To return to the new Peace Now website click here.

Legislative Round-Up - January 18, 2008

I. Bills and Resolutions; II. Weldon Bashes UNRWA, Endorses Israeli Right-Wing "Peace Plan"; III. Saudi Arms Sales: JTA story; IV. Saudi Arms Sales: APN letter (August 2007); V. Saudi Arms Sales: Administration Press Release; VI. Analysis: Understanding the Saudi Arms Package (Rudy deLeon); VII. Text of HR 5056 (Iran Diplomatic Accountability Act of 2008)

APN Legislative Round-Up for the week ending January 18, 2008

I.  Bills and Resolutions
II.  Weldon Bashes UNRWA, Endorses Israeli Right-Wing "Peace Plan"
III. Saudi Arms Sales: JTA story
IV. Saudi Arms Sales: APN letter (August 2007)
V. Saudi Arms Sales: Administration Press Release
VI. Analysis: Understanding the Saudi Arms Package (Rudy deLeon)
VII. Text of HR 5056 (Iran Diplomatic Accountability Act of 2008)


==========================
I. BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS
==========================

(IRAN) HR 5056: Introduced 1/17/08 by Rep. Lee (D-CA) and 7 cosponsors, "To provide for the appointment of a high-level United States representative or special envoy for Iran for the purpose of easing tensions and normalizing relations between the United States and Iran," also called the "Iran Diplomatic Accountability Act of 2008."  Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. See Section VII, below, for full text of the resolution.

(SAUDI ARMS SALES) H. J. Res. 76: Introduced 1/15/08 by Rep. Weiner (D-NY), and having 52 cosponsors as of this writing, "Disapproving the issuance of a letter of offer with respect to a certain proposed sale of defense articles and defense services to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  The Dear Colleague letter seeking cosponsors on the resolution notably did not make a very robust case for opposing the sales, noting only that: "September 12, Reuters reported Saudi Arabia has yet to prosecute wealthy al Qaeda financiers since September 11th," "September 26: CRS found Saudi Arabia is the number one developing world recipient of arms deliveries since 1999, receiving $45.8 billion in arms," "December 20, CRS found Saudi Arabia has bought $4.5 billion in defense articles from the US, more than any other country in the world between 2003 and 2006," and "this Monday, President Bush will formally send a [proposal for an] arms sale with satellite-guided missiles for Saudi Arabia to Congress for review."

Along with the resolution, Rep. Weiner's office circulated a Dear Colleague seeking co-signers on a letter to House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Lantos (D-CA), urging Lantos to hold a hearing regarding the proposed sale. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on 1/14/08 that when asked about the issue, a spokeswoman for Lantos said that "Chairman Lantos does not intend to ask the committee to consider any resolutions of disapproval on this matter."

See below for full JTA article, as well as a copy of the letter APN sent to Congress in August 2007 expressing concerns about the sale (discussed in the 9/7/07 edition of the Round-Up), the text of the actual notification sent to Congress, and a useful analysis of the proposed sale.

====================================
II. WELDON BASHES UNRWA, ENDORSES ISRAELI RIGHT-WING "PEACE PLAN
====================================

On 1/17/08, Rep. Weldon (R-FL), took to the House floor to engage in his own UNRWA-bashing (i.e., blaming UNRWA for creating/perpetuating the Palestinian refugee issue, and accusing UNRWA of supporting terror) and to endorse a "peace plan" proposed by Israeli far right-wing legislator Benny Elon - a plan that essentially rejects the possibility of ANY Israeli-Palestinian peace process, arguing instead that, in effect, "Jordan is Palestine," there is no real Palestinian refugee problem, and Israel can both have peace (with Jordan, representing the Palestinians) while annexing the entire West Bank for its own use.  Weldon characterized this plan as a plan "to bridge the longstanding divide between the Israelis and the Palestinians.a comprehensive proposal for finding an avenue to peace, as well as addressing the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people." Weldon argued that ".the Elon plan is simple. Working cooperatively with nations around the world, Israel and the international community will assist the Palestinian refugees to find new homes outside the camps. Why should Palestinians continue to languish? Support the Elon plan."

=======================================
III. SAUDI ARMS SALES: JTA STORY 1/14/08
=======================================

JTA: "Efforts to block Saudi arms deal likely to be unsuccessful"

By Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- An effort led by Jewish Democrats in Congress to block the Bush administration's planned sale of arms to Saudi Arabia is bound to fail because it is opposed by one of the top-ranked Jews in Congress. Reps. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) and Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) asked colleagues to sign on to a letter to Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, asking him to convene the committee to block the arms sale.

"Chairman Lantos does not intend to ask the committee to consider any resolutions of disapproval on this matter," Lantos spokeswoman Lynne Weill told JTA on Tuesday when asked about the letter.

The Bush administration on Monday formally announced the proposed $120 million sale of 900 Joint Direct Attack Munitions. The announcement was timed for the Saudi leg of President Bush's Middle East tour. Congress has 30 days to reject the sale. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the sale brought to $11.5 billion proposed deals with Saudi Arabia and its neighbors. More sales could be in the offing, as Bush anticipated $20 billion when he first announced the proposal last July.

Bush made the sale a centerpiece of his administration's efforts to create an alliance that would confront Iranian hegemony in the region and bolster his bid for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal by the end of this year. This agenda featured prominently in his eight-day trip to the region, which began in Israel and ended this week with stops in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The JDAMs, components that add deadly accuracy to long-range missiles, had been the most controversial element of the weapons sale.

"The proposed sale will greatly improve the accuracy of unguided, general-purpose bombs in any weather condition, enabling the Royal Saudi Air Force's (RSAF) F-15S aircraft to participate to a greater degree in coalition operations," the Pentagon said in its announcement. It was precisely that accuracy that concerned Weiner, Wexler and their co-signatories.

"Given the time-sensitive nature of the resolution, and our grave reservations with Saudi Arabia acquiring Joint Direct Attack Munition technology, we urge the Committee to take up the resolution and explore the implications of the sale," the letter to Lantos said. Aside from Wexler and Weiner, Jewish signatories included Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) and Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.). The letter was signed as well by leading members of the left wing of the Democratic Caucus, who would oppose such a deal because they see Saudi Arabia as perhaps the least savory ally to the United States, noting its repression of women and minorities. Chief among them was Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), the long-shot candidate for the Democratic presidential candidacy.

As of Tuesday morning, 16 lawmakers had signed the letter. It was not immediately clear whether more had signed on after the letter's noon deadline.

Foes of the sale need to run their opposition through a committee. Lantos, perhaps Israel's best friend among committee chairmen, was seen as their best chance. In a statement last June, Lantos suggested that he would support the sale because it would help contain the Iranian threat. 

"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," Lantos, Congress' only Holocaust survivor, said at the time.

Israel and pro-Israel groups were wary of the sale, fearing that the arms could fall into hostile hands in the event of upheaval in Saudi Arabia. Given the opaque nature of the Saudi regime, its stability has always been a matter of guessing in the West.

McCormack sought to assuage such concerns. "Saudi Arabia, in its efforts to fight terrorism, whether that is going after the cells, picking up individuals, breaking up the financial networks, has made quantum leaps from where it was in 2001," he said. "They have realized that this is a threat to them as well as to their close friends and allies."

Top Israelis, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, gave the sale their blessing after representations by U.S. officials. Reported sweeteners included guarantees that the JDAMs would be programmed not to include Israel as a target. McCormack did not directly address how the technology was made safe for Israel, but acknowledged that it was part of the discussion.

"It's an issue that we have talked to the Saudi government about, we've talked to the Israeli government about, and we've worked quite closely with the Hill on this," he said. "I think we've been working with the Hill on this particular issue for pretty close to a year almost. And it's -- we've spent a lot of time ensuring that we abide by our commitments to a qualitative military edge, QME, for Israel."

The sale, the Pentagon statement said, "will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East."

==========================================
IV. SAUDI ARMS SALES - APN LETTER TO CONGRESS, AUGUST 2007
==============================================

As noted in the 9/7/07 edition of the Round-Up, last August APN sent a letter to Representatives Lantos (D-CA) and Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and to Senators Biden (D-DE) and Lugar (R-IN), the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Copies were sent to President George W. Bush and to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Dear Chairmen and Ranking Members:

On behalf of Americans for Peace Now -- a Jewish, Zionist organization whose mission is to enhance Israel's security through peace and to support the Israeli Peace Now movement -- we are writing to express our concern over the Bush Administration's plans for massive new arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other countries of the Persian Gulf.

We believe that such a course of action is likely to impact negatively on security and stability in the region, sparking an arms race that could fuel tensions and increase the possibility of armed conflict. In such a case, the impact on Israel and Israeli security will be serious. Israel will be forced to devote even more of its precious financial and human resources to addressing not only the plethora of existing security challenges -- including those posed today by Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran - but a potential escalation of these challenges, plus other new and serious threats, like that of Saudi Arabia armed with more sophisticated weaponry.

At times U.S. arms exports have represented an important component of U.S. bilateral relations in the Middle East, helping establish strong relationships and bolstering peace agreements like the Israel-Egypt Camp David Accords. Like sanctions and foreign aid, such arms exports have been a valuable tool of U.S. foreign policy, but only when coupled with robust diplomacy and high-level engagement.

Unfortunately, rather than engaging in a serious and comprehensive strategy to deal with challenges in the Middle East, and in particular the challenge posed by Iran, the Bush Administration appears to be using these new arms sales to perpetuate failed policies, at the peril of U.S. and Israeli interests alike. Escalating the arms race in the Middle East is a poor and unacceptable fig leaf to cover up the paucity of U.S. diplomacy in the region.

For many years Iran's leaders have espoused virulently anti-U.S., anti-Israel positions, and granted moral and financial support for extremists and terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Hezbollah. Clearly, the threat posed by Iran continues to grow, as that country tenaciously pursues a nuclear program and the capability to produce nuclear weapons. A belligerent Iran armed with nuclear weapons represents a dangerous and alarming scenario for the U.S., Israel, Iran's neighbors, and the entire world. It is a scenario that the international community must exert all efforts to avoid.

APN believes that current U.S. policy toward Iran - focusing almost exclusively on sanctions and saber-rattling -- is non-constructive and potentially counterproductive, in terms of both Israeli and U.S. interests. We believe that in pursuing its present course, the U.S. is squandering valuable time -- time Iran is exploiting to continue developing its nuclear program.

Absent a broader policy initiative -- one that engages Iran and the international community, and involves both carrots and sticks -- there is little chance that arming Iran's neighbors will succeed in curbing Iran's actions or ambitions. Rather, such a course of action is likely to spark a regional arms race, fueling tensions and increasing the possibility of conflict, while giving Iran additional incentive to stir up trouble.

APN has repeatedly criticized the Bush Administration's refusal to engage in sustained diplomacy in the Middle East, in particular with respect to Syria and Iran. It should be recalled that the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group (ISG) report included detailed recommendations for U.S. regional engagement in the Middle East, including calls to engage both Syria and Iran, and calls for a much more vigorous U.S. effort to achieve progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In no place did the ISG recommend that the U.S. adopt a strategy of diplomatic isolation of Iran coupled with massive arms exports to Iran's neighbors.

Responsible foreign policymaking demands that decisions regarding Middle East arms sales be part of a broader policy that promotes stability in the region and protects vital U.S. interests, including the security of Israel. Today, those interests require the Bush Administration to recognize that a Middle East arms race will not solve its problems in the Middle East. Rather, the time has come for limited, constructive U.S. engagement with Iran, over its nuclear weapons program, and with Syria, and for serious and sustained U.S. engagement to achieve progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

============================================
V. SAUDI ARMS SALES - ADMINSTRATION PRESS RELEASE
============================================

http://www.dsca.mil/PressReleases/36-b/2008/Saudi_Arabia_08-18.pdf

Saudi Arabia - Joint Direct Attack Munitions

WASHINGTON, January 14, 2008 - The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Saudi Arabia of Joint Direct Attack Munitions as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $123 million.

The Government of Saudi Arabia has requested a possible sale of 900 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) tail kits (which include 550 GBU-38 for MK-82, 250 GBU-31 for MK-84, 100 GBU-31 for BLU-109). Also included are bomb components, mission planning, aircraft integration, publications and technical manuals, spare and repair parts, support equipment, contractor engineering and technical support, and other related elements of program support. The estimated cost is $123 million.

This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.

The proposed sale will greatly improve the accuracy of unguided, general-purpose bombs in any weather condition enabling the Royal Saudi Air Force's (RSAF) F-15S aircraft to participate to a greater degree in coalition operations. The proposed sale of JDAMs for use on RSAF F-15S aircraft will enhance training opportunities; increase RSAF F-15 operational capability, sustainability, and interoperability with USAF, Gulf Cooperation Council, and other coalition air forces.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not affect the basic military balance in the region. The prime contractor will be The Boeing Company of St. Louis, Missouri. There are no known offset agreements in connection with this proposed sale.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of approximately four contractor representatives to Saudi Arabia to provide technical assistance to integrate the weapons into the operational units. Also, this program will require annual Program Management Reviews in Saudi Arabia with U.S and contractor personnel participation for a period of approximately one week.

There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.

This notice of a potential sale is required by law; it does not mean that the sale has been concluded.

========================================
VI. ANALYSIS: UNDERSTANDING THE SAUDI ARMS PACKAGE
========================================

http://middleeastprogress.org/?p=1885

Understanding the Saudi Arms Package

By Rudy deLeon Former Deputy Secretary of Defense, Senior Vice President of National Security and International Policy, Center for American Progress, Interview with Middle East Bulletin

posted on 01/16/08

Q: Can you give us the context for the Saudi arms package about which the U.S. administration just informed Congress?

A: The war in Iraq has created great turbulence in the Middle East. Iran is attempting to exploit that turbulence. It supports groups that destabilize the region like Hamas and Hezbollah. The Gulf States are now concerned about Iran's destabilizing power.

The Saudis play a critical balancing role in the region. Their leadership in terms of containing the Iranian threat and the threat of terrorism is essential. U.S. security assistance programs allow our partners in the region to create stability though mutual security initiatives.

With the administration's proposed security package the Saudis would receive JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions). The system is based on satellite navigation and is highly accurate. JDAMs had an important impact in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Q: How do security assistance packages get put together?

A: Here's a process that the United States follows for these security packages. One of the missions of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) is to receive requests from U.S. allies and assess the utility of providing them with military equipment. They look at regional security, shaping the package to meet the needs of partners in the region, at protection of technology and set clear operational requirements in terms of how the equipment is to be used. For example, the Royal Saudi Air Force has worked with U.S. Air Force personnel for many years.

When examining a military equipment sale to the Middle East the administration begins with its own regional review. Usually a Three Star general at the DSCA and the U.S. State Department assess the situation.

Normally, the administration would then begin informal dialogue with Congress, prior to submission of any proposal. There is a long history of trying to work out security assistance by consensus of the legislative and executive branches.

After this informal discussion, the President will notify the House and the Senate about each equipment sale under the Arms Export Control Act. Congress then has a thirty day period to reject the sale.

The disapproval process is quite clear: when the President notifies Congress, the thirty day clock starts. A rejection requires a joint resolution of Congress and must spell out the specific rejection of the equipment. This process is necessary for any defense articles above $50 million, construction articles above $200 million and major defense equipment above $14 million.

Q: What should Members of Congress be looking at when assessing this proposal?

A: Members of Congress need to look at whether the package advances the U.S. interest of regional security in the Middle East. They must examine it through several lenses: One, the fight against terrorism. Two, whether the package is consistent with the long-standing U.S. commitment to our ally Israel. Three, will the package help our allies meet their security needs. Four, will the package further help in the creation of a regional balance, particularly given the role Syria and Iran play in disrupting this balance.

This means that the package should strengthen our allies. The package recognizes that U.S. partners in the region need American assistance, particularly since Iran is not a neutral player in the region. Until Iran does logical things like accept UN inspectors, it will be important for our allies to have the necessary tools to ensure their security. These tools should be for defensive purposes and ensure that there is a regional balance for Israel and that equipment that we sell to the Saudis and other countries are particularly suited for these defensive purposes.

=============================================
VI. TEXT OF HR 5056 (IRAN DIPLOMATIC ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 2008)
=============================================

To provide for the appointment of a high-level United States representative or special envoy for Iran for the purpose of easing tensions and normalizing relations between the United States and Iran.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE. This Act may be cited as the ''Iran Diplomatic Accountability Act of 2008''.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

Congress finds the following:

(1) On December 3, 2007, the National Intelligence Estimate, representing the consensus view of 16 intelligence agencies, concluded that Iran had once had a covert nuclear weapons program.

(2) The National Intelligence Estimate also found that Iran had halted its covert nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that this program remains frozen.

(3) The National Intelligence Estimate concluded that Iran's leadership was quite sensitive to international views and wanted to avoid international confrontation and made a ''cost-benefit'' decision regarding whether or not to have such a program.

(4) Serious concerns still remain about the Government of Iran's intentions and behavior with respect to the development of nuclear weapons, especially regarding its fuel enrichment program and the speed with which it might reconstitute its suspended nuclear weapons program.

(5) Hostile official rhetoric exacerbates tensions and reinforces misunderstandings and animus between the people of the United States and Iran.

(6) The United States should enlist the support of all interested parties to the region, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to establish a program to ensure that Iran's nuclear weapons program is terminated permanently, that its nuclear energy program is brought fully under IAEA inspection and control, and that all diplomatic tools are used to achieve these objectives.

(7) A diplomatic solution that includes direct, unconditional, bilateral, and comprehensive talks with the Government of Iran is the only way to resolve long-standing tensions between the United States and Iran.

SEC. 3. APPOINTMENT OF HIGH-LEVEL U.S. REPRESENTATIVE OR SPECIAL ENVOY.

(a) APPOINTMENT.-At the earliest possible date, the President shall appoint a high-level United States representative or special envoy for Iran.

(b) CRITERIA FOR APPOINTMENT.-The President shall appoint an individual under subsection (a) on the basis of the individual's knowledge and understanding of the issues regarding Iran's nuclear program, experience in conducting international negotiations, and ability to conduct negotiations under subsection (c) with the respect and trust of the parties involved in the negotiations.

(c) DUTIES.-The high-level United States representative or special envoy for Iran shall-

(1) seek to conduct direct, unconditional, bilateral negotiations with Iran for the purpose of easing tensions and normalizing relations between the United States and Iran;

(2) consult with other countries and international organizations, including countries in the region, where appropriate and when necessary to achieve the purpose set forth in paragraph (1);

(3) act as liaison with United States and international intelligence agencies where appropriate and when necessary to achieve the purpose set for in paragraph (1); and

(4) ensure that the bilateral negotiations under paragraph (1) complement the ongoing international negotiations with Iran.

SEC. 4. OFFICE OF HIGH-LEVEL U.S. REPRESENTATIVE OR SPECIAL ENVOY.

Not later than 30 days after the appointment of a high-level United States representative or special envoy under section 3(a), the Secretary of State shall establish in the Department of State an office for the purpose of supporting the work of the representative or special envoy.

SEC. 5. REPORTING TO CONGRESS.

(a) REPORTS.-Not later than 60 days after the high-level United States representative or special envoy for Iran is appointed under section 3, and every 180 days thereafter, the United States representative or special envoy shall report to the committees set forth in subsection (b) on the status and progress of negotiations conducted under section 3(c). Each such report may, when necessary or appropriate, be submitted in classified and unclassified form.

(b) COMMITTEES.-The committees referred to in subsection (a) are-

(1) the Committee on Appropriations, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Armed Services, and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives; and (2) the Committee on Appropriations, the Committee on Foreign Relations, the Committee on Armed Services, and the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate.

SEC. 6. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this Act such sums as may be necessary for each of fiscal years 2008 and 2009.


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