Rachel Oswald

Trump Pulls Out of Iran Deal, Reimposes Sanctions
Calls current agreement decaying and rotten

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he would reimpose sanctions on Iran, dealing a likely fatal blow to the 2015 multinational nuclear deal and upsetting European countries, Democrats and even some Republicans.

But though Trump’s action is aimed at punishing Iran, it is anger from U.S. allies, especially France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, that could most affect the United States in the coming weeks and months.

Podcast: Trump's Iran Deadline Is Nearly Here
CQ on Congress, Episode 100

President Trump has set a May 12 deadline for deciding whether to pull out of the 2015 deal with Iran to rollback its nuclear program. He has harshly criticized it, but is under pressure from foreign allies and even some in his administration to keep it, says CQ foreign policy reporter Rachel Oswald. ...
Corker Releases AUMF Without an Expiration Date
Prospects for approval uncertain with expected opposition within Foreign Relations panel

The long-awaited draft authorization to set new guidelines on the 17-year-old war on terrorism was released Monday night by senators and, to the displeasure of some Democrats, it would not impose significant restrictions on military operations, such as an expiration date.

The bipartisan Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2018 would repeal and replace the 2001 AUMF, which has been increasingly criticized for its expansive justification of all kinds of military actions against extremist groups that did not exist at the time of the 9/11 attacks. The new AUMF would also repeal the 2002 authorization that enabled the 2003 Iraq War.

Pompeo Confirms Mueller Interview
Secretary of state nominee testified before Senate Foreign Relations panel

Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo told senators at his confirmation hearing Thursday he has been questioned by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in his investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.

Specifically, Mueller questioned the current CIA chief on a West Wing conversation last March with President Donald Trump and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats in which the president reportedly asked Coats to get then-FBI head James B. Comey to drop his investigation into  former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Corker Lifts Blanket Hold on Arms Sales to Gulf States
Still no clear path on Gulf Cooperation Council rift

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker has lifted a months-long hold on weapon sales to Gulf countries after it failed to encourage a resolution to the ongoing diplomatic standoff between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

In a letter this week, the Tennessee Republican notified Secretary of State Rex Tillerson he was ending his eight-month blanket hold on lethal defense equipment sales to the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which comprises Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

Debate Over Sanctions Misses Real Issue: Lax Funding for Enforcement
 

Congress last year overwhelmingly passed tough sanctions to punish Russia for interfering in the 2016 election — a bill that President Donald Trump grudgingly signed into law. But enforcing those and the many other sanctions required by law means more money and personnel, two things sorely lacking at the Treasury Department....
Royce Retirement Prompts Foreign Affairs Successor Questions
Potential successors, Smith and Rohrabacher, have histories of bucking party

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce announced his retirement Monday, joining a wave of fellow senior Republicans in the House and Senate declining to seek re-election in a tough political environment.

The 13-term California lawmaker had only one year remaining on his term as committee chairman, but his retirement announcement nonetheless casts a spotlight on his potential successors, two of whom have histories of bucking the party.

Podcast: America's Iran Quandary and Why Money Can't Prevent Military Mishaps
The Week Ahead, Episode 75

CQ foreign policy reporter Rachel Oswald and Kelsey Davenport of the Arms Control Association explain why Congress is in no rush to change the Iran nuclear deal. And CQ defense reporter John M. Donnelly argues the Pentagon does not necessarily need more money to prevent deadly accidents.

Show Notes:

Podcast: Why You Shouldn’t Be Alarmed Over North Korea...Yet
The Week Ahead, Episode 65

President Trump’s fiery rhetoric over North Korea’s nuclear program should not be taken seriously just yet, says CQ Roll Call’s foreign policy reporter Rachel Oswald, adding that Congress may take further action against Pyongyang in September.

Show Notes:

Senators Look for Path on New War Authorization
Current authorization dates to 9/11 attacks

Senators on Tuesday gamely struggled to see if there was a way to set aside longstanding partisan differences over a new authorization for use of military force amid expanding military campaigns in Syria and Iraq, and under a new president who has delegated significant tactical authority to his commanders.

The Trump administration is waging its anti-ISIS campaign under the authority of the 2001 AUMF, which Congress passed shortly after the September 11 attacks. Sixteen years later, experts on both sides of the aisle increasingly agree the authorization (PL 107-40) has been stretched beyond almost all legal recognition to justify the occasional air strike on Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria and even far-flung groups like Al-Shabab in East Africa.

Democrats Eye Iran Debate for Vote on Russia Sanctions
Iran sanctions measure could get bogged down

Senate Democrats may use floor debate this week on an Iran sanctions measure to try to force a vote on legislation that would impose harsh sanctions on Moscow as punishment for its alleged interference in last year’s presidential elections.

Democrats’ exact strategy for securing a Russia sanctions vote was still developing Tuesday, with Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker trying to forestall them a little longer.

Graham, McCain Welcome Putin Foe to Congress

The Senate’s top foes of Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday used their bully pulpit to give one of his leading domestic critics a public opportunity to lambaste the leader.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, who leads the Appropriations subcommittee on foreign aid, held the second hearing in a month on the need to boost spending for Eurasian democracy assistance and invited his longtime ally, Armed Services Chairman John McCain to introduce one of the witnesses, a Russian dissident who has twice nearly died from alleged poisoning.

NSC Official: Trump May Abandon Goal of Nuclear Disarmament

This story originally appeared on CQ.com.

A senior administration official on Tuesday said the White House will review whether to back away from longstanding U.S. policy of nuclear disarmament while embarking on the process of updating the country’s nuclear arsenal.

Defense Bill Gives State Department More Authority to Oversee Security Aid

For years, Congress nudged the State Department toward the sidelines of the foreign security assistance game while giving the Pentagon more authority to provide weapons and training to allies and partners. Now, for the first time in decades, lawmakers are putting diplomats back in the middle of the action.

The annual Pentagon policy bill, which President Barack Obama signed into law last month, gives Foggy Bottom greater oversight over security assistance programs and also requires the Pentagon be more transparent about and closely track the tens of billions of dollars it provides annually to security forces in more than 100 countries.

Red Alert: Russia Looms Large as Security Threat
Many Cold War lessons must be relearned

(First appeared in CQ Magazine on May 23, 2016.)

U.S. military forces deployed to Europe are tasked with two missions: Build cooperation among NATO allies and support operations in more dangerous corners of the globe. But as Russia, America’s Cold War nemesis, flexes its military muscle, these forces, which have dwindled in size in recent decades, are again on the front lines. Military leaders now say Russia is the greatest threat to U.S. security.

Senate Rejects Resolution Blocking Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia
Backers say vote still puts kingdom on notice about its conduct

The Senate on Wednesday voted down a rare attempt to block an arms sale to Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. counterterrorism partner but one that has fallen into disfavor with a number of lawmakers due to the kingdom's involvement in the war in Yemen and lingering suspicions about its role in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Though senators voted 71-27 to table a resolution that would block the sale, the measure's bipartisan backers, Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., portrayed it as a partial success. They argued the vote sends a strong signal to Riyadh and to the Obama administration that a significant portion of Congress is unhappy with Saudi Arabia’s apparent negligence in preventing civilian casualties in its 18-month bombing campaign in Yemen, as well as its broader role in the fight against terrorism.     

House Passes Bill Allowing 9/11 Lawsuits Against Saudi Arabia
White House has previously issued veiled veto threat

Congress cleared a bill Friday that would allow family members of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to sue the government of Saudi Arabia, setting up a potential clash with the White House, which has suggested it could veto the measure.

The Obama administration opposes the bill, known as the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, over concerns that it could harm relations with Saudi Arabia, a key counterterrorism partner. Administration officials also have warned the legislation could weaken the global norm of sovereign immunity and encourage other countries to allow lawsuits by their citizens against the United States and its allies.

Senate's NDAA Language Sparks State, Pentagon Turf Battle
House lawmakers vow to push back against bill modifications

An effort by the Senate Armed Services Committee to consolidate and streamline post-9/11 Pentagon rules for providing security assistance to foreign countries has unleashed long-simmering State Department concerns over how its oversight of those programs is handled.  

As part of committee Chairman John McCain’s ambitious effort to craft a legacy-shaping fiscal 2017 defense policy measure (S 2943), the decision was made to tackle the plethora of authorities that the Defense Department was granted over the past 15 years to partner with dozens of nations in improving not only their militaries but also their police, coast guard, border guards, counterterrorism forces and counternarcotics capabilities.  

Foreign Aid Bill Omits UN Family Planning, Climate Change Funds
Democrats also criticize cap on funding for resettling refugees

House appropriators on Tuesday advanced the $52 billion fiscal 2017 foreign aid spending bill, as amended, which includes Republican policy riders that would block funding for a U.N. climate change fund and limit financial assistance for family planning programs.  

The appropriations measure was advanced by a voice vote after Republicans defeated a number of Democratic amendments to provide funding for the U.N. Green Climate Fund and slightly increase levels of funding for bilateral and multilateral assistance for family planning activities.