Around Town …

  • Congress is in recess until after the November elections.
  • Possible CFIUS review in the offing a’la Dubai Ports?  Uranium One USA officials told the media recently that it would be “highly unlikely” that a proposed buy out by a Russian company — an entity that may be linked to proliferation activities — would lead to uranium exports to Russia or Iran.  From the little I have read in the media about this one, it seems as if this may be a “covered transaction” subject to CFIUS review under Foreign Investment and National Security Act of 2007.  The company may want to stop talking to the media until it gets all of its its regulatory ducks in row.
  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton details new Iran sanctions, while the Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control issues regulations on same.

  • DotMed news reporter Brendon Nafziger penned a recent article titled, “Syria, Cuba, Iran – Axis of medical equipment?”  I especially like the caveat before he delves on substance:  “Finally, before attempting to export anything, consult with an export lawyer or specialist – this is a complex, delicate topic, and you don’t want to rely on the words of a journalist. (emphasis added)”
  • The Senate this week approved implementing legislation for the US-UK Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty.
  • Neodymium is a chemical substance – a rare earth substance – that is in very high demand. It has many commercial applications such as in magnets used in microphones, guitars and computer hard disks.  It has even been used in rear-view car mirrors to reduce glare. In addition to these commercial applications, it also used in defense manufacturing in lasers and smart bombs.  And, surprise, the Chinese really want a lot of it.  According to Bloomberg News the “U.S. handed its main economic rival power to dictate access to these building blocks of modern weapons by ceding control of prices and supply, according to dozens of interviews with industry executives.”
  • For our DC wonk readers, yes, neodymium-doped lasers are subject to export controls by the U.S. government.
  • In April of this year, Malaysia’s parliament approved the Strategic Trade Bill – that country’s first step in controlling the proliferation of sensitive technologies.  It is a good first step, but they have a ways to go.  As the government implements regulations to give more teeth to the law, a member of the Malaysian bar penned recently that “[ex]port control is a monumental and painful task, for both the regulator and the regulated.” Get ready, it will only get better.
  • The Russians announced yesterday that they were pressing forward with a commercial space station project (certainly with no U.S. technology or know-how acquired from the International Space Station program). Meanwhile, also yesterday back in Washington, DC the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) released a report that, in part, concludes that the U.S. “must take the necessary steps to restore and maintain the vitality of our national security space programs to avoid a crisis beyond which irreparable harm occurs to our nation’s defense and economic success.”  It is a good report and well worth a read; however, the export control reform boogeyman made a cameo. Boogey boogey boogey.
  • Talking about monsters, the Western Hemisphere’s resident ogros – Fidel and Raul Castro – are desperate, again.  The long-time virulently anti-semetic dictators have engaged in diplomatic niceties with Israel. In the much ballyhooed but one dimensional interview with Atlantic magazine reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, Fidel Castro said that Israel had a right to exist and that Iran should stop picking on Israel so much. While I can see Shimon Peres falling for it, and he did, but Netanyahu?  Castro is lying – it is a political sideshow.  Someone should send a cable to Tel Aviv …
  • According to the Miami Herald, Cuba plans to put in place a deep sea oil rig that will plumb the depths of the Caribbean for black gold.  The usually anti-embargo crowd, of the same political persuasion as those groups that criticized BP oil for digging so deep in the Gulf, will likely say nothing about Cuba’s venture that will dig even deeper than BP.  On the regulatory side of things, the story also mentions that there are a group of Cuban scientists in Florida this week “to finalize a long-term marine research and conservation plan for the three countries.” How nice.  We beat up on a British company that tries to follow U.S. laws, but the Obama team seems to want to trust a state sponsor of terrorism to do the right thing. Tell that to the folks in the Florida Keys. What the U.S. should be doing is urging Spain’s oil giant Repsol not to go through with the deal.  Maybe it is time to update Helms-Burton a’la Iran with a Comprehensive Cuba Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010.
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