Washington Policy Weekly

I. Congress

1) Legislation

Rep. Chabot Links Russia to Iran Negotiations. On April 11, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) introduced the “Iran Negotiations Act” (H.R.7490) that requires the administration to report on any Russian benefits that may accrue from nuclear negotiations with Iran. The bill was introduced to the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) and has four other Republican sponsors.

Rep. Steube Pressures Jordan. On April 14, Rep. Gregory Steube (R-Florida) introduced legislation to HFAC (H.R.7527) that would limit assistance to Jordan until it applies the provisions of a US-Jordanian extradition treaty that he claims was signed by the two countries in 1995. Jordan disputes the claim and has not ratified the treaty. Steube wants the Jordanian government to extradite Ahlam Tamimi to the United States for her alleged role in an attack on a pizza parlor in Israel in 2001.

Rep. Omar Wants the US to Join ICC. On April 14, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) introduced H.Res.1058 that expresses the sense of the House that the United States should accede to the Rome Statute and join the International Criminal Court. Successive administrations have resisted joining the ICC for fear that the court may prosecute US servicemembers accused of human rights violations and crimes against humanity. The resolution was introduced to HFAC and has eight cosponsors.

2) Personnel and Correspondence

Rep. Deutch, Others Welcome Appointment of Anti-Semitism Envoy. On April 11, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Florida), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism, and a bipartisan group of House members welcomed the appointment of Noa Tishby as Israel’s first Special Envoy for Combatting Anti-Semitism and Delegitimization of Israel.

Rep. Connolly, Others Write to Blinken on Saudi Arabia. On April 13, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia) and over 30 other colleagues wrote a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking for the current state of US-Saudi relations. The letter also urged the Biden Administration to recalibrate the relationship in the interest of upholding the principles of democracy and human rights, noting that the American “unqualified support for the Saudi monarchy” negatively impacts US national interests.

II. Executive Branch

1) White House

President Biden Commemorates Passover. On April 15, President Joe Biden issued a statement in which he congratulated Jews “in the United States, Israel, and around the world” on the occasion of Passover.

VP Harris Speaks with Israel’s Herzog. On April 14, Vice President Kamala Harris extended her and the American people’s Passover greetings to Israeli President Isaac Herzog and expressed her condolences for Israelis who died in recent attacks. She again repeated the commitment by the United States to Israel’s security and regional stability.

2) State Department

State Releases Its Annual Human Rights Report. On April 12, the State Department’s Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor issued its 46th Human Rights Report that contains 198 individual reports on countries and territories, including those in the Middle East. The department made the reports public after it submitted them to Congress on the same day.

Blinken Meets with Egypt’s Shoukry. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on April 13 to further discuss the US-Egyptian strategic partnership and follow up on the recent Negev meeting between Arab countries and Israel in the context of the so-called Abraham Accords. They also discussed the Russian war on Ukraine and its impact on food security, Libya’s political process, and issues of human rights in Egypt.

Thomas-Greenfield Welcomes Yemen Developments. During a briefing on Yemen at the United Nations Security Council on April 14, US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, welcomed the two-month ceasefire that was negotiated by UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg between the warring parties in the country. She also welcomed the formation of a Presidential Leadership Council that was announced by Yemen’s President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi on April 7 that can help effective governance there.

US Asks Israel for Help in Hostage Search. The United States has on April 13 asked Israel to assist in locating Austin Tice, an American journalist who went missing in Syria in 2012. The US envoy for hostage affairs Roger Carstens met with Israeli officials and intelligence agents for that purpose.

Lenderking Concludes ME Trip. On April 15, US Special Envoy for Yemen Timothy Lenderking concluded a three-week trip to the Middle East where he visited Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar. According to a State Department readout, Lenderking participated in meetings and urged the parties to the Yemen conflict to work toward a political resolution. It should be noted that UN special envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg had negotiated a two-month ceasefire beginning the first of April and Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi announced on April 7 the establishment of a Presidential Leadership Council as the new executive authority in the country.

3) Defense Department

US Air Defenses Shoot Down Attack Drone in Iraq. On April 8, Operation Inherent Resolve announced the shooting down of an unidentified armed drone that entered the Ain al-Asad Air Base airspace in Iraq. No US or coalition troops were harmed, and an investigation into the incident was begun.

US Navy Adds a New Task to Patrol Red Sea. On April 14, US Fifth Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Brad Cooper announced from Bahrain that the United States is adding another task to its mission in the Middle East. US ships will be patrolling the waters between Saudi Arabia and Egypt down to the Bab al-Mandab waterway and east to the Oman-Yemen maritime border. The announcement cited Iran’s continued support for Yemen’s Houthis as reason for the added patrols.

4) Justice Department

Former IS Member Convicted. Al Jazeera reported on August 14 that an American court has convicted El Shafee Elsheikh, a British citizen who joined the ranks of the so-called Islamic State, of conspiracy to commit murder and take hostages. He was a member of a group nicknamed “The Beatles” that beheaded American hostages in Iraq and Syria. These were “US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig, among other victims.”