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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Nov 29th
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow US and Western Governments arrow Condoleezza Rice Discussing Lebanon Before the House Foreign Affairs Committee On Policy in the ME
Condoleezza Rice Discussing Lebanon Before the House Foreign Affairs Committee On Policy in the ME PDF Print E-mail
Written by House.GOV   
Wednesday, 24 October 2007

US Congress
US Congress

Testimony of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs October 24, 2007


Full Committee Tom Lantos (D-CA), Chairman

You are respectfully requested to attend the following OPEN hearing of the Full Committee, to be held in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building .

Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 Time: 9:30 AM

Subject: U.S. Policy in the Middle East witnesses: The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
The Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State

October 24, 2007

Verbatim, as delivered

Opening Statement by Chairman Lantos at hearing: U.S. Policy in the Middle East

We have the extraordinary honor and pleasure today of having with us our most capable and most distinguished Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice.  This is her third appearance before our committee this year, and we are deeply grateful that, despite her incredibly busy schedule, she has honored us yet again with a visit.  As always, Madam Secretary, it is a great pleasure to welcome you here.

The topic of today’s hearing, US policy in the Middle East, is broad and multi-faceted. Among other things, it includes Iraq, Lebanon, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process -- particularly the upcoming Annapolis meetings -- and the projected sale of advanced weapons systems to nations in the Persian Gulf.  It also includes Iran, a nation about which both the President and Vice President have used some strong language in recent days.

Secretary Rice, who has just held extensive conversations both in Russia and in the Middle East, will be able to elaborate on all of these us, and we all look forward to her testimony.

Given the extreme importance of today’s hearing and the interest committee members have in using as much time as possible for direct questions, I will dispense today with an opening statement, and I recognize my good friend and colleague, the ranking minority member of the Committee, ms. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.


Testimony of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

October 24, 2007

Mr. Chairman, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, members of the Committee:  It is a pleasure to appear before you today to discuss United States policy toward the Middle East.


The United States has been deeply engaged in the Middle East for more than six decades.  This engagement has taken place on numerous levels, in a variety of circumstances, and throughout both Republican and Democratic administrations and Congresses.  The region is of fundamental importance to U.S. national security interests, and never more so than today.

I would like to state at the outset that we will continue to be engaged – ­on economic, political, and security issues – in the Middle East.  We are there to stay.  Our interests there are enduring and whatever the challenges, we will continue to work with our friends in the region and elsewhere to address them.

We seek a Middle East which is broadly prosperous and which plays a constructive role in the world economy and political system.  It is no secret that over the past several decades Middle East actors have created many challenges to prosperity and political stability, both within and beyond the region.  We hope to see a Middle East whose nations trade more, invest more, talk more, and work more constructively to solve problems, both among themselves and in a global framework.

It has been our assessment – and it continues to be our assessment – that societies in the region need to be more politically and economically integrated, inclusive, and open for this to happen.  Citizens need to know they have a stake in their nations’ futures.  We have spoken of this as expanding the agenda of freedom and democracy in the nations of the region.

This is not just a slogan and anyone who has served in my position will know how difficult this is.  But continuing the status quo is not an option for success.  We will continue to press for more inclusion, not less; for more freedom, not less; for more democracy, not less; and for more tolerance, not less.  We will do so fully aware that the path is not always straight and smooth, but that it is the only path that will take the region where it needs to go.  We will do so fully aware that this path will be opposed by extremists who seek a radically different outcome.  My message today is the same for our friends and for our common extremist opponents in the region:  the United States is there to stay.


Nowhere is this conflict between moderation and extremism more evident than in Iraq.  We overthrew the decades-long tyranny of Saddam Hussein.  But the after effects of his repression have outlived his rule.  He systematically destroyed all aspects of civil society, as well as all sense of cooperation and compromise which form the lasting basis for decent governance.  Iraqis today are beginning to overcome that legacy.  They are seeking ways to cooperate with one another and to allow political space for compromise.  This is not easy.  Indeed, it is perhaps more difficult than any of us would have imagined.

The great majority of Iraqis would like to live in peace, free from political persecution and free from the horrors which extremists inflict upon them.  But there are forces of extremism in Iraq which seek the opposite; ­they seek to drive Iraqis apart from one another and to set up regimes founded in intolerance and violence.

We and our Iraqi and international partners are making progress in reducing the violence that comes from extremists in Iraq.  We are continuing to press Iraqis of all parties, of all faiths, and of all regions to take advantage of this progress.  We look to them to do more in the months ahead.

It is no simple matter to develop solid political institutions, functioning government ministries, and sustained economic development while security is uncertain.  Nevertheless, this is what we aim to help Iraq do.  The State Department is deployed in Baghdad and in 25 Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) throughout Iraq.  We are working at the local as well as the national level.  Doing so, of course, is inherently risky and many challenges arise daily.  I should note that we continually review our processes and procedures – on security issues, on protection of our diplomats, on working with the Iraqi Government, on pressing for transparency, on managing economic assistance, and on the construction of our embassy.  As we see the need to change our procedures, we do so.


A major obstacle to the vision of the Middle East which I have sketched out is the policies of the Iranian regime.  For over 20 years, the regime has been in violation of its international nuclear obligations, by pursuing technology that could be used to develop nuclear weapons. The regime’s emboldened foreign policy, as demonstrated by its lethal assistance to groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and the Palestinian territories, further underscores Iran’s hegemonic aspirations in the region.  In each of these cases, the Government of Iran has chosen to fund and to assist the forces of extremism that take the region backward. 

We are pursuing a dual track strategy to address the nuclear issue—supporting negotiations, while pursuing additional sanctions should Iran not comply with the UNSC’s demands.  On May 31, 2006, I joined our partners from China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom in extending an historic offer to sit down and talk to my Iranian counterpart about the nuclear issue and the host of other matters facing our two nations, but on one condition:  that Iran suspend uranium enrichment and reprocessing.  Alongside this offer, we presented Iran with a generous incentives package – including assistance to support the development of a peaceful civilian nuclear energy program – if Tehran took that one simple step.  The offer is still on the table, but Iran has so far refused it.  We are continuing to work with members of the United Nations Security Council to raise the cost to Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons and to increase pressure on Iran to change its current, confrontational course.  We are also working with like-minded allies to find additional ways to raise the costs of this course for the Iranian Government outside of, but complementary to, the UNSC process.  We know that the Congress, and this Committee in particular, aims to do the same through passage of several different sanctions bills.  We certainly have no difference of opinion with this Committee about the goals of such legislation; we simply want to be certain that our collective efforts do not undermine our multilateral strategy, where we will have a maximum chance of success.

Beyond its nuclear program, the Government of Iran is jeopardizing the security and prosperity of its neighbors through its support of extremist groups across the region.  Iran is supporting select Shia militants in Iraq who kill innocent Iraqi civilians, Iraqi security personnel, and Coalition Forces.  We are determined to cut off Iran’s malignant activities in Iraq by apprehending and eliminating Qods Force members and other actors who endanger human life and overall national stability.  We will defend ourselves and we will defend Iraqis against Tehran’s meddling. The Government of Iran is also providing support to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories, and the Taliban in Afghanistan. 

We are actively working to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities across the region.  In regular consultations with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, Egypt, and Jordan, I have reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to protecting vital shared interests in the region.  Additionally, we have had two rounds of discussions with the Iranian Government on its activities in Iraq.  Ambassador Crocker has made clear that while we recognize Iran’s strong cultural, political, and economic ties to Iraq, we believe that the lethal activities of the Qods Force in Iraq are inconsistent with the Iranian Government’s obligations and stated commitment to support the Iraqi Government.

The Iranian Government is pursuing policies which are detrimental to the long term interests of its neighbors, of the region, and of the Iranian people themselves. It need not be this way.

Our differences with Iran lie with the illicit and dangerous ambitions of the Iranian regime—not the legitimate aspirations and interests of the Iranian people.  The people of Iran are a proud, talented and capable people, who seek the same freedoms and opportunities that others around the world seek.  They deserve better than the regime which governs them.  We will continue to offer a hand of friendship to the people of Iran, even while condemning and opposing the Iranian regime’s support for extremism.


Iran’s aggressive activities are a cause of concern not only for us, but especially in capitals across the Middle East.  We see a new willingness to build upon and expand the partnerships we have forged with nations in the region.  Our relationships with the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), with Egypt, and with Jordan are particularly critical to success in Iraq and other places in the region that encounter Iranian support for extremism.  Our friends look to us to demonstrate our willingness to remain engaged as a reliable partner.

Obviously, the sacrifices we are making in Iraq offer very tangible proof of our continuing engagement.  Working together with Congress, we also propose to move forward on the sale of select weapons to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf state allies in order to strengthen our bilateral relationships, enhance regional interoperability, and improve the ability of our GCC allies to protect their people, sovereignty, and security.  We have briefed this Committee on our initial planned sales and we look to this Committee for its support.  The weapons we propose to approve for sale are not intended, nor will they create, a regional arms race.  To the contrary, they will assist our allies in deterring the destabilizing actions of an emboldened Iranian regime and serve to deepen our links with our friends.  I ask for your support of our first proposed sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

We have also recently reaffirmed our security partnerships with Israel and Egypt.  In August, Under Secretary Burns signed a ten-year Foreign Military Financing memorandum of understanding with Israel for $30 billion, to continue to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge and to give the Government of Israel the confidence it needs to pursue peace and seek better relations with others in the region.  We have also agreed with the Government of Egypt on a new $13 billion military assistance plan.  Egypt is a long­time partner and plays a pivotal role in bringing continued stability to the region.  Egypt’s continued tactical and strategic cooperation is vital to success in the war against extremist terrorism in the region.  In that regard, I would like to reiterate the message which Secretary Gates and I sent to the Hill several weeks ago, urging the Congress to provide full FMF funding of $1.3 billion for Egypt in Fiscal Year 2008, without conditionality.

But our partnerships are not based on security cooperation alone.  We are also pursuing political, economic, and cultural cooperation across the board.  We look to expand trade and investments throughout the region.  Regional economic engagement, such as the President’s Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA), the Free Trade Agreements this Administration has concluded with Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, and Oman, as well as our long-standing FTA with Israel, create new jobs in the United States and in the region and contribute to economic growth at home and abroad.  Strengthening these commercial and financial ties with our friends in the Middle East will make us better, stronger allies and will bolster their readiness to pursue reform.  These ties also stand to have a profound, positive, and transformative effect on the region that go well beyond the economic sphere.

The positive impact made possible by increased political engagement and economic cooperation is displayed clearly in Jordan, a country nearly half-way into implementing its two-year $25 million Millennium Challenge Corporation Threshold program.  This program is designed to strengthen democratic institutions by supporting efforts to broaden public participation in the political and electoral process and to increase government transparency and accountability.  We seek similar successes across the region.  Building on a climate of increasing openness, we have joined with Morocco to create a $697 million multi-year Millennium Challenge Corporation program focusing on several sectors of its economy that are well-placed to alleviate poverty and unemployment – and the extremism they foster.  We are also working with Yemen – the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula – to advance reform efforts, to reduce the threat of extremism born of poverty, and to strengthen its ability to act against terrorist elements both unilaterally and in cooperation with the United States.  In line with this, MCC’s Board has approved a $20 million grant to help the Government of Yemen fight corruption and improve the rule of law, political rights, fiscal policy, and government effectiveness through institution building and improved systems there.

Finally, let me say a word about Libya.  Since its historic 2003 decision to renounce WMD and terrorism, Libya has made positive steps toward fully rejoining the community of nations and is playing a constructive role in counterterrorism, regional stability, and Maghreb unity.  As we continue the process of fully normalizing our bilateral relationship with Libya, we will strengthen and expand our cooperation in these and other important areas.  A fully functioning embassy, headed by a confirmed ambassador, is important to our success in pursuing the most pressing bilateral issues. Our highest priority will be to urge the Libyan Government to resolve outstanding claims to victims of past terrorist acts and their families.  We will also continue to press for greater democratic freedoms, human rights, and transparency.


We remain committed to the President’s vision of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  We look forward to a substantive and serious international meeting this fall which will provide diplomatic support for the parties’ own discussions and negotiations, review the progress made toward building a Palestinian institutions, and look for innovative and effective ways to support Palestinian reform.

The parties must meet their Roadmap obligations.  For Palestinians, this means establishing law and order and fighting terror.  Israel must stop settlement expansion and remove unauthorized outposts.  U. S. leadership is essential to this process.  U.S. leadership is also essential to ensure that the international community, and particularly regional states, support the Palestinian Authority government under President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad – a government that represents the strongest hope for a peaceful resolution of the conflict since the Oslo Accords.  With the help of Congress, the United States will strengthen its political and financial commitment to the Palestinian people.  The international community must do more, both to meet the day-to-day needs of the Palestinian Authority government and the Palestinian people, and to support meaningful progress on the path to a successful Palestinian state that will live side-by-side with Israel and its other neighbors in peace and security.

We will strongly support Tony Blair’s work, as Quartet representative, to coordinate international efforts to help Palestinians establish the institutions of a strong and lasting free society, including effective governing structures, a sound financial system, and the rule of law.  This will enable Palestinian leaders to answer their people’s desire to live in peace.  We must also respond to the critical need for budgetary support, as the Palestinian Authority will face significant cash shortfalls at the beginning of January when Israel completes its repayment of customs and revenue arrears.


In Lebanon, we will continue our support for democracy, respect for sovereignty, and the will of the people.  This includes bringing to justice before the international community those responsible for the murder of Rafik Hariri and related crimes.  It also includes insistence that the Lebanese presidential election be carried out on time, in accordance with the Lebanese constitution, and free from intimidation or outside interference. We commend the Lebanese Armed Forces and their recent success in confronting Fatah al-Islam in the Nahar al-Bared camp.  We will continue to work closely with the democratically-elected Government of Lebanon as it bravely confronts terrorists and extremism.

We will also continue to confront Syria’s policies of intimidation and support for terrorism.  Syria’s actions reflect contempt for the interests of the people of Lebanon, and the region as a whole.  They include longstanding efforts to hinder the advancement of democracy in Lebanon, support for Hamas and other violent extremists, and permitting foreign terrorists to cross Syria’s borders into Iraq to kill Iraqi civilians and Coalition Forces.


Mr. Chairman, each of these policies reinforces the others.  Were we to abandon Iraq to the forces of extremism, little progress would be possible on other fronts, including progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace or the deepening of democracy in Lebanon.  Were we to turn a blind eye towards Tehran’s quest for nuclear weapons capability and its support for violent interest groups, we would forfeit the hope of deepening our ties with moderate Gulf nations.  Were we to abandon our efforts to support Israeli-Palestinian peace, we would lose credibility throughout the region.  And were we to fail to support the brave democratic forces in Lebanon, what message would that send about our staying power in the region?

We are engaged in the Middle East in multiple ways.  We will continue to be engaged.  We will be a willing partner for those who seek security, for those who seek freedom, and for those who seek prosperity.  As a new generation of young people assumes responsibility for their futures, they will find in the United States a natural friend and ally.  We will continue to reach out to those who oppose the grim vision of extremists and terrorists for the region.  We will cede nothing to extremists.  We will stand with our partners.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to discuss our policies toward the Middle East.  I would be pleased to respond to questions. 


Reference Letter at today's hearing from Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) to HE Sec. Rice on Lebanon

Congressman Gary Ackerman Comes Out In Full Support Of Lebanon's Democracy with Demands!


Last Updated ( Wednesday, 24 October 2007 )
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