Washington Policy Weekly

I. Congress

1) Personnel and Correspondence

Sen. Menendez Denounces Attacks in Israel. On March 30, Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), Chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, issued a statement condemning the attacks on Israelis in the cities of Bnei Brak, Hadera, and Beer Sheva.

Bicameral Letter to Blinken Concerning Tunisia’s Democracy. On March 31, a bicameral and bipartisan group of House and Senate members issued a statement condemning Tunisian President Kais Saied’s dissolution of Tunisia’s parliament. The group was headed by Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Gregory Meeks (D-New York) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas), and Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) and James Risch (R-Idaho). The letter urged Saied “to respect Tunisia’s democratic institutions and allow for freedom of association and expression.”

Separately, Meeks and Rep, Ted Deutch (D-Florida) led a group of House members in writing to Blinken about strengthening good governance and democracy in Tunisia.

2) Legislation

Rep. Jackson Proposes Monitoring Iran-Backed Organizations. On March 31, Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) introduced legislation to the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Foreign Affairs (H.R.7330) to require the US government to report “on the military capabilities of Iran-backed” groups and on how lifting some sanctions can affect them. The bill also would ban US finds from directly or indirectly going to these groups. The bill has 22 cosponsors, including one lone House Democrat.

Senator Paul Introduces Joint Resolution Regarding Arms to Bahrain. On March 30, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) introduced S.J.Res.44 to the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee to disapprove the sale of “defense articles and services” to the Kingdom of Bahrain. Thus far, the bill has no cosponsors.

II. Executive Branch

1) The White House

President Biden Extends National Emergency Regarding Somalia. On March 30, and pursuant to Executive Order 13536, President Joe Biden extended the national emergency regarding Somalia for another year until April 12, 2023.

Biden Speaks to Israel’s Bennett. President Biden condemned recent attacks in three Israeli cities and offered his condolences in a telephone call to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. He also discussed with Bennett regional cooperation and again reiterated the US commitment to Israel’s security.

Biden Nominates Ambassadors to Qatar and Morocco. President Biden nominated career foreign service officer Timmy Davis to be ambassador to Qatar and Puneet Talwar to be ambassador to Morocco.

2) State Department

Blinken Welcomes Truce in Yemen. On April 1, Secretary Blinken issued a statement in which he welcomed the United Nations’ success in arriving at a truce in Yemen between the warring parties. The statement reiterated US commitment to a diplomatic solution for the war in Yemen and a pledge to help the UN in its efforts there.

Deputy Secretary Sherman Meets with Israeli Minister. On April 1, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met in Washington with the Israeli Minister of Regional Cooperation Isawi Frej. According to a readout from the State Department, the two discussed ways to improve Palestinians’ economic conditions and deepen “Israel’s integration in the region.” Sherman also met with the speaker of Israel’s Knesset Mickey Levy on March 28 and discussed with him ways to ease restrictions on Palestinians and to allow them an equal measure of security and prosperity.

Blinken Speaks with Jordan’s Safadi. Secretary Blinken spoke on April 1 with Jordan’s Foreign Minister and Deputy prime Minister Ayman Safadi to apprise him of the recent summit Blinken had with Arab and Israeli leaders in Israel which Jordan missed. The secretary also urged Jordan to help maintain peace in the occupied West Bank during a time when Easter, Passover, and Ramadan coincide.

Blinken Recognizes Arab American Month. Secretary Blinken issued a statement on April 1 recognizing Arab American Heritage Month in the United States. The statement mentioned the names of some Arab Americans who contributed to US foreign policy, scientific advancement, business, and national security.

Blinken Speaks to Oman’s Foreign Minister. On March 31, Secretary Blinken had a phone call with Oman’s Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr bin Hamad al-Busaidi to thank him for his country’s assistance in Yemen. The call took place a day before the arrival at a truce there on April 1 brokered by the United Nations. The secretary had also called Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud on March 28 to discuss supporting the truce with Houthis in Yemen and to express US commitment to the Saudi Arabia’s defense.

Blinken Meets with Algeria’s President Tebboune. On March 30, Secretary Blinken met with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and discussed ways to increase cooperation between the United States and Algeria. They also discussed security concerns and global developments.

Blinken Meets with Morocco’s Bourita. The secretary met on March 29 with Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and the two discussed US-Moroccan relations and the Western Sahara issue that is a bone of serious contention between Rabat and Algiers. Blinken made a point of singling out Morocco’s autonomy plan for the region as “serious, credible and realistic.”

While in Morocco, Blinken also met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed amid tensions between the United States and the United Arab Emirates stemming from the UAE’s charting an independent course on oil pricing policy, normalization with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, and the Russian war on Ukraine.

Lenderking Travels to the Gulf. On March 28, US Special Envoy for Yemen Timothy Lenderking began a trip to the Gulf region to continue his diplomatic endeavors for a resolution to the Yemeni conflict. In Saudi Arabia, Lenderking is to attend an intra-Yemeni dialogue that is organized by the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield Meets with Jordanian Foreign Minister. US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield met with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and discussed with him efforts to fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. They also discussed ways to support the Zaatari camp on the Syrian-Jordanian border where Syrian refugees are housed.

3) Defense Department

DoD Repatriates a Guantanamo Detainee to Algeria. On April 2, the Defense Department announced that it is repatriating Algerian Guantanamo detainee Sufiyan Barhoumi to his country. His release had been reported to Congress by the Secretary of Defense last February. Thirty-seven other detainees remain at Guantanamo.

4) Treasury Department

Treasury Sanctions Agent and Outfit Helping Iran’s Missile Program. On March 30, the Treasury Department sanctioned a “procurement agent and his network of companies” for their role in helping the development of Iran’s Islamic Republican Guards Corps’ missile program. Pursuant to the provisions of Executive Order 13382, the sanctions came in response to the Iranian March attack on Irbil in northern Iraq and other attacks by Iran-supported organizations.