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Note: Apologies for the Round-Up’s somewhat erratic summer publication schedule.
(GOING AFTER TERRORISTS) HR 5954: Introduced 5/24 by Goodlatte (R-VA) and having 6 bipartisan cosponsors, this is the House version of the “Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018” (the Senate version, S. 2946, was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on 7/12 – for details see last week’s edition of the Round-Up). On 7/23, HR 5946 was reported out of the House Judiciary Committee with H. Rept. 115-858; that same day it was brought to the House floor under suspension of the rules and passed by a voice vote. Floor statements in support of the bill (again making explicit the connection between this legislation and cases against the PLO and PA) are here.
(DEEMING PA OFFICIALS “TERRORISTS”) S. XXXX: Jewish Insider reported on July 24th: “Sen Lindsey Graham [R-SC] announced at the CUFI summit this morning that he’s going to introduce a new clause to the Taylor Force Act to punish Palestinian ministers who carry out the ‘pay for slay’ program. ‘We are going to consider them agents of terrorism. We are going to name names.’” This move was both predictable and actually predicted, in writing, in the Round-Up, including back in December 2017 (“IMPORTANT: This legislation will implicitly label the PA as a body that supports terrorism if the PA does not cut off the targeted funding. This is single most important thing about this bill. Once this passes into law (which at this point appears inevitable), it will open the door for calls for the U.S. to apply anti-terror laws to the PA – likely the real objective of many of those who pushed this issue from the start.”). Further warning was given in the 3/23/18 edition of the Round-Up edition covering passage of TFA: “Given that TFA – as a matter of U.S. law – defines the PA as a body that incites terrorism (stating this explicitly in the first finding), it remains to be seen whether this will be used as the basis for further attacks on the status of the PA going forward.” Further warning was given in August 2017: “…by painting Abbas and the PA as supporters of violence—and depicting Palestinians living under occupation as morally bankrupt savages ready to attack Israelis for financial gain—this campaign seeks to turn the clock back to the pre-Oslo era, when the word ‘Palestinian’ was synonymous with ‘terrorist’…”
(“HUMAN SHIELDS” AS HOOK TO TARGET HAMAS, HEZBOLLAH, ETC) S. XXXX: On 7/24, Cruz (R-TX) issued a press release announcing the introduction of a new bill, entitled the “STOP Using Human Shields Act.” His bill, which was a lobby day ask by CUFI members on the Hill this week, is reportedly co-sponsored by Donnelly (D-IN), Cornyn (R-TX), Blumenthal (D-CT), Scott (R-SC), Markey (D-MA), Rubio (R-FL), and Perdue (R-GA). News of the bill was apparently shared in advance with the Weekly Standard, which covered it here. Notably, as of this writing (morning of 7/27) the bill has NOT been introduced. However, based on the text of the bill included in Cruz’s press release, and the statements in that press release, some observations are in order:
- The press release states: “The bill imposes sanctions on those who use or facilitate the use of human shields, such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and ISIS.”
- However, the sanctions proposed in the bill appear to be meaningless/redundant. For example, barring U.S. visas or entry to the U.S. for members of U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations is pointless – under anti-terror law, they are already barred from getting visas or entering the United States.
- The fact that imposing new U.S. sanctions is not, in fact, the primary purpose of the bill, is communicated clearly further down in Cruz’s press release, in the helpful bullet points laying out what the bill would do. Notably, the first bullet point is not about sanctions, but states that the bill would: “Direct the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations to use the voice, vote, and influence of the U.S. to secure support for a UN Security Council resolution that would condemn the use of human shields as a violation of international law; impose multilateral sanctions against terrorist organizations for utilizing such tactics; and require member states to take specific steps to prevent the use of human shields from occurring.”
- More specifically, the objective of the bill – as made clear by the cosponsors quotes – appears to be to establish as a matter of U.S. law that responsibility for Israel killing any civilians in Gaza falls 100% on Hamas [bearing in mind that given the size and population density of Gaza, there is virtually no way that Hamas could exist or operate in Gaza that would not be characterized by Israel as involving the use of human shields] – and to make it a U.S. priority to get the international community to adopt this same position.
- The secondary purpose appears to ensure that in the event that Israel engages in future military action in Lebanon, it is already established in U.S. law that responsibility for Israel killing any civilians in Lebanon falls 100% on Hezbollah.
- A tertiary purpose may be to establish in U.S. law the broader principle that where “lawful armed forces” (Israel, American, Saudi, or whatever) are engaged in military actions in a context where FTOs are operating – in Syria, Yemen, Iran, or wherever – responsibility for the deaths of civilians automatically falls on the relevant FTO. One of the bill’s findings sums up the logic of the legislation: “While this unlawful tactic [of using human shields] in no way absolves an attacking force from its obligations to do everything feasible to mitigate the risk of such casualties, such illegal tactics inevitably influence the efficacy of feasible precautions.”
(RESTRICTING ASSISTANCE FOR TURKEY OVER DETAINED US PASTOR) HR 6633: Introduced 7/26 by Walker (R-NC) and having 20 all-GOP cosponsors, “To restrict the provision by international financial institutions of loans and financial and technical assistance to the Government of Turkey, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Financial Services, and the Committee on Foreign Affairs. This is the House version of S. 3248, which was reported out of the SFRC on 7/26. NOTE: The American pastor at the heart of this confrontation, Andrew Brunson, was released from Turkish prison this week, but remains under house arrest.
(TELLING IRANIANS WHAT THEY WANT & STANDING IN SOLIDARITY WITH THEM FOR THAT GOAL) H. Res. 1034: Introduced 7/26 by McClintock (R-CA), Gosar (R-AZ) and Poe (R-TX), “Condemning Iranian state-sponsored terrorism and expressing support for the Iranian people’s desire for a democratic, secular, and non-nuclear republic of Iran.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(BAD SYRIA) H. Res. 1030: Introduced 7/25 by Rooney (R-FL) and 2 bipartisan cosponsors, “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are a part of the sovereign state of Georgia and condemning the decision by the Syrian Arab Republic to recognize these territories as independent of Georgia.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
UPDATE – (SUPPORT SECURITY AID TO ISRAEL…& ALSO EXPRESS CONCERN ABOUT ISRAEL’S DETENTION OF PALESTINIAN KIDS) Price-Schakowsky-Cohen-Yarmuth letter to Pompeo: Reps. Price (D-NC), Schakowsky (D-IL), Cohen (D-TN), and Yarmuth (D-KY) have for the past few weeks been circulating a Dear Colleague, headlined, “Support Necessary Security Aid to Israel and Stop Palestinian Child Detention by Israeli Military.” The Dear Colleague invited members to cosign a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo (originally set to close on 7/11). As noted previously in the Round-Up, the letter opens with concerns about Palestinian child detention by the Israeli military, followed by a political CYA-non-sequitur-par-excellence, stating: “As we express our concerns about the treatment of Palestinian children in detention, we are also united in our continued willingness to work with you on constructive steps to counter terrorist activity and violence toward Israelis. We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to providing necessary security assistance to Israel that saves the lives of innocent civilians from terrorism and rocket attacks…” The latter language is especially striking (not so much for what it says but for the fact that the drafters were pressed to or felt it necessary to add it) if one compares this letter to a previous letter on the same topic led by this same group of House members in 2015 – in which they apparently did not feel the same necessity to counter-balance concern for the fundamental human rights of kids with a broad declaration of support for Israel. In any case, on 7/24, Schakowsky issued press release announcing that the letter had been sent to Pompeo, signed by 35 House members (letter with signatures is here).
This week, House and Senate conferees agreed on a compromise version of HR 5515, the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act (in the form of a Conference Report – H. Rpt. 115-874. Full text of the final bill, including explanatory statements, is here (in a pdf that runs 2552 pages; explanatory language starts at page 1903). The House adopted the Conference Report on 7/26 by a vote of 359-54; the Senate is expected to pass it imminently. The SASC conference report summary is here; the HASC Republican’s report is here.
The final bill includes a number of Middle East-related provisions [see previous editions of the Round-Up for details of these Middle East-related elements in both the House and Senate versions of this bill]. Specifically:
- Section 1231: Extension and modification of authority to provide assistance to the vetted Syrian opposition.
- Section 1232: Syrian war crimes accountability.
- Section 1233: Extension of authority to provide assistance to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
- Section 1234: Limitation on assistance to the Government of Iraq.
- Section 1235: Extension and modification of authority to support operations and activities of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq.
- Section 1236: Modification of annual report on military power of Iran. [The explanatory text states: “The conferees note that the Department of Defense’s congressionally mandated annual report on the military power of Iran requires extensive reporting requirements on Iranian military activity. Therefore, the conferees encourage the Secretary of Defense to include detailed information in future reports on Russian and Iranian cooperation, particularly with respect to cooperation in Syria, assistance to the Assad regime, the establishment of forward operating bases, the deployment of air defense systems, and assistance to the Syrian chemical weapons program. The conferees also encourage the Secretary to include descriptions of any Russian and Iranian cooperation on: Iran’s space program, including whether such cooperation strengthens Iran’s ballistic missile program; intelligence sharing; naval cooperation; nuclear cooperation; the development and employment of hybrid warfare methods; and the activities of Iranian proxy forces such as Hezbollah.”
- Section 1237: Strategy to counter destabilizing activities of Iran. [The explanatory text states: “The conferees note the importance of multilateral cooperation in the Middle East and encourage the Secretary of Defense to enhance cooperation and military-to-military engagement within multilateral fora when appropriate and practicable.”
- Section 1272: United States-Israel countering unmanned aerial systems cooperation. [Crist (D-FL) press release: Crist Bill Creating U.S.-Israel Partnership To Fight Drone Attacks Set To Become Law]
- Section 1273: Enhancement of U.S.-Israel defense cooperation. [Murphy (D-FL): The NDAA includes, “the core of her bill,R.5126, to protect Israel against rocket and missile threats…”]
- Section 1274: Review to determine whether the Armed Forces or coalition partners of the United States violated Federal law or Department of Defense policy while conducting operations in Yemen. [The explanatory text states: “The Senate recedes with an amendment that would require a review of the United States Armed Forces and coalition partners conducting operations in Yemen along with a report on the Department of Defense’s policies related to the detention operations of allies and partners whose military operations the United States supports.”]
- Section 1278: Sense of Congress on detention of United States citizens by the Government of the Republic of Turkey.
- Section 1282: Report on status of the United States relationship with the Republic of Turkey.
- Section 1290: Certifications regarding actions by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Yemen. [Young (R-IN) press release: Young, Shaheen Successfully Include Yemen Provision in NDAA Conference Report]
- Section 1295: Rule of construction relating to the use of force [“Nothing in this Act may be construed to authorize the use of force against Iran or North Korea.”]
- Section 1642: Active defense against the Russian Federation, People’s Republic of China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Islamic Republic of Iran attacks in cyberspace.
- Section 1688: Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system and Israeli cooperative missile defense program co-development and co-production.
Some additional notes:
Anti-Boycott Language: The conferees added into the bill a completely non-germane new section, entitled the “Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018.” This closely mirrors a pending freestanding House bill, HR 5841. This new section includes the “Anti-Boycott Act of 2018” (Sections 1771-1774). This text (which is also part of HR 5040) appears to be a straight reauthorization of existing anti-boycott provisions of the Export Administration Act (EAA) – the explanatory language states: “The ‘Anti-Boycott Act of 2018’ would incorporate longstanding current law anti-boycott provisions from the expired Export Administration Act of 1979 (50 U.S.C. 4601 et seq.) continued in effect under IEEPA. It would discourage, and in some circumstances, prohibit U.S. companies from furthering or supporting the boycott of Israel sponsored by the Arab League, or certain other countries, including complying with certain requests for information designed to verify compliance with the boycott.” NOTE: This is NOT the same as the brazenly unconstitutional Israel Anti-Boycott Act – the IABA (S. 720/HR 1697); however, it is likely that this effort to re-authorize the boycott provisions of the EAA is linked to efforts to pass the IABA (which in its original form – and still the Senate form – is an amendment to these EAA anti-boycott provisions).
Muslim Brotherhood: The explanatory language notes the final bill omits a “sense of Congress” provision that was in the House bill, stating that the Muslim Brotherhood is a threat to the United States, and requiring the President and Secretary of Defense to submit a detailed report to Congress on the Muslim Brotherhood. It also notes that, while the provision was left out of the law, the conferees direct the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence and other relevant officials, to provide Congress a report on the Muslim Brotherhood that is even more far-reaching and detailed than the one required by the House provision (“a report on the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliated branches in Middle Eastern and North African countries” containing “(1) A description of the origins of the Muslim Brotherhood; (2) A description of the strategic and political objectives of the Muslim Brotherhood as a movement; (3) A description of the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East and North Africa; (4) A list of Muslim Brotherhood branches and affiliations by country in the Middle East and North Africa; (5) A description of the extent to which the objectives and activities of the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliated organizations differ across the various countries in which they have a presence in the Middle East and North Africa; (6) A description of the funding sources of each Muslim Brotherhood branch in the Middle East and North Africa; (7) A description of the organization and leadership structures of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East and North Africa; and (8) Any other matters the Secretary of State considers appropriate. The report shall be submitted in unclassified form, but may include a classified annex.”
Iran Ballistic Missiles: The explanatory language notes the final bill omits a House provision entitled, “Sense of Congress on ballistic missile cooperation to counter Iran.” The text states: “The conferees recognize the importance of ballistic missile defense cooperation in the Middle East, particularly among the member countries of the GCC given Iran’s ballistic missile program and its broader destabilizing actions in the region. The conferees encourage the countries of the GCC to take meaningful steps to develop and implement an interoperable ballistic missile defense architecture to defend against the Iranian ballistic missile threat that emphasizes information sharing and includes early warning and tracking data. Furthermore, the conferees support continued bilateral and multilateral missile defense exercises between the United States and its partners in the region and encourage increasing the capacity of those partners through foreign military sales as appropriate and practicable.”
Iran chemical weapons: The explanatory language notes the final bill omits a House provision entitled “Report on compliance of Iran under the Chemical Weapons Convention.” The text notes: “conferees direct the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State to submit a report not later than February 1, 2019, to the congressional defense committees, the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House on the extent to which Iran is complying with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention…” and lays out a list of what must be covered.
Syria chemical weapons: The explanatory language notes the final bill omits a House provision entitled “Report on potential release of chemical weapons or chemical weapons precursors from Barzeh Research and Development Center and Him Shinshar chemical weapons storage and bunker facilities in Homs province of Syria.” The conferees direct the Secretary of Defense to instead provide a briefing to Congress on the matter.
Iran regional activities: The explanatory language notes the final bill omits a House provision entitled “Report on Iranian support of proxy forces in Syria and Lebanon.” The conferees urge the Secretary of Defense to instead include “detailed information” on these issues in an already-mandated annual report on Iran’s military power.
No AUMF against Iran: The explanatory language notes the final bill omits a House provision entitled “Sense of Congress on the lack of authorization for the use of the Armed Forces against Iran.” The conferees state: “The conferees note that nothing in this Act may be construed to authorize the use of the Armed Forces of the United States against Iran. At the time of the signing of this report, the conferees are not aware of any information that would justify the use of military force against Iran under any other statutory authority.”
Yemen strategy: The explanatory language notes the final bill omits a House provision entitled “Report on United States strategy in Yemen.” The conferees instead direct the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress on this matter, including a detailed list of what the report must cover.
Hezbollah report: The explanatory language notes the final bill omits a House provision entitled “Report on Hezbollah.” The conferees instead direct the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress on this matter, including a detailed list of what the report must cover.
7/26: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a business meeting to consider pending bills, including S. 3248, the “Turkey International Financial Institutions Act”; and S. Res. 541, “A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that any United States-Saudi Arabia civilian nuclear cooperation agreement must prohibit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from enriching uranium or separating plutonium on its own territory, in keeping with the strongest possible nonproliferation ‘gold standard’, with an amendment and an amendment to the preamble.” The meeting was not webcast. Menendez (D-NJ) and Corker (R-TN) issued a press release following the meeting: Menendez, Corker Applaud Committee Passage of Bill Demanding Turkey End Unjust Detention of US Citizens
7/25: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “An Update on American Diplomacy to Advance our National Security Strategy.” The sole witness was Secretary of State Pompeo (statement). Video of the hearing is here. The hearing was notable less for the policy content – Pompeo said nothing that substantively expanded on, clarified, or contradicted President Trump’s statements – than for what was one of the most openly belligerent performances by an Administration official testifying before a Congressional committee in memory. Indeed, Pompeo’s approach during the Q&A crossed over in places to openly contemptuous; when faced with questions he didn’t want to answer, Pompeo repeatedly sought to deflect including by changing the subject (for example, to attack the Obama Administration) and by spouting laundry lists of arguments/facts that were unrelated to the question – and repeatedly talking over Senators who tried to focus him on questions they were posing [it really was quite remarkable to behold]. For examples see: Q&As with Menendez (D-NJ); Murphy (D-CT); Corker (R-TN); Booker (D-NJ); Udall (D-NM); Shaheen (D-NH).
7/24: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a hearing entitled, “Egypt: Security, Human Rights, and Reform.” Witnesses were: Samuel Tadros, Hudson Institute (statement); Michele Dunne, Carnegie (statement); Jared Genser, Georgetown University Law Center (statement); and Andrew Miller, POMED (statement). Video of the hearing is here.
- The Golan Coalition
On the heels of last week’s House hearing regarding U.S. policy and the Golan Heights, this week the Golan Coalition – an Israeli organization founded in 2017 “to promote international recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights” – was on the Hill meeting members. Lamborn (R-CO) tweeted: “Productive meeting with former cabinet secretary of Israel @ZviHauser and @golancoalition. We discussed the need for U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. @RepScottPerry and I look forward to working on this. @IsaacZarfati @MeirBuchnick”. Also tweeting about meetings were Perry (R-PA) and Cruz (R-TX). The Golan Coalition tweeted (with pix) about other meetings with De Santis (R-FL), Webber (R-TX), and Roskam (R-IL).
CUFI held its big DC event this week, including a conference featuring speeches by members of Congress and a day of lobbying on the Hill. CUFI’s “asks” on the Hill were: the UNRWA Reform & Refugee Support Act (HR 6451); the “Stop Using Human Shields Act” (see Section 1, above, for details), and the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720/HR 1697). The CUFI press release boasted that “more than 5,000 attendees” would be lobbying the Hill, and that “CUFI members will be meeting with more than 98 percent of all congressional offices (they also met with White House officials Jason Greenblatt and Victoria Coates).” Addressing the CUFI crowd, President Trump’s Special Assistant Paul Teller observed: “We are not rare in the White House – pro-Israel folks. We are everywhere in this White House!” See “On the Record” (below) for links to speeches, comments, and tweets. Tweeting about CUFI speech or meetings with CUFI: Hoeven (R-ND), Isakson (R-GA), Cruz (R-TX), Cornyn (R-TX), Graham (R-SC), Meadows (R-NC), Cotton (R-AR), Lamborn (R-CO). Press releases/statements include:
McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), 7/24: McMorris Rodgers to CUFI: “We will continue to stand beside Israel with unwavering resolve.”
Lamborn (R-CO) 7/24: Congressman Lamborn Speaks at Christians United for Israel Summit [“CUFI has been instrumental in advocating a strong U.S.-Israel relationship by bringing more friends into the pro-Israel fold than ever before. With CUFI, and thanks to President Trump, the last year and a half has brought a significant shift in the United States’ policy towards Israel. With these victories behind us, it’s time to move on to the next front of supporting Israel, and that means reforming UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. My bill, the UNRWA Reform and Refugee Support Act, would ensure that UNRWA returns to its original mandate and adopts the definition of a refugee that all other refugees around the world are defined by.”]
Cruz (R-TX) 7/24: Sen. Cruz Delivers Remarks at the 13th Annual Christians United for Israel Summit [Sen. Cruz: ‘Thank You for the Faithfulness of the Brothers and Sisters Gathered Here Who Pray for Israel, Who Pray for America, Who Lift Us Up’]
Engel (D-NY) 7/26: Floor statement – US-Turkey Relationship [“…Turkey has long been an important American ally and key NATO member. However, this relationship has frayed in recent years, and I increasingly question whether Turkey’s autocratic ruler, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is truly committed to his country’s relationship with the United States…”]
Coons (D-DE) 7/24: [VIDEO] Sen. Coons on Iran: “I just don’t find an all-caps midnight tweet the most credible of actions in terms of pushing back against them.”
Lamborn (R-CO) 7/23: Press release on HR 6451, to block most funding to/shut down UNRWA
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 7/23: Floor statement remembering, “Cuban Heroes of the Israel War” (in 1948)
Kaine (D-VA) 7/23: Kaine Statement Following Belligerent Trump Tweet On Iran