THE MIDDLE EAST; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 2
(Senate - January 04, 2019)

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[Pages S25-S26]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                            THE MIDDLE EAST

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, on another matter, while these 
discussions continue, the Senate will also be taking up other important 
  Yesterday, the senior Senator from Florida introduced a package of 
four bills that pertain to U.S. policy in the Middle East. I am a proud 
cosponsor of

[[Page S26]]

this legislation, along with the chairman of the Foreign Relations 
Committee to be, Senator Risch, and Senator Gardner. It speaks directly 
to some critical American interests in that part of the world--our 
security cooperation with key partners, Israel and Jordan, and the 
ongoing humanitarian and security catastrophe of the Syrian civil war.
  First, this legislation recognizes the growing threat Iran, Syria, 
Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist groups pose to the State of 
Israel, and it aims to strengthen key elements of our relationship with 
our closest partner in the Middle East.
  It affirms that the United States needs to ``walk the walk,'' and it 
authorizes military assistance, cooperative missile defense, as well as 
loan guarantees.
  It encourages closer U.S.-Israel technological cooperation to better 
address 21st century threats, and it clearly states that it is official 
U.S. policy to help Israel preserve its qualitative military edge over 
those who might wish it harm.
  The legislation also recognizes the security, economic, and 
humanitarian challenges the ongoing conflict in Syria poses to the 
people and Government of Jordan, and it reauthorizes important 
legislation aimed at deepening our defense cooperation with this 
important regional partner.
  In addition, the bill contains a bipartisan provision from Senators 
Rubio and Manchin to combat the BDS movement, an aggressive and hostile 
attempt to delegitimize and economically boycott the State of Israel.
  This legislation gives State and local governments across America 
more flexibility to limit their own business relationships with 
entities that support this horrible effort to hurt our ally. In effect, 
this provision allows jurisdictions to boycott the boycotters--let me 
say that again: ``to boycott the boycotters''--and make sure they don't 
send taxpayer dollars to companies that embrace this anti-Israel 
  Now, with respect to the ongoing conflict in Syria, there are, 
certainly, differing views about the role of the U.S. military with 
respect to threats emanating from Syria. There is no question that we 
continue to face serious challenges from al-Qaida and ISIS in Syria, as 
well as from Iran, Russia, and the Assad regime itself, and I 
anticipate this body will debate U.S. military strategy toward Syria in 
the coming weeks, as it conducts oversight over the administration's, 
apparently, ongoing review of its Syria policies.
  Admittedly, there are no easy solutions in Syria. I hope the 
administration and Congress will be deliberate and sober as we consider 
the risks of various approaches to the endgame of the fight against the 
physical caliphate of ISIS. After all, American lives, critical 
national security interests, and the future of a turbulent yet critical 
region are all at stake. The debate is forthcoming. I imagine it could 
be contentious.
  There should be little debate, however, about the Caesar Syria 
Civilian Protection Act, which has overwhelming bipartisan support and 
the endorsement of the administration.
  This bill, which is included in this package, speaks to the human 
tragedy of the Syrian civil war. It provides nonmilitary tools for 
responding to the atrocities conducted by the regime of Bashar al-
Assad. It will hold accountable those responsible for the torture and 
murder of countless Syrian civilians and provide more leverage for 
diplomats to end the conflict through peaceful negotiations that are 
consistent with the demands of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254.
  Unless the Syrian regime changes course, ends its brutality against 
the Syrian people, and negotiates a peaceful end to the civil war, the 
butchers of Damascus will find their key financial institutions and 
industries sanctioned by the United States.
  This bill will not bring back the hundreds of thousands of Syrians 
who have been murdered or tortured by the regime, but it will be 
another arrow in the quiver of diplomats who are seeking to end this 
awful war and stabilize a region of critical importance to the United 
States and its allies. So I am proud to cosponsor the package of 
legislation that Senator Rubio introduced yesterday.
  I am clearing the way for the bill, S. 1, to be debated and voted on 
here on the Senate floor as early as next week, and I look forward to 
voting to pass this important bill.