Risch Proposes US Cut off Aid to UNRWA. On January 10, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), James Risch (R-Idaho), introduced S.3467 to withhold US contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Six other Republican senators cosponsored the bill. No further action has yet been taken.
HFAC Passes Legislation on Iranian Drones. The House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) passed H.R.6089, the Stop Iranian Drones Act on December 10, 2021. The legislation was originally proposed on a bipartisan basis and led by HFAC Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-New York) and Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-Texas), as well as Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism Ted Deutch (D-Florida) and Ranking Member Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina). The legislation states that US sanctions on Iran’s conventional weapons program under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act include “the supply, sale or transfer directly or indirectly to or from Iran … of any unmanned combat aerial vehicles .… that can be used in attacks against United States persons or partner nations.”
2) Personnel and Correspondence
Meeks and McCaul Condemn Violence in Sudan. On December 23, 2021, the chairman and the ranking member of HFAC, Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-New York) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas), respectively, condemned the violence by Sudanese security forces against demonstrators protesting continued military rule in the country. They also promised to increase pressure on the Sudanese armed forces to restore the civilian-led political transition to democracy in the country.
Bipartisan, Bicameral Letters to Biden and Blinken on Syria and Tunisia. On January 11, a bipartisan, bicameral group of senators and House members sent a letter to President Joe Biden to request reinvigorating the American role in Syria and to refuse normalizing the Assad regime. HFAC Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-New York) and Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-Texas) were joined by SFRC Chairman Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-Idaho) in requiring that the Syrian regime not be reintegrated in the international community unless it institutes “meaningful reforms that demonstrate accountability and reflect the will of the Syrian people.” The same group of senators and representatives wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken “to express their concerns” about developments in Tunisia following President Kais Saied’s coup on July 25, 2021. They also voiced their apprehensions about how Tunisia’s democratic trajectory is unfolding.
Launch of a Bipartisan Abraham Accords Caucus in Congress. On January 10, a new bipartisan and bicameral congressional “Abraham Accords Caucus” was launched, for the purpose of supporting and promoting the normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states. Republican and Democratic senators and representatives joined the caucus, including Sens. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) as well as Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), David Trone (D-Maryland), Ann Wagner (R-Missouri), and Brad Schneider (D-Illinois).
II. Executive Branch
1) State Department
Blinken Meets with Jordan’s Foreign Minister and Talks with Kuwait’s. Secretary Blinken met with Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi on January 13 about issues of mutual concern and reform efforts in the kingdom and thanked Jordan for its help to Syrian refugees. Blinken also spoke by phone on January 17 with Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Ahmad Nasser al-Mohammad Al Sabah in preparation for the US-Kuwaiti fifth strategic dialogue.
State Department Joins Others on Sudan. On January 8, the United States joined Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom in welcoming UN-sponsored efforts to facilitate dialogue between Sudanese parties to resolve the country’s political crisis. The four urged Sudan’s leaders to help the transition to civilian rule.
State Condemns Houthi Attack on Abu Dhabi. The State Department issued a statement on January 17 condemning the attack by Yemen’s Houthis on Abu Dhabi, UAE, in which civilians were killed and injured. The statement reiterated the United States’ commitment to the security of the UAE.
2) Defense Department
US Responds to Attacks in Iraq and Syria. On January 5, the Pentagon announced that the US military responded to Iran-affiliated groups that had launched explosive-laden drones on bases in Iraq and Syria where small US contingents are deployed. No casualties among US troops were reported from these drone attacks.