House Foreign Affairs Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Republican
CONTACT: Brad Goehner, (202) 226-8467, November 18, 2010
Alex Cruz, (202) 225-8200
For IMMEDIATE Release
Ros-Lehtinen Opening Statement at Iraq Hearing
(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following opening statement earlier today at a hearing entitled, “The Transition to a Civilian-Led U.S. Presence in Iraq: Issues and Challenges”:
“The U.S. mission in Iraq is in a time of transition. Embassy leadership has rotated twice since the Committee last received testimony from both the Department of State and the Department of Defense. A more fundamental transition is now underway, as the U.S. combat mission in Iraq ended in August of 2010 and the U.S. role shifts further.
“As a result, while I respect and thank our witnesses for their record of service to our nation, it is difficult to understand why the Administration declined to send higher-ranking officials from the State and Defense Departments to a full committee hearing on a matter as important as Iraq and future U.S. policy.
“I am concerned that such a decision reflects a broader strategic ambivalence in the policy and approach to Iraq. We owe it to our troops—who have sacrificed so much in the course of their mission in Iraq—to ensure that a strategic defeat does not spring from their hard-fought tactical victory.
“Unfortunately, for most of the last two years, much of the focus has been on dealing with short-term considerations such as drawing down troop levels quickly—without sufficient focus on the emergence of Iran as the key power broker in the country, on the long-term security situation, and on the nature and extent of the future U.S.-Iraqi relationship.
“We do have a Strategic Framework Agreement with Iraq, but what is the Administration’s strategy for moving this effort forward?
“We must be both proactive and prospective. Iraq can play a critical role in limiting the Iranian influence, which, as all of us know, has been destabilizing in the region, and Iran’s ability to threaten and intimidate its Gulf neighbors.
“A stable, secure, friendly Iraq can help separate Iran and Syria, provide Turkey with a key alternative to economic involvement with Iran, demonstrate to the Gulf states that Iran cannot dominate the northern Gulf or expand to the south, and can help our key allies in the region.
“I would ask our witnesses to answer this question: Do they agree that greater U.S. leverage in Iraq can play a critical role in limiting Iran’s influence, and Iran’s ability to threaten and intimidate its neighbors?
“What specifically is the United States’ near, and also far-reaching, long-term strategy for addressing the Iranian threat in Iraq?
“Would you agree that a stable, sovereign, and secure Iraq will show that Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims can cooperate and can defuse the threat of Sunni extremism, as well as the kind of Shi’ite extremism backed by Iran?
“And, going one step further, we have got to recognize that Iran’s activities in both Iraq and Afghanistan are components of a broader threat that it poses to U.S. interests and allies in the Middle East and beyond.
“The need for a sound, comprehensive strategy has never been more vital, as we transition our presence to an overwhelmingly diplomatic one, and as Iran seeks to exploit that transition to draw the recently-formed Iraqi government under its thumb. We may still be able to achieve a lasting, grand strategic victory, but not if we treat Iraq as if there were some sort of ‘end state,’ rather than the need for a continuing strategic focus.
“And finally, Mr. Chairman, given the need for full oversight of our Iraq policy, I am concerned about news that the State Department has failed to comply with repeated requests by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction for contract data on the Iraqi Police Training Program.
“Given the troubled history of our police training efforts, the need for oversight of this program is particularly important, so that we do not repeat past mistakes.
“I share the concerns raised by Senators Grassley and Coburn in their October 6th letter to the Secretary of State about the continued failure of the INL Bureau to take immediate steps to address the lack of cooperation with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
“What guidance has been given employees of the Department of State in regards to responding to requests made by SIGIR to ensure that the unanswered requests for information do not continue?
“What has been done by both State and DOD to implement the recommendations set forth by SIGIR?
“Finally, Mr. Chairman, I would like to express concern regarding the plight of the residents of Camp Ashraf.
“Mr. Chairman, last year, you and I issued a joint statement urging the Iraqi government to live up to its commitment to ensure the continued well-being of those living in Camp Ashraf. However, reports indicate that medical care, including vital treatment for cancer patients, are being denied to the residents of Ashraf.
“Secretary Feltman, I would urge the Department of State to please intervene more proactively to ensure that the humanitarian protections to which Ashraf’s residents are entitled, and which they were promised, are going to be upheld.
“I thank the witnesses for their time and look forward to hearing from them about the Administration’s plans going forward.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee