WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks in the House of Representatives urging Congress not to use the Intelligence Authorization Act to make changes to American policy toward Syria:
“I thank my friend for yielding to me, and I appreciate the bipartisan hard work of Chairman Nunes and Ranking Member Schiff. But, I want to bring to the House’s attention recent reports that this bill makes drastic cuts in our so-called covert support to the moderate Syrian opposition.
“A headline in the Saturday Washington Post read, ‘Secret CIA efforts in Syria faces large funding cut.’ If these reports are true, just as the moderate Syrian forces may be starting to make progress, especially in the south of Syria, then I am afraid we might be making a big mistake.
“Unfortunately, most members of the House don’t know for certain if this legislation will reduce our support for the moderate opposition. Those funding decisions are made behind closed doors, and that’s why I believe this bill is not the right place for us to be making decisions that have a major impact on our Syria strategy.
“I have no doubt that Chairman Nunes and Ranking Member Schiff are determined to get the intelligence piece of our Syria response right. But, this is not merely an intelligence issue and our overall strategy in Syria goes far beyond what’s included in any covert program. So, I believe we shouldn’t be dealing with this problem in a piecemeal way. As we have been doing in the Foreign Affairs Committee on a bipartisan basis, I urge my colleagues to take a step back, look at the big picture, and address our Syria policy in a way that makes sense and involves all the relevant players.
“I am troubled if it is true that this bill makes drastic cuts in our so called covert support to the moderate Syrian opposition. I commend the hard work of our Chairman and Ranking Member, and thank them for letting me speak, and I yield back the balance of my time.”