Engel Floor Remarks on Bills to Counter Hezbollah
– As Delivered –
WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following remarks on the House floor in support of two measures targeting Hezbollah: Sanctioning Hizballah’s Illicit Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act (H.R.3342) and Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2017 (H.R.3329).
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this measure and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
“Let me start off by thanking Representatives Gallagher of Wisconsin and Suozzi of New York. Mr. Suozzi is a very valued, new member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. And I want to thank both of them for their hard work on this bill and, as always, I want to thank Chairman Royce for his leadership.
“This is the first of three measures that we’re considering today to crack down on the terrorist group Hezbollah.
“I’ve been focused on this challenge for a long time. More than a decade ago, I wrote a law to get Syria out of Lebanon, and with it, Syria’s support for Hezbollah.
“But this is a group made up of extremists, and they will always try to find new ways to gather resources and spread their reach, all in aid of its dangerous and violent agenda: which is undermining Lebanon’s political independence, supporting Iran’s activities—aggressive activities—throughout the region, fueling chaos and war in Syria, and threatening our ally Israel.
“We need to do everything in our power to isolate Hezbollah. We need to crack down on its recruiters and financers. We need to cut off its supply of weapons. And we need to silence its propaganda machine.
“The three measures we’ll now consider will help us meet this challenge.
“The first is a new sanctions bill aimed at Hezbollah’s use of innocent civilians as human shields. It would ban entry into the United States to anyone who uses human shields on behalf of Hezbollah, and it would freeze whatever assets they have in the United States.
“This bill would call upon our Ambassador to the UN to push for multilateral sanctions for the same behavior.
“And it would require the Administration to keep Congress apprised about whether certain Hezbollah leaders would be caught up in the web of these sanctions.
“It’s a good bill, and a piece of a broader strategy to cut the legs out from under this odious group.
“You know, some of our friends in Europe like to say: ‘Well, there are really two parts of Hezbollah. One is the military wing and one is the humanitarian wing. And the so-called humanitarian wing takes care of people who are in trouble, who need aid, who need help, and that’s the way the story goes.’
“The fact is a terrorist organization is a terrorist organization. You cannot cut it off and say one wing is good and one wing is not.
“A terrorist organization is not good. A terrorist organization kills innocent people. A terrorist organization doesn’t want peace, they want war, they want killing, they want people to continue to suffer.
“So let us remember: Hezbollah is a terrorist group. Hezbollah is primarily financed by Iran.
“Assad was losing the war in Syria on at least two occasions. And on those times, Syria had an infusion of Hezbollah fighters sent by Iran on the side of the Assad regime to prop up Assad. And after they did it, the Russians came in and propped up Assad.
“So let’s remember the hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians who have been murdered in Syria in the Syria Civil War.
“That’s Hezbollah, a terrorist organization. Bombs in Israel against innocent civilians, bombs everyplace else. We cannot sit idly by.
“And so this bill again is a piece of a broader strategy to cut the legs out from under this odious group.
“I’m pleased to support it. I urge everyone to do the same. And I reserve the balance of my time.
“I’ll close now. And I want to close the way I opened. I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their hard work on this bill.
“I want to remind my colleagues that just a few years ago, when the last war was raging in Gaza. The other terrorist group Hamas used civilians as human shields.
“We had a resolution on the floor of this house condemning it and I was very, very proud that that resolution passed unanimously.
“We need to condemn these terrorist groups no matter what they do. But when they use people as human shields, innocent people, and then try to blame the other side for the death, it’s not something that we can consciously stand for at all.
“And I hope that we rise to the occasion this time as well. Because I can’t think of nothing more despicable than using innocent civilians as human shields.
“These bomb factories are built in mosques. They’re built in schools. They’re built in playgrounds where children are. They’re built because they are daring Israel and the United States to go after them when we know that they’ll be human casualties. And it’s really a despicable position.
“And here you have two terrorist groups, Hezbollah and Hamas. One’s Shiia, one’s Sunni. Doesn’t matter—they’re both out to kill people. They’re both out to terrorize people. They’re both out to do the opposite of what we try to do in the United States lifting people up. And they need to be stopped.
“And this Congress needs to keep sending strong messages with teeth behind it to the world that we will not sit idly by and allow these terrorist activities to happen. And using civilians as human shields is really the lowest of the low.
“The fact that Hezbollah would put innocent men, women, and children in harm’s way as human shields tells you everything you need to know about this organization. It’s a cowardly practice by a gruesome group, and it cannot and shall not be tolerated.
“This measure puts us on record again condemning this terrorist group, and it gives the Administration more tools to deal with one of Hezbollah’s worst tools. More tools to deal with Hezbollah to stop its terrorist activities.
“So I urge a bipartisan yes vote. I thank Chairman Royce again for his collaboration with us on both sides of the aisle.
“That’s one of the great things about the Foreign Affairs Committee because we realize that partisanship stops at the water’s edge when we’re talking about terrorist groups, when we’re talking about ant-democratic groups, they affect us all.
“And it’s important that this Congress sends strong bipartisan measures and a strong bipartisan voice to say we will not tolerate these atrocities. So, I yield back and urge a yes vote of all my colleagues on both sides.”
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this measure and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
“Let me again thank Chairman Royce for his leadership, and for his hard work on this bill. I’m glad to be the lead Democratic cosponsor of this legislation, which builds on a law that Ed Royce and I wrote in 2015.
“One of the best ways to stop Hezbollah’s dangerous activity is to cut off its financing, which is what we tried to do two years ago.
“We went after Hezbollah’s financial patrons, including Iran. But again, this is a group that if you block one path forward, they’ll do what it takes to find another way around.
“So with this measure, we’re broadening existing law by going after a bigger universe of Hezbollah’s supporters and enablers. This bill would impose mandatory sanctions on any third parties or governments providing money, equipment, or weapons to Hezbollah.
“We know that Iran will again get caught up in this dragnet—and this bill doesn’t run afoul of our obligations under the nuclear deal or any other deal. After all, Iran’s support for Hezbollah is outside the scope of the JCPOA.
“But, it’s not just Iran.
“In recent years, we’ve seen Moscow step up its support of Hezbollah, particularly on the battlefields of Syria, where Russia has reportedly supplied Hezbollah with weapons. It’s really outrageous.
“Russia claims to be fighting so-called ‘terrorists’ as they bomb schools, hospitals, and marketplaces. Yet Russian weapons are ending up in Hezbollah hands. Let me be clear: Hezbollah is a terrorist group. It is as simple as that.
“Chairman Royce and I have said this many, many, many times. The Russia-Hezbollah relationship threatens to undermine global anti-terrorism efforts.
“This bill [sends] a message that any government in cahoots with Hezbollah, anyone who wants to do business with this terrorist group or support its violent aims, is going to face the consequences.
“This is a timely bill. Iran is building weapons factories in Southern Lebanon that would be buried far underground, out of Israel’s reach. The missiles that will come off that assembly line are more precise and have a longer range, putting virtually the whole of Israel in their sights.
“Iran’s and Hezbollah’s presence in Syria—particularly in the south, right on Israel’s borders—is a very serious concern.
“And I worry about the de-escalation zones the United States helped to establish in Southern Syria. We don’t want those zones to become hotbeds of Hezbollah.
“You know several weeks ago I was in Israel, and we trekked up to the border between Israel and Lebanon.
“And at the border, as far as the eye can see, when you are in Israel and you’re looking down at Lebanon, you see a number of flags.
“Are they the Lebanese flag? No.
“It’s the Hezbollah flag. Hezbollah has virtually taken over parts—large parts—of Lebanon. Strangling the Lebanese people as well.
“The Lebanese people are suffering under a brutal terrorist group that is embedded in a society that disallows them to act as a free and open society. And my heart really goes out to the Lebanese people.
“To have a terrorist group virtually sitting in your lap, refusing to move, and putting you in all kinds of danger.
“So these areas have the potential to create a safe haven for Hezbollah and Iranian actors. They will stoke existing tensions and could create a corridor from Tehran to the Mediterranean through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
“This would present a major shift in the regional balance of power and would present threats to Israel that it could not ignore.
“If these de-escalation zones end up empowering Iran and Hezbollah, then we will have betrayed our ally, Israel, at the most crucial moment. That’s why we’re passing this bill.
“I again thank Chairman Royce for his continued strong leadership on this issue. I strongly support this measure. And I yield back the balance of my time.”
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