"The UAE's relatively open borders and economy have won praise from advocates of expanded freedoms in the Middle East while producing financial excesses, social ills such as human trafficking, and opportunity for UAE-based Iranian businesses to try to circumvent international sanctions. The social and economic freedoms have not translated into significant political change; the UAE government remains under the control of a small circle of leaders who allow citizen participation primarily through traditional methods of consensus-building. To date, these mechanisms, economic wealth, and reverence for established leaders have enabled the UAE to avoid wide-scale popular unrest. Since 2006, the government has increased formal popular participation in governance through a public selection process for half the membership of its consultative body, the Federal National Council (FNC). But, particularly since the Arab uprisings that began in 2011, there has been an increase in domestic criticism of the unchallenged power and privileges of the UAE ruling elite as well as the spending of large amounts of funds on elaborate projects that cater to tourists. The leadership has resisted any dramatic or rapid further opening of the political process and has suppressed Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islamists and secular opposition activists, drawing substantial criticism from human rights groups. […] For the Obama Administration and many in Congress, there were initial concerns about the UAE oversight and management of a complex and technically advanced initiative such as a nuclear power program, particularly for the potential leakage for U.S. and other advanced technologies to leak illicitly to Iran. These concerns were underscored by dissatisfaction among some Members of Congress with a U.S.-UAE civilian nuclear cooperation agreement."
CRS Report for Congress, RS21852