Honorable Edward M. Gabriel
President, American Task Force for Lebanon
Syria Accountability Act (H.R. 4483)
House Committee on International Relations
The ATFL is a non-profit tax exempt organization that unites American leaders of Lebanese heritage who share a strong commitment to strengthening the traditional ties of friendship and the excellent political, economic and cultural relations between Lebanon and the United States. We are non-sectarian and non-partisan. Our members comprise a highly diverse group of Lebanese American political leaders, and others in the fields of education, law, medicine, engineering, business, government, military and the arts. Our primary operating principle is that at all times, the mission and objectives of the ATFL shall be in the best interest of the United States.
with longstanding U.S. policy, the unifying goal of the members of the ATFL is the
ultimate establishment of a secure, stable, democratic, independent and sovereign Lebanon
with full control over all of its internationally recognized territory. The ATFL also
supports the departure of all non-Lebanese forces from Lebanese territory, the disarmament
of all remaining militia on Lebanese soil, and the implementation of all United Nations
resolutions and international agreements regarding Lebanon. We have consistently urged
that the United States government be a positive and constructive influence in supporting
Lebanon so that these goals can be ultimately realized. Progress on this front has not
always been satisfactory or encouraging.
There are many
aspects of the current United States-Syrian relationship that are problematic from the
perspective of the United States. However, we submit that our countrys policy goals
on Lebanon and the Middle East are best served through diplomacy and negotiation rather
than ineffectual and even counterproductive confrontation.
careful reading of the proposed Syria Accountability Act has led us to conclude that its
passage would be neither in the best interest of the United States nor of Lebanon. The
passage of this Act would not increase United States leverage over Syria and Syrian policy
in Lebanon; it would decrease it. Moreover, its passage would seriously impact efforts
underway by the United States to encourage the Government of Syria to increase its
cooperation in the war on terrorism, and to move positively towards implementing many of
the goals set forth in the proposed Act through diplomacy and quiet persuasion.
Let us cite an
example where a positive American-Syrian engagement has benefited the United States and
Lebanon. On April 15, 2002, Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Syrian President
Bashar Assad and was able to negotiate an end to the violence across the blue
line that could have resulted in a general Middle East war. If the American-Syrian
relationship were any more adversarial, this exchange between Secretary Powell and
President Assad would likely have been impossible. Moreover, absent a working
American-Syrian relationship, Syria would not heed United States concerns over the Syrian
presence and policy in Lebanon.
most optimistic expectations of its supporters, the Syria Accountability Act will not lead
to a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. To the contrary, an isolated Syria is likely to
intensify its relationship with Lebanon. Experience has shown that unilateral sanctions,
such as those envisioned by this Act, do not work. Indeed, several of the penalties to be
leveled against Syria by this Act are already in effect; yet, they have in no way altered
the Syria Accountability Act would directly penalize Lebanon, even though Lebanon suffers
from regional constraints on its actions. The Act enjoins Lebanon: to enter into serious
bilateral negotiations with Israel to realize a full and permanent peace; to evict all terrorist and foreign forces from southern
Lebanon, including Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards; and, only receive
United States humanitarian and educational assistance through appropriate private,
non-governmental organizations and appropriate international organizations, until Lebanon
asserts sovereignty and control over all of its territory and borders and achieves full
We understand the need for a strategic, but independent,
relationship between Lebanon and Syria. In this context, we would encourage the United
States government to engage the parties in discussions on ways to resolve regional issues
that would accomplish the intent of the drafters and obviate the need for this
From July 23 to July 29, a delegation of American Task
Force for Lebanon officers met with a range of Lebanese from various religious communities
and political orientations. None of our interlocutors supported the Syria Accountability
Act, of which they were well aware. Our interlocutors were supportive of a sovereign
Lebanon, but they felt that the Syria Accountability Act would not achieve this goal.
Indeed, many of our interlocutors thought the bill would have the opposite effect.
We ask that
everyone concerned take a critical look at the implications for the United States and
Lebanon of the Syria Accountability Act.