Defense and national security – The question of Khashoggi looms over Biden’s trip

It remains unclear whether President Biden will bring up the subject of the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman this week, a question the White House has repeatedly dodged in front of the commander. in chief very supervised. trip to the Middle East.

We’ll share why this matters and what the White House revealed in relation to what it told Khashoggi’s widow.

Plus: We’ll look at Biden’s latest remarks on the Iran nuclear deal, the amendments that made it into the House version of the annual defense authorization bill, and the latest on the bill to expand benefits for veterans who suffer illnesses from toxic exposures.

It’s Defense and National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. A friend sent you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Biden won’t pledge to address Khashoggi’s murder

President Biden indicated on Thursday that he would raise the subject of human rights when he meets with Saudi leaders this week, but would not specifically commit to discussing the murder of the Washington Post journalist. jamal khashoggi during a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Saturday.

“My views on Khashoggi have been absolutely clear and I have never been silent on human rights,” Biden said at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

  • When Biden was again pressed on whether he would specifically bring up Khashoggi’s murder with the crown prince, Biden did not directly respond.
  • “I always talk about human rights. But my position on Khashoggi has been so clear. If someone doesn’t get it, in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere, they haven’t been there for a while,” Biden said.

A direct role: US intelligence has concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed played a direct role in ordering the 2018 killing of Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident who criticized the crown prince as a columnist for the Washington Post.

Reverse positions: Biden pledged during the election campaign to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” on the world stage for its human rights record, but political realities such as high gas prices, Tensions with Iran and efforts to foster collaboration in the Middle East have led to this week’s travel crisis.

“There are so many issues at stake that I want to make it clear that we can continue to lead in the region and not create a vacuum, a vacuum that is being filled by China and/or Russia,” Biden said Thursday. “And so the purpose of the visit is to coordinate with nine heads of state, whether it’s in the interest of the United States and I believe in the interest of Israel as well.”

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Khashoggi’s widow, meanwhile, said the Biden administration had promised to raise her husband’s death when he visited Saudi Arabia later this week.

Hanan Khashoggi told Spectrum News on Wednesday that she was sure the president would raise US intelligence in key meetings that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman approved the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, saying the administration had told him assured that her husband’s case would be discussed.

“This is [an] opportunity for me to thank President Biden and his administration. He kept his promise by bringing [the] intelligence report released in February last year, and he took action, strong action against [those involved] in my husband’s tragedy,” Hanan Khashoggi said while appearing on Spectrum News.

Khashoggi called Biden’s visit diplomatically “convenient,” adding that “Jamal wouldn’t like it” if diplomacy was cut short.

Read this story here

Biden says US ‘won’t wait forever’ on Iran

President Biden on Thursday affirmed in Jerusalem his administration’s desire to return to the nuclear deal with Iran, but warned he would not ‘wait forever’ as Israel voiced continued opposition to the relaunch of the agreement.

In his opening remarks at a press conference alongside Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Biden argued that diplomacy represents the best chance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

  • What is the deadline? : Biden declined to say whether the United States would set a deadline for Iran to return to the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), after months of talks that failed. led to the result desired by Biden.
  • “We explained to the Iranian leadership what we are willing to accept to rejoin the JCPOA,” Biden said in response to a reporter’s question. “We await their response. When that will happen, I’m not sure, but we won’t wait forever.

Reassure: Biden, who met Lapid one-on-one earlier Thursday on his first trip to the Middle East as president, sought to assure Israel throughout the visit of the United States’ commitment to its security and to prevent a nuclear Iran.

“We mean what we say. They have the opportunity to accept, this agreement has been established. If they don’t, we’ve been absolutely clear: we won’t — let me repeat — we won’t allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Biden said later during the the press conference.

An opposition: Israel has always opposed the Obama-era nuclear deal, from which former President Trump withdrew the United States in 2018. Biden has pledged to revive the deal as president, but the Talks have stalled, raising further doubts about the prospect of a breakthrough.

  • On Thursday, Lapid made clear his belief that diplomacy was not the answer to stopping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, telling Biden at the press conference that only a credible threat of force would stop Tehran.
  • A last resort: In an interview with Israel’s Keshet 12 on Wednesday, Biden said the United States would only use force to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon as a “last resort.” He also called Trump’s decision to pull out of the deal a “huge mistake.”

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House Dems want DC mayor to control city watch

The House on Wednesday passed an amendment to the annual defense spending bill that would give the mayor of Washington, D.C., authority over the capital’s National Guard.

  • Who supported him: The measure — sponsored by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (DN.Y.), Anthony Brown (D-Md.), and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who represents the District of Columbia — was endorsed in a mostly partisan vote. of 218-209 to be added to the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
  • And who objected: Democratic Rep. Jared Golden (Maine) voted with Republicans to oppose the measure, while GOP Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.) supported the amendment. Two Republicans and a Democrat did not vote.

What would that do: The measure calls for giving DC Mayor, currently Muriel Bowser, command of the DC National Guard. While Governors are in charge of National Guards in their respective states, the President currently oversees the force in Washington, D.C.

why is it important: Conversations about who has authority over the DC National Guard moved into the spotlight following the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.

  • Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commanding general of the DC National Guard, said in March 2021 that former President Trump’s Defense Department took about three hours to authorize the force to send personnel to the Capitol during the riot.
  • At the select committee’s first public hearing on Jan. 6 last month, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the panel’s vice chair, said Trump “gave no order to deploy the National Guard that day,” explaining that former Vice President President Pence urged the National Guard to come to the Capitol.

Norton’s argument: During debate on the House floor on Wednesday, Norton referenced the Capitol riot as the reason the amendment is needed.

“On January 6, the Trump administration delayed the deployment of the National Guard from DC to the Capitol by several hours, likely costing lives and prolonging the attack,” she said.

She also said the DC mayor is best equipped to make decisions for the nation’s capital, noting that the president would always have the ability to federalize and deploy force if necessary.

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Also from The Hill:


The House on Wednesday passed long-awaited legislation to extend benefits to veterans who suffer illnesses from toxic exposures while serving in the military.

Sergeant. First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act is largely intended to expand access to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) care for the 3.5 million veterans who served after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack and have been exposed to toxic combustion sources.

  • The measure passed by a bipartisan vote of 342 to 88, a much wider margin than when the lower house originally passed the bill in March. The bill has garnered far more Republican support, with 123 joining Democrats in pushing the measure forward.
  • The Senate then passed the bill in June by an 84-14 vote. The revised legislation returns to the upper house, with corrections of technical drafting errors to the measure passed last month

“A new normal”: Rep. Mark Takano (D-California), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said in his remarks on the floor that Congress was “setting a new standard with the PACT Act.”

“We tell our veterans that the burden of proof is not on you,” Takano said. “Because of your sacrifice to our country, this Congress and the American people are giving you the benefit of the doubt you have earned.”

The legislation also extends presumptions related to Agent Orange – widely used during the Vietnam War – to veterans who served in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Guam.

A bit of context: Burning pits were used in the post-9/11 era for the open burning of medical waste, human waste, and anything that needed to be disposed of. Over time, exposure to toxins can lead to diseases such as asthma, rhinitis and cancer, some of which may take years after exposure to develop.

In April, the VA added nine rare respiratory cancers that are suspected to be service-related due to exposures, including five different lung cancers.

Read the full story here


That’s all for today! Check out The Hill’s defense and national security pages for the latest coverage. Until tomorrow!


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