An Unwavering Commitment To Reforming the Middle East

By John Kerry

Published August 27, 2004, issue of August 27, 2004.
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Across the Middle East, the United States and Israel are facing a range of crucial security challenges. We are not secure while Saudi donors fund terror, while Iran pursues a nuclear weapons programs and while Syria sponsors terrorist operations. We are not secure while Iraq is at risk of becoming a haven for terrorists. And we are not secure while Israel, the one true democracy in the region, remains the victim of an unrelenting campaign of terror. If we continue without a more effective strategy, we are not supporting our ally as best we can.

For too long, America has not led, and Iran’s program has advanced. Let me say it plainly: a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable. I believe we must work with our allies to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program and be ready to work with them to implement a range of tougher measures, if needed. Developing an international coalition enhances our influence by ensuring that all nations are united in the effort, leaving no room for Iran to play allies against one another.

The Syria Accountability Act, which I co-sponsored in the Senate, gave the president authority to sanction Syria, a concrete step against Syria’s support for terror and its occupation of Lebanon. As president, I will never delay implementing sanctions as the Bush administration did for many months.

The greatest long-term strategic threat to U.S.-Israeli relations is U.S. dependence on Mideast oil. A new national security policy demands an end to that dependence. For too long, America has lost its voice when talking about the policies and practices of some governments in the Persian Gulf. If we are serious about energy independence, then we can finally be serious about confronting the role of Saudi Arabia in financing and providing ideological backing for Islamic fundamentalist jihadists. This is a problem that this administration has ignored — and one that must be addressed.

I have a plan for energy independence from Mideast oil in the next 10 years. I will invest in the research and exploration needed to develop renewable energy sources. I will take the lead in developing the new technology and production methods needed to ensure that resources such as coal and natural gas are used more efficiently and cleanly, and fully integrated into the new energy economy. I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation and not the Saudi royal family.

As president, I will use bold diplomacy to get governments to recognize the growing crisis of resurgent anti-Semitism, and take action to deal with it — not hide it. Silence will never prevail — either abroad or at home. As president, I will support the creation of an office within the State Department dedicated to combating anti-Semitism, as well as adding reporting on acts of anti-Semitism around the world to the State Department’s annual human rights reporting.

I will work with the United Nations and our allies to bolster security in Iraq so that we can meet our goals for elections and speed up reconstruction. I will launch a massive effort to train and equip Iraqi security forces, so that they can take over the security of their nation, allowing us to draw down our troops in an orderly manner.

These steps will be vastly more effective when backed by a long-term strategy to change the political equation in the Middle East, to empower reformers and foster democracy.

I will launch an aggressive public diplomacy campaign in Arab and Muslim countries to tackle head-on the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda that fuels ignorance and hatred. This will be a part of an expansive American-led, international effort to promote democratic reforms throughout the Middle East by supporting secular education, business development and educational initiatives. By carefully targeting aid and development programs we can most effectively bolster civil society groups to take action to advance reform.

American leadership is needed to bolster Israel’s security at home as well as in the region. I believe that we must stand with Israel, supporting our ally’s right to build a security fence and to allow its own Supreme Court — not the International Court of Justice — to address the issue of the route of the fence. The fence has proven its value as an anti-terror measure.

I believe, in addition, that the withdrawal from Gaza, which Prime Minister Sharon announced in April, holds great promise. Indeed, this step enjoys overwhelming support among Israelis. It must receive our support and backing as well.

The success of the withdrawal also requires a real Palestinian effort to establish security — to ensure Gaza does not remain a haven for terrorists to launch attacks on Israel. Experience has made very clear that for the Palestinians to meet this key test, new Palestinian leadership is required, as Yasser Arafat has proven himself not to be a partner for peace.

As president, I will work with the Palestinian community to empower new, responsible Palestinian leadership committed to a permanent end to terror and the promotion of democracy. I will ensure that allies are united in this effort, not working at cross-purposes by propping up a failed Palestinian power structure. This kind of tough and frank diplomacy will be a hallmark of my administration. We will magnify our power and restore American influence to enhance our own security and that of our allies. We will restore our alliances and we will lead. But we will never compromise America’s special relationship with our ally Israel. As president, I will never pressure Israel to make concessions that will compromise its security.

My commitment to a safe and secure Jewish state is unwavering. For 19 years, this is a pledge I have kept in the United States Senate — whether through my votes on economic aid, military security or the location of the U.S. Embassy. And it is one I will continue to keep as I lead a bold new effort to enhance regional security throughout the Middle East.






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