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dubbed the "A-Team of Terrorism” by Assistant Secretary of State Armitage Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
For the past several years, Syria has allowed these organizations to operate freely and coordinate terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, on Israel from their headquarters in Syria as well as Lebanese areas under their control. The most consistent and disconcerting Syrian alliance with terror has been its long-standing partnership with Hizbollah, an organization-like Al Qaeda, with cells throughout the world-responsible for the tragic bombing of the U.S. embassy and marine barracks in Beruit in 1983, the heinous attacks on the Israeli embassy and Jewish community center in Argentina in 1992 and 1994, and decades of aggression and terror against Israel.
Syria's continued military rule over Lebanon allows it to control Hizbollah's policies, which have recently included the unprovoked kidnaping of Israeli soldiers, and Katushya and mortar attacks aimed at increasing tension on Israel's northern border and precipitating further conflict in the Middle East.
Syria's direct role in encouraging these provocations clearly demonstrates Bashar Assad's contempt for the Middle East peace process and his intention to use Hizbollah as a proxy for escalating conflict with Israel, despite Israel's recent withdrawl from Lebanon, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425.
In addition to supporting Hizbollah, reports have recently emerged concerning Syria's willingness to cooperate with Al Qaeda and provide a safe-haven for 150 200 Bin Laden operatives in Lebanon. This disturbing development-in conjunction with recent reports concerning Syria's flourishing trade and military relationship with Iraq clearly indicate that Syria is working against American interests in the Middle East.
Syria's complicity in terror and support for militant groups has made it one of the most dangerous threats to America's security and defense. It is in this regard that the United States must impose a stricter sanctions regime against Syria and demand an unequivocal end to its support of terror, development of weapons of mass destruction and partnership with Saddam Hussein. Additionally, Syria must withdraw from Lebanon and recognize its sovereignty as an independent nation, in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 520.
Mr. Chairman, if the United States is to succeed in its war against terror and efforts to eradicate Al Qaeda, we cannot afford to ignore Syria, whose polices—like those of Iraq-threaten to undermine American objectives in the region and greatly endanger our prospects for achieving security and peace.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE JOSEPH CROWLEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to address this hearing on the Syria Accountability Act, H.R.4483. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this important legislation, which makes it clear to the regime in Damascus that it must take steps to rejoin the community of responsible nations or suffer consequences. As far as I am concerned, Syria is a rogue regime.
At the same time as it sits on the United Nations Security Council, it violates such a wide range of legally binding Security Council resolutions that it cannot be considered a responsible member of the community of nations.
• In violation of Security Council resolution 661 and the many other Security
Council resolutions imposing economic sanctions on Iraq, Syria imports oil from Iraq, providing Saddam Hussein with millions of dollars a year that he
can use to purchase weapons and oppress the Iraqi population. • In violation of Security Council resolution 1373 and other resolutions and
treaties requiring states to cease their support for terrorism, Syria has long permitted international terrorists to use Syria and Lebanon as bases of oper
ations for years. • The Syrian government facilitates violent attacks against its neighbors
through its support for Palestinian extremists, Lebanese Hezbollah, and
Kurdish guerilla groups. • In violation of Security Council resolution 520, which calls on all states to re
spect the sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon, Syrian troops have occupied Lebanon for more than 25 years, trampling on the sovereignty of the Lebanese people and stifling opportunities for economic reconstruction and political reconciliation.
• In violation of international agreements on chemical and biological weapons
and all international norms, Syria continues to develop weapons of mass de
struction and the ballistic missiles needed to deliver them. If the Syrian regime wants to continue these activities and remain isolated from the international community, the United States should assist it in this effort by treating it like the outlaw that it is. Putting an end to economic and commercial cooperation with Syria, whose dismal economy needs all the help it can get, may give President Assad an incentive to contribute to international peace and security rather than undermine it.
Mr. Chairman, it is critical that Congress send President Assad a clear message that the Syrian government needs to change its stripes. The Syria Accountability Act sends just such a message, and I urge my colleagues to support it.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE SHELLEY BERKLEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEVADA Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this important hearing. Welcome, Congressmen Armey and Engel, I look forward to hearing your testimony.
In his State of the Union address on January 29, 2002, President Bush declared that the United States will “Work closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction.”
The Syria Accountability Act is an important ist step in dealing with those rogue states that would sponsor terrorism-and I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation (HR 4483).
My view with respect to Syria is unequivocal. It is a terrorist state that has been allowed to support and export terrorism for far too long. And it is time to address Syria's egregious and unacceptable behavior.
Mr. Chairman, the facts speak for themselves: Syria is a leading sponsor of international terrorism. In fact, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and seven other terrorist groups are headquartered in Damascus.
Syria continues to occupy Lebanon, from which Syrian-supported terrorists (especially Hezbollah) have continued to launch attacks on Israel's northern border with impunity
Ås Syria continues to make progress toward the development of chemical and biological weapons, it is essential that we deal with this rogue state before it decides to strike Israel and its other neighbors with such weapons of mass destruction.
This issue could not be more timely, in light of our country's current debate about Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction. We must not let the Iraq debate distract us from those other terrorist regimes—like Syria—that pose an imminent threat to international security.
Mr. Chairman, it is time to act. We have witnessed enough terrorism in the Middle-East. As we contemplate the future of Iraq, let us remember that Saddam Hussein and Syria support their terrorist aims partly with an illegal oil pipeline running between Syria and Iraq. This illegal trade, in violation of UN sanctions, provides each regime with over $1 billion to fund and support international terrorism.
The Syria Accountability Act will help address these roadblocks to peace by imposing tough new sanctions against Syria until the President certifies that Syria has (1) ceased its support for terrorist groups, (2) withdrawn from Lebanon, (3) abandoned its development of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them and (4) complied with UN resolutions concerning its relations with Iraq.
The Syria Accountability Act will help destroy the infrastructure and tools of Syrian-sponsored terrorism, and send a strong message to all rogue states that are involved in or support international terrorism. I urge my colleagues on the Committee to support this important and timely legislation.
AMERICAN TASK FORCE FOR LEBANON
THE MINORITY REPORT
We the undersigned members of the American Task Force for Lebanon (ATFL), declare the following:
In view of the fact that the US Congress is about to vote on two bills (H.R.4483 and S.2215) introduced this year and calling for the withdrawal of Syria out of Lebanon. And in view of the fact that the executive office of our organization has adopted a negative attitude towards the two bills, known as the “Syrian Accountability Act of 2002”, without conducting a referendum within the organization.
In view of the fact that members of ATFL have formed a delegation this past July and visited the Governments of Lebanon and Syria without consulting with the membership on this delicate matter, and in view of the fact that while in Lebanon and Syria, the said delegation issued statements in which it declared its opposition to the “Syrian Accountability Act”.
And considering the fact that the said delegation has not taken into consideration the will and the views of many members of ATFL as well as the overwhelming majority of Lebanese-American organizations, with whom it did not consult nor coordinate.
Considering the fact that the ATFL was invited by Congress to testify on September 12th along with other Lebanese-American groups and experts. And exercising our legitimate right to express our views as members of the organization to the general membership of ATFL as well as to the Lebanese-American community, the US Congress and the friends of Lebanon in America.
We hereby, as full members of ATFL, issue this Minority Report regarding the "Syrian Accountability Act” so that it could be distributed to Congress the day of the Hearing and released to the public.
The American Task Force for Lebanon ATFL is an American organization which should express the views of its members and seek the enhancement of the interests of the United States and the consolidation of American-Lebanese relationship. It does not operate as an extension of the Lebanese or Syrian Governments.
The ATFL should seek the implementation of US policy towards Terrorism as announced by its Government, and particularly as formulated by the President in the State of the Union Address of 2002. Therefore the ATFL must consider Hizbollah as a Terrorist organization, and therefore commends any policy, which asks Syria to withdraw its support of the said organization and proceed to its disarming. The ATFL must then endorse the “Syrian Accountability Act” (SAA) which asks Syria to implement this anti-Terrorist policy, and place sanctions to comply Damascus with these legitimate objectives.
The ATFL should seek the implementation of US policy calling for the withdrawal of Syria's occupation forces in implementation of UN resolution 520 and in conjunction with American endorsement of the stipulation of withdrawal of Syrian forces as introduced in the Taif agreement. The ATFL must therefore endorse the SAA, which calls on Syria to end its occupation of Lebanon.
The ATFL should seek the implementation of strategic US policy aiming at the eradication of weapons of mass destruction. It therefore must endorse the SAA, which calls on Syria to stop building weapons of mass destruction and long range ballistic systems.
The ATFL must be consistent with the historic stand of the Lebanese American community in support of the US President, the US Congress and both Parties in confronting Terrorism, ending the Syrian occupation of Lebanon and eliminating weapons of mass destruction.
The arguments advanced by members of the executive of ATFL to oppose the legislation are not consistent with ATFL policy nor with the will and aspirations of 1.8 million Americans from Lebanese descent.
The withdrawal of Syria from Lebanon will not lead to chaos in Lebanon, but to the establishment of a balanced and democratic Government, which will be able to protect political freedoms and defend the country's independence. It is to note that Syria's occupation of Lebanon was done through creating chaos since it introduced its troops in 1976.
The pull out of Syrian troops from Lebanon will not increase the power of Terrorist organization Hizbollah, but the disarming of all Terrorists. It is to note that all Terror organizations have been introduced to Lebanon and protected by Syria.
Forcing Syria to comply with international peace will not jeopardize the so-called Peace process. But will enable Lebanon to become a real partner for Peace and hence and hence advance stability.
In conclusion, we call on the US Congress to take our Minority Report in consideration as it expresses the views of the signatories, but had a referendum taken place would certainly reflect the position of the majority of ATFL.
And finally as we share our views with you, we deplore the fact, that members of the ATFL executive have initiated lobbying efforts with a number of Congressional offices to invite them to visit the Baathist regime in Damascus in order to "under. stand” the Syrian regime's “interests and views” on the matter. Such lobbying on behalf of the ATFL is contrary to the stated objectives of the organization, whose goals are to represent Lebanon's best interests in America and vice versa. It also under. mines the aspirations of the ATFL membership which views Syria as an occupier of Lebanon, and therefore must not be defended at the expenses of our mother country Lebanon.
Feel free to contact us for additional information about this matter.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE LEBANESE INFORMATION CENTER The Lebanese Information Center (L.I.C.), an American non-profit institute with established chapters nationwide and several hundred members of Americans of Lebanese descent, is dedicated to provide information on Lebanon and the plight of the Lebanese people. The L.I.C. wishes to thank the honorable Chairman and distinguished members of the committee for the opportunity to present the following testimony in support of the Syria Accountability Act.
The current policies adopted by the Syrian regime and its occupation of Lebanon represent a key foreign policy issue to the United States. In this testimony we seek to provide information on:
1. The causes of Syria's occupation of Lebanon. 2. The methods by which this occupation threatens the U.S. national interests
and security. 3. The moral implications it has on our perceived values in the region. We intend to shed more light on the instruments adopted by the Syrian regime for more than thirty years to promote its policies especially the use of terror against enemies of the regime, including the U.S., and the continued use of these instruments by President Bashar Asad even after September 11.
Lastly, we would conclude with an overview of U.S. policy, arguments for change and some recommendations.
THE ASADS' REGIME AND THE BA’TH PARTY After being in power for over 31 years, it is often difficult to separate the Asads’ regime from Syria the nation. First, it is worth to glance at the totalitarian nature of this regime and its damaging effects on Syria before showing how it has been able to affect its neighbors and the regional stability.
Hafiz Asad seized power in Syria in a coup on November 1970, two years after Saddam Hussein's Ba'th party did the same in Iraq. Both the Syrian and Iraqi Ba'th parties are derived from the same ideological branch of the Arab nationalist tree 1. Both regimes are atrocious and share beyond the common ideology many other resemblances, including structural, government methodology, use of terror as instruments of policy, expansionistic claims and a commitment to regional instability as means of securing internal and regional power. In 1970, Asad, then Syria's defense minister, establishing a pattern that was to be repeated on several occasions notably in Lebanon2, sent his army to invade Jordan and to ht along the Palestinians in their attempt to seize power from King Hussein. Although he was forced to withdraw his tanks later in face of American pressure, he used the events as a springboard for his final move in his accession to power. His move took place six weeks after the death of Jamal Abdul Nasser, the main figure in Arab politics for over sixteen years, a role Asad inspired to play for the rest of his live.
In what became a staple policy of his regime, Asad wasted no time in demonstrating his readiness to brutally squash any opposition. He hurriedly arrested his opponents and imprisoned the deposed chief of state Salah Jadid for over twenty years in Mezze prison. His methods of long and brutal imprisonment, torture and assassinations of his enemies earned him a constant generous stature among the ranks of human rights abusers. One example of his Stalinist brutality against his people is the Palmyra incident. On June 27th, 1980 he ordered his brother to send a “special unit” of 60 soldiers to the Palmyra prison where some five hundred political opponents were held, once there the soldiers opened fire in the dormitory slaughtering all the prisoners 3. Another example of Asad's bloody trail against Syrians is the one in Aleppo after some demonstration of resistance to his rule in August 1980; scores of males over the age of fourteen were rounded up at random by his army and shot on the spot 4. And in February 1982, as a further resemblance between the regimes in Syria and Iraq, 12,000 soldiers of Asad's elite forces besieged the city of Hama 5 in northern Syria and for three weeks reined terror and artillery barrages on its inhabitants. Over 20,000 lives perished, whole districts were razed and a third of the historic city was demolished.
Asad spent the later part of the 80's and 90's consolidating his power in Syria, using the same bloody tactics to overcome Lebanon and to impose his doctrine on both nations while planning his succession by his son Bashar. Hafiz el-Asad role models for most of his career were the Romanian dictator Nicolai Ceausescu and the North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung. Following their example Asad worked on merging his “revolutionary” regime with a monarchy 6. While events spoiled the Romanian dictator plans and led to his demise, an event that profoundly shook Asad, the North Korean transition was more successful. Upon the death of Hafiz el-Asad in 2000, and against the hopes of many, Bashar inherited the family business. In the beginning Bashar promised changes towards freedom and openness. He quickly returned to his father's ways while relying on the old guards, the National Command of the Ba'th Party. Bashar so far demonstrated remarkable skills in adopting the old methods in abuse of human rights as noted recently in Amnesty International and even by some friends of the regime? and expanding his support to terrorist organizations and has been even more daring and vocal in deepening his ties with the “axis of evil” regimes, Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
To understand the reasons behind the consistency in policy, strategy and tactics from Asad senior to junior and to judge the catastrophic implications of the Asad regime on Syria and its neighbors, one has to look into the period following the collapse of the Soviet Union and detect the pattern of all the missed opportunities for change since then.
The Ba'th regime under both Asad father and son has consistently and violently opposed any opportunity to move toward democracy, human rights, economic development and social progress. The conclusion drawn is that change is very dangerous and could destroy the regime if it became soft or too flexible. An end of conflict with Israel, a move to democracy or an introduction of basic civic freedoms will create an opportunity for the Syrian people to demand reforms and changes that contradict the very existence of any totalitarian regime. The party's elite has staked careers and passions on ideologies that cannot accept or will not survive such a transition. Asad and his upper party echelon, rather than offering a true vision for the advancement of Syria and solve real domestic social and economical problems, have instead fed the masses continuous doses of hatred, anger and rejection of the Western civilization, United States and Israel.
The preservation of the status quo under Bashar has been implemented by revitalizing the same hard line ideologies and causes to tap into the people's passion requiring them to set aside aspirations for a better life, thus accepting their government's oppressive policy's in the name of the struggle against the nations enemies. In a typical application of Asad's doctrine in Syria and to a great extent in Syrian controlled Lebanon, the rhetoric of the “Arab Islamic Struggle” against the Imperialistic plans of the United States and the Expansionist plans of Israel is conveniently used to brutally silence any opposition voices. The “External Enemy”, who allegedly wants to humiliate the Arabs, trample their honor and destroy their religion, is always found to be behind any request for reforms. Democracy is said to be not a foundation of peace and prosperity but rather an American Ploy to despoil the Arabs and drain Islam of its meaning, a luxury that could not be afforded in a time of confrontation 8. The large armed forces are maintained, mainly to secure the regime, at a cost of $1.2 Billion, more than half the government annual income of $2.3 Billion while unemployment is over 20% and external debt is soaring at $22 Billion.
These facts prove the futility of any diplomatic effort to bring the Asad's regime closer to reforms or to peace. Engaging the Syrians in subtle negotiations to convince them to withdraw from Lebanon, make peace with Israel and initiate democratic changes in Syria is the equivalent of convincing a sane man to commit suicide. Syria's Regime raison d'etre emanates from the allegedly unavoidable "struggle” against Israel and the United States.