POMED Notes: HFAC Hearing: The Foreign Relations Budget for Fiscal Year 2013
On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs conducted a hearing assessing the U.S. foreign policy priorities amidst difficult economic conditions. The witness was the Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State. The hearing was led by Ilena Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairwoman of the committee.
For full event notes, continue reading below or click here for the PDF
Ilena Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) opened the hearing suggesting the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan need to be pushed to take necessary steps for a long term partnership with the U.S., a commitment, she observed, that is not being seen from Presidents Hamid Karzai and Nouri al-Maliki. Ros-Lehtinen wanted to know how to curtail Iran’s influence in the region, while demonstrating U.S. support for Israel, and mentioned that a belligerent Iran remains worrisome, while a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. While Ros-Lehtinen praised Clinton for cutting funding to UNESCO in 2012 for recognizing Palestine as a state – as required by U.S. law – her proposal to send $80 million to UNESCO in 2013 would be a “grave mistake,” as it undermines U.S. credibility and encourage other organizations to recognize the Palestinian state. Funding should only be granted to UNESCO if it “unadmits” Palestine. Ros-Lehtinen is concerned about the limited restrictions on the $770 million Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund, and, similarly, does not believe the U.S. should reward Egypt with $1.3 billion in military aid when they demonstrate hostility.
Howard Berman (D-CA) believes a priority for the upcoming year should be focusing on theMiddle East peace process, but the “Palestinians have consistently refused to engage in the peace process.” As the “Palestinian leaders do not have the will, or desire, to make compromises necessary to make peace,” the only solution for bringing peace and stability to the region is a two-state solution. Secondly, Berman is against a nuclear-capable Iran and wanted the Secretary of State’s assessment on the status of the economic sanctions.
Hillary Rodham Clinton indicated she had submitted her prepared statement to the committee. In answering Berman, and later, Steve Chabot’s (R-OH) questions, Clinton’s felt the sanctions leveled against Iran have been extremely effective, and coupled with the concerted diplomatic coalition; the regime finds itself very isolated. Clinton responded to Berman and Gary Ackerman (D-NY) by saying that the red line to Iran’s nuclear program remains a “policy to prevent capability.” Clinton responded to Ron Paul’s (R-TX) assertion that every country has the right to enrich uranium to 20%, saying that Iran’s nuclear program is not consistent with a peaceful, civilian nuclear power program.
Dan Burton (R-IN), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) all raised concerns that pertained to providing sufficient support to Israel in the future. Encompassing all the questions, Clinton answered that the U.S. supports the defense of Israel, and has increased the current assistance by $25 million. Burton followed up by saying that he is concerned with the radicalization of the Middle East, to which Clinton responded there are opportunities in Tunisia for democracy, but recognizes there are possible dangers throughout the region.
Christopher Smith (R-NJ), echoed by Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), was disturbed by the persecution of Christians in Iran, specifically the death sentence against Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Clinton said the U.S. condemns the death sentence, something she found “deplorable,” and called upon Iran to conform to their constitution. Albio Sires (D-NJ) called attention to the situation for Coptic Christians in Egypt, while Clinton said she would prepare a written statement for David Cicilline (D-RI) pertaining to the Christians in Turkey.
Theodore Deutch (D-FL) recognized the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria, and questioned solutions that would cause Russia and China to support a humanitarian cease-fire. Clinton responded that every day the humanitarian crisis in Syria is compounded by a “brutal use of violence.” Steps should be taken to increase humanitarian aid, support the opposition and their unification, and continue to press for a political solution. Responding to Gerald Connolly (D-VA) on how to engage Russia and China to intervene in Syria, Clinton felt that if Russia can be persuaded to act. Russia will have access to president Bashar al-Assad “like no one else,” and after their upcoming presidential elections, they may be able to focus on Syria. Closing the hearing, the members expressed their thanks to the Secretary of State’s dedication and hard work over the last three years.