Principled Foreign Policy Requires a Republican Senate
The 300,000 Americans living in Israel have a front row seat to President Obama’s Middle East policy in action. We witness up close the rise of ISIS, Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons, the disintegration of Syria, and the picking of unnecessary fights with Israel’s government.
As there is little resistance to those policies from Senate Democrats, there is strong support here for a Republican takeover of the Senate.
Two races in particular demonstrate why a Republican Senate victory is necessary: In North Carolina, Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan is facing Republican Thom Tillis; and in Arkansas, incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor is battling against Republican Congressman and Iraq/Afghanistan veteran Tom Cotton.
Both Hagan and Pryor have solid records on Israel -- which is certainly appreciated here -- as do their Republican opponents. But in this environment where the feckless Obama leading-from-behind foreign policy has come under withering criticism from even the president’s own former defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, principled Senate opposition to the White House is needed.
Unfortunately, neither Hagan nor Pryor -- nor other Senate Democrats -- have shown much resistance of any kind to Obama; each reliably rubber-stamps unwise White House foreign policy dictates even when they disagree with administration positions. This is hardly the leadership we need.
Last November, the U.S., along with other world powers, struck a dubious deal with Tehran to limit Iranian uranium enrichment in exchange for the easing of tough international sanctions against Iran. Senators from across the political spectrum expressed skepticism over the interim deal, arguing that it was not stringent enough and did not hold Iran sufficiently accountable should no satisfactory final deal be reached.
In fact, before the ink was dry on the interim deal, Iran continued construction on its Arak heavy-water nuclear reactor and plutonium factory; announced the building of a new generation of uranium-enriching centrifuges and possession of a thousand more centrifuges than previously disclosed; fired a rocket into space to improve its ability to develop a long-range ballistic missile; and proposed enriching uranium up to 60 percent, far beyond the level for any peaceful purposes.
In response, both Hagan and Pryor co-sponsored the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, introduced by Robert Menendez (D, NJ) and Mark Kirk (R, IL). Sixteen Democratic senators signed on. The proposed bill would intensify economic sanctions against Iran only if and when Iran failed to meet the terms of any eventual international agreement to prevent Iran form developing nuclear weapons. The sanctions would not interfere with ongoing negotiations, but would kick in only if those negotiations failed.
The bipartisan bill had a veto-proof majority of supporters. But then the Obama administration, taking heed of Iranian objections to the measure, pressured Democratic Senators to drop their support for the bill.
More beholden to Obama administration marching orders than to their own principles, the majority Democrats folded, withdrawing their support for the bill. The bill never became law. And not a peep of protest was heard from Pryor or Hagan -- even though they were among the bill’s cosponsors.
Meanwhile, without the threat of new sanctions, Iran continues to stall negotiations, build its plutonium-producing reactor, and spin its centrifuges.
The Democrat-controlled Senate also scuttled the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, which would have designated Israel as America’s “major strategic partner” and strengthened intelligence and military ties between the two countries. The Democratic leadership sank the bill only because it contained a provision allowing for Congress to weigh in on any administration-proposed nuclear deal with Iran -- a subject of existential importance to Israel. Again, no objection from Hagan, Pryor or other Democrats to killing the bill.
Furthermore, Hagan chairs the Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, which specifically deals with terrorist threats. Yet, she has never called for a single public hearing focusing on ISIS. Even with the resources and the platform to raise the public’s awareness about ISIS and pressure President Obama to start taking ISIS seriously, Hagan did nothing that could potentially make the White House look bad.
As for Senator Pryor, his deference to the Obama White House extends to reversing his own position on Syria policy. In July, Senator Pryor authored an amendment to block any provision of arms to moderate Syrian rebels. .Just two months later, as the administration shifted its policy, he changed course 180 degrees, voting to arm and train the Syrian rebels.
These are serious times. America needs Senators who take their foreign policy role seriously, who stand on principle, and who serve as more than just yes-men for President Obama. The Democrats, including Hagan and Pryor, have proven themselves incapable of providing that kind of leadership. America needs a Republican Senate.
The writer is an American attorney and political commentator living in Israel. He serves as Counsel to Republicans Abroad Israel.