Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, castigates the Obama administration for the “very worrisome” negotiations that could free Taliban captives in Afghanistan and the “terrible debacle” of its handling of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, the Florida Republican also says the United States has a moral obligation to support Israel even if it decides to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities — and warns that America’s relations with the new French president are going to be “very difficult.”
Ros-Lehtinen was first elected in 1988 and is the senior woman Republican in the House.
The new disclosure of a terrorist plot targeting U.S. jetliners with a version of an “underwear bomb” casts serious doubt on President Barack Obama’s recent assertion that the end of al-Qaida is in sight, the congresswoman says.
Watch the exclusive interview here.
The disclosure “is another sad reminder that the threats against our homeland are not over, and they will never be over as long as these radical elements, these terrorist organizations, are alive and well,” Ros-Lehtinen declares.
“Our goal is to continue what we need to do, which is to destroy all these terrorist networks wherever they may be. We’d like to say that the threats are over, but this is another reminder that the threats are not gone, and we need to be ever-vigilant.”
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Reports have surfaced that the United States has been secretly releasing captured Taliban fighters from detention centers in Afghanistan to strengthen the administration’s hand in peace talks with the terrorist organization.
If the reports are true it is “very worrisome,” Ros-Lehtinen tells Newsmax. “We should all be very alarmed. In Guantanamo Bay we thought we can have a catch-and-release program, and we released folks back into their homeland, and they went back to their terrorist actions. And now because we want this peace accord to work in Afghanistan, are we willing to trade our safety for the sake of a deal?
“These fighters still want to destroy us, so I hope that these reports are not true. If they are true we need to find out more about who these individuals are that we have been negotiating for, what it is we hope to be getting in return for that, and it’s never something that’s going to be in our favor. Whenever you’re dealing with bad actors like this, it always goes to their advantage and to our extreme disadvantage.”
The Foreign Relations Committee chairwoman was asked if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to cancel early elections increases the chance of an Israeli strike on Iran. “Those are decisions the Israelis will make for themselves,” she responds. “But as for the U.S. role, the United States has a moral obligation to support Israel in whatever she needs to do in order to secure her safety and her borders.
“We know that a nuclear-capable Iran continues to pose an existential threat to the safety of the Jewish state. So if Israel makes a determination that she needs to go on the offense in order to protect herself, we hope that our commander in chief is able to make those tough calls and stand with Israel.
“But it is not too late to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear-capable superpower. This administration prides itself on their diplomatic niceties. Well, why haven’t we gotten tough with the Chinese? Why haven’t we gotten tough with Russia and everyone else who is helping Iran build up their nuclear armaments?
“A lot needs to be done before we talk of war. We need to make sure the Iranians know that when we say all options are on the table, we really mean it.”
Ros-Lehtinen also comments on America’s future relations with France now that Socialist Francois Hollande has taken over the presidency from Nicolas Sarkozy.
“This is going to be a very difficult relationship for the United States to maintain,” she asserts. “This newly elected president has said he is going to rethink relations with NATO, rethink his commitment to Afghanistan, rethink everything.
“His plan is not for austerity. His plan is to tax the rich at an incredible tax rate of 75 percent. What we want in the United States is not to become this financial disaster that will be France under this leadership.
“We have an opportunity now to right our economic ship if we make the difficult decisions. We can prevent us from being in this economic quagmire that is France, that is Spain, that is all throughout that area.”
As for the administration’s handling of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who took refuge in the American Embassy and is said to be coming to the United States, Ros-Lehtinen charges: “The Obama administration really blew it when it came to Chen’s case. They had him in the embassy and then they said he left out of his own volition. But you more or less forced him out.
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“The embassy handled it badly, the State Department handled it badly. All that they wanted is to not have an embarrassment for the secretary of state and [Treasury Secretary Timothy] Geithner’s visit to China. They were trying to quickly usher him out the door and pretend that everything was fine.
“This was a terrible debacle for human rights activists like Mr. Chen.”
Russia’s most senior military officer said Moscow is prepared to destroy missile defense sites in Eastern Europe if the United States pushes ahead with deployment. But Ros-Lehtinen insists America should stand tough and not give in to appeasement with President Vladimir Putin and Russia.
"What we have gotten from years of appeasement with Russia," she says, “is nothing. Russia has gotten everything. They continue to be belligerent with their former republics. They say to our European allies they cannot have a missile shield to protect themselves. Russia says that is an act of provocation.
“We’re not going to let Vladimir Putin or anyone else dictate to us what our terms are. The administration’s policy on Russia has been nothing short of an abysmal failure.”
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