Pelosi Acts as Arbiter Between Israel and Syria
House Speaker Says, 'The Time to Leverage All Our
Power Is Now'
By JOHN HENDREN
April 1, 2007 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.,
today obliquely defended her decision to meet Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad later this week in direct
defiance of President Bush's policy not to engage in
one-on-one talks with Syrian officials.
"The time to leverage all our power is now. And the
way to do it is through diplomacy, with stronger
sanctions and smarter policy," Pelosi said in an
address to the Israeli Knesset, where she was
dramatically introduced as "Her Excellency, the
speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives," after a
band played the Israeli and American national anthems.
Pelosi did not mention her trip to Syria, but her
meaning was clear.
"We in Congress will do everything in our power to
seek a policy that makes America and our friends safer
and the region more stable by sharing responsibility
for Iraqi stability with Iraqis and their neighbors,"
Her visit to Syria was given support by Israeli Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert, who urged her to convey the
message to Assad that Israel would be willing to hold
talks with Syria if Syria would take steps to stop
supporting terrorism. But he also said Israel would
not talk with Syria under current conditions.
White House spokesman Dan Bartlett today expanded on
deputy spokesman Dana Perino's statement that visiting
Syria was "a really bad idea."
"We don't believe we should be sending these types of
mixed signals to the leaders of a country that is on
the state sponsor of terrorism list," Bartlett said on
CBS' "Face the Nation" program.
The speaker's visit marks the latest split in a
government with dueling foreign policies, one from the
White House and another from Pelosi and newly
empowered Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Last week, the Senate joined the House in setting a
deadline for American troops to withdraw from Iraq.
Bush vowed to veto both bills.
Pelosi was defiant, saying, "Calm down with the
threats. There is a new Congress in town. We respect
your constitutional role. We want you to respect
Lee Hamilton, the former congressman who also
co-chaired the Iraq Study Group, said Pelosi's visit
is just the kind of diplomacy with Iraq's neighbors
that the group recommended to the president in
"Speaker Pelosi and the other members of Congress with
her are taking an important and positive initiative,"
Hamilton said in an interview with ABC News. "It's a
sign of good sense. You talk to people to try and
resolve problems. If you don't talk to people you're
not going to resolve the problem."
Syria's president agreed in a recent interview with
ABC's Dianne Sawyer.
"First of all, the problem in Iraq is political,"
Assad said. "We're not the only player, we're not the
single player, but we are the main player in this
This week the State Department warned that 90 percent
of the suicide bombers in Iraq enter the country by
crossing the Syrian border.
"Nancy Pelosi, having undercut our troops in the
field, is now going off to Syria to pay her respects
to Bashar Assad, who's allowing terrorists to come
across the border to kill American troops," Bill
Kristol said on "Fox News Sunday."
The Bush administration has ruled out one-on-one talks
with Syria, but not ruled out all contact. U.S.
diplomats will join in talks Iraq has called for next
month with its neighbors, including Syria.