On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I had the opportunity to raise two foreign policy issues of particular concern to me. I first asked the Secretary about the Administration’s approach to dealing with the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. The Secretary and I agreed that we must use all tools at our disposal, from diplomacy to robust economic sanctions, to convince the Iranian regime to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons. I support President Obama’s plan to engage Iran diplomatically, and along with Senator Brownback of Kansas I recently introduced the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2009, legislation to authorize state and local governments to divest their pension funds of assets held by companies that continue to do business with Iran.
Secretary Clinton and I also discussed the escalating crisis in Pakistan. The Pakistani military is engaged in heavy fighting with the Taliban insurgency, which has captured territory within 60 miles of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. What is particularly troubling from the perspective of United States national security is the prospect of a Pakistani nuclear warhead ending up in the hands of the Taliban, Al Qaeda or other extremist groups. A terrorist group acquiring nuclear weapons would pose a grave threat to the world. The Secretary assured me that she and other senior U.S. officials are confident that Pakistan’s nuclear material is adequately secure. I will continue to work with the Administration to help counter the Taliban threat in Pakistan.
Click here to read my floor statement on our strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I had the honor earlier today of addressing a group of Pennsylvania constituents who are in Washington this week to attend the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) national convention. As the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee handling Middle East issues, Israel's continued security and prosperity matter greatly to me. I addressed two key challenges affecting Israel today: the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program and the need to revitalize the Middle East Peace Process.
Iran continues to make progress towards the capability to produce a nuclear weapon. While the Iranian regime claims it is pursuing only a civilian nuclear energy program, it continues to deny international inspectors routine access and transparency into its activities and continues to defy a series of UN Security Council resolutions calling on Iran to cease uranium enrichment. An Iran armed with nuclear weapons would not just represent a mortal threat to Israel's security, but would also be emboldened to engage in regional aggression and provide support to groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. I strongly support President Obama's bold use of diplomacy to engage the Iranian leadership, but this diplomacy cannot be an end in itself. Iran must agree to negotiate in good faith; it cannot stall negotiations while it continues to advance its nuclear program. We must also remember that effective diplomacy is complemented by such tools as economic sanctions. For that reason, I strongly support measures to further restrict international exports of reprocessed gasoline to Iran and authorize state and local governments to divest from companies that invest in Iran.
At the same time, it is imperative for the United States to once again assume the mantle of leadership on the Middle East Peace Process and nurture a two-state solution, with the Israeli people and the Palestinian people living side by side in internationally recognized and secure borders. That is why I applaud the President's decision to appoint former Senator George Mitchell to serve as his personal envoy to the region and work constructively with all parties. The passive and disinterested role of the United States in recent years cannot continue. It is in the best interests of Israel to reach a genuine and durable peace with its neighbors.