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APN Legislative Round-Up - April 18, 2008

I. Bills and Resolutions; II. Carter, Hamas, and a House Dogpile; III. Iran on the House Agenda; IV. Israel at 60 Tributes

 for the week ending April 18, 2008

I.   Bills and Resolutions
II.  Carter, Hamas, and a House Dogpile
III.  Iran on the House Agenda
IV.  Israel at 60 Tributes
 

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I. BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS
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(ISRAEL AT 60): S. Con. Res. 522: Introduced 4/17/08 by Senators Reid (D-NV) and (R-KY), and having 99 total cosponsors, "recognizing the 60th anniversary of the founding of the modern State of Israel and reaffirming the bonds of close friendship and cooperation between the United States and Israel." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. (Note: this is the Senate version of H. Con. Res. 322, which was covered in last week's edition of the Round-Up).

(HAMAS/PRESIDENT CARTER) H. Res. 1110: Introduced 4/16/08 by Reps. Kirk (R-IL) and Berkley (D-NV) and 27 cosponsors, "Condemning Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization responsible for the murders of 26 United States citizens." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. On 4/16/08 AIPAC issued an Action Alert urging supporters to contact House members to cosponsor the resolution.

(HAMAS/PRESIDENT CARTER) H. Con. Res. 329: Introduced 4/16/08 by Rep. Shuster (R-PA) and no cosponsors, "Expressing the sense of Congress that former Presidents and high-ranking political figures should refrain from freelance diplomacy against the wishes of the current Government and stated United States foreign policy." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(HAMAS/PRESIDENT CARTER) HR 5816: Introduced 4/16/08 by Reps. Knollenberg (R-MI) and Boehner (R-OR), "To prohibit assistance for the Carter Center located in Atlanta, Georgia."  Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Committee on Appropriations. Knollenberg issued a statement in connection with the introduction of the bill, which can be read at: http://www.knollenberg.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=88797

(DURBAN CONFERENCE) HR 5847: Introduced 4/17/08 by Rep. Garrett (R-NJ) and 16 cosponsors, "To prohibit United States funding for the 2009 United Nations Durban Review Conference ('Durban II Conference') or any other activity relating to the planning, preparation, or implementation of a follow-up meeting to the 2001 United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance ('Durban I Conference') in Durban, South Africa." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(IRAN) H. Amdt. 994 (A004) to HR 2634: An amendment to the Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation of 2008, offered on the floor by Rep. Diaz-Balart (R-FL), "to exclude any country whose government has business interests with Iran." The amendment (part of a motion to recommit) passed by a vote of 291-130. Ironically, due to the way the amendment was introduced and passed, it effectively erased a number of other amendments (not related to Iran) supported by Republicans, and also may jeopardize debt relief for Iraq and other countries that may be on the Administration's debt relief radar. For more details, see: http://irannuclearwatch.blogspot.com/2008/04/iran-stuck-in-middle-of-partisan-debt.html

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II. CARTER, HAMAS, AND A HOUSE DOGPILE =======================================

In addition to the two resolutions and one bill introduced on 4/16/08 related to former President Carter's decision to meet with Hamas officials, some members of Congress signed letters or made statements on the issue, including a letter sent 4/16/08 by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Berman (D-CA), and Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee Chairman Ackerman (D-NY), and a letter spearheaded by Reps. Kirk (R-IL) and Berkley (D-NV), sent to President Carter on 4/15/08, and signed by 55 members. The letter and signers can be viewed at: http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/il10_kirk/More_than_50_members_call_on_Carter.html

It is worth noting that many Israeli security and military figures are calling for engagement with Hamas. For examples, see: http://peacenow.org/readings.asp?rid=&cid=4667. APN's position, which was included in the 3/7/08 edition of the Round-Up, and can also be read in full at: http://peacenow.org/pr.asp?rid=&cid=4650, notes that:

".Any realistic, sustainable resolution to this crisis will require Israel and Hamas to engage, directly or indirectly, to achieve a ceasefire or hudna. The only questions then are: how many more Israelis and Palestinians will die or be wounded in the interim; how much less international sympathy Israel will have when the ceasefire is being negotiated; how much bigger will the disaster on the ground be, both in Israel and Gaza, once a ceasefire is achieved; and how much damage will have been done to the credibility and viability of the peace process and the Israeli and Palestinian peace camps.

"Such an approach has been embraced to various degrees by key Israeli security figures, including former national security advisor (to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon) Giora Eiland, former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy, and former defense minister Shaul Mofaz. In the context of the current crisis, this approach has been strongly advocated by former Shin Bet head Ami Ayalon, a Minister-without-portfolio in the Olmert government.

"It is especially imperative for the Bush Administration, as the main shepherd of the Annapolis peace process, to support -- or at least not block -- efforts to reach a ceasefire, stabilize Gaza, and re-build Palestinian national unity. It is time to at last recognize the failure of the dogmatic policy of boycotting Hamas and blockading Gaza, and replace it with a pragmatic policy incorporating support for strategic, self-interested engagement between Israel and Hamas, either through direct contacts or via third parties, including President Abbas. The U.S., and all those who support Israel and Israeli-Palestinian peace, must recognize that the current situation in Gaza, including the recent escalation, is a threat to the newly-launched peace process. In the present context, both Israeli leaders and Palestinian Authority President Abbas have little credibility with their publics as they pursue peace talks, and the peace talks themselves are widely viewed with skepticism or disdain.."


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III. IRAN ON THE HOUSE AGENDA
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As reported in the 12/14/07 edition of the Round-Up and previous editions, APN supports "serious, determined, and unconditional diplomacy with Iran." We believe that "the interests of both the U.S. and Israel demand that the utmost effort be invested in the success of direct engagement and diplomacy. In this regard, it should be emphasized that while sanctions are a potentially powerful tool for putting pressure on Iran, sanctions alone cannot replace diplomacy as a means of resolving differences between nations. An effective policy would combine sanctions with diplomacy. In this regard, mere half-hearted or ephemeral efforts at engagement and diplomacy will at best be ineffective, and at worst will disclose a transparently cynical approach, one that is designed to fail. Such an approach must be rejected.  The goal of U.S. engagement and diplomacy should not be to make a show of exhausting all non-military options in order to build a case for war; rather, the goal must be to capitalize on non-military options in order to resolve the differences and avoid war."

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On 4/15/08 a group of House Democrats went to the floor to speak about Iran and their concern that the Administration is headed for war. Excerpts from this lengthy discussion are included below:

WATERS (D-CA): ".The question that we raise tonight is this: Could the Bush administration possibly be planning for a war with Iran? There isn't any empirical evidence to prove that the Bush administration is planning for war. But there are experts that are indeed worried that the same playbook that was used to bring this country into the Iraq war is now being used to toward Iran. The administration is pushing suspect intelligence. And it has severely increased and sharpened since their rhetoric first began toward Iran. We come to the floor tonight to resist efforts by this administration to paint war with Iran as a necessary next step in our so-called war on terror. A vast majority of foreign policy and military experts agree that war with Iran would be a colossal error.

"Allow me to spend a few minutes to explain why I feel that U.S. strikes against Iran are a real possibility. Let us look at some of the signs that we may be headed for war. The increased rhetoric. The administration is building the volume of inflammatory rhetoric toward Iran in a similar fashion to the run-up to the Iraq war. Strong statements about Iran's intervention in Iraq could set the stage for U.S. attack on Iranian military or nuclear facility. Surrogates in the administration, including the President himself, have increasingly stressed a full range of negative Iranian behavior, including that Iran is killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq, supplying weapons, training and funding to special groups. They also say that Iran is interfering with the peace process in the Middle East. And they go on to talk about General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker as they argued that Iran is the major future threat to stability in Iraq. Iran seeks to build nuclear weapons. When this point was dismissed by the recent National Intelligence Estimate stating that Iran had long since halted their nuclear enrichment, the administration criticized the report.

"A further sign that the U.S. may be headed for war is Admiral Fallon's resignation. In the aftermath of the disastrous invasion of Iraq, there has been discussion within media and in the military that senior military officers should have resigned when they knew the White House to be heading to a reckless war in Iraq. Some are speculating that the recent retirement of Admiral Fallon is a direct result of his steadfast opposition to war with Iran. He even made his disagreements with the administration public before his retirement. In a now-famous profile that Admiral Fallon agreed to do for Esquire magazine, he was characterized as the only man standing between war with Iran.

"Another sign that the U.S. may be thinking about war is the offensive against the Mahdi Army. Moqtada al Sadr has promised full-scale attacks on America's interests in Iraq in the event of strikes on Iran. As commander of the multinational force in Iraq, General David Petraeus still presides as the commander of the Iraqi security forces as well. Any operation against the Mahdi Army would have been authorized by him. What motivation did the United States have in fueling a violent confrontation with the powerful militia at a time when al Sadr had declared a truce and the progress of the surge was being reported to Congress? One explanation is that recent operations against al Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army, may have been meant to neutralize possible resistance inside of Iraq in the event of a strike on Iran."

LEE (D-CA): ".It is very timely that Congresswoman Waters has called us here tonight to sound the alarm on Iran. It is truly disturbing to me to hear many of the same drumbeats on this administration 's march to war with Iran as we saw 5 years ago in the run-up to the war in Iraq. So I want to provide just a little bit of history on Iraq to draw out some of these parallels, in the hope that they will provide Congress and the American people with a clear warning signal.Some may ask, why is it necessary to review this history? Well, as the old saying goes, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. The other reason for reviewing this history is because it goes straight to the veracity and the credibility of this administration that brought us this debacle and which may be maneuvering to reprise its strategic and geopolitical incompetence by taking preemptive military action against Iran.

"If you listen carefully, you can hear the same distant drumbeats of a coming war with Iran. The signs are very familiar. Nearly on a daily basis we read or hear these from the administration, and let me just repeat a few of these drumbeats that we hear. They say Iran is the single greatest threat to the stability in Iraq.Iran is building nuclear weapons. Iran is killing American soldiers in Iraq, arming, training and funding insurgents and terrorists. Iran is interfering with the peace process in the Middle East.  I am reminded how the administration sent General Colin Powell..before the United Nations Security Council to make the case to the world that Iraq posed an imminent threat to regional peace and security.

"..This is starting to sound like the groundwork being laid for the need to take defensive action against Iran. This is unacceptable. We should not be looking for an excuse to attack Iran. Congress should not stand for yet another so-called preemptive military strike, and we should take action to clearly prohibit any such attempt against Iran. As I stated, we have been down this road before. We have learned a simple truth from five hard and bitter years in Iraq. No unjust war ever produced a just and lasting peace. It has not worked in Iraq. It will not work in Iran."

"What is needed is not another rush to unwarranted, unnecessary and misguided military action, but rather a strong diplomatic surge for peace and reconciliation. And, yes, I do believe that a nuclear-armed Iran poses a danger. I believe we need to move forward with nonproliferation efforts, including looking at our own arsenal of nuclear weapons in our own country. Nuclear weapons should not be an option at this point, given the dangers of the world. So we need to address nuclear nonproliferation in the context of a strong diplomatic initiative. One of the most important first steps we should take is to have direct, comprehensive and unconditional bilateral talks with Iran. To facilitate this goal, it is imperative for the administration to show that it is serious in this endeavor by appointing a special envoy. I think we need to appoint a special person, an individual who does nothing but ensure that we move forward to reduce the tensions in the region, and this envoy should receive the necessary support to carry out his or her mandate."

ELLISON (D-MN): ".We see in Iran a country we have not had any open diplomatic relationships with since 1979, except for brief moments around IEDs last summer. The meetings have not been continued, and, in essence, we have had no real diplomatic relationships with Iran in many, many years. Many Americans don't remember the day when we did have relationships with Iran. Yet, despite all these years of having no diplomatic ties to Iran, no open communications, channels of communications, it really has not solved any of the problems. Not talking has not helped.  I want to join with Representative Waters and Representative Lee in calling for an open dialogue, unconditional bilateral dialogue. Dialogue is not a gift, dialogue is not a present, dialogue is not a reward.  Dialogue is a tool that can help us stabilize the world, bring peace to millions and millions of people all over the world. Dialogues should not be used as some sort of a gift. It doesn't make sense for any nation to say capitulate to our demands, and then we will talk to you. The very purpose of negotiation is to say, let's talk, and the first agenda item could be serious problems we have with one another.

"But the start is talking, unconditional talking, talking with a clear agenda in mind, talking with no illusions about differences. But talking, nonetheless, is something that I think we need, and we need it now.  I want to say that our effort to isolate Iran by not talking to Iran, reminds me of our effort of trying to isolate Cuba by not talking to Cuba. Now everybody in the world does business with Cuba except the United States. American farmers wanting to sell grain, Cubans want to buy stuff from the U.S., people wanting to see family, those things are hampered because we are the only ones in the world maintaining this policy of nondialogue. I fear that we could end up in the same way with Iran.

".We are not talking to Iran. We don't talk to Iran. We don't want to try to get into that market of 70 million people. We don't want to try to open up diplomatic ties and work on issues. We are not trying to solve this nuclear conflict with dialogue, discussion and open conversation. We are just trying to isolate them, but nothing suggested we are being successful at doing that. The fact is maybe isolation of Iran is not the right tactic. Maybe the right tactic is to try to talk to them, to try to build a better relationship, to try to have cultural exchange, try to have exchange of views, different though they may be, with an eye toward a more peaceful world, with an eye toward a world in which people can have security and in which an eye toward which the world can rest and feel their children are safe at night."

JACKSON-LEE (D-TX): ".I want to speak constitutionally.I truly believe that we are at such a point in history that any actions by the President [to attack Iran] would warrant extreme actions; or I should not suggest extreme, I should suggest constitutional actions by this Congress. It may warrant raising issues of impeachment. The reason I say that is to use the War Powers Act in a way that ignores the constitutional privilege and right of this Congress to declare war, I believe, is not doing well by the American people. We already know the results of a war without end, the Iraq war, that is costing $339 million a day, that has already gone past a trillion dollars, that has seen 9,500 of our soldiers injured or maimed, sometimes injured or maimed for life, to see 4,000-plus die. It is a war without end.

"Frankly, the question has to become what is the President's goal and intent if he has an idea that Iran is the next target. Has he looked to diplomacy and looked to the question of working with China or Russia to contain Iran? Has he looked at negotiation with the individuals in Iran who really may be interested in some sort of resolution? Is he buying into the constant refrain that Iran is providing the weapons in Iraq? Is he also looking to the perceived friendship between the Iraq government and the Iran government? None of the above.

"What I sense in the administration is a percolating attempt to attack Iran, and that percolating attempt based upon the representation of nuclear weapons. I don't want Iran to possess the capacity to engage and to utilize nuclear weapons, nor am I interested in protecting an Iran that has been hostile to the world. I am not interested in coddling terrorists. But we can clearly see that the policies in Iraq have not deterred the terrorists. They have only grown the terrorists. And I would question whether the only way to create peace in the Mid East is to again attack another country in the Mid East.So I rise today to join my colleagues and say not on my watch, absolutely not."

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On 4/17/08, Rep. Ackerman (D-NY), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia convened a hearing entitled, "Between Feckless and Reckless: U.S. Policy Options to Prevent a Nuclear Iran." His opening statement, reflecting a very different view of the way forward, noted that:

"Within the next two years, there is a real possibility that Iran will have the means to make an atomic bomb...The reason for this awful truth is that they wanted it more than we wanted to stop them. They have risked war. We decided to fight the wrong country. They have risked sanctions. We have failed to get the international community to embargo so much as a box of cereal. They have committed the resources needed to create an extensive, hidden and hardened nuclear infrastructure. We can't even get the Senate to debate measures to toughen our own sanctions laws. They are serious and we are not.

".So the only question that matters is, what are we going to do between now and then to stop Iran? With so little time, our thinking about this problem needs to change. Options that years ago would have seemed reckless-discussing embargoes and blacklists, and highlighting and emphasizing of our military capabilities-have now become essential leverage if we are going to be successful in peacefully getting Iran to back down. Likewise, continuing doggedly and patiently on the diplomatic path alone, which years ago may have seemed wise, today looks like a roadmap to disaster. With Iranian proliferation on the horizon, what is feckless is in fact reckless. Toothless diplomacy in this case makes military intervention by ourselves, or by others, more, rather than less likely. I am not calling for another war. I want to prevent one. But we may have to go right up to very brink if we are going to be considered serious and credible when we call an Iranian nuclear weapon 'unacceptable.' President Bush has used this word, unacceptable. Based on policy to date, I'm not really sure he knows what it means."

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Also on 4/17/08, Rep. Woolsey (D-CA) made a floor statement regarding Iran, noting:

".I rise to bring to the House's attention a potentially, very dangerous new turn in the administration's policies in the Middle East. In recent weeks the administration has been stirring up the pot on Iran again, and that has caused many Americans to worry that the administration is getting ready to launch another attack in the region, this time in Tehran. In fact, there's more than enough evidence to show that the administration may be laying the groundwork for military action. In an interview last month, the President said that the Iranians, and I quote him, he said, 'the Iranians have declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people.' That would be troubling, Madam Speaker, if it were true. But the Iranians haven't said anything of the kind. It is shocking to me that our Commander-in-Chief would make unsubstantiated and misleading statements about a subject as important and as serious as nuclear weapons. "Another troubling sign came last month when Admiral William Fallon retired. Admiral Fallon was a bulwark against the Iran hawks in the administration, and his departure raised fears that he was, first, forced to retire, and that next, the rush to war was on. And several weeks ago, Vice President Cheney said that he has 'high confidence' that the Iranians have an ongoing nuclear enrichment program. Of course, the most recent national intelligence estimate reported that the Iranians stopped working on a suspected nuclear weapons program 4 years ago. And finally, General Petraeus told Congress last week that Iranian-backed special groups now pose the greatest long-term threat in Iraq. For years, the administration told us that the main enemy was al Qaeda or Sunni insurgents, or Shiite militia. Now they tell us, forget them; it's Iran. In my mind, this raises legitimate concerns that the administration may be inventing new excuses to stay in Iraq by trying to convince the American people to support war against Iran.

"Madam Speaker, I too am concerned about Iran. The Iranians should stay out of Iraq. They should not develop nuclear weapons. No country should develop nuclear weapons. But if we want Iran to behave well, we must stop threatening to attack them. Instead, our first line of defense must be engagement and aggressive diplomacy."


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III. ISRAEL AT 60 TRIBUTES
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As noted in previous Round-Ups, House leadership is setting aside floor time every week, starting the week of April 4 through June, for Members to make statements honoring Israel's 60th. The Round-Up will be tracking these statements. Other than in exceptional cases (e.g., a member making a statement opposing the two-state solution, or a member calling for stronger U.S. leadership to achieve peace) we will not comment on the content of the statements.

Rep. Fossella (R-IL) 4/17/08

  Also, from the Senate (in the context of the introduction of S. Con. Res. 522):

Sen. Reid (D-NV) 4/17/08 Sen. Boxer (D-CA) 4/17/08


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