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Biden's UN pick passes through Senate Foreign Relations Committee

The top Democrat on the committee said he trusts Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Iran and Israel, but his Republican counterparts were more critical.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in favor of President Joe Biden’s nominee for ambassador to the United Nations. Linda Thomas-Greenfield received praise and criticism from committee leadership on her Middle East views.

The committee voted in favor of the career diplomat by 18 votes to four. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who became committee chair following the Democrats’ Senate victories in Georgia, said he was satisfied with Thomas-Greenfield’s vision for Iran and Israel at the UN.

Menendez said he trusted her to be “clear-eyed … about re-engaging our allies and holding Iran accountable and about standing up when Israel is subject to biased attacks.”

Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the committee, also voted in her favor but said he had reservations about her carrying out the Biden administration’s Iran policy.

“We have very little daylight between us on issues such as Turkey and those kinds of things, with the exception, of course, of Iran,” he said on her nomination.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas led the opposition to the nomination. He focused on comments Thomas-Greenfield made in 2019 to the Chinese state-funded Confucius Institute. Thomas-Greenfield later said she regretted the speech.

Thomas-Greenfield discussed her views on the region at length during her appearance before the committee last month. On Iran, she said she would work with the UN Security Council to bring Iran back into compliance with the nuclear agreement. The deal removed UN and US sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran scaling back its nuclear program. Iran is currently not complying with the agreement, and President Donald Trump removed the United States from it in 2018.

She also discussed Israel at the hearing. She called the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which promotes boycotts of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians, “unacceptable,” adding that it “verges on anti-Semitism.” She also said she would push countries that recognized Israel as part of the Abraham Accords to also recognize Israel’s rights at the UN.

Menendez’s comments on Thomas-Greenfield and Iran are notable because he was one of relatively few Democrats to vote against the Iran nuclear deal in 2015. The Biden administration is now seeking to get Iran to return to compliance before rejoining. Most Republicans oppose the deal.

Risch’s remarks on Turkey may refer to the more critical approach Biden has taken toward the NATO ally.

Thomas-Greenfield would bring considerable diplomatic experience to the position, much of it related to the African continent. She served as ambassador to Liberia from 2008 to 2012 and assistant secretary of state for African affairs from 2013 to 2017.

The nomination will now be put up for a vote in the full Senate next week.

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