Washington Post: Nancy Pelosi's Travels

April 7, 2007

By Tom Lantos, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee

The April 5 editorial 'Pratfall in Damascus; Nancy Pelosi's foolish shuttle diplomacy' was an unwarranted broadside against the House speaker's bipartisan delegation to the Middle East. As a part of that delegation and a participant in its every meeting, I want to set the record straight.

The editorial was based mainly on a misreading of a statement by the Israeli prime minister's office. That statement said that a message Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) conveyed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad -- at Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's request -- did not indicate a change in Israel's position toward Syria. True enough. In fact, the speaker neither said nor implied that the message was a change in Israel's position. More to the point, the speaker told Mr. Assad that Syria must end its support for terrorists, including Hamas and Hezbollah, if it wants peace talks with Israel.

Ms. Pelosi has no illusions about the nature of the regime in Damascus. She delivered tough messages to Mr. Assad regarding Iraq, Lebanon and the Hariri assassination tribunal.

As Ms. Pelosi said during her visit, she supports the administration's policy goals in Syria, so The Post's claim about a 'shadow presidency' is absurd. But she also agrees with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group's conclusion that constructive dialogue is a critical means of addressing our concerns with Damascus.

The administration's approach has yielded nothing but Syrian intransigence. Five Republican members of Congress visited Mr. Assad this week. Based on the traffic to Syria, a growing number of Republicans and Democrats share the speaker's misgivings about the White House's ineffectiveness.