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Middle East Transitions: A Long, Hard Road

August 11, 2014 Comments off

Middle East Transitions: A Long, Hard Road
Source: International Monetary Fund

Since the onset of the Arab Spring, economic uncertainty in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen (Arab Countries in Transition, ACTs) has slowed already sluggish growth; worsened unemployment, particularly of youth; undermined business confidence, affected tourist arrivals, and depressed domestic and foreign direct investment. Furthermore, political and social tensions have constrained reform efforts. Assessing policy options as presented in the voluminous literature on the Arab Spring and based on cross-country experience, this paper concludes that sustainable and inclusive growth calls for a two pronged approach: short term measures that revive growth momentum and partially allay popular concerns; complemented with efforts to adjust the public’s expectations and prepare the ground for structural reforms that will deliver the desired longer tem performance.

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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.

FACTBOX — Women’s rights in the Arab world

November 23, 2013 Comments off

FACTBOX — Women’s rights in the Arab world
Source: Thompson Reuters

Egypt is the worst country for women in the Arab world, closely followed by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, according to gender experts surveyed in a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll released on Tuesday.

Comoros, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar came top of the survey, which assessed 22 Arab states on violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman’s role in politics and the economy.

The results were drawn from answers from 336 gender experts invited to participate in an online survey by the foundation, the philanthropic arm of the news and information company Thomson Reuters, in August and September.

+ Complete poll results

US: Reassess Targeted Killings in Yemen

October 23, 2013 Comments off

US: Reassess Targeted Killings in Yemen
Source: Human Rights Watch

United States targeted airstrikes against alleged terrorists in Yemen have killed civilians in violation of international law, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The strikes, often using armed drones, are creating a public backlash that undermines US efforts against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The 102-page report, “‘Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda’: The Civilian Cost of US Targeted Killings in Yemen,”examines six US targeted killings in Yemen, one from 2009 and the rest from 2012-2013. Two of the attacks killed civilians indiscriminately in clear violation of the laws of war; the others may have targeted people who were not legitimate military objectives or caused disproportionate civilian deaths.

Arab Countries in Transition – Economic Outlook and Key Challenges – Deauville Partnership Ministerial Meeting

October 11, 2013 Comments off

Arab Countries in Transition – Economic Outlook and Key Challenges – Deauville Partnership Ministerial Meeting
Source: International Monetary Fund

In an environment of heightened socio-economic tensions, regional insecurity, and strained public finances, the Arab Countries in Transition (ACTs) 1 face the difficult task of delivering on the expectations for jobs and growth. Despite patchy improvements in some countries, economic growth remains subdued, private investment is weak, and external and fiscal buffers are running low. Fostering social cohesion and avoiding a downward spiral of economic and political malaise calls for urgent implementation of economic reforms and coordinated support from the international community.

New Report: Yemen’s Stability Threatened

October 7, 2013 Comments off

New Report: Yemen’s Stability Threatened
Source: Chatham House

Yemen’s political transition, which has been held up as a potential model for conflict-affected states, is due to come to an end with a round of elections scheduled for 2014. Backers of the country’s peace plan believe that it will usher in a new, more equitable and peaceful era for Yemen.

But new research from Chatham House’s Yemen Forum shows that the structure of the political economy built up under former president Ali Abdullah Saleh has not been significantly affected by the transition, and that the same elite actors who set the country on a path to economic ruin are likely to prevail after the elections.

A new report, Yemen: Corruption, Capital Flight and Global Drivers of Conflict, argues that international factors, including capital flight to tax havens, play a role in encouraging corruption and developmental dysfunction in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country. Similar drivers are likely to play a role in blocking reform in the future.

Yemen was the world’s fifth largest source of illicit capital flows among Least Developed Countries between 1990 and 2008, with $12bn leaving the country. For every dollar spent on aid during that period, $2.7 left Yemen illegally, with politicians routinely using private banking channels to transfer their money into safer, more profitable jurisdictions outside Yemen, often in donor states.

The chronic problem of capital flight links Yemen to a wider global governance agenda over tax havens (secrecy jurisdictions), an issue that has been steadily rising in importance on the G8 and OECD policy agendas. While Yemen’s elites are able to systematically extract rents from oil, smuggling and aid, and siphon them out of the country, they have little or no incentive to improve the domestic situation, and tax revenues that are needed to fund Yemen’s development are undermined.

Meanwhile, security interests have shaped the strategy of Western and Gulf states in Yemen in the past decade, in which military aid to the Saleh regime has grown much more rapidly than development aid. However, short-term counter-terrorism priorities are not always consistent with domestic perceptions of political legitimacy, and the US drone strategy – supported by President Hadi – risks undermining Yemen’s stability in the long term.

All too often the focus on ‘fragile states’ revolves around domestic dynamics and ignores the international factors that incentivize personal enrichment at the cost of good governance. The report recommends that Western donors widen the scope of their political economy analysis to address the interaction between domestic and international factors that cause corruption in Yemen, and that the role of secrecy jurisdictions should be included in the revised Millennium Development Goals, beyond 2015.

Country Analysis Brief: Yemen

September 20, 2013 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Yemen
Source: Energy Information Administration

Although Yemen is not a major hydrocarbon producer relative to some of the other countries in the Middle East, oil and natural gas resources are sufficient to enable exports. However, Yemen’s difficult security environment hinders the production and transport of those resources.

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.

Yemen is not a major energy producer compared with other countries in the Middle East. Yemen’s crude oil production has never ranked in the top-30 globally, and the country used all of its natural gas production to aid in oil recovery until 2009. Nevertheless, the country’s location at the Bab el-Mandab, a key chokepoint in international shipping, makes it important in terms of international energy trade. More than 3.4 million barrels of oil per day (bbl/d) pass through Bab el-Mandab, and closure of the two-mile strait would force tankers to sail around the southern tip of Africa to reach European and North and South American markets.

Yemen is highly dependent on its hydrocarbons sector. Even with the earnings from natural gas exports, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that Yemen needs an oil export price of approximately $215 per barrel to balance its budget. IMF figures also show that nearly 60% of government revenues came from the hydrocarbons sector between 2010 and 2012. Yemen, as a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), reported in July 2013 that government revenues from the oil and gas sector in 2010 were more than $5 billion. IMF estimates indicate that in 2012 oil exports accounted for approximately 70 percent of hydrocarbon revenue, while natural gas exports accounted for just 3 percent.

Oil production in Yemen declined steadily after peaking in 2001, but beginning in 2009 the country began producing commercial quantities of natural gas for domestic use and for exports as LNG. This latter point could help the country stabilize its economy even without an extremely high oil export price. However, replacing oil export revenues with LNG export revenues does little to help the country reduce its dependence on its hydrocarbons sector.

The Struggle for Yemen and the Challenge of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

July 16, 2013 Comments off

The Struggle for Yemen and the Challenge of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
Source: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College

In recent years, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been widely recognized as a more dangerous regional and international terrorist organization than the original al-Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden until his death in 2011. In 2010-11, AQAP was able to present a strong challenge to Yemen’s government by capturing and retaining large areas in the southern part of the country. Yemen’s new reform President defeated AQAP and recaptured areas under their control in 2012, but the terrorists remain an extremely dangerous force seeking to reassert themselves at this time of transition in Yemen.

New From the GAO

March 20, 2013 Comments off

New GAO Reports

Source: Government Accountability Office

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
Concerns with Major Construction Projects at the Office of Environmental Management and NNSA
GAO-13-484T, Mar 20, 2013

FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
Causes and Consequences of Recent Failures of Community Banks
GAO-13-476T, Mar 20, 2013

U.S. ASSISTANCE TO YEMEN
Actions Needed to Improve Oversight of Emergency Food Aid and Assess Security Assistance
GAO-13-310, Mar 20, 2013

CRS — Arab League Boycott of Israel

March 15, 2013 Comments off

Arab League Boycott of Israel (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Office)

The Arab League, an umbrella organization comprising 22 Middle Eastern and African countries and entities, has maintained an official boycott of Israeli companies and Israeli-made goods since the founding of Israel in 1948. The boycott is administered by the Damascus-based Central Boycott Office, a specialized bureau of the Arab League.

The boycott has three tiers. The primary boycott prohibits citizens of an Arab League member from buying from, selling to, or entering into a business contract with either the Israeli government or an Israeli citizen. The secondary boycott extends the primary boycott to any entity world-wide that does business in Israel. A blacklist of global firms that engage in business with Israel is maintained by the Central Boycott Office, and disseminated to Arab League members. The tertiary boycott prohibits an Arab League member and its nationals from doing business with a company that deals with companies that have been blacklisted by the Arab League.

Since the boycott is sporadically applied and ambiguously enforced, its impact, measured by capital or revenue denied to Israel by companies adhering to the boycott, is difficult to measure. The effect of the primary boycott appears limited since intra-regional trade and investment are small. Enforcement of the secondary and tertiary boycotts has decreased over time, reducing their effect. Thus, it appears that since intra-regional trade is small, and that the secondary and tertiary boycotts are not aggressively enforced, the boycott may not currently have an extensive effect on the Israeli economy.

Despite the lack of economic impact on either Israeli or Arab economies, the boycott remains of strong symbolic importance to all parties. The U.S. government has often been at the forefront of international efforts to end the boycott and its enforcement. Despite U.S. efforts, however, many Arab League countries continue to support the boycott’s enforcement. U.S. legislative action related to the boycott dates from 1959 and includes multiple statutory provisions expressing U.S. opposition to the boycott, usually in foreign assistance legislation. In 1977, Congress passed laws making it illegal for U.S. companies to cooperate with the boycott and authorizing the imposition of civil and criminal penalties against U.S. violators. U.S. companies are required to report to the Department of Commerce any requests to comply with the Arab League Boycott.

The current list of countries that request U.S. companies to participate or agree to participate in boycotts prohibited under U.S. law includes Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

This report provides background information on the boycott and U.S. efforts to end its enforcement. More information on Israel is contained in CRS Report RL33476, Israel: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti.

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

November 26, 2012 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.

On November 23, 2011, after eleven months of protests and violence that claimed over 2,000 lives, then President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen signed on to a U.S.-backed, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-brokered transition plan. In line with the plan, Yemen held a presidential election in February 2012 with one consensus candidate on the ballot—former Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour al Hadi. He received 6.6 million votes and, on February 25, 2012, he was inaugurated before parliament.

Many Administration officials have declared that AQAP, the Yemeni-based terrorist organization that has attempted on several occasions to attack the U.S. homeland, is the most lethal of the Al Qaeda affiliates. In recent years, the Administration and Congress have supported an increased U.S. commitment of resources to counterterrorism and stabilization efforts there. Many analysts assert that Yemen is becoming a failed state and safe haven for Al Qaeda operatives and as such should be considered an active theater for U.S. counterterrorism operations. Given Yemen’s contentious political climate and its myriad development challenges, most long-time Yemen watchers suggest that security problems emanating from Yemen may persist in spite of increased U.S. or international efforts to combat them.

For FY2013, the Obama Administration is requesting $72.6 million in State Department administered economic and military aid for Yemen. The Administration ceased outlays of previously appropriated aid for Yemen during the past year due to political unrest there, although the delivery of some aid resumed in September 2011.

Does food security matter for transition in Arab countries?

August 13, 2012 Comments off

Does food security matter for transition in Arab countries?
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

Expectations are high that transition in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen will bring about more freedom, justice, and economic opportunities. However, experiences from other world regions show that countries in transition are at high risk of entering conflicts, which often come at large economic, social and political costs. In order to identify options on how conflict may be prevented in Arab transition countries, this paper assesses the key global drivers of conflicts based on a dataset from 1960 to 2010 and improved cross-country regression techniques. Results show that unlike in other studies where per capita incomes, inequality, and poor governance, among other factors, emerge as the major determinants of conflict, food security at macro- and micro-levels emerges as the main cause of conflicts in the Arab world. This “Arab exceptionalism in conflict” suggests that improving food security is not only important for improving the lives of rural and urban people; it is also likely to be the key for a peaceful transition.

The Rise of Diabetes Prevalence in the Arab Region

May 31, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Open Journal of Epidemiology
Introduction:
Arab populations have many similarities and dissimilarities. They share culture, language and religion but they are also subject to economic, political and social differences. The purpose of this study is to understand the causes of the rising trend of diabetes prevalence in order to suggest efficient actions susceptible to reduce the burden of diabetes in the Arab world.
Method:
We use principal component analysis to illustrate similarities and differences between Arab countries according to four variables: 1) the prevalence of diabetes, 2) impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), 3) diabetes related deaths and 4) diabetes related expenditure per person. A linear regression is also used to study the correlation between human development index and diabetes prevalence.
Results:
Arab countries are mainly classified into three groups according to the diabetes comparative prevalence (high, medium and low) but other differences are seen in terms of diabetes-related mortality and diabetes related expenditure per person. We also investigate the correlation between the human development index (HDI) and diabetes comparative prevalence (R = 0.81).
Conclusion:
The alarming rising trend of diabetes prevalence in the Arab region constitutes a real challenge for heath decision makers. In order to alleviate the burden of diabetes, preventive strategies are needed, based essentially on sensitization for a more healthy diet with regular exercise but health authorities are also asked to provide populations with heath- care and early diagnosis to avoid the high burden caused by complications of diabetes.

New From the GAO

February 29, 2012 Comments off

New GAO Report Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Uncertain Political and Security Situation Challenges U.S. Efforts to Implement a Comprehensive Strategy in Yemen. GAO-12-432R, February 29.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-432R

Country Analysis Brief: Yemen

February 17, 2012 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Yemen
Source: Energy Information Administration

Yemen is a relatively small oil and natural gas producer. However, it is important to the global oil trade because of its strategic location at the tip of the Arabian peninsula on the Bab el-Mandab, one of the world’s most important shipping lanes, through which an estimated 3.5 million barrels of oil passed daily in 2010. Disruption to shipping in the Bab el-Mandab could prevent tankers in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Aden from reaching the Suez Canal/Sumed pipeline complex, requiring a costly diversion around the southern tip of Africa to reach western markets.

In recent years, the region has seen rising piracy off the Somali coast, in the Gulf of Aden and southern Red Sea, reaching into the Indian Ocean. Security concerns in Yemen involving militant groups have deterred investment in recent years, with numerous attacks on energy infrastructure, particularly oil pipelines, slowing production and increasing costs.Yemen’s economy is heavily dependent on hydrocarbons, which accounted for 30 percent of GDP, nearly 75 percent of government revenues, and over 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings in 2010. As oil revenues decline, the government’s ability to provide basic services has been weakening. A political crisis occurred in 2011, inspired by similar public demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt.

State Department Travel Warning: Yemen

September 4, 2011 Comments off

State Department Travel Warning: Yemen
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest. The Department urges U.S. citizens not to travel to Yemen. U.S. citizens currently in Yemen should depart while commercial transportation is available. Effective September 1, 2011, the Department of State is lifting the Ordered Departure status for U.S. government employees at the U.S.Embassy in Sana’a. The embassy will remain a restricted staffing post. As staff levels at the embassy are restricted, our ability to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency remains limited and may be further constrained by the fluid security situation. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning
for Yemen issued on May 25, 2011 to note the change in staffing at the U.S. Embassy.

The security threat level in Yemen is extremely high. There is ongoing civil unrest throughout the country and large-scale protests in major cities. Violent clashes are taking place in Sana’a, and may escalate without notice. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of a demonstration. Terrorist organizations continue to be active in Yemen, including Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The U.S. government remains concerned about possible attacks against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests. Piracy in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean is also a security threat to maritime activities in the region.

State Department Travel Warning: Yemen

June 5, 2011 Comments off

State Department Travel Warning: Yemen
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to civil unrest. The Department urges U.S. citizens not to travel to Yemen. U.S. citizens currently in Yemen should depart while commercial transportation is available. The Department of State has ordered all eligible family members of U.S. government employees as well as certain non-emergency personnel to depart Yemen. Due to the fluid security situation in Sana’a, the Consular Section will only be able to provide emergency American citizen services. In addition, terrorism remains a serious threat in Yemen. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Yemen issued on March 6, 2011 to provide updated information on violent confrontations at demonstrations, increased security measures, and to note the ordered departure of non-emergency U.S. Embassy personnel and all family members.

The security threat level in Yemen is extremely high. There is ongoing civil unrest throughout the country and large-scale protests in major cities. Violent clashes are taking place in Sana’a, and may escalate without notice. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of a demonstration. Terrorist organizations continue to be active in Yemen, including Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The U.S. government remains concerned about possible attacks against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests. Piracy in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean is also a security threat to maritime activities in the region. See our International Maritime Piracy Fact Sheet.

Country Analysis Brief: Yemen

February 24, 2011 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Yemen
Source: Energy Information Administration

Yemen is important to the global oil trade because of its location on the Bab al Mandab, one of the world’s most strategic shipping lanes, through which an estimated 3.2 million barrels of oil passed daily in 2009. Disruption to shipping in the Bab el-Mandab could prevent tankers in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Aden from reaching the Suez Canal/Sumed pipeline complex, requiring a costly diversion around the southern tip of Africa to reach western markets. In recent years, this region has seen rising piracy off the northern Somali coast in the Gulf of Aden and southern Red Sea including the Bab el-Mandab.

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