Washington Policy Weekly

I. Congress

Congress is still observing its August recess. The House is expected to make an earlier return than previously scheduled to consider President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure deal and a budget reconciliation bill. Senators are not scheduled to return to Washington until September.

Fifty-three House Lawmakers Want Aid to Flow to Gaza. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) and Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) spearheaded a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him and the administration to ensure that Israel and Egypt loosen their restrictive polices that have so far impeded the flow of critical aid to the Gaza Strip.

II. Executive Branch

1) White House

White House Outlines Administration Officials’ Trip to Tunisia, Bennett’s Visit. With Afghanistan dominating the White House’s attention, there were few other relevant policy developments to discuss. However, the White House published a pair of press releases detailing senior administration officials’ trip to Tunisia and the upcoming visit of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to Washington. Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood met in Tunis with President Kais Saied to discuss the situation there after the latter’s recent moves against the Tunisian parliament.

President Biden is scheduled to host Prime Minister Bennett at the White House on August 26 and, according to the press release, the two leaders will explore ways to deepen the US-Israel relationship, confront regional threats (including those posed by Iran), and identify steps to ensure peace and stability between Israelis and Palestinians.

2) Department of State

Secretary Blinken Speaks with Gulf FMs, Ambassador Norland Travels North Africa. As mentioned before, the situation in Afghanistan has consumed the Biden Administration and, to help manage the fallout, Secretary Blinken communicated with two Gulf Arab foreign ministers. Blinken spoke with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al Sabah, Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud about efforts of each of their states to help facilitate the safe travel of US citizens and others out of Afghanistan, in addition to ways the international community can support Afghanistan.

Separately, the US ambassador and special envoy to Libya, Richard Norland, spent six days traveling throughout the Middle East and North Africa and speaking with government officials about ways to ensure that Libya enjoys stability, free and fair elections, and economic opportunity. Norland’s travels took him to Egypt and Turkey, both of which are active in the Libyan conflict, as well as to Morocco.

Special Envoy Malley Uncertain about Fate of JCPOA. The Biden Administration’s point man for negotiations with Iran and the international community regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Special Envoy Robert Malley, raised doubts about the fate of the deal recently. In an interview with Politico, Malley maintained that the administration is eager to return to the deal but that Tehran was ambivalent about rejoining the pact even before hard-line Ebrahim Raisi was inaugurated as Iran’s new president. Ultimately, Malley asserted that the deal could be revived but that right now, it is “one big question mark.”

3) Department of Defense

Secretary Austin Speaks with Gulf Officials. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III spoke with Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and hosted Qatari Defense Minister Dr. Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah at the Pentagon. Austin discussed the situation in Afghanistan and thanked the officials for their countries’ partnerships with Washington.

4) Department of the Treasury

US Sanctions Oil Network Supporting Iran’s Quds Force. The Treasury Department announced sanctions on foreign individuals and entities accused of running an oil smuggling network in support of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force. The move blacklists the targeted entities from using the international financial system.

III. Judicial Branch

Circuit Court Rules in Favor of Effort to Hold AMP Responsible for Hamas Attack. As detailed in the “Judicial Branch” section of a June 2021 report, the US judicial system is reviewing a case brought by the family of David Boim against American organizations that support Palestine, including American Muslims for Palestine (AMP). The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of the Boim family and opened the door for future hearings to probe the alleged relationship between AMP and now-shuttered organizations that had been found in earlier court cases to be liable for David Boim’s death, due to the organization’s  purported support for Palestinian groups, including Hamas.