United Arab Emirates

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Overview

First established in 1971, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consists of seven states: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Umm al Qaywayn, Ras al Khaymah, Al Fujayrah and Sharjah. This small, oil-rich confederation plays a major role in the oil and finance industries of the Persian Gulf. Due to its size, and the proximity of larger, more powerful neighbors, security concerns have been a major focus of the UAE’s foreign relations. Since the 1991 Gulf war, the government has forged a close relationship with the United States, which has sold billions of dollars in sophisticated military hardware to fortify UAE security forces. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the US, the UAE was identified as a major financial center used by al-Qaeda in transferring money to the hijackers (two of the 9/11 hijackers were UAE citizens). The nation immediately cooperated with the US, freezing accounts tied to suspected terrorists and strongly clamping down on money laundering.

 
This decade, the UAE has been the source of several key controversies with the US. In 2006, public outcry arose after it was revealed that a UAE-owned company was set to take over the security of several American sea ports. Two years later, it was reported that some American exports to the UAE were being to diverted to Iran, Iraq and other countries and falling into the hands of terrorists organizations. Finally, on January 15, 2009, the US and UAE signed a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement that worried some experts about the dangers of nuclear technology spreading to third parties.
 
On February 2, 2009, the UAE began to feel the crunch from the international financial crisis, as the credit rating agency Moody’s announced that it would be downgrading the ratings of six of Dubai’s largest state-owned firms, including global port operator Dubai Ports World and Emaar Properties, the developer responsible for the partly-constructed world’s tallest building, located in the city’s center. Lenders began imposing higher charges in the wake of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and Dubai World found itself unable to refinance its borrowings that depended heavily on the debt markets. 
 
Months later, in November, Dubai sent the global financial market into panic when it asked for more time to repay $4 billion worth of bonds. While the Dubai stock market plunged 70%, banks stopped lending, and economic despair became pervasive. The financial state of Dubai affected banks and financial firms globally that heavily invested in new projects. Eventually, Dubai’s rulers bailed out Dubai World with a $9.5 billion package.
 
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Basic Information

Lay of the Land: In southwest Asia along the southern shore of the Persian Gulf and the western reaches of the Gulf of Oman are seven tiny sheikdoms–Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ra al-Khaimah, Fujairah, Umm al-Qaiwain, and Ajman, which joined together in 1971-1972 to form the United Arab Emirates.

 
Population: 4.6 million
 
Religions: Muslim (predominately Sunni with a Shi'a minority) 75.2%, Christian 12.6%, Hindu 6.6%, Baha'i 2.3%, Buddhist 2.0%, Sikh 0.2%, non-religious 1.0%.
 
Ethnic Groups: Emirati 19%, other Arab and Iranian 23%, South Asian 50%, other expatriates (Westerners and East Asians) 8%.
 
Languages: Arabic (official), Gulf Arabic 30.0%, Southern Balochi 4.0%, Northern Pashto 4.0%, Western Farsi 3.2%, Southern Pashto 1.0%, Shihhi Arabic 0.2%.
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History

Originally the area now occupied by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was inhabited by a seafaring people who were converted to Islam in the 7th century. Later, a dissident sect, the Carmathians, established a powerful sheikdom, and its army conquered Mecca. After the sheikdom disintegrated, its people became pirates. Threatening the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman early in the 19th century, the pirates provoked the intervention of the British, who in 1820 enforced a partial truce and in 1853 a permanent truce. From that point on, the Pirate Coast became known as the Trucial Coast. The British provided the nine Trucial states with protection but did not formally administer them as a colony.

 
The British withdrew from the Persian Gulf in 1971, and the Trucial states became a federation called the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Two of the Trucial states, Bahrain and Oman, chose not to join the federation, reducing the number of states to seven. The seven states that make up the UAE are led by Abu Dhabi, which enjoys massive oil wealth, and Dubai, a major financial hub in the Persian Gulf. The remaining five states are Ajman, Umm al Qaywayn, Ras al Khaymah, Al Fujayrah and Sharjah.
Since obtaining independence, security concerns have been a major focus of the UAE’s foreign relations. It was uncertain in the early 1970s whether the UAE would endure as a viable state. Saudi Arabia, for example, refused to recognize the new federation because of an unresolved border dispute with Abu Dhabi over the Al Buraymi Oasis. Iran and Oman also contested UAE claims to certain territories. In addition, the discovery of extensive petroleum deposits in the 1960s prompted Iraq and other states to challenge the legitimacy of the UAE’s ruling families. Because the UAE was a relatively small state, its leaders recognized that defending the country’s security from both internal and external threats depended on skillful management of diplomatic relations with other countries, particularly larger and more powerful neighbors such as Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
When Egypt signed a separate peace agreement with Israel in 1979, the UAE joined other Arab states in breaking diplomatic relations with Egypt. The UAE did not, however, expel the thousands of Egyptian workers in the UAE or interfere with their transfer of remittances home.
 
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the UAE joined other Arab states in supporting the use of force to compel Iraq’s withdrawal of troops, and sent forces to help liberate Kuwait.
 
In 1992, a dispute with Iran broke out over the sovereignty of three small islands—Abu Musa, Greater Tumb, and Lesser Tumb—when Iranian officials on Abu Musa refused to permit UAE contract workers to disembark, in apparent contravention of a shared sovereignty agreement.
 
The country signed a military defense agreement with the US in 1994 and one with France in 1995.
 
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the US, the UAE was identified as a major financial center used by al-Qaeda in transferring money to the hijackers (two of the 9/11 hijackers were UAE citizens). The nation immediately cooperated with the US, freezing accounts tied to suspected terrorists and strongly clamping down on money laundering.
 
Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the UAE and ruler of the federation since 1971, died in November 2004. His son succeeded him. In January 2006, Sheik Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the prime minister of the UAE and the emir of Dubai, died. Crown Prince Sheikh Muhammad ibn Rashid al-Maktoum assumed both roles.
 
On February 2, 2009, the UAE began to feel the crunch from the financial crisis, as the international credit rating agency Moody’s announced that it would be downgrading the ratings of six of Dubai’s largest state-owned firms, including global port operator Dubai Ports World and Emaar Properties, the developer responsible for the partly-constructed world’s tallest building, located in the city’s center. Utility operator Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, conglomerate Dubai Holding Commercial Operations Group, industrial park and trade zone operator Jebel Ali Free Zone and Dubai International Financial Center Investments, a branch of Dubai’s international financial center, also were in line for downgrades. Lenders began imposing higher charges in the wake of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Dubai World found itself unable to refinance its borrowings that depended heavily on the debt markets. 
 
Months later, Dubai sent the global financial market into panic in November 2009 when it requested additional time to repay $4 billion worth of bonds. The financial sector of Dubai World, one of the largest global conglomerates, accounts for around 50% of the country’s $25 billion remittances. While the stock market plunged 70%, banks stopped lending, and economic despair became pervasive. The financial state of Dubai affected banks and financial firms globally that heavily invested in new projects. Eventually, Dubai’s rulers bailed out the Dubai World with a $9.5 billion package. The deal was designed to allow the government-backed Dubai Financial Support Fund to swap $8.9 billion worth of borrowings into equity.
 
At a height of nearly 1 kilometer, the Burj Dubai, located in central Dubai, is the largest building in the world. It has become a symbol of the type of uninhibited spending largely responsible for the 2008 global financial crisis. Although the tower’s inauguration was lavish, investors are already facing losses as prices in Dubai slump. The tower is central to a 500-acre residential and commercial development in Dubai, flanked by dozens of smaller skyscrapers within the Middle East’s largest shopping mall.
 
Dubai’s Ruler Set for 800m Ascent to Open World’s Tallest Building (by Robert Booth, The Guardian)
Debt-Saddled Dubai World Gets $9.5 Billion State Bailout (by Alistair Dawber, The Independent)
 
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History of U.S. Relations with United Arab Emirates

The United States was the third country to establish formal diplomatic relations with the UAE and has had an ambassador resident in the UAE since 1974.

 
Due to its small size, a principal goal of UAE foreign policy has centered on security concerns with respect to its larger neighbors in the Persian Gulf. During the initial years of UAE independence, a rebel movement threatened to overthrow the government in neighboring Oman. This movement also supported a group known as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arab Gulf, which aimed at establishing a republican regime in the UAE. During the mid-1970s, repercussions of the escalating civil war in Lebanon reverberated throughout the Persian Gulf. Subsequently, the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the civil war and Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, and the Iran-Iraq War all affected the UAE in various ways. These concerns pushed UAE leaders towards developing a secure relationship with the United States during the 1970s and 1980s, even though publicly the UAE criticized the US for its support of Israel vis-à-vis the Palestinian situation.
 
Thus, by 1990-91, when it joined with the United States in the military effort to force Iraq out of Kuwait, the UAE already had become a de facto member of the United States strategic umbrella over the region. Following the Gulf war, the UAE concluded a security relationship with the US in late 1992 that permitted the United States to use some UAE bases temporarily and to pre-position supplies on UAE territory.
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Current U.S. Relations with United Arab Emirates

Private commercial ties, especially in petroleum, have developed into friendly government-to-government ties which include security assistance between the UAE and the US. In 2002, the two countries began a strategic partnership dialogue covering virtually every aspect of the relationship. Since then, the UAE has been a key partner in the US war on terrorism. UAE ports host more American Navy ships than any port outside the US.

 
On January 15, 2009, the US and UAE signed a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement intended to enable the UAE to possess a peaceful nuclear energy capacity while at the same time preventing weapons proliferation. Under the agreement, the UAE will forfeit the Nonproliferation Treaty-afforded right to a domestic enrichment program and will not seek to reprocess its spent nuclear fuel. If approved by the US Congress, the UAE could become the first Arab nation to utilize civilian nuclear technology. 
 
The deal has received mixed reactions from around the world. Some worry that it may spark a nuclear arms race. Within Iran, press coverage alluded to a US double standard in that the agreement showed that Washington favored nuclear technology for its neighbor, the UAE, but not for Tehran. Some members of Congress introduced a bill intended to restrict the agreement until evidence was provided that the UAE had appropriately addressed its long-standing role in facilitating Iranian evasion of US and international sanctions. Although the outgoing Bush administration signed the agreement, it will be up to the Obama administration to submit it to Congress for final approval.
 
A total of 1,189,731 people identified themselves as being of Arab ancestry in the 2000 US census (there is no category for Emirati). Scholars estimate there may be over 3 million ethnic Arabs in America. Traditional fear of governmental abuse of personal information has led many Arabs to conceal their ethnicity. Over a third of the Arab population in America lives in New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles.
 
In 2004, 192,948 Americans visited the United Arab Emirates. The number of visitors has been growing quickly since 2002, when 123,112 Americans traveled to Arabian country.
 
In 2006, 32,633 Emirati visited the US. Emirati have been traveling to the US in ever-increasing numbers since 2002, when 10,080 Emirate came to America.
 
Arab American Demographics (Arab American Institute)
 
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Where Does the Money Flow

The UAE is the largest export market for the United States in the Arab world and, in 2009, was the 19th largest export market, ahead of Spain, Ireland and Indonesia. The UAE buys products from every state in the United States. US imports from the UAE rose by 38% between 2000 and 2007, from $971.7 million to $1.34 billion.

 
Leading American imports from 2005-2009 were led by crude oil, rising from $231 million to $688 million; gem diamonds, up from $96 million to $99 million; and synthetic cloth, increasing from $3 million to $42 million.
 
Imports on the decline from the UAE were bauxite and aluminum, down from $166 million to $94 million; and apparel and household goods (cotton), down from $184 million to $26 million.
 
US exports to the UAE were led by civilian aircraft engines, equipment and parts, rising from $2.1 billion to $3.2 billion. Other top exports included passenger cars, increasing from $931 million to $965 million; drilling and oilfield equipment, up from $396 million to $563 million; and industrial engines, up from $169 million to $477 million.
 
US exports on the decline were led by military aircrafts (complete), decreasing from $949 million to $167 million; household appliances, down from $93 million to $88 million; agricultural farming (unmanufactured) decreasing from $66 million to $60 million; nonmonetary gold, falling from $308 million to $15 million; and nonfarm tractors, down from $18 million to $15 million.
 
In the Congressional Budget for Foreign Operations, the US requested a total of $245,000 in aid for 2010. The aid is split into two broad areas including $230,000 for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction and $15,000 for Stabilization Operations and Security Sector Reform. US aid to the UAE is down from 2009 when a total of $940,000 was given, $725 thousand for Counter-Terrorism, $200,000 for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction, and $15,000 for Stabilization Operations and Security Sector Reform.
 
The US seeks bilateral cooperation with the UAE primarily because of its proximity to Iran and its accessible port, considered the largest in the Middle East. As a part of the Gulf Security Dialogue, the aid given to the UAE is intended to facilitate its participation in US security, education, and interoperability with US forces, in addition to helping to build up Emirates’ defensive capacities for security purposes. US assistance also aims to fund counter-proliferation efforts in Emirati ports so that they do not serve a transshipment point for weapons of mass destruction and related technology and delivery systems.
 
The UAE pegs its currency, the dirham, to the dollar.
 
More than 750 US firms have a presence in UAE, from Bechtel and ExxonMobil to Starbucks and Cold Stone Creamery. The UAE is the largest customer for Boeing commercial passenger aircraft. Westinghouse will take part in a South Korean-led consortium that has won a $20-billion contract to build four nuclear reactors for commercial energy generation in the UAE.
 
The US sold $598.1 million of defense articles and services to the United Arab Emirates in 2007. The most significant buy to date was the March 2000 purchase of 80 US 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 were the advanced Patriot anti-missile systems (PAC-3, up to $9 billion value); kits for the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) kits ($326 million value,); and the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense System (THAAD), the first sale ever of that sophisticated missile defense system (valued at about $7 billion). Also 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).
 
The US gave $1.6 million in aid to the United Arab Emirates in 2007, which was wholly dedicated to Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs. The 2008 budget estimate reduced funding to $314,000, but the 2009 budget request will return funding to higher levels, at $940,000. The 2009 budget estimate will be divided between Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs ($925,000), and International Military Education and Training ($15,000).
 
UAE-US Economic Relationship (UAE Embassy, Washington, DC)
The UAE: Issues for US Policy (by Kenneth Katzman, Congressional Research Service)
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Controversies

Halliburton CEO Moves from Houston to Dubai

Halliburton, the energy services company once headed by Dick Cheney, decided to move the Houston headquarters to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The current chief executive, David Lesar, said the company decided to move to Dubai in order to concentrate their efforts in the Middle East, a potential growth region because of state-owned oil companies. Halliburton’s move to Dubai comes in the middle of controversy. The Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission investigated the company over allegations of improper dealings in Iraq, Kuwait, and Nigeria. Members of Congress suspected the company of trying to reduce its tax bill, while also attempting to profit from business in the Middle East without U.S. restrictions. Lesnar still stood by his decision to move to Dubai by highlighting the Eastern Hemisphere’s potential growth in its oil exploration and production opportunities that would help Halliburton expand their business.
Halliburton Moving C.E.O. from Houston to Dubai (by Clifford Krauss, New York Times)
Halliburton Chief's Move to Dubai Evokes Warnings on Hill (by Steven Mufson and Dana Hedgpeth, Washington Post)
 
US Exports to UAE Diverted to US Enemies
US military officials made a startling disturbing discovery during the Iraq conflict: American-made computer circuits sold to a trading company in the United Arab Emirates had turned up in the detonators of roadside bombs used to attack American soldiers. The finding set off a clash with Washington in 2007 when the Bush administration cited the diversion of the computer circuits to Iran, and eventually Iraq, as proof that the UAE was failing to prevent American technology from slipping into the wrong hands. Administration officials said aircraft parts, specialized metals and gas detectors that have a potential military use had also moved through Dubai, one of the emirates, to Iran, Syria or Pakistan. The diplomatic face-off prompted the United States to threaten tough new controls on exports to the UAE, which had begun a campaign to burnish its image in the US after the Dubai ports controversy in 2006. The administration backed down only after the emirates promised to pass their own export control law. But trade experts and Iranian traders in Dubai said there was little evidence that the new export control law was being broadly enforced.
U.S. Alarmed as Some Exports Veer Off Course (by Eric Lipton, New York Times)
 
Dubai Ports Deal Causes Uproar in US
In March 2006, Congress objected to and thwarted the takeover of six American seaports by Dubai Ports World, owned by the UAE’s government, citing national security concerns. At issue was the sale of port management businesses in six major US seaports to DP World, based in the UAE, and whether such a sale would compromise port security. The port contracts had already been foreign-owned by Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, a British firm taken over by DPW. Although the sale was approved by the Bush administration, many American political figures argued that the takeover could weaken US national security. President George W. Bush argued vigorously for the approval of the deal, claiming that the delay sent the wrong message to US allies. Eventually, DPW agreed to sell its US assets to American International Group Inc. (AIG), which had no experience in port operations.
 
 
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Human Rights

According to the State Department, “UAE courts implementing Shari’a (Islamic law) sometimes imposed flogging sentences on Muslims and non-Muslims as punishment for adultery, prostitution, consensual premarital sex, pregnancy outside of marriage, defamation of character, and drug or alcohol abuse. Authorities used canes to administer floggings, which left substantial bruising, welts, and open wounds on the recipients’ bodies.”

 
The State Department reported, “there were reports that the government held persons in official custody without charge or a preliminary judicial hearing. Current law permits indefinite, routine, incommunicado detention without appeal. Under this procedure, the detainee may only contact his attorney.
 
The State Department reports that, “A defendant is entitled to an attorney only after the police have completed their investigation. As a result, the prosecutor general may grant police approval to question accused persons sometimes for days or weeks without benefit of legal counsel.”
 
The judiciary was composed largely of contracted foreign nationals potentially subject to deportation. Federal law prohibits women from serving in the judiciary. Each emirate administered Shari’a courts. In some emirates these courts considered all types of civil and commercial cases as well as criminal cases and family matters. They acted in accordance with their interpretation of Shari’a but were required to answer to the federal Supreme Court, with the exception of the emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Ras al-Khaimah. In criminal cases Shari’a was applied first, and if evidence required by Shari’a was found insufficient, the penal code was used. Dubai had a special Shi’a council to act on matters pertaining to Shi’a family law.
 
Approximately 50% of federal judges were non-citizen Arabs, whose mandates were subject to periodic renewal by the government. In contrast, judicial positions held by citizens were permanent and subject to termination only for specific reasons set out in the Judicial Authority Law.
 
According to the Department of State, “Defendants have a limited right to legal counsel. Under the Criminal Procedures Code, the defendant has a right to request government-provided counsel in all cases involving a capital crime or possible life imprisonment, regardless of whether the defendant is financially able to hire counsel. The government may provide counsel, at its discretion, to indigent defendants charged with felonies punishable by imprisonment of three to 15 years. The Penal Procedures Law states that defense counsel may be present during any investigation but only at the prosecutor’s discretion.”
 
The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, but the government restricted these rights in practice. For example, the government drafts all Friday sermons in mosques and censors private association publications. The government prohibits criticism of rulers as these acts may create or encourage social unrest. Journalists and editors practiced extensive self-censorship. On April 20, 2008, the government denied the Federal National Council the right to discuss publicly the global financial crisis and the economic downturn’s ramifications in the country.
 
The government controls the press by monitoring the content published in the government owned newspapers, Al-Ittihad and Al-Bayan. Additionally, the government privately influences other sources of media.
 
The ruling by the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal to uphold a conviction of the editor-in-chief of a local newspaper demonstrates a lack of freedom of the press.   According to Human Rights Watch, “The court suspended a local newspaper for publishing an article that alleged a UAE-based company gave steroids to local racehorses owned by the Abu Dhabi royal family. The government has on numerous occasions used the country’s laws to penalize, fine, and close media establishments.” 
 
The government restricted access to some websites on the Internet and monitored chat rooms, instant messaging services, and blogs.  The Department of State reports that “individuals and groups generally engaged in peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by email, with few reports of government prosecution or punishment, although there was self-censorship apparent in many chat rooms and blogs.
 
The State Department noted that “the law requires a government-issued permit for organized public gatherings. On June 19, Dubai authorities prohibited demonstrations by Iranian immigrants protesting the June 12 reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. An estimated 200 persons demonstrated outside the Iranian Consulate in Dubai for five consecutive days before the government took action to end the protests peacefully.”
 
The constitution provides for freedom of religion in accordance with established customs, and the government generally respected this right in practice. But there were some restrictions. The federal constitution declares that Islam is the official religion of the country. According to the 2001 census, 76% of the overall (including resident foreigners) population was Muslim, 9% was Christian, and 15% belonged to other religions.
 
According to the State Department “non-Muslims were subject to criminal prosecution, imprisonment, and deportation if they proselytized or distributed religious literature to Muslims. In August 2008 a foreign Christian organization distributed audio Bibles and held discussion sessions in Dubai labor camps, but no arrests were reported.”
 
According to the Department of State, “The government controlled all Sunni and Shi’a mosques, prohibited the proselytizing of Muslims, and restricted freedom of assembly and association, thereby limiting the ability of religious groups without dedicated religious buildings to worship and conduct business. The government funded or subsidized approximately 95% of Sunni mosques and employed their Sunni imams.”
 
Rape is punishable by death under the penal code but is often not recognized in Shari’a courts. The penal code does not specifically address spousal rape. Domestic abuse against women was a pervasive problem. A 2005 UAE University study indicated that as many as 66% of all women permanently residing in the country had been subjected to domestic abuse. Almost 34% of respondents age 18 to 30 claimed to have been abused by a family member, and more than 50% of respondents stated that they witnessed their mothers being abused in the home. There were no specific reports of honor crimes or killings, although such incidents were rumored to occur within the Muslim foreign resident population.
 
Prostitution is illegal, but it has become an increasing problem in recent years, particularly in Dubai. Substantial numbers of women reportedly arrived, both voluntary and trafficked, regularly from the former Soviet Union, Africa, South Asia, East Asia, Eastern Europe, and other states of the Middle East for temporary stays, during which they engaged in prostitution and other activities connected to organized crime. Although prostitution was widely acknowledged to exist, the government did not publicly address the issue The media reported several arrests for prostitution, trafficking, and operating a brothel.
 
Divorce is permissible, although it is often very difficult for a woman to obtain. A woman may be granted a divorce if she can prove that her husband has inflicted physical or moral harm upon her. A woman also may sue for divorce if her husband has abandoned her for a minimum of three months, or if he has not maintained her upkeep or that of their children.
 
The State Department found that “approximately 80 percent of the resident population were noncitizens originating primarily from the Indian subcontinent. Societal discrimination against noncitizens was prevalent and occurred in most areas of daily life, including employment, education, housing, social interaction, and health care.”
 
Additionally, the State Department noted “persons with HIV/AIDS and other diseases faced discrimination. There were credible reports that government officials discriminated against prisoners with HIV by not granting commuted sentences or parole that other prisoners with similar records had received. Noncitizen residents infected with HIV, hepatitis types B and C, and tuberculosis were denied all health benefits, quarantined, and deported.”
 
 
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors

Note: During Stolzfus' tenure as non-resident Ambassador, the Embassy in Abu Dhabi was established on May 15, 1972, with Philip J. Griffin as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim.

William A. Stoltzfus, Jr.
Appointment: Feb 29, 1972
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 20, 1972
Termination of Mission: Appointment terminated Jun 23, 1974
Note: Also accredited to Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar; resident at Kuwait.
 
Michael Sterner
Appointment: May 24, 1974
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 24, 1974
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 24, 1976
 
Francois Dickman
Appointment: Sep 16, 1976
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 14, 1976
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 4, 1979
 
William D. Wolle
Appointment: Sep 28, 1979
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 15, 1979
Termination of Mission: Left post Apr 6, 1981
Note: Patrick N. Theros served as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim, Apr 1981-Oct 1982.
 
George Quincey Lumsden, Jr.
Appointment: Jul 2, 1982
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 13, 1982
Termination of Mission: Left post Jan 28, 1986
 
David Lyle Mack
Appointment: Sep 12, 1986
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 7, 1986
Termination of Mission: Left post Oct 24, 1989
Edward S. Walker, Jr.
Appointment: Nov 21, 1989
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 16, 1990
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 23, 1992
 
William Arthur Rugh
Appointment: Oct 9, 1992
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 3, 1992
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 1, 1995
 
David C. Litt
Appointment: Oct 3, 1995
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 23, 1995
Termination of Mission: Left post Oct 13, 1998
 
Theodore H. Kattouf
Appointment: Oct 1, 1998
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 4, 1999
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 12, 2001
 
Marcelle Wahba
Appointment: Sept 17, 2001
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 6, 2001
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 17, 2004
 
Michele J. Sison
Appointment: May 12, 2004
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 7, 2005
Termination of Mission: 2008
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United Arab Emirates's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Al Otaiba, Yousef

Yousef Al Otaiba became the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States and Mexico in July 2008. Al Otaiba attended Cairo American College before obtaining a degree in international relations from Georgetown University in Washington, DC. He also attended the Industrial College of the US Armed Forces at the National Defense University in Washington, DC as an International Fellow.

                        
Al Otaiba served for seven years as the Director of International Affairs for the Court of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. During that time, he was a senior counselor to HH General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. His responsibilities saw him serve as the UAE’s principal security, anti-terrorism and defense liaison to other governments, and he was heavily involved in diplomatic efforts to improve regional security and defense cooperation. 
 

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United Arab Emirates's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
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U.S. Ambassador to United Arab Emirates

Leaf, Barbara
ambassador-image

 

On September 18, 2014, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the nomination of Barbara Leaf, a career Foreign Service officer, to be the next Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. If Leaf is confirmed by the full Senate, it will be her first ambassadorial posting.

 

Leaf’s father, Lieutenant General Howard Leaf, was a decorated fighter pilot who went on to become assistant vice chief of staff in the Pentagon. There is an award given in his name for outstanding achievement by a U.S. Air Force test team engaged in the test and evaluation of a defense acquisition program.

 

Barbara Leaf earned a B.A. in government from the College of William and Mary in 1980 and in 1984 received her Master’s in foreign affairs with a focus on Soviet affairs from the University of Virginia.

 

Between undergraduate and graduate school, Leaf worked as a library assistant for the Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. She joined the Foreign Service in 1984 and her first overseas assignment came the following year as a consular/political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Following that, in 1986, Leaf did a stint as watch officer in the State Department Operations Center and in 1987, she was sent to Jerusalem as chief of the visa section in the consulate there.

 

Leaf returned to Washington in 1990 as the Kuwait desk officer in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and in 1994, she was sent to Cairo as a political officer.  She moved to Paris in 1996 as a Middle East “Watcher,” reporting on French policies on Iraq, Iran, the Arab-Israeli dispute, Libya, and terrorism issues. Leaf was back in Washington in 2001 as chief editor/director in the Office of Medical Services.

 

Her next assignment was to Bosnia-Herzegovina, first in 2003 as director of the regional office in the Office of the High Representative in the city of Tuzla, where she enforced local implementation of civilian aspects of the Dayton peace accords, including the return of refugees to areas from which they had been ethnically cleansed.  Then in 2004 she began a stint as a political counselor in the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo.

 

Leaf came home in 2006 as director of the Office of Iran Affairs. This was a new position, created to help rebuild State Department expertise about the country and encourage people-to-people exchanges between Iran and the United States.

 

In 2008, she was sent to Rome as political minister-counselor and in 2010 she began a tour in Iraq as a team leader of a provincial reconstruction team in Basrah.

 

Leaf returned to Washington in 2011 to become deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq affairs and in 2013 she was made deputy assistant secretary for Arabian Peninsula affairs.

 

Leaf and her husband, Chris Querin, have two daughters, Maro and Asja. She speaks Arabic, French, Italian and some Serbo-Croatian.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography

Testimony Before Senate Foreign Relations Committee (pdf)

State Department Cables 2007-2009 (WikiLeaks)

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Previous U.S. Ambassador to United Arab Emirates

Corbin, Michael
ambassador-image

A career diplomat with extensive experience in the Middle East, Michael H. Corbin was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on May 5, 2011, and confirmed by the Senate on June 30. He was sworn in on July 25.

 
Corbin was born in New York City. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Swarthmore College, he served from 1982 to 1984 as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mauritania, where he worked as an agricultural extension officer and served as a trainer for new Peace Corps volunteers. 
 
He joined the State Department in 1985, and his first assignment took him to the U.S. embassy in Tunisia.
 
In 1987, he shifted to the embassy in Kuwait
 
Corbin then served in the State Department in Washington, DC, as a staff assistant in the Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs and in the office of United Nations Political Affairs in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.
 
From 1994 to 1997, he served at the embassy in Cairo, Egypt, as the political-military affairs officer.
 
Corbin was the director of the Counter-Narcotics Section at the U.S. embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, from 1997 to 2001.
 
He returned to Washington in 2001, becoming deputy director of the State Department’s Office of Arabian Peninsula Affairs.
 
Two years later Corbin served as the minister counselor for economic and political affairs at the embassy in Cairo, until June 2006.
 
He was chargé d’affaires in Damascus, Syria from 2006 to 2008. According to a cable released by WikiLeaks, in 2007, Corbin urged the administration of George W. Bush to impose sanctions on Ali Mamluk, the chief of intelligence for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. His advice was ignored. Action against Mamluk wasn’t taken until April 2011, after Syrian security forces killed dozens of protestors in Deraa.
 
Corbin’s next assignment was as minister-counselor for political-military affairs at Embassy Baghdad, Iraq (September 2008 to July 2009), followed by a posting as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, a position he held until his appointment as ambassador to the UAE.
 
He speaks French, Spanish and Arabic. When not performing his diplomatic duties, Corbin is an enthusiastic cyclist. 
 
Corbin and his wife, Mary Ellen Hickey, have two children, a son and a daughter. Hickey is also a member of the Foreign Service, recently serving as managing director of the State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues.
 
Official Biography (United States Embassy, United Arab Emirates)
 

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Overview

First established in 1971, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consists of seven states: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Umm al Qaywayn, Ras al Khaymah, Al Fujayrah and Sharjah. This small, oil-rich confederation plays a major role in the oil and finance industries of the Persian Gulf. Due to its size, and the proximity of larger, more powerful neighbors, security concerns have been a major focus of the UAE’s foreign relations. Since the 1991 Gulf war, the government has forged a close relationship with the United States, which has sold billions of dollars in sophisticated military hardware to fortify UAE security forces. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the US, the UAE was identified as a major financial center used by al-Qaeda in transferring money to the hijackers (two of the 9/11 hijackers were UAE citizens). The nation immediately cooperated with the US, freezing accounts tied to suspected terrorists and strongly clamping down on money laundering.

 
This decade, the UAE has been the source of several key controversies with the US. In 2006, public outcry arose after it was revealed that a UAE-owned company was set to take over the security of several American sea ports. Two years later, it was reported that some American exports to the UAE were being to diverted to Iran, Iraq and other countries and falling into the hands of terrorists organizations. Finally, on January 15, 2009, the US and UAE signed a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement that worried some experts about the dangers of nuclear technology spreading to third parties.
 
On February 2, 2009, the UAE began to feel the crunch from the international financial crisis, as the credit rating agency Moody’s announced that it would be downgrading the ratings of six of Dubai’s largest state-owned firms, including global port operator Dubai Ports World and Emaar Properties, the developer responsible for the partly-constructed world’s tallest building, located in the city’s center. Lenders began imposing higher charges in the wake of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and Dubai World found itself unable to refinance its borrowings that depended heavily on the debt markets. 
 
Months later, in November, Dubai sent the global financial market into panic when it asked for more time to repay $4 billion worth of bonds. While the Dubai stock market plunged 70%, banks stopped lending, and economic despair became pervasive. The financial state of Dubai affected banks and financial firms globally that heavily invested in new projects. Eventually, Dubai’s rulers bailed out Dubai World with a $9.5 billion package.
 
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Basic Information

Lay of the Land: In southwest Asia along the southern shore of the Persian Gulf and the western reaches of the Gulf of Oman are seven tiny sheikdoms–Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ra al-Khaimah, Fujairah, Umm al-Qaiwain, and Ajman, which joined together in 1971-1972 to form the United Arab Emirates.

 
Population: 4.6 million
 
Religions: Muslim (predominately Sunni with a Shi'a minority) 75.2%, Christian 12.6%, Hindu 6.6%, Baha'i 2.3%, Buddhist 2.0%, Sikh 0.2%, non-religious 1.0%.
 
Ethnic Groups: Emirati 19%, other Arab and Iranian 23%, South Asian 50%, other expatriates (Westerners and East Asians) 8%.
 
Languages: Arabic (official), Gulf Arabic 30.0%, Southern Balochi 4.0%, Northern Pashto 4.0%, Western Farsi 3.2%, Southern Pashto 1.0%, Shihhi Arabic 0.2%.
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History

Originally the area now occupied by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was inhabited by a seafaring people who were converted to Islam in the 7th century. Later, a dissident sect, the Carmathians, established a powerful sheikdom, and its army conquered Mecca. After the sheikdom disintegrated, its people became pirates. Threatening the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman early in the 19th century, the pirates provoked the intervention of the British, who in 1820 enforced a partial truce and in 1853 a permanent truce. From that point on, the Pirate Coast became known as the Trucial Coast. The British provided the nine Trucial states with protection but did not formally administer them as a colony.

 
The British withdrew from the Persian Gulf in 1971, and the Trucial states became a federation called the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Two of the Trucial states, Bahrain and Oman, chose not to join the federation, reducing the number of states to seven. The seven states that make up the UAE are led by Abu Dhabi, which enjoys massive oil wealth, and Dubai, a major financial hub in the Persian Gulf. The remaining five states are Ajman, Umm al Qaywayn, Ras al Khaymah, Al Fujayrah and Sharjah.
Since obtaining independence, security concerns have been a major focus of the UAE’s foreign relations. It was uncertain in the early 1970s whether the UAE would endure as a viable state. Saudi Arabia, for example, refused to recognize the new federation because of an unresolved border dispute with Abu Dhabi over the Al Buraymi Oasis. Iran and Oman also contested UAE claims to certain territories. In addition, the discovery of extensive petroleum deposits in the 1960s prompted Iraq and other states to challenge the legitimacy of the UAE’s ruling families. Because the UAE was a relatively small state, its leaders recognized that defending the country’s security from both internal and external threats depended on skillful management of diplomatic relations with other countries, particularly larger and more powerful neighbors such as Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
When Egypt signed a separate peace agreement with Israel in 1979, the UAE joined other Arab states in breaking diplomatic relations with Egypt. The UAE did not, however, expel the thousands of Egyptian workers in the UAE or interfere with their transfer of remittances home.
 
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the UAE joined other Arab states in supporting the use of force to compel Iraq’s withdrawal of troops, and sent forces to help liberate Kuwait.
 
In 1992, a dispute with Iran broke out over the sovereignty of three small islands—Abu Musa, Greater Tumb, and Lesser Tumb—when Iranian officials on Abu Musa refused to permit UAE contract workers to disembark, in apparent contravention of a shared sovereignty agreement.
 
The country signed a military defense agreement with the US in 1994 and one with France in 1995.
 
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the US, the UAE was identified as a major financial center used by al-Qaeda in transferring money to the hijackers (two of the 9/11 hijackers were UAE citizens). The nation immediately cooperated with the US, freezing accounts tied to suspected terrorists and strongly clamping down on money laundering.
 
Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the UAE and ruler of the federation since 1971, died in November 2004. His son succeeded him. In January 2006, Sheik Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the prime minister of the UAE and the emir of Dubai, died. Crown Prince Sheikh Muhammad ibn Rashid al-Maktoum assumed both roles.
 
On February 2, 2009, the UAE began to feel the crunch from the financial crisis, as the international credit rating agency Moody’s announced that it would be downgrading the ratings of six of Dubai’s largest state-owned firms, including global port operator Dubai Ports World and Emaar Properties, the developer responsible for the partly-constructed world’s tallest building, located in the city’s center. Utility operator Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, conglomerate Dubai Holding Commercial Operations Group, industrial park and trade zone operator Jebel Ali Free Zone and Dubai International Financial Center Investments, a branch of Dubai’s international financial center, also were in line for downgrades. Lenders began imposing higher charges in the wake of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Dubai World found itself unable to refinance its borrowings that depended heavily on the debt markets. 
 
Months later, Dubai sent the global financial market into panic in November 2009 when it requested additional time to repay $4 billion worth of bonds. The financial sector of Dubai World, one of the largest global conglomerates, accounts for around 50% of the country’s $25 billion remittances. While the stock market plunged 70%, banks stopped lending, and economic despair became pervasive. The financial state of Dubai affected banks and financial firms globally that heavily invested in new projects. Eventually, Dubai’s rulers bailed out the Dubai World with a $9.5 billion package. The deal was designed to allow the government-backed Dubai Financial Support Fund to swap $8.9 billion worth of borrowings into equity.
 
At a height of nearly 1 kilometer, the Burj Dubai, located in central Dubai, is the largest building in the world. It has become a symbol of the type of uninhibited spending largely responsible for the 2008 global financial crisis. Although the tower’s inauguration was lavish, investors are already facing losses as prices in Dubai slump. The tower is central to a 500-acre residential and commercial development in Dubai, flanked by dozens of smaller skyscrapers within the Middle East’s largest shopping mall.
 
Dubai’s Ruler Set for 800m Ascent to Open World’s Tallest Building (by Robert Booth, The Guardian)
Debt-Saddled Dubai World Gets $9.5 Billion State Bailout (by Alistair Dawber, The Independent)
 
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History of U.S. Relations with United Arab Emirates

The United States was the third country to establish formal diplomatic relations with the UAE and has had an ambassador resident in the UAE since 1974.

 
Due to its small size, a principal goal of UAE foreign policy has centered on security concerns with respect to its larger neighbors in the Persian Gulf. During the initial years of UAE independence, a rebel movement threatened to overthrow the government in neighboring Oman. This movement also supported a group known as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arab Gulf, which aimed at establishing a republican regime in the UAE. During the mid-1970s, repercussions of the escalating civil war in Lebanon reverberated throughout the Persian Gulf. Subsequently, the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the civil war and Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, and the Iran-Iraq War all affected the UAE in various ways. These concerns pushed UAE leaders towards developing a secure relationship with the United States during the 1970s and 1980s, even though publicly the UAE criticized the US for its support of Israel vis-à-vis the Palestinian situation.
 
Thus, by 1990-91, when it joined with the United States in the military effort to force Iraq out of Kuwait, the UAE already had become a de facto member of the United States strategic umbrella over the region. Following the Gulf war, the UAE concluded a security relationship with the US in late 1992 that permitted the United States to use some UAE bases temporarily and to pre-position supplies on UAE territory.
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Current U.S. Relations with United Arab Emirates

Private commercial ties, especially in petroleum, have developed into friendly government-to-government ties which include security assistance between the UAE and the US. In 2002, the two countries began a strategic partnership dialogue covering virtually every aspect of the relationship. Since then, the UAE has been a key partner in the US war on terrorism. UAE ports host more American Navy ships than any port outside the US.

 
On January 15, 2009, the US and UAE signed a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement intended to enable the UAE to possess a peaceful nuclear energy capacity while at the same time preventing weapons proliferation. Under the agreement, the UAE will forfeit the Nonproliferation Treaty-afforded right to a domestic enrichment program and will not seek to reprocess its spent nuclear fuel. If approved by the US Congress, the UAE could become the first Arab nation to utilize civilian nuclear technology. 
 
The deal has received mixed reactions from around the world. Some worry that it may spark a nuclear arms race. Within Iran, press coverage alluded to a US double standard in that the agreement showed that Washington favored nuclear technology for its neighbor, the UAE, but not for Tehran. Some members of Congress introduced a bill intended to restrict the agreement until evidence was provided that the UAE had appropriately addressed its long-standing role in facilitating Iranian evasion of US and international sanctions. Although the outgoing Bush administration signed the agreement, it will be up to the Obama administration to submit it to Congress for final approval.
 
A total of 1,189,731 people identified themselves as being of Arab ancestry in the 2000 US census (there is no category for Emirati). Scholars estimate there may be over 3 million ethnic Arabs in America. Traditional fear of governmental abuse of personal information has led many Arabs to conceal their ethnicity. Over a third of the Arab population in America lives in New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles.
 
In 2004, 192,948 Americans visited the United Arab Emirates. The number of visitors has been growing quickly since 2002, when 123,112 Americans traveled to Arabian country.
 
In 2006, 32,633 Emirati visited the US. Emirati have been traveling to the US in ever-increasing numbers since 2002, when 10,080 Emirate came to America.
 
Arab American Demographics (Arab American Institute)
 
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Where Does the Money Flow

The UAE is the largest export market for the United States in the Arab world and, in 2009, was the 19th largest export market, ahead of Spain, Ireland and Indonesia. The UAE buys products from every state in the United States. US imports from the UAE rose by 38% between 2000 and 2007, from $971.7 million to $1.34 billion.

 
Leading American imports from 2005-2009 were led by crude oil, rising from $231 million to $688 million; gem diamonds, up from $96 million to $99 million; and synthetic cloth, increasing from $3 million to $42 million.
 
Imports on the decline from the UAE were bauxite and aluminum, down from $166 million to $94 million; and apparel and household goods (cotton), down from $184 million to $26 million.
 
US exports to the UAE were led by civilian aircraft engines, equipment and parts, rising from $2.1 billion to $3.2 billion. Other top exports included passenger cars, increasing from $931 million to $965 million; drilling and oilfield equipment, up from $396 million to $563 million; and industrial engines, up from $169 million to $477 million.
 
US exports on the decline were led by military aircrafts (complete), decreasing from $949 million to $167 million; household appliances, down from $93 million to $88 million; agricultural farming (unmanufactured) decreasing from $66 million to $60 million; nonmonetary gold, falling from $308 million to $15 million; and nonfarm tractors, down from $18 million to $15 million.
 
In the Congressional Budget for Foreign Operations, the US requested a total of $245,000 in aid for 2010. The aid is split into two broad areas including $230,000 for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction and $15,000 for Stabilization Operations and Security Sector Reform. US aid to the UAE is down from 2009 when a total of $940,000 was given, $725 thousand for Counter-Terrorism, $200,000 for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction, and $15,000 for Stabilization Operations and Security Sector Reform.
 
The US seeks bilateral cooperation with the UAE primarily because of its proximity to Iran and its accessible port, considered the largest in the Middle East. As a part of the Gulf Security Dialogue, the aid given to the UAE is intended to facilitate its participation in US security, education, and interoperability with US forces, in addition to helping to build up Emirates’ defensive capacities for security purposes. US assistance also aims to fund counter-proliferation efforts in Emirati ports so that they do not serve a transshipment point for weapons of mass destruction and related technology and delivery systems.
 
The UAE pegs its currency, the dirham, to the dollar.
 
More than 750 US firms have a presence in UAE, from Bechtel and ExxonMobil to Starbucks and Cold Stone Creamery. The UAE is the largest customer for Boeing commercial passenger aircraft. Westinghouse will take part in a South Korean-led consortium that has won a $20-billion contract to build four nuclear reactors for commercial energy generation in the UAE.
 
The US sold $598.1 million of defense articles and services to the United Arab Emirates in 2007. The most significant buy to date was the March 2000 purchase of 80 US 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 were the advanced Patriot anti-missile systems (PAC-3, up to $9 billion value); kits for the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) kits ($326 million value,); and the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense System (THAAD), the first sale ever of that sophisticated missile defense system (valued at about $7 billion). Also 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).
 
The US gave $1.6 million in aid to the United Arab Emirates in 2007, which was wholly dedicated to Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs. The 2008 budget estimate reduced funding to $314,000, but the 2009 budget request will return funding to higher levels, at $940,000. The 2009 budget estimate will be divided between Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs ($925,000), and International Military Education and Training ($15,000).
 
UAE-US Economic Relationship (UAE Embassy, Washington, DC)
The UAE: Issues for US Policy (by Kenneth Katzman, Congressional Research Service)
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Controversies

Halliburton CEO Moves from Houston to Dubai

Halliburton, the energy services company once headed by Dick Cheney, decided to move the Houston headquarters to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The current chief executive, David Lesar, said the company decided to move to Dubai in order to concentrate their efforts in the Middle East, a potential growth region because of state-owned oil companies. Halliburton’s move to Dubai comes in the middle of controversy. The Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission investigated the company over allegations of improper dealings in Iraq, Kuwait, and Nigeria. Members of Congress suspected the company of trying to reduce its tax bill, while also attempting to profit from business in the Middle East without U.S. restrictions. Lesnar still stood by his decision to move to Dubai by highlighting the Eastern Hemisphere’s potential growth in its oil exploration and production opportunities that would help Halliburton expand their business.
Halliburton Moving C.E.O. from Houston to Dubai (by Clifford Krauss, New York Times)
Halliburton Chief's Move to Dubai Evokes Warnings on Hill (by Steven Mufson and Dana Hedgpeth, Washington Post)
 
US Exports to UAE Diverted to US Enemies
US military officials made a startling disturbing discovery during the Iraq conflict: American-made computer circuits sold to a trading company in the United Arab Emirates had turned up in the detonators of roadside bombs used to attack American soldiers. The finding set off a clash with Washington in 2007 when the Bush administration cited the diversion of the computer circuits to Iran, and eventually Iraq, as proof that the UAE was failing to prevent American technology from slipping into the wrong hands. Administration officials said aircraft parts, specialized metals and gas detectors that have a potential military use had also moved through Dubai, one of the emirates, to Iran, Syria or Pakistan. The diplomatic face-off prompted the United States to threaten tough new controls on exports to the UAE, which had begun a campaign to burnish its image in the US after the Dubai ports controversy in 2006. The administration backed down only after the emirates promised to pass their own export control law. But trade experts and Iranian traders in Dubai said there was little evidence that the new export control law was being broadly enforced.
U.S. Alarmed as Some Exports Veer Off Course (by Eric Lipton, New York Times)
 
Dubai Ports Deal Causes Uproar in US
In March 2006, Congress objected to and thwarted the takeover of six American seaports by Dubai Ports World, owned by the UAE’s government, citing national security concerns. At issue was the sale of port management businesses in six major US seaports to DP World, based in the UAE, and whether such a sale would compromise port security. The port contracts had already been foreign-owned by Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, a British firm taken over by DPW. Although the sale was approved by the Bush administration, many American political figures argued that the takeover could weaken US national security. President George W. Bush argued vigorously for the approval of the deal, claiming that the delay sent the wrong message to US allies. Eventually, DPW agreed to sell its US assets to American International Group Inc. (AIG), which had no experience in port operations.
 
 
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Human Rights

According to the State Department, “UAE courts implementing Shari’a (Islamic law) sometimes imposed flogging sentences on Muslims and non-Muslims as punishment for adultery, prostitution, consensual premarital sex, pregnancy outside of marriage, defamation of character, and drug or alcohol abuse. Authorities used canes to administer floggings, which left substantial bruising, welts, and open wounds on the recipients’ bodies.”

 
The State Department reported, “there were reports that the government held persons in official custody without charge or a preliminary judicial hearing. Current law permits indefinite, routine, incommunicado detention without appeal. Under this procedure, the detainee may only contact his attorney.
 
The State Department reports that, “A defendant is entitled to an attorney only after the police have completed their investigation. As a result, the prosecutor general may grant police approval to question accused persons sometimes for days or weeks without benefit of legal counsel.”
 
The judiciary was composed largely of contracted foreign nationals potentially subject to deportation. Federal law prohibits women from serving in the judiciary. Each emirate administered Shari’a courts. In some emirates these courts considered all types of civil and commercial cases as well as criminal cases and family matters. They acted in accordance with their interpretation of Shari’a but were required to answer to the federal Supreme Court, with the exception of the emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Ras al-Khaimah. In criminal cases Shari’a was applied first, and if evidence required by Shari’a was found insufficient, the penal code was used. Dubai had a special Shi’a council to act on matters pertaining to Shi’a family law.
 
Approximately 50% of federal judges were non-citizen Arabs, whose mandates were subject to periodic renewal by the government. In contrast, judicial positions held by citizens were permanent and subject to termination only for specific reasons set out in the Judicial Authority Law.
 
According to the Department of State, “Defendants have a limited right to legal counsel. Under the Criminal Procedures Code, the defendant has a right to request government-provided counsel in all cases involving a capital crime or possible life imprisonment, regardless of whether the defendant is financially able to hire counsel. The government may provide counsel, at its discretion, to indigent defendants charged with felonies punishable by imprisonment of three to 15 years. The Penal Procedures Law states that defense counsel may be present during any investigation but only at the prosecutor’s discretion.”
 
The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, but the government restricted these rights in practice. For example, the government drafts all Friday sermons in mosques and censors private association publications. The government prohibits criticism of rulers as these acts may create or encourage social unrest. Journalists and editors practiced extensive self-censorship. On April 20, 2008, the government denied the Federal National Council the right to discuss publicly the global financial crisis and the economic downturn’s ramifications in the country.
 
The government controls the press by monitoring the content published in the government owned newspapers, Al-Ittihad and Al-Bayan. Additionally, the government privately influences other sources of media.
 
The ruling by the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal to uphold a conviction of the editor-in-chief of a local newspaper demonstrates a lack of freedom of the press.   According to Human Rights Watch, “The court suspended a local newspaper for publishing an article that alleged a UAE-based company gave steroids to local racehorses owned by the Abu Dhabi royal family. The government has on numerous occasions used the country’s laws to penalize, fine, and close media establishments.” 
 
The government restricted access to some websites on the Internet and monitored chat rooms, instant messaging services, and blogs.  The Department of State reports that “individuals and groups generally engaged in peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by email, with few reports of government prosecution or punishment, although there was self-censorship apparent in many chat rooms and blogs.
 
The State Department noted that “the law requires a government-issued permit for organized public gatherings. On June 19, Dubai authorities prohibited demonstrations by Iranian immigrants protesting the June 12 reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. An estimated 200 persons demonstrated outside the Iranian Consulate in Dubai for five consecutive days before the government took action to end the protests peacefully.”
 
The constitution provides for freedom of religion in accordance with established customs, and the government generally respected this right in practice. But there were some restrictions. The federal constitution declares that Islam is the official religion of the country. According to the 2001 census, 76% of the overall (including resident foreigners) population was Muslim, 9% was Christian, and 15% belonged to other religions.
 
According to the State Department “non-Muslims were subject to criminal prosecution, imprisonment, and deportation if they proselytized or distributed religious literature to Muslims. In August 2008 a foreign Christian organization distributed audio Bibles and held discussion sessions in Dubai labor camps, but no arrests were reported.”
 
According to the Department of State, “The government controlled all Sunni and Shi’a mosques, prohibited the proselytizing of Muslims, and restricted freedom of assembly and association, thereby limiting the ability of religious groups without dedicated religious buildings to worship and conduct business. The government funded or subsidized approximately 95% of Sunni mosques and employed their Sunni imams.”
 
Rape is punishable by death under the penal code but is often not recognized in Shari’a courts. The penal code does not specifically address spousal rape. Domestic abuse against women was a pervasive problem. A 2005 UAE University study indicated that as many as 66% of all women permanently residing in the country had been subjected to domestic abuse. Almost 34% of respondents age 18 to 30 claimed to have been abused by a family member, and more than 50% of respondents stated that they witnessed their mothers being abused in the home. There were no specific reports of honor crimes or killings, although such incidents were rumored to occur within the Muslim foreign resident population.
 
Prostitution is illegal, but it has become an increasing problem in recent years, particularly in Dubai. Substantial numbers of women reportedly arrived, both voluntary and trafficked, regularly from the former Soviet Union, Africa, South Asia, East Asia, Eastern Europe, and other states of the Middle East for temporary stays, during which they engaged in prostitution and other activities connected to organized crime. Although prostitution was widely acknowledged to exist, the government did not publicly address the issue The media reported several arrests for prostitution, trafficking, and operating a brothel.
 
Divorce is permissible, although it is often very difficult for a woman to obtain. A woman may be granted a divorce if she can prove that her husband has inflicted physical or moral harm upon her. A woman also may sue for divorce if her husband has abandoned her for a minimum of three months, or if he has not maintained her upkeep or that of their children.
 
The State Department found that “approximately 80 percent of the resident population were noncitizens originating primarily from the Indian subcontinent. Societal discrimination against noncitizens was prevalent and occurred in most areas of daily life, including employment, education, housing, social interaction, and health care.”
 
Additionally, the State Department noted “persons with HIV/AIDS and other diseases faced discrimination. There were credible reports that government officials discriminated against prisoners with HIV by not granting commuted sentences or parole that other prisoners with similar records had received. Noncitizen residents infected with HIV, hepatitis types B and C, and tuberculosis were denied all health benefits, quarantined, and deported.”
 
 
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors

Note: During Stolzfus' tenure as non-resident Ambassador, the Embassy in Abu Dhabi was established on May 15, 1972, with Philip J. Griffin as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim.

William A. Stoltzfus, Jr.
Appointment: Feb 29, 1972
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 20, 1972
Termination of Mission: Appointment terminated Jun 23, 1974
Note: Also accredited to Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar; resident at Kuwait.
 
Michael Sterner
Appointment: May 24, 1974
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 24, 1974
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 24, 1976
 
Francois Dickman
Appointment: Sep 16, 1976
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 14, 1976
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 4, 1979
 
William D. Wolle
Appointment: Sep 28, 1979
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 15, 1979
Termination of Mission: Left post Apr 6, 1981
Note: Patrick N. Theros served as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim, Apr 1981-Oct 1982.
 
George Quincey Lumsden, Jr.
Appointment: Jul 2, 1982
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 13, 1982
Termination of Mission: Left post Jan 28, 1986
 
David Lyle Mack
Appointment: Sep 12, 1986
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 7, 1986
Termination of Mission: Left post Oct 24, 1989
Edward S. Walker, Jr.
Appointment: Nov 21, 1989
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 16, 1990
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 23, 1992
 
William Arthur Rugh
Appointment: Oct 9, 1992
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 3, 1992
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 1, 1995
 
David C. Litt
Appointment: Oct 3, 1995
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 23, 1995
Termination of Mission: Left post Oct 13, 1998
 
Theodore H. Kattouf
Appointment: Oct 1, 1998
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 4, 1999
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 12, 2001
 
Marcelle Wahba
Appointment: Sept 17, 2001
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 6, 2001
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 17, 2004
 
Michele J. Sison
Appointment: May 12, 2004
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 7, 2005
Termination of Mission: 2008
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United Arab Emirates's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Al Otaiba, Yousef

Yousef Al Otaiba became the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States and Mexico in July 2008. Al Otaiba attended Cairo American College before obtaining a degree in international relations from Georgetown University in Washington, DC. He also attended the Industrial College of the US Armed Forces at the National Defense University in Washington, DC as an International Fellow.

                        
Al Otaiba served for seven years as the Director of International Affairs for the Court of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. During that time, he was a senior counselor to HH General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. His responsibilities saw him serve as the UAE’s principal security, anti-terrorism and defense liaison to other governments, and he was heavily involved in diplomatic efforts to improve regional security and defense cooperation. 
 

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United Arab Emirates's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
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U.S. Ambassador to United Arab Emirates

Leaf, Barbara
ambassador-image

 

On September 18, 2014, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the nomination of Barbara Leaf, a career Foreign Service officer, to be the next Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. If Leaf is confirmed by the full Senate, it will be her first ambassadorial posting.

 

Leaf’s father, Lieutenant General Howard Leaf, was a decorated fighter pilot who went on to become assistant vice chief of staff in the Pentagon. There is an award given in his name for outstanding achievement by a U.S. Air Force test team engaged in the test and evaluation of a defense acquisition program.

 

Barbara Leaf earned a B.A. in government from the College of William and Mary in 1980 and in 1984 received her Master’s in foreign affairs with a focus on Soviet affairs from the University of Virginia.

 

Between undergraduate and graduate school, Leaf worked as a library assistant for the Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. She joined the Foreign Service in 1984 and her first overseas assignment came the following year as a consular/political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Following that, in 1986, Leaf did a stint as watch officer in the State Department Operations Center and in 1987, she was sent to Jerusalem as chief of the visa section in the consulate there.

 

Leaf returned to Washington in 1990 as the Kuwait desk officer in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and in 1994, she was sent to Cairo as a political officer.  She moved to Paris in 1996 as a Middle East “Watcher,” reporting on French policies on Iraq, Iran, the Arab-Israeli dispute, Libya, and terrorism issues. Leaf was back in Washington in 2001 as chief editor/director in the Office of Medical Services.

 

Her next assignment was to Bosnia-Herzegovina, first in 2003 as director of the regional office in the Office of the High Representative in the city of Tuzla, where she enforced local implementation of civilian aspects of the Dayton peace accords, including the return of refugees to areas from which they had been ethnically cleansed.  Then in 2004 she began a stint as a political counselor in the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo.

 

Leaf came home in 2006 as director of the Office of Iran Affairs. This was a new position, created to help rebuild State Department expertise about the country and encourage people-to-people exchanges between Iran and the United States.

 

In 2008, she was sent to Rome as political minister-counselor and in 2010 she began a tour in Iraq as a team leader of a provincial reconstruction team in Basrah.

 

Leaf returned to Washington in 2011 to become deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq affairs and in 2013 she was made deputy assistant secretary for Arabian Peninsula affairs.

 

Leaf and her husband, Chris Querin, have two daughters, Maro and Asja. She speaks Arabic, French, Italian and some Serbo-Croatian.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography

Testimony Before Senate Foreign Relations Committee (pdf)

State Department Cables 2007-2009 (WikiLeaks)

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Previous U.S. Ambassador to United Arab Emirates

Corbin, Michael
ambassador-image

A career diplomat with extensive experience in the Middle East, Michael H. Corbin was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on May 5, 2011, and confirmed by the Senate on June 30. He was sworn in on July 25.

 
Corbin was born in New York City. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Swarthmore College, he served from 1982 to 1984 as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mauritania, where he worked as an agricultural extension officer and served as a trainer for new Peace Corps volunteers. 
 
He joined the State Department in 1985, and his first assignment took him to the U.S. embassy in Tunisia.
 
In 1987, he shifted to the embassy in Kuwait
 
Corbin then served in the State Department in Washington, DC, as a staff assistant in the Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs and in the office of United Nations Political Affairs in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.
 
From 1994 to 1997, he served at the embassy in Cairo, Egypt, as the political-military affairs officer.
 
Corbin was the director of the Counter-Narcotics Section at the U.S. embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, from 1997 to 2001.
 
He returned to Washington in 2001, becoming deputy director of the State Department’s Office of Arabian Peninsula Affairs.
 
Two years later Corbin served as the minister counselor for economic and political affairs at the embassy in Cairo, until June 2006.
 
He was chargé d’affaires in Damascus, Syria from 2006 to 2008. According to a cable released by WikiLeaks, in 2007, Corbin urged the administration of George W. Bush to impose sanctions on Ali Mamluk, the chief of intelligence for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. His advice was ignored. Action against Mamluk wasn’t taken until April 2011, after Syrian security forces killed dozens of protestors in Deraa.
 
Corbin’s next assignment was as minister-counselor for political-military affairs at Embassy Baghdad, Iraq (September 2008 to July 2009), followed by a posting as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, a position he held until his appointment as ambassador to the UAE.
 
He speaks French, Spanish and Arabic. When not performing his diplomatic duties, Corbin is an enthusiastic cyclist. 
 
Corbin and his wife, Mary Ellen Hickey, have two children, a son and a daughter. Hickey is also a member of the Foreign Service, recently serving as managing director of the State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues.
 
Official Biography (United States Embassy, United Arab Emirates)
 

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