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APN Legislative Round-Up - March 9, 2007

I. Bills, Dear Colleagues, and Letters II. AIPAC on the Hill: Doubling Down On the Palestinians... III. ...And on Iran

... for the week ending March 9, 2007

I. Bills, Dear Colleagues, and Letters
II. AIPAC on the Hill: Doubling Down On the Palestinians...
III. ...And on Iran


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I. BILLS, DEAR COLLEAGUES, AND LETTERS
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Bills:

(IRAN) HR 1400: Introduced 3/8/07 by Rep. Lantos and seven cosponsors, "To enhance United States diplomatic efforts with respect to Iran by imposing additional economic sanctions against Iran, and for other purposes." Referred to the Committees on Foreign Affairs, Ways and Means, Financial Services, Oversight and Government Reform, and the Judiciary. (For further discussion of this bill, see section III, below.)

(IRAN) HR 1357: Introduced 3/6/07 by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and 16 cosponsors, "To require divestiture of current investments in Iran, to prohibit future investments in Iran, and to require disclosure to investors of information relating to such investments." Referred to the House Committees on Financial Services and Oversight and Government Reform.

(IRAN) HR 1324: Introduced 3/5/07 by Rep. Saxton (R-NJ), "To urge the Secretary of State to designate the Quds Force, a unit of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, as a foreign terrorist organization." Referred to the Committees on Foreign Affairs and the Judiciary.

(IRAN) S. 759: Introduced 3/5/07 by Sen. Webb (D-VA), "To prohibit the use of funds for military operations in Iran." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(IRAN) S. Amdt. 360 to S. 4: offered 3/6/07 by Sens. Graham (R-SC) and Brownback (R-KS), to insert Sec. 1505 into the bill, "Sense of Congress on the Nuclear Program of Iran."

Dear Colleagues and Letters:

(PALESTINIANS) On 3/7/07 Sens. Nelson (D-FL) and Ensign (R-NV) began circulating a Dear Colleague seeking co-signers on a letter to Secretary of State Rice regarding relations with the Palestinian Authority (see Section II, below, for details).

(PALESTINIANS) On 3/5/07 Reps. Lantos (D-CA), Ackerman (D-NY), Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Pence (R-IN) sent a letter to Secretary Rice urging her to reconsider plans to provide $86 million in assistance to the Palestinians in the wake of the Palestinian national unity government agreement between Hamas and Fatah [note: the funds are intended primarily to bolster President Abbas' security forces and support the mission of U.S. General Dayton]. The letter noted that "The fact that Fatah will now join a government led by Hamas terrorists -- and will do so with Abbas's blessing -- raises serious questions about the commitments and loyalties of the Palestinian security forces we had undertaken to assist... We believe it is critical to have answers to these questions before going forward with the $86 million package."

(Palestinians) On 3/7/07 Reps. Wexler (D-FL), Gallegly (R-CA), Ackerman (D-NY) and Pence (R-IN) began circulating a Dear Colleague seeking cosigners on a letter to EU High Representative Javier Solana urging the EU to "maintain restrictions of direct aid to any Palestinian government until such time as that government fulfills its Quartet obligations." Reportedly the letter currently has around 25 signers.


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II. AIPAC ON THE HILL -- DOUBLING DOWN ON THE PALESTINIANS...
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March 11-13 is the annual AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC (for details see: http://www.aipac.org/AIPAC_events/2552.asp)

As in the past, the conference will focus on key legislative agenda items. In 2006, the focus of the conference was the Palestinian Anti-Terrorist Act (PATA) and the Iran Freedom Support Act, both of which were eventually passed into law, albeit not in their original forms.

This year, the focus is expected to again be on Iran and the Palestinians.

With respect to the Palestinians, on 3/7/07 Senators Nelson (D-FL) and Ensign (R-NV) began circulating a Dear Colleague letter seeking co-signers on a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The gist of the letter is that the U.S. should not back down on sanctions against the Palestinian Authority in the wake of the national unity government agreement between Fatah and Hamas. The operative paragraph of the letter (the Congressional "ask" to the Secretary) reads:

"We know that there are already some in the Quartet who are pressing for direct aid to resume. That would be a huge step back from the peace process you seek to invigorate. We urge you to continue to hold firm and insist that these very basic international principles do not change -- no direct aid and no contacts with any members of a Palestinian Authority that does not explicitly and unequivocally recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce terror, and accept previous agreements."

Analysis of the Letter
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This "ask" goes well beyond the actual Quartet conditions and current U.S. policy:

The Quartet statement, originally issued on 1/30/2006, stated simply that:

"It is the view of the Quartet that all members of a future Palestinian government must be committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap."

With respect to how this view would impact relations with the PA, the Quartet noted:

"...the Quartet concluded that it was inevitable that future assistance to any new government would be reviewed by donors against that government's commitment to the principles of nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap. The Quartet calls upon the newly elected Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) to support the formation of a government committed to these principles as well as the rule of law, tolerance, reform and sound fiscal management."

Point 2: Current U.S. policy (and law) bars any assistance to the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority unless it meets the Quartet conditions. In addition, longstanding U.S. policy (pre-dating the Hamas 2006 elections victory by more than a decade) is to bar U.S. official contacts with members of any foreign terrorist organization. So for the past year, when the PA has been composed entirely of Hamas members, U.S. policy has been, in effect, to bar both aid and contacts with the entire government.

The "ask" in the letter, however, has special meaning in the wake of the Palestinian national unity government agreement. As written, Congress is making this a test not of political views and positions of the individual members of the PA (a PA which, if the national unity government is ever constituted, will include, at a minimum, representatives of Fatah, Hamas, and independents), but rather of the PA itself. According to this formula, if the PA does not meet the Quartet conditions then ALL of its members are to be considered tainted and beyond the pale in terms of U.S. relations.

Thus, if this "ask" were to become U.S. policy or U.S. law, it would mean that the U.S would have to reject contacts even with non-Hamas members of the government who actively support the Quartet conditions and have a clear and established record regarding support for peace with Israel -- meaning that in effect the letter is calling on Rice to bar contacts with President Abbas and other longtime U.S. friends like Salam Fayyad (who will likely resume his position as Minister of Finance).


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III. ...AND ON IRAN
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With respect to Iran, on March 8 House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Lantos (D- CA) and 7 co-sponsors introduced HR 1400, the "Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007."

The press release issued by Chairman Lantos states that the bill "will end the Administration's practice of waiving sanctions on corporations that do large-scale business with Iran's energy sector, and in various ways will expand bilateral sanctions intended to cut off funds that currently support and sustain Iran's nuclear weapons program." The press release goes on to explain that the legislation will "prohibit nuclear cooperation between the United States and any country that provides nuclear assistance to Iran. It will also increase economic pressure on Iran by expanding the types of investment subject to sanctions, severely limiting the export of U.S. items to Iran, ending all imports from Iran, and preventing U.S. subsidiaries of foreign oil companies that invest in Iran's oil sector from receiving U.S. tax benefits for oil and gas exploration."


For more information, contact Lara Friedman, APN Director of Policy and Government Relations, at 202/728-1893, or at lfriedman@peacenow.org.