APN Legislative Round-Up: November 15-22, 2013

1. Bills and Resolutions
2. Obama vs. "Pro-Israel" Groups on Iran, Part IV
3. Congress, Diplomacy, Sanctions, and Israel - Where Things Stand, What Next
4. White House Implores Senate to Give Time for Talks
5. NDAA Amendments in the Spotlight
6. Members Sound Off on Iran - Letters
7. Members Sound Off on Iran - Statements, Op-eds, Etc.
8. Hearings
9. Members on the Record [on things other than Iran/sanctions]

Briefly noted:
11/21: Peace Now's Rabbi Suskin in the Jewish Standard - Giving Thanks and Letting Go
11/18: A new Peace Now victory against outposts
Peace Now video: Our love for Israel drives our struggle for peace

1. Bills and Resolutions

(IRAN) S. 1765: Introduced 11/21 by SFRC Ranking member Corker (R-TN) and no cosponsors, "The Iran Nuclear Compliance Act of 2013." (Text of the bill is not in Thomas as of this writing, but is available here). This bill appears to be the opening shot in a new Senate approach which seeks to increase congressional leverage over the negotiating process by setting conditions which must be met before the president may waive/suspend any sanctions (including those imposed via Executive Order). As explained in the press release touting the bill's introduction, it would do this by "setting conditions for an acceptable final agreement with Iran that would restrict sanctions relief until Iran agrees to eliminate the threat of its nuclear program." A summary of the bill, prepared by Corker's office, is available here. Notably (and in contrast to the major sanctions legislation proposed by Menendez, D-NJ, and a group of Democratic senators as an amendment to the NDAA - discussed in Section 5, below), the Corker bill does not include any new or expanded Iran sanctions, nor does it legislate Congressional veto authority over an Iran agreement.

(ISRAEL) S. Con. Res. 27: Introduced 11/20 by Toomey (R-PA) and no cosponsors, the "Support of Israel Against Existential Threat Resolution of 2013." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Press release announcing the resolution here. The text of the resolution is available here (and is identical to an amendment Toomey offered to the NDAA, discussed in section 5, below).

(SYRIA) S. 1714: Introduced 11/14 by Blumenthal (D-CT) and 3 cosponsors, "A bill to impose sanctions with respect to Syria, to expand existing sanctions with respect to Syria, and for other purposes." Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Blumenthal statement introducing the bill is available here.

(IRAN) S. Res. 284: Introduced 10/31 by Risch (R-ID) and having 11 cosponsors, "A resolution calling on the Government of Iran to immediately release Saeed Abedini and all other individuals detained on account of their religious beliefs." Passed by the Senate 11/14 by unanimous consent. Cruz (R-TX) statement commending the passage of the bill here; Risch (R-ID) here; Paul (R-KY) here.

(IRAN) H. Res. 147: Introduced 4/10 by Cassidy (R-LA) and having 85 cosponsors, "Calling for the release of United States citizen Saeed Abedini and condemning the Government of Iran for its persecution of religious minorities." Marked up/passed 11/13 by the Foreign Affairs Committee's Middle East Subcommittee by voice vote. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) statement on the markup/vote here.

(ISRAEL QME) HR 1992: Introduced 5/15 by Collins (R-GA) and having 32 cosponsors, the "Israel Qualitative Military Edge Enhancement Act." Marked up/passed 11/13 by the Foreign Affairs Committee's Middle East Subcommittee by voice vote. Collins press release on subcommittee passage of the bill is available here. Coverage of the bill when it was introduced is included in the May 17 & 24, 2013 edition of the Round-Up. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) statement on the markup/vote here.

2. Obama vs. "Pro-Israel" Groups over Iran Sanctions - Part IV

The past week saw yet more activism and controversy over the role of U.S. Jewish organizations in pushing for new sanctions and otherwise challenging the Obama Administration's current Iran negotiating effort. Some examples:

On 11/19, the New York Jewish Week ran an article entitled, "Most U.S. Jewish Groups Wary Of Iran Deal." To back up this headline, the article quotes Malcolm Hoenlein (the Conference of President of Major Jewish Organizations), David Harris (the American Jewish Committee), Abe Foxman (the Anti-Defamation League), Mort Klein (the ZOA), and Nathan Diamant (the Orthodox Union).

On 11/19, Tom Friedman noted in his column that "Never have I seen Israel and America's core Arab allies working more in concert to stymie a major foreign policy initiative of a sitting U.S. president, and never have I seen more lawmakers -- Democrats and Republicans -- more willing to take Israel's side against their own president's. I'm certain this comes less from any careful consideration of the facts and more from a growing tendency by many American lawmakers to do whatever the Israel lobby asks them to do in order to garner Jewish votes and campaign donations". On 11/21, in separate columns, both WaPo's Jennifer Rubin and CFR's Elliot Abrams slammed Friedman, essentially accusing him of anti-Semitism for thinking/writing these words.

On 11/20, the Republican Jewish Coalition sent out an Action Alert in support of the Kirk (R-IL) Iran "poison pill" amendment to the NDAA (discussed in Section 5, below). The alert stated, "Call your U.S. Senators - whether they are Democrats or Republicans - and urge them to support Senator Kirk's amendment and demand action this week - before Kerry and Obama present a bad, dangerous deal as an accomplished fact."

On 11/21, this headline appeared in the Times of Israel: "Despite critique, Jewish groups continue Iran push." The article reports on a resolution adopted by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), in which the organization "aligned itself closely with the policy advocated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu."

On 11/21, Josh Block, former AIPAC spokesman and current head of the Israel Project, sent out an email entitled "Bad Deal" to the Israel Project's listserv. In it, Block states, "Iran is now at the brink of a nuclear breakout. We are all facing the nightmare of a 'bad deal' that would lift sanctions without stopping the Iranian weapons program." He urges supporters to sign the Israel Project petition at a special petition website that has been established for this purpose.

On 11/21, the story broke that in a conference call with supporters, Sen. Kirk (R-IL) discussed his strategy to push for more Iran sanctions in the Senate, and specifically discussed AIPAC's role in the effort. He reportedly stated that the sanctions might end up in the Banking Committee, "which is always where AIPAC wanted this legislation written because it has such a potential for bipartisan support..." He reportedly also stated, "Plan B is marking up in the banking committee with something that [AIPAC chief] Howard Kohr and AIPAC have gotten us floor time from Harry to do an amendment to the upcoming NDAA whose debate is coming up as early as this week..."

Throughout this period, both APN (examples: here, here) and J Street continued efforts, on and off the Hill, in support of negotiations and opposing the current push for new sanctions.

From the press:
Times of Israel 11/18: US Jewish leaders feel misled by White House over Iran deal
Jewish Journal (Rosner) 11/18: Iran is a Tough Gap for Israeli and American Jews to Bridge

3. Congress, Diplomacy, Sanctions, and Israel - Where Things Stand, What Next

This week speculation continued to swirl over whether Iran sanctions legislation would move forward in the Senate, most likely in the form of amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (the NDAA - S. 1197, discussed in detail in Section 5, below).

In the end, Senate leadership acquiesced to the Obama Administration's request for a temporary reprieve to give time for this round of talks to play out. APN and other groups that have been working this issue can claim, justifiably, victory in helping the Obama Administration prevent new Iran sanctions from moving during this period and scuttling this current round of negotiations. These efforts included a combination of grassroots action efforts, direct engagement with staff and members, and things like this remarkable letter, signed by 29 organizations - including APN - and sent to Senate leadership and leaders of key committees involved in Iran-related policy.

That said, "temporary" looks to be a key word in qualifying this victory. Senate Majority Leader Reid committed in an 11/21 floor statement to move ahead with and support new Iran sanctions when Congress returns from the Thanksgiving recess. Shortly after Reid made his statement, a bipartisan group of key Senators, all of whom are involved in backing new sanctions legislation -- McCain (R-AZ), Menendez (D-NJ), Kirk (R-IL), Schumer (D-NY), Graham (R-SC), Cardin D-MD), Rubio (R-FL), Casey (D-PA), Cornyn (R-TX), Coons (D-DE), Collins (R-ME), Blumenthal (D-CT), Ayotte (R-NH) and Corker (R-TN) -- issued a statement noting that "...We will work together to reconcile Democratic and Republican proposals over the coming weeks and to pass bipartisan Iran sanctions legislation as soon as possible."

Neither the Reid statement nor the McCain et al statement made reference to any flexibility in these plans to accommodate progress made in Geneva. Given the fact the most recently-introduced Iran sanctions language (S. 1765, discussed in Section 1, above, as well as S. Amdt. 2523 to the NDAA, discussed in Section 5, below) has been drafted to at least give the pretense of "space" for negotiations while still increasing Congressional leverage over diplomacy, there is good reason to believe that plans to move forward with sanctions won't change, even if something significant is accomplished in diplomatic talks in the coming days.

Presumably assuming that this will be the case (or hoping to ensure that it will be the case), shortly after Reid delivered his statement, AIPAC sent an email to supporters claiming victory:

"This announcement, and the subsequent bill, is an important statement about the resolve of Senate Democrats and Republicans to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. Like all Americans, we hope the administration's efforts lead to a diplomatic resolution of this matter. To achieve that objective, AIPAC has worked with Congress and successive administrations over the past 20 years to press Iran by imposing crippling sanctions. That pressure has brought Tehran to the negotiating table. This new bipartisan legislation will further press Iran to end its nuclear weapons development and enhance America's negotiating leverage. A nuclear weapons capable Iran is a grave threat to American national security and to that of our allies around the world. As the Majority Leader said this morning, we must ensure that the President has the tools he needs to effectively press Iran to end its nuclear weapons program. We will work with bipartisan Senate leaders to achieve that objective."

The Israel Project was similarly bullish on these latest developments, reporting in its "Daily Tip" late on 11/21,

"Efforts by U.S. lawmakers to impose new financial pressure on Iran picked up momentum today, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid committing to having the Senate vote to boost sanctions after the body's Thanksgiving recess, and 14 other senators, hailing from both parties, declaring that they would cooperate to push through such legislation. Reid's office published floor remarks made by the Nevada Democrat declaring himself to be a 'strong supporter of [the] sanctions regime' and committing not only to 'mov[ing] forward with a new bipartisan Iran sanctions bill' but more specifically to 'support[ing] a bill that would broaden the scope of our current petroleum sanctions; place limitations on trade with strategic sectors of the Iranian economy that support its nuclear ambitions, as well as pursue those who divert goods to Iran.' Amid controversial comments being leveled by some administration officials and by Hezbollah - in which sanctions proponents are being accused of seeking to derail negotiations and drag America into war - Reid stated that while he 'support[s] the Admiration's diplomatic efforts' he is committed to keeping the U.S.'s 'legislative options open.' Meanwhile more than a dozen U.S. senators published a bipartisan statement promising to 'work together to reconcile Democratic and Republican proposals over the coming weeks and to pass bipartisan Iran sanctions legislation as soon as possible.'"

Perhaps the only group that has no way of spinning the immediate situation as a victory is the RJC, whose Action Alert demanded passage of the Kirk amendment this week (as discussed in Section 2, above).

Times of Israel 11/21: Jewish groups embrace Senate sanctions announcement

4. White House Implores Senate to Give Time for Talks

Earlier in the week, when it still looked like the Senate might push ahead with sanctions, the White House weighed in directly with Senators. On 11/19, President Obama briefed a bipartisan group of Senators on Iran diplomacy. The White House readout of that meeting is available here. On 11/20, the Vice President also briefed a number of Democratic senators on the same topic; the White House readout of that meeting is available here. Coming out of those meetings, various senators made statements to the press.

Fox 11/20: Obama urges skeptical senators to hold off on Iran sanctions during talks
Al-Monitor 11/20: Senate holds off on new Iran sanctions
Corker (R-TN) 11/19: Noting that Democratic leaders were blocking action on Iran sanctions this week and expressing concern about the direction negotiations are going and what may be agreed on in Geneva.
NYT 11/19: Bipartisan Assent to Hold Off New Iran Sanction
LAT 11/19: Obama asks Senate leaders to hold off on new Iran sanctions
VOA 11/19: Obama Urges Senators to Delay New Iran Sanctions
WaPo 11/19: New Iran sanctions not likely while nuclear talks still in progress, key senators say
Crapo (R-ID) 11/19: Opposing sanctions relief for Iran in the context of negotiations.
Inhofe (R-OK) 11/19 (not in the meeting): Mocking the Obama Administration for asking Congress to "trust" Iran and opposing any sanctions relief until Iran takes clear and demonstrable steps to fulfill its obligations and shut down its illicit nuclear program"
Reuters 11/19: Obama urges Senators to hold off Iran sanctions: White House
The Hill 11/18: Obama to update top senators on Iran Fox 11/18: Obama to make personal appeal to senators on Iran sanctions
AP 11/18: Obama to brief senators on Iran nuclear talks as White House urges pause in new sanctions

The issue of the Administration's efforts to persuade the Senate to play ball came up in the 11/21 State Department Press briefing, with the following exchange:

QUESTION: Okay. And then I had another question as well, which is this - it's there seems to be some moves going on in the Senate now today -

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One of them is Harry - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that the Senate should - will move - will start to move to impose new sanctions in December if these negotiations don't bear fruit. And then Senator Bob Corker has also come out with some legislation, which he just introduced today, which would effectively bar the President from using his executive authority to lift any sanctions until Iran had fully complied with the interim deal. Could I ask for your comment on those two pieces of legislation, or those two pieces of news from Senate?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we are pleased that Senator Reid - Leader Reid is holding off on additional sanctions legislation until after the current round of negotiations are completed. As we have said, we are determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and firmly believe that it would be preferable to do so peacefully. We hope that Leader Reid will continue to give the President and our P5+1 negotiating partners the space they need to pursue these negotiations in the future if necessary, and obviously, this conversation will continue depending on the outcome of the next round of negotiations.

In terms of the Corker - you may have a question on that but let me address the other piece, too. In terms of the Corker legislation, I know that that just came out right before we left. I haven't had a team to - a chance to speak with our legislative team. But obviously, the goal here is agreeing on a first step that Iran would fully comply with. So that's what we're working towards. As a part of that, no one is going to agree to a deal, as we've said a few times, that does not address the big issues of the stockpiles of enriched uranium, the plutonium track at Arak, the need for more monitoring centrifuges, et cetera, and that's what our goal is. So we're working toward that. Obviously, we'll have a discussion in any of these cases following the conclusion of the next round of negotiations.

QUESTION: So would you say that Senator Corker's legislation is perhaps not helpful at this stage?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it's hard for me to give - the negotiators are on the ground, as you know, so they're negotiating. Given how sensitive and difficult these are, certainly any piece - any indication that the United States isn't serious about the diplomatic track is unhelpful. However, we - Leader Reid made clear that he is going to hold off on additional sanctions legislation until after the current round of negotiations to give, in part, the space that the negotiators need. They're there now, so we're appreciative of that step.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, Chris, go ahead. And then I'll go to you next.

QUESTION: Jen, just on that same topic. Will you keep pushing Congress for a pause even if nothing comes out of this round of negotiations? Does it - does your view on that hinge on what happens (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Well, broadly speaking, if the negotiations fail writ large over the coming months or however long until we know, we would lead the charge for more sanctions. That's one of the reasons why we've been so clear to our friends in Congress that we should give diplomacy a chance to breathe and see if it would work out. And it's about creating those best conditions. About what would happen after a next round, I don't want to speculate on that. We'll see where we are, and if we need to ask for more space to pursue the negotiations or where we are after the next round. Any more on Iran? Okay. Oh, go ahead, Chris.

QUESTION: I saw that there was a report that Israel has been lobbying on the Hill against - or in favor of these sanctions, against what the Administration wants. I'm just wondering what your reaction is to reports that Israel is lobbying, if you view that as undermining what the State Department is trying to do.

MS. PSAKI: As the Secretary has said, we understand that the Government of Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu are going to express their concerns as they see fit, and they have every right to do that. We've been in contact with them, briefing them on why we feel this is the appropriate path, and we'll continue to do that as well as the negotiations continue.

5. NDAA Amendments in the Spotlight

As noted above, the NDAA was expected to be - and indeed turned out to be - a magnet for amendments related to Iran sanctions, as well as amendments related to other Middle East issues. It is still not clear which, if any, will get a vote on the Senate floor in the context of this bill (the Senate is now in recess until after the Thanksgiving, scheduled to return December 9).

Regardless, all of these amendments deserve close attention, since they are a good indicator of what some senators want to do, either on this bill or in some other context. Especially of note are those amendments offered by key players on foreign policy-related committees, including SFRC chair Menendez (D-NJ), SFRC ranking member Corker (R-TN), and SASC Chair Levin (D-MI), as well as members who drive policy on certain foreign policy issues, like Kirk (R-IL).

Iran Amendments to the NDAA

S. Amdt. 2189 - offered by Rubio (R-FL), seeking to add a Sense of Congress asserting that (1) there is no Iranian right to enrich, (2) there should be no sanctions relief until total Iranian capitulation on its nuclear program, & (3) Congress should proceed with additional sanctions without delay.

S. Amdt. 2295 - offered by Kirk (R-IL) and an all-GOP line-up of cosponsors consisting of McConnell (R-KY), Cornyn (R-TX), Rubio (R-FL), Graham (R-SC), Ayotte (R-NH), and Moran (R-KS). This is a "poison pill" amendment (which APN is actively lobbying against, see our Action Alert, here), which would effectively kill Iran diplomacy and any chances for an agreement and leave only the military option on the table. It would also give a green light to Israeli military action that would embroil the U.S. in another Middle East war. Additional analysis of the amendment is available here, from NIAC.

S. Amdt. 2299 - offered by Cornyn (R-TX), regarding US relations with the Russian Federation (including reporting on Russian activities with respect to Iran)

S. Amdt. 2363 - offered by Isakson (R-GA), to establish an American Hostages in Iran Compensation Fund

S. Amdt. 2378 - offered by Cornyn (R-TX), to require a report on the current and future military strategy of the Russian Federation (including w/ respect to Iran and Syria)

S. Amdt. 2512 - offered by Corker (R-TN), to bar sanctions relief in the context of negotiations with Iran, or in the context of a deal with Iran, unless the President certifies to Congress that specific conditions have been met.

S. Amdt. 2523 - offered by Menendez (D-NJ) and an all-Democratic line-up of cosponsors consisting of Schumer (D-NY), Cardin (D-MD), Blumenthal (D-CT), Coons (D-DE) and Casey (D-PA). This amendment, (like the Corker bill, S. 1765) appears to reflect a new Senate approach on Iran predicated on maintaining a pretense of being supportive of and giving space to diplomacy. This amendment, with the short title, "Nuclear Free Iran Act of 2013," would impose far-reaching new sanctions with respect to the Iranian petroleum sector, other "strategic sectors" of the Iranian economy, and on financial transactions related to Iran. In a nod to the ongoing diplomatic effort, it offers the President limited/conditional authority, in the event that an interim agreement is reached, to temporarily waive imposition of those new sanctions for a series of short periods totaling 6 months. In the event of a final deal, it permits the President to suspend implementation of the new sanctions indefinitely if he makes the required certification to Congress AND if Congress doesn't veto the agreement with a joint resolution of disapproval. Notably, the bill includes NOTHING about lifting/suspending the existing far-reaching sanctions that already exist, making it appear that the only "deal" the backers of this amendment support is one in which Iran capitulates fully on its nuclear program, and, in exchange, gets to avoid new sanctions, but also has to live with all existing sanctions remaining in place.

S. Amdt. 2529 - offered by Collins (R-ME) to impose sanction with respect to the sale, supply, and transfer of natural gas produced in Iran.

Other Amendments to the NDAA Related to the Middle East

S. Amdt. 2080 - Blumenthal (D-CT) amendment to impose sanctions on Syrian officials and other sanctions related to Syria

S. Amdt. 2131 - Cardin (D-MD) amendment requiring a report on war crimes/crimes against humanity in Syria

S. Amdt. 2187 - Rubio (R-FL) amendment to block/reform US military and economic assistance for Egypt

S. Amdt. 2188 - Rubio (R-FL) amendment to impose sanctions on Syria

S. Amdt. 2235 - Gillibrand (D-NY) amendment re: US-Israel missile defense cooperation

S. Amdt. 2244 - Heinrich (D-NM) amendment making [additional?] funds available for Iron Dome

S. Amdt. 2260 - Toomey (R-PA) amendment to limit funding for joint US-Egypt military exercises (based solely on whether Egypt is abiding by Egypt-Israel peace treaty)

S. Amdt. 2264 - Manchin (D-WV) amendment regarding sale of defense articles and services to Egypt

S. Amdt. 2283 - Gillibrand (D-NY) amendment re: US-Israel missile defense cooperation

S. Amdt. 2303 - Cornyn (R-TX) amendment regarding Syria & Rosoboronexport

S. Amdt. 2313 - Rubio (R-FL) amendment barring US assistance for the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons unless stipulated conditions are met

S. Amdt. 2329 - Leahy (D-VT) amendment to authorize funds international and hybrid criminal tribunals in their investigations, apprehensions, and prosecutions of Joseph Kony, Omar al-Bashir, Bashar al-Assad, and other high-profile, non-allied foreign nationals who are accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes.

S. Amdt. 2391 - Hagan (D-NC) amendment providing enhanced authority for under the cooperative threat reduction program for activities with respect to Syria

S. Amdt. 2454 - Toomey (R-PA) amendment to insert Sense of Congress that the U.S. should ensure that Israel "is able to adequately address an existential Iranian nuclear threat, and the Secretary of Defense should seek related opportunities for defense cooperation and partnership on military capabilities where appropriate" and that the U.S. supports Israel's right to take military action against the "grave threat" that the delivery of the S-300 air defense system to Syria would pose.

S. Amdt. 2475 - McCain (R-AZ) (plus Levin, D-MI and Coons, D-DE) amendment laying out terms for U.S. assistance "to foster negotiated settlement to Syria conflict." Authorizes the provision of "equipment, supplies, and training to vetted units of the Free Syrian Army, the Supreme Military Council, and other Syrian forces opposed to the government of Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) for the purpose of conducting military operations inside Syria, with funds made available for foreign assistance." Caps this assistance at $100 million and requires reporting to Congress.

S. Amdt. 2507 - Rubio (R-FL) amendment prohibiting the provision of assistance to the government of Syria during the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons program.

S. Amdt. 2521 - Menendez (D-NJ) amendment consisting of major Syria policy legislation, including laying out terms of U.S. support for Syria transition (including explicit statement of no AUMF); imposing new reporting requirements with respect to U.S. strategy and imposing new Congressional oversight requirements vis-à-vis U.S. activities in Syria; laying out terms of U.S. humanitarian assistance for Syria; and imposing new sanctions with respect to Syria and entities engaged in activities with Syria.

S. Amdt. 2522 - Menendez (D-NJ) amendment consisting of major legislation to provide for wholesale reform of U.S. military and economic assistance to Egypt (short title: "Egypt Assistance Reform Act of 2013". Includes language amending anti-coup law to permit continued aid to Egypt via a waiver.

6. Members Sound Off on Iran - Letters

On 11/20, a bipartisan group of Senators - Schumer (D-NY), Graham (R-SC), Menendez (D-NJ), McCain (R-AZ), Casey (D-PA), and Collins (R-ME) sent a letter to Secretary of State Kerry expressing support for negotiations but cautioning the Administration, "We urge you and your negotiating team to fight for an interim agreement that demands as much or more of Iran as it does of the United States and our allies. We hope in the next few weeks we and our partners will redouble our efforts to gain greater proportionality and to finalize an agreement that demonstrates that Iran is moving away from the nuclear weapons path." While the letter doesn't mention pressure for new sanctions, it does insist on significant concessions from Iran before even minimal sanctions relief. Buzzfeed reported the letter as being backed by AIPAC.

On 11/19, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Minority Member Engel (D-NY) sent a letter to President Obama expressing "concern regarding the scope and content of the interim agreement under negotiation with Iran." The letter (which was anticipated, as noted in last week's Round-Up), concludes with: "the United States cannot allow Iran to continue to advance toward a nuclear weapons capability while at the same time providing relief from the sanctions pressure we worked so hard to build, and the Administration has worked to enforce. It was sanctions and economic pressure that brought Iran to the table. We believe Congress has an important role to play in ensuring that effective pressure is brought to bear on Iran to keep its nuclear program from advancing. We must sustain economic pressure and consequent political pressure on the Iranian regime if we hope to reach a final agreement in which Iran has verifiably dismantled its nuclear program..."

On 11/15, Senators Kirk (R-IL) and three GOP colleagues - Rubio (R-FL), Cornyn (R-TX) and Ayotte (R-NH) - sent a letter to President Obama laying out their concerns and their opposition to the current Iran negotiating effort. The letter in effect opposes any agreement, interim or final, that permits Iran to maintain much of anything related to a nuclear program, and opposes any sanctions relief of any kind unless Iran fully capitulates to this demand.

Last week's Round-Up noted that Rep. McCaul (R-TX) and a bipartisan group of colleagues was circulating a letter seeking cosigners on a letter to Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) and Republican Leader McConnell (R-KY). The letter urges the leaders and their Senate colleagues to "act swiftly to continue consideration of rigorous Iran sanctions legislation." Shortly after the Round-Up was published, McCaul issued a press release touting the success of the letter, which ultimately attracted 63 co-signers (53 Republicans and 10 Democrats). This is only 13% of the House, as compared to the pro-Iran-diplomacy letter circulated in July by Reps. Dent (R-PA) and Price (D-NC) - which attracted 131 signers (full list), which translates to 30% of the House, including 17 Republicans and 114 Democrats (APN strongly supported that letter). Further reporting on this letter here.

Last week's Round-Up also noted Rep. Coffman (R-C) and a group of GOP colleagues were seeking cosigners on a letter to Secretary of State Kerry opposing Iran sanctions relief until "the Iranian government terminates its program of nuclear enrichment beyond what would be needed for peaceful purposes." Shortly after the Round-Up was published, Coffman published a statement touting the sending of the letter to Kerry, noting that the letter had attracted 23 signers (plus Coffman, for a total of 24). This is less than 5% of the House (again, as compared to 30% who signed the Dent-Price letter).

7. Members Sound Off on Iran - Statements, Op-eds, Etc.

In addition, members continue to sound off for/against the current Iran diplomacy and for/against new sanctions, whether in press releases, op-ed and other media appearances, or in the Congressional Record. These include:

Conyers (D-MI) 11/21: Supporting negotiations, opposing new sanctions
Poe (R-TX) 11/21: Supporting tougher Iran sanctions (and citing Netanyahu)
Reid (D-NV) 11/21: Supporting Iran diplomacy but promising action on sanctions after recess
Rubio (R-FL) 11/20: Foreign policy address at AEI, including on Iran and need to maintain/increase sanctions
Schiff (D-CA) 11/20: In support of Iran diplomacy
Ellison (D-MN) 11/20: In support of Iran diplomacy
Poe (R-TX) 11/20: Opposing sanctions relief for Iran
McDermott (D-WA) 11/20: In support of Iran diplomacy
Schiff (D-CA) 11/19: Op-ed on CNN in support of diplomacy
Feinstein (D-CA) 11/19: In US News, in support of Iran diplomacy, against new sanctions
McCain (R-AZ) & Graham (R-SC) 11/19: Expressing skepticism about current Iran diplomacy and pressing for action on new sanctions
Blumenauer (D-OR) 11/19: In support of Iran diplomacy
Roskam (R-IL) 11/18: Calling for more sanctions on Iran
Republican Study Committee 11/15: RSC presses Obama Administration to increase Iran sanctions; Call on Senate to take up House bill
Feinstein (D-CA) 11/15: Statement opposing action now on new Iran sanctions, supporting diplomacy
Fischer (R-NE) 11/15: Condemning the current diplomatic effort and supporting more pressure on Iran
Holding (R-NC) 11/14: Opposing deal with Iran (and invoking Netanyahu)


USA Today 11/19: Senators pledge to defy White House on Iran sanctions
The Hill 11/18: Rep. Ellison leads push against Iran sanctions
The Hill 11/18: Obama, Netanyahu battle for sanctions
YNet 11/16: McCain: Don't increase sanctions on Iran this year
HuffPo 11/15: Tide Turns Towards Diplomacy as Key Senators Oppose New Iran Sanctions
The Cable 11/15: Israel and White House Locked in an Info War Over Iran

8. Hearings

11/20: Hearing in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade, entitled "Terrorist Groups in Syria." Witnesses were: Brian Jenkins, RAND [statement]; Phillip Smyth, University of Maryland [statement]; Barak Barfi, New American Foundation [statement]; and Andrew Tabler, WINEP [statement]. Video of the hearing available here.

9. Members on the Record [on things other than Iran/sanctions]

Wolf (R-VA) 11/21: On "the dangerous realities facing religious minorities have been exasperated by the so-called Arab Spring--a Spring which has devolved into Winter for many of the most vulnerable in these societies"
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 11/19: "Bash Israel Day" Results in Nine Anti-Israel Resolutions Passed in the General Assembly While Ruthless Dictators Like Assad Get a Free Pass
Smith (R-NJ) 11/18: Establishing a Syrian War Crimes Tribunal?
Moran (D-VA) 11/15: On the persecution of the Ba'hai in Iran
Coffman (R-CO) 11/15: Coffman Praises Pentagon's Decision to Stop Dealing With Russian Arms Exporter (linked to Iran and Syria)
Wolf (R-VA) 11/14: A Timely Call to Action on Behalf of the Persecuted Church [incl. in Mideast]