Legislative Round-Up: May 25, 2018

Produced by the Foundation for Middle East Peace in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Legislative Round-Up was conceived

  1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
  2. Renewed Threat to Free Speech – the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act”
  3. FY19 NDAA – Full Details of House Version
  4. Hearings
  5. On the Record

Shameless plug: On 5/14, Sen. Sanders (I-VT) hosted a live town hall on the Iran nuclear deal (and also covering the situation in Gaza). Sen. Sanders was joined by Joe Cirincione, president of the nuclear disarmament group Ploughshares Fund; Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at New America; Rob Malley, president and CEO of International Crisis Group; and Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. Full video is here.

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(SACRIFICE FREE SPEECH TO QUASH CRITICISM OF ISRAEL) HR 5924 and S. 2940: Introduced 5/23 in the House by Roskam (R-IL) and Deutsch (D-FL) and 10 bipartisan cosponsors, and in the Senate by Scott (R-SC) and Casey (D-PA), and 3 bipartisan cosponsors, the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” (press release here). In the House, referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on Education and the Workforce; in the Senate, referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. For full discussion of this anti-free speech measure, see Section 2, below.

(NDAA – MIDEAST PROVISIONS) HR 5515: Over the past two weeks the House completed work on the FY19 “National Defense Authorization Act.” On The base bill includes funding for Israel-related programs and other Middle East-related provisions; during floor consideration, a number of additional Middle East-related provisions were adopted. On 5/24, the House passed the measure by a vote of 351-66. For full details, see Section3, below.

(TARGETING UNRWA) HR 5898: [Because withholding funding isn’t enough for some members...] Introduced 5/21 by Cicilline (D-RI) and Zeldin (R-NY), “To require the Secretary of State to develop a strategy on administration policy regarding UNRWA, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. [text here]

(GOING AFTER TERRORISTS) S. 2946 and HR 5954: Introduced 5/24 – in the Senate by Grassley (R-IA) and Cruz (R-TX), and 7 bipartisan cosponsors; in the House by Goodlatte (R-VA) and Nadler (D-NY), and 3 bipartisan cosponsors – the “Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018” [text is here]. As noted in Cruz’s press release, the purpose of the bill is to make “needed improvements to the Antiterrorism Act of 1992 to better ensure that American victims of international terrorism can obtain justice in U.S. courts by holding accountable those who commit, or aid and abet, terrorist activity abroad.” Cruz goes on to assert that, “The history of Palestinian and Iranian terrorism against Americans is extensive, going decades and ranging from hijackings to suicide bombings and assassinations,” Sen. Cruz said. “For too long American citizens have been disgracefully denied justice. This bill will ensure that American victims of terrorism are empowered to secure accountability from terrorists and their supporters.” The press release specifically cites Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization in explaining the need for the legislation. Referred to the Judiciary Committees.

($$ FOR ISRAEL IN ENERGY & WATER APPROPS BILL) HR XXXX: On 5/22, the House Appropriations Committee released its report on the FY29 Energy and Water Appropriations bill (bill not formally introduced as of this writing). The report notes that the bill includes recommendations $2,000,000 for the Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation and $4,000,000 for the U.S.-Israel Center of Excellence in Energy, Engineering and Water Technology.

(MOVE US NUKES OUT OF TURKEY) HR 5840: Introduced 5/16 by Bilirakis (R-FL) and Sarbanes (D-MD), “the Relocating U.S. Nuclear Weapons from Turkey Review Act of 2018.” The Dear Colleague seeking cosponsors of the bill states (among other things), “Turkey is no longer a reliable close ally to the United States. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Republic of Turkey has become increasingly Islamist, authoritarian, and intolerant of press freedom and civil liberties. Storing U.S. nuclear weapons in Turkey no longer makes sense…” Referred to the Committee on Armed Services, and the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(REPORT ON SYRIA) S. 2882: Introduced 5/17 by Cortez Masto (D-NV) and no cosponsors, “A bill to require a report on the United States strategy in Syria, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Press release is here; text is here.

Letters

(DON’T DESTROY SUSYA & KHAN AL AHMAR) House Dems’ letter to Bibi: On May 21, a letter, led by Schakowsky (D-IL) and signed by a total of 74 House Democrats, was sent to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu imploring him not to demolish the Palestinian village of Susya in the West Bank. Text of the letter is here. NOTE: On 5/24, an Israeli court upheld the government’s decision to demolish Khan al Ahmar; that demolition is expected to take place in the coming weeks (further background is here).

(HELP GAZA) Senate Dems’ letter to Pompeo: On May 15, a letter was sent, led by Sanders (I-VT) and Feinstein (D-CA) and signed by a total of 13 Senate Democrats, was sent to Secretary of State Pompeo imploring him to “do more to alleviate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Text of the letter is here. Sanders’ press release is here; Feinstein’s press release is here.

 

2. Renewed Threat to Free Speech – the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act”

At the end of 2016, legislation was original introduced in both the House and Senate entitled, the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” (ASAA) - S.10 & HR 6421. In May 2018, this legislation was re-introduced, once again as a bipartisan, bicameral effort (HR 5924 and S. 2940).

As I wrote previously: Given the title of this legislation, the public could be forgiven for assuming this must be a response to rising anti-Semitism in the U.S. linked to emboldened Nazis, white supremacists, and supporters of the “alt-Right.” Sadly, the public would be wrong.  This Orwellian-entitled legislation in fact has zero to do with raising awareness about or combating actual anti-Semitism. Rather, it is an effort to trying to police criticism of Israel on U.S. campuses by exploiting claims of “anti-Semitism” – all in order to delegitimize and quash criticism of and activism related to Israel (with the main but not sole focus being the BDS movement on campuses).”

Key things to understand about this legislative effort:

(1) Let there be no confusion: the objective of this effort is quashing free speech challenging Israel & Israeli policies, not fighting anti-Semitism. Commenting on one of such effort, the head of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative office warned that it “opens the door to considering anti-Israel political statements and activities as possible grounds for civil rights investigations.” And listen to the Anti-Defamation League (one of the groups prominently supporting/claiming credit for the legislation) in how it describes the original legislation: ADL’s Dec 2, 2016 tweet - “When do on campus expressions of anti-#Israel beliefs cross the line? This Act will help students know --> http://bit.ly/2gJ6q4c “; and ADL’s Dec 6, 2016 tweet - “New bill clarifies when campus anti-Israel speech is FA protected and when it’s unlawful discrimination. Take action:http://ow.ly/AsEJ306Sjp2 “.

(2) These bills are brazenly unconstitutional. They seek to limit free speech in a manner that represents a clear violation of First Amendment rights on campus. On 12/6/16, the Los Angeles Times editorial board published an op-ed noting that this legislation is not really about fighting anti-Semitism, but rather: “This legislation is really about something else entirely: Israel. What it does is to endorse an expansive definition of anti-Semitism that was adopted by the State Department in 2010 as a benchmark for diplomats. The problem with the definition is that it unfairly conflates anti-Israel speech with anti-Semitic speech, in a way that, if enforced, would violate the free speech rights of students and professors.”

(3) This legislation is categorically the wrong way to fight actual anti-Semitism on campuses.  This is explained powerfully in a June 2015 op-ed by Kenneth Stern, who was the lead author of the definition of “anti-Semitism” being exploited for the purposes of the legislation (an op-ed published when University of California’s Board of Regents were being pressed to adopt a policy almost identical to the current legislation). Stern warned that the approach was unconstitutional, misguided, and self-defeating – a position he reiterated strongly in the context of this new legislative effort, in a letter to House members he sent 12/6/16. Stern argues, (among other things) that incorporating the definition of anti-Semitism he drafted (for another purpose) into law (for this new purpose) “is both unconstitutional and unwise. If the definition is so enshrined, it will actually harm Jewish students and have a toxic effect on the academy.” Stern felt so strongly about this matter (and about his definition being abused this way) that he went on to publish an op-ed in the New York Times on December 12, 2016, in which he observed, among other things: “What’s next? Should Congress define what speech is Islamophobic? Anti-Palestinian? Racist? Anti-white? How about defining ‘anti-United States’ speech? We could dust off the files of the House Un-American Activities Committee.”

(4) In less political times, even the ADL opposed this approach. Abraham Foxman, back when he was the director of the ADL, argued along similar lines in his own March 2015 op-ed (he has since changed his tune):

“Legislation that bars BDS activity by private groups, whether corporations or universities, strikes at the heart of First Amendment-protected free speech, will be challenged in the courts and is likely to be struck down. A decision by a private body to boycott Israel, as despicable as it may be, is protected by our Constitution. Perhaps in Europe, where hate speech laws exist and are acceptable within their own legal frameworks, such bills could be sustained. But not here in America. Moreover, in light of such legislation, BDS campaigners would undoubtedly portray themselves as victims of efforts to stifle their free expression which would likely win them more sympathy and support from students — even those who are not inclined to be hostile to Israel.”

(5) This effort is such an over-reach that it would, post-facto, define some of the greatest Jewish writers and thinkers as anti-Semitic. As pointed out in this op-ed by Peter Beinart, “According to the Senate’s new Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, Henrietta Szold, Hannah Arendt and Martin Buber could also be defined as Jew-haters.” And as Beinart correctly concludes:  “It’s an old story: When people in power fear a debate, they try to criminalize it. It won’t work. If Zionism means permanent control of millions of Palestinians who lack basic rights, Zionists will gradually lose the contest of ideas in the United States. And the American Jewish establishment – which chose silencing Zionism’s opponents over fighting for a Zionism they could honestly defend – will bear some of the blame.” 

(6) If this measure passes into law, the broader implications for free speech are far-reaching. The impact of these bills, if adopted into law, would ultimately not be limited to campus free speech. If this definition of anti-Semitism is adopted into law, it can be predicted with great confidence that the new definition, as stipulated in law, will become the reference point for other laws seeking to quash free speech in other contexts. This is not hyperbolic speculation. This is exactly what happened with the definition of “boycott of Israel” that was included in two bills (TPA & Customs) signed into law under President Obama. Since then, the definition of “boycott of Israel” legislated in those bills, which deliberately conflates Israel and the occupied territories, has been used as the basis (in some cases explicitly) for laws making it the policy of the U.S. & many U.S. states to support settlements. The dangers to free speech inherent in this current legislative effort are even more serious: if passed into law, this new cynical, politicized definition of anti-Semitism could be – and almost certainly would be – harnessed to existing anti-hate, anti-discrimination legislation. The implications of such a development on Americans’ free speech would be far-reaching and devastating.

(7) Further resources:

 

3. FY19 NDAA – full details of House Version

As noted above, on 5/23, the House passed HR 5515, the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  In parallel, on 5/24, the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a press release summarizing its version of the NDAA (details in a forthcoming Round-Up, as the bill moves forward).

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) helpfully published a fact sheet summarizing the  Iran-related elements in the base text, as well as a general summary noting (among other things) that the bill “Supports the President’s request of $500 million for co-development of missile defense systems with Israel, and co-production of Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow weapons systems.” The Iran fact sheet also notes that the bill “Partners with Israel to develop counter unmanned aerial systems, an increasing threat from Iran and Iranian-supported proxies.” Specific Middle East-related provisions in the bill are:

  • Section 1221: Extension and modification of authority to provide assistance to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
  • Section 1222: Extension of authority to provide assistance to the vetted Syrian opposition.
  • Section 1223: Extension and modification of authority to support operations and activities of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq.
  • Section 1224: Sense of Congress on ballistic missile cooperation to counter Iran.
  • Section 1225: Strategy to counter destabilizing activities of Iran.
  • Section 1226: Report on compliance of Iran under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
  • Section 227: 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.
  • Section 1228: Report on cooperation between Iran and the Russian Federation.
  • Section 1271: Report on status of the United States relationship with the Republic of Turkey.
  • Section 1276: United States-Israel countering unmanned aerial systems cooperation. Crist (D-FL) press release on this provision, which he offered in committee as an amendment, is here).
  • Section 1286: Report on United States strategy in Yemen.
  • Section 1287: Report on Hizballah.
  • Section 1672: Sense of Congress on missile and rocket defense cooperation between the United States and Israel.

The report accompanying the bill notes (among other things) that, “The committee recommends $68.0 million, an increase of $30.0 million, in PE 64020A to support the acquisition of Iron Dome hardware and associated integration activities, for the operational demonstration of the Iron Dome system against a range of threats to evaluate issues associated with the following: (1) integrating the Iron Dome launcher into a U.S. Army AMD architecture for complimentary support of fixed, semi-fixed, and M-SHORAD operations; (2) re-designing the Iron Dome launcher to be compatible with the Indirect Fire Protection Capability Multi-Mission Launcher; and  (3) potential options for accelerating development of the  Skyhunter missile.

Floor Amendments

As is always the case, the NDAA was the target of hundreds of amendments (578 in total in this round). Of these, a number dealt with Middle East-related issues – summarized below

Category 1: Middle East-related amendments adopted on the House floor (all as part of En Bloc amendments):

NEW IRAN REPORT: Amendment offered by Lipinski (D-IL), Roskam (R-IL), Hultgren (R-IL), and Gonzalez (D-TX), “Requires an annual report from the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence describing Iranian expenditures on military and terrorist activities outside the country. This report must be submitted annually until such time as the Secretary of State determines Iran no longer provides support for terrorism.” Press release here.

NEW IRAN SANCTIONS: Amendment offered by Poe (R-TX) “Directs the President to impose sanctions on two Iranian proxies in Syria and Iraq for terrorism and requires report detailing entities in which the IRGC has an ownership interest of 33 percent or greater.

NO IRAN AUMF: An amendment offered by Ellison (D-MN), Lee (D-CA), Khanna (D-CA), Schakowsky (D-IL), McGovern (D-MA), and Jones (R-NC) “Adds language clarifying that the bill is not an authorization for the use of military force against Iran.”

NO IRAN AUMF: An amendment offered by Ellison (D-MN), Lee (D-CA), Khanna (D-CA), Schakowsky (D-IL), McGovern (D-MA), and Jones (R-NC), “Adds language expressing the sense of Congress that the use of military force is not authorized against Iran.” Ellison press release with quotes from cosponsors: U.S. House Makes Clear That There is No Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iran

IRAN REPORT: An amendment offered by Schneider (D-IL) and Meadows (R-NC), “Amends Section 1225 (Strategy to counter destabilizing activities of Iran) to include the countries in which Iran is operating, assessing their destabilizing activities and implications thereof.”

IRAN PROXIES: An amendment offered by Schneider (D-IL) and Meadows (R-NC) “Requires a report on Iran’s support for proxy forces in Syria and Lebanon, including Hizballah, and an assessment of the threat posed to Israel and other U.S. regional allies.”

INTL COOPERATION IN COUNTERING IRAN: An amendment offered by Zeldin (R-NY) “Creates a policy a cooperation with foreign countries that support the United States’ efforts to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East.”

IRAN BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT: Amendment offered by Roskam (R-IL) “Expresses a sense of Congress of the threats posed by Iran’s ballistic missile program.

IRAN INFLUENCE OPS: An amendment offered by Bacon (R-NE), Wilson (R-SC), Harzler (R-MO) and Panetta (D-CA), “Requires the Secretary of Defense to modify the Department of Defense Annual Reports for China, Russia and Iran to include influence operations as a matter to be included in such reports.”
TARGETING THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD: An amendment offered by Gohmert (R-TX) “Requires the SECDEF in coordination with the Secretary of State to submit a report that contains an assessment of the threats posed to the United States by the Muslim Brotherhood.”

NEW REPORT ON US SYRIA STRIKES: Amendment offered by Schiff (D-CA), Gabbard (D-HI), and Lieu (D-CA) “Requires a report by the Secretary of Defense to Congress on the legal basis for strikes by the United States against Syrian regime targets in April 2017 and April 2018.”

REPORT ON US SYRIA STRIKES: An amendment offered by Cicilline (D-RI) and Cole (R-OK) “Requires a report on the practical impact of U.S. military strikes against Syria on April 13, 2018.”

OPERATIONS IN YEMEN: An amendment offered by Khanna (D-CA) and Lee (D-CA), “Requires Secretary Defense to conduct an investigation to determine if coalition partners or United States military or intelligence personnel violated federal law or department of defense policy while conducting operations in Yemen

REPORT ON YEMEN: An amendment offered by Bass (D-CA) “Requires a comprehensive report within 90 days by Departments of State, Department of Defense, and USAID on US security and humanitarian interests in Yemen. The purpose is to build support for a comprehensive strategy to address humanitarian and security crisis in Yemen through increasing coordination in Yemen’s Famine – Risk Areas between federal agencies, the UN Offices for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.”

Category 2: Middle East-related amendments rejected on the House floor

DELETING REPORT ON COUNTERING IRAN: An amendment offered by Gabbard (D-HI). “Strikes section 1225, a required strategy to counter destabilizing activities of Iran” Gabbard’s floor statement in support of the amendment is here.

Category 3: Middle East-related amendments not considered on the floor (but worth reviewing, because they are a good preview of what may come up again, elsewhere)

REPORT ON GAZA:  Amendment offered by Pocan (D-WI), Lee (D-CA), and Ellison (D-MN) “Requires the Secretary to submit a report to Congress within 120 days of enactment regarding the national security implications posed to the United States and its ally, Israel, by the worsening social, economic, and humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip.”

ACCESS TO GAZA: Amendment offered by Pocan (D-WI) and Ellison (D-MN), “Expresses a sense of Congress that Members, when applicable, gain access to regions in which the U.S. humanitarian assistance and aid is being deployed, including aid the U.S. may be providing to the people in Gaza.”

MORE WEAPONS FOR ISRAEL & BAHRAIN: Amendment offered by Royce (R-CA), Engel (D-NY), and Yoho (R-FL), “Modernizes State Department management of U.S. security assistance; strengthens Congressional oversight over delistings of countries as state sponsors of terrorism; improves defense trade licensing; extends the War Reserve Stockpile for Israel; extends certain privileges under the Arms Export Control Act to Major Defense Partners; and authorizes the sale of an excess Navy frigate to Bahrain.”

US-ISRAEL COLLABORATION ON FOOD SECURITY: Amendment offered by Soto (D-FL) “Establishes a framework to enhance collaboration between the United States and Israel in research and development activities related to food security.”

TREAT GOLAN HEIGHTS AS PART OF ISRAEL: Amendment offered by DeSantis (R-FL) “Expresses a sense of the Congress that the Golan Heights represent an integral part of the state of Israel and are crucial to the ability of Israel to safeguard its borders and maintain its existence.”

REVISING ISRAEL QME ASSESSMENT: Amendment offered by Schneider (D-IL) “Revised Adds new considerations to the existing assessment regarding Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge.”
NO $$ TO OVERTHROWN IRAN GOVT: Amendment offered by Lee (D-CA), “Prohibits use of funds to be used to overthrow the Government of Iran”

IMPACT OF REIMPOSITION OF IRAN SANCTIONS: Amendment offered by Meeks (D-NY) “Requires a report from the Secretary of Treasury assessing the impact of the reimposition of United States sanctions regarding Iran on the global financial services sector and the ability of the United States to regulate financial transactions if foreign financial institutions and national governments take steps to avoid being subject to such United States sanctions.”

ASSISTANCE TO IAEA: Amendment offered by Schneider (D-IL) “Authorizes assistance to the IAEA to ensure Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.”

REPORT ON WITHDRAWAL FROM JCPOA: Amendment offered by Price (D-NC), Smith (D-WA), Schiff (D-CA), Engel (D-NY), Connolly (D-VA), Lujan (D-NM), and Waters (D-CA) “Requires report on the President’s announcement to reinstate sanctions on Iran and withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”

DUAL-USE EXPORTS TO IRAN: Amendment offered by Lujan (D-NM),  “Authorizes the President to seek to maintain and strengthen the United Nations procurement channel for dual-use goods being sold to Iran through the provision of technical assistance to other countries to strengthen export controls and stop the illicit transfer of dual-use goods to Iran. Expresses the sense of Congress that the United States should remain engaged with the UN procurement channel and leverage the expertise of the National Nuclear Security Administration, acting through the United States’ national laboratories.”

IRAQ & IRGC: Amendment offered by Perry (R-PA) and Meadows (R-NC), “Prohibits funding unless the Secretary of Defense can certify that organizations with association to the IRGC are not part of the Iraq military and do not have access to U.S.-provided training and equipment.”

NO IRAQ AID TO GROUPS LINKED TO IRAN: Amendment offered by Meadows (R-NC), “Requires the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State to jointly certify and report to Congress that assistance to the Ministry of the Interior of Iraq under the Iraq Train and Equip Fund will not be disbursed to any group that is, or is known to be affiliated with, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps – Quds Force or other state sponsor of terrorism.”

OPPOSING IRAN REGIME CHANGE POLICY: Amendment offered by Gabbard (D-HI) “Amends section 1225 to strike the implementation requirement of the required strategy, lessens reporting requirements to a one time report rather than until 2021, prohibits funds from being used for Iranian government regime change, and prohibits funds to combat non-state actors in the region. It also makes clear that nothing in the section should be construed to contravene the War Powers Resolution or constitutional congressional war authorities.”

COUNTERING IRAN MARITIME INITIATIVE: Amendment offered by Ruiz (D-CA) “Counters Iran Maritime Initiative In an effort to increase maritime security for countries bordering the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea this amendment authorizes assistance in the form of training, equipment, supplies, and small-scale military construction to these countries to help them deter and combat illegal smuggling and related maritime activity by Iran.”

IMPACT OF US QUITTING JCPOA: Amendment offered by Cicilline (D-RI) “Requires a report on the national security impact of the decision for the U.S. to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement.”

NO MILITARY AID TO COUNTRIES THAT HELP IRAN: Amendment offered by Crist (D-FL) and Bilirakis (R-FL), “Prohibits military assistance to countries that engage in arms, illicit technology, and software transfers, and related activities, with respect to Iran.”

REPORT ON US FORCES IN SYRIA: Amendment offered by Gabbard (D-HI) “Revised Requires a report from the Department of Defense describing the instances in which members of the United States armed forces were involved in hostilities since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War until present day and a plan for the United States to end participation in the ongoing conflict in Syria. Limits funds authorized for purposes other than fighting Al-Qaeda, ISIS and related groups, prohibits funds authorized for Syrian government regime change, and prohibits funds authorized for use against Iran or related forces in Syria unless specifically authorized.”

SYRIA STRIKES BY US: Amendment offered by Lee (D-CA), Welch (D-VT), Jones (R-NC), and Lieu (D-CA), “Reports on the legal authority to conduct military strikes against Syria”

LIMITS ON MANPADS TO SYRIA OPPOSITION: Amendment offered by Yoho (R-FL) “Adds limitation on use of funds for provision of man-portable air defense systems to the vetted Syrian opposition”

CONGRESSIONAL ACCESS IN MIDDLE EAST: Amendment offered by Lynch (D-MA) and Welch (D-VT) “Directs the Secretary of Defense to authorize and facilitate meaningful access to Congressional Delegations to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and Syria.”

REPORT ON YEMEN: Amendment offered by Bass (D-CA), “Requires a comprehensive report within 90 days by Departments of State, Department of Defense, and USAID on US security and humanitarian interests in Yemen. The purpose is to build support for a comprehensive strategy to address humanitarian and security crisis in Yemen through increasing coordination in Yemen’s Famine – Risk Areas between federal agencies, the UN Offices for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.”

REPORT ON YEMEN OPERATIONS: Amendment offered by O'Rourke (D-TX), Khanna (D-CA), and Pocan (D-WI) “Requires Secretary of Defense to report on any mid-air refueling by a military department for any non-United States aircraft of the Saudi-led coalition for any anti-Houthi missions in Yemen. The reports shall be issued every 90 days and include identification of aircraft, a description of targets struck by such aircraft, the extent of the damage of any strike, and any records required by cross-servicing agreement between the United States and Saudi Arabia.”

REPORT ON YEMEN: Amendment offered by Khanna (D-CA) and Lee (D-CA), “Requires the Secretary of Defense to report on the impact of the Civil War in Yemen on the growth of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula”

REPORT ON YEMEN: Amendment offered by Khanna (D-CA) and Jones (R-NC), “Prevents refueling of non-United States military aircraft for missions conducted against the Houthi in Yemen.”

YEMEN CERTIFICATION Amendment offered by Lieu (D-CA) and Yoho (R-FL), “Revised Requires the Secretary of Defense to certify that the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is not supporting radical Salafi militias and is providing the U.S. Government with battle damage assessments of airstrikes in Yemen for which the U.S. provided refueling. Failure to certify results in a prohibition on U.S. refueling services to the coalition.”

CONDITIONS ON US $$ FOR YEMEN OPERATIONS: Amendment offered by Jayapal (D-WA) and Pocan (D-WI) “Prohibits the use of funds for participating in air or ground efforts led by Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates against Houthis forces in Yemen until Yemen’s Hodeida port is certified by the Secretary of Defense as completely open to aid and commercial flow of food, fuel, and medicine.”

REPORT ON US OPERATIONS IN YEMEN: Amendment offered by Pocan (D-WI) “Requires a report within 120 of enactment regarding all activities conducted by members of the Armed Forces and civilian personnel of the Department of Defense in providing assistance to the military coalition led by the Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates against the Houthi forces in Yemen.”

NO $$ TO DEPLOY US FORCES TO YEMEN: Amendment offered by Nolan (D-MN), “Prohibits 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.”

CONDITIONS ON PGMs TO KSA: Amendment offered by Pocan (D-WI) and Amash (R-MI) “Bans precision guided munitions transfers to Saudi Arabia until the Secretary of Defense certifies that U.S. Armed Forces have ended unauthorized hostilities in the Saudi-led war against Yemen’s Houthi forces, begun in 2015.”

LIMITING SALE OF F-35s TO TURKEY: Amendment offered by Cicilline (D-RI), Bilirakis (R-FL), and Sarbanes (D-MD) “Prohibits the transfer of F-35 aircraft to Turkey unless the President certifies certain conditions.”

BAD TURKEY! Amendment offered by King (R-IA) “States the sense of Congress that the Government of Turkey has not fulfilled its obligations as a NATO Member and has not acted as an ally of the US.”

NO AID FOR TURKEY; AID FOR PESHMERGA: Amendment offered by Rohrabacher (R-CA), “Cuts aid to Turkey and supports the Peshmerga military.”

EGYPT & CASH FLOW FINANCING:  Amendment offered by Rohrabacher (R-CA), “States cash flow financing shall be made available to Egypt in any amount, without limit.”

NO FUNDS TO SUPPORT “ISLAMISM”: Amendment offered by King (R-IA) “Expresses the Sense of Congress that no funds may be used to provide military aid or any other material aid to any organization that supports Islamism.”

 

4. Hearings & Markups

May 23, 2018: The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled, "Strengthening American Diplomacy: Reviewing the State Department’s Budget, Operations, and Policy Priorities,” featuring new Secretary of State Pompeo (written statement). The hearing featured a lot of discussion of Iran and the Middle East – worth watching in full (video is here). Notably, Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) asked (very politely – hard to imagine she would have been so polite if the previous Administration had ignored the law) why the PLO has been allowed to stay open, contrary to US law – Pompeo’s non-response is here. Royce’s (D-CA) opening statement is here.

May 22, 2018: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a hearing entitled, “Lebanon and Iraq: After the Elections.” Witnesses were: Michael Doran, Hudson Institute (statement); Danielle Pletka, AEI (statement); and Tamara Cofman Wittes, Brookings (statement). Video is here.

 

5. On the Record

LaHood (R-IL) 5/23: Floor statement – “U.S. Withdrawal From the Iran Nuclear Deal Was the Right Choice”

Cruz (R-TX) 5/22: Sen. Cruz Issues Statement in Response to Secretary Pompeo’s Iran Strategy

Coons (D-DE) 5/22: [VIDEO] Sen. Coons presses Sec. Mnuchin on sanctioning European allies after leaving nuclear deal, Treasury Department’s capacity to enforce sanctions around the world

Moulton (D-MA) 5/22: Democratic National Security Task Force Statement on Fallout from Trump’s Withdrawal from Iran Nuclear Deal

Smith (R-NJ) 5/21: Floor statement on anti-Semitism, including invoking Natan Sharansky’s “simple test to help us distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism.  Sharansky called it the ‘three Ds: Demonization, double standard, and de-legitimization.’”

Engel (D-NY) 5/21: Engel Statement on Pompeo's Iran Speech

LaMalfa (R-CA) 5/21: Floor statement – “Secretary Pomeo Didn’t Mince Words” [in threatening Iran and telling it what it has to do]

Hice (R-GA) 5/18: A Visit to the Holy City

Granger (R-TX) 5/18: President Trump’s Decision on Iran

Rokita (R-IN) 5/18: Promise Kept on Moving the Embassy to Jerusalem

Capuano (D-MA) 5/18: “Any decent person feels anguish over the heartbreaking loss of life at the Gaza border. I opposed President Trump’s moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem because I thought it would provoke violence and so it has. I am deeply troubled by reports that Hamas is urging thousands of Gazans to enter Israel and march to Jerusalem. I believe Israel, like every country, has a right to defend its territory - but the Israeli Defense Force should minimize the use of deadly force against protesters, using it only when no reasonable alternative exists. It is deeply regrettable that the Trump Administration is exacerbating tensions in a troubled region and doing nothing to encourage negotiations that might lead to a two-state solution. I am in complete agreement with the letter sent by Senators Sanders, Warren, Markey and others calling on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ‘do more to alleviate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.’”

Rubio (R-FL) 5/17: VIDEO: Rubio on Protests in Gaza: 100% the Fault of Hamas

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 5/17: Ros-Lehtinen Urges Secretary General to Address UN’s Anti-Israel Bias, Support People of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua

Schakowsky (D-IL) 5/17: On Gaza: “Unspeakable tragedy has been unfolding in Gaza. Over the past few days, blood has been shed, lives have been lost, and the hopes of a lasting and peaceful two-state solution have been severely diminished. It is true that Israel has a right to defend itself and it is also true that Gazans have a right to protest nonviolently to bring attention to their plight. However, the killing of non-violent protesters can never be justified and, on the other side, Hamas has exploited Gazan demonstrations for its political gain.  Further, the Trump Administration’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem on a day of such heightened tensions, outside of a peace negotiations process, only added fuel to a raging fire. This cycle of violence will continue until Israelis and Palestinians decide that enough is enough and seek a sustainable solution. It is past time to negotiate for two states, each recognizing the legitimacy of the other — an autonomous Palestinian state and a Jewish Democratic state living side by side in peace.”

Cruz (R-TX) 5/17: Floor statement celebrating embassy move and (at great length) raging against the New York Times and others in the media for characterizing Israel as anything other than the wholly innocent victim of terror and violence coming from Gaza (Press release - Sen. Cruz: The Hamas Talking Points, Which Are Being Printed by Our Media, Are Aimed at Whitewashing the Terrorists’ Genocidal Hatred of Israel’)

Price (D-NC) 5/16: Rep. Price Issues Statement on the Violence in Gaza

Wilson (R-SC) 5/16: Floor statement praising US ambassador to the UN for her speech at the UN defending the Jerusalem embassy move and bashing the Palestinians, Hamas, and Iran.

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 5/16: Floor speech on US citizens being held by Iran (aka, Iran Hostages”)

Cruz (R-TX) 5/16: Sen. Cruz Praises Decision to Recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital and Move U.S. Embassy, Observes National Police Week

McCollum (D-MN) 5/16: A tragic day for Palestinian rights and American leadership

Feinstein (D-CA) 5/15: “Yesterday, the world witnessed the worst outbreak of violence in Gaza since the last conflict in 2014. Fifty-eight people were killed, and more than 2,700 were injured, raising the death toll to more than 100 since these protests began. While protests must remain peaceful, Israeli forces must exercise greater restraint in the use of live ammunition. President Trump’s decision to move the U.S embassy was a serious mistake that will reverberate throughout the region. U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should have been resolved in the context of broader peace negotiations where both sides benefit. Instead, the president’s unilateral move has sparked violence and led the Palestinians to believe the United States is no longer an honest broker to this conflict. I’m deeply disappointed in Ambassador Haley’s decision to block a U.N. inquiry into yesterday’s events. Without question there should be an independent investigation when the lives of so many are lost. Instead of remaining silent, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo should immediately head to the region to de-escalate this situation. Refusing to act will only reinforce the perception that this administration has chosen a side in this decades-long conflict and can no longer be an honest broker to bring peace to the region.”

Graham (R-SC) 5/15: Graham On Trump Meeting With Senate Republicans (re: Iran)

Poe (R-TX) 5/15: Floor statement – Jerusalem the Rightful Capital of Israel

Wilson (R-SC) 5/15: Floor statement – Historic Embassy in Jerusalem (“this weekend I was grateful to lead a congressional delegation to Jerusalem, where we met yesterday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Foreign Affairs Chairman Avi Dichter, while we attended the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, ably coordinated by Ambassador David Friedman with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.”)

Heller (R-NV) 5/15: In Case You Missed It: Nevada, National Media Highlight Heller’s Visit to Jerusalem for Opening of U.S. Embassy

Moore (D-WI) 5/15: Congresswoman Gwen Moore Statement on Deadly Violence in Gaza

Rubio (R-FL) 5/15: Rubio Statement on New Treasury Anti-Terrorism Sanctions Against Iran’s Central Bank Governor, Hizballah Official

Wilson (R-SC) 5/15: Chairman Joe Wilson Leads Trip to Jerusalem

Knight (R-CA) 5/15: Knight attends historic Jerusalem Embassy opening

Diaz-Balart (R-FL) 5/15: Diaz-Balart Represents U.S. Congress at Opening of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem

Granger (R-TX) 5/15: Granger Statement on the Opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem

Hice (R-GA) 5/15: Hice Attends U.S. Embassy Dedication Ceremony in Jerusalem [“Members of the delegation included: Representative Jody Hice (GA-10), HASC Readiness Subcommittee Chairman Joe Wilson (SC-02), Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), Representative Dennis Ross (FL-15), Representative Ron DeSantis (FL-06), Representative George Holding (NC-02), Representative Tom Rice (SC-07), Representative Steve Knight (CA-25), Representative Lee Zeldin (NY-01), and Representative Scott Taylor (VA-02).]

Pittinger (R-NC) 5/14: Pittenger on the Jerusalem Embassy Opening

Hatch (R-UT) 5/14: Happy 70th bday Israel speech

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