Washington Policy Weekly

I. Congress

1) Personnel and Correspondence

House Democrats Write to Blinken about Eviction of Palestinians. A group of House Democrats—led by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois), David Price (D-North Carolina), Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland), John Yarmuth (D-Kentucky), and Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin)—wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to prevent Israel’s eviction of 38 Palestinian families from the occupied West Bank village of Walaja. The signees warned that the displacement would “[undermine] long-term Israeli security, Palestinian dignity, and prospects for peace.”

House Republicans Write Blinken Not to Lift FTO off IRGC. On March 22, Rep. Scott Franklin (R-Florida) and scores of other House Republicans wrote a letter to Secretary Blinken objecting to lifting the Foreign Terrorist Organization designation off Iran’s Islamic Republican Guards Corps. The lifting is feared to be part of a deal concluding the Vienna negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

Rep. Fortenberry Convicted of Campaign Violations. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Nebraska) was convicted of giving false statements and falsifying documents related to a $30,000 donation by a foreign citizen to his congressional campaign. That foreigner is Gilbert Chagoury who is a Lebanese-Nigerian businessman seeking the help of US congressmen. Mr. Fortenberry intends to appeal his conviction, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has asked him to resign his seat. In the end, Rep. Fortenberry did resign his seat for lying to the FBI.

Rep. Meeks Condemns UAE Reception of Bashar al-Assad. On March 20, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-New York), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, condemned the visit by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the United Arab Emirates. Assad visited the UAE on March 18 around the 11th anniversary of the 2011 Syrian uprising where he met with Vice-President Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The visit was considered a sign of normalization with the Syrian leader and regime.

Senate Conducts Secret Hearing on Iran Nuclear Negotiations. On March 23, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a closed-door hearing for an update on the current negotiations in Vienna over Iran’s nuclear program. Administration witnesses were Brett McGurk, Deputy Assistant to the President and Middle East and North Africa Coordinator at the National Security Council, Robert Malley, Special Envoy for Iran, and an anonymous intelligence briefer.

2) Legislation

Rep. Steube Introduces Legislation to Prohibit the US from Funding UNHCR’s Israel Commission of Inquiry. On March 24, Rep. Gregory Steube (R-Florida) introduced legislation (H.R.7224) to prohibit the United States government from contributing to “current and future commissions of inquiries that relate to Israel.” The legislation was cosponsored by four other Republican House members and was submitted to the Committee on Foreign Affairs. On the same day, Rep. Steube and Reps. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) and Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) introduced H.R.7223 that called for abolishing the commission altogether. Israel’s strong lobby in the United States, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, supports the legislation.

Twelve Republican Senators Introduce Concurrent Resolution on US Consulate in Jerusalem. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced on March 22 a concurrent resolution (S.Con.Res.34) to express the sense of Congress against the establishment of an American consulate in Jerusalem (the text erroneously said “Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem”). The proposed legislation was introduced to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has 11 Senate Republican cosponsors. The resolution would hinder the establishment of an American diplomatic mission dedicated to Palestinian affairs in Jerusalem.

II. Executive Branch

1) White House

Sullivan Condemns Houthi Attacks on Saudi Arabia. On March 20, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan issued a statement in which he condemned Houthi attacks on Saudi infrastructural facilities. In the statement, he also accused Iran of supporting these attacks which he considered a violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

Sullivan Unsure if nuclear Issues with Iran Will Be Resolved. On March 23, NSA Sullivan told reporters traveling with President Biden to Europe that there has been some progress in nuclear talks with Iran but that there remain other issues to be resolved. He also said that allies are using diplomacy to address differences that may still not be bridged.

2) State Department

Under-Secretary Zeya to Pakistan, Tunisia, and the UAE. On March 21, Under-Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Uzra Zeya began a trip to Pakistan where she was to address a foreign ministers meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. In Tunisia, she was to meet with officials to discuss political and economic reform. In the UAE, Zeya will discuss the Abraham Accords, rights issues, security, and the wars in Yemen and Syria.

Secretary of State Holds Summit Meeting in Mideast. Secretary Blinken held talks in Israel about Iran’s nuclear program and the negotiations in Vienna with his counterparts from Israel, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. On his trip, he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and civil society leaders on March 27 as well as Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Israeli President Izaac Herzog, and Israeli Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Blinken Condemns Houthi Attacks on Saudi Arabia. On March 25, Secretary Blinken issued a statement condemning the Houthi attacks on Saudi civilian infrastructure in Jeddah. The statement also mentioned continued US support to helping Saudi defense but also to finding a peaceful resolution to the war in Yemen.

US Is Disappointed by Iran’s Presence at Doha Defense Show. On March 24, the State Department issued a statement expressing disappointment over the participation of Iranian military officials, including member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, at the Doha Defense Show. In a threatening language, the statement mentioned that any transactions “related to Iranian weapons are generally sanctionable under multiple U.S. authorities.”

US Condemns Recent Violence in Sudan’s Darfur. On March 23, the United States condemned a recent spike in violence in Darfur and the Two Areas in Sudan. The statement of condemnation called for an investigation into the violence and for those responsible for it to be held accountable.

US Announces Aid for Lebanon through USAID. On March 24, the US Embassy in Lebanon announced that the United States is providing $64 million in emergency aid for Lebanon to address food insecurities resulting from the current economic problems in the country and the Russian war on Ukraine. The assistance will help some 740,000 people and will be administered by the United States Agency for International Development.

3) Defense Department

US and Oman Hold Joint Military Commission. On March 23-24, the United States and Oman held a Joint Military Commission to discuss defense and security matters. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Dana Stroul headed the American delegation while Secretary General Mohammed bin Nasser al-Zaabi led that of Oman.

No Sign Yet of Syrian Fighters in Ukraine. American military officials said that they have seen no signs of Syrians being used to serve Russia’s military aims in Ukraine, although that does not mean that they will not be sent there. Russia had said that it will be introducing some 16,000 Syrian recruits to help in in its war there.

4) Treasury Department

The Biden Administration Sanctions a Sudanese Police Unit. On March 21, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the Central Reserve Police in Sudan for violating the human rights of pro-democracy protesters in Khartoum. Pursuant to Executive Order 13818, Treasury sanctioned the unit that used live ammunition last January 17 on protesters demonstrating near the University of Khartoum.

Sanctions on Six Individuals in UAE Raising Funds for Nigeria’s Boko Haram. On March 25, the Treasury Department sanctioned six individuals living in the UAE for supporting Nigeria’s Boko Haram group and funding it. UAE authorities had arrested and prosecuted the individuals back in September 2021. Abdurrahman Ado Musa, Salihu Yusuf Adamu, Bashir Ali Yusuf, Muhammed Ibrahim Isa, Ibrahim Ali Alhassan, and Surajo Abubakar Muhammad were sanctioned pursuant to Executive Order 13224.