The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs January 22, 2010 Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov RS21852 CRS Report for Congress Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy Summary The UAE’s open economy and society have won praise from advocates of expanded freedoms in the Middle East. However, some of those same policies have produced financial excesses, social ills such as prostitution and human trafficking, and relatively lax controls on sensitive technologies acquired from the West. These concerns—as well as concerns about the UAE oversight and management of a complex and technically advanced initiative such as a nuclear power program—underscore some congressional dissatisfaction with a U.S.-UAE civilian nuclear cooperation agreement. The agreement was signed on May 21, 2009 and submitted to Congress that day. It entered into force on December 17, 2009. Despite its social tolerance and economic freedom, the UAE government is authoritarian, although with substantial informal citizen participation and consensus-building. Assessments by a wide range of observers say that members of the elite routinely obtain favored treatment in court cases, business opportunities, and influence on national decisions. The UAE federation President, Shaykh Khalifa bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan, technically serves a five-year term, renewable by the Federal Supreme Council (composed of the seven heads of the individual emirates), although in practice leadership changes have generally taken place only after the death of a leader. After several years of resisting electoral processes similar to those instituted by other Gulf states, and despite an absence of popular pressure for elections, the UAE undertook its first major electoral process in December 2006. The process was criticized as far from instituting Western-style democratic processes, because the electorate was relatively small and subject to governmental selection, and it voted for only half the membership of a body with limited powers. The other half of the body was selected by appointment. Partly because of substantial UAE federal government financial intervention, the political and social climate has remained calm through the ongoing global financial crisis and recession, which has hit Dubai emirate particularly hard and called into question its strategy of ambitious, investment-fueled development. Many expatriate workers left UAE after widespread layoffs, particularly in the financial and real estate sectors. During the crisis, there have been somewhat more criticism of and official crackdowns against expatriate social behavior that many UAE citizens have always considered offensive. For details and analysis of the U.S.-UAE nuclear agreement and legislation concerning that agreement, see CRS Report R40344, The United Arab Emirates Nuclear Program and Proposed U.S. Nuclear Cooperation, by Christopher M. Blanchard and Paul K. Kerr. Congressional Research Service The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy Contents Governance, Human Rights, and Reform.....................................................................................1 Steps Toward Political Reform ..............................................................................................3 Human Rights/Trafficking Issues ..........................................................................................4 Women’s Rights..............................................................................................................5 Religious Freedom ..........................................................................................................5 Human Trafficking..........................................................................................................5 Cooperation Against Terrorism and Proliferation .........................................................................5 Record on Proliferation Cooperation ...............................................................................6 Nuclear Agreement .........................................................................................................7 Foreign Policy.............................................................................................................................7 Relations With Iran ...............................................................................................................8 Arab-Israeli Issues ................................................................................................................8 U.S.-UAE Defense Cooperation/Iraq and Afghanistan Wars ........................................................9 U.S. and Other Arms Sales .................................................................................................. 10 Other Specific Cooperation on Iraq ..................................................................................... 10 Cooperation in Afghanistan and Pakistan............................................................................. 10 Other UAE Foreign Aid Issues ............................................................................................ 11 Economic Issues ....................................................................................................................... 11 Figures Figure 1. Map of United Arab Emirates .......................................................................................3 Tables Table 1. Recent U.S. Aid to UAE .............................................................................................. 12 Contacts Author Contact Information ...................................................................................................... 12 Congressional Research Service The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy Governance, Human Rights, and Reform1 The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven emirates (principalities): Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich capital of the federation; Dubai, its free-trading commercial hub; and the five smaller and less wealthy emirates of Sharjah; Ajman; Fujayrah; Umm al-Qaywayn; and Ras al-Khaymah. After Britain announced in 1968 that it would no longer ensure security in the Gulf, six “Trucial States” decided to form the UAE federation in December 1971; Ras al-Khaymah joined in 1972. The UAE federation has completed a major leadership transition since the death of its key founder, Shaykh Zayid bin Sultan Al Nuhayyan, long-time ruler of Abu Dhabi and UAE President, on November 2, 2004. His son, Crown Prince Shaykh Khalifa bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan, born in 1948, was named ruler of Abu Dhabi and, keeping with tradition, was subsequently selected by all seven emirates (Federal Supreme Council) as UAE president. The third son of Zayid, Shaykh Mohammad bin Zayid alNuhayyan, is Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and heir apparent. The ruler of Dubai traditionally serves concurrently as Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE; that position has been held by Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktum, architect of Dubai’s modernization drive, since the death of his elder brother Maktum bin Rashid Al Maktum on January 5, 2006. Shaykh Mohammad bin Rashid also continued as Defense Minister. The Crown Prince of Dubai is his son Hamdan bin Mohammad Al Maktum, who heads the “Dubai Executive Committee,” the equivalent of a cabinet for Dubai emirate. Under a Dubai-level reorganization announced in January 2010, five committees were set up to help the Executive Committee on various major issues. The federation President and Vice President serve five-year terms, but they technically owe their positions to the UAE’s highest body, the Federal Supreme Council, which is composed of the leaders of each of the seven emirates of the UAE. Two emirates, Sharjah and Ras al-Khaymah, have a common ruling family: the Al Qawasim tribe. The Federal Supreme Council meets four times per year to establish general policy guidelines, although the leaders of the seven emirates consult frequently with each other. It met in November 2009 to decide whether Shaykh Khalifa and Shaykh Mohammad would continue in those posts. As expected, no major changes were made at this “election” meeting. In practice, posts at that level of leadership have changed only in the event of death of an incumbent. A UAE cabinet reshuffle in May 2009 resulted in a change in two new deputy Prime Ministers, one of which serves concurrently as Interior Minister (the lead agency on internal security). The shift was viewed by observers as strengthening the hand of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayid because the new deputy prime ministers are close to him, although there are no evident rifts between him and his brother, the UAE President. 1 Information in this section is from the following State Department reports: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices-2008 (February 25, 2009); Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2006 (April 5, 2007); Trafficking in Persons Report for 2009 (June 16, 2009); and International Religious Freedom report: 2009 (October 26, 2009). Congressional Research Service 1 The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy Some Basic Facts About UAE Population 4.8 million, of which about 900,000 are citizens. Expatriates are 85% of the work force, Religions 96% Muslim, of which 16% are Shiite. 4% Christian and Hindu Ethnic Groups 19% Emirati (citizenry); 23% other Arab and Iranian; 50% South Asian; 8% western and other Asian expatriate Gross Domestic Product (purchasing power parity) $186 billion; GDP per capita is $40,000 per year Inflation Rate About 14.5% Budget Revenues: $83 billion. Expenditures: $48 billion Oil Exports About 2.7 million barrels per day Foreign Exchange and Gold Reserves About $67 billion Exports to the UAE $14.4 billion, making UAE the largest U.S. export market in the Arab world (2008). Goods sold to UAE are mostly machinery, aircraft, industrial materials, and other high value items. The United States imported $1.3 billion in goods from UAE, Imports from UAE by the United States $826 million (2008). Goods imported include mostly clothing and oil, as well as diamonds. U.S. citizens resident in UAE About 30,000 Major Projects Dubai inaugurated 2,000+ foot “Burj Khalifa,” world’s tallest building, on January 4, 2010. Dubai metro has begun operations and is expanding service. Burj al Arab hotel in Dubai bills itself as “world’s only 7-star hotel.” UAE participating in Gulf country-wide railroad network to become operational by 2017. Sources: CIA World Factbook. The leaders of the other individual emirates are: Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qassimi (Sharjah); Saqr bin Muhammad Al Qassimi (Ras al-Khaymah); Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi (Ajman); Hamad bin Muhammad Al Sharqi (Fujayrah); and Saud bin Rashid Al-Mu’alla (Umm alQaywayn). Shaykh Saud of Umm al-Qaywayn, who is about 57 years old, was named leader of that emirate in January 2009 upon the death of his father, Shaykh Rashid Al-Mu’alla. In Ras alKhaymah, Shaykh Khalid bin Saqr Al Qassimi claims to remain as Crown Prince even though Shaykh Saqr replaced him in that position with Shaykh Khalid’s younger brother in 2003. On October 5, 2009, the UAE’s Ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, issued a letter stating that Shaykh Khalid was indeed removed in 2003 and holds no official position in the UAE. In part because of its small size, the UAE is one of the wealthiest of the Gulf states, as shown in the table above, and there is little unrest. Islamist movements in UAE, including those linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, are generally non-violent and perform social and relief work. UAE residents of Iranian origin tend to oppose governmental criticism of Iran, but this community does not constitute an organized opposition to the UAE government. Congressional Research Service 2 The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy Figure 1. Map of United Arab Emirates Source: CRS graphics Steps Toward Political Reform Despite or perhaps because of the lack of significant opposition, the UAE has lagged on political reform. UAE leaders long resisted instituting any electoral processes, even as such elections began to expand in the other Gulf states, arguing that elections would inevitably aggravate long dormant schisms among tribes and clans, and potentially cause Islamist parties to become more radical. Political parties are not permitted. UAE leaders said that UAE citizens are able to express their concerns directly to the leadership through traditional consultative mechanisms, such as the open majlis (council) held by many UAE leaders, including Shaykh Khalifa. The UAE leadership relented in December 2006, and instituted a limited and controlled electoral process for half of the 40-seat Federal National Council (FNC); the other 20 seats continue to be appointed. Previously, all 40 members of the FNC were appointed by all seven emirates. The seat distribution of the FNC remains weighted in favor of Abu Dhabi and Dubai (eight seats each). Sharjah and Ras al-Khaymah have six each; and the others have four seats each. According to the State Department, in 2008 the government accepted 80% of the FNC’s recommendations on legislation. In the voting, a 6,690-person “electorate” (100 electors per FNC seat; each elector appointed by emirate leaderships) chose among 456 candidates for the 20 FNC elected seats. There were 1,200 Congressional Research Service 3 The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy female electors and 65 female candidates, but only one woman won (from Abu Dhabi). Another eight women were appointed to the remaining 20 seats. UAE plans are to gradually expand the size of the FNC and to broaden its powers, according to the Minister of State for FNC Affairs (also Minister of State for Foreign Affairs) Anwar Gargash. The FNC can review, but not enact or veto, federal legislation, and it can question, but not impeach, federal cabinet ministers. It has questioned government ministers mostly on economic and social issues. Its sessions are open to the public. Each emirate also has its own consultative council. On the other hand, many observers note that justice in UAE is selective. For example, on January 10, 2010, a UAE court acquitted the UAE President’s brother, Shaykh Issa bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan, on charges of torturing an Afghan merchant. He was acquitting even though there was a video available of him beating the Afghan and driving over his legs with a sport vehicle, and even though three others involved in the incident, all non-royals, were convicted. The UAE court ruled that Shaykh Issa was not liable because he was taking prescription drugs that may have prompted his actions. Others say that arrests of expatriates and non-citizens have increased along with the unfolding of the financial crisis, possibly out of citizen frustration that globalization and dramatic economic expansion have led to bursting of the economic “bubble” in UAE. In 2007, human rights groups criticized the conservative-dominated justice system for threatening to prosecute a 15-year-old French expatriate for homosexuality, a crime in UAE, when he was raped by two UAE men; the UAE men were later sentenced for sexual assault and kidnapping. Human Rights/Trafficking Issues The human rights record of the UAE is relatively positive on some issues, but relatively poor on others. Some human rights problems in UAE, such as human trafficking, are caused because the government is relatively lax in some cases, not because it is too strict. Freedom of assembly is forbidden by law, but in practice small demonstrations on working conditions and some other issues have been tolerated. On several occasions, foreign laborers working on the large, ambitious construction projects in Dubai have conducted strikes to protest poor working conditions and non-payment of wages. Some of these concerns have been addressed by the Labor Ministry’s penalizing of employers, and a process, formulated in June 2008, to have workers’ salaries deposited directly in banks. Some cabinet choices signal commitment to reform, including Shaykh Abdullah bin Zayid alNuhayyan as Foreign Minister and Anwar Gargash, mentioned above. Shaykh Abdullah’s former post of Information Minister was abolished in 2006 to allow media independence. On the other hand, in April 2009, a new media law drew opposition from some human rights groups who said it allows for penalties against journalists who personally criticize UAE leaders. Provisions governing media licensing do not clearly articulate the standards the government will apply in approving or denying licenses for media organs to operate. The UAE government says the law does not apply to the “Free Zones” in UAE in which major foreign media organizations operate. The referenced State Department reports point out numerous restrictions such as on free assembly, freedom of speech, and workers’ rights, and flogging penalties imposed by some courts. Some Members of Congress criticized the UAE for a videotaped beating by a member of the royal family of an Afghan merchant living in UAE. Some reports say that the financial crisis has caused UAE security forces to become more vigilant in enforcing penalties against expatriates who violate UAE law on social behavior in public. Congressional Research Service 4 The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy The United States has sought to promote democracy, rule of law, and civil society in the Persian Gulf region, including in UAE. Some State Department programs to promote student and women’s political participation, entrepreneurship, legal reform, civil society, independent media, and international trade law compliance are funded by the State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). The U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi houses a MEPI office/staff that runs the MEPI programs throughout the Gulf region. Women’s Rights Progress on women’s political rights has been steady. There are now four women in the cabinet: Shayha Lubna al-Qassimi, Minister of Foreign Trade and Planning; Mariam al-Roumi, Minister of Social Affairs; and two ministers without portfolio—Reem al-Hashimi and Maitha al-Shamsi. Nine women are in the Federal National Council, and seven women serve on the 40-seat consultative council in Sharjah emirate. About 10% of the UAE diplomatic corps is now female; none served prior to 2001. In November 2008, Dubai emirate appointed 10 female public prosecutors. The UAE Air Force has four women fighter pilots. Religious Freedom The October 2009 State Department report on international religious freedom said there was “no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the reporting period.” Non-Muslims in UAE are free to practice their religion; there are 24 Christian churches built on land donated by the ruling families of the various emirates, but there are no Jewish synagogues or Buddhist temples. The Shiite Muslim minority is free to worship and maintain its own mosques, but Shiite mosques receive no government funds and there are no Shiites in top federal posts. Human Trafficking Other social problems might be a result of the relatively open economy of the UAE, particularly in Dubai. The UAE is still considered a “destination country” for women trafficked from Asia and the former Soviet Union. The Trafficking in Persons report for 2009 placed the UAE in “Tier 2: Watch List”—a downgrade from the Tier 2 placement in 2008 and back to the status of the 2007 placement. The 2009 downgrade (from 2008) is on the grounds that the UAE is not taking steps against people being trafficked for the purpose of forcing them into labor. The UAE’s positive efforts are directed primarily against sexual trafficking, not labor-related trafficking. UAE has made progress in curbing trafficking of young boys as camel jockeys; it has repatriated at least 1,050 children out of a suspected 5,000 trafficked for camel racing, provided $3 million for their care and repatriation, and it now uses robot jockeys at camel races. Cooperation Against Terrorism and Proliferation These issues are of particular concern to the United States because of a pattern of lax enforcement of existing export and border controls. The relatively small sums of U.S. aid to UAE are generally for programs to improve UAE performance on enforcing export control laws. The UAE was one of only three countries (Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were the others) to have recognized the Taliban during 1996-2001 as the government of Afghanistan. During Taliban rule, the UAE Congressional Research Service 5 The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy allowed Ariana Afghan airlines to operate direct service, and Al Qaeda activists reportedly spent time there. 2 Two of the September 11 hijackers were UAE nationals, and they reportedly used UAE-based financial networks in the plot. Since then, the UAE has been credited in State Department “Country Reports on Terrorism” with assisting in the arrests of senior Al Qaeda operatives;3 denouncing terror attacks; improving border security; prescribing guidance for Friday prayer leaders; investigating suspect financial transactions; and strengthening its bureaucracy and legal framework to combat terrorism. The UAE Central Bank is credited in the State Department terrorism report for 2008 (published April 30, 2009) with providing training programs to UAE financial institutions on money laundering and terrorism financing, although actions against informal financial transmittals (hawala) requires “further vigilance.” It was reported in September 2009 that earlier in 2009, UAE security officials had broken up an Al Qaeda plot to blow up targets in Dubai emirate.4 The UAE has signed on to several U.S. efforts to prevent proliferation and terrorism. These include the Container Security Initiative Statement of Principles, aimed at screening U.S.-bound containerized cargo transiting Dubai ports. Under it, three U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers are co-located with the Dubai Customs Intelligence Unit at Port Rashid in Dubai. The program results in about 20 ship inspections per week of U.S.-bound containers, many of them apparently originating in Iran, according to the State Department terrorism report for 2008 (published April 30, 2009). The UAE is a signator to the proliferation Security Initiative, the Megaports Initiative designed to prevent terrorist from using major ports to ship illicit material, and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. Record on Proliferation Cooperation The UAE record on preventing the re-export of advanced technology is less positive, although the UAE has enhanced its cooperation at times when U.S. officials or outside experts have questioned its performance. In connection with revelations of illicit sales of nuclear technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea by Pakistan’s nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan, Dubai was named as a key transfer point for Khan’s shipments of nuclear components. Two Dubai-based companies were apparently involved in transshipping components: SMB Computers and Gulf Technical Industries.5 On April 7, 2004, the Administration sanctioned a UAE firm, Elmstone Service and Trading FZE, for allegedly selling weapons of mass destruction-related technology to Iran, under the Iran-Syria Non-Proliferation Act (P.L. 106-178). In June 2006, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) released a general order imposing a license requirement on Mayrow General Trading Company and related enterprises in the UAE. This was done after Mayrow was implicated in the transhipment of electronic components and devices capable of being used to construct improvised explosive devices (IED) used in Iraq and Afghanistan. 6 In February 2007 the Administration threatened to form a new category of control called “Destinations of Diversion Control” with UAE as the intended designee country. In connection with the FNC approval of a law strengthening export controls (April 2007), the Administration did not create that category. In 2 CRS conversations with executive branch officials, 1997-2000. “U.S. Embassy to Reopen on Saturday After UAE Threat.” Reuters, March 26, 2004. 4 Lake, Eli and Sarah Carter. “UAE Kept Tight Lid on Disrupted Terror Plot.” Washington Times, September 17, 2009. 5 Milhollin, Gary and Kelly Motz. “Nukes ‘R’ US.” New York Times op.ed. March 4, 2004. 6 BIS, “General Order Concerning Mayrow General Trading and Related Enterprises,” 71 Federal Register 107, June 5, 2006. 3 Congressional Research Service 6 The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy September 2007, the UAE used the new law to shut down 40 foreign and UAE firms allegedly involved in dual use exports to Iran and other countries. However, UAE officials publicly acknowledged in June 2009 that the UAE’s application of this law is still evolving. Allegations continued in January 2009 with the publication by the Institute for Science and International Security of a report entitled “Iranian Entities’ Illicit Military Procurement Networks,” published January 12, 2009. The report asserts that Iran has used UAE companies to obtain technology from U.S. suppliers, and that the components obtained have been used to construct improvised explosive devices (IED’s) shipped by Iran to militants in Iraq and Afghanistan. Other UAE companies the report alleges were involved in this network included not only Mayrow but also Majidco Micro Electronics, Micatic General Trading, and Talinx Electronics. Despite the UAE efforts to enhance its export controls, in December 2008 some Members of Congress called for a review by the inter-agency “Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States” (CFIUS) of a proposed joint venture between Advanced Micro Devices and Advanced Technology Investment Co. of Abu Dhabi for the potential for technology transfers. In February 2006, CFIUS approved the takeover by the Dubai-owned “Dubai Ports World” company of a British firm that manages six U.S. port facilities. Members, concerned that the takeover might weaken U.S. port security, opposed it in P.L. 109-234, causing the company to divest assets involved in U.S. port operations (divestment completed in late 2006 to AIG Global Investments). Little opposition was expressed to a September 2007 Borse Dubai plan to take a 20% stake in the NASDAQ stock market, or to a November 2007 investment of $7.5 billion in Citigroup by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), which manages excess oil revenues estimated at over $500 billion. Nuclear Agreement It is the concern about the leakage of technology to Iran, via the UAE, that underpins much of the concern about a U.S.-UAE agreement, signed January 15, 2009, to help the UAE develop a nuclear power program. The agreement, which was revised slightly and signed again by the Obama Administration on May 21, 2009 (and submitted to Congress that day), would be subject to conditions specified in Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 [42 U.S.C. 2153(b)], and was subject to congressional approval (in the form of passage of a joint resolution of approval or non-passage of a joint resolution of disapproval within 90 days of continuous legislative session following the May 21 submission). In the 111th Congress, concerns were encapsulated in H.R. 364, which would require the President to certify that the UAE has taken a number of steps to stop illicit trade with Iran before any agreement would take effect. However, several congressional resolutions of approval of the agreement (S.J.Res. 18 and H.J.Res. 60) have been introduced, whereas one resolution of disapproval (H.J.Res. 55) was introduced. No measure blocking the agreement was enacted and the “1-2-3 Agreement” entered into force on December 17, 2009. See CRS Report R40344, The United Arab Emirates Nuclear Program and Proposed U.S. Nuclear Cooperation, by Christopher M. Blanchard and Paul K. Kerr Foreign Policy Following the 1991 Gulf war to oust Iraqi forces from Kuwait, the UAE, whose armed forces number about 60,000, determined that it wanted a closer relationship with the United States. The Congressional Research Service 7 The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy UAE did not necessarily fear Iraq, which is at the north end of the Persian Gulf, but it primarily sought to deter and balance out Iranian power. The UAE cooperates with virtually all GCC-wide development and economic initiatives, although some past border disputes and other disagreements with Saudi Arabia occasionally flare. A 1974 “Treaty of Jeddah” with Saudi Arabia formalized Saudi access to the Persian Gulf via a corridor running through UAE, in return for UAE gaining formal control of villages in the Buraymi oasis area. Relations With Iran The UAE remains highly wary of Iran’s ambitions and powers, but it has sought to reach out to Iran’s government and deny Iran any justification for aggression or adverse action against the UAE. At the same time, the United States has enlisted the UAE in a multilateral effort to stiffen international sanctions on Iran, in part by alleviating the concerns of China (a permanent U.N. Security Council member) about its oil supplies. The Obama Administration has encouraged the UAE and other oil exporters to offer to boost oil supplies to China to compensate for any loss of imports from Iran that may result from China’s cooperation against Iran.7 Still, as noted above, UAE-Iran trade is substantial, and numerous Iranian banks and trading companies have offices in UAE, particularly in Dubai. It is preventing the re-transfer to Iran of U.S. goods shipped to UAE that is the main intent of U.S. programs to help the UAE enforce its export control laws and regulations, as discussed above. In October 2009, Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayid was uncharacteristically public in expressing support for “political and diplomatic pressure on Iran to stop it from acquiring nuclear technology.” The statements were made at a joint news conference with visiting NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. UAE fears of Iran have been elevated since April 1992, when Iran asserted complete control of the largely uninhabited Persian Gulf island of Abu Musa, which it and the UAE shared under a 1971 bilateral agreement. (In 1971, Iran, then ruled by the U.S.-backed Shah, seized two other islands, Greater and Lesser Tunb, from the emirate of Ras al-Khaymah, as well as part of Abu Musa from the emirate of Sharjah.) In October 2008, the UAE and Iran signed an agreement to establish a joint commission to resolve the dispute; that agreement came two months after the UAE protested Iran’s opening in August 2008 of administrative and maritime security offices on Abu Musa. Iran has allowed Sharjah to open power and water desalination facilities on the island. The United States is concerned about Iran’s control over the islands, but takes no position on the sovereignty of the islands. The UAE, particularly Abu Dhabi, has long feared that the large Iranian-origin community in Dubai emirate (est. 400,000 persons) could pose a “fifth column” threat to UAE stability. Illustrating the UAE’s attempts to avoid antagonizing Iran, in May 2007, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was permitted to hold a rally for Iranian expatriates in Dubai when he made the first high-level visit to UAE since UAE independence in 1971. Still, reflecting the underlying tensions and volatility of UAE-Iran relations, the two countries issued mutual recriminations in January 2009 over the UAE decision in late 2008 to begin fingerprinting Iranian visitors to UAE. Arab-Israeli Issues On the Arab-Israeli dispute, the UAE tends to defer to Saudi Arabia and has not sought to emerge as a major mediator between Palestinian factions, as has Saudi Arabia, Qatar, or Egypt. Nor has 7 Solomon, Jay. “U.S. Enlists Oil to Sway Beijing’s Stance on Tehran.” Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2009. Congressional Research Service 8 The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy UAE advanced far reaching plans to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, as has King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The UAE’s steps have tended to be incremental and in concert with other Gulf states. In 1994 the UAE joined with the other Gulf monarchies in ending enforcement of the Arab League’s boycott of companies doing business with Israel and on companies that deal with companies that do business with Israel. The UAE formally bans direct trade with Israel, although UAE companies reportedly do business with Israeli firms and some Israeli diplomats have attended multilateral meetings in the UAE. Unlike Qatar and Oman, the UAE did not host multi-lateral Arab-Israeli working groups on regional issues when those talks took place during 1994-1998. In 2007, the UAE joined a “quartet” of Arab states (the others are Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan) to assist U.S. diplomacy on Israeli-Palestinian issues. In December 2008 and January 2009, the UAE government permitted street demonstrations in support of Hamas during its war with Israel. In February 2009, the UAE denied a visa to an Israeli tennis player who was to participate in a Dubai tennis tournament, earning the UAE some international criticism. The UAE has expressed concerns about the plight of the Palestinians, and has put its considerable financial resources to work on their behalf. One major UAE action has been to fund a housing project in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, called “Shaykh Khalifa City.” U.S.-UAE Defense Cooperation/Iraq and Afghanistan Wars The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 prompted the UAE to enter into substantial defense cooperation with the United States. The framework for U.S.-UAE defense cooperation is a July 25, 1994, bilateral defense pact, the text of which is classified, including a “status of forces agreement” (SOFA). Under the pact, during the years of U.S. “containment” of Iraq (1991-2003), the UAE allowed U.S. equipment pre-positioning and U.S. warship visits at its large Jebel Ali port, capable of handling aircraft carriers, and it permitted the upgrading of airfields in the UAE that were used for U.S. combat support flights, during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).8 About 1,800 U.S. forces, mostly Air Force, are in UAE, up from 800 before OIF; they use Al Dhafra air base (mostly KC-10 refueling) and naval facilities at Fujairah to support U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though UAE officials say that the OIF benefitted Iran strategically. Suggesting it wants to broaden its defense relations, in January 2008 the UAE signed an agreement with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to allow a French military presence. The facilities were inaugurated during a visit by Sarkozy to UAE on May 27, 2009 and include (1) a 900-foot section of the Zayid Port for use by the French navy; (2) an installation at Dhafra Air Base to be used by France’s air force; and (3) a barracks at an Abu Dhabi military camp that will house about 400 French military personnel. 8 Jaffe, Greg. “U.S. Rushes to Upgrade Base for Attack Aircraft.” Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2003. Congressional Research Service 9 The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy U.S. and Other Arms Sales The UAE views arms purchases from the United States as enhancing the U.S. commitment to UAE security. Until 2008, the most significant buy was the March 2000 purchase of 80 U.S. F-16 aircraft, equipped with the Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) and the HARM (High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile), a deal exceeding $8 billion. Congress did not try to block the aircraft sale, but some Members questioned the AMRAAM as an introduction of the weapon into the Gulf. Among other sales with the potential to enhance the UAE’s offensive capability, a sale of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMs), valued at about $750 million, notified on September 21, 2006. More recent sales to UAE, some with offensive potential, have been in concert with the U.S.-led “Gulf Security Dialogue,” intended to help the Gulf states contain Iran. Among the most significant are the advanced Patriot anti-missile systems (PAC-3, up to $9 billion value, notified December 4, 2007); kits for the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) kits ($326 million value, notified January 3, 2008); and the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense System (THAAD), the first sale ever of that sophisticated missile defense system (notified September 9, 2008, valued at about $7 billion). Also notified on September 9, 2008, were sales to UAE of a surface launched AMRAAM ($445 million value) and vehicle mounted “Stinger” anti-aircraft systems ($737 million value). In conjunction with the international defense exhibit in Abu Dhabi in March 2009, the UAE signed agreements with Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. to buy $3 billion worth of military transport aircraft (C-17 and C-130, respectively). The United States is in competition with France for further aircraft sales. France is hoping that, as part of the facilities basing agreement discussed above, the UAE will buy about 60 Rafale combat aircraft, which could be valued at about $8 billion. The UAE has already bought 380 Frenchmade Leclerc tanks and 60 Mirage 2000 warplanes. However, the United States is hoping to sell the UAE additional F-16’s, according to press reports. Other Specific Cooperation on Iraq Aside from allowing U.S. use of UAE military facilities, the UAE has undertaken several initiatives to support U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. The UAE has provided facilities for Germany to train Iraqi police. It pledged $215 million for Iraq reconstruction but has provided the funds not in cash but in the form of humanitarian contributions ($71 million as of December 2007). Some of the funds were used to rebuild hospitals in Iraq and to provide medical treatment to Iraqi children in the UAE. Agreeing with the U.S. view that Sunni Arab states need to engage the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad, in June 2008, the UAE appointed an Ambassador to Iraq, the first Arab country to do so. The following month it wrote off $7 billion (including interest) in Iraqi debt. Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Shaykh Mohammad bin Zayid visited Iraq in October 2008. Cooperation in Afghanistan and Pakistan In addition to placing some of its military facilities at U.S. disposal for use in Afghanistan (and Iraq), the UAE is assisting the U.S. and international mission to stabilize Afghanistan. Despite the small size of its military force, a 250-person contingent of UAE troops has been serving in Afghanistan since 2004. The UAE forces, the only Arab combat forces in Afghanistan, are operating in the restive southern part of Afghanistan, particularly Uruzgan Province, where they appear to be welcomed by the Muslim population there. Congressional Research Service 10 The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy The UAE has pledged a total of $323 million in economic aid for Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. Among the projects funded with UAE aid include “Zayed University,” a college serving over 6,000 Afghan students per year; six medical clinics; a major hospital with a capacity of 7,000 patients; the building of “Zayed City” that houses 200 Afghan families displaced by violence; 160 drinking wells; and 38 mosques.9 In related aid for U.S. regional policy, Abu Dhabi hosted the November 2008 meeting of the “Friends of Pakistan” donors group that is attempting to help Pakistan through its financial difficulties. The UAE provided about $100 million to aid victims of a major earthquake in Pakistan in October 2005. The UAE also has appointed a direct counterpart to the Obama Administration’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. Other UAE Foreign Aid Issues The UAE asserts that it has provided billions of dollars in international aid through its government and through funds controlled by royal family members and other elites. Among the foreign aid activities reported are $100 million to aid victims of the December 2004 Tsunami in the Indian Ocean and $100 million to help victims of Hurricane Katrina in the United States. Economic Issues The UAE, a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), has developed a free market economy. Partly as result, the UAE, particularly Dubai emirate, whose strategy was built on attracting investment to construct large numbers of opulent and futuristic projects, built up a “bubble” in real estate prices and other assets. The UAE, particularly Dubai, has therefore been hurt significantly by the global economic downturn. Abu Dhabi has been hurt by the fall in oil prices, but its reliance on oil has given it a certain financial cushion, relative to Dubai, which relies almost entirely on trade, financial products, investment in big projects, such as the “Atlantis Hotel Dubai,” and tourism. Abu Dhabi has 80% of the federation’s proven oil reserves of about 100 billion barrels, enough for over 100 years of exports at the current production rate of 2.2 million barrels per day (mbd). About 2.1 mbd are exported, but negligible amounts go to the United States. The federal government has used some of the country’s purported $700 billion “sovereign wealth fund” to inject into Dubai banks to help them ride out the downturn. In December 2009, Abu Dhabi pledged about $5 billion in additional funds (beyond $5 billion committed in November 2009) to help Dubai World (major real estate developer) avert outright default on about $26 billion in debt repayment. The severe recession has resulted in widespread layoffs in UAE and the departure of thousands of foreign workers, who often have abandoned cars and properties that were financed, leaving UAE banks with additional non-performing loans.10 During 2008-2009, real estate prices fell about 40%-50% from the 2007 levels. 9 Information provided to CRS by the UAE Embassy in Washington, D.C. December 2009. Worth, Robert. “Laid Off Foreigners Flee as Once Booming Dubai Spirals Down.” New York Times, February 12, 2008. 10 Congressional Research Service 11 The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy On November 15, 2004, the Administration notified Congress it had begun negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) with the UAE. Several rounds of talks were held prior to the June 2007 expiration of Administration “trade promotion authority,” but progress was been halting. The UAE is seeking to diversify its energy production and consumption to plan for the day when the developed world is no longer reliant on oil imports. While well endowed with oil, the UAE lacks non-associated natural gas. It has entered into a deal with neighboring gas exporter Qatar to construct pipeline that will bring Qatari gas to UAE (Dolphin project). The nuclear power program, discussed above, is also intended to address the country’s fast growing energy consumption, although the global economic downturn has also served that purpose, at least temporarily. The UAE, which is considered wealthy, receives on small amounts of U.S. assistance. The primary purpose of the aid is to make the UAE eligible for advice and programming to improve its border security and export controls, as shown below. Table 1. Recent U.S. Aid to UAE FY2007 NADR (Non-Proliferation, Anti-Terrorism, De-Mining, and Related) - Counter-Terrorism Programs (ATA) $1.409 million NADR-Combating WMD $172,000 International Military Education and Training (IMET) FY2008 FY2009 FY2010 $725,000 $300,000 $200,000 $230,000 $15,000 $15,000 Author Contact Information Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs kkatzman@crs.loc.gov, 7-7612 Congressional Research Service 12