Chairman Royce Speaks in Support of Syria “Train and Equip” Measure to Combat ISILPress Release
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke on the House floor in support of the Syria “train and equip” amendment offered by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon to the Continuing Resolution being considered by the House. Video of Chairman Royce’s floor statement is available HERE.
On Thursday morning at 11:30, Chairman Royce will convene a hearing entitled “The ISIS Threat: Weighing the Obama Administration’s Response,” at which Secretary of State John Kerry will testify.
The as-prepared-for-delivery text of Chairman Royce’s floor statement follows:
I rise in strong support of this amendment.
Today we face as we know a great and growing threat from ISIL. Never has a terrorist organization controlled so much territory – a safe haven as well to plan future attacks. Never has one had access to vital natural resources. Never has a terrorist organization possessed the ready cash, the heavy weaponry, the personnel that ISIL possess.
And we are late in responding. At least two years ago, the President had a proposal on his desk to arm those under threat inside Syria. It was backed by his Secretary of State, backed by his Defense Secretary, the CIA Director, and General Petraeus. If the President accepted this recommendation, coming from his entire national security team years ago, we’d be in a different position today.
Yet Syria continues to spiral out of control – Assad has hung to power and ISIL has risen from a terrorist group to a terrorist army. Caught in the middle has been the civil society types, the moderate opposition, left largely to fend on its own. These are the individuals who started off chanting “peaceful, peaceful” in the streets of Damascus to protest the Assad regime. After Assad began this slaughter, they took up arms to defend themselves.
In July, the Foreign Affairs Committee heard unprecedented testimony from a Syrian army defector, named “Cesar,” who showed our committee pictures of the regime’s unspeakable crimes. Tens of thousands of people tortured – men, women, and children by Assad. Assad has killed over 200,000 people now. The fact is that Assad is a protector of no one – except himself. That’s the bottom line.
And where ISIL operates, they’ve gone on a horrifying rampage – killing, beheading, and even crucifying their victims.
Assad is no fool. His regime has pursued a strategy to avoid confrontation with ISIL, focusing his efforts on wiping out these moderate rebels. Indeed the Assad regime continues to purchase crude oil from ISIL, giving them ready cash, an average of $2 million daily for that terrorist group. Assad’s strategy is to present the world with a choice between the regime and the ISIL extremists.
We do not have to play Assad’s game.
This amendment would give the Syrian opposition what they desperately need – training and equipment. Who are we looking to aid? These are individuals who have risked their lives to combat the Assad regime and ISIL terrorists.
But these fighters aren’t starting from scratch. They’ve been in the fight for years. Out of shear commitment and determination, they’ve had some success on the battlefield. But with greater U.S. training and supplies, they’ll be bolstered. And as an ultimate boost, this force would be supported by U.S. and coalition airpower. That puts real spine into a fighting force – which will be needed to confront and defeat ISIL.
Our military has provided this type of training around the world for decades. Let’s be clear: it is not a combat mission for U.S. forces. U.S. trainers will be providing training and equipment – training that will take place inside an allied country.
We need a partner on the ground in Syria. We have one – but not one that is adequately trained and supplied to take on a formidable ISIL and the Hezbollah-backed regime in Damascus. We need to act. And we need to act urgently.
Because this threat is coming. ISIL members include thousands of western passport holders and hundreds of Americans. Indeed, one Frenchman engaged in this battle recently returned to Europe and executed a terrorist attack: walking into a Jewish museum in Brussels and killing four people. There is more of that to come, for sure.
If we do not act, the threat will continue to grow, threatening Syrians and Iraqis, our allies, and our interests in the region, and eventually the United States.