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Sunday, January 31, 2010

The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

The UAE's open economy and society have won praise from advocates of expanded freedoms in the Middle East. However, some of those same policies have produced financial excesses, social ills such as prostitution and human trafficking, and relatively lax controls on sensitive technologies acquired from the West. These concerns—as well as concerns about the UAE oversight and management of a complex and technically advanced initiative such as a nuclear power program—underscore some congressional dissatisfaction with a U.S.-UAE civilian nuclear cooperation agreement. The agreement was signed on May 21, 2009 and submitted to Congress that day. It entered into force on December 17, 2009. 

Despite its social tolerance and economic freedom, the UAE government is authoritarian, although with substantial informal citizen participation and consensus-building. Assessments by a wide range of observers say that members of the elite routinely obtain favored treatment in court cases, business opportunities, and influence on national decisions. The UAE federation President, Shaykh Khalifa bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan, technically serves a five-year term, renewable by the Federal Supreme Council (composed of the seven heads of the individual emirates), although in practice leadership changes have generally taken place only after the death of a leader. After several years of resisting electoral processes similar to those instituted by other Gulf states, and despite an absence of popular pressure for elections, the UAE undertook its first major electoral process in December 2006. The process was criticized as far from instituting Western-style democratic processes, because the electorate was relatively small and subject to governmental selection, and it voted for only half the membership of a body with limited powers. The other half of the body was selected by appointment. 

Partly because of substantial UAE federal government financial intervention, the political and social climate has remained calm through the ongoing global financial crisis and recession, which has hit Dubai emirate particularly hard and called into question its strategy of ambitious, investment-fueled development. Many expatriate workers left UAE after widespread layoffs, particularly in the financial and real estate sectors. During the crisis, there have been somewhat more criticism of and official crackdowns against expatriate social behavior that many UAE citizens have always considered offensive. 

For details and analysis of the U.S.-UAE nuclear agreement and legislation concerning that agreement, see CRS Report R40344, The United Arab Emirates Nuclear Program and Proposed U.S. Nuclear Cooperation, by Christopher M. Blanchard and Paul K. Kerr. 


Date of Report: January 22, 2010
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: RS21852
Price: $29.95

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Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

In the context of a review of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan during September-November 2009, the performance and legitimacy of the Afghan government figured prominently. In his December 1, 2009, speech on policy in Afghanistan going forward, President Obama stated that the Afghan government would be judged on performance, and "The days of providing a blank check are over." The policy statement was based, in part, on an August 2009 assessment of the security situation furnished by the top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, which warned of potential mission failure unless a fully resourced classic counterinsurgency strategy is employed. That counterinsurgency effort is deemed to require a legitimate and effective Afghan partner. 

The Afghan government's limited writ and widespread official corruption are identified by U.S. officials as factors helping sustain the insurgency in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai has been able to confine ethnic disputes to political competition through compromise with faction leaders, but these political alliances have limited his ability to stock his government with politically neutral and technically competent officers. Despite the loss of confidence in Karzai, he went into the August 20, 2009, presidential election as the favorite. Amid widespread charges of fraud, many substantiated by a U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission, nearly one-third of Karzai's votes were invalidated, leaving Karzai just short of the 50%+ total needed to avoid a second-round runoff. Asserting that more fraud was likely, Karzai's main challenger dropped out of the race on November 1, 2009, and Karzai was declared the winner. Karzai was inaugurated on November 19, with Secretary of State Clinton in attendance. On December 19, he presented a new cabinet to the National Assembly, retaining most of the better accomplished ministers but appointing allies of some faction leaders to several positions. Most of the highly regarded ministers were approved by the Assembly on January 2, 2010, but 17 of the 24 total nominees were voted down by parliamentarians. Karzai submitted a new list on January 9, 2010, and hopes to achieve approval of the empty posts before a major international conference on Afghanistan in Britain on January 28. As that meeting approaches, Karzai was challenged anew by international assertions that Afghan institutions will not be ready to hold credible parliamentary elections by May 22, 2010, a set by Afghan election authorities. Lacking funds and taking into account logistical and security difficulties, on January 24, 2010, this election date was postponed until September 18, 2010. 

Because most insurgents are, like Karzai, ethnic Pashtuns, stabilizing Afghanistan requires winning Pashtun political support for the Afghan government. This support requires effective local governing structures. The trend toward promoting local governing bodies has been accelerated by the Obama Administration and is likely to receive continued U.S. and partner country focus. Implementing this focus is a so-called "civilian uplift" that is in the process of doubling, to about 975 by early 2010, the number of U.S. civilian personnel helping build Afghan governing and security institutions and the economy. 

For further information, see CRS Report RL30588, Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, by Kenneth Katzman; and CRS Report R40747, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan: Background and Policy Issues, by Rhoda Margesson. 


Date of Report: January 25, 2010
Number of Pages: 35
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Oman: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy

Kenneth Katzman 
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs


The Sultanate of Oman is a long-time U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf; it has allowed U.S. access to its military facilities for virtually every U.S. military operation in and around the Gulf since 1980, despite the sensitivities in Oman and throughout the Middle East about a U.S. military presence there. Oman also has fully and consistently supported U.S. efforts to achieve a Middle East peace by publicly endorsing the peace treaties that have been achieved between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors and by occasionally hosting Israeli political leaders or meeting with them outside Oman. 

Partly in appreciation for this alliance, the United States has forged a free trade agreement (FTA) with Oman. Oman is attempting to diversify its economy, in part because it has relatively small oil reserves. In addition, the United States has praised Sultan Qaboos for opening up the political process, even though that process has been controlled by Oman's leadership and has unfolded too slowly for some Omanis. The political liberalization that has occurred since the 1980s has given citizens the opportunity to express their views on issues but has not significantly limited Qaboos' role as major decision maker. 

Nor have successive U.S. Administrations criticized Oman's relatively close relations with Iran. Oman has always been less alarmed by the perceived threat from Iran than have the other Gulf states, and it views possible U.S. military action against Iran's nuclear facilities as potentially more destabilizing to the region than is Iran's nuclear program or Iran's foreign policy. Still, this relationship has not affected close U.S.-Omani relations.



Date of Report: January 20, 2010
Number of Pages: 14
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Algeria: Current Issues

Carol Migdalovitz
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs


After a 1965 coup, the military became the most significant political force in Algeria. In 1992, it carried out another coup to prevent the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) from coming to power, leading to a decade of war between security forces and Islamist terrorists. In 1999, former Foreign Minister Abdelaziz Bouteflika, a civilian with military backing, won the presidential election after all other candidates withdrew, charging fraud. In April 2004, he was reelected with 83.5% of the vote in a multiparty contest; the military was officially neutral. International observers hailed that election as progress toward democratization even though the bureaucracy and judiciary had manipulated the political process to favor Bouteflika in the pre-election period. Many saw Bouteflika's victory as an accurate reflection of the popular will and an endorsement of his effort to decrease violence and for continued political stability.1 There have been persistent rumors about the 72-year-old president's health since 2005, but no apparent concern that he lacks a clear successor. The military probably will play a role in the choice of Bouteflika's replacement. 

In November 2008, a joint session of parliament adopted constitutional amendments that, among other provisions, abolished presidential term limits and allowed Bouteflika to run for a third term. A huge salary increase for legislators may have spurred the amendments' passage by 500 out of 529 cast. Some critics had argued that the constitutional changes required a national referendum, but the Constitutional Court disagreed. Hence, on April 9, 2009, Bouteflika as expected won another term as president with more than 90.24% of the vote over five challengers, none of whom was seen as having a remote chance of ending his leadership. The Interior Ministry claimed a 74% voter turnout. Once again, the President's rivals alleged fraud and that the authorities had inflated turnout figures. Some attributed the military's acquiescence this time to their inability to find an alternative to Bouteflika.2 

The President heads the Council of Ministers (cabinet) and the High Security Council, and appoints the prime minister. On June 23, 2008, Bouteflika named National Democratic Assemblage (RND) leader Ahmed Ouyahia, who had served as prime minister from 1995 to 1999 and from 2003 to 2006 and who is known to be close to the military, to the post again. After his re-election in 2009, Bouteflika reconfirmed Ouyahia as prime minister. Ouyahia is considered a possible successor to Bouteflika. Media reports suggest that Bouteflika's younger brother, Said, also may have presidential ambitions. 

The bicameral, multiparty parliament is weak. The 380-seat National People's Assembly was last elected on May 17, 2007, with a voter turnout of 36.5% – the lowest ever, reflecting lack of popular faith in the political system. Parties in the governing coalition placed at the top: the FLN won 23% of the vote and 136 seats; the RND 10.3%, 61 seats; and the moderately Islamist Movement for a Peaceful Society (MSP) 9.6%, 51 seats; 18 other parties and 33 independents also won seats. The Council of Nations has 144 seats, one-third appointed by the president and two-thirds selected by indirect vote. FLN has 29 seats, RND 12, MSP 3; independents and presidential appointees also are represented



Date of Report: January 21, 2010
Number of Pages: 12
Order Number: RS21532
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Friday, January 29, 2010

U.S. Nuclear Cooperation with India: Issues for Congress

Paul K. Kerr
Analyst in Nonproliferation

India, which has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and does not have International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on all nuclear material in peaceful nuclear activities, exploded a "peaceful" nuclear device in 1974, convincing the world of the need for greater restrictions on nuclear trade. The United States created the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) as a direct response to India's test, halted nuclear exports to India a few years later, and worked to convince other states to do the same. India tested nuclear weapons again in 1998. However, President Bush announced July 18, 2005, he would "work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India" and would "also seek agreement from Congress to adjust U.S. laws and policies," in the context of a broader partnership with India. 

U.S. nuclear cooperation is governed by the Atomic Energy Act (AEA). P.L. 109-401, which President Bush signed into law on December 18, 2006, provides waivers of several provisions of the AEA (Sections 123 a. (2), 128, and 129). It requires that several steps occur before nuclear cooperation can proceed. On September 10, 2008, President Bush submitted to Congress a written determination that these requirements had been met. That same day, the President submitted the text of the proposed agreement, which had not yet been signed. The President also submitted a written determination (also required by the AEA) "that the performance of the proposed agreement will promote and will not constitute an unreasonable risk to, the common defense and security." In addition, President Bush submitted several documents, including classified and unclassified versions of a Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement, which is required by section 123 of the AEA. The Department of State also submitted a report required by P.L. 109- 401 on various aspects of the agreement. 

On September 27, 2008, the House passed H.R. 7081, which approved the agreement. The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved identical legislation, S. 3548, September 23. The Senate passed H.R. 7081 October 1. President Bush signed P.L. 110-369 into law October 8. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and India's External Affairs Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee signed the agreement October 10, and it entered into force December 6, 2008. 

However, several steps remain before U.S. companies can start nuclear trade with India. For example, P.L. 110-369 requires that, before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can issue licenses for U.S. nuclear exports to India, the President must determine and certify to Congress that New Delhi's IAEA safeguards agreement has entered into force and that India's declaration of its nuclear facilities to the agency "is not materially inconsistent with the facilities and schedule" described in a separation plan that New Delhi provided to Washington. India's safeguards agreement entered into force in May 2009, and New Delhi has filed the declaration with the IAEA. The President, however, has not submitted the required certifications to Congress. 

Furthermore, U.S. firms will likely be very reluctant to engage in nuclear trade with India if the government does not become party to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, which has not yet entered into force. India also is reportedly insisting that New Delhi and Washington conclude an agreement on a reprocessing facility in India before New Delhi signs contracts with U.S. nuclear firms. 
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Date of Report: January 11, 2010
Number of Pages: 47
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CRS Issue Statement on the Middle East

Jeremy M. Sharp, Coordinator
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Jim Zanotti
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs

Casey L. Addis
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs

Carol Migdalovitz
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Christopher M. Blanchard
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs

Hussein D. Hassan
Information Research Specialist


The Policy Problem 
The Middle East, broadly defined as an area stretching from North Africa to the Persian Gulf, presents an array of challenges to U.S. foreign policy. Although the United States maintains strong relations with several key "moderate" Arab and non-Arab states such as Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Turkey, other state and non-state actors, such as Iran, the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in the Palestinian territories, are aligned against U.S. interests. Hezbollah and Hamas are both U.S. State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) and have refused to renounce the use of violence against Israel. It is widely believed that Iran continues to seek a nuclear weapons capability, a goal that, if achieved, would have serious proliferation consequences throughout the region. Some observers fear that Israel could preemptively strike Iran and therefore trigger a wider war. Iran also continues its strong ties to Syria, complicating U.S. efforts to peel that Arab state away from its Persian ally. 

For decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has absorbed the energies of successive Administrations and Members of Congress alike. With renewed U.S. efforts to revive Israeli-Arab peacemaking now stalled, Congress may debate the extent of U.S. involvement in the latest peace process. U.S. Middle East policy has always required policymakers to delicately balance the need for a strong U.S. relationship with Israel with the need to secure vital oil resources in the Persian Gulf and support moderate Arab regimes.



Date of Report: January 14, 2010
Number of Pages: 4
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CRS Issue Statement on Iran

Kenneth Katzman, Coordinator
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs


President Obama has said his Administration shares the goals of previous Administrations to contain Iran's strategic capabilities and regional influence, and his Administration did not change the previous Administration's characterization of Iran as a "profound threat to U.S. national security interests." That assessment has been generated not only by Iran's nuclear and missile programs but also by its assistance to armed groups in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, and Lebanon. The Obama Administration formulated approaches to achieve those goals that differ from those of its predecessor by expanding direct diplomatic engagement with Iran's government and by downplaying discussion of potential U.S. military action against Iranian nuclear facilities. However, the domestic unrest in Iran that has burgeoned since alleged fraud in Iran's June 12, 2009 presidential election has presented the Administration with a choice of whether to continue to engage Iran's government or to back the growing ranks of the Iranian opposition. In the second session of the 111th Congress, Members are likely to assess and potentially try to shape U.S. policy regarding these issues. Some legislation passed in the first session of the 111th Congress sought to promote free expression in Iran and to curb Iran's ability to censor or monitor the internet, which remains the opposition's key vehicle of communication. 

Although Administration statements have grown progressively more supportive of the opposition since the unrest began in June 2009, the Administration remains open to negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran along the lines of a multilateral agreement outlined, with Iran, on October 1, 2009. Under that framework, Russia and France would reprocess some of Iran's low-enriched uranium for medical use. However, as of January 2010, Iran has not agreed to the stipulated technical details of such a reprocessing program, casting doubts on Iran's commitment to the tentative deal and sparking renewed discussions of new U.N. sanctions. U.S. allies and other countries appear to be converging on sanctions that would target members and companies of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is the main force used by the regime to crack down against the protesters.



Date of Report: January 13, 2010
Number of Pages: 4
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Iraq: Politics, Elections, and Benchmarks

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs


Iraq's political system, the result of a U.S.-supported election process, is increasingly characterized by peaceful competition rather than violence, as well as by cross-sectarian alliances. However, ethnic and factional infighting continue to affect national decision making and security. Some believe that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, strengthened politically by the January 31, 2009, provincial elections, is increasingly authoritarian, in part to ensure that he holds power after the planned March 2010 national elections. Maliki is widely assessed as gaining control of the security services and building new security organs loyal to him personally. He has also formed cross-sectarian alliances with a wide range of Sunni and Kurdish factions, to counter new coalitions by a wide range of erstwhile allies and former opponents. 

The continuing infighting among the major communities delayed the National Assembly's passage of the election law needed to hold the early 2010 national elections. An initial version of the election law was passed by the Council of Representatives (COR, parliament) on November 8, 2009, but was vetoed by one of Iraq's deputy presidents, Tariq al Hashimi, because of what he considered inadequate guarantees of representation for Sunni Iraqis displaced by recent violence. After continued infighting, threatened election boycotts, and adoption of another draft law that attracted another veto threat, all major factions adopted a draft—similar to the first version—on December 6, 2009. The next Assembly will have 325 seats, compared to 275 seats in the current Assembly. The election date has been set for March 7, 2010—well beyond the January 31, 2010, date that was originally targeted. This same difficulty of achieving consensus has delayed key outstanding legislation considered crucial to political comity going forward, such as national hydrocarbon laws. 

Based partly on the continued relatively low levels of violence in Iraq—although occasionally punctuated by major bombings in Baghdad—in February 2009 the Obama Administration announced a reduction of the U.S. troop presence to about 50,000 U.S. forces by August 2010. Under the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement that took effect January 1, 2009, and which President Obama has said would be followed, all U.S. forces are to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. Senior U.S. military leaders have said in January 2010 that the U.S. draw-down plans are "on track" and have not been altered by the violence or the election delay. Nor have the recent attacks reignited large-scale sectarian violence that could cause a U.S. reevaluation of its plans. Still, nervous that U.S. gains could be jeopardized if sectarian tensions flare into major new violence, recent U.S. official visits to Iraq and contacts with Iraqi leaders have stressed the need for political compromises on outstanding issues. See CRS Report RL31339, Iraq: Post-Saddam Governance and Security, by Kenneth Katzman. 


Date of Report: January 15, 2010
Number of Pages: 20
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CRS Issue Statement on Afghanistan

Kenneth Katzman, Coordinator
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs



Upon taking office, the Obama Administration faced a deteriorating security environment in Afghanistan, despite a steady increase in U.S. forces there in recent years. Signs of deterioration have included an expanded area in which militants are operating, increasing numbers of civilian and military deaths, Afghan and international disillusionment with corruption in the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and the ease of infiltration of Taliban militants from safe havens in Pakistan. Building on assessments completed in the latter days of the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration conducted a "strategic review," the results of which were announced on March 27, 2009. The outcome of the review leaned toward those in the Administration who believe that adding combat troops is less crucial than building governance. As part of that review, the President did announce an increase of 21,000 U.S. troops, which arrived by November 2009 and brought U.S. force levels to about 68,000. They are in partnership with about 39,000 international forces from 43 other nations, and about 190,000 Afghan security forces.


Date of Report: January 13, 2010
Number of Pages: 3
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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Israel and the Palestinians: Prospects for a Two-State Solution

Jim Zanotti
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs



Following leadership changes in the United States and Israel in early 2009 and the Israel-Hamas Gaza conflict in December 2008-January 2009, the inconclusive final-status peace negotiations that took place between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) during the final year of the Bush Administration have not resumed. Nevertheless, President Barack Obama showed his commitment to a negotiated "two-state solution" just days after his January 2009 inauguration by appointing former Senator George Mitchell as his Special Envoy for Middle East Peace. In September 2009, Obama convened a trilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in New York and addressed the annual opening session of the United Nations General Assembly. He indicated that final-status negotiations should not be delayed further, despite the lack of resolution on preliminary issues such as the possible freeze of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem or the possible gradual normalization of ties between Israel and certain Arab states. 

It has now been 16 years since Israel and the PLO agreed to the 1993 Oslo Accord. Yet, differences between the sides over core issues, such as borders, security, settlements, the status of Jerusalem, refugees, and water rights, have not been overcome, despite the third-party involvement of various international actors—the United States, in particular. 

Previously when talks have faltered, the parties eventually returned to the negotiating table. Yet there are a number of key actors and observers expressing doubts that the very concept of a negotiated two-state solution can survive a process in which negotiations are put on hold and resumed an indefinite number of times without finality. These doubts have been exacerbated by geopolitical changes and by realities on the ground—including demographics, violence, Palestinian factionalism, Israeli settlements, and other impediments to Palestinian movement and territorial contiguity—that sustain tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. 

Decreased hope in the viability of a two-state solution has led to a willingness among some policymakers and analysts to consider different pathways to get there—such as Palestinian statehood prior to a final-status agreement or a "borders first" deal. It also has led to openness among some Israelis and Palestinians to alternative solutions that are contrary to declared U.S. policy. These alternatives, each of which is the subject of considerable debate among and between Israelis and Palestinians, include a so-called "one-state solution," a "Jordanian" or "regional" option, or other, non-negotiated outcomes. Continued failure to reach a two-state solution, combined with lack of consensus on any of the alternatives, may also mean that the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza could continue indefinitely. 

Debate continues over the proper U.S. approach to the peace process. Congress faces significant policy challenges both with its oversight of the Obama Administration's formulation and implementation of policy; and on matters such as foreign aid, security assistance, Israeli settlements, the role of Arab states, and the treatment of the militant Islamist group Hamas (a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization). For more information on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and peace process, see CRS Report RL33530, Israeli-Arab Negotiations: Background, Conflicts, and U.S. Policy, by Carol Migdalovitz. 


Date of Report: January 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 43
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U.S. Security Assistance to the Palestinian Authority

Jim Zanotti
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs



Since shortly after the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s, the United States has periodically provided assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) for civil security and counterterrorism purposes. Following the death of Yasser Arafat in late 2004 and the election of Mahmoud Abbas as his successor as PA President in early 2005, then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice created the office of U.S. Security Coordinator (USSC) for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to help reform, train, and equip PA security forces which had been personally beholden to Arafat and his political allies. Previous Israeli-Palestinian efforts at security cooperation collapsed during the second Palestinian intifada that took place earlier this decade. 

Since Hamas gained control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, head of the USSC since November 2005, and the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) have helped with the "gendarmerie-style" training of West Bank-based PA security personnel. As of June 2009, approximately 400 Presidential Guardsmen and 2,200 National Security Forces troops have been trained at the Jordan International Police Training Center (JIPTC) near Amman. All troops, new or already serving, are vetted for terrorist links, human rights violations, and/or criminal records by the State Department, Israel, Jordan, and the PA before they are admitted to U.S.-sponsored training courses at JIPTC. Approximately $395 million in U.S. funds have been reprogrammed or appropriated through the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) account for training, non-lethal equipment, facilities, and strategic planning assistance for the PA forces, and for PA criminal justice sector reform projects, including $100 million for FY2010 pursuant to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-117). 

The performance of the U.S.-sponsored forces in law-and-order operations—including crowd control assignments during the December 2008-January 2009 Gaza conflict between Israel and Hamas—and in some operations aimed at countering militant and/or terror organizations has appeared to produce some positive results. Yet questions regarding the USSC/INL mission persist. How might short-term operational success translate into (1) a general pattern of sustained success in countering and dismantling militant and terrorist networks in the West Bank and (2) permanent consolidation of competent, defactionalized civilian control over the PA forces and the broader criminal justice sector? Can this occur in a complex political environment featuring the continuing presence of Israeli occupying forces and settlers, as well as other overt and/or possible covert PA security assistance from, among others, Arab states, Russia, the United States, and Europe? If it can, what are the long-term implications vis-à-vis Hamas-controlled Gaza? There could be calls for Congress to take into account how U.S. security assistance might lead to progress on (1) the Israeli-Palestinian political track, (2) Palestinian civil society, governance, and economic development, and (3) efforts to end geographical and factional divisions between Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza. Some argue that the USSC's staff should be increased and that movement restrictions on U.S. members of the USSC staff should be lifted. Some maintain that the U.S. mandate in security assistance matters should be expanded to give the USSC across-the-board authority to train and outfit PA security organizations, including for counterterrorism operations, and perhaps also to give INL an enhanced role in criminal justice sector reform. Others support a more modest U.S. "footprint" in the region, or question the advisability of U.S. security assistance altogether—preferring either to have the PA depend on itself or third parties for assistance or to transfer primary security responsibility in the West Bank to an international peacekeeping force.



Date of Report: January 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 44
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Iran: Regional Perspectives and U.S. Policy

Casey L. Addis, Coordinator
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs

Christopher M. Blanchard
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Carol Migdalovitz
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Jim Nichol
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

Jeremy M. Sharp
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Jim Zanotti
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs



As the Administration and Congress move forward to pursue engagement, harsher sanctions, or both, regional actors are evaluating their policies and priorities with respect to Iran. Iran's neighbors share many U.S. concerns, but often evaluate them differently than the United States when calculating their own relationship with or policy toward Iran. Because Iran and other regional concerns—the Arab-Israeli peace process, stability in Lebanon and Iraq, terrorism, and the ongoing war in Afghanistan—have become increasingly intertwined, understanding the policies and perspectives of Iran's neighbors could be crucial during the consideration of options to address overall U.S. policy toward Iran. 

Iran's neighbors seek to understand and influence changes in the following areas: 

• Iran's regional influence, 

• Iran's nuclear program, 

• Iran's role as an energy producer, and 

• Iran's support for terrorism and non-state actors. 

Although the Obama Administration may share many goals of the previous administration on Iran, it also sees the need for new strategies and approaches. The Obama Administration has advocated a policy of engagement with Iran to determine the nature of its nuclear program and address other subjects of international concern. While post-election turmoil in Iran delayed these efforts temporarily, it appears that the Administration is committed to pursue engagement through the P5+1 framework. At the same time, some Members of Congress have called for increased sanctions on Iran. 

The United States, Israel, and the EU proposed the end of 2009 as a deadline for Iran to demonstrate its willingness to cooperate on the nuclear issue. That deadline has lapsed with no visible progress toward a resolution and the Administration is now working with its P5+1 partners to determine a course of action for 2010. Regardless of how they decide to proceed, any actions on the part of the Obama Administration, Congress, or the international community, and any developments in or provocations by Iran, will have implications for U.S. interests in the region as Iran's neighbors react and reevaluate their policies accordingly. 

This report provides a description of Iran's neighbors' policies and interests, options for Congressional consideration, and an analysis of potential regional implications. For more information on Iran and regional perspectives, see CRS Report RL32048, Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, by Kenneth Katzman; CRS Report RL33476, Israel: Background and Relations with the United States, by Carol Migdalovitz; CRS Report RS20871, Iran Sanctions, by Kenneth Katzman; CRS Report RL33533, Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations, by Christopher M. Blanchard; CRS Report RS22323, Iran's Activities and Influence in Iraq, by Kenneth Katzman; and CRS Report R40653, Iran's 2009 Presidential Elections, by Casey L. Addis.



Date of Report: January 13, 2010
Number of Pages: 54
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Friday, January 22, 2010

U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians

Jim Zanotti
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs


Since the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993 and the establishment of limited Palestinian selfrule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1994, the U.S. government has committed over $3.5 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians. Since the death of Yasser Arafat in November 2004, U.S. assistance to the Palestinians has been averaging about $400 million a year. During the 1990s, U.S. foreign aid to the Palestinians averaged approximately $75 million per year. Despite more robust levels of assistance this decade, Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Hamas's heightened role in Palestinian politics have made it more difficult to implement effective and lasting aid projects that serve U.S. interests. 

U.S. aid to the Palestinians has fluctuated considerably over the past five years, largely due to Hamas's changing role within the Palestinian Authority (PA). After Hamas led the PA government for over a year, its forcible takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 led to the creation of a non- Hamas government in the West Bank—resulting in different models of governance for the two Palestinian territories. Since then, the United States has dramatically boosted aid levels to bolster the PA in the West Bank and President Mahmoud Abbas vis-à-vis Hamas. The United States has appropriated or reprogrammed nearly $2 billion since 2007 in support of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's security, governance, development, and reform programs, including $650 million for direct budgetary assistance to the PA and nearly $400 million (toward training, non-lethal equipment, facilities, strategic planning, and administration) for strengthening and reforming PA security forces and criminal justice systems in the West Bank. The remainder is for programs administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by nongovernmental organizations in humanitarian assistance, economic development, democratic reform, improving water access and other infrastructure, health care, education, and vocational training. In December 2009, Congress approved $500 million in total FY2010 assistance pursuant to P.L. 111-117, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010. 

Because of congressional concerns that, among other things, U.S. funds might be diverted to Palestinian terrorist groups, much of this aid is subject to a host of vetting and oversight requirements and legislative restrictions. Experts advise that PA stability appears to hinge on improved security, economic development, Israeli cooperation, and the continuation of high levels of foreign assistance. The possibility of a consensus or unity government to address the problem of divided rule among Palestinians could lead to a full or partial U.S. aid cutoff if Hamas is included in the government and does not change its stance toward Israel. Even if the immediate objectives of U.S. assistance programs for the Palestinians are met, lack of progress toward a politically legitimate and peaceful two-state solution could undermine the utility of U.S. aid in helping the Palestinians become more cohesive, stable, and self-reliant over the long term. 
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Date of Report: January 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 23
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Yemen: Background and U.S. Relations

Jeremy M. Sharp
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs


With limited natural resources, a crippling illiteracy rate, and high population growth, Yemen faces an array of daunting development challenges that some observers believe make it at risk for becoming a failed state. Between 2007 and 2008, Yemen ranked 153 out of 177 countries on the United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Index, a score comparable to the poorest sub-Saharan African countries. Over 43% of the population of nearly 24 million people lives below the poverty line, and per capita GDP is estimated to be between $650 and $800. Yemen is largely dependent on external aid from Persian Gulf countries, Western donors, and international financial institutions, though its per capita share of assistance is below the global average. 

As the country's population rapidly rises, resources dwindle, and terrorist groups take root in the outlying provinces, the Obama Administration and the 111th Congress are left to grapple with the consequences of Yemeni instability. Traditionally, U.S.-Yemeni relations have been tepid, as the lack of strong military-to-military partnership, trade relations, and cross cultural exchange has hindered the development of strong bilateral ties. During the early years of the Bush Administration, relations improved under the rubric of the war on terror, though Yemen's lax policy toward wanted terrorists and U.S. concerns about governance and corruption have stalled large-scale U.S. support. 

Over the past several fiscal years, Yemen has received on average between $20 and $25 million annually in total U.S. foreign aid. For FY2010, the Obama Administration requested significant increases in U.S. economic and military assistance to Yemen. P.L. 111-117, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010, provides a total of $52.5 million in economic and military assistance to Yemen, including $35 million in Development Assistance, $12.5 million in Foreign Military Financing, and $5 million in Economic Support Funds. 

As President Obama and the 111th Congress reassess U.S. policy toward the Arab world, the opportunity for improved U.S.-Yemeni ties is strong, though tensions persist over counterterrorism cooperation, and, in recent years, the broader U.S. foreign policy community has not focused on Yemen, its challenges, and their potential consequences for U.S. foreign policy interests beyond the realm of counterterrorism. 

The failed bomb attack against Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009 once again highlighted the potential for terrorism emanating from Yemen, a potential that periodically emerges to threaten U.S. interests both at home and abroad. Whether terrorist groups in Yemen, such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have a long-term ability to threaten U.S. homeland security may determine the extent of U.S. resources committed to counterterrorism and stabilization efforts there. Some believe these groups lack such capability and fear the United States might overreact; others assert that Yemen is gradually becoming a failed state and safe haven for Al Qaeda operatives and as such should be considered an active theater for U.S. counterterrorism operations. Given Yemen's contentious political climate and its myriad development challenges, most long-time Yemen watchers suggest that security problems emanating from Yemen may persist in spite of increased U.S. or international efforts to combat them.


Date of Report: January 13, 2010
Number of Pages: 33
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Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Palestinians: Background and U.S. Relations

Jim Zanotti
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs


This report provides an overview of current issues in U.S.-Palestinian relations and. It also contains an overview of Palestinian society and politics and descriptions of key Palestinian individuals and groups—chiefly the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Palestinian Authority (PA), Fatah, Hamas, and the Palestinian refugee population. For more information, see the following: CRS Report RS22967, U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians, by Jim Zanotti; CRS Report R40664, U.S. Security Assistance to the Palestinian Authority, by Jim Zanotti; CRS Report R40092, Israel and the Palestinians: Prospects for a Two-State Solution, by Jim Zanotti, Israel and the Palestinians: Prospects for a Two-State Solution, by Jim Zanotti; and CRS Report RL33530, Israeli-Arab Negotiations: Background, Conflicts, and U.S. Policy, by Carol Migdalovitz. 

The "Palestinian question" is important not only to Palestinians, Israelis, and their Arab state neighbors, but to many countries and non-state actors in the region and around the world— including the United States—for a variety of religious, cultural, and political reasons. U.S. policy toward the Palestinians since the advent of the Oslo process in the early-1990s has been marked by efforts to establish a Palestinian state through a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, counter Palestinian terrorist groups, and establish norms of democracy, accountability, and good governance within the PA. Congressional views of the issue have reflected concern that U.S. bilateral assistance not detrimentally affect Israel's security by falling into the hands of Palestinian rejectionists who advocate terrorism and violence against Israelis. 

Among the current issues in U.S.-Palestinian relations is how to deal with the political leadership of Palestinian society, which is divided between the PA in parts of the West Bank and Hamas, a State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, in the Gaza Strip. Following Hamas's takeover of Gaza in June 2007, the United States and the other members of the international Quartet (the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia) have sought to bolster the West Bank-based PA, led by President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. In late 2009, however, Abbas endured a number of diplomatic setbacks that imperiled both his political standing and the likelihood of resuming peace negotiations with Israel. In response, analysts have raised fundamental questions about the future of Palestinian leadership and whether U.S. policies serve Palestinian interests. 

The Gaza situation also presents a dilemma. In the wake of the 2008-2009 Israel-Hamas conflict, humanitarian and economic problems have worsened, but the United States, Israel, and other international actors are reluctant to do more than provide basic humanitarian assistance because of legal barriers to dealing with Hamas and/or potentially negative political and strategic consequences that might follow from any such dealings. Egyptian-brokered efforts to effect a power-sharing arrangement among Palestinian factions that would allow for presidential and legislative elections and reunified PA rule over Gaza and parts of the West Bank have failed thus far. Since the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993, Congress has committed approximately $3.5 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, over half of it since mid-2007—including $650 million in direct budgetary assistance to the PA and nearly $400 million to strengthen and reform PA security forces and the criminal justice system in the West Bank. Congress approved $500 million of this amount in December 2009 pursuant to P.L. 111-117, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010.


Date of Report: January 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 54
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Israel: Background and Relations with the United States

Carol Migdalovitz
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs



On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel declared its independence and was immediately engaged in a war with all of its neighbors. Armed conflict has marked every decade of Israel's existence. Despite its unstable regional environment, Israel has developed a vibrant parliamentary democracy, albeit with relatively fragile governments. Early national elections were held on February 10, 2009. Although the Kadima Party placed first, parties holding 65 seats in the 120- seat Knesset supported opposition Likud party leader Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu, who was designated to form a government. Netanyahu put together a coalition comprising his own Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home), Shas, Labor, Habayet Hayehudi (Jewish Home), and the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) parties which controls 74 Knesset seats. Israel has an advanced industrial, market economy with a large government role. 

Israel's foreign policy is focused largely on its region, Europe, and the United States. Israel's foreign policy agenda begins with Iran, which it views as an existential threat due to Tehran's nuclear ambitions and support for anti-Israel terrorists. Achieving peace with its neighbors is next. Israel concluded peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994, but not with Syria and Lebanon. Israel unilaterally withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000. Hezbollah, which then took over the south, sparked a 34-day war when it kidnapped two Israeli soldiers on July 12, 2006. A cease-fire monitored by the enhanced United Nations Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is holding. Israel negotiated a series of agreements with the Palestinians in the 1990s, but that process ended in 2000. It resumed talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in June 2007, after Palestinian Authority (PA) President and PLO Chairman Mahmud Abbas dissolved an Hamas-led unity government in response to the group's takeover of the Gaza Strip. The November 2007 Annapolis Conference officially welcomed the renewed negotiations, but talks progressed slowly and domestic political turmoil in both Israel and the PA impeded a conclusion. The Obama Administration's Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, former Senator George Mitchell, is trying to restart the peace process. 

Since 1948, the United States and Israel have developed a close friendship based on common democratic values, religious affinities, and security interests. U.S.-Israeli bilateral relations are multidimensional. The United States is the principal proponent of the Arab-Israeli peace process, but U.S. and Israeli views differ on some issues, such as the Golan Heights, Jerusalem, and settlements. Israel and the Bush Administration enjoyed particularly close relations. The latter and Congress supported Israel's 2006 military campaigns against Hezbollah and Hamas and its 2008/2009 offensive against Hamas as acts of self-defense. Shortly after taking office in January 2009, President Obama stated that he considers Israel to be a strong ally of the United States. Yet relations have sometimes appeared strained as Administration officials and the Netanyahu government have differed markedly over how to resume the peace process. The United States and Israel concluded a free-trade agreement in 1985. Israel is a prominent recipient of U.S. foreign aid and the two countries also have close security relations. Other issues in U.S.-Israeli relations include Israel's military sales, inadequate Israeli protection of U.S. intellectual property, and espionage-related cases. See also CRS Report RL33530, Israeli-Arab Negotiations: Background, Conflicts, and U.S. Policy, by Carol Migdalovitz, and CRS Report RL33222, U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel , by Jeremy M. Sharp.



Date of Report: January 7, 2010
Number of Pages: 51
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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs


President Obama has said his Administration shares the goals of previous Administrations to contain Iran's strategic capabilities and regional influence. The Administration has not changed the previous Administration's characterization of Iran as a "profound threat to U.S. national security interests," a perception generated not only by Iran's nuclear program but also by its military assistance to armed groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the Palestinian group Hamas, and to Lebanese Hezbollah. The Obama Administration formulated approaches to achieve those goals that differ from those of its predecessor by expanding direct diplomatic engagement with Iran's government and by downplaying discussion of potential U.S. military action against Iranian nuclear facilities. However, the domestic unrest in Iran that has burgeoned since alleged fraud in Iran's June 12, 2009, presidential election has presented the Administration with a choice of whether to continue to engage Iran's government or to back the growing ranks of the Iranian opposition.

Although Administration statements in December 2009 were more supportive of the student-led protests than previously, the Administration remained open to negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran along the lines of an October 1, 2009, multilateral agreement with Iran. Under that framework, Russia and France would reprocess some of Iran's low-enriched uranium for medical use. However, Iran has not, to date, agreed to the stipulated technical details of such a reprocessing program, casting doubts on Iran's commitment to the tentative deal and sparking renewed discussions of new U.N. sanctions, particularly those that would target members and companies of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Guard is the main element used by the regime to crack down against the protesters.

Any additional U.N. Security Council sanctions would build on those put in place since 2006. These sanctions generally are targeted against WMD-related trade with Iran, but also ban Iran from transferring arms outside Iran and restrict dealings with some Iranian banks. Separate U.S. efforts to persuade European governments to curb trade with, investment in, and credits for Iran, and to convince foreign banks not to do business with Iran, are intended to compound the U.N. pressure. Some in Congress believe that additional unilateral U.S. sanctions that try to curb sales to Iran of gasoline could help pressure Iran into a nuclear settlement. Others believe that sanctioning Iran's ability to monitor the Internet—or clearer statements of U.S. support for the demonstrators—would help the domestic opposition materially change or even topple the regime. Others believe that new U.S. unilateral or U.N. measures would cause Iran to resist compromise, fracture the U.S.-led coalition that is trying to curb Iran's program, or hurt the cause of the opposition. For further information, see CRS Report RS20871, Iran Sanctions, by Kenneth Katzman; CRS Report R40849, Iran: Regional Perspectives and U.S. Policy, coordinated by Casey L. Addis; and CRS Report RL34544, Iran's Nuclear Program: Status, by Paul K. Kerr.


Date of Report: January 6, 2010
Number of Pages: 63
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs



In the context of a review of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan during September-November 2009, the performance and legitimacy of the Afghan government figured prominently. In his December 1, 2009, speech on policy in Afghanistan going forward, President Obama stated that the Afghan government would be judged on performance, and "The days of providing a blank check are over." The policy statement was based, in part, on an August 2009 assessment of the security situation furnished by the top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, which warned of potential mission failure unless a fully resourced classic counterinsurgency strategy is employed. That counterinsurgency effort is deemed to require a legitimate and effective Afghan partner. 

The Afghan government's limited writ and widespread official corruption are identified by U.S. officials as factors helping sustain the insurgency in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai has been able to confine ethnic disputes to political competition through compromise with faction leaders, but these political alliances have limited his ability to stock his government with politically neutral and technically competent officers. Despite the loss of confidence in Karzai, he went into the August 20, 2009, presidential election as the favorite. Amid widespread charges of fraud, many substantiated by a U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission, nearly one-third of Karzai's votes were invalidated, leaving Karzai just short of the 50%+ total needed to avoid a second-round runoff. Asserting that more fraud was likely, Karzai's main challenger dropped out of the race on November 1, 2009, and Karzai was declared the winner. Karzai was inaugurated on November 19, with Secretary of State Clinton in attendance. On December 19, he presented a new cabinet to the National Assembly, retaining most of the better accomplished ministers but appointing allies of some faction leaders to several positions. Most of the highly regarded ministers were approved by the Assembly on January 2, 2010, but 17 of the 24 total nominees were voted down by parliamentarians. Karzai submitted a new list on January 9, 2010, and hopes to achieve approval of the empty posts before a major international conference on Afghanistan in Britain on January 28. As that meeting approaches, Karzai has been challenged anew by international assertions that Afghan institutions will not be ready to hold credible parliamentary elections by May 22, 2010, a date set by Afghan election authorities. 

Because most insurgents are, like Karzai, ethnic Pashtuns, stabilizing Afghanistan requires winning Pashtun political support for the Afghan government. This support requires effective local governing structures. The trend toward promoting local governing bodies has been accelerated by the Obama Administration and is likely to receive continued U.S. and partner country focus. Implementing this focus is a so-called "civilian uplift" that is in the process of doubling, to about 975 by early 2010, the number of U.S. civilian personnel helping build Afghan governing and security institutions and the economy. 

For further information, see CRS Report RL30588, Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, by Kenneth Katzman; and CRS Report R40747, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan: Background and Policy Issues, by Rhoda Margesson


Date of Report: January 11, 2010
Number of Pages: 35
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Private Security Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Legal Issues

Jennifer K. Elsea
Legislative Attorney


U.S. departments and agencies contributing to combat or stability operations overseas are relying on private firms to perform a wider scope of security services than was previously the case. The use of private security contractors (PSCs) to protect personnel and property in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a subject of debate in the press, in Congress, and in the international community. While PSCs are widely viewed as being vital to U.S. efforts in the region, many Members are concerned about transparency, accountability, and legal and symbolic issues raised by the use of armed civilians to perform security tasks formerly performed by military personnel, as well as the adverse impact PSCs may be having on U.S. counterinsurgency efforts. 

Contractors working for the U.S. military, the State Department, or other government agencies during contingency operation in Iraq and Afghanistan are non-combatants who have no combat immunity under international law if they engage in hostilities, and whose conduct may be attributable to the United States. Contractors who commit crimes in Iraq or Afghanistan are subject to U.S. prosecution under criminal statutes that apply extraterritorially or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or by means of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA). Section 552 of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for FY2007 (P.L. 109-364) makes military contractors supporting the Armed Forces in Iraq subject to court-martial jurisdiction, although the military trial of a civilian contractor would likely be subject to legal challenge on constitutional grounds. Despite congressional efforts to expand court-martial jurisdiction and jurisdiction under MEJA, some contractors may remain outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts, civil or military, for improper conduct in Iraq or Afghanistan. 

This report discusses the legal framework that applies to PSCs in Iraq and Afghanistan. After presenting a general description of the types of law applicable, including international humanitarian law and relevant status of forces agreements, the report addresses some implications of international law and a multilateral proposal for the adoption of international "best practices" regarding the use of PSCs. The report follows up with a discussion of jurisdiction over PSC personnel in U.S. courts, whether federal or military courts, identifying possible means of prosecuting contractor personnel who are accused of violating the law overseas in the context of U.S. military operations, including a listing of known cases that have occurred or are pending. Finally, the report briefly discusses the possible implication of the roles of private security contractors with respect to inherently governmental functions.


Date of Report: January 7, 2010
Number of Pages: 33
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Friday, January 8, 2010

Iran’s Nuclear Program: Status

Paul K. Kerr
Analyst in Nonproliferation

Although Iran claims that its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes, it has generated considerable concern that Tehran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Indeed, the UN Security Council has responded to Iran's refusal to suspend work on its uranium enrichment and heavy-water nuclear reactor programs by adopting several resolutions which imposed sanctions on Tehran. 

Despite this pressure, Iran continues to enrich uranium, install additional centrifuges, and conduct research on new types of centrifuges. Tehran has also continued work on its heavy-water reactor and associated facilities. 

Whether Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program is, however, unclear. A National Intelligence Estimate made public in December 2007 assessed that Tehran "halted its nuclear weapons program," defined as "Iran's nuclear weapon design and weaponization work and covert uranium conversion-related and uranium enrichment-related work," in 2003. The estimate, however, also assessed that Tehran is "keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons" and that any decision to end a nuclear weapons program is "inherently reversible." Intelligence community officials have reaffirmed this judgment on several occasions. Iranian efforts to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons by using its known nuclear facilities would almost certainly be detected by the IAEA. 

Although Iran has cooperated with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to an extent, the agency says that Tehran's action's have not been sufficient to alleviate all of the IAEA's concerns about Iran's enrichment and heavy-water reactor programs. The IAEA continues to investigate the program, particularly evidence that Tehran may have conducted procurement activities and research directly applicable to nuclear weapons development.

Date of Report: December 29, 2009
Number of Pages: 26
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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Yemen: Background and U.S. Relations

Jeremy M. Sharp
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

With limited natural resources, a crippling illiteracy rate, and high population growth, Yemen faces an array of daunting development challenges that some observers believe make it at risk for becoming a failed state in the next few decades. Between 2007 and 2008, it ranked 153 out of 177 countries on the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index, a score comparable to the poorest sub-Saharan African countries. Over 43% of the population lives below the poverty line, and per capita GDP is estimated to be between $650 and $800. Yemen is largely dependent on external aid from Persian Gulf countries,  Western donors, and international financial institutions, though its per capita share of assistance is below the global average.

As the country’s population rapidly rises, resources dwindle, and terrorist groups take root in the outlying provinces, the Obama Administration and the 111th Congress are left to grapple with the consequences of Yemeni instability. Traditionally, U.S.-Yemeni relations have been tepid, as the lack of strong military- to-military ties, commercial relations, and cross cultural exchange has hindered the development of strong bilateral ties. During the early years of the Bush Administration, relations improved under the rubric of the war on terror, though Yemen’s lax policy toward wanted terrorists has stalled large scale U.S. support.

Over the past several fiscal years, Yemen has received on average between $20 and $25 million annually in total U.S. foreign aid. For FY2010, the Obama Administration has requested significant increases in U.S. assistance to Yemen. The State Department’s FY2010 budget request seeks an estimated $50 million in total aid. The request includes $10 million in Foreign Military Financing, $35 million in Development Assistance, $4.8 million in Global Health-Child Survival funds, and about $2 million in other aid.

P.L. 111-17, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010, provides a total of $52.5 million in economic and military assistance to Yemen, including $35 million in Development Assistance, $12.5 million in Foreign  Military Financing, and $5 million in Economic Support Funds.

As President Obama and the 111th Congress reassess U.S. policy toward the Arab world, the opportunity for improved U.S.-Yemeni ties is strong, though recurring tensions over counterterrorism cooperation and  lack of U.S. interest in Yemen within the broader foreign policy community persist.

Date of Report: December 30, 2009
Number of Pages: 29
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Iraq: Post-Saddam Governance and Security

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

The Obama Administration is facing a security environment in Iraq vastly improved over that which prevailed during 2005-2007, although rifts in Iraqi society are still not reconciled, providing the potential for the security situation to deteriorate significantly. The overall frequency of violence is down to post-Saddam low levels, yet, since May 2009, insurgents have increased high profile attacks designed to shake public confidence in the Iraqi government and security forces. These attacks did not derail the June 30, 2009, U.S. withdrawal of combat troops from major cities and have not, to date, caused a modification of the February 27, 2009, announcement by President Obama that all U.S. combat brigades would be withdrawn by August 31, 2010. The drawdown—from current U.S. troop levels of about 115,000—is expected to begin in earnest after Iraq’s March 2010 national elections and leave a residual presence of about 50,000 U.S. trainers, advisers, and mentors. These are to be withdrawn by the end of 2011. The drawdown is in line with a U.S.-Iraq “Security Agreement” that took effect January 1, 2009.

Some U.S. officials caution against a prevailing belief that “the war is over” and believe that further political progress is needed to produce a unified, democratic Iraq that can govern and defend itself and is an ally in the war on terror. Continuing ethnic and sectarian disputes—particularly signs of new disillusionments among Sunni Arabs—are manifesting not only as high profile attacks against government facilities in Baghdad, but also as bombings directed against local politicians as Iraq heads toward the next national elections. Iraq’s Christian community says it has suffered intimidation by both Arabs and Kurds, particularly near Mosul and Kirkuk. The factional splits among the elites greatly delayed passage of the election law needed to hold the national elections, and caused a postponement of the election until March 7, 2010. The splits between Maliki and his erstwhile Shiite allies, and with other competitors, have produced several strong, new coalitions that  will challenge Maliki in the upcoming elections.

The security progress in 2008 and 2009 came after several years of frustration that Operation Iraqi Freedom had overthrown Saddam Hussein’s regime, only to see Iraq wracked by a violent Sunni Arab-led insurgency, resulting Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence, competition among Shiite groups, and the failure of Iraq’s  government to equitably administer justice or deliver services. Mounting U.S. casualties and financial costs— without clear movement toward national political reconciliation—stimulated debate within the 110th Congress over whether a stable Iraq could ever be achieved, and at what cost. With an apparent consensus within the Administration to wind down the U.S. combat in Iraq, U.S. economic and security aid to Iraq has been reduced since FY2008.

For further information, see CRS Report RS21968, Iraq: Politics, Elections, and Benchmarks, by Kenneth Katzman, Iraq: Politics, Elections, and Benchmarks, by Kenneth Katzman; CRS Report RL34064, Iraq: Oil and Gas Legislation, Revenue Sharing, and U.S. Policy, by Christopher M. Blanchard; CRS Report RL32105, Iraq: Foreign Contributions to Stabilization and Reconstruction, by Christopher M. Blanchard and Catherine Dale; and CRS Report RL31833, Iraq: Reconstruction Assistance, by Curt Tarnoff.

Date of Report: December 29, 2009
Number of Pages: 59
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Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Upon taking office, the Obama Administration faced a deteriorating security environment in Afghanistan, despite a steady increase in U.S. forces there in recent years. Signs of deterioration have included an expanded area in which militants are operating, increasing numbers of civilian and military deaths, Afghan and international disillusionment with corruption in the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and the ease of infiltration of Taliban militants from safe havens in Pakistan. Building on assessments completed in the latter days of the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration conducted a “strategic review,” the results of which were announced on March 27, 2009. The outcome of the review leaned toward those in the Administration who believe that adding combat troops is less crucial than building governance. As part of that review, the President did announce an increase of 21,000 U.S. troops, which arrived by November 2009 and brought U.S. force levels to about 68,000, in partnership with about 39,000 international forces from 42 other nations, and about 190,000 Afghan security forces.

The Administration also decided that more innovative military tactics were needed to promote those goals, and in May 2009, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, was replaced by Gen. Stanley McChrystal. On August 30, 2009, McChrystal submitted his review of the military strategy, recommending a fully esourced, comprehensive counter-insurgency strategy in order to avoid mission failure. He subsequently recommended that about 40,000 additional U.S. combat forces are needed to implement that strategy. A series of high level meetings to again review policy began September 30. President Obama announced, on December 1, 2009, the following:
• The provision of 30,000 additional U.S. forces to begin deploying by January 2010 to
  “reverse the Taliban’s momentum and strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces
   and government so that they can take the lead.”
• A conditions-based plan to draw down U.S. forces beginning in July 2011.
• A call for additional partner contributions, with no specific figure mentioned.
U.S. strategy—which depends on the presence of a legitimate Afghan partner to implement—was complicated by the widespread fraud allegations in the ugust 20, 2009, presidential election. Following extensive investigation, President amid Karzai accepted a run-off vote with the second-place finisher, ormer Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, as required by the Afghan constitution. However, Dr. Abdullah, pulled out of the run-off and Karzai was eclared the winner of the presidency on November 2. He was inaugurated November 19 and presented to parliament a new cabinet on December 19. It retained about half the incumbents, including most of the widely praised economic sector ministers, but also included some new figures purportedly linked to traditional ethnic and olitical faction leaders.

Including FY2009, the United States has provided over $40 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, of which about $21 billion has been to equip and train Afghan forces. International donors have contributed over $35 billion in the similar time frame. See also CRS Report RL33627, NATO in Afghanistan: A Test of the Transatlantic Alliance, by Vincent Morelli and Paul Belkin; CRS Report RL32686, Afghanistan: Narcotics and U.S. Policy, by Christopher M. Blanchard; and CRS Report R40699, Afghanistan: U.S. Foreign Assistance, by Curt Tarnoff.

Date of Report: December 30, 2009
Number of Pages: 90
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Iran Sanctions

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Iran is subject to a wide range of U.S. sanctions, restricting trade with, investment, and U.S. foreign aid to Iran, and requiring the United States to vote against international lending to Iran. Several laws and Executive Orders authorize the imposition of U.S. penalties against foreign companies that do business with Iran, as part of an effort to persuade foreign firms to choose between the Iranian market and the much larger U.S. market. Most notable among these sanctions is a ban, imposed in 1995, on U.S. trade with and investment in Iran. That ban has since been modified slightly to allow for some bilateral trade in luxury and humanitarian-related goods. Foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms remain generally exempt from the trade ban since they are under the laws of the countries where they are incorporated. Since 1995, several U.S. laws and regulations that seek to pressure Iran’s economy, curb Iran’s support for militant groups, and curtail supplies to Iran of advanced technology have been enacted. Since 2006, the United Nations Security Council has imposed some sanctions primarily attempting to curtail supply to Iran of weapons-related technology but also sanctioning some Iranian banks.

U.S. officials have identified Iran’s energy sector as a key Iranian vulnerability because Iran’s government revenues are approximately 80% dependent on oil revenues and in need of substantial foreign investment. A U.S. effort to curb international energy investment in Iran began in 1996 with the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), but no firms have been sanctioned under it and the precise effects of ISA—as distinct from other factors affecting international firms’ decisions on whether to invest in Iran—have been unclear. While international pressure on Iran to curb its nuclear program has increased the hesitation of many major foreign firms to invest in Iran’s energy sector, hindering Iran’s efforts to expand oil production beyond 4.1 million barrels per day, some firms continue to see opportunity in Iran. This particularly appears to be the case for companies in Asia that appear eager to fill the void left by major European and American firms and to line up steady supplies of Iranian oil and natural gas.

Some in Congress express concern about the reticence of U.S. allies, of Russia, and of China, to impose U.N. sanctions that would target Iran’s civilian economy. In an attempt to strengthen U.S. leverage with its allies to back such international sanctions, several bills in the 111th Congress would add U.S. sanctions on Iran. For example, H.R. 2194 (which passed the House on December 15, 2009), H.R. 1985, H.R. 1208, and S. 908 would include as ISA violations selling refined gasoline to Iran; providing shipping insurance or other services to deliver gasoline to Iran; or supplying equipment to or performing the construction of oil refineries in Iran. Several of these bills would also expand the menu of available sanctions against violators. A bill reported by the Senate Banking Committee, S. 2799, contains these sanctions as well as a broad range of other measures against Iran, including reversing previous easings of the U.S. ban on trade with Iran, and protecting investment funds from lawsuits for divesting from companies active in Iran. A growing trend in Congress is to alter some U.S. sanctions laws in order to facilitate the access to information of a growing student-led opposition movement in Iran, and to sanction firms that sell the regime internet-monitoring gear. Some see the various legislative proposals as supporting Obama Administration policy by threatening Iran with further isolation, while others believe such legislation would reduce European cooperation with the United States on Iran. Still others say these proposals could backfire by strengthening the political control exercised by Iran’s leaders.For more on Iran, see CRS Report RL32048, Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, by Kenneth Katzman.

Date of Report: December 24, 2009
Number of Pages: 26
Order Number: RS20871
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International Terrorism and Transnational Crime: Security Threats, U.S. Policy, and Considerations for Congress

John Rollins
Acting Section Research Manager/Specialist in Terrorism and National Security

Liana Sun Wyler
Analyst in International Crime and Narcotics

Seth Rosen
Research Associate

The involvement of insurgent and extremist groups in criminal activity is an issue that has been a concern of U.S. administrations for decades. In recent years, some observers have claimed that interactions between international terrorists and criminals are increasing. If true, expanded links between criminal and terrorist networks could increase U.S. vulnerability to attack by terrorist groups with enhanced criminal capabilities and financial resources. An expanded range of combined criminal and terrorist activity could also affect the global economy and U.S. foreign policy goals, undermining licit international commerce and the promotion of good governance and rule of law. Threats posed by a crime-terrorism nexus may be particularly challenging, as the scale and nature of their cooperation are believed to vary widely and limited anecdotal evidence largely serves as the basis for current understanding of the problem.

U.S. efforts to combat the relationship between crime and terrorism are a subset of broader policy responses to transnational crime and international terrorism individually. While numerous U.S. strategies and programs are designed to combat international terrorism and transnational crime separately, fewer efforts focus specifically on addressing the confluence of the two. Those efforts that do exist focus mainly on (1) human smuggling and clandestine terrorist travel, (2) money laundering and terrorist financing, and (3) narcoterrorism links between drug traffickers and terrorists. Many of these efforts, including the creation of the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center, the reorganization of the Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, and the expanded extraterritorial jurisdiction authority to investigate and prosecute international narcoterrorism cases, occurred in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Congress played a large role in such efforts, holding at least eight hearings specifically on some aspect of criminal-terrorist interactions between the end of 2000 and 2005. Legislation that has expanded and adjusted agency authorities, resources, and responsibilities related to the crimeterrorism nexus includes the USA PATRIOT Act (P.L. 107-56), the Intelligence Reform Act and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (P.L. 107-458), the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-177), and appropriations-related legislation through the 111th Congress for various U.S. agencies, including the Departments of State and Defense.

This report provides a primer on the confluence of transnational terrorist and criminal groups and related activities abroad. It evaluates possible motivations and disincentives for cooperation between terrorist and criminal organizations, variations in the scope of crime-terrorism links, and the types of criminal activities—fundraising, material and logistics support, and exploitation of corruption and gaps in the rule of law—used by terrorist organizations to sustain operations. This report also discusses several international case studies to illustrate the range of crime-terrorism convergence and non-convergence, including Dawood Ibrahim’s D-Company; the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC); the 2004 Madrid bombers; the Taliban; Hezbollah; Al Qaeda; the 2005 London bombers; Al-Shabaab; as well as known or alleged crime-terrorism facilitators such as Viktor Bout, Monzer Al Kasser, and Abu Ghadiyah. Policy considerations discussed in this report include possible tensions between counterterrorism and anti-crime policy objectives, implications for U.S. foreign aid, gaps in human intelligence and analysis, the value of financial intelligence in combating the crime-terrorism nexus, impact of digital and physical safe havens and ungoverned spaces, implications for nuclear proliferation, and effects of crimeterrorism links in conflict and post-conflict zones. Unless otherwise noted, this report does not address potential crime-terrorism links in the domestic or border environment.

Date of Report: January 5, 2010
Number of Pages: 56
Order Number: R41004
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Monday, January 4, 2010

Private Security Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Legal Issues

U.S. departments and agencies contributing to combat or stability operations overseas are relying on private firms to perform a wider scope of security services than was previously the case. The use of private security contractors (PSCs) to protect personnel and property in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a subject of debate in the press, in Congress, and in the international community. While PSCs are widely viewed as being vital to U.S. efforts in the region, many Members are concerned about transparency, accountability, and legal and symbolic issues raised by the use of armed civilians to perform security tasks formerly performed by military personnel, as well as the adverse impact PSCs may be having on U.S. counterinsurgency efforts.

Contractors working for the U.S. military, the State Department, or other government agencies during contingency operation in Iraq and Afghanistan are non-combatants who have no combat immunity under international law if they engage in hostilities, and whose conduct may be attributable to the United States. Contractors who commit crimes in Iraq or Afghanistan are subject to U.S. prosecution under criminal statutes that apply extraterritorially or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or by means of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA). Section 552 of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for FY2007 (P.L. 109-364) makes military contractors supporting the Armed
Forces in Iraq subject to court-martial jurisdiction, although the military trial of a civilian contractor would likely be subject to legal challenge on constitutional grounds. Despite congressional efforts to expand court-martial jurisdiction and jurisdiction under MEJA, some contractors may remain outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts, civil or military, for improper conduct in Iraq or Afghanistan.

This report discusses the legal framework that applies to PSCs in Iraq and Afghanistan. After presenting a general description of the types of law applicable, including international humanitarian law and relevant status of forces agreements, the report addresses some implications of international law and a multilateral proposal for the adoption of international “best practices” regarding the use of PSCs. The report follows up with a discussion of jurisdiction over PSC personnel in U.S. courts, whether federal or military courts, identifying possible means of prosecuting contractor personnel who are accused of violating the law overseas in the context of U.S. military operations, including a listing of known cases that have occurred or are pending. Finally, the  report briefly discusses the possible implication of the roles of private security contractors with respect to inherently governmental functions.


Date of Report: December 22, 2009
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: R40991
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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Iran’s Nuclear Program: Tehran’s Compliance with International Obligations

Paul K. Kerr
Analyst in Nonproliferation

Summary
In 2002, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began investigating allegations that Iran had conducted clandestine nuclear activities. Ultimately, the agency reported that some of these activities had violated Tehran's IAEA safeguards agreement. The IAEA has not stated definitively that Iran has pursued nuclear weapons, but has also not yet been able to conclude that the country's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes. The IAEA Board of Governors referred the matter to the U.N. Security Council in February 2006. Since then, the council has adopted five resolutions, the most recent of which (Resolution 1835) was adopted in September 2008.

The Security Council has required Iran to cooperate fully with the IAEA's investigation of its nuclear activities, suspend its uranium enrichment program, suspend its construction of a heavywater reactor and related projects, and ratify the Additional Protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement. However, a November 2009 report from IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei to the agency's Board of Governors indicated that Tehran has continued to defy the council's demands by continuing work on its uranium enrichment program and heavy-water reactor program. Iran has signed, but not ratified, its Additional Protocol.

Iran and the IAEA agreed in August 2007 on a work plan to clarify the outstanding questions regarding Tehran's nuclear program. Most of these questions have essentially been resolved, but ElBaradei told the agency's board in June 2008 that the agency still has questions regarding "possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme." The IAEA has reported for some time that it has not been able to make progress on these matters.

This report provides a brief overview of Iran's nuclear program and describes the legal basis for the actions taken by the IAEA board and the Security Council. It will be updated as events warrant.

Date of Report: December 23, 2009
Number of Pages: 17
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The United Arab Emirates Nuclear Program and Proposed U.S. Nuclear Cooperation

Christopher M. Blanchard
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs

Paul K. Kerr
Analyst in Nonproliferation

Summary
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has embarked on a program to build civilian nuclear power plants and is seeking cooperation and technical assistance from the United States and others. During 2008 and early 2009, the Bush Administration and the UAE government negotiated and signed a memorandum of understanding and a proposed bilateral agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation pursuant to Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954. Then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed the proposed agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation with the UAE January 15, 2009. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg signed a new version of the agreement May 21; the Obama Administration submitted the proposed agreement to Congress the same day.

Under the AEA, Congress has the opportunity to review such a proposed agreement for 90 days of continuous session, after which the agreement becomes effective unless, during that time, Congress adopts a joint resolution disapproving the agreement and the resolution becomes law. According to the Office of the Parliamentarian of the House of Representatives, the 90 days of continuous session for the proposed U.S.-UAE agreement expired October 17, 2009. The UAE cabinet approved the agreement October 26. The agreement entered into force after the two governments exchanged diplomatic notes December 17, 2009. The agreement text states the intent of both governments to cooperate in a number of areas including, but not limited to, the development of the UAE’s “civilian nuclear energy use in a manner that contributes to global efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation” and, “the establishment of reliable sources of nuclear fuel for future civilian light water reactors deployed” in the UAE.

Some Members of Congress had welcomed the UAE government’s stated commitments not to pursue proliferation-sensitive nuclear capabilities, such as uranium enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing. Other Members had signaled their intention to weigh the proposed bilateral agreement in light of parallel and specific concerns about the UAE’s cooperation with international efforts (such as sanctions) to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, as well as the potential proliferation or safety risks inherent to exporting U.S. nuclear technology.

In the 111th Congress, legislation (H.R. 364) has been introduced that would have required President Obama to certify that the UAE had taken a number of steps to strengthen its export controls and stem illicit trade with Iran before any agreement could come into effect or related U.S. exports of nuclear technology to the UAE could be approved. In 2007, the UAE adopted a stronger export control law, but has yet to issue implementing regulations for the law or to fully staff a national export control body to enforce it. In the interim, export control enforcement functions remain the responsibility of authorities in the UAE’s individual emirates, in coordination with a new national interagency Committee on Commodities Subject to Import and Export Control established in April 2009. According to UAE officials, cooperation with the United States has resulted in a number of joint interdiction operations. This report provides background information on the UAE nuclear program, reviews developments to date, analyzes proposed nuclear cooperation with the United States, and discusses relevant legislative proposals and options. See also CRS Report RS21852, The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S.Policy, by Kenneth Katzman, and CRS Report RS22937, Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries: A Primer, by Paul K. Kerr and Mary Beth Nikitin.

Date of Report: December 23, 2009
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: RL40344
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