Executive and Legislative Branch Activity
Leaders at the G-8 Summit last week reiterated their support for a political solution to the Syrian civil war and for the transitional government plan agreed to last year in Geneva. The G-8 Leaders Communiqué condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria, but it did not identify the perpetrators as the Syrian regime. On Thursday, June 20, World Refugee Day, the United Nations characterized Syria as the “worst humanitarian disaster” since the Cold War. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the State Department is nearly doubling the U.S. contribution to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and President Obama announced an additional $300 million in Syrian humanitarian assistance. This new funding brings the total U.S. contribution to the Syrian civil war to $815 million. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Russia would deliver the contractually obligated S-300 surface-to-air missiles to the Syrian regime. Two Russian warships are also reportedly headed to the waters off of Syria. Iran has reportedly intervened to stabilize the value of Syria’s currency after the United States agreed to provide lethal, small arms to the Syrian rebels. At the same time, many members of Congress are increasingly voicing opposition to lethal U.S. action in Syria.
Last week, the U.S.-led NATO Coalition formally transitioned its security role to Afghan security forces. Also last week, the Taliban opened an office in Qatar and the United States announced that talks would proceed with the Taliban about the security situation in Afghanistan post-NATO withdrawal in 2014. However, Afghan President Hamid Karzai withdrew his delegation from the announced talks because he objected to the Taliban’s attempt to confer diplomatic legitimacy by calling its new Doha office “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” Secretary Kerry reiterated to President Karzai that the United States does not recognize the name “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” and noted the Government of Qatar had taken steps to ensure the Taliban’s office is in compliance with the conditions established by the government for its operations. The United States continues to work with the Afghan Government and its High Peace Council to determine next steps to establishing the reconciliation talks with the Taliban.
On Saturday, June 15, the White House responded to the election of Iranian President-elect Hassan Rohani by stating: “The United States remains ready to engage the Iranian government directly in order to reach a diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.” A possible resumption of the P5+1 Talks, however, may not occur until President-elect Rohani takes office in August.
President Obama’s Travel
From Wednesday, June 26 to July 3, President Obama and the First Family are traveling to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania to reinforce U.S. ties with sub-Saharan Africa. In Senegal, the President will meet with President Macky Sall to address joint counterterrorism efforts with African nations. President Obama will meet with South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma to discuss bilateral trade, the renewal of the expiring (2015) African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA), and South Africa’s regional leadership role. It is also anticipated that President Obama’s trip to South Africa may include a meeting with former president Nelson Mandela. In Tanzania, President Obama will meet with President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete.
Secretary Kerry’s Travel
From Friday, June 21 to July 2, Secretary Kerry is traveling to Qatar, India, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Israel, and Brunei. In Doha, the Secretary met with Qatari officials to discuss bilateral issues and the conflict in Syria. In New Delhi, India, Secretary Kerry will chair the fourth annual U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue. The Secretary will also open the second annual U.S.-India Higher Education Dialogue. On Tuesday, June 25, Secretary Kerry will participate in meetings with Saudi officials in Jeddah. On Thursday, June 27 – Saturday, June 29, the Secretary will travel to Amman, Jordan, and Jerusalem, Israel, to meet with Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials on advancing Middle East peace. Secretary Kerry concludes his travel in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, participating in a series of regional conferences, including: (1) the ASEAN-U.S. Ministerial; (2) Lower Mekong Initiative Ministerial; (3) the Friends of the Lower Mekong Ministerial Meeting; (4) the 20th ASEAN Regional Forum; and (5) the 3rd East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. The Secretary will also hold bilateral meetings with Bruneian officials, including the Sultan of Brunei.
Last Wednesday, June 19, the Senate confirmed Michael Froman as the next U.S. Trade Representative in a 93-4 vote. Last Thursday, June 20, the White House released its 2013 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement, available here. Looking ahead on a separate trade matter, the United States is expected to spotlight those countries that subsidize their steel production at the July 1-2 meeting of the steel committee in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
At last week’s G-8 Summit in Northern Ireland, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) was formally announced. The EU also issued its formal Mandate for TTIP, which includes financial services, but not audio-visual services. The first round of TTIP negotiations will be held in Washington, D.C. the week of July 8.
One of two new intersessional meetings occurred last week in advance of the 18th round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Malaysia (July 15-25). The cross-border trade in services negotiating group met in Ho Chi Mihn City, Vietnam. The rules of origin negotiating group will meet this week (Sunday, June 23 – Saturday, June 29) in San Francisco.
Trafficking in Persons Report
Last Thursday, June 20, Secretary of State John Kerry released the annual 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report. The Secretary reaffirmed the United States commitment to helping countries prosecute traffickers and strengthen the rule of law in order to prevent the corruption of global supply chains.
On Thursday, June 20, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ed Royce (R-CA) introduced legislation (H.R. 2449) to extend for two years the current U.S.-South Korea civilian nuclear energy cooperation agreement, which expires in March 2014.
After weeks of protests in Turkey, this week, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats will hold a hearing on the demonstrations. (See This Week’s Hearings below for specifics)
Last week, more than a million people in Brazil protested against increased transport fare costs and corruption allegations and costs surrounding preparations for next year’s World Cup. The State Department acknowledged it is monitoring the events in Brazil.
Appointments & Nominations
On Tuesday, June 18, Secretary Kerry announced former Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold will serve as the U.S. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Former Sen. Feingold previously chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa when Secretary Kerry was the Chairman of the full Committee.
On Friday, June 21, President Obama announced Caroline Atkinson would succeed Michael Froman as the Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics. Michael Froman was sworn in last week as the new U.S. Trade Representative.
Last week, President Obama also announced his intention to nominate the following individuals: James Comey to be the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations; Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; Reuben Brigety, II, to be the U.S. Representative to the African Union; Jon Rymer to be the Inspector General at the Department of Defense; and the following to be U.S. Ambassadors: Denise Bauer (Belgium); John Berry (Australia); James Brewster, Jr. (Dominican Republic); Dan Clune (Laos); David Hale (Lebanon); Michael Hammer (Chile); Terence McCulley (Cote d’Ivoire); Brian Nichols (Peru); and David Pearce (Greece).
This Week’s Hearings:
- Tuesday, June 25: The Senate Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing to review: (1) S. 718, Increasing American Jobs Through Greater Exports to Africa Act of 2013, (2) S. 559, Justice for Former American Hostages in Iran Act of 2013, (3) S. Res. 144, concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo, (4) S. Res. 167, reaffirming U.S. support for the peaceful resolution of Asia-Pacific maritime disputes, (5) S. Res. 165, calling for the release from prison of former Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko, and (6) S. Res. 166, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity and its successor, the African Union.
- Tuesday, June 25: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees on Global Human Rights and the Middle East and North Africa will hold a joint hearing on “Religious Minorities in Syria.”
- Wednesday, June 26: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats will hold a hearing on “Turkey at a Crossroads: What do the Gezi Park Protests Mean for Democracy in the Region?”
- Wednesday, June 26: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the “Broadcasting Board of Governors: An Agency ‘Defunct’.”