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Despite Nuclear Agreement, Transshipment of Sensitive U.S. Goods Still a Concern in UAE

The House Foreign Affairs Committee, Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Subcommittee, held an oversight hearing last week taking a closer look at whether trade partners were doing enough to prevent the spread of “dangerous technologies.”  I will save you the time of having to read numerous studies, House and Senate hearing transcripts, and Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports on the matter.  While there has been some progress, a great deal remains to be done, especially in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

While the U.S. system is far from perfect, and in some areas in need of regulatory updates, it is by far the better system anywhere in the world.  The statutory framework of the U.S. export control regime, strikes a balance between economic and national security concerns.  Regulatory follow through has been good but has not necessarily kept up with market and security concerns; however, recent efforts by the Obama Administration should start addressing much overdue regulatory reforms. Congress should weigh in to ensure that administration reform efforts do not go overboard and make things worse.

Consistent with treaty obligations and U.S. law, U.S. taxpayer dollars are invested in numerous foreign assistance programs to help create a viable, efficient, and robust international export control system.  With the possible exception of the U.K. export regime, and a handful of a few others, most countries have weak export control systems. A March 2010 GAO Report stated, as have numerous prior studies, that “a wide range of U.S. military and dual-use goods are illegally transshipped to Iran through the UAE, Malaysia, Singapore, and other countries.” Of this group, more than half of the transshipments took place in the UAE.

There was little new information at the hearing with regards to UAE’s efforts to control the transshipment of sensitive U.S. technology to the Iranian regime.  With the aim of securing sensitive nuclear technology, the UAE undertook to implement a robust export controls that its public relations team in DC calls one of the best in the Middle East.  That is not saying much.  The UAE secured a 123 nuclear cooperation agreement last year.  It needs to step up and demonstrate that U.S. confidence in the emirate’s non-proliferation was not misplaced.

The fact remains that transshipment of sensitive U.S. technology continues and, in order to curb them, the UAE program needs to be taken to the next level or it may become an export control regime in name only.

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