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Amend the title so as to read: “A Concurrent Resolution Expressing the grave concern of Congress regarding the occupation of the Lebanese Republic by the Syrian Arab Republic.".
Ms. Ros-LEHTINEN. I would like to have the Members give their opening remarks at this time, starting with my good friend, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, Mr. Ackerman.
Mr. ACKERMAN. Madam Chair, thank you very much for scheduling today's markup of both of these very, very timely and appropriate resolutions. I want to thank both you and the gentleman from New York, Mr. Engel, for your work in introducing these resolutions.
Taken together, these resolutions send a clear message to Syria regarding what the Congress expects in terms of Syria's role in Lebanon and regarding the freedom of Syrians themselves.
Madam Chair, in the 2 weeks since former Prime Minister Hariri's assassination, a man who many of us in this room knew well, the world has watched as the Lebanese people have risen up and taken control of their own fate. By forcing the resignation of the pro-Syrian Government, the Lebanese people have demonstrated clearly that they will no longer labor under the yoke of Syrian oppression.
It is time, Madam Chair, for the Lebanese people to be free and for Syria to end its domination and exploitation of Lebanon. That means that Syria must immediately withdraw all of its forces from Lebanon, completely, and immediately. Moving a few thousand troops from Beirut to the Bekaa will not suffice. Syria must also withdraw all of its intelligence operatives.
Lebanese politics should no longer be distorted by the heavy hand of Syrian manipulation. The Parliamentary elections this summer must be free and fair, and the United States and the international community should do all that we can to ensure that they are.
Syria must also stop supporting Hezbollah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and all the other terrorist groups that call Damascus home. Just closing their offices won't work this time.
But it is not just in Lebanon where Syria has work to do. As the most recent State Department Human Rights Report points out, the Syrian Government continues to abuse its own citizens and restrict the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights. The list of Syria's human rights violations is long and speaks to the brutality of an authoritarian regime determined to do anything to stifle even modest dissent.
Madam Chairman, these resolutions before us today give the Congress an opportunity to speak clearly and loudly on events in Lebanon and on Syria's human rights abuses, and I congratulate you for introducing the resolutions with Mr. Engel and urge full support by the subcommittee.
Ms. Ros-LEHTINEN. Thank you, Mr. Ackerman.
Mr. CHABOT. Thank you, Madam Chairman, I will be very brief. I appreciate your offering these resolutions. I also complement Mr. Ackerman for his involvement in making this happen.
It is long overdue time for Syria to get out of Lebanon. The people of Lebanon ought to pick their own leadership, just as is happening now in Iraq, just as has happened recently in Afghanistan, just as has happened recently in the Ukraine. The Palestinians are
now deciding on new leadership. And in Egypt, Mubarak just announced this week that there will be other candidates in that race.
Only time will tell how open and honest those elections are, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. And something is happening in that part of the world, and I think there is reason for the first time in a long time to be optimistic. And only time will tell what is in Lebanon but things seem to be looking up there as well.
Ms. Ros-LEHTINEN. Thank you, Mr. Chabot. And speaking of Egypt, we are happy to have Mr. Schiff here because he has sponsored a resolution, very important, but on reform needed in Egypt and the recent arrest of individuals there that have actually caused Secretary Rice to call off her pending visit.
Mr. SCHIFF. Madam Chairman, I want to thank you for your work on the Egypt resolution and your work on the resolutions before us today.
I had a chance to visit Lebanon for the first time about 3 years ago, and I was really struck at the level of redevelopment that was already occurring in Beirut. I went there with an expectation of finding a very different Beirut than I found, where nightlife had already returned, where many of the business districts looked much like those out in California in some of the nicer parts of Beverly Hills.
The work that Mr. Hariri did was remarkable and his assassination is a terrible tragedy. It may be that in his death he is able to accomplish what he could not in his life, and that is the ejection of Syrian troops out of Lebanon. It was my impression then and it remains my impression now that Lebanon is incredibly well-poised to take off politically, economically, and otherwise if Syria takes its troops out of Lebanon, ends its interference in the internal politics of Lebanon, and there is some stability in the Middle East.
We see now very encouraging prospects of stability between Israel and the Palestinians. And with this movement to eject Syria from Lebanon, I think we have enormous potential for Lebanon's future, and I think it is incredibly encouraging to see those demonstrations taking place in Lebanon right now.
The death, the assassination, the killing of Mr. Hariri has done what nothing else has been able to achieve. It has brought together Sunnis and Christians and Druze, all united in the same goal, and that is getting Syria the heck out of Lebanon.
So I join you, Madam Chair, our Ranking Member, Mr. Ackerman, in supporting these resolutions. I think that time has come for Syria to get out, and I hope to join my colleagues in sending a message to those that are demonstrating in the streets that we are with them and we support them and we will continue the pressure until Syria gets out.
Ms. Ros-LEHTINEN. Thank you, Mr. Schiff. Thank you so much. Mr. McCotter? Mr. MCCOTTER. Thank you, Madam Chair. I am glad to be a part of this. What I am seeing on TV and what we are hearing about is similar to what we saw in the late 1980s and 1990s when freedom fought off the Communist yoke in Eastern Europe. As we harken back, I think it is important to realize that this is the start of a long process. There is going to have to be continued monitoring
and continued support from the United States and all of the nations who support freedom throughout the world.
And I think as Winston Churchill once said: “It is not the end, it is not the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning." And as this process continues, we must realize that with the transformation change that is taking place across the Middle East and across the world, is that there must also be a transactional benefit linking the move to democracy with the concepts of security, with the concepts of prosperity, with the concept that somehow freedom is not an abstract idea but somehow it has tangible, palpable meaning to the improvement of their way of life and their standard of living, to the perpetuation of hope for themselves and their loved ones. This is a step in the right direction, and I am happy to support it.
Ms. Ros-LEHTINEN. Mr. Chandler, happy to have you say a few words.
Mr. CHANDLER. Thank you, Madam Chair, Mr. Ranking Member. I am going to be very brief. You hear that often, but this time I think it really is true. We will see.
I want to also congratulate all of those involved in putting these resolutions together. I am happy to be a cosponsor of them. I think this is clearly the right thing to do and I am in great hope that the late former Prime Minister Hariri's death will not be in vain. Thank you and may we continue forward with this same approach.
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Thank you.
Mr. BOOZMAN. Again I would echo what has been said and I appreciate the work on the issue and look forward to voting for it.
Ms. Ros-LEHTINEN. Thank you very much. Shelley Berkley, always a pleasure. Thank you, Shelley, for being here.
Ms. BERKLEY. Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you, Ranking Member Ackerman, for doing this. Let me just say it is about time. I am sorry that it took an assassination to provoke action. I listened to some of our colleagues in the House talking about—urging patience and saying we are making headway with the Syrians and any number of Members of Congress will sit down with the Syrian President and emerge thinking that they have actually made headway with this man, which is an impossibility to do.
So while I loved what Mr. McCotter said about-and I reference all of his comments, but my fear is that the stability that we are beginning to see a possibility of, and a coming together between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the possibility that we may finally bring peace to a very troubled region; if there is one country that I can point to that would be the fly in the ointment and is doing everything they can to undermine any potential for peace, any potential for stability, that would be Syria. And the sooner this Congress acts and makes our thoughts known to the Syrian Government, the better off everybody will be, particularly those in the region that are longing for peace.
And in conclusion I would also like to once again thank Mr. Engel, who was light-years ahead of the rest of us when it came to focusing on Syria and sharing with the rest us the facts on the ground and the serious problem that this Syrian Government cre
ated. And I thank you very much and I yield back all the rest of my time. Ms. Ros-LEHTINEN. Thank you, Shelley, thank you. Mr. Cardoza.
Mr. CARDOZA. Thank you, Madam Chair. It is an honor to be on this Subcommittee and to serve, and I associate myself with all the comments that have gone previously, particularly yours. I would just only add that it is like a bully in a schoolyard, that it is appropriate to expel them when they act up and this is exactly the right course of action to be taken.
Ms. Ros-LEHTINEN. Mr. Issa, do you have any opening remarks on the resolutions?
Mr. Issa. Only that I will have some changes and amendments. I apologize I wasn't here for the unanimous consent.
Ms. ŘOS-LEHTINEN. Thank you. And now the visionary who saw the Syria problem before so many saw it. Thank you, Eliot Engel, for being with us and please, I love to recognize you for your remarks.
Mr. ENGEL. Thank you, Madam Chair, for the compliments. You have been my partner all the way through on this and I thank you for your vision and for your partnership in this. I want to also thank Mr. Ackerman, who has always played a very important role as the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee, and I want to thank Shelley Berkley for her very kind words.
Several years ago when we were putting together a bill in Congress called ILSA, the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, I inquired as to why Syria was not in that bill and was told that there were delicate negotiations between the House and the Senate and if I attempted to put in an amendment it would disrupt the bill, and I was told to put in my own bill.
So we sat down and drafted the bill known as the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act. It was important that we include the Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act because Lebanon, for all intents and purposes, is an occupied and captive nation, the only Charter Member of the United Nations that is under occupation, and it has been a captive nation for more than two decades.
This resolution puts the Congress on record with the people of Lebanon as we witness their Cedar Revolution, very similar to the Orange Revolution that we saw in the Ukraine and very similar to the captive nations of Eastern Europe when they overthrew the yoke of oppression. It shows that people can rise up and make changes and if the United States Congress is solidly behind that, it does have impact and weight, and that is why it is important that we do this today.
I also want to point out that U.N. Resolution 1559 clearly calls and demands that Syria get out of Lebanon, and we did that resolution cosponsored in the United Nations Security Council with, of all countries, France. There is no difference of opinion between the United States and France in terms of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.
And we could go on and on. This is an important resolution, again, because it puts us totally on record as supporting the removal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and calling Lebanon a captive