Hill Update: Following the Money in Iran

by Lara Friedman

[As we have over the last year, 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

(FOLLOW THE MONEY IN IRAN) HR 5461: Introduced 6/13 by Poliquin (R-ME) and Hill (R-AR), the “Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act” (aka, “To require the Secretary of the Treasury to submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees on the estimated total assets under direct or indirect control by certain senior Iranian leaders and other figures, and for other purposes”). As summarized by the Financial Services committee, “The bill requires the Treasury Secretary to develop and post online a list estimating the “funds and assets” held by senior Iranian political and military leaders, along with a description of how they acquired the assets and how those assets are employed. The report would be posted on the Treasury Department’s website in English but also translated into the three main languages used inside Iran, and would be available in any of those forms in a way that is easy to download and share.” Referred to the Committees on Financial Services and Foreign Affairs. Marked up in House Financial Services Committee 6/15, where it was agreed to by a recorded vote (roll call) of 39-20 (mostly along party lines).

(FY17 DOD APPROPS) HR 5293: On 6/16 the House passed HR 5293, the FY17 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, by a mainly party-line roll call vote of 282-138. For Israel/Middle East-related details, see Section 2, below.

(SENATE FY17 NDAA) S. 2943: On 6/14, the Senate passed S. 2943, its version of the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act (text as adopted by the Senate is here). For discussion of the many, many Middle East-related amendments submitted on this bill (many of which were non-germane), see the 6/7 and 6/10 editions of the Round-Up. In the end, not one of those amendments was considered (and thus not one was adopted). However that didn’t stop a lot of nastiness from swirling around one particular amendment – a completely non-germane amendment offered by Kirk (R-IL) and a bipartisan raft of 17 cosponsors, seeking to attach anti-BDS, pro-settlements, unconstitutional legislation to the bill. Specifically, this past week saw an organized campaign of pressure against suspected opponent of the amendment, most notably Brown (D-OH) (seehere), who eventually came out saying he supported the amendment; at that point the attacks shifted to a new target: Leahy (D-VT) (see herehere, and here). The campaign was grounded in the insistence that there is nothing controversial about the amendment (which was previously introduced as freestanding legislation), since it reflects policy already passed into law. This, despite the fact that this previously-passed provision was so problematic that when Obama signed the bill containing it into law, he issued a rare signing statement rejecting the BDS-related elements of the bill. And this, despite the fact that the amendment seeks (once again) to make it U.S. law to treat settlements as indistinguishable fromIsrael (notwithstanding a meaningless “article of construction” that the provision “shall not be construed” as changing US policy, despite the fact that, manifestly, it does just that). Stay tuned – this anti-BDS, pro-settlements legislation is clearly being used as a political litmus test for “pro-Israel” credentials in this election season; it is certain to come up again.

The final bill, as adopted 6/14, includes the same Middle East-related provisions as the bill when it was introduced:

  • Sec. 1226: “Additional elements in the annual report on the military power of Iran.” This section amends an existing required report to Congress on Iran to included “an assessment of Iran’s cyber capabilities, including an assessment of Iran’s ability to mask its cyber operations through the use of proxies, irregular forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and other actors” and “an assessment of any assistance to, assistance from, or cooperation by Iran with other countries and non-state actors to increase cyber capabilities.”
  • Section 1272: “Extension and expansion of authority to support border security operations of certain foreign countries.” This section takes existing authority to support border security operations of certain foreign countries, currently applicable to the Governments of Jordan and Lebanon, and extends/expands it to apply to the Governments of Egypt and Tunisia. It notes specifically that it applies to “Efforts of the armed forces of Egypt and the armed forces of Tunisia to increase security and sustain increased security along the border of Egypt and the border of Tunisia with Libya, as applicable.”
  • Section 1273: “Modification and clarification of United States-Israel anti-tunnel cooperation authority.” This section increases available funding for this anti-tunnel cooperation from $25 million in FY16 to $50 million in FY17 and specifies that not less than 50% of the amount provided by theUS in FY16 “shall be used in fiscal year 2017 for research, development, test, and evaluation activities for purposes of such section in the United States.”
  • Section 1662: “Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system codevelopment and coproduction.” This section stipulates that of funds appropriated for Procurement, Defense-wide, and available for the Missile Defense Agency, “not more than $42,000,000 may be provided to the Government of Israel to procure Tamir interceptors for the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system through coproduction of such interceptors in the United States by industry of the
  • Section 1640: “Deterrence of adversaries in cyberspace.” This section a report on deterrence of adversaries in cyberspace: “Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall submit to the President and the congressional defense committees a report on the military and nonmilitary options available to the United States to deter Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and terrorist organizations in cyberspace.” It also goes into detail about what must be included in the report. 
  • Section 4201: “Research, development, test, and evaluation.” This section earmarks $238.835 million for Israeli Cooperative Programs (the FY17 Administration request was for $103.835 million). The table sub-earmarks those funds as follows: $50 million for the Arrow (base program); $25 million for the Arrow-3; and $60 million for David’s Sling.


(IRAN SHOULD STAY ON FINANCIAL TASK FORCE LIST OF BAD GUYS) Royce letter to Lew: On 6/16 Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, urging Lew the Treasury Department “to use the influence of the United States to ensure that Iran remains on the list of countries designated by the Task Force as ‘high-risk and non-cooperative’ jurisdictions for money laundering and terrorist financing.” The letter argues that “Maintaining this designation is essential to protect the national security of the United States, our allies, and partners—as well as the integrity of the international financial system—from Iran’s support for terrorism and the illicit financial practices that the regime uses to fund this violence.” Royce’s press release is here.

FY17 DOD Appropriations Bill

(FY17 DOD APPROPS) HR 5293: On 6/16 the House passed HR 5293, the FY17 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, by a mainly party-line roll call vote of 282-138. The base bill includes Section 8068, earmarking $600,735,000 for Israeli Cooperative programs, broken down as follows:

$62 million “for the procurement of the Iron Dome defense system to counter short-range rocket threats”

  • $266.511 million “for the Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD) program, including cruise missile defense research and development under the SRBMD program”; and of that amount, $150 million for “co-production activities of SRBMD missiles in the United States and in Israel…”
  • $204,893 million “for an upper-tier component to the Israeli Missile Defense Architecture, of which $120,000,000 shall be for co-production activities of Arrow 3 Upper Tier missiles in the United States and in Israel…” and
  • $67.331 million “for the Arrow System Improvement Program including development of a long range, ground and airborne, detection.

On 6/14, the White House issued a Statement of Policy strongly opposing HR 5293 for a long list of reasons (the SAP is 6 pages long). With respect to funding for Israel, the SAP notes:

Missile Defense Programs. The Administration objects to the reduction of $324 million from the FY 2017 Budget request for U.S. ballistic missile defense programs, including $49 million to homeland defense programs, $91 million to U.S. regional missile defense programs, $44 million to missile defense testing efforts, and $140 million to missile defense advanced technology programs. These programs are required to improve the reliability of missile defense system and ensure the United States stays ahead of the future ballistic missile threat. Furthermore, the Administration opposes the addition of $455 million above the FY 2017 Budget request for Israeli missile defense procurement and cooperative development programs.

Unsurprisingly, that last sentence drew concern and outrage from various quarters, including AIPAC (see here and here). All of this appears to tie into efforts by Israel and some of its friends in Congress to push the Obama Administration to agree to a much higher aid level (and on terms demanded by Israel) for the new Memorandum of Understanding that will govern U.S. aid to Israel for the next 10 years – for a view from the Israeli press on this high-stakes maneuvering, see here.

A number of Middle East-related amendments were offered to the bill (including one that appeared to be a direct finger in the eye to the Obama Administration’s concerns about increased Israeli funding), as follows:

(MORE $$ FOR IRON DOME) Nadler (D-NY): Increases funding by $10 million for Israeli Cooperative Programs (procurement of the Iron Dome defense system) and offsets by reducing by $10 million the Operation and Maintenance, Defense-Wide account. Adopted 6/15 as part of en bloc Amendment 1180. Nadler spoke in support of his amendment here.

(MORE $$ FOR ISRAELI COOPERATIVE PROGRAMS) McArthur (R-NJ) & Stefanik (R-NY ):  Funds US-Israel Cooperative Directed Energy missile defense research, development, testing, evaluation, and procurement at $25 million and reduces Missile Defense Agency Headquarters by $25 million. Adopted 6/15 as part of en bloc Amendment 1180.

(NO CLUSTER MUNITIONS FOR KSA) Conyers (D-MI) et al: Blocks funds from being used to transfer or authorize the transfer of cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia. Made in order and debated on the House floor (Frelinghuysen speaking out in opposition); defeated by a vote of 204-216.

(NO FUNDS FOR SYRIAN OPPOSITION) Gabbard (D-HI) & Welch (D-VT): Prohibits funds appropriated under this act from being used to fund assistance authorized by Section 1209 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. (Sec. 1209. “Authority to provide assistance to the vetted Syrian opposition.”) Defeated by a vote of 135-283.

(NO FUNDS FOR SYRIA TRAINING ETC) Gabbard (D-HI)  Prohibits funds appropriated under this act to be used to fund activities under the Syria Train and Equip program as authorized by section 1209 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, or to any other Syrian group or individual seeking to overthrow the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic. Not made in order, not considered.

(NO FUNDS FOR COMBAT OPS IN SYRIA OR IRAQ WITHOUT AN AUMF) McGovern (D-MA) et al:  States no funds may be obligated or spent for combat operations in Iraq or Syria unless an AUMF is enacted. Not made in order, not considered.

(NO FUNDS FOR COMBAT OPS IN SYRIA OR IRAQ AFTER 4/30/17McGovern (D-MA) et al: States no funds may be obligated or spent for combat operations in Iraq or Syria after April 30, 2017. WITHDRAWN.


6/16: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations held a two-panel hearing entitled, “The Global Religious Freedom Crisis and Its Challenge to U.S. Foreign Policy.” The first panel’s witness was David Saperstein, the State Department’s Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom (statement). The second panel’s witnesses were: Robert P. George, Former Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (statement); and Zuhdi Jasser, Former Vice-Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (statement). Both witnesses on the second panel addressed the Middle East, and in particular, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Video of the hearing is here.

6/15: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a hearing entitled: “Egypt: Challenges and Opportunities for U.S. Policy”, 10 a.m., 2172 Rayburn.”

Witnesses were: Mark Green, IRI (statement); Mokhtar Awad, GWU (statement); and Amy Hawthorne, POMED (statement). Subcommittee Chair Ros-Lehtinen’s (R-FL) opening statement – entitled, “U.S. Must Provide Constructive Criticism to Egypt, An Important U.S. Ally; Restrictions on Civil Society, U.S. Aid Programs Could Ultimately Undermine Stability” – is here. Video of the hearing is here.

On the Record

Vitter (R-LA) 6/16: Vitter: Iran Continues to Take Advantage of Obama Administration’s Lack of Enforcement [slamming Boeing deal with Iran, without mentioning Boeing]

Kirk (R-IL) 6/16: Kirk Statement on Administration’s Opposition to Fully Funding Israel’s Missile Defense Request

Cotton (R-AR) 6/15: Cotton Statement After Meeting with Deputy Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (“I appreciate the productive and open exchange of views today with Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, which reflects the close and longstanding partnership between our two nations…I look forward to working with Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman to advance our shared interests, protect our people, and build a peaceful and prosperous world.”)

Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) 6/14: “The White House and Secretary Carter have suggested we are, in their own words, ‘gambling’ with our troops’ mission in the Middle East and that our approach is somehow ‘irresponsible’ or, in their own words, ‘dangerous.’ … Indeed, it is ‘gambling.’ ‘irresponsible,’ and ‘dangerous’ to believe that Iran would not violate any aspects of the Geneva Agreement. And surely it was a “gamble” to believe that the American people would ignore the capture and provocative treatment of 10 American sailors seized by the Iranian regime last January…”

Kirk (R-IL) 6/14: Kirk Statement on Decision by German Bank with Illinois Ties to Shut Down Anti-Israel BDS Account

Gohmert (R-TX) 6/14: Appearing to blame the Iran (an avowed enemy of ISIS) and the JCPOA for the Orlando massacre

Dold (R-IL) 6/14: Floor speech following Orlando massacre, using massacre as hook to call for canceling the Iran nuclear agreement (notwithstanding the fact that to the extent that there was a terrorist link to the Orlando massacre, it was with ISIS, an avowed enemy of Iran) — “Internationally, Congress must act to cut off sources of funding to other radical Islamic terror groups by restoring crippling sanctions on Iran. The recent agreement, which, frankly, shipped billions of dollars to the world’s largest state sponsor of terror while helping finance organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, is simply unacceptable.”

Langevin (D-RI) 6/10: Praising Israel’s accomplishments in cybersecurity and noting, “…the United States and Israel can learn from each other in this emerging field, both in terms of cutting-edge technologies and novel policy approaches. I look forward to working to develop these partnerships.”

Babin (R-TX) 6/10: Floor statement entitled, “Ending the Insanity of the Obama-Clinton-Kerry Iran Policy” (‘nuff said)

Boustany (R-LA) 6/10: Railing against the President’s proposed $10 tax on every barrel of oil (and in support of H. Con. Res. 112 rejecting that tax): “This also would effectively act as an export tax on oil, just as we opened up the door to export crude oil to allow American producers to have market access worldwide, just like our Iranian opponents worldwide currently have the luxury to do. Why would we tie up the hands of American energy producers and allow the Iranians and OPEC to dominate world markets? Wrong.”

Collins (R-ME) 6/10: In support of the NDAA: “…The bill also provides the resources necessary to help our allies and partners around the world. I am pleased it would authorize $50 million for the U.S.-Israel Anti-Tunneling Cooperation Program. The terrorist organization Hamas continues to construct tunnels from Gaza to Israel, which have been used by terrorists to sneak across the border and carry out attacks on Israeli citizens. Meanwhile, we have the problem of Iran, which has continued to defy a U.N. Security Council resolution on its ballistic missile program by conducting flight testing of missiles that are inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons that could someday reach the United States. They already are capable of reaching Israel, which is why this bill’s continued support for the U.S.-Israeli cooperative missile defense programs is so important.”

Gohmert (R-TX) 6/20: Another classic Gohmert screed, including: “This Iran treaty is going to eventually bring so much death and destruction to not only the Middle East, but, as Netanyahu has warned us, they are not preparing those intercontinental ballistic missiles for Israel. Those are for us. They can already hit Israel. They are for us.” And “…As Prime Minister Netanyahu has said, I believe he even said it in this Chamber as he stood here facing Moses, our greatest known lawgiver of all time, standing, by the way–and I mentioned this to Prime Minister Netanyahu as he came down the aisle in May of 2011: Don’t forget, while you are standing, speaking to us, our national motto will be right above your head. He started to look up, and then he didn’t even have to look up because he obviously knew what was up there. He looked me in the eye and said: I had already thought about that. So as he stood here, In God We Trust above his head, looking at the greatest lawgiver in the history of mankind, Moses–most of us think he had 10 good commandments. I think our Supreme Court would probably say maybe five or six. But he warned us what was happening in the realm of radical Islam, what would be happening to Israel, and what would be happening to what they call the Great Satan, America. People in this administration did not listen.”

Lara Friedman

Lara Friedman is the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP). With more than 25 years working in the Middle East foreign policy arena, Lara is a leading authority on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, with particular expertise on the Israeli-Arab conflict, Israeli settlements, Jerusalem, and the role of the U.S. Congress. She is published widely in the U.S. and international press and is regularly consulted by members of Congress and their staffs, by Washington-based diplomats, by policy-makers in capitals around the world, and by journalists in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to her work at FMEP, Lara is a non-resident fellow at the U.S./Middle East Project (USMEP). Prior to joining FMEP, Lara was the director of policy and government relations at Americans for Peace Now, and before that she was a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, serving in Jerusalem, Washington, Tunis and Beirut. She holds a B.A. from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service; in addition to English, Lara speaks French, Arabic, Spanish, (weak) Italian, and muddles through in Hebrew.


One Comment

  1. Whoever came up with the analogy of inmates running the insane asylum definitely had the US Congress in mind. This is what happens when the state turns over the responsibility of governing to the private sector and therefore has nothing better to do.

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