Letter to the Hon. Donald J. Trump, President of the United States - Nearly 400 Lawmakers Call on Trump to Address Threats in Syria


By: John Barrasso, Mike Enzi, Shelley Capito, Joe Manchin III, Tammy Baldwin, Ron Johnson, Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray, Tim Kaine, Mark Warner, Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, John Cornyn, Marsha Blackburn, Chris Coons, Tom Carper, Chris Murphy, Richard Blumenthal, Cory Gardner, Michael Bennet, Kamala Harris, Dianne Feinstein, Martha McSally, Kyrsten Sinema, Tom Cotton, John Boozman, Doug Jones, Dan Sullivan, Carol Miller, Alex Mooney, David McKinley, Mike Gallagher, Glenn Grothman, Ron Kind, Bryan Steil, Denny Heck, Kim Schrier, Derek Kilmer, Cathy Rodgers, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Suzan DelBene, Gerry Connolly, Jennifer Wexton, Morgan Griffith, Don Beyer, Jr., Abigail Spanberger, Ben Cline, Denver Riggleman III, Donald McEachin, Elaine Luria, Ben McAdams, John Curtis, Chris Stewart, Brian Babin, Marc Veasey, Colin Allred, Sylvia Garcia, Michael Cloud, Michael Burgess, Kenny Marchant, Will Hurd, Pete Olson, Chip Roy, Jodey Arrington, Sheila Jackson Lee, Bill Flores, Randy Weber, Sr., Mac Thornberry, Kay Granger, Kevin Brady, Lizzie Fletcher, Ron Wright, Lance Gooden, John Ratcliffe, Van Taylor, Dan Crenshaw, Steve Cohen, David Kustoff, John Rose, Jim Cooper, Scott DesJarlais, Tim Burchett, Phil Roe, Dusty Johnson, Tom Rice, Jim Clyburn, Ralph Norman, Jr., William Timmons, Jeff Duncan, Joe Wilson, Sr., Joe Cunningham, Jim Langevin, David Cicilline, Jenniffer González-Colón, Mike Doyle, Jr., Conor Lamb, Mike Kelly, Jr., Guy Reschenthaler, John Joyce, Scott Perry, Matt Cartwright, Susan Wild, Chrissy Houlahan, Madeleine Dean, Brendan Boyle, Brian Fitzpatrick, Kurt Schrader, Tom Cole, Frank Lucas, Markwayne Mullin, Kevin Hern, Anthony Gonzalez, Steve Stivers, Dave Joyce, Tim Ryan, Troy Balderson, Mike Turner, Bob Gibbs, Bill Johnson, Jim Jordan, Joyce Beatty, Brad Wenstrup, Steve Chabot, Chris Collins, Brian Higgins, Joe Morelle, John Katko, Tom Reed II, Anthony Brindisi, Elise Stefanik, Paul Tonko, Sean Maloney, Eliot Engel, Adriano Espaillat, Carolyn Maloney, Max Rose, Jerry Nadler, Yvette Clarke, Hakeem Jeffries, Grace Meng, Gregory Meeks, Kathleen Rice, Thomas Suozzi, Pete King, Lee Zeldin, Steven Horsford, Susie Lee, Mark Amodei, Dina Titus, Ben Lujan, Jr., Bonnie Watson Coleman, Mikie Sherrill, Don Payne, Jr., Bill Pascrell, Jr., Albio Sires, Tom Malinowski, Frank Pallone, Jr., Joshua Gottheimer, Chris Smith, Andy Kim, Jeff Van Drew, Donald Norcross, Annie Kuster, Chris Pappas, Adrian Smith, Kelly Armstrong, Ted Budd, Alma Adams, Mark Meadows, Patrick McHenry, Richard Hudson, Jr., David Rouzer, Virginia Foxx, David Price, G. K. Butterfield, Jr., Greg Gianforte, Steven Palazzo, Michael Guest, Jason Smith, Billy Long, Sam Graves, Emanuel Cleaver II, Vicky Hartzler, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Ann Wagner, Collin Peterson, Tom Emmer, Dean Phillips, Angie Craig, Haley Stevens, Paul Mitchell, Andy Levin, Elissa Slotkin, Tim Walberg, Dan Kildee, Jared Golden, Jamie Raskin, Elijah Cummings, David Trone, Steny Hoyer, Anthony Brown, John Sarbanes, Dutch Ruppersberger, Andy Harris, Bill Keating, Stephen Lynch, Seth Moulton, Ed Markey, Katherine Clark, Joe Kennedy III, Lori Trahan, Richard Neal, Ralph Abraham, Mike Johnson, Andy Barr, John Yarmuth, Brett Guthrie, James Comer, Jr., Ron Estes, Steven Watkins, Jr., Roger Marshall, Trey Hollingsworth III, Jim Baird, Jim Banks, Jackie Walorski, Darin LaHood, Adam Kinzinger, Rodney Davis, Mike Bost, Bill Foster, Brad Schneider, Jan Schakowsky, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Danny Davis, Mike Quigley, Dan Lipinski, Robin Kelly, Russ Fulcher, Steve King, Dave Loebsack, Abby Finkenauer, Ed Case, Tom Graves, Jr., David Scott, Barry Loudermilk, Jody Hice, Doug Collins, Austin Scott, John Lewis, Drew Ferguson, Sanford Bishop, Jr., Buddy Carter, Donna Shalala, Mario Diaz-Balart, Frederica Wilson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Sr., Brian Mast, Greg Steube, Vern Buchanan, Ross Spano, Charlie Crist, Jr., Gus Bilirakis, Daniel Webster, Val Demings, Darren Soto, Bill Posey, Stephanie Murphy, Michael Waltz, Al Lawson, Jr., John Rutherford, Jim Himes, John Larson, Ed Perlmutter, Jason Crow, Doug Lamborn, Ken Buck, Scott Tipton, Diana DeGette, Susan Davis, Juan Vargas, Mike Levin, Harley Rouda, Alan Lowenthal, Lou Correa, Katie Porter, Nanette Barragán, Ken Calvert, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Gil Cisneros, Karen Bass, Norma Torres, Jimmy Gomez, Ted Lieu, Grace Napolitano, Pete Aguilar, Brad Sherman, Tony Cárdenas, Adam Schiff, Julia Brownley, Salud Carbajal, T.J. Cox, Jimmy Panetta, Anna Eshoo, Jim Costa, Eric Swalwell, Josh Harder, Lamar Alexander, Mike Rounds, John Thune, Sheldon Whitehouse, Jack Reed, Pat Toomey, Bob Casey, Jr., Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden, James Lankford, Jim Inhofe, Rob Portman, Sherrod Brown, Kirsten Gillibrand, Chuck Schumer, Jacky Rosen, Catherine Cortez Masto, Cory Booker, Bob Menendez, Maggie Hassan, Jeanne Shaheen, Ben Sasse, Deb Fischer, Kevin Cramer, John Hoeven, Steve Daines, Jon Tester, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Roger Wicker, Joshua Hawley, Roy Blunt, Tina Smith, Amy Klobuchar, Gary Peters, Debbie Stabenow, Susan Collins, Chris Van Hollen, Jr., Ben Cardin, John Kennedy, Bill Cassidy, Jerry Moran, Tammy Duckworth, James Risch, Mike Crapo, Joni Ernst, Chuck Grassley, Mazie Hirono, David Perdue, Johnny Isakson, Marco Rubio, Paul Cook, Ami Bera, Doris Matsui, John Garamendi, Greg Stanton, Debbie Lesko, Ruben Gallego, David Schweikert, Ann Kirkpatrick, Tom O'Halleran, Bruce Westerman, Steve Womack, French Hill, Rick Crawford, Gary Palmer, Mo Brooks, Robert Aderholt, Mike Rogers, Martha Roby, Bradley Byrne, Michael McCaul
Date: May 20, 2019
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Foreign Affairs

Dear Mr. President:

At a time of grave insecurity in the Middle East, we are deeply concerned about the role that terrorist and extremist groups and U.S. adversaries continue to play, particularly in Syria. As some of our closest allies in the region are being threatened, American leadership and support are as crucial as ever. To this end, we recommend several specific steps to advance our regional security priorities, including assisting our ally, Israel, in defending itself in the face of growing threats, including on its northern border.

Pockets of ungoverned space have allowed terrorist groups, such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and their affiliates, to keep parts of Syria in their stranglehold. These groups' ability to recruit, propagandize, and grow is alarming. Though their main purpose now may be to fight inside Syria, they retain the ability and will to plan and implement attacks against Western targets, our allies and partners, and the U.S. homeland. The United States has an interest in preventing these terrorist organizations from solidifying their foothold in the Middle East, which they would undoubtedly use to further destabilize the region, thereby undermining American interests.

The region has also been destabilized by Iranian regime's threatening behavior. In Syria, Iran is working to establish a permanent military presence that can threaten our allies. In the past year alone, an Iranian-armed drone infiltrated Israeli airspace and the IRGC fired dozens of missiles toward Israel from Syria. Additionally, Iran continues its program to pursue a direct overland route from Iran to Lebanon. That connection would better facilitate Iran's supplying of Hezbollah terrorists and other Iranian-backed militias with deadly weapons. While our nation has encouraged more stable and inclusive political systems in the Middle East, the regime in Tehran has spread its influence and destabilized its neighbors for its own gain.

Like Iran, Russia is also working to secure a permanent presence in Syria, beyond its naval facility at Tartus. Russia has changed the arc of Syria's civil war at the expense of Syria's people by employing Russian troops, aircraft, and diplomatic protection to ensure the survival of the Assad regime. Furthermore, in providing Damascus with advanced weapons like the S-300 anti-aircraft system, Moscow is complicating Israel's ability to defend itself from hostile action emanating from Syria. Russia's destabilizing role only complements that of Iran -- since Russia shows no willingness to expel Iranian forces from Syria.

Hezbollah now poses a more potent threat to Israel as well. From Lebanon, Hezbollah has aimed more than 100,000 rockets and missiles at Israel that are increasingly more precise and of longer-range, giving the terrorist group the capability to strike anywhere in Israel. Just a few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that a Hezbollah operative who is accused of killing five American soldiers in Iraq may now be setting up a terror network on the border between Israel and Syria. Israel also recently discovered and destroyed six Hezbollah tunnels that made their way into Israel from Lebanon, all while Hezbollah has increased its rhetoric about its intentions of kidnapping Israeli soldiers and civilians.

In order to limit the presence of terrorists and extremists, counter the activities of our adversaries, and strengthen Israel's security we urge you to advance our regional interests by implementing a strategy including the following elements:

Underscore Israel's right to self-defense. It is longstanding U.S. policy to support Israel's ability to defend itself by itself and support its qualitative military edge. With the region in flux, it remains critical that we reiterate to both friend and foe in the region that we continue to support Israel's right to defend itself. We must also look for ways to augment our support in the context of the current 10-year Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel and to ensure that Israel has access to the resources and materiel it needs to defend itself against the threats it faces on its northern border. The U.S. should continue to oppose international efforts to isolate and weaken Israel.

Increase pressure on Iran and Russia with respect to activities in Syria. Working with our allies and partners, we urge you to maintain and increase pressure on Iran and Russia to constrain their destabilizing activities. America must continue economic and diplomatic efforts to counter Iran's support for Hezbollah and other terrorist groups as well as Russia's support for the brutal Assad regime. We encourage full implementation of sanctions authorized in the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a broadly supported bipartisan bill that you signed into law. Clear and sustained American action and close coordination with our allies and partners can send an important message of resolve to malign actors in the region.
Increase pressure on Hezbollah. By forcefully and fully implementing the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015, the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2018, and other sanctions aimed at Hezbollah and those who fund it, America can reduce their ability to threaten and challenge Israel. Additionally, we must continue to press UNIFIL to carry out its U.N. Security Council mandate, including investigating and reporting the presence of arms and tunnels on Israel's border.

The conflict in Syria is complicated, and the potential solutions are not perfect, but our only choice is to advance policies that can stop the growing threats to U.S. interests, Israel, and regional security and stability. This strategy requires American leadership. We thank you for your consideration of our views.