Congressman Eliot L.Engel, the author of the "Syrian Accountability act of 2002"
Conducted: By Journalist Pierre Atallah
Publushied (Arabic) by An-Nahar on 30.7.02
1- What is your interest as an American
Congressman to speak and discuss a case like the Lebanese one ?
I believe that Lebanon has a proud history as the window on the West and an example to a place where people of different religions and cultures co-existed for years.
2- To what extent are you committed toward
the cause of Lebanon ?
I, and many members of Congress and the Senate, are committed to a free and independent Lebanon. We know that a free and democratic Lebanon will be a force for stability in the Middle East and a friend of the United States.
3- What does Lebanon mean to you , and to
the other members who are signing on the bill ?
I know personally many Lebanese Americans who have educated me about the land of their heritage. With their guidance and counsel, I am proud to lead the effort in Congress to restore Lebanese sovereignty.
you think that a bill can do what many other means have failed to achieve with the Syrians
? I mean the acts or the sanctions mentioned in the bill may not influence Syrian
interests a lot ?
Syria has occupied Lebanon since 1976. It is long past time for its troops, personnel, and intelligence networks to pull out. In years past, I had called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon I am pleased the Israelis have removed their troops from all Lebanese land. Syria must now end its occupation.
You say that Israel withdrew from all of Lebanon, but they haven't withdrawn from Shabaa Farms yet?
According to the United Nations, Shebaa Farms is a part of Syria. Any Israeli withdrawal from Syrian land falls under UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 228 and must be part of a land for peace deal between Israel and Syria.
Some rumors in Beirut are saying that the bill has been dumped and it would not be
released , what is your comment ?
Not only is the bill alive and well, but there are more than 180 House and Senate cosponsors. Moreover, hearings on the legislation are expected in the House International Relations Committee when the House comes back from summer recess. It is my hope that we will move the bill shortly thereafter.
what extent the congress can go on in this bill and in other means to support Lebanon ?
One of the prime reasons that I introduced the Syria Accountability Act was to support a free and independent Lebanon. Under the bill, until Syria withdraws from Lebanon, the United States would scale back trade and other relations with Damascus.
Is it true or to what extent the American -Syrian alliance in Lebanon is still going on?
Syria is a country that endorses, supports and uses terrorism. Its new "cooperation" with the U.S. is only half-hearted at best -- a transparent effort to avoid a full breach between Damascus and Washington. Until Syria completely ends its support for Hizballah and other terrorist groups and reverses its long-standing policy of making Lebanon its terrorist backyard, the United States will keep it on the State Department's list of terrorist states.
Do you think that Syria is playing a constructive role in Lebanon in stopping the war between Lebanese factions ?
I believe that Syria is a force for instability in Lebanon. Damascus is Lebanon's number one promoter of sectarianism. It does not escape anyone that for many years, Hafez Assad, and now his son, have been pulling the strings of their puppets among the various communities to give Lebanon the appearance of instability, whereas the reality is that Lebanese have been living together for centuries. When the Syrian influence is lifted, I am confident that Lebanon will be restored as a model of coexistence in the region.
is well known that president Assad made an excellent formula that is either the Us accept
the Syrian regime interests in the area and in Lebanon or their would be complete Chaos
8. Answered in 7a and 7b
Question: do you think it is the time to make Syria pay or is it time to make this
accountability act against Damascus ?
The United States has wanted Syria to end its destabilizing policies for many years. We have repeatedly urged Damascus to cease its support for terror, withdraw from Lebanon, stop violating UN sanctions on Iraq, and halt development of weapons of mass destruction. At this point, we have exhausted the diplomatic remedy. Syria has shown it is not willing to change. I, and the many cosponsors of the Syria Accountability Act, believe that America must tighten sanctions on Syria until it changes its ways.
Do the state department agree or not ?
The State Department is in strong agreement with the goals of the Syria Accountability Act, but has expressed concerns with the timing of the legislation and its limitations on executive branch flexibility. According to a recent letter from Secretary of State Colin Powell, "We are in full agreement with the goals underlying this bill. No one is more concerned about Syria's support for terrorism than the President. These concerns are a matter of record and why Syria is designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and subject to numerous sanctions. We also put a high priority on ending Syria's illicit imports from Iraq, ending proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, particularly to state sponsors of terrorism, and seeing an independent Lebanon that is free of all foreign forces and exercises sovereignty over its territory."
Should Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon happen only as part of a regional peace settlement and a peace treaty between Israel and Syria?
Absolutely not. Syria's troops in Lebanon have nothing to do with Israeli-Syrian relations or Israeli-Lebanese relations. While I fervently hope that peace will come to the region, Syria's forces of occupation should withdraw at once.
It is said in some circles that the attack on Iraq would be followed by fragmentation of
the Arab M.E. countries what do you think about this ?
It is probably correct to say that some Middle Eastern countries will support the U.S. efforts against Saddam Hussein and others will oppose the U.S. However, I believe that there will be an effective coalition of nations for whatever policy we pursue, as there was during the Gulf War in 1991.
to Beirut ? what do you think about Hizballah ? the Lebanese movement recognize him as a
Hizballah is a terrorist organization. It is responsible for the murder of 241 U.S. Marines in 1983 in Beirut. It has subsequently carried out numerous terror attacks in Lebanon, Israel, and even Argentina. If they were a true a national liberation organization, they would turn their efforts toward the real occupier of Lebanon -- the 25,000 Syrian troops.
you think that UN resolution 520 is still a allied instrument in the going on period ?
Yes, UN Security Council Resolution 520 is still operative international law. It clearly calls for "strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon through the Lebanese Army throughout Lebanon." This resolution is one of the underlying principles of the Syria Accountability Act.
How would Congress and the United States help Lebanon if Syria withdraws from Lebanon?
I believe that the United States and the international community should help Lebanon on several levels following a complete Syrian withdrawal. First, we should help the Lebanese people consolidate their democracy as we have in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and in other areas. Second, we should provide financial assistance to help Lebanon restructure its economy and become the key business link to much of the world for products from Arab nations. As a member of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, I will strongly advocate these important goals In fact, the Syria Accountability Act provides authorization of assistance to Lebanon and Syria once Syria meets the conditions in the bill.