(Extensions of Remarks - December 19, 2018)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E1683-E1684]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                              HON. TED POE

                                of texas

                    in the house of representatives

                      Wednesday, December 19, 2018

  Mr. POE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, across the Middle East today, armed 
thugs backed by Iran are entrenching themselves in local communities, 
undermining democratic aspirations, and stockpiling weapons in 
preparation for war against America's allies. Sadly, it's nothing new. 
For more than a decade, Iran has constructed a formidable array of 
foreign legions that exploit corruption and instability to subjugate 
millions to Tehran's will. In response, the President has rightly 
restored sanctions on the Islamic Republic and prioritized confronting 
its regional activity. But to reverse the gains Iran and its proxies 
have made over recent years, America and its allies must go beyond 
  Sanctions are designed to deny resources to Iran that are used to 
support terrorism, develop nuclear weapons, and conduct human rights 
abuses at home. We know this strategy has had some success in the past 
stalling Iran's efforts and forcing Tehran to come to the bargaining 
table. The Obama Administration, however, gave away the farm to the 
Mullahs, removing many of the sanctions that

[[Page E1684]]

brought Tehran to heel and opening the door for Russia, China, and the 
Europeans to do business in Iran. Obama also ceded physical territory 
to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its proxies by not 
contesting their growing activity in Syria and Yemen and withdrawing 
U.S. forces from Iraq. The resulting instability led to ISIS's rise and 
a secure land route from Tehran to Beirut from which the IRGC could 
move recruits and weapons to Israel's borders. These policies of 
appeasement have created a powder keg that could erupt into regional 
  At a recent hearing before my subcommittee, the Coordinator for 
Counterterrorism at the State Department, Amb. Nathan Sales, testified 
that Iran spends $1 billion-per-year funding its various terrorist 
proxies in the Middle East. This sum pales in comparison to how much we 
spend to deploy forces to the region, assist allies, conduct diplomacy, 
and gather intelligence. Yet, Iran is gaining ground. How is this 
possible? For one reason, Iran's march of terror is cheap and adaptive, 
using low-cost arms, violent coercion, disinformation, and crime to 
operate. Meanwhile, we chose to play by the rules and attempt to 
rebuild what Iran and other terrorists destroy. It's far cheaper and 
easier to destroy than to build. And unlike our efforts during the 
early Cold War, in the Middle East we are attempting to build or 
reinforce institutions that either never existed or are plagued with 
  But this doesn't mean American taxpayer dollars are spent in vain. 
For example, few would argue that the U.S.'s largest foreign assistance 
program, $3.8 billion-per-year in military financing to Israel, is 
money wasted. Rather, that money ensures Israel holds a military edge 
over Iran and its terrorist allies thus preventing the Mullahs from 
ever achieving one of their core objectives: the extermination of 
Israel. Just weeks ago, Palestinian terrorists backed by Iran, fired 
dozens of rockets into Israel. 120 of those rockets were incepted by 
Iron Dome, a missile defense system paid for and jointly developed 
through American assistance. Moreover, the Israelis are not sitting 
idly by as Iran masses forces on its northern borders. Since 2013, 
Israeli warplanes and missiles, subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, have 
struck dozens of Iranian and Hezbollah convoys transporting weapons to 
Lebanon or the Golan Heights.
  Action by Israel is effective but limited. For example, recent 
reports indicate the IRGC is utilizing the territory it controls in 
Iraq and Syria to position ballistic missiles that can target Israel, 
Saudi Arabia, and our forces in the region. Finding and striking these 
missiles is an enormous challenge for Israel and could have 
ramifications for Americans stationed in those countries. Instead, it 
is up to America to contest Iran's grip on these arenas by empowering 
local actors and demonstrating American resolve.
  So far, however, the State Department has done the opposite by 
resisting Congressional efforts to designate Iran's most lethal Iraqi 
proxies, such as Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, and 
shutting the American consulate in Basra, Iraq. Such action 
demonstrates to Iran that it need only threaten an American diplomatic 
post and the U.S. will retreat, ceding more space for them and their 
proxies. Tragically in the case of Basra, we are abandoning Iraqis who 
courageously took to the streets to protest Iran's meddling in their 
country. Simultaneously U.S. forces in Syria are trying to prevent a 
war between our Kurdish and Turkish allies that has allowed ISIS to 
survive and Iranian weapon shipments to pass by unmolested.
  Only when we tackle these local challenges can we dislodge Iran. To 
do so requires us to make hard choices and strategies with potentially 
more costs. But if countering Iran's expansionism is truly our 
objective, we must show commitment to partners on the ground that we 
are willing to confront Iran alongside them. Until then a storm is 
gathering that will inevitably pull Americans back into a long and 
difficult war.
  And that's just the way it is.