10/25/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/25/2023 08:51
WASHINGTON, D.C.- Today, House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Mark E. Green, MD (R-TN) and Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence Chairman August Pfluger (R-TX) delivered the following opening statements in a hearing to examine and assess the threats posed by the Iranian regime to U.S. homeland security. This hearing comes after the unprovoked attack by Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists on our ally, Israel, on October 7, and amid the ongoing conflict in the region. Watch the full hearing here.
As prepared for delivery:
There is no doubt that the Iranian regime poses a significant threat to the United States homeland and our allies. This threat is real and growing. Tehran continues to furnish weapons, funding, and training to its surrogates across the globe who engage in heinous acts of terror.
On October 7th of this year, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, the world witnessed the horrific and grotesque atrocities that occurred in Israel. Hamas, a genocidal terrorist organization backed by the Iranian regime, launched this deadly multi-pronged land, air, and sea attack inside Israel, with terrorists infiltrating Israel's southern border and firing thousands of rockets from the Gaza Strip. Over 1,400 Israelis were killed, with a significant number being innocent civilians-women, children, and the elderly. More than 2,800 Israelis have been wounded, including some in critical condition. At least 32 Americans were killed in Israel. An unknown number of Americans are also being held hostage by Hamas terrorists as we speak. The sheer brutality of these acts of terror is horrific.
Hamas terrorists hunted down hundreds of young people innocently celebrating at a music festival to murder and rape them. They killed a grandmother and then used her phone to post her murder on her Facebook page. They murdered a young man and his girlfriend, filmed the murder on the man's phone, and texted the barbaric video to his mother. They raped and murdered women and then paraded their bodies in the streets. These monsters murdered and burned helpless babies. They massacred whole families. These innocent people were killed for merely living in the State of Israel and being Jewish.
Let me be clear to anyone who is listening: Hamas isn't motivated by a territorial dispute. Much like Nazi Germany, these terrorists are driven by a deep hatred for the Jewish people. Their stated goal, as mentioned in their charter, is the annihilation of the State of Israel and the extinction of the Jewish people. As we are currently seeing, Hamas routinely uses civilians-women and children-as human shields. The whole world must see and hear exactly what happened. It is disgusting and appalling that so many apologists have not condemned these barbaric acts of terror. I have been shocked at the horrifying antisemitism being displayed in some of our cities, on our college campuses, and even in the halls of Congress. Anything but a complete condemnation of Hamas' brutal atrocities is unacceptable.
We must stand with the State of Israel and give our unwavering support as Israel defends itself against the heinous attacks by Hamas. We also must condemn the force behind Hamas-the Iranian regime. The Iranian regime is the muscle and the money empowering this reign of terror.
For years, the Iranian regime has provided financial, military, political, and diplomatic support to various proxies, including Hamas. They use these terrorist groups to attack Israeli and American citizens and interests across the globe, including in our own backyard.
The Iranian regime and its surrogates maintain a presence in the Western Hemisphere. Just this year, the Iranian navy docked warships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the regime held high-level meetings in the capitals of Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba. Iranian-backed Hezbollah also maintains a presence in the region. The terror group has operated throughout South America for decades and has carried out attacks on Israeli targets in Argentina. Hezbollah has also worked closely with drug cartels in Latin America to traffic drugs across the globe and launder money for these transnational criminal organizations. These threats are closer than most Americans realize. And that's because of our porous Southwest border.
Under President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas, the volume of known gotaways crossing our border has skyrocketed. So has the number of individuals who appear on the known or suspected terrorist watch list and the number of Special Interest Aliens, which are people from countries identified as having conditions that promote or protect terrorism or possibly present a national security threat to our country. I am extremely concerned that terrorists will exploit these glaring vulnerabilities at our Southwest border to attempt attacks inside the homeland.
Just a few weeks ago, one human smuggling group with significant ties to ISIS moved Uzbek nationals into the United States. Some of the individuals smuggled into the country are still at large. This should concern every single one of us. This administration's policies and its misguided decisions have appeased tyrants and created significant national security vulnerabilities. The Biden administration's display of weakness on the world stage-from the catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan, weak posture towards Russia before the invasion of Ukraine, to reckless negotiations with Iran-threatens our homeland security and our national interests.
History is clear; appeasement doesn't work. While the Biden administration was busy cutting deals with the Iranian regime, Hamas was preparing for its attack. Kowtowing to tyrants and their proxies is always a mistake. This administration is continuing to repeat the mistakes of the past.
The Trump administration was right to remove the United States from the flawed Iran nuclear deal and to reimpose sanctions. It was also right to eliminate Qassem Soleimani, who was responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of U.S. troops in Iraq. These decisive actions told the Iranian regime that real consequences come when you threaten the United States and our allies. That message has been lost under the Biden administration, and our adversaries know it.
As I indicated at the outset, the Iranian regime's threats to the homeland are real and growing. They have sought to conduct cyberattacks on our state and local governments and private industry. The regime continues to pursue an opportunistic approach to cyber warfare, which makes the United States and our allies' critical infrastructure susceptible to attack. They have plotted to target and assassinate individuals in the United States, including former Trump administration officials. They have also sought to abduct or assassinate Iranians living in the United States who are critical of their regime, such as Masih Alinejad, an Iranian American journalist testifying before the Committee this morning.
The Iranian regime is becoming more determined and more adept in its malicious activity. We must remain vigilant. Thank you to all our witnesses for being with us this morning. I look forward to your unvarnished and objective perspective about the threats the Iranian regime poses, and what actions we can take to counter those threats.
As prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Chairman Green, for recognizing me and for holding this important and timely hearing. This hearing is occurring in the aftermath of a heinous terrorist attack on our ally Israel. What we witnessed on the tragic morning of October 7 was nothing short of barbaric and horrific. It was the deadliest day since the creation of the State of Israel-75 years ago. It was the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust.
Israelis, Americans, and other foreign nationals died, many were injured, and others continue to be held hostage or remain unaccounted for. At least 30 Americans were killed in this attack, which makes October 7 the worst attack on Americans by international terrorists since 9/11. More Americans were killed on October 7 than in the attacks on Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the USS Cole in 2000, the U.S. embassy in Beirut in 1983, or the U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998. What happened on October 7 was sickening.
These evil and twisted Hamas terrorists-a foreign terrorist organization-supported by the Iranian regime-who carried out this cruel and indiscriminate attacks targeted innocent women, children, the elderly, and the Jewish population. These terrorist attacks should be universally and unequivocally condemned by all.
It is absolutely appalling to see mass gatherings celebrating the loss of life that took place that heartbreaking morning. These gatherings are nothing more than an attempt to not only whitewash the gruesome attacks but also deny what transpired on October 7 and push a narrative that couldn't be further from the truth.
As Democrat New York Mayor Eric Adams recently said: "We are not all right when Hamas believes that they are fighting on behalf of something and their destructive, despicable action that carried out. We are not all right when we still have hostages who have not come home to their family. We are not all right, and we're not going to say we have a stiff upper lip and act like everything is fine. Everything is not fine. Israel has a right to defend itself, and that's the right that we know."
The hateful rhetoric spewed at these gatherings have created an environment that has left Jewish communities isolated and concerned about their sense of security and safety. We must make it clear that EVERY American has a right to live peacefully and securely in this nation.
In addition, the horrific images from Israel that we all have seen should invoke the raw emotions many Americans have felt in the fight against terrorism. It is a solemn reminder and fact that this committee was created to help ensure that another attack like 9/11 was to never occur again within our homeland.
As I reflect on the recent tragedy that has unfolded in Israel, I cannot help but remember how the 9/11 Commission Report explained that a contributing factor as to why we missed the threat indicators to foresee an attack on our nation was due to a lack of imagination from our intelligence agencies and national security experts. No one in our government could even remotely think that someone would use a commercial airliner as a missile. Yet, we saw four commercial jets utilized in this way on 9/11.
When you think you have seen it all, violent extremists are there to prove you wrong. Like before 9/11, none of us could imagine that terrorists would fly across a sovereign border on paragliders, and slaughter innocent civilians celebrating life at a music festival. These terrorists bulldozed and blew holes through concrete barriers and thousands of terrorists ran through with little to no effort and began their brutal assault. These attacks have taught the world that violent Islamist terrorists are continuing to exploit vulnerabilities through the most ingenious ways. We must not lose sight of this reality and acknowledge the threats posed by these groups.
We must also recognize that these threats pose a significant danger to the United States as well. Our border is far less secure than Israel's. I know this because I have personally led efforts to help promote the development of border technology between our two nations. The fact that even the most advanced technology could not stop these atrocities from taking place should keep us all up at night. Our nation has seen a record number of individuals encountered who have either appeared on the known or suspected terrorist watch list or individuals designated as a special interest alien.
We know that the Iranian regime has tried to exploit weaknesses in our southwest border. Surely, there is a risk that terrorists, including those backed by the Iranian regime could take advantage of the glaring vulnerabilities and conduct attacks in the homeland. If we continue to remain naive about our security posture at our southwest border, then we are bound to suffer catastrophic consequences. The threat warnings and indicators from the terrorist attacks in Israel should serve as a wake-up call to our nation and make us realize that these dangers are present and real. We must secure our border immediately.
I would also be remised if I did not highlight the fact that the Iranian regime is actively targeting Americans here on our soil. The regime has attempted multiple times to silence or exact revenge on government officials and private citizens who speak out against the regime's brutality. Multiple witnesses today have experienced this transnational repression firsthand. I look forward to hearing their perspectives on this important national security threat.
Lastly, we must also recognize that authoritarian regimes, like China and Russia, are working to advance their strategic goals throughout the Middle East by pandering to those who parrot the talking points that come from the Iranian regime and its proxies. This is happening because our nation has failed to lead on the global stage. Time and again, we have demonstrated to malign actors that our talk is cheap and that we will not take on the hard work necessary to deter evil influences. We must use the bully pulpit to reject these narratives and put on notice those who would rather sympathize with terrorists and refuse to condemn the worst attack against the Jewish people since the Holocaust.
I hope our nation comes together and supports our indispensable ally, Israel, and Jewish communities across the globe grieving during these trying times. We must also continue to work to rid the world of the hateful and antisemitic ideology and rhetoric calling for violence against the Jewish community or working to delegitimize the Jewish independent state. The security and safety for the Jewish people and the State of Israel are non-negotiable. Mr. Chairman, I yield.