Senate confirms Tony Blinken as US secretary of state
February 5, 2021
(JNS) - The U.S. Senate confirmed Tony Blinken on Tuesday as the 71st U.S. secretary of state. The final tally was 78-22.
Blinken, who is Jewish, will succeed Mike Pompeo as America's top diplomat.
Blinken previously served as U.S. deputy secretary of state under U.S. President Barack Obama and was a top adviser to Joe Biden during the latter's 2020 presidential campaign.
During his nomination hearing last week in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Blinken said that the United States is "a long way" from re-entering the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and that Biden would consult with Congress, Israel and Gulf allies before doing so.
He also said the United States should not lift terrorism sanctions on Tehran or unfreeze assets belonging to Iran in order for the Islamic Republic to come to the negotiating table.
America withdrew in May 2018 from the nuclear deal, reimposing sanctions lifted under it, along with enacting new ones on Iran as part of what the Trump administration called a "maximum pressure" campaign.
In addition to his answers on Iran, Blinken talked about building on the Abraham Accords-the normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco-although he said, without specifying, that there are details that should be reviewed. Previously, Blinken expressed reservations about America's F-35 deal to the UAE following Abu Dhabi normalizing ties with Israel.
Moreover, Blinken called Turkey's acquisition of the S-400 from Russia "unacceptable." In response, the United States ejected Turkey from Washington's F-35 program that year. Last month, the United States enacted sanctions against Ankara for the acquisition.
Blinken did criticize the Trump administration for its designation this month of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist entity, saying the move will hinder humanitarian assistance to Yemen even if there are exemptions for the United States to do so, citing that most of the humanitarian aid to that country comes from other countries.
Also regarding Yemen, Blinken said that while the United States should end its support for Saudi Arabia's intervention in the country, Washington should continue its allied status with Riyadh.
Furthermore, Blinken noted that the BDS movement "unfairly and inappropriately" calls out Israel and creates a double standard, though said the Biden administration will always respect First Amendment rights. He did call for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, adding that "our commitment to Israel's security is sacrosanct."
Finally, when asked by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) if Jerusalem is Israel's capital and whether the United States will keep its embassy in Israel in Jerusalem, Blinken replied: "Yes and yes."