Washington Policy Weekly

I. Legislative Branch

1) Legislation

Representatives Introduce Resolution Condemning Conflict in Sudan. On July 13, Representatives Young Kim (R-CA), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), and Sara Jacobs (D-CA) introduced H.Res.585, a resolution condemning the violence in Sudan and calling for an immediate ceasefire. The resolution calls on the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to adhere to previously signed ceasefire agreements and directs both sides in the conflict to give control of the Sudanese government to civilians under democratic rule. It also calls on the Biden administration to increase humanitarian aid to Sudan and to ensure that US sanctions do not prevent peacebuilding and humanitarian activities.

SFRC Advances Safeguarding Tunisian Democracy Act. On July 13, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) voted to advance S.2006, the Safeguarding Tunisian Democracy Act. The bill, if passed and signed into law, would limit State Department funding for Tunisia by 25 percent (excluding funds for Tunisian civil society) until Tunisian President Kais Saied makes progress in reversing Tunisia’s democratic backsliding. The bill would also authorize $100 million for fiscal years 2024-2025 to create a “Tunisia Democracy Support Fund,” funding which can only be accessed once Tunisia has demonstrated “progress on democratic benchmarks, including empowering parliament, restoring judicial independence, and ceasing arbitrary arrests of journalists.”

Representatives Tlaib and Omar Introduce Justice for Syrians Resolution. On July 13, Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) introduced H.Res.590, the Justice for Syrians Resolution. The resolution would direct the US Ambassador to the United Nations to push for an international justice mechanism to hold Syria’s Assad regime accountable for its war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Representative Tenny Introduces Anti-BDS Bill. On July 11, Representative Claudia Tenney (R-NY) introduced H.R. 4564, the Countering Hate Against Israel by Federal Contractors Act. The bill aims to prevent the federal government from engaging with contractors whose entities support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

2) Personnel and Correspondence

Senate Republicans Urge Biden Administration to End Chinese Purchases of Iranian Oil. On July 14, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jim Risch (R-ID) led 7 other Senate Republicans in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen requesting that Biden administration officials develop a strategy to counter China’s purchasing of Iranian petroleum. In the letter, the Senate Republicans argue that Iran’s profits from the Chinese purchases have facilitated its proxy attacks against US troops, and ask the Biden administration to increase sanctions on Iran and address global sanctions evasion.

Senators Risch and Cruz Lead 13 Colleagues in a Letter Urging End of Boycott of Israeli Universities. On July 11, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jim Risch (R-ID) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) led 13 other Senate Republicans in a letter to President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling on them to rescind “discriminatory guidance” that instructs US government agencies to terminate US support for bilateral scientific and technology cooperation in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem. The letter follows the Biden administration’s decision to stop funding academic institutions in the West Bank, which the Republican senators called “an antisemitic boycott of Israel.”

3) Hearings and Briefings

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Investigations Questions PGA Officials about the PGA-LIV Golf Deal. On July 11, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Investigations held a hearing regarding the recent PGA-LIV merger. Despite previously criticizing LIV Golf’s backing by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) because of Saudi human rights abuses, PGA Tour Chief Operating Officer Ron Price said that the PGA nevertheless moved to merge with LIV because the dispute between the two organizations “was undermining the growth of [golf], threatening the survival of the PGA tour, and unsustainable.” Chairman of the Subcommittee Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and other senators centered on the PGA Tour’s decision to reverse its stance on LIV Golf against which it had previously lobbied.

II. Executive Branch

1) The White House

President Biden Meets with Turkish President Erdoğan. On July 11, President Biden met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at a NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. Among other areas of shared interest, President Biden congratulated President Erdoğan on the agreement he had reached with the Swedish prime minister and the NATO secretary general to allow Sweden into the alliance. As a result of President Erdoğan’s reversal on Sweden’s accession to NATO, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) began talks with the Biden administration to complete a previously blocked sale of F-16 jets and warplane modernization kits to Turkey, ultimately agreeing to move forward with the deal.

President Biden Criticizes Netanyahu’s Israel, Discusses Saudi-Israeli Normalization. On July 9, President Biden criticized the Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for containing some of the “most extreme” cabinet members he had ever seen. President Biden also commented that the United States is a “long way” from brokering a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir hit back at President Biden’s comments, saying that Israel is an “independent country and not another star on the US flag.” President Biden’s criticism of Israel comes ahead of Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s upcoming visit to the White House to “discuss opportunities to deepen Israel’s regional integration,” and other issues. President Herzog will also deliver a joint address to Congress, which progressive Representatives Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) have vowed to skip.

White House National Security Council Calls on Israel to Respect the Right of Peaceful Assembly. On July 11, a spokesperson for the National Security Council called on Israel to respect the right of peaceful assembly after the arrest of dozens of protesters opposing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul. The official also commented, “It is clear there is significant debate and discussion in Israel on the proposed plan. Such debates are a healthy part of a vibrant democracy.”

2) Department of State

State Department Supports Investigation and Prosecution of Atrocities in Darfur, Sudan. On July 13, State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller condemned the “atrocities and ethnically targeted killings” carried out by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and its allies in West Darfur after a UN human rights report confirmed the discovery of a mass grave near the city of Geneina. Miller applauded the International Criminal Court’s announcement that it has begun “focused investigations on recent events.” Miller also called for the Sudanese Armed Forces and the RSF to “silence their guns and start negotiations on a permanent cessation of hostilities.”

Secretary Blinken Speaks with Saudi Foreign Minister. On July 14, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud. The two officials discussed the conflict in Sudan and the urgent humanitarian needs of the Sudanese people.

US Votes to Extend Syrian Cross-Border Aid Despite Russian Veto. On July 11, the UN Security Council (UNSC) failed to renew a program providing cross-border aid to Syria after Russia vetoed the measure. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield called the failure to extend aid a “sad moment” for the UNSC. On July 13, despite the failure to renew the UN aid program to Syria through the UNSC, the Syrian government announced that it will allow the UN to continue border crossings from Turkey for another six months “in full cooperation and coordination with the government.” UNSC authorization was needed because the Syrian government did not previously agree to the UN operation.

State Department Welcomes Iraqi Deal with Total Energies. On July 11, State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller welcomed a $27 billion energy deal between Iraq and Total Energies, celebrating the “Gas Growth Integrated Project” as part of an effort to “accelerate Iraq’s path to energy self-sufficiency and advance Iraq’s collective climate change objectives.” The deal includes measures to reduce methane emissions and freshwater use from oil production. Iraq will also begin producing solar energy as it transitions to renewable energy production.

3) Department of Defense

CENTCOM and Israel Defense Forces Begin Joint Military Exercise. On July 10, US Central Command (CENTCOM) announced that it will conduct military exercises with Israel as part of Juniper Oak 23.3. Juniper Oak 23.3 is intended to test US-Israeli readiness and improve interoperability between US and Israeli forces, including cyber-incident response, air-to-air refueling, and agile combat deployment exercises. CENTCOM Commander General Michael “Erik” Kurilla said of the exercise, “Events like the Juniper Oak series demonstrate our commitment to strengthen military-to-military relations throughout the region.”

AFRICOM Conducts Airstrikes Against Al-Shabab. On July 9, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) conducted airstrikes in support of Somali National Army forces against al-Shabab terrorists. AFRICOM and the Somali National Army reported that 10 terrorists were killed in the strikes.