Blinken Departs Middle East Without Ceasefire Agreement

After intensive meetings with Arab and Israeli officials, Secretary of State Antony Blinken returned from his June 10-12 trip to the region without reaching a ceasefire agreement. The secretary’s travel included stops in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Qatar. In Israel, Blinken met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the current ceasefire proposal and “ongoing diplomatic efforts to plan for the post-conflict period.” While there, the Secretary also met with Israeli opposition leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. In Jordan, Blinken participated in a conference on the Gaza humanitarian response, where he appealed to the international community to increase support for relief efforts and announced that the United States would provide additional $404 million in humanitarian aid to support Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and throughout the region.

Blinken also met with Jordanian King Abdullah II, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia` al-Sudani, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The Secretary’s meetings focused on the current ceasefire proposal, the need to boost humanitarian aid, and plans for the post-conflict governance of Gaza. Blinken additionally met with Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa to discuss the ceasefire proposal, reforms to the PA, and US support for a two-state solution.

Commenting on the status of ceasefire negotiations, Blinken said on June 12 that Hamas has proposed both “workable” and “unworkable” changes to the proposal. Speaking at the G7 summit on June 13, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan noted that that the amended proposal submitted by Hamas was “not unanticipated” and that some of the amendments can be worked through while others “are not consistent with what President Biden laid out or what the UN Security Council embraced.” President Joe Biden commented from the G7 summit that “whether [the deal] comes to fruition remains to be seen.”


Also Happening in Washington Last Week…

I. Legislative Branch

1) Legislation

Bipartisan Senate Bill Combats Foreign Terrorist Acquisition of UAVs. On June 11, Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) introduced S.4515, which would require the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress on foreign terrorist organizations’ procurement and acquisition of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The bill’s sponsors cited al-Qaeda, the so-called Islamic State, and Iran-supported terrorist groups as particular concerns.

House Resolution Condemns Campus Protests. On June 13, Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL) introduced H.Res.1300 condemning pro-Palestine campus protests and calling for an “investigation of all foreign adversaries engaged in promoting and provoking campus and public unrest.”

Senate Bill Seeks Greater Congressional Oversight of Changes to Israel Arms Sales. On June 13, Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced S.4537, which would increase congressional oversight of any proposed changes to defense articles and services intended for Israel.

House Passes FY25 NDAA. On June 14, the House passed H.R. 8070, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in a 217-199 vote. The bill, which authorizes  a defense budget of $883.7 billion, prohibits the use of US funds for Gaza reconstruction, for the humanitarian pier, and for transporting Palestinian refugees to the United States.

2) Personnel and Correspondence

House Committees Lead Congressional Effort Against Campus Protests. On June 3, as part of the ongoing investigation into campus demonstrations against Israel’s war on Gaza, chairs of several congressional committees sent letters to universities urging them to suppress student protests. The chairs also sent letters to several federal agencies on June 6 pressuring them to review universities for “potential violations of the Civil Rights Act” that would render them ineligible for federal grants.

House Oversight Investigates Biden 2021 Decision to Restore UNRWA Funding. On June 11, House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-KY) sent a letter to Secretary of State Blinken requesting information on the Biden administration’s 2021 decision to restore US funding to UNRWA.

McCaul and Risch Condemn Houthi Detention of Aid Workers. On June 13, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-ID) issued a statement condemning the Houthis’ recent arrest of aid workers in Yemen. The statement calls on the international community to hold the Houthis accountable and on the Biden administration to re-designate the group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

3) Hearings and Briefings

House Ways and Means Holds Hearing on Campus Protests. On June 13, the House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing on pro-Palestine protests on US college campuses, with members condemning the demonstrations and calling for stronger crackdowns on protestors.


II. Executive Branch

1) White House

War Powers Report Released. On June 7, the White House released the War Powers Report, a mandated report to Congress on deployments of United States Armed Forces equipped for combat. The report discusses US military operations in the Middle East region to degrade the capabilities of the so-called Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and Iranian-supported groups.

2) Department of State

Law Enforcement Coordination Group Convenes on Hezbollah. On June 6-7, the Department of State, Department of Justice, and Europol convened the thirteenth meeting of the Law Enforcement Coordination Group (LECG), where government officials discussed counterterrorism efforts against Hezbollah’s “terrorist and illicit activities.”

Department Condemns RSF Attacks in Gezira, Sudan. On June 7, Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller condemned attacks by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on civilians in Wad al-Noura, Sudan.

US and Bahraini Officials Meet. On June 8, Department of State Counselor Derek H. Chollet spoke with the Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs Under Secretary for Political Affairs Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa about Gaza ceasefire negotiations and bilateral cooperation on regional stability.

Department Recognizes Death of American and Other Detainees in Syria. On June 11, the Secretary Blinken issued a statement recognizing the death of Majd Kamalmaz, a US citizen last seen alive in Syria in 2017 who later died during his unjust imprisonment by the Bashar al-Assad regime. Blinken demanded accountability from the Syrian government in Kamalmaz’s case and the cases of other wrongfully detained persons in Syria.

US Condemns Detentions of UN Staff by Houthis in Yemen. On June 12, Spokesperson Miller condemned the recent detention of UN staff, UN diplomatic staff, and NGO staff by the Houthis in Yemen.

United States Condemns Iran’s Expansion of Nuclear Program. On June 13, Spokesperson Miller released a statement in response to a report issued that day by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that found that Iran has expanded its uranium enrichment capacity.“ These planned actions further undermine Iran’s claims to the contrary. If Iran implements these plans, we will respond accordingly,” Miller stated.

Department Decries Israel Decision to Reallocate PA Funds. On June 13, Spokesperson Miller decried the decision by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich to transfer $35 million in tax revenue that Israel has collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority to Israeli victims of terrorism. Miller stated that the United States has “made quite clear to the Government of Israel that these funds belong to the Palestinian people,” describing the measure as “an extraordinarily wrong-headed decision by that minister.”

Sanctions on Extremist Israeli Group Announced. On June 14, the Department of State announced sanctions against Tzav 9, a violent extremist Israeli group that has sabotaged humanitarian assistance bound for Gaza. Spokesperson Miller called on the government of Israel to ensure the safety of humanitarian convoys, adding that the United States “will not tolerate acts of sabotage and violence targeting this essential humanitarian assistance.”

3) Department of Defense

Secretary Austin Speaks with Israeli Defense Minister. On June 11, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke with Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant. Secretary Austin congratulated Gallant on the recent Israeli operation to rescue four hostages in Gaza (which killed more than 270 Palestinian civilians), thanked him for Israel’s support of the Gaza ceasefire deal on the table, and discussed de-escalation along the Israel-Lebanon border

Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Meets with Top Lebanese Military Official. On June 11, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. met with Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces Gen. Joseph Aoun. The officials discussed efforts to resolve tensions along the Israel-Lebanon border.

Austin: Civilian Casualties in Gaza Too High. Speaking on June 14 at a press conference following the NATO Ministers of Defense meeting in Brussels, Secretary Austin commented that “protecting civilians [in Gaza], in my view, is a strategic imperative, because at some point in time, you know, we have to make sure that we are separating the Palestinian people from Hamas, the terrorist organization…casualty rates [in Gaza] have been far too high.”

4) Department of the Treasury

Treasury Sanctions Houthi Network. On June 10, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions on ten “individuals, entities and vessels, including tanker captains, engaged in the illicit transport of oil and other commodities, including for the network of Houthi financial facilitator Sa’id al-Jamal.”

Treasury Sanctions Islamic State Network in Turkey. On June 14, the Department of the Treasury announced sanctions on individuals with links to the so-called Islamic State. The action was taken in coordination with the government of Turkey.

5) United States Agency for International Development

USAID’s Power Meets with WFP Director McCain. On June 7, USAID Administrator Samantha Power met with World Food Program (WFP) Executive Director Cindy McCain. Power commended the WFP’s crisis response in Gaza. The two discussed humanitarian efforts, food insecurity, and aid flow in both Gaza and Sudan.