Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Committee’s Ranking Member, introduced H.R. 1654, bipartisan legislation to provide arms directly to the Kurdistan Regional Government. The legislation, which largely mirrors legislation introduced last year (H.R. 5747), provides temporary authority for President Obama to provide weapons directly to the 190,000 strong Iraqi Kurdish “Peshmerga” forces fighting ISIL on the ground. Supporting local ground forces is central to the Administration’s attempt to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIL. But the United States has only provided limited “resupply” of light weapons to the Iraqi Kurds, and only after the Iraqi government in Baghdad signs off on every shipment. To date, the Administration has not provided Iraqi Kurds with the heavy weapons and armored vehicles that they need to effectively fight ISIL. Meanwhile, U.S. plans to train and equip three new Kurdish brigades for counteroffensive operations have only just started. [Section-by-section summary is available HERE.]
Chairman Royce said: “Our critical partner in the fight against ISIL is in great need of heavy weapons and armored vehicles. We haven’t gotten Iraqi Kurdish ‘Peshmerga’ forces what they need. Even so, they have proven to be the most effective ground force currently fighting ISIL. It is critical that the Administration provide Peshmerga forces with the weapons they need. This legislation streamlines the process to better aid this reliable U.S. partner as it continues its fight against ISIL.”
Ranking Member Engel said: “The Peshmerga forces are ‘boots on the ground’ in the fight against ISIL. They are fierce, capable, and determined, but they need the right tools to get the job done. We should be doing everything in our power to get weapons and equipment to Kurdish fighters. The legislation that Chairman Royce and I are offering would speed that process and enhance the capabilities of this critical partner.”
In addition to authorizing the provision of weapons directly to Peshmerga forces, this legislation:
A section-by-section summary of H.R. 1654 is available HERE.
The text of H.R. 1654 is available HERE.
Note: On September 18, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry testified to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs about the provision of direct military assistance to the Kurds, noting: “We have to send it to the government [in Baghdad] because that’s the U.S. law. If you want to change it, fix it, we invite you…”
Washington, D.C. – Following recent reports that the Administration is “re-evaluating” United States policy toward Israel, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Committee’s Ranking Member, have sent a letter to Ambassador Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, to express their support for American leadership in the Middle East peace process and continued robust U.S.-Israeli relations.
In the letter to Ambassador Power, Royce and Engel write: “…the Administration appears to be considering new steps at the United Nations that could depart from our nation’s historic and principled defense of Israel at the United Nations against biased and one-sided resolutions… it is difficult to see how such a shift in U.S. policy at the United Nations would bring the parties closer to peace. Both Republican and Democratic Administrations have recognized that efforts to internationalize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not a substitute for direct negotiations between the parties, and in fact, can undermine these negotiations.”
The letter concludes: “We continue to support direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority toward a two-state solution and will oppose any effort to turn to the Security Council for imposing the terms of this process. Only a solution negotiated directly between the Israelis and Palestinians can result in a lasting peace. We are seeking an assurance from you that the United States will veto resolutions at the United Nations that are biased and one-sided against Israel.”
The signed letter is available HERE.
The text of the letter follows:
March 25, 2015
The Honorable Samantha Power U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations U.S. Mission to the United Nations 799 United Nations Plaza New York, NY 10017
Dear Madam Ambassador:
We are writing to express our deep and abiding support for American leadership in the Middle East peace process, with the understanding that any lasting solution will be decided by the parties themselves. As the President said in 2011: “[U]ltimately, it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them—not by the United States; not by anybody else.” Those words were true then, and remain true today.
We are concerned by reports that the Administration is “re-evaluating” United States policy toward Israel. In the wake of comments that Prime Minister Netanyahu made during Israel’s election last week—that he has now contextualized—the Administration appears to be considering new steps at the United Nations that could depart from our nation’s historic and principled defense of Israel at the United Nations against biased and one-sided resolutions.
As you know, for decades, the U.S. has used its U.N. Security Council veto to protect Israel from undue pressure at the world body, which has historically exhibited selective and unjustified bias against Israel. We appreciate the steps the Obama Administration has taken in this regard. For example, earlier this month at the 28th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Secretary of State John Kerry made impassioned remarks, noting that body’s singular focus on Israel’s alleged human rights abuses to the exclusion of far more egregious conduct by the world’s worst actors. We also understand that even after these reports surfaced about a potential re-evaluation of U.S. policy, the United States coordinated with Israel and refused to participate in the UN Human Rights Council session on March 23, 2015 on so called “Item 7 resolutions”—dealing with the situation in the Palestinian territories because these sessions have historically been biased and one-sided.
We share the frustration that further progress has not been made in Middle East peace negotiations toward a two-state solution. We join in the Administration’s efforts to encourage the parties to return to the negotiating table and take steps to assure the other side of their commitment to a more peaceful and secure future. However, it is difficult to see how such a shift in U.S. policy at the United Nations would bring the parties closer to peace. Both Republican and Democratic Administrations have recognized that efforts to internationalize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not a substitute for direct negotiations between the parties, and in fact, can undermine these negotiations.
Given the serious threats facing both the United States and Israel, cooperation is needed now more than ever. We continue to support direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority toward a two-state solution and will oppose any effort to turn to the Security Council for imposing the terms of this process. Only a solution negotiated directly between the Israelis and Palestinians can result in a lasting peace.
We are seeking an assurance from you that the United States will veto resolutions at the United Nations that are biased and one-sided against Israel. We thank you for your consideration of these views, and look forward to working with you to ensure that robust U.S.-Israeli relations continue.
Sincerely, EDWARD R. ROYCE Chairman
ELIOT L. ENGEL Ranking Member
Reports indicate negotiators are weakening demands on Iran’s past bomb work
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued this statement following reports that international negotiators are seeking to weaken demands for transparency on Iran’s past bomb work. The reports come as Iran has continued to refuse to cooperate with international inspectors investigating its efforts to develop a nuclear weapon. Negotiations resume today in Switzerland. Chairman Royce said: “I’ve constantly said that Iran’s willingness to comply with its commitments to work with international inspectors and come clean on its past efforts to build a nuclear weapon is a fundamental test of Tehran’s intention to uphold a meaningful nuclear agreement. U.S. and international negotiators absolutely shouldn’t fudge this test, which international inspectors have said Iran is failing. Tehran has either come clean, or it hasn’t. “As U.S. negotiators reconvene with their Iranian counterparts, this issue must be front and center. Members of Congress have made it clear that Iran’s past bomb work must be disclosed if a deal is to have any credibility.” Last month’s IAEA report notes that the agency “remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear-related activities involving military-related organization, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.” The report also said that inspectors had amassed “over a thousand pages” which showed “research, development and testing activities” on technologies needed to develop a nuclear weapon. This week, the head of the IAEA again expressed frustration at Iran’s lack of cooperation on this critical issue. Last fall, more than 350 Members of Congress joined Chairman Royce, in writing to Secretary Kerry to express their deep concerns with Iran’s refusal to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency. This week, more than 360 Members of Congress joined Chairman Royce in outlining a number of concerns with the ongoing negotiations, including “that Iran has still not revealed its past bomb work, despite international obligations to do so.”
Chairman Royce Opening Statement
Washington, D.C. – Today at 8:30 a.m., as part of the Committee’s examination of President Obama’s request for authorization to use military force against ISIS, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will convene a hearing entitled, “The Administration’s Strategy to Confront ISIS.” The hearing will take place TODAY, Thursday, March 26 at 8:30 a.m. in 2172 Rayburn House Office Building.
Live webcast and witness testimony will be available HERE. Below is Chairman Royce’s opening statement as prepared for delivery at the hearing: This morning, the Committee continues its examination of the ISIS threat – hoping to inform the Administration’s strategy to destroy this brutal terrorist organization, and assess the proposed authorization of military force it sent Congress. The goals of ISIS are clear: wreck every person and thing in its path; establish a caliphate; and then fight to expand it. ISIS affiliates are growing in power and presence throughout the region. In the last few weeks, we have seen attacks in Yemen, Tunisia, and Libya. But less clear is the Administration’s approach and determination to tackle this threat. As the ISIS threat was building in the desert, it wasn’t bombed as it should have been. And despite nearly 3,000 sorties to date, this air campaign isn’t pummeling the enemy as it should. U.S. Special Forces should be forward positioned, and authorized to call in airstrikes. Most Americas would be puzzled to learn that Canadian Special Forces are doing this, but we are not. With just “piecemeal attacks, the Obama administration has been systematically squandering our…airpower advantage,” according to one observer. Adding to the problem, the regional forces on the ground these airstrikes are supposed to be supporting are badly undersupplied. After seven months of fighting, the Committee is still receiving troubling reports that the Kurdish peshmerga are outgunned on the front-lines. This morning, Ranking Member Engel and I are re-introducing legislation to allow U.S. arms to be sent directly to the Kurds. These brave fighters need the better equipment to defeat ISIS. And the Sunni tribal fighters, who will be central to this fight, are yet to trust Baghdad. Strong local police and provincial national guard forces are desperately needed to protect Sunnis in Anbar Province and elsewhere. Into the void on the ground in Iraq have stepped Iranian-backed Shiite fighters, the leading force behind the recent Tikrit offensive. Senior U.S. officials have put this development in positive terms. And reports indicate that U.S. intelligence and airpower will now support this Iranian-backed mission. The Washington Post wisely cautioned in an editorial this week, “The growing power of the militias, with their brutal tactics, sectarian ideology and allegiance to Iran’s most militant faction, has become as large an impediment to the goal of stabilizing Iraq” as ISIS. Shiite militias taking on ISIS may serve the immediate interest of killing jihadis, but it is hard to see how empowering Iran’s proxies is in the short, medium, or long term interests of an inclusive Iraq or a stable Middle East. The fear that many of us have is that Sunni Iraqis, who have been tortured by ISIS, will get the same brutal treatment by their Shiite militia “liberators.” That would fuel endless conflict. Political reconciliation in Baghdad must be central to U.S. policy. The Committee will be interested to learn what the Administration is doing to press Prime Minister Abadi to ensure he doesn’t become former Prime Minister Maliki, a disastrous sectarian. As we’ll hear today, our U.S. strategy is focused on “Iraq first.” But until the meltdown of Syria – what General Petraeus termed a “geopolitical Chernobyl” - is capped, “it is going to continue to spew radioactive instability and extremist ideology over the entire region."
Last fall, Congress voted to authorize training and equipping the Syrian opposition forces. But to our great frustration, that’s still not up and running. And when pressed on the path forward in Syria, most Administration officials seem to suggest we can “figure it out later.” Our slow action is creating a crisis of confidence among our allies. Our witnesses are here to explain the President’s strategy, and when the Committee returns in April, we plan to hear more from the Secretary of State and Defense about the President’s AUMF request.
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Washington, D.C. – This evening, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued this statement following reports of Saudi Arabia’s military operation in neighboring Yemen:
“The takeover of southern Yemen by the Iranian-supported Houthis has led to chaos, threatening the national security interests of our regional partners and the United States. Regional states, led by Saudi Arabia at President Hadi’s request, are taking action from the air. The United States should support our Saudi and Gulf partners with appropriate logistical and intelligence support to combat this threat.”
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the this statement following the Army’s decision on Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl: “Today’s announcement is the exclamation point on the bad deal the Obama Administration cut to free five terrorist killers in its rush to empty the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Those five – some of the worst of the worst – will be free in a matter of weeks. The dangerous deal the White House cut has real consequences for the safety of Americans.”
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Committee’s Ranking Member, issued this statement following a joint address to Congress from His Excellency Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan:
“We were pleased to welcome President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah to the U.S. Congress today. President Ghani’s address to a Joint Meeting of Congress is a powerful symbol of the strong and enduring bond between the United States and Afghanistan. Though serious challenges remain, we were pleased to hear the President’s ideas about the way forward in Afghanistan. President Ghani’s emphasis on Afghanistan’s future as a self-sufficient nation that brings greater stability to the region is a shared goal for us all. We look forward to supporting President Ghani’s vision for an Afghanistan that is peaceful, and where Afghans are able to live with dignity and prosperity. The sacrifice of Americans and Afghans over the past 14 years is too great for us to not achieve this goal.”
Hearing Continues Committee’s Work to Examine President’s AUMF Proposal
***See important planning note/RSVP requirement for media***
Washington, D.C. – Tomorrow at 8:30 a.m., as part of the Committee’s examination of President Obama’s request for authorization to use military force against ISIS, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will convene a hearing entitled, “The Administration’s Strategy to Confront ISIS.” The hearing will be held tomorrow, Thursday, March 26 at 8:30 a.m. in 2172 Rayburn House Office Building.
Chairman Royce on the hearing: “Month after month we’ve seen the ISIS threat grow. They are a nightmare for millions of civilians in Syria and Iraq. Despite pressure from Congress, the Administration continues to offer too little, too late to our allies and partners on the front lines of this threat. Stepping in are Iranian-backed Shiite militias, undercutting hopes for an inclusive Iraqi government. This hearing will evaluate the Obama Administration’s strategy and AUMF request to confront ISIS.”
The hearing follows a number of Committee events to examine the President’s AUMF proposal, including a meeting with the intelligence community last week.
When: 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 26
Where: 2172 Rayburn House Office Building
Witnesses: General John Allen, USMC, Retired Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL U.S. Department of State
Brigadier General Michael Fantini, USAF Middle East Principal Director Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs U.S. Department of Defense
Brigadier General Gregg Olson, USMC Deputy Director for Middle East Joint Staff Strategic Plans and Policy U.S. Department of Defense
**Important planning note/RSVP requirement for press covering hearing**
The hearing will be webcast at www.foreignaffairs.house.gov/live-video-feed.
The hearing room will likely not be able to accommodate all members of the media wishing to cover the hearing from the press viewing area.
Only Congressionally credentialed members of the media will be allowed access to the press viewing area in the committee hearing room and must RSVP to their respective Press Gallery by 5pm Today, Wednesday, March 25.
All television crews must RSVP to the House Radio TV Gallery at 202-225-5214. Gallery contact information: House Radio/TV Gallery: 202-225-5214 House Periodical Gallery: 202-225-2941 House Daily Press Gallery: 202-225-3945 Photographer Gallery: 202-224-6548
***See www.foreignaffairs.house.gov for updates.
Washington, DC 20515