I. Bills and Resolutions; II. Planned Weapons Sales Stir Controversy; III. Dear Colleagues; IV. Specter on the Record
...for the week ending August 3, 2007
I. Bills and Resolutions
II. Planned Weapons Sales Stir Controversy
III. Dear Colleagues
IV. Specter on the Record
I. BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS
(PEACE PROCESS) S. Res. XXX: This resolution, introduced by Sens. Feinstein (D-CA) and Lugar (R-IN) and 34 cosponsors, is an updated version of S. Res. 224 (which they originally introduced on 6/7/07). The new version -- which will have a new number -- was "hotlined" on 8/2/07 (this means that a notice was sent out to all Senators of leadership's intention to bring the measure to the floor and pass it by unanimous consent). The resolution has been strongly supported by APN, which has urged all members to co-sponsor and has activated its national Action Network in order to have constituents around the country contact their senators. The resolution is also supported by other groups, including Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the Arab American Institute, Churches for Middle East Peace, and the Israel Policy Forum.
The measure's cosponsors (in alphabetical order) are: Akaka (D-HI), Baucus (D-MT), Bingamin (D-MN), Brown (R-OH), Burr (R-NC), Byrd (D-WV), Cantwell (D-WA), Casey (D-PA), Craig (R-ID), Dodd (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Feingold (D-WI), Feinstein (D-CA), Harkin (D-IA), Hagel (R-NE), Hutchison (R-TX), Kerry (D-MA), Kennedy (D-MA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Kohl (D-WI), Leahy (D-VT), Levin (D-MI), Lott (D-MS), Lugar (R-IN), Murray (D-WA), Nelson (D-FL), Reed (D-RI), Smith (R-OR), Snowe (R-ME), Specter (R-PA), Stabenow (D-MI), Sununu (R-NH), Voinovich (R-OH), Webb (D-VA), Whitehouse (D-RI), Wyden (D-OR)
(SAUDI ARABIA) HR 3217: Introduced 7/27/07 by Rep. Paul (R-TX), "To limit the issuance of student and diversity immigrant visas to aliens who are nationals of Saudi Arabia, countries that support terrorism, or countries not cooperating fully with United States antiterrorism efforts." Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
(IRAN) HR 2347: Introduced 5/16/07 by Rep. Frank (D-MA), and having 44 cosponsors, "A bill to authorize State and local governments to direct divestiture from, and prevent investment in, companies with investments of $20,000,000 or more in Iran's energy sector, companies that sell arms to the Government of Iran, and financial institutions that extend $20,000,000 or more in credit to the Government of Iran for 45 days or more, and for other purposes." Passed by the House under suspension of the rules 7/31/07 by a vote of 408-6. (IRAN) HR 957: Introduced 2/8/07 by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and having 59 cosponsors, "To amend the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 to expand and clarify the entities against which sanctions may be imposed." Passed by the House 7/30/07 under suspension of the rules by a vote of 415--11. <!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]--> <!--[endif]-->(IRAN) H. Con. Res. 188: Introduced 7/18/2007 by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and having 32 cosponsors, "Condemning the attack on the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in July 1994, and for other purposes." Passed by the House 7/30/07 under suspension of the rules by a voice vote.
(LEBANON) H. Res. 548: Introduced 7/16/07 by Rep. Ackerman (D-NY) and having 43 cosponsors, "Expressing the ongoing concern of the House of Representatives for Lebanon's democratic institutions and unwavering support for the administration of justice upon those responsible for the assassination of Lebanese public figures opposing Syrian control of Lebanon." Reported out of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs 7/31/07 with the Committee agreeing to seek consideration under suspension of the rules.
(UN/ISRAEL) H. Res. 557: Introduced 7/19/07 by Campbell (R-CA), and having 77 cosponsors, "Strongly condemning the United Nations Human Rights Council for ignoring severe human rights abuses in various countries, while choosing to unfairly target Israel by including it as the only country permanently placed on the Council's agenda." Reported out of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs 7/31/07 with the Committee agreeing to seek consideration under suspension of the rules.
(JORDAN) H. Res. 575: Introduced 7/26/07 by Rep. Baird (D-WA), "Commending the people and the Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for their continued committment [sic] to holding elections and broadening political participation, and for other purposes." Reported out of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs 7/31/07 with the Committee agreeing to seek consideration under suspension of the rules.
(DEFENSE APPROPS/ISRAEL) HR 3222: Introduced 7/30/2007 Rep. Murtha (D-PA), "Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2008." Section 8077 of the bill includes funding for U.S.-Israel joint programs, under the heading "Research, Development, Test and Evaluation, Defense-Wide." The section stipulates that of the funds provided under this act, $150,572,000 shall be for the Arrow missile defense program, of which $37,383,000 shall be for the purpose of producing Arrow missile components in the United States and Arrow missile components and missiles in Israel to meet Israel's defense requirements, consistent with each nation's laws, regulations and procedures; $26 million shall be available for the Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD) program; and, $26 million shall be available only for risk mitigation and preliminary design activities for an upper-tier component to the Israeli Missile Defense Architecture. In addition, the section stipulates that funds made available under this provision for production of missiles and missile components may be transferred to appropriations available for the procurement of weapons and equipment, to be merged with and to be available for the same time period and the same purposes as the appropriation to which transferred (i.e., a portion of these funds may be combined with funds provided to Israel under its military assistance program under the foreign operations appropriations bill).
II. PLANNED WEAPONS SALES STIR CONTROVERSY
Recently the Bush Administration announced plans for massive new arms sales to Saudi Arabia and countries of the Persian Gulf, amounting to around $20 billion over ten years. At the same time, the Administration confirmed plans for an additional $30 billion in military aid to Israel over the next ten years. The planned sales to Saudi and the Gulf countries has stirred an interesting controversy in Washington -- interesting in part because the response from Israel to the plan has been muted or even positive, making hardcore opposition to the proposed sales awkward for some of those who would normally have been expected to be the most vocal. It is interesting also because while the arms sales are being couched in terms of dealing with the threat of Iran -- an issue on which there is virtual unanimity in Congress -- their announcement comes on the heels of some of the harshest criticism to date from Bush officials regarding Saudi actions regarding Iraq.
Lantos on the Record
On 7/28/07, House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Lantos (D-CA), released a statement regarding the planned sales, noting:
"The Administration discussed the outlines of the proposed arms sales with a dozen members of our committee on Tuesday, and we have called for a thorough briefing in September. We will see where we are then. We particularly want to ensure that these arrangements include only defensive systems, and not items that can be used for other purposes. We welcome the development that the Saudis and other Gulf states have recognized that a nuclear weapons-equipped Iran is a mortal threat to them. There is no merit to the general argument that if the United States does not sell arms to these countries, they will go elsewhere and we will lose influence in the region. We provide the kind of security for these countries that others cannot, and they know it."
Weiner Letter to President Bush
On 8/2/07 a group of members of Congress, led by Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Mike Ferguson (R-NJ), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-VA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), released a letter to President Bush objecting to the Administration's plans to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia. The letter, signed by 144 members of Congress, stated:
"We are writing to express our deep opposition to the proposed sale of high technology armaments to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. If a sale containing weapons for Saudi Arabia is proposed to Congress under the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, we intend to vote to stop it. Saudi Arabia has not behaved like an ally of the United States. They have exported fighters and suicide bombers to the war in Iraq. They have provided funding for terrorist activities throughout the world. And the Saudis have refused to play a constructive role in the West Bank and Gaza. The United States should not send potentially destabilizing weapons to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
AIPAC on the Record
Also on 8/2/07, AIPAC circulated a memo entitled "Boost in Israel Aid Vital; Gulf Arms Package Raises Questions." The memo states, in part: "The administration's proposed new 10-year aid plan for Israel acknowledges the dramatically increasing military threats facing the Jewish state and commits America to helping its ally meet those challenges. The administration also views its proposal to sell $20 billion of arms to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states as another key element of the U.S. response to the growing Iranian threat. Nevertheless, Congress should carefully scrutinize the arms sale package to ensure that Israel's qualitative military edge and regional stability will be preserved."
".The U.S. arms package to the Gulf-aimed at countering the growing Iranian threat-raises important questions that need to be answered. Important questions should be raised about both the substance of the package and the wisdom of making such significant arms sales to these countries now. Such questions should include, but are not limited to: details about the package itself; the nature of the weapons proposed; how such weapons will contribute to regional stability and to countering the Iranian threat; how these weapons will affect a regional arms race and non-proliferation concerns; how this package will advance greater cooperation by these nations with U.S. policy interests in the Middle East; how Israel's qualitative edge will be maintained; and how to ensure that these weapons do not fall into the wrong hands. The administration needs to address these legitimate concerns in a comprehensive way as it seeks congressional approval for the arms sale."
III. DEAR COLLEAGUES
On 7/27/07 Rep. Baird (D-WA) began circulating a Dear Colleague seeking cosponsors to H. Res. 575, commending Jordan for its commitment to democratic elections and women's rights. The letter states: "Please join me in honoring the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for the significant advances it has made in recent years in the areas of democratic elections and women's rights. Jordan, a valuable ally of the United States, has begun to take steps toward opening up its political system to a newly empowered electorate, and has taken special care to ensure that women are involved in the political process. Exciting changes are occurring in Jordan, where the electorate will soon be resuming their powers. On July 31, 2007, under a new municipal elections law, the mayors and councils in Jordan will need to be elected in local contests. The new elections law also increases the involvement of women and young adults in the political process, establishing a 20 percent quota for female councilors and a reduction in the voting age from 19 to 18. With the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Jordan is becoming a new model for female and youth participation in politics. On June 17, 2003, Jordan held national parliamentary elections, the first under the reign of His Majesty King Abdullah II. The King has committed to hold the next round of parliamentary elections no later than November 2007..."
IV. SPECTER ON THE RECORD
On 8/1/07 Senator Specter (R-PA) delivered a lengthy statement on the Senate floor regarding U.S. policy in Iraq, including his view that the U.S. should be engaging both Iran and Syria. His remarks included discussion of his support for two amendments to HR 1585, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (debate on the bill was suspended in the Senate last month). The two amendments in question are S. Amdt. 2208, introduced by Senators Warner (R-VA) and Lugar (R-IN), and S. Amdt. 2063, introduced by Senators Salazar (D-CO) and Alexander (R-TN).
Senator Specter stated:
".Both the Warner-Lugar and Salazar-Alexander proposals address the issue of diplomacy in the region. I have consistently urged the administration to work with Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, in order to develop cooperative stabilization efforts. To that end, I have met with President Bashar Assad of Syria. I have met with Iran's Ambassadors to the United Nations, Seyed Muhammed Hadi Nejad Hosseinian and Muhammad Javad Zarif, on four occasions in New York and Washington, DC. Additionally, I was the only Member of Congress to attend the September 2006 address by former President Khatami at the National Cathedral.
"During my meetings with Iranian officials, I developed a proposal for an exchange of visits by Members of Congress to Iran and Iranian parliamentarians to the United States to try to open dialogue between our two countries. In January 2004, my efforts to foster such a dialogue were successful. There was a tentative agreement for U.S. Members of Congress to meet with Iranian parliamentarians in Geneva. Regrettably, this parliamentary exchange never came to fruition.
"In an effort to jumpstart this exchange, on May 3, 2007, I sent a letter, with support from Senators Biden, Hagel and Dodd and Representatives Lantos, English, Moran, Gilchrest and Meeks, to the Speaker of Iran's Parliament suggesting we convene a meeting of U.S. and Iranian parliamentarians.
"I have amplified my strong belief that dialogue with nations such as Iran and Syria is necessary in an extensive Senate speech on June 16, 2006 and most recently in an essay ``Dialogue With Adversaries'' published in the winter edition of The Washington Quarterly. While we can't be sure that dialogue will succeed, we can be sure that without dialogue there will be failure.
"I am not alone in calling for enhanced dialogue with U.S. adversaries. Of the many suggestions gleaned from the Baker-Hamilton commission, one passage crystallizes their conclusion: `Our most important recommendations call for new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region, and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly. We believe that these two recommendations are equally important and reinforce one another.'
"However, the President's plan places a disproportionate emphasis on military force while neglecting the needed diplomacy and political efforts.
"Having served in the Senate for 26 years, holding the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee and senior positions on the Appropriations subcommittees on Defense and Foreign Operations, I am aware of what challenges nations like Iran and Syria pose to the United States. A world in which Iran seeks nuclear weapons and supports terrorist groups such as Hezbollah is not a safe world. A world in which Syria provides refuge for Hamas and Hezbollah and permits its territory to be used as a conduit for terrorism is counterproductive to peace and stability. I expressed my views on the danger the connectivity between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah poses to peace and security in an August 2, 2006, floor statement.
"Today, however, Americans are not dying from nuclear weapons or from direct attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah. Many are dying policing a civil conflict.
"President Assad, during our December 2006 meeting in Damascus, suggested that a conference with regional players and the United States would be beneficial to addressing the issues confronting Iraq. On January 22, 2007, I conveyed this proposal and my support for it to Secretary Rice in a meeting in her office at the State Department. One month later, on February 27, 2007, during her testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Secretary Rice announced such a proposal.
"Very little has happened to effectuate that `new diplomatic initiative.' The Iraq Study Group clearly states: `Given the ability of Iran and Syria to influence events within Iraq and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq, the United States should try to engage them constructively.'
"It would have been my hope that these types of meetings would have occurred frequently in the intervening months. However, I am pleased that the President has recently indicated a commitment to ramp up diplomatic efforts in the region."
For more information, contact APN's Director of Policy and Government Relations, Lara Friedman, at
202/728-1893, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.