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Michele B.
Former Republican MN 6
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    Congressional Delegation to the Middle East

    by Former Representative Michele Bachmann

    Posted on 2014-01-09

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    BACHMANN. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As always, it is a privilege to be able to come to the great well of the House of Representatives, the greatest deliberative body in the history of the world, to be here and have an opportunity to bring a voice to the table and to speak to the American people as well as my constituents in the Sixth District of Minnesota.

    I want to join my colleagues in wishing a happy New Year to all the people in the United States. We look forward to a wonderful year in 2014. There are so many things that are good that we can look forward to this year, so many things that this body can get done, that we can agree on.

    We can agree on our veterans, standing for them, thanking them, first of all, that tonight, as we are here in this Chamber, we have men and women [[Page H130]] across the globe who are laying their lives on the line for us. Our prayers are with you, and our prayers are with your families.

    So, Mr. Speaker, I know that I speak for you and for all of our colleagues, that we want to let our troops know, there is nothing more important than the work that you do to secure our liberty and our freedom. We are for you, and we will be standing here for you this year, as we have in the past.

    We also stand together in recognition that the first and greatest obligation of all of us, as Members of Congress in this Chamber, is to secure the safety and security of the American people, the welfare of the American people, Mr. Speaker. We do that here domestically, but our obligation is to make sure that our national security is held safe here in the homeland but also our vital American national security interests across the globe.

    To that end, several of my colleagues and myself took a fact-finding trip in December. After we had concluded our work in December, we went into the Middle East. We took a very extensive journey. This was no pleasure trip in any way. This was a working mission. We went first into Amsterdam. While we were there, we met an individual who has one of the most extensive collections of communist penetration throughout the world. It was interesting, as we dialogued with him about communist infiltration, what that has meant over the course of history, particularly over the last century, and what that means for Americans today.

    From there, we journeyed into Cairo, Egypt. While we were there, we spoke with leaders of Egypt. There has been a tremendous change that has occurred, and we know that literally in just over a week's time, people in Egypt will have an opportunity to go to the ballot box and vote in a referendum on a brand-new Constitution.

    A very brief recent history of Egypt is that there was an overthrow in Egypt of the Mubarak presidency, which had been stable for some 30- plus years. The people of Egypt spoke. They were very unhappy with their government. There was a referendum that had occurred, and during that time, the Muslim Brotherhood came to power through the president, President Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood, through the Freedom and Justice Party, established a new regime.

    So repulsed were the people of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood and their tactics during the course of just something over a year that the people of Egypt took to the streets, some 33 million people in what some people say was the largest human demonstration ever in the history of the world because the people of Egypt were outraged at the atrocities and the extremism of the Muslim Brotherhood as they were displayed across Egypt.

    Really, so much of this so-called Arab Spring has been the persecution of Christians, religious minorities, and women, particularly in the Middle East region. Nowhere has this been felt more than in Egypt, and the people rose up.

    You see, in the Egyptian Constitution, which was put together by the Muslim Brotherhood, there was no avenue for the people to remove the Muslim Brotherhood president, President Morsi. There was no impeachment process like we have in the United States. The only option available to the people was to go into the streets and demonstrate and seek the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood president. That is what the people effectuated.

    In that time, there is now an interim president. His name is President Mansour. I met with him numerous times in Cairo. We have had very good conversations with interim President Mansour. He told me in Egypt, together with my colleagues, that he would not be seeking reelection. We also met with General el-Sisi, the head of the military in Egypt, trying to maintain order in that country.

    We heard some very good news, and, Mr. Speaker, among the news that we heard while we were in Egypt was this: Egypt enjoys the most favorable relationship with the Jewish State of Israel that they have had in over 35 years. The Obama administration asked Egypt to work harder in the Sinai. That is the border, Mr. Speaker, between Egypt and Israel.

    The Obama administration asked the Egyptian Government to work to clear out al Qaeda and to try to secure that border. You see, Mr. Speaker, the Muslim Brotherhood, instead, had been placing more attacks through using al Qaeda and al Qaeda elements in various flavors. When you think of the old phrase of Baskin-Robbins and its 28 flavors of ice cream, there are multiple flavors, if you will, Mr. Speaker, of al Qaeda. There is the Al-Nusra Front. There is Jemaah Islamiyah. There is one organization after another, but they share the same ideology.

    Much of this ideology makes its way through an organization called the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Muslim Brotherhood was actively facilitating attacks on Israel through tunnels ruled by Hamas, which is essentially another affiliate, a franchise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gaza region. So whether it was weapons, whether it was attacks, whether it was fighters, Israel had its hands full in the Sinai border.

    Now the good news is that General el-Sisi, interim President Mansour in Egypt took to heart the request from the Obama administration and, for their own survival, worked to take apart the al Qaeda network and the strength that there was of jihadist-based fighters on the Sinai, and they have been incredibly successful.

    I am pleased to report to you tonight, Mr. Speaker, that what we heard from the leadership in Egypt was that over 70 percent of the jihadist activity on the Sinai has been silenced, deconstructed, taken apart. That means that Israel has had a better time, a more peaceful time on its border, but also, this has helped the Egyptian Government as well.

    The Nile River in Egypt is kind of a dividing point. You have western Egypt. You have eastern Egypt, eastern Egypt being the more violent, where it has been essentially a ``wild west,'' if you will, in the Sinai. It has been very difficult for securing peace in the Middle East, very difficult for Israel, but we have to thank the current interim government, under the leadership of President Mansour and under the guidance of General el-Sisi in the Sinai region. That is the good news. Of all of the turmoil and all of the chaos that there is today in the Middle East, this is our bright and shining spot.

    The United States, in my opinion, needs to do everything that we can to encourage and foster peace in this region. As I believe that my colleagues, whether it is on the Democrat side, on the Republican side, whether it is in the House, whether it is in the Senate, this is something that we agree upon. We want to see peace in the Middle East, peace in the largest Arab country in the Middle East, which would be Egypt, but also peace in the Jewish State of Israel, and this is the place to forge that peace.

    The good news is to hear that on this very sensitive border, we are seeing the Egyptians working together to make sure that there can be peace to fight a common enemy, and that would be al Qaeda and the radical elements in this regime. That is good news.

    We went from Cairo, Egypt, where we heard very good news from General el-Sisi, very good news from Amr Moussa, who is heading the Committee of 50 which is writing the new Constitution that the people of Egypt will be voting on in the referendum on January 14 and January 15. I believe the people of Egypt will see the wisdom in this new Constitution which, by the way, Mr. Speaker, does have a provision for impeachment so that the people in Egypt in the future will have an opportunity to be able to change their President and their country. They also guarantee the freedom of belief in Egypt, and they have a dedication to rebuilding the houses of worship that were destroyed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

    The Muslim Brotherhood destroyed shops, homes, and places of worship of Coptic Christians in Egypt. The government is committed to rebuilding the Christian houses of worship in Egypt. This is a wonderful advancement for peace and for tolerance in that region of the world, and one that I think we should encourage and get behind.

    From there, my colleagues and I, in a delegation which was led by Representative Steve King of Iowa--also in attendance was Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas and also Representative Robert Pittenger of North Carolina--from there, we went on to Beirut, [[Page H131]] Lebanon, which has been a hotbed of violence because Iran has seen an avenue of advancement. Working through the terrorist organization Hezbollah, Iran has been bringing increased terror between Sunni and Shia in southern Lebanon.

    We flew into the airport at Beirut. The airport at Beirut is controlled by Hezbollah. There, we met with the ambassador. We met with leaders of political parties. It is devastating to hear what they have to say about the increased violence.

    A suicide bomber wearing a vest detonated that vest during our time when we were there. Obviously we weren't anywhere nearby. We weren't in any form of danger, but a vest was detonated. Four people were killed. Also, a soldier had shot into Israel and had killed an Israeli soldier during the time that we were there. There has been a very, very strong, increase in violence. Violence occurred prior to our entry. Violence continues to occur, and there are now new reports, Mr. Speaker, of Iran bringing even more dangerous, larger deadly weapons into that area, again, bringing to the fore the increase in fighting between Sunni and Shia.

    That is the kind of pressure that the Jewish State of Israel is looking at on its northern border, without even contemplating what is happening in Syria.

    Syria, Mr. Speaker, has completely fallen apart. It is in complete chaos now, with Assad having estimated to have killed over 200,000 of his own people. Now the so-called moderates who were being backed, led by General Idris--General Idris has now, reportedly, left Syria, and the extremist elements, including al Qaeda, of the Islamist jihadist regime are now fighting against Assad.

    So we have two very bad options in Syria today, and very recently, these Islamist jihadist fighters took over a weapons cache of very dangerous weapons, and they now have control of those weapons.

    Where do we go from here in Syria? It is a very, very difficult question.

    We have such utter chaos that Lebanon now is the recipient of the greatest number of Syrian refugees on a daily basis. So we have the tension of Palestinian refugees who have gone into Lebanon. We have Iran, which has its presence through Hezbollah, the terrorist organization, very agitated. Some estimates are that as many as 100,000 missiles are located in people's homes, in schools, in nurseries, in nursing homes, embedded in civilian areas right on Israel's northern border. There is an utter and complete breakdown and chaos in Syria.

    Then you have all of the tension in Iraq, with increasing battles going on, again, between Sunni and Shia in Iraq. Iraq at one point had been fairly close to being secured by an American presence. It is has now utterly fallen apart.

    There continue to be attacks by the Taliban. A new report just came in that the Taliban, presumably, is responsible for six Americans who were killed in December. We have Karzai, the head of Afghanistan, who is not willing to agree to final settlement terms in Afghanistan to have aid and U.S. presence, despite the fact that the United States supplies something like 95 percent of the economy in Afghanistan. This is the thanks we are getting out of Afghanistan.

    We have that kind of tension and pressure together with numerous prisons where the worst of the worst Islamist thug al Qaeda-flavored jihadists have been let out of prisons and are going into Syria. From Syria, who knows where, again, adding to the pressure on Israel. At the same time, we have what, in my mind, was the very dangerous P5+1 agreement dealing with Iran and dealing with trying to prevent or at least stop or at least freeze in place Iran's nuclear program, which all of the world knows will be meant to give Iran a nuclear weapon and the missile delivery systems capable of delivering those weapons against Israel, against Western Europe, and against the United States.

    {time} 1945 This is the greatest threat that the world faces today: a nuclear Iran. And even while we are here in this Chamber tonight, Mr. Speaker, many people think that the 6-month freeze is on tonight, that when President Obama went to the microphone--it was about a little after 10 o'clock at night on a Saturday night--to announce with vigor that we had concluded this agreement with Iran and we will now have a 6-month freeze, that 6-month period hasn't even started yet. No one knows when that 6-month period of a so-called freeze will even start.

    So, Mr. Speaker, what I'm saying, quite frankly, is that as we are standing in this Chamber tonight, Iran continues to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. They are enriching it to 20 percent. That is not a small amount. It may sound small. That is a huge leap towards weapons grade uranium. They continue to install centrifuges. They have new- generation centrifuges that can spin to enrich uranium six times faster than the current generation.

    Iran hasn't given up one ounce of its storage of enriched uranium. They haven't stopped their research and development on their delivery systems of their missiles. They haven't stopped research and development on the warheads that would go on the tips of missiles to deliver a nuclear bomb. They haven't stopped the production on the facility of plutonium at Arak. That continues going on. Nothing has stopped.

    In fact, the only thing we have heard from Iran is from the Iranian leadership. The Parliament has said, why don't we start enriching to 60 percent? You see, weapons grade is 80 percent. Why don't we up it even further? That is what the Parliament is saying today after the agreement was signed. The mullahs, the religious leaders that effectively control Iran, are saying that this agreement means nothing to them. As a matter of fact, the leader of Iran said that they won't change one iota of their nuclear program. You see, it is very interesting. I think that when madmen speak, the world should listen, and Iran is acting in a way that is indicative of the madman of all time.

    Currently, Iran's plan is to have domination across the world by the use of nuclear weapons to wipe millions of innocent people off the map, beginning with the Jewish State of Israel. You see, about 80 percent of the people that live in Israel travel to the greater Tel Aviv area for their employment. It doesn't take much imagination to see how easy it would be for Iran to send multiple nuclear missiles and virtually wipe out the Jewish State of Israel.

    But let us never think as Iran calls Israel the Little Satan, Iran calls the United States the Great Satan--and we should never delude ourselves to think that this is a Middle East-only problem. It isn't, Mr. Speaker. I wish I could say it was. This is a problem the world must deal with.

    During the course of our travels in December for the week that we were in the Middle East, we were very disturbed by what we heard from various leaders. As a matter of fact, there was one leader that we met with in Lebanon during our time there in that very dangerous area--it was so dangerous, as a matter of fact, that this leader about a year earlier had been shot. There were three snipers--he pointed over a wall. They had to build a wall around his house. He is now confined to his house, in the compound around his house. It is too dangerous for him to even leave. There were three snipers about a mile away that took a shot at him while he was in his backyard. He almost lost his life, and now he is confined to his backyard.

    This is what he had to say to us, Mr. Speaker, when they were there. He told us that, unfortunately, in the last 2 to 3 years, there has been virtually no U.S. leadership in the Middle East. That is reminiscent of what we heard the former leader, Lech Walesa, of Poland tell the world, that the United States is no longer the political leader nor the moral leader of the world, that we have effectively walked off the world stage and that the world needs the leadership of the United States. We heard that repeated by this leader in Lebanon.

    He also told us that the opinion of the United States has gone down dramatically in the Middle East. He said he has a brother who is in the United States, and it has been a shock for his brother, a very intelligent individual in the United States, a shock to see how the United States has failed to respond to the rise of Islamic jihadist activity in the Middle East and how it is negatively impacting United States national security. He said there is no [[Page H132]] strategy; there is no outlook. It seems to be that the United States just acts day to day--no strategy.

    Shouldn't our strategy be the security and safety of the American people? Shouldn't our strategy--shouldn't our aim be securing American vital interests in the Middle East, standing with the best ally we have in the world, the Jewish State of Israel? And yet the Middle East doesn't have any idea what our strategy is because they are telling us it looks like it is ad hoc, day to day. He said, I'm telling you this as a friend. He said that prior there were no Russians in the Middle East, no Russian influence and presence. He said that now the Russians have strengthened and have a very strong presence in the Middle East. He said it has been very frustrating in the last 2 or 3 years.

    He said the Arabians have long been our friends, friends of the United States. But the Saudi Arabians, he said, no longer seem to trust the United States. He said the P5+1 agreement has made Iran stronger than ever before. And he told us that Iran is Hezbollah, and so he is facing things from Hezbollah every day. He said that there is more money available for Hezbollah because we have decreased, we have essentially lifted sanctions on Iran. All this has done is free up money so more money can go to the terrorist organization Hezbollah in Lebanon, and that is being used to hurt Israel, as well.

    Well, whether it is Syria, whether it is Iraq, whether it is Bahrain, whether it is Saudi Arabia, all of these countries are wondering what in the world the United States is doing. Because what they are saying to us is that things are much worse on the ground in the Middle East. As the Iranians have only turned their burner off temporarily, they can turn it back on again. I quote from him, This makes Iran stronger than ever, stronger in the Middle East.

    That is what we heard, Mr. Speaker, on the ground from leaders in Lebanon that Iran has been strengthened through this failed P5+1 agreement.

    From Lebanon, Mr. Speaker, we went down to Tripoli, Libya, to get some answers on Benghazi and get some answers on what the P5+1 agreement will mean in Libya. Well, we spoke with the Prime Minister in Libya; we spoke with leaders of the Justice Department and the foreign minister, as well. I asked them specifically about Benghazi. I asked them why was our FBI prevented from going into Libya--specifically to Benghazi--to conduct an investigation for 4 or 5 weeks after the terrible tragedy on September 11? And the response that we received was that this was a great insult to Libya when this attack occurred and that this was an attack against Libya and the Libyan people.

    Now, this compound that was attacked in Benghazi is considered sovereign American soil. When Chris Stevens, our Ambassador, was killed and the three other Americans--brave Americans--were killed, this was an attack on America, on our compound, on our Ambassador and on our American soldiers. This was an attack against us--not on Libya--against us. There was absolutely no reason why the Libyan Government prevented our FBI from coming in on our sovereign territory and conducting an investigation.

    Journalists were inside. We know that CNN picked up the Ambassador's diaries and walked out with the Ambassador's diaries. Other sensitive information was on the ground and people came in and walked away with it. But the FBI couldn't get in? This is the only Ambassador in 30 years to be killed, and we couldn't get in to find out what in the world happened, ask people and figure out what is going on? It has been over a year. We still don't know who, what, where, when, how, why, and how much were we prevented from knowing, because we were kept out of that country by over 4 and 5 weeks. It was wrong. And I told that to the leadership in Libya when we were there. It was wrong. That needs to be rectified. We demand and we expect full cooperation in getting to the bottom of Benghazi. That must be done, and that is a bipartisan issue. That is not a partisan issue.

    Well, from Libya, we traveled up to Israel where we met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the defense secretary. We were extremely grateful for the time we had there. Again, there is no question, the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told us, that it was the worst day in 10 years when the P5+1 agreement was struck--the worst day in 10 years. No one will be more negatively impacted by a nuclear Iran than the Jewish State of Israel.

    Wouldn't you think it would be wise for the United States and for the great nations of the world to listen to the concerns of the land that is on the slaughtering block when they say, wait a minute, this is the worst thing we could do, the P5+1 agreement, because this will not prevent, this will not stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb? That was confirmed on this most recent trip when we were with the Prime Minister. He is very concerned about that.

    He is also very concerned about the International Criminal Court, as well, and the fact that Israel will soon be drawn into the Criminal Court. There could be actions taking the United States in. We want to be under U.S. law. And we need to maintain the United States as a sovereign Nation and our American people subject only to United States sovereign law. We don't want the American people subject to some international court. The American people must now and for always only be subject to the American courts because only here will we be allowed to enjoy the protections under the Constitution that we have today. That will not happen under the International Criminal Court.

    From Israel, we traveled and went on up to Vienna where we met with the International Atomic Energy Agency. This agency is tasked with overseeing the P5+1 agreement with Iran. We appreciated our time in Vienna; we appreciated being able to speak with those who were present to talk about the process, what they will do. But I will tell you, on behalf of my colleagues, we didn't leave with a sense that we could have complete trust in knowing that the IAEA, while they will perform their jobs, that they will be able to completely appreciate when and if Iran decides to move into the creation of a nuclear weapon. That is something that we can't get wrong. Where do we go if that is wrong? Mr. Speaker, if I could ask how much time remains.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentlewoman's time is expired.

    Mrs. Bachmann. Well, I thank you. I appreciate that, and thank you for allowing me time to relate some of my concerns that we heard on our recent trip to the Middle East.


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