Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., International Relations Committee

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, October 8, 2003, that was edited for clarity.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: My next guest says that it is high time we hit Syria where it hurts. He has been saying that for months after introducing a bill on Capitol Hill to do just that, a bill now finally getting the attention he says it deserves. It passed a committee vote today. It moves to the House floor next week and most likely has the backing of the White House.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel of New York, who’s a key member of the International Relations Committee and sponsor of the Syria Accountability Act.

Congressman, thanks for coming in.


CAVUTO: How much business do we do with Syria?

ENGEL: We don’t do a heck of a lot of business with Syria, but whatever business we do, in my opinion, is too much. Syria has been a country which has aided and abetted international terrorism for many, many years.

Our U.S. State Department in 1979 put forth a list, Syria was a charter member of that list, and it has been on that list unabated for 24 years. And yet it’s the only country on that list with which we have normal diplomatic relations. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

And I think that Congress is finally taking the big step in saying to Syria you support international terrorism, you occupy Lebanon, you have weapons of mass destruction, you’re hitting at U.S. troops in Iraq through Syria, we’re not going to take it anymore.

CAVUTO: All right. Now you have a multi-step process to try to do just that, but it falls shy of doing the one thing super conservatives say, and that is attack them. What do you say?

ENGEL: Well, I think the United States right now has its hands full in Iraq. I think that before you move from step one to step 10, there are lots of intermediate steps.

These are intermediate steps, and we want to hit them in the pocketbook and try to make them change their behavior and, also, focus attention on their bad behavior. Syria has literally been getting away with murder all these years.

CAVUTO: But, Congressman, I know you mean this with the best of intentions, sir, and I don’t mean this to be a slap, but the fact of the matter is we hate Syria, Syria clearly has been hating us. They’ve been merrily going on without doing a great deal of business or economic activity with the United States. Does any of the measures you’re looking at change that?

ENGEL: Yes. First of all, it bans dual-use items such as computers, which Syria could use for all kinds of terrible things. That is banned. It would essentially freeze Syrian assets. It would not allow business between the U.S. and Syria.

It will hit the Syrians, and it will, again, focus attention on the fact that Syria is a terrorist state. In my opinion, Syria has a worse track record with terrorism than even Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

CAVUTO: All right. Congressman Engel, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

ENGEL: Thank you.

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