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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

U.S. Foreign Assistance to the Middle East: Historical Background, Recent Trends, and the FY2011 Request

Jeremy M. Sharp
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

This report is an overview of U.S. foreign assistance to the Middle East from FY2006 to FY2010, and of the FY2011 budget request. It includes a brief history of aid to the region, a review of foreign aid levels, a description of selected country programs, and an analysis of current foreign aid issues. It will be updated periodically to reflect recent developments. For foreign aid terminology and acronyms, please see the glossary appended to this report. For details on U.S. reconstruction aid for Iraq, please see CRS Report RL31339, Iraq: Post-Saddam Governance and Security, by Kenneth Katzman

For policymakers, foreign assistance plays a key role in advancing U.S. foreign policy goals in the Middle East. The United States has a number of interests in the region, ranging from support for the state of Israel and Israel's peaceful relations with its Arab neighbors, to the protection of vital petroleum supplies and the fight against international terrorism. U.S. assistance helps to maintain the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt and the continued stability of the Kingdom of Jordan, which signed its own peace treaty with Israel in 1994. U.S. funding also works to strengthen Palestinian institutions, and aid officials have worked to ensure that U.S. aid to the West Bank and Gaza Strip is not diverted to terrorist groups. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States has established region-wide aid programs to promote democracy and encourage socio-economic reform in order to undercut the forces of radicalism in some Arab countries.

U.S. aid policy has gradually evolved from a focus on preventing Soviet influence from gaining a foothold in the region and from maintaining a neutral stance in the Arab-Israeli conflict, to strengthening Israel's military and economy and using foreign aid as an incentive to foster peace agreements between countries in the region. When adjusted for inflation, annual U.S. assistance to the Middle East in the decades following World War II was only a small fraction of current aid flows. However, beginning in the early 1970s, the United States dramatically increased its foreign assistance to the Middle East. After the U.S. withdrawal from South Vietnam, the Middle East as a whole began to receive more U.S. foreign aid than any other region of the world, a trend that has continued to this day.

Date of Report: June 15, 2010
Number of Pages: 31
Order Number: RL32260
Price: $29.95

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