1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. FY14 Function 150 (Foreign Affairs Funding) Request
4. Members on the Record
5. From the Press
1. Bills, Resolutions, & Letters
(Iran Liberation Act) S. XXX: It is being reported in the media that a group of Senators will soon be introducing yet another Iran sanctions bill. According to Bloomberg, the bill "would penalize foreign countries that do business with any Iranian entity controlled by the government. It also would bar Iran from using earnings from oil exports to purchase anything other than food and medicine. The draft measure, which is expected to be finalized and introduced this month, also would require the Islamic Republic to release political prisoners, respect the rights of women and minorities and move toward 'a free and democratically elected government' before Iranian government-controlled entities could be removed from the U.S. sanctions list." That last requirement, tying the removal of sanctions not to an agreement to curb Iran's nuclear program but, moreover, on a demand for regime, has led some to already nickname the bill the "Iran Liberation Act" - a hat-tip to the historic Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (legislation that paved the way for the Iraq war). According to Bloomberg, the senators involved in drafting this new bill are Kirk (R-IL), Collins (R-ME), Cornyn (R-TX), Manchin (D-WV), and SFRC Chairman Menendez (D-NJ). Further reporting: Times of Israel, AP.
(ISRAEL 65th) H. Con. Res.30: Introduced 4/10 by Radel (R-FL) and 3 cosponsors, "Recognizing the 65th anniversary of the independence of the State of Israel." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(IRAN & EGYPT) S. Con. Res. 8: Introduced 3/15 by Murray (D-WA), "An original concurrent resolution setting forth the congressional budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2014, revising the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal year 2013, and setting forth the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2015 through 2023." Passed in the Senate 3/23 with amendments.
Included in the final text of S. Con. Res. 8 was an amendment offered by Kirk (R-IL) and adopted as part of a package of non-controversial amendments (without discussion/debate). Kirk's press release touting introduction of the amendment is here. His press release touting passage of the amendment, states, "The United States Senate early this morning sent a strong message to the European Union (EU) on Iran, unanimously passing an amendment supporting efforts to block Iran's access to its foreign exchange reserves and limit the ability of designated Iranian entities like the Central Bank of Iran to conduct transactions in euros..." Reuters report on the amendment here.
The Kirk amendment inserted a new section into the resolution, Section 373, entitled "DEFICIT-NEUTRAL RESERVE FUND RELATING TO SANCTIONS WITH RESPECT TO IRAN." The section reads as follows: "The Chairman of the Committee on the Budget of the Senate may revise the allocations of a committee or committees, aggregates, and other appropriate levels in this resolution for one or more bills, joint resolutions, amendments, amendments between the Houses, motions, or conference reports relating to Iran, which may include efforts to clarify that the clearance and settlement of euro-denominated transactions through European Union financial institutions may not result in the evasion of or otherwise undermine the impact of sanctions imposed with respect to Iran by the United States and the European Union (including provisions designed to strictly limit the access of the Government of Iran to its foreign exchange reserves and the facilitation of transactions on behalf of sanctioned entities), by the amounts provided in such legislation for those purposes, provided that such legislation would not increase the deficit over either the period of the total of fiscal years 2013 through 2018 or the period of the total of fiscal years 2013 through 2023."
In addition Cruz (R-TX) offered an amendment, Amendment Number 471, seeking to cut aid to Egypt. That amendment was defeated by a vote of 25-74, following a brief exchange between Cruz and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Menendez (D-NJ) on the senate floor. This exchange was just the latest Senate floor discussion over the issue of U.S. assistance to Egypt, and gives yet another hint at the direction of future legislation on this issue:
Cruz: "...this amendment would create a deficit-neutral reserve fund to reduce foreign assistance to Egypt and to increase funding for an east coast missile defense shield. Just 2 weeks ago, the Secretary of State announced he had freed an additional $250 million in an unconditional economic support fund for the Government of Egypt. This was in the midst of the sequester and at the same time the American people were told there were insufficient funds to pay for police officers, firefighters and teachers, and even White House tours. All of us are concerned about the situation in Egypt--a nation that, among other things, has repeatedly turned a blind eye to the abuse of women and to the persecution of Christians. Last week the European Union threatened to hold its 5 million euro pledge of economic aid to Egypt absent meaningful reforms. We should do at least as well as the EU. This amendment would reduce, in an unspecified amount, the foreign aid to Egypt and allow that money to be put to vital national security ends here at home; namely, missile defense."
Menendez: "...that money the Senator referred to was money that was already existing and it was at a critical time. The United States and Egypt have a longstanding security relationship that is vital to the stability of the Middle East and the security of the region. Our aid to Egypt is tied directly to the Camp David Accord which has acted to stabilize the Middle East and has helped to serve America and Israel's security for the past 35 years. It is vital and it can't be put at risk. We also have significant interests in Egypt in countering terrorism, addressing the deteriorating security in the Sinai, and maintaining preferential access to the Suez Canal. We cannot give the Egyptian leaders a blank check, but we also cannot have a collapse of the Egyptian economy which Israel would face the immediate consequences of. This is the type of amendment that does not consider the checks and balances necessary and the complexities of the issue, which we will handle in the committee. I urge my colleagues to vote against the amendment."
(IRAN) H. Res. 147: Introduced 4/10 by Cassidy (R-LA) and 44 cosponsors, "Calling for the release of United States citizen Saeed Abedini and condemning the Government of Iran for its persecution of religious minorities." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(MIDEAST RECONCILIATION FUNDING) Crowley letter: On 4/3, Rep. Crowley (D-NY) circulated a Dear Colleague seeking cosigners on a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Granger (R-TX) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee. The letter makes the case for continued support for Middle East people-to-people reconciliation and co-existence programs in FY14.
2. FY14 Function 150 (Foreign Affairs Funding) Request
On 4/10/13, Secretary of State Kerry sent to Congress the Obama Administration's Executive Budget Summary of its FY14 Function 150 & Other International Programs (aka, the FY14 foreign affairs budget request). With respect to the Middle East, Secretary Kerry noted in his cover letter to Congress:
"...as the political landscape of the Middle East continues to shift, the United States must actively engage the people and governments in the region. The Arab Spring has given way to free elections in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, but also unleashed some uncertain forces. As Syrians struggle for the right of self-determination against an authoritarian and violent regime, and as Egypt works to address severe economic challenges, the United States has an essential role to play. We must support these transitions, forging relationships with newly elected governments and building partnerships with the citizens who will shape their countries' futures. This request maintains our longstanding commitments to key regional allies, including Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. Also included is $580 million for the Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund, designed to provide support for political reform, free and fair elections, democratic institutions, transparent and accountable government, transitional justice, open markets, and inclusive growth."
Full analysis of the foreign affairs budget is available from the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign. Middle East elements of the FY14 foreign affairs funding request are summarized below.
Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities - CIPA (p. 49)
UNDOF: $14 million
UNIFIL: $156 million
UN Presence in Syria: $50 million (new funding line)
State Programs (pp. 10, pp. 56-61)
Center for Middle Eastern-Western Dialogue: $90 thousand
Israeli Arab Scholarship Program: $13 thousand
National Endowment for Democracy: $103.450 million
Broadcasting Board of Governors (including Hurra TV & Radio Sawa): $731.08 million
USAID Inspector General Operating Expenses (p. 69)
"...This funding will also allow OIG to prioritize oversight of USAID's programs in West Bank and Gaza, and elsewhere in the Middle East, along with health programs worldwide."
Complex Crisis Fund (p. 86)
"...In the past year, CCF funds have provided critical support for programs in Kenya, Jordan, Burma, Nepal, and the Democratic Republic of Congo."
Economic Support Funds - ESF (pp. 90-92, 161)
Near East total: $1.2034 billion, of which:
West Bank and Gaza: $370 million
Jordan: $360 million
Egypt: $250 million
Lebanon: $70 million
Yemen: $45 million
Tunisia: $30 million
Near East Regional Democracy: $30 million
Iraq: $22.5 million
Morocco: $20.896 million
Middle East Multilaterals (MEM): $1 million
Middle East Regional Cooperation (MERC): $4 million
Near East Regional Democracy: $30 million)
Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund (pp. 97-99, 164)
$580 million (new funding line)
Migration and Refugee Assistance - MRA (pp. 100-101, 163)
Near East- $450.9 million, plus $15 million for "humanitarian migrants to Israel"
International Narcotics Control & Law Enforcement - INCLE (pp. 109-111, 165)
Near East: $126.052 million, of which:
West Bank and Gaza: $70 million
Iraq: $23.1 million
Lebanon: $13.9 million
Tunisia: $8 million
Egypt: $4.1 million
Libya: $1.5 million
Morocco: $1.5 million
Yemen: $3 million
Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining - NADR, pp. 115-117
(including Middle East): $616.125 million
Peacekeeping Operations - PKO (p. 169)
Multinational Force and Observers (MFO): $28 million
International Military Education & Training, Near East - IMET (p. 121, 171-172)
Near East: $20.495 million, of which:
Algeria: $1.3 million
Bahrain: $725 thousand
Egypt: $1.8 million
Iraq: $2 million
Jordan: $3.8 million
Lebanon: $2.25 million
Libya: $1.5 million
Morocco: $1.71 million
Oman: $2 million
Saudi Arabia: $10 thousand
Tunisia: $2.3 million
Yemen: $1.1 million
Foreign Military Financing - FMF (p. 123, 174-175)
Near East: $4.84 billion, of which:
Bahrain: $10 million
Egypt: $1.3 billion
Israel: $3.1 billion
Jordan: $300 million
Lebanon: $75 million
Morocco: $7 million
Oman: $8 million
Tunisia: $20 million
Yemen: $20 million
plus $500 million additional FMF for Iraq as part of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO)
Multilateral Assistance (p. 127, 129)
Middle East & North Africa Transition Fund: $5 million (new funding line)
USAID Global Health Programs (p. 155)
Yemen: $9.5 million
4/10: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a closed (Top Secret) meeting for members to receive an intelligence update on Syria.
4/11: A Joint Hearing of several subcommittees of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs was held, entitled: "Breaking the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nexus." The hearing was jointly held by the Subcommittees on Asia and the Pacific, on the Middle East and North Africa, and on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade. Witnesses were: James Woolsey (FDD - testimony), Henry Sokolski (Nonproliferation Policy Education Center - testimony), David Albright (ISIS - testimony), and Ray Takeyh (CFR - testimony).
4/11: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled "U.S. Policy Toward Syria." The first panel of witnesses was: Robert Ford (U.S. Ambassador to Syria - testimony), Beth Jones (Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs - testimony), and Daniel Glaser (Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes - testimony). The second panel consisted of Dennis Ross (WINEP - testimony).
4/17: The Senate Armed Services committee will receive testimony on the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2014 and the Future Years Defense Program. The first session will begin at 9:30 am and feature Secretary of Defense Hagel and General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In the second session, beginning 30 minutes after the first session concludes, the committee will receive a briefing on the situation in Syria.
4. Members on the Record
Gabbard (D-HI) 4/11: On the imminent threat posed by North Korea (and its linkage to Iran)
Sires (D-NJ) 4/11: Recognition of the 65th Anniversary of the Founding of the State Of Israel
Jones (R-NC) 4/10: Seemingly suggesting that the "Iranian people" are profiting from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars
Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), 4/8: Obama's visit to Mideast inspires hope in Israelis (op-ed in Sun-Sentinal)
Rigell (R-VA) 4/9: Recognizing Elie Wiesel
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 4/5: Linking Holocaust Remembrance Day to Iranian and Syrian threats to Israel
Cohen (D-TN) 3/22: Cohen Statement on Netanyahu Apology for Raid on Turkish Flotilla
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 3/27: As Five More Political Activists are Ordered to be Arrested in Egypt, it is Clear the Morsi Regime is Intent on Silencing Its Opposition
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 3/25: Administration Sends Wrong Message By Giving $500 Million in Palestinian Aid
5. From the Press
Israel Hayom 4/11: Israel aid remains untouched in 2014 US budget proposal
FoxNews 4/11: US gives 4 more F-16 fighter jets to Egyptian government despite outcry
The Cable 4/11: Ford: U.S. must counter extremism in Syria
The Cable 4/10: State Department tries again to create Arab Spring support fund
The Hill 4/9: Iran's MEK to open Washington office
Hurriyet (Turkey) 4/8: Turkey, Israel still need US as facilitator
The Hill (Blog) 4/5: AIPAC's legislative agenda dividing members of Congress
Office of the Prime Minister of Israel, 4/4: PM Netanyahu Meets with Delegation of US Senators Led by Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
Times of Israel, 3/30: For GOP rising star, Israel and US are 'in it together'
Politico 3/28: Lawmakers question 'trusted' status for Saudi Travelers
The Hill 3/28: Iran, North Korea and Syria block UN weapons treaty that the NRA opposes
The Daily Beast 3/28: Obama releases aid to Palestinian Authority
The Hill (blog) 3/28: Congress can stop Assad's enablers
The Cable 3/28: NSC urged Obama to give body armor to Syrian Rebels
The Jordan Times 3/27: U.S. congress okays loan guarantee programme
CBS News 3/26: U.S. training Syria rebels in Jordan
The Hill (blog) 3/26: Pentagon denies training Syrian rebels in Jordan
The Hill (blog) 3/25: McCain: Lack of U.S. leadership threatens Syria's democratic opposition
The Economist 3/25: Obama and the Palestinians: A fleeting visit
Bloomberg 3/24: Secretary Kerry visits Iraq in push to halt Iran flights aiding Syria
DefenseNews 3/24: U.S., Israel to negotiate military aid extension?
Politico 3/24: Rogers warns on Syrian chemical weapons
The Hill 3/24: Rep. Rogers: Syria 'red line has been crossed'
J-Post 3/23: U.S. Congress to unfreeze $500 million in P.A. funding
CBS news 3/23: Secretary Kerry sees Abbas and Netanyahu after Obama trip
JTA 3/22: Congress extends Lautenberg amendment