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Legislative Round-Up: Week Ending May 18, 2012

1.  Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2.  House Passes Iran "Red Lines" Resolution, but Important Clarifications Now on the Record
3.  House Passes FY13 NDAA (details or Iran/Mideast Amendments)
4.  Senate Tries, and Fails, to Pass More Iran Sanctions
5.  Hearings & Confirmations
6.  Members on H. Res. 568 (red lines resolution)
7.  Members on the Record
8.  From the Press


With new Iran talks set for May 23rd, and the House adjourning at the end of this week until May 30, one of the main themes of the week in both the House and Senate was Iran (as is evident from the table of contents of today's Round-Up).  

The apparent goal was for Congress to send "messages" to Iran about how tough it is prepared to be if Iran doesn't play ball in talks.  Supporters of this approach suggest that Congress is helping the president, acting as the "bad cop" to the president's "good cop," and letting Iran know that "if you don't deal with him, you're going to have to deal with us."   

Critics of this approach, on the other hand, suggest that Congress is undermining the effort to find a way, short of war, to address Iran's nuclear program - by sending a message to Iran that the President does not have the support he needs to negotiate any agreement with Iran, even if Iran is ready to make one.  The latter is not far-fetched, given that most sanctions in place against Iran today have been imposed via laws passed by Congress (meaning they can only be lifted by Congress passing a new law) rather than, as was the case in the past, by acts of the President (i.e., via executive orders that the President had the authority, on his own, to rescind).  Indeed, some members are coming out openly opposing diplomacy - for example, in a statement 5/17/12, HFAC Chair Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL, noted that she was "deeply concerned that the Administration's foolish embrace of yet another round of negotiations will only embolden the regime."


1.  Bills, Resolutions, & Letters

("RED LINES" FOR WAR WITH IRAN) H. Res. 568:  This week the House passed H. Res. 568, setting new red lines for war with Iran.  The resolution was brought to the floor under suspension of the rules 5/15/12, and passed 5/17/12 by a roll call vote of 401-11, with 9 members voting "present."  For details, including on the important clarifications made about the resolution on the House floor, see Section 2, below.

("RED LINES" FOR WAR WITH IRAN) S. Res. 380:  On 5/17/12, Sen. Corker (R-TN) raised concerns about S. Res. 380 (in the context of the debate over new Iran sanctions - see Section 4, below, for details).  In response, Senator Lieberman (R-, I mean I-CT), a primary sponsor of S. Res. 380, finally clarified that the resolution is not intended as an authorization of use of force.  In addition, the other primary sponsor of the resolution, Senator Graham (R-SC) - who prior to the introduction of S. Res, 380 reportedly rebuffed efforts to add a line stating that the resolution is not an authorization of use of force - said on the Senate floor that he would now gladly add such a sentence.

(ISRAEL MISSILE AID/WAR WITH IRAN) HR 4310:  This week the House took up and passed HR 4310, the FY13 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  For Iran- and Middle East-related details of the bill and amendments to the bill, see Section 3, below.

(Foreign Ops - addition funds for Jordan)  HR xxxx On 5/17/12 the full Appropriations Committee marked up and passed the FY13 ForOps bill.  The Committee press release on the bill is available here.   No Middle East-related amendments were made to the bill text during the full committee markup - meaning that the summary of Middle East-related elements in the bill included in last week's Round-Up remains accurate, except for one detail.  In the 5/9/12 subcommittee mark-up of the bill, the subcommittee voted to earmark an additional $50 million for Jordan.  ForOps Subcommittee Chair Granger (R-TX) stated in her opening statement in that markup, "We also support the requested $660 million for Jordan's economic and security assistance, and we direct the State Department to provide an additional $50 million to help Jordan as they face ongoing unrest in the region.  Jordan is a critical partner in the war on terrorism and time and again, Jordan proves to be a regional leader by bringing the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table. I applaud King Abdullah for his leadership, for making political reforms in Jordan, and his commitment to peace in the Middle East."  The opening statement by Ranking member Lowey (D-NY) can be read here.  The Full Committee report is available here.

(IRAN ACCOUNTABILITY FOR 1979) HR 5796:
Introduced 5/17/12 by Reps. Braley (D-IA) and Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), "the Justice for American Diplomats Held Hostage in Tehran Act."  Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Foreign Affairs.  Ros-Lehtinen introduced similar legislation in the 111th (HR 4025), 110th  (HR 394), and 109th Congress (HR 3358).  Ros-Lehtinen's press release touting introduction of HR 5796 is here.  She notes that "This bipartisan legislation sends an unmistakable message to Tehran's mullahs that Congress will continue to inflict crippling sanctions on the regime until it completely dismantles its nuclear weapons program."

(1972 OLYMPICS) H. Res. 663: Introduced 5/17/12 by Reps. Engel (D-NY) and Lowey (D-NY), "Expressing support for the International Olympic Committee to recognize with a minute of silence at every future Olympics Opening Ceremony those who lost their lives at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and for other purposes."  Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Letters:

(IRAN DIPLOMACY) Price-Dreier letter: On 5/15/12 Reps. Price (D-NC) and Dreier (R-CA) began circulating a Dear Colleague letter seeking cosigners on a letter to President Obama in advance of the upcoming P5+1 talks in Baghdad.   At a time when Congressional actions are, for the most part, sending a strong impression of Congressional non-support for ongoing diplomatic efforts to deal with Iran's nuclear program, this letter seeks to send a message of support for those efforts.    The letter states that "We write to convey our strong support for the prevention of a nuclear weapons-capable Iran through diplomacy. We share your commitment to the ongoing multilateral discussions on Iran's nuclear program and urge you to continue working with our P5+1 partners in pursuit of this goal."  The letter also addresses one of the key faults in H. Res. 568 by defining "nuclear capability" as "the capability to produce them [nuclear weapons] from stockpiled materials and components."  This definition is consistent with the clarification offered 5/15/12 on the House floor by Rep. Berman (D-CA) - see section 2, below, for details.  On 5/16/12 APN issued an Action Alert on the letter and sent a message to all House members urging them to sign on to this timely, bipartisan initiative (and a follow-up message 5/18/12).

(PA - RELIGIOUS FREEDOM) Forbes-McIntyre Letter:  On 5/17/12 Reps. Forbes (R-VA) and McIntyre (D-NC), members of the House International Religious Freedoms Caucus, began circulating a Dear Colleague seeking cosigners on a letter to the PA's Salam Fayyad.  The letter expresses "grave concern regarding the treatment of religious minorities in areas under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction" and raises the specific issue of the PA preventing a Baptist Church in Bethlehem from "carrying out its functions as a legal church" (due to the PA's refusal to officially recognize the church, its members apparently cannot secure birth, marriage, baptism or death certificates).  The letter urges the PA to "process the required documentation for First Baptist Church and recognize it as a legal religious denomination of the Palestinian Authority..."

(PA FUNDING) Israel-Lowey-Deutch Letter: On 5/8/12 (not previously reported in the Round-Up) Reps. Israel (D-NY), Lowey (D-NY), and Deutch (D-FL) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) asking for an investigation into the use of U.S. funds to the PA, and specifically funding for the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF).  The letter suggests that there is inadequate accountability of such funds.  Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) has led the effort to get Congress to investigate the PIF, starting with his testimony before the House Appropriations Committee's  Foreign Operations subcommittee on 9/14/11, followed by an October 2011 op-ed in The Hill and a November 2011 op-ed in the Weekly Standard.

2.  House Passes Iran "Red Lines" Resolution, but Important Clarifications Now on the Record

On 5/15/12, the House voted to suspend the rules and take up H. Res. 568, the AIPAC-backed resolution setting new "red lines" for U.S. action against Iran, including shifting the established "red line" in U.S. policy from refusing to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, to a new policy of refusing to allow Iran to acquire "nuclear weapons capability."  Notably, the resolution fails to define what is meant by the term "nuclear weapons capability"-- leaving Congressional intent ambiguous with respect to a red line for U.S. military action (the resolution explicitly takes containment of a nuclear "capable" Iran off the table, so by inference, if this red line is crossed, the resolution implies that military action is mandatory).  In addition, the resolution, while laying out these new red lines for mandatory U.S. military action, does not include any language making clear that the resolution is not, in itself, an authorization of use of force (efforts to add such language in the Senate version of the bill before it was introduced were reportedly rebuffed).

APN has strongly opposed H. Res. 568 since it was introduced in March.  On 5/14/12, APN issued a new Action Alert on the resolution and sent a message to all House members laying out our concerns about the resolution.

H. Res. 568 was taken up on the House floor on the evening of 5/15/12 (the full floor discussion from 5/15/12 can be read here).  On the floor, some members raised questions/concerns about the resolution similar to those raised by APN.   In response, Rep. Berman (D-CA), a lead sponsor of the resolution, clarified two key points about the resolution.  None of the other members on the floor, including Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), another lead sponsor of H. Res. 568, challenged these clarifications.  Berman stated:

(a) on the question of authorizing force: "This resolution is no way intended and in no way can it be interpreted as an authorization for the use of military force. It is a nonbinding resolution that endorses a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear program. It includes no operative authorizations regarding the use of force."  And:  "...There is nothing in this resolution, and there is no intention in this resolution, to provide that authorization."

(b) on the intent behind the term "nuclear weapons capable": "Nuclear weapons capability--there are three elements, as defined by the Director of National Intelligence: fissile material production, one. Design, weaponization, and testing of a warhead, two. A delivery vehicle. To be nuclear-capable, you really have to... master all three elements.  While Iran has the delivery system, they have not yet mastered--but they are making progress--on steps one and two. And if one day, when they've mastered all the other elements and they kick out the inspectors and they shut off the cameras, I will consider them nuclear-capable."

APN welcomed these important clarifications (and urged members to also sign the Price-Dreier letter, discussed in Section 1, above).  

A vote on H. Res. 568 was postponed on 5/15/12, after a recorded roll call vote was demanded.  That vote was rolled over until 5/16/12.  Late in the day on 5/16/12, the vote on H. Res. 568 was postponed again until 5/17/12.  On 5/17/12, H. Res. 568 passed overwhelmingly (as expected).  The final vote was 401-11, with 9 members voting "present" and 10 members not voting.  Voting "no" were: Amash (R-MI), Blumenauer (D-OR), Davis (R-KY), Duncan (R-TN), Kucinich (D-OH), Lee (D-CA), McDermott (D-WA), Olver (D-MA), Paul (R-TX), Stark (D-CA), and Woolsey (D-CA).  Voting "present" were:  Conyers (D-MI), DeFazio (D-OR), Ellison (D-MN), Honda (D-CA), Johnson (D-GA), Johnson (D-TX), McCollum (D-MN), Moore (D-WI), and Speier (D-CA).  Full details of roll call vote are available here.  

AIPAC's statement applauding passage of the resolution - which was introduced during the AIPAC policy conference and has been a centerpiece of AIPAC lobbying since then - is available here.  

NIAC - which opposed H. Res. 568 on similar grounds as APN, also issued a statement, entitled "House Vote on Iran Is No Endorsement of "Zero Enrichment" Redline."  In it, NIAC notes, accurately, that:

"The pro-peace community won an important battle this week as opposition to H.Res.568 and its Senate companion forced the bills' sponsors to address dangerous ambiguities in the legislation.  The resolution rules out containing a 'nuclear weapons capable' Iran, a term the resolution does not define but that many interpreted as ruling out uranium enrichment -- the 'red line' for war that opponents of diplomacy have pressured the United States government to adopt.

"Although the resolution received strong support in the House today, this only came after the lead Democratic sponsor, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) went on the record to clarify there is no authorization for war and made clear that the Congress was not opposing a diplomatic solution that would potentially allow for Iranian enrichment of uranium for strictly civilian purposes.  Instead, Rep. Berman made clear that Iran would not have a 'nuclear weapons capability' unless it masters fissile material production, builds and tests a warhead, develops a delivery vehicle, kicks out international inspectors, and shuts off the cameras of international nuclear inspectors.  Rep. Berman further backed his statement with testimony from the Director of National Intelligence...

"In addition, after being questioned about their resolution on the Senate floor, the lead sponsors of the Senate companion resolution, S.Res.380, made clear that their resolution does not constitute authorization for war.  They further stated their belief that President would have to return to the Congress for any such authorization.  However, the Senate has still failed to address the ambiguities in the term 'nuclear weapons capability.'"

3.  House Passes FY13 NDAA (details or Iran/Mideast Amendments)

On the evening of 5/16/12 the House began consideration of HR 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The bill was passed, with amendments, on 5/18/12 by a vote of 299-120.

As noted in last week's Round-Up, the new base bill, as it came out of committee, includes earmarked authorization of $680 million for Israel's "Iron Dome" program (other funding for Israel-U.S. defense cooperation is also in the bill, but not explicitly earmarked).  In addition, it includes extensive funding for weapons and programs linked to preparing for war with Iran, as well as an entire section dealing with Iran (Sections 1221-1223) that includes a declaration of readiness to use military action against Iran, urges the Administration to take steps to bring the U.S. to a visible war footing against Iran, and requires the Administration to prepare a plan (and report on it to Congress) to achieve that.  Specifically, the bill includes:

SEC. 1221. DECLARATION OF POLICY:  the "finding" part of this section includes language to the effect that "In order to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, the United States, in cooperation with its allies, must utilize all elements of national power including diplomacy, robust economic sanctions, and credible, visible preparations for a military option" (emphasis added).  It goes on to state "It shall be the policy of the United States to take all necessary measures, including military action if required, to prevent Iran from threatening the United States, its allies, or Iran's neighbors with a nuclear weapon."

SEC. 1222. UNITED STATES MILITARY PREPAREDNESS IN THE MIDDLE EAST:  The section includes a Sense of Congress to the effect that the more visibly the U.S. is preparing for war - including military exercises in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman - the better the U.S. will be prepared for war and the more seriously Iran will take the U.S. threat of military action.  This section calls on the president to "augment the presence of the United States Fifth Fleet in the Middle East and to conduct military deployments, exercises, or other visible, concrete military readiness activities to underscore" the policy stated above.   It also requires the Secretary of Defense to prepare and present to Congress a plan to achieve this.  The required plan must address detailed war readiness issues like "pre-positioning sufficient supplies of aircraft, munitions, fuel, and other materials for both air- and sea-based missions at key forward locations in the Middle East and Indian Ocean," "maintaining sufficient naval assets in the region necessary to signal United States resolve and to bolster United States capabilities to launch a sustained sea and air campaign against a range of Iranian nuclear and military targets, to protect seaborne shipping, and to deny Iranian retaliation against United States interests in the region," "the viability of deploying at least two United States aircraft carriers, an additional large deck amphibious ship, and a Mine Countermeasures Squadron in the region on a continual basis," and "conducting naval fleet exercises similar to the United States Fifth Fleet's major exercise in the region in March 2007 to demonstrate ability to keep the Strait of Hormuz open and to counter the use of anti-ship missiles and swarming high-speed boats."  

SEC. 1223. ANNUAL REPORT ON MILITARY POWER OF IRAN:  This section amends an existing required report on Iran to require an annex, submitted by the Commander of the United States Central Command, identifying/assessing any intelligence gaps or capabilities gaps that impact the capacity of the U.S. to take military action against Iran.

The Obama Administration has gone on the record objecting to Sections 1221-1222.  The White House Statement of Policy on HR 4310 states:  

"The Administration strongly objects to sections 1221 and 1222, which would require DOD to prepare and submit a plan to augment the presence of the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the Middle East and to conduct military activities in that region. Taken together, these provisions would infringe upon the President's prerogative to plan for military activities, including the deployment of U.S. Forces. Section 1221 also purports to declare U.S. policy toward Iran, challenging the President's well-established constitutional prerogatives with respect to U.S. foreign policy. The Administration also objects to section 1222, which would micromanage the President's decisions as Commander-in-Chief regarding the deployment of U.S. Forces."

Amendments

A full list of amendments to the NDAA submitted to the Rules Committee is available here.  Of those made "in order," a number are related Iran and the Middle East (details below).  

(IRAN) Amdt. 95, offered by Conyers (D-MI), Ellison (D-MN), Jones (R-NC) and Paul (R-TX), to "clarify that nothing in the bill shall be construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran."  APN strongly supports this amendment.  PASSED - The amendment was adopted 5/18/12 as part of en bloc amendment #4.

(IRAN) Amdt. 161, offers by Reps. Lee (D-CA) and Conyers (D-MI), to "appoint a Special Envoy for Iran to ensure that all diplomatic avenues are pursued to avoid a war with Iran and to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon." FAILED - Defeated 5/18/12 by a vote of 77-344.  During floor debate on the amendment 5/18/12, various Republicans opposed the amendment on the grounds that it takes military action off the table (it doesn't), on the grounds that it undermines current negotiating efforts (it clearly doesn't) and on perhaps most bizarrely on the grounds that it is wrong to take authority away from the President on an issue as important as Iran (bizarrely because this amendment does not take authority away from the president - what takes authority away from the President is legislating mandatory sanctions that include little in the way of Presidential waiver authority).

(IRAN) Amdt. 133, offered by Conaway (R-TX), to "build upon current economic sanctions and diplomatic efforts designed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Would enhance the military capabilities of the United States, Israel, and regional allies to give credible backing to the diplomatic efforts currently underway."  As FCNL notes, this amendment "would require the administration to prepare extraordinarily detailed contingency plans for an attack on Iran and put further pressure on the administration to support an Israeli attack on Iran. It also seeks to increase U.S. and Israeli military presence in the Mideast."  PASSED - The amendment was adopted 5/18/12 as part of en bloc amendment #4.

(IRAN, SYRIA) Amdt. 88, offered by Rep, Lamborn (R-CO), to "limit the availability of funds for Cooperative Threat Reduction activities with Russia until the Secretary of Defense can certify that Russia is no longer supporting the Syrian regime and is not providing to Syria, North Korea or Iran any equipment or technology that contributes to the development of weapons of mass destruction."  PASSED - The amendment was adopted 5/18/12 by a voice vote.

(IRAN, SYRIA) Amdt. 10, offered by Rep. Franks (R-AZ), to "limit the availability of funds for nuclear nonproliferation activities with the Russian Federation" (based on its relations with Iran, Syria, and North Korea - similar, but not identical, to Amdt. 88). PASSED - adopted 5/18/12 by a vote of 241-181.

(ISRAEL) Amdt. 7, offered by Price (R-GA), Hultgren (R-IL) and Meehan (R-PA), to "require the Department of Justice to order an investigation into the possible violation of U.S. law regarding numerous leaks of sensitive information involving U.S. and Israeli military, intelligence, and operational capabilities. Would provide the Administration with 30 days after bill becomes law to begin its investigation and 60 days after enactment to report to Congress." PASSED - adopted 5/18/12 by a vote of 379-38.

(Middle East) Amdt. 181
, offered by Rep. Ellison (D-MN), to "prohibit the authorization of Defense Department funds for tear gas and other riot control items to Middle East and North African countries undergoing democratic transition unless the Secretary of Defense certifies to the appropriate Congressional committees that the security forces of such countries are not using excessive force to repress peaceful, lawful and organized dissent."  PASSED - The amendment was adopted 5/17/12 as part of En Bloc amendment #1, by voice vote.

(SYRIA) Amdt. 189, offered by DeLauro (D-CT), Granger (R-TX), and Ellison (D-MN), to "prohibit the Defense Department from awarding a contract to supply helicopters to the Afghan Security Forces, directly or indirectly, to any entity controlled, directed or influenced by a state that has supplied weapons to Syria or a state-sponsor of terrorism. Would require any such contract to be competitively bid."  PASSED - The amendment was adopted 5/17/12 as part of En Bloc amendment #2.

(EGYPT) Amdt. 201, offered by Duncan (R-SC), Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Sherman (D-CA), to "limit funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act to U.S. participation in joint military exercises with Egypt if the Government of Egypt abrogates, terminates, or withdraws from the 1979 Israeli-Egypt peace treaty." PASSED - The amendment was adopted 5/18/12 as part of En Bloc amendment #4.

5.  Senate Tries, and Fails, to Pass More Iran Sanctions

In a fascinating bit of partisan Congressional drama, on 5/17/12, Senate Majority leader Reid (D-NV) brought an updated, allegedly consensus version of HR 1905, a new Iran sanctions bill, to the floor for passage by unanimous consent.  It was not to be.

This is not the first time Reid has tried, and failed, to move these Iran sanctions.  As reported in the 3/30/12 edition of the Round-Up, on 3/27/12 Reid sought unanimous consent to pass HR 1905, with the text first amended to replace it with the text of S. 2101.  That effort failed due to the desire of various senators to amend the text, including Sen. Paul (R-KY), who wanted to add one sentence clarifying that the bill is not an authorization of use of force.

This time around, the same thing happened, more or less.  Reid apparently thought he had an understanding with Republicans that the House text of HR 1905 would be replaced with the text of S. 2101, and some additional amendments to that text would be made (including adding a new provision, Sec. 603: "Nothing in this Act or the amendments made by this Act shall be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization of use of force against Iran or Syria") - and that the new text would be passed by unanimous consent, without any efforts to amend it further on the Senate floor.  This understanding appeared to be reflected in a letter from AIPAC to Reid and Senate Minority leader McConnell (R-KY) expressing support for passage of the bill in the proposed form (along with AIPAC's hope that additional amendments would be considered during the House-Senate conference of the bill).  

However, once the bill came to the floor, some Republican members insisted that the bill was not satisfactory and need to be made stronger before it could be passed (text of 5/17/12 floor debate is available here - well worth reading in full).   Their basic criticism of the bill is that since it does not explicitly threaten military action, and includes language stating that it is not an authorization of use of force, by implication the bill is taking military action off the table.  Senator Graham (R-SC) came out in vehement opposition to the addition of Sec. 603 unless language is added to the bill affirming that the military option is on the table.  Republicans also accused Reid of not sharing the text until shortly before it came to the floor (Reid insisted that it had been shared the previous day).  

Unable to move the bill by unanimous consent, HR 1905 stalled, and the finger-pointing started.  GOP members and operatives defended the Republican move to block passage of the legislation (on the grounds that the Democrats aren't playing nice or that the bill the Democrats are pushing isn't tough on Iran - also here, maybe because the Obama Administration is soft on the bad guys); and Democrats and their operatives painted the GOP move as evidence that Republicans are not serious about dealing with Iran.

S. 2101 seeks not only to expand sanctions, but also to codify into law that the U.S. red line has shifted from "Iran acquiring nuclear weapons" to "Iran acquiring nuclear weapons capability."  Like H. Res. 568 (passed 5/17/12 in the House) and S. Res. 380 (not yet passed), it does so without in any way defining what this term means.  The key difference, however, is that those are both non-binding resolutions, as opposed to binding legislation that will be signed into law by the President.  

NOTE/CORRECTION: It was previously reported in the Round-Up that S. 2101 was never the subject of a committee hearing/markup.  This was an error.  It is true that the Congressional Record does not record any hearing/markup for S. 2101 - showing it as having been introduced, referred to committee, and reported out of committee all on the same day (2/13/12).  However, the actual bill text (before it was formally introduced or given a bill number) was marked up in the Banking Committee on 2/2/12, as reported on in detail in the 2/10/12 edition of the Round-Up.   

Further reading:

Before Republicans blocked the bill
The Cable 5/17/12: Iran sanctions bill coming to Senate floor again (updated at the end after the GOP blocked the bill)
Reuters 5/16/12: U.S. Senate to consider new Iran sanctions on Thursday

After Republicans blocked the bill
Reuters 5/17/12: US Senate Republicans block Iran sanctions vote
Politico, 5/17/12: Iran sanctions bill sparks Senate fight
The Hill 5/17/12: Senate Republicans block Iran sanctions bill call for stronger language
YNET 5/17/12: US Senate Republicans block Iran sanctions vote
Arutz Sheva 5/17/12: Republicans Stall Iran Sanctions for being Too Soft

6.  Hearings

HFAC Holds Iran Sanctions Hearing:  On 5/17/12, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing entitled: Iran Sanctions: Strategy, Implementation, and Enforcement.  HFAC Chair Ros-Lehtinen's (R-FL) opening statement is here (in which she dismisses Obama Administration's "foolish embrace" of diplomacy).  The statement by ranking member Berman is here.  Witnesses were Mark Wallace, President and CEO of "United Against Nuclear Iran" (testimony), Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (testimony) and Ray Takeyh, Council on Foreign Relations (testimony).  A webcast of the hearing is available here.

(Off the Hill) RSC briefing:  On 5/17/12, the Republican Study Committee (RSC) hosted a briefing entitled "What Would an Israeli Attack on Iran Look Like?"  The event featured a "multimedia presentation" by Danielle Pletka, of the American Enterprise Institute.  The invitation noted: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu consistently reminds Iran's leadership that all options- including military- remain on the table.  But are the Israelis even capable of damaging Iran's nuclear program?  If so, what might an attack look like?  And are the Iranians ready?   How might they respond to an Israeli strike?  AEI's Vice President for Foreign and Defense Policy, Danielle Pletka, will examine Israel's options for attacking Iran, review limitations on their options, and consider the political constraints and different factors in the possible timing of military action.  We hope you can attend this eye-opening presentation."

(Off the Hill) BPC BRIEFING:  On 5/15/12 the "Bipartisan Policy Center" held a briefing entitled "Solution or Stall? The Next Round of Talks with Iran."  The event featured a wide array of views on the issue of Iran, ranging from WINEP's Dennis Ross, to CFR'sElliott Abrams, to BPC Iran Task Force member Steve Radamaker, to the one token non-BPC voice, former Bush Administration official Nick Burns.  The panel was moderated by BPC Iran Task Force member Mort Zuckerman and opened by BPC's Michael Makovsky (brother of WINEP's David Makovsky).  Video of the event if available here.  Notably, BPC pretty openly claimed victory with the House passage last week of HR 4133, noting that some of the specific Iran-related elements of that bill (providing Israel with aerial refueling capability, for example) was something BPC had advocated previously (in a March 2012 report) as part of its recommendations for dealing with Iran.

7.  Members on H. Res. 568 (red lines resolution)

Full floor discussion from 5/15/12 can be read here.

Additional statements in support of H. Res. 568
5/17/12 -  Turner (R-NY), Van Hollen (D-MD), Pascrell (D-NJ), Dingell (D-MI)
5/16/12 - Reed (R-NY)

Additional statements of concern about H. Res. 568

Moran (D-VA), 5/16/12: On H. Res. 568: "The resolution before us does not contribute in any appreciable way either to Israel's security or to the goal of compelling Iran's cooperation on their nuclear program. The ambiguous language of H. Res. 568 effectively redefines the circumstances that could be used to justify a military strike against Iran. This could make it harder to reach an agreement through negotiations, since it could be argued that Iran --and indeed any country with a civilian nuclear program--already possesses 'nuclear weapons capability.'  The consensus in the U.S. and Israeli intelligence community remains that Iran has not made the decision to move ahead with the development of a nuclear weapon. Furthermore, the resolution declares that, of all possible responses should Iran make that decision, our government cannot consider containment. By combining these two provisions, even in a non-binding resolution, the Congress risks accelerating a drive to war."

Paul (R-TX), 5/17/12: Explanation of his strong opposition to H. Res. 568 - "Once again we see on the 'suspension' calendar, which is customarily reserved for non-controversial legislation, a resolution designed to move the U.S. toward a military conflict with Iran. Sadly, it has become non-controversial for Congress to call for U.S. attacks on foreign countries that have neither attacked nor threatened the United States. We should not fool ourselves about the timing of this legislation. Next week, high-level talks between Iran and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany, P5+1, will resume. Those who seek U.S. military action against Iran must fear that successful diplomacy will undermine their calls for war. Disturbingly, some of my colleagues have suggested this resolution can be read as a form of ersatz Congressional approval for the use of military force against Iran...The most dangerous aspect of H. Res. 568 is that it dramatically lowers the threshold for conflict with Iran by replacing the prohibition against acquiring nuclear weapons to a prohibition against a 'capability' to develop nuclear weapons....Mr. Speaker, this is incredibly dangerous legislation. I urge my colleagues in the strongest manner to reject this stealth authorization for war on Iran."

Johnson (D-TX), 5/17/12: Explaining "Present" vote on H. Res. 568 - "I voted present today on H. Res. 568 because of my concern that it contains language that could create a blank check for war with Iran. As best said by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff of Secretary of State Colin Powell, 'This resolution reads like the same sheet of music that got us into the Iraq War.' This resolution threatens to undermine upcoming U.S.-Iran negotiations on May 23, 2012. While I am not disputing the fact that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a serious threat to Israel and U.S. national security interests, I am concerned that the tone of this resolution could be used as fodder for future conflict. While I am an ardent supporter of Israel and remain committed to supporting legislation that ensures their security, I urge my colleagues to support more balanced policies and diplomatic solutions as we enter into negotiations with Iran. As we struggle to get our economy back on track, we simply cannot afford the economic and social costs of another war."

Capuano (D-MA), 5/17/12: Expressing reservations about H. Res. 568 (voted yes) - "I would like to clarify that nothing in this resolution authorizes or empowers military action by the United States or U.S. encouragement of the use of force by any other country at this time. I have long made plain my conviction that all options should be available with respect to the Iranian nuclear program. I do not believe the military option should be taken off the table for future discussion at a future time. However, this is not an appropriate time to seriously consider or even to hint at military strikes. Most informed observers believe sanctions are heavily affecting the Iranian regime and may be moving it to recognize that the international community is united in opposition to its nuclear project. This is not the moment to loosen the screws, nor is it the moment for cheap bellicosity. Issues of peace and war should not be exploited for political advantage.  I vote yes despite these concerns. I regret that the leadership of this House has chosen this moment to make an unnecessary and untimely political statement. I believe this is profoundly ill timed and injudicious. I call upon the House leadership to stop holding such unhelpful votes at politically charged moments. This resolution heightens the rhetoric in a way that is at best unhelpful to ongoing, promising diplomatic efforts and may be actively damaging. In addition, I note that the inclusion of language regarding Iran's 'nuclear weapons capability' is overly broad and undefined. When considering such weighty issues, clarity is of the utmost importance, and Congress should be precise in what we are asking for in this resolution so that we may avoid misinterpretation. Finally, I point out that the last resolve clause, which 'urges the President to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability and opposition to any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat,' is unnecessary and insulting. President Obama has always been clear, forceful, and mature when dealing with the Iranian nuclear program. It is evident that this clause is a political statement meant to score points during a political season..."

8.  Members on the Record

Kucinich (D-OH), 5/17/12: On H. Res. 568 and NDAA (and Iran)
Kucinich (D-OH), 5/17/12: The NDAA authorizes war against Iran (also here)
Berman (D-CA), 5/17/12: Statement on Announcement of Iron Dome Funding by Panetta, Barak
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), 5/17/12: Iranian Threat Escalating in Western Hemisphere
Kucinich (D-OH), 5/16/12: On Iran in the NDAA: "Yesterday, we debated H. Res. 568, which draws a red line for military action at Iran's achieving a nuclear weapons 'capability,' a nebulous and undefined term that could include a civilian nuclear program. As a result, the language in that bill makes a negotiated solution impossible.  Now, this bill, H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act, in section 1221 makes military action against Iran a U.S. policy. Right in the bill, it talks about deployments and military action. To create a plan, under article B of section 1222, it says that the Secretary of Defense shall prepare a plan for the Fifth Fleet to conduct military deployments. In section A of article II, it says that there should be prepositioning, sufficient supplies of aircraft, munitions--bombs, fuel, and other materials--for both air- and sea-based missions against Iran. So that sets the stage for war. Then section B calls for an execution of the war, bolstering United States' capabilities to launch a sustained sea and air campaign against a range of Iranian nuclear and military targets.  They're not threatening us. We're threatening them with this. Then we call for a showdown in the Strait of Hormuz in section C. Now look. We've been through this before. I led this Congress in October of 2002 to challenge the Bush administration's march towards war against Iraq, and it proved that it was wrong to do that. There were no weapons of mass destruction. This is Iraq all over again, and we should at least have a separate debate on whether or not we should be recommending an attack on Iran without including it in this bill."
Wolf (R-VA), 5/15/12: Taking a U.S. law firm to task for representing a Chinese company that works with Iran
Garamendi (D-CA), 5/15/12: Missed the vote on HR 4133, but support the sentiment
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), 5/14/12: New Images Prove Iran Races Toward Nuclear Weapons While World Chases Negotiations
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), 5/14/12: New EU Sanctions on Syria Step in Right Direction
Lee (D-CA), 5/11/12: Explanation of "Present" vote on HR 4133:  "I strongly support Israel, its rights as a nation, and its unequivocal right to defend itself. I fully support the provisions of this resolution aimed at strengthening Israel's defensive military capabilities. Unfortunately, this resolution also contains overly broad provisions that go well beyond support for those defensive capabilities. Specifically, I am concerned about provisions that include the terms 'defensive articles' and 'defensive services' and 'specialized munitions,' which security experts understand to include a vast array of offensive weapons, including bunker buster bombs. The increased militarization of the Middle East could endanger Israel's security and is a source of regional and global instability. While the bill enumerated ways the U.S. can lend military support to Israel, there was not an emphasis on achieving a negotiated peace with its neighbors. No amount of American military assistance will fully compensate for the lack of a productive and effective peace process. This bill was a missed opportunity for Congress to show balanced support for a comprehensive peace plan. The neglected Israeli Palestinian peace process must be given stronger support by the United States, and this bill reflects the lack of U.S. leadership in achieving a lasting peace. Because of these flawed provisions, I voted present on H.R. 4133."
Richardson (D-CA), 515/12: On Jewish American Heritage Month (and Israel Independence Day)

8.  From the Press

JPost 5/18/12: Campaign calls for Americans in Israel to vote ["Poll released exclusively to 'The Jerusalem Post' finds twice as many eligible voters in Israel prefer Romney to Obama."]
The Hill 5/17/12: US pledges additional $70M for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense
JTA 5/17/12: Panetta announces $70 million for Iron Dome near term
HuffPo 5/17/12: NDAA Authorizes War Against Iran (By Rep. Kucinich)
WaPo 5/16/12: Is U.S. going above and beyond for Israel? (by Walter Pincus)
The Hill 5/14/12: McCain: New US, Israel 'red lines' needed on Iran's nuclear program