U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced that she led an official Senate trip to the Middle East in early January to meet with allies and discuss a broad range of regional security issues, including the threat from groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Hezbollah and progress on implementing the Iran nuclear agreement. Gillibrand and seven other senators met with heads of state, ambassadors and other top officials in Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Austria during the trip to discuss strategies to counter Iran and fight global terrorism.
“I led a trip with seven of my Senate colleagues to meet with top government officials and military leaders about security concerns in Israel and our other partners in the Middle East,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the leader of the Senate trip. “We heard from Israel’s leaders about the constant threat of terrorism they face, and we reaffirmed to them our commitment to supporting and protecting our closest ally and the only democracy in the Middle East. I look forward to using the insights we gained in our meetings across the region and with the IAEA to continue working to keep our country safe, hold Iran accountable under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and better protect our allies and partners in the Middle East.”
Senator Gillibrand was joined on the trip by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Gary Peters (D-MI).
Gillibrand met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, and other high-ranking Israeli government officials to discuss the ongoing threats from Iran and its proxies, terrorism and violent extremism in the region, the future of Israel, and how the United States can continue to work with Israel to ensure its security. The senators discussed the U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding on strategic cooperation and learned about the development of Israel-U.S. anti-tunnel technology to detect underground terror tunnel networks. Gillibrand supported funding for anti-tunnel technology in the National Defense Authorization Act in June 2015.
Senator Gillibrand also met with officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria, to learn about the progress of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear agreement, which Gillibrand supported in September to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. The senators and IAEA officials discussed how they monitor Iran’s implementation and ensure that it is held accountable.
In Turkey, Gillibrand and the senators held meetings with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to discuss the threat from ISIL and other terrorist groups and the Syrian refugee crisis. The Senators also met with government officials in Saudi Arabia, including women appointed to Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council, to discuss counter-terrorism efforts and U.S.-Saudi relations.