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January 11, 2016 3

Five Things We Hope to Hear in the President’s State of the Union Speech

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

Pres­i­dent Obama has said that his final State of the Union address on Tues­day, Jan. 12 will be framed around “the big things” he sees as being pri­or­i­ties in the years to come, rather than tak­ing a policy-centric approach to the speech.  He has said that there is more work that needs to be done, and we agree.

In the run-up to the president’s address, we at the Anti-Defamation League asked mem­bers of our staff and some of our offices across the coun­try for some insights on which issues deserve pri­or­ity treat­ment dur­ing the president’s address. Our com­pleted list fol­lows.  ADL’s pri­or­i­ties for the pres­i­dent include: 1) Fight­ing prej­u­dice and dis­crim­i­na­tion 2) wel­com­ing asy­lum seek­ers and refugees while pro­tect­ing national secu­rity 3) safe­guard­ing reli­gious free­dom 4) Rein­forc­ing a com­mit­ment to Iran sanc­tions, and 5) Sup­port­ing a strength­ened Israel-U.S. relationship.

One caveat:  I should note that while we have num­bered these, they are each sep­a­rate and dis­tinct issues and not ordered by impor­tance. We believe each of these issues deserves pri­or­ity treat­ment by the admin­is­tra­tion at this unique time in Amer­i­can his­tory when we are faced with myr­iad chal­lenges and opportunities.

Let’s hope the pres­i­dent takes on some of these issues as he heads into his final year in office.

Fight­ing Prej­u­dice, Extrem­ism and Dis­crim­i­na­tion  

Last week’s reaf­fir­ma­tion of fed­eral edu­ca­tion anti-discrimination laws,   com­ing at a time of esca­lat­ing prej­u­dice and vio­lence against spe­cific pop­u­la­tions–  refugees, immi­grants, and the Mus­lim com­mu­nity –  was a needed, wel­come reminder for schools.  The Depart­ment of Jus­tice also has used its author­ity under the 2009 Matthew Shep­ard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Pre­ven­tion Act of 2009 very effec­tively, but much more train­ing and out­reach for local police is needed. A 21st cen­tury polic­ing model should include incen­tives for depart­ments   to ensure they are report­ing cred­i­ble hate crime data to the FBI.  Crim­i­nal jus­tice reform, includ­ing leg­is­la­tion now mov­ing through Con­gress, must pro­mote ini­tia­tives to inter­rupt the school to prison pipeline and efforts to build police-community rela­tions.  And the Pres­i­dent should use SOTU to fur­ther explain his new gun vio­lence pre­ven­tion ini­tia­tives, which were announced the same day ADL released a new report doc­u­ment­ing that 2015 was the dead­liest year for domes­tic extrem­ist vio­lence in the past 20 years, with firearms, over­whelm­ingly, the  extrem­ist weapon of choice in 2015 – as in vir­tu­ally every year.  Finally, we hope the Pres­i­dent will press for essen­tial leg­is­la­tion to restore cru­cial vot­ing rights pro­tec­tions elim­i­nated by the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder deci­sion.  If Con­gress fails to act, the Novem­ber elec­tions will be the first Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in 50 years with­out the robust pro­tec­tions of the Vot­ing Rights Act.

Wel­com­ing Asylum-Seekers and Refugees AND Pro­tect­ing National Security

Some Mem­bers of Con­gress have recently called for block­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s plan to reset­tle up to 10,000 Syr­ian refugees. This is unfor­tu­nate on so many lev­els and incon­sis­tent with our prin­ci­ples as a coun­try whose ori­gins and evo­lu­tion are so bound up with gen­er­a­tions of immi­grants and refugees. The SOTU is an oppor­tu­nity for the Pres­i­dent to urge Con­gress to oppose efforts to halt U.S. refugee reset­tle­ment or to restrict fund­ing for refugees, includ­ing Syr­ian refugees. We hope that the Pres­i­dent will reit­er­ate that Amer­ica can keep its bor­ders safe and, at the same time, wel­come refugees that are flee­ing the bru­tal­ity of ISIS. The Amer­i­can screen­ing process for refugees works – it is the sin­gle most dif­fi­cult way to enter the United States.  Amer­ica must not turn its back on its fun­da­men­tal com­mit­ment to refugee protections.

As thou­sands of men, woman, and chil­dren have fled hor­rific real­i­ties of bru­tal vio­lence and extreme poverty and hunger in El Sal­vador, Guatemala, Hon­duras, and Mex­ico, we also have seri­ous con­cerns about the Administration’s recent cam­paign of home raids to round up and deport these fam­i­lies and adult asylum-seekers. We hope to hear Pres­i­dent Obama speak out and direct the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity to stop these raids and depor­ta­tions.  More­over, chil­dren and fam­i­lies flee­ing for their lives must be pro­tected and have access to legal coun­sel so that they can apply for asy­lum and pro­tec­tion in the United States.

 The Pres­i­dent should also use the SOTU to encour­age Con­gress to recom­mit to advanc­ing com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform that pro­vides for a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship for immi­grants, sound bor­der secu­rity, safe­guards against bias and dis­crim­i­na­tion, and fam­ily reunification.

 Pro­tect­ing Reli­gious Free­dom, LGBT Equal­ity and Repro­duc­tive Rights 

The Pres­i­dent should com­mit to con­tin­u­ing his administration’s sup­port for vig­or­ous reli­gious free­dom advo­cacy on the fed­eral, state and local lev­els, includ­ing oppos­ing orga­nized prayer.  At the same time, the admin­is­tra­tion should con­tinue to demon­strate lead­er­ship on issues of impor­tance to the LGBT com­mu­nity – which have resulted in pos­i­tive, sys­temic changes in pro­tec­tions and equal rights for LGBT peo­ple – by mak­ing it clear that mea­sures couched as sup­port­ing reli­gious free­dom that per­mit busi­nesses to evade anti-discrimination laws and refuse ser­vice to peo­ple based on their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity are not accept­able.  On the issue of repro­duc­tive rights, we under­stand that all eyes will be on the United States Supreme Court this year as it con­sid­ers restric­tions on Texas women’s clin­ics that we think are unnec­es­sary and uncon­sti­tu­tional, but we hope the Pres­i­dent will under­score his oppo­si­tion to the Texas leg­is­la­tion and other sim­i­lar initiatives.

 

Rein­forc­ing America’s Com­mit­ment to Enforce­ment of Iran Sanc­tions 

Iran con­tin­ues to take actions pro­mot­ing poli­cies and human right vio­la­tions that pro­foundly con­flict with core Amer­i­can val­ues.  As we move closer to “imple­men­ta­tion day,” when the IAEA would cer­tify that Iran has met the require­ments under the nuclear agree­ment to lift inter­na­tional sanc­tions, Iran’s ongo­ing human rights vio­la­tions and its exter­nal aggres­sions must be taken into account when con­sid­er­ing the prospect of nor­mal­ized rela­tions. The United States can­not look away from the insti­tu­tion­al­ized dis­crim­i­na­tion fac­ing eth­nic and reli­gious minori­ties in Iran, includ­ing Baha’is, Chris­tians, Jews, and Sunni Arabs. Their treat­ment ranges from quiet intim­i­da­tion to sys­tem­atic impris­on­ment. LGBT cit­i­zens fare far worse. The Iran­ian regime con­tin­ues its decades-long sup­port of ter­ror­ism against Israel and other coun­tries, and rou­tinely pro­motes fan­tas­ti­cal anti-Israel and anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries, includ­ing mock­ing the Holo­caust and accus­ing Israel of cre­at­ing ISIS. It also has lent finan­cial and mil­i­tary sup­port to the mur­der­ous cam­paign of the Syr­ian government.

The U.S. should be vig­i­lant in using exist­ing sanc­tions tar­get­ing these prac­tices and explore new tools that might be needed to tar­get both human rights vio­la­tions and JCPOA violations.

We hope the Pres­i­dent will send a strong mes­sage Tues­day night to Tehran that there will be con­se­quences to test­ing both the bound­aries of the nuclear agree­ment and con­tin­u­ing its nefar­i­ous behav­ior in the region, and repres­sive poli­cies toward its own people.

 Sup­port­ing a Renewed U.S.-Israel Relationship

Con­gress and the Admin­is­tra­tion rec­og­nize the unique secu­rity threats and chal­lenges fac­ing Israel and the Pres­i­dent should reaf­firm the unshake­able U.S. com­mit­ment to Israel and its secu­rity in the SOTU. Nego­ti­a­tions between the U.S. and Israel are under­way for a new Mem­o­ran­dum of Under­stand­ing (MOU) to ensure Israel is able to main­tain its qual­i­ta­tive mil­i­tary edge over its adver­saries. The cur­rent MOU pro­vides $30 bil­lion in assis­tance to Israel over a 10-year period and is set to expire in 2017.

 As he enters his last full year in office, Pres­i­dent Obama clearly has a full plate.  He also has the oppor­tu­nity to work with Con­gress to insti­tu­tion­al­ize changes, alter­ing the land­scape – domes­ti­cally and inter­na­tion­ally – in ways that will endure well beyond his pres­i­dency.  We and the nation will be pay­ing close attention.

Fol­low us live @ADL_National dur­ing the State of the Union Tues­day night at 9 PM EST for our take on the speech.

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November 7, 2015 1

Getting the U.S.-Israel Relationship Back on Track

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

As Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu arrives this week­end in the U.S. and pre­pares to meet Pres­i­dent Obama next week, there is an oppor­tu­nity for the two coun­tries to reboot rela­tions head­ing into the final stretch of the Obama Administration.

Some believe this will be chal­leng­ing. Many have writ­ten about the per­son­al­ity clash between the two lead­ers. But I think the impact has been exag­ger­ated. How­ever, there cer­tainly have been sig­nif­i­cant pol­icy dif­fer­ences between them over the past sev­eral years.

This was par­tic­u­larly obvi­ous dur­ing the debate around the so-called Iran deal. In that frac­tious exchange, there were tough words exchanged all around. At times, com­pet­ing claims degen­er­ated into slan­der­ous attacks. But both sides should now take a deep breath.

Even deal oppo­nents should rec­og­nize that Pres­i­dent Obama chose a path that he and many experts believed to be sen­si­ble. Based on the analy­sis of experts, the admin­is­tra­tion felt that the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Action served not only the U.S. national inter­est but also the inter­ests of our allies in the region, includ­ing Israel. The Anti-Defamation League did not agree with this assess­ment, but many experts and orga­ni­za­tions did.

When he adopted this posi­tion, some fool­ishly labeled the pres­i­dent and his aides as anti-Semitic, a ground­less charge that seems espe­cially weak after a cur­sory review of the facts. Pres­i­dent Obama and his team have con­sis­tently renewed mil­i­tary sup­port for the Jew­ish state and pro­vided diplo­matic sup­port for Israel at the United Nations and in other fora. More­over, not only has the pres­i­dent pro­vided moral sup­port to Israel by link­ing the quest for Jew­ish sov­er­eignty to the Amer­i­can civil rights move­ment, but he has joined U.K. Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron and Pope Fran­cis as world lead­ers who appro­pri­ately have ques­tioned the true moti­va­tions of those who reject Israel’s legit­i­macy as a Jew­ish state.

By the same token, deal sup­port­ers should acknowl­edge that Prime Min­is­ter Netanyahu and the Israeli gov­ern­ment took a strong stance against the deal, not out of a desire to be oppo­si­tional to Pres­i­dent Obama or because of a polit­i­cal agenda. Rather, the Israeli posi­tion was derived from a strongly held view grounded in facts that a mil­i­ta­rized and nor­mal­ized Islamic Repub­lic is an exis­ten­tial threat to Israel. Crit­ics who deny this fact seem dan­ger­ously out of touch with reality.

Indeed, since the deal was signed, the Islamic Repub­lic has explic­itly repeated its refusal to accept Israel as a legit­i­mate mem­ber of the fam­ily of nations. Iran­ian prox­ies con­tinue to pur­sue ter­ror­ism against the Jew­ish state. The hos­til­ity and mil­i­tarism of the regime has not ebbed in any per­cep­ti­ble man­ner. And, if we take the Iran­ian lead­er­ship at their word, includ­ing recent state­ments by Supreme Leader Aya­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, it would appear that Israeli con­cerns are well-founded.

Fur­ther com­pound­ing legit­i­mate pol­icy dif­fer­ences, indi­vid­u­als on both sides occa­sion­ally have resorted to ad home­nim attacks, whether indi­vid­u­als in Jerusalemderid­ing Pres­i­dent Obama as anti-Semitic or unnamed offi­cials in the admin­is­tra­tion dis­parag­ing Prime Min­is­ter Netanyahu as “chicken-s—.” In both cases, offi­cials dimin­ished them­selves and their nations with such crass slander.

Look­ing ahead to the upcom­ing visit, both sides have an oppor­tu­nity to move past the acri­mony and acknowl­edge that the two coun­tries have far more in com­mon than the issues that divide them.

For the U.S., Israel remains a robust democ­racy and a bedrock island of sta­bil­ity in a region that seems less sta­ble by the hour. Israel’s com­mit­ment to the rule of law, basic free­doms and human decency dis­tin­guishes it from every other coun­try and non-state actor in the Mid­dle East. And the Jew­ish state is a hub of inno­va­tion whose tech­no­log­i­cal achieve­ments power our prod­ucts, whose ground­break­ing research sup­ports agri­cul­ture and man­u­fac­tur­ing, and whose sci­en­tific advance­ments enable med­i­cine and uplift human­ity. And the Amer­i­can peo­ple at a grass­roots level empir­i­cally sup­port the Jew­ish state.

For Israel, the U.S, remains its most impor­tant ally. Amer­ica has been unflinch­ing in its sup­port for Israel in inter­na­tional cir­cles and mul­ti­lat­eral fora that all too often ostra­cize the Jew­ish state. The U.S. has been a cru­cial source of mil­i­tary assis­tance but also an extra­or­di­nary reser­voir of eco­nomic sup­port and com­mer­cial invest­ment at a time when the can­cer of “Boy­cotts, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions” con­tin­ues to grow. And America’s bedrock com­mit­ment to a fair and just res­o­lu­tion of the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, one that guar­an­tees Israel’s legit­i­mate secu­rity inter­ests, remains cru­cial to the long-term prospects for peace in the region.

And, as incite­ment per­sists and vio­lence con­tin­ues to flare, both the U.S. and Israel still share a fun­da­men­tal inter­est in see­ing an even­tual end to the con­flict through a two-state solu­tion. To get the process back on track, pre­lim­i­nary steps will be required, includ­ing a ces­sa­tion of vio­lence on the Pales­tin­ian side and the reestab­lish­ment of trust among both par­ties. Nonethe­less, the U.S. and Israel share an inter­est in facil­i­tat­ing this out­come and achiev­ing a just and last­ing peace for all parties.

Amer­ica and Israel have far more in com­mon than the crit­ics care to men­tion. Next week — when the lead­ers shake hands — it will be an oppor­tu­nity to remind the world of the shared inter­ests that bind the two nations.

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August 13, 2015 2

Where We Stand on the Iran Deal

By Jonathan Green­blatt
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

The debate about the Iran nuclear deal has com­pelled us to con­sult with mem­bers of Con­gress and Admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials as well as to engage numer­ous experts to elicit a deeper under­stand­ing of the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and its impli­ca­tions for the United States.

From the begin­ning, we raised a series of ques­tions to Con­gress. Based on what we know now, our deep reser­va­tions expressed on July 24 remain. Indeed, because our pro­found con­cerns with the agree­ment have not yet been sat­is­fac­to­rily addressed, ADL believes that Con­gress should vote no.

Nev­er­the­less and regard­less of the out­come of a vote in Con­gress, we see an oppor­tu­nity for all sides to find new ground based on bipar­ti­san col­lab­o­ra­tion to con­sider a new way to approach the Islamic Repub­lic. This is cru­cial because, despite the nuclear accord that has been struck, Iran clearly con­tin­ues its nefar­i­ous behav­ior in the region. It must be addressed head on.

Yes, the deal offers sig­nif­i­cant bar­ri­ers in Iran’s nuclear path, for at least a decade that will keep Iran from acquir­ing a nuclear weapon, con­straints not cur­rently avail­able through any other means. But, as noted by many experts, these lim­i­ta­tions come to an end within 15 years in the best case. The poten­tial loop­holes in these con­straints con­tribute to our unease. We admired the clar­ity of the rea­son­ing offered by one of the Senate’s most respected, long-standing mem­bers, Sen. Chuck Schumer which crys­tal­ized those concerns.

To be clear, we respect and appre­ci­ate the com­mit­ment of the Admin­is­tra­tion and Mem­bers of Con­gress who have engaged in a seri­ous and sus­tained effort over many years to neu­tral­ize the Iran­ian nuclear threat. We do not pur­port to pos­sess expert knowl­edge of the com­plex­i­ties of nuclear physics or sanc­tions. How­ever, ADL has had pol­icy on this issue for over a decade because of our mis­sion: to fight the defama­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple and to secure jus­tice and fair treat­ment for all. And, for decades, Iran repeat­edly has pro­moted anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism; killed Amer­i­can civil­ians; threat­ened to oblit­er­ate the Jew­ish State; and insti­tu­tion­al­ized illib­er­al­ism. So we are con­cerned not only that the agree­ment appears to offer Iran a legal and legit­i­mate path­way to become a nuclear thresh­old state in just over a decade, but more imme­di­ately, stand­ing as a nor­mal­ized mem­ber of the inter­na­tional community.

In exchange for paus­ing rather than per­ma­nently ter­mi­nat­ing its nuclear pro­gram, Iran will receive bil­lions of dol­lars that, con­trary to the argu­ments offered by admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, will almost cer­tainly allow it to advance its agenda of big­otry, expan­sion­ism and sup­port for ter­ror­ism. Indeed in recent days, we have seen com­mer­cial del­e­ga­tions flood into Tehran even as its lead­ers flout inter­na­tional sanc­tions by vis­it­ing for­eign cap­i­tals; its judi­ciary represses reli­gious minori­ties at home; and its incite­ful rhetoric becomes even more sophis­ti­cated and stri­dent. These are omi­nous signs.

We want diplo­macy to work, and we fully accept there are times when our lead­ers must forge agree­ments with coun­tries whose ambi­tions we oppose. We are aware, how­ever, that this deal walks past many of the red lines orig­i­nally drawn by the United States and embold­ens the Iran­ian regime even as it con­tin­u­ally threat­ens the U.S. and our allies. That is why the United States must work to ensure that the ulti­mate red line, as stated by suc­ces­sive U.S. Pres­i­dents, that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon, is made crys­tal clear not only in words, but through con­crete steps taken both uni­lat­er­ally and in con­cert with our allies.

Indeed, there are poli­cies and actions relat­ing to Iran’s aggres­sion that Repub­li­cans, Democ­rats and the White House might actu­ally agree upon. As such, we urge all sides to move beyond a sim­ple “yes” or “no” vote to affirm our shared val­ues as the basis for new efforts to cur­tail the threat­en­ing activ­i­ties of the Islamic Republic.

As Dr. Robert Sat­loff, Direc­tor of the Wash­ing­ton Insti­tute for Near East Pol­icy, noted in an online essay in The Atlantic, a vote to dis­ap­prove the deal can actu­ally open up space for the Admin­is­tra­tion and Con­gress to address many, if not all, the seri­ous con­cerns expressed about the short­com­ings of the JCPOA and the chal­lenges Iran­ian behav­ior pose to the region and the world. In Dr. Satloff’s words, “‘No’ doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean ‘no, never.’ It also can also mean ‘not now, not this way.’”

This is impor­tant because Amer­i­cans of all polit­i­cal per­sua­sions agree on the intrin­sic dig­nity of all peo­ple. As such, the United States should ratchet up the costs to Iran for its oppres­sive poli­cies and regional med­dling even as we offer an out­stretched hand when it finally ceases such activ­i­ties. There is a clear oppor­tu­nity for a non-ideological con­sen­sus around three related points that can take us forward.

We believe a con­sen­sus can be cre­ated to address Iran’s bru­tal human rights record. No one in any polit­i­cal camp here in the U.S. would excuse the insti­tu­tion­al­ized dis­crim­i­na­tion fac­ing eth­nic and reli­gious minori­ties in Iran, includ­ing Baha’is, Chris­tians, Jews, and Sunni Arabs. Their treat­ment ranges from quiet intim­i­da­tion to sys­tem­atic impris­on­ment. LGBT cit­i­zens fare far worse. The U.S. should be vig­i­lant in using exist­ing sanc­tions tar­get­ing these prac­tices and explore new tools that might be needed. Seri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion also should be given to tak­ing action against Iran in inter­na­tional fora, for its repres­sive poli­cies toward its own peo­ple sim­ply because of what they believe or who they love.

Another impor­tant point of con­sen­sus is the broad under­stand­ing that Israel has a lot to worry about con­cern­ing Iran. Sup­port for ever-deepening mil­i­tary and strate­gic coop­er­a­tion between the U.S. and Israel is broad, con­sis­tent, and bipar­ti­san. We pro­pose that the U.S. deepen its intel­li­gence coop­er­a­tion with Israel and work with the Jew­ish state to ensure it has suf­fi­cient defense arrange­ments, such that the President’s oft-stated recog­ni­tion that “Israel has the right to defend itself by itself” can match Israeli capa­bil­i­ties. Some have sug­gested that the deliv­ery to Israel of the Mas­sive Ordi­nance Pen­e­tra­tor (M.O.P.), and the means to deploy it would demon­strate this regard­ing the Iran­ian nuclear infra­struc­ture; how­ever, this prin­ci­ple should be acted upon with regard to all aspects of the Iran­ian threat. And it would be con­struc­tive for the Israeli gov­ern­ment to begin to engage with the Admin­is­tra­tion on these issues as soon as possible.

As a third con­sen­sus point, all par­ties know that Iran con­tin­ues to desta­bi­lize the region and expand its sphere of influ­ence using mili­tias and ter­ror­ist prox­ies. Time and again, the words and actions of the Islamic Repub­lic have reflected a ten­dency toward war­mon­ger­ing and worse. We would like to see the Admin­is­tra­tion and Con­gress artic­u­late a regional strat­egy to counter desta­bi­liz­ing Iran­ian activ­i­ties across the Mid­dle East, includ­ing work­ing with regional allies. This could involve inter­dict­ing the flow of Iran­ian weapons as well as engag­ing the Gulf Coor­di­nat­ing Coun­cil (GCC) directly in dis­cus­sions around neu­tral­iz­ing the Assad regime in Syria and coun­ter­ing Iran­ian inter­ven­tion in Yemen. It could encom­pass a new mul­ti­lat­eral arrange­ment to address Iran’s increas­ing use of cyber-terrorism to threaten its neigh­bors and attack our own institutions.

Finally, we implore all sides to tone down the heated rhetoric. The debate about the JCPOA and addi­tional dis­cus­sions should be con­ducted by all par­ties in a civil man­ner. No one needs to resort to innu­endo or coarse attacks.

We stress that ADL can­not sup­port the JCPOA in its cur­rent form. With­out offer­ing a robust set of mea­sures to account for its vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties, the JCPOA presents too great a risk to the U.S. and for our crit­i­cal allies like Israel. Until the admin­is­tra­tion acts to address these con­cerns, and whether or not it is approved by Con­gress, we urge a new path for­ward that con­vinces Iran to eschew its agenda of big­otry and vio­lence. We should come together around smart pol­icy approaches to enable this out­come and rebuild the con­fi­dence of our allies and those around the world who rightly feel uneasy about liv­ing in a Mid­dle East in which an embold­ened Iran has new resources and new stand­ing to empower it.

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