In almost 14 years on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Brad Sherman has strongly supported our friendship with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East and our true ally in our efforts to combat the global terrorist threat. As we face our shared threats from terrorism and Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, Congressman Sherman will continue to work for strong friendship and cooperation between the United States and Israel.
Facilitating U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation
In 2004, Brad Sherman first introduced the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Act. After four years of hard work, the Act was passed into law. The U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Act now funds joint U.S. and Israeli research programs in the areas of alternative energy sources and energy efficiency. It provides grant money to joint ventures between American and Israeli academics and private sector companies that conduct research and develop energy-efficient and alternative energy technologies. Israel is an ideal research partner because Israel's strategic position has required it to be at the cutting edge of research to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
Since the Act was passed in 2008, the U.S. Congress has provided $4 million for cooperative projects. This modest investment will help both countries reduce dependence on foreign oil and provide employment in cutting edge technologies. Israel matches each dollar we provide, meaning we get twice the bang for each buck we spend. Congressman Sherman is working with his colleagues in the House to provide a significant boost to this effort. They are seeking $10 million for 2011 for this important research program.
Securing Continued Aid to Israel
Israel had for many years received a total of $3 billion in aid from the United States, including both an economic and separate security assistance package. This aid helped Israel become an advanced economy able to defend itself from hostile neighbors and the threat of terrorism. In 1998, Israeli and U.S. officials developed a plan to reduce the $1.2 billion economic portion of Israel's aid package to zero over ten years, while increasing security assistance from $1.8 billion to $2.4 billion. This plan was implemented by Congress over the ten year period, and Israel has received no economic aid after 2008.
However, given Iran's nuclear program and other continuing threats, Israel's security situation remains a significant challenge. In 2008, the two governments announced a new 10-year aid program that will ensure that Israel retains an edge in military strength over its adversaries. Under this new arrangement, aid will be increased from the $2.4 billion provided in military assistance in 2008 to an average $3 billion per year over the 10 years covered by the plan.
For 2010, Congress provided $2.775 billion, the amount called for under the new plan. Also in accord with the aid plan, President Obama requested $3 billion in security assistance for Israel as part of his 2011 budget submission to Congress.
Congress is beginning work on the 2011 aid budget. Brad Sherman will continue to support this assistance to our vital ally in the Middle East.
Iran Sanctions Legislation
Iran's nuclear weapons program is the single greatest threat not only to Israel, but also to U.S. national security and our wider interests today. A nuclear Iran will cause several countries in the Middle East to follow suit. If Iran is allowed to develop nuclear weapons, the global nonproliferation regime will effectively be dead.
Our best shot at convincing Iran to give up its drive for nuclear weapons is to apply enough economic isolation on the regime so that it decides to renounce its weapons program. Unfortunately, up to now we have not applied nearly enough economic pain on Tehran to cause such a change of policy. The recent U.N. resolution applies additional measures against Iran, but these are not nearly enough to get the job done on their own.
The House and Senate passed Iran sanctions legislation last year containing a number of provisions that Congressman Sherman helped to author. These provisions will scare off many of Iran's business partners.
Here is a brief description of some of the key provisions in the bill:
- Refined petroleum sanctions. The bill has tough penalties against foreign firms that provide Iran with refined petroleum or equipment to help Iran refine oil itself. While Iran is oil rich, it cannot produce enough gasoline to meet domestic demand.
- Tough provisions against investment in Iran's oil and gas fields. The legislation will build on existing laws to sanction foreign firms that invest in developing Iran's energy sector, or that sell equipment or technology needed to develop its oil and gas fields. Iran's oil infrastructure is old and crumbling, and its production is dropping. Iran also has huge untapped gas reserves.
- Going After Iran's Revolutionary Guards. The legislation contains provision authored by Congressman Sherman to target those companies that do business with Iran's Revolutionary Guards. This organization is involved in the worst repression of the regime and runs several elements of Iran's nuclear program. Any foreign company that does business with it should have its business in the U.S. severely restricted.
- Encouraging State and Local Divestment. California and more than 20 other states have enacted legislation to divest their pension and other funds from companies that conduct business in Iran. These laws are subject to legal challenge under various theories. Congressman Sherman has worked with others to draft legislation that will insulate states from such lawsuits.
- Keeping Repressive Technologies out of The Mullahs Hands. Last year's elections in Iran were rigged in favor of the current president. The resulting protests saw thousands of Iranians take to the streets to support the opposition. The regime cracked down violently. Unfortunately, they were able to spy on the communications of the opposition because Nokia and Siemens sold the Iranian government cellular and internet technology that allowed for the government to intercept communications and repress free speech. Congressman worked with Senator Chuck Schumer to draft legislation that will prohibit companies that sell such technology from receiving federal contracts.