Senate Democrats

SENATE DEMOCRATS CALL FOR SPECIAL ENVOY TO MIDDLE EAST

Washington, DC–Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Joe Biden today sent the following letter to President Bush, urging him to appoint a high level Special Envoy to the Middle East as soon as possible. It has become increasingly clear that the Bush Administration lacks a comprehensive diplomatic strategy for the current crisis. With Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice occupied by challenges ranging from Iraq to Iran to North Korea, the Senators believe someone must begin putting together the pieces of a political settlement.

The text of the letter is below.

Radio actualities are available at http://demradio.senate.gov/actualities/reid/reid060721.mp3

 

July 21, 2006

 

The President

The White House  

Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. President:

We are growing increasingly concerned that you lack a comprehensive diplomatic strategy to deal with the current crisis in the Middle East.  We recognize that your Administration must contend with other challenges across the globe from North Korea to Iran and Iraq.  However, given the high stakes involved, we are surprised to learn that Secretary Rice will stop only briefly in the region next week.  The United States needs someone of stature, who can speak on your behalf, who can begin to put the pieces of a political settlement together – and who can dedicate the time on the ground in the region to achieve results.  We urge you, therefore, to appoint a high-level Special Envoy to the Middle East without further delay. 

Israel has a right to defend itself from unprovoked Hezbollah aggression, and we strongly support Israel’s efforts to eliminate the threat posed by Hezbollah.  Concurrently, the United States needs to step forward and do the hard diplomatic work required to put in place a sustainable settlement and prevent a return to the status quo ante where Hezbollah attacked Israel at will.  Unfortunately, the architecture that you have constructed to deal with the Middle East is not adequate, as it does not allow for the kind of high level and sustained involvement that is required. 

A Special Envoy could work behind the scenes with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and our European allies to enlist their efforts in stabilizing Lebanon and in implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for the complete disarming of Hezbollah.  The Envoy could also begin working on a comprehensive political, economic and military package for Lebanon, in order to address immediate humanitarian concerns and longer-term rebuilding.  This should include setting in motion plans for an interim international stabilization force with robust rules of engagement, ideally led and manned by European nations, and training and support for the Lebanese army so that it can soon assume security responsibilities for the entire country.  Finally, the Envoy could ensure that Americans in the region, particularly those who want to be evacuated, receive the full support and assistance of the U.S. government. 

Your Administration was right to work with France and the United Nations Security Council to get Syria out of Lebanon.  But since then, your Administration’s minimalist approach – including a failure to implement provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1559 that called for the disarmament of Hezbollah and the deployment of the Lebanese Army to the border region with Israel — left a vacuum that was filled by Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran.  In fact, Iran has outspent the United States by as much as 5 to 1, allowing Hezbollah to out-compete the Lebanese government in building social services and military might.  We cannot afford to repeat that mistake.  There is an opportunity for something good to come of this current conflict if your Administration can seize upon the strategic convergence of interests with other nations in the region and Europe who also want to support the Lebanese government, disarm Hezbollah, and contain Iranian power.  But continuing to stay on the sidelines will allow this opportunity to pass, and risk a further destabilization of the region. 

Sincerely,

Harry Reid                                           Joseph R. Biden, Jr. 

Democratic Leader                               Ranking Member, Committee on Foreign Relations

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