Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., had a front-row seat this week as Egyptian officials tabulated the results of its first presidential elections since the country’s 2011 uprising ended three decades of totalitarian reign.
Warner, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, traveled to the Middle East during the Memorial Day recess, stopping in Israel and Egypt before heading to the African nation of Djibouti. Arab Spring turmoil in the Middle East and Northern Africa toppled some oppressive regimes and left other teetering, but it's still unclear what it all will ultimately mean for the West, Warner said.
“Whether we look at the near universal revulsion over last weekend’s massacre in Syria or the growing worldwide consensus that the [Bashar al-]Assad regime in Syria has to go, we need to do all that we can to ensure that any opposition that replaces Assad truly is democratic and not made up of terrorists,” Warner told reporters Wednesday.
Warner was on hand as officials announced the results of last week's Egyptian elections in which Mohamed Morsi, chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party, and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik won the two top spots and the right to face each other in a runoff election next month.
“As we’ve seen democracy can be messy,” he said. “But I think particularly speaking about Egypt, the Egyptians want to have this election without outside influence, that is our governments position and I think it’s the right one.”
The delegation — which included Sens. Mark Udall, D-Col.; Richard Burr, R-N.C.; and Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. — also reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to Israel, particularly given current tensions with Iran.
“Our meetings helped reiterate America’s strong support for Israel, and the need for sanctions that will effectively pressure Iran to take measurable steps to stop their nuclear enrichment activities," Warner said. "We cannot allow Iran to just run out the clock with endless negotiations. A nuclear Iran is a threat not just to Israel. It would destabilize all of the nations in the Middle East.”
Warner returns to the U.S. Saturday, and is scheduled to speak that day at the Virginia Democratic Party convention.