Torture by UAE Royal Sheikh Ignored in U.S. Nuclear Agreement Hearing

"The videotape is crystal clear regarding the evidence against the Sheikh," stated Sarah Leah Whitson, of Human Rights Watch. "It's a clear cut case."

The UAE's relationship with Iran seemed to overshadow its human rights violations during the House of Representative Foreign Relations Committee meeting this week. Lawmakers repeatedly expressed concerns about the Gulf state's ties to Iran and the message the proposed agreement would send to other countries in the area.

"For many years the UAE has been the principal conduit of goods and materials intended for Iran's nuclear program, as well as for its ballistic missile and advanced conventional weapons system," said Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), a ranking member of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

Human Rights Issues

Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) agreed, saying his fundamental issue with the agreement is "…the extent to which the UAE has been a reliable partner of the United States in working to prevent Iran's effort to develop a nuclear weapons capability."

Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY) also expressed apprehension over the broader implications of the agreement.

"Does it set off a nuclear energy reaction within the region, especially a region where opening any Pandora's Box is generally a dangerous thing to do?" commented Ackerman.

Undersecretary Tauscher ensured lawmakers that while the UAE still has a lot of work to do in addressing its many issues, "the UAE has made considerable progress" and had "taken the necessary steps to implement an effective export control system."

She went on to say that the UAE's expressed commitment not to pursue enrichment and reprocessing capabilities represents a marked contrast to Iran.

"It is in some ways a groundbreaking agreement. It contains all the necessary nonproliferation conditions and control that Congress has written into law," insisted Tauscher.

Still, some members of Congress believe the UAE's human rights issues should play a large role in determining the fate of the nuclear agreement. They insist the agreement is one of the last major opportunities to bring meaningful human rights changes in the Arab nation.

"This is the time we clearly have the ear of the UAE government," cautioned Representative McGovern. "We must make it clear that if Sheikh Issa were to be released after the Agreement enters in force, this would severely affect our relationship with the UAE."

The review period for the nuclear agreement is expected to end Oct. 17. Both the House and the Senate must approve the agreement in order for it to be enacted.

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