By Congressman Mike Turner
The Middle East is in the midst of important geopolitical changes that impact the regional stability and economic prosperity of the region. These events also present security concerns and opportunities that must be addressed. There is a clear need for real American engagement and leadership at this critical juncture.
For the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s first international trip, I wanted to make sure that our allies in the region and around the world knew the security and stability of the Middle East remains a top priority. With Ranking Member Jim Himes, we led a congressional delegation of 11 Members of Congress – six Republicans and five Democrats – to Israel, Jordan and Egypt for a week of meetings with Heads of State as well as U.S. counterparts in the intelligence services. As my colleagues quickly learned, briefings in Washington do not always give an accurate portrayal of the situation on the ground.
A key objective was to build relationships between our committee - which has oversight responsibilities of the U.S. Intelligence Community – and the intelligence services of U.S. allies in the region. We held meetings with the Directors of Mossad and Shin Bet to discuss the regional security concerns of a nuclear Iran, operations of Iranian-backed terror groups, the deepening Russian-Assad alliance in Syria, and China’s attempts to integrate further into the Middle East.
In our meeting at the Knesset with members of the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, it was a discussion on how the U.S. and Israel can further support Ukraine in the face of its greatest aggressor, Russia, that demonstrated the depths of our nations’ shared values and unwavering support for democracy.
In Jerusalem, the U.S. delegation spent more than an hour with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The myriad topics our delegation raised ranged from regional security concerns to the flow of the highly addictive drug Captagon. We asked how the U.S. can be a better partner to Israel in expanding the Abraham Accords, particularly with Saudi Arabia, and what more we, as Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, could do to support our most important ally.
During these visits with our allies, the delegation delivered a clear message: we must continue to work in close collaboration and foster deeper bonds to confront emerging threats in an increasingly interconnected world. In a region marked by instability, Israel is a vibrant democracy that guarantees freedom of speech, religion, and assembly. As a beacon of hope, and as a country rooted in its deep faith, Israel serves as an inspiration for those who seek a better future.
While I have had the opportunity to visit twice in the past year and more than a dozen times previously, Israel was new to some members of the U.S. delegation. Establishing a shared cultural experience with our greatest ally for these members was also a goal of the trip. Visits to the Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter, the Tower of David, Jaffa Gate, and other significant historical and cultural sites were key to fostering that bond.
At its conclusion I believe my colleagues came away with a deeper understanding of what our role – as the House Intelligence Committee and as a country – must be. The United States’ commitment to the security of Israel and our Middle East partners is rooted in both strategic interests and shared values. It is a reflection of our commitment to the principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. It is unwavering but it must also be reinforced.
America cannot and should not be a passive player. Nor can we leave our allies wondering if our commitment to peace and prosperity in the Middle East is no longer a priority. It is and it always should be.
"The United States’ commitment to the security of Israel and our Middle East partners is rooted in both strategic interests and shared values. It is a reflection of
Mike Turner represents Ohio's 10th Congressional District. He is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
our commitment to the principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. It is unwavering but it must also be reinforced."
May 22, 2023
Photos courtesy of the House Intelligence Committee