A House delegation led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor is wrapping up a trip the Middle East where lawmakers helped to unite allies in the region to increase pressure on Iran, which is seeking to build nuclear weapons and threatening to stop oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz.
After meeting with leaders in Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, Cantor said that the region shares the U.S. concerns over Iran's moves. [See a collection of political cartoons on the turmoil in the Middle East.]
"We all strongly share concerns about the threat posed by Iran, as well as the strategic goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability," Cantor said in a statement. "It is a matter of finding the best means to that end, and coordinating our efforts with our partners in the region."
Below is the statement the delegation just provided Whispers:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of a bipartisan Congressional Delegation to the Middle East, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and members of Congress have met with political leaders and foreign officials in Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The primary purpose of these meetings has been to discuss the ongoing threat the world community faces from Iran, and the best way to confront this urgent challenge. The leaders have also discussed other issues of regional and global importance facing these Middle Eastern nations and the United States, such as the Bashar Assad Regime's brutal crackdown in Syria, regional concerns about the deteriorating situation in Iraq, regional instability, and strategic petroleum interests.
Leader Cantor stated, "It is clear from our discussions in Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that we all strongly share concerns about the threat posed by Iran, as well as the strategic goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability. It is a matter of finding the best means to that end, and coordinating our efforts with our partners in the region. Our final stop in the Gulf proved to be particularly insightful and reaffirmed the strong relationship between the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates on key issues facing both of our nations." The slayings suggest a widening covert effort to set back Iran's atomic program.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said, "The U.S. and our partners in the Middle East are all threatened by the rise of extremism in the region and by the urgent threat posed by the Iranian nuclear program. It is important that all of our regional partners make every effort to crack down on extremism, and to increase pressure on Iran. In many instances there are clear needs for improvement, and it is my hope that our discussions help prompt needed changes."
House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger said, "The threat of instability in the region and the influence and partnership of the United States at this critical time has been an important topic in each of our meetings. Our mutual concern of nuclear weapons in the hands of the Iranians is shared by each of the countries we have visited."
Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito said, "It is essential that we continue to foster strategic relationships with our allies in the Middle East, especially as Iran continues to pose a grave threat to the region through its pursuit of nuclear capabilities and support for extremism. As a member of the Financial Services Committee, I've stressed the need to fully implement bilateral and multilateral sanctions against the brutal regime in Tehran as quickly as possible."
Congressman Diane Black said, "It was important for me to hear directly from the leaders in the region about the threat of extremism and security interests in their countries. It is clear we all share serious concern about Iran's nuclear ambitions and the threat this volatile nation poses not only in the Middle East but to the United States and the rest of the Western world."
Congressman Mike Kelly said, "Iran's nuclear ambitions and continued acts of aggression and intimidation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in the Strait of Hormuz present a clear threat to regional stability and the pursuit of peace in the Middle East. The United States and our allies in the region will continue to work together to deter Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and to stop the spread of extremism throughout the Middle East."
Congressman Todd Young said, "Iran's nuclear program poses a grave threat to U.S. national security and America's fragile economic recovery. It's clear that leaders throughout the Mideast share U.S. concerns, but are looking for American leadership to advance our national security interests."
The nine-member delegation has visited Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In Turkey, the lawmakers met with U.S. embassy officials in Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, President Abdullah Gul, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoglu, and Dr. Faruk Logoglu, the Deputy Chairman of the opposition Republican People's Party in Turkey.
In Qatar, the visit encompassed meetings with U.S. embassy officials in Qatar, Heir Apparent His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs His Excellency Dr. Khalid Bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, VCU in Education City and senior U.S. Central Command Officers. The Members also ate dinner with Junior Officers and enlisted Airmen from their home states.
In Saudi Arabia, the group met with U.S. embassy officials in Saudi Arabia, six members of the consultative Shura Council, Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources His Excellency Ali Al-Naimi, Minister of Defense HRH Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, and Chief of General Intelligence HRH Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz.
In Abu Dhabi, the group visited Al Dhafra Air Base and received a combined briefing by U.S. and UAE command elements, met with Foreign Minister Shaykh Abdulluh bin Zayed, and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The lawmakers participating in the trip include Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX) of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Rep. Todd Young (R-IN).