Terrorist Attacks – Paris and Beirut

Last Friday evening, President Barack Obama addressed the nation as the press reported of numerous fatalities and injuries resulting from coordinated terrorist attacks at multiple locations in Paris, France.  The President immediately offered U.S. assistance to France and said the attacks were “an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.”   In coordination with U.S. forces, France reportedly led an air strike late Sunday against ISIL targets in the Syrian city of Raqqa.

Meanwhile, a Thursday bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, killed at least 41 people and wounded dozens more.  ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack.  The White House condemned the “horrific terrorist” attack and said the U.S. remains committed to supporting the institutions of the Lebanese state.

Presidential Trip Abroad

President Obama departed Washington on Saturday for a nine-day trip including multiple bilateral meetings and four summits. The President traveled first to Antalya, Turkey, the site of Group of 20 (G-20) Economic Summit.  The recent terrorist attacks allegedly by ISIL and ongoing conflict in Syria topped the G-20 agenda.  President Obama met with the leaders of Germany, Britain, Italy, and France to discuss the fight against ISIL. On the margins of the Summit, President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin met Sunday to discuss Syria and Ukraine.

President Obama will next travel to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit (in Manila, the Philippines), the East Asia Summit, and the ASEAN Summit (in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).  The leaders of the 12 countries participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal are also set to meet next Wednesday in Manila.

Syrian and Iraqi Crises

Preceding President Obama’s meetings with European leaders, Secretary of State John Kerry participated in bilateral and multilateral meetings in Vienna last Friday to discuss the ongoing conflict in Syria.  President Obama also spoke last week with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the ongoing diplomatic efforts to facilitate a political transition in Syria, efforts to combat ISIL in Iraq, and the need to de-escalate the fighting in Yemen.

A U.S. official told the press late last Thursday that a U.S. drone strike in Syria appears to have killed ISIL terrorist Mohammed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadi John” and who had a part in the executions of American and Western hostages.  On Friday, Secretary Kerry and British Prime Minister David Cameron cautioned that the United States is still assessing the results of this strike.  With U.S. and Coalition air support, Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Yazidi fighters began an offensive early Thursday to reclaim Mount Sinjar and an accompanying Iraqi town from ISIL.

Russia/Ukraine Crisis

Last Friday, Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew visited Ukraine.  This stop was in conjunction with a trip that had him joining President Obama at the G-20 Summit.  Secretary Lew’s visit to Ukraine included a discussion of the country’s economic reforms.

NDAA Bill Sent to the President

While the House of Representatives was in recess last week in recognition of the Veterans Day holiday, the Senate approved on Tuesday the updated version of theFiscal Year (FY) 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The President is expected to sign the measure into law soon.

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – Scrutiny of the Deal Continues

Despite many Members of Congress reserving judgment on the thousands of pages that comprise the TPP deal, the White House is actively lobbying wavering Democrats who could possibly support a TPP deal vote, particularly in light of potential Republican defections over issues such as intellectual property and tobacco.  A House Ways and Means staffer shared with the press that House Democrats plan to carefully scrutinize the TPP text over the 90-day review period that began on 5 November to assess how the labor, environment, and pharmaceutical intellectual property provisions measure up to the standards included in the “May 10” agreement.

Israel

Last week, President Obama hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  During his three-day visit to Washington, the Prime Minister initiated negotiations on U.S. military aid to Israel over the coming decade but left without securing any deals.  The White House announced that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will visit Washington in December.

Burma

President Obama spoke separately last Thursday with Burmese President Thein Sein and with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, congratulating the people of Burma for their participation in the historic parliamentary election on 8 November.  President Obama emphasized the importance that all parties respect the official results once announced and work together in the spirit of unity to form an inclusive, representative government that reflects the will of the people.

Liberia

Last Thursday, President Obama issued an Executive Order (E.O.) that revokes the 2004 E.O. 13348, citing Liberia’s “tremendous progress” and commitment to democracy as the basis for terminating the previously declared national emergency.

Congressional Hearings This Week

  • On Monday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to hold a closedbriefing titled, “U.S. Policy Tools to Combat North Korea’s Nuclear and Ballistic Missile Capabilities.”
  • On Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to hold a hearing titled, “Options for Reforming U.S. Overseas Broadcasting.”
  • On Tuesday, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism is expected to hold a hearing titled, “Terrorist Financing: Kidnapping, Antiquities Trafficking, and Private Donations.”
  • On Tuesday, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees on Emerging Threats and the Western Hemisphere will hold a joint hearing titled, “Charting the Arctic: Security, Economic, and Resource Opportunities.”
  • On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to hold a hearing titled, “Department of Defense Reform – Overcoming Obstacles to Effective Management.”
  • On Wednesday, the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower is expected to hold a closed hearing titled, “Undersea Critical Infrastructure Protection.”
  • On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security Committees will hold a joint hearing titled, “The Rise of Radicalism: Growing Terrorist Sanctuaries and the Threat to the U.S. Homeland.”
  • On Wednesday, the House Armed Services Committee is expected to hold a hearing titled, “Outside Views on the Strategy for Iraq and Syria.”
  • On Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia is expected to hold a hearing titled, “Democratic Transitions in Southeast Asia.”
  • On Thursday, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Human Rights is expected to hold a hearing titled, “The Goldman Act to Return Abducted American Children: Ensuring Administration Action.”
  • On Thursday, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness is expected to hold a hearing titled, “Effects of Reduced Infrastructure and Base Operating Support Investments on Readiness.”
  • On Thursday, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces is expected to hold a hearing titled, “Acquisition Efficiency and the Future Navy Force.”
  • On Thursday, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities is expected to hold a hearing titled, “Advancing the Science and Acceptance of Autonomy for Future Defense Systems.”

Looking Ahead

Washington will likely focus on the following upcoming matters:

  • 14-22 November: President Obama travels to Turkey, the Philippines, and Malaysia
  • 18-19 November: APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in the Philippines
  • 18-22 November: ASEAN and East Asia Summits in Malaysia
  • 21-23 November: U.S.-China JCCT Meeting in Guangzhou, China
  • 30 November-11 December: U.N. Global Climate Conference in Paris, France
  • 9 December: President Obama hosts Israeli President Reuven Rivlin
  • 15-18 December: 10th WTO Ministerial Conference to be held in Nairobi, Kenya
  • 8-9 July 2016: NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland