With the deadline for the Iranian nuclear deal approaching on Monday, negotiators are scrambling to keep up the pressure on the regime to accede to concessions now rather than parley for another extension. US Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that negotiators push for a deal by Monday and to refuse talks of yet another extension – the remarks picked up by the press were in response to Kerry’s British counterpart, Philip Hammond, who brought up the subject of an extension.
“We are not discussing an extension. We are negotiating to have an agreement – it’s that simple,” he was quoted as saying. Kerry had just come from meetings with the foreign ministers of France and Saudi Arabia, which were held to maintain the support of both countries for continued negotiations on a comprehensive deal, as opposed to a piecemeal one. Still, comments made by the director general of the IAEA Yukiya Amano loom large above the push for a deal – namely that Iran has not been cooperating with its inquiry into evidence of past development work on nuclear weapons.
Additionally, domestic coalitions within Iran and the United States in support of a nuclear deal appear to be falling apart. A report by the NY Times states that while the deal is supported by the more urbane among Iran’s population, it lacks support among the more religious and those who are still alive to remember the 1979 Revolution, citing a demonstration where a large screen was projected onto a building in Tehran that said that Iranian nuclear scientists were killed “by the Americans.” Hardliners defer to Ayatollah Khamenei, who has repeatedly warned in statements released to the public that he is “not optimistic” over the chances of reaching a nuclear deal with the West. In the United States, the results of the recent midterm elections essentially give the Republicans a supermajority that would allow them to torpedo any deal that Obama forwards to them for approval. However, this session of Congress does not end for a few more weeks, and thus Secretary Kerry is trying to get the deal pushed through before the opportunity closes.
Follow us on Twitter: @SteppeDispatch
- In related news, Ayatollah Khamenei has freed an Iranian blogger, Hossein Derakhshan, who was suspected of spying for Israel and given a prison sentence of 19 years for “insulting Islam.” He has served six years of that sentence so far. Opposition bloggers credit Derakhshan with launching an internet revolution in the country by publishing instructions on how to blog on the subject of political freedoms in Farsi.
- Russia and Pakistan signed their first-ever military cooperation agreement, ending many years of divisions and wariness over Islamabad’s connections with the US and Moscow’s with India. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Pakistan and made general agreements that bilateral military cooperation should be enhanced, establishing the guidelines for future cooperation. Shoigu stated that joint naval exercises will be a key feature of cooperation with Pakistan, as well as officer exchanges, arms sales, and counternarcotics and counterterrorism training.
- Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif said on Thursday that his government would talk to separatist leaders in Kashmir before entering into any dialogue with India, raising tensions in what is now a decades-long standoff over the sovereignty of the region. This comes days before the Saarc conference in Nepal, where a bilateral meeting with new Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is expected to take place. In August, India cancelled secretary-level dialogues to protest Pakistan’s commissioners meeting with Hurriyat leaders in Kashmir.
- An independent newspaper has been shut down in Kazakhstan after authorities noted that it criticized authorities on issues of human rights and corruption. The newspaper, called “Adam bol” (Be a Human), was shut down by court order yesterday. The mayor of Almaty said that the recent law signed in effect earlier this year that “banned the propagation of forceful change in the country’s constitutional structure, threatening its territorial integrity and security…” was cited in the documents.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday gave a speech that the government must prevent a “color revolution” in Russia to halt the spread of extremism, citing in particular radical Internet sites and illegal immigration. The term “color revolution” is significant due to the fact that popular uprisings in the FSU and Central Asia were often called by various colors (for instance, the Jade Revolution in Kyrgyzstan). As a result, he advocated wariness among the political elite of the political and social upheaval in the form of protests that were held against him in 2012.