In order to keep American citizens and American interests safe both at home and abroad, we must engage in a smart outward looking foreign policy that encourages diplomacy and international cooperation, with the understanding that military force is always an essential option to keep our nation safe. We must rebuild alliances with Europe, Russia and China and reinvigorate our efforts to destroy and dismantle al Qaeda's terrorist network and thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The Threat of a Nuclear Iran
There is no greater danger to the security of America, Israel, and our allies than Iran's nuclear weapons program. The U.S. and the international community cannot allow Iran, the world's leading sponsor of terrorism, and its depraved, Holocaust-denying President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel's destruction, to possess nuclear weapons. Given the advanced nature of Iran's nuclear program, including the recent discovery of a second covert uranium enrichment plant, and its growing threat to American and Israeli security, Congress and the Obama Administration must take immediate steps to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Unfortunately, direct engagement with a bellicose Iranian regime will likely not be sufficient to end Tehran's nuclear threat, and the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China must place crippling sanctions on Iran and demand that Ayatollah Khameini, President Ahmadinejad, and the Iranian government end its enrichment of uranium and allow international inspectors unfettered access to all specified sites. To that end, Congress should immediately pass the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act which would strengthen sanctions on companies doing business with Iran's energy sector and drastically limit Iran's ability to import and produce refined petroleum products.
As a Member of the Florida Senate, I led the effort and passed legislation that allowed Florida to do its part to help weaken Iran's ability to proceed with its nuclear program. During my first year in the Florida Senate, I sponsored legislation to divest Florida's pension funds from companies engaging in business with Iran and Sudan. With the unanimous support from the Legislature, Florida became the first state in the country to divest, making it clear that our state workers would not aid in Iran's quest for nuclear weapons. I was proud to testify before Congress in support of the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, legislation that would encourage all states to divest from Iran. In Florida, I also led efforts in the State trying to leverage public opinion to persuade a Swiss company, Vitol, to stop selling refined petroleum to Iran.
Iranian leaders must know there are far-reaching economic and security consequences for their failure to fully comply with American and global demands that Iran meet their legal obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Iranian government, which has been offered substantial carrots to end its uranium enrichment program, must also know that American and international patience is not endless. While use of force should always be the last resort, the Obama Administration must keep this option on the table in the event Iran fails to meet the demands of the international community.
Al Qaeda, Afghanistan and Iraq
While I opposed President Bush's invasion of Iraq, our troops have served heroically, and now it is time for a responsible withdrawal of U.S. forces on the ground. The Iraqi government must now take responsibility and stand up for their own security. In addition to the tragic deaths and injuries of thousands of U.S. soldiers, the war in Iraq has endangered our national security efforts throughout the Middle East.
Our efforts in Afghanistan must fundamentally be based on rooting out and destroying the al Qaeda terrorist network that attacked our nation on September 11th, 2001. We must also continue to train Afghan national troops to build a strong central government to act as a bulwark against the resurgent Taliban and al Qaeda. Failure to destroy terrorist enclaves in Afghanistan is not an option, and President Obama must insist that our NATO allies do more to support these vital efforts.
As a Member of Congress, I will closely monitor U.S. efforts to destroy the worldwide network of al Qaeda and ensure we do not take our eye off the ball in Afghanistan. We must continue to pursue Osama Bin Laden. We also need a smart anti-terrorism policy where we continue to encourage communication between the C.I.A., F.B.I. and local law enforcement to foil domestic plots like the one unraveled recently in New York City. We also need to continue to support countries such as Pakistan that needs material support to destroy Taliban and al Qaeda forces in their country and on their borders. This is a job we cannot do alone. That is why I support the Obama Administration's efforts to strengthen our international alliances in order to encourage other nations to share counter-terrorism intelligence and cooperation.