Everyone in the region is seized by the Iranian threat, and they want to be able to defend themselves against that threat. And that threat is primarily in the air that's remote -- with setting aside the proxies, which we talked about, is primarily Iran's ballistic missiles, their cruise missiles, and their UASes. So, that's going to -- that's a significant issue for nations in the region. Israel is going to be able to assist us in all of those areas.

Additionally, in specific answer to your question, we have been and will continue to expand Israel's participation and exercises across the region. That's an invaluable tool for getting partners to know each other, you know, and laying plans for the future.


BLACKBURN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to each of you for being with us today.

General McKenzie, I want to go back to this Iran deal because the threat assessment, the annual threat assessment, noted that they anticipated that Iran would continue to threaten U.S. interests U.S. individuals. I've read public reports of them threatening you.

I know that this Iran deal would unlock billions of dollars for Iran. And I'm very concerned about what they would do with that money. They've already recently, in the recent past, the past decade, $16 billion is what we know of that they have transferred to these terrorist groups. So, the IRGC you mentioned as Senator Rosen just talked about the attack this week.

But Iran goes in to fill these power vacuums. We have seen, and we've talked a good bit about AFRICOM and Wagner and the way they're filling that. And General Kurilla, when he was with us for his confirmation hearing, touched on the risk that sanctions relief to Iran would make to us and to our interest because of this money transfer. And do you agree with General Kurilla as we're talking about a new JCPOA or a new Iran deal and unleashing all of this money to them? Are you concerned about that, and how that would be used by these proxy groups, and the way they would benefit from that?

MCKENZIE: Senator, our primary policy objective with Iran is to prevent them from having a nuclear weapon, a weapon that they could...

BLACKBURN: And we realize that and appreciate that.

MCKENZIE: And so, I am not an expert on the negotiations that are currently going on. So, I'm not able to give you...

BLACKBURN: Is your expectation they would be more lethal? That they would move forward with...

MCKENZIE: It is. I would say that there is a risk that they could use that money in ways that we would not want them to use that money. I can certainly say that's -- that is -- that is a risk. But I think that we would have to balance that if we got a good agreement that prevented them from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

BLACKBURN: OK. All right. So, I know that the JCPOA under the terms for that they could buy weapons from Russia and China as of October 2020, and they would be able to buy advanced weaponry and ballistic missiles from Russia next year. So, what is your concern about their ability to purchase arms from Russia or China? Would they be able to purchase even more lethal weapons if they get that sanctions release? And how -- what would that do with the capabilities for the Houthis, or for any of these other terrorist organizations?

MCKENZIE: Senator, over the last four or five years, under a very significant sanctions regime, Iran has made remarkable advances in their ballistic missiles. I believe, if open to bringing in advanced weapons from other states, such as you have named, it will increase the risk in the theater considerably.

BLACKBURN: Have we provided everything to the Israeli government that they've requested in order to respond to an Iranian nuclear buildup?

MCKENZIE: Senator, at my level, at the chief of defense level, we're in complete agreement about the way ahead and about what we're giving them. I can't talk about other -- I can't talk about the whole of government, but I can talk about it...

BLACKBURN: Well, I was pleased to see the realignment of Israel from Yukon to CENTCOM. I felt like that was the right move, and I was happy to see CENTCOM's combined naval exercise involving Israel, the UAE, Bahrain; that was last November. So, how are you actively working with partner nations to integrate the IDF into the regional security architecture?

MCKENZIE: I think the low-hanging fruit is an integrated air and missile defense. All of these nations see the threat from Iran, the ballistic missile threat, the cruise missile threat, the unmanned aerial system threat, and they want to be able to defend themselves. And I think that's where we can make great headway involving Israel, but also other nations in the region. And I'll be able to talk a little bit more about that in the closed session.


PETERS: General McKenzie, my -- my next questions for you as well. According to UNICEF, at least 47 children have been killed or maimed in Yemen just in January and February of this year. In total, at least 10,000 miners have been killed or injured since the Saudi-led coalition began their bombing in 2015. And this was in the context of a conflict in which the UN estimates nearly 377,000 people have died since the conflict began. And now the World Food Programme is warning that 13 million Yemenis are facing starvation.

My question for you, general, is straightforward. What -- What leverage does the United States have to bring all the parties to the table to end this conflict? And what are we doing to make it happen?

MCKENZIE: Senator, so it's my assessment. And again, I only see a part of the problem. We have a -- we have a negotiator who works this at a higher level. I believe that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is willing to come to an agreement in -- with -- with events in Yemen. I believe that is attainable from their end.

I think it's the Houthis who are intent on continuing to prosecute this fight. And I believe they are prodded directly by their Iranian masters. And that -- that's the reason that the situation exists now, where they're firing, almost daily, weapons into Saudi Arabia. And of course, as recently as several weeks ago, began to fire ballistic missiles into UAE. In both cases, they were -- they were and are prodded to do it again by their sponsors, Iran, who has no interest actually, in this war coming to an end, no interest in solving the humanitarian dispute.

And I do not dispute the tragedy, the tremendous tragedy of children being maimed by these weapons; understand that completely. But there is a path forward. Some of the parties are willing to take that path. Unfortunately, not all of the parties are willing to take that path.


SULLIVAN: OK, good. Thank you. I noticed that in your CENTCOM priorities, deter Iran, is that listed at the top? Is that your number one priority?

MCKENZIE: Sir, that is my number one priority.

SULLIVAN: And let me -- let me talk about I'm sure you're familiar with this, the could for -- Quds Force, General Suleimani starting in about 2004-2005 supplied very sophisticated IEDs to the Iraqi Shia militias in Iraq, over 2000 American soldiers wounded in action, over 600 killed in action because of those EFPs. For years, we didn't do much to hold Soleimani, the Quds Force for, accountable for this very devastating killing of our best and brightest. I was in a hearing when the chairman then, General Dunford, mentioned that Soleimani, in particular, may have learned the wrong lesson back then; you could attack Americans with impunity and not pay a price. Do you agree with that? I know you were very familiar with that. And this is prior to, of course, him being killed.

MCKENZIE: Well, I think -- I think he's an object lesson. And then you can't attack Americans with impunity.

SULLIVAN: So, you think that -- were we able to reestablish some of the deterrence that General Dunford had talked about by killing him when he was looking to kill more American troops?

MCKENZIE: I think that contributed to deterrence being reestablished. And I think that was a factor in their calculation. The Iranians have never doubted our capability. Occasionally, they doubt our will.

SULLIVAN: And you think that's been reestablished now?

MCKENZIE: I think, yes. But I think, as with all things with Iran, it's an extraordinarily complex subject. And I think there is a -- there is deterrence, but it's what I would call contested deterrence. They still seek -- they still seek to push us out by hurting us, and they will continue to do so.

SULLIVAN: Let me ask one final question. You were quoted in a New Yorker article in December of 2020, titled "The Looming Threat of a Nuclear Crisis with Iran," where you were quoted as saying that a more immediate threat than the nuclear program is Iran's missiles. Two very quick questions; did the Iranians target the consulate with this most recent missile attack in -- on northern Iraq? And would reentering the JCPOA positively or negatively impact Iranian ballistic missile capability? Which you, I think, have rightly called out back in December as a much more immediate threat from them. So, two questions on that. Were they targeting us?

MCKENZIE: They were not -- they were not targeting us.

SULLIVAN: So, we're sure of that.

MCKENZIE: I am sure of that.

SULLIVAN: OK. And the second question.

MCKENZIE: The second question is, I think that's a hard question. I think, you know, what you would like to do is, if you execute a JCPOA, you would want to go to limiting other elements of the Iranian portfolio. And that would be a bridge to get to where you're maybe talking about ballistic missiles; you're talking about proxy activities. So, that would give you an opportunity to try to work that diplomatically.

SULLIVAN: But should that be part of the agreement?

MCKENZIE: Senator, I don't believe that the current -- it is under the current profile that we're looking right now. I'm saying it could be if you -- if you're successful in negotiating an agreement, it might lead you to an opportunity for further successful negotiations on other issues.

SULLIVAN: No, but I'm just asking -- sorry, Mr. Chairman -- in your personal opinion, do you think that threat which you said is actually more immediate than the nuclear threat? Should that be part of any agreement that we're trying to do with them right now? In your personal opinion, I know you're not negotiating it.

MCKENZIE: Right, I would -- I would -- I do not believe it is feasible to come into -- to come to an agreement that incorporates both elements right now. I don't believe it's feasible in the world we live in; with the state of our negotiations with Iran, it's feasible to get to both those things at the same time right now.


SCOTT: All right. Moving on to the Iran deal. It appears, and you talked to Senator Blackburn a little bit about this, that about $90 billion in sanctions relief might be awarded to the Iranian government, which then they'll be able to use to ferment more tourism. So, if that happens, what resources would CENTCOM have and our allies have to put up to be able to fight these proxies?

MCKENZIE: So, Senator, I gotta be honest with you I'm not -- I'm not an economist. I'm not familiar with the economic impacts of that deal. I would say this, from where I sit, the number one objective that I've been given is we don't want Iran to have a nuclear weapon. And it would seem to me that approaching that through a diplomatic solution would be the best way to get -- get to that end. I recognize there are second-order effects that might proceed from that in terms of sanctions relief. And I acknowledge that.


SCOTT: So, this is a general question for both of you. You know, we've watched with the Ukraine situation, and we've been able to do sanctions against Russia, which it sure seems like that could have a positive impact and hopefully, reduce their ability to, you know, fund their -- the war effort. How important do you think it is, when we have an adversary, whether it's Russia, or China or Iran, that we do everything we can to make sure they don't have the resources to -- to continue to develop? And we should do everything we can to make sure that our citizens are not dependent on them for any resources, such as in China's case, pharmaceuticals, things like that. Do you think this is important? It makes your -- makes your job easier if we're not dependent on other countries?

MCKENZIE: Senator, it makes my job a lot easier if we have a whole of government approach to the problems that we confront, you know, the Department of Treasury, all the economic power of the United States, all the diplomatic power of the United States is wielded in concert and preferably as a substitute for the military element of power. That's by far the most effective way to obtain our goals.

TOWNSEND: I can't say it better than that. Yeah.

SCOTT: And do you think our military power should be the last thing we use?

MCKENZIE: I think the -- yes, as a general principle, there are -- we have far more effective tools to address these problems. The military element of power should be in support of all other elements of the U.S. national power.