U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said today that the Administration's decision to waive sanctions on Syria to rebuild Syria's state-owned airlines rewards a regime of proliferation concern responsible for U.S. deaths in Iraq, political assassinations, and regional turmoil.
"Rather than taking a stand against purveyors of Islamist extremism, the Administration is aiding an unrepentant regime and is sending a signal that the U.S. will make concessions and seek dialogue regardless of what the facts dictate," Ros-Lehtinen said.
"Less than a year ago, on May 8th, the national emergency with respect to Syria was extended because the actions of the Syrian regime were deemed to constitute a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.' Has Syria altered its behavior significantly in the last 8 months to merit a reward from the new Administration?" Ros-Lehtinen asked.
"Syria is a state-sponsor of Islamist extremist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as other global Islamist militants who attack U.S. and coalition soldiers in Iraq and target others from Beirut to Jerusalem. It continues to undermine Lebanese sovereignty, pursue an illicit nuclear program, and stockpile ballistic missiles and unconventional weapons that threaten the security of U.S. allies in the Middle East," Ros-Lehtinen said.
"The Administration's overture to the Syrian regime comes as Syria's behavior, in a manner similar to that of Iran, has become increasingly belligerent and threatening to our critical national security interests. Syria's nuclear activities, which were reportedly discovered and eliminated by Israel in September 2007, underscore the multi-faceted and growing threat posed by Syria," said Ros-Lehtinen.
"I will soon be introducing legislation aimed at compelling the Syrian regime to abandon its support for global Islamist extremists as well as its nuclear, unconventional and ballistic missile development programs," she said. "This bill will strengthen existing sanctions against Syria and enhance U.S. efforts to multi-laterally address the Syrian threat from a position of strength."