Ros-Lehtinen Statement at Hearing on Developments in Egypt and Lebanon Part 1.:
Wednesday, February 09, 2011 (WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following opening statement earlier today at a Committee hearing entitled “Recent Developments in Egypt and Lebanon: Implications for U.S. Policy and Allies in the Broader Middle East:
“Recent developments in Egypt and Lebanon pose great challenges to U.S. policy, interests, and allies in the Middle East. In Lebanon, we have witnessed the takeover of the country by the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis. In Egypt, we see the destabilization of a government which has been a key U.S. partner for over three decades. In both instances, successive U.S. administrations failed to develop and implement a longer-term strategy to move beyond the status quo and prepare for the future.
“In both Egypt and Lebanon, we have failed to effectively leverage U.S. assistance in support of peaceful, pro-democracy forces and to help build strong, accountable, independent, democratic institutions as a bulwark against the instability that is now spreading throughout much of the region. Instead of being proactive, we have been obsessed with maintaining short-term, personality-based stability—stability that was never really all that stable, as the events of recent weeks demonstrates.
“Successive Administrations have repeatedly opposed and obstructed efforts by Members of Congress to require accountability in ensuring Egypt met conditions for its economic assistance.
“The Mubarak government has been a reliable and valuable ally of the United States on security matters. But the relationship must extend well beyond Mubarak. It would be short-sighted and potentially dangerous for the United States to base its entire approach to another nation on the survival of one individual.
“In the early days of the current unrest, the Administration failed to seize the opportunity to press for reform to address the demonstrators’ frustrations and prevent chaos and violence. On January 25th—the first day of the demonstrations—Secretary Clinton stated that “our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable…” Vice President Joe Biden, in an interview on January 27th, said that “I would not refer to [Mubarak] as a dictator.” According to the Wall Street Journal, National Security Council officials admitted in a meeting on January 31st that they did not have a contingency plan in place should the Egyptian government collapse.
“Now, the White House is reportedly making matters worse by not only reexamining its position on dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood, but also stating that a new Egyptian government should “…include a whole host of important non-secular actors.” The Muslim Brotherhood had nothing to do with driving these protests, and they and other extremists must not be allowed to hijack the movement toward democracy and freedom in Egypt.
“Turning to Lebanon, we are again confronted by the absence of a long-term U.S. strategy.
As Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah have acted relentlessly to undermine Lebanon’s sovereignty, the U.S. has largely adopted a reactive posture, seeking to contain the advance of these hostile forces.
“Washington has also persisted in continuing to provide assistance to a Lebanese government in which Hezbollah essentially had veto power. This included security assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), despite longstanding concerns over whether such aid could directly or indirectly benefit Hezbollah. Even now, when the Lebanese government has been overthrown, the United States has still failed to indicate that it will cut off assistance to a proxy government for Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah.
“There are lessons from the Lebanon debacle which are applicable to Egypt. In Lebanon, following the Hariri assassination, elections were immediately held under a Syrian-inspired electoral law, laying the foundation for the political empowerment of Hezbollah. Therefore, shouldn’t the U.S. insist that constitutional and administrative requirements concerning the electoral process in Egypt be revised to ensure that only responsible actors who meet certain basic standards participate in Egypt’s future?
“Such criteria should include: renouncing violent extremism, upholding the rule of law, and recognizing and enforcing Egypt's international commitments, including its nonproliferation obligations and its peace agreement with the Jewish State of Israel.
“I would greatly appreciate it if our witnesses this morning would address the following questions in their testimony:
• Can there be stability in Egypt if Mubarak remains in power?
• Do conditions enable a military-controlled transition process? Would this buy time for legitimate opposition forces to organize, and for constitutional modifications to take place?
• There are some who have suggested that Egypt could follow a Turkey model? How viable is this comparison? Given patterns that have recently developed in Turkey, could Egypt’s adoption of this model lead to possible threats to U.S. interests and allies in the Middle East?
• Can the legitimate opposition assume a leadership role?
• Can the military transition to the civil arena?
• What changes in the Egyptian constitution would be necessary to ensure that candidates for public office are going to act and govern democratically.
• What criteria are necessary to ensure that radical Islamists are not empowered?
“Beyond Egypt and Lebanon, the U.S. must have a broader strategic plan for the region, so that our interests and allies are protected, and the destructive regimes in Tehran and Damascus and other extremists are unable to exert their influence over people yearning for democracy.
“These questions are particularly relevant as we commemorate the centennial of the birth of President Ronald Reagan. During his Westminster Address, Reagan stated:
‘Any system is inherently unstable that has no peaceful means to legitimize its leaders. …While we must be cautious about forcing the pace of change, we must not hesitate to declare our ultimate objectives and to take concrete actions to move toward them. The objective I propose is quite simple to state: to foster the infrastructure of democracy…’
“We face an emergency in Lebanon and Egypt that could spread to the broader Middle East. With cautious determination, we thank our esteemed witnesses for appearing before the Committee today, and look forward to their testimony.”Ros-Lehtinen Statement at Hearing on Developments in Egypt and Lebanon Part 2:
(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following opening statement earlier today at a Committee hearing entitled, “Recent Developments in Egypt and Lebanon: Implications for U.S. Policy and Allies in the Broader Middle East, Part II.” Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
“Yesterday, we heard from a distinguished panel of experts and former Administration officials on the dramatic transformation that is currently taking place in Cairo, Beirut, and beyond. There was general agreement on the need for the U.S. to send a clear message of support to those freedom-loving Egyptians who renounce violence, who are committed to democratic governance, and who respect the security and sovereignty of all Egypt's neighbors. There were echoes of statements by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger from this past weekend that the U.S. relationship is not just with one person but with all of the Egyptian people as a whole.
“Former Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams, reiterated that Mubarak created the very situation that Israel and the U.S. now fear and that Mubarak’s statements that he will not run in Egypt’s scheduled September elections is ‘too late’ to enable a smooth transition.
“America’s role should be to facilitate a post-Mubarak transition in order to avert further violence and restore calm, and guard against the use of the transition process by nefarious elements such as the Muslim Brotherhood to directly or indirectly undermine Egypt’s evolution to a democratic republic.
“There is no evidence that a well-thought-out contingency plan existed in the event that Mubarak’s government became unstable or collapsed. The Wall Street Journal reported that Middle East experts, at a January 31st meeting, asked National Security Council officials, ‘Please tell me you have contingencies in case Mubarak’s regime collapses.’ The National Security Council reportedly admitted there were no such plans.
“A February 2nd report by ForeignPolicy.com cites a senior administration official telling ABC that the Administration was being compelled to change its strategy ‘every twelve hours…First it was ‘negotiate with the opposition,’ then events overtook that, then it was ‘orderly transition,’ …then it was ‘You [Mubarak] and your son can’t run,’… and now it’s ‘the process has to begin now.’’
“Turning to the Muslim Brotherhood, New York Times reported on February 2nd that ‘White House staff members ‘made clear that they did not rule out engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood as part of an orderly process,’’ according to one attendee.’
“Engaging the Muslim Brotherhood must not be on the table.
“This also has implications for U.S. policy toward Lebanon given statements last year by John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, describing Hezbollah’s ‘evolution’ from ‘purely a terrorist organization’ to a militia to what Mr. Brennan refers to as an organization that now has members within the parliament and the cabinet.
“Has the State Department evaluated whether Lebanon now meets the statutory definition of a state-sponsor of terrorism or terrorist sanctuary given Hezbollah’s control of that government? What is the Administration’s stance on continuing to provide assistance to such a Lebanese government? From Lebanon to Egypt, what is the Administration’s stance on the Muslim Brotherhood? Beyond the general parameters referenced in Deputy Secretary Steinberg’s written statement, what are the specific components and contingencies of the U.S. strategy toward Egypt and for aiding the transitional process? If a key U.S. goal is to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from taking over and the Muslim Brotherhood is well-funded, then shouldn’t U.S. policy seek to shift economic aid away from the Mubarak government and focus it on strengthening responsible, peaceful, democratic voices?
“The Administration’s initial approach to Egypt was clearly not keeping up with these priorities. In its first year, while driving increases in the International Affairs Budget, the Administration made significant cuts to total bilateral funding for democracy and governance programming. USAID even reportedly adopted a policy of only funding those organizations officially approved as NGOs by the Mubarak government. Repeated U.S. failure to enforce its own conditions and requirements on non-security assistance to Egypt has compounded this problem.
“What tangible economic or democratic reforms has the Government of Egypt undertaken as a result of the billions of dollars that we have provided in non-security assistance throughout the last decades? What have we received in exchange?
“This brings to mind two lessons of the Lebanese debacle that we are currently facing. The first is that elections themselves are meaningless unless they are supplemented with democratic institutions. Hezbollah’s ascendance in Lebanon was facilitated by the failure of responsible nations to insist on changing a Syrian-dictated electoral law and subsequent regulations prior to holding elections in the aftermath of the 2005 Cedar Revolution. Clear standards for participation in elections and institutions must be both articulated and implemented to ensure that destructive actors are not afforded the opportunity to hijack an incipient democratic process.
“The second lesson is we cannot afford to continue to pursue a myopic, personality-based policy that relies on ‘stability’ over institutional reform. In Lebanon, we had a short-term policy based on maintaining ‘stability,’ and we invested significant political capital with both Rafik Hariri, and -- in the wake of his assassination and ascendance of the pro-Western March 14th bloc -- his son, Saad Hariri.
“Basing the next round of elections on existing Egyptian law and regulations without clear standards for participation and a democratic institutional framework is a recipe for disaster.
“Turning to the role of the Egyptian Army, it has been reported that the U.S. is working behind the scenes to impress upon the Egyptian military the need to protect protesters and support a peaceful government transition. What is the Administration’s view on continuing security assistance to Egypt for stability and compliance with its international commitments and preparation for democratic transition, and simultaneously transferring economic aid currently going to the Mubarak government to pro-democracy groups for organizing and preparing for elections?
“The U.S. response to developments in Lebanon and Egypt have serious implications for Jordan, our vital ally Israel, and our efforts against al-Qaeda in Yemen and beyond.
“In closing, I would ask Deputy Secretary Steinberg to elaborate on, not just the country-specific policies, but the Administration’s broader regional strategy.”