APN Legislative Round-Up: Week Ending November 1, 2013

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. Obama vs. "Pro-Israel" Groups (and other Outside Groups) over Iran Sanctions
3. Obama Reaches out to Congress on Iran Sanctions
4. Hearings
5. Members on the Record
6. From the Press

Briefly noted:

10/31: Making sense of the Latest Settlement Announcements (Peace Now's Hagit Ofran)
10/30: APN Denounces New Round of Settlement Approvals

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(IRAN) S. Res. 284: Introduced 10/31 by Risch (R-ID) and 3 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." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Text of the legislation is available here.

(IRAN) HR XXX: This week, the Washington Free Beacon posted text of a "discussion draft" of legislation related to Iran. The draft is dated October 25, 2013 and the author is indicated to be freshman Congressman Brad Schneider (D-IL). The Free Beacon asserts that the bill is a Democrat effort to "tighten sanctions following warnings that Iran could be anywhere from two weeks to one month away from building a bomb," and then goes on to quote various sources criticizing and ridiculing Democrats for backing such an effort. In this context, it is worth noting that if this were a serious Democratic initiative, it would no be being led by a freshman member with no political weight on the Iran issue. It is also worth noting that a strong case could be made that the proposed legislation is unconstitutional, representing a gross infringement on the Executive branch's foreign policy prerogative, to such an extent that no White House would likely accept it (regardless of the party in power).

(IRAN) McCain, Levin, et al Letter: On 10/29, Senators McCain (R-AZ), Levin (D-MI), Inhofe (R-OK), Menendez (D-NJ), Corker (R-TN), and Graham (R-SC) sent a letter to President Obama urging the president to address security, Iran, Syria, and related governance issues with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki.

(IRAN AUMF) HR 3292 - UPDATE: Introduced by Franks (R-AZ) 10/15, with 15 cosponsors. For details and analysis of the bill, see the 10/18/13 edition of the Round-Up. As is now being noted in the media, HR 3292 is picking up some steam in terms of cosponsors, but, notably, only among a select group of Republicans. As of this writing, the bill has 28 cosponsors (for a total of 29, including Franks). Of those, all but one (Cramer, R-ND) are members of the infamous "'No' on HR 2775 Gang ." That is, they are among the 144 House members who voted last month against ending the government shutdown. On 10/28, Frank made an impassioned floor speech in support of his bill, suggesting an imminent threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. Also see: Buzzfeed 10/31: Resolution For War Against Iran Gains Traction In Conservative Wing Of The House

2. Obama vs, "Pro-Israel" Groups (and Other Outside Groups) over Iran Sanctions

The big story this week was reported efforts of the Obama Administration to convince Congress to hold off on consideration/passage of new Iran sanctions. This effort included direct outreach to leaders of some American Jewish organizations that are lobbying the Hill for more Iran sanctions. As of this writing, it is not yet clear what effect, if any, the Administration's efforts will have.

How unclear? Well, this morning, Haaretz reported the following: U.S. Jewish leaders freeze campaign for tougher Iran sanctions for 60 days; New, ad hoc Jewish 'Quartet' [AIPAC, AJC, ADL, and Conference of Presidents] announces move after Obama Administration says won't ease sanctions or unlock frozen Iranian funds. Shortly thereafter, the Jerusalem Post reported, in an explicit contradiction of the Haaretz article: Jewish organizations deny 60-day delay on Iran sanctions push. Stay tuned for more fun and games.

For insight into the extent to which Jewish leaders cited in both of these articles represent American Jews, see the recent Pew poll of U.S. Jews - which among other things found that noted that 52% of Jews approved of the Obama Administration's handling of Iran). For additional insight into little some of these leaders care whether they actually represent the bulk of American Jews, see these illuminating comments from the ADL's Abe Foxman, et al. It is also worth noting that a recent poll commissioned by the American Jewish Committee (part of the "Quartet") found that fully 62% of Jews polled approve of the Obama Administration's handling of Iran, and that U.S. Jewish support for U.S. military action against Iran (those who both "strongly" and "somewhat" support such action in the case that sanctions and diplomacy fail) has dropped by more than 10% in the past year -- from 64.1% in 2012 to 52% in 2013 (JTA 10/28).

In addition, the Republican Jewish Coalition is continuing to press the Senate to pass new Iran sanctions, issuing another action alert on 10/29 (for more on this, including on the RJC's connection to Sheldon Adelson, who recently called for bombing Iran, see last week's Round-Up).

Also, Reverend Hagee's "Christians United for Israel" (CUFI) is urging activists to contact members of Congress and demand new Iran sanctions. On 10/31, the Washington Free Beacon reported: Pro-Israel Organization [Christians United for Israel] Pushing for Tougher Iran Sanctions. The CUFI action alert can be viewed here. On its Facebook page, CUFI claims that more than 10,000 activists have so far taken action on this issue.

And finally (as of this writing): on 11/1, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) - an organization backed by some former political heavyweights - released a letter it sent to President Obama and Congressional leaders calling for "legislative debate on the principles of Iran nuclear negotiations." The full press release on the letter is available here. Unsurprisingly, the principles proposed in the letter appear to be out-of-sync with the Obama Administration's current approach on Iran negotiations (and appear, likewise, unrealistic in terms of what Iran can be expected to accept). It is worth noting that the letter is written in a manner that suggests that it could easily be translated into nearly ready-made legislation (and may well have been drafted for this purpose), so stay tuned. Notably, as with the draft Schneider bill (discussed in Section 1, above), any such legislation would represent a gross infringement on the Executive branch's foreign policy prerogative - to such an extent that no White House would likely accept it (regardless of the party in power).

Media reports on pro-Israel organizational angle

Washington Free Beacon 10/31: White House Pressuring Pro-Israel Groups to Back Off New Iran Sanctions
Israel Hayom* (10/31: 'Congress loves Israel, but is even more averse to another conflict'
Israel Hayom* 10/30: White House meets with Jewish groups on Iran
Haaretz 10/30: Foxman slams Kerry remarks as White House courts Jewish leaders on Iran
Times of Israel 10/30: Polite statement after White House talks belies differences on Iran
JTA 10/30: Jewish groups, White House describe 'constructive' meeting on Iran
Jerusalem Post 10/30: White House urges Jewish leaders not to lobby for new Iran sanctions
Haaretz & JTA 10/29: White House, amid heating tensions with Israel, to brief Jewish leaders on Iran
Reuters 10/29: U.S. senators seek to cut Iran's oil sales in half - again [including reporting on Menendez comments at AIPAC event]
Jerusalem Post 10/26: Israel to US: Pass more sanctions, Iran could have material for bomb within weeks
The Forward 10/25: Grassroots Jewish Groups Push for Tough Line on Iran, Despite Barack Obama's Thaw
*Israel Hayom is the free, mass circulation Israeli daily paper owned by Sheldon Adelson (who last week called for a U.S. military strike on Iran) and closely associated with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu (earning the paper the nickname, "Bibiton".

3. Obama Reaches out to Congress over Iran Sanctions

In addition to reaching out to Jewish leaders, Obama Administration officials this week continued their efforts to directly engage Congress and convince members to hold of on new sanctions. Like the Administration's efforts with Jewish groups, it is not yet clear what effect, if any, the Administration's efforts will have.

Media reports on meeting Obama Efforts in Congress

Israel Hayom* 11/1: Biden joins Kerry in urging Senate to delay new Iran sanctions ("Chances of Senate Banking Committee drafting new, punitive measures next week diminish significantly")
Al Arabiya 11/1: Biden urges U.S. lawmakers to hold off new Iran sanctions
ABC News 10/31: Biden Encourages Congress to Hold Off on Sanctions Against Iran
Reuters 10/31: Biden urges U.S. lawmakers to hold off on any new Iran sanctions
Jerusalem Post 10/30: White House begins pushback against Senate sanctions bill on Iran
Reuters 10/30: White House faces tough sell in Congress on delay of Iran sanctions
Free Beacon 10/30: New Democratic Plan on Iran: Wait Four Months (for analysis of legislation referenced in this article, see section 1, above)
Politico 10/29: Kerry, Lew to lobby against new Iran sanctions
JTA 10/28: Obama to Congress: Talk tough on sanctions, but don't do anything
Bloomberg 10/29: Kerry Urges Pursuing Diplomacy on Iran's Nuclear Program
Time 10/28: White House Spars With Congress Over New Iran Sanctions AP 10/25: Obama administration wants Congress to wait on new Iran sanctions for nuke talk flexibility

Other media reports on Congress/Iran

The Hill 10/30: House to Senate: Get moving on Iran sanctions
The Nation 10/30: Can Congress, Hawks and the Israel Lobby Wreck the US-Iran Talks?
ThinkProgress 10/30: Group Led By Billionaire Sheldon Adelson [the Republican Jewish Coalition - RJC] Pushes Congress to Undermine Iran Talks
WaPo 10/30 (Jennifer Rubin): A key Democrat [Menendez] pushes back on Iran
The Hill 10/25: Cantor calls Iran report 'extremely alarming,' military force should be considered [cached version is linked - original has disappeared]

4. Hearings

10/31: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled "Syria." The first panel of witnesses was: US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford [statement]; Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Tom Countryman [statement], and USAID Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg [statement]. Panel two consisted of Fred Hof, from the Atlantic Council [statement] and Leslie Gelb, from the Council on Foreign Relations [statement].

10/30: There was a joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations & Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, "Establishing a Syrian War Crimes Tribunal?" Witnesses were: David Crane, Syracuse University College of Law & Former Chief Prosecutor, UN Special Court for Sierra Leone [statement]; Alan White, AW Associates & Former Chief Investigator, UN Special Court for Sierra Leone [statement]; Jeremy Rabkin, George Mason University School of Law [statement]; Stephen Rademaker, Bipartisan Policy Center [statement]; and Richard Dicker, Human Rights Watch [statement]. Middle East Subcommittee Chair Ros-Lehtinen's (R-FL) opening statement is available here. "Video of the hearing is available here.

10/29: Hearing in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, "Next Steps on Egypt Policy." Witnesses were: Beth Jones, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs [statement]; Derek Chollet, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs [statement]; and Alina Romanowski, Deputy Assistant USAID Administrator for the Middle East [statement]. Chairman Royce (R-CA) opening statement here; Ranking member Engel (D-NY) opening statement here. Mideast Subcommittee chair Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) statement here. Video of hearing is available here. Washington Post report on the hearing: On Egypt aid, White House wants Congress to figure way to keep pipeline flowing

5. Members on the Record

Miller (R-MI) 10/31: Statement on Syria Meeting First Deadline to Eliminating its Chemical Weapons
Schakowsky (D-IL) 10/30: ``Anti-Christian Terror Is Everyone's Concern'' [in support of H.R. 301, to direct the President to appoint a Special Envoy within the Department of State to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia
Duffy (R-WI) 10/30: "Standing Against Religious Freedom Violations" [Egypt]
Kaine (D-VA) 10/29: In support of S. 653, to direct the President to appoint a Special Envoy within the Department of State to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia
Schiff (D-CA) 10/29: "Building a New Middle East--The Work of a Generation"
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 10/29: As we Celebrate International Religious Freedom Day, We Must Not Forget the Plight of Christian Communities
McCain (R-AZ) and Graham (R-SC) 10/25: WaPo Oped - "Obama is failing the Middle East, and U.S. interests there"
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 10/25: At This Critical Point in Our Dealings with Iran, Any Easing of Sanctions Would Roll Back Years of Painstaking, Multilateral Efforts to Prevent a Nuclear Iran

6. From the Press

New York Times 10/29: A Lopsided U.S. Visa-Waiver
Jerusalem Post 10/28: Hoenlein: Loyalty survey of Israelis in US 'inappropriate'
Haaretz 10/27: Israel Asks American Jews and Israeli Ex-Pats: Where Do Your Loyalties Lie?
JTA 10/27: Israel withdraws loyalty survey of expats, U.S. Jews