SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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U.S. POLICY TOWARD LEBANON
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
JUNE 25, 1997
Printed for the use of the Committee on International Relations
COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
BENJAMIN A. GILMAN, New York, Chairman
WILLIAM GOODLING, Pennsylvania
JAMES A. LEACH, Iowa
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCDOUG BEREUTER, Nebraska
CHRISTOPHER SMITH, New Jersey
DAN BURTON, Indiana
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida
CASS BALLENGER, North Carolina
DANA ROHRABACHER, California
DONALD A. MANZULLO, Illinois
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California
PETER T. KING, New York
JAY KIM, California
STEVEN J. CHABOT, Ohio
MARSHALL ''MARK'' SANFORD, South Carolina
MATT SALMON, Arizona
AMO HOUGHTON, New York
TOM CAMPBELL, California
JON FOX, Pennsylvania
JOHN McHUGH, New York
LINDSEY GRAHAM, South Carolina
ROY BLUNT, Missouri
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
KEVIN BRADY, Texas
LEE HAMILTON, Indiana
SAM GEJDENSON, Connecticut
TOM LANTOS, California
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCHOWARD BERMAN, California
GARY ACKERMAN, New York
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American Samoa
MATTHEW G. MARTINEZ, California
DONALD M. PAYNE, New Jersey
ROBERT ANDREWS, New Jersey
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
SHERROD BROWN, Ohio
CYNTHIA A. McKINNEY, Georgia
ALCEE L. HASTINGS, Florida
PAT DANNER, Missouri
EARL HILLIARD, Alabama
WALTER CAPPS, California
BRAD SHERMAN, California
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
STEVE ROTHMAN, New Jersey
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
BILL LUTHER, Minnesota
JIM DAVIS, Florida
RICHARD J. GARON, Chief of Staff
MICHAEL H. VAN DUSEN, Democratic Chief of Staff
DEBORAH BODLANDER, Professional Staff Member
PARKER H. BRENT, Staff Associate
C O N T E N T S
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Mr. David Welch, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs, Department of State
Mr. Terry Anderson, Chairman, Westchester Information Network
Mr. Daniel Pipes, Editor, Middle East Quarterly
Mr. Peter Tanous, Founding Chairman, American Task Force for Lebanon
Mr. Daniel Nassif, Washington Representative, Council of Lebanese-American Organizations
His Excellency Amin Gemayel, Former President of Lebanon
Mr. David Welch and Mr. Kenneth McKune
The Honorable Ray LaHood, a Representative in Congress from Illinois
The Honorable Nick Rahall, a Representative in Congress from West Virginia
Mr. Terry Anderson
Mr. Daniel Pipes
Mr. Peter Tanous
Mr. Daniel Nassif
President Amin Gemayel
Additional material submitted for the record:
Letter dated June 25, 1997, to Chairman Benjamin Gilman from Senator George Mitchell submitted by Mr. Peter Tanous
Additional information submitted by Mr. Daniel Nassif
Additional information submitted by President Amin Gemayel
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCResponses to questions submitted to the Department of State
U.S. POLICY TOWARD LEBANON
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 25, 1997
House of Representatives,
Committee on International Relations,
The Committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:25 a.m. in room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Benjamin A. Gilman (chairman of the Committee) presiding.
Chairman GILMAN. The hearing will come to order.
The purpose of today's hearing is to take stock of U.S. relations with an important but frequently overlooked partner in the Middle East: Lebanon.
On October 24th, 1983, the day after 241 U.S. Armed Forces personnel were killed in Beirut, President Reagan stated we have vital interests in Lebanon. Today's hearing will explore whether that is so and if U.S. policy reflects those vital national interests.
Lebanon and the United States of America have enjoyed a long history of friendship and cooperation, which has witnessed the immigration of millions of Lebanese to the United States where they and their descendants have contributed greatly to the fabric of our way of life.
Today, Lebanon is slowly emerging from the chaos of a long civil war which ended in 1990. It is evidently a much different place today than that war-torn country we saw on the evening news in the 1970's and 1980's.
During its civil war, Lebanon endured foreign incursions and occupation. Although that war has ended, non-Lebanese forces still control much of the country, including over 30,000 Syrian troops, an Israeli army contingent and an Israeli-supported militia in southern Lebanon, and civil armed Palestinian factions.
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition, the terrorist group Hizbollah has virtually a free hand in parts of that country. In various degrees, these forces undermine the authority of the central government and prevent the application of Lebanese law in areas not under its control.
Above all, our Committee is concerned about the basic issue that characterizes Lebanon today and that is the effect of Syria's continuing military occupation. While Israel and Syria both have troops in Lebanon, Israel exercises no control over the Lebanese Government and is on the record as intending to withdraw from Lebanese soil in return for security guarantees.
On the other hand, Syria has never recognized Lebanon's independence. It effectively dictates the major policies and actions of the Lebanese Government and maintains a large military presence in that nation. Syrian dominance is so pervasive that Lebanon has effectively become a Syrian satellite State. Syrian President Hafiz al-Assad admitted as much earlier this year on U.S. television when he described Lebanon as an extension of Syrian territory.
This Syrian influence has prevented Lebanon from developing direct contacts with Israel and from participating in the multilateral track of the Middle East peace process. Syrian dominance has also been associated with the deterioration in Lebanon's human rights record.
This morning, our Committee will be hearing from our witnesses as to the nature and the consequences of Syria's continuing hegemony in Lebanon and how our Nation should respond. The key question before us is, what should U.S. policy be toward a country that is basically friendly to us and with which we have had long-standing cultural ties but, at the same time, is dominated by a larger neighbor with whom the United States has serious foreign policy differences?
This dilemma is especially important with regard to our approach to the Middle East peace process where, all too often, Lebanon's interests appear to be subsumed under the larger negotiating strategy of Syria.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We will also discuss the U.S. response to Lebanon's role as a safe haven for international terrorists. Both Hizbollah and the Kurdish workers party operate in Lebanon in areas under Syrian control.
This link to international terrorism surfaced again last week when our Nation indicted a Saudi Arabian national, Hani Abdel Rahim Al-Sayegh for his role in the June 1996 truck bombing of a U.S. military compound in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. service people. Al-Sayegh reportedly belonged to a group in Saudi Arabia that was associated with Lebanon's Hizbollah.
We will also review the State Department's policy prohibiting travel by American citizens to Lebanon. This travel ban was instituted in 1987 after terrorist groups took several American citizens hostage during the civil war.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is scheduled to decide by July 31 whether to lift that travel ban or renew it for another 6 months. Our Committee would be interested in the views of our witnesses on whether Lebanon is now safe enough for the travel of American tourists and businesspeople.
Finally, I will be interested in hearing views on recent developments in Lebanon's economic reconstruction program. We applaud the Administration for hosting the Friends of Lebanon conference in Washington late last year in order to solicit pledges from 30 countries and financial institutions to finance reconstruction plans, and we would like to explore with the Administration our Nation's followup to that conference.
So now I would like to ask if any of our colleagues would have some opening statements, and I yield to our Ranking Minority Member, Mr. Hamilton.
Mr. HAMILTON. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for holding the hearings. I think this is a very timely hearing.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I want to say to our friends from the State Department that you folks have really kept me confused as to whether you were going to show up this morning. Friday, we heard from you straight out that you would not be here. Didn't hear anything Monday and Tuesday, and I didn't know you were going to be here until I walked in the door a moment ago.
What is going on anyway? I mean, why the reluctance to let us know even whether or not you were going to appear?
Mr. WELCH. Mr. Hamilton, I am the lead witness for the State Department. We had some discussions with staff last week about our availability. I had some travel planned for this week. The Secretary of State changed that for reasons that are not related to this hearing, and I was therefore able to be here. This was communicated to the Committee some days ago. I am not sure exactly when.
Mr. HAMILTON. Well, I understand you have other matters, but it is helpful to me and to the staff if you let us know whether you are going to be here. For me not to be informed until this morning that you were going to be here, it looks to me like it is a little late.
Mr. WELCH. To the extent that I am responsible for that, I am sorry about that lapse.
Mr. HAMILTON. Are you responsible?
Mr. WELCH. I am not sure how this failure in communication occurred, to be honest.
Mr. HAMILTON. OK.
Well, Mr. Chairman, we are glad to have the hearing. We welcome our witnesses here, and we welcome Mr. Rahall and Mr. LaHood here to help us out this morning.
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Mr. Hamilton.
I want to extend a welcome to Mr. LaHood of Illinois and Mr. Rahall of West Virginia, two of our experts on Lebanon problems. They have been watching it very closely.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I welcome our panelists this morning, Mr. McKune and Mr. Welch.
Our first witness is David Welch, who is the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs; and Kenneth McKune, who is the Associate Coordinator for Counterterrorism.
Mr. Welch is a career Foreign Service officer and has had several assignments in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, including posts in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Pakistan.
Mr. Welch was a member of the National Security Council staff at the White House from 1989 to 1991. More recently, he has served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia from 1992 to 1995; and during that time served 2 years as chargé in the absence of an ambassador.
Mr. McKune is also a career Foreign Service officer who assumed his responsibilities in the Office of Counterterrorism in 1995. During his Foreign Service career, Mr. McKune served as a counselor for political affairs at the embassy in Riyadh, also, from 1992 to 1995. Mr. McKune has served in U.S. embassies in Lebanon, in Egypt, in Israel, in Kuwait. He is a veteran of both the Peace Corps, where he served in Morocco from 1970 to 1972; and of the U.S. Army, where he served in Vietnam in the late 1960's.
We are especially pleased to have such qualified representatives of the State Department this morning. We look forward to your testimony.
Chairman GILMAN. I understand, Mr. Welch, that you will make an opening statement on behalf of yourself and Mr. McKune and that both of you are available to answer questions. You may give your statement in full or summarize, whichever you feel appropriate. Please.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE DAVID WELCH, ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR NEAR EASTERN AFFAIRS, DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WELCH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am glad to join you today. We are pleased to have this opportunity to talk to the Committee about Lebanon.
I would like to present my statement in full, because this is an excellent opportunity to get the Administration's views on record covering the range of issues involving Lebanon; and also since I am doing so jointly on behalf of the counterterrorism folks at the State Department. So Ken will not present separate remarks but, of course, will be available to answer questions.
We understand and appreciate the interest of Members of Congress, Lebanese-Americans and others on this issue. Lebanon is a country with historically warm ties to the United States; and, as you pointed out, Mr. Chairman, in your opening remarks, Lebanese-Americans have strengthened and enriched this country and its institutions.
A stable, independent, economically vibrant and democratically governed Lebanon is an important U.S. national interest. U.S. policy toward Lebanon remains firmly committed to its unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. Lebanon can achieve these political and economic objectives through reconstruction, national reconciliation, adherence to free markets, participation in the peace process and the fulfillment of the Taif Accord. We believe these steps will make possible the departure of all foreign forces.
The United States continues to work hard to achieve a comprehensive regional peace and to help Lebanon recover from civil war. We are committed to the resumption of negotiations between Israel and Lebanon, and we have continued to urge both sides to be prepared to exploit opportunities for peace. The Lebanese Government has indicated that it looks forward to proceeding as soon as a favorable atmosphere develops. Israel would also like to see negotiations resume to address its concerns about security along its border with Lebanon.
The Israel-Lebanon monitoring group called for by the April 26th understanding brokered by then Secretary Christopher has held numerous meetings since beginning operations in July 1996. The monitoring group has contributed to easing tensions and avoiding civilian casualties in southern Lebanon and northern Israel by affording Lebanon, Syria and Israel a forum that helps avoid escalation and protect civilians.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The United States also organized a meeting of 30 countries and eight international lending institutions in a consultative group called the Friends of Lebanon to assist in Lebanon's reconstruction. The meeting took place last December 16 and was successful in focusing positive international attention on Lebanon. The meeting also generated various kinds of assistance to help keep Lebanon's reconstruction efforts on track.
We encourage Lebanon's continued adherence to democratic principles. In September 1996, Lebanon completed elections in which all 128 members of the Parliament were chosen. The United States encouraged participation by all Lebanese. The elections enjoyed heavy campaigning and a good turnout in most regions. Despite significant flaws, we believe these elections represented a step forward. They underscore the Lebanese people's desire to put the civil war behind them and to focus on strengthening their institutions and on advancing national reconciliation.
On the other hand, Lebanon has not had municipal elections in over 30 years. We urge Lebanon to take the necessary steps to effect free and fair municipal elections in the near future. In 1998, Lebanon's Parliament must elect a new President, and we look forward to seeing a vigorously contested election.
As we have documented in our human rights report, we are concerned about certain steps the government has taken in the area of human rights and civil liberties, especially as regards the implementation of the media law, other media restrictions and the arrests of government opponents after a shooting incident last December. These arrests took place without due process under Lebanese law. We have taken such issues up directly with the government and will continue to do so. We were pleased that all the arrestees were released.
The Lebanese Government has gradually expanded its authority but still does not exercise control over all Lebanese territory. Syria maintains between 25,000 and 30,000 troops, mostly in the Bekaa Valley. Israel maintains approximately 1,000 to 1,200 troops in southern Lebanon and supports another 2,000 allies in the South Lebanese Army.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Hizbollah exercises primary control in parts of Beirut's southern suburbs, areas in the Bekaa Valley, including training camps, and parts of southern Lebanon. That said, there has been a marked improvement in the security situation since the last U.S. hostages were released in 1991, and there have been no terrorist attacks against Americans or other Westerners in over 6 years.
Another important reason for this progress has been the restoration of the Lebanese Armed Forces. At the end of the civil war in 1990, the Lebanese Armed Forces, the LAF, were a small, spent and divided army. Thanks to strong leadership and modest American assistance, the LAF is now a disciplined, multi-confessional force numbering 60,000. The LAF has played a major role in creating a more secure Lebanon and is one of the most respected government institutions in the country. The LAF cooperates closely with the United States and dedicates significant assets to securing our embassy.
The United States is also beginning a small police training program which we hope will also foster the rule of law and increase cooperation on counternarcotics, counterfeiting and other law enforcement issues. We note that while drug labs and transit problems still exist, Lebanon has done much to eradicate drug crops in the Bekaa Valley. Overall, law enforcement cooperation has been good.
The government has limited the activities of many violent individuals and some groups in Lebanon. For example, in 1996, Lebanon extradited to Germany for prosecution a suspect in the April, 1986, Berlin Disco bombing in which two U.S. servicemen were killed. We continue to pursue with the Lebanese the investigation of those responsible for terrorist crimes against Americans in the 1980's.
The Lebanese Government has also taken other steps to combat terrorism and has acceded to nine of the ten international antiterrorism conventions. The tenth is now before Parliament, and we expect approval in the near future.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The government continues to provide personal security to many high-profile Americans visiting Lebanon. In early 1997, Lebanese authorities arrested and are trying five members of the Japanese Red Army who had been resident in the Bekaa. We also note that the Lebanese Government spoke out forcefully against recent threats to Americans in Turkey by a spokesman of the PKK, whose remarks were made in Lebanon and in answer to threats of domestic violence by former Hizbollah Secretary General Subhi Tufayli.
Within the country, Lebanese authorities have also made progress in upgrading airport security measures, but travel to or through Beirut International Airport is not risk free. Most travelers using BIA transit the airport road. That road passes through Hizbollah-controlled areas of southern Beirut and near several Palestinian refugee camps. A new, safer airport road is now under construction, however.
Despite these positive steps, we judge that Lebanon continues to be a dangerous place for Americans. Lebanon remains a safe haven for armed, organized groups with a demonstrated history of terrorist attacks against Americans. These include Hizbollah, the Abu Nidal organization, the PFLP-GC and other groups.
Chairman GILMAN. Mr. Welch, I regret interrupting your testimony. We are being called to the Floor for a vote, and we have a few minutes left. We will momentarily recess the hearing, and we will come back as soon as the vote is over.
The Committee will stand in recess until our vote is completed.
Chairman GILMAN. The Committee will come to order.
Mr. Welch, you may proceed.
Mr. WELCH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I had been discussing the security situation in Lebanon, and I would like to resume where I left off, because I know this portion of the testimony, given your introductory remarks, is of interest to you. I will try and be quick.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Despite these positive steps, we judge that Lebanon continues to be a dangerous place for Americans. Lebanon remains a safe haven for armed, organized groups with a demonstrated history of terrorist attacks against Americans. These include Hizbollah, the Abu Nidal organization, the PFLP-GC and other groups.
These groups are not completely restrained by the government and continue to demonstrate a hostility toward the United States and our citizens. They still retain a capability to take actions if they choose. We receive occasional reports of surveillance of Embassy Beirut and its personnel.
The restriction on the use of the U.S. passport and a strong travel warning began in the 1980's as a result of our continuing concerns about the security threat to American citizens. The restriction was extended annually until January 1994. Since then, it has been extended for periods of 6 months in order to review the security situation on a more frequent basis. The restriction will expire on July 31, and Secretary Albright will review the restriction prior to that date.
Regulations also allow for circumstances in which the State Department may grant an exception to the passport restrictions. The State Department, through the Consular Affairs Bureau, adjudicates such Lebanon validation requests on a case-by-case basis and on an expedited basis for emergency travel. In 1996, we responded to a request from Senator Spencer Abraham and other Members of Congress to then Secretary Christopher for a modification of the humanitarian passport validation category by expanding the definition of the family allowed to travel under that category. As a result, more Americans have received validations for travel to Lebanon for family reunification and family emergencies.
Other restrictions have long been in place on the purchase of airline tickets with itineraries including Lebanon, the use of Beirut International Airport, BIA, by U.S. carriers and U.S.-registered aircraft, landing rights in the United States by Lebanon's flag carrier Middle East Airlines, and some restrictions on air cargo originating in Lebanon.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In 1995, the United States eased ticketing restrictions to allow the purchase of airline tickets in the United States for non-Americans and Americans with properly validated passports. These groups were previously forced to buy their tickets in third countries. These instances demonstrate that we are prepared to make changes in our restrictions and relax aspects of them as conditions warrant.
While the United States has no trade sanctions against Lebanon and no special export license requirements apply, we are aware that the restrictions make it harder for U.S. commercial interests to compete for business in Lebanon. But a growing number of U.S. companies do successfully conduct business in Lebanon, usually through partnership arrangements.
Our embassy commercial section and our ambassador also make every effort to be of assistance. We are advocating forcefully on behalf of U.S. business on several major projects. Our colleagues at the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, the Eximbank and other agencies are actively supporting U.S. business efforts in Lebanon.
The United States remains one of the major exporters of products into Lebanon. Much remains to be done to restore Lebanon's infrastructure and fully revive its economy. We are pleased that the government is beginning to focus on reconstruction and rehabilitation outside the Beirut area. On the other hand, we are troubled by recent legislation restricting the import of agricultural and other products.
We look forward to the day when the security situation in Lebanon will have improved to the point that all travel restrictions can be lifted. More importantly, we look forward to the day when Lebanon, at peace with her neighbors and free of all foreign forces, resumes her traditional place in the Middle East.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I am pleased to answer any questions you may have, and also Mr. McKune will be here to help on any of the terrorism-related issues. Thank you very much.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Mr. Welch.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Welch and Mr. McKune appears in the appendix.]
Chairman GILMAN. Mr. McKune, did you want to add anything at this point?
Mr. MCKUNE. No, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
Chairman GILMAN. Mr. Welch, many Americans are deeply concerned about Syrian involvement in Lebanon. In October 1995, Syrian President Hafiz al-Assad announced President Harawi's term in office would be extended for 3 years. Eight days later, the Lebanese Parliament passed a constitutional amendment to permit the extension, and President Harawi was sworn in for an extended term the following month.
Although the State Department frequently states it supports Lebanon's independence and territorial integrity, it doesn't appear to be making any attempt to address the basic issue of Syrian occupation. Can you tell us what the State Department is doing about Syria's occupation of Lebanon?
Mr. WELCH. The first element of our policy is the one I described at the outset of my remarks, and that is support for the Government of Lebanon in its efforts to reconstruct its country, build a better future for its people.
In terms of the Syrian presence in Lebanon, the Government of Lebanon has informed us that, in its view, Syrian troop withdrawal would be premature. It considers the presence of Syrian forces necessary to its internal stability and security.
Our position on this is clear. We are committed to Lebanon's independence, its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and to a Lebanon free of any foreign forces. We believe that that can be addressed in a couple of manners, through the peace process and through the fulfillment of the so-called Taif Accord and that through these vehicles, Lebanon can achieve that future.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman GILMAN. But what are we actually doing to bring about the implementation of Taif, for example, or to bring about an actual withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon? What, essentially, is our government doing in that direction?
Mr. WELCH. Well, you know the answer to that on the peace process, Mr. Chairman. We are trying to pursue the Palestinian track as the first priority, but we are exploring with the governments involved what other basis there might exist to resume the other tracks as well.
On Taif, that is, in the first order, a Government of Lebanon responsibility. Our views on the presence of foreign forces there are as I expressed them. We think that Lebanon should be free of all foreign forces. But it is the Government of Lebanon's judgment that they have the Syrian forces there, for now, for the purposes of their own internal stability.
Chairman GILMAN. You know, you have stated principles, but you still haven't told us what actual steps we are taking to try to find a way to bring about the independence of Lebanon. You mention all these principles and the agreements. What are we doing in trying to implement some of that?
Mr. WELCH. Well, I think we consider Lebanon to be independent now, Mr. Chairman. It has an agreement with Syria on their relationship, and it is up to them to modify thatwere they to seek our assistance in doing so, we would lend our hand. They have indicated their priorities are otherwise for now.
Chairman GILMAN. Do you consider Lebanon to be an independent government right now?
Mr. WELCH. Yes.
Chairman GILMAN. Strange. Some of us question whether it truly is an independent, free country with all of the Syrian troops surrounding and taking part in having Syrian officials in Lebanon.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In 1989, Lebanese political leaders sought the agreement at Taif to end Lebanon's civil war and undertake political reforms. Does the Accord ultimately call for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanese territory or does it only call for redeployment of those forces to positions in the eastern part of Lebanon closer to the Syrian border?
Mr. WELCH. My recollection of the Accordand I must say I don't have it here in front of meis that there were some stage redeployments called for in parts of it and that the eventual redeployment out of Lebanon was a matter to be negotiated.
Chairman GILMAN. Your assistant, I think, might be able to supply you with the actual Accord language. It seemed to me that they called for a redeployment rather than a withdrawal. Is that correct?
Mr. WELCH. Yes, that is correct. There were redeployments within Lebanon specified in the Accord, and then the eventual withdrawal from Lebanon of the Syrian forces present there was to be negotiated at a further stage.
Chairman GILMAN. Is Syria in violation of the Taif Accords based upon those agreements?
Mr. WELCH. I am not here to judge agreements between Lebanon and Syria. You would have to ask the Government of Lebanon whether they consider them to be in violation.
We consider that this
Chairman GILMAN. Well, has Syria redeployed according to
Mr. WELCH. Syria has redeployed somewhat within Lebanon.
Chairman GILMAN. Somewhat. But has it redeployed pursuant to the Taif Accords?
Mr. WELCH. No, it has not completed that further stage of redeployment.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman GILMAN. Then Syria is in violation of the Taif Accord, isn't that correct?
Mr. WELCH. I would describe it that some aspects of the Accord are unfulfilled so far and that redeployment from Lebanon to Syria has not been completed; nor has it been negotiated.
Chairman GILMAN. Unfulfilled. Does unfulfilled mean a violation?
Mr. WELCH. Well, what it means for us in terms of our judgment as to whether this thing will be implemented is that there are parts of it that have yet to be done. So it is a less than complete result.
Chairman GILMAN. Wasn't the Taif Accord signed in 1989?
Mr. WELCH. Yes.
Chairman GILMAN. It would seem to me that all that timealmost 8 years has passed, and they would have had time to complete an implementation of the Taif Accord.
Let me ask you another question. Last week, the Israeli press reported that Israel had approached the Government of France for assistance in brokering an agreement with Lebanon that would enable Israeli forces to leave the security zone in southern Lebanon. Can you tell us what your assessment is of that report and is that report correct?
Mr. WELCH. I know of no Israeli Government proposal in that regard.
Chairman GILMAN. You haven't seen those press reports?
Mr. WELCH. I would expect if the Israeli Government has a proposal on something like that it would communicate it directly to us.
Chairman GILMAN. And you haven't read those reports at all?
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WELCH. I have not seen that particular one, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman GILMAN. Does our Nation look favorably upon other nations' involvements in the details of the peace process?
Mr. WELCH. Well, yes. I mean, there are several parties who have demonstrated an interest in various aspects of it. There are quite a few nations that are involved in one way or another in support of the peace process, in supporting the actual negotiations themselves, for example, in the multilateral track of the peace process, in supporting the peace process through assistance. We seek and respect the involvement of some outside parties in that. I think the greater the international support for an effort to bring peace in that area, the better.
Chairman GILMAN. In the State Department's most recent annual report on patterns of global terrorism, the Administration states that Syria permits a resupply of arms for rejectionist groups operating in Lebanon by way of Damascus. However, the report doesn't state that Hizbollah receives arms from its patron Iran through Damascus. Can you tell us why the report explicitly omits this Syrian support for Hizbollah, Mr. McKune?
Mr. MCKUNE. Mr. Chairman, I believe it is an accurate statement, that you just made; and I don't think there is any reason not to have it in the report. We could put it in the report next year.
Chairman GILMAN. I would hope that it would be accurate. Is the Administration trying to work Syria off the terrorism list by this omission?
Mr. MCKUNE. No, sir.
Chairman GILMAN. We would hope that in the future it would be a more accurate recitation of what is actually happening with the arms.
Mr. HAMILTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I have this statementyou perhaps have seen itthat appeared in the Human Rights Watch in August 1995 from a Lebanese lawyer. I am quoting now. I just want to get your reaction to the statement: ''No one in Lebanon will talk about the reality. Our government is not a government. Syrian intelligence forces are controlling this country. We are moving toward a police state here in Lebanon. There are masters and servants. Lebanese Government officials are the servants of Syria.''
Is that an accurate statement?
Mr. WELCH. I wouldn't make that statement.
Mr. HAMILTON. You would not?
Mr. WELCH. I would not make that statement.
We have some concerns about various aspects of the government's behavior. But that statement is too sweeping, in my view, and ignores many positive aspects of the performance of the Government of Lebanon. I would not sign on to it.
Mr. HAMILTON. What are the positive points? Let's talk about those a little bit.
Mr. WELCH. Well, I think, as I said in the prepared remarks, Mr. Hamilton, we are entering the latter part of this decade having witnessed a Lebanon that is basically free of the civil war that it went through for a decade and a half. That is a substantial achievement for the Lebanese people. Gradually, they are restoring their own authority and control over the country. That process isn't as quick or as complete as we would like, but it is occurring.
Mr. HAMILTON. Is Lebanon today more of a Syrian-client State than at any time in the past?
Mr. WELCH. I would argue that it is not.
Mr. HAMILTON. It is less?
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WELCH. Yes, and I would argue furthermore, Mr. Hamilton
Mr. HAMILTON. So you see a situation where the trends are positive and that the Lebanese Government is slowly extending its sovereignty.
Mr. WELCH. Yes, sir.
Mr. HAMILTON. And Syrian domination is lessening?
Mr. WELCH. That is correct.
I think, in addition, that the more we support the Lebanese people in this effort the more likely that that pace will be increased.
Mr. HAMILTON. You know, you described our policy in Lebanon as being in support of freedom and territorial integrity and sovereignty and independence. I think I recall those same words being used 30 years ago. I mean, I just wonder how realistic they are. Those words have become kind of a formula that our diplomats automatically cite when they talk about our policy in Lebanon.
Mr. WELCH. Well, they are in favor
Mr. HAMILTON. It is not really a policy. They are kind of an expression of hope, aren't they?
Mr. WELCH. Yes, but one, I think, that most Lebanese would subscribe to; one that, while it was the case that no reasonable person would say that those conditions obtained during the years of the civil war in the late 1970's and throughout the 1980's, I think increasingly they are not only an aspiration, they are a growing reality.
And all American policies deal in terms of goals. We are trying to support a movement toward those goals.
I am not denying that there are imperfections and that there is a lot more work to be done. I just see that this is an area where there has been considerable progress.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think in the time that you have been on the Committee, sir, I think you would probably agree if we were having this hearing 10 years ago it would be a much more sober rendition of those prospects. Today, I think we can be more hopeful.
Mr. HAMILTON. On the travel ban, you say that we look forward to the day when the security situation in Lebanon will have improved to the point that all travel restrictions can be lifted. When in your judgment will we reach that point?
Mr. WELCH. Let me say with respect to the travel restriction, that is the restriction on the use of U.S. passports to go to Lebanon, that that matter will be under review by Secretary Albright in the coming few weeks.
I would rather, therefore, that my remarks in answer to your question be separated from that decision process. I do not want to forecast in any way what it might be.
Mr. HAMILTON. I am trying to get the benchmarks, the guidelines.
Mr. WELCH. The issue for us is the only thing
Mr. HAMILTON. This is a very puzzling thing to me, Mr. Welch. I have asked this question many times over the past few months. I get the exact same response you just gave me: The Secretary is reviewing it. Then the Secretary turns it down, whoever the Secretary may be, and I can't quite figure out why they turn it down. They keep reviewing it, and I am just trying to figure out what the problem is.
Are you fearful of terrorist attacks against Americans? Is that what you are fearful of? And you have information that leads you to believe that that is the case?
Mr. WELCH. The protection of American citizens is something we are, by law, enjoined to do in the State Department. Where American citizens face threats in the world, we look at a number of tools to enable us to protect them.
Mr. HAMILTON. Look, I understand all of that. In Lebanon today, it is your judgment that American citizens could be the subject of terrorist attacks?
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WELCH. It is our judgment that it remains a dangerous place. There are a number of groups there.
Mr. HAMILTON. That American citizens might very well be attacked, is that your judgment?
Mr. WELCH. That is always potentially the case. There are a number of groups there.
Mr. HAMILTON. Of course, it is potentially the case. It is potentially the case in Washington, DC.
Mr. WELCH. That is true.
Mr. HAMILTON. We don't have a travel ban on Washington, DC.
Mr. WELCH. That is true.
Mr. HAMILTON. You see, I just want to try to understand here what your reason is. I mean, do we have information, hard information, that American citizens' lives are in danger if they are in Lebanon? If you have that kind of information, I think most Americans would applaud you, support you on it.
Mr. WELCH. Mr. Hamilton, I would be delighted to discuss exactly the information we have on security threats in Lebanon with you in a different sort of session than this one.
Let me say that we do receive security threats there from time to time. We consider Lebanon a dangerous place. There are groups there hostile to Americans and to U.S. interests. They, in the past, have conducted actions against Americans; and I cannot exclude that they might do it again in the future.
Chairman GILMAN. Will the gentleman yield a moment?
Mr. HAMILTON. Sure.
Chairman GILMAN. Mr. Welch, is there any travel ban on American tourists going to Iran?
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WELCH. There is no restriction on the use of U.S. passports for travel to Iran. The only restrictions that exist in our region are with respect to Iraq and Libya for use of U.S. passports.
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
Mr. HAMILTON. Now, what has to happen here before that travel ban is lifted? What are you looking at to make the determination to lift the travel ban?
Mr. WELCH. We look at a variety of elements. I will ask Mr. McKune to join me in this answer. But they revolve around a judgment as to whether this measure can add to the security of Americans there, since we continue to believe the situation there is dangerous for Americans.
Mr. HAMILTON. Well, that is a very general response. I am trying to get something a little more specific.
Mr. McKune, can you
Mr. MCKUNE. Mr. Hamilton, let me add a few points. We do get occasional reports of specific terrorist operations being planned.
Mr. HAMILTON. Against Americans?
Mr. MCKUNE. Against Americans.
Mr. HAMILTON. By Hizbollah?
Mr. MCKUNE. In particular, occasionally. These have not been implemented in recent years. As we said in our prepared statement, there hasn't been an attack against Americans or American interests in Lebanon in 6 years or more.
Given the history of Hizbollah and what we know about the organization, what we know about its world view, its hostility to the United States, which continues, its operational, organizational activities in many countries of the world, we can't ignore any intelligence of this sort. It would be irresponsible to do so.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We think it is a positive development that, in fact, there have not been any such attacks in Lebanon.
Mr. HAMILTON. How many Americans are in Lebanon today?
Mr. MCKUNE. We don't know precisely. The Embassy did a recent informal poll over a couple of days just in the major Beirut area and had verifiable information of about 4,000 in the Beirut area. We undoubtedly think the number is significantly larger throughout the country. It could be 15,000, 20,000, 30,000. We don't know precisely.
Mr. WELCH. The statistics in this area are hard to get. We would like to have more. There are a large number of Americans who travel to Lebanon who are dual nationals, so they may be using another passport to enter. Were they using an American passport; one access we have on statistics is on the number of issuances of travel documentation by the Lebanese Government to those passport holders. There probably are around 10,000 a year who visit in that category.
Mr. HAMILTON. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your leniency here.
Let me just ask, if I understand your testimony, the reason the ban stays in place is because we have information that we must consider at least reliable that Hizbollah threatens the lives of Americans in Lebanon.
Mr. MCKUNE. Mr. Hamilton, I think that is part of the judgment that the Secretary has to make, yes.
Mr. HAMILTON. I understand. Now what must Hizbollah do to make us change our view?
Mr. MCKUNE. There is no question
Mr. HAMILTON. They haven't done anything for years, obviously, against American citizens. What must they do?
Mr. MCKUNE. It is a judgment the Secretary must make about whether the passport restriction in Lebanon to be lifted or not lifted would subject Americans in Lebanon to terrorist threats.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HAMILTON. I understand. I understand that. I am just trying to figure out
Mr. HAMILTON [continuing]. What we are looking for. I understand it is the Secretary's judgment.
Mr. MCKUNE. Yes. What we are looking for
Mr. HAMILTON. In making that judgment, what are you looking at?
Mr. MCKUNE. We are looking for a pattern of Hizbollah disengagement from terrorism, in essence.
Mr. HAMILTON. So you would want, then, a statement of some kind or maybe something more than a statement from Hizbollah saying they are not going to engage in terrorism before you lift the terrorist ban, the travel ban?
Mr. MCKUNE. We don't put confidence in their statements, sir. We would watch
Mr. HAMILTON. OK. That is something. So what would you have confidence in?
Mr. MCKUNE. We would watch their behavior worldwide and their behavior in Lebanon in particular.
Mr. HAMILTON. OK. So you are looking at their worldwide behavior, is that correct?
Mr. MCKUNE. Yes, sir.
Mr. HAMILTON. And you believe today that Americans are in imminent peril if they travel to Lebanon?
Mr. MCKUNE. I wouldn't use that phrase, sir. I think that it is a dangerous place, and the reason it is a dangerous place is that Lebanon is a location where Hizbollah and other organizations with a demonstrated history of terrorist attacks against American interests maintain a presence, maintain an operational capability, maintain training exercises
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HAMILTON. We had a Senator
Mr. MCKUNE [continuing]. And are hostile to the United States.
Mr. HAMILTON. We had a Senator in Lebanon just recently, yes?
Mr. MCKUNE. Yes, and a poll recently
Mr. HAMILTON. My colleague here to the left was there a couple of months ago. So you don't stop Americans?
Mr. WELCH. We are not able to stop Americans. We are able onlythis is not a travel ban. Those words are used to characterize the situation. Our handle on this is a restriction on the use of U.S. passports. That is where we come at it from.
Our judgment, as specified in the travel warnings, is that the situation there is sufficiently dangerous that any American, whether with permission or without it, cannot be considered safe from terrorism when they are in Lebanon.
Chairman GILMAN. I would hope that at some future time we could have a further discussion of this before a further review has taken place.
The gentleman's time has expired.
Ms. DANNER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
To follow up on the conversation we are having with regard to the travel ban, I would like for you to furnish to me a list of the individuals who send their recommendations forward to the Secretary with regard to whether the travel ban, whatever you want to call it, should remain in place.
Obviously, some of you are making recommendations to the Secretary; and I would like to know who it is. To give your words back to you, we feel it is sufficiently dangerous that Lebanon cannot be considered safe; and I would say that follows up on Washington, DC, right here on Capitol Hill. So I find that a nonstarter.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As a matter of fact, several years ago, when I was invited to go to Lebanon with some other Members of Congress, the State Department came to my office and absolutely persuaded me that, especially as a woman, it was not safe for me to go to Lebanon. I took their word for it, and I didn't go. Every one of my colleagues returned safely, I might add.
I have some questions for you that I would like for you to respond to.
Is there anything that the Lebanese Government has failed to do to satisfy the United States on the security of our citizens? What has Lebanon failed to do that you want done so we can get this problem rectified?
Mr. MCKUNE. It is not a question of shortcomings of the behavior of the Government of Lebanon. They have made a lot of progress. The security situation has improved and is continuing to improve, thanks to continuing steps of the Government of Lebanon.
It is the nature of terrorismI am not saying that the whole of Lebanese environment and society today is terroristic and that any American or anyone there would be in mortal danger of terrorism if they went there. I am not saying that at all. The nature of terrorism often is that a single terrorist calculated attackwhich you can't know about or predictis done for a particular purpose at a particular time; whether to assassinate a political leader, to disrupt the peace process, to make a statement against the United States and its forces and peacekeepers or whatever. That could happen at any timeor it may not happen.
If you look at the history of post-war Lebanon, you do see a general desire of the people, of the government, of the political figures, to restore a sense of security and get back to normalcy. We appreciate that, and indeed we want to further that, and we are working with the Lebanese Government in that respect.
But look at Hizbollah; Argentina, 1992. Look at the decision of the German court in April of this year with respect to the Mykonos Restaurant attack in 1992. Three of the four convicted people there were members of Lebanese Hizbollah.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC They do retain a terrorist capability, they do train people, and it would be irresponsible of us to ignore this.
Ms. DANNER. My next question would be, aside from lifting the ban, what are the options that the Secretary is considering, such as creating a business waiver category of widening the humanitarian considerations? And let's focus a little bit on that business aspect of it.
I would hope that, at some point in time, the Department of Commerce would come to you all and speak to you all about the fact that we really preclude most American businessmenand I use that in the broad sense of the wordfrom doing work in Lebanon.
Mr. WELCH. You are right. We do receive letters from American businesses, visits by American businessmen, and importunities from others in the American Government about the effect of our restrictions on travel to Lebanon. I can assure you that this concern has been quite vocally expressed.
Let me repeat what I said earlier. We are not able to parse the recommendation and decision process for you in this hearing. That would, I think, compromise the ability of our boss to make an informed and objective appraisal based on the materials she receives when it is prepared.
So, to some degree, the questions from you and other Members are getting into the mechanics of that process; and if we are trying to answer them in a general way, it is not to be evasive. It is simply to preserve the prerogatives of this decision process.
Ms. DANNER. My last question: Given that the United States mainly relies on local operatives to provide intelligence on Lebanon, how accurate do you think the intelligence we receive is?
Mr. WELCH. Well, I will answer that in a general way since this is a public hearing. We have considerable confidence in our information from our own resources concerning this and other situations.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. DANNER. Let me just close by saying that, gentlemen, I think that if you had to recommend to my constituents in the 6th district of Missouri, 580,000 people, whether or not they should come to Washington, DC, their Nation's capital, you would have to tell them that they were at risk. Wouldn't you?
Mr. WELCH. Well, fortunately
Ms. DANNER. Using the same criteria that you use with regard to Lebanon, you would have to tell my constituents they are at risk based on the fact that a number of them have had robberies, et cetera?
Mr. WELCH. Our jurisdictions begin at our water's edge, not inside it.
Ms. DANNER. Thank you. I think you made my point.
Chairman GILMAN. The gentlelady's time has expired.
Mr. ROYCE. Yes. I would like to follow up on something Mr. Hamilton said and see if I could get a definition.
The bottom line, as I understand it, is that when Secretary Shultz imposed the travel ban, he used the words, imminent peril. Then, when you were responding, you basically said, it is still a dangerous place in Lebanon.
My question is: Would you still use the words, imminent peril? I believe there are several thousand U.S. citizens living in Lebanon. There are at least 3,000. Some people say there are 30,000.
Do you have any evidence that any of these people have been kidnapped or attacked recently? Again, I would just ask you if you would use the words ''imminent peril''?
Mr. MCKUNE. I think circumstances have changed. I wouldn't say imminent peril at this time.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROYCE. All right. But that was the justification, that was the rationale in imposing the ban, right?
Mr. MCKUNE. Well, the circumstances were correct at that time to use
Mr. ROYCE. OK.
Mr. MCKUNE [continuing]. That term. They are not the same today.
Mr. ROYCE. Do we know, in terms of Lebanese with American citizenship that are now living in Lebanondo we have evidence as to recent attacks or kidnappings in this circumstance?
Mr. MCKUNE. We have no information that any of them have been attacked.
Mr. ROYCE. OK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Mr. Royce.
Mr. CLEMENT. It is good to have both of you here. This is a rather interesting hearing.
What I wanted to ask is also concerning the U.S. business interests suffering unnecessarily because they are not able to compete with European and Asian companies bidding for lucrative reconstruction contracts. How serious is that?
Mr. WELCH. Well, through a number of arrangements, U.S. businesses are active in Lebanon. We believe that we could do more there. The security concerns are an impediment, and I dare say American business certainly believes that our travel restrictions are also an impediment to their ability to fully expand operations in Lebanon in the way they might like to do.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We would like to do more in this area. We are supportive by the means that we have available to us today of American businesses' efforts to, as you say, get at some of the reconstruction contracts. This is a fertile area for U.S. exports of goods and technology, and I think encouraging that interaction is both in our interest and in Lebanon's interest.
Mr. CLEMENT. But you have to say with the restrictions now that it makes it very difficult for U.S. interests to do business in Lebanon?
Mr. WELCH. I would agree that the travel restrictions are an impediment to the expansion of U.S. business opportunities there, yes. I think my judgment is derived from what they have told us, that it does concern them.
Mr. CLEMENT. When is the nearest opportunity to lift these bans? When are you going to review it again and make a final determination?
Mr. WELCH. The review process occurs every 6 months. The decision with respect to the passport restriction must be made by the end of July. Otherwise, it lapses.
How it actualizes is kind of a funny arrangement; but, basically, a decision has to be made in the next month.
Mr. CLEMENT. OK. So you could lift the ban next month or earlier?
Mr. WELCH. That is one of the possibilities. It could also, as the Congresswoman said, perhaps be altered in some way.
Mr. CLEMENT. As you know
Mr. WELCH. That is, the travel restriction.
Mr. CLEMENT. As you know, we had that debate yesterday on most-favored-nation status for China. One of the arguments made was, you know, if we have more relations with a country, if we have more economic trade opportunities with countries, both countries benefit, and the people benefit through more prosperity and more respect for one another. Do you agree with that statement?
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WELCH. Yes.
Mr. CLEMENT. Therefore, if we did lift the bans, we could do more business and we could have more opportunities for all people to improve their station in life?
Mr. WELCH. Yes, that is correct.
Of course, were there another security incident involving Americans in Lebanon, I think that would also be reversed.
Mr. CLEMENT. Thank you.
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Mr. Clement.
Mr. LAHOOD. Mr. Chairman, thanks so much for allowing me to sit in on this hearing, for your leadership on Lebanon; and, also, I want to say a word to Mr. Hamilton for the leadership that he has exhibited on Lebanon also.
I have a statement. I wonder if it could be made a part of the record, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman GILMAN. Without objection.
[The prepared statement of Mr. LaHood appears in the appendix.]
Mr. LAHOOD. I just want to say that I think, as both of you gentlemen spoke, you stir up so many emotions in people who care deeply about Lebanon, because much of what you say is not believed by the vast majority of people in this room or the vast majority of people that have traveled to Lebanon.
I was in Lebanon 2 years ago at Easter time. I spent 12 days there and I never felt that I was going to be harmed. I traveled all over the country, north to south. I spent a number of days in Beirut. I went to the northern part of the country, where my grandparents came from. I went to the southern part of the country. Never once did I feel that I was in harm's way. I flew into the airport in Beirut.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My daughter was there 2 months ago. She spent 5 days in Lebanon, traveled all over the country almost to the same extent that I did. She came back and said that she was treated with the greatest of respect by the people there.
For people who have flown in and out of the airport and who have traveled around the country of Lebanon, this idea that Lebanon is a dangerous place is nonsense; and it is not believed by the Americans who have traveled there.
What you are doing to the country by keeping this travel restriction on is inhibiting whatfor whatever you say, there may be some American businesses who have hooked up with other businesses; the vast majority of American businesses do not go there because you prohibit them from doing that.
I can tell you when the Prime Minister was here and visited with the President of the United States and former Secretary of State Christopher, he had the feeling that you were going to lift the travel restriction, lift the travel ban. Then, as Mr. Christopher left office, he imposed it for another 6 months.
People can't understand why you are doing it. You don't present testimony here today that justifies it. You simply do not. And for anyone who has traveled to Lebanon, it is not justified.
I am speaking from my heart on this, and I am not being critical of you because you have your job to do, and it is a hard job. This travel restriction has been on too long. It needs to be lifted so that Americans can travel there.
Several months ago, there were innocent people killed in a marketplace in Israel. We did not place a travel ban on Israel, and innocent people were killed.
There have been no Americans killed in Lebanon for how many years?
Now, I know there are hard feelings on the part of some people in the State Department as a result of people who have been killed in Lebanon, going back 10 years; and I hope that is not the residual effect of this kind of policy that exists as a result of the travel restriction. But if you talk to any Member of Congress who has traveled to Lebanonand many haveor any American who has traveled to Lebanonand many havethey cannot make any sense out of this travel restriction any longer.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It has been on too long. It is not justified, and I hope and pray that Secretary Albright will come to her senses with respect to this restriction. It is wrong, and it is not justified.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Mr. LaHood.
Did you want to comment at all, Mr. Welch or Mr. McKune?
Mr. WELCH. Yes, if I might.
Thank you, Mr. LaHood, for expressing those views. I personally want to say that I am delighted to share the responsibility of this decision with the Members of this Committee and with others in Congress. I think this is a significant and important choice facing us, and I will convey your views directly to the Secretary of State as she makes the decision, in exactly the words that you expressed.
We, too, believe there has been change. We are not arguing that there hasn't been, and I think my testimony is directed at establishing that there is very real change.
At the same time, we have a responsibility to exercise whatever we can in terms of protection of American citizens; and that is a serious responsibility. We share it together.
I will take your views back and report them directly.
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you.
Mr. RAHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I don't want to beat this travel ban to death, because I think you pretty well know the feelings of the Members of this Committee. You know the feelings of the Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the Hill. Resolutions have been passed in the past. That is all on record. All the Secretary has to do is go to that file and see the bipartisan support for downgrading.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Former Chairman John Dingell wanted me to expressly convey his opposition to the current ban.
But I want to touch quickly on the travel ban and then I want to move to the overall scenario of a comprehensive peace. On just a couple of issuesand I am sure you are probably sitting there, thinking only in your mind, but not saying to us, counter points to facts that our colleagues have traveled there. I have traveled there, yes, many times both during and since the conclusion of the war. I took my son with me in August 1995. You have got security and so, therefore, you feel safe. Well, that is probably true. But I have been there at times without security, without advanced announcements and not been in any danger.
Then you are going to come back and say, you are Lebanese-looking, so they are not going to hurt you. Well, that could be true, too. But, in 1996 alone, 46,000 Americans traveled there, and I am sure not all of them are Lebanese-looking as I am, and they have been traveling there safely.
Then I just want to touch on one point that my colleague, Pat Danner, mentioned about our intelligence operatives. Since they are being paidI think there is no doubt in anybody's mind they are getting a financial reward for intelligence gathering on our sidewould it not be in their best financial interest to continue the rumor mill of threats to Americans in order to continue to get paid? So, you know, let's look at it in that light as well.
If you want to comment on any of the above, you are welcome to. I was going to move on now.
Mr. WELCH. Mr. Rahall, among the many reasons you suggest for your safety while you were there, I think the minute that you started talking to them that they would change their impression of who you were. That accent comes through pretty strongly.
Mr. RAHALL. It is not because my grandfathers are from southern Lebanon
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. DANNER. You mean you recognize West Virginia?
Mr. RAHALL. That's right. It is not because my grandfathers were born in southern Lebanon. It is because I was born in southern West Virginia. That is where my accent is from.
But let me ask you now, in regard to the question that I also raised and is on everybody's mind in this room and in the Lebanese community about the Syrian influence upon the country of Lebanon.
In my travels there and in meeting with the current President a number of times as I have, he has statedand I am sure that he would do thisthat the second Israeli troops withdraw from the south he would go immediately to Damascus and ask President Assad to withdraw every Syrian troop from the country of Lebanon.
Now the next question, of course, is: Would Syria do that? And the obvious answer is, no, they would not until there is a comprehensive peace and some exchange on the Golan, of the land for peace formula. Because, obviously, Lebanon is being used as a chessboard for outside powers to play their games, through their proxies in southern Lebanon, the proxies of the Syrians and Iranians, the proxies of the Israelis themselves and/or the southern Lebanese Army.
Is it your opinionand I have noted your positive statements about the Lebanese Army with which I, of course, totally agreebut if the political scenario were such and if Israel were to withdraw from the south, is it the State Department's opinion that the Lebanese Army has the capability of regaining control of every inch of Lebanese territory and securing the southern border so that there are no cross-border attacks into Israel?
Is the Lebanese Army of that strength to be able to do that, given the political go-ahead?
Mr. WELCH. I am not certain. You describe a situation in which the conditions would be radically different than what they are today. A lot would depend on the commitment of the parties involved to the maintenance of peace.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RAHALL. The Lebanese Army under General Lahoud's guidance, haven't they reached the level where they are nonsectarian now; they are a professional organization; they are capable militarily of preventing cross-border attacks into Israel? Capable of disarming Hizbollah?
Mr. WELCH. They are considerably more capable than they have been in the past. There is work still to be done; and we would like to, obviously, support the expansion of their capabilities.
But I think I want to come back to the point I was trying to make, Mr. Rahall, and that is that it is sort of less the number of troops and their quality than the commitment of the parties to peace. If that commitment is somehow not there, then it becomes very difficult for any military to impede violations of the arrangements.
I think certainly it is the case that Israel has the most capable military in the area, and it is not able to do that presently.
Mr. RAHALL. Well, can I follow up, Mr. Chairman? I noticed the red light is on.
Chairman GILMAN. Yes, go ahead.
Mr. RAHALL. You have given positive statements in your testimony about the capabilities of the Lebanese Army. We have been helping them, have we not?
Mr. WELCH. Yes.
Mr. RAHALL. Selling them some equipment rather cheaply, excess defense articles, et cetera, which I commend our State Department for doing.
But lacking sufficient help from us, is it not human naturein any countryto turn to its neighbors for help? In this case, as you have said, the Lebanese Government is saying that it would be premature to ask the Syrian Army, Syrian troops to withdraw now. That is probably accurate, because they feel there is no help to the Lebanese Army from other countries.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So, wouldn't it be natural for the Lebanese Army to look to other sources of help, if, as you think, it does not have sufficient resources?
Mr. WELCH. I am sure they would. However, my surmise is that they would not look to Syria to provide that assistance with respect to maintaining any arrangements they have with respect to Israel.
I think, in terms of the objective, it is clear what everyone would like, beginning with, first and foremost, the Lebanese Government and people, they want to see their Army do its job every place on their territory. So do we.
The conditions do not presently exist for that. There is a significant impediment, not only the presence of foreign forces but the absence of comprehensive peace arrangements. Were those peace arrangements to be negotiated and arrived at, I think very different circumstances could obtain and you would see different sorts of international support for those arrangements, including to the Lebanese Army.
Mr. RAHALL. If there were a modification of the travel ban, would that not be an incentive to the Lebaneseand with our helpto try to reach accommodation with Israel on their own, whether or not the overall peace process is back on track?
Mr. WELCH. Well, the answer is easy, sir. This issue is enormously important to the Government of Lebanon. Not one day passes when we do not hear about the travel restriction from representatives of the Lebanese Government. Of course, they would like it lifted; and, of course, they would see it as a psychological boost to them.
Mr. RAHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman GILMAN. The gentleman's time has expired.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Rahall appears in the appendix.]
Chairman GILMAN. Mr. Chabot.
Mr. CHABOT. I have no questions, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman GILMAN. Thank you.
I want to thank our panelists for being with us this morning. There may be some additional questions that we will submit in writing. We would hope that you would respond expeditiously. I thank our panelists.
Panel No. 2 will please come to the witness table: Mr. Terry Anderson, Mr. Daniel Pipes, Mr. Tanous, Mr. Nassif.
Mr. RAHALL. Mr. Chairman, would it not be appropriate to recognize the new Lebanese ambassador who is in attendance this afternoon, Mohamad Chatah? He informed me his credentials have been presented to the White House. At this point he has been designated the Lebanese ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Chatah.
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you for noting that Mr. Chatah is with us.
Welcome, Mr. Ambassador. We hope you will be able to present your credentials.
We are pleased to have a distinguished panel before us.
Mr. Terry Anderson is the chairman of the Westchester Information Network in New York and develops Internet-based information systems. He also writes a syndicated newspaper column on government politics and is a nationally known speaker on these and other subjects.
Mr. Anderson is a former foreign correspondent with the Associated Press and the author of the best seller Den of Lions, an account of his 7 years as a hostage of the Shiite Muslim radicals in Lebanon.
Mr. Anderson is an adjunct professor at Columbia University's School of Journalism, and a member of the board of directors on the Committee to protect journalists, which monitors attacks on the press around the world.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman GILMAN. We are pleased to have you with us this morning, Mr. Anderson. We look forward to your remarks.
I also want to welcome you as a new constituent of mine in Palisades, New York. You may give your entire testimony or summarize as you see fit, Mr. Anderson.
STATEMENT OF TERRY ANDERSON, CHAIRMAN, WESTCHESTER INFORMATION NETWORK
Mr. ANDERSON. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Congressmen, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to begin by thanking the Committee for inviting me to testify this morning. I remain deeply interested in Lebanon and in U.S. policy toward that country. I have to confess an interestmy wife is Lebaneseas well as considerable experience with the country.
Last August, I made a 2-week trip to Lebanon to film a documentary for CNN. That film, Return to the Lion's Den, was aired in December and January and is expected to be shown on PBS this summer.
I agree with the Committee that U.S. policy on Lebanon needs to be reviewed. Much has changed there and continues to change. Many of our policies and actions with regard to Lebanon have failed to keep pace with that change.
In the overview of Committee concerns that I was given before coming here, you listed four areas for study; and I would take those areas in order in my brief comments.
Syrian domination was the first. Your overview notes that Lebanon is under Syrian domination. That is true, at least to the extent that all major political decisions are taken in consultation with officials in Damascus. It is also true that nearly all Lebanese would like that domination to end.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC However, in my extensive travel, without security and not looking very much like a Lebanese, in Lebanon and in my talks with ordinary citizens and government officials, I find those same Lebanese recognize Syria's major part in ending the 17-year civil war that destroyed a large part of the country. Some people fear that, without Syrian domination, that war could break out again. No one wants a renewal of the war.
I will quote Prime Minister Rafik Hariri as well as officials from nearly every major party and ethic group in the country in reference to the Syrian withdrawal: ''Not yet. It's too dangerous.''
There is much to criticize Syria for, both on its internal domestic affairs and its relations with other countries; but there is no need to punish Lebanon for Syria's many faults.
In fact, Syria interferes very little in ordinary Lebanese daily life. To say, as you note some critics do in your overview, that Syria's occupation of Lebanon has failed to promote stability or moderation and Syria has turned Lebanon into a base for terrorist activities, military provocations against Israel and even drug trafficking is untrue in large part and simplistic for the remainder. Lebanon is stable and prospering. Even its most radical groups have moved toward moderation and are fully engaged in a flawed but still democratic political process.
The once flourishing drug trade in the Bekaa Valley has been virtually wiped out with Syrian assistance. There is, surprisingly after 2 decades of war, very little crime of any sort in the country. The so-called military provocations against Israel consist of a determined fight against an armed invader and occupier of Lebanese territory, which is legitimate on any basis.
Which brings us to your next subject: Lebanon's role in the peace process.
The Lebanese I have talked to all would like to have peace with Israel. However, they have no wish to begin that process until Israel ends its occupation of southern Lebanon, what the Israelis term the security belt.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It was stated that there is no equivalency between the Syrian and Israeli military presence in Lebanon. Again, true. Ask the Lebanese. It is my impression that most agree to the Syrian presence, however reluctantly. They uniformly and vehemently oppose the Israeli occupation. Hizbollah, the Party of God, which conducts most of the attacks against Israeli troops and their Lebanese proxies, has gained widespread support and popularity, even among Christians, with this battle. The Prime Minister and Parliament approve of it. It is, as I said earlier, legitimate by any standard. To call it military provocation is to reveal a surprising bias.
In fact, it is the presence of Israeli troops in Lebanon that allows Hizbollah to remain an armed militia. The government wishes to disarm them, as they have other militias, but will not and politically cannot do so as long as they are fighting the Israeli occupation. End the occupation and Hizbollah also will be disarmed. It and its Iranian backers will then lose influence, as have the others.
While Syria does not want Lebanon to begin separate negotiations with Israel, I believe most Lebanese and certainly all the parties represented in the government agree that separate negotiations are not practical at this time.
The U.S. travel ban can be dealt with very briefly. It is outdated, unnecessary, mostly ignored and contrary to American interests. I also happen to believe it is unconstitutional, although the State Department has never allowed it to be tested in court and, in fact, has not attempted to enforce it very strictly.
That means individuals who wish to go to Lebanon simply go, while U.S. companies are prevented from taking any real part in Lebanon's reconstruction. Billions of dollars of contracts have been let already to European and Japanese companies. Billions more will be signed in the future. We are left out.
There is no discernible danger to Americans or any other foreigners in Lebanon today. I have personally traveled all over the country, including the Bekaa Valley, Baalbeck, even into the southern border zone, without hearing of any assault on a foreigner. I would not recommend, of course, anyone going into the combat area. The rest of the country is safe, far safer than many other countries to which Americans travel without objection from the State Department. That could, of course, change at any time, but there is no real indication that it will.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Lebanon's reconstruction and U.S. aid: The rebuilding of Lebanon is an amazing and inspiring sight, especially the downtown reconstruction project called Solidaire. Yes, there have been charges of corruption. There has always been some corruption in Lebanon, as in many other places. It seems to be of a much lesser extent than reached during the war and does not seem to be hindering progress in rebuilding.
There are other problems with the reconstruction. While the Solidaire project and some others are well planned and carefully controlled, there is rampant overbuilding in other areas, especially around Beirut, without adequate planning for infrastructure. The southern suburbs remain for the most part neglected, without adequate water, sewage or medical facilities. The few remaining Palestinian camps are being totally ignored, their residents left in poverty.
Overall, however, the country is rebuilding itself rapidly and well. Its economy is growing rapidly and in as balanced a way as can be managed.
Yes, Lebanon could use a great deal more aid. The amount contributed by the United States is welcome but minimal. Most especially, the drastic drop in American aid to the American University of Beirut is, I believe, a mistake of serious proportions.
AUB has, for a century, represented the best of American ideas, ideals and philosophy in the Middle East. It has been our most successful initiative in the region, with far more positive and long-lasting impact on Lebanon than either of our two military interventions in the country. AUB is said to have educated more Presidents and Prime Ministers than any other university in the world, educated them with American political philosophy, espoused by American teachers.
We seem to be gradually abandoning this wonderful success, just when we and Lebanon could use it the most.
If this Committee would change and improve U.S. policy toward Lebanon, I would suggest it could do so most immediately with two actions: forcefully recommend to the State Department that it lift the travel ban and restore substantial funding to the American University of Beirut.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you.
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Mr. Anderson.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Anderson appears in the appendix.]
Chairman GILMAN. Daniel Pipes is the editor of Middle East Quarterly and a senior lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. He has a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University and has taught at the University of Chicago, Harvard University, and the U.S. Naval War College. He has also served in the Departments of State and Defense.
From 1986 to 1993, Mr. Pipes was Director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He serves on three editorial boards belonging to the Council on Foreign Relations, and he has been a commentator on Middle East Affairs on such TV news programs as ABC World News, CBS Reports, CNN Special Events and the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour.
Mr. Pipes has contributed articles for numerous periodicals on Middle East matters, in such journals as Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, Commentary, and the National Interest. Moreover, Mr. Pipes has written ten books on Middle East subjects, jointly authored an additional eight books with others, and edited two collections of essays.
His most recent books were published in 1996, which include Syria Beyond the Peace Process and The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy.
Chairman GILMAN. MR. PIPES, WE WELCOME YOU TO OUR COMMITTEE. AGAIN, PLEASE EITHER SUMMARIZE YOUR STATEMENT OR YOU MAY GIVE IT IN FULL. THANK YOU.
STATEMENT OF DANIEL PIPES, EDITOR, MIDDLE EAST QUARTERLY
Mr. PIPES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am grateful to you and Members of the Committee for this opportunity to discuss Lebanon.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would like to focus on the dimension of this subject that I know best, namely the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. I shall say something about its background, current situation, and future prospects, then conclude with recommendations for U.S. policy.
With the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Lebanon has acquired the distinction of being the only satellite State anywhere on the globe. It is a State with all the trappings of sovereigntya flag, an independence day, a constitution, membership in the United Nationsbut very little of its substance. Therefore, I am troubled to hear that State Department representatives speak about the Government of Lebanon as though it were a fully functioning sovereign body when, in fact, it is something like Bulgaria was in the Soviet bloc. It is a shadow of a State rather than the State itself.
The President of Syria, Mr. Hafiz al-Assad, disposes of many levers of power over Lebanon. Today, an estimated 40,000 Syrian troops enforce his will in the country. In addition, a large number of Syrian political and intelligence agencies maintain a formidable presence throughout Lebanon.
So subservient is the Lebanese Government to Damascene wishes that Lebanese politicians routinely visit the Syrian capital before making any major decision. Speaking candidly at one time, President Ilyas al-Hirawi confessed his shame that so many Lebanese traveled to Damascus to discuss their differences: ''We now disagree on the appointment of a doorman and we go to Damascus to submit the problem to the brothers there.''
Lebanese officials openly acknowledge that Damascus makes all their decisions in the peace process with Israel. Now, what is curious about this occupation is that it is illegal by the Syrian Government's own light. For Damascus has on three occasions concurred with decisions made by other bodies that Syrian troops should withdraw from Lebanon.
It first agreed to this in October, 1976, as part of the Riyadh-Cairo accords. In September, 1982, it signed on to the Fez Declaration which committed it to start negotiations to withdraw its troops. Finally, as has been mentioned a number of times this morning, in October 1989, the Taif Accord obligated the Syrian Government to redeploy and ultimately withdraw its troops. None of these accords have been fulfilled.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The current situation reminds me of a very famous statement by Tacitus, the Roman historian. In judging the Roman conquest and occupation of Britain, he said of the Romans, ''They made a desert and called it peace.'' We see something similar to that in Lebanon. The Syrians have conquered Lebanon, and they have made a desert of it. It is quiet. There is not the same sort of terrorism as once existed, but it is replaced by the quiet of the desert.
The record of the last 15 years suggests to me several conclusions: First, that Syrian promises to leave Lebanon have no value and should not be sought again. Second, even were the uniformed troops to withdraw, Assad will still have enough assets in Lebanon to exert considerable control over the country. Third, the Assad Government seeks to occupy Lebanon permanently.
Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of the Lebanese populationand not just the Christians among themrejects the Syrian occupation. Survey research conducted some years ago suggests that a mere 3 percent of the population of Sunni Muslims favor union with Syria. Anecdotal evidence confirms this.
That Lebanese opinions so overwhelmingly reject the occupation is not surprising, but what is perhaps more surprising is that so much of the outside world, including our own executive branch, has acquiesced to the Syrian takeover. To the best of my knowledge, the White House and State Department have never condemned the occupation, preferring to see this instead as an issue to be raised in the context of the Arab-Israeli negotiations.
In contrast, this Congress is one of the very few governmental bodies in the world to condemn the occupation. You voted unanimously in July, 1993, to consider, ''the Government of Syria in violation of the Taif agreement''. A second, similar resolution was passed by the House in June 1995.
Now, as a government, we face a basic choice: whether to accept or to contest the Syrian domination of Lebanon.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We can work with the occupation, which means recognizing the Government of Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri as a real government, accepting the August, 1996, elections as legitimate and acquiescing in general to the rules established by the Syrian regime. Such a policy has the advantage of winning favor in Damascus and perhaps encouraging the rulers in that city to participate in the peace process. But it disheartens natural allies of the United States in Lebanon and abroad, and it signals to the world that, while a blatant invasion such as Saddam Hussein's into Kuwait is not acceptable, a subtle one such as Assad's into Lebanon is indeed acceptable.
The other alternative is to ignore the Government of Lebanon, to denounce the occupation and to pay little attention to all the pseudo-structures in Beirut. This has the advantage of sticking with our friends and our principles.
It, of course, raises dangers as well. But to my mind there really is no choice. The U.S. Government must stand in solidarity with the oppressed against the oppressors.
Just as we supported Estonians and Czechs through their decades of Soviet domination, even when the prospect of their independence seemed impossibly remote, so we must stand by the Lebanese people in their hour of need. Nor is this only a matter of principle. Baltic leaders, for example, all agree on the importance of the U.S. Government refusing to accept Soviet occupation. One day, I am convinced, Lebanese patriots will similarly thank us for standing with their people even as they face the seemingly invincible might of the Syrian sword.
Accordingly, I urge you to do all within your power to condemn and repulse the Syrian occupiers. Toward this end, Congress can take several steps.
First, you can use your bully pulpit by sending a direct message to the tyrants in Damascus. I particularly commend to you Representative Elliott Engel's amendment to H.R. 1986 concerning sanctions against Syria, which passed by a vote of 410 to 15 on June 10th. The Assad regime takes close note of such resolutions.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Second, you can pressure the executive branch to show some spine as, in fact, you are doing today. In 1994, for example, you took a lead position on a critical role in assuring that functionaries in the U.S. bureaucracy did not take Syria off the terrorism and narcotics lists.
Third, you can close the ''national interest'' loopholes that permit the executive branch to waive regulations, and which it seems to do disproportionately for Damascus. In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Crime earlier this month, it came out that, in 1996, Syria has received $226 million in U.S. exports, of which $81 million was in controlled commodities. This must not continue.
Finally, I urge you to turn away from Friends of Lebanon appeals for money and appropriate no funds for that country, on the assumption that any funds that do go there will ultimately end up in Mr. Assad's pocket.
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Mr. Pipes.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Pipes appears in the appendix.]
Chairman GILMAN. Our next witness is Mr. Peter Tanous, the founding chairman of the American Task Force for Lebanon, a nonprofit association of Americans of Lebanese heritage who seek to strengthen Lebanese-American relations. The ATFL has been active since 1987, and we commend Mr. Tanous for his commitment to improving these relations.
In his other activities, Mr. Tanous is president of Lynx Investment Advisory of Washington, an investment advisory firm. He has written several articles on the securities industry and has authored Investment Gurus, which was published recently by Prentice-Hall.
Mr. Tanous has long been active in promoting ties between Lebanon and the United States. In 1991, he was the recipient of the ATFL's Philip C. Habib Award for Distinguished Public Service, whose prior recipients have included Senators George Mitchell, Bob Dole, Governor John Sununu, Representative Nick Rahall, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman GILMAN. Mr. Tanous, we are pleased to have you with us today. You can either read your full statement or summarize it, whichever you see fit.
STATEMENT OF PETER TANOUS, FOUNDING CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN TASK FORCE FOR LEBANON
Mr. Tanous. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you especially for allowing us to testify.
I will submit my statement for the record, if I may.
Chairman GILMAN. Without objection.
Mr. TANOUS. And I will summarize it herewith.
I would like to direct my remarks as much to the Lebanese-American community as to the Committee. Since its founding in 1987, the American Task Force for Lebanon has been unequivocal in calling for the withdrawal of all non-Lebanese forces from Lebanon. But a dose of reality and pragmatism leads to the conclusion that the United States will not pressure Israel to withdraw from Lebanon.
You will recall that U.S. Security Council Resolution 425, which was supported by the United States and which calls for Israel to ''withdraw forthwith its forces from all Lebanese territory,'' has been in existence since 1978. Nor do we expect that the United States is in a position to expel Syrian troops from Lebanon. You will recall that the United States declined to do this during the tense period from 1982 to 1984, when the United States participated in the multinational force in Lebanon.
So it seems now that the most likely way to secure a withdrawal of all non-Lebanese forces from Lebanon is through a comprehensive Middle East peace process, something the State Department has repeatedly made clear.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I do want to stress, however, that the ATFL advocates the implementation of U.S. Security Council Resolution 425 and U.S. Security Council Resolution 520, which calls for ''the strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon through the Lebanese Army throughout Lebanon.''
We also advocate the implementation of the commonly held interpretation of the Taif Accord, as well as the U.S. policy calling for the disarmament of all remaining armed factions in Lebanon. We realize the difficulty in implementing these resolutions and agreements because they are intertwined with the complexities of the peace process.
But I would like to focus the bulk of my remarks on the issue of immediate concern, which is the travel ban about which we have heard today. The ban on the use of passports may have made sense when it was imposed by Secretary of State Shultz in January 1987 but it did not make sense when Secretary of State Warren Christopher renewed it in January 1997. We sometimes lose track of time, but the last American citizen kidnapped in Lebanon was U.S. Marine Colonel William Richard Higgins on February 17, 1988, over 9 years ago.
I should add, Mr. Chairman, that in listening to State Department Representative David Welch's prepared testimony, I thought his arguments for removing the ban were better than mine. So I thought his conclusion was rather bizarre in recommending that it stay on.
We do have firm figures of the numbers of solely U.S. passport holders visiting Lebanon in 1995 and 1996. I am not talking about Lebanese-U.S. dual nationals who enter with Lebanese passports or identity cards. This is a group that the State Department tends to dismiss somewhat inelegantly as a group of individuals who blend in with the population, so nobody notices them.
Lebanon's four diplomatic missions in the United States issued 9,990 visas to U.S. passport holders in 1996 and 12,344 visas in 1995. Surely, there were ample American targets in Lebanon if any group wanted to take any.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The new Secretary of State will complete her review of the travel ban by July 31st, when it next expires. We are told she brings an open mind to this issue. It is no secret that the Near East Affairs Bureau, the Office of Counterterrorism and the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon all recommended to Secretary Christopher in January that the travel ban be replaced by a stern travel advisory.
Recently, Mary Ryan, Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, was in Lebanon from June 9th to 12th. Eric Boswell, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, and Richard Jones, the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, personally inspected Beirut International Airport on May 24th.
Lebanese authorities, acting upon a recommendation from the United States, are building a new airport road which bypasses the Southern Suburbs of Beirut and which should be completed by October. By the end of August, Lebanon's national carrier, Middle East Airlines, will implement the final phase of the Sabre passenger reservations system, which would enable detection of anyone accessing passenger lists. The FAA will train three Lebanese aviation security officers in the United States in August.
Mr. Chairman, the Lebanese are cooperating and the United States cannot continue to request that Lebanon undertake costly security measures with no corresponding American action in return. This leads many, including ourselves, to conclude that the real reason for not lifting the ban is purely political. But if that isn't the case, why does the United States impose a travel ban on Lebanon and only a travel advisory on countries which are arguably far more dangerous?
Let me be clear. The ATFL is not urging an irresponsible policy on the travel ban. We are suggesting that the State Department communicate its concern about travel to Lebanon through a travel advisory, as it does for countries which do not have U.S. passport restrictions, such as Iran, North Korea, Colombia, Algeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Few would argue that Lebanon is today more dangerous than any of those countries.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In fact, may I respectfully request, Mr. Chairman, that you ask State Department officials, as we have often done, whether or not if a travel ban on Lebanon were not in effect today, would they impose one today, given the conditions as we know and understand them?
Pope John Paul II's visit to Lebanon from May 10th to 11th was tremendously important, given the Vatican's caution about papal security. In a mass attended by approximately 300,000 people, the pope said, ''A country of many religious faiths, Lebanon has shown that these different faiths can live together in peace, brotherhood and cooperation.'' He added that Lebanon needs to recover ''total independence, complete sovereignty and unambiguous freedom''.
Allow me to mention names of some prominent Americans who have visited Lebanon since March of last year: George Bush, former President of the United States; former Senator Hank Brown; Charles Percy, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations; Terry Anderson, who is here with us today; George Mitchell, the former Senate Majority Leader; Stephen Solarz, former Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific; Nick Rahall, Representative from West Virginia, who sits with you today; Carl Levin, the Senator from Michigan; and I especially want to cite Ms. Deborah Bodlander, the Majority staff person on this Committee who visited Lebanon from January 30th to February 3rd of this year.
Incidentally, I spoke with Senator Mitchell last week and he asked that I submit his letter to you, Chairman Gilman, for the record. I brought it with me. In it, referring to Senator Mitchell's recent visit to Lebanon, he states, ''Based on that personal experience and on many other factors, I believe the ban on travel to Lebanon should be lifted.''
Chairman GILMAN. We will make the letter a part of the record.
Mr. TANOUS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The information referred to appears in the appendix.]
Mr. TANOUS. Given Lebanon's present state of affairs, we believe that principles of democracy should be supported and encouraged by the United States to ensure that no government tamper with Lebanon's democratic institutions. The United States should continue to communicate through diplomatic channels its concern to the Lebanese Government about elections, freedom of the press and human rights.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Comments by the United States do not fall on deaf ears. We know of incidents where U.S. intercession has been effective.
The American Task Force for Lebanon also has concerns about the integrity of parliamentary and municipal elections and the arrest of Lebanese citizens without due process.
On a positive note, in the past year, the Lebanese judiciary has shown some independence in a number of instances and is beginning to resume a proper role as a check on the executive and legislative branches. As an example, the constitutional counsel overturned the parliamentary election of four parliamentarians whose opponents filed complaints.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, the Lebanese often liken their country to the Phoenix, the mythical bird that ignites itself, only to rise from the ashes. We in the American Task Force for Lebanon do not believe that the Phoenix needs to burn again to be properly resurrected. The Phoenix may not yet be soaring, but we believe it is very much alive and ascending.
Thank you very much.
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Mr. Tanous.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Tanous appears in the appendix.]
Chairman GILMAN. Our next witness is Daniel Nassif, the Washington representative of the Council of Lebanese-American Organizations, known as CLAO, a federation of local, regional and national organizations founded in 1989 to promote the cause of freedom and sovereignty for Lebanon.
Among its activities, CLAO publishes a newsletter, monographs and position papers on various topics related to Lebanon, as well as videos in both English and Arabic.
CLAO has been active in raising concerns about the presence of foreign forces in Lebanon, and has also sponsored several projects dealing with human rights and the state of democracy in Lebanon.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Nassif is the author of numerous articles on Lebanon and the Middle East, which have appeared in such publications as The Washington Post, the Washington Times, the Christian Science Monitor and the Los Angeles Times.
Chairman GILMAN. Welcome, Mr. Nassif. You may summarize your statement or put the full statement in the record, whichever you deem appropriate.
STATEMENT OF DANIEL NASSIF, WASHINGTON REPRESENTATIVE, COUNCIL OF LEBANESE-AMERICAN ORGANIZATIONS
Mr. NASSIF. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I thank you for your opening statement. I think you said it all in your statement.
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you.
Mr. NASSIF. I am happy to see two American-Lebanese sharing the podium with you.
Chairman GILMAN. We are pleased they are here with us.
Mr. NASSIF. Contrary to what the State Department said today, Lebanon is no longer an independent country. More than 40,000 Syrian troops control 90 percent of its territory and Syrian-installed officials occupy all positions of authority within Lebanon's Government, Parliament and military. The country's domestic and foreign policies now reflect Syrian objectives, not Lebanese needs. The Lebanese are not the real players on the political scene. No decision can be taken without authorization from Damascus.
Our concerns are as follows:
There seems to be no attempt to address the basic issue of Syrian occupation of Lebanon or even Syria's supposed scheduled withdrawal from the country.
While official U.S. policy remains fixated on supporting the full implementation of the so-called Taif agreement, the clauses in that document pertaining to Syrian redeployment to the Bekaa Valley, as they have been interpreted by the State Department, are all but being ignored.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Numerous major international and local human rights organizations have repeatedly documented and published findings concerning systematic violations of the rights of innocent Lebanese civilians by Syria and its underlings. These incidents, too numerous to mention here, including murder, rape, torture and illegal detention, belie the facade which has been created for the outside world and provide a hint of the real inner workings of the Syrian police state.
The 1996 State Department annual report on human rights recounted some of these abuses. Remarkably, the U.S. Government has failed to translate its knowledge of these violations into specific policy measures requiring Syria to modify its behavior in Lebanon and desist from engaging in further repression.
A disturbing phenomenon in occupied Lebanon today is the increased militarization of the judiciary. The military courts are literally out of control. In 1996 alone, 11,000 cases were judged in these courts. In one notorious instance, a military judge boasted that he had tried 350 cases in the course of 1 day.
Wajdi Mallat, the Chief Judge of the High Constitutional Court, Lebanon's equivalence of a Supreme Court, resigned last April, stating boldly that excessive interference by the Syrian-controlled authorities in the execution of his duties led him to his decision.
It is common knowledge today in occupied Lebanon that only a fraction of the huge amounts of revenues collected by the government through indirect taxation in the form of higher prices on all basic commodities actually make it into the government coffers to be spent on reconstruction and other beneficial projects. The bulk of the remainder ends up in the secret bank accounts of a handful of Syrian and Lebanese officials. The fact of the matter today in Lebanon is that the State itself is the largest Mafia in the land.
Behind all the hype about Lebanon's economic recovery and the reconstruction is a carefully orchestrated public relations campaign by the Syrian-controlled Government to obscure the reality of Lebanon's miserable economic and political situation. The occupation regime has only succeeded in raising taxes on an already impoverished Lebanese population. The purchasing power for the average Lebanese has decreased by more than 40 percent in the last 3 years. The middle class in the country has all but vanished. The majority of Lebanese now live below the poverty line and in constant fear, while 1.2 million illegal Syrian workersa number equal to one-third of Lebanon's populationtransfer an average of $300 million of badly needed currency to Syria each month. Consequently, the Lebanese unemployment rate has been driven up to a record of 35 percent.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Government projects and contracts are mostly awarded to Syrian-installed officials, their associates or Syrian companies. A large portion of the funds allocated to these contracts end up in the pockets of corrupt government officials and their Syrian patrons. Typically less than half actually goes toward funding of the intended projects.
The Wall Street Journal in a front page article on July 19, 1995, quoted Lebanese merchants as complaining that the layer of Syrian authority that hovers over most transactions has increased their costs. This Syrian component, as one calls it, must be factored into everything, from commissions on large public works contracts to customs duties.
Top government officials have been afforded their own special pools of public money to dispense as they please without oversight. These huge slush funds are a major reason Lebanon's public debt has ballooned to more than $14 billion, compared to only $1 billion in 1990. Lebanon's budget deficit is currently running at more than 50 percent of government revenues. An incredible 42 percent of the 1997 budget is being used to service the public debt.
The 1992 and the 1996 Syrian-orchestrated parliamentary elections in Lebanon were an unprecedented exercise in fraud on a massive scale. Flagrant violations of the electoral process, such as voter intimidation and ballot and vote rigging, were commonplace. No election in Lebanon will be acceptable under the present circumstances of total Syrian control over Lebanese affairs.
The Council of Lebanese-American Organizations has strongly supported the recent amendment to the foreign operations authorization bill in the 1998 budget that the House voted upon overwhelmingly on June 10, 1997. The amendment calls on the State Department to consider applying to Syria sanctions which are currently enforced against Iran and Libya under the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996 if the Government of Syria does not eliminate its dangerous and destabilizing policies in Lebanon and the Middle East.
We all know that nothing fundamental changed in South Africa until sanctions were tightened. We feel that the United States has no business playing ''business as usual'' with the Syrian regime.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you.
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Mr. Nassif.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Nassif appears in the appendix.]
Chairman GILMAN. We are being called to the Floor for a vote, but we will start our questioning until the second bell starts.
Mr. RAHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
This has been an excellent panel. I think we have seen all sides represented.
I want to commend especially you, Terry Anderson, for a very comprehensive insight into the situation. I know Lebanon must stir many emotions for you, the time that you spent there and the fact that you have a Lebanese wife and in light of your return there. I just cannot even imagine how emotional that is for you, considering what you have been through.
Mr. Pipes, you have given a very excellent historical rendition and you certainly are much more of an historian than myself; I looked through your testimonyI really may not have examined it closely enoughbut you seem to have ignored the Israeli presence completely in your analysis of the situation. I am sure that you don't and you have a response to my question, but do you equate the presence of Syrian and Israel troops in Lebanon equally or do you give higher preference and status to the presence of Israeli troops in the country of Lebanon than you do Syrian troops?
Mr. PIPES. Thank you for your question, Mr. Rahall.
I didn't bring up the Israeli troops because, as I indicated in the beginning, being a specialist on Syria rather than on Israel, I dealt with the subject I know best.
But to answer your question, I believe there is a fundamental difference between the presence of Syrian troops and Israeli troops. The Israeli Government has repeatedly, and most notably last summer, indicated its desire to leave Lebanon and has tried to find a deal by which it could.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Prime Minister of Israel said, look, we will leave if you, the Syrian Government, will assure our safety; that there won't be further attacks on northern Israel.
Mr. RAHALL. That was not a unanimous opinion of the Israeli Government. I mean, it caused quite a bit of controversy within the country.
Mr. PIPES. Well, it is called ''Lebanon First'', and it was a proposal that never got anywhere because the Syrian Government turned it down.
Mr. RAHALL. As well as some Israelis.
Mr. PIPES. The Prime Minister made the offer, and it was quickly and thoroughly rejected by the Syrian authorities who said, in effect, why should we save your skin?
So I see the Israelis basically interested in getting out. I see the Syrians basically interested in staying.
I am the author of a book called Greater Syria, and it is several hundred pages long. The control of Lebanon by the authorities in Damascus is something that has been on the Syrians' minds for decades, and I find it an integral part of the Assad Government's ambitions. So I see the two troops' presence in Lebanon very differently.
The Israeli occupation is, in the first place, small geographically and, in the second place, limited politically; it will be over at some point, without too much concern of ours. The Syrian occupation has the prospect of remaining in place for decades and is far more pernicious.
Mr. RAHALL. At what point do you see the Israeli presence being over?
Mr. PIPES. I see Israelis leaving as soon as they can get assurances that their departure from Lebanese soil will not jeopardize northern Israeli towns. This is something that the Lebanese authorities today are in no position to promise and that the Syrian authorities don't wish to promise.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RAHALL. But it is the same as the Syrian domination over Lebanonthe alleged Syrian domination over Lebanon. Everybody agrees that that should be the case
Mr. RAHALL [continuing]. That Lebanon should be free and have its own integrity and sovereignty, et cetera; and everybody agrees that the cross-border attacks into Israel should stop. It is a matter of who is going to take the first step. Is that not accurate?
Mr. PIPES. I would draw the distinction, Mr. Rahall, that the Syrian Government hopes to stay in Lebanon. I don't believe the Israeli Government wants to stay there.
Chairman GILMAN. Mr. Rahall, we will recess until the votes are over and continue with your questioning when we come back.
The Committee stands in recess.
Chairman GILMAN. The Committee will come to order.
As you recall, Mr. Rahall was in the process of questioning the witness.
Mr. RAHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to continue with Mr. Pipes.
I forgot exactly where I was, but anyway, in your testimony you have called for noncompliance or no help to the Friends of Lebanon, using the argument, I guess, that the money ends up not in the hands of the Lebanese Government but the Syrian Government. Is that accurate?
Mr. PIPES. Yes, it is.
Mr. RAHALL. Would that also then carry over into U.S. Government assistance to Lebanon? Would you not advocate such, using the same fear?
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PIPES. Yes, sir, I would advocate against such aid.
Mr. RAHALL. So I guess then the converse of that is, by punishing Lebanon, we are going to whip them into, what? Kicking the Syrians out? Or whip them into what? What are we trying to do?
Mr. PIPES. No, sir, I am not advocating punishing Lebanon. Indeed, in my last paragraph
Mr. RAHALL. Then how do we get assistance to them?
Mr. PIPES [continuing]. I advocate ending the travel ban. I think our government policy should be aimed at fostering the independence of Lebanon again. I do not believe that is helped by recognizing a pseudo-governmental structure. I think it is helped through commerce and private relations, family, cultural, and religious ties.
I advocate that the U.S. Government basically avoid the so-called Government of Lebanon, and make it clear to that government, to the residents of the country, to the Syrians, that we do not see this as a legitimate authority.
Mr. RAHALL. So would you advocate maybe going through nongovernmental units?
Mr. PIPES. I would indeed, yes.
Mr. RAHALL. U.S. assistance that way, as we have been doing?
Mr. PIPES. I would have far less reservations about that, yes, be it with private organizations, religious organizations, or commercial ones. A whole range of nongovernmental opportunities exist.
Mr. RAHALL. What about continued or increased U.S. assistance to the Lebanese Army?
Mr. PIPES. I would be very wary of that, sir. I think that the army is, in effect, an arm of the Syrian Government.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RAHALL. Even though they have made tremendous progress, as we heard the State Department testify and numerous objective outsiders testify, that the Lebanese Army has built itself into a professional fighting group today, across sectarian lines, and not as it was in the past?
Mr. PIPES. I am not in a position to judge how the Army is doing on a logistical level or on the level of practical matters, but I would say that, as a fighting force, it is ultimately at the beck and call of the Syrian authorities. They tell the Lebanese authorities who tell the Army what to do. Therefore, we should be very cautious about building it up. The more proficient, efficient, and effective a fighting machine it is, the more problems we may be creating for ourselves in the future.
Mr. RAHALL. Would you agree with the policy of removal of all non-Lebanese forces from Lebanon, as the American Task Force for Lebanon advocates?
Mr. PIPES. I would.
Mr. RAHALL. Mr. Nassif, let me ask you a couple questions. First, I am glad you came up to me before the hearings and apologized for your testimony. It is rather harsh and makes some pretty damning statements, and I am not sure it is in the best interests of all of our goals, which is to see Lebanon free of non-Lebanese forces, to see the Syrians removed from that country, as well as Israelis. Such statements as you makeI am not sure lead toward a reasoned resolution and reaching of that goal.
For example, you say the fact of the matter today in Lebanon is that the State itself is the largest mafia in the land.
I take total exception to that statement. I don't care whatand you lay out quite a few alleged factswhat the facts appear to be, to make such a statement in a public arena, about the land of my grandfathers, about the land that I am proud to say is such and is my heritage. I just take total offense at that type of statement.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC How do you advocate U.S. policy toward Lebanon?
Mr. NASSIF. Let me tell you one example.
Mr. RAHALL. Besides kick the Syrians out.
Mr. NASSIF. Let me tell you one example. Last week the government, the so-called Harawi Government, passed a law to put customs duties on cars from 30 percent to 200 percent. Any car above $25,000, you would pay 100 percent customs duties on it. So automatically the price of cars after that decision will double in price in Lebanon.
Every minister went and told his own people secretly, you know, like a day or two or 1 week before the decision, to go and buy cars. This is the kind of Lebanon we have today. If you read the newspapers, every day in Lebanon, you have hundreds of examples. It is sad. Lebanon never had this kind of corruption in its history.
Mr. RAHALL. Where is that money going? How do you know that? How can you say it is corruption?
Mr. NASSIF. Everybody is accusing everybody. The head of the Parliament is saying this is unacceptable, for the people to go and buy the cars.
Mr. RAHALL. I am not going to defend every action of the Lebanese Government. I have problems with it as well. There are many governments today that you can perhaps find instances about which you can make such statements, taking it totally out of context. I think the decisions they made perhaps are not decisions I would make if I were in that same place.
But I don't think we can make such broad statements, painting with a broad brush, if we are really serious about trying to get them back on the right track. I think a more reasoned approach would be the method to follow.
Do you advocate the U.S. Government trying to help the Lebanese Government, or how do you advocate us getting aid to Lebanon?
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. NASSIF. We always testified before the Appropriations Committee and asked that money should be increased to Lebanon, but money should go through private assistance organizations and through the education institutions, like AUB or other educational institutions, nothing to go through the Lebanese Government.
Mr. RAHALL. So you are supportive of continued funding?
Mr. NASSIF. Of course.
Mr. RAHALL. Increased aid for AUB and LAU and the institutions of higher learning.
I have no further questions, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Mr. Rahall.
Mr. LAHOOD. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank all of the panel members for their leadership over the number of years that you have been involved in these issues, and for being here today.
I had the occasion to see your documentary, Mr. Anderson. I thought it was just superb. It is very well done, and I think really it highlights for Americans who are confused about what is happening in Lebanon some of the more significant things that are happening there. And I guess PBS will try and air that later on this year; is that right?
Mr. ANDERSON. Yes, sir, they will air it this summer.
My only regret about it is, it was far too short to cover a very complicated and interesting country.
Mr. LAHOOD. Mr. Pipes, what leads you to believe that the Lebanese Army is controlled by Syria?
Mr. PIPES. Well, sir, I see the Lebanese Government making decisions only that meet with the approval of the Syrian Government, and I see the Lebanese Armed Forces under the control of the Lebanese Government. So, one removed, it is under the Syrian Government.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LAHOOD. Who do you think General Lahoud takes his orders from, the President or the Prime Minister?
Mr. PIPES. General Lahoud is not in the Lebanese Army, so he does not take orders from either of them.
Mr. LAHOOD. Who do you believe is running the country of Lebanon, the President or the Prime Minister or the Parliament or the Speaker of the House or President Assad, or who?
Mr. PIPES. Well, roughly the 90 percent of Lebanon that is north of the very southernmost part is, in my estimation, ultimately under control of the Syrian Government. It has various vehicles for that control, including the Government of Lebanon, but I think the key decisions are made in Damascusnot for that little part in the south, but for the rest of the country.
Mr. LAHOOD. So you are saying that President Assad is really running Lebanon, in your opinion?
Mr. PIPES. If I might use an analogy, the government of, say, Czechoslovakia or Poland, had certain areas of autonomy. Not every decision was made in Moscow, but, roughly speaking, all the important decisions were made in Moscow, and the less consequential ones or the more routine ones, the more automatic ones, were made in Prague or Warsaw.
I would say similarly the routine decisions, the ones known to create no offense, are made in Beirut or elsewhere in Lebanon, but the key decisions and the guidelines are clearly coming from Damascus.
Mr. LAHOOD. Let me ask all of you to comment on this. If, in fact, the State Department lifts the travel restriction, which we all hope that they do, and that Secretary Albright does that, what is the No. 1 problemset that aside. What is the No. 1 problem or the No. 1, I guess, thing that can really help Lebanon more than anything else, aside from that problem, in terms of rebuilding the country, rebuilding the economy, creating the kind of opportunity, economic opportunities, that I think all of us hope for in terms of jobs and business and so forth?
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I ask all of you to comment on that.
Mr. ANDERSON. Mr. LaHood, I think one of the most constructive things that America could do in its policy toward Lebanon, is to recognize and respect that there is a Lebanese Government, which was elected by the people of Lebanon, in a flawed but mostly democratic process, and that it will be up to that government to decide when to demand the Syrians leave.
We can encourage them, we can express our views on the matter, but they are going to ask the Syrians to leave when they decide that that is both practical and desirable.
Other than that, we can assist them in trying to rebuild their country and to strengthen democratic institutions, which they are trying to do.
I must say, sir, I was a bit puzzled by the picture of Lebanon that was drawn by some of the other people who were speaking, because I didn't recognize it as the Lebanon that I saw last August.
If Mr. Pipes thinks that Lebanon is as quiet as a desert, he obviously hasn't talked with very many Lebanese in public. In fact, there is an active political ferment going there. People are not afraid to speak their minds on the street. The newspapers are under some restrictions. Criticism of Syria is not encouraged. But other than that, they are quite free and open and combative.
The picture is not anywhere near as grim as they would have you believe. There are no secret policemen standing on the street corner trying to overhear your conversation. The Lebanese are actively engaged in trying to decide their own destiny and are not afraid to give their opinions about it.
I am not a naive visitor; I am an experienced foreign correspondent who has been in many countries where people are afraid to speak their mind. I know what it sounds like and feels like. That is not Lebanon today.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PIPES. Before I answer your question, Mr. LaHood, if I might, I would like to comment that Mr. Anderson's depiction of Lebanon reminds me of many experienced visitors to Poland during the Cold War years and reporting back the true political life that exists in Poland. I just don't think that was the case there, then or now, in Lebanon.
But to answer your question, I believe the single most useful thing we could do would be to articulate directly and explicitly that the U.S. Government condemns the continued occupation of Lebanon. I am not advocating that we do anything, such as use force. I just think a very clear articulation of that message would be extremely useful for all concerned.
Mr. TANOUS. Congressman LaHood, I think that in the scenario you painted, where the travel ban no longer exists, the most important thing the United States can do is to help Lebanon grow in integrity and strengthen Lebanese institutions.
I think some of the testimony we have heard smacks of throwing the baby out with the bath water. I want to see the baby grow and thrive so that the Syrian presence, which is of concern to all Lebanese, becomes moot and becomes impossible to sustain, because at that point, Lebanon will be strong and the Syrians will have no excuse to stay. And the United States should make that point clear to the Syrians. But it can only do so with a strong and viable Lebanon.
The idea that we are going to withhold aid and assistance to Lebanon and make the Lebanese suffer because it might send the right message to the Syrians is not, in my opinion, very constructive.
Mr. NASSIF. Congressman LaHood, the real ruler in Lebanon today is Ghazi Kenaan. He is the head of the Syrian intelligence network in Lebanon. You see all of the leadership in Lebanon go, daily or weekly, and he arranges for them to go, to Damascus. So it is all a facade in the country.
What the United States could do, the United States could push for genuine reconciliation in the country. There are still a lot of leaders living in exile, you know. The country is still not at peace with itself.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I have here three pictures sent yesterday by a leading journalist in An-Nahar newspaper. This is the leading newspaper in Lebanon. Fifteen members of the Syrian intelligence personnel attacked him in his house. They beat him up. And those are the pictures. I would like them to be put in the record, if possible, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman GILMAN. Without objection, we will include them in the record. Will you identify where they were taken?
Mr. NASSIF. They were taken in Paris. This guy escaped Lebanon and arrived in Paris like 10 days ago, and he asked for political asylum in France. For an article he wrote in the paper, they attacked him in his house.
Chairman GILMAN. In Paris?
Mr. NASSIF. No. They attacked him in Beirut, but he escaped Beirut after that.
Chairman GILMAN. When did they attack him in Beirut?
Mr. NASSIF. A month ago.
Chairman GILMAN. What do the photos show?
Mr. NASSIF. It showed traces of torture on his body.
Chairman GILMAN. Those were taken after he got to Paris?
Mr. NASSIF. Yes.
Chairman GILMAN. We will admit them.
Mr. NASSIF. He went into a coma for like 3 days, he went to the hospital, and from there it was arranged, his escape out of the country.
Chairman GILMAN. Without objection, the photos will be added to the record.
[The photos referred to appear in the appendix.]
Mr. LAHOOD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Mr. LaHood.
I have a couple of brief questions. One of the underlying causes of Lebanon's civil war back in the seventies and eighties was a rupture in relations between the Lebanese Christians and the Muslims, but the civil war was ended years ago. Can you give us an assessment of intercommunal dialog in Lebanon today?
I address that to all of the panelists.
Mr. ANDERSON. Sir, I was somewhat amazed during my visit at the general lack of hatred between the various groups in Lebanon, after having observed a large part of the civil war and seeing them do terrible things to each other. I was quite amazed to find most of that hatred, not all of it, gone.
As I mentioned in my film, one young woman told me, if you push me, it is still that, but nobody is pushing very much. I believe they are really trying very hard to get along.
The rivalries and the competition between the groups certainly has not disappeared, but the violence, the hatred, the rage that was so evident during the civil war seems to have, for the most part. And that was a very encouraging thing for me to find.
Chairman GILMAN. Mr. Tanous.
Mr. TANOUS. From our viewpoint, Mr. Chairman, we see pretty much the same thing that Terry Anderson does. There is a great deal of integration between the various religious groups. There is no longer a green line, obviously, and people travel freely from one side to another. There is probably some polarization, socially and otherwise, very much like there is in our country, but by and large there is no evidence, that we have seen from our vantage point over here, of hatred based on faith or other convictions.
Chairman GILMAN. Mr. Nassif.
Mr. NASSIF. Mr. Chairman, President Gemayel, I think, will tell you later, you know, from experience probablyI don't know if he will discuss thisevery time the Lebanese agree on something, there is a spoiler around the corner. Syria wants Lebanon to be divided in order to have an excuse to remain in the country.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman GILMAN. Mr. Pipes.
Mr. PIPES. Nothing.
Chairman GILMAN. There were a number of reports that the Bekaa Valley was controlled by the Syrians and is one of the largest narcotics substance exporters out of the Bekaa Valley. Can you give us any current status of the drug production in the Bekaa Valley?
Mr. ANDERSON. Yes, sir, that is a subject I specifically investigated, including being briefed by members of the police that I know personally, a couple of the members of my wife's family, about the crackdown in the Bekaa Valley that took place about 2 years ago.
Most of the drug crops, in fact virtually all the drug crops, are gone. There are stillas you heard, the State Department people said there are still some laboratories around and still some drug running, but the flourishing trade, the flourishing open trade, is virtually gone, with the assistance, by the way, of Syria.
I remember seeing the Bekaa Valley when I first arrived in 1982 and being stunned by the greenness of the valley as seen from the mountain, until I got down to the valley and found the green valley was all hashish plants from horizon to horizon.
Chairman GILMAN. It is one of the largest hashish producers in the whole world.
Mr. ANDERSON. They are no longer there. I have been up and down the Bekaa Valley, talked to police, talked to critics, and that part of the drug trade is certainly gone.
Mr. Nassif, you wanted to comment?
Mr. NASSIF. It is a big story in the daily Al-Hayat, a respected Arab newspaper out of London, and 2 days ago they had a big report talking about how the Lebanese in the Bekaa Valley are starting again to grow poppies because of the dire economic situation in the country. So this will conflict, I think, with Mr. Anderson's assessment.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman GILMAN. Mr. Tanous.
Mr. TANOUS. Mr. Chairman, our information pretty much parallels Terry's. And, frankly, the source of much of this information is a very good one, I think. It is all the various U.S. intelligence services, which suggests that 95 percent of the drug problem in the Bekaa Valley has been eradicated.
Chairman GILMAN. Mr. Pipes.
Mr. PIPES. I think it is accurate to say that most of the drug cultivation has been eradicated. However, the laboratories and the processing are flourishing, flourishing as never before, making Lebanon an even more important way station than in the past. Drug trafficking is thus even higher than it was in the past. But there has been a basic shift from actual hill-to-hill production in the Bekaa Valley, which does not exist much anymore, to sophisticated laboratories.
Chairman GILMAN. Our Committee has received several press reports linking Hizbollah to the production and distribution of cocaine and heroin, not hashish. The reports say the drug money plays still a major role in financing of Hizbollah's military campaign against Israel and terrorist operations abroad, and also is an important money maker for Syria.
According to the State Department's recent annual reports on narcotics control, ''Many small home type labs for processing opium into heroin are still reported to operate in the Bekaa Valley in areas that are not fully controlled by either Syrian forces or the Lebanese Government.''
Would you want to comment on that report?
Mr. PIPES. Well, as I said, the emphasis now is on exactly what you pointed to, the processing of drugs into their final state, a very lucrative industry and one which all reports indicate the Syrians are profiting from very handsomely.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ANDERSON. Sir, I would like to comment on one part of your statement, and that is the characterization of Hizbollah as a terrorist organization. Believe me, I have no doubt whatsoever that there are those within Hizbollah who engage in those sorts of activities, but Hizbollah is also a legal political party with seven Members of Parliament in Lebanon and an extensive social network.
I do not know the extent to which those who engage in violence exert power over the activities of the party, but I suggest that it is a good deal more complicated than simply labeling all of Hizbollah as terrorists.
Chairman GILMAN. Any other questions?
Mr. RAHALL. Mr. Chairman, if I might, I want to refer to this alleged continuing drug traffic. From my last meeting with the State Department officials on this issue, the mobile labs are a problem. They are much like SCUD missiles, hard to locate them and eradicate them. As far as the permanent big production labs, they have been eradicated.
Also in reference to what Mr. Anderson just said. One of my major concerns, which I expressed to Secretary Christopher in person, and I expressed to President Clinton in person, following the massacre at Qana last April, is that Hizbollah gained tremendous recognition for social work they provided the people of the area and medical assistance. We came in, maybe, and provided $1 million in U.S. aid. Israel said they were going to provide some money. They may or may not have; I am not sure.
But nevertheless, there was a tremendous vacuum left in providing medical assistance to innocent civilians who had been hurt in that raid. Therefore, it left a vacuum that, quite honestly, Iran stepped in, and provided for financially. As unfortunate as that is, it was the fact of the matter, and we were hand-tied, or something prevented us from taking the necessary steps to fill that vacuum first.
Mr. ANDERSON. May I comment, Mr. Chairman?
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman GILMAN. Mr. Anderson.
Mr. ANDERSON. If I may just very briefly, sir, believe me, I am the last person to support or defend Hizbollah. I may have forgiven them, but I still don't like them very much. But I believe it is important to recognize that they have made a major step in change in becoming involved in political structure in Lebanon, in running for office, and then serving as parliamentarians. They have a stake in stability in that country now which they never had before, and I think it is important to recognize that as an important part of the reconciliation process within the country.
I do not excuse them for past crimes or endorsements of violence. I am encouraged that, at least verbally and in their present actions, they seem to be stepping away from that road.
Chairman GILMAN. Do any other panelists want to comment?
We have been receiving some reports that Hizbollah has improved its military tactics against Israeli soldiers in the south of Lebanon and also acquired more sophisticated weapons. According to Israeli sources, Hizbollah has acquired advanced antiaircraft weapons similar to U.S. shoulder-fired Stingers.
What do we know about the acquisition of advanced weapons by Hizbollah, and has the arms supply from Iran and Syria increased or decreased in recent months? Do we have any information?
Mr. PIPES. Well, as you indicate, Mr. Chairman, there does seem to be an increase in the supply of more advanced weapons to Hizbollah. In my understanding, these are to be used in a timely fashion when appropriate, against Israel or perhaps against other enemies of the Syrian Government.
Mr. RAHALL. In the occupation zone.
Mr. PIPES. Yes, in the south of Lebanon, but also against targets within Israel proper, as happened in April of last year, in the events which led up to Qana.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Hizbollah, like many radical Islamic organizations, has several faces. It is both an independent group with its own ideology and at the same time it has close connections to the Iranian and Syrian Governments. It is in some ways a servant of those governments. On the one hand, it is a genuine terrorist organization; on the other, it achieves its goals through the provision of services and through electoral success.
What counts more than the specific acts, be they violent or political, are the ultimate goals of Hizbollah and these are very clearly enunciated by their quite brilliant and very articulate leaders. These are to turn Lebanon into a State where the Islamic law applies where ''Islam is the solution'' holds reign, and where non-Muslims will be under the thumb of this Islamic rule. It is an aggressive State against its neighbors and against the West. For all these reasons, Hizbollah is a group that we must be very wary of.
Chairman GILMAN. Mr. Anderson.
Mr. ANDERSON. One disagreement with Mr. Pipes. Hizbollah has officially and publicly abandoned its stated goal of turning Lebanon into an Islamic State, officially recognizes it as a multi-ethnic State, and professes to accept that these days. They say although they would, of course, love some time in the far future to have Lebanon be Islamic, they realize it cannot happen and it is not their goal anymore.
As far as their fighters in the south, you are quite right, sir, they have become more skillful over the years. That is only to be expected. The stupid ones get killed. And they have adopted very efficient tactics which military observers in the area judge to be very professional for low-level guerrilla conflicts, which is what they are waging, and judge that the battle between the Israeli Regular Army, the Southern Lebanese Army Militia, and Hizbollah, is pretty much of a face-off. I mean, six of one and half a dozen of the other. They can keep it up for a long time and fully intend to do so. They have gotten pretty good at it.
Chairman GILMAN. Are there any further comments?
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I want to thank our panelists for your very astute testimony and giving us a better insight on problems. We appreciate your taking the time to be with us.
Chairman GILMAN. We will now move to our third panelist, former President Amin Gemayel. Our final witness this morning is His Excellency, Amin Gemayel, the former President of Lebanon during the turbulent years of 1982 to 1988.
We thank you, Mr. President, for taking the time and being patient to wait through our testimony.
President Gemayel studied law at the University of St. Joseph in Beirut. In 1970, at the age of 28, he became the youngest member of the Lebanese Parliament. He was elected President of the Republic in 1982, several weeks after the previous President, his brother, Bashir Gemayel, was assassinated.
I think it was about that time that we visited with a congressional delegation, Mr. President, and met with you in the fortress up on the hill.
After leaving the Presidency, President Gemayel accepted a position at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard. Apart from his political activities, President Gemayel has established several nonprofit organizations to promote a dialog among Lebanon's various factions and to study the social, political, and economic issues facing that country.
President Gemayel is the author of several books, including the most recent, Rebuilding Lebanon's Future, published by Harvard. President Gemayel currently lives in France and has traveled a great distance to be with us today.
We thank you and welcome you to Washington once again, Mr. President. We are most pleased you are able to join us, and we look forward to hearing your assessment today about Lebanon's past.
Mr. LAHOOD. May I say one word? I made a commitment to give a talk to some people at 2:30 on the Senate side, so I am going to stay. If I leave, it is only because I have to maintain that commitment. Again, thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this. This means an awful lot to many of us.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman GILMAN. We thank you for being here.
Mr. President, you may put in your whole statement or summarize it, whatever you deem appropriate. Please proceed.
STATEMENT OF AMINE GEMAYEL, FORMER PRESIDENT OF LEBANON
Mr. GEMAYEL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I hope that you are not too tired after such a long session, especially with such a complicated issue as Lebanon.
Thank you for inviting me to appear before your Committee today. I speak on behalf of the vast majority of my people who refuse to surrender their freedom and sovereignty, and who refuse to accommodate the foreign policy aims of outsiders. I speak for those who refuse to accept the false peace which has been imposed on them.
I do not wish to repeat what has been said by so many others who have preceded me today, Mr. Chairman, including your own fine and accurate and inspiring opening statement. Therefore, I will skip my prepared statement and ask that it be included in the record.
Chairman GILMAN. Without objection.
President GEMAYEL. Mr. Chairman, in contrast to what the State Department and some other friends say this morning, Lebanon is rapidly becoming, to quote your own words, a Syrian ''client State''. This description is very accurate because Lebanon is indeed becoming a client city and State.
I appreciate that the State Department and others are obliged to use diplomatic language since they must deal with the current Government of Lebanon, but I am here to say that my country is no longer independent and that the Syrian grip is tightening in such a way that it may not be irreversible if the international community does not act now.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Also, some Lebanese and perhaps some foreign friends as well, have had experience in our country and may have been struck with the Stockholm syndrome. That may explain some of their comments today.
What is actually happening, Mr. Chairman, is that Syria is ripping apart our basic institutions, our basic national institutions. The constitutional change on Presidential terms, which you have mentioned, is a tragic example.
The renewal of the mandate of President Harawi ironically was announced in a foreign city during a press conference given by a foreign leader during a visit to Egypt. President Assad's action dramatically illustrates the importance of this issue as it demonstrates the extent to which the sanctity of Lebanese institutions has been disregarded in changing the term of the Presidency; they have cast aside our most basic safeguard against dictatorship.
Another point to emphasize what Mr. David Welch mentioned this morning concerns Syria's problems concerning the 1996 parliamentary elections. The kind of parliament we have is actually a parliament of a totalitarian country where 99.9 percent system is being followed. It means in the Parliament there is absolutely no opposition for the time being, and all the decisions considering the Constitution are taken by a very huge majority of 99.9 percent.
Another crucial way our national institutions are being dismantled is the change in our demography. Not only the institutions, but also the demography of the country. Recently, with the mere stroke of a pen, the government granted citizenship to nearly half a million aliens in a country of only 3 million people, can you imagine? That would be equivalent to 45 million people in the United States. So it is a demography that is changing. By the time the Syrians do withdraw, Lebanon will have been completely changed, even demographically.
This granting of citizenship was really unique in our history. Most previous Presidents only used their power to grant fewer than 100 such requests each during their entire 6-year terms.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So what do I propose? First, let me say that what I suggest, what I truly believe, that without Syrian and Israeli interference and intervention, we Lebanese, if left alone, would have resolved our own problems.
But now, under the current circumstances, I would suggest the following interconnected steps: First is the full implementation of the 1989 agreement which stipulates a Syrian pullback to East Lebanon away from Beirut. This agreement has the full support of the United States. At that time I had some reservations, but for the time being it is essential for the Syrians at least to respect their commitments under this agreement.
Second must be the withdrawal of Israeli forces from South Lebanon according to the U.N. Resolutions 425, 426, and 520.
Third, the Syrians must withdraw from all of Lebanon.
Fourth, all Lebanese must be able to participate in free elections held under international supervision.
I am here before you today to urge the United States to support actively a policy based on the principles on which this great Nation was founded. I urge the United States not to compromise or follow a policy of accommodation in order to placate our more powerful neighbors which would sacrifice American moral principles. Such a policy, in the end, will not bring peace to the Middle East.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Gemayel appears in the appendix.]
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Mr. President, for your very eloquent remarks.
Mr. RAHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
On a personal note, Mr. President, I want to express my pleasure in being with you once again. I know that our friendship goes back to my first visit to Lebanon in 1979, with you and your late brother.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GEMAYEL. My colleague at that time. I was a Member of the Parliament.
Mr. RAHALL. That is correct. We were colleagues at that time; that is correct.
Most importantly, and with great humility and respect for you, you have honored me by bestowing upon me the Cedars of Lebanon during your tenure as President, recognition that I hold quite dear to my heart, and I appreciate that very much.
You have given very good testimony, and your recommendations are fully noted, the first of which is your calling for the full implementation of the Taif agreement, which stipulates the Syrian pullback to East Lebanon, as you stated.
Is that not pretty much done today as far as the Syrian troops being out of Beirut itself, perhaps not in full compliance with the Taif agreements, but at least as far as the city of Beirut itself? You don't see Syrian troops in the city today. Are they still there and just hidden, or have they withdrawn from the city? There are no checkpoints, the green line is not there, et cetera, et cetera.
Mr. GEMAYEL. When you landed at the Beirut Airport, I am surprised you did not see it was surrounded by Syrian soldiers and intelligence officers. There are even the portraits of the Syrian leaders. They are everywhere in Beirut, including through the use of proxies, they completely control the Army, they control the intelligence, they control all major Lebanese institutions.
So they don't need a physical presence, because they have very strong control. Even if you don't see them, that does not mean they are absent.
Mr. RAHALL. OK. How would you advocate then that our U.S. Government act? Obviously, we are trying to work within the realities of the overall region. You have acknowledged that the State Department has made certain statements because they, as you just said in your opening statement, must deal with the current Lebanese Government. How do you then advocate, other than what you have said hereand I fully agree with these steps that you proposedthe implementation of the Taif agreements; the second step, withdrawal of Israeli forces; the third step is withdrawal of Syrian forces; and then the fourth, all Lebanese citizens be allowed to participate in internationally supervised free elections. I agree with all of those. How should our government go about actually implementing these?
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GEMAYEL. I think there is a real window of opportunity for a strong diplomatic American initiative because the Israeli and Syrian occupation of Lebanon has created a stalemate. In the environment of this diplomatic vacuum in the region, the time is ripe for the United States to step into the breach. The conditions are present in this stalemate to be transformed into a genuine initiative toward a lasting peace settlement.
First, the Lebanese Government, with Syrian backing, has called for the implementation of U.N. Resolutions 425 and 426. Even though Israel was opposed to the implementation of 425 and 426, Prime Minister Netanyahu now proclaims a ''Lebanon First'' plan which calls for an Israeli withdrawal concurrent with implementation of security arrangements in the south.
So what is 425 and 426? 425 and 426 is known as withdrawal plus security arrangements. What Mr. Netanyahu is calling for is withdrawal and security arrangements. Let us call it ''Lebanon First''. Without implementation of 425 and 426, there is no possibility.
Formerly, it was the Israelis who refused the implementation of 425 and 426. Now there is kind of a common ground. At the same time, the Hizbollah leaders are saying they are ready to disarm, as long as the Israelis withdraw from the south. If the Israelis withdraw, we are ready to disarm.
So there is a conjunction of three factors: The Lebanese call for 425 and 426, the Israeli proposal for their withdrawal under a ''Lebanon First'' plan, and the Hizbollah is saying it is ready to disarm after an Israeli withdrawal from the south. So these are really the building blocks.
My proposal is for the United States to bring the three partnersLebanon, Syria, and Israeltogether to the advantage of this window of opportunity to launch a new initiative to get all three to live up to the Taif agreement and to their engagements. I am convinced that a U.S. initiative would create a kind of momentum in the region that others would follow to fill the diplomatic vacuum, and restore confidence in the peace process.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RAHALL. So the United States should be pushing ahead to get the Lebanese Government and Israelis to negotiate, absent any progress in the overall peace track?
Mr. GEMAYEL. To help everybody to live up to their commitments and statements, that is all. There is an opportunity. Since actually there is no real diplomatic move in the area toward the peace process, Lebanon could become a first step; it could pave the way. Lebanon could be a starting point toward resuming the larger peace process. Lebanon could be a first initiative toward achieving peace in the region.
Mr. RAHALL. Thank you very much.
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Mr. Rahall. I thank you for standing by throughout the hearing.
Mr. RAHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for allowing me to be here, although not a Member of your Committee. I appreciate it.
Chairman GILMAN. It is good having someone who has personal knowledge on the issue take part.
Mr. President, as we have discussed here today, Congress is seriously concerned about the continued presence of foreign forces in Lebanon, especially by the loss of Lebanon's sovereignty as a result of all of this.
What should our Nation do to address the reality that Lebanon is not an independent, free State? What policy changes should we make to try to encourage an independent sovereignty?
Mr. GEMAYEL. As I have outlined in my testimony, Mr. Chairman, I believe there are four steps. And with the dynamic diplomatic initiative of the Clinton Administration, I am concerned that there is an opportunity. But what we need is diplomacy with muscle.
Chairman GILMAN. How do we get Syria, for example, to withdraw? Israel said if Syria will withdraw, they will withdraw.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GEMAYEL. It is difficult to have a resolution, without agreeing to all the steps as a package. We cannot deal with each issue by itself. They are really interconnected.
Chairman GILMAN. Do you think if there can be an eventual peace arrangement between Syria and Israel, that then Syria would be willing to withdraw? Or is Syria still going to be determined to make an all-Syria region, including Lebanon?
Mr. GEMAYEL. Not at all, Mr. Chairman. My country cannot wait until such time as Syria is ready to withdraw completely. The changes may be irreversible by then. That is the danger we are facing, actually. That is why we need full solidarity and cooperation with the Arab world, including Syria.
It may be premature to claim a complete separate peace between Lebanon and Israel, but at least we could get a genuine truce as a step toward peace for the time being, as was the case between Egypt and Israel before Camp David, between Jordan and Israel before Wadi Araba, and between Israel and Palestine since 1994 in the Golan Heights.
So what we require for the time being, this step, the implementation of the 425426, that is the slogan of Lebanon First, which is another version of 425426, the Hizbollah to live up with their engagements to disarm when the Israelis would withdraw.
So that is why there is an opportunity. It would be the first step. Lebanon did not suddenly collapse. It was a process of dismantling of our institutions. That is why we cannot rebuild quickly. Nobody has a magic wand, or can push a button. But we need a process and we can't wait. The process toward peace starts with this proposal which is workable and feasible, because there is an opportunity now.
But we need a strong initiative with muscles, a new U.S. involvement. Because the United States has leverage in the relationship with Syria and Israel, there is an opportunity to take this first step, which is essential. It appears as a very modest step, but this step is essential. It could have significant influence on the principal adversaries and could really impact the whole peace process in the Middle East.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman GILMAN. Maybe what we need, Mr. President, is yourself to go over as a mediator, an arbitrator.
Mr. GEMAYEL. Excuse me?
Chairman GILMAN. We may need to have you act as the arbitrator. Are you available? Under what circumstances do you see yourself returning to Lebanon?
Mr. GEMAYEL. I am willing to work full time on that.
Chairman GILMAN. Under what circumstances do you see yourself being able to return to Lebanon? Do you still feel you have a political role to play in Lebanon?
Mr. GEMAYEL. Mr. Chairman, I can only answer that I am Amin Gemayel from the Gemayel family. Can you imagine for a single moment that we could abdicate or surrender while my country is occupied and my people are living without dignity? Believe me, I will pursue my struggle and I will work until my country is completely free and sovereign and my people live with dignity.
Chairman GILMAN. Good for you.
Just one last question. Lebanon has not had elections for municipal and village officials since the 1950's, yet the government wants to postpone those elections until 1998. Can you shed any light on why they want to postpone those elections at this point?
Mr. GEMAYEL. Mr. Chairman, this issue of municipal elections is part of the whole national problem, since Syria occupies my countryand won't liberate it. I prefer to answer your questions by raising three questions myself. How can you imagine a dictatorship helping to rebuild a democracy? How can a country bent on hegemony help restore a neighboring country's sovereignty? And how can a socialist country help build free markets?
Municipal elections are part of a whole democratic process, and I can't imagine, really, a dictatorship helping rebuild a democracy at any level. That is why it is the essence of the problem. And when we will answer those three questions, at that time, really, we can move forward.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman GILMAN. Mr. President, the last elections, 1996, the parliamentary elections, do you feel they were fairly held? There was some question about by our State Department with regard to whether or not they were fair.
Mr. GEMAYEL. I will note two things, Mr. Chairman. First, I refer to the statement made by David Welch, himself, saying that there were serious problems. And the second point is, look at the result.
I, myself, wasn't able to run or to return to my country and to run for a Parliament, because my security was threatened at that time. So many, many others also could not return to run. And that is why you have a rubber stamp Parliament for the time being. The 1996 election was no breakthrough or miracle.
I am sure you would like to have such a consensus here in the United States, in the Congress or the Senate, to have only one voice and be able to vote on major and essential issues and national issues, with 99.9 percent.
Earlier I mentioned the reelection of President Harawi. A few months before the election, I remember very well several statements by several Lebanese, leaders and Members of Parliament saying, they couldn't believe, for a single moment, that they could accept or approve the reelection of President Harawi, because the renewal of the mandate would be unprecedented. Yet when the moment of truth arrived, all those people came in with one voice to renew the mandate of President Harawi.
So that is why I am saying that actually we don't have a Parliament. We have only a body invented, created, and built just to endorse Syrian decisions and aims in Lebanon.
For those who are saying that it is up to the Lebanese Government to call for the withdrawal of the Syrian Army from Lebanon, I can tell you that the President himself, the Members of the Parliament and the members of the government, have been imposed upon us by Syria specifically for the purpose of endorsing the permanent Syrian presence in Lebanon. They are there precisely to object to any request from the United States or from others to implement the Taif agreement, which would require the Syrian Army to withdraw from Lebanon. They are there to oppose the withdrawal and the implementation of the President or the other leaders in Lebanon.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I respect the Lebanese leaders; I have a close friendship with them, but I can assure you that they are intimidated and they are not at all able to really express the Lebanese peoples' interests or to preserve and defend Lebanese national interests.
If you will allow me to take just 2 minutes, I'd like to talk about a document I received. It is a memorandum about a message delivered to me by John Kelly, then the U.S. ambassador in Lebanon. I would make two points about it.
Chairman GILMAN. What is the date of that document?
Mr. GEMAYEL. The date is 12 March, 1988, the last year of my term. In this document, Ambassador John Kelly makes two points: The first one is to say that the position of the Muslims, including Salim Hoss, who at that time was Prime Minister and leader of the Sunnis Committee on Lebanon, on power sharing is that of President Amin Gemayel. ''The Syrians, including Salim Hoss, do not want,'' et cetera, et cetera.
So it shows that we were able to get a real consensus and to build a consensual new Constitution. So the first point is the other Lebanese leaders and I agreed upon the essentials of the change in the Constitution.
The second point, and this is very important, Mr. Chairman, and it is significant, when the U.S. ambassador in Lebanon expresses this, ''clearly Muslim leaders live in fear and are taking positions under Syrian pressure.'' This was in 1988, and nothing has changed since in the period, and I was obliged to leave the country.
The emissary, who at that time informed Ambassador John Kelly about this Muslim position, was assassinated 1 month later. That just shows you the kind of democracy we have and the kind of freedom and liberty enjoyed by several leaders who actually live in Lebanon, and the President and the members of the government.
Chairman GILMAN. Without objection, we will make that memorandum a part of our record.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The memorandum appears in the appendix.]
Chairman GILMAN. Mr. President, I cannot thank you enough for your sacrifice in time and travel it took to bring you over here and to be patient throughout our hearing. Your very eloquent remarks helped to give us a better insight
Mr. GEMAYEL. My poor English language.
Chairman GILMAN. You did very well. I recall when we met with you many years ago in Lebanon; at that time it was a country under siege and there was a lot of hostility going on. We met with you up in a fortress at that time at the top of the mountain.
We thank you again for being here.
The Committee stands adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 2:36 p.m., the Committee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
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