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[US] Congress Targets Iran

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image Photo: Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-TN) courtesy of IAEA Imagebank via Flickr

...Amended on the Senate floor the week of 6/12, passed by the Senate 6/15 with a new title, “An Act to Provide Congressional Review and to Counter Iranian and Russian Governments’ Aggression,” by a vote of 98-2 (only “no” votes were Sanders, I-VT and Paul, R-KY)....

As we have over the past two years, LobeLog is posting excerpts from the Legislative Round-up published weekly when Congress is in session by the inimitable Lara Friedman, previously of Americans for Peace Now and now the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. These weekly round-ups cover what Congress is up to and what individual members are saying, particularly about Israel-Palestine and Iran. For previous versions (going back many many years), see the Round-Up archive at Americans for Peace Now.

Bills, Resolutions & Letters

**UPDATE** (NEW IRAN SANCTIONS – BALLISTIC MISSILES, HUMAN RIGHTS, TERROR) S. 722: Introduced 3/23 by Corker (R-TN) and Menendez (D-NJ) and having 57 bipartisan cosponsors, the “Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017.” Amended on the Senate floor the week of 6/12, passed by the Senate 6/15 with a new title, “An Act to Provide Congressional Review and to Counter Iranian and Russian Governments’ Aggression,” by a vote of 98-2 (only “no” votes were Sanders, I-VT and Paul, R-KY). For details see the last edition of the Round-Up. UPDATE: After passage in the Senate, S. 722 got held up in the House, for a “blue slip” violation caused by the inclusion in the bill of language that would raise funds for the US government (under the Constitution, such language MUST originate in the House). Subsequently, on 6/29, the Senate passed S. Res. 210, introduced by SFRC Chair Corker (R-TN), “A resolution to correct the engrossment of S. 722” [text of S. Res. 210 is available here). That resolution appears to be intended to overcome the blue slip issue, putting the ball back in the court of the House.

(PEACE THROUGH ARAB NORMALIZATION WITH ISRAEL, aka, “OUTSIDE-IN”) H. Res. 393: Introduced 6/20 by Hastings (D-FL), Engel, (D-NY) and Schweikert (R-AZ), “Expressing support for addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict in a concurrent track with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and commending Arab and Muslim-majority states that have improved bilateral relations with Israel.” Referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa. The resolution does, notably, reiterate support for a two-state solution. On 6/20 Hastings made a floor statement introducing the bill, stating (among other things), “I rise today to introduce a bipartisan resolution supporting the concurrent-track approach to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process…The concurrent-track approach, sometimes referred to as the ‘outside-in’ approach, encourages Arab and Muslim-majority states to improve bilateral relations with Israel, as Israel and the Palestinian Authority concurrently work to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

(STRENGTHENING IRAN BALLISTIC MISSILE REPORTING) HR 3078: Introduced 6/28 by Kihuen (D-NV) and 7 cosponsors (bipartisan), “To extend quarterly reports on confirmed ballistic missile launches from Iran and imposition of sanctions in connection with those launches.” Kihuen press release is here; Moulton (D-MA) press release is here.

(TARGETING IRAN & HIZBALLAH) HR 3118: Introduced 6/29 by Duncan (R-SC) and 10 cosponsors (bipartisan), “To prevent further access of Iran and Hizballah into the Western Hemisphere, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, as well as the Committees on Financial Services, and the Judiciary. Duncan press release is here.

(HOUSE – FY18 NDAA – MIDEAST ELEMENTS) HR 2810: Introduced 6/7 by Thornberry (R-TX), the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018.” On 6/28, the House Armed Services Committee marked up the bill and passed it by a vote of 60-1 (after dealing with a large number of amendments – details here). The bill now goes to the floor for consideration (and in all likelihood the annual amendment-pa-looza). Middle East-related elements in the Chairman’s Mark (i.e., the bill as brought to the HASC, and preserved in the version passed by the committee) are listed below. In addition, Lamborn (R-CO) offered an amendment – adopted as part of En Bloc amendment #5 – to extend US-Israel anti-tunnel cooperation for two years.

  • Section 1677 — “Iron Dome Short-Range Rocket Defense System, Israeli Cooperative Missile Defense Program Codevelopment and Coproduction, and Arrow 3 Testing.” This section provides up to $705.8 million in funding for Israel, broken down as follows: up to $92 million for Iron Dome; up to $221.5 million for David’s Sling; up to $287.3 million for Arrow 3; and up to $105 million in additional funding for Arrow 3.

  • Section 1221 — Report on United States Strategy in Syria. This section requires the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, to submit a report describing and prioritizing interests; assessing the ambitions of various actors in Syria, the threat to US interests posed by these actors, and the resources and timeline required to achieve U.S. objectives; describing the transition from military operations to stabilization programming; and evaluating the risk to U.S. forces.

  • Section 1222 — Extension and Modification of Authority to Provide Assistance to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. This section extends current law authorizing the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, to provide assistance to the military and other security forces of, or associated with, the Government of the Republic of Iraq, including Kurdish and Sunni tribal security forces or other local security forces with a national security mission.

  • Section 1223 — Extension and Modification of Authority to Support Operations and Activities of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq. This section amends current law to extend the authority for the Office of Security Cooperation in the Republic of Iraq (OSC-I) for 1 year.

  • Section 1224 — Sense of Congress on Threats Posed by the Government of Iran. This section expresses the sense of Congress that the United States should counter the Islamic Republic of Iran’s malign activities in the Middle East; maintain a capable military presence in the Arabian Gulf region to deter, and, if necessary, respond to Iranian aggression; strengthen ballistic missile defense capabilities; ensure freedom of navigation through the Bab al Mandab and the Strait of Hormuz; and, renew focus on countering Iranian efforts to illicitly proliferate weapons in the region.

  • Section 1267— Security Strategy for Yemen. This section requires the President to develop a security strategy for the Republic of Yemen and to submit a detailed report on the required strategy to certain congressional committees within 120 days of the date of the enactment of this Act.

(SENATE – FY18 NDAA – MIDEAST ELEMENTS) S XXX: On 6/26-6/27 the Senate Armed Services Committee held a CLOSED markup of its version of the FY18 NDAA. As of this writing text of the bill (either pre- or post-markup) is not available online. According to the summary of the bill published by the committee, the bill comes out of markup including: authorization for $705 million for Israeli cooperative missile defense programs; a requirement that 50% of any funding allocated for cooperative anti-tunneling R&D activities with Israel be spent in the United States; and authorization for $1.8 billion in funding for counter-ISIS efforts via the “train and equip” programs in Iraq and Syria. Stay tuned for further details. In addition, Cruz (R-TX) issued a press release touting amendments to the NDAA he had backed (and that were adopted). These included 3 related to Iran: one expanding required reporting on Iran’s military cooperation with “hostile” nations; another expanding a required DOD report on Iran’s military power; and a third focused on Venezuela’s military cooperation, including with Iran.

(OBJECTING TO PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS…& ONLY CHRISTIANS) H. Res. 407: Introduced 6/26 by Grothman (R-WI) and having 25 cosponsors (all GOP but 1 – Vargas, D-CA), “Condemning the persecution of Christians around the world.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The measure does not offer even the pretense of concern for the persecution of people of any other religion anywhere in the world. Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(SYRIA’S ROLE IN LEBANON) S. Res. 196: Introduced 6/21 by Shaheen (D-NH), Perdue (R-GA), and Bennet (D-CO), “A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate on the challenges the conflict in Syria poses to long-term stability and prosperity in Lebanon. Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The measure’s “resolved” clauses state that the Senate: “(1) recognizes the importance of bilateral United States assistance to the Government of Lebanon in building its capacity to provide services and security for Lebanese citizens and curbing the influence of Hizbollah; (2) encourages continued coordination between the Department of State, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and humanitarian organizations to ensure that refugees from the conflict in Syria, including those in Lebanon, are supported in such a way as to mitigate any potentially adverse effect on their host countries; (3) recognizes that it is in the interest of the United States to seek a negotiated end to the conflict in Syria that includes the ultimate departure of Bashar al-Assad, which would allow for the eventual return of the millions of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and other countries around the world; (4) supports full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701; and (5) recognizes the LAF as the sole institution entrusted with the defense of Lebanon’s sovereignty and supports United States partnerships with the LAF, particularly through the global coalition to defeat the terrorist group ISIS.”

(TURKEY FTA) HR 3146: Introduced 6/29 by Mooney (R-WV), “To direct the United States Trade Representative to initiate negotiations with the Government of the Republic of Turkey to seek to enter into a bilateral free trade agreement with Turkey.” Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Measures referred:

  • H Res. 359: “Urging the European Union to designate Hizballah in its entirety as a terrorist organization and increase pressure on it and its members,” introduced 5/25. Referred 6/27 to the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats.
  • H Res. 331: “Expressing the policy of the United States with respect to a two-state solution between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people” (explicitly opposing the two-state solution), introduced 5/17. Referred 6/27 to the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa.
  • H Res. 328: “Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, and for other purposes,” introduced 5/16. Referred 6/27 to the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa.
  • HR 2659: The “United States-Israel Agriculture Strategic Partnership Act,” introduced 5/25. Referred 6/26 to the Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture.
  • HR 2646: The “United States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Extension Act,” introduced 5/24. Referred 6/27 to the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa.
  • HR 2795: The “Yemen Security and Humanity Act,” introduced 6/7. Referred 6/27 to the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa.

Letters

(KUDOS, MR PRESIDENT, ON KSA TRIP, BUT ARMS SALES ARE ON HOLD) Corker letter: On 6/26, SFRC Chair Corker (R-TN) sent Secretary of State Tillerson a letter stating, “I could not have been more pleased with the President’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia. The unity of the Gulf States [sic] and their commitment to security cooperation were welcome steps forward…” The letter goes on to note that, “recent disputes among the GCC countries only serve to hurt efforts to fight ISIS and counter Iran. For these reasons, before we provide any further clearances during the informal review period on sales of lethal military equipment to GCC states, we need a better understanding of the path to resolve the current dispute and reunify the GCC.” Press release is here, entitled “Corker Withholds Consent on Future Arms Sales to Gulf States Until Path to Resolve Dispute Is Established.”

(EU ANTI-SEMITISM DEFINITION) Nadler et al letter: On 6/27, Nadler (D-NY) issued a press release announcing that on that day he had, “joined with colleagues on the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism in sending a letter praising the European Parliament’s endorsement of a working definition of anti-Semitism on June 1, 2017. The definition was adopted from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.” Full text of the letter is included in the press release, as well as the (apparently) full list of signers. Note that the definition adopted repeatedly links anti-Semitism to certain forms of criticism of Israel.

Hearings

6/29: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee marked up and passed (by Unanimous Consent) a number of Middle East-related resolutions. Video of the markup is here. A summary of the Subcommittee’s actions at the markup is here. Ros-Lehtine (R-FL) statement on the markup is here. The resolutions marked up and passed are:

  • H Res. 185, Calling on the Government of Iran to fulfill repeated promises of assistance in the case of Robert Levinson, the longest held United States civilian in our Nation’s history.
  • H Res. 218, Recognizing the importance of the United States-Israel economic relationship and encouraging new areas of cooperation (amended with substitute text offered by Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL). Lieu (D-CA) statement on Subcommittee passage of the bill (which he introduced) is here.
  • H Res. 274, Condemning the Government of Iran’s state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights (with amendment from Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL).
  • H Res. 317, Calling for the unconditional release of United States citizens and legal permanent resident aliens being held for political purposes by the Government of Iran (amended with substitute text offered by Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL).
  • H Res. 359, Urging the European Union to designate Hizballah in its entirety as a terrorist organization and increase pressure on it and its members.
  • HR. 2646, To reauthorize the United States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act of 2015, and for other purposes.

6/28: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing entitled, “Advancing U.S. Interests at the United Nations.” The sole witness was US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (statement – excerpt: “the U.S. mission now refuses to tolerate one of the UN’s most disreputable and dangerous habits: obsessive bashing of Israel. We forced the withdrawal of a false and biased report.   And we’ve steered the Security Council’s monthly debate on the Middle East away from unfairly targeting Israel, and toward the true threats in the region such as Iran and Hamas…). Chairman Royce’s (R-CA) opening statement is here. Video of the hearing is here. Zeldin (R-NY) press release on his questioning of Haley is here (bashing the UN for UNSCR 2334 and pushing for a cut-off of funding to the PA).

6/22: The House Homeland Security Committee convened an all-day “Capitol Hill National Security Forum.” Full schedule of the forum is here.

6/21: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a hearing entitled, “Grading the Egyptian and Tunisian Enterprise Funds.” Witnesses were: James Harmon, Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund (statement) and Bowman Cutter, Tunisian-American Enterprise Fund (statement). Video of the hearing is here.

On the Record

Poe (R-TX) 6/29: On the persecution of Christians, including in Iran and the Middle East.

Emmer (R-MN) 6/21: Recognizing Rabbi Rabbi Hershel Lutch – “I met Rabbi Lutch on a trip to Israel that he and his organization, Aish HaTorah, helped to coordinate. That special trip showed me firsthand how our ally in Israel fights to survive and thrive every day…”

Poe (R-TX) 6/20: “Mr. Speaker, in 2001 the U.S. Government shut down the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for its role in sending money to Hamas. But some of the Holy Land Foundation’s employees are now working at 501(c)(3) ’charities’ that are leading the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in the U.S. against Israel. Charitable American donors have no way of knowing of the questionable histories of some of the employees of these charities before they donate. My bill, The Charity Transparency Act [HR 2058, introduced 4/6/17], will require organizations applying for 501(c)(3) status to disclose if any of their key employees once worked for such organizations. It would require no new paperwork and give the IRS no new authorities. It would just require one more disclosure on the already existing IRS documents. It would also not penalize any of these charities. It would simply protect charitable American citizens and arm them with the information they need to make better informed decisions regarding where they donate their hard earned money. I urge my colleagues to support this important bill. And that’s just the way it is.”

 

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