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Iowa’s federal delegation give Obama’s MENA speech mixed reviews

Iowa’s federal lawmakers had mostly positive reaction to President Barack Obama’s Thursday speech on the changing face and policy of the Middle East in the wake of the May 1 death of terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Obama’s comprehensive speech covered a variety of topics, though he emphasized the United States would give its support to countries forming new democracies — specifically Egypt and Tunisia — and would protect Israeli security interests, while fostering tolerance of religious minorities in the Arab world.

However, the President also called for restoring the pre-1967 borders between Palestine and Israel, which met with some disagreement from certain lawmakers in Washington D.C.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), said he appreciated the President’s support of Israel as it “complements the goal of spreading freedom and peace in the region,” but was also critical of Obama’s idea to reinstate the borders between long-time foes Israel and Palestine.

“While the United States has a role to play in setting the stage for peace negotiations, we shouldn’t undermine this process by setting preconditions on Israel, as the President now has done,” Grassley said through a spokesman Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), called Obama’s speech both “timely and comprehensive,” and said he agreed with Obama’s support of Egypt and Tunisia.

“The Middle East is changing, and I am hopeful that this progress will bring stability and peace to the region,” Boswell said through a spokesperson. “I was pleased that he addressed Arab-Israeli relations and the need for a two-state solution.”

Other legislators hope Obama’s stances will redefine U.S.-Arab relations and foreign policy in the Middle East.

“With the death of Osama bin Laden, it is time to get away from the ‘war on terror’ mentality that has driven so much of our policy, which I’ve never agreed with, and which puts great strain on our relations with Islamic nations,” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said through a spokesman.

Watch President Obama’s remarks below:

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