WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) today spoke out on the House Floor in favor of H.R. 1828, the bipartisan Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, which would impose sanctions and other penalties on Syria. The following is Rep. Hoyer’s statement as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague from New York (Mr. Engel) for introducing this important legislation, the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, and I strongly support it. This bill is part and parcel of our nation’s continuing war on terrorism.
“And it is a necessary reminder to states that want to belong to the family of civilized nations while simultaneously sponsoring and providing safe harbor to terrorist organizations: You cannot have it both ways.
“Syria has regularly appeared on the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism. It provides safe haven and support for terrorist groups operating in Israel and throughout the region, including Hezbollah. I saw that, Mr. Speaker, with my own eyes when I led a Congressional delegation to Israel in August.
“We traveled to the Israel-Syrian border in the Golan Heights, where members of Hezbollah openly walk about on the Syrian side. As far as I’m concerned, Syria’s relationship with Hezbollah is reason enough to end economic relations with Damascus.
“But there are others, as well: Damascus has failed to fulfill its agreement to withdraw its forces from the security zone in southern Lebanon. In recent years, Syria had become a major supply route for oil flowing out of Iraq and illegal arms shipments into Iraq. And Syria is believed to be pursuing both nuclear weapons and missile development programs.
“Syria, in fact, is subject to fewer sanctions than any other country designated by our government as a state sponsor of terrorism. This bill would require the president to impose economic and diplomatic penalties on Syria unless immediate and meaningful changes are made to its policies.
“Left unchecked, I strongly believe Syria poses a grave risk to Israel, threatens regional stability, and is ultimately a major U.S. national security concern. This bill seeks to reign in one of the major impediments to peace in the Middle East, and I urge my colleagues to support it.”