Hill Update: Foreign Operations

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

(MORE $$$ FOR ISRAEL IN NEW MOU) S. Res. 508: Introduced 6/22 by Rubio (R-FL) and having 21 cosponsors, “A resolution expressing support for the expeditious consideration and finalization of a new, robust, and long-term Memorandum of Understanding on military assistance to Israel between the United States Government and the Government of Israel.” The resolution’s “resolved” clauses clause with assert that the Senate: “supports a robust and long-term Memorandum of Understanding negotiated between the United States and Israel regarding military assistance that increases the amount of aid from previous agreements and significantly enhances Israel’s military capabilities.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Rubio and Coons (D-DE) issued a press release on the resolution here. Isakson (R-GA) issued a press release touting his support for the measure. Note: Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) introduced similar (in places identical) text in the House – H. Res. 729 – back in 5/13/16; that resolution was scheduled for mark-up 6/24 by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, but that markup was postponed (no new date as of this writing).

(FY17 FOROPS – HOUSE AND SENATE) HR XXXX & S. 3117: The House and Senate are both moving forward with their respective versions of the FY17 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill (commonly referred to simply as the ForOps bill). The base text of the House bill was released 6/22 (a markup in the House Appropriations Committee’s ForOps Subcommittee, scheduled for 6/23, was postponed until 7/6). The Senate ForOps Subcommittee marked up its version on 6/28, and the full committee marked up, amended, and passed the bill on 6/29. For details if both bills, see Sections 2 and 3, below.

(IRAN AMDTS TO FY17 FINANCIAL SERVICES APPROPS BILL) HR 5485: On 6/15, the House Appropriations Committee reported out of committee the FY17 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act. The bill then went to the House Rules Committee, which received amendments (which were due on 6/20) and decided which amendments would be made In Order and formulated a rule for consideration of the bill on the House floor. Consistent with the pattern seen over and over now with must-pass legislation (e.g., approps bills, the NDAA), numerous Iran-related amendments have been offered to the bill – all of which were made in order (meaning they will get a vote when the bill comes to floor). The following is a list of the Iran-related amendments. Seethis memo from NIAC analyzing the very problematic implications of each of these amendments. Consideration of the bill on the House floor was delayed due to…unusual…events on the floor last week.

  • Lance (R-NJ) #3: Prohibits funds from being used to give Iran access to the U.S. dollar.
  • Roskam (R-IL) #40: Prohibits any funds from being used to issue a license pursuant to any Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) memo regarding section 5.1.1 of Annex II to the JCPOA, including the OFAC memo titled, “Statement of Licensing Policy For Activities Related to the Export Or Re-Export to Iran of Commercial Passenger Aircraft and Related Parts and Services’’ and any other OFAC memo of the same substance.
  • Roskam (R-IL) #41: Prohibits any funds from being used to authorize a transaction by a U.S. financial institution (as defined under section 561.309 of title 31, Code of Federal Regulations) that is ordinarily incident to the export or re-export of a commercial passenger aircraft to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • DeSantis (R-FL) # 136 (revised): Prohibits funds made available by the Act to be used to pay final judgments, awards, compromise settlements, or interest and costs specified in the judgments to Iran using amounts appropriated under section 1304 of title 31, United States Code, or interest from amounts appropriated under such section.
  • DeSantis (R-FL) #137: To prohibit funds made available by the Act to be used to circumvent the conditions of Section 104 of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010.

(KILL BOEING-IRAN DEAL) HR 5550: Introduced 6/21 by Roskam (R-IL) and Boustany (R-LA), and having 7 cosponsors, the “No Dollars for Ayatollahs Act” [I swear I am not making that up – it is listed this way in Section 1 of the bill text). The bill would “amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to impose an excise tax on United States dollar clearing done for the benefit of Iran or Iranian persons; to the Committee on Ways and Means.” Why would they want to do this? Let’s allow Roskam and Boustany to explain in their own words, in their own press release: Roskam, Boustany Fight Terror with New Tax Legislation Targeting Boeing Iran Deal.

(NO EX-IM AID TO IRAN) HR 5608: Introduced 6/28 by Roskam (R-IL) and having 13 cosponsors, “To prevent Iran from directly or indirectly receiving assistance from the Export-Import Bank of the United States.” Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.

(BAD DOG! WORLD HEALTH ASSEMBLY SHOULD NOT FOCUS ON WBG HEALTH CONDITIONS!) H. Res. 798:Introduced 6/24 by Fleming (R-LA) and having 3 cosponsors, “A resolution affirming the votes of the eight countries including the United States opposing the Sixty-ninth World Health Assembly resolution titled, ‘Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.’” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Fleming press release is here.

(KHOBAR TOWER BOMBING) S. Con. Res. 39: Introduced 5/19 by Nelson (D-FL) and having 4 cosponsors, “A concurrent resolution honoring the members of the United States Air Force who were casualties of the June 25, 1996, terrorist bombing of the United States Sector Khobar Towers military housing complex on Dhahran Air Base.” Brought to the floor and adopted by the Senate 6/23 by Unanimous Consent. A House version of the resolution, H. Con. Res. 133, is pending in the House Armed Services Committee.

(TELLING EU TO GET TOUGHER ON HIZBALLAH) S. Res. 482: Introduced 6/6 by Shaheen (D-NH) and having 20 cosponsors, “A resolution urging the European Union to designate Hizballah in its entirety as a terrorist organization and to increase pressure on the organization and its members to the fullest extent possible.” On 6/28, placed on the Senate Calendar. A House version,H. Res. 750, was scheduled for mark-up 6/24 by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, but that markup was postponed (no new date as of this writing.


(REJECT FATF IRAN DECISION) Blumenthal et al letter to Treasury Secretary: On 6/30 Sen. Blumenthal (D-CT) and 7 Democratic colleagues sent a letter to Secretary Treasury Lew opposing the decision by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to suspend counter measures currently in place against Iran concerning its money laundering and terrorist financing activities, arguing that the decision could embolden Iran’s terrorist financing. The letter urges Lew “to address these concerns with FATF and prevent any further attempts to reintegrate Iran into the international banking system, until Iran eliminates its entrenched practice of financing terrorism.” Press release from Menendez (D-NJ) is here. Warner (D-VA) press release is here.

(BAHRAIN HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES) Murphy et al letter to Kerry: On 6/30, Sen. Murphy (D-CT) along with 7 Democratic colleagues sent a letter to Secretary of State Kerry urging him to press the Government of Bahrain to protect the rights of its citizens and implement provisions that promote political and social reform and reconciliation among Bahrain’s diverse communities. The letter notes that the senators “are deeply alarmed by the severe deterioration of political space and human rights in Bahrain. In the last few weeks, the Bahraini government has taken a series of troubling steps targeting the country’s peaceful opposition, as well as nonviolent human rights defenders and members of civil society. Without an immediate reversal of these actions, we fear that tensions in Bahrain could quickly intensify and destabilize an important United States ally.”

(SPECIAL ENVOY FOR PALESTINIAN YOUTH) McCollum et al letter to Obama: On 6/20, Rep. McCollum (D-MN), along with 19 other House members, sent a letter to President Obama urging him to create a Special Envoy for Palestinian Youth. McCollum press release is here. A fact sheet explaining the rationale for the request for this new special envoy is here.

FY17 ForOps Season Opens: House Bill

On 6/23, the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State Department and Foreign Operations was scheduled to mark up its version of the FY17 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill (commonly referred to simply as the ForOps bill); that mark-up was POSTPONED until further notice. In preparation for that markup, on 6/22 the committee released the text of the bill that the committee will be dealing with (press release here; full bill text here).

Middle East-related elements of the text that will (soon) be marked up by the Committee are as follows:


Broadcasting Board of Governors, international broadcasting operations: Perennial language providing $758,267,000 “to carry out international communication activities, and to make and supervise grants for radio and television broadcasting to the Middle East.” Provided that (among other things), “the BBG shall notify the Committees on Appropriations within 15 days of any determination by the Board that any of its broadcast entities, including its grantee organizations, provides an open platform for international terrorists or those who support international terrorism, or is in violation of the principles and standards set forth in subsections (a) and (b) of section 303 of the United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (22 U.S.C. 6202) or the entity’s journalistic code of ethics.”

Center for Middle Eastern-Western Dialogue Trust Fund: Perennial provision stating: “For necessary expenses of the Center for Middle Eastern-Western Dialogue Trust Fund, as authorized by section 633 of the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2004 (22 U.S.C. 2078), the total amount of the interest and earnings accruing to such Fund on or before September 30, 2017, to remain available until expended.”

Israeli Arab Scholarship Program: Perennial provision stating: “For necessary expenses of the Israeli Arab Scholarship Program, as authorized by section 214 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1992 and 1993 (22 U.S.C. 2452), all interest and earnings accruing to the Israeli Arab Scholarship Fund on or before September 30, 2017, to remain available until expended.”


ECONOMIC SUPPORT FUNDS – ESF (Total: $1,601,559,000)

Details for ESF for Middle East countries are laid out in section 7041 of the bill, discussed below.


The bill stipulates that “$7,500,000 shall be made available for refugees resettling in Israel.”



The bill includes new language regarding funding for the IAEA, conditioning U.S. voluntary contributions to the IAEA on: “The Secretary of State shall inform the appropriate congressional committees of information regarding any separate arrangements relating to the ‘‘Road-map for the Clarification of Past and Present Outstanding Issues Regarding Iran’s Nuclear Program’’ between the IAEA and the Islamic Republic of Iran, in classified form if necessary, if such information becomes known to the Department of State.”

This section also includes a perennial stipulation that “…funds appropriated under this heading may be made available for the IAEA unless the Secretary of State determines that Israel is being denied its right to participate in the activities of that Agency.”


The bill stipulates that “…not less than $44,500,000 shall be made available for a United States contribution to the Multinational Force and Observers mission in the Sinai.”


NOTE: See discussion under Title VII (Section 7041), for details of FMF for all Middle East countries except Israel.

Israel: The text earmarks “not less than $3,100,000,000 shall be available for grants only for Israel.” It also includes the perennial stipulations that “…funds appropriated under this heading for assistance for Israel shall be disbursed within 30 days of enactment of this Act” and “…to the extent that the Government of Israel requests that funds be used for such purposes, grants made available for Israel under this heading shall, as agreed by the United States and Israel, be available for advanced weapons systems, of which not less than $815,300,000 shall be available for the procurement in Israel of defense articles and defense services, including research and development.”

NOTE: As highlighted previously in the Round-Up, these little-remarked stipulations – early disbursal and permission for (not less than) almost $1 billion of FMF to be spent inside Israel – are unique to Israel’s aid program. Both significantly increase the value of the assistance to Israel – and the cost of the assistance to the U.S. In all other cases, FMF is obligated and disbursed by the U.S. on an as-used basis, meaning that the U.S. either keeps the money in the U.S. Treasury until it is needed (where it earns interest) or if the money is not in the U.S. Treasury, the U.S. does not have to borrow it until it is needed (meaning less interest paid). In the case of Israel, the entire $3.1 billion is handed over in a lump sum within 30 days of the law passing, meaning that Israel can bank the money and earn interest on it (which it can spend however it likes). In addition, in all other cases, FMF must be spent inside the U.S. (unless a specific exemption is granted). The logic behind this is that FMF is not just a “gift” to a foreign country but is actually a form of investment in the U.S. economy. In Israel’s case, however, almost $1 billion of FMF may be used in Israel or other countries, rather than for the benefit of U.S. industry.


Sec. 7007: Prohibition against direct funding for certain countries

This is perennial bill language banning aid to Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Syria, extending to loans, credits, insurance, and guarantees of the Export-Import Bank or its agents.

Sec. 7008: Coups d’état

This is the section that has caused Congress and the Obama Administration a headache over Egypt funding. It states: “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available pursuant to titles III through VI of this Act shall be obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d’état or decree or, after the date of enactment of this Act, a coup d’état or decree in which the military plays a decisive role.” It also states that “assistance may be resumed to such government if the Secretary of State certifies and reports to the appropriate congressional committees that subsequent to the termination of assistance a democratically elected government has taken office” and that the prohibition in this section “shall not apply to assistance to promote democratic elections or public participation in democratic processes.”

Sec. 7013: Prohibition on taxation of assistance

This is a perennial provision barring taxation of U.S. assistance. While this provision appears generic, the only recipient explicitly identified is the West Bank and Gaza. This reflects the genesis of the provision – the allegation in a previous year that the Palestinian Authority (PA) was taxing U.S. assistance provided to NGOs (and recall that under existing law direct aid to the PA is prohibited), thereby indirectly benefiting from US assistance designed specifically to bypass the PA.

Sec. 7015: Notification Requirements

Part (g) of this section states that no funds appropriated under titles III through VI of this Act (pretty much all funds in the bill) may be obligated or expended for assistance to a laundry list of countries, “except as provided through regular notification procedures of the Committees on Appropriations.” From the Middle East the list includes (this year): Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Yemen.

Sec. 7021: Prohibition on assistance to governments supporting international terrorism

This provision prohibits funding to any country “which provides lethal military equipment to a country the government of which the Secretary of State has determined supports international terrorism…” and prohibits bilateral assistance to any country supports international terrorism, gives sanctuary to terrorist, or is controlled by a terrorist organization. The section includes national security waivers for both restrictions.

Sec. 7032: Democracy Programs

Part (a) of this section earmarks not less than $2,308,517,000 for democracy programs, (as defined later in this provision). Part (e) states that funding and programs under this section “shall not be subject to the prior approval by the government of any foreign country.”

Sec. 7033: International Religious Freedom

Part (a) provides funding “for the Office of the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom and the Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia.”

Sec. 7034: Special Provisions

Part (m) of this section, entitled “Loan Guarantees and Enterprise Funds,” permits ESF funding to “be made available for the costs…of loan guarantees for Jordan, Ukraine, Iraq, and Tunisia, which are authorized to be provided…”

Sec. 7035: Arab league boycott of Israel

Perennial Sense of Congress opposing the Arab League boycott of Israel, and the secondary boycott of American firms that have commercial ties with Israel. It is worth noting that this longstanding feature of U.S. law focuses squarely on the Arab Boycott of ISRAEL. Nowhere does it define “Israel” to mean “Israel and territories controlled by Israel,” as is happening today in the context of various pieces of legislation adopted or under consideration at the State and Federal level.

Sec. 7036: Palestinian statehood

Perennial provision barring assistance to a Palestinian state that does not meet a series of conditions (includes perennial Presidential waiver authority).

Sec. 7037: Restrictions concerning the Palestinian Authority

Perennial bill language barring U.S. funds for establishing any diplomatic mission to the Palestinians in Jerusalem.

Sec. 7038: Prohibition on assistance to the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation

Perennial bill language barring any U.S. assistance to the PBC.

Sec. 7039: Assistance for the West Bank and Gaza

Perennial section laying out far-reaching restrictions and conditions, as well as vetting, oversight and audit requirements, for U.S. assistance programs (carried out through non-governmental organizations) in the West Bank and Gaza.

Sec. 7040: Limitation on Assistance for the Palestinian Authority

Perennial bill language banning U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority, along with Presidential waiver authority. The section also includes a perennial subsection entitled “Prohibition to Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization” (in effect lumping together a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, with the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people and NOT on the list of U.S.-designated FTO since that list was first published in 1997). This subsection bars funding to the PLO and for salaries of PA personnel in Gaza or for Hamas or any entity “effectively controlled by Hamas, any power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member, or that results from an agreement with Hamas.”

This formulation is clearly designed to make it difficult for the U.S. engage any kind of Palestinian power-sharing government that results from a future Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, or some other arrangements that lead to a national unity government or a mutually-agreed technocratic government (indeed, the text of the subsection evolved in recent years in response to Palestinian efforts to achieve such governments). Finally, the section does includes language of past bills stipulating that the prohibition does not apply if the President “certifies and reports to the Committees on Appropriations that such government, including all of its ministers or such equivalent, has publicly accepted and is complying with the principles contained in section 620K(b)(1) (A) and (B) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended.” It also includes the proviso that, “the President may exercise the authority in section 620K(e) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as added by the Palestine Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-446) with respect to this subsection.”

For the sake of completeness, Section 620K(b)(1)(A) and (B) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, reads as follows:

(b) Certification.–A certification described in subsection (a) is a certification transmitted by the President to Congress that contains a determination of the President that–

 (1) no ministry, agency, or instrumentality of the Palestinian Authority is effectively controlled by Hamas, unless the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority has–

(A) publicly acknowledged the Jewish state of Israel’s right to exist; and

(B) committed itself and is adhering to all previous agreements and understandings with the United States Government, with the Government of Israel, and with the international community, including agreements and understandings pursuant to the Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (commonly referred to as the `Roadmap’).

And 620K(e) reads as follows:

(e) National Security Waiver.–

(1) In general.–Subject to paragraph (2), the President may waive subsection (a) with respect to-

(A) the administrative and personal security costs of the Office of the President of the Palestinian Authority;

(B) the activities of the President of the Palestinian Authority to fulfill his or her duties as President, including to maintain control of the management and security of border crossings, to foster the Middle East peace process, and to promote democracy and the rule of law; and

(C) assistance for the judiciary branch of the Palestinian Authority and other entities.

(2) Certification.–The President may only exercise the waiver authority under paragraph (1) after–

(A) consulting with, and submitting a written policy justification to, the appropriate congressional committees; and

(B) certifying to the appropriate congressional committees that–

(i) it is in the national security interest of the United States to provide assistance otherwise prohibited under subsection (a); and

(ii) the individual or entity for which assistance is proposed to be provided is not a member of, or effectively controlled by (as the case may be), Hamas or any other foreign terrorist organization.

(3) Report.—Not later than 10 days after exercising the waiver authority under paragraph (1), the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report describing how the funds provided pursuant to such waiver will be spent and detailing the accounting procedures that are in place to ensure proper oversight and accountability.

(4) Treatment of certification as notification of program change.–For purposes of this subsection, the certification required under paragraph (2)(B) shall be deemed to be a notification under section 634A and shall be considered in accordance with the procedures applicable to notifications submitted pursuant to that section.

Sec. 7041: Middle East and North Africa

Sec. 7041 (a). Egypt

Overarching conditions on aid: This section states that U.S. funding for the Government of Egypt “may only be made available if the Secretary of State certifies and reports to the Committees on Appropriations that such government is–(A) sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States; and (B) meeting its obligations under the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.” This section also requires the Secretary of State to report to Congress every 90 days on the steps the Government of Egypt has taken to implement a similar (but in important ways not identical) list of actions:

(i) advance democracy and human rights in Egypt, including to govern democratically and protect religious minorities and the rights of women;

(ii) implement reforms that protect freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, including the ability of civil society organizations and the media to function without interference;

protect and advance the rights of women and religious minorities; and

(iii) improve the transparency and accountability of security forces.”

ESF: The bill stipulates that “up to $150,000,000 may be made available for assistance for Egypt” and notes that “such funds may also be made available for democracy programs and for programs that support development and security in the Sinai.” The text also notes that such funds “may not be made available for cash transfer assistance or budget support unless the Secretary of State certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that the Government of Egypt is taking consistent and effective steps to stabilize the economy and implement market-based economic reforms.” This text also stipulates that the Secretary of State shall withhold from ESF for Egypt “an amount of such funds that the Secretary determines to be equivalent to that expended by the United States Government for bail, and by nongovernmental organizations for legal and court fees, associated with democracy-related trials in Egypt until the Secretary certifies and ports to the Committees on Appropriations that the Government of Egypt has dismissed the convictions issued by the Cairo Criminal Court on June 4, 2013, in ‘Public Prosecution Case No. 1110 for the Year 2012.’”

FMF: The bill allocates “up to $1,300,000,000” in FMF for Egypt, and includes the longstanding provision allowing the funds to be transferred to an interest bearing account in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The bill stipulates, as in the past, that not later than 90 days after enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall consult with the Committees on Appropriations on any plans to restructure military assistance for Egypt.

Sec. 7041 (b) Iran

This section states that funding in the bill (under Diplomatic and Consular Programs, ESF, and NADR) shall be used by the Secretary of State to: “(A) support the United States policy to prevent Iran from achieving the capability to produce or otherwise obtain a nuclear weapon; (B) to support an expeditious response to any violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231; (C) to support the implementation and enforcement of sanctions against Iran for support of terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missile and weapons proliferation; and (D) for democracy programs for Iran…

Photo: U.S. drug enforcement agents in action.

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.