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APN Legislative Round-Up - February 15, 2008

I. Death of Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA); II. Bills and Resolutions; III. Key Provision in FY08 Foreign Ops House Report Language; IV. Rice to Congress on the Saudi Arms Sale; V. Ackerman on the Record on Lebanon

APN Legislative Round-Up for the week ending February 15, 2008

I.   Death of Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA)
II.  Bills and Resolutions
III. Key Provision in FY08 Foreign Ops House Report Language
IV. Rice to Congress on the Saudi Arms Sale
V.  Ackerman on the Record on Lebanon

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I. DEATH OF CONGRESSMAN TOM LANTOS (D-CA)
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The following is the APN press release issued 2/11/08, following the death of longtime congressman and Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Tom Lantos (D-CA):

APN Mourns the Death of Congressman Tom Lantos

Washington, D.C. - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today expressed its deepest sorrow at the passing of Congressman Tom Lantos, who died after a battle with cancer.

"Congressman Lantos was a devoted supporter of Israel, a supporter of peace, and a committed American public servant," said APN Chair Franklin Fisher. "As a Holocaust survivor, he embodied the strength and courage of the Jewish people. His achievements testify to the triumph of courage and the human spirit over the worst forms of adversity."

"Americans for Peace Now deeply mourns the passing of Congressman Lantos. We extend our heart-felt condolences to his family. We also extend our condolences to his friends, staff, constituents, and the entire Jewish community."

APN's mission is to enhance Israel's security through peace and to support the Israeli Peace Now movement.

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II. BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS
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(IRAN) S. Res. 449: Introduced 2/12/08 by Rep. Smith (R-OR) and currently having 12 cosponsors, "condemning in the strongest possible terms President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statements regarding the State of Israel and the Holocaust and calling for all member States of the United Nations to do the same." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

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III. KEY PROVISION IN FY08 FOREIGN OPS HOUSE REPORT LANGUAGE
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This week a House staffer pointed out that APN's past reporting overlooked a key provision in the House Appropriations Committee's Report Language accompanying the FY08 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill.

This provision, which is buried on page 13 of the 184-page report (sandwiched between a section entitled "Science Fellowship Programs' and one a lengthy section entitled "Staffing") is entitled "Special envoy." It reads as follows: "The Committee encourages the Secretary of State to establish, at an appropriate time, a location for which a Special Envoy for Middle East peace may operate on an ongoing basis." While this language falls somewhat short of calling for the creation of a Special Envoy for Middle East peace (as called for in H. Res. 143) or expressing any real urgency about the issue, it is still significant as an expression of Appropriations Committee support for at least the concept of Special Envoy.

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IV. RICE TO CONGRESS ON THE SAUDI ARMS SALE
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On 2/14/08 Congressman Berman (D-CA), Acting Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, inserted into the record a speech regarding the proposed sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, along with a letter sent to Chairman Lantos earlier in the month by Secretary of State Rice addressing some of the concerns about the sale articulated by Members of Congress:

Mr. BERMAN. Madam Speaker, as part of the Gulf Security Dialogue between the Gulf States and the United States, the President has proposed the commercial sale of a number of significant U.S-produced weapon systems that the President believes will contribute to U.S. national security in the Gulf Region.

There has been a good deal of controversy surrounding these proposed arms sales included in the Gulf Security Dialogue, and, in particular, the sale of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) to Saudi Arabia.

The Foreign Affairs Committee has taken the reported concerns seriously. The Committee has held four highly classified briefings on the Gulf Security Dialogue. As part of this ongoing dialogue, Chairman Lantos asked the Secretary of State to provide to the Committee, in writing, additional assurances that can be released publicly that this sale will not threaten our interests or those of our friends in the region. Chairman Lantos received a letter with these assurances from the Secretary of State.

Madam Speaker, as the Acting Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I ask that this letter be printed in full in the RECORD so that all of our colleagues in the Congress can be aware of the assurances which the Committee has received.

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The Secretary of State, Washington, DC, February 6, 2008.

DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: I am writing to you regarding the proposed sale of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) to Saudi Arabia under the rubric of the Gulf Security Dialogue. Over the last year, we have consulted closely with Congress and our partners in the region on the proposed sale. This sale is important to U.S. national interests in the Gulf region. It will strengthen our relationship with Saudi Arabia and will enhance regional security and stability.

The United States has offered for sale a number of military goods to friendly governments in the region to support U.S. interests. In preparing these sales, we have worked closely with our friends in the region to ensure the proposed transfers strengthen stability and security regarding potential challenges from Iran or other threats in the region. We have consulted closely about this sale with Israel and remain committed to the preservation of Israel's qualitative military edge. I can assure you that the sale of JDAMs to Saudi Arabia will not affect Israel's qualitative military edge. The Government of Israel understands the reasons for this sale and does not object to it.

We are mindful of the sensitivity of some of the technology being transferred, and will continue to keep Congress informed on the details of this sale, particularly of any changes in the arrangements we have briefed the committee. We have had, and will continue to have, thorough discussions with the Government of Saudi Arabia regarding its obligations resulting from this sale. As a result of these discussions, we are confident that the Government of Saudi Arabia will undertake all necessary measures to secure these weapons and to assure their use only in ways which we support. In particular, the Government of Saudi Arabia will provide adequate security for the JDAMs such that these weapons will not fall into the hands of other nations or groups. Moreover, the Government of Saudi Arabia will ensure that these weapons will not be used against U.S. forces or the forces of U.S. allies.

I hope this resolves any concerns that might exist about this sale. We would be happy to discuss further with you, if you desire. We look forward to working with you to secure the advancement of U.S. interests in the Gulf region.

Sincerely, Condoleezza Rice.

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V.  ACKERMAN ON THE RECORD ON LEBANON
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On 2/14/08 Rep. Ackerman (D-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, inserted into the Record a speech entitled "REMEMBERING RAFIQ HARIRI AND THE IMPORTANCE OF LEBANON." The full text of the speech is included here.

Mr. ACKERMAN. Madam Speaker, I rise today in a mixture of sadness and outrage to commemorate the third anniversary of Rafiq Hariri's assassination. Sadness because the former Prime Minister, a man of vision and courage, was cut down in his prime as he stood up for the idea of a Lebanon as a nation free from external control, a sovereign, united and independent Lebanon that would regain its rightful place among the nations of the Middle East.

Three years ago a massive car bomb deprived the Hariri family of a husband and father and deprived the Lebanese people of a leader. It would prove to be the first in a dozen political assassinations that have plagued that nation for the last three years orchestrated by the enemies of a free and democratic Lebanon.

And it is this fact, Madam Speaker that fills me with outrage and should fill all our colleagues with outrage as well. Lebanon's future continues to be strangled by Iran and Syria whose agents Hezbollah, Amal and Michel Aoun, try to take through violence and intimidation what they cannot achieve at the ballot box. The slow strangulation of the state has left Lebanon without a President for almost 3 months, paralyzing the nation and raising the specter of renewed civil war.

On the third anniversary of former Prime Minister Hariri's murder, the international community must renew its commitment to the people of Lebanon and again speak out against the campaign of naked aggression that has left the March 14 movement only two parliamentarians away from losing their hard won majority. We must renew our demand that Damascus and Tehran lift their boots off Lebanon's neck. And we must ensure that justice is done in the case of Rafiq Hariri and all the other victims of the 3 year campaign to deny Lebanon its rightful place among free and independent nations. Toward that end, the United States and the rest of the international community must make it crystal clear to Syria that the Special Tribunal established by the United Nations Security Council to investigate the terrorist attack on February 14, 2005, is not a bargaining chip to be traded away. The interests of justice in this case far outweigh any concession that the government of Syria might hope to offer. The guilty must be held accountable for their crimes.

The international community has spoken frequently and eloquently through United Nations Security Council resolutions in support of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon, and has demanded the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon. These goals and this unity of purpose must not be abandoned or allowed to wither either from self-interest or distraction. The enemies of Lebanon believe they have time on their side--that they merely need to wait us out and Lebanon will once again be theirs to control.

The conflict in Lebanon is not a sideshow in the Middle East, it is the main event. Lebanon is where Tehran intends to fulfill its aspirations to regional hegemony and Shiite dominance. There is too much at stake for Lebanon and for the entire region for the world to leave the Lebanese to the mercies of the radical mullahs in Tehran, the thugs in Damascus and their terrorist allies, Hezbollah.

I urge all my colleagues to not only remember Rafiq Hariri and his sacrifice but to speak out in support of the legitimate democratic aspirations of the people of Lebanon. They want only what we enjoy every day--a free, sovereign and democratic state, the servant only of its own people and the master of its own destiny.

It's worth fighting for.


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