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APN Legislative Round-Up - June 13, 2008

I. Bills and Resolutions; II. HCFA Considers US-Russia 123 Agreement; III. H. Res. 362/S. Res. 580 -- Advocating an Act of War?; IV. House Hearing on the Decline in America's Reputation; V. Article of Impeachment XXI

APN Legislative Round-Up for the week ending June 13, 2008

I.   Bills and Resolutions
II.  HCFA Considers US-Russia 123 Agreement
III.  H. Res. 362/S. Res. 580 -- Advocating an Act of War?
IV. House Hearing on the Decline in America's Reputation
V.  Article of Impeachment XXI

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

(SEEDS OF PEACE) H. Con. Res. 337: Introduced 4/29/08 by Rep. Allen (D-ME) and having 51 cosponsors, "Honoring Seeds of Peace for its 15th anniversary as an organization promoting understanding, reconciliation, acceptance, coexistence, and peace in the Middle East, South Asia, and other regions of conflict." Passed by the House 6/10/08 under suspension of the rules by a voice vote.

(IRAN) S. 3103: Introduced 6/9/08 by Sens. Biden (D-DE) and Lugar (R-IN), "to amend the Iran, North Korea, and Syria nonproliferation Act to allow certain extraordinary payments in connection with the International Space Station; to the Committee on Foreign Relations." The bill was introduced at the request of the Administrator of NASA, who in a letter to Senator Biden (entered into the Congressional Record), stated that "The purpose of the amendment is to permit NASA to continue to procure Russian support for the International Space Station (ISS) until suitable U.S. capabilities are in place." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(IRAN) H. Res. 1258: Introduced 6/10/08 by Rep. Kucinich (D-OH) and having 3 cosponsors, "Impeaching George W. Bush, President of the United States, of high crimes and misdemeanors." On 6/11/08 the House voted 251-166 to refer the measure to the Judiciary committee. The resolution's articles of impeachment include Article XXI, entitled "Misleading Congress and the American people about threats from Iran, and supporting terrorist organizations within Iran, with the goal of overthrowing the Iranian Government." The full text of Article XXI is included in Section IV, below.

(IRAN) HR 6178: As noted in last week's Round-Up, on 6/4/08 by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and three cosponsors, "To strengthen existing legislation sanctioning persons aiding and facilitating nonproliferation activities by the governments of Iran, North Korea, and Syria, and for other purposes." Hat-tip to the Iran Nuclear Watch blog for pointing out the apparent inadvertent absurdity in the short title of the bill, according to which the focus of the bill is sanctioning those persons "aiding and facilitating nonproliferation activities" -- when the goal of the existing legislation (and the amendment) is actually to sanction people aiding and facilitating proliferation (nonproliferation is the goal of U.S. policy, and those aiding it and facilitating this goal are not presently subject to sanction.). For more, see:

II.  HCFA CONSIDERS US-RUSSIA 123 AGREEMENT ============================================

On 6/12/08, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing entitled "Russia, Iran, and Nuclear Weapons: Implications of the Proposed U.S.-Russia Agreement." As has been noted in previous editions of the Round-Up, there has been a great deal of controversy in Congress over the proposed Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Russian Federation for Cooperation in the Field of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy (also known as a 123 Agreement, after the relevant section of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954), transmitted by the President to Congress on 5/13/08. For details of some of this controversy, see the 5/16/08 edition of the Round-Up.

In his opening statement, Berman noted, "We're here this morning to begin to assess the proposed agreement between the United States and Russian governments to expand civil nuclear cooperation. One key factor we'll take into account during this process is the extent to which Russia is cooperating with the United States, the European Union and others to discourage Iran's development of a nuclear weapons capability." He added that "Russia's role in persuading and pressuring Iran to cease its dangerous nuclear activities is absolutely crucial. Yet in the past, Moscow has often been the main stumbling block to tougher sanctions. While Russia recently has been more supportive, its commitment to effective international action remains in question."

Berman went on to note that ".we are now on Day 19 of the statutory Congressional review period of 90 continuous days of session. The agreement will enter into force if, during this 90-day period, Congress does not enact a joint resolution of disapproval or approves a resolution of approval with conditions over the President's veto. This Committee has statutory responsibility to review the proposed agreement and report to the House on whether it should be approved or disapproved. This hearing is an initial step in that process. There has already been a significant amount of commentary on the benefits and drawbacks of this agreement. Its proponents argue that it may encourage Russia to be more forthcoming on tougher sanctions on Iran; critics counter that Russia will do so only if we hold the agreement back as a point of leverage. Proponents claim this agreement will allow the U.S. and Russia to work together to create a nuclear fuel bank and multilateral fuel assurances to reduce incentives for countries, like Iran, to develop their own uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing plants, that can make fuel for reactors or bombs. Critics respond that these things can be done now without this agreement. Advocates claim that this agreement will allow greater cooperation with Russia to develop proliferation-resistant reprocessing methods to extract useful uranium and plutonium from spent reactor fuel with minimal risk of diversion to military ends. Opponents charge that any reprocessing is dangerous, and efforts to expand reprocessing globally will inevitably encourage other states to start their own reprocessing efforts. To the extent that the Russia cooperation agreement assists this effort, opponents charge, it actually works against nonproliferation efforts to reduce the amount of plutonium available for nuclear weapons."

One witness in support of the 123 Agreement was Robert Einhorn, Senior Advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In his testimony, Einhorn noted that: ".It is understandable and appropriate that, in evaluating the 123 Agreement, Members of Congress will focus heavily on Russia's role vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear program. Moscow's record in that connection is mixed. On the one hand, Russia has resisted tough U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran, reduced its leverage with Iran by shipping fuel for the Bushehr reactor, and failed to stop all Russian entities from engaging in sensitive cooperation with Iran. But on the other hand, Moscow has insisted on taking back to Russia all spent fuel from the Bushehr reactor, proposed that Iran join an enrichment center in Russia rather than have its own enrichment program, and voted for three modest but increasingly strong U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions. Although those resolutions were all weaker than the United States preferred, they have given legitimacy to U.S.-led efforts outside the Council with foreign governments, banks, and businesses to impose financial and other economic pressures on Iran. The Russians have also pressed Iran publicly and privately to suspend its enrichment program as unnecessary and uneconomic.

"On the question of Russian entities transferring sensitive nuclear technology to Iran, the record is also uneven. Despite a substantial decrease in such sensitive assistance from the period of the late 1990s, when Russian-Iranian cooperation was a significant irritant in U.S. relations with Moscow, concerns have persisted about nuclear cooperation between Russian entities and Iran outside the openly acknowledged interactions taking place between the two countries on the Bushehr project. Indeed, some such cooperation has reportedly taken place - and was the focus of high-level U.S. diplomatic efforts with Russian leaders - in the period following the initialing of the 123 Agreement. However, those diplomatic efforts, including during a March 2008 visit to Moscow by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates, have apparently resulted in strong assurances at the highest levels of the Russian government that any further sensitive cooperation between Russian entities and Iran will stop.

"If Iran is to be persuaded to give up its enrichment program and nuclear ambitions, Russia must be prepared to work more closely and forcefully with the U.S. and other concerned states to exert strong pressures on Tehran and to make clear that its future will be much brighter if it heeds the demands of the Security Council and international community. Russian authorities must also be prepared to exercise careful oversight in ensuring that Russian entities are not assisting Iran's nuclear and missile programs by providing sensitive technology.

"A key question for this Committee and the Congress is whether Russia will be a more willing and energetic partner for the United States on the Iran nuclear issue if we proceed to implement the 123 Agreement or if we walk away from it.

"Some have argued that Russia's desire for the 123 Agreement gives the U.S. powerful leverage that can be used to demand that Moscow apply much greater pressure on Iran as a condition for proceeding with the agreement. This argument assumes Russia wants or needs the 123 Agreement more than the U.S. does. But while the Russians clearly would like an agreement, they can live without it. Indeed, in the 1990s, when Russia was in desperate economic shape, the lure of a 123 Agreement (and the economic rewards that might flow from it) was not sufficient to persuade Russian leaders to terminate all nuclear cooperation with Iran. Today, when Russia is riding high economically, U.S. leverage is even weaker. And as the Russians are already proving by establishing nuclear energy partnerships with a variety of Western and other countries, they have alternatives to the United States and U.S. companies.

"A 123 Agreement can give the U.S. leverage with the Russians. But the leverage, and the ability to influence Russian behavior, comes not from withholding U.S. approval of the agreement; it comes from implementing the agreement and giving the Russians a tangible, vested interest in continuing to cooperate with the United States. This is especially the case in seeking to hold Russian leaders to their pledge to prevent any future sensitive cooperation between Russian entities and Iran. It is important to note in this connection that the 123 Agreement is not self-executing. Even after entry in force, each nuclear export pursuant to the agreement must receive specific approval by U.S. authorities. Moreover, Section 129 of the Atomic Energy Act calls for termination of nuclear exports to any country that contributes to a nuclear weapons program by transferring sensitive nuclear technology to a third country. So if the Russians do not honor their pledge, nuclear cooperation with Russia can be stopped.

"Critical U.S. nonproliferation objectives, especially the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, cannot be achieved without the active cooperation of Russia. The best way to gain that cooperation - on Iran and a wide range of other nonproliferation issues - is to bring the U.S.-Russia 123 Agreement into force at an early date."

III. H. RES. 362/S. RES. 580 -- ADVOCATING AN ACT OF WAR? ==============================================

As noted in last week's edition of the Round-Up, one of the central "asks" of last week's AIPAC day on the Hill was H. Res. 362 (and its Senate companion, S. Res. 580), calling for tougher sanctions on Iran. The most significant element in those resolutions is the call to stop the import of refined petroleum into Iran. Indeed, as noted in last week's Round-Up, the demand that such imports be cut off was central to AIPAC's talking points, with a memo devoted to this issue, entitled "Why is it Important to Cut Off Imports of Refined Petroleum to Iran" distributed to conference-goers. Absent from the AIPAC analysis or the resolutions is any recognition that cutting off such imports to Iran would almost certainly necessitate a naval blockade of that country -- something that under international law constitutes an act of war. This reality is at odds with a key "whereas" clause in both resolutions stating that nothing in the resolutions "should be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran."

An excellent analysis of this issue, by National Iranian American Council (NIAC), is included in full below. The original can be found at:

Is a New Congressional Resolution Declaring War with Iran? By Emily Blout

A House resolution effectively requiring a naval blockade on Iran seems fast tracked for passage, gaining co-sponsors at a remarkable speed, but experts say the measures called for in the resolutions amount to an act of war.

H.CON.RES 362 calls on the president to stop all shipments of refined petroleum products from reaching Iran. It also "demands" that the President impose "stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains and cargo entering or departing Iran."

Analysts say that this would require a US naval blockade in the Strait of Hormuz.

Since its introduction three weeks ago, the resolution has attracted 134 cosponsors. Forty-three members added their names to the bill in the past two days. In the Senate, a sister resolution S. RES 580 has gained cosponsors with similar speed. The Senate measure was introduced by Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh on June 2. In little more than a week's time, it has accrued 15 cosponsors.

Congressional insiders credit America's powerful pro-Israel lobby for the rapid endorsement of the bills. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) held its annual policy conference June 2-4, in which it sent thousands of members to Capitol Hill to push for tougher measures against Iran. On its website, AIPAC endorses the resolutions as a way to "stop Iran's nuclear program" and tells readers to lobby Congress to pass the bill.

Proponents say the resolutions advocate constructive steps toward reducing the threat posed by Iran. "It is my hope that.this Congress will urge this and future administrations to lead the world in economically isolating Iran in real and substantial ways," said Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN), who is the original cosponsor of the House resolution.

Foreign policy analysts worry that such unilateral sanctions make it harder for the US to win the cooperation of the international community on a more effective multilateral effort. In his online blog, Senior Fellow in the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Ethan Chorin points out that some US allies seek the economic ties to Iran that these resolutions ban. "The Swiss have recently signed an MOU with Iran on gas imports; the Omanis are close to a firm deal (also) on gas imports from Iran; a limited-services joint Iranian-European bank just opened a branch on Kish Island," he writes.

These resolutions could severely escalate US-Iran tensions, experts say. Recalling the perception of the naval blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the international norms classifying a naval blockade an act of war, critics argue endorsement of these bills would signal US intentions of war with Iran.

Last week's sharp rise in the cost of oil following Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz's threat to attack Iran indicated the impact that global fear of military action against Iran can have on the world petroleum market. It remains unclear if extensive congressional endorsement of these measures could have a similar effect.

In late May, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly urged the United States to impose a blockade on Iran. During a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in Jersusalem, Olmert said economic sanctions have "exhausted themselves" and called a blockade a "good possibility."

Larry Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff for Colin Powell, disagrees. Iran has already gained the regional power that these resolutions seek to prevent, leaving diplomatic engagement the only way to proceed, he said in a June 7 interview with Real News Network.

"Demographically, military, every way you want to measure hegemony, Iran is the dominant power in the Persian gulf," he said. "Therefore we've got to come to recognize that, we've got to deal with that and hope we can shape that to a responsible role in the gulf and the region, and ultimately in the world. The only way you do that is through diplomacy."

IV. HOUSE HEARING ON THE DECLINE IN AMERICA'S REPUTATION ====================================================

On 6/11/08 the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight, held a hearing entitled "Report on the Decline in America's Reputation." Testifying before the subcommittee was Scott W. Hibbard Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science DePaul University. His statement (as submitted for the record) noted:

".why do they hate us? Is it because of our values or our policies? .here I am referring to mainstream public opinion among populations in the Middle East and South Asia - it would be enormously misleading to argue that these populations are somehow hostile to the values of individual freedom, democracy or the rule of law. This simply is not true. The people in these regions whom I know and speak with on a regular basis are desperate for democracy. They long for societies with accountable governments, open societies and the autonomy that defines a vibrant civil society. In short, like people everywhere, they yearn for freedom. And, to this end, they are genuinely drawn to the idea of America, and to the rhetoric that we espouse. "It should not be surprising, then, that they are extremely critical of American support for autocratic governments, particularly in the countries in which they live. Whether it is our relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Iran under the Shah or even Iraq during the 1980s (when the U.S. Government was supporting Iraq in its war with Iran), American foreign policy has consistently turned a blind eye toward government repression among our allies in the Middle East and South Asia. U.S. policy, in short, has tended to place a greater priority on access to Middle Eastern oil and other geo- strategic considerations than on human rights, democracy or freedom. In the post-9/11 period, this trend has become even more pronounced. Despite the rhetorical commitment to Arab reform, the Bush Administration has increased its direct support to military regimes as a means of fighting sub-state actors. ".A second issue of concern for Arab populations is the U.S. government's unqualified support for Israeli policies towards Palestinians under Israeli rule. Admittedly, the media coverage in the Arab world of this conflict is extremely one-sided, and very anti-Israeli. This is an unfortunate fact. However, this coverage reflects a side of the conflict that is not typically seen by the American public. This includes the daily hardships of a people living under military occupation, and graphic depictions of those Palestinians killed or wounded by Israeli forces. (Almost three times as many Palestinians have been killed in the conflict since 2000 than have Israelis.) The particular concern of Arabs in the Middle East is not that the U.S. government is allied with Israel, but, rather, that U.S. policy is so consistently hostile to Palestinian interests. The U.S. Government, in short, is not seen by Arab populations as a neutral arbiter in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and, on the contrary, is seen as promoting Israeli interests at the expense of the Palestinians. Arab media coverage also includes images of American-made military equipment (helicopters, tanks, and jets) being used by the Israeli army against the Palestinian population. Biased as this may be, it is nonetheless the perspective that shapes popular opinion throughout the Middle East. ".The third issue of note is the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the other means by which the current Administration has chosen to prosecute the war on terror. The invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, the expansion of rendition policies, the establishment of secret prisons, and the use of coercive interrogation have all proven be a significant liability for America's image overseas. The Subcommittee report summarizes these issues well, so I will not dwell on them at length. Let me simply make two points. First, the invasion of Iraq played into the hands of the Islamist militants which have long argued that America's interest in the region is driven by oil, not democracy. By invading an oil rich Arab state, the U.S. government apparently vindicated many of the claims made against it. Second, Arab and Muslim populations see in these policies a disturbing gulf between our rhetoric and our actions. It is this divide that generates the impression of hypocrisy. The images from Abu Ghraib, the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and the policies mentioned above have greatly undermined the image of America as a defender of freedom. Moreover, they have led citizens in the region to conclude that the exercise of American power is analogous to that of the regional military rulers."

================================= V. ARTICLE OF IMPEACHMENT XXI =================================

As noted above, on 6/10/08 Rep. Kucinich (D-OH) introduced H. Res. 1258, "Impeaching George W. Bush, President of the United States, of high crimes and misdemeanors." The resolution's articles of impeachment include Article XXI, entitled "Misleading Congress and the American people about threats from Iran, and supporting terrorist organizations within Iran, with the goal of overthrowing the Iranian Government." The full text of Article XXI is as follows:

"In his conduct while President of the United States, George W. Bush, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has both personally and acting through his agents and subordinates misled the Congress and the citizens of the United States about a threat of nuclear attack from the nation of Iran.

"The National Intelligence Estimate released to Congress and the public on December 4, 2007, which confirmed that the government of the nation of Iran had ceased any efforts to develop nuclear weapons, was completed in 2006. Yet, the president and his aides continued to suggest during 2007 that such a nuclear threat was developing and might already exist. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley stated at the time the National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iran was released that the president had been briefed on its findings 'in the last few months.' Hadley's statement establishes a timeline that shows the president knowingly sought to deceive Congress and the American people about a nuclear threat that did not exist.

"Hadley has stated that the president 'was basically told: stand down' and, yet, the president and his aides continued to make false claims about the prospect that Iran was trying to 'build a nuclear weapon' that could lead to 'World War III.'

"This evidence establishes that the president actively engaged in and had full knowledge of a campaign by his administration to make a false 'case' for an attack on Iran, thus warping the national security debate at a critical juncture and creating the prospect of an illegal and unnecessary attack on a sovereign nation.

"Even after the National Intelligence Estimate was released to Congress and the American people, the president stated that he did not believe anything had changed and suggested that he and members of his administration would continue to argue that Iran should be seen as posing a threat to the United States. He did this despite the fact that United States intelligence agencies had clearly and officially stated that this was not the case.

"Evidence suggests that the Bush Administration's attempts to portray Iran as a threat are part of a broader U.S. policy toward Iran. On September 30, 2001, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld established an official military objective of overturning the regime in Iran, as well as those in Iraq, Syria, and four other countries in the Middle East, according to a document quoted in then- Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith's book, 'War and Decision.'

"General Wesley Clark, reports in his book 'Winning Modern Wars' being told by a friend in the Pentagon in November 2001 that the list of governments that Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz planned to overthrow included Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and Somalia. Clark writes that the list also included Lebanon.

"Journalist Gareth Porter reported in May 2008 asking Feith at a public event which of the six regimes on the Clark list were included in the Rumsfeld paper, to which Feith replied 'All of them.'

Rumsfeld's aides also drafted a second version of the paper, as instructions to all military commanders in the development of 'campaign plans against terrorism'. The paper called for military commanders to assist other government agencies 'as directed' to 'encourage populations dominated by terrorist organizations or their supporters to overthrow that domination.'

"In January 2005, Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker Magazine that the Bush Administration had been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since the summer of 2004.

"In June 2005 former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter reported that United States security forces had been sending members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) into Iranian territory. The MEK has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, Canada, Iraq, and Iran. Ritter reported that the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had used the MEK to carry out remote bombings in Iran.

"In April 2006, Hersh reported in the New Yorker Magazine that U.S. combat troops had entered and were operating in Iran, where they were working with minority groups including the Azeris, Baluchis, and Kurds.

"Also in April 2006, Larisa Alexandrovna reported on Raw Story that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) was working with and training the MEK, or former members of the MEK, sending them to commit acts of violence in southern Iran in areas where recent attacks had left many dead. Raw Story reported that the Pentagon had adopted the policy of supporting MEK shortly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and in response to the influence of Vice President Richard B. Cheney's office. Raw Story subsequently reported that no Presidential finding, and no Congressional oversight, existed on MEK operations.

"In March 2007, Hersh reported in the New Yorker Magazine that the Bush administration was attempting to stem the growth of Shiite influence in the Middle East (specifically the Iranian government and Hezbollah in Lebanon) by funding violent Sunni organizations, without any Congressional authorization or oversight. Hersh said funds had been given to 'three Sunni jihadist groups ..... connected to al Qaeda' that 'want to take on Hezbollah.'

"In April 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported that conflicts with insurgent groups along Iran's borders were understood by the Iranian government as a proxy war with the United States and were leading Iran to support its allies against the United States' occupation force in Iraq. Among the groups the U.S. DOD is supporting, according to this report, is the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, known by its Kurdish acronym, PEJAK. The United States has provided 'foodstuffs, economic assistance, medical supplies and Russian military equipment, some of it funneled through nonprofit groups.'

"In May 2008, Andrew Cockburn reported on Counter Punch that President Bush, six weeks earlier had signed a secret finding authorizing a covert offensive against the Iranian regime. President Bush's secret directive covers actions across an area stretching from Lebanon to Afghanistan, and purports to sanction actions up to and including the funding of organizations like the MEK and the assassination of public officials.

"All of these actions by the President and his agents and subordinates exhibit a disregard for the truth and a recklessness with regard to national security, nuclear proliferation and the global role of the United States military that is not merely unacceptable but dangerous in a commander-in- chief.

"In all of these actions and decisions, President George W. Bush has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and Commander in Chief, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President George W. Bush, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office."

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