January 8, 2019 - Issue: Vol. 165, No. 3 — Daily Edition116th Congress (2019 - 2020) - 1st Session
S. 1; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 3
(Senate - January 08, 2019)
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[Pages S36-S37] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] S. 1 Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, today the Senate will vote to begin consideration of legislation that will address some of the seemingly never-ending challenges the world--including the United States--is facing in the Middle East. The decision made at the beginning of the 20th century by then First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, to convert British ships from coal to oil for fuel changed world history by making access to Middle East oil reserves a national security imperative for all developed nations. More recently, on 9/11 of 2001, when nearly 3,000 Americans lost their lives in a terrorist attack directed from Afghanistan on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we learned a hard lesson: Although separated by an ocean, what happens in the region does not stay in the region. Finally, with the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the nuclear aspirations of Iran--the No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism in the world--to attain them, the relative stability and security of the Middle East have a direct connection to our national security, as well as that of our allies, like Israel. With the administration's recent announcement that the United States will begin withdrawing troops from Syria, this debate and these votes could not be more timely. While I am comforted by National Security Advisor John Brennan's recent statement that the withdrawal from Syria will be conditions- based, the precise details of how and when it will be executed remain to be seen. One thing, however, is perfectly clear: We cannot allow the creation of a power vacuum in the Middle East to bolster our adversaries' influence in the region. That is precisely what this legislation addresses. The Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act incorporates four bipartisan, noncontroversial bills that were nearly enacted last year, but the clock on the 115th Congress ran out on December 31. As we begin what I hope will be another productive year in the Senate, I am glad we will have a chance to vote on this legislation. Our national interests demand that we fully support and ensure the security of Israel--our closest ally in the region. As the majority leader said last week, this bill affirms that the United States needs to do more than just talk the talk; we must also walk the walk to support Israel's security. This legislation will help Israel maintain its qualitative military edge against ongoing threats by authorizing military assistance and allowing the transfer of equipment and defensive weapons. Importantly, it will also assist Israel in countering the emerging threat of unmanned aerial vehicles deployed by Iran, in particular. In addition to supporting Israel, it will empower State and local governments in the United States to counter the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement--better known as BDS--and its discriminatory economic warfare against the Jewish state. In addition to nurturing our relationship with Israel, the bill also recognizes the importance of supporting Jordan--another key regional ally. It reauthorizes legislation to strengthen our defense cooperation and support Jordan's response to the overwhelming humanitarian crisis caused by the Syrian civil war. According to the United Nations, there are more than 740,000 refugees in Jordan. That equates to 89 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants, making them the second highest refugee host nation per capita in the world. [[Page S37]] The impact of the crisis in Syria is immense and potentially destabilizing and requires our support to maintain the peace. Finally, this bill takes critical steps to address the ongoing war and humanitarian crisis in Syria by providing aid to impacted communities and condemns the heinous human rights violations committed by the murderous Assad regime. Until this horrendous conflict is resolved, new sanctions will be imposed on anyone who supports Syria either financially or militarily. It is true that this bill will not solve all the problems in the Middle East. It will not, for example, provide justice to innocent civilians killed by the Assad regime. It will not rebuild the communities treated as collateral damage throughout this crisis. But it is a step to ensure our allies are prepared to fight for and defend our shared national security interests. Senate Democrats have indicated, unfortunately, that they are likely to block this legislation from coming to the floor, as their discussions with the President on border security remain at an impasse. Leader McConnell, though, has made it clear that the Senate will not waste time holding show votes on legislation that the President will not sign, so we continue to wait for Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer to take serious, credible action to break that impasse. Until that time, there is a lot of work we can and should do, such as debating and voting on this legislation, which will protect our national security interests in the Middle East. Twenty-five percent of our government has already been shut down because of this impasse. I urge our Democratic colleagues in the Senate not to shut down the work of the Senate too. I want to thank the majority leader for scheduling this important debate and vote, and I look forward to voting yes when the time comes. ____________________