Source: United States House of Representatives – Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO-02)
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO) released the following statement detailing the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional delegation to Israel, Egypt, Qatar, and Bahrain led by Republican Senator Joni Ernst. You can click here to see photos from her delegation visit.
”The world watched the horrors that occurred in Israel on October 7th and we resolved that this evil has no place in our world. Hamas must be eradicated. As Vice Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Co-Chair of the Abraham Accords Caucus, I went to see the situation on the ground for myself, insist upon the immediate release of American hostages held by Hamas, and plan for the day after in Gaza to finally achieve safety and stability in the region. The situation on the ground is so volatile we had to travel by C-130 between countries.
“Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East. We stand fully behind them as they work to root out the evil that is Hamas and bring about a demilitarized, deradicalized Gaza. I was grateful to have had the opportunity to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and deliver that message.
“We were the first Congressional delegation to be invited to tour Kibbutz Nir Oz, a peaceful farming community that suffered some of the worst brutality on October 7 at the hands of Hamas terrorists. In this village of just over 400 farmers and factory workers, more than 100 were killed or kidnapped by Hamas to be held as hostages. Nir Oz is just a mile and a half from the Gaza border. I could hear an AH-64 Apache firing its 30-millimeter cannon, with artillery fire in the distance and surveillance drones overhead.
“Meeting with the families of hostages was especially heartbreaking. Their deeply personal stories shook me to my core, and I am immensely proud of their bravery and commitment to telling the world what Hamas did to their families. As we grieve the more than thirty Americans lost to Hamas terrorists, we insist on the immediate release of the remaining American hostages. Hamas could end this war today by releasing hostages and returning Gaza to demilitarized, deradicalized Palestinian leadership, and U.S. partners like Qatar and Egypt must exert serious pressure on Hamas to bring us closer to peace.
“We had an informative meeting with Egyptian President Abdel El-Sisi as part of our efforts to make sure American hostages held by Hamas are released and able to safely go home to be with their loved ones. Egypt has faced threats similar to Hamas in the past, and hearing their experiences and tactics is very informative as Israel works to counter this evil. I will continue to work with my colleagues to do all we can to ensure the safety of the hostages still in captivity and defeat Hamas.
“I had the honor of meeting some of our Missouri servicemen and women stationed at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, the largest U.S. base in the Middle East with thousands of troops stationed there. These courageous men and women are serving in harm’s way, facing serious threats every day from Iran and its proxies across the Middle East. Thank you for all you do to protect our freedoms.
“We met with Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, to discuss the work Qatar is doing to bring American hostages in Gaza home. Qatar has significant leverage over Hamas, and we were very clear that Qatar must use this leverage to immediately get the hostages out. I also insisted emphatically that Qatar eject all Hamas leadership and stop using Al Jazeera, its state-owned media service, to broadcast misinformation and propaganda on its Arab-language channels. The United States has long worked closely with Qatar on defense, finance, energy, and education, but if Qatar wants to continue to be a strong U.S. partner, it must act like one.
“We met with Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince of Bahrain. Bahrain is one of the original signers of the historic Abraham Accords, and we commended Bahrain for its important and courageous work to advance peace with Israel and safeguard freedom of navigation in the region. Bahrain is still the only Arab nation to publicly join the U.S. in standing up a task force to defend commercial shipping and freedom of navigation in the face of unprecedented Houthi attacks. There is a serious risk of escalation and war in the Red Sea, with Iran and its terrorist proxies threatening commercial shipping and U.S. troops alike. Iran’s activities merit severe consequences. It is vital that we exercise strength and work closely with regional partners to put a stop to these unconscionable attacks on civilian vessels, as well as protect American lives that could be at risk.
“We also met with servicemen and women at NSA-Bahrain, the headquarters of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) and the 5th Fleet. They are risking their lives to serve their country and protect against Houthi attacks, and their sacrifices do not go unnoticed. We must continue to engage in the region to better protect American lives. The U.S. urgently needs to demonstrate leadership and bring together a responsible coalition of Arab nations and Israel to address Iranian aggression.
“Iran wants to destroy global commerce, and they are doing everything they can to put our soldiers in harms’ way and attack our interests. Our own soldiers are under constant threat: Iranian proxies have attacked U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria 130 times. Meanwhile, the Houthis have launched at least 27 attacks on merchant ships. The U.S. Navy 5th Fleet continues to defend against these unprovoked attacks, which are a constant reminder of how important U.S. leadership is to peace in the region, and how much danger our military can be in on a daily basis. The Biden Administration must be much more aggressive and proactive in protecting U.S. lives. I was glad to see the US and U.K., with the support of Australia, Netherlands, Bahrain, and Canada, launch severe counterstrikes on Houthi targets—a clear consequence of the Houthis’ unprecedented attacks on global commerce. We must restore deterrence, working in lockstep with allies and partners. These Iranian puppets will not get away with their assaults on civilian vessels.
“I’m happy to say my MARITIME Act, which will require the United States to coordinate with Middle East partners to address the Iranian threat at sea, is now law. This legislation will ensure the U.S. is building a strong coalition to better protect our sailors and safeguard important Middle East shipping routes.
“If the Middle East is ever to know peace and prosperity, Arab countries, Israel, and the United States must stand together in opposing the violent agenda of Iran and its proxies—in Gaza and throughout the region. It’s time for the U.S. to show strong leadership. We must engage friends, allies, and partners in planning for the “day after” in Gaza and restoring security regionwide. In my work as co-chair of the Abraham Accords Caucus, I am committed to working with responsible partners like Egypt, Bahrain, and other Abraham Accords countries on Gaza’s post-Hamas future, countering Iran, and protecting freedom of navigation.”