Honorable Richard K. Army
SEPTEMBER 18, 2002

Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, 
18 September 2002

Thank you for inviting me to speak today on behalf of H.R. 4483, the Syria Accountability Act of 2002.  Syria has been on the State Department's terrorist list since 1979.   There are seven countries currently on the terrorist list.  The United States has sanctions against and has broken normal relations with five of the seven nations on the list.  Those five nations are:  Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, and Cuba.  The House passed the Sudan Peace Act in response to its concerns with the sixth country, Sudan.  Now, I come to speak about my concerns with the seventh, and question whether we should have normal, sanction-free relations with Syria.        

As we continue to wage war on terrorism, Syria is a country that enjoys full diplomatic relations with the United States, trade relations with U.S. companies, and receives significant foreign aid from some of our closest allies, while simultaneously cuddling up to Saddam Hussein's regime, protecting some of the world's most active terrorist organizations within its borders, and repeatedly violating international law. 

During my testimony today I will review the threats that Syria poses through its support of terrorism, its occupation of Lebanon, its development of weapons of mass destruction, and its illegal importation of Iraqi oil. These are threats to the United States and its allies around the world. Our inaction in holding Syria accountable for its dangerous activities could seriously diminish our efforts in the war on terrorism and our efforts in brokering a viable peace in the Middle East.   

Syria should be held accountable for its record of harboring and supporting terrorist groups, stockpiling illegal weapons in an effort to develop weapons of mass destruction, and transferring weapons and oil back and forth through Iraq.  In his June 24th speech, President Bush made a very clear statement of U.S. policy: "nations are either with us or against us in the war on terror."  In that speech, he also laid down the gauntlet for Syria: "Syria must choose the right side in the war on terror by closing terrorist camps and expelling terrorist organizations."

-A year has now passed, and the deadline for this choice has come and gone. The Congress of the United States cannot allow Syria to continue activities that pose a threat to the United States and our allies without consequence.

Evidence of Syria's support for terror:

While Syria publicly condemned the terrorist attacks of 9-11, for decades it has harbored, sheltered, and sponsored terrorist organizations inside its borders -- and within the borders of areas it controls in Lebanon. 

There are reports from reliable news sources, such as the respected Israeli newspaper "Ha'aretz", to the effect that Damascus has allowed some 150-200 al-Qaeda terrorists to settle in a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon within the last year.   We need to take these reports seriously and continuously monitor both sides for evidence of a relationship between the two.   

I have been advised that Syria, as a secular dictatorship likely holds no affection for the fundamentalist views of al-Qaeda, still, it has made common cause with both Sunni extremists in Hamas, and Shia extremists in Hezbollah.   My concern is whether Syria supports and sponsors any terrorist organization at all.  It is a quibble to me to say that Syria supports "this" terrorist organization but not "that" one.  

Even if the question of al-Qaeda support is open in the minds of some, we know for sure Damascus is a haven to more than one terrorist group.  Hezbollah is headquartered in Damascus and they effect a global threat by maintaining a terrorist network in Europe, Africa, South America, North America, and Asia.  They are the radical terrorist group that, until 9/11, had claimed the most American lives in terrorist attacks. 

It was Hezbollah who masterminded the bombing of the U.S. embassy and U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 that killed more than 300 people, including 243 Americans.     

We also know that Hezbollah would not be able to launch attacks against Israel from southern Lebanon without Syrian acquiescence and approval, which brings me to the point of Syria's forcible control of Lebanon.   

Since the early 1980s, Syria has maintained an illegal military occupation of southern Lebanon with 25,000 troops operating under the guise of maintaining peace between factions. Syria has created a front line for terrorist incursion into Israel on Lebanon's border.     

The U.S. National Commission on Terrorism reported last year that the Syrian government "still provides terrorists with safe haven, allows them to operate over a dozen terrorist training camps in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, and permits the Iranian government to re-supply these camps." 

It is also widely believed that the Bekaa Valley in Syria-occupied Lebanon serves as the epicenter for training the world's most dangerous terrorists.  The Bekaa is a one-stop shop for terrorist training. Terrorists from every corner of the international community come together in training camps to learn how to conduct lethal operations.  Terrorists learn how to transform themselves into suicide bombers.  They also learn how to utilize various types of weapons, including long-range Katyusha rockets, high-explosive anti-tank mines and modern plastic explosives.  The effects of this comprehensive training can be seen in such devastating acts as the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing.  Other attacks that originated from the Bekaa Valley include the kidnapping and murder of former CIA Beirut station chief William Buckley in 1984. 

Such groups as Al-Qaeda, Al-Jihad (Egyptian Islamic Jihad) Hamas, Hezbollah, the Japanese Red Army, Abu Nidal's organization, Force-17, New People's Army (Phillipines), the IRA, Chechen Rebels, Fatah, the Red Brigade, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Medellin  Drug Cartel are just some of the terrorist organizations who have received training in the Valley and continue to operate there today.  

Illegal oil importation and Iraq:

Another factor of concern is Syria's illegal import of Iraqi oil through the Kirkuk -Banias pipeline, in direct violation of U.N. Resolution 661 and subsequent resolutions prohibiting commerce with Iraq's oil and gas sector outside the "oil-for-food" program.   

Syria imports about 200,000 barrels of Iraqi crude oil a day, allowing Damascus to sell more of its domestically produced petroleum for profit, totaling approximately $1.1 billion annual profit for both countries.  

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher noted on February 14, 2002, "Syria is now a member of the United Nations Security Council.  As such, it bears a special responsibility with regard to implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.  Given the seriousness of this [oil pipeline] issue, you can be sure that we will continue to press Syria to live up to its responsibilities to respect Security Council resolutions and to ensure that its actions contribute to international peace and security." 

Unfortunately, Syria has not lived up to these expectations, nor has President Assad fulfilled a personal promise he made to Secretary of State Colin Powell in February 2001 that the pipeline earnings would be placed under the U.N. sanctions regime, or alternatively shut down.   

Western intelligence sources have also discovered that Iraq is using Syria for smuggling military systems and other banned material to Saddam Hussein.  Iraqi opposition sources believe that Iraq has obtained medium-range Scud-class missiles through Syria as part of Iraq's efforts to bolster its military against a U.S. attack.  In addition, recent reports claim that Syria is brokering the sale of a sophisticated Ukrainian military radar system to Iraq.

Syria developing weapons of mass destruction 

For the past decade, the Syrians have enhanced their ability to manufacture several hundred tons of chemical warfare agents per year, including sarin, mustard gas and VX, at four separate production facilities.  In addition to stockpiling chemical weapons, Syria has received, via Iran, hundreds of extended-range North Korean Scud-C missiles, and is building its own ballistic missiles from imported technology.  These weapons are deployed in deep, well-protected underground shelters.   Two years ago, Syria began testing a longer-range Scud-D missile, able to hit any point in Israel from deep inside Syrian territory, often undetectable to Israeli radars.   

The presence of these strategic weapons not only threatens Israeli cities, but could also target Israeli Defense Force military bases and thereby hinder Israel's ability to mobilize its army reserves quickly in the event of war.  Longer-range weapons systems allow the Syrians to hide their missiles deeper in their own territory while still threatening our friends.  

What the legislation requires: 

Given the dangers the current Syrian regime poses to a variety of U.S. interests in the Middle East, the Syrian Accountability Act of 2002 was introduced in April of this year by Eliot Engel, my colleague and member of this Subcommittee, and me. This bill currently has over 155 cosponsors.  I urge the Subcommittee to pass this important piece of legislation as quickly as possible.  

In response to our knowledge of Syria's continuing activities, four criteria must be met by Syria in order for normal relations with the United States to return. The first criteria is an end to its support for terrorism, evidenced by closing the offices of the Palestinian terror groups, cleaning out the Lebanese Bekaa Valley, ending all contacts with and harboring of terrorist groups, and complying fully with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373.  Secondly, Syria must withdraw its armed forces from Lebanon, complying with United Nations Security Council Resolutions 425 and 520. A halt to the development and procurement of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles is the third requirement. There is concern within the current Administration regarding the combination of Iraq's Scud missiles and weapons of mass destruction. Of equal concern is the Syrian force of hundreds of Scud missiles topped with unconventional warheads and the potential threat it poses. Lastly, Syria must halt violations of United Nations arms and oil sanctions against Iraq.  

Unless the President can certify that Syria has ceased these dangerous activities, he must impose several penalties, including a ban on military and dual-use exports to Syria, and a ban on any financial assistance to U.S. businesses for their investment or other activities in Syria. 

The President must also impose two additional penalties from a menu of six options that include: the prohibition of the export of U.S. products to Syria; the prohibition of U.S. businesses investing and operating in Syria; the restriction of Syrian diplomats in Washington, D.C. and at the United Nations in New York; the prohibition of any Syrian owned or controlled aircraft to take off, land, or fly over the United States, the reduction of U.S. diplomatic contacts with Syria, and the blockage of any property transactions under U.S. jurisdiction in which the Syrian government may have an interest. Virtually all of these sanctions are currently enforced against the other six countries on the U.S. terrorist list.  

When Secretary of State Powell went to Syria last April, he sought to give a hard wake-up call to the Syrian people and their leaders that the United States was serious about its commitments to see through the war on terror.  Instead, Powell's message fell on deaf ears, as masses of protesters carried pictures of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah  and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat while shouting in the streets, "Death to America, Death to Israel" and "We want to say the truth: We loathe America. Powell get out of here." The message he has since received from the Syrian government has been far more diplomatic, but unchanged. 

I urge you to move swiftly in passing the Syria Accountability Act into law. Two months ago, the President urged Syria to take the right side in the war on terrorism.  Congress should pass this legislation in an ongoing effort by the United States to convince Syria, a sitting member of the U.N. Security Council, to foster security instead of fostering war.   

This bill provides both penalties and incentives for Syria to change its behaviour and it responsibly includes a national security waiver for most of the sanctions, as well as exemptions for food and medicine.