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If the Middle East is ever going to change for the better, we must make our objectives threefold, to disarm terrorist organizations and regimes, to democratize the regimes, and to aid in their development. This bill is a good beginning. Mr. Chairman, with all of the urgency and fervor that I can muster as an American citizen of Lebanese descent, I urge you to lend your support to this bill.
In closing I ask your indulgence to allow me a personal observation-a small tragic personal note. During one visit to Lebanon during the heat of the war, I was informed by the intelligence services of the anti-Syrian Lebanese resistance that I should not travel to Syrian-controlled areas of Lebanon-I was told that my activities in support of a free and democratic Lebanon had earned me a spot on the Syrian “enemies” list. Yes, Syria is the sort of country that keeps lists of enemies as an intimidation tactic. That is sort of regime we are speaking of today. In testifying today and speaking the truth I am certain that I will again find myself on that list. And now, Syria has crushed the Lebanese resistance and controls 100% of the country. Thus for me, at age 70, this means that I will never see my father's home in Lebanon again. This is indescribably painful for me. But it is a price that I willingly pay to bring freedom back to my ancestral homeland, Lebanon, and security to my beloved country, the United States. God Bless America. Thank you.
Mr. GILMAN. Thank you, Dr. Saadi, for your very forceful presentation.
Now we call on Ambassador Edward Gabriel, who possesses an impressive background in international affairs. Ambassador Gabriel served as our U.S. Ambassador to Morocco from 1997 to 2001. He is currently the President and CEO of Gabriel Global Strategies, where he advises multi-national corporations in international business projects.
He appears today as President of the American Task Force for Lebanon. Mr. Ambassador, please proceed, and please limit your comments to 5 minutes. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE EDWARD M. GABRIEL,
PRESIDENT, AMERICAN TASK FORCE FOR LEBANON Mr. GABRIEL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will submit my testimony for the record.
Mr. GILMAN. Without objection.
Mr. GABRIEL. Mr. Chairman, it's a great pleasure to testify before you because, as you know, over the years, I have been able to host you overseas; and get to know you and become your friend. We will miss you greatly in your position.
Mr. GILMAN. Thank you for your kind comment.
Mr. GABRIEL. The ATFL is a non-profit organization that unites American leaders of Lebanese heritage who share a strong commitment to strengthening the traditional ties of friendship and the excellent political, economic and cultural relations between the United States of America and the country of Lebanon.
Our members comprise a highly diverse group of very prominent Lebanese Americans-political leaders and others in the fields of education, law, medicine, engineering, business, government, military and the arts. I will make note that some of our members are also Members of your distinguished body—the House of Representatives.
Our primary operating principle is that at all times the mission and the objectives of ATFL shall be in the best interest of the United States of America. Consistent with longstanding U.S. policy, the unifying goal of the members of ATFL is the ultimate establishment of a secure, stable democratic, independent and sovereign Lebanon with full control over its internationally-recognized territory.
ATFL supports the departure of all non-Lebanese forces from its territory and the disarmament of all remaining militias on Lebanese soil, and the implementation of all U.N. resolutions and international agreements regarding Lebanon.
There are many aspects of the current U.S.-Syrian relationship that are problematic from the perspective of the United States, and they have been voiced very strongly here today. Many and most of the concerns of which I would agree with.
However, we submit that our country's policy goals on Lebanon and the Middle East are best served through diplomacy and negotiation, not in my opinion, ineffectual and counterproductive confrontation at this point in time.
I speak not only as an American who is responsible for the organization I represent, but from my long history involved in foreign policy. Our very careful reading of the proposed Syria Accountability Act has lead us to conclude that its passage would not be in the best interest of the United States, not to mention Lebanon.
The passage of this act would not increase the U.S. leverage over Syria or Syrian policy in Lebanon; and in my opinion, Mr. Chairman, it would decrease it. Moreover, its passage would seriously impact efforts underway by the United States to encourage Syria to increase its cooperation in the war on terrorism and to move positively toward implementing many of the goals set forth in the proposed act through diplomacy and quiet persuasion.
I would like to quote from a letter sent September 3rd to one of your Members on this Committee from President George Bush and in it, the President opposes this bill.
“We both have genuine differences and areas of common interest with Syria. Managing our complex relationship with Syria requires the careful and calculated use of all the options we have to advance U.S. interests.
"Imposing the new sanctions regime envisioned by the Syria Accountability Act would limit our options and restrict our ability to deal with the difficult and dangerous regional situa
tion at a particularly critical junction.” That was signed by George W. Bush.
If David Satterfield were here, he might have told you what he told me last month. That because of the interaction with Syria, and their ability to talk to Syria “American lives have been saved because of their cooperation on Sunni terrorism,” meaning al-Qaeda. That is worth mentioning.
I also make reference to Colin Powell's visit in April when he stopped the attacks that were almost occurring daily by Hezbollah because of his ability to talk to President Assad.
We believe absent a working American-Syrian relationship, Syria would not heed the U.S. concerns over the Syrian presence and policy in Lebanon. I don't believe it will happen. Despite the most optimistic expectations of its supporters, the Syria Accountability Act will not lead to a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.
To the contrary, I believe an isolated Syria is likely to intensify its relationship with Lebanon. Experience has shown us that unilateral sanctions, such as those envisioned in this act do not work.
Indeed, several of the penalties that were to be leveled in this act toward Syria are already in effect. And I ask you what effect they have had? Additionally, the Syria Accountability Act would directly penalize Lebanon. Even though, Lebanon suffers from the regional constraints of its actions, obviously, and as many people have referred to today.
Mr. GILMAN. The gentleman's time has expired. Please, sum up, if you would
Mr. GABRIEL. Yes, sir. Let me just jump to my final paragraph, Mr. Chairman.
Finally, let me just tell you, I visited Lebanon July 23rd through the 29th, with the delegation of our members. We met with all the leadership of that country from the Maronite leadership all the way through other political factions.
I want to impress you with one thing because it was mentioned by Mr. Engel in his very thoughtful testimony that; perhaps, he gave the impression-he didn't say this, but perhaps he gave the impression that the Maronite Church supports this act. I guarantee you, and I state for the record, the Maronite Church does not support this act.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I will tell you that no one we met with supported the Syria Accountability Act, although, they all want Syria out of Lebanon. Thank you. [The prepared statement of Mr. Gabriel follows:] PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE EDWARD M. GABRIEL, PRESIDENT,
AMERICAN TASK FORCE FOR LEBANON The ATFL is a non-profit tax exempt organization that unites American leaders of Lebanese heritage who share a strong commitment to strengthening the traditional ties of friendship and the excellent political, economic and cultural relations between Lebanon and the United States. We are non-sectarian and non-partisan. Our members comprise a highly diverse group of Lebanese American political leaders, and others in the fields of education, law, medicine, engineering, business, government, military and the arts. Our primary operating principle is that at all times, the mission and objectives of the ATFL shall be in the best interest of the United States.
Consistent with longstanding U.S. policy, the unifying goal of the members of the ATFL is the ultimate establishment of a secure, stable, democratic, independent and sovereign Lebanon with full control over all of its internationally recognized territory. The ATFL also supports the departure of all non-Lebanese forces from Lebanese territory, the disarmament of all remaining militia on Lebanese soil, and the implementation of all United Nations resolutions and international agreements regarding Lebanon. We have consistently urged that the United States government be a positive and constructive influence in supporting Lebanon so that these goals can be ultimately realized. Progress on this front has not always been satisfactory or encouraging.
There are many aspects of the current United States-Syrian relationship that are problematic from the perspective of the United States. However, we submit that our country's policy goals on Lebanon and the Middle East are best served through diplomacy and negotiation rather than ineffectual and even counterproductive confrontation.
Our very careful reading of the proposed Syria Accountability Act has led us to conclude that its passage would be neither in the best interest of the United States nor of Lebanon. The passage of this Act would not increase United States leverage over Syria and Syrian policy in Lebanon; would decrease it. Moreover, its passage would seriously impact efforts underway by the United States to encourage the Government of Syria to increase its cooperation in the war on terrorism, and to move positively towards implementing many of the goals set forth in the proposed Act through diplomacy and quiet persuasion.
Let us cite an example where a positive American-Syrian engagement has benefited the United States and Lebanon. On April 15, 2002, Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and was able to negotiate an end to the violence across the 'blue line' that could have resulted in a general Middle East war. If the American-Syrian relationship were any more adversarial, this exchange between Secretary Powell and President Assad would likely have been impossible. Moreover, absent a working American-Syrian relationship, Syria would not heed United States concerns over the Syrian presence and policy in Lebanon.
Despite the most optimistic expectations of its supporters, the Syria Accountability Act will not lead to a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. To the contrary, an isolated Syria is likely to intensify its relationship with Lebanon. Experience has shown that unilateral sanctions, such as those envisioned by this Act, do not work. Indeed, several of the penalties to be leveled against Syria by this Act are already in effect; yet, they have in no way altered Syrian policy.
Additionally, the Syria Accountability Act would directly penalize Lebanon, even though Lebanon suffers from regional constraints on its actions. The Act enjoins Lebanon: to enter into serious bilateral negotiations with Israel to realize a full and permanent peace; to evict all terrorist and foreign forces from southern Lebanon, including Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards; and, only receive United States humanitarian and educational assistance through appropriate private, nongovernmental organizations and appropriate international organizations, until Lebanon asserts sovereignty and control over all of its territory and borders and achieves full political independence.
We understand the need for a strategic, but independent, relationship between Lebanon and Syria. In this context, we would encourage the United States government to engage the parties in discussions on ways to resolve regional issues that would accomplish the intent of the drafters and obviate the need for this legislation.
From July 23 to July 29, a delegation of American Task Force for Lebanon officers met with a range of Lebanese from various religious communities and political orientations. None of our interlocutors supported the Syria Accountability Act, of which they were well aware. Our interlocutors were supportive of a sovereign Lebanon, but they felt that the Syria Accountability Act would not achieve this goal. Indeed, many of our interlocutors thought the bill would have the opposite effect.
We ask that everyone concerned take a critical look at the implications for the United States and Lebanon of the Syria Accountability Act.
Mr. GILMAN. Thank you, Ambassador Gabriel. We will now turn to William Reinsch, currently the President of the National Foreign Trade Council. Prior to joining the NFTC, Mr. Reinsch served as Undersecretary for Export Administration at our Department of Commerce.
Mr. Reinsch also spent over 20 years working on Capitol Hill. Let me note for our Members that we will continue with the testimony, so if you care to go and vote early and come right back, we would urge you to do so. Mr. Reinsch?
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE WILLIAM A. REINSCH,
PRESIDENT, NATIONAL FOREIGN TRADE COUNCIL, INC. Mr. REINSCH. Thank you very much. Let me say first, Mr. Chairman, it's been an honor and a pleasure to appear before you many times—probably too many times over the past 8 years. I wish you well in your involuntary retirement. The House is not going to be the same without you.
Mr. GILMAN. Thank you, Mr. Reinsch, for your kind words.
Mr. REINSCH. Like the others, I ask that my full statement be put in the record.
Mr. GILMAN. Without objection.
Mr. REINSCH. USA Engage, which is a broad-based coalition of over 670 American companies and trade and agricultural organizations that support sanctions reform, as well as the NFTC, strongly oppose enactment of H.R. 4483.
We believe it will undermine U.S. diplomatic efforts in the region, while depriving American companies of current and potential business opportunities that help bring our two countries closer together.
Like the other witnesses, we share the foreign policy goals the bill seeks to achieve, but we believe that this legislation will bring none of those objectives closer to realization.
On the contrary, we believe it would further isolate Syria from the U.S. and weaken any progressive forces that favor moving Syria away from a state-controlled economy.
There are four principle reasons for our opposition. First, unilateral economic sanctions—and I emphasize "unilateral” economic sanctions have an unblemished record of failure.
Time and again, the U.S. has responded to adverse overseas development by cutting off trade, investment and financial transactions with other nations as a means of changing the behavior of their governments.
Since 1996, the U.S. has imposed 84 new unilateral sanctions. Because of the widespread foreign availability of most items exported by American companies and the globalization of international capital markets, countries targeted by our unilateral sanctions are very rarely impaired in gaining access to the products or financing they seek.
At most, they may pay a small premium or have to be content with less quality. Neither is likely to be a decisive factor in altering their behavior.
Second, while this bill is unlikely to have any impact on Syrian behavior, it would disadvantage and displace U.S. firms that are conducting or want to conduct business there.
There are almost 400 U.S. firms currently doing business with Syria, either directly or as suppliers to other companies. A large percentage of those companies are small and medium-sized enterprises with operations in 184 congressional districts in 42 states and the District of Columbia.
They represent virtually very sector of the U.S. economy, including agriculture, construction and engineering, telecommunications, medical products, aerospace, financial services, natural resource extraction, automotive and information technology.
Although Syria is a country of only 17 million people with a per capita income of approximately $2500 annually, it does represent sales, income and jobs for thousands of American employees of these nearly 400 companies.
Syria is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU, which will increase European competition against U.S. exports. This disadvantage would only be compounded by the sanctions authorized by H.R. 4483. Currently, more than half of Syria's exports are to the EU, and over 25 percent of its imports are from there. Sixteen percent of its imports come from Ukraine.
While U.S. exports peaked at $389 million in 1996, they've declined since then to $224 million thanks, in large part, both to existing sanctions and European competition.