The U.S. Has Sacrificed Too Much in Iraq to Allow the Resurgence in Violent Extremism Undo Our Efforts; We Must Work to Counter Iran’s Influence and Beat Back Al-Qaeda, Says Ros-Lehtinen

Feb 5, 2014

The U.S. Has Sacrificed Too Much in Iraq to Allow the Resurgence in Violent Extremism Undo Our Efforts; We Must Work to Counter Iran’s Influence and Beat Back Al-Qaeda, Says Ros-Lehtinen

“We must rebuild our influence in Iraq, which has been lost to rogue regimes like Iran, and we must redouble our efforts to beat back the hydra that is al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the following statement during a full committee hearing on the resurgence of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

“Thank you very much Mr. Chairman, and in addition to the biggest issue, which is that we don’t have al-Qaeda on the run, there are two issues which I continue to be very concerned about.

First is the safety of the residents of Camp Liberty, they still have very little protection. When you last you testified, Mr. McGurk, 192 T-Walls were up, then the big progress supposedly is that 43 T-Walls are now up, in addition. This is out of 17,500 T-Walls, T-Walls save lives, put them up.

Number two, the Iraqi Jewish Archives. Ted Deutch and I, and many other Members are very concerned and don’t want them to be shipped back. The Iraqi government incorrectly states that these papers are theirs, that is not true, and we hope that you continue to work on that.

And the bigger issue that brings us together is that obviously since the departure of our troops, al-Qaeda’s reemergence has caused Iraq to take a very worrisome turn for the worse.

We’ve sacrificed so much blood and treasure there, to watch it descend into a full sectarian violence and al-Qaeda safe haven. So we’ve got to rebuild our influence there.

Thank you Mr. Chairman for calling this hearing.

***

Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman, welcome once again.

The Iraqi Jewish Archives you have been engaged in discussions with the Iraqis on this issue, and your staff has spoken with representatives of the Iraqi Jewish Diaspora and the Jewish community as a whole, but could you give us an update on progress of these discussions? Have there been alternative plans proposed?

On the issue of T-Walls at Camp Liberty, why have there only been 235 out of the 17,500 T-Walls put up, and why have we only seen an addition of 43 since our November subcommittee hearing? Can you please commit that you will put extra effort in saving life there?

And then thirdly, as for al-Qaeda’s resurgence, a large part of this is due to the failure in the Iraqi leadership and Iraqi leadership since we left the country.

There are national elections planned in Iraq in April. We were successful after the surge in getting the Iraqi government to participate in a more inclusive, power-sharing government that kind of mollified the Sunnis of Iraq and left al-Qaeda marginalized.

Then after we left, the Iraqis took another step backward, now it was the Sunnis who were marginalized, drawing many of them toward al-Qaeda. What steps are we taking to ensure that the Sunnis are participating in these elections, and that Iraq can return to that sort of power-sharing government we saw in the post-surge Iraq?

And continuing with the Shia/Sunny issue, we’ve seen over the last few days that the Iraqi military has been bombarding Fallujah - which was taken over by al-Qaeda late last year - presumably preparing the way for a ground assault. However, the Shiite dominated Maliki government cannot successfully take Fallujah on its own without the help of Sunni tribal leaders in the region.

Can you describe the current relationship between the Maliki government and these tribal leaders, and do you think Maliki will be able to gain their support given Maliki’s crackdown on Sunnis in Iraq for these past few years?”

NOTE: This is an edited version that combines Chairman Ros-Lehtinen’s statement and questions.