Iran has shown every indication that it will comply with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) protocols, as stipulated in the interim nuclear deal agreed on this past November. The IAEA’s director general went as far as to say that officials in Tehran have been “useful” and lauded the Gulf state for its cooperation in every aspect of nuclear inspections thus far. Prior to renewed negotiations between Iran and the West, the IAEA had routinely been denied access to areas of the country where certain nuclear installations were located, though allowed access to more benign testing officials, raising doubts and engendering suspicions in Washington, Brussels and beyond. The fact that the IAEA has established a steady dialogue with Tehran is doubtless an achievement, though compliance in inspections has not translated into success in the negotiating room.
Talks surrounding the Iranian nuclear program have already begun to show signs of floundering. The Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, already has gone on the record in saying that a lasting accord by this coming November is unlikely, as both sides will need to avail themselves of more time in order to narrow down details and sort out various subtleties surrounding any definitive pact. The deal seems to have been held up over squabbles revolving around Iran’s enrichment capabilities, with the two sides seemingly far apart with relation to desired parameters. If the deal does break down and another extension is made necessary, US lawmakers will likely balk at giving Tehran additional time, as they nearly did – and continue to do – when the topic of an initial extension was broached.
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- According to local officials outside of Kabul, the Taliban is leading a large assault throughout the country in Afghanistan. With the closure of the fighting season fairly soon, the Taliban is attempting to gain a foothold that any potential successor would have to regain next year, without the benefit of American forces. In eastern Nuristan province, Taliban fighters are besieging a government administrative office, and the same is true in Logar province. In Helmand, the death toll continues to rise with intense fighting reported around Sangin. Most local leaders will not admit that the Taliban have taken control but confirmed the districts are surrounded by pockets of insurgents, with no reinforcements incoming.
- Kazakhstan’s National Bank, the NBK, has tightened requirements for net equity and charter capital, and created price manipulation restrictions, presumably in response to EEU-wide regulations on the issue of securities manipulations as well as an attempt to keep the tenge at a reasonable level of value. While bolstered by accession into the EEU, the currency is still creating problems for ordinary Kazakh citizens, who have seen prices rise by large increments over the past 8 months.
- Uzbek President Islam Karimov went to China yesterday for an official audience with Xi Jinping, the premier. The two were set to discuss bilateral ties and “key regional and international topics of mutual interest.” Karimov last spoke with Xi in May during the annual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization about increasing Uzbekistan’s participation in the Chinese initiative known as the “Silk Road Economic Belt.” While ostensibly about development as a whole, it seeks mostly to expand a natural gas pipeline network linking China and the FSU republics of Central Asia.
- President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan threatened yesterday to launch short-range ballistic missiles against Azerbaijani cities like Baku, threatening to perform similar actions to what happened in 1993 to the Azeri city of Aghdam. This was all in a public news announcement reported in the ArmenPress, the Armenian State News Agency. What affect this will have in light of the meeting that took place in Sochi last week between Putin, Sargsyan, and Aliyev remains to be seen.
- The Afghan government has ordered a New York Times correspondent, Matthew Rosenberg, to leave the country after a refusal to reveal his sources for the story that was published yesterday about a group of Afghan government officials with the support of military and intelligence corps to take over the country if Abdullah and Ghani do not reach a compromise. Afghan statements on the issue strongly suggested the story was fabricated, and it threatened Afghanistan’s stability and security. The response to his story, while vague, was palpable in the Afghan capital.
- Russia has lifted all bans on the importation of fruit and vegetable products from Kyrgyzstan, said Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov at a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Commission Council during a meeting of the First Vice Prime Ministers of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia. The Council considered issues of further development as part of integration into the EEU, and Kyrgyzstan is seizing on the opportunity of Russia requiring more diversified imports of food products in wake of the ban on those same products from the EU and the United States to request lifting the ban on exporting cattle breeding products, vegetables, and fruits.