Of note (and not really fitting in anywhere else in this Round-Up): Report published 6/23/15, prepared by the Majority Staff of the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources for Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Cross Currents: Iranian Oil and the U.S. Export Ban. The key "inescapable" conclusion of the report is that "the U.S. should not lift sanctions on Iranian oil while maintaining its prohibition on exports of American oil."
Also, for those who don't otherwise have access, the Congressional Research Service regularly publishes excellent reports on the Middle East. Reports in the last month include:
- The Addition of Trainers to Iraq: Background for Congress, June 16, 2015
- Turkey After June 2015 Elections: Erdogan and the AKP Fall Short, CRS Insights, June 16, 2015
- The "Islamic State" Crisis and U.S. Policy, June 11, 2015
- U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel, June 10, 2015
- Arab League Boycott of Israel, June 10, 2015
- Iran: U.S. Economic Sanctions and the Authority to Lift Restrictions, June 10, 2015
- Ending Cash Flow Financing to Egypt: Issues for Congress, June 4, 2015
- Israel: Background and U.S. Relations, June 1, 2015
(SETTLEMENTS = ISRAEL LEGISLATION) HR 2146: As reported in last week’s Round-Up, on 6/18 the House took up and passed the “Fast Track” trade promotion part of the TPA bill, now known as HR 2146 (see last week’s Round-Up for an explanation of the ever-changing bill numbers). That bill was then sent to the Senate for action. On 6/24, the Senate passed, without amendment, this latest TPA text by a vote of 60-38. The bill was sent to the President that same day, and he is expected to sign it into law imminently. As discussed in last week’s Round-Up, the text adopted in the House last week and now in the Senate includes the provision conflating Israel and settlements/occupied territories and directing that protecting settlements/occupation from boycotts and other pressure be a principle negotiating objective of the U.S. in negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the EU [Sec. 102(b)(20) in the final bill]. Sen. Portman (R-OH) issued a press release crowing about the passage of the allegedly anti-BDS language (but actually pro-settlements) provision in TPA bill; in the House, Rep. Roskam (R-IL) did the same. Consistent with the deliberately duplicitous way that advocates for this provision have presented the legislation all along, Portman and Roskam both fail to acknowledge the fact that the legislation explicitly and in a way UNPRECEDENTED IN US LAW conflates Israel and settlements/occupied territories (both also fail to mention that the only practical effect of this language is to promote/protect settlements, since European countries are not boycotting Israel and have never indicated plans to do so; they DO have policies restricting activities related to settlements and the occupied territories).
(EXTEND IRAN SANCTIONS – AKA, DESPERATE GAMBIT TO STAY RELEVANT) S. 1682: Introduced 6/25 by Kirk (R-IL) and Menendez (D-NJ), “A bill to extend the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 and to require the Secretary of the Treasury to report on the use by Iran of funds made available through sanctions relief.” Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Kirk’s press release touting introduction of the bill – a bill that would extend sanctions on Iran for another 10 years – is here. Kirk and Menendez argue, disingenuously, that extending the sanctions is necessary in order to preserve the ability to snap back sanctions if Iran violates the terms of a deal. In fact, the sanctions legislation their bill seeks to extend doesn’t expire for another year, so there is zero necessity to do anything with it right now. Indeed, the only possible reason to talk about doing this now, in the final days before the deadline for reaching a deal with Iran – as opposed to, say, after a deal has been achieved and can be reviewed by Congress, allowing Congress to understand how sanctions relief under the deal has been structured – is to undermine talks and threaten a deal by sending a message that regardless of what may be agreed at the negotiating table, Congress plans to block sanctions relief.
(CHEMICAL WEAPONS IN SYRIA) H. Res. 346: Introduced 6/25 by Yoho (R-FL) and 7 cosponsors, “Condemning the use of toxic chemicals as weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(PALESTINIAN CHILDREN) McCollum et al letter to Kerry: On 6/23, Rep. McCollum (D-MN) and 18 cosigners sent a letter to Secretary of State Kerry expressing urging the United States to prioritize the human rights of Palestinian children living in the Occupied West Bank in the bilateral relationship with the Government of Israel. The letter was supported by APN. McCollum press release on the letter is here.
(IRAN SANCTIONS) Royce/Ros-Lehtinen letter to Kerry: On 6/25 Reps. Royce (R-CA) and Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) sent a letter to Secretary of State Kerry expressing their “deep concern that the State Department has failed to fully implement congressionally mandated sanctions on Iran” and suggesting that “This failure amounts to de facto, unilateral relief of a sanctions regime that has long enjoyed broad bipartisan support.” The letter calls on the State Department to implement the law and requests written answers to a list of questions about sanctions. The letter comes in response to a GAO report (commissioned by Royce) issued last week. Royce press release on the letter is here.
6/25: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “What Is A Successful Agreement? How To Evaluate Key Components Of The JCPOA.” Witnesses were: David Albright, ISIS (the Institute for Science & International Security, not the terrorist organization - testimony); Ray Takeyh, CSIS (testimony); and Jim Walsh, MIT (testimony). Video of the hearing is here. Corker’s (R-TN) press release on hearing is here.
6/24: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “Lessons Learned From Past WMD Negotiations.” Witnesses were: William Tobey, Harvard (testimony) and Graham Allison, Harvard (testimony). Video of the hearing is here. Corker’s (R-TN) press release on hearing is here.
Note: Starting last week and continuing into this week (as seen below), there has been a stream of statements from Members of Congress laying out requirements/conditions for an Iran deal. Many of these statements closely (if not exactly, and in at least one case, explicitly) mirror the AIPAC memo circulated in recent weeks to the Hill, entitled “5 Requirements for a Good Deal.” This memo is part of a major campaign by AIPAC and other groups to kill an Iran deal, as reported this week in Bloomberg news: Pro-Israel Lobby Prepares to Battle Obama Over Iran. Also see U.S. lawmakers step up warnings against ‘weak’ Iran deal (Reuters, 6/25) and Republicans line up against Iran nuke deal (The Hill 6/24).
Royce (R-CA) 6/26: Embracing the open letter from former Obama advisors to conclude “When your close associates are speaking out, you know you’re on the wrong track. Secretary Kerry needs to take this letter to the negotiating table – and not come back with a bad deal.” Note this very different take on that letter: No, Obama’s Former Advisors Aren’t Trashing the Iran Deal (John Hudson 6/26, in Foreign Policy)
Booker (D-NJ) 6/25: Constructive, substantive floor speech in support of Iran diplomacy and discussing how he will judge any Iran deal.
Dold (R-IL) 6/25: Calling for Congress to oppose an Iran deal.
Graham (R-SC) 6/25: Calling on the U.S. to suspend negotiations with Iran until we “clear up” the issue of recent Iranian statements to the effect that under a deal there will be no access to military facilities and all sanctions must be immediately lifted (“Secretary Kerry, now is a time for you and President Obama to send a clear message to the Iranians: repudiate these two statements or we will not negotiate any further.”)
Smith (R-NJ) 6/25: Laying out conditions for an Iran deal (which closely parallel the requirements laid out in AIPAC’s “5 Requirements for a Good Deal” memo), raising concerns about the continued detention by Iran of Pastor Saeed Abedini, etc.
Sarbanes (D-MD) 6/25: Expressing concern about the Iranian parliament vote to bar U.N. inspectors from accessing the country’s military sites and speaking with its scientists
Granger (R-TX) 6/25: Statement slamming the UN report on Gaza war
Carper (D-DE) 6/24: Constructive, substantive floor speech in support of Iran diplomacy and laying out the three criteria on which he will judge an Iran deal
Coats (R-IN) 6/24: Laying out concerns/objections related to Iran negotiations and the pending deal.
Hurd (R-TX) 6/24: Oped in the Hill expressing concerns about Iran negotiations and the pending deal (and noting, “Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been very vocal in his opposition to a deal with Iran, used a fitting analogy to describe our government’s action. He compared negotiating with Iran to trying to domesticate a wild tiger. We all know how that ends.”)
Royce (R-CA) 6/24: Statement slamming Iran negotiations and pending deal (“…the way these negotiations are moving, it is increasingly difficult to see the Administration striking a meaningful, lasting agreement that would be acceptable to Congress.”)
Blunt (R-MO) 6/24: Calling for Iran talks to be suspended until all Americans are released, generally slamming the pending Iran deal (“An agreement that doesn't change the terror threat from Iran, an agreement that doesn't allow inspection of military facilities, an agreement that doesn't disclose past secret research for nuclear weapons, an agreement that doesn't ensure long-term inspections, an agreement that doesn't maintain sanctions in place until important compliance benchmarks are made is not an agreement that would be good enough.”)
McClintock (R-CA) 6/24: Extension of remarks: Policy Initiative on Iran: Breaking the Stalemate, Engaging with the Iranian Opposition (lengthy pitch for the MEK) [Also note: the MEK held an event earlier in June, for which Royce, R-CA, and Engel, D-NY, both sent video greetings.
Gohmert (R-TX) 6/24: In a floor statement entitled “Faith Through the Bible,” quoting the Bible to make his case against same-sex marriage, and then going to discuss the evils of Iran and attack any Iran nuclear deal (“the deal that has been negotiated is deadly to our ally Israel ; it is deadly to the United States…”)
Babin (R-TX) 6/24: Press release – “Babin Denounces Iranian Parliament Vote and the Obama Administration’s Continued Appeasement”
Holding (R-NC) 6/24: Opposing the pending Iran deal.
Gohmert (R-TX) 6/23: Talking about the injustice of the attacks in Charleston, and connecting it to the injustice suffered by Israel which is persecuted from all sides, most recently by the UN in the report on Gaza (yes, seriously). And suggesting that he will re-introduce his bill to cut off assistance to any country that votes “against” the U.S. more than 50% of the time at the UN.
Kirk (R-IL) 6/23: Statement slamming the UN report on Gaza war
Hatch (R-UT) 6/22: Expressing concerns about an Iran nuclear agreement, especially with respect to inspections.
Cotton (R-AR) 6/22: Reacting with outrage to reports that the US is sharing a military base with Iranian forces in Iraq
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 6/22: Statement slamming the UN report on Gaza war (Headline: “UN Human Rights Council Gaza Report Pushes False Moral Equivalency Between Israel and Hamas; President Obama Must Cut All Funding and Withdraw From Council Until Drastic Reforms Are Implemented”)
Royce (R-CA) 6/22: Statement slamming the UN report on Gaza war
Engel (D-NY) 6/22: Statement slamming the UN report on Gaza war
Rubio (R-FL) 6/22: Statement slamming the UN report on Gaza war
Gohmert (R-TX) 6/21: Speaking at far right-wing organization awards dinner (EMET), Gohmert stated that Iran’s nuclear weapons “would be the new gas chambers for Israel.” (Read whole article – amazing).
Gohmert (R-TX) 6/20: Article – “Rep. Gohmert: Obama Outed Active Israeli Iranian Spy Mission” (bombshell revelation by Gohmert at EMET dinner! Also full quote on gas chambers = Iran nukes.)
Noem (R-SD) 6/19: Laying out her (five) requirements for an Iran deal (conditions that closely parallel the requirements laid out in AIPAC’s “5 Requirements for a Good Deal” memo). And framing her call with Bibi’s reference in his March 2015 speech to Congress to the Book of Esther, in which he explained “how this ancient queen exposed a plot to destroy the Jewish people and, as a result, ensured good triumphed over evil.” [For some commentary on his selective use of this story, see: By invoking Purim, Netanyahu calls for a preemptive strike on Iran]. Noem concludes her statement saying, “…we must eliminate every nuclear pathway Iran has access to in order to help ensure – just as Queen Esther did – that good continues to triumph over evil.” [You just can’t make this stuff up.]
Corker (R-TN) 6/19: Slamming the Obama Administration over reports that it will not require full disclosure of Iran’s past attempts to develop a nuclear weapon as part of a deal