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‘Unholy alliance’: Congress needs to act as global crises threaten West

Threat picture for US, allies worse than even after 9/11

Unidentified men carry a model of Iran's first-ever hypersonic missile, Fattah, past a mosque during a celebration of Iran's attack on Israel. (Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Unidentified men carry a model of Iran's first-ever hypersonic missile, Fattah, past a mosque during a celebration of Iran's attack on Israel. (Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Iran’s unprecedented drone and missile attack on Israel over the weekend has made plain the fact that the foreign affairs challenges facing the United States are not isolated incidents, but interrelated acts with global implications. For decades, Iran has been the world’s most prolific sponsor of terrorist activities against Israel through its proxies, but the authoritarian regime’s decision to take direct military action against the Jewish state for the first time brings the conflict to a new level.

But Iranian leaders haven’t limited its destabilizing and dangerous activities to the Middle East nor is it going it alone. They have joined what some have termed an “unholy alliance” with Russia and China to support Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine and China’s expansionist policies across the globe, increasing the possibility of larger conflicts ahead. Some have included North Korea in this dubious alliance, which has supplied Russia with badly needed military support, prolonging the war in Ukraine.

Attacking Israel directly and supporting Russian efforts in Ukraine have tied these two conflicts together. Given the meetings between Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping and the increased interaction between China and Iran, a move by Beijing against Taiwan becomes a larger possibility.

For the United States, the Biden administration and Congress, the challenge is not to respond to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan as isolated situations — but act together to support a broader, comprehensive policy strong enough to take on what is an increasing threat to the country’s safety and security.

The impasse that has existed for months between the White House and the Congress, exacerbated by intraparty fights over Israel and Ukraine funding, must end. After last weekend’s attack, the consequences of continuing inaction are even more apparent.

Policy disagreements have thrown the House into chaos with more turmoil ahead if small factions in both parties refuse to let the House do its will. Extreme rhetoric and more recalcitrance isn’t the answer.

Whether it’s with one funding bill or four, an immediate, broadly supported solution is not only crucial at this dangerous moment but will send a strong signal to the “unholy alliance” that the United States is united in its determination to face challenges, as Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a joint meeting of Congress last week, “from those with values and principles very different from ours.”

Kishida got to the heart of the matter posing two very serious questions: “Without U.S. support, how long before the hopes of Ukraine would collapse under the onslaught from Moscow? Without the presence of the United States, how long before the Indo-Pacific would face even harsher realities?”

If Congress needed another reason to act, it also came last week when FBI Director Christopher Wray addressed the current state of the border — not as an immigration issue, but as a clear threat to our national security.

“We’ve seen the threat from foreign terrorists rise to a whole other level after Oct. 7. We continue to see the cartels push fentanyl and other dangerous drugs into every corner of the country, claiming countless American lives,” he told members of the House Appropriations Committee. “We’ve seen a spate of ransomware and other cyberattacks impacting parts of our critical infrastructure and businesses large and small. Violent crime, which reached alarming levels coming out of the pandemic, remains far too high and is impacting far too many communities. China continues its relentless efforts to steal our intellectual property and most valuable information.”

He went on: “Looking back over my career in law enforcement, I’d be hard pressed to think of a time where so many threats to our public safety and national security were so elevated all at once. But that is the case as I sit here today.”

When people hear this kind of warning, they take the threat seriously. They have also begun to understand that many of the country’s biggest challenges — crime, inflation, immigration, the border, the rise of antisemitism and disorder on our streets — are being driven, in part, by outside influences bent on global dominance.

There’s a growing sense of unease and worry in America; an increasingly anxious electorate that sees their country more divided than ever stuck in the economic doldrums of Bidenomics while there is war in hot spots around the world.

It’s been more than 20 years since 9/11, but the threats to our national security have only expanded. Over the past couple of years, voters have watched our failed exit from Afghanistan. They have seen Russia invade Ukraine; China flexing its military and economic muscle around the world; Iran bankrolling terrorists and building up its nuclear capabilities; North Korea lob missiles over Japan; and in October, the worst attack on Israelis since the Holocaust. This past weekend, Iran was emboldened to send more than 300 drones and missiles into civilian areas of Israel.

Post-9/11, we faced the “Axis of Evil” — Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Today, what was a limited threat to our national security then has morphed into a broader alliance of bad actors, authoritarian regimes whose ambition is nothing less than global domination. It’s a coalition of convenience vested in self-interest not mutual convictions or moral cause.

But national security, always important to voters, is no longer the stand-alone issue it has traditionally been. People are seeing the connections between domestic issues like crime, the border, fentanyl deaths, inflation (especially rising gas prices), even the education of our children, and actions directed by this new “unholy alliance.”

It’s no coincidence that President Joe Biden’s job approval on foreign policy, according to The New York Times-Sienna poll (conducted April 7-11), is 36 percent approve to 61 percent disapprove. Crime is at 42 percent approve to 55 percent disapprove; and immigration at 32 percent approve to 64 percent disapprove. In a CBS News poll among adults (conducted April 9-12), Biden’s approve-disapprove on his handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was 33 percent to 67 percent. His job approval to disapproval rating on Russia and Ukraine was 39 percent to 61 percent. Congress’ overall approval numbers aren’t much better, with 14 percent approving and 68 percent disapproving, according to the latest Economist-YouGov poll, conducted April 6-9.

Iran and its proxies, China, Russia and North Korea together pose a grave and growing threat to world stability and security. Broad congressional support and a united front is what’s needed now, if we expect to defeat ruthless regimes that want nothing more than an end to the West.

David Winston is the president of The Winston Group and a longtime adviser to congressional Republicans. He previously served as the director of planning for Speaker Newt Gingrich. He advises Fortune 100 companies, foundations and nonprofit organizations on strategic planning and public policy issues, as well as serving as an election analyst for CBS News.

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