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 
  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.