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The Iranian Nuclear Deal and U.S. National Security

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

1“The so-called P5+1 (or E3+3) coalition engaged in arduous, painstaking negotiations to resolve the problem of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Within a multilateral framework, the Obama administration used diplomacy to achieve an agreement that served U.S. interests. The goals were to end the nuclear weapons program in the short-term and block Iran’s path to a bomb in the longer-term. Despite its limitations, this agreement certainly achieves those objectives” writes David W. Kearn for Huffington Post.

2Russia calls for global coordination to counter cyber terrorist activity. Security services worldwide must coordinate their efforts in cyberspace to prevent the Internet from becoming a weapon for terrorists, Russian Federal Security Service chief Alexander Bortnikov said Wednesday.”Internet, in effect, is becoming a principal tool of the formation of ultra-radical ideology,” Interfax news agency quoted Bortnikov as saying at the international security conference.The meeting in the central Russian city of Yaroslavl gathered 92 security services delegations from 64 countries and four international and regional organizations, namely the United Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the European Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States.According to Bortnikov, terrorist groups maintain their websites in over 40 languages, using the most advanced information technologies to reach their potential audience.

3Azerbaijan Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Analysis and Outlook to 2025. Azerbaijan upstream oil and gas analysis and outlook report provides complete information on Azerbaijan exploration and production blocks, fields, companies and future prospects. Azerbaijan oil and gas reserves, replacement ratios, proven volumes along with detailed insights into the role of Azerbaijan in region and global upstream markets is provided in detail. Further, complete infrastructure details of Azerbaijan field wise production, field by field details, exploration blocks on offer, available blocks and existing block details in Azerbaijan are provided in the research work. [Research and Markets]

4How Does Kazakhstan Plan to Pay for the Olympics? “Wednesday, Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov seemed fairly confident in Kuala Lumpur that his country’s $70 billion oil fund would be able to financially back up the 2022 Winter Olympics should they win the vote Friday to host over Beijing, long-considered–despite a lack of real snow–the front-runner. Other news that broke Wednesday paints a distinctly less confident picture. The Financial Times’s Moscow correspondent Jack Farchy reported that the Kazakh central bank would be buying a 10 percent stake in KazMunaiGaz, the state oil company, and the money would be paid into the country’s sovereign wealth fund” [The Diplomat]

5Russia vetoes tribunal for downed flight MH17. Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council draft resolution on Wednesday that would have set up an international tribunal to prosecute those suspected of downing a Malaysia Airlines passenger airliner last year in eastern Ukraine. Russia had proposed its own rival draft resolution, which pushed for a greater U.N. role in an investigation into what caused the downing of the aircraft and demanded justice, but it would not have set up a tribunal. Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said it was premature to set up an international tribunal. He said the draft resolution was submitted for a vote by Malaysia and its co-sponsors with the knowledge that it would be vetoed.

6Armenia exchanges “smiles” with Iran, but has no concrete agreements yet . Analysts wonder why Armenia rejects proposals for cooperation with Middle Eastern countries, especially that initiative in the region is clearly moving from Turkey, a state unfriendly to Armenia, to Iran, an Armenia-friendly state. Some even wonder if the whole matter is about “orders” from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, which does not hide the fact that Iran is becoming a competitor for Moscow. [ArmeniaNow]

7The development of alternative energy is of significant importance for Azerbaijan and therefore, the government seeks to introduce modern technology and involve foreign investors in its renewables sector, says Rasul Suleymanov, the chairman of the Association of engineers and energy specialists of Azerbaijan.”Many countries develop this sector in this way. They only provide a territory, so to say, ‘an object of work,’ and guarantee to purchase this energy in the future. In order to encourage companies to work in our market, the government should adopt laws that will regulate this issue legally. Thus, private investors will not have any doubts and fears in financing of alternative energy in our country,” he told local media.

8The National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan will become one of the shareholders of the country’s KazMunaiGas national oil and gas company.The country’s Samruk-Kazyna National Welfare Fund which owns 100-percent share of the company will sell 10 percent block of shares and one common stock of KazMunaiGas to the National Bank at the price determined by an independent appraiser.However, the price won’t be below 750 billion Kazakh tenge (187.45 tenge = $1).

9Kuwaiti Shias’ adventures with Iranian policy. “How could the political Shia movement and the Hezbollah and “Islamic revolution” streams so easily kidnap the views and emotions of the Shias in the Gulf Arab region?Why don’t we hear an opposing voice or come across a decisive stance against some of Iran’s foreign policy, especially those that pan Shias outside Iran pay for, so that everyone knows that such policies do not represent the views of all the Shias in the Arab world? Many Shias of Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia are convinced that not all Iranian policies represent the Shia view, and that, since 1979, the policies of this “Islamic State” exposed the interests of Shias in their Arab countries and the whole world, to political risk, social isolation and possibly threats and reprisals” writes Khalil Ali Haydar for The Peninsula.

10Azerbaijan is ready to take advantage of lifted sanctions on Iran that will happen approximately in 50 days.According to Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Economy and Industry, on August 3-4 Minister Shahin Mustafayev will visit Iran.“The visit will be aimed to discuss the current situation and prospects for bilateral relations and cooperation,” the Ministry says.

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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World Bank Launches Stakeholders Consultations to Support Peace in Afghanistan

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The World Bank today launched a stakeholder’s consultation to identify economic initiatives to support and sustain peace in Afghanistan once a potential political settlement is reached with the Taliban.

After completing several consultations with international and Afghan stakeholders, the World Bank is now seeking broader input from all stakeholders and made public several draft documents on its website to facilitate the process.  

At the 2018 Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan, the World Bank was tasked to support planning for post-settlement economic development projects and programming following discussions.

According to Henry Kerali, the World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan, the consultations will serve several purposes. “First, we want to show that a peace agreement can bring substantial economic benefits to all Afghans and is in the interest of all parties involved in the ongoing conflict. Second, we want to identify potential principles and themes to guide programming decisions following a settlement. Finally, we want to provide some concrete ideas about the kind of programs that could be scaled up or initiated to maintain peace and realize new economic opportunities in Afghanistan.”  

Kerali also noted that the consultations come at a critical time for Afghanistan. “The World Bank is merely providing technical analysis and is not involved in any negotiations; our priority is to plan for the future of Afghanistan. Peace prospects can improve if the right economic conditions are in place and create job opportunities for those who might otherwise take up arms.” Kerali also noted that public input would be vital to ensure effective planning.

The World Bank is inviting comment on three documents now published on its Afghanistan website:

  1. A two-page consultation note;
  2. A short consultation presentation; and
  3. A full technical report.

Consultations are expected to continue until a peace agreement is reached and new programming decisions are made. The public is invited to share comments and questions throughout the process via email or through comments on the relevant website.

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Environment

Microplastic pollution is everywhere, but not necessarily a risk to human health

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A woman fetches water in Pakistan. Photo: UNDP Pakistan

Tiny plastic particles known as microplastics are “everywhere – including in our drinking-water”, but they are not necessarily a risk to human health, UN experts said on Thursday.

In its first summary of the latest research into the impact of the tiny plastic pollutants on humans, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that they have been found in marine settings, waste and fresh water, food, the air and drinking-water, both bottled and from a tap.

Frequently, microplastics are defined as less than five millimetres long, according to WHO.

Its report notes that the particles most commonly found in drinking-water are plastic bottle fragments.

“Based on the limited information we have, microplastics in drinking water don’t appear to pose a health risk at current levels. But we need to find out more,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO’s Director, Department of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health. “We urgently need to know more about the health impact of microplastics because they are everywhere – including in our drinking-water.”

According to WHO’s findings, microplastics larger than 150 micrometres (a micrometre is a millionth of a metre) are unlikely to be absorbed in the human body, while the uptake of smaller particles is likely to be limited. 

Absorption of microplastic particles “including in the nano-size range may, however, be higher”, the WHO report continues, before cautioning that available data in this “emerging area” is extremely limited.

Asked by journalists about how levels of plastic pollutants differ between tap water and bottled water, WHO’s Jennifer de France from WHO’s Department of Public Health, replied that bottled water “in general did contain higher particle numbers”.

Nonetheless, Ms. France also cautioned against jumping to conclusions, owing to the lack of available data.

“In drinking water in general, often the two polymers that were most frequently detected were polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene,” she said. “Now these polymers – the polyethylene terephthalate – is often used in producing bottled water bottles, and polypropylene, is often used in producing caps. However, there were other polymers detected as well, so more studies are needed to really make a firm conclusion about where the sources are coming from.”

While citing the handful of available studies into the absorption of microplastics and nanoplastics in rats and mice, which showed symptoms including inflammation of the liver, WHO’s report insists that people are unlikely to be exposed to such high levels of pollutants.

Drinking-water contamination: a million lives lost each year

A much more clearly understood potential threat than microplastics is exposure to drinking-water contaminated by human or animal waste, said Bruce Gordon, from WHO’s Department of Public Health, highlighting a problem that affects two billion people and claims one million lives a year.

One way that Governments can tackle this problem is by putting in place better waste-water filtration systems.

The move would reduce microplastic pollution by around 90 per cent, the WHO official explained, before noting that the report had touched on people’s wider concerns about how to live more sustainably and waste less.

“Consumers shouldn’t be too worried,” Mr. Gordon said. “There’s many dimensions to this story that are beyond health. What I mean by that is, if you are a concerned citizen worried about plastic pollution and you have access to a well-managed piped supply – a water supply – why not drink from that? Why not reduce pollution. Of course, there are times when you need a water bottle when you’re walking around, but please reuse it”, he emphasized.

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Brazilian stakeholders of UNIDO-GEF project trained on biogas

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The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovations and Communications (MCTIC), and the International Center of Renewable Energy (CIBiogás) trained members and partners of the Steering Committee of its GEF Biogas project on the biogas value chain in Brazil – a renewable source of energy produced from the decomposition of organic waste generated by various enterprises, such as farms and restaurants.

“The potential use of biogas arises from the need to pursue sustainability in agribusiness; at the same time, it represents an opportunity for local economic development”, said UNIDO Project Management Specialist Bruno Neves. “Organic waste generated by the Brazilian agricultural production can result in economic, social and environmental gains as the benefits of biogas production can both be internalized by producers and be made available in the form of thermal energy, fuel and electricity”.

Representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA); the Ministry of Environment (MMA); the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME); the Ministry of Planning, Development and Management (MP); the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (SEBRAE); the Energy Research Company (EPE); the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC); the National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP); Itaipu Binacional and the German cooperation agency (GIZ) participated in the training.

“The main objective of the training was to raise the awareness of ministries and important institutional agents about the need to make rules around renewable energy generation more flexible”, said CIBiogas CEO Rodrigo Regis. “Today, Brazil is very dependent on diesel and we have a growing demand for energy, which biogas can partly supply in a decentralized way, and can develop a new economy for the country, thereby generating jobs, income, development and progress”.

The training included a visit to the Itaipu hydroelectric dam and to a demonstration unit supported by CIBiogas: with a breeding of five thousand pigs, the farm is capable of generating 770 cubic meters of biogas per day, resulting in savings of over US$1,000 per month in energy costs.

“The development of biogas is one of MCTIC’s strategic priorities”, said Rafael Menezes, Coordinator of Innovation at the Ministry’s Secretariat for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “The Brazilian potential for biogas and biomethane production is underexplored; we have to create public policies and a favorable environment so that we can increasingly tap into this potential”.

The GEF Biogas project “Biogas Applications in Brazilian Agroindustry” foresees local and federal actions to stimulate the sustainable integration of biogas in the national production chain. It is financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and aims to expand the production of renewable energy and strengthen national technology supply chains in the sector.

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