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Public Statements

Hearing of the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations-International Peacekeeping Affairs and International Organizations

Statement

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Location: Washington, DC


Hearing of the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations-International Peacekeeping Affairs and International Organizations

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REP. MARK STEVEN KIRK (R-IL): Return to the Security Council, et cetera, and I really congratulate you on a third round of resolutions that you and Zal got through. But I just wonder, in my discussion with Bob Zoellick at the World Bank, he said that he would cancel the payment of hundreds of millions of dollars from the World Bank, which is just three blocks from the Oval Office, to the finance ministry of Iran if the World Bank was mentioned in a Security Council resolution. But we failed to do that, and so apparently not only do we continue to pay the finance ministry of Iran from 19th Street in Washington, D.C., but now the World Bank is starting -- has failed to update its financial disbursement disclosure on the Web, so we have lost that data on what check has been sent to Ahmadinejad lately from the bank. I get the sense that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing and that Treasury and the World Bank are directly undercutting what you're doing.

MS. SILVERBERG: I haven't spoken to President Zoellick about this, but I think what I would have added is that the World Bank was mentioned in 1747. It wasn't mentioned in exactly the terms we wanted, but it clearly -- the resolution clearly calls on international financial institutions not to make loans or guarantees to Iran. You'll remember that we pushed for tougher language and (duplicate ?) prohibition. Some of our allies -- even strong supporters of action on Iran -- objected to that not so much on policy grounds but really on legal grounds. They have the view that because the U.N. creates treaty obligations only for member states that it can only bind member states, rather than other organizations. I think our view was that it can bind the members states who cast the votes and all of those other organizations, so this really wasn't an important distinction. But --

REP. KIRK: I think a lot of members of this committee fail to realize that money that we appropriate goes to the World Bank and then it's paid directly to the finance ministry of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

MS. SILVERBERG: That's right. That's right. And I think one important point is that thankfully, we have not seen from the leadership of the World Bank proposals for new loans or guarantees from 2005. So I think with regard to any new proposals, we've seen very responsible -- (inaudible) --

REP. KIRK: You mentioned Ahmadinejad. He sees a U.N. resolution on one side, and then his finance ministry says oh, by the way, the Americans at the World Bank just cut us a check for 150 million bucks. So some words to the U.N. and a check -- (inaudible).

MS. SILVERBERG: I think it's a very fair point, but the administration (is ongoing ?). But I will say, in Treasury's defense, I think Treasury is extremely serious about this point; we have opposed every proposal, suggestion for new (loan or ?) guarantee; I think they will cast their votes accordingly. So I'm quite confident that Treasury is very serious about this issue.

REP. KIRK: Let me turn to Lebanon.

Our committee provided to UNIFIL in FY '07 ($)125 million in the regular appropriation, ($)184 million in the supplemental; FY '08 contribution of ($)243 million and FY '09 request of ($)186 million. Now, Congressman Israel and I, with 100 of our colleagues, wrote to Secretary Rice looking for the U.N. to change the mandate of UNIFIL to stop the flow of Iranian weapons into Hezbollah hands. UNIFIL right now says it will not engage Hezbollah or stop the arms shipments.

And just a couple of headlines -- AP on the 3rd says Israel says Hezbollah now has 30,000 rockets -- this is all delivered since the war. Ha'aretz on the 3rd, Hezbollah announces we're ready for war with Israel, which would be the second one. Tehran press says Hezbollah missiles now could target the Dimona reactor in Israel. And Gulf News reports Hezbollah rockets are longer in range. So not only have they fully replenished under the U.N. watch, they now have the ability to rain destruction on more Israeli cities.

It seems that right now -- this committee, we have approved $552 million for this peacekeeping force which is simply going to catalog the slaughter. It has been completely unable to stop the rearming of a foreign terrorist organization that poses a direct threat not just to the people of Israel but to the democracy in Lebanon.

MS. SILVERBERG: I think -- you will recall that when we adopted 1701 during the -- basically in the process of ending the conflict, we included language -- we agreed to language that said that generally the mandate for UNIFIL was south of the Litani but that UNIFIL can cover border issues, the Syrian border, at the request of the government of Lebanon. That request has not been forthcoming, and in light of the paralysis within Lebanon these days --

REP. KIRK: So the question is, for the U.S. taxpayer, what did we get for 552 million bucks?

MS. SILVERBERG: I think we have seen -- we have seen UNIFIL take action against both the -- (inaudible) -- Litani. We saw something very hopeful, which is that for the first time in 40 years the UNIFIL presence allowed the LAF to deploy to the south and they're doing joint patrolling and other things. That's essential. But there's no question that we are very concerned about the reports -- not just Israeli reports but Hezbollah statements -- that they have rearmed south of Litani. We think this is fundamentally important.

There are a lot of things we can do on the border even absent the government of Lebanon request to UNIFIL. One is to work with LAF itself, and that's something we do very actively, I think. I think we've provided maybe $400 million in support, although I'd have to check that number, in recent years. We have -- obviously we've worked with other governments. The German government has a pilot program --

REP. KIRK: My (only ?) worry is -- obviously you know that prior to the war, we provided hundreds of millions of dollars to UNIFIL last time, and they just ran away.

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REP. KIRK: My only last question is a disturbing trend that we saw first in Lebanon and now in Gaza, of Fatah Islam now operating directly out of UNRWA camps. The prime minister of Lebanon, Fouad Siniora, described the UNRWA camps as the places that represented the greatest threat to the Lebanese democracy, and yet we provide hundreds of millions of dollars to UNRWA which then allows Fatah Islam to operate.

I mention Fatah Islam because Ahmed Abdul Rahman, who is the top security aid to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, describes them as extremely terrorist, not linked to Fatah, and a radical organization. And this is the Palestinian president's office describing this. We now see Fatah Islam announce their operations in Gaza, inside the UNRWA camps.

So we have 154 million bucks that our committee approved for UNRWA. Do you think we ought to begin to condition our funding on at least running a refugee camp without an al Qaeda cell that is directly -- (it's linked ?) to us by the elected government of the Palestinian and the elected government of Lebanon as a direct threat to their survival, that they maybe shouldn't be there?

MS. SILVERBERG: I think -- you know, I would want to ask the lawyers, but I think I would read existing legislative restrictions to prohibit, you know, our existing requirement that UNRWA report on its ability to prevent misdirection of funds to radical groups, including those involved in terrorism, I think would --

REP. KIRK: So my question is -- with the Nahr al-Bared camp --

MS. SILVERBERG: Yeah.

REP. KIRK: -- up in northern Lebanon, clearly a heavily armed fortress was built and all the understaff knew it. So shouldn't we -- may restrict the funding to that camp, or --

MS. SILVERBERG: I guess I wouldn't want to get into the details of what we think is happening in the camps in this setting, although I would be happy to do it in any other setting, but there's no question that the camps in Lebanon have posed a grave risk and we saw the Lebanese armed forces taking some really courageous and actually helpful response to them --

REP. KIRK: Your counterpart, Assistant Secretary Welch, has been vociferous in giving a blank check to UNRWA, and I would say the record is fairly clear that because of the incompetence, ignorance or completely absent administration of UNRWA, we are funding both sides of this conflict. We are funding the Lebanese government and we're funding the terrorists. We're funding the Palestinian Authority and we're funding not just Hamas -- these guys are to the right of Hamas.

MS. SILVERBERG: I think what David may be dealing with is on the one hand, especially within Lebanon, the strong view of the Lebanese authorities that these camps need to stay camps, that they do not want to see assimilation of these groups, and two, the fact that we think humanitarian -- a humanitarian response to those --

REP. KIRK: I would bet you that if you asked Prime Minister Siniora should we provide UNRWA funding to the Nahr al-Bared camp, he probably would have said no, because it was a direct threat to his own government. And if you said to President Abbas, can we interrupt funding to certain places that need to be --

MS. SILVERBERG: Yeah.

REP. KIRK: -- he'd probably, based on his own security chief, might give a different answer than just -- (inaudible).

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