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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Afghanistan: U.S. Foreign Assistance


Curt Tarnoff
Specialist in Foreign Affairs


The U.S. program of assistance to Afghanistan is intended to stabilize and strengthen the Afghan economic, social, political, and security environment so as to blunt popular support for extremist forces in the region. Since 2001, nearly $48 billion has been appropriated toward this effort.

More than half of U.S. assistance—roughly 57%—has gone to the training and equipping of Afghan forces. The remainder has gone to development and humanitarian-related activities from infrastructure to private sector support, governance and democratization efforts, and counternarcotics programs.

Key U.S. agencies providing aid are the Department of Defense, the Agency for International Development, and the Department of State.

In December 2009, Congress approved the FY2010 State, Foreign Operations appropriations (H.R. 3288, Division F, P.L. 111-117), providing $2 billion in the Economic Support Fund (ESF) and $420 million in the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INCLE) accounts. It also approved the FY2010 DOD appropriations (H.R. 3326, P.L. 111-118), providing $6.6 billion to the Afghan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) and allocating $1 billion for the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) activities in Afghanistan.

On February 1, 2010, the Administration issued its FY2010 supplemental and FY2011 regular budget requests. The supplemental request for foreign operations and DOD foreign assistance programs totals $4.4 billion. The FY2011 regular request equals $16.6 billion.

This report provides a "big picture" overview of the U.S. aid program and congressional action. It describes what various aid agencies report they are doing in Afghanistan. It does not address the effectiveness of their programs. It will be updated as events warrant.

For discussion of the Afghan political, security, and economic situation, see CRS Report RL30588, Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, by Kenneth Katzman. For greater detail on security assistance provided by the Department of Defense, see CRS Report R40156, War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Military Operations, and Issues for Congress, by Steve Bowman and Catherine Dale. For fuller information on U.S. counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan, see CRS Report RL32686, Afghanistan: Narcotics and U.S. Policy, by Christopher M. Blanchard. For information on the United Nations effort, see CRS Report R40747, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan: Background and Policy Issues, by Rhoda Margesson.



Date of Report: June 25, 2010
Number of Pages: 23
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Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians


Susan G. Chesser
Information Research Specialist

This report collects statistics from a variety of sources on casualties sustained during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), which began on October 7, 2001, and is ongoing. OEF actions take place primarily in Afghanistan; however, OEF casualties also includes American casualties in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Yemen.

Casualty data of U.S. military forces are compiled by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), as tallied from the agency's press releases. Also included are statistics on those wounded but not killed. Statistics may be revised as circumstances are investigated and as records are processed through the U.S. military's casualty system. More frequent updates are available at DOD's website at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/ under "Casualty Update."

A detailed casualty summary of U.S. military forces that includes data on deaths by cause, as well as statistics on soldiers wounded in action, is available at the following DOD website: http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/CASUALTY/castop.htm.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) does not post casualty statistics of the military forces of partner countries on the ISAF website at http://www.isaf.nato.int/. ISAF press releases state that it is ISAF policy to defer to the relevant national authorities to provide notice of any fatality. For this reason, this report uses fatality data of coalition forces as compiled by CNN.com and posted online at http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2004/oef.casualties/index.html.

Casualty data of Afghan civilians are reported quarterly by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA). Deaths of Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army personnel are reported by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction in the quarterly reports to Congress that are required as part of P.L. 110-181.

Because the estimates of Afghan casualties contained in this report are based on varying time periods and have been created using different methodologies, readers should exercise caution when using them and should look to them as guideposts rather than as statements of fact.


Date of Report: June 23, 2010
Number of Pages: 5
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Israel’s Blockade of Gaza, the Mavi Marmara Incident, and Its Aftermath

Carol Migdalovitz
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but retained control of its borders. Hamas, a U.S. State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and forcibly seized control of the territory in 2007. Israel imposed a tighter blockade of Gaza in response to Hamas's takeover and tightened the flow of goods and materials into Gaza after its military offensive against Hamas from December 2008 to January 2009. That offensive destroyed much of Gaza's infrastructure, but Israel has obstructed the delivery of rebuilding materials that it said could also be used to manufacture weapons and for other military purposes. Israel, the U.N., and international non-governmental organizations differ about the severity of the blockade's effects on the humanitarian situation of Palestinian residents of Gaza. Nonetheless, it is clear that the territory's economy and people are suffering. 

In recent years, humanitarian aid groups have sent supply ships and activists to Gaza. However, Israel directs them to its port of Ashdod for inspection before delivery to Gaza. In May 2010, the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement and the pro-Hamas Turkish Humanitarian Relief Fund organized a six-ship flotilla to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza and to break Israel's blockade of the territory. The ships refused an Israeli offer to deliver the goods to Ashdod. On May 31, Israeli naval special forces intercepted the convoy in international waters. They took control of five of the ships without resistance. However, some activists on a large Turkish passenger vessel challenged the commandos. The confrontation resulted in eight Turks and one Turkish-American killed, more than 20 passengers injured, and 10 commandos injured. 

Israel considered its actions to be legitimate self-defense. Turkey, whose nationals comprised the largest contingent in the flotilla and among the casualties, considered them to be unjustifiable and in contravention of international law. There was near-universal international condemnation of Israel's actions. The U.N. Security Council in a U.S.-Turkish compromise condemned "the acts" that resulted in lost lives and called for an impartial inquiry. Several inquiries are underway in Israel, but Turkey will not be satisfied unless there is an international one under U.N. auspices. 

The Obama Administration tried to walk a fine line between two allies, Israel and Turkey, and not allow the incident to derail efforts to ameliorate relations with Israel in order to protect Israeli- Palestinian talks now underway. It urged Israel to include international participants in its probe of the incident, and announced an aid package for the Palestinians that does not require new appropriations. However, the Administration's reaction displeased Turkey, and may contribute to that country's ongoing pursuit of a more independent foreign policy course. Turkish-Israeli relations, which had been deteriorating for some time, have reached a low point. In the aftermath of the incident, Israel has eased restrictions on the passage of goods and people into Gaza, while continuing to prevent shipments of weapons and dual-use items to Hamas.


Date of Report: June 23, 2010
Number of Pages: 20
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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
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Monday, June 28, 2010

Iran Sanctions


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Numerous U.S. laws and regulations have been adopted to try to slow Iran's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and curb its support for militant groups. The U.S. belief is that sanctions, particularly those targeting Iran's energy sector, which provides about 80% of government revenues, can reduce Iran's ability to support its WMD programs and generate domestic pressure within Iran to adopt policies more acceptable to the international community. Some United Nations sanctions have been imposed since 2006, with many of those same objectives, although more narrowly targeted to avoid harming the civilian population of Iran. The wide range of U.S. sanctions restrict U.S. trade with and investment in Iran, prohibit U.S. foreign aid to Iran, and require 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. U.S. efforts to curb international energy investment in Iran's energy sector began in 1996 with the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), but no firms have been sanctioned under it. Still, ISA, when coupled with broader factors, may have influenced some international firms' decisions to refrain from investing in energy projects in Iran.

In an effort to exploit Iran's dependence on imports of gasoline, in the 111th Congress, H.R. 2194 (which awaits conference action expected in late June 2010), would add 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. The Senate version, believed by observers likely to resemble the final conference report, would also add a broad range of other measures further restricting the already limited amount of U.S. trade with Iran. The conference consideration of H.R. 2194 follows the June 9, 2010 adoption of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, which imposes a ban on sales of heavy weapons to Iran and sanctions many additional Iranian entities affiliated with its Revolutionary Guard, but does not mandate the stronger measures sought by the United States such as sanctions on Iran's energy or broad financial sector.

The effectiveness of U.S. and international sanctions on Iran, by most accounts, is unclear. Iran's oil production has fallen to about 3.8 million barrels per day, from over 4 million barrels per day several years ago, although Iran now has a gas export sector that it did not have before Iran opened its fields to foreign investment in 1996. Some Iranian economic sectors have clearly been harmed by sanctions, but any such effects have not, to date, caused a demonstrable shift in Iran's commitment to its nuclear program. The sanctions have, to some extent, fostered a growing perception that Iran is an international outcast, demonstrated by the announcement over the past two years by several major international firms that they are ending their business pursuits in Iran. To try to further Iran's isolation and strengthen the domestic opposition, the Obama Administration and Congress appear to be increasingly emphasizing further measures that would sanction Iranian officials who are human rights abusers, facilitate the democracy movement's access to information, and express outright U.S. support for the opposition. For a broader analysis of policy on Iran, see CRS Report RL32048, Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, by Kenneth Katzman.


Date of Report: June 15, 2010
Number of Pages: 45
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Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

The Obama Administration has not changed the Bush 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. In its first year, the Obama Administration altered the U.S. approach for reducing the Iranian threat by expanding direct diplomatic engagement with Iran's government and by offering Iran's leaders an alternative vision of closer integration with and acceptance by the West. To try to convince Iranian leaders of peaceful U.S. intent, the Obama Administration has downplayed discussion of potential U.S. military action against Iranian nuclear facilities and has repeatedly insisted that the United States did not materially support the domestic opposition "Green movement" that emerged following Iran's June 12, 2009, presidential election.

Even at the height of the Green movement protests in late 2009, the Obama Administration did not forego diplomatic options to blunt Iran's nuclear progress and says it remains open to a nuclear deal if Iran fully accepts a framework Iran tentatively agreed to in multilateral talks on October 1, 2009. Iran did not accept the technical details of this by the notional deadline of the end of 2009, nor did it adequately respond to international concerns about possible work on a nuclear weapons program. The Administration shifted toward building a multilateral coalition for additional U.N. sanctions, and apparently prompted the Defense Department to try to develop additional options for preventing or containing a nuclear Iran. The Administration efforts bore fruit on May 18, 2010, when it announced an agreement among permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that would authorize, but not require, countries to take a number of significant steps against Iran, including banning major arms sales to Iran and authorizing inspection of ships suspected of carrying equipment for Iran's nuclear program. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929 containing these provisions was passed on June 9 by a vote of 12-2 with one abstention. The Resolution represented a rejection of a May 17, 2010, agreement brokered by Brazil and Turkey to implement major features of the October 1, 2009, agreement.

The newly agreed-to U.N. Security Council sanctions build on those in place since 2006. Those 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. In the 111th Congress, conference action is underway on legislation to try to curb sales to Iran of gasoline, which many Members believe could help pressure Iran into a nuclear settlement or undermine the regime's popularity even further. Others believe such steps could help the regime rebuild its support by painting the international community as punitive against the Iranian people. Some believe that the domestic opposition, which in late 2009 appeared to pose a potentially serious challenge to the regime's grip on power, may eventually present the United States with an opportunity to see the regime replaced or modified substantially. Obama Administration officials appear to believe that the opposition's prospects are enhanced by a low U.S. public profile on the unrest. Congressional resolutions and legislation since mid-2009 show growing congressional support for steps to enhance the opposition's prospects. For further information, see CRS Report RS20871, Iran Sanctions; CRS Report R40849, Iran: Regional Perspectives and U.S. Policy; and CRS Report RL34544, Iran's Nuclear Program: Status.


Date of Report: June 11, 2010
Number of Pages: 65
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Friday, June 25, 2010

Israel’s Blockade of Gaza, the Mavi Marmara Incident, and Its Aftermath


Carol Migdalovitz
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but retained control of its borders. Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and later forcibly seized control of the territory in 2007. Israel imposed a tighter blockade on the flow of goods and materials into Gaza after its military offensive against Hamas from December 2008 to January 2009. That offensive destroyed much of Gaza's infrastructure, but Israel has obstructed the delivery of rebuilding materials that it said could also be used to manufacture weapons and for other military purposes. Israel, the U.N., and international non-governmental organizations differ about the severity of the blockade's effects on the humanitarian situation of Palestinian residents of Gaza. Nonetheless, it is clear that the territory's economy and people are suffering.

In recent years, humanitarian aid groups have sent supply ships and activists to Gaza. However, Israel directs them to land at its port of Ashdod for inspection before delivery to Gaza. In May 2010, the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement and the pro-Hamas Turkish Humanitarian Relief Fund organized a six-ship flotilla to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza and to break Israel's blockade of the territory. The ships refused an Israeli offer to deliver the goods to Ashdod. On May 31, Israeli naval special forces intercepted the convoy in international waters. They took control of five of the ships without resistance. However, some activists on a large Turkish passenger vessel challenged the commandos. The confrontation resulted in eight Turks and one Turkish-American killed, more than 30 passengers injured, and 10 commandos injured.

Israel considered its actions to be legitimate self-defense. Turkey, whose nationals comprised the largest contingent in the flotilla and among the casualties, considered them to be unjustifiable and in contravention of international law. There was near-universal international condemnation of Israel's actions. The U.N. Security Council in a U.S.-Turkish compromise condemned "the acts" that resulted in lost lives and called for a impartial inquiry. Several inquiries are underway in Israel, but Turkey will not be satisfied unless there is an international one under U.N. auspices.

The Obama Administration tried to walk a fine line between two allies, Israel and Turkey, and not allow the incident to derail efforts to ameliorate relations with Israel in order to protect Israeli- Palestinian talks now underway. It urged Israel to include international participants in its probe of the incident, and announced an aid package for the Palestinians that does not require new appropriations. However, the Administration's reaction displeased Turkey, and may contribute to that country's ongoing pursuit of a more independent foreign policy course. Turkish-Israeli relations, which have been deteriorating for some time, have reached a low point. Israel appears willing to lessen restrictions on the passage of goods and people into Gaza, while continuing to prevent shipments of weapons and dual-use items to Hamas.


Date of Report: June 16, 2010
Number of Pages: 19
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Military Operations, and Issues for Congress


Steve Bowman
Specialist in National Security

Catherine Dale
Specialist in International Security


With a deteriorating security situation and no comprehensive political outcome yet in sight, most observers view the war in Afghanistan as open-ended. By early 2009, a growing number of Members of Congress, Administration officials, and outside experts had concluded that the effort—often called "America's other war"—required greater national attention. For the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA), the war is both a struggle for survival and an effort to establish sustainable security and stability. For the United States, the war in Afghanistan concerns the security of Afghanistan and the region, including denying safe haven to terrorists and helping ensure a stable regional security balance. For regional states, including India and Russia as well as Afghanistan's neighbors Pakistan and Iran, the war may have a powerful impact on the future balance of power and influence in the region. For individual members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the war may be about defeating terrorist networks, ensuring regional stability, proving themselves as contributing NATO members, and/or demonstrating NATO's relevance in the 21st century.

Since 2001, the character of the war in Afghanistan has evolved from a violent struggle against al Qaeda and its Taliban supporters to a multi-faceted counterinsurgency (COIN) effort. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States launched Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in order to end the ability of the Taliban regime to provide safe haven to al Qaeda and to put a stop to al Qaeda's use of the territory of Afghanistan as a base of operations for terrorist activities. In that first phase, U.S. and coalition forces, working with Afghan opposition forces, quickly removed the Taliban regime.

After the fall of the Taliban, the character of the war shifted to a multifaceted COIN effort aimed at smothering the diffuse insurgency by shoring up GIRoA efforts to provide security, governance, and economic development. The three areas are generally viewed as interdependent and mutually-reinforcing—security is a prerequisite for some governance and development efforts, and longer-term, sustainable security requires both functional governance and economic opportunity. As one pillar of the COIN campaign in Afghanistan, the Afghan and international military effort aims broadly at defeating the remnants of the Taliban and other insurgents, securing the population, and helping extend the reach of the Afghan government. The international military effort includes both the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), to which the United States contributes troops, and the separate U.S.-led OEF mission.

In his December 3, 2009, speech President Obama identified several objectives in Afghanistan and Pakistan: (1) disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda; (2) deny al Qaeda a safe haven; (3) reverse the Taliban's momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government; and (4) strengthen the capacity of the Afghan security forces and government to better protect and serve population centers. To accomplish this, President Obama ordered the deployment of an additional 30,000 troops to the region, which will bring the U.S. total to almost 100,000 troops. This deployment will be staged over several months, with the full additional complement being in country by the end of the summer 2010. Noting that Afghan operations continue to be an international effort, President Obama expressed confidence that some of 42 coalition allies will also be increasing their contributions. NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen echoed this confidence, stating that he expects NATO allies to contribute at least an additional 5,000 troops in 2010.



Date of Report: June 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 76
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Kaesong North-South Korean Industrial Complex

Dick K. Nanto
Specialist in Industry and Trade

Mark E. Manyin
Specialist in Asian Affairs

This purpose of this report is to provide an overview of the role, purposes, and results of the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) and examine U.S. interests, policy issues, options, and legislation. The KIC is a six-year old industrial park located in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) just across the demilitarized zone from South Korea. As of May 2010, over 110 medium-sized South Korean companies are employing over 40,000 North Korean workers to manufacture products in Kaesong. The facility has the land and infrastructure to house two to three times as many firms and workers. If the master plan of Hyundai Asan, the codeveloper of the project, is followed the KIC eventually will be over 6,000 acres (nearly half the size of Manhattan Island) and include high-technology zones, shopping districts, residential areas, and facilities for tourism and recreation. 

The complex has continued to operate despite a rise in tensions between North and South Korea since early 2008. Indeed, the complex expanded somewhat during a roughly nine-month period from November 2008 through August 2009, a period when North Korea took a number of actions South Korea and the United States deemed provocative. As of early June 2010, the complex had been excluded from the latest deterioration in North-South relations, which was triggered by the March 2010 sinking of a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan. After a multinational investigation determined that the ship had been sunk by a North Korean submarine, South Korea announced it would cut off all inter-Korean economic relations except the Kaesong complex. South Korea also said it would reduce by two-thirds the number of South Korean workers— primarily government and business managers—at the complex because of worries about them being taken hostage by North Korea. North Korea responded by expelling several South Korean managers. 

The KIC represents a dilemma for U.S. and South Korean policymakers. On the one hand, the project provides an ongoing revenue stream to the Kim Jong-il regime in Pyongyang, by virtue of the share the government takes from the salaries paid to North Korean workers. South Korean and U.S. officials estimate this revenue stream to be around $3 million to $4 million per month. On the other hand, the KIC is the last remaining form of cooperation between South Korea and the DPRK, providing a possible beachhead for market reforms in the DPRK that could eventually spill over to areas outside the park and expose tens of thousands of North Koreans to outside influences, market-oriented businesses, and incentives. 

The United States has limited direct involvement in the KIC, which the United States has officially supported since its conception. At present, no U.S. companies have invested in the Kaesong complex, though a number of South Korean officials have expressed a desire to attract U.S. investment. U.S. government approval is needed for South Korean firms to ship to the KIC certain U.S.-made equipment currently under U.S. export controls. The Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), which has yet to be submitted to Congress for approval, provides for a Committee on Outward Processing Zones (OPZ) to be formed and to consider whether zones such as the KIC will receive preferential treatment under the FTA.


Date of Report: June 1, 2010
Number of Pages: 23
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China and the United States—A Comparison of Green Energy Programs and Policies

Richard J. Campbell
Specialist in Energy Policy

China is the world's most populous country with over 1.3 billion people. It has experienced tremendous economic growth over the last three decades with an annual average increase in gross domestic product of 9.8% during that period. This has led to an increasing demand for energy, spurring China to add an average of 53 gigawatts (GW) of electric capacity each year over the last ten years to its power generation capabilities. 

China essentially functions as a "command and control" economy. The national government owns or controls many of the country's industries and enterprises, and sets goals for economic development in the periodic Five Year Plans. China's industries and enterprises are expected to comply with the goals set in the national government's economic plan. China has set ambitious targets for developing its non-hydropower renewable energy resources with a major push of laws, policies, and incentives in the last few years. The wind power sector is illustrative of China's accomplishments, as installed wind power capacity has gone from 0.567 GW in 2003 to 12.2 GW in 2008. Plans already exist to grow China's wind power capacity to 100 GW by 2020. A similar goal exists for the solar photovoltaic power sector which China intends to increase generating capacity from 0.14 GW as of 2009 to over 1.8 GW by 2020. China recognizes that given the growing demand for energy at home, developing its domestic renewable energy industry and building manufacturing capacity can lead to advantages in future export markets. 

However, energy efficiency and conservation are officially China's top energy priority. These are considered the "low-hanging fruit" in the quest to reduce energy use and cut demand. Energy conservation investment projects have priority over energy development projects under the Energy Conservation Law of 1997, with government-financed projects being selected on "technological, economic and environmental comparisons and validations of the projects." 

The key piece of legislation in recent years for advancing renewable electricity in China is the Renewable Energy Law of 2005. The law was designed to "promote the development and utilization of renewable energy, improve the energy structure, diversify energy supplies, safeguard energy security, protect the environment, and realize the sustainable development of the economy and society." Renewable energy is subsidized by a fee charged to all electricity users in China of about 0.029 cents per kilowatt-hour (kwh). The fee was originally based on the incremental difference between coal and renewable energy (estimated in China at $0.044 to $0.059 per kwh), and goes to the companies which operate the electricity grid and must buy renewable power from project developers. 

In contrast, the United States has largely a market-driven economy. Some argue that the United States does not have a comprehensive national policy in place for promotion of renewable energy technologies, with some observers saying that the higher costs of renewable electricity are not conducive to market adoption. However, the reasons for increasing the use of renewable energy are diverse, and include energy security, energy independence, cleaner air, and more recently anthropogenic climate change, sustainability concepts, and economic development. Such goals could reasonably be said to apply both to the United States and China. Pending legislation in the 111th Congress contains provisions which could serve to increase power generation from renewable energy by establishing market drivers (such as a national renewable electricity standard) which could catalyze U.S. renewable electricity development.


Date of Report: June 14, 2010
Number of Pages: 24
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Following two high-level policy reviews on Afghanistan in 2009, the Obama Administration says it is pursuing a fully resourced and more unified military-civilian strategy that will pave the way for a gradual transition to Afghan security leadership beginning in July 2011. The policy is intended to address what the Obama Administration considered to be a security environment that was deteriorating despite a gradual increase in U.S. forces there during 2006-2008. Each of the two reviews resulted in a decision to add combat troops, with the intent of creating the conditions to expand Afghan governance and economic development, rather than on hunting and defeating insurgents. A total of 51,000 additional U.S. forces were authorized by the two reviews, which will bring U.S. troop levels to approximately 100,000 by September 2010. Currently, U.S. troops in Afghanistan total about 94,000 and foreign partners are about 40,000.

As U.S. strategy unfolds, a greater sense of U.S. official optimism has started to take hold, with comments to this effect by senior U.S. defense officials, including Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who has been top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan since June 2009. The broader optimism has coincided with the partial success of "Operation Moshtarak" to stabilize Marjah, and successful arrests of and strikes on key Afghan militants in Pakistan. A more extensive operation—although characterized more by political engagement than actual combat—is planned for June 2010 in the major province of Qandahar.

The credibility of the Afghan government is crucial to U.S. strategy, To improve the U.S.-Afghan partnership, U.S. diplomats are adjusting their approach to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who was weakened by 2009-early 2010 U.S. criticism of his failure to curb corruption and by the extensive fraud in the August 20, 2009, presidential elections. He was declared the winner but subsequently had difficulty obtaining parliamentary confirmation of a new cabinet. His domestic difficulties and strains between him and some in the Obama Administration nearly led to a revocation of President Obama's invitation for Karzai to visit the United States May 10-14, 2010, (an invitation issued during President Obama's visit to Afghanistan on March 28, 2010). The visit—the product of a U.S. decision that public criticism of Karzai was counterproductive—was widely assessed as highly fruitful and resulted in a decision to renew a 2005 U.S.-Afghan longterm partnership accord.

A major issue—and the focus of the Karzai visit to Washington DC, and an international meeting on Afghanistan held in London on January 28, 2010—has been the effort to persuade insurgent fighters and leaders to end their fight and join the political process. There is broad international support for Karzai's plan to reintegrate insurgent foot soldiers but not for his vision of reconciling with high-level insurgent figures, potentially including Taliban leader Mullah Umar. Karzai nonetheless received backing for these initiatives at a "consultative peace jirga" that convened in Kabul during June 2-4, 2010.

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. (See CRS Report RS21922, Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance, by Kenneth Katzman.)


Date of Report: June 7, 2010
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Iraq Casualties: U.S. Military Forces and Iraqi Civilians, Police, and Security Forces

Hannah Fischer
Information Research Specialist


This report presents U.S. military casualties as well as governmental and nongovernmental estimates of Iraqi civilian, police, and security forces casualties. 

For several years, there were few estimates from any national or international government source regarding Iraqi civilian, police, and security forces casualties. Now, however, several Iraqi ministries have released monthly or total casualty statistics. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) releases the monthly trend of Iraqi civilian, police, and security forces deaths. In addition, the United Nations Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has charted the trend of civilian casualties from August 2007 to April 2009, and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) reported on the number of deaths by suicide bombers in 2008. 

Nongovernmental sources also have released various estimates of Iraqi civilian, police, and security forces casualties. This report includes estimates from the Associated Press, the Brookings Institution, Iraq Body Count, the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, Iraq Family Health Survey, the most recent study published in the Lancet, and the British survey firm, Opinion Research Business. 

Because the estimates of Iraqi casualties contained in this report are based on varying time periods and have been created using differing methodologies, readers should exercise caution when using them and should look to them as guideposts rather than as statements of fact.



Date of Report: June 11, 2010
Number of Pages: 12
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs


The performance and legitimacy of the Afghan government figured prominently in two reviews of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan during 2009 and continues to color U.S. relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. In his December 1, 2009, speech on Afghanistan, which followed the second review, President Obama stated that the Afghan government would be judged on performance, and "The days of providing a blank check are over." President Obama reportedly pressed Karzai to move more decisively to address his government's deficiencies, particularly corruption, during a March 28, 2010, visit to Afghanistan. The Obama visit may have contributed to two subsequent statements by Karzai accusing the international community of exercising undue pressure on him and on Afghanistan. These issues were muted during Karzai's May 10-14, 2010, visit to Washington, D.C., and produced a trip widely described by officials on both sides as highly productive, symbolized by a commitment to renew and expand a U.S.-Afghanistan "strategic partnership" by the end of 2010.

The Afghan government's widespread official corruption, as well as its ineffectiveness, is identified by U.S. officials as feeding the insurgency. At the same time, Karzai's alliances with key ethnic and political faction leaders have reduced his ability to fill the government with politically neutral and technically competent officers. Despite diminished confidence in Karzai, he went into the August 20, 2009, presidential election as the favorite. Amid widespread charges of fraud, many substantiated by an Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), 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. He has since had difficulty obtaining parliamentary confirmation of a full cabinet, and 11 permanent ministerial posts remain unfilled. Most of the well-regarded economic ministers were confirmed.

Karzai has tried to rebuild international support for his leadership by announcing new anticorruption steps as well as by formulating proposals to try to persuade insurgent fighters to give up their fight. Several donors at a major international conference on Afghanistan in Britain on January 28, 2010, endorsed—and agreed to begin to fund—Karzai's proposals, which are to be discussed at an Afghan consultative "peace jirga during June 2-4, 2010. However, concerns remain about whether Karzai is committed to ensuring that the upcoming parliamentary elections, to be held September 18, 2010, will correct previous flaws and prove free and fair. Confidence was undermined, to an extent, in February 2010 when Karzai issued an election decree to govern the National Assembly elections on September 18, 2010. The decree eliminated the three U.N.- appointed positions for international officials on the ECC, although a subsequent compromise restored two non-Afghan ECC seats.

Because most insurgents are, like Karzai, ethnic Pashtuns, stabilizing Afghanistan requires winning Pashtun political support for the Afghan government. The international community appears to agree that doing so requires building effective governing structures at the local level. The Obama Administration has emphasized empowering local governing bodies in part by expanding the presence of U.S. government civilians as advisors outside Kabul. The Administration also has appointed senior civilian officials to work jointly with their military counterparts in the five regional commands around Afghanistan. For more 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: June 2, 2010
Number of Pages: 42
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Monday, June 14, 2010

Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians


Susan G. Chesser
Information Research Specialist



This report collects statistics from a variety of sources on casualties sustained during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), which began on October 7, 2001, and is ongoing. OEF actions take place primarily in Afghanistan; however, OEF casualties also includes American casualties in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Yemen. 

Casualty data of U.S. military forces are compiled by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), as tallied from the agency's press releases. Also included are statistics on those wounded but not killed. Statistics may be revised as circumstances are investigated and as records are processed through the U.S. military's casualty system. More frequent updates are available at DOD's website at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/ under "Casualty Update." 

A detailed casualty summary of U.S. military forces that includes data on deaths by cause, as well as statistics on soldiers wounded in action, is available at the following DOD website: http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/CASUALTY/castop.htm

NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) does not post casualty statistics of the military forces of partner countries on the ISAF website at http://www.isaf.nato.int/. ISAF press releases state that it is ISAF policy to defer to the relevant national authorities to provide notice of any fatality. For this reason, this report uses fatality data of coalition forces as compiled by CNN.com and posted online at http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2004/oef.casualties/index.html

Casualty data of Afghan civilians are reported quarterly by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA). Deaths of Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army personnel are reported by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction in the quarterly reports to Congress that are required as part of P.L. 110-181. 

Because the estimates of Afghan casualties contained in this report are based on varying time periods and have been created using different methodologies, readers should exercise caution when using them and should look to them as guideposts rather than as statements of fact.


Date of Report: June 3, 2010
Number of Pages: 5
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Israel’s Blockade of Gaza and the Mavi Marmara Incident

Carol Migdalovitz
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs


Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but retained controlled of its borders. Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and later forcibly seized control of the territory in 2007. Israel imposed a tighter blockade on the flow of goods and materials into Gaza after its military offensive against Hamas in December 2008/January 2009. That offensive destroyed much of Gaza's infrastructure, but Israel has obstructed the delivery of rebuilding materials that it said could also be used to manufacture weapons and for other military purposes. Israel, the U.N., and international non-governmental organizations differ about the severity of the blockade's effects on the humanitarian situation of Palestinian residents of Gaza. Nonetheless, it is clear that the territory's economy and people are suffering. 

In recent years, humanitarian aid groups have sent supply ships and activists to Gaza. However, Israel directs them to land at its port of Ashdod for inspection before delivery to Gaza. In May 2010, the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement and the pro-Hamas Turkish Humanitarian Relief Fund organized a six-ship flotilla to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza and to break Israel's blockade of the territory. The ships refused an Israeli offer to deliver the goods to Ashdod. On May 31, Israeli naval commandos intercepted the convoy in international waters. They took control of five of the ships without resistance. However, some activists on a large Turkish passenger vessel challenged the commandos. The confrontation resulted in eight Turks and one Turkish-American killed, more than 30 injured, and 10 commandos injured. 

Israel considered its actions to be legitimate self-defense. Turkey, whose nationals comprised the largest contingent in the flotilla and the casualties, considered them to be unjustifiable and in contravention of international law. There was near universal international condemnation of Israel's actions. The U.N. Security Council in a U.S.-Turkish compromise condemned "the acts" that resulted in lost lives and called for a impartial inquiry. 

The Obama Administration tried to walk a fine line between two allies, Israel and Turkey, and not allow the incident to derail efforts to ameliorate relations with Israel in order to protect Israeli- Palestinian talks now underway. However, its restrained reaction displeased Turkey, and may contribute to that country's ongoing pursuit of a more independent foreign policy course. Turkish- Israeli relations, which have been deteriorating for some time, have reached a low point. All sides, especially the Palestinians, would be relieved if a creative solution could be found to enable Israel to ease or lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip, while continuing to prevent shipments of weapons and dual-use items to Hamas.



Date of Report: June 5, 2010
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses

  Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs


The Obama Administration has not changed the Bush Administration's characterization of Iran as 0 "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. In its first year, the Obama Administration altered the U.S. approach for reducing the Iranian threat by expanding direct diplomatic engagement with Iran's government and by offering Iran's leaders an alternative vision of closer integration with and acceptance by the West. To try to convince Iranian leaders of peaceful U.S. intent, the Obama Administration downplayed discussion of potential U.S. military action against Iranian nuclear facilities and has repeatedly insisted that the United States did not directly or materially support the domestic opposition movement that emerged following Iran's June 12, 2009, presidential election.

Even at the height of the Green movement protests in late 2009, the Obama Administration did not forego diplomatic options to blunt Iran's nuclear progress and says it remains open to a nuclear deal if Iran fully accepts a framework Iran tentatively agreed to in multilateral talks on October 1, 2009. However, Iran did not accept the technical details of this by the notional deadline of the end of 2009, nor did it adequately respond to international concerns about possible work on a nuclear weapons program. These concerns led to an Administration shift toward building a multilateral coalition for additional U.N. sanctions, and apparently prompted the Defense Department to try to develop additional options for preventing or containing a nuclear Iran. The Administration efforts bore fruit on May 18, 2010, when it announced an agreement among permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that would authorize, but not require, countries to take a number of significant steps against Iran, including inspect ships suspected of carrying equipment for Iran's nuclear program. The announcement represented a U.S. rejection of a May 16, 2010, tentative agreement brokered by Brazil and Turkey to implement most features of the October 1, 2009, agreement.

The newly agreed-to U.N. Security Council sanctions would build on those in place since 2006. Those 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. In the 111th Congress, conference action is underway on separate legislation to try to curb sales to Iran of gasoline, which many Members believe could help pressure Iran into a nuclear settlement or undermine the regime's popularity even further. Others believe such steps could help the regime rebuild its support by painting the international community as punitive against the Iranian people.

Some believe that the domestic opposition, which in late 2009 appeared to pose a potentially serious challenge to the regime's grip on power, may eventually present the United States with an opportunity to see the regime replaced or modified substantially. Obama Administration officials appear to believe that the opposition's prospects are enhanced by a low U.S. public profile on the unrest. Congressional resolutions and legislation since mid-2009 show growing congressional support for steps to enhance the opposition's prospects. 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: May 24, 2010
Number of Pages: 65
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Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs


The Obama Administration has not changed the Bush 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. In its first year, the Obama Administration
altered the U.S. approach for reducing the Iranian threat by expanding direct diplomatic
engagement with Iran's government and by offering Iran's leaders an alternative vision of closer
integration with and acceptance by the West. To try to convince Iranian leaders of peaceful U.S.
intent, the Obama Administration downplayed discussion of potential U.S. military action against
Iranian nuclear facilities and has repeatedly insisted that the United States did not directly or
materially support the domestic opposition movement that emerged following Iran's June 12,
2009, presidential election.


Even at the height of the Green movement protests in late 2009, the Obama Administration did
not forego diplomatic options to blunt Iran's nuclear progress and says it remains open to a
nuclear deal if Iran fully accepts a framework Iran tentatively agreed to in multilateral talks on
October 1, 2009. However, Iran did not accept the technical details of this by the notional
deadline of the end of 2009, nor did it adequately respond to international concerns about possible
work on a nuclear weapons program. These concerns led to an Administration shift toward
building a multilateral coalition for additional U.N. sanctions, and apparently prompted the
Defense Department to try to develop additional options for preventing or containing a nuclear
Iran. The Administration efforts bore fruit on May 18, 2010, when it announced an agreement
among permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that would authorize, but not require,
countries to take a number of significant steps against Iran, including inspect ships suspected of
carrying equipment for Iran's nuclear program. The announcement represented a U.S. rejection of
a May 16, 2010, tentative agreement brokered by Brazil and Turkey to implement most features
of the October 1, 2009, agreement.


The newly agreed-to U.N. Security Council sanctions would build on those in place since 2006.
Those 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. In the 111th Congress, conference action is underway on separate legislation to try to
curb sales to Iran of gasoline, which many Members believe could help pressure Iran into a
nuclear settlement or undermine the regime's popularity even further. Others believe such steps
could help the regime rebuild its support by painting the international community as punitive
against the Iranian people.


Some believe that the domestic opposition, which in late 2009 appeared to pose a potentially
serious challenge to the regime's grip on power, may eventually present the United States with an
opportunity to see the regime replaced or modified substantially. Obama Administration officials
appear to believe that the opposition's prospects are enhanced by a low U.S. public profile on the
unrest. Congressional resolutions and legislation since mid-2009 show growing congressional
support for steps to enhance the opposition's prospects. 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: May 24, 2010
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Friday, June 4, 2010

Iran Sanctions

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs


Numerous U.S. laws and regulations have been adopted to try to slow Iran's weapons of mass destruction programs and curb its support for militant groups. The U.S. belief is that sanctions can reduce the revenue available to Iran's government to support these activities and generate domestic pressure within Iran to adopt policies more acceptable to the international community. Some United Nations sanctions have been imposed since 2006, with many of those same objectives, although more narrowly targeted to avoid harming the civilian population of Iran. The wide range of U.S. sanctions restrict U.S. trade with and investment in Iran, prohibit U.S. foreign aid to Iran, and require 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. Foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms remain generally exempt from the trade ban since they operate under the laws of the countries where these subsidiaries are incorporated. 

Successive U.S. Administrations have identified sanctioning Iran's energy sector as a key 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's energy sector began in 1996 with the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), but no firms have been sanctioned under it. Still, ISA, when coupled with broader factors, may have influenced some international firms' decisions to refrain from investing in energy projects in Iran. Iran has been unable to expand oil production beyond 4.1 million barrels per day, although it does now have a gas export sector that it did not have before Iran opened its fields to foreign investment in 1996. In an effort to exploit Iran's dependence on imports of gasoline, in the 111th Congress, H.R. 2194 (which awaits conference action expected in late June 2010), would add 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. The Senate version would also add a broad range of other measures further restricting the already limited amount of U.S. trade with Iran. 

The effectiveness of U.S. and international sanctions on Iran, by most accounts, is unclear. Some Iranian economic sectors have clearly been harmed by sanctions, but any such effects have not, to date, caused a demonstrable shift in Iran's commitment to its nuclear program. The sanctions have also fostered a growing perception that Iran is an international outcast, demonstrated by the announcement over the past two years by several major international firms that they are ending their business pursuits in Iran. To try to further Iran's isolation and strengthen the domestic opposition, the Obama Administration and Congress appear to be increasingly emphasizing further measures that would sanction Iranian officials who are human rights abusers, facilitate the democracy movement's access to information, and express outright U.S. support for the opposition. For a broader analysis of policy on Iran, see CRS Report RL32048, Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, by Kenneth Katzman



Date of Report: May 26, 2010
Number of Pages: 44
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Tuesday, June 1, 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, has been increasingly characterized by peaceful competition, as well as by attempts to form cross-sectarian alliances. However, ethnic and factional infighting continues, sometimes involving the questionable use of key levers of power and legal institutions to accomplish political results. This was in evidence in the successful efforts by Shiite Arab political leaders to disqualify some prominent Sunni Arab candidates in the March 7, 2010, national elections for the Council of Representatives (COR, parliament), which will form the next government. Election-related violence occurred before and during the election, although not at levels of earlier years or at a level to significantly affect voting, except perhaps for Baghdad city. 

With all votes counted and some recounted, the cross-sectarian but Sunni-supported "Iraqiyya" slate of former Prime Minister Iyad al-Allawi unexpectedly gained a plurality of 91 of the 325 COR seats up for election. Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's State of Law slate won two fewer seats, and a rival Shiite coalition was third with 70. The main Kurdish parties, again allied, won 43. Allawi's slate had been expected to get the first opportunity to put together a majority coalition to form a government. However, Maliki and the other main Shiite coalition, opposing what they claim is the mostly Sunni Arab base of the Allawi slate, have reached a tentative agreement to ally to form the next government. Together, they are only four seats short of a majority. However, within the combined bloc, there are at least two significant challengers to Maliki to be the next Prime Minister. Jalal Talabani appears highly likely to retain the post of President. 

Allawi, who is viewed as even-handed and not amenable to Iranian influence, was considered to be favored by the Obama Administration and by Sunni-dominated regional neighbors such as Saudi Arabia. However, many expect that neither the United States nor these neighbors can or will intervene decisively to shape a new government led by Allawi. The domestic tensions over the election result—although likely to delay the formation of a new government until well into the summer—have not, for now, substantially altered the Obama Administration's planned reduction of the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. The current U.S. troop level is about 95,000, and a reduction to 50,000 is to be completed by September 1, 2010, although the bulk of that drawdown might be deferred until late in that time period. The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno, says that U.S. drawdown plans would change substantially only if the post-election political process turns highly violent—a development that is not widely expected. 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. U.S. officials are hoping that a new government might be able to overcome the roadblocks that have thus far prevented passage of key outstanding legislation considered crucial to political comity going forward, such as national hydrocarbon laws. See CRS Report RL31339, Iraq: Post-Saddam Governance and Security, by Kenneth Katzman.



Date of Report: May 17, 2010
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