Iran is moving faster than expected to comply with the November nuclear deal, the IAEA reported yesterday. Iran has apparently diluted half of its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium to lower levels. If true, the report means that Iran has cut 75% of its stockpile since January, when it stood at just above 200 kilograms. It requires about 250 kilograms to make a single nuclear device if enriched to above 90% purity. Despite the good news, the IAEA also noted that the stockpile is not being put to use to turn low-enriched Uranium into oxide for fuel, casting doubts on Iran’s consistent claims that it is aiming to create a network of nuclear power plants.
Hassan Rouhani and Foreign MInister Javad Zarif have met with P5+1 leaders in Vienna for the past two months attempting to broker a more permanent deal that would allow the Iranian economy to recover. Hardliners from Iran have opposed the development of these negotiations as breaches of Iran’s rights as a sovereign nation.
However, indications (not statements) from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have given their tacit support to Iran’s negotiating team. He has also issued an unofficial list of “red lines” for the team to follow, according to AP reporting out of Vienna.
- The Kazakh oil and gas minister has expressed his disappointment over the setback at the Kashagan oilfield. He announced that he sees no legal reason to hold the consortium in charge of its development legally responsible for the setback however, sure to be a relief for the companies involved, who have already sunk billions of dollars into its development. The consortium members include the Italian Eni, French Total, American Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell, and KazMunayGas. Total has released an official statement that Kashagan will not release much oil this year, with only just enough to satisfy the consortium’s terms of the contract with KazMunayGas.
- The Turkmen government has called for expansion of oil development in the Caspian Sea. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov urged his ministers in the public statement to help broker territorial arrangements with the other Caspian states: Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran and Georgia. As one of the most energy-rich emerging markets in the world, Turkmenistan stands to gain a huge amount from Central Asia’s new role as energy supplier to all of Asia (and potentially some of Europe).
- President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov has signed a law which expands the power of the Parliament and Prime Minister. New powers include the ability of the Prime Minister to appoint governors and officials in charge of provinces, such as the mayor of Tashkent. He has also approved the expansion of the Central Election Commission. Outsiders do not believe he is limiting his own role in the government, but merely expanding it.
- China and Russia have called on their Central Asian neighbors to tighten internet “security” to take steps to prevent “external forces” from fomenting revolution. Guo Shengkun, the Chinese Public Security Minister urged Russia and Kyrygzstan specifically at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The Chinese especially fear the spread of the so-called “colour revolutions” that brought down leaders in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan in the past decade.
- Three pro-Russian protesters are dead in Mauripol, Ukraine after an overnight raid on a Ukrainian National Guard base in the Black Sea. The Interior Ministry said over 300 protesters were involved in what is to date the bloodiest episode in the fomenting insurgency inside eastern Ukraine. Masked militias have been seizing government offices and using sophisticated improvised weaponry.