Donnelly Discusses Military Progress in Middle East

U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly with Israeili Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly with Israeili Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly says the United States military is making progress in the fight against ISIS in the Middle East. Donnelly recently returned from a week-long, five-country trip, in which he led a congressional delegation on a tour of missile defense systems.

He told reporters Tuesday that the State of Indiana can be proud of the role Hoosiers are playing in the fight against ISIS and other efforts in the Middle East, “Every single place I went, there were Hoosiers who were serving, and they took your breath away, from some of the F-18 pilots who were taking off in the planes to a young girl from Gary on the aircraft carrier who serves in the post office.”

Donnelly says that after visiting with Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq, the Islamic State appears to be retreating in that country, but challenges still remain in places like the City of Mosul. “The particular challenge is that there’s a million people inside the city that ISIS has, in effect, kept in place now and is basically holding them hostage,” he said. “And so there’s a million people there. They have laced and lined the area with IEDs and so, it has to be slow but sure, but we are pushing them back in Mosul as well and at some point, ISIL will be gone from Iraq and then the continued push will be to eradicate them from Syria as well.” He told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. military often continues to serve as a referee in the region, to help the local governments overcome sectarian differences in order to more effectively oppose the Islamic State.

In addition to Iraq, Donnelly also visited the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Spain, and Israel, where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He says that Iran also continues to be a threat in the Middle East, even though the county does appear to be honoring the terms of its nuclear deal, “Their ballistic missile testing is of incredible concern to us. I know the Iranians are looking for assistance and access to U.S. financial systems, and my feeling is we’re not going to change anything in regards to that until they can and do improve their conduct on ballistic missile testing.”

While speaking with reporters Tuesday, Donnelly also addressed the issue of Merrick Garland’s nomination process for the U.S. Supreme Court. “This doesn’t require anybody to vote for him or against him,” Donnelly said. “It just simply requires us to actually do what we were hired to do, which is do review his qualifications, to have hearings, and then to make a decision. And so I think it’s a good sign that we have additional members of the Senate who are talking to him. I have never understood how in the positions we hold, we can simply just say, ‘We’re not even going to discuss this with this individual.’ It seems like an abdication of our responsibility to me.” While Donnelly says he doesn’t know how the nomination process will proceed, he reiterated his belief that it’s the Senate’s responsibility to at least hold a hearing.