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Hearing of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee and the Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - The Rise of ISIL: Iraq and Beyond


Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the following statement at a joint hearing with Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), Chairman of the Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Subcommittee, entitled: "The Rise of ISIL: Iraq and Beyond." Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

Thank you Judge Poe. I would like to recognize, first of all, the several Iraq veterans serving on our Committee, and we thank them for their service and their efforts to fight extremists and terrorists in Iraq.

The chaos that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is creating in the region must concern us all. I would point out that, though the Administration seems to have been surprised by the resurgence of al-Qaeda in Iraq, through ISIL, our two subcommittees have been following this issue closely for quite some time and have been raising the warning flags that can no longer be ignored. So it isn't as if this was a new problem that came out of nowhere.

In our hearing in November, we had Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran, Brett McGurk, testifying, he said that the Iraqis didn't even believe they, in cooperation with the Sunni coalition groups, the Sons of Iraq, could fend off ISIL, and that "they don't think they are going to win because the al-Qaeda groups…have better weapons and better resources."

And we know what happened in Mosul and other cities in Iraq, and because they had nowhere else to turn, many of the Sons of Iraq turned to join their foes, and became members of ISIL. This Iraq crisis has been exacerbated by our failure to act early on in Syria and also our inability to confront Iran's influence over Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. Maliki's marginalization of Iraq's Sunni groups and other non-Shia Iraqis is a large reason why Iraq is seeing so much sectarian violence, and for the sake of Iraq and regional security, Maliki either must find a way to make the government more inclusive of all the parties, or he must step aside.

Yet now the Administration has said on numerous occasions that it is considering cooperation with Iran and Syria in Iraq to fight ISIL. The very same Iran that has been supporting Assad in Syria, fueling the conflict there and giving ISIL terrorists a safe haven to spread that fight to Iraq. And this is the same Iran that is the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism that actively - even while the Administration negotiates on Iran's nuclear program -- targets U.S. national security interests and those of our allies, like the democratic Jewish State of Israel. Under no circumstance should the Administration seek cooperation with Iran over Iraq, or anywhere else. To do so would be folly and would be against everything we stand for.

The instability that ISIL has created threatens the entire region, but importantly, it is now a very real threat at the doorsteps of the Kingdom of Jordan. Just two weeks ago, Congressman Ted Deutch and I went to Jordan to discuss ISIL, the Syrian conflict and other regional issues, and when speaking with the King of Jordan, he was unambiguous when he told us that ISIL poses a grave risk, not just because of the violence, but because of the form of radical Islam it is spreading.

The Administration must formalize a decisive policy that outlines our strategic goals and objectives, and that can help Jordan and other nations counter this militant Islamist threat. We need actions from this Administration; we needed them months ago. ISIL is only getting more threatening and larger while the Administration is still pondering its policy. It has large financial assets that help keep it afloat -- much of which is gained from seizing cash from banks and selling oil on the black market -- and last week it claimed to have seized nuclear materials. These terrorists must be stopped or else we risk serious implications for our future security.

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