Mid-day yesterday, House International Relations Committee Chairman Tom Lantos sent out an editorial to the Washington Post‘s Editorial Board blasting the Post‘s critique of Nancy Pelosi’s Syria trip and the content of her comments to President Assad.
I concur with Lantos and am impressed that he is actively (and finally?) promoting dialogue and negotiations with Syria — a key tenet of the Iraq Study Group’s New Diplomatic Offensive proposal.
The editorial comment from Representative Lantos reads:
The Washington Post
Today, the Washington Post Editorial Board published an unwarranted broadside against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bipartisan delegation to the Middle East. As a part of that delegation and a participant in its every meeting, I would like to set the record straight.
The editorial is based mainly on a misreading of a statement issued by the Israeli Prime Minister’s office. That statement said that a message Speaker Pelosi conveyed to Syrian President Assad — at Prime Minister Olmert’s request — did not indicate a change in Israel’s position toward Syria. True enough. In fact, the Speaker neither said nor implied that the message was a change in Israel’s position. But even more to the point, the Speaker told Assad that Syria must end its support for terrorists, including Hamas and Hezbollah, if it wants peace talks with Israel.
Speaker Pelosi has no illusions about the nature of the regime in Damascus. She delivered tough messages to Assad regarding Iraq, Lebanon, and the Hariri assassination tribunal.
As the Speaker said during her visit, she supports the Administration’s policy goals in Syria, so the Post‘s claim about a “shadow Presidency” is absurd. But she also agrees with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group report’s conclusion that constructive dialogue is a critical means of addressing our concerns with Damascus.
The Administration’s approach has yielded nothing but more Syrian intransigence. Five Republican congressmen have visited Assad this week. Based on the traffic to Syria, a growing number of Republicans and Democrats share the Speaker’s misgivings about the White House’s ineffectiveness in the region.
Tom Lantos, Chairman
House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Lantos is no apologist for Syria — but a declaration of support for a new and different track of engagement from Tom Lantos can be considered important progress.
Pelosi was right to go to Syria.
With her actions, Nancy Pelosi may be reminding the White House that “Congress as a full and equal branch of government,” as Joe Biden often says, matters.
— Steve Clemons