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Boyne City Gazette: Michigan Senator Gary Peters’ Middle East trip focused on national security

U.S. Senator Gary Peters, a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, today announced that he traveled to the Middle East last week, where he met with allies in the region to discuss a number of national security issues, including the threat from groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and progress on implementing the Iran nuclear agreement.

Peters and seven other senators met with heads of state, ambassadors and other top officials in Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Austria during the trip to discuss strategies to counter Iran and fight global terrorism.

“As a member of the Senate Homeland Security, my top priority is ensuring we’re doing everything we can to keep Americans safe. The Middle East is a region gripped in chaos and uncertainty, and it is critical that the U.S. work with our allies in the area to foster greater stability and protect our national security,” said Senator Peters.

“The United States, along with the international community, must ensure proper implementation of the nuclear deal signed last year and hold Iran accountable to the terms of the agreement. We must also continue working to strengthen our relationship with Israel, our greatest ally and the only democracy in the Middle East, to counter other threats emanating from the region.”

In Israel, Peters met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, and other high-ranking government officials to discuss the ongoing threats from Iran and its proxies and terrorism and violent extremism in the region.

The senators also discussed the U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding on strategic cooperation and the development of anti-tunnel technology to detect underground terror tunnel networks.

Last year, Peters helped introduce an amendment included in the National Defense Authorization Act authorizing joint U.S.-Israel anti-tunnel defense research, development, and test activities in order to better detect and destroy tunnels which have been utilized by terrorist groups.

Funding for this research and development was included in the year-end government spending bill signed into law by the President Obama last December.

Peters also met with officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria, to learn about the status of implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and discussed with IAEA officials the process for monitoring Iran’s implementation of the deal and how they are held accountable.

Peters supported the nuclear agreement in the Senate last year, but committed to supporting immediate reinstatement of Congressional sanctions if Iran violated the terms of the deal.

Additionally, Peters and the senators held meetings with in Turkey with President Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to discuss the threat from terrorist groups, including ISIS, as well as the Syrian refugee crisis.

The Senators also met with government officials in Saudi Arabia, including women appointed to Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council, to discuss counter-terrorism efforts and U.S.-Saudi relations.

Senator Peters was joined on the trip by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Chris Coons (DE), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Tim Kaine (VA), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Mazie Hirono (HI), and Cory Booker (NJ).