Washington Policy Weekly

I. Congress

1) Legislation

Zeldin Introduces Anti-BDS Act. On March 3, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-New York) introduced the Israel Anti-Boycott Act in the House of Representatives to combat what he deemed attempts by international organizations to force companies to boycott Israel. Co-sponsored by 46 other Republicans and no Democrats in the House, the act asks Congress to affirm its opposition to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement opposing Israeli policies and practices.

2) Hearings and Nominations

Hearings for Ambassadors to Yemen and Iraq. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee questioned Steven Fagin, President Biden’s nominee to be ambassador to Yemen, and Alina Romanowski, who was tapped to be ambassador to Iraq.

3) Personnel and Correspondence

Rep. Deutch to Head the American Jewish Committee. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Florida) will next October take over leadership of the American Jewish Committee, a leading Jewish organization dedicated to the defense of Israel. Deutch is a strong supporter of Israel in the House of Representatives and has led efforts to oppose progressive Democrats’ attempts at holding it accountable for its policies toward Palestinians.

Republican Senators Oppose Transferring Al-Qaeda Terrorist to Saudi Arabia. On March 2, Republican Senators James Risch (Idaho), Marco Rubio (Florida), and James Inhofe (Oklahoma) wrote a letter to President Joe Biden opposing his decision to transfer Guantanamo Bay detainee Mohammed al-Qahtani to Saudi Arabia. Qahtani was detained for his connection to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. The senators warned that terrorists should not be given the opportunity to return to “the battlefield in any role.”

Iran Accuses Senator Graham of Calling for Assassinating Its Scientists. On March 3, Iran accused Senator Linsdey Graham (R-South Carolina) of advocating the assassination of its scientists. The senator had said during a visit to Israel in February that many Iranian scientists had been assassinated and that he expects more to have the same fate.

Risch, Menendez Welcome Bahraini Delegation to US Capitol. Senators Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) and James Risch (R-Idaho), Chairman and Ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, respectively, welcomed Bahraini Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, at the Capitol. Al Khalifa was in Washington for the second round of the US-Bahrain strategic dialogue (see below).

Senators Want to Eliminate Investigation of Israel. A bipartisan group of senators, led by Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), is urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to work to eliminate the permanent commission of the UN Human Rights Council that is investigating Israel’s war against Gaza in May 2021. The senators contend that this effort is one-sided and ignores Palestinian attacks on Israel.

II. Executive Branch

1) White House

Biden Extends National Emergency with Respect to Iran. President Biden extended the national emergency with respect to Iran beyond March 15, 2022. The original declaration was made on March 15, 1995. It was important to note that this extension came as negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna are going through a crucial phase.

VP Harris Meets with Bahraini Crown Prince. Vice President Kamala Harris met with visiting Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad and affirmed the strong partnership between the United States and Bahrain. Harris discussed human rights in Bahrain with the crown prince, in addition to other regional and international issues.

2) State Department

US Joins Others in Calling for Stability in Libya. The United States joined with the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy in supporting the United Nations’ latest call for avoiding any actions that would jeopardize stability in Libya. The UN and joint statement come as Libyan parties appear to be divided on the path forward for the country after presidential and parliamentary elections were postponed indefinitely.

Meetings in Washington Regarding Syria. On March 3, the State Department issued a statement about meetings regarding the crisis in Syria that were attended by 11 countries, the League of Arab States, and the European Union. Special UN Envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen presented his assessment of the situation there and potential plans for progress toward a political settlement in the country according to UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

Lenderking and Cohort Return from Yemen. US Envoy for Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, and Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Yemen, Cathy Westley, returned on March 3 from a trip to the country where they visited the governorates of Hadramawt, al-Mahra, and Shabwa. They met with leaders of the governorates and discussed economic opportunity and security. They also affirmed the US commitment to assist international efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Yemeni crisis.

Sherman to Travel to MENA. According to a media note from the State Department, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will travel March 4 to 11 to Turkey, Morocco, Algeria, and Egypt as well as Spain. Discussion with these states’ leaders will include bilateral relations and the Ukraine crisis.

Sherman Speaks to Omani and Kuwaiti Officials. On March 2, Sherman spoke to Oman’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Khalifa al-Harthy and commended him for Oman’s support of the UN General Assembly’s vote condemning the Russian attack against Ukraine. Sherman also spoke to Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister Majdi Dhafiri on March 1 to show appreciation for Kuwait’s co-sponsoring of resolutions at the UN Security Council and the General Assembly related to Russia’s war.

Blinken Speaks with Saudi Foreign Minister. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud about the Russian attack on Ukraine and efforts to coordinate an international response to it.

Blinken Launches the 2nd US-Bahrain Strategic Dialogue Round. On February 28, Secretary Blinken launched the second round of the US-Bahrain strategic dialogue with Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani. Throughout the week, officials from the US and Bahraini governments were to hold meetings on mutual relations while Bahrain’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad was visiting the American capital.

State Department Restarts Processing Iraqi Admissions Program. On March 1, the State Department announced that it is restarting the processing of admissions for US-affiliated Iraqi refugees (known as Iraqi-P2 program) after the end of a review. The application and vetting process is exhaustive and detailed and involves biographic and biometric information.

3) Department of Defense

Austin Meets with Bahraini Crown Prince. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad at the Pentagon. The secretary stressed the importance of US-Bahraini relations and defense partnership and commended Bahrain on recently hosting Israel’s prime minister.

4) Treasury Department

US Treasury Urges Investigating Lebanese Banking System Abuses. A US Treasury delegation recently ended its 3-day visit to Beirut with a “candid statement” calling for the investigation of abuses by political and economic elites of the Lebanese banking system.

US Sanctions Two Hezbollah Financiers. On March 4, the United States Treasury sanctioned two Hezbollah financiers operating in Guinea: Ali Saade and Ibrahim Taher. The two are accused of supporting the party as well as undermining the rule of law in that country for that purpose. The designation is pursuant to Executive Order 13224 that targets “terrorists, leaders, and officials of terrorist groups.”