U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the following statement today at a full House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing titled: "Crisis in Syria: The U.S. Response."
Opening Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this timely hearing as the two year anniversary of the Syrian conflict just passed.
After years of violence and internal struggle, the crisis in Syria continues and the refugee crisis threatens our allies in the region.
With over 70,000 dead and over one million refugees, the numbers continue to rise as there is no clear end in sight.
What started as a popular uprising, where Syrians took to the streets in protest against the Assad regime's corruption, human rights abuses and brutality has turned into a full scale sectarian conflict that pits the Assad regime against Islamists who seek to establish an Islamic State in the wake of Assad's removal.
The secular and moderate elements have been forced to the periphery, and their movement has been co-opted by the extremists.
That is why the United States must take extreme caution when dealing with any opposition forces in Syria.
While I respect the opinions of my colleagues, I sincerely do not believe it is time for the U.S. to arm the rebels.
Too many questions remain about who the rebels are and with whom they will swear allegiance.
The unknown can be dangerous and the vetting the opposition is not enough when it comes to providing lethal aid that could be used against our allies such as Israel or even the United States in a post-Assad era.
I'm also deeply concerned about Assad's stockpiles of WMD's that, were they to fall into the wrong hands, could jeopardize the entire Middle East region as well as our own national security.
We must examine those regimes that continue to help Assad stay afloat.
Last week, the Director of National Intelligence testified that North Korea's export of ballistic missiles and associated materials to several countries, including Iran and Syria, and its assistance to Syria's construction of a nuclear reactor, destroyed in 2007, illustrate the reach of its proliferation activities.
To address this national security threat, Congressman Brad Sherman and I introduced H.R. 893, the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Accountability Act.
This bipartisan bill prohibits assistance to any foreign government that has provided assistance to Iran, North Korea or Syria, or has failed to prevent individuals or entities under its sovereignty from aiding the proliferation activities of Iran, North Korea or Syria.
We welcome co-sponsors.
Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman."