Iran: Obstacles to Nuclear Deal Remain

Whether or not a deal will be made concerning Iran’s nuclear program is again uncertain, as last-minute issues have emerged over the last few days. With the deadline of tomorrow looming, the two sides have seemingly failed to agree on how Iran’s existing nuclear stockpile will be reprocessed, if at all. Reports have varied – months ago negotiators and pundits alike were optimistic about a plan that would see Iran’s uranium stockpile sent to Russia for conversion into fuel rods – though recent statements by an Iranian hardliner have seemingly contradicted that notion. The statement from within Iran triggered a response from the US State Department, who insisted that no concrete decision had been made and that progress was still possible.

Since that time, however, reports of other issues have emerged. Specifically, the “scope” of Iranian nuclear research and development in the medium to long term has yet to be defined, and how UN sanctions would be repealed is similarly unclear. Additionally, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has left the negotiations to attend to issues elsewhere, and won’t return until Tuesday at the earliest. The remaining parties have agreed to keep negotiating until the deadline.

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News Briefs:

  • Global mining giant Rio Tinto announced that its talks with the Mongolian government on the future of the Oyu Tolgoi mine have made progress. While recognizing that the few issues left to resolve are “deal breakers,” Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh emphasized the company’s belief that its demands are realistic. Development of Oyu Tolgoi’s second stage has been stalled due to inconsistencies between the Mongolian government and Rio Tinto. When operational, the mine is expected to amount to approximately 30% of Mongolia’s total economic output.
  • India and Kazakhstan have entered into negotiations with Iran concerning future investment in its steel sector. The fact that India has reportedly begun substantive talks with Iran could portend a nuclear deal that would lift sanctions leveled against Iran, as investment in Iranian steel would otherwise be fairly complicated for Delhi. Kazakh investment in the Iranian steel sector would doubtless by simpler, and more varied, as Iran’s news agency ISNA suggested that the investment would include zinc and aluminum as well.
  • The head of the Chinese central bank issued a warning yesterday that the country will need to remain vigilant in order to avoid the onset of deflation. Zhou Xiaochaun went on to affirm the central bank’s commitment to remaining vigilant amid a drop in commodity prices and “slowing” economic growth. Though the Chinese economy is expected to grow by approximately 7% in 2015, stimulus measures implemented by the Chinese government have been largely ineffective.
  • To the surprise of few, Islam Karimov is expected to renew his place at the head of the Uzbek government after “elections” were held. The results, which are expected to be announced later today, will almost certainly announce Karimov as the winner. Karimov is currently 77 and facing increasing uncertainty concerning the question of succession.
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