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Friday, November 26, 2010

Flooding in Pakistan: Overview and Issues for Congress

K. Alan Kronstadt, Coordinator
Specialist in South Asian Affairs

Pervaze A. Sheikh, Coordinator
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Bruce Vaughn, Coordinator
Specialist in Asian Affairs


Pakistan experienced a catastrophic natural disaster that has precipitated a humanitarian crisis of major proportions. Widespread flooding affected about 20 million Pakistanis and inundated an area the size of Florida within the country. Congressional interest in the flooding stems from the significant humanitarian and economic implications for the country, and the security implications for U.S. interests in the region. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank have estimated that the flooding has caused $9.7 billion in damages. While this figure might still be preliminary, it is almost certain that the negative effects of this crisis will be felt for many years to come.

The floods stemmed from abnormally heavy rains during the monsoon season in July and August, 2010. This led to flooding in the Indus River Basin which traverses Pakistan from north to south. Excess water led the Indus River and its tributaries to breach their levees and inundate adjacent and downstream floodplains. Approximately 2000 people were believed to have been killed by the flooding. One fifth of the country was submerged, and an estimated eight million Pakistanis were displaced from their homes. The number of people affected were significantly greater than several major disasters around the world since 2000. Little clean drinking water was available for many of the people who were affected and remains a problem today. Many of those affected, particularly children, face potential disease outbreaks, particularly diarrhea and cholera. The catastrophic loss of livestock and crop lands and extensive damage to the country’s infrastructure are projected to have long-term negative effects on Pakistan’s food security and economic performance.

Pakistan is at the center of several crucial U.S. interests, including fighting terrorism and religious militancy, seeking stability in neighboring Afghanistan, and promoting nuclear non-proliferation, among others. The aftermath of the floods can affect broad political and strategic dynamics in Pakistan and the region in a number of ways. The crisis may undermine the already waning legitimacy of the civilian government by demonstrating its ineffectiveness to large numbers of Pakistanis in need of public services, while improving the status of Pakistan’s powerful military by the more visible role it played in providing disaster relief. It may also provide militants an opportunity to garner favor with affected communities by giving militants an opportunity to demonstrate that they can provide assistance in areas where the government is absent. The crisis has also diverted attention and resources from other national priorities, at a time when Pakistan remains financially strapped.

U.S. interests are served by a stable Pakistan that can effectively rule all its territory. Any crisis on a scale of the present floods that undermines the Pakistani state’s ability to control its territory has the potential to undermine U.S. interests. The inability of Pakistan to fully extend its authority into areas along its northwest frontier with Afghanistan has allowed Islamist militants hostile to the United States to find refuge. The flooding diverted Pakistani resources and focus away from its struggle with Islamist militants. This has the potential to indirectly affect U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan by taking pressure off militants on the Pakistani side of the international frontier. On a positive note, the crisis presents the United States with an opportunity to improve its poor image among Pakistanis through provision of humanitarian assistance. Congress will play an important role in overseeing such assistance in the near term, and broad foreign assistance strategies for rebuilding infrastructure and other development goals in the medium and long run. For more information on environmental issues and Pakistan, see CRS Report R41358, Security and the Environment in Pakistan. For broader discussion of U.S.- Pakistan relations, see CRS Report R41307, Pakistan: Key Current Issues and Developments.



Date of Report: November 18, 2010
Number of Pages: 33
Order Number: R41424
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, November 24, 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. This infighting—and the belief that holding political may mean the difference between life and death for the various political communities— significantly delayed agreement on a new government that was to be selected following the March 7, 2010, national elections for the Council of Representatives (COR, parliament). With U.S. intervention, on November 10, 2010, major ethnic and sectarian factions agreed on the the most senior positions of a new government, breaking the long deadlock.

The difficulty in reaching agreement had multiple causes that could plague the new government and cause instability over the long term. Among the causes were the close election results. With the results certified, a mostly Sunni Arab-supported “Iraqiyya” slate of former Prime Minister Iyad al-Allawi unexpectedly gained a plurality of 91 of the 325 COR seats up for election. Maliki’s State of Law slate won 89, and a rival Shiite coalition was third with 70, of which about 40 seats are held by those supporting Moqtada Al Sadr. The main Kurdish parties, again allied, won 43 seats, with another 14 seats held by other Kurdish factions. On the basis of his first place showing, Allawi had demanded to be given the first opportunity to put together a majority coalition and form a government. However, his bloc was unable to win the allegiance of the Shiite blocs, and it was largely because of U.S. diplomacy that the Shiites and Kurds decided to enter to form a broad-based that included the Sunnis. Still, many Sunnis appear to feel deprived of sufficient influence in the incoming government.

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, the support of these neighboring countries was insufficient to shape a new government led by Allawi. Iran, which exercises major influence over the Shiite factions in Iraq, worked, with some success, to ensure that pro-Iranian Shiites lead the next government. However, the inclusion of Allawi’s bloc indicates that Iran did not meet all of its objectives. The participation of all major factions in the new government could complicate efforts to overcome the roadblocks that have thus far prevented passage of key outstanding legislation crucial to attracting foreign investment, such as national hydrocarbon laws. U.S. officials and Iraqi citizens also hope that the new government can resolve the increasingly contentious shortages of electricity that have plagued Iraqi cities during 2010.

The long political vacuum, coupled with the drawdown of U.S. forces to 50,000 and formal end of the U.S. combat mission on August 31, 2010, was perceived as contributing to major high profile attacks in Iraq and a sense of uncertainty and disillusionment on the part of the Iraqi public. The continuing violence has caused some experts to question whether stability will continue after all U.S. forces are to depart at the end of 2011. Some believe that the reduction in U.S. leverage and influence in Iraq will cause the rifts among major ethnic and sectarian communities to widen to the point where Iraq could still become a “failed state” after 2011, unless some U.S. troops remain after that time. See CRS Report RL31339, Iraq: Post-Saddam Governance and Security, by Kenneth Katzman. 
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Date of Report: November 16, 2010
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: RS21968
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Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

The limited capacity and widespread corruption of all levels of Afghan governance are growing factors in debate over the effectiveness of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, although Afghan governing capacity has increased significantly since the Taliban regime fell in late 2001. In a December 1, 2009, policy statement on Afghanistan, which followed the second major Afghanistan strategy review in 2009, President Obama stated that “the days of providing a blank check [to the Afghan government] are over.” During 2010, the Administration has been pressing President Hamid Karzai to move more decisively to address corruption within his government, with mixed success. Karzai has agreed to cooperate with U.S.-led efforts to build the capacity of several emerging anti-corruption institutions, but these same institutions have sometimes caused a Karzai backlash when they have targeted his allies or relatives. Purportedly suspicious that U.S. and other donors are trying to undermine his leadership, Karzai has strengthened his bonds to ethnic and political faction leaders who are often involved in illicit economic activity and who undermine rule of law. Some of the effects of corruption burst into public view in August 2010 when major losses were announced by the large Kabul Bank, in part due to large loans to major shareholders, many of whom are close to Karzai. Addressing U.S. public complaints that U.S. lives are being lost in part to defend a corrupt government, some in Congress have sought to link further U.S. aid to clearer progress on the corruption issue.

The disputes with Karzai over corruption compound continuing international concerns about Afghan democracy and political transparency. In the August 20, 2009, presidential election, there were widespread charges of fraud, many substantiated by an Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC). The ECC invalidated nearly one-third of President Karzai’s votes, although Karzai’s main challenger dropped out of a runoff and Karzai was declared the winner. He subsequently faced opposition to many of his cabinet nominees by the elected lower house of parliament, and seven permanent ministerial posts remain unfilled. Many of the flaws that plagued the 2009 election recurred in the parliamentary elections held September 18, 2010. However, the alleged fraud is purportedly being addressed more openly and transparently. Final results were to be announced October 30, but have been delayed by complaint investigation requirements. The security situation complicated campaigning and the voting, to some extent, but did not derail the election.

Electoral competition aside, there is growing ethnic and political fragmentation over the terms of a potential settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan. Some leaders of minority communities boycotted a June 2-4, 2010, “consultative peace jirga (assembly)” in Kabul that endorsed Karzai’s plan to reintegrate into society insurgents willing to end their fight against the government. However, Karzai has named a senior Tajik leader as chair of the 68-member High Peace Council that is to approve any settlement, if one is reached. Women, who have made substantial gains (including appointment to cabinet posts and governorships and election to parliament) fear their rights may be eroded under any “deal” that might put the Taliban in control of territory or agree to change Afghanistan’s constitution and erode protections for women. For more information, see CRS Report RL30588, Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, by Kenneth Katzman; CRS Report R40747, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan: Background and Policy Issues, by Rhoda Margesson; and CRS Report R41484, Afghanistan: U.S. Rule of Law and Justice Sector Assistance, by Liana Sun Wyler and Kenneth Katzman.



Date of Report: November 12, 2010
Number of Pages: 52
Order Number: RS21922
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Islam: Sunnis and Shiites


Christopher M. Blanchard
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs

The majority of the world’s Muslim population follows the Sunni branch of Islam, and approximately 10%-15% of all Muslims follow the Shiite (Shi’ite, Shi’a, Shia) branch. Shiite populations constitute a majority in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, and Azerbaijan. There are also significant Shiite populations in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. Sunnis and Shiites share most basic religious tenets. However, their differences sometimes have been the basis for religious intolerance, political infighting, and sectarian violence.

This report includes a historical background of the Sunni-Shiite split and discusses the differences in religious beliefs and practices between and within each Islamic sect as well as their similarities. The report also relates Sunni and Shiite religious beliefs to discussions of terrorism and sectarian violence that may be of interest to Congress. Also see CRS Report RS21695, The Islamic Traditions of Wahhabism and Salafiyya, by Christopher M. Blanchard.



Date of Report: November 9, 2010
Number of Pages: 9
Order Number: RS21745
Price: $19.95

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Iran Sanctions


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

There appears to be a growing international consensus to adopt progressively strict economic sanctions against Iran to try to compel it to compromise on its further nuclear development. Measures adopted since mid-2010 by the United Nations Security Council, the European Union, and several other countries complement the numerous U.S. laws and regulations that have long sought to try to slow Iran’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and curb its support for militant groups. The U.S. view—increasingly shared by major allies—is that sanctions should target Iran’s energy sector that provides about 80% of government revenues, and try to isolate Iran from the international financial system. U.S. efforts to curb international energy investment in Iran’s energy sector began in 1996 with the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), a U.S. law that mandates U.S. penalties against foreign companies that conduct certain business with Iran’s energy sector. ISA represented a U.S. effort, which is now broadening, to persuade foreign firms to choose between the Iranian market and the much larger U.S. market. In the 111th Congress, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA, P.L. 111- 195) expanded ISA significantly to try to restrict Iran’s ability to make or import gasoline, for which Iran depends heavily on imports. CISADA also adds a broad range of other measures further restricting the already limited amount of U.S. trade with Iran and restricting some high technology trade with countries that allow WMD-useful technology to reach Iran.

CISADA’s enactment followed 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 sanctions on Iran’s energy or broad financial sector. European Union sanctions, imposed July 27, 2010, align the EU with the U.S. position, to a large extent, by prohibiting EU involvement in Iran’s energy sector and restricting trade financing and banking relationships with Iran, among other measures. National measures announced by Japan and South Korea in early September 2010—both are large buyers of Iranian energy—impose restrictions similar to those of the EU, suggesting broad adoption of U.S.-led efforts to squeeze Iran’s energy sector.

Because so many major economic powers have imposed sanctions on Iran, the sanctions are, by all accounts, having a growing effect on Iran’s economy. U.S. officials say that the cumulative effect of U.S., U.N., and other country sanctions is harming Iran’s economy to the point where domestic pressure could build on Iranian leaders to accept a nuclear compromise. Among other indicators, there has been a stream of announcements by major international firms during 2010 that they are exiting the Iranian market. Iran’s oil production has fallen slightly to about 3.9 million barrels per day, from over 4.1 million barrels per day several years ago, although Iran now has small natural gas exports that it did not have before Iran opened its fields to foreign investment in 1996. However, there is not a consensus that sanctions are causing a demonstrable shift in Iran’s commitment to its nuclear program—the key strategic objective of the sanctions. Possibly in an effort to accomplish the separate objective of promoting the cause of the domestic opposition in Iran, the Obama Administration and Congress are increasingly emphasizing 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: November 9, 2010
Number of Pages: 60
Order Number: RS20871
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Afghanistan: U.S. Rule of Law and Justice Sector Assistance


Liana Sun Wyler
Analyst in International Crime and Narcotics

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs


Developing effective Afghan justice sector institutions is considered by many observers to be essential in winning the support of the Afghan population, improving the Afghan government’s credibility and legitimacy, and reducing support for insurgent factions. Such sentiments are reinforced in the face of growing awareness of the pervasiveness of Afghan corruption. To this end, establishing the rule of law (ROL) in Afghanistan has become a priority in U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and an issue of interest to Congress. Numerous U.S. programs to promote ROL are in various stages of implementation and receive ongoing funding and oversight from Congress. Major programs include the following:
  • State Department’s Justice Sector Support Program (JSSP) and Corrections System Support Program (CSSP); 
  • U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) formal and informal ROL stabilization programs (RLS);
  • Justice Department’s (DOJ’s) Senior Federal Prosecutors Program, which, with State Department funds, provides legal mentoring and training; and
  • Defense Department’s (DOD’s) operational support through Combined Joint Task Force 101 (CJTF-101), as well as through Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435 (CJIATF-435). 

It is difficult to identify all the programs, activities, and actors involved in ROL in Afghanistan, in part because of the continued evolution of U.S. strategy and interagency coordination for supporting the Afghan justice sector. Among the most recent shifts in strategy, U.S. efforts are increasingly resourced by a surge in civilian personnel at the provincial and district levels. To align with counterinsurgency (COIN) objectives, the U.S. government is emphasizing not only ministerial-level institution-building, but also projects to improve local-level access to justice, including projects to support informal dispute resolution mechanisms. Policy coordination among U.S. civilian and military entities involved in ROL efforts in Afghanistan also continues to change—including, most recently, the establishment of an Ambassador-led Coordinating Director for Rule of Law and Law Enforcement (CDROLLE) directorate at the U.S. Embassy, a Generalled Rule of Law Field Force (ROLFF) under the CJIATF-435, as well as an Interagency Planning and Implementation Team (IPIT) to coordinate all civilian and military ROL activities in Afghanistan. Future shifts in policy approaches may also occur as policymakers seek to address growing concerns regarding Afghan corruption.

Observers debate whether or to what extent the increased U.S. commitment to and resources for ROL efforts in Afghanistan will help the U.S. government reach its ultimate goal of developing a stable, capable, and legitimate Afghan government. Many would argue that the challenges in Afghanistan to ROL development and justice sector reform remain substantial and many factors undermine prospects for success. Chief among these are ongoing allegations of severe corruption at all levels of the Afghan government, lack of overall security and stability, limited Afghan government capacity, the existence of competing justice mechanisms, and the persistence of traditional attitudes that perpetuate the perception that well-connected Afghans can avoid facing prosecution and conviction. These debates will likely continue in the 112
th Congress, as Members remain concerned with all aspects of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan, including authorizing and appropriating ROL-related programs and assistance, as well as conducting oversight on policy implementation and effectiveness.


Date of Report: November 9, 2010
Number of Pages: 48
Order Number: R41484
Price: $29.95

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