Warner visits Middle East

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told Virginia reporters during a conference call on Wednesday that his Memorial Day recess travels to the Middle East have revealed both “dramatic transformation” and “serious challenges ” for the region.

“Whether we look at the near universal revulsion over last weekend’s massacre in Syria  or the growing worldwide consensus that the Assad regime in Syria has to go, we need to do all that we can to ensure that any opposition that replaces Assad truly is democratic and not made up of terrorists,” Warner said. 

Warner is a member of a bipartisan delegation comprised of other Intelligence Committee members, including Sens. Mark Udall (D-CO), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).

On Sunday and Monday, Sen. Warner visited Israel, where the delegation met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other top Israeli officials. The delegation also toured Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system aimed at protecting Israeli citizens from short-range rocket attacks. Senators also met with top officials from the Palestinian Authority.

“Our meetings helped reiterate America’s strong support for Israel, and the need for sanctions that will effectively pressure Iran to take measurable steps to stop their nuclear enrichment activities. We cannot allow Iran to just run out the clock with endless negotiations,” Warner said. “A nuclear Iran is a threat not just to Israel. It would destabilize all of the nations in the Middle East.”

The delegation arrived in Egypt on Tuesday for a variety of meetings with top officials and various citizen groups, including a visit to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the focal point of the Egyptian uprising last year.

“We were in Egypt as the results of the presidential elections were announced,” Sen. Warner said. “There was a general sense that the elections were conducted fairly, and Egyptians are in for a challenging time as they continue to work towards real democracy through a second round of elections. As we’ve seen, democracy can be messy. But the Egyptians want to have this election without outside influence, that is our government’s position, and I think it’s the right one.”

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