DearColleague.us

Letter

 

From: The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
Sent By:
Erik.Sperling@mail.house.gov

Date: 4/29/2016

Bipartisan Letter to Pres. Obama Urging Against Sending Dangerous MANPADS into Syria
Deadline Extended to COB Monday, May 2
Endorsed by VoteVets, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Just Foreign Policy
Current signers (24):  Conyers, Yoho, Pocan, Meadows, DeFazio, Nolan, Moulton, Gallego, O’Rourke, Hank Johnson, Welch, Cohen, Blumenauer, Mulvaney, McLane Kuster, Huffman, Slaughter, Lowenthal, Grayson, Walter Jones, Jeff Miller, McDermott,
Lewis, McGovern
Dear Colleague,
We write to ask you to join a bipartisan letter to President Obama urging him to maintain his policy of refusing to transfer shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles (“MANPADS”) to Syrian combatants, including those who have been vetted and trained by the
U.S. Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency. This letter highlights the repeated votes by the House of Representatives for provisions in the 2015 and 2016 Department of Defense Appropriations bills that prohibited the use of any DOD funds to
transfer MANPADS to any party in the Syrian Civil War.
MANPADS can be fired at aircraft by individuals on the ground and easily hidden or transported in the trunk of a car. U.S. and Israeli officials have reportedly expressed concern that they could be used by terrorists to bring down commercial airliners.  Since their first use against a civilian aircraft in 1978, thirty fatal MANPADS attacks have resulted in almost 1,000 civilian deaths. In addition to the serious risk to innocent human life, a 2005 RAND Corporation study projected that the indirect economic costs of an attack on civilian aircraft from a single MANPADS could exceed $16 billion.
While the Obama Administration had previously opposed the transfer of MANPADS to parties in Syria, according to the Wall Street Journal, “Saudi Arabia and Turkey have increased pressure on Washington to up the ante in support of the moderate opposition in part by calling for the introduction of weapons systems that they know are a red line for Mr. Obama, such as MANPADS.”
The transfer of these dangerous weapons to virtually any non-state actor would be irresponsible, but the transfer to opposition groups in Syria could be particularly perilous. Weapons transferred to Syrian insurgents in the past have wound up being used by insurgents in Iraq against the U.S.-backed Iraqi army and have been captured by terrorist groups Al-Nusra and ISIS.  As recent events in Iraq have demonstrated, there is no boundary between the insurgents fighting the Syrian government and the insurgents fighting the Iraqi Army that our soldiers sacrificed so much in order to train and protect.
Regardless of your views on US involvement in Syria and the broader Middle East, we can all agree that the transfer of such deadly mobile weapons to non-state actors would be detrimental to US interests and global security.  We respectfully request that you add your name to this bipartisan letter to President Obama.  If you have any questions, please contact Erik Sperling Erik.Sperling@mail.house.gov) in Congressman Conyers’ office or James Walsh in Congressman
Yoho’s office (James.Walsh@mail.house.gov).
Sincerely,
John Conyers, Jr.                        Ted S. Yoho, D.V.M.
Member of Congress                     Member of Congress
TEXT OF LETTER:
                                                                        April XX, 2016
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama,
We write to express our concern over new reports that the Central Intelligence Agency may be considering a plan that could include providing shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles (also known as Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems, or MANPADS) to non-state actors
in Syria.
As you may know, the U.S. House of Representatives has repeatedly voted to block Manpads from being sent to combatants in Syria. In June 2014, the House unanimously approved an amendment to The Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2015 that blocked
the use of any Department of Defense funds from being used to transfer such weapons to combatants in the Syrian civil war under Sec. 9016 of P.L. 113-235. To the extent that Sec. 9016 has been extended by the Continuing Resolution, the MANPADS restriction
would continue to apply to any use of that extended authority. Language prohibiting the “procurement or transfer” of MANPADS to Syria was included in the base text of The Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2016, which passed the House overwhelmingly.
In addition, House Members unanimously approved additional amendments to prohibit the transfer of MANPADS to Iraq and Ukraine, underscoring their grave concerns about the transfer of MANPADS to unstable regions.
The concern repeatedly and unanimously expressed by the House of Representatives was validated when the Pentagon confirmed that last September, Syrian rebels vetted and trained by the United States handed over their equipment to the al Qaeda-linked Nusra
Front. The rebels surrendered six pick-up trucks and ammunition — amounting to about one-quarter of their issued equipment — to an agent of the Nusra Front.  And just last month, the Nusra Front attacked a Western-backed rebel faction, taking over bases and
seizing U.S.-supplied weapons including antitank missiles. These are just a few examples of the repeated instances of terrorist organizations operating inside Syria acquiring U.S.-supplied weapons from U.S.-vetted rebels.
Your own concerns over the potential for proliferation had previously led your administration to firmly oppose the provision of MANPADS to combatants in Syria. Reuters has reported that on February 18, 2014, a senior administration official said that the
administration “remains opposed to any provision of MANPADS to the Syrian opposition” and Reuters further reported that “The United States has long opposed supplying rebels with anti-aircraft missiles due to concern they may fall into the hands of forces that
may use the weapons against Western targets or commercial airlines.” On March 28, 2014, one of your national security advisers reportedly stated that “there are certain types of weapons, including MANPADS, that could pose a proliferation risk if introduced
into Syria.”
We strongly support that view, as MANPADScan easily be hidden in the trunk of a car or even in a golf bag, making their proliferation a serious threat to civilian airliners in the region — including Israeli airliners — and across the world.  As a 2011 U.S.
State Department factsheet states: “Since 1975, 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by MANPADS, causing about 28 crashes and more than 800 deaths around the world.” Former CIA Director David Petraeus has said: “As you know, that was always our worst nightmare,
that a civilian airliner would be shot down by one [MANPADS].” Then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told the Wall Street Journal: “There is no question when you start passing MANPADS around, that becomes a threat, not just to military aircraft but to civilian
aircraft.” Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell said: “No threat is more serious to [civil] aviation” than MANPADS.
Finally, we note that tranferring MANPADS to combatants in the Syrian Civil War would violate at least three U.S.-backed international agreements, including the U.S.-initiated G8 Action Plan, The Wassenaar Arrangement on Arms Control in 2003, and a 2005
OAS resolution, all of which prohibit the transfer of MANPADS to non-state actors.
Accordingly, we urge you to maintain your stance in opposition to sending MANPADS into Syria and that you also strongly discourage our allies from doing so.
We thank you kindly for your attention to this important matter.
Sincerely,
Members of Congress