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Lebanon, Syria has acted both as the arsonist and the fireman. That's summarizes the 25 years.
They got entry into Lebanon by and through the Palestinian Liberation Army, and when it no longer suited their purposes, they chased them out. They also had some cover through the Arab League’s Arab Deterrent Force. Well, everyone is gone. Why is Syria there? If someone comes in to help you fix something in your house, does he stay in your house forever.
Mr. ISSA. Doctor, I appreciate that. So in summarizing your testimony, it would be fair to say that, even if an invited guest, they have clearly overstayed their welcome.
Dr. SAADI. Clearly. But I want to also state that they have been asked to leave officially.
Mr. ISSA. By whom?
Dr. SAADI. President Amin Gamayel. It's of record. He has asked them to leave. The interim Prime Minister Michele Aoun asked them to leave. They have been asked to, essentially-invited to leave through the Taif Agreement, which should have taken place in 1992–10 years ago.
Mr. ISSA. I appreciate that. Now if I can switch now to the Ambassador with essentially the same line of questioning because it is important for us to understand, if we cannot achieve all the goals of this act, what goals, in fact, would benefit the United States and/or Lebanon the most.
Please, Mr. Ambassador.
I think Elias and I and many people who care about the relationship between Lebanon and America share a common goal, and that is to make sure that Lebanon remains sovereign and independent.
Mr. Issa. Not to interrupt you, but are you saying that they are sovereign and independent today, or would we use the term "become" sovereign and independent?
Mr. GABRIEL. I believe today, on the record, Lebanon is a sovereign, independent, recognized country of the U.N. However, I do not believe Lebanon has the ability to control its own affairs, and therefore, we need to make sure that Syria has less influence and presence there so that Lebanon can fulfill and act like a sovereign state that it was obviously given under the mandate of its constitution.
Mr. Issa. Mr. Ambassador, I'll take that as a typical Lebanese statement that they are and they are not. For the record, I am also of Lebanese descent.
I want to be fair to all those not here, and not abuse the opportunity to be in the chair, but I will make one short statement, and allow Mr. Levitt to go on with his prepared statement.
I think all the panel, and perhaps, the many people assembled here, need to understand that; there has been, and will continue to be a lot controversy as to what the right solution is to the problem.
I would say to a person there is not a Member of this Committee who believes that Lebanon is presently able to exercises its own affairs independently, or that presently, the presence and activity of Hezbollah in the south of Lebanon as the last militia of the civil war, is anything but adverse to Lebanon's ability to claim independence and be an active part of the world.
I am being advised that we have the opportunity for continued dialogue. Mr. Levitt, we will waive your statements for a moment, and come back to them when more of my colleagues are here. But you have an insight into this, too, and I don't want to limit it because of whose given their testimony.
Mr. LEVITT. Well, I don't want to give my testimony by default. Mr. Issa. You will still have your 5 minutes when others return.
STATEMENT OF MATTHEW A. LEVITT, SENIOR FELLOW,
WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY Mr. LEVITT. I think the bottom line is that their business interests—there are all kinds of interest. Syria is waiting to hear from us. Syria is waiting to hear whether numerous presidential and other statements are worth weight in paper. Do we mean it when we say that there will be consequences, and we've said it numerous times. Do we mean it?
When the President of Syria promised Secretary of State Powell that he will cease pumping illicit Iraqi oil, and then he doesn't do it, will there be consequences? The only way to engage Syria today, and this is the right time to do it. We are at the critical juncture to do it, is to show Syria that, in fact, there are consequences. That is a war on terrorism-on terrorism means it's not just a war on al-Qaeda.
I don't think the issue should be whether or not we can establish beyond a shadow of a doubt that Syria is allowing al-Qaeda operatives to travel through Syria and set up camp in Lebanon. According to the Administration officials I've spoken to, that is the case. But whether or not that is true, that's not the only terrorism that's out there.
We don't pick and chose which terrorist groups are okay and which are not okay. Syria is more proactive in sponsoring terrorism today than it was under Hafez al-Assad, Bashar has dropped the whole pretense—any pretense of his father's conscience.
Syria today directly arms Hezbollah as opposed to only allowing the shipment of arms from Iran, and it is a very, very serious problem. According to the people in the Administration that I speak to today, Hezbollah, which is Syria and Iran's primary proxy, today, continues to surveil U.S. interests and continues to plot attacks on U.S. interests.
Mr. ISSA. Well, let me follow up on that because I think that's a very important point. I have more than a few times cautioned Lebanon and Syria about the danger of Hezbollah in allowing it to continue, not necessarily under the control of any one body; but with the money of one or more bodies and with very loose control.
To a great extent, as a former soldier, I fear armies; but I fear armies without generals even more. I think that Hezbollah is a good example of one where the money flows in, some control is asserted, but quite frankly, this is a terrorist organization that has its own ideas, and periodically, acts very independently, which is even more dangerous than if they were directed by a particular nation or state.
If Syria were to leave today, what would make Hezbollah go away? What mechanism in this act would the U.S. employ to get al-Qaeda out of the Palestinian refugee camps? What would we do to clear the mine fields; to root out Hezbollah and to make the south of Lebanon a similar place to; perhaps, other areas of the world where an army and a police force enforces a border?
What could we do and how would we get to a free Lebanon that makes its borders safe with its neighbors?
Mr. LEVITT. Well, first of all, I disagree. I think there is stuff in this act that would start us along that road. There is no one thing. I think it would go a whole heck of a long way if we could close down the training camps, both in Syria and in Lebanon. We have completely been overlooking the fact that there are training camps in Syria that are training terrorists today.
It would go a long way if we could convince Syria to kick out the leadership of Palestinian and other terrorist organizations, which, contrary to Syrian rhetoric which states that they are just there for political purposes are directly funding terrorist attacks and calling for terrorist attacks and are ordering them from Damascus.
I think it would go a long way if we could establish that there are consequences of facilitating the Bekaa Valley being a terrorist haven; enabling Ein-Hilweh and other Palestinian refugee camps to become a den of terrorism.
Mr. Issa. Doctor, you had a follow-up statement on that?
Dr. SAADI. Yes, Mr. Chairman. I can't let an impression stand that was made this morning about the Maronite Church. The head of the Maronite Church, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, does not enter into the affairs of other countries.
The voice of the Maronite Church was heard in Los Angeles in June of this year. It was from five continents. There was an assembly which included eight bishops from Lebanon-Maronite bishops that unanimously approved support for this bill. When the bishops went back to Lebanon, they were under enormous pressure and threats-and Mr. Chairman, we are at a momentous time—and I'll close in our history.
That is, you identified yourself as a Lebanese-American. You and I, as Lebanese-Americans, we have to chose between support for our ancestral heritage and stand with our ancestors or side with those forces who have historically oppressed them. The choice is yours and mine.
Mr. ISSA. Thank you, Doctor. Just for the record, I am an American of Lebanese ancestry whose grandfather left because, under the Ottoman Empire, Lebanon was not a place in which Christians were free to make equal compensation and be successful financially. Like most Americans of Lebanese ancestry, we tend to be Christians and we tend to be a people who understand the importance of a nation in which Christians have equal opportunity.
So I, for one, am very dedicated toward finding a way to establish a free, independent, and militia-free Lebanon. It is one of the reasons that I have concerns about this bill is that it does seem to talk about what is wrong with Syria, most of which is true, but knowing that since 1983, Syria has had a series of fairly significant sanctions and that they haven't worked, I ask why would this make a safe and free Lebanon?
It is the concern I have, and I will close by asking the Ambassador who has been shaking his head feverishly to comment on the portion of the question, which is, if the goal of this act is to free Lebanon.
What in this act, beyond saying Syria should leave, is actually going to take care of the militias, including Hezbollah and the activities that I denounced in the Palestinian camps, which Lebanon has a very hard time controlling?
Even Israel, when they occupied, had a very hard time controlling them. Mr. Ambassador?
Dr. SAADI. We share the same heritage.
Mr. GABRIEL. Mr. Chairman, I just don't believe that terrorists and terrorism is going to go away as a result of this act. I don't see the cause and effect of sanctions doing that.
What I do see from a sanctions regime is that we are going to lose leverage on the diplomatic front, and we're going to be left with punitive and military measures. That's where I think the logic goes with this bill. I would much prefer to see the United States Government really have a sense of direction and a very strong, strategic position on Lebanon's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the consequences of what would happen if diplomatic solutions wouldn't work in the future.
I think this is something that the President has to have the purview on and to follow. So I would suggest that this is not the way to go, but to force the Administration into a much stronger position on a Syrian-Lebanon policy is the way to go, and I would like to share, at some point, with Members of this Committee, ideas that we could jointly conceive together.
Mr. GILMAN (presiding). The gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. Matthew Levitt is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He specializes in terrorism and U.S. policy.
Prior to joining the Institute, Mr. Levitt served as an FBI analyst, providing tactical and strategic analysis in support of counterterrorism operations.
Mr. Levitt, please proceed. Please, limit your remarks to 5 minutes. You may put your full statement in the record.
Mr. LEVITT. Absolutely. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I would ask that my written statement be included in the record.
Mr. GILMAN. Without objection.
Mr. LEVITT. The bottom line is that Syria is actively undermining the three most pressing U.S. national security interests in the Middle East. Those are fighting the war on terrorism, liberating Iraq and the escalating Israeli-Palestinian conflict and resuming peaceful negotiations.
As we've heard this morning, despite intelligence sharing on things like the interrogation of Mohammed Zammar, which, by the way, we don't know just how—the full extent of that cooperation. U.S. authorities have not been given direct access to him. But despite that, as we've heard this morning, there is an agreement on five basic points.
Syria is pumping approximately 150,000 barrels in illicit Iraqi oil. Syria procures arms and military spare parts for Iraq. Syria continues to occupy Lebanon. Syria has advanced chemical and biological weapons programs, and it seeking the technology for delivery system. Most critically, Syrian support for terrorist groups of global reach has increased since Barshar Assad came to power.
That sponsorship includes providing safe haven to the leaders of at least seven terrorist organizations on the State Department's foreign terrorist organization list; harboring and training terrorist, both in Syria itself and in Lebanon; arming terrorist groups, both via the trans-shipment of Iranian arms, and now directly arming Hezbollah itself, and serving as Iran's outlet to terrorist groups in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.
Finally, allowing Lebanon to become itself a hornet's nest of international terrorist groups, including Palestinian groups, Hezbollah, but also Armenian groups, al-Qaeda and many others. We don't need to go back to 1979, as some others have today, to discuss Syrian support of terrorism. Let's just look at what's going on right now. Syria is directly arming Hezbollah, including a new 220 millimeter rocket.
At Syria's behest, Hezbollah has increased its terrorist activity in Israel, including activity in Israel proper. Israeli authorities have uncovered more than 20 Hamas activists who were recruited in various Arab countries, sent to Syria for terrorist training and preparation of explosives, intelligence activities, hostage taking, and suicide
operations training in Syria itself. In May, Damascus reportedly offered Hamas direct Syrian financial aid if it renewed suicide bombings. Palestinian Islamic Jihad ordered the June 5, 2002 suicide bus bombing in Megiddo in northern Israel from Damascus. Shallah himself transfers funds, $127,000 in one instance, from Damascus to the personal bank account of individual Islamic Jihad terrorists in the West Bank.
Members of the Al-Aqsa Brigade, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian groups have been undergoing terrorist training at a PFLP-GC camp south of Damascus. Traveling through Jordan, the Palestinian trainees are met at the Jordanian-Syrian border by Syrian officials who check their names against a pre-approved list, and escort them to the camps run by PFLP-GC.
A former PFLP-GC member told the Jordanian court in February_that one of the 13 suspects on trial for plotting to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Amman asked him to arrange terrorist training for the group in Syria. Munir al-Magdah is an international terrorist wanted by both Lebanese and Jordanian authorities whose residence is in a Palestinian camp in Lebanon.
According to mainstream Fatah officials, al-Magdah “has very good ties with Syria and Iran. These countries pay him millions of dollars." We are becoming background noise. The President said,
“From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a
hostile regime." Implicitly, he offered state-sponsors an amnesty if they would stop sponsoring terrorism-nothing since then.