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New From the GAO

October 21, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Combating Terrorism: Strategy to Counter Iran in the Western Hemisphere Has Gaps That State Department Should Address. GAO-14-834, September 29.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-834
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666199.pdf

2. Federal Paid Administrative Leave: Additional Guidance Needed to Improve OPM Data. GAO-15-79, October 17.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-79
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666565.pdf

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Country Analysis Brief: Yemen

October 21, 2014 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Yemen
Source: Energy Information Administration

Yemen’s energy sector is in a state of flux. Declining oil production and frequent attacks on Yemen’s energy infrastructure have offset positive developments in the country’s natural gas sector since 2009. Yemen’s difficult security environment complicates the exploration, production, and transport of energy resources in the country, and could undermine the country’s emerging liquefied natural gas (LNG) export sector.

Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Progress and Continuing Challenges, CRS Insights (October 1, 2014)

October 8, 2014 Comments off

Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Progress and Continuing Challenges, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

On August 18, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced the complete destruction of Syria’s declared chemical weapons (CW). Despite this significant achievement, serious challenges relating to Syrian CW remain. In early September, the Syrian regime announced previously undeclared chemical weapons research facilities, raising questions about what else it might be concealing. Repeated reports have alleged chlorine gas attacks by the Assad regime. Moreover, press reports speculate that insecure chemical weapons stocks in Syria and Iraq may have gotten into the hands of the Islamic State (ISIL). Most of these questions cannot yet be answered definitively, but the fate of Syria’s CW capabilities warrants continued attention.

Israel’s Iron Dome Anti-Rocket System: U.S. Assistance and Coproduction, CRS Insights (September 30, 2014)

October 8, 2014 Comments off

Israel’s Iron Dome Anti-Rocket System: U.S. Assistance and Coproduction, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Israel’s Iron Dome anti-rocket system—along with other Israeli measures such as an early-warning and sheltering system—has been widely credited with protecting the country’s civilian population from projectiles fired by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. During the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas and other Gaza-based militants (which Israel refers to as Operation Protective Edge), many lawmakers praised the performance of Iron Dome. On August 1, Congress passed H.J.Res. 76, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Resolution, 2014 (P.L. 113-145), which appropriated an additional $225 million in FY2014 funds for Iron Dome. This brings total U.S. defense appropriations for Iron Dome since FY2011 to $929.3 million. For more information on Iron Dome, see CRS Report RL33222, U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel; and CRS Report RL33476, Israel: Background and U.S. Relations.

CRS — Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses (October 1, 2014)

October 8, 2014 Comments off

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

Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, a priority of U.S. policy has been to reduce the perceived threat posed by Iran to a broad range of U.S. interests. However, a common enemy has emerged in the form of the Islamic State organization, reducing gaps in U.S. and Iranian interests somewhat.

During the 1980s and 1990s, U.S. officials identified Iran’s support for militant Middle East groups as a significant threat to U.S. interests and allies. A perceived potential threat from Iran’s nuclear program came to the fore in 2002, and the United States orchestrated broad international economic pressure on Iran to try to compel it to verifiably confine that program to purely peaceful purposes. The pressure has harmed Iran’s economy and might have contributed to the June 2013 election as president of Iran of the relatively moderate Hassan Rouhani, who campaigned as an advocate of ending Iran’s international isolation. Subsequent multilateral talks with Iran produced an interim agreement (“Joint Plan of Action,” JPA) that halted the expansion of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for modest sanctions relief. In advance of a November 24, 2014 deadline for the JPA to expire, the search for a “comprehensive solution” on the nuclear issue remains impeded by substantial differences over Iran’s long-term capacity to enrich uranium Talks to try to finalize a comprehensive deal began September 18 and will continue until that deadline.

CRS — Proposed Train and Equip Authorities for Syria: In Brief (September 16, 2014)

October 1, 2014 Comments off

Proposed Train and Equip Authorities for Syria: In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

The President’s requests for authority and funding for the Department of Defense to provide overt assistance, including possible military training and weapons, to vetted members of the Syrian opposition and other vetted Syrians for select purposes are the subject of close congressional consideration. This report introduces these proposals and the analysis and table below explore similarities and differences among some of these proposals.

The “Khorasan Group” in Syria, CRS Insights (September 24, 2014)

October 1, 2014 Comments off

The “Khorasan Group” in Syria, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

On September 22, U.S. military forces launched strikes against Syria-based terrorists referred to by U.S. officials as the “Khorasan Group,” whose members President Obama has described as “seasoned Al Qaeda operatives in Syria.” According to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, the group “includes some former al Qaeda operatives, core al Qaeda operatives from Afghanistan and Pakistan [a region historically known as Khorasan] who made their way to Syria.” Rhodes added that the Administration views the Khorasan Group as “an extension of the threat posed by al Qaeda and their associated forces. These are individuals who have their origin, their history serving in al Qaeda.” Other U.S. officials and independent observers report that the group’s members may hold leadership roles in the Al Qaeda-affiliated Syrian insurgent organization known as Jabhat al Nusra (the Support Front), which the United States has designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). Former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell has described the “Khorasan Group” as “the external operations arm” of Jabhat al Nusra, saying its members “came from Pakistan” and “focus on attacks in the West.” Despite this reported affiliation, some observers believe the approximately 50 to 100 members of the “Khorasan Group” focus primarily on planning international terrorist acts, rather than aiding Jabhat al Nusra’s efforts to topple the Asad regime.

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