Sen. Cruz Blasts Biden Middle East Nomination: ‘The American People Have a Right to Know if the Biden Administration is Trying to Pressure our Allies to Release Muslim Brotherhood Extremists’
Blasts nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs for refusing to answer and answering falsely on Muslim Brotherhood, Abraham Accords, and Iran
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, this week delivered remarks on the Senate floor blasting President Biden’s nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, Barbara Leaf. In his remarks, Sen. Cruz slammed the Biden State Department and Ms. Leaf for hiding dangerous political decisions from Congress and the American people. Read excerpts of his floor remarks below.
“I rise today to discuss the growing threats to American national security into the security of our friends and allies in the Middle East. Under President Obama and Vice President Biden, the policies put in place were a catastrophe for our allies in the Middle East, and a boon to our enemies.”
“Once again, the Biden-Harris administration is boosting the Muslim Brotherhood and other religious extremist groups in the Middle East. They’re elevating the Palestinians at the expense of our Israeli and Arab allies. And they’re dismantling pressure on Iran. And once again, they are hiding those details from Congress. They do not want Congress to know, and they do not want the American people to know. And in some cases, unfortunately, they are outright lying.
“Madam President, I know that President Biden and his administration are refusing to answer, even lying about their Middle East policies, because I asked them. I asked them as part of questioning Barbara Leaf, the president’s nominee to the Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs. Over the next several minutes, I’ll discuss the answers I got back. Ms. Leaf has been and will continue to be at the center of the Biden-Harris administration’s Middle East policy. She was responsible for Middle East policy from the very beginning of this administration as the Senior Director for Middle East and North African Affairs at the National Security Council. In her new position to which she has been nominated, she would be America’s most senior diplomat for the Middle East. I asked Ms. Leaf written questions about the Biden administration policies in multiple areas of Middle East policy as part of her testimony in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Her answers ranged from deliberately non-responsive to simply false. And throughout thoroughly, deeply distressing. For example, right now, today, the Biden-Harris administration is withholding $130 million of assistance for security and counterterrorism from our Egyptian allies, allegedly on human rights concerns. What we don’t know is exactly why they’re doing it, and exactly what the Biden-Harris administration is asking for. Under the Obama administration, the United States repeatedly inexplicably boosted the Muslim Brotherhood, which openly advocated terrorism against the United States. Those extremists were boosted at the expense of moderate Arab allies. And they consistently misled the public about their goals. Here, the only reason the American public found out in the first place about this $130 million is because the Washington Post revealed it.
“The Biden Harris administration didn’t explain to the American people what they were doing, it was only the reporting of journalists that revealed it, and we still don’t know enough. We don’t know the details. The Post reported that ‘the administration is withholding the aid until Egypt addresses certain human rights concerns.’ We don’t know what they are. They apparently include releasing 16 unnamed prisoners. We don’t know who they are. So I asked Ms. Leaf about these details. I asked about the 16 people. I asked for their names, their institutional affiliations, what they were charged with. I also asked if they were American citizens, and if they were not, I asked whether they were involved in organizations that push Islamic extremism or anti-Semitism. Ms. Leaf is obviously very familiar with the case. She wrote back over 1,000 words of highly, highly technical responses.”
“The answer from Ms. Leaf to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is not to put too fine a point on it ‘go jump in a lake.’ How many of those 16 are affiliated with terrorist organizations? The answer from Ms. Leaf, ‘go jump in a lake.’ How many of them are American citizens? The answer from Ms. Leaf, ‘go jump in a lake.’ Why is that? Why is it that the Biden-Harris administration is extorting Egypt to release 16 prisoners, and yet they’re embarrassed to say who those prisoners are?”
“Who are they? Well, let’s start with Salah Soltan. Who is Salah Soltan? He is a Muslim Brotherhood propagandist. He’s a hate preacher. He is someone who goes on TV over and over again and preaches the most vicious sorts of libels against Jews. Why are Senate Democrats trying to release vicious anti-Semites? Why are they suggesting – if you go back to the appropriation language – why are they suggesting in the appropriation language that the United States should be fighting to release that anti-Semite and hate preacher? We don’t know, because Senate Democrats aren’t defending that position, and the administration refuses to answer.
“Who are some of the other people on that list? Well, you have Muhammad El-Baqer. He was a Salafist youth activist. He was part of the revolutionary youth who started the revolution. And he’s been implicated in security violations. How about Ola Al-Qaradawi she is the daughter of Yosef Al-Qaradawi, who was one of the major voices for Jihad inside the Muslim Brotherhood. The paper trail on her is deliberately opaque from both sides.”
“When I asked Ms. Leaf about it, she provided 1,000 words and not a single name. And I will tell you that actually the names on that list are not secrets from Congress. They have been provided to Congress in a classified form. So, Madam President, you and I can go into a secure skiff, and we can read it in a SCIF. We can read the names. You know what we’re not allowed to do? Tell anyone what the names are. Why is it those names are classified? They’re classified because President Biden and Vice President Harris don’t want the American people to know who it is they’re trying to release. There’s no reasonable justification for those names to be classified. They’re extorting our friend and ally Egypt to get 16 people released from jail, and they refuse to tell us who. The American people have a right to know if the Biden administration is trying to pressure our allies to release Muslim Brotherhood extremists, if the Biden-Harris administration is trying to get our allies to release anti-Semites, and if they are, to hear a justification for why. But Ms. Leaf instead simply defies the Senate and refuses to answer.
“Let’s turn now to Israel. During the Trump administration, there was a decision to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel, which led to a historic flowering of peace across the region. The name and framework for those peace agreements was the Abraham accords. This was something that the Obama administration said would never happen, and something unfortunately, tragically, that they were actively hostile to. The Obama administration insisted that Israel would have to make massive concessions to the Palestinians, on their sovereignty on the security of Israel.”
“At the beginning of the Biden administration, the State Department even issued internal guidance prohibiting the use of the phrase, ‘Abraham Accords.’ Those words were verboten; you may not say those words. The instructions were instead to call them, ‘The normalization agreements.’ George Orwell is no doubt looking down from heaven and smiling at the power of language to be redefined. There are no ‘Abraham accords,’ now they’re ‘normalization agreements.’ Once again, the only reason that the public knows about this is because journalists revealed it.”
“This is conscious. This is deliberate. This is a pattern. It’s a classic example of where Congressional oversight is called for. Senate Democrats, many Senate Democrats, claim to support the Abraham Accords. Now, I would note, I was at the White House for the signing of the Abraham Accords. Not a single Senate Democrat showed up for that historic peace agreement, none, presumably, because of partisan loathing of President Trump. But nonetheless, Congressional Democrats say they support the Accords today. If that’s true, we need to see Congressional oversight. And so I asked Ms. Leaf for the specific guidance that was issued to the State Department – give Congress, give the Senate the written guidance prohibiting reference to the Abraham Accords. We know about it from public reports in the media. She and the State Department refused. They refused to provide that guidance to Congress. They refused to show it to the public. It’s not accidental. She refuses to answer this question because they want to hide it from the American people just like the names of the 16 prisoners they’re demanding that Egypt release.”
“A third example, turning to Iran. Perhaps more than anything else, first and foremost, this administration wants to return to the catastrophic Obama-Biden Iran nuclear deal, and to dismantle meaningful sanctions against the theocratic regime in Iran. From the earliest hours of the administration, the effort began to do exactly that. As part of that push, the administration has quietly, and sometimes secretly, reduced pressure on Iran and released frozen Iranian funds. But the Ayatollah wants to see just how much you can get. And he may not think that President Biden will ever do anything meaningful. If the U.S. isn’t going to impose pressure on Iran, there’s no reason for the Ayatollah to return to the deal at all. He doesn’t need to take yes for an answer for a deal because he’s getting everything anyway. And so since very early in the administration, the Biden-Harris officials have contemplated what has been called a, ‘less for less agreement,’ in which they would reduce some pressure on Iran for something less than full compliance.”
“Congress and the public deserve to know what’s being contemplated to reduce pressure on the Iranian regime, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. And a regime that seeks that, I believe they will be willing to use nuclear weapons to murder millions of Americans and millions of our allies. I believe that if the Ayatollah had the ability to murder millions of Americans or millions of Israelis in the blink of an eye, the odds are far too high that this theocratic zealot, who glories in death and suicide, would be willing to do so. And so I asked Ms. Leaf for the details of such agreements. Here is what she said in response: ‘There have been no such arrangements, deals, or agreements contemplated to reduce pressure on Iran.’ Madam President, that statement is false. It is categorically, directly, unequivocally false. It is false testimony in writing to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Ms. Leaf knows it’s false, and the State Department handlers who transmitted her written answer to the Senate knows that it’s false. What is the Biden administration trying to hide? What details don’t they want us to know?”