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(WITHDRAWAL FROM SYRIA) S. J. Res. 59: Introduced 10/22 by McConnell (R-KY) and having 14 all-GOP cosponsors, “A joint resolution expressing the sense of Congress on the precipitous withdrawal of United States Armed Forces from Syria and Afghanistan, and Turkey’s unprovoked incursion into Syria.” Introduced/placed on the Senate Calendar 10/22. NOTE: This resolution is a Senate GOP replacement for the bipartisan resolution adopted last week in the House (H. J. Res. 77), passed 10/16 by a vote of 354-60. As noted in Section 3, below, Senate Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) has been pressing GOP leadership to bring H. J. Res. 77 to the Senate floor, to no avail. Inhofe (R-OK) statement on S. J. Res. 59 is here,
(SANCTIONING EVERYONE WHO GOES NEAR HAMAS) S. 2680: Introduced 10/23 by Rubio (R-FL) and Blumenthal (D-CT), “A bill to impose sanctions with respect to foreign support for Palestinian terrorism, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Foreign Relations Committee. This is the Senate version of HR 1850, introduced 3/21 in the House by Mast (R-FL), Gottheimer (D-NJ), Engel (D-NY) McCaul (R-TX) — introduced around the AIPAC Policy Conference but not listed at the time as an AIPAC lobbying item. The House passed HR 1850 by Voice Vote on 7/23 (see the 7/26/19 edition of the Round-Up for details) and sent it to the Senate (it’s not clear why Rubio decided to intro his own version of the bill rather than adopt the House-passed one). Rubio press release is here.
(REMEMBERING BEIRUT MARINE BARRACKS BOMBING) S. Res. 374: Introduced 10/23 by Cotton (R-AR) and 11 bipartisan cosponsors, the “Expressing support for the designation of October 23, 2019, as a national day of remembrance of the tragic terrorist bombing of the United States Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983.” Referred to the Committee on Armed Services. PDF of resolution text is here. Rubio press release is here. NOTE: A nearly identical resolution was introduced in the House back on 7/24/19 (H. Res. 515); see the 7/26/19 edition of the Round-Up for details. Also see – Cotton (R-AR) 10/22: On the Anniversary of the Beirut Marine Barracks Bombing
(BAD TWITTER! STOP BEING NICE TO TERRORISTS) Gottheimer/Rose/Reed letter to Twitter CEO: On 10/22, Reps. Gottheimer (D-NJ), Rose (D-NY), and Reed (R-NY) sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey — in reply to his reply to their previous letter regarding Twitter giving a platform for FTOs, including Hamas and Hezbollah (the focus is really just Hamas and Hezbollah, but it is framed as if it is more broadly about all FTOs) — expressing surprise “that Twitter’s process for determining terrorist organizations differs from that of the United States.” The letter asks that Twitter, “as a United States company, immediate update your policy consistent with our laws, and, by November 1, 2019, remove Hamas and Hezbollah-affiliated content and Twitter handles.” For more see here. Also see FB post from Shurat HaDin head, here (a post that might lead one to expect a lawsuit on this issue soon). Also see: JPost: Lawmakers to Twitter: ban Hezbollah and Hamas-related accounts [excerpt: “‘Twitter is blatantly [violating] the law,’ Gottheimer told The Jerusalem Post. ‘I don’t understand, based on their response to me, why they wouldn’t do everything possible to prevent the spread of terror. I am not going to let our foot up off the gas on this, and I will call them into a committee to testify, to explain to the American public why they are supporting terror, And why they think it’s acceptable to do so.'”]
(INVESTIGATE HALKBANK SCANDAL) Wyden letters to SecTreasury & 8 Banks: On 10/24, Wyden (D-OR) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, noting: “I am writing to you concerning troubling reports regarding your involvement with the Administration’s treatment of Turkey’s state-owned bank Halkbank and U.S. law enforcement investigations into the bank’s efforts to aide Iran in circumventing U.S. economic sanctions…” The letter references numerous reports and then asks Mnuchin to respond to a series of specific questions. Wyden also sent letters to 8 banks (Deutsche Bank, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, HSBC, Standard Chartered, UBS and Wells Fargo), noting “Although not specifically identified in the indictments, court records identify eight “victim banks,” U.S. financial institutions tricked into processing barred transactions on behalf of Halkbank and their coconspirators. The identified banks are Deutsche Bank, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, HSBC, Standard Chartered, UBS, and Wells Fargo. I am writing seeking more information from you about the barred transactions in which your financial institution may have participated.”
(EXPEDITE VISA FOR SDF GENERAL) Van Hollen et al letter to Pompeo: On 10/23, Senators Van Hollen (D-MD), Graham (R-SC), Blackburn (R-TN), Shaheen (D-NH), and Blumenthal (D-CT) sent a letter to SecState Pompeo requesting that he assist with the issuance of a U.S. visa for General Mazloum, leader of the Syrian Democratic Forces, to visit the United States to discuss the path forward in deescalating conflict in Syria and the path forward in the fight against ISIS.
(SEEKING INFO ON TRUMP BUSINESS INTERESTS IN TURKEY) Udall et al letter to Trump Org: On 10/22, Senators Udall (D-NM), Duckworth (D-IL), Warren (D-MA) and Blumenthal (D-CT) sent a letter to Trump Organization executive vice president Jill A. Martin requesting information on the potential conflict of interest that President Trump’s financial dealings in Turkey, noting, “We agree with the President in his assertion that the Trump Organization’s dealings in Turkey present a major financial conflict of interest to this Administration and are greatly concerned this may be influencing U.S. foreign policy towards the Erdogan government…” Press release is here.
(IS TRUMP ADMIN TALKING TO TURKEY ABOUT NUKES?) Markey letter to Pence: On 10/22, Sen. Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to Vice President Pence asking “how, if at all, Trump Administration officials, including yourself, have raised nuclear security challenges with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey during recent meetings and discussions.” Press release is here.
10/23: The House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on National Security held a hearing entitled, “The Trump Administration’s Syria Policy: Perspectives from the Field.” Witnesses were: Testimony: Bernice Romero (Save the Children); Ilham Ahmed (Syrian Democratic Council); Martin Palmer (5th Special Forces Group); Emerita Torres (Soufan Center); and John Glaser (Cato Institute). Testimony: Bernice Romero (Save the Children); Ilham Ahmed (Syrian Democratic Council); Martin Palmer (5th Special Forces Group); Emerita Torres (Soufan Center); and John Glaser (Cato Institute). Video is here.
10/23: The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled (rescheduled) entitled, “The Betrayal of our Syrian Kurdish Partners: How Will American Foreign Policy and Leadership Recover?” Witnesses were: James Jeffrey, Department of State Special Representative for Syria Engagement and Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS (statement); Joey Hood, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs; and Matthew Palmer Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. Chairman Engel’s (D-NY) opening statement is here. Video is here. Spanberger (D-VA) press release on her Q&A at the hearing is here.
10/23: The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations held a hearing entitled, “Hearing to review U.S. policy and assistance in Syria.” The only witness was James Jeffrey, Department of State Special Representative for Syria Engagement and Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS (statement). Video is here.
10/22: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “Assessing the Impact of Turkey’s Offensive in Northeast Syria.” Witnesses were: James Jeffrey, Department of State Special Representative for Syria Engagement and Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS (testimony); and Matthew Palmer Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. Opening statements: Chairman Risch (R-IN); ranking member Menendez (D-NJ). Member Q&As: Kaine (D-VA), Cardin (D-IL), Menendez (D-NJ), Portman (R-OH). Video is here.
On Trump Decision to Lift Turkey Sanctions
Schumer (D-NY) 10/24: Floor statement [“yesterday, in an address from the White House, President Trump announced he was canceling proposed sanctions against Erdogan, this time after Assad, Erdogan, and Putin got more than they could ever hope for out of President Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern…”]
Schumer (D-NY) 10/23: Statement On President Trump’s Decision To Lift Sanctions Against Turkey [“President Trump’s latest announcement that he will lift sanctions on Turkey after despots like Assad, Erdogan, and Putin already got everything they wanted is another nonsensical and counterproductive foreign policy decision…”]
Graham (R-SC) 10/23: Statement on Syria [“President Trump is correct that without sanctions being issued against Turkey there would be no cease-fire. This cease-fire, if permanent, represents real progress…”]
Hassan (D-NH) 10/23: Statement on President Trump Plan to Lift Turkey Sanctions [““After abandoning our Kurdish allies by withdrawing troops from Syria, it’s appalling that President Trump has announced his plans to lift what are already limited sanctions on Turkey…”]
Menendez (D-NJ) 10/23: On Pres. Trump’s Lifting of Sanctions on Turkey [“As if clearing the way for a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Syrian Kurds wasn’t enough, President Trump seems determined to keep handing political and military victories to Russia and Syria, kowtowing to Turkey, and opening the door for further Iranian expansion in the region…”]
Hastings (D-FL) 10/23: Hastings Blasts Trump’s Lifting of Sanctions on Turkey
Engel (D-NY)10/23: Engel Statement on President Trump Lifting Sanctions on Turkey [“Lifting sanctions on Turkey is yet another disastrous move by a President seemingly intent on destroying American leadership in the world and bowing to authoritarian leaders and dictators…”]
Hoyer (D-MD) 10/23: Statement Criticizing the President’s Decision to Lift Sanctions on Turkey [“…This is a complete win for Turkey, as well as Russia, the Assad regime, and Iran. It is shameful that he is forsaking our allies and creating ethnic displacement while at the same time allowing the resurgence of ISIS. The House must and will act next week when we bring a bipartisan sanctions bill to the House Floor to deter Turkey’s assault on our Kurdish allies.”]
On Putin-Erdogan Agreement
Reed (D-RI) 10/23: Trump’s Claim That He Achieved a “great outcome” in Syria is Misleading & Delusional
Schumer (D-NY) 10/23: Floor Remarks On President Trump’s Lack Of A Strategy In Syria, The Trump Administration’s Refusal To Brief Congress On Any Plan To Fix The Mess It Created In Syria, And Special Senate Democratic Caucus Meeting Today With Brett McGurk, Former U.S. Government Envoy For The Global Coalition To Defeat ISIS
Cruz (R-TX) 10/23: Statement on President Trump’s Announcement of Halt of the Turkish Offensive in Northeast Syria [“I think it is worth pausing to recognize that the defeat of ISIS, taking away their so-called caliphate is an extraordinary national security victory for the United States and something for which the Trump administration and the brave men and women in our armed services deserve enormous credit for winning that victory. I also agree with the president’s ultimate objective of bringing our soldiers home. I think the American people have a limited time and patience for our sons and daughters being in harm’s way.” (emphasis in the original)]
Lowey (D-NY) 10/23: Lowey Reaction to President’s “Big Success” in Syria [“…Far from a big success, I believe we will look back on this period in American history with shame and regret.”]
Cisneros (D-CA) 10/23: Statement on Putin-Erdogan Northern Syria Agreement
Cheney (R-WY) 10/23: Putting Our Security In The Hands Of Assad, Putin, And Erdogan Strengthens Our Enemies, Weakens America, And Makes Us Less Safe.
Engel (D-NY) 10/23: Statement on Russia-Turkey Agreement [“…Like so many of President Trump’s foreign policy decisions, all roads seem to lead to President Putin. Putin now exercises control over nearly all of Syria and has displaced the United States as the key power broker in the region. This disastrous policy has handed President Putin what he wants most: to restore Russia’s great power status and undermine the United States. Trump’s decision has resulted in a terrible loss for America, and a win for America’s enemies.”
Klobuchar (D-MN) 10/22: Klobuchar Statement on Russia and Turkey agreement to joint control of Kurdish territory in Syria
Engel (D-NY) 10/22: Engel Statement on Russia-Turkey Agreement
Hoyer (D-MD) 10/22: Hoyer Statement on Northern Syria Agreement Between Putin and Erdogan
Warner (D-VA) & Paul (R-KY) 10/24: Floor debate over bringing up S. 2625 on the Senate floor (“A bill to authorize the admission of a limited number of Kurdish Syrians and other Syrian partners as special immigrants, and for other purposes” – covered in last week’s Round-Up). Warner supporting, Paul opposing [Paul: “ironically, the Syrian Kurds may be closer to having some degree of autonomy or homeland than they have been in decades…The last thing you would want is to say to all of the leaders in the Kurdish community, to all of the intellectuals, to those who speak English, and to those who are open to western ways, “Hey, come over here, and abandon your country.” It would be equivalent to France’s saying to George Washington during or after the war, “Hey, guys. Hey, Founding Fathers. Why don’t you all come to France?” It is not a good notion to ask the leaders of a country and a movement to leave and abandon their country.”]
Carper (D-DE) 10/24: Floor statement, “Turkey and Syria”
Blackburn (R-TN) 10/22: Blackburn, Colleagues [Van Hollen (D-MD), (R-SC), Shaheen (D-NH) and Blumenthal (D-CT] Meet with Syrian Defense Council President Ilham Ahmed Reed (D-RI) 10/22: Sen. Reed Decries Trump’s Lack Of A Plan for Syria
Reed (D-RI), Schumer (D-NY) and Duckworth (D-IL) 10/22: press conference in the Capitol to discuss President Trump’s decision to betray our Kurdish allies and open the door for a Turkish invasion of Syria.
Johnson (R-WI) 10/22: Johnson Meets with Turkish Ambassador to Discuss Situation in Syria
McConnell (R-KY) 10/22: floor statement, “Turkey and Syria”
Schumer (D-NY) 10/22: floor statement, “Turkey and Syria”
Schumer (D-NY) 10/22: Unanimous Consent Request–H.J. Res. 77
Paul (R-KY) 10/22: Opposing H. J. Res. 77, supporting US withdrawal from Syria
Crenshaw (R-TX) 10/22: Crenshaw Releases Video Addressing Situation In Syria
Engel (D-NY) 10/21: Engel & European Allies Condemn Turkey’s Invasion of Northern Syria
Byrne (R-AL) 10/21: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Syria [“Instead of attacking the President, we need to have sincere bipartisan conversations and propose concrete solutions for Syria and the Middle East. On critical national security issues, we must put America first.”]
Other Middle East-Related Matters
Schiff (D-CA) 10/24: Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues Applauds Vote to Recognize the Armenian Genocide – House Floor Vote to Recognize and Memorialize the Genocide Scheduled for Next Week
Thompson (D-MS) 10/22: Chairman Thompson [Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security] Underscores Counterterrorism Priorities After Returning from Mideast
Feinstein (D-CA) 10/22: Feinstein on Facebook Decision to Deactivate Fake Accounts from Russia, Iran
Rubio (R-FL) 10/21: Tweeting re: Warren (D-MA) broaching possibility of conditions on US aid to Israel, “This is the alternative they want Republicans to switch to? Help elect a President who threatens to cut off support to #Israel if they don’t cut a deal with an organization whose mission is to destroy the Jewish state?”