By Lara Friedman, President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP)
*Originally published on the FMEP website, reproduced here with FMEP's permission
NOTE: Neither the House nor the Senate was in session this week or last week. They will both be back in session next week, but there will be no Round-Up until May 5.
(TRUMP SYRIA STRATEGY) Boyle-Gallego letter: On 4/12, Reps. Boyle (D-PA-13) and Gallego (D-AZ) sent a letter to President Trump urging him to clarify “to clarify whether it is now his Administration’s policy to seek the removal from power of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The letter comes after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer compared Assad to Adolf Hitler on Tuesday and after senior advisors to President Trump offered a series of conflicting statements about this crucial aspect of American strategy in Syria over the weekend.” Press release (from which the above quote it taken) is here.
(NAME COMPANY THAT SOLD EMBARGOED TECHNOLOGY TO IRAN) Pittenger letter: On 4/12, Rep. Pittenger (R-NC) and 9 House cosigners, sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Ross urging him to publicly identify a company referenced (but not named) in documents filed with the Commerce Department, in the context of the case against the Chinese telecom firm ZTE, which agreed to pay over $1 billion in fines for violating U.S. law by selling embargoed technology to Iran.
(NO YEMEN ESCALATION W/O CONGRESSIONAL ACTION) Pocan et al letter: On 4/10, Reps. Pocan (D-WI), Amash (R-MI), Lieu (D-CA), Jones (R-NC), Lee (D-CA) and 50 other House colleauges sent a bipartisan letter to President Trump calling on him to come to Congress before escalating military action in Yemen. Press release is here.
(SOLIDARITY WITH EGYPT’S COPTS) Pittenger letter: On 4/10, Rep. Pittenger (R-NC), who met with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II in February, wrote to express support following the Palm Sunday terrorist attack on two Coptic churches. Press release is here.
(NO US AIRPLANES FOR IRAN!) Rubio-Roskam letter: On 4/10, Senator Rubio (R-FL) and Congressman Roskam (R-IL) – in a rare cross-chamber effort, sent a letter to President Trump urging him to block the sale of Boeing aircrafts (and any other U.S. aircrafts) to Iran. The letter states: “We urge you to suspend current and future licenses for aircraft sales to commercial Iranian airlines until your administration conducts a comprehensive review of their role in supporting Iran’s illicit activity. The United States should revoke authorizations and re-impose sanctions on Iranian airlines found guilty of such support, and should bar U.S. companies from selling aircraft to Iran until the Iranian regime ceases using commercial airliners for illicit military purposes.” The press release announcing the letter cites research produced by JCPOA opponents FDD and AEI as background for this demand.
(MISSILES TO KSA) Lieu et al letter: On 4/6, Rep. Lieu (D-CA) led a letter, cosigned by 30 House colleagues, to Defense Secretary Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson, requesting answers to a list of questions “related to the operational conduct of the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) in Yemen,” to be provided within 15 days of receipt of the letter. According to the 4/10 press release announcing the letter, “Mr. Lieu and his Congressional colleagues are requesting this information in response to a Trump Administration policy reversal and news that the Administration is preparing to formally notify Congress of a precision guided munitions sale to Saudi Arabia.”
($$ FOR ISR-PAL COEXISTENCE PROGRAMS) Crowley-Lewis et al letter: On 3/28 (not previously reported in the Round-Up) Reps. Crowley (D-NY), Lewis (D-GA), and 21 House colleagues (including HFAC ranking member Engel, D-NY, and HFAC/MESA Subcommittee Ranking Member Deutch, D-FL), to the House Appropriations Committee ForOps Subcommittee Chair and Ranking member, Rogers (R-KY) and Lowey (D-NY). The letter urges – and makes the case for with concrete examples– continued funding of $10 million in the ForOps bill earmarked for “people-to-people coexistence and reconciliation projects in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
On 1/19/17, the Free Beacon reported on a letter circulating in the House, led by Johnson (R-OH), urging then-President-elect Trump to “mend this relationship [with Israel] immediately." The Free Beacon reported that the letter had more than 75 signers, and “lays the groundwork for Trump to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and is likely to be accompanied by the formation of a new pro-Israel caucus in Congress that will focus on making this a reality, according to sources familiar with the matter.” The Free Beacon went on to report that far right-wing Islamophobe Daniel “defeat-the-Palestinians” Pipes, President of the Middle East Forum (MEF) said, “he will help advise the new caucus and guide its efforts to repair U.S.-Israel ties.” This report was followed up 1/27 by an MEF op-ed in the Hill laying out a five-part plan “to rebuild US relations with Israel.”
Notably, the Johnson letter, which the Free Beacon reported would be released to the public on 1/20, does not appear on Johnson’s website or anywhere else, it seems, in the public record (that does not mean it wasn’t sent; it may indicate that for some reason the organizers decided they were better off not making it public, possibly because of an unimpressive list of signers).
Fast forward to today. It now appears that the promised “Israel Victory Caucus” will be launched on April 27. Oddly, the only notice of this online appears to be an RSVP page posted April 6 on the website of the Middle East Forum, and subsequently removed (an archived version is still available here). In addition, a random website appears to have re-posted a longer version of this same invite, copied below. Note that both the archived RSVP page and this longer invitation mysteriously keep the location of the event a secret.
The Israel Victory Caucus works to ensure the victory of Israel in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. To date, no other proposal – and certainly no negotiating process – has succeeded in ending the persistent battle between Israel and those who seek to destroy it.
Palestinians must see that Israel is powerful and permanent; only then will they give up on their effort to eliminate the Jewish state and apply their talents to building their own policy, economy, society, and culture. Only the definitive victory of Israel, the Middle East’s only haven for free speech, women, and minorities – will bring an end to this fight and eventual peace to the region. About 20 percent of Palestinians now accept the Jewish state; that number needs to grow to 60 or so percent.
For a full exploration of this approach, see “The Way to Peace: Israeli Victory, Palestinian Defeat”, authored by Daniel Pipes. For a summary version, see “A Palestinian Defeat is Good for All.”
Congressmen Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Bill Johnson (R-OH), who co-chair the Caucus, will explain their bold advocacy of Israeli victory. They will be joined in a panel discussion by Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, and coalition partners. Continental breakfast will be served.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
9:00 – 10:30 a.m.
Washington, D.C. (Capitol Hill area)
Location will be provided to those who confirm.
RSVP by clicking here. You may also RSVP via e-mail (patel@MEForum.org), or phone (215-546-5406 ex. 101).
Further recommended reading: Congressmen Team with “Anti-Muslim Extremist” to Launch “Defeat Palestinians” Caucus (by J Street’s Alan Elsner)
3. On the Record
Royce (R-CA) 4/20: We are not going to allow Iran to mass produce ICBMs (video)
Cotton (R-AR) 4/19: Statement on [that is, dismissing as “shaky” and irrevelant] the Iran Deal Compliance Certification
McCaul (R-TX) 4/19: Statement on Review of Iran Deal by Trump Administration [dismissing compliance certification as irrelevant and promising new sanction]
Johnson (D-GA) 4/18: Johnson condemns Trumps bombing of Syria as reactive and impulsive
Franken (D-MN) et al, 4/13: Press release touting introduction of S. Res. 40 (covered in the 4/7 edition of the Round-Up) – “Franken, Murphy, Paul, Durbin Announce Legislation to Set New Conditions for U.S. Military Support to Saudi Arabia.”
Deutch (D-FL) 4/12: Ranking Member Deutch Slams Russian Veto of Syria Resolution at UN Security Council
McCain (R-AZ) and Graham (R-SC) 4/11: Statement on US policy on Syria [excerpt; “As part of a broader strategy, we urge the President to take greater military action to achieve our objectives, including grounding the Syrian air force and establishing safe havens inside Syria to protect Syrians. There will never be a diplomatic solution as long as Assad dominates the battlefield.”]
Cotton [that’s right, the same guy who led a letter to Iran’s leaders telling them to ignore the President of the United States] (R-AR) 4/8: NYT op-ed, “A Strike in Syria Restores Our Credibility in the World”
Risch (R-ID) 4/7: Op-ed in Time Magazine, “U.S. Strikes in Syria Are a Turning Point for the World”