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and not just the Christians among them -- rejects the Syrian occupation. Survey research conducted by Hilal Khashan among 500 Lebanese Sunnis in 1989-90 showed that a mere 3 percent of them favored union with Syria. 12 Anecdotal evidence confirms this. As one Lebanese put it two years ago, "Syria is at the top of the hate list in Lebanon today, much more so than Israel. Israel is perceived of only as a military threat while Syria threatens Lebanon's very existence."13
Lebanese opinion might overwhelmingly reject the occupation but, thanks to the Syrian dictator's cleverness, nearly the entire world has acquiesced in his seizure of Lebanon -- including our own Executive Branch. To the best of my knowledge, the White House and State Department have never condemned the occupation, preferring to see this issue only in the context of Arab-Israeli negotiations. As a State Department official explained to me some time ago, "we constantly urge complete implementation of the Ta'if Accord but it's not a bilateral priority. We've not condemned this (non-implementation] very loudly because it needs to be resolved in the context of a comprehensive peace settlement."14
In contrast, Congress is one of the few governmental bodies in the world to condemn the occupation: you voted unanimously in July 1993 to consider "the Government of Syria in violation of the Taif agreement."15 A second, similar resolution passed the House in June 1995.
The U.S. government faces a fundamental choice vis-à-vis Lebanon: whether to accept or contest Syrian domination there.
Work with the government: This means recognizing Rafiq al-Hariri as a real prime minister, accepting the August 1996 elections as legitimate, and acquiescing to rules established by the Syrian regime. Such a policy has the advantage of winning favor in Damascus and perhaps encouraging it in the peace process with Israel. But it disheartens natural allies of the United States in Lebanon and abroad; and it signals the world that while a blatant invasion such as Saddam's into Kuwait is not acceptable, a subtle one such as Asad's into Lebanon is acceptable.
Ignore the government: The alternative is to denounce the Syrian occupation and ignore the governmental pseudo-structure in Beirut. This has the advantage of sticking with our friends and our principles. It raises the danger of backing what is largely a Maronite opposition, and thereby having the U.S. government throw its weight behind a force that has already lost much of the battle.
To my mind, there is really no choice: this government must stand in solidarity with the oppressed and against the oppressors. Just as we supported Estonians and Czechs through their decades of Soviet domination, even when the
Hilal Khashan, "The Lebanese State: Lebanese Unity and the Sunni Muslim Position," International Sociology 7 (1992): 93. In contrast, 86 percent favored a unitary státe, 10 percent a federal state, and 1 percent chose partition of the country.
Ha'aretz, 19 June 1995. For more examples, sec The Los Angeles Times, 16 February 1997.
prospect of their independence seemed impossibly remote, so we must stand by the Lebanese people in their hour of need. Nor is this only a matter of principle: Baltic leaders all agree on the importance of the U.S. government refusing to accept the Soviet occupation of their countries. One day, I am convinced, Lebanese patriots will similarly thank us for standing with their people even as they faced the seemingly invincible might of the Syrian sword.
Accordingly, I urge you to do all within your power to condemn and repulse the Syrian occupiers. Toward this end, Congress can take several steps.
First, you can use your bully pulpit by sending a direct message to the tyrants in Damascus. I particularly commend to you Rep. Eliot Engel's Amendment to H.R. 1986 concerning "Sanctions against Syria, "16 which passed by a vote of 410 to 15 on June 10. The Asad regime takes close note of such resolutions.
Second; you can pressure the Executive branch to show some spine. In 1994, for example, you had a critical role in assuring that functionaries did not take Syria off the terrorism and narcotics lists.
Third, Congress can close the "national interest" loopholes that permit the Executive branch to waive regulations, and which it seems to do disproportionately for Damascus. In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Crime earlier this month, it came out that in 1996 Syria received $226 million in U.S. exports, $81 million of which was in controlled commodities.17 This must not continue.
Finally, I urge you to turn away "Friends of Lebanon" appeals for money and appropriate no funds for that country, on the assumption that any funds that go there will ultimately end up in Mr. Asad's pocket.
A final point, concerning the travel ban that has been in effect against American nationals traveling to Lebanon since 1987: this made sense a decade ago, when Americans were frequently abducted in Lebanon. But it now serves no purpose. If it's meant to protect Americans from trouble, the need is passed. If it's meant to signal disapproval of the Syrian occupation, there are many more effective ways to do so. I hope you will press the Clinton administration to repeal the travel ban and thereby let American citizens exercise their right to free movement.
Unless the government of Syria eliminates "its dangerous and destabilizing policies," the resolution urges the president to apply to Syria the same sanctions as those already in force against Iran and Libya since 1996.
Hillary Mann, "Sudanese and Syrian Involvement in International Terrorism," testimony to the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime, 10 June 1997.
The Hon. Benjamin A. Gilman
Dear Mr. Chairman:
I commend you for holding this hearing on U.S. Policy toward Lebanon. I regret that I cannot be with you. I am in Northern Ireland where, as you know, I serve as Chairman of the Peace Talks.
I also serve as Chairman of the International Crisis Group, a non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to the prevention of crises in international affairs. In early March of this year, the executive committee of the International Crisis Group met for two days in Beirut, Lebanon. Based upon that personal experience, and on many other factors, I believe the ban on travel to Lebanon should be lifted.
Mong Joon Chung
Margaret Jay Jeffrey Len-Song Koo
Bernard Kouchner Joanne Leedom-Ackerman
Allan J MacEachen
Graça Machel Nobuo Matsunaga Barbara McDougall
William O Taylor
We received the full cooperation of the Lebanese government and, while there, met with the President, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Vice-Speaker of the Parliament, many other government officials and numerous private citizens. We also met with the US Ambassador, Richard Jones, and members of the embassy staff.
However justified it was originally, I think there is no longer an adequate basis for the ban. While risk can never be wholly eliminated and terrorism can occur in any country, conditions in Lebanon have changed significantly for the better and are demonstrably far less threatening than in other countries to which Americans can and do freely travel: Algeria, Iran and Egypt are obvious examples. No American targets have been attacked in over five years. There are a few parts of the country that remain troublesome, but the vast part of Lebanon is calm and peaceful.
International Crisis Group, a private non-profit corporation incorporated and registered with limited liability in the District of Columbia, United States of America. Branch registered with the Department of Trade and Industry in England and Wales at 3 Catherine Place, London SW1E 6DX, United Kingdom. Company number FC018735; Branch number BROO3074. Head Office: 2400 N Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20037-1153, USA.
The Hon. Benjamin A. Gilman
A substantial reconstruction program has gotten under way. There are three million Americans of Lebanese heritage and an historically warm relationship between the US and Lebanon. Under ordinary circumstances, Americans would play a large and profitable role in the reconstruction program, but the travel ban makes that impossible. It cuts off a potentially large market for many American companies which would like to do business in Lebanon, and it is having a serious adverse effect on future prospects. Virtually all Lebanese regard the ban as deeply offensive.
I believe that lifting the travel ban would actually improve the security situation for Americans in Lebanon. Thousands of private Americans regularly visit Lebanon despite the ban. Indeed, an estimated 7,600 Americans visited earlier this year for a shopping festival in the Beirut area. But because of the ban, they do not contact the embassy, making it impossible for embassy staff to provide them with the assistance routinely afforded US citizens abroad. The embassy staff is unable, in any case, to help them since they are not supposed to be there in the first place.
A stable Lebanon is critical, of course, to the Middle East peace process. The travel ban, by discouraging American investment, makes it more difficult for Lebanon to achieve the stability we and the people desire and retards Lebanese efforts to re-establish sovereignty, one of our major objectives in the country.
For all of these reasons, I urge you to support lifting the travel ban. It is counterproductive to important American foreign policy interests and it no longer fits the circumstances.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to express my views on this important matter.
2213 M Street NW
Hon. Thomas A. Nassif
Nijad I. Fares
George T. Cody, Ph.D.
ATFL Board of Directors
Mr. Anthony R. Abraham Mr. John Adel, Sr. Mr. Anthony Asher ""Hon. Victor Atiyeh Michael Berry, Esq. Robert A. Chahine, M.D. * Mr. Jamal Daniel Mr. Nijad I. Fares * Mr. Edward M. Gabriel Mr. Joseph M. Haggar, Ir. Nabil Husami, M.D. Ray R. Irani, Ph.D. * Mr. Salim Israwi Joseph J. Jacobs, Ph.D. * Mr. Casey Kasem * Hon. Thomas A. Nassif * Hon. Mary Rose Oakai Hon. Nick Rahall Il Ms. Tanya Rahall * Hon. Selwa S. Roosevelt Mr. James F. Sams * Berge Setrakian, Esq. Mr. Joseph R. Shaker Mr. Lawrence ). Shibley Mr. Peter J. Tanous * Mr. Thomas A. Tanury Jacques F. Tohmé, M.D. Mr. Harry M. Zachem
* Executive Committee
ATFL members are listed