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Friday, September 30, 2011

Unrest in Syria and U.S. Sanctions Against the Asad Regime


Jeremy M. Sharp
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Christopher M. Blanchard
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs

This report analyzes the current unrest in Syria and the U.S. response to the Syrian government’s crackdown against demonstrators. It also provides background information on U.S. sanctions against the Asad regime and its supporters.

A variety of U.S. legislative provisions and executive directives prohibit direct foreign assistance funding to Syria and restrict bilateral trade relations, largely because of the U.S. State Department’s designation of Syria as a sponsor of international terrorism. On December 12, 2003, President George W. Bush signed the Syria Accountability Act, P.L. 108-175, which imposed additional economic sanctions against Syria. Syrian individuals and government officials are subject to targeted financial sanctions pursuant to executive orders relating to terrorism, proliferation, and regional security. Successive administrations have designated several Syrian entities as weapons proliferators and sanctioned several Russian companies for alleged weapons of mass destruction or advanced weapons sales to Syria.

The following legislation introduced in the 112th Congress addresses the current situation in Syria. 

·         H.R. 2106, The Syria Freedom Support Act. Sanctions the development of petroleum resources of Syria, the production of refined petroleum products in Syria, and the exportation of refined petroleum products to Syria. 
·         H.Res. 296 (S.Res. 180 in the Senate). Expresses support for peaceful demonstrations and universal freedoms in Syria and condemns the human rights violations by the Assad Regime. 
·         H.R. 2105, The Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Reform and Modernization Act of 2011. States that it shall be U.S. policy to fully implement and enforce sanctions against Iran, North Korea, and Syria for their proliferation activities and policies. 
·         S. 1048, The Iran, North Korea, and Syria Sanctions Consolidation Act of 2011. Amends the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act to include in the scope of such act a person that (1) acquired materials mined or extracted within North Korea’s territory or control; or (2) provided shipping services for the transportation of goods to or from Iran, North Korea, or Syria relating to such countries’ weapons of mass destruction programs, support for acts of international terrorism, or human rights abuses. Excludes from such provisions shipping services for emergency or humanitarian purposes. 
·         S. 1472, The Syria Sanctions Act of 2011. Denies companies that conduct business in Syria’s energy sector (investment, oil purchases, and sale of gasoline) access to U.S. financial institutions and requires federal contractors to certify that they are not engaged in sanctionable activity.


Date of Report: September 22, 2011
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: RL33487
Price: $29.95

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


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Stated U.S. policy is to ensure that Afghanistan will not again become a base for terrorist attacks against the United States. Following policy reviews in 2009, the Obama Administration asserted that it was pursuing a well-resourced and integrated military-civilian strategy intended to pave the way for a gradual transition to Afghan leadership from July 2011 until the end of 2014. To carry out U.S. policy, a total of 51,000 additional U.S. forces were authorized by the two 2009 reviews, bringing U.S. troop numbers to a high of about 99,000, with partner forces adding about 42,000. On June 22, 2011, President Obama announced that the policy had accomplished most major U.S. goals and that a drawdown of 33,000 U.S. troops would take place by September 2012. The first 10,000 of these are to be withdrawn by the end of 2011. The transition to Afghan leadership began, as planned, in July 2011 in the first wave of areas, four cities and three full provinces, and some U.S. troops have been withdrawn. Amid widespread doubts that Afghan governance and security institutions will be strong enough to protect themselves by the end of 2014, U.S. and Afghan officials are negotiating a “strategic partnership” that would guide the long-term relationship, although differences over U.S. latitude to conduct operations have slowed negotiations.

The death of Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in a U.S. raid on May 1, 2011, has caused some to argue that overarching U.S. goals will not be jeopardized by the U.S. drawdown. However, Al Qaeda has had a minimal presence on the Afghanistan battlefield itself since 2001, and the official U.S. military view is that security gains achieved against mostly Taliban and affiliated Afghan insurgent groups in 2010 remain “fragile and reversible.” Some believe that a negotiated settlement to the Afghanistan conflict has become more likely in the aftermath of bin Laden’s death, and both Afghan and U.S. officials have begun talks with Taliban figures. There are major concerns among Afghanistan’s minorities and among its women that reconciliation might produce compromises that erode the freedoms enjoyed since 2001.

Others believe that the crucial variable is the quality and extent of Afghan governance. In particular, President Hamid Karzai’s failure to forcefully confront governmental corruption has caused a loss of Afghan support for his government. However, the Administration view is that governance is expanding and improving slowly. U.S. officials also hope to draw on Afghanistan’s vast mineral resources to promote long-term growth—several major mining, agricultural, and even energy development programs, mostly funded by private investment, have begun in the past few years, with more in various stages of consideration.

The United States is placing increased emphasis on ensuring regional support for Afghanistan’s stability and development. U.S. officials maintain that all of Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Pakistan and Iran, should cease using Afghanistan to promote their own interests and instead help Afghanistan reemerge as a major regional trade route. Some strategists doubt that Afghanistan can be rendered permanently stable unless Afghan militants are denied safe haven in Pakistan.

Much of the development to date has been accomplished with foreign, particularly U.S., help, although donor aid is likely to decline as the transition proceeds. Through the end of FY2011, the United States has provided over $67 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, of which about $30 billion has been to equip and train Afghan forces. During FY2001- FY2011, the Afghan intervention has cost about $443 billion, including all costs. For FY2012, about $17 billion in aid (including train and equip) is requested, in addition to about $100 billion for U.S. military operations there. (See CRS Report RS21922, Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance, by Kenneth Katzman.)



Date of Report: September 22, 2011
Number of Pages: 101
Order Number: RL30588
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Egypt in Transition


Jeremy M. Sharp
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

On February 11, 2011, President Hosni Mubarak resigned from the presidency after 29 years in power. For 18 days, a popular peaceful uprising spread across Egypt and ultimately forced Mubarak to cede power to the military. How Egypt transitions to a more democratic system in the months ahead will have major implications for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and for other countries in the region ruled by monarchs and dictators.

This report provides a brief overview of the transition underway and information on U.S. foreign aid to Egypt. U.S. policy toward Egypt has long been framed as an investment in regional stability, built primarily on long-running military cooperation and sustaining the March 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. Successive U.S. Administrations have viewed Egypt’s government as a moderating influence in the Middle East. U.S. policy makers are now grappling with complex questions about the future of U.S.-Egypt relations, and these debates are likely to influence consideration of appropriations and authorization legislation in the 112th Congress. The United States has provided Egypt with an annual average of $2 billion in economic and military foreign assistance since 1979. For FY2012, the Obama Administration has requested $1.551 billion in total aid to Egypt.

On July 27, 2011, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs marked up its FY2012 State-Foreign Operations appropriation, proposing that Egypt receive the full FY2012 request ($1.551 billion), including $1.3 billion in military aid, and that military aid should also be used for “border security programs and activities in the Sinai, with the expectation that the Egyptian military will continue to adhere to and implement its international obligations, particularly the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.” Section 7042 of the draft bill also provides up to $250 million in economic assistance to Egypt though it specifies these funds are not available until the Secretary of State certifies and reports to the Committees on Appropriations that the Government of Egypt is not controlled by a foreign terrorist organization or its affiliates or supporters, is implementing the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, and is taking steps to detect and destroy the smuggling network and tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza strip. The bill further states that no U.S. economic assistance in the bill may be used to “reduce, reschedule, or forgive the debt of the Government of Egypt to the United States Government unless authorized for such purposes.”



Date of Report: September 21, 2011
Number of Pages: 19
Order Number: RL33003
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Palestinian Initiatives for 2011 at the United Nations


Jim Zanotti
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs

Marjorie Ann Browne
Specialist in International Relations


Many Members of Congress are actively interested in the question of possible U.N. action on Palestinian statehood. Congress could try to influence U.S. policy and the choices of other actors through the authorization and appropriation of foreign assistance to the Palestinians, the United Nations, and Israel and through oversight of the Obama Administration’s diplomatic efforts. Changes to aid levels may depend on congressional views of how maintaining or changing aid levels could affect U.S. leverage and credibility in future regional and global contexts.

Officials from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian Authority (PA) are taking action in the United Nations aimed at solidifying international support for Palestinian statehood. On September 23, 2011, at the opening of the annual session of the General Assembly, PLO Chairman and PA President Mahmoud Abbas submitted an application for Palestinian state membership to the U.N. Secretary-General—on the basis of the armistice lines that prevailed before the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 (the “1967 borders”)—in order to bring about a Security Council vote on whether to recommend membership. Abbas cites a lack of progress on the peace process with Israel as the driving factor behind PLO consideration of alternative pathways toward a Palestinian state. The Obama Administration has indicated that it will veto a Security Council resolution in favor of statehood. In an alternate or parallel scenario, an existing U.N. member state supportive of PLO plans may sponsor a resolution in the General Assembly. Such a resolution could—with a simple majority vote—recommend the recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders—either as-is or subject to future Israel-PLO negotiation—and change Palestine’s permanent observer status in the United Nations from that of an “entity” to that of a “non-member state.” U.S., Israeli, and PLO diplomacy focused on Europe—particularly permanent Security Council members France and the United Kingdom—has been active and could further intensify as the time for a possible vote draws closer. Diplomacy also might currently or in the future include negotiations regarding the venue for, and the timing and wording of, potential resolutions or other actions on Palestinian statehood.

This report provides information on the U.N. framework and process for options being discussed, including overviews of the following topics: the United Nations and recognition of states, observer status in the United Nations, and the criteria and process for United Nations membership. The report also analyzes the prospects for avoiding U.N. action by reaching an Israel-PLO agreement to resume negotiations, as well as the possibility of a compromise U.N. resolution that could set forth parameters for future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations but stop short of addressing the question of Palestinian statehood beyond expressing aspirations.

It is difficult to predict the potential future implications of U.N. action on Palestinian statehood. Some observers speculate that tightened Israeli security with respect to the West Bank and Gaza and popular unrest or civil disobedience among Palestinians could ensue, depending on various scenarios. Although Abbas maintains that he seeks an eventual return to U.S.-backed Israel-PLO negotiations on a more equal basis, an upgrade of the Palestinians’ status at the U.N. also could facilitate subsequent efforts to apply greater pressure on Israel, especially if the PLO gains greater ability to present grievances in international courts—such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or International Criminal Court (ICC). Whether U.N. action or its aftermath would make Israel more or less willing to offer concessions in a negotiating process remains unclear, especially in light of ongoing regional political change and the volatility and possible deterioration of Israel’s political and military relationships with Egypt and Turkey.



Date of Report:
September 23, 2011
Number of Pages: 3
2
Order Number: R4202
2
Price: $29.95

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Friday, September 23, 2011

India: Domestic Issues, Strategic Dynamics, and U.S. Relations


K. Alan Kronstadt, Coordinator
Specialist in South Asian Affairs

Paul K. Kerr
Analyst in Nonproliferation

Michael F. Martin
Specialist in Asian Affairs

Bruce Vaughn
Specialist in Asian Affairs


South Asia emerged in the 21st century as increasingly vital to core U.S. foreign policy interests. India, the region’s dominant actor with more than 1 billion citizens, is often characterized as a nascent great power and “indispensable partner” of the United States, one that many analysts view as a potential counterweight to China’s growing clout. Since 2004, Washington and New Delhi have been pursuing a “strategic partnership” based on shared values and apparently convergent geopolitical interests. Numerous economic, security, and global initiatives, including plans for civilian nuclear cooperation, are underway. This latter initiative—first launched in 2005 and codified in U.S. law in 2008—reversed three decades of U.S. nonproliferation policy, but has not been implemented to date. Also in 2005, the United States and India signed a ten-year defense framework agreement to expanding bilateral security cooperation. The two countries now engage in numerous and unprecedented combined military exercises, and major U.S. arms sales to India are underway. The value of all bilateral trade tripled from 2004 to 2008 and continues to grow; significant two-way investment also flourishes. The influence of a large, relatively wealthy, and increasingly influential Indian-American community is reflected in Congress’s largest countryspecific caucus. More than 100,000 Indian students are attending American universities.

Further U.S. attention on South Asia focuses on ongoing, historically rooted tensions between India and Pakistan. In the interests of regional stability, in particular as a means of facilitating U.S.-led efforts to stabilize nearby Afghanistan, the United States strongly endorses an existing, but largely moribund India-Pakistan peace initiative, and remains concerned about the potential for conflict over Kashmiri sovereignty to cause open hostilities between these two nuclear-armed countries. The United States also seeks to curtail the proliferation of nuclear weapons and missiles in South Asia.

President Barack Obama’s Administration has sought to build upon the deepened U.S. engagement with India begun by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and expanded upon during much of the past decade under President G.W. Bush. This “U.S.-India 3.0” diplomacy was most recently on display in July 2011, when the second U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue session saw a large delegation of senior U.S. officials visit New Delhi to discuss a broad range of global and bilateral issues. Many analysts view the U.S.-India relationship as being among the world’s most important in coming decades and see potentially large benefits to be accrued through engagement on many convergent interests. Bilateral initiatives are underway in all areas, although independent analysts in both countries worry that the partnership has lost momentum in recent years. Outstanding areas of bilateral friction include obstacles to bilateral trade and investment, including in the high-technology sector; outsourcing; the status of conflict in Afghanistan; climate change; and stalled efforts to initiate civil nuclear cooperation.

India is the world’s most populous democracy and remains firmly committed to representative government and rule of law. Its left-leaning Congress Party-led ruling national coalition has been in power for more than seven years under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, an Oxford-trained economist. New Delhi’s engagement with regional and other states is extensive and reflects its rising geopolitical status. The national economy has been growing rapidly— India’s is projected to be the world’s third-largest economy in the foreseeable future—yet poor infrastructure, booming energy demand, and restrictive trade and investment practices are seen to hamper full economic potential. Despite the growth of a large urban middle-class, India’s remains a largely rural and agriculture-based society, and is home to some 500-600 million people living in poverty.



Date of Report: September 1, 2011
Number of Pages: 99
Order Number: RL33529
Price: $29.95

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