**UPDATE** ON FAUX-PRO-ISRAEL, PRO-SETTLEMENTS BILL: HR 1697 & S. 720: These bills (covered extensively in previous editions of the Round-Up), have three major problems: (a) they conflate Israel and settlements, (b) they seek to legislate U.S. support for settlements, and (b) would sacrifice Constitutionally-protected free speech on the pretext of defending Israel (bad enough) but in reality to quash opposition to settlements. Both are strongly supported by AIPAC and were lobbied by CUFI during its recent Hill visits. And this week, finally, the brazen assault on free speech that is at the core of these bills got some serious attention. On July 17, the ACLU published a letter to members of the House and Senate opposing HR 1697 and S 720 (Excerpts: “…the government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, punish U.S. persons based solely on their expressed political beliefs.” And “…the bill would punish businesses and individuals based solely on their point of view. Such a penalty is a direct violation o the First Amendment.” And “…H.R. 1697 [S. 720] seeks only to punish the exercise of constitutional rights…”). On 7/20, the ACLU published a post entitled, “The First Amendment Protects the Right to Boycott Israel.” With the ACLU’s position as a foundation, MoveOn, CREDO, and other groups have come out (finally) in opposition to the measures. In response, the primary sponsors of the Senate bill, Cardin (D-MD) and Portman (R-OH), sent a letter to the ACLU schooling the veteran civil rights organization on what does and doesn’t constitute a violation of free speech – cuz, ya know, the ACLU doesn’t really understand these things… [For resources on the constitutionality Issues involved in BDS/settlements legislation at both the federal and state levels, see here.]
(SLAMMING UNESCO FOR HEBRON RES) H. Res. 433: Introduced 7/11 by Hastings (D-FL), Weber (R-TX) and Poe (R-TX), “Disapproving of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee Inscription of Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage Site in Danger.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Hastings’ floor statement touting the bill is here. Note that, like the general debate/narrative surrounding UNESCO’s Hebron resolution and the latest Jerusalem resolution, H. Res. 443 has zero to do with the actual text that was adopted by UNESCO (reading it, one has the impression that the drafters didn’t actually read the text).
(KEEPING THE HEAT ON IRAN [and Russia]) HR 3203: Introduced 7/12 by Engel (D-NY), Pelosi (D-CA), and Hoyer (D-MD), “To provide congressional review and to counter Iranian and Russian governments’ aggression.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committees on Intelligence (Permanent Select), Armed Services, the Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform, Financial Services, Rules, and Ways and Means. On 7/12, Engel issued a press on the bill entitled, “Engel, Pelosi, Hoyer Introduce House Version of Senate Russia-Iran Sanctions Bill.”
(KEEPING THE HEAT ON IRAN) S. Res. 216: Introduced 7/10 by Cruz (R-TX) and no cosponsors, “A resolution calling on the Government of Iran to release unjustly detained United States citizens and legal permanent resident aliens, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
(NO U.S. BANKING FOR IRANIANS DUAL NATIONALS & OTHERS?) HR 3280: Introduced 7/18 by Graves (R-GA), “Making appropriations for financial services and general government for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2018, and for other purposes.” Placed on the Union Calendar, Calendar No. 167. This bill includes languages virtually identical to language in HR 10 and HR 2133 (reported on in previous editions of the Round-Up), permitting the Federal Government to “formally or informally request or order a depository institution to terminate a specific customer account or group of customer accounts or to otherwise restrict or discourage a depository institution from entering into or maintaining a banking relationship with a specific customer or group of customers” based on a number of criteria, including if said customer: “(C) is an agency of the government of Iran, North Korea, Syria, or any country listed from time to time on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list; (D) is located in, or is subject to the jurisdiction of, any country specified in subparagraph (C); or (E) does business with any entity described in subparagraph (C) or (D), unless the appropriate Federal banking agency determines that the customer or group of customers has used due diligence to avoid doing business with any entity described in subparagraph (C) or (D).”
(NO U.S. BANKING FOR IRANIANS DUAL NATIONALS & OTHERS?) HR 10: Introduced 4/26 by Hensarling (R-TX) and having 7 cosponsors (all GOP), the “Financial CHOICE Act of 2017.” Section 511 of the bill would permit the Federal Government to “formally or informally request or order a depository institution to terminate a specific customer account or group of customer accounts or to otherwise restrict or discourage a depository institution from entering into or maintaining a banking relationship with a specific customer or group of customers” if said customer is “(C) is an agency of the government of Iran, North Korea, Syria, or any country listed from time to time on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list” or “(D) is located in, or is subject to the jurisdiction of, any country specified in subparagraph (C)”; or “(E) does business with any entity described in subparagraph (C) or (D), unless the appropriate Federal banking agency determines that the customer or group of customers has used due diligence to avoid doing business with any entity described in subparagraph (C) or (D)…” Passed in the House 6/8, received in the Senate 6/12, hearings held in the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs 7/13.
(SANCTIONS ON HIZBALLAH) HR 3329 and S. 1595: Introduced 7/20 in the House by Royce (R-CA) and Engel (D-NY), and in the Senate by Rubio (R-FL) and Shaheen (D-NH), “To amend the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015 to impose additional sanctions with respect to Hizballah, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committees on Financial Services, and the Judiciary. Royce-Engel press release is here.
(SANCTIONS RELATED TO HIZBALLAH) HR 3342: Introduced 7/20 by Gallagher (R-WI) and 4 bipartisan cosponsors, “To impose sanctions on foreign persons that are responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights by reason of the use by Hizballah of civilians as human shields, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committee on the Judiciary.
(VERY VERY BROAD, ISLAM-FOCUSED AUMF) H. J. Res. 112: Introduced 7/20 by Perry (R-PA), “To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against organizations that support Islamist extremism, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(WE <HEART> TUNISIA) S. Res. 217: Introduced 7/11 by Cardin (D-MD) and 11 bipartisan cosponsors, “A resolution welcoming Prime Minister Youssef Chahed of the Tunisian Republic on his first official visit to the United States, congratulating the people of the Tunisian Republic on their embrace of democracy after decades of dictatorship, and encouraging future reforms.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Cardin-Rubio (R-FL) press release announcing the bill is here.
Middle East in Appropriations & Authorization Bills
(FY18 NDAA – HOUSE) HR 2810: On 7/14, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 by a vote of 344-81; the bill was received in the Senate on 7/18. Middle East elements in the text, as brought to the floor, are discussed here. The full list of 440 amendments submitted to the Rules Committee is here. Those made on order are listed in House Report 115-217; Middle East-related amendments made in order were:
- An amendment offered by Fitzpatrick (R-PA), requiring a report to Congress regarding the extent of cooperation on nuclear programs, ballistic missile development, chemical and biological weapons development, or conventional weapons programs between Iran and North Korea (Fitzpatrick press release) (passed as part of en bloc amendment).
- An amendment offered by Trott (R-MI), expressing the Sense of Congress that the proposed sale of semi-automatic handguns to the Turkish Government should remain under scrutiny until a satisfactory and appropriate resolution is reached in regards to the events that took place on May 16, 2017 (passed as part of en bloc amendment).
- An amendment offered by Moulton (D-MA), requiring a comprehensive political and military strategy for U.S. involvement in Syria and enumerates specific reporting requirements due within 90 days of enactment (passed as part of en bloc amendment).
- (49) An amendment offered by Yoho (R-FL) and Conyers (D-MI), putting a limitation on use of funds for provision of man-portable air defense systems to the vetted Syrian opposition (passed as part of en bloc amendment).
- An amendment offered by Conyers (D-MI) and Gallego (D-AZ), requiring a report assessing the relative merits of a multilateral or bilateral Incidents at Sea military-to-military agreement between the United States, the Government of Iran, and other countries operating in the Persian Gulf aimed at preventing accidental naval conflict in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz (passed as part of en bloc amendment).
- An amendment offered by Nolan (D-MN), prohibiting the use of funds authorized by this Act to be made available to deploy members of the Armed Forces to participate in the ongoing civil war in Yemen (passed as part of en bloc amendment).
- An amendment offered by Evans (D-PA) requiring a report on potential agreement with the government of Russia on the status of Syria. It requires the President submit a report that includes a description of any understanding between the President and government of Russia regarding a plan to divide territories and a description of any understanding that would provide Iran access to the border between Israel and Syria (passed as part of en bloc amendment).
- An amendment offered by Kihuen (R-PA) and a list of bipartisan cosponsors, extending the existing presidential reporting requirement for three more years- until December 31, 2022- to ensure we have an integrated strategy between the Administration and Congress in deterring Iran’s nuclear weapons program. (Kihuen press release) (passed as part of en bloc amendment).
- An amendment offered by Lieu (D-CA), Gallego (D-AZ) and Clarke (D-NY) requiring a report from the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State on the extent to which Saudi Arabia is abiding by its commitments in Yemen, including adherence to the U.S.-provided No Strike List and improving its targeting capabilities to avoid civilians (passed as part of en bloc amendment).
- An amendment offered by Sinema (D-AZ), Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Budd (R-NC), requiring the Report on United States Strategy in Syria to include a description of amounts and sources of ISIL financing in Syria and efforts to disrupt this financing as part of the broader strategy of the United States in Syria (passed as part of en bloc amendment).
- An amendment offered by Gallego (D-AZ) requiring reporting on deployments of US forces to Syria (passed as part of en bloc amendment).
- An amendment offered by Moore (D-WI) requiring the U.S. strategy on Syria to identify State Department and Defense Department funding by year to implement it, to identify the legal authority for U.S. forces in Syria to accomplish military objectives. Requires a separate assessment of how the humanitarian situation in Syria affects the achievement of U.S. goals, including how the U.S. intends to response to the humanitarian crisis including aiding Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons (passed as part of en bloc amendment).
- An amendment offered by Lamborn (R-CO), Roskam (R-IL), Zeldin (R-NY), Rosen (D-NV) and Sherman (D-CA), requiring a report from the President, along with the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and the Director of National Intelligence, regarding the use by the Government of Iran of commercial aircraft and related services for illicit activities. [NOTE: This is “Terror Free Skies Act” – HR 566/S 420] (passed as part of en bloc amendment).
- An amendment offered by Davidson (R-OH), prohibiting use of funds for military operations in Yemen outside of the scope of the 2001 AUMF (passed as part of en bloc amendment).
- Sec. 1231 – Modification of authority to provide assistance to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
- Sec. 1232 – Modification of authority to provide assistance to the vetted Syrian opposition
- Sec. 1233 – Extension and modification of authority to support operations and activities of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq
- Sec. 1234 – Modification and additional elements in annual report on the military power of Iran
- Sec. 1282 – support for continued US-Israel cooperation on anti-tunnel activities
- Sec. 1651 – earmarked in the bill text: $332 million for Iron Dome ($92M), David’s Sling ($120M), and the Arrow 3 Upper Tier Interceptor program ($120M). The report accompanying the bill states that the total for Israeli Cooperative Missile Defense Program is actually higher than the earmarked total, totaling $373.8 million. The report states: “The budget request included $105.3 million in Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation, Defense Wide, PE 603913C, for Israeli Cooperative Missile Defense Programs. The committee recommends an increase of $268.5 million in PE 603913C, for a total of $373.8 million, to reduce development risk and continue the modernization of Israeli’s multi-tiered missile defense systems. The additional funding shall be apportioned as follows: $28.1 million for the Arrow-3 Upper Tier system; $105.0 million to conduct flight tests of the Arrow-3 Upper Tier system at a U.S. test range; $71.5 million for the Arrow System Improvement program; and $63.9 million for the David’s Sling program…”
- Report language: Required report on the military capabilities of Hezbollah
- Report language: Required report on military cooperation between the Government of Venezuela and Cuba, Iran, and Russia, entities designated as foreign terrorist organizations by the United States, etc.
- Report language: Directs the National Nuclear Security Administration to provide a briefing to the congressional defense committees on planned and potential research and development of technologies to detect proliferation of nuclear material which can be used for verification of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA.).
- $332 million for procurement for the Israeli Cooperative Programs (this is the figure in the report; amounts earmarked in the bill are less)
- $373.8 million for Research, Development, Testing & Evaluation for the Israeli Cooperative Program (stipulated in the report, not earmarked in the bill)
- Up to $500 million to provide assistance to the Government of Jordan to support the armed forces of Jordan and to enhance security along its borders (bill language).
- Bill text stating that “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used with respect to Syria in contravention of the War Powers Resolution…”
- Under “Counter-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Train and Equip Fund,” language permitting funding to be used “to enhance the border security of nations adjacent to conflict areas including Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Tunisia”
(HOUSE FOROPS APPROPS) HR XXXX: On 7/19, the House Appropriations Committee marked-up and approved the FY18 State and Foreign Operations bill (not yet reported out of Committee, so no bill number yet). The bill text is here; the Committee report is here; the Committee’s summary of the bill is here. Full Middle East-related details of the bill will be reported in the next Round-Up. Notably, during the mark-up the Committee adopted an amendment offered by Calvert (R-GA), condemning
UNRWA UNESCO for “Anti-Israel Actions.” Calvert’s press release is here.
(ENERGY & WATER APPROPS) HR 3266: Reported out of the House Appropriations Committee on 7/17 by Simpson (R-SD), the “Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2018.” As noted in the 7/17 report: “The United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-296) authorized the Department to establish an energy research and development partnership with Israel. The recommendation includes up to $4,000,000 for the Department to explore activities to bring about this collaborative effort. These funds are in addition to the $2,000,000 provided for the U.S.- Israel energy cooperative agreement.”
(DON’T CERTIFY IRAN’S COMPLIANCE WITH JCPOA) Rubio et al letter to Tillerson: On 7/12, U.S. Senators Rubio (R-FL), Cotton (R-AR), Perdue (R-GA), and Cruz (R-TX) sent a letter to Secretary of State Tillerson urging him to “decline certifying to Congress that full suspension of sanctions on Iran is vital to U.S. national security or that Iran is in compliance with the terms of President Obama’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The letter suggests that irrespective of whether Iran is complying or not, “the full suspension of U.S. sanctions falls far short of being ‘vital to the national security interests of the United States,’ as required by INARA.” The letter closes with the following: “…if you do decide to deliver a certification to Congress, we hope it is a prelude to the completion of the interagency review of the administration’s policy toward the JCPOA, and we trust that it will be accompanied by stronger measures to hold Iran accountable for its nefarious activities. Because what would be highly imprudent is to continue the Obama-era practice of offering sheepish and faint-hearted certifications as a matter of course, hoping no one takes notice. That is the surest way to encourage Iran’s campaign of imperial aggression and speed its progress toward nuclear breakout.” Press release is here.
(RAISING CASE OF ROBERT LEVINSON WITH IRAN) House/Senate letter to POTUS: On 7/11, Senators Nelson (D-FL) and Rubio (R-FL) led a letter to President Trump – cosigned by members of both the House and Senate – urging him to “re-engage with Iran and make it clear that continued delay in returning Bob – in addition to the very serious disagreements the United States has with Iran about its missile program, support for terrorism, and human rights abuses – is another obstacle Iran must overcome if it wants to improve relations with the United States…”
7/26: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa will hold a hearing entitled, “Assessing the U.S.-Qatar Relationship.” Scheduled witnesses are: Jonathan Schanzer, FDD and Matthew Levitt, WINEP.
7/25: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa will hold a hearing entitled, “Held for Ransom: The Families of Iran’s Hostages Speak Out.” Scheduled witnesses are: Douglas Levinson (Son of Robert Levinson); Babak Namazi (Son of Baquer Namazi, brother of Simak Namazi); and Omar Zakka (Son of Nizar Zakka).
7/19: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade held a hearing entitled, “Saudi Arabia’s Troubling Educational Curriculum.” Witnesses were: Nina Shea, Hudson Institute [statement]; David Weinberg, FDD [statement]; Frank Wolf, 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative [statement]; and Douglas Johnston, International Center for Religion and Diplomacy [statement]. Video of the hearing is here. Chairman Poe’s (R-TX) opening statement is here.
7/13: The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled, “America’s Interests in the Middle East and North Africa: The President’s FY 2018 Budget Request.” Witnesses were: Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Stuart Jones [statement] and Acting Assistant USAID Administrator for the Middle East Maria Longi [statement]. Video is here.
7/13: The House Appropriations Committee held a markup up of the FY 2018 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill. Video of the markup is here. The draft bill marked up by the subcommittee is here; the committee’s 7/12 summary of the draft is here. Chairman Frelinghuysen’s (R-NJ) 7/20 summary/highlights of the bill is here.
7/12: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled “Consideration of the Taylor Force Act” [S. 473]. Witnesses were Eliot Abrams (CFR – testimony) and Dan Shapiro (INSS, former US Ambassador to Israel – testimony). Video of the hearing is here. Rep. Buchanan (R-FL), issued a statement applauding the hearing and the bill. Chairman Corker’s (R-TN) opening statement is here. Graham’s (R-SC) press release before the hearing is here; his opening statement and Q&As are here. Cotton’s (R-AR) statement is here.
Moulton (D-MA) 7/19: “The most viable option we have to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon”
Kustoff (R-TN) 7/18: Kustoff Statement on Trump Administration’s New Sanctions Against Iran
Turner (R-OH) 7/18: TURNER to Trump: “Hold Iran Accountable”
Meehan (R-PA) 7/18: Op-ed – A Compliant But Dangerous Iran
McCaul (R-TX) 7/18: McCaul Applauds New Sanctions Targeting Iran
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 7/18: AMIA BOMBING ANNIVERSARY
Zeldin (R-NJ) 7/17: Rep. Zeldin Statement Calling on Administration Not to Recertify Iran Deal
McClintock (R-CA) 7/17: Statement honoring Israeli Consul General in San Francisco
Royce (R-CA) 7/15: Chairman Royce Statement on Second Anniversary of Iran Deal
Price (D-NC) 7/14: PRICE STATEMENT ON TWO-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF IRAN NUCLEAR AGREEMENT
Pelosi (D-CA) 7/14: Pelosi Statement on Two-Year Anniversary of Iran Nuclear Agreement
Gottheimer (D-NJ) 7/4: Gottheimer-Mast US-Israel Joint Missile Defense Act Passes House of Representatives in NDAA
Evans (D-PA) 7/14: Congressman Evans visits Israel and Jordan
Banks (R-PA) 7/14: Banks Statement on Two-Year Anniversary of Iran Deal
Blumenauer (D-OR) and Poe (R-TX) 7/14: Reps. Blumenauer, Poe Welcome Israeli-Palestinian Water Deal
Wilson (R-SC) 7/13: TWO YEARS OF THE FAILED IRAN DEAL
Matsui (D-CA) 7/13: IN RECOGNITION OF DR. ANDY DAVID, OUTGOING CONSUL GENERAL OF THE ISRAELI CONSULATE TO THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
Coons (D-DE) 7/12: REMARKS AS PREPARED: Sen. Coons on Iran/Russia sanctions: “The House should pass it and President Trump should sign it into law immediately.”
Blumenauer (D-OR) 7/13: Floor statement, “Two-State Solution” (focused on the environmental crisis in Gaza)
Royce (R-CA) 7/11: Chairman Royce Meets with Tunisia’s Head of Government
Bustos (D-IL) 7/10: Bustos Returns from the Middle East
Pittenger (R-NC) 7/5: CONGRESSMAN PITTENGER SPEAKS TO OVER 100,000 AT PRO-DEMOCRACY #FreeIran RALLY