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Booker, Shaheen Question Trump’s Decision to Redirect Syria Stabilization Funds

October 9, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today questioned President Trump on his administration’s recent decision to redirect $230 million in funding for stabilization efforts in Syria. These stabilization efforts have helped secure communities in northeastern Syria liberated from ISIS by removing explosive remnants of war, promoting representative local governance and civil society, rehabilitating basic infrastructure, and stimulating economic growth and development.

In a letter to the President, the Senators warned that the decision risked undermining the gains the U.S. has made against ISIS in the region and was “penny-wise and pound foolish.”

“This decision is short sighted and risks empowering the most nefarious actors in Syria,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “Further, it limits our ability to constructively engage in the future of Syria and the Middle East.  We strongly encourage you to ensure that the U.S. continues to play a leadership role in stabilization activities in Syria.”

The Senators asked the President to explain how the U.S. would be able to play a leadership role in stabilization activities in Syria and how it planned to counter Iran’s ambitions in the country without continuing to provide assistance and technical expertise. They further questioned whether certain partners, such as Saudi Arabia, are best equipped to lead critical stabilization efforts.

Today’s letter follows a similar letter Booker sent in May immediately following the Administration’s announcement that it would freeze stabilization funding in Syria. Later that month, Senator Booker met with U.S. officials in Turkey coordinating stabilization assistance in Syrian territory liberated from ISIS.

Senator Shaheen has been a vocal proponent for releasing stabilization funds to the region, and recently reiterated the importance of doing so during her bipartisan trip to Syria in July. Shaheen has also led efforts in Congress to establish a U.S. strategy in Syria, and today, successfully ushered her measure to create a Syria Study Group and pave a path forward to end the conflict, through Congress and to the President’s desk.

Full text of the letter can be found here.