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Copyright © 2019 The American Israel Public Affairs Committee

Washington Brief: A Recap of News from the Hill and Beyond (Oct. 20 - Nov. 16, 2017)

House Adopts Measures Targeting Destabilizing Actions by Iran and Hizballah

In late October, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed four bipartisan measures that would target Iran and Hizballah’s malign activities. The bipartisan bills would counter the dangerous aggression of Iran and Hizballah, as well as impose sanctions on those that support the terrorist organization with its fundraising and recruitment.

On Oct. 26, the House overwhelmingly passed the Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act (H.R. 1698) in a 423-2 vote. The legislation would expand sanctions against Iran related to its illicit ballistic missile program and its aggressive behavior in the Middle East. Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD) authored the bill. Rep. McCarthy testified on the House floor, “Today’s sanctions on Iran undermine its ballistic missile program and the terrorist warriors of Hizballah whose pockets are filled with Iranian money just as their hands are covered with American blood.  This is an important part of our nation’s new Iran strategy.”

On Oct. 25 the House passed the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2017 (H.R. 3329) by voice vote.  The legislation would strengthen and expand the scope of economic and financial sanctions imposed by the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015. It targets foreign governments that knowingly provide significant financial support to Hizballah and foreign individuals and companies that aid its fundraising or recruitment activities.  Last month, the Senate passed companion legislation (S. 1595). Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) introduced the measure.

Also on Oct. 25, the House adopted the Hizballah’s Illicit Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act (H.R. 3342) by voice vote. The bill would require the president to impose sanctions on foreign persons responsible for the use of civilians, prisoners of war, and other noncombatants as human shields, in violation of international law. Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Tom Suozzi (D-NY) authored the bill.

Finally, the House passed a resolution urging the European Union to designate Hizballah in its entirety as a terrorist organization and increase pressure on it and its members (H.Res. 359). Passed by voice vote on Oct. 25, the resolution encourages the EU to expand this designation beyond Hizballah’s so-called military wing. Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) introduced the legislation. “More can be done to counter the Iranian proxy Hizballah, and that begins with calling them what they are – a terrorist organization committed to the destruction of Israel and undermining the values and interests of the United States,” Rep. Deutch said.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) issued a statement on behalf of the House Foreign Relations Committee praising the four measures. “Hizballah is Iran’s leading terrorist proxy, and it is only growing more dangerous. It now has an arsenal of more than 100,000 rockets aimed at Israel…Hizballah has taken hundreds of thousands of lives, including American lives. With the House’s action, we send a strong message that the United States will not allow this threat to go unchecked. These critical measures will impose new sanctions to crack down on Hizballah’s financing, and hold it accountable for its acts of death and destruction.”

Israel’s David’s Sling Wins Prestigious U.S. Defense Award

David’s Sling medium-range anti-missile system was awarded the Technology Pioneer Award by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency at the 2017 Multinational Ballistic Missile Defense confab in Boston. Jointly developed by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the United States’ Raytheon Company, David’s Sling is designed to intercept short-range to medium-range rockets and missiles. Israel Missile Defense Organization Director Moshe Patel, who accepted the award on behalf of Israel, called the defense system’s capabilities a “significant breakthrough in the world of interception technology.” “[David’s Sling] is an important component of Israel’s operational capability to defend the country against regional missile threats,” he said.

House Committee Adopts Legislation to Penalize Support of Terrorism

On Nov. 15, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) adopted the bipartisan Taylor Force Act (H.R. 1164), which would eliminate funding that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority if it continues its abhorrent practice of paying salaries to terrorists or their families. The panel also passed two other measures targeting supporters of terrorism.

Originally introduced by Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY), the Taylor Force Act was adopted as an amendment in the form of a substitute authored by HFAC Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY). The bill was named in honor of U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force, who was killed by a Palestinian terrorist in Tel Aviv last year. Versions of the bill have been adopted in the Senate by the Foreign Relations and Appropriations Committees.

HFAC also passed the Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act of 2017 (H.R. 2712), which was introduced by Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ). This bipartisan measure imposes sanctions on foreign persons and governments that provide support to Palestinian terrorist groups—including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Finally, the panel adopted the Hamas Human Shields Prevention Act (H.R. 3542), which imposes sanctions on the terrorist organization Hamas and its related entities that use civilians as human shields. This bipartisan legislation was sponsored by Reps. Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Seth Moulton (D-MA).

U.S. Senators Press Haley for Stronger Iran Inspections

On Oct. 26, a group of Republican senators sent a letter to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley urging her to call on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to strengthen reporting and verification requirements on Iran’s nuclear program.

Spearheaded by Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), the letter requests Ambassador Haley to work with her colleagues at the U.N. to address the IAEA’s “reporting shortcomings and vague inspection boundaries.” Specifically, the senators give three items to be raised with the IAEA: (1) “Improved verification and monitoring of uranium mining and ore concentration plants,” (2) “[b]etter reporting on uranium conversion activities,” and (3) “[m]ore specific information in reports on uranium enrichment activities.”

“We are confident that together we can bolster the inspection and verification regime of the JCPOA to ensure that the deal is fully and verifiably enforced,” wrote the senators. “With these improvements to inspection and reporting practices, we can better deny Iran’s access to a nuclear weapons capability.”

The letter was signed by Sens. John Boozman (R-AR), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), John Barrasso (R-WY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Cory Gardner (R-CO), James Inhofe (R-OK), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Luther Strange (R-AL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jim Risch (R-ID), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), John Kennedy (R-LA) and Perdue.

Members of Congress: No Permanent Iranian Foothold in Syria

On Nov. 14, nearly 50 U.S. representatives who recently visited the Middle East sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressing their concern regarding Iran’s increased military presence in Syria.

“Should Iran be allowed to maintain a permanent military presence in Syria, it would pose a significant threat to Israel, Jordan, and United States interests,” wrote the members. “A permanent Iranian presence in Syria would connect Lebanon-based Hizballah to Iran via Iraq and Syria. This would give Iran the ability to project power from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. Any agreement or policy that allows Iran to station forces on or near Israel and Jordan's border does not serve U.S. interests.”

The letter calls on the United States to take action, highlighting Iran’s increased military action through its terror proxy Hizballah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ foreign operations wing, the Qods Force.

“We urge you to come to Congress with a strategy for Syria that includes how the United States plans to prevent Iran from gaining a permanent foothold on Israel and Jordan's doorstep and to block Iranian arms exports to Hizballah.”

United States Remembers U.S. Service Members Killed by Hizballah

On Oct. 23, the administration paid tribute to the U.S. service members killed in the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut—this year marks the 34th anniversary of the deadly attack.

“We will never forget the 241 American service members killed by Hizballah in Beirut. They died in service to our nation,” President Donald Trump said on Twitter.

Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster also paid tribute to the fallen service members in a ceremony held at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C.

“The Beirut barracks bombing was the opening salvo in a war that we have waged ever since — the global war on terror. It’s a conflict that has taken American troops across the wider world — from Lebanon to Libya, from Nigeria to Afghanistan, from Somalia to Iraq, and many other battlefields in between,” said Vice President Pence.

United States to Hamas: Recognize Israel and Disarm Terrorists

On Oct. 19, U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt released a statement regarding Hamas’ role in the Palestinian unity government following the reconciliation agreement reached between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas.

Greenblatt affirmed that Hamas must recognize Israel and disarm in order to participate in any Palestinian government.

“All parties agree that it is essential that the Palestinian Authority be able to assume full, genuine, and unhindered civil and security responsibilities in Gaza and that we work together to improve the humanitarian situation for Palestinians living there,” said the Special Representative.

“The United States reiterates the importance of adherence to the Quartet principles: any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the State of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties – including to disarm terrorists – and commit to peaceful negotiations. If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements.”

Following the release of the statement, Hamas Chief Yahya Sinwar dismissed the U.S. requests, stating, “Over is the time Hamas spent discussing recognizing Israel. Now Hamas will discuss when we will wipe out Israel.”

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