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So, what if Iran does get nuclear weapons?

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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

1Many states — including Britain, France and North Korea — have used nuclear weapons to permit greater independence from their senior allies. Indeed, fear of that independence has frequently driven the United States’ surprisingly vigorous efforts to prevent even its allies from acquiring nuclear weapons, as several scholars have documented. To the extent that Iran’s senior allies — Russia and China — now constrain Iranian behavior, we might expect Iran to behave more independently upon acquiring nuclear weapons. But Russia and China are (at best) loose allies of Iran, so this effect is likely to be limited. Mark S. Bell for The Washington Post

2Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger has urged the United States to treat Russia as a “great power” and stop making efforts to break it.“Breaking Russia has become an objective [for US officials] the long-range purpose should be to integrate it,” the 92-year-old said during an interview with The National Interest published on Wednesday.“If we treat Russia seriously as a great power, we need at an early stage to determine whether their concerns can be reconciled with our necessities,” he told the policy magazine.In his interview, Kissinger accused the American and European governments for failing to recognize the historical context in which the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine started.”The relationship between Ukraine and Russia will always have a special character in the Russian mind,” he said.“It can never be limited to a relationship of two traditional sovereign states, not from the Russian point of view, maybe not even from Ukraine’s. So, what happens in Ukraine cannot be put into a simple formula of applying principles that worked in Western Europe,” the veteran diplomat added.

3The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $1 billion loan to help Kazakhstan continue government programs to strengthen the economy in the face of recent challenges.”This loan from ADB’s Countercyclical Support Facility will give the country the fiscal leeway it needs to mitigate the unanticipated and significant negative impacts of the steep decline in world oil prices and the economic slowdown of the neighboring countries,” said Lotte Schou-Zibell, Principal Economist in the Central and West Asia Department.

4Iran will cooperate with Azerbaijan on gas transportation to Europe through the Southern Gas Corridor, Mahmoud Vaezi told Trend on August 20.The Iranian Information and Communications Technology Minister, said that his country plans to export gas not only to Asian markets, but to Europe as well.“Transportation through Azerbaijan is one of the routes of bringing Iranian gas to Europe,” Vaezi noted. The Southern Gas Corridor is a priority energy project for the EU. It envisages the transit of gas from the Caspian Sea region to European countries through Georgia and Turkey.

5Azerbaijan: Back in the USSR? The conviction of two prominent dissidents conjures up the Soviet past. Political prisoners are nothing new in today’s Azerbaijan, run by Ilham Aliev, its authoritarian president. But the Yunuses’ case is especially egregious. They are veterans of the Soviet dissident movement and still the country’s most prominent civil-rights activists. In the early 1980s they worked for a samizdat newspaper, Express Chronicle. In the late 1980s Mrs Yunus was at the forefront of Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika reforms, which held out the promise of a free and dignified life. When Soviet tanks rolled into Baku in 1990 in a desperate attempt to stop the crumbling of the empire, she led a national independence movement. [The Economist]

6The Delegation of Azerbaijan to the OSCE rejects the allegations made by the US, EU, Canada and Norway with respect to the situation with human rights in Azerbaijan and find such statement as undermining bilateral relations with these countries, said the statement of the Delegation of Azerbaijan at the 1064th Special meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on August 19. “Azerbaijan condemns the attempts to deliberately politicize and misinterpret ongoing legal cases against some individuals in our country,” said the statement. “Azerbaijan calls on US, EU, its member states, EU officials and institutions concerned, Canada and Norway to respect the decisions of justice system in Azerbaijan and to refrain from interfering into ongoing legal cases. We consider the references made in the statements to some anonymous international monitor’s observations in courts as seriously flawed and designed with a view to exert pressure on administration of justice.”Every person in Azerbaijan is equal before the law and bears equal responsibility for his or her deeds, according to the statement.

7U.N. human rights experts have criticized a court in Azerbaijan for what they say were “politically motivated” convictions of a prominent rights defender and her husband.A court in Baku on Aug. 13 sentenced Leyla Yunus to 8½ years in prison on charges of fraud, tax evasion and illegal business activities. Her husband Arif Yunus was given a 7-year sentence for fraud.Six experts linked to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council in Geneva said in a statement Thursday that the convictions were a sign of “the continuing repression of independent civil society in Azerbaijan.”The Yunuses both pleaded not guilty during the trial. They have suffered serious health problems in custody since their arrest a year ago, and the experts urged Azerbaijan authorities to provide proper medical care. [The Associated Press]

8China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. completed the purchase of a 50 percent stake in a Kazakh oil producer from Lukoil PJSC for $1.09 billion, gaining full control of a venture with stakes in five oil and gas fields.The sale of Caspian Investments Resources Ltd. received the required permits from the state authorities of the Kazakhstan in late July, Lukoil said in a statement Thursday. The deal concluded after more than a year of talks and the price is less than the $1.2 billion agreed on in April 2014.

9Is A Slow Putsch Against Putin Under Way? A quarter century after the fall of the USSR, Kremlinologists sense a putsch in the air, despite Vladimir Putin’s overwhelming approval ratings. The tea leaves say that the Kremlin elite, dubbed by some as Politburo 2.0, is currently deciding whether Putin should go before he makes a bad situation worse. The founder of the respected daily Kommersant predicts that a dramatic change is about to take place and advises Russians who have the means to leave the country for a month or so and take their children with them. Paul Roderick Gregory for Forbes.

10Is Turkmenistan Opening Up?Turkmenistan remains the only Central Asian country that requires citizens of all neighboring countries to obtain a visa before visiting–with tiny exceptions (visits lasting five days or less) for people living in select bordering communities in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Though many statements have been made in the past, both by Berdimuhamedov and other regional leaders, about the need to ease travel over borders, there is little overall progress on that front. [The Diplomat]

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

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RAND Corp.: U.S. Policy in the Russia-Ukraine conflict

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The American howitzer М777 is in action. January 10, 2023. By Konstantyn & Vlada Liberov

RAND Corp. could not stand aside and published its assessments and proposals, which show that instead of an analysis of the situation in Ukraine, RAND prefers to use convenient political cliches, which are sometimes far from the real state of affairs. In any case, RAND believes that it is the USA that should be the winner in the war between Russia and Ukraine. And this is a fundamental mistake in the report.

However, we will quote some points from this text “Avoiding a Long War. U.S. Policy and the Trajectory of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict”:

“How does this end? Increasingly, this question is dominating discussion of the Russia-Ukraine war in Washington and other Western capitals.

The trajectory and ultimate outcome of the war will, of course, be determined largely by the policies of Ukraine and Russia. But Kyiv and Moscow are not the only capitals with a stake in what happens.

This war is the most significant interstate conflict in decades, and its evolution will have major consequences for the United States. It is appropriate to assess how this conflict may evolve, what alternative trajectories might mean for U.S. interests, and what Washington can do to promote a trajectory that best serves U.S. interests.

Our analysis suggests that duration is the most important of the remaining dimensions for the United States. The negative consequences of a long war would be severe. So long as the war is ongoing, escalation risks will remain elevated. Duration and escalation risks are thus directly linked.

Additionally, a longer war will continue to cause economic harm to Ukraine as well as to Europe and the global economy.

For the United States, a longer war will entail both increased direct costs (such as more budgetary and military support to Ukraine) and increased opportunity costs in terms of pursuing other foreign policy priorities.

There are possible benefits to protracted conflict: a further weakening of Russia and the opportunity for Ukraine to make territorial gains.

There are other risks to consider, however.

The United States has expended considerable effort building and holding together a global coalition to sanction Russia. Presumably, the United States would aim to gain support from members of this coalition before signaling the possibility of sanctions relief to Russia, but it may not be possible to get all members to agree, which could limit the amount of relief the United States could offer.

Even if coalition members were unified on a plan for sanctions relief, a risk would remain. As the members of the coalition begin to unwind sanctions as part of a negotiations process, some states might become reluctant to put them back in place if the Ukraine-Russia negotiations or agreements collapse. The coalition may not be as strong as it is now if it later needs to reimpose sanctions.

Moreover, U.S. leaders may pay a political cost domestically and with allies opposed to any sanctions relief. Our analysis suggests that this debate is too narrowly focused on one dimension of the war’s trajectory.

Territorial control, although immensely important to Ukraine, is not the most important dimension of the war’s future for the United States. We conclude that, in addition to averting possible escalation to a Russia-NATO war or Russian nuclear use, avoiding a long war is also a higher priority for the United States than facilitating significantly more Ukrainian territorial control.

Whereas the United States cannot determine the territorial outcome of the war directly, it will have direct control over these policies.

President Biden has said that this war will end at the negotiating table. But the administration has not yet made any moves to push the parties toward talks…. to help catalyze the eventual start of a process that could bring this war to a negotiated end in a time frame that would serve U.S. interests.

RAND analysts should be reminded that if they think the best option is ‘negotiations in the interests of the United States’, then they recognize the United States as a party to the military conflict.

Meanwhile they should also keep in mind that “Russia wants the conflict with Ukraine to end, but the time factor is not the main issue,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in an exclusive interview to Sputnik on Thursday, February 2-nd. That would serve Russian interests.

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Israel gives Ukraine intelligence. “The best thing” that could have happened to Israel-NATO relations?

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NATO sources tell ‘Haaretz’ some of the intel is on the Iranian drones in Ukraine, writes Yossi Melman at Israeli newspaper.

Israel has stepped up its intelligence assistance to Ukraine in recent weeks via NATO, sources in Brussels told ‘Haaretz’, with Jerusalem remaining keen to keep its aid to the embattled country indirect.

“Iran’s decision to supply drones and increase its military cooperation with Russia is a strategic mistake by Tehran and the best thing that could have happened to Israel-NATO relations,” an Israeli defense source told ‘Haaretz’.

Only a month and a half ago, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Aviv Kochavi, turned down a proposal by Ukraine’s defense minister to share information on the Iranian drones being shot down over his country. These details would have come in return for the passing on of Israeli intelligence. Israel feared that Russia might respond by hampering the Israel Air Force’s freedom in Syria’s skies, as Iran tries to deepen its presence against Israel to the north.

But American pressure and the stepped-up Iranian aid to Russia have convinced Israel to abandon its policy of apathy.

Last month, senior European officials told ‘Haaretz’ that under American pressure, Israel agreed to underwrite the purchase of millions of dollars of “strategic materials” for Ukraine. The materials were transferred via a NATO country, and Israel agreed to let NATO countries transfer to Ukraine weapons including electro-optical and fire-control systems made by Israeli firms.

Over several years, the Mossad, Military Intelligence, the IAF and the navy have built up a database on Iran’s drones. If Brussels gains access to this data, Ukraine and NATO countries will benefit, as will other states such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia.

In 1994, Israel signed an agreement granting it status as a NATO “partner.” This lets it appoint an ambassador and a military attaché, and take part in the alliance’s air and sea exercises in the Baltic states, Montenegro and the Indian Ocean.

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Berlin doesn’t trust Washington. Scholz doesn’t trust the U.S.

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Image source: twitter @Bundeskanzler

“If the U.S. is involved directly it’s more likely to use military force to defend its allies in Europe,” Carlo Masala, a German military expert with strong ties to the country’s political establishment, said on German public television. “That’s a very strong rationale for Scholz and why he insists that the U.S. is involved,” quotes POLITICO.

The breakthrough on sending Western-made battle tanks to Ukraine sparked hopes in both Washington and Europe that the tortured transatlantic debate over arming the country had been resolved once and for all. But… Just hours after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz cleared the way for the export of German-made tanks to the country, the focus shifted to the who, what, where and when of supplying fighter jets to Ukraine.

Once again, Scholz was the first to slam on the brakes, repeatedly warning in recent days of the dangers of “escalation,” while insisting that NATO would not become directly involved in the conflict. If you feel like you’ve seen this movie before, join the club.

It turns out that an even bigger fear for Scholz than escalation is that NATO, and in particular the U.S., wouldn’t get involved if Russia were to retaliate against, say Germany. That worry — according to an adviser to the German government — is the reason that Scholz insisted that Washington agree to supply Ukraine with M1 Abrams tanks before the chancellor would lift his veto on delivering German-made Leopard 2 tanks.

While the NATO treaty’s Article 5 calls on alliance members to support one another in the event of an attack, it doesn’t require allies to respond with military force. In other words, Scholz doesn’t trust the U.S.

Given that Washington has about 40,000 troops in Germany and has already committed roughly $30 billion in military aid to Ukraine (more than 10 times the German total), one might reasonably question the logic underlying Scholz’s argument.

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