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JOS H G OTTHEIM ER 21 3 CAT uOn HOusE Orr icE B u i Sri u c

January 18, 2019

The Honorable Donald J. Trump

The White House
1600 Peiuisylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I write regarding the dire situation in Syria and the need to protect our ally Israel from increasing
threats along its northern border. I urge your Administration to consider urgent actions to prevent
the spread of Iranian forces and to bolster Israel’s security, including extending U.S. recognition of
Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The deadly civil war in Syria has exacted an extraordinary human toll, upended the region, and
fueled the rise o1 the terrorism and violent extremism, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
(ISIS). The United States has deployed some 2,000 American troops to Syria to conduct operations
with indigenous ground forces against ISIS in order to degrade and ultimately defeat the terrorist
group.' Yet, the wider conflict continues to threaten the safety and security of neighboring allies and
partners including Israel, .Iordan, and Iraq. Adversaries like Iran and Russia have exploited the war
to further their geopolitical goals and maximize their influence in the region. In Syria and elsewhere
in the Middle East, “rival states are filling vacuums created by state collapse and prolonged regional

Your Administration acknowledged the gravity of the situation in Syria when you extended the
“national emergency” declaration for the country for another year. “The regime’s brutality and
repression of the Syrian people,” you noted, ‘ not only endangers the Syrian people themselves, but
also generates instability throughout the region. The Syrian regime’s actions and policies, including
with respect to chemical weapons, supporting terrorist organizations, and obstructing the Lebanese
government’s ability to function effectively, continue to foster the rise of extremism and
sectarianism and pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy,
and economy of the United States.”'

Despite the situation in Syria and its critical impact on the interests o1 the U.S. and our allies, last
month, you abruptly announced that you would withdraw U.S. Armed Forces from Syria within just
30 days. Your Administration has since indicated that this withdrawal would be subject to various
conditions including the defeat of the Islamic State and the protection of our Syrian Kurdish allies,
but not the rollback of malign Iranian influence in the region that poses an existential threat to

' “Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the
Senate,” (December 7, 2018).
’ “President Donald J. Trump, National Security Strategy of the United States of America,” at 49, (December 2017).
’ “Continuation of the National Emergency With Respect to the Actions of the Government of Syria,” (May 9, 2018).


The State of Israel is a vital strategic partner, a beacon of denaoci‘acy, and our most important ally in
the Middle East. That is why I urge your Administration to prioritize securing $3.8 billion in
security assistance and missile defense funding for Israel annually, consistent with the 10-year
Memorandum o1 Understanding (MOU) between our two countries. This vital assistance will
bolster Israel’s ability to defend itself from a variety of threats, from terrorist organizations like
Hamas and Hezbollah, to Iranian-backed forces in Syria, and demonstrate the United States’
ongoing commitment to preserving Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) in the region.

I also ur8e your Administration to adopt a comprehensive strategy to halt the march of Iranian-
backed forces across the Middle East via a land bridge stretching from Tehran to the Mediterranean,
including right up to Israel’s border. Iranian forces must not be permitted to gain a foothold or
permanent presence in Syria, or to help Hezbollah construct factories there to build precision-
guided missiles with which to threaten our ally Israel.

As you implement this strategy, I urge you to consider whether it is in the United States’ interest to
extend recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. In recent months, Iranian-backed
militias fighting alongside Assad’s forces assailed rebels in southwestern Syria, bringing Shia
militiamen within reach of the Golan and Israel. And in July, the Israel Defense Forces shot down a
Syrian plane that had crossed into the Golan airspace.

The Golan is a critical strategic highland within miles of Damascus, and an important source of
water and other resources. Given the state of present-day Syria and its foreseeable future, requiring
Israel to cede control over this area would pose an unacceptable risk to our ally’s existence. That is
why, in November, the United States voted against the annual resolution in the United Nations
General Assembly entitled “The Occupied Syrian Golan.”'

The United States must make cleaT that we are commited to rolling back Iran’s presence in Syria
and consider a range of measures, including recognition of the Golan, to protect our ally Israel from
serious threats on its borders.


Josh Gottheiiner

' “Ambassador Haley on the United States Changing its Vote from Abstain to No on the Annual UN Resolution on the
Golan Heights,” (November 15, 2018), available at: https //usun.state._•ov/remarks/8760