Archived News

Blackburn on Israel: ‘whatever they need’

Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn speaks at a fundraiser in Henderson County on Saturday, Oct. 21. Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn speaks at a fundraiser in Henderson County on Saturday, Oct. 21. Cory Vaillancourt photo

Although she hails from Mississippi, Marsha Blackburn has become a powerful force in Tennessee politics over the past 25 years, first as a state senator, then as a member of Congress for 16 years, and now as the state’s senior U.S. senator.

An unabashed Trump loyalist, Blackburn has remained outspoken during the Biden administration and was listed by the National Review as one of the most conservative members in all of Congress.

The Smoky Mountain News caught up with Blackburn at a private fundraiser in Henderson County last weekend, where she talked about American efforts in Israel and Ukraine, explained why they’re important and announced who she thinks is the newest member of the “axis of evil.”

The Smoky Mountain News: Several days ago, your office put out a statement about President Joe Biden's proposal to marry Israel aid with Ukraine aid. You said you wanted those packages to be considered separately. Ohio Republican Sen. J.D. Vance recently said the same thing. What do you need to see in an Israel package to get your vote?

Sen. Marsha Blackburn: Look, when it comes to Israel, what we should say is, whatever they need that we have that shoots, sails, flies or spies, we need to get it to them. They need the equipment, the armor, in order to protect themselves. They're not asking us for troops to fight their war. What they are asking for is what they need to protect themselves. So with Israel, they are our closest ally in the Middle East, they are the only democracy in the Middle East, we need to look at what is happening with Iran, and funding all of the terrorist groups that are there, the proxies for Iran, because Hamas and Hezbollah and the Houthis are three of those terrorist groups and Iran is giving about $100 million a year to each of them. And then they're supplying them with weaponry and ammo and training and different types of supplies. So let's look at Israel separately, allies to make a good decision about what they need, and the actions we can take that would remove the funding of those terrorist groups.

SMN: So that's the Israel side of Biden proposal. Same question for Ukraine, what do you need to see in the Ukraine package to get your vote?

Related Items

MB: We need some transparency and accountability. We have allocated about $75 billion to Ukraine. We heard that humanitarian aid dollars ended up going to the UN instead of going directly to Ukraine. We need some transparency on that. We also need to see what Ukraine needs to defend themselves and where these things are in the pipeline — what has actually made it to the front line and then what is still in process, and some transparency before we discuss anything else is what is going to be an imperative there.

SMN: In President Biden's speech the other night, he said that “we're facing an inflection point in history,” and that the decisions we make right now are going to impact generations of people. What's the best way to tell the American people why it is important to continue to support our allies, Ukraine and Israel?

MB: It is so important to realize that on the global stage, we've got allies, and we've got enemies. We need to conduct our foreign policy in such a manner that our allies know that we are going to be there for them, and that our enemies are going to fear us. And while we stand with the people of Ukraine and we want to make certain Vladimir Putin loses, what we've got to do is have some transparency around what is happening with U.S. tax dollars in Ukraine. Plus, we want to be sure that NATO and the EU step up, and that they take a more active role in helping Ukraine defend themselves. That's an important part of this also.

SMN: And that was a major point for President Trump, that NATO was not pulling its fair share of weight. Do you feel that they have stepped it up a bit and started to really contribute at the level that they should be?

MB: The Ukraine war is right there on their doorstep, and they need to be the ones that are in the lead.

SMN: The one common linchpin in the two conflicts in those two countries is Iran. You stated the effects of sanctions not being enforced currently. Would you support direct military action against Iran's ability to earn money to pay for these wars?

MB: What we have been able to know is that sanctions and cutting off Iran’s money is what should be our first step. When you look at how President Biden, many of his advisors are pro-Iran. Take Jake Sullivan, for example. I've called for him to be removed as the national security advisor. His advice is bad, it's wrong. He misreads what is going on. Jake Sullivan was part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. When they got that money, what did they do? They stepped up terrorism and they started enriching uranium to a point that was just short of what would be nuclear weapons-grade uranium. When you look at this latest deal, this $6 billion, which we need to freeze — and I've led the effort to call on the administration to formally freeze it, not quietly freeze it — Sullivan is there. Jake Sullivan was advising on the withdrawal from Afghanistan. And so you take that component and then you also look at who Iran’s friends are. You've got Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. That’s your new axis of evil.

SMN: It's thought by many in the West that the Iranian regime does not truly represent the interests of the Iranian people. If you were able to speak directly to the Iranian people, what would you tell them right now?

MB: I would say look, we know that many of you, especially younger Iranians, are desperate for regime change. Continue to push for freedom and at some point, you will get to a tipping point, and that will happen.

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.