by Lara Friedman
[As we have over the past two years, LobeLog is posting excerpts from the Legislative Round-up published weekly when Congress is in session by the inimitable Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now about what Congress is up to and what individual members are saying, particularly about Israel-Palestine and Iran.]
Bills & Resolutions & Letters
***CORRECTION**** (STATE AUTH – BARRING AID TO ANY PAY UNITY GOVT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES) S. 1635: Last week’s Round-Up erroneously reported that a provision in this bill would delete language in existing law related to conditions for U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority, in the event of the establishment of a reconciliation government. The provision in question actually removes a reporting requirement in existing law related to the creation of a peace and reconciliation fund. Apologies for the error.
(MORE US-ISRAEL COOPERATION ON CYBERSECURITY) HR 5877: Introduced 7/14 by Ratcliffe (R-TX) and Langevin (D-RI) “To amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 to promote cooperative homeland security research and antiterrorism programs relating to cybersecurity, and for other purposes.” Passed in the House 11/29 by voice vote; passed in the Senate 12/10 by Unanimous Consent. Sent to the President 12/14.
(NEW IRAN SANCTIONS) S. 3518: Introduced 12/7 by Rubio (R-FL), Kirk (R-IL), Ayotte (R-NH) and Cornyn (R-TX), the “Nonnuclear Iran Sanctions Act of 2016.” Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. NOTE: While this bill is dead in the water upon introduction (being introduced just as Congress is adjourning) and while 2 of the four sponsors are lame ducks, this is still a bill that deserves close reading and attention going forward. In the next Congress it is likely that this and similar efforts will be a major part of the strategy to strangle the JCPOA in the crib – a strategy that will include in effect re-imposing a far-reaching sanctions regime against Iran, based on issues unrelated to the nuclear program (and thereby canceling the benefits the JCPOA has or is supposed to deliver to Iran). Stay tuned, and stay tuned especially for legislation that includes secondary sections (i.e., legislation that in effect seeks to compel other countries to abide by U.S. sanctions on Iran, or face sanctions themselves). For more, see Graham’s (R-SC) statement delivered 12/7, here.
(NEW SANCTIONS ON IRAN, RUSSIA, ETC) S.3536: Introduced 12/8 by Rubio (R-FL) and Casey (D-PA), “A bill to impose sanctions on persons that threaten the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq and to address the emergency in Syria, and for other purposes.” The focus of the bill is sanctions on the governments of Iran, Syria, and Russia (and specific officials and citizens of both countries), based on the Sense of Congress that, “the Government of Iran, the Government of Syria, and the Government of the Russian Federation are responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly—(1) actions that threaten the peace, security, or stability of Iraq or Syria; (2) actions or policies that undermine efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq; and (3) actions that obstruct the delivery or distribution of humanitarian assistance to, or access to such assistance by, the people of Iraq or Syria.” While this bill is dead in the water upon introduction (being introduced just as Congress is adjourning) it is almost certainly going to come up again in the new Congress. Rubio-Casey press release is here, with Casey noting, “I look forward to working with Senator Rubio to advance this legislation in the new Congress.”
(US-ISRAEL WATER COOPERATION) S. 612: Introduced 2/27/15 by Cornyn (R-TX), “To provide for improvements to the rivers and harbors of the United States, to provide for the conservation and development of water and related resources, and for other purposes. “ Final passage in the Senate (resolving differences with the House) on 12/10/16, presented to the President 12/14/16. The bill includes a provision calling on the Secretary of the Army to prioritize projects that, “demonstrably leverage the experience of international partners with considerable expertise in desalination, such as the State of Israel.” It also requires the White House to develop a coordinated strategic plan that, among other things, “strengthens research and development cooperation with international partners, such as the State of Israel, in the area of desalination technology.”
(NO AIRPLANES OR PARTS FOR IRAN) HR 5729: Introduced 7/12 by Pittenger (R-NC), “To prohibit the Secretary of the Treasury from issuing certain licenses in connection with the export or re-export of a commercial passenger aircraft to the Islamic Republic of Iran, to require annual reports by the Secretary of the Treasury and the Export-Import Bank on financing issues related to the sale or lease of such a commercial passenger aircraft or spare parts for such an aircraft, and for other purposes.” On 12/8, the bill was reported out of the House Committee on Financial Services (report will eventually be posted here).
(SLAMMING IRAN SEIZURE OF PRIVATE PROPERTY) H. Res. 951: Introduced 12/8 by Royce (R-CA), “Denouncing the wrongful and unjust seizure and confiscation of private property of Iranians both inside and outside of Iran, including United States citizens of Iranian descent, by the Government of Iran.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
AIPAC Touts Accomplishments in 114th Congress
On December 14, AIPAC published on its website a post entitled, “Pro-Israel Accomplishments of the 114th Congress.” The piece helpfully aggregates the major pieces of legislation on which AIPAC lobbied/worked during this Congress (all of which have been covered in previous editions of the Round-Up, in most cases with a note made of AIPAC’s position), or for which they are at least implicitly taking some credit. As summarized in AIPAC’s post, “The 114th Congress has proven to be a strong supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship, advancing a number of pro-Israel pieces of legislation: Lawmakers funded annual security assistance to Israel, pushed back against Iran, took a stand against BDS and Palestinian efforts to impose a one-sided solution on Israel, and expanded cooperation in emerging key areas like water and cybersecurity cooperation.”
Specifically (and note that AIPAC wording is only parts in italics):
Funding for Israel:
- $3.1 billion in security assistance (FMF) in FY2016
- $3.1 billion in security assistance (FMF) for FY2017 (expected)
- $487 million in defense funding for Israeli missile defense [Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow] in FY2016
- $40 million for joint U.S.-Israel anti-tunneling cooperation efforts
- $600.7 million for Israeli missile defense passed for FY2017 NDAA (not yet appropriated)
- $10 million for anti-tunneling passed for FY2017 NDAA (not yet appropriated)
Pushing Back Against Iran Negotiations/Deal:
- Fighting against any Iran deal: “Congress also led efforts to push back against Iran both before and after the implementation of the Iran nuclear accord, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).”
- Fighting to kill the Iran deal: “Lawmakers passed The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which established a procedure for congressional review of any nuclear agreement with Iran. Though Congress was ultimately unable to stop the JCPOA from going into effect, the law provided legislators the ability to comment and vote on the agreement.”
- Extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA)—
- Inserting Iran language into the NDAA: “The FY 2017 NDAA also includes several provisions that address Congress’ concern with Iranian behavior. Namely, the NDAA requires a quarterly report on any confirmed Iranian ballistic missile launches and on U.S. plans to reinstate sanctions in response to these launches. Additionally, the legislation requires information on Iran’s cyber capabilities to be incorporated into the annual report on Iranian military power mandated under existing law.”
Erasing the Green Line (aka, faux anti-BDS efforts):
- AIPAC touts passage of legislation (the TPA bill) and progress on the passage of legislation (the Combatting BDS Act of 2016) the real and concrete effect of which is to erase the Green Line and make it U.S. policy to defend and support settlements – while continuing to promote the deception that this legislation is about defending Israel.
Rejecting Any Pressure on Israel by the UN or Anyone Else:
- “In November 2016, the House passed by voice vote H. Con. Res. 165, a bipartisan resolution opposing one-sided U.N. Security Council actions against Israel and urging the administration to veto any such measures. The House and Senate sent bipartisan letters signed by overwhelming majorities to the president in April 2016 and September 2016 respectively, conveying this same message.”
- “Congress also included provisions in this year’s State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs appropriations bill conditioning or restricting aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Specifically, these provisions would: Cut off aid to the PA if it takes action against Israel at the International Criminal Court (ICC), or if it seeks statehood or an elevated status at the U.N. or other U.N. agencies; Mandate the closing of the PLO office in Washington if the Palestinians go to the U.N. or ICC; and Reduce aid to the Palestinians in dollar-for-dollar equivalents to what they provide in payments to terrorists and their families.”
- Enhancing U.S.-Israel Water Cooperation (“December 2016, Congress passed three substantive U.S.-Israel water provisions as part of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act…Taken together, these provisions will help foster greater collaboration with Israel in the federal government’s approach to water technologies.”)
- Deepening U.S.-Israel Cybersecurity Cooperation (“on Dec. 10 the United States-Israel Advanced Research Partnership Act, which will deepen U.S.-Israel cybersecurity cooperation. Another U.S.-Israel cybersecurity bill—the United States-Israel Cybersecurity Cooperation Enhancement Act of 2016 (H.R. 5843)—passedthe House by voice vote on Nov. 29, but was unable to clear the Senate before Congress adjourned. This legislation would establish a cybersecurity grant program for joint research-and-development opportunities between Israeli and American entities. The bill is likely to be reintroduced in the next Congress.”
On the Record
Royce (R-CA) 12/15: Chairman Royce Statement on Enactment of Iran Sanctions Extension Act (“…don’t be fooled by Tehran’s rhetoric. Iran is the only party that has broken terms of the deal. This law ensures the U.S. retains its ability to hold the regime accountable.”)
Engel (D-NY) 12/15: Engel Statement on Iran Sanctions Act Becoming Law (“…In my view, the timing of this extension is especially important. One of the world’s chief sanctions skeptics is President-elect Trump’s pick for Secretary of State. If the Senate approves Mr. Tillerson, he will be charged with snapping back sanctions should Iran cheat on the nuclear deal. As Congress continues to exercise its leadership on foreign policy issues, we will need to hear from Mr. Tillerson about what he plans to do if Iran violates its obligations.”)
Paul (R-KY) 12/15: Paul, Murphy, Franken, Lee Applaud Decision to Halt Some Military Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia, Call for Further Actions
Hensarling (R-TX) 12/12: Hensarling Reacts to Boeing Sale of Jets to Iran (and threatens US banks: “The House has already spoken, passing separate measures that prohibit both aircraft sales to the ayatollahs and U.S. financing for them. If a U.S. financial institution attempts to bankroll Iran in the waning days of the Obama administration, it will have to answer to Congress.”
Larsen (D-WA) 12/11: $16.6 Billion Sales Agreement Between Boeing and Iran Air is “Good News for Washington State”
Graham (R-SC) 12/7: “In the next Congress, I intend to introduce legislation that would impose sanctions on the Iranian regime for being the largest state sponsor of terrorism, upending the Middle East, test firing missiles in violation of United Nations resolutions and detaining American sailors. It’s past time the Iranian regime pay a price for their provocative behavior. “Passage of this legislation through Congress will give President-elect Trump additional leverage to get a better deal and once and for all truly change Iranian behavior.”