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Iran deal signals a radical shift in U.S. approach to the Mideast

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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Welcome to the Caspian Daily, where you will find the 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region. We appreciate ideas, reports, news and interesting articles. Send along to Caspian[at]moderndiplomacy.eu or on Twitter: @DGiannakopoulos

1At least since 9/11 and arguably for two decades before that, two propositions have informed U.S. policy in the Mideast. The first is that U.S. interests there are best served by the United States establishing a position of unquestioned preeminence. The second is that military might, wielded unilaterally if necessary, holds the key to maintaining that dominant position. Call it the Big Enchilada policy, with attitude. As implemented, however, that approach has yielded almost uniformly unfavorable results. Iraq and Afghanistan provide exhibits A and B, of course. But Libya, Somalia and Yemen don’t look much better. Even so, some hawkish types argue that trying a little harder militarily will produce better outcomes. Their ranks include a platoon of Republican presidential candidates vowing if elected to get tough on the ayatollahs, Andrew J. Bacevich for the Los Angeles Times.

2India Opens Gateway to Central Asian Gas Riches After Iran Deal. With U.S. sanctions easing, India is racing to build a port in Iran that will get around the fact that its land access to energy-rich former Soviet republics in Central Asia has been blocked by China and its ally Pakistan.“We’re seeing the latest manifestation of the Great Game in Central Asia, and India is the new player,” said Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “It’s had its eyes on Central Asia for a long time.” While the world focuses on what Iran’s opening means for Israel and Arab nations, the ramifications are also critical for Asia. Closer Iran-India ties would allow New Delhi’s leaders to secure cheaper energy imports to bolster economic growth and reduce the influence of both China and Pakistan in the region. Natalie Obiko Pearson for Bloomberg.

3Turkmenistan’s government-owned TurkmenGaz will lead a consortium of the national oil companies of the four nations that will build and operate the ambitious Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, the petroleum ministry said without clarifying whether foreign private companies can still participate in the $7.6 billion project.

4Kazakhstan will establish an energy efficiency fund, which will become a tool for supporting energy service companies by allocating them credits and loans on preferential terms, said Albert Rau, Kazakhstan’s Deputy Investment and Development Minister.”Currently, works on the establishment of an energy efficiency fund are already being conducted together with the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program,” he said. “This will give additional impetus for the development of this sector in Kazakhstan. In this regard, we should follow the example of Europe, in particular Germany, which has made significant progress in the field of energy saving.” According to the “100 concrete steps” plan voiced by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, one of the important directions of Kazakhstan’s industrial development is the reduction of energy intensity in the gross domestic product of the country.

5A sophisticated cyber-attack on an email network at the Pentagon affected 4,000 military and civilian personnel working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the network was shut down for two weeks. It was a so-called spear-phishing attack in which people are tricked into opening bogus emails which then infect the network.US officials did not say whether the attack has been linked to individuals or the Russian government but said it was “sophisticated.”One official said: “It was a spear-phishing attack traced to that country (Russia),” Another told NBC News: “It was clearly the work of a state actor.” No classified information was obtained but the Pentagon decided to shut the email system down.

6S-400 Triumf missile defense systems have entered service in the Russian Armed Forces on the Kamchatka Peninsula, the head of the Defense Ministry’s press service for the Eastern Military District said Friday.“The S-300 missile defense systems that were deployed earlier reliably defended the airspace for over a quarter of a century. The capabilities of the new technology will allow for the detection of air targets at more than 600 kilometers away and are several times better than the military efficiency of anti-air defense of foreign states,” Roman Martov said. The S-400 Triumf (SA-21 Growler) is a Russia’s next-generation anti-aircraft weapon system, carrying three different types of missiles capable of destroying aerial targets at short-to-extremely long range.

7A Business Incubation Center at Mingachevir Tech Park will be created before the end of this year, says executive director of the High Tech Park Seymur Agayev. Currently, the general plan of progress for selected areas and the very structure of the Mingachevir Tech Park is under development, he said.“There are a number of measures concerning the activities of the Mingachevir technology park that will be adopted, and the business incubator is one of them. We are developing a comprehensive program that will at once launch the activity of the Tech Park. In addition, discussions are underway with potential investors and members,” Agayev said.

8Will Vladimir Putin save Russia’s ailing firms, like EkoNiva, Rosneft, Gazprom? Including the money in the sovereign wealth funds, the government has $US358 billion in foreign currency reserves and gold. So why not put some to work aiding businesses? One problem is that some banks and companies are poorly managed and deserve to go under, says Bernie Sucher, a longtime US investor in Russia who serves on the board of Moscow-based UFG Asset Management. Bailing them out only delays the day of reckoning, he says. That’s what happened in the 2008 financial crisis in Russia, when “the government sprayed liquidity all over the economy”, he says. “The big miss in 2008 was the failure to use the crisis to pursue deep structural reforms.” Carol Matlack for Sydney Morning Herald.

9Kazakhstan government has revised the decree that made many popular resorts a special border zone requiring special passes. Foreigners will no longer have to obtain permits to visit them. It greatly widened the strip of nearborder land considered a special zone not supposed to be visited by foreigners without obtaining a prior permit from the local authorities. A lot of popular destinations, including Big Almaty Lake, Medeo high altitude skating rink, Shymbulak skiing resort, Lake Alakol, Kolsay Lakes and Charyn Canyon ended up in that zone.

10An agreement to build “Wind Parks” in the vicinities of the Iranian city of Khaf has been reached. According to the agreement, the project will be implemented by LLC “Azalternativenerji”. The project will be implemented within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding, which was held in Baku in October 2014.

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine. follow @DGiannakopoulos

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Guterres: Korean nuclear crisis, Middle East quagmire eroding global security

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Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“Conflicts are becoming more and more interrelated and more and more related to a set of a new global terrorism threat  to all of us,” Mr. Guterres said in his keynote address at the opening ceremony on Friday of the Munich Security Conference.

For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the world is facing the threat of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which he called “a development made in total contradiction to the will of the international community and in clear violation of several resolutions of the Security Council.”

He said that it was essential to maintain “meaningful pressure over North Korea” to create an opportunity for diplomatic engagement on the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula within a regional framework.

“The two key stakeholders in relation to this crisis, the United States and [DPRK]” must be able to “come together and have a meaningful discussion on these issues,” he said, adding that it is “important not to miss the opportunity of a peaceful resolution through diplomatic engagement as a military solution would be a disaster with catastrophic consequences that we cannot even be able to imagine.”

The situation in the broader Middle East, which the UN chief said had become a “Gordian knot,” was also eroding global security, with that are crises that are “crossing each other and interconnected.”

Pointing to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and wars in Syria, Yemen and Libya, among others, Mr. Guterres said the entire Middle East has “became a mess,” with varied and intersecting fault lines.

He warned of the absence of a common vision in the region and said that even if interests are contradictory, the threats these conflicts represent would justify some efforts to come together.

Turning to cyber-security, Mr. Guterres called for a serious discussion about the international legal framework in which cyberwars take place.

“I can guarantee that the United Nations would be ready to be a platform in which different actors could come together and discuss the way forward, to find the adequate approaches to make sure that we are able to deal with the problem of cybersecurity,” he said, noting that artificial intelligence provides “enormous potential for economic development, social development and for the well-being for all of us.”

The Secretary-General said that Governments and others have been unable to manage human mobility. He warned that this had created mistrust and doubts about globalism and multilateralism.

“This is a reason why,” he said, “we need to be able to unite, we need to be able to affirm that global problems can only be addressed with global solutions and that multilateralism is today more necessary than ever.”

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Supporting tourism development in Africa through better measurement

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In an effort to better measure tourism growth and development in Africa, UNWTO signed a Cooperation Agreement with the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation for the Strengthening of the National Tourism Statistical System of Nigeria and the Development of a Tourism Satellite Account.

UNWTO is committed to developing tourism measurement for furthering knowledge of the sector, monitoring progress, evaluating impact, promoting results-focused management, and highlighting strategic issues for policy objectives.

On the occasion of the meeting between UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, and the Minister of Information and Culture of Nigeria, Mr. Lai Mohammed, the agreement to host the Sixty-First meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Africa and the Seminar on ‘Tourism Statistics: A Catalyst for Development’ in Nigerian capital, Abuja, from 4 to 6 June 2018, was signed.

The meetings will be open to the participation of UNWTO Member States and Affiliate Members, as well as invited delegations and representatives of the tourism and related sectors. Officials of immigration departments, national statistics bureaus, central banks and other relevant stakeholders will be invited to join.

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Causes of Rohingya refugee crisis originate in Myanmar- solutions must be found there

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“We are now in a race against time as a major new emergency looms,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told the Security Council via videolink from Geneva, Switzerland.

He said that the Kutupalong area in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar is now the largest refugee settlement in the world, and with the monsoon season to start in March, 107,000 refugees are estimated to be living in areas prone to flooding or landslides.

“The [Bangladeshi] Government is steering a massive emergency preparedness effort, but international support must be stepped up to avert a catastrophe,” he said, stressing that “as we have repeatedly said, resolving this crisis means finding solutions inside Myanmar.”

He said that conditions are not yet conducive to the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.

The refugee crisis erupted in late August when Myanmar armed forces launched a security operation in the north of Rakhine State, driving thousands of children, women and men to flee over the border to Bangladesh in search of safety.

“The causes of their flight have not been addressed, and we have yet to see substantive progress on addressing the exclusion and denial of rights that has deepened over the last decades, rooted in their lack of citizenship,” Mr. Grandi said.

“It is time to bring an end to this repeated, devastating cycle of violence, displacement and statelessness to invest in tangible, substantial measures that will start to overcome the profound exclusion that the Rohingya community have endured for far too long,” he added.

Also addressing the Council was UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenca, who said that while there has been certain progress on the three priorities laid out by the Secretary-General, not all have been implemented thus far.

Turning first to the need to end violence and improve the security situation, he said that although large-scale acts of violence have subsided, concerns about threats and intimidation against the remaining Rohingya population from Bamar and Rakhine communities, as well as from militia and security forces in Rakhine state, persist.

Second, the UN does not have sufficient access to make a meaningful assessment of the humanitarian or human rights situation in Rakhine.

As for the third point, which is voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced people to their places of origin or choice, Mr. Jenca said the Government has taken some high-level steps to advance this process, including the convening of an Advisory Board, whose recommendations include the inclusion of the UN at an early stage, soonest full humanitarian access, wider media access, and the formation of an independent fact-finding commission.

Mr. Jenca called on the authorities in Myanmar to release the arrested two Reuters journalists and respect the right to freedom of expression and information.

Reuters has now published the story these journalists were working on, a deeply disturbing account of the execution of 10 Rohingya men in Inn Din village (Maungdaw) in northern Rakhine state,he said, while the Associated Press (AP) has also published a report of five mass graves in Gudar Pyin village (Buthidaung).

“These and other shocking reports of grave abuses demand our attention and action, for the sake of lasting peace and justice,” he said.

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