The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Antony Blinken as the nation’s 71st secretary of state, installing an interventionist establishment insider whose approach of returning back to the past of American foreign policy that led to tremendous damage in championing some of the worst decisions in U.S. history.
Blinken was approved by a vote of 78 to 22. He became the latest of President Biden’s national security team to be confirmed, following Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The 22 Nay votes were all Republicans including, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) who cited Blinken’s past support for U.S. military interventions in places like Libya, argued that he hasn’t learned the lessons from the chaos that has followed such interventions.
“My opposition of Mr. Blinken to be secretary of State is not so much because I oppose the administration. It’s because I oppose the bipartisan consensus for war,” Paul said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote, citing Blinken’s support for the U.S. military’s role in Iraq, Libya, and Syria. “Mr. Blinken has been a full-throated advocate of military intervention in the Middle East for 20 years.
“He’s more of the same,” Paul added, arguing that Blinken is part of a bipartisan foreign policy establishment that has supported regime change and war.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) also opposed confirming Blinken, citing the nominee’s eagerness to rejoin the Iran Deal.
“The policies that Mr. Blinken has committed to implementing as Secretary of State, especially regarding Iran, will dangerously erode America’s national security and will put the Biden administration on a collision course with Congress,” Cruz said in a statement. “He committed to reentering the catastrophic Obama-Biden nuclear deal with Iran, including by relieving terrorism sanctions on the Iranian regime and ending the international arms embargo, despite opposition to lifting that pressure by hundreds of members of Congress in both chambers.”
Cruz added, “His approach to the Iranian regime is already generating tensions with Congress, and I will engage vigorously with the Biden administration and State Department to prevent and mitigate the dangers they pose to the safety and security of Americans.”
A longtime adviser and friend of President Biden, Blinken served as a top aide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for Biden when he was a senator and as his national security adviser years later when he was vice president. In that role, Blinken played a huge integral role in fueling the political upheaval and instability of many Middle East nations during the Arab Springs that began in 2010.
During his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing last week, Blinken gave former President Trump credit for several of its foreign policy approaches, noting in one line of questioning that he believed Trump “was right” in taking a tougher approach towards China.
“I also believe that President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China. I disagree, very much, with the way that he went about it in a number of areas, but the basic principle was the right one,” Blinken said. “And I think that’s actually helpful to our foreign policy. We can out-compete China and remind the world that a government of the people, for the people can deliver for its people.”
He promised to keep the U.S. Embassy in Israel in Jerusalem and called the Abraham Accord, Trump’s signature foreign policy achievement of brokered peace deals between Israel and four Middle East and North Africa nations — United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan a “good thing” that he promised to build.
However, he warned that some of the incentives that were offered to the four Arab states in exchange for the détente ties with Israel merited “a hard look.” If Blinken attempts to reverse or revoke any or each of the diplomatic incentives, it will risk not only destroying the peace agreements, but future efforts currently in negotiation with other Arab nations including Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Tunisia in jeopardy. It also will show the world that the United States under the Biden Administration cannot be depended on holding up its end of diplomatic agreements, a belief that many Arab nations already view.
On Cuba, Blinken defused many questions Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL.) had pressed on how Biden’s administration’s plans to return to Obama’s foreign approach, telling the Florida Senator that he would “welcome the opportunity, if confirmed, to come and talk to you” one-on-one.
Blinken said the Biden administration would cease arms sales and support to Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen and promised an “immediately” review of Trump’s recent designation of Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a foreign terrorist organization, citing “deep concern” to address the humanitarian disaster.
He also reiterated to Senators Biden’s desire to rejoin the Iran Deal, a pact that failed to limit Iran’s nuclear program from developing atomic weapons in exchange for the U.S. easing of economic sanctions. This led to top Republican and Democratic members on the committee speaking out on Biden’s commitment to rejoin the deal, pressing the Secretary-designate on how the administration is planning to deal with Tehran’s other malign activity, including its ballistic missile program, funding of proxy fighters across the Middle East, and its human rights abuses.
“If Iran comes back into compliance we would, too, but we would use that as a platform with our allies and partners who would once again be on the same side with us, to seek a longer and stronger agreement,” Blinken said. “Having said that, I think we’re a long way from there. We would have to see once the president-elect is in office what steps Iran actually takes and is prepared to take.”
However, Blinken emphasized that the administration’s goal is to first constrain Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon as a priority over addressing other malign activity.
Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, restoring the sanctions while imposing many more to cripple Tehran economically as means to force the regime into the negotiation table. Despite the failed attempt, Trump imposed to forge a deal with Iran, the efforts successfully lead to four peace accords in three months between Middle East nations and Israel, whom the region saw Iran as a threat with their support and funding many proxy militias.