U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approves legislation to
dramatically strengthen strategic-defense ties with Israel and upgrade
its economic-commercial status • New law is possible step toward
including Israelis in U.S. visa-waiver program.
The U.S. Senate on Friday overwhelmingly
approved legislation which dramatically strengthens strategic defense
ties with Israel, while at the same time the State Department continued
over the weekend to signal that Iran will eventually be welcomed as a
partner in President Barack Obama's anti-Islamic State coalition.
The U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act
upgrades Israel's status to that of "major strategic partner," and is
expected to significantly enhance cooperation between the two countries
on matters of security and regional affairs. The bill was co-created by
Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer and Republican Senator Roy Blunt.
The new law lays the groundwork for expanding
U.S.-Israeli cooperation in a number of areas and upgrades Israel's
economic-commercial status. The law is a possible step toward including
Israelis in the U.S. visa-waiver program.
However, while lawmakers on Capitol Hill
sought out closer ties with Israel, it appeared the Obama administration
was seeking to move closer to Iran. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry,
who had previously rejected the possibility of cooperating with Iran
against the Islamic State group, addressed the matter again on Friday
during a U.N. Security Council meeting on Iraq -- this time sounding far
less aggressive over the issue.
"The coalition needs to be comprehensive," he said. "Almost every country in the world has a role here, including Iran."
Meanwhile, two former defense secretaries who
served under Obama -- Leon Panetta and Robert Gates -- leveled criticism
at the White House last week.
Panetta told CBS News that in his view Islamic
State rose to prominence because the United States withdrew too quickly
from Iraq and was hesitant in its response toward Syria.
According to Gates, "By continuing to repeat
that [the U.S. won't put boots on the ground], the president, in effect,
In addition, the Senate also unanimously approved
allocating a $10 million reward for anyone who provides information that
leads to the capture of those involved in the beheadings of U.S.
journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.