I support President Obama’s efforts to break the deadlock in the Middle East by taking an open and honest approach to the problems facing the region. For too long, we have lacked leadership to provide Israel and its neighbors with the support they need to advance a peaceful, two-state solution. The vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians support a solution. The United States must do all in its power to help their governments realize the path to peace today rather than tomorrow.
The vision outlined by President Obama in his historic address in Cairo and the initiatives launched by the President and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton represent the change that’s needed. President Obama is right that we now have an opportunity to assure the long-term interests of the United States and Israel by changing the course of violence in the Middle East. As a member of Congress, I will not only fully support the administration’s endeavors to bring hope to the region but will also make sure that we work closely with Israel and with the Palestinians to achieve these goals.
As a leading state sponsor of international terrorism, a nuclear-armed Iran would pose unacceptable threats to stability of its region, and to the United States and its allies. Nuclear proliferation by any nation in the region fundamentally alters the strategic balance of the Middle East, a vital region key to U.S. national security interests.
I support President Obama’s decision to engage diplomatically with Iran with the goal of ceasing their nuclear enrichment efforts. In light of the rapid pace of advancements in Iranian capabilities, it is crucial this process begin as soon as possible and not be open-ended. For too long, Iran has been allowed to use negotiations as a way to delay sanctions while continuing to advance its nuclear program. The U.S. should engage Iran now. Deferring engagement will only allow Iran to achieve further nuclear capabilities, making the achievement of a successful outcome more difficult.
To increase our negotiating leverage with Iran, the United States should include its allies to delineate and spell out additional tough sanctions that will be imposed on Iran if negotiations are not successful. Sanctions are having an increasingly negative impact on the development of Iran’s oil and gas infrastructure. Iran announced on March 11 that French energy company Total will be pulling out of a large gas development project with Iran “because of imposed sanctions against Iran.”
As a means of enhancing pressure on Iran ‘s regime, the United States should sanction Iran’s Central Bank, foreign banks that continue to conduct transactions with sanctioned Iranian entities, and companies doing business with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The United States should implement current law and sanction foreign energy companies investing more than $20 million in Iran’s energy sector. President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton both voted to enact this legislation as senators. As a member of Congress, I will support these efforts as well.
On the Peace Process
The United States and Israel have long shared the goal of establishing peace between Israel and all of its Arab neighbors. Advancing toward this goal will take a high level of commitment by both parties that will include constant attention to Israel’s security concerns, substantial international investment in the Palestinian economy, and concerted international cooperation. U.S. leadership has proven critical at several key junctures; but in the end, the conflict can be resolved only by the parties themselves.
In charting a course to a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the U.S. should support pragmatic Palestinian leaders such as President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. I support U.S. efforts to deliver aid directly to the Palestinian people by bypassing any Hamas-led government. I believe that a better life for Palestinian families is good for both Israelis and Palestinians. With respect to Hamas, we must continue to advance the current U.S. policy and law that no aid or support shall be provided to Hamas until and unless it recognizes Israel’s right to exist, renounces violence, and commits to accept previous agreements.
On Foreign Aid
At little more than 1 percent of the federal budget, foreign aid is an essential, cost-effective tool for promoting American interests abroad and supporting our allies. This is especially true in the Middle East, where aid to Israel has long been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy and a cost-effective way of serving America’s national-security interests in this critically important region. U.S. security assistance to Israel is the most tangible way that the United States helps Israel maintain its military superiority and counters the great disparity in defense spending between Israel and potential adversaries in the Middle East. As a member of Congress, I will support President Obama’s fiscal year 2010 international affairs budget request.
Adriel Hampton is a journalist, Gov 2.0 and new media strategist, public servant, and licensed private investigator. He is running for U.S. Congress in the 2009 special election for California’s 10th District. He has pledged to vote against funding for expansion of the Iraq and Afghan wars.