NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY
Heard On The Hill
Senate Passes Resolution Urging Prevention of Iranian Nuclear Weapons CapabilityBy a resounding vote of 99-0, the Senate passed a resolution (S. Res. 65) on May 22 declaring the United States will stand by Israel if it is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
The resolution calls on the United States to provide diplomatic, military, and economic support to Israel in order to defend its territory, people, and existence.
Co-authored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the resolution was co-sponsored by 92 senators.
The resolution also reiterated American policy remains to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability and urged the President to strengthen enforcement of sanctions on Tehran.
“While this resolution makes absolutely clear that we are not authorizing the use of force, it does make clear that we have Israel’s back. If Israel is compelled to take military action in self-defense against Iran’s nuclear program, we should stand with Israel – using all the tools of our national power – to assist Israel in defense of its territory, people and existence,” said Sen. Menendez.
“If that day ever comes, and I pray it does not, but if that day ever comes where Israel has to take military action, to our friends in Israel: We will be there with you every step of the way, diplomatically, economically, and, yes, militarily,” added Sen. Graham.
Lawmakers Authorize Funding For Missile Defense ProgramThe bill authorizes $283.78 million for Israeli cooperative missile defense programs, which includes Arrow-2, Arrow-3, and David’s Sling.
The total funding level for these programs represents an increase of $188 million over the president’s budget request. The bill also authorizes $220.3 million for the Iron Dome rocket defense system.
The legislation, fiscal year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed in the House by a vote of 315-108 on June 14.
During floor debate on the legislation several key amendments were adopted to bolster and fortify the U.S.-Israel relationship.
An amendment authored by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) stated that Congress fully supports Israel’s lawful exercise of self-defense including actions to halt regional aggression.
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) authored an amendment to ensure that the United States has taken all necessary steps to guarantee that Israel possesses and maintain an independent capability to remove existential threats.
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) added an amendment to require an annual report on Iran that analyzes the impact of sanctions.
U.S. Continues To Hit Iran With Tough SanctionsOn May 31, the Obama administration took numerous new actions to tighten what were already the toughest sanctions ever imposed against Tehran’s nuclear program.
The Treasury and State Departments issued sanctions targeting Iran’s currency, automotive sector, petrochemical companies, and those entities enabling Iran to engage in prohibited business activity.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki described these initiatives as part of a larger signal “that the United States will act resolutely against attempts to circumvent U.S. sanctions.”
In addition, the administration took action against multiple individuals and companies that had violated existing sanctions. Among the targets was Iran’s petrochemical industry, which is the second largest source of revenue for Iran after oil.
The State Department sanctioned UAE based Jam Petrochemical and Niksima Food and Beverage JLT for purchasing petrochemical products from Iran. This was the first time that an entity buying petrochemicals from Iran was sanctioned.
The Treasury Department also blacklisted 37 firms that were apart of an international network of front companies controlled by Iran’s top leaders. These businesses hid Iranian assets and produced billions of dollars in revenue each year for the regime.
This was the first time that the Obama administration specifically accused Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, of being involved in such activities.
Treasury Hits Hezbollah Network in AfricaThe Treasury Department announced on June 11 that it sanctioned four Lebanese Hezbollah operatives for their work on behalf of the terrorist organization in West Africa. The men collected funds for the group in Sierra Leone, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and Gambia, and portrayed themselves as members of Hezbollah’s Foreign Relations Department.
“As Hezbollah continues to use its global network of operatives and supporters to extend its malign influence beyond the borders of Lebanon, we will continue to use all tools at our disposal take action to disrupt these efforts,” said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. “These actions are increasingly important as the funding from Hezbollah’s traditional patron, Iran, is squeezed by international sanctions.”
The sanctions will freeze any assets the four men have in the United States and allow for additional sanctions against any entity that continues to provide material support to them. The announcement comes a week after a Nigerian court charged four different Lebanese men, suspected of having ties to Hezbollah, with terrorism and possession of illegal arms.