Negotiations concerning the state of Iran’s nuclear program will resume this Thursday in Vienna. Ministers on both sides are expected to trifle little while attempting to quickly reach an agreement with the Gulf nation by the 24th of November. The two sides have throughout the process expressed an ever-fluctuating combination of cautious optimism and full-fledged pessimism, with the former taking hold once again leading up to the negotiations. Iranian officials have openly stated that a deal is still feasible, though they expect the opening week of negotiations to produce little in the way of substantive agreements. US Secretary of State John Kerry also defended the possibility of a deal, and brushed off doubts surrounding the deal’s viability by questioning the knowledge of those that view any lasting agreement as unlikely.
Though both sides remain confident that a deal is within reach, urgency that once typified the two sides’ posture towards an agreement has slowly dissipated in light of other conflicts. Both Iran and the United States have been drawn into disputes in the Middle East, and Washington has been increasingly preoccupied with Russian meddling in Syria. Adding to the uncertainty is the popularity (or lack thereof) of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who recently lost a key supporter and member of his cabinet to impeachment by mostly conservative rivals.
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- Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot has promised to “shirtfront” (sic) Russian President Vladimir Putinduring a bilateral meeting between the two at the G20 summit in Brisbane next month. The source of such a threat is the loss of Australian lives during the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. He told reporters he would tell Mr. Putin that he believed that Australians were murdered by Russian-backed separatist forces in Ukraine. A “shirt-front” is a front-on charge designed to knock an opponent to the ground, an expression commonly used in Australia to describe an aggressive confrontation.
- Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj said during an interview that Mongolia will never play host to an American military base.When asked to explain his reasoning, he cited a recent poll of Mongolian citizens who were asked what countries were necessary to cooperate with, and over 60% said they preferred Russia and 15-20% preferred China. He concluded with, “the rest of the world is our third neighbor. Of course we want to have good relations with all other countries.”
- Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif brought up the issue of Kashmir during a meeting with a delegation of US Senators, some which included Tim Kaine (chairman of the Armed Services Committee) and Angus King. He emphasized that dialogue through the United Nations was the only way to proceed, as they “must form the basis for any solution for Kashmir and the people of Kashmir to be a part of it.” He followed this discussion up with the offer of enhanced cooperation on the part of the Pakistani government on security matters on the border, perhaps offering cooperation in that arena if they obtained support on the issue of Kashmir.
- US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in Parisyesterday to discuss the conflicting sides in Ukraine. The two have been meeting sporadically on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and on the telephone, but today will mark the first face-to-face meeting this month. Lavrov has been deflecting Kerry’s concerns about escalating violence in Ukraine despite Lavrov’s insistence that Russian forces and Ukrainian separatists are abiding by the ceasefire and overall Minsk agreements.
- The United States hascondemned Kyrgyzstan for making plans to adopt new legislation to ban “gay propaganda.”Kyrgyzstan’s parliament is in the process of adopting measures that would include strict punishments for “popularizing homosexual relations” and “propaganda of a homosexual way of life.” The new bill would create fines and impose prison terms of no more than one far on those found guilty of offenses under the new law.