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Sec. Kerry Faces Fireworks Over ISIS, Anti-Christian 'Genocide'

Fireworks erupted at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Thursday when the nation's top diplomat was pressed on why the State Department has not branded the ISIS massacres of Christians a genocide.

Secretary of State John Kerry agreed that "something needs to be done quickly" but said they have to do more legal legwork before that designation is made.

"The whole world knows Christians are being slaughtered in the Middle East," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican and frequent critic of the Obama Administration.

Rohrabacher also was not satisfied when Kerry said the greatest threat to the U.S. is "violent extremism, radical religious extremism."

Related: Hundreds of Christians Feared Captured by ISIS Near Syrian Village, Qaryatain: Group

When Rohrabacher asked Kerry why he didn't use the words "radical Islamic terrorism," Kerry quickly answered: "It is predominantly Islamic and I have no hesitation in saying that."

ISIS in 2015: How the Militants Fared 2:18

Under further questioning, Kerry also noted that most of the victims of ISIS are other Muslims — and that Muslims are leading the fight against the murderous militants who have carved out a caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

Following the lead of the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration has avoided using the words "Islamic terrorism" because it doesn't want to offend America's Muslim allies in the fight against ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Related: Christians Flee ISIS Rule in Northern Iraq Amid Persecution

Also, while there is a lot of support in Congress for declaring Iraqi and Syrian Christians victims of genocide, doing so could place a legal obligation on the U.S. to directly intervene in the fight against ISIS.

While the administration has yet to label what ISIS is doing as genocide, President Obama issued a statement in December on persecuted Christians around the world.

Related: Clinton Condemns ISIS for 'Genocide' Against Religious Minorities

On Tuesday, Obama presented a long-awaited plan to Congress to shut down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Asked by Rep. Dave Trott, a Michigan Republican, if agreed with Obama that closing it would make America safer by denying ISIS a recruiting tool, Kerry said "yes."

Then he asked Trott if he'd seen the gory footage of ISIS militants beheading prisoners clad in orange prison jumpsuits.

"Where do you think the orange jumpsuits came from?" Kerry asked. "They come from Guantanamo...Those jumpsuits didn't come out of the imagination of Daesh."

Daesh is the term most Arab countries use for ISIS.

Kerry also refused to be drawn by Rep. Darrell Issa into an extended discussion of the email scandal that continues to dog his predecessor, Hillary Clinton. A California Republican, Issa led the two-year House investigation into Benghazi that Democrats dismissed as an attempt to derail Clinton's drive for the White House.

"I think people are getting bored with this," Kerry said.

Earlier, Kerry revealed that extraditing Joanne Chesimard from Cuba is on Obama's agenda when he makes his historic visit to Havana. Chesimard, who goes by the name Assata Shakur, has been hiding out in Havana for three decades.

Image:
Assata Shakur, the former Joanne Chesimard, seen in this undated photo, was convicted in 1973 of killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster as he lay on the ground. She escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba. New Jersey State Police via AP

She was serving a life sentence for killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster when she escaped in 1979 from a Garden State prison.

Kerry was also asked point-blank by Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, whether Iran has "adhered to the nuclear deal" that Obama championed and which the Republicans opposed.

"Yes, to the best of our judgment," Kerry answered.