Capital Thinking: International

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Executive and Legislative Branch Activity

Iran

In his State of the Union address last Tuesday before a joint session of Congress, President Obama acknowledged Congressional sanctions contributed to bringing about the P5+1 interim agreement with Iran.  He also warned:

“If this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it.  For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.” 

The P5+1 talks with Iran are tentatively scheduled to resume mid-February in New York City, New York. This Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the P5+1 negotiations.

Syria

President Obama said last Tuesday before Congress:

“American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated.”

On January 30, the State Department said:

“The United States is deeply concerned about the failure of the Government of Syria to transport to the port of Latakia all of the chemical agents and precursors as mandated by U.N. Security Council Resolution 2118 and the OPCW [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] Executive Council decisions. Today, we are one month past the December 31st completion date that the OPCW Executive Council agreed upon for the removal of the most dangerous chemicals, and just six days from the completion date for all required chemicals to be removed from Syria. In all of this time, the Syrian regime has moved less than 5 percent of the chemicals to the port.”

Last week in Munich, Germany, Secretary of State John Kerry met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.N. Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Syria.

Trade

Within days of President Obama’s call for renewing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) in his address before Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) announced he will not bring The Bipartisan Trade Priorities Act (S. 1900) to the Senate floor anytime soon.  Outgoing Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Montana) also signaled that his Committee will not take further action on TPA before he departs to become the U.S. Ambassador to China. Opponents of the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal organized a “day of action,” with 50 demonstrations held last Friday in cities across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Africa

Last week, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns attended the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He met with African leaders to bolster cooperation on economic, governance and security issues, including the situations in the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan. On January 26, Secretary Kerry said the United States is prepared to consider targeted sanctions against those who abet violence in the CAR.

Ukraine

The United States continues to call for Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych to work with the opposition to take concrete steps to reach a peaceful solution to the unrest. 

State of the Union Address

The bulk of President Obama’s State of the Union address focused predominantly on domestic priorities. For more specifics, Patton Boggs’ analysis of the SOTU can be found here.   

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, February 4: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Negotiations on Iran’s Nuclear Program.”
  • Tuesday, February 4: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a business meeting to review two bills: (1) S. Res. 333 (a resolution recommending the United States renegotiate the return of the Iraqi Jewish Archive to Iraq), and (2); S. Res. 270 (a resolution supporting the goals and ideals of World Polio); and the following nominations:  Rose Eilene Gottemoeller to be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security; Frank Rose to be Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance; Puneet Talwar to be an Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs; Robert Barber to be the U.S. Ambassador to Iceland; George James Tsunis to be the U.S. Ambassador to Norway; Colleen Bradley Bell to be the U.S. Ambassador to Hungary; and Keith Harper to be the U.S. Representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
  • Tuesday, February 4: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for the following individuals:  Bathsheba Nell Crocker to be an Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs; Michael Anderson Lawson to be the U.S. Representative on the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization; and Robert Wood to be the U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament.
  • Tuesday, February 4: The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a closed hearing titled, “The Situation in Afghanistan.”
  • Tuesday, February 4: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism will hold a hearing titled, “Terrorist Groups in Latin America: The Changing Landscape.”
  • Tuesday, February 4: The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing titled, “State of Al Qaeda, its Affiliates, and Associated Groups: View From Outside Experts.”
  • Tuesday, February 4: The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Examining Recommendations to Reform FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] Authorities.”
  • Wednesday, February 5: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Al-Qaeda’s Resurgence in Iraq: A Threat to U.S. Interests.”
  • Wednesday, February 5: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa will hold a hearing titled, “U.S. Counternarcotics Operations in Afghanistan.”
  • Wednesday, February 5: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific will hold a hearing titled, “America’s Future in Asia: From Rebalancing to Managing Sovereignty Disputes.”
  • Thursday, February 6: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation for the following individuals to be U.S. Ambassadors: Luis Moreno (Jamaica); John Estrada (Trinidad and Tobago); and Noah Bryson Mamet (Argentina).
  • Thursday, February 6: The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a closed hearing titled, “Counterterrorism Policy.”