Tajikistan: Bomb blast causes US embassy to close

Some eight policemen and two assailants have been killed in separate attacks around Dushanbe today, in what is being described as a terrorist attack. This has prompted the US Embassy to close and has sparked fears that this is the beginning of larger scale civil unrest. President Emmomali Rahmon responded to the crisis by abruptly dismissing a deputy defense minister who was supposedly related to one of the attackers. The attacks come amidst the tensions created over the prohibition of the country’s only fundamentalist Muslim political party, as well as the beating of a young student who was forced to shave his beard.

Police have quarantined Qarategin after gunmen attacked a police station in Vahat outside of Dushanbe. The event prompted the US embassy to close and calls have gone out for children not to go to school today. The context for these attacks is even larger than the prohibition of political parties – the fears of spillover violence from Afghanistan, as well as the effects of returning militants from Syria taking up residence and continuing operations within Tajikistan.

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News Briefs:

  • The development of the $4 billion Tavan Tolgoi coal deposit in Mongolia is likely to fall through now that China’s slowing growth has created very little external demand for the product. The planned consortium between Mongolian Mining Corporation, Shenhua Energy, and Sumitomo Corporation to take over operations was blocked by Mongolia’s Parliament Speaker in April, leaving the issue in the hands of lawmakers. The minister in charge of negotiating the deal between the three mining entities said he was pessimistic that lawmakers would close the deal.
  • Despite the monumental and historic nature of the agreement between the P5+1 powers and Iran on its nuclear programme, both the US and Iran have been encountering issues pitching the deal in its current form to members of their legislatures. In the US, Senator Ben Cardin, a senior Democrat and Obama supporter, withdrew his support the deal earlier today. In Iran, Hassan Rouhani has pledged to abide by the decision of the Parliament to approve the deal after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei declared the Majlis outght to have final say on the matter.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin pitched the members of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok (Russia’s main Pacific Port) for greater investment in its Far East/Siberia region, aiming to attract investors from China, Japan, and South Korea to develop it economically and deepen ties with the Asia Pacific region. Russia’s failing growth this year, combined with the slump in global commodity prices as well as sanctions with Western countries, have essentially forced a pivot towards China as its main economic partner. The Far East region is a major producer of oil, gas, coal, and timber, as well as fish.
  • The Economist has an interesting piece on the IAEA Uranium Bank being built in Kazakhstan. The article includes an interesting fact – one third of the $150 million financing has been provided by Warren Buffet’s consortium of companies, known as Berkshire Hathaway. The fuel’s safety, rather than its value in the spot market as a commodity, seems to be the principal aim of the bank, whose customers will include ONLY IAEA members. The bank will also only contain low-enriched uranium (LEU) rather than the highly enriched weapons grade form (which is highly unstable). But what is the value for the Oracle of Omaha? Prices of uranium have slumped since the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011 in Japan. But the consolidation of supply under one roof and a foreseeable increase in demand for nuclear power sounds like it will be the source of much future wealth.
  • China has loaned some $500 million to Tajikistan in currency swaps to provide the Tajik government to keep its currency afloat, said a spokesperson from the National Bank of Tajikistan. This move is widely seen as increasing the amount of leverage that China has over the Tajik economy, where it is already the largest creditor and foreign investor, and the cash swap agreements mirror those provided to Kazakhstan and Mongolia in recent years. In Tajikistan, where remittances make up almost half of GDP from Russia, the exchange rate differential has been eating into the purchasing power of the somoni and decreasing consumption and access to credit.
  • Another bomb blast occurred in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, near the Tokhtaboy Mosque. Police confirmed the explosion was caused by a device left behind at a bus station. The mosque was formerly home to a radical cleric, Obidkhon Qori Nazarov, who fled the country in 1998 on charges that he was involving himself with Islamic militant organizations. He currently lives in Sweden, where in 2012 he was the target of an assassination attempt. Whether Nazarov and the bombing are connected in any way remains to be seen.
  • Turkmenistan has official begun construction work on the 1,800 kilometer TAPI natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan, and terminate in India. Turkmengaz, the state gas company have decided not to wait for any more multinational oil major bids and decided to begin the engineering and surveying work themselves. Last month, all four agreed that state company Turkmengaz would lead the consortium for the $10 billion project, despite the fact that foreign commercial partners are expected to participate.
  • According to Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Arkady Dvorkovich, despite the bounce in oil market prices over the past week and talks of finally cutting production to account for the oversaturation of oil supply, Russia would not be cutting its near-maximum output of oil at any point. He qualified this saying, “For Russia, given the structure of production, it’s very difficult to cut supply artificially” – referring to the fact that most Russian oil and gas drillers are not state-owned and it would therefore be a massive overreach of government power to dictate supply in the same manner as Saudi Arabia. Dvorkovich said that the Russian market is insulated to price volatility, saying that “we can optimize, rationalize budget expenditure and other spending to live normally with $50 or $60 per barrel.”
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