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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations; and the U.S. Senate National Security Working Group, issued the following statement in response to President Barack Obama’s Middle East speech:
“It is in our nation’s interest to advance freedom in the Middle East. Supporting free peoples and democratic governments has always guided American foreign policy. Unfortunately, I believe President Obama has been unsteady in advocating these principles in recent months.
“The President demonstrated uncertainty dealing with President Mubarak before withdrawing his support suddenly. After hesitating for several weeks and allowing Moammar Qaddafi to regroup, he authorized U.S. participation in a NATO air operation with a confusing mission and without significant U.S. leadership. He stood on the sidelines for weeks while Syrian forces have butchered pro-freedom demonstrators before finally announcing a series of sanctions this week. Indeed the President’s entire narrative has been unclear since the time he took office.
“The plan that President Obama outlined today certainly has merit. However, it’s important we recognize that any support given to these emerging or existing Arab governments can only help them as much as they’re willing to help themselves.
“Congress must be a partner in the development of this package for it to work. Congress will have to ensure that whatever aid is given is both targeted toward an outcome that is in the national security interest of the nation and does not increase the U.S. deficit.
“My support for the President’s idea is contingent on several principles being met by the governments that receive any U.S. aid. First, the government and its leaders must reject all forms of terrorism. They must demonstrate a credible plan for economic development and poverty reduction. They also must demonstrate a record of support for the rule of law, a prerequisite to ensuring that U.S. aid dollars will not be used to subvert the system of justice, jail opponents, or undermine constitutional government.
“These countries must respect minority and religious freedoms, including women’s rights. And they must have a sustained commitment to democratic reform and institution-building. They must respect international norms, such as honoring treaty obligations and respecting universal human rights.
“Finally, any government participating in the aid package must be committed to regional peace, and in particular, peace with Israel. As nations throughout the Middle East undergo changes, we should closely monitor their attitudes toward Israel. Only nations that are constructive in their attitudes and policies toward our ally Israel should be eligible for the kind of aid the President discussed in his speech.
“We’re at an extremely important moment as we watch a movement toward freedom unprecedented in the history of the Arab world unfold. America’s role is to support responsible leaders committed to peace and sustainable democratic change. I’m hopeful the President will work with my colleagues in the Senate to extend a helping hand to those leaders who are truly committed to those values.