None fully comprehend the dire threats facing the state of Israel better than Israelis themselves.
Since its creation in 1948, Israel has thrived in a region surrounded by few who recognize its existence as a state and adversaries who issue threats of annihilation on a regular basis. To say it is located in one of the most tumultuous regions in the world is an understatement.
The Israeli government constantly confronts a sobering list of challenges: the Syrian civil war; Hezbollah and Hamas in the Golan Heights (both backed by Iran); and ISIS's growing terror presence in the Sinai Peninsula, and Daesh who carried out the deadly Palm Sunday bombings last April which lead to the closure of the Israeli border.
During a recent congressional delegation trip to Israel, I examined these threats firsthand and discussed ways the U.S. can better assist in countering them.
The U.S. has long assisted our Israeli partners through intelligence and information sharing, funding for the development of their ballistic missile defenses, and technology to identify and destroy tunnels used by Hamas to infiltrate Israel to conduct attacks on its citizens.
These threats are not only a stark reminder of the chaotic region in which Israel sits, but also a reminder of why our continued relationship with the only democracy in the region is more critical now than ever.
Make no mistake, we cannot ignore or underestimate these threats. As Prime Minister Netanyahu rightly pointed out during our meeting, the greatest threat to Israel is the expansion of the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism and a regime that openly calls for the annihilation of the Jewish State - Iran.
The Iranian threat has increased exponentially due to an influx of billions of dollars to the regime that resulted from the Obama administration's flawed nuclear deal that provided sanctions relief to a tyrannical regime.
The failure to negotiate the cessation of ballistic missile tests and funding of terror groups as part of sanctions relief has allowed the regime to expeditiously expand their military operations and increase support to their proxies on Israel's borders and throughout the Middle East.
More importantly, money provided to Iran under the nuclear agreement has allowed them to further their goal of a "Shiite Crescent" in the region. This Iranian "land bridge" goes through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea - and could dramatically shift the balance of power in the Middle East.
It is in the direct interest of U.S. national security to prevent Iranian influence from spreading across the region. We cannot stand for more instability resulting in more chaos and bloodshed, which will undermine the security of our greatest ally in the region.
While the foreign policy failures of the Obama administration created the void which Iran is currently filling, it is the responsibility of this Congress and the Trump administration to ensure the Mullahs in Tehran are not successful.
For this reason, I supported the House's overwhelming passage of the Countering America's Adversaries Act, which was signed into law in July. This law directs the president to impose sanctions on any entity or individual that materialistically supports Iran's ballistic missile program, is complicit in human rights abuses, or provides military sales, such as tanks, missiles or combat aircraft, to the regime. Additionally, this law freezes the assets of members of Iran's militant arm, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC), who are responsible for the implementation of Iran's military agenda. Furthermore, it requires the administration to develop a strategy to counter Iran's nefarious, destabilizing activities in the Middle East.
This Congress I also introduced the IRGC Terrorist Designation Act, which would require the administration to report to Congress as to whether or not the IRGC meets the legal criteria for a foreign terror organization (FTO) designation and, if not, to explain why.
Israel represents perseverance and determination and is a model of hope, peace and democracy in the most dangerous region of the globe.
After meeting with many brave Israeli leaders, it is clear that our two countries must continue to strengthen our steadfast alliance to counter regional menaces. As new threats and challenges emerge, we stand firmly beside the Israeli people.
Congressman Michael McCaul represents the 10th District of Texas. Currently, he serves as Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.