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Preventing a Nuclear-Armed Iran: Requirements for a Comprehensive Nuclear Agreement

April 9, 2014 Comments off

Preventing a Nuclear-Armed Iran: Requirements for a Comprehensive Nuclear Agreement
Source: Brookings Institution

After a dozen-year standoff between Iran and the international community over the Iranian nuclear program, negotiations are underway between representatives of Iran, on the one hand, and the P5+1 countries (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China) and the European Union, on the other, on a comprehensive agreement aimed at ensuring that an Iranian nuclear program declared to be devoted to peaceful purposes will not be turned into a program for producing nuclear weapons.

However, key differences exist on the requirements of an acceptable deal, not just among negotiators at the table but also among key players outside the negotiations. Israeli officials and a number of members of Congress are demanding the elimination of key elements of Iran’s nuclear program, and the Obama administration and its supporters counter that several of those demands are neither achievable nor necessary for a sound agreement.

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Textbook Diplomacy: Why the State Department Shelved a Study on Incitement in Saudi Education Materials

March 27, 2014 Comments off

Textbook Diplomacy: Why the State Department Shelved a Study on Incitement in Saudi Education Materials (PDF)
Source: Foundation for the Defense of Democracy
From press release:

Though first noted as problematic more than a decade ago by the Department of State, incitement and hatred continues to be taught from government textbooks to students in Saudi Arabia. Today, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) released a monograph exploring why a 2011 U.S. government-commissioned study on the subject has been withheld from the public, what is being taught in Saudi schools today, and how official incitement impacts U.S. national security.

AU — The G20: a quick guide

March 26, 2014 Comments off

The G20: a quick guide
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

This is a quick guide to basic information about the G20, as well as links to useful summary resources. The G20 background section includes the G20’s history, its members, the hosting system and G20 meeting processes, as well as a brief discussion of selected policy areas. Material on Australia and the G20 includes Australia’s involvement in the G20, Australia’s G20 goals for 2014 and speeches and press releases on the G20. A short list of links provides access to more resources on the G20.

Arab Women Rising: 35 Entrepreneurs Making a Difference in the Arab World

March 24, 2014 Comments off

Arab Women Rising: 35 Entrepreneurs Making a Difference in the Arab World
Source: Knowledge@Wharton

Recent decades have seen greatly expanded opportunities for women throughout the Arab world, leveling the playing field as never before.

In Arab Women Rising, Knowledge@Wharton contributors Nafeesa Syeed and Rahilla Zafar share the entrepreneurial journeys of 35 women, from a flower farmer tending her fields in the Tunisian countryside to a Saudi royal advocating for expanded women’s rights throughout the kingdom.

This Knowledge@Wharton collection tells the stories of:

  • Pioneers who are establishing exciting technology companies in a region where mobile usage is on the upswing
  • Small and midsize business owners who started enterprises specializing in everything from public relations to the arts
  • Innovators who have rolled out new products, revamped fashions, and integrated new services into their industries
  • Visionaries tapping the big-picture potential the region holds in such growing fields as entertainment and science
  • Women effectively spearheading change in their communities by starting social enterprises

Inspiring and powerful, Arab Women Rising is a guide to understanding the modern business environment created and led by a new generation of women entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa.

CRS — Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses (updated)

March 19, 2014 Comments off

Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

A priority of Obama Administration policy has been to reduce the perceived threat posed by Iran to a broad range of U.S. interests. Well before Iran’s nuclear issue rose to the forefront of U.S. concerns about Iran in 2003, the United States had seen Iran’s support for regional militant groups, such as Lebanese Hezbollah, as efforts to undermine U.S. interests and allies. To implement U.S. policy, the Obama Administration has orchestrated broad international economic pressure on Iran to try to compel it to verifiably demonstrate to the international community that its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes. That pressure harmed Iran’s economy, created Iranian domestic sentiment for a negotiated nuclear settlement that would produce an easing of international sanctions, and paved the way for the June 2013 election of the relatively moderate Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran. Three rounds of subsequent multilateral talks with Iran achieved a November 24, 2013, interim agreement (“Joint Plan of Action”) that halts the expansion of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for modest and temporary sanctions relief. Subsequent negotiations led to a decision to implement the JPA beginning January 20, 2014, and that mutual implementation has proceeded as planned. A framework for talks on the permanent resolution were agreed between Iran and the six negotiating powers on February 20, 2014.

CRS — Israel: Background and U.S. Relations (updated)

March 10, 2014 Comments off

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Since Israel’s founding in 1948, successive U.S. Presidents and many Members of Congress have demonstrated a commitment to Israel’s security and to maintaining close U.S.-Israel defense, diplomatic, and economic cooperation. U.S. and Israeli leaders have developed close relations based on common perceptions of shared democratic values and religious affinities. U.S. policy makers often seek to determine how events and U.S. policy choices in the Middle East may affect Israel’s security, and Congress provides active oversight of executive branch dealings with Israel and other actors in the region. Some Members of Congress and some analysts criticize what they perceive as U.S. support for Israel without sufficient scrutiny of its actions or their implications for U.S. interests. Israel is a leading recipient of U.S. foreign aid and is a frequent purchaser of major U.S. weapons systems. The United States and Israel maintain close security cooperation— predicated on a U.S. commitment and legal requirement to maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over other countries in its region. The two countries signed a free trade agreement in 1985, and the United States is Israel’s largest trading partner. For more information, see CRS Report RL33222, U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel, by Jeremy M. Sharp.

Israel has many regional security concerns. By criticizing the international interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program that went into effect in January 2014, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may seek to give Israel a voice in an ongoing negotiating process in which it does not directly participate. In addition to concerns over Iran, Israel’s perceptions of security around its borders have changed since early 2011 as several surrounding Arab countries—including Egypt and Syria—have experienced political upheaval. Israel has shown particular concern about threats from Hezbollah and other non-state groups in ungoverned or minimally governed areas in Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, as well as from Hamas and other Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

CRS — Syria: Overview of the Humanitarian Response

March 6, 2014 Comments off

Syria: Overview of the Humanitarian Response (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The ongoing conflict in Syria that began in March 2011 has created one of the most pressing humanitarian crises in the world. As of early February 2014, an estimated 9.3 million people in Syria, nearly half the population, have been affected by the conflict. This figure includes estimates of between 6.5 million displaced inside Syria and 2.4 million Syrians displaced as refugees, with 97% fleeing to countries in the immediate surrounding region, including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and other parts of North Africa. The situation is fluid and continues to worsen, while humanitarian needs are immense and increase daily.

While internationally supervised disarmament of chemical weapons in Syria is proceeding, albeit with some difficulty, U.S. and international diplomatic efforts to negotiate a political end to the fighting in Syria opened on January 22, 2014, in Montreux, Switzerland. The “Geneva II” talks include some members of the Syrian opposition, representatives of the Syrian government, and other government leaders. The talks came to an end on January 31 and resumed February 10-15, 2014, but ended with little progress in efforts to end the civil war. The parties reportedly agreed to an agenda for the next round of talks. Many experts and observers hoped that a lasting agreement would have been reached on “humanitarian pauses” to allow access and relief to thousands of civilians blockaded in towns and cities in Syria. On February 22, 2014, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2139 (2014) to increase humanitarian access and aid delivery in Syria.

CRS — Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations (updated)

February 25, 2014 Comments off

Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Service)

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, ruled by the Al Saud family since its founding in 1932, wields significant global political and economic influence as the birthplace of the Islamic faith and by virtue of its large oil reserves. Close U.S.-Saudi official relations have survived a series of challenges since the 1940s, and, in recent years, shared concerns over Al Qaeda-inspired terrorism and Iranian regional ambitions have provided a renewed logic for continued strategic cooperation. The ongoing political upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa is changing the dynamics of long-running reform debates in the kingdom. The full effect of these events on the kingdom and on U.S.-Saudi relations has yet to be determined. Official U.S. concerns about human rights and religious freedom in the kingdom persist, and some Members of Congress have expressed skepticism about Saudi leaders’ commitment to combating religious extremism and sharing U.S. policy priorities in the Middle East and South Asia. However, Bush and Obama Administration officials have referred to the Saudi government as an important regional partner in recent years, and U.S. arms sales and related training programs have continued with congressional oversight. Since October 2010, Congress has been notified of proposed sales to Saudi Arabia of fighter aircraft, helicopters, missile defense systems, missiles, bombs, armored vehicles and related equipment and services, with a potential value of more than $86 billion.

CRS — Lebanon: Background and U.S. Policy (updated)

February 25, 2014 Comments off

Lebanon: Background and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Lebanon’s small geographic size and population belie the important role it has long played in the security, stability, and economy of the Levant and the broader Middle East. Congress and the executive branch have recognized Lebanon’s status as a venue for regional strategic competition and have engaged diplomatically, financially, and at times, militarily to influence events there. For most of its independent existence, Lebanon has been torn by periodic civil conflict and political battles between rival religious sects and ideological groups. External military intervention, occupation, and interference have exacerbated Lebanon’s political struggles in recent decades.

CRS — Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy (updated)

February 25, 2014 Comments off

Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Service)

The uprising against Bahrain’s Al Khalifa royal family that began in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, amidst other regional uprisings, has not toppled Bahrain’s regime or achieved the goals of the mostly Shiite opposition to establish a constitutional monarchy. Demonstrations have continued, although smaller and less frequent since mid-2013, as Bahrain’s Shiites seek to bring pressure to bear on the Sunni-dominated government to increase Shiite political influence and rights. The government has arrested and sought to intimidate Shiite leaders while asserting that the opposition is radicalizing, using bombings and other violent tactics against security officials. The crisis has demonstrated that the grievances of the Shiite majority over the distribution of power and economic opportunities were not satisfied by the modest reforms during 1999-2010.

CRS — Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations (updated)

February 25, 2014 Comments off

Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report provides an overview of Jordanian politics and current issues in U.S.-Jordanian relations. It provides a brief discussion of Jordan’s government and economy and of its cooperation with U.S. policy objectives in the Middle East, including the promotion of Arab-Israeli peace.

CRS — Qatar: Background and U.S. Relations

February 25, 2014 Comments off

Qatar: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Qatar, a small peninsular country in the Persian Gulf, emerged as a partner of the United States in the mid-1990s and currently serves as host to major U.S. military facilities. Qatar holds the third largest proven natural gas reserves in the world, and is the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas. Its small citizenry enjoys the world’s highest per capita income. Since the mid-1990s, Qatari leaders have overseen a course of major economic growth, increased diplomatic engagement, and very limited political liberalization. The Qatari monarchy founded Al Jazeera, the first all-news Arabic language satellite television network, in 1995. Over time, the network has proven to be as influential and, at times, as controversial as the policies of its founders, including during recent unrest in the Arab world.

CRS — Kuwait: Security, Reform, and U.S. Policy (updated)

February 25, 2014 Comments off

Kuwait: Security, Reform, and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Kuwait has been pivotal to all the U.S. interventions in the Persian Gulf region since the 1980s because of its location, its role as the object of past Iraqi aggression, and its close cooperation with the United States. Kuwait remains a key to the U.S. ability to act militarily in the northern Persian Gulf region now that all U.S. forces have left Iraq. Kuwait’s relations with the post- Saddam government in Iraq have warmed significantly in recent years through resolution of many of the territorial, economic, and political issues from the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Although the threat from Iraq has abated, Kuwait is increasingly suspicious of Iranian intentions in the Gulf, aligning Kuwait with U.S. efforts to contain Iranian power in the Gulf. Still, Kuwait maintains relatively normal economic and political relations with Iran so as not to provoke it to take military action or to provide material support to pro-Iranian elements inside Kuwait. Regional issues were the focus of meeting between the Amir of Kuwait and President Obama on September 13, 2013, during the Amir’s visit to Washington, DC.

CRS — The Palestinians: Background and U.S. Relations (Updated)

February 25, 2014 Comments off

The Palestinians: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report covers current issues in U.S.-Palestinian relations. It also contains an overview of Palestinian society and politics and descriptions of key Palestinian individuals and groups— chiefly the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Palestinian Authority (PA), Fatah, Hamas, and the Palestinian refugee population. The “Palestinian question” is important not only to Palestinians, Israelis, and their Arab state neighbors, but to many countries and non-state actors in the region and around the world—including the United States—for a variety of religious, cultural, and political reasons. U.S. policy toward the Palestinians is marked by efforts to establish a Palestinian state through a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; to counter Palestinian terrorist groups; and to establish norms of democracy, accountability, and good governance in West Bank areas administered by the Fatah-led PA. Congress has appropriated assistance to support Palestinian governance and development while trying to prevent the funds from benefitting Palestinians who advocate violence against Israelis. Since the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993, Congress has committed more than $5 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, over half of it since mid-2007.

CRS — Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights (updated)

February 25, 2014 Comments off

Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

More than two years after the 2011 U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, sectarian divisions and the Sunniled uprising in neighboring Syria have fueled a revival of radical Islamist Sunni Muslim insurgent groups that are attempting to undermine Iraq’s stability. Iraq’s Sunni Arab Muslims resent the Shiite political domination and perceived discrimination by the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Iraq’s Kurds are embroiled in separate political disputes with the Baghdad government over territorial, political, and economic issues. The rifts caused a significant uprising led by the Sunni insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq, now also known by the name Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), that began December 26, 2013 and gained control of several cities in Anbar Province. Earlier, unrest delayed some provincial elections during April-June 2013 and the latest uprising could affect the legitimacy of national elections for a new parliament and government set for April 30, 2014. Maliki is widely expected to seek to retain his post after that vote.

CRS — Yemen: Background and U.S. Relations (updated)

February 25, 2014 Comments off

Yemen: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report provides an overview and analysis of U.S.-Yemeni relations amidst evolving political change in Yemeni leadership, ongoing U.S. counterterrorism operations against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operatives at large in Yemen’s hinterlands, and international efforts to bolster the country’s stability despite an array of daunting socio-economic problems. Congress and U.S. policymakers may be concerned with prospects for stabilizing Yemen and establishing strong bilateral relations with future Yemeni leaders.

CRS — Iran: U.S. Economic Sanctions and the Authority to Lift Restrictions

February 25, 2014 Comments off

Iran: U.S. Economic Sanctions and the Authority to Lift Restrictions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The United States has led the international community in imposing economic sanctions on Iran, in an effort to change the government of that country’s support of acts of international terrorism, poor human rights record, weapons and missile development and acquisition, role in regional instability, and development of a nuclear program.

This report identifies the legislative bases for sanctions imposed on Iran, and the nature of the authority to waive or lift those restrictions. It comprises two tables that present legislation and executive orders that are specific to Iran and its objectionable activities in the areas of terrorism, human rights, and weapons proliferation. It will be updated if and when new legislation is enacted, or, in the case of executive orders, if and when the President takes additional steps to change U.S. policy toward Iran.

Other CRS reports address the U.S.-Iran relationship, including a comprehensive discussion of the practical application of economic sanctions: CRS Report RS20871, Iran Sanctions, by Kenneth Katzman. See also CRS Report R43333, Interim Agreement on Iran’s Nuclear Program, by Kenneth Katzman and Paul K. Kerr; CRS Report RL32048, Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, by Kenneth Katzman; and CRS Report R40094, Iran’s Nuclear Program: Tehran’s Compliance with International Obligations, by Paul K. Kerr.

Country Analysis Brief: Syria

February 24, 2014 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Syria
Source: Energy Information Administration

Syria’s energy sector is in turmoil because of the ongoing hostilities between government and opposition forces. Syria’s oil and natural gas production has declined dramatically since March 2011 because of the conflict and because of the subsequent imposition of sanctions by the United States and European Union in particular. Syria’s energy sector is unlikely to recover in the near term.

Country Analysis Brief: Qatar

February 1, 2014 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Qatar
Source: Energy Information Administration

Like many of its neighbors, Qatar relies on its energy sector to support its economy. According to the Qatar National Bank (QNB), Qatar’s earnings from its hydrocarbons sector accounted for 60% of the country’s total government revenues over the past five fiscal years (through fiscal year 2012-13). The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that Qatar earned $55 billion from net oil exports in 2012, and QNB estimates that the oil and natural gas sector of Qatar accounted for 57.8% of the country’s gross domestic product in 2012.

Qatar was the world’s fourth largest dry natural gas producer in 2012 (behind the United States, Russia, and Iran), and has been the world’s leading liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter since 2006. Qatar is also at the forefront of gas-to-liquids (GTL) production, and the country is home to the world’s largest GTL facility. The growth in Qatar’s natural gas production, particularly since 2000, has also increased Qatar’s total liquids production, as lease condensates, natural gas plant liquids, and other petroleum liquids are a significant (and valuable) byproduct of natural gas production.

Qatar produced nearly 1.6 million barrels per day (bbl/d) of liquid fuels (crude oil, condensates, natural gas plant liquids, gas-to-liquids, and other liquids) in 2013, of which 730,000 bbl/d was crude oil and the remainder was non-crude liquids. While Qatar is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the country is the second-smallest crude oil producer among the 12-member group. Natural gas meets the vast majority of Qatar’s domestic energy demand, so the country is able to export most of its liquid fuels production. Given its small population, Qatar’s energy needs are met almost entirely by domestic sources.

CRS — Iran Sanctions (updated)

January 31, 2014 Comments off

Iran Sanctions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Strict sanctions on Iran—sanctions that primarily target Iran’s key energy sector and its access to the international financial system—harmed Iran’s economy to the point where Iran’s leaders, on November 24, 2013, accepted an interim agreement the thrust of which is to halt further expansion of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for apparently modest sanctions relief. The June 14, 2013, election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s president was an indication of the growing public pressure on the regime to achieve an easing of sanctions.

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