Today marked the deadline for P5+1 and Iranian negotiators to come to terms on an agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. The probability that a “permanent” agreement would be reached in accordance with the deadline was virtually zero as Iranian negotiators had previously declared a deal before November 24 “impossible” and Western negotiators had already begun to discuss a possible extension. The Iranian side of the agreement still insists that it retain existing numbers of centrifuges and an equal quantity of lightly enriched uranium (LEU), while the West contends that no deal will be reached if Iran does not reduce its stockpile of centrifuges and balks at plans to send LEU to Russia to be converted into mostly harmless nuclear fuel rods. The Iranian demand to retain currently operational centrifuge counts stems from Tehran’s stated need to replace Russian centrifuges when an agreement between Moscow and Tehran to power Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power station expires in 2021.
American and European sources fear that without guaranteed cuts in nuclear infrastructure that Iran will retain the capacity to quickly “break out” and weaponize its nuclear program. Details left to be resolved with respect to the Iranian nuclear program seem to hinge on this question as well as the possibility that Iran could covertly develop a smaller nuclear facility without Western inspectors becoming aware of it. Scientists versed in nuclear weapon development as well as inspectors from the IAEA have been seen moving from room to room in Vienna in order to provide suggestions on how to best monitor Iran’s nuclear program, although any lasting deal looks only to be possible if an another extension is granted to the negotiations.
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- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has levied accusations against the West of attempted regime change in Russia. The use of sanctions by the US and EU has been undertaken primarily to breed dissatisfaction in Russia and ultimately force Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government from power. The stated Western goal of reducing Russia’s economic capabilities and thereby change its policies towards Ukraine is secondary, stated Lavrov, to the West’s goal of regime change.
- Black market currency traders have grown in prominence inside of Ukraine. Shadow traders have taken to the streets in Kiev in attempts to sell dollars at unfavorable exchange rates. The black market’s emergence suggests that Ukraine may be facing another currency crisis in the near future. Illegal traders of currency were last popular throughout the country following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
- Privacy International recently published a report documenting the use of surveillance equipment in Central Asia. Nearly every one of the Central Asian states has purchased sophisticated surveillance equipment from German and Israeli organizations for the purpose of keeping closer tabs on its own citizenry. Though many Central Asian states have constitutions that technically prohibit the use of surveillance equipment on its own citizenries, the same constitutions are bereft of laws or norms regulating how private companies or affiliated organizations make use of the same equipment.
- The Chinese central bank cut interests rates to 5.6% in order to ensure that the country reached its 2014 growth target. The People’s Bank of China adopted similar measures in months past, though the most recent maneuver suggests that China’s 7.5% economic growth goal is a legitimate concern for Beijing. The move is even more perplexing considering the national government recently made attempts to allay global fears of diminished economic growth.
- The OSCE will assume the role of facilitator during Kyrgyzstan’s upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. Elections in the country will take place in 2015 and will be the first such elections held following Kyrgyzstan’s accession to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union.