Iranian state news agency IRNA reported on October 12 that the Iranian Parliament passed a bill supporting the country’s participation in the nuclear deal reached in July. The legislation approves Iran’s future fulfillment of stipulations in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated between President Hassan Rouhani’s government and the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the U.S. and Germany).
Per the agreement, Iran is set to reduce its nuclear enrichment activities starting this month in return for relief from European and U.S. sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy. Although the JCPOA requires Iran to allow UN nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors access to nuclear sites, the bill specifies that inspectors must first obtain permission from a top Iranian security agency for access to military sites. The bill was passed with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s religious decree against the development of nuclear weapons inside Iran, a marked shift in his vocal opposition towards the Rouhani government’s initiative. The legislation must be approved by a final vote from the Guardian Council clerical body, expected to pass the bill without issue.
Passage of the bill is expected to reinforce the Rouhani government’s legitimacy amid a fraught political and economic environment. While managing to reach the JCPOA in July, Rouhani faced considerable opposition from conservative factions decrying any reconciliation with the United States. However, the agreement was celebrated by Iranians living with the economic realities of sanctions. While sanctions have yet to be officially lifted, throughout the past month there have been increasing numbers of foreign business delegations visiting Iran. The Iranian Parliament’s decision comes ahead of U.S. Congressional action on American adherence to the JCPOA, as the Obama administration faces similar opposition from Republican representatives.
Follow us on Twitter: @SteppeDispatch
- Russian joint stock company Gazprom resumed transfer of gas to Ukraine on October 12 after a $243 billion advance payment from its Ukrainian equivalent Naftogaz. This marks the re-engagement of gas supply from Russia since talks between the two countries that failed to reach an agreement ended on July 1. The payment was made after Ukraine received a $500 billion EU loan for gas supplies and purportedly requested 2 billion cubic meters of gas for the month of October. Approximately half of Europe’s Russian gas supply is routed through Ukraine.
- The Dutch Safety Board reported the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 in July 2014 was caused by a Russian-made missile fired in eastern Ukraine. The Board did not name the party responsible for firing the Buk missile, which caused the crash that killed all 298 people aboard the flight. The Ukrainian and Western governments maintain that rebels loyal to Russia are responsible, while the Russian government has suggested forces loyal to Ukraine may have fired the missile. The Board is an autonomous organization based in the Hague that the National Bureau of Air Accidents Investigation of Ukraine requested investigate the crash in July 2014.
- China’s main newspaper alleged that the U.S. and Russia are engaged in a display of Cold War rivalry in Syria. In an opinion echoed by U.S. media, The People’s Daily accused the former superpowers of using the civil war in Syria to replay tensions dating from the Soviet era. Russia began supplying weaponry to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in September to ostensibly fight terrorism, while the U.S. has been arming and training rebel groups opposed to both Assad and ISIL. Earlier this month, the Kremlin suggested that volunteer Russian troops may be sent to fight in Syria alongside Assad’s forces.
- Al-Nusra Front, the affiliate of Al-Qaeda in Syria, released an audio message on October 12 vowing retaliation for Russian involvement in Syria. The same day, Russian authorities reported the detainment of 10 individuals, allegedly affiliated with Islamist rebels in Syria, who are accused of developing an explosive device in a Moscow apartment. Although analysts have predicted a rise in negative sentiment from Islamists towards the Russian government, some citizens were skeptical of the foiled plot. On October 13, two rockets hit the Russian embassy in Damascus, causing panic but no casualties during a pro-government rally to thank Moscow for its assistance. No group has claimed responsibility for the rockets.
- Trend News Agency reported that the government of Kazakhstan has spent close to $1.7 billion to steady the exchange rate of the national currency. The exchange rate of the tenge dropped by 26% and continued to decrease after the government announced a currency devaluation on August 20. On September 16, the National Bank of Kazakhstan allocated funds to stabilize the rapidly devaluating currency, and has managed to reverse the trend somewhat, pulling the tenge back up from 300 to 274 tenge to 1 dollar. The government has expressed concern over threat financial and economic instability may pose to national security.
- Nine prisoners serving sentences on charges of religious extremism and terrorism broke out of prison in northern Kyrgyzstan, resulting in the deaths of three guards. Four of the men are still at large, three of whom are allegedly members of the group Jaishul Mahdi (Army of the Righteous Ruler), accused by the Kyrgyz government of bomb attacks and plotting a coup. Analysts have expressed concern that while the threat of Central Asian citizens becoming affiliated with terrorist groups is low, governments in the region may use limited local activities connected with these groups to crack down on religious freedoms.