Iran Nuke Deal And Israel

April 4, 2015

 

israel_iran_nuclearAfter 18 months of negotiating, Iran has come to a preliminary agreement – on 2nd Apr. 2015 – with China, Russia, France, UK, US and Germany (P5+1) on Tehran’s nuclear program. Niw the framework agreement is made but the negotiations for a final deal will continue through June 30th 2015.

In brief according the Iran nuke deal Iran’s stockpile and enrichment capacity will be limited and all nuclear-specific financial and economic sanctions against Iran will end. Officially Israel is against the agreement but there is also other opinions existing.

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The framework deal

Here are the specifics of the preliminary deal:

  • The UN would end all previous resolutions sanctioning Iran, and would incorporate other restrictions for an agreed-upon time, according to Thursday’s announcements.
  • To build a nuclear bomb, uranium needs to be enriched to about 90 percent. The 3.67 percent agreed by Tehran means it would be practically impossible for Iran to build a nuclear weapon, but would allow it to use nuclear material for peaceful purposes.
  • Uranium is the key ingredient necessary in order to operate a nuclear program. Once it has been enriched, it can be used to generate power or create a nuclear weapon. According deal Iran to cut the amount it keeps from 10,000kg to just 300kg
  • Iran cuts centrifuges from 19,000 to 6,104, with 5,060 for enrichment Uranium stockpiles.
  • Iran’s nuclear facility at Fordow will be converted to a nuclear technology and nuclear physics center. The facility at Arak will be repurposed as a heavy-water research reactor that will not be able to produce weapons-grade plutonium.
  • Inspections – IAEA will have access to all Iran’s nuclear facilities
  • Sanctions – Iran will see sanctions lifted. Sanctions introduced against Iran have had a devastating effect on its economy. Areas such as oil and gas have been affected, while Tehran’s finance sector was also hit. This made it difficult for to trade on the world market, while areas such as Iran’s aviation industry suffered, as they were unable to get spare parts from the US and the West. Once sanctions are lifted, it will be a massive boost to Tehran’s economy as it will increase trade and see new investment into the country.

Risks?

  • Given the political situation in U.S. there is risk that U.S. Congress will not ratify the deal nor remove sanctions or that the new President, government and Congress will cancel the whole possible final deal.
  • There is also risk that Iran will continue to develop nuclear weapons and/or Israel will make air-strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities anyway.
  • There are now 12 sanctions in effect that target Iran’s energy O&G sector. And there are 20 sanctions that target the country’s financial sector, rendering it extremely challenging to conduct any transactions with Iran. The tentative deal neither outlines which specific sanctions will be removed first, nor the sequence in which they will be rescinded.
  • Even if a final accord is reached by June 30, it will take months before weapons inspectors arrive, assess and report on whether Iran is compliant with the accord. Consequently, it is very likely that this could delay the unleashing of Iranian oil into the global market for anywhere from six months to a year or more.

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Israeli reactions

Israel opposes the terms of the framework agreement, because it allows Iran to retain some infrastructure that could be used for producing nuclear arms if Iran chooses to violate the framework’s terms. In recent months, this issue has clouded U.S.-Israel relations. Israel will not accept an agreement that allows Iran to develop nuclear weapons, and it demands Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “Israel will not accept an agreement which allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop nuclear weapons, period,” Netanyahu said in what could be interpreted as a threat to act against Iran. (Source: VirtualJerusalem )

In Israel there is also other opinions about the Iran nuke deal. Ron Ben-Yishai, the senior military analyst for Israel’s most mainstream newspaper, Yedioth Aharonot, penned a column early Friday morning in which he said the deal was better than expected. Urging caution going forward, Ben-Yishai said that if the current framework reflects the final agreement, “even Israel could learn to live with it.” “We could not have achieved a better outcome even if Israel, the United States, and other countries had carried out military strikes on the nuclear sites in Iran,” Ben-Yishai.

Haaretz diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid wrote that Israel will have a hard time fighting the agreement, the comprehensiveness of which caught many in Jerusalem by surprise. “In contrast to the messages conveyed in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at Congress, the Israeli government’s public position over the last two years and the Pavlovian response that came out of Jerusalem on Thursday night, the framework agreement is not a bad deal at all,” Ravid wrote.

 

There is Jews in Iran too

“We recognize our Jews as separate from those godless, bloodsucking Zionists.” (Ayatollah Khomeini )

The beginnings of Jewish history in Iran date back to late biblical times. Persian Jews have lived in the territories of today’s Iran for over 2,700 years, since the first Jewish diaspora when the Assyrian king Shalmaneser V conquered the (Northern) Kingdom of Israel (722 BC) and sent the Israelites (the Ten Lost Tribes) into captivity at Khorasan. In 586 BC, the Babylonians expelled large populations of Jews from Judea to the Babylonian captivity. Jews who migrated to ancient Persia mostly lived in their own communities. The Persian Jewish communities include the ancient (and until the mid-20th century still-extant) communities of Iran.

Yusef Abad synagogue Tehran

Yusef Abad synagogue Tehran

At the time of the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, there were approximately 140,000–150,000 Jews living in Iran, the historical center of Persian Jewry. About 95% have since migrated, with the immigration accelerating after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when the population dropped from 100,000 to about 40,000. Today the figure is some 8.000-25.000. There might be discrimination of Jews in Iran but on the other hand Jews in Iran are formally to be treated equally and free to practice their religion.

Iran’s Jewish community is officially recognized as a religious minority group by the government, and there is even a seat in the Iranian parliament reserved for the representative of the Iranian Jews. Maurice Motamed, a former Jewish Iranian parliamentarian states that in recent years, the Iranian government has allowed Jewish Iranians to visit their family members in Israel and that the government has also allowed those Iranians living in Israel to return to Iran for a visit. Today Tehran has 11 functioning synagogues, many of them with Hebrew schools; it has two kosher restaurants, an old-age home and a cemetery (Source and more e.g. Wiki )

 

My view

If the latest Iran nuke deal will realize and even implemented I think it will be a win-win solution for most of stakeholders with the possible exception of Saudi Arabia. This said especially when asked what is the alternative? From my perspective all alternatives – war, air-strike to facilities or more sanctions – are worse. Iran has spread its nuclear facilities across the country and underground so airstrikes probably don’t delay Iran’s nuclear programme more than planned deal. To Iran agreement lets continue its research and gives it the benefits of nuclear energy as well the benefits of nuclear medical research and gives good change to develop Iran’s economy with wider international cooperation.

 How-Israel-can-strike-Iran-

Appendix 1: Interpretation

Here is a link to the text of the agreement that was presented by the EU.

Here is the text published by the White House. There is different interpretation between these versions.

As was pointed by Iran’s foreign minister. 

Here the larger background and details on Wikipedia.

 

Appendix 2: My earlier articles about Iran nuke:

Iran Nuke Deal Enables The Détente

End Game Approaches on Nuclear Iran

Iran’s nuclear program at the crossroads

Read also:

Iranians And Israeli Instead Of Israel Vs. Iran

 

 

 


¥uan and Waterloo of Petro$

November 12, 2014

yuan logo

(Note: ¥uan and Waterloo of Petro$ Parts I and II combined)

Ongoing western sanctions due Ukraine are pushing China and Russia to close cooperation – the great Eurasian axis is already in motion. Despite the headlines in mainstream western media related to civil war in Ukraine the primary war is being fought monetarily. The Russia-China Strategic Partnership (RCSP) is truly global in scope, having come to encompass the entire world to varying degrees. The Ukraine War might be the U.S. Dollar Waterloo event.

As the Americans and their allies are trying to squeeze Russia and Iran with a combination of economic sanctions and political isolation, alternative poles of power are emerging that soon may present a serious challenge to the U.S.-dominated world that emerged from the end of the Cold War.

The Russian response to ongoing western sanctions has been launching a counter-strategy that could bring the cost boomeranging right back to Washington. Namely, the formation of a potential non-dollar trading block among major players in the global energy markets including Iran and China.

The end of the Petrodollar

(In 1971 Richard Nixon was forced to close the gold window taking the U.S. off the gold standard and setting into motion a massive devaluation of the U.S. dollar.In an effort to prop up the value of the dollar Nixon negotiated a deal with Saudi Arabia that in exchange for arms and protection they would denominate all future oil sales in U.S. dollars. )

For decades, virtually all oil and natural gas around the world has been bought and sold for U.S. dollars. Since World War II, America’s geopolitical supremacy has rested not only on military might, but also on the dollar’s standing as the world’s leading transactional and reserve currency.

Last year Russia produced about 10.5 million bbls. of oil per day and exported 70% of it. That amounts to nearly 2.6 billion barrels with a value of nearly $250 billion at world market prices. It also exported the equivalent of nearly 1 million barrels per day of natural gas with a market value of upwards of US$50 billion. The truth is that Russia is the largest exporter of natural gas and the second largest exporter of oil in the world. If Russia starts asking for payment in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, that will essentially end the monopoly of the petrodollar.

China just overtook the US as the world’s largest economy. The US national debt is now past €17 trillion. China – their biggest creditor – has been cutting on US debt holdings and hoarding gold on the side to be prepared for the possible collapse of the dollar. The US federal government ran an estimated budget deficit of $486 billion, or 2.8 per cent of GDP, in fiscal year 2014. By contrast, Russia just posted a federal budget surplus of 2 per cent of GDP.

russia-balance-of-trade
Russia recorded a trade surplus of 15700 USD Million in September of 2014. Balance of Trade in Russia averaged 8925.26 USD Million from 1997 until 2014, reaching an all time high of 20356 USD Million in January of 2012 and a record low of -185 USD Million in February of 1998. (Source: Trading Economics )

dollar collapseWhen U.S. politicians started plan economic sanctions on Russia, they probably never even imagined that there might be serious consequences for the United States. But now the Russian media is reporting that the Russian Ministry of Finance is getting ready to pull the trigger on a “de-dollarization” plan. For decades, virtually all oil and natural gas around the world has been bought and sold for U.S. dollars. As I will explain below, this has been a massive advantage for the U.S. economy. In recent years, there have been rumblings by nations such as Russia and China about the need to change to a new system, but nobody has really had a big reason to upset the status quo. However, that has now changed. The struggle over Ukraine has caused Russia to completely reevaluate the financial relationship that it has with the United States.

The largest natural gas producer on the planet, Gazprom, has signed agreements with some of their biggest customers to switch payments for natural gas from U.S. dollars to euros. If other nations start following suit – start trading a lot of oil and natural gas for currencies other than the U.S.$ – that will be a massive blow for the petrodollar, and it could end up dramatically changing the global economic landscape.

Moscow, allied with the BRICS, is actively working to bypass the US dollar. The core point is that Russia is not alone. Besides the BRICS also the G-77, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the whole Global South is critical to U.S. led bullying and would like to have other alternative in international relations. This past summer, the BRICS countries created an alternative to the largely U.S.-controlled World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) added 1.6 billion people to its rolls.

G-7 vs E-7

Back in 1971, it was necessary to assure that the dollar would retain its position in world trade as the world’s premiere currency, in spite of the fact that it was no longer backed by anything. The U.S. reached an agreement with Saudi Arabia that, in trade for arms and protection, the Saudis would denominate all future oil sales, worldwide, in dollars. The other OPEC countries fell into line, and the “petrodollar” was assured.

Now the Sino-Russian cooperation is challenging the Americans, and there are many countries that would be happy to join them in dethroning the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. The historic gas deal between Russia and China is very bad news for the petrodollar – it might be start of the “de-Americanised” world.

 

¥uan replacing the Petrodollar

petrodollarOn April 24th 2014 the Russian government organized a special “de-dollarization meeting” dedicated to finding a solution for getting rid of the US dollar in Russian export operations. Top level experts from the energy sector, banks and governmental agencies were summoned and a number of measures were proposed as a response for American sanctions against Russia.

Over the last few weeks there has been a significant interest in the market from large Russian corporations to start using various products in renminbi and other Asian currencies, and to set up accounts in Asian locations,” Pavel Teplukhin, head of Deutsche Bank in Russia, told the Financial Times, The renminbi is the official currency of the People’s Republic of China. literally means “people’s currency”. The yuan is the basic unit of the renminbi, but is also used to refer to the Chinese currency generally, especially in international contexts.

Moving the yuan towards internationalisation involves three distinct phases: turning the Chinese currency into a) a trading currency, b) an investment currency, and c) a reserve currency.

Some recent developments:

  • Chinese credit rating agency Dagong has downgraded U.S. debt from A to A- and has indicated that further downgrades are possible.
  • China has just entered into a very large currency swap agreement with the eurozone that is considered a huge step toward establishing the yuan as a major world currency.
  • Back in June 2014, China signed a major currency swap agreement with the United Kingdom. This was another very important step toward internationalizing the yuan.
  • China currently owns about 1.3 trillion dollars of U.S. debt, and this enormous exposure to U.S. debt is starting to become a major political issue within China.
  • Mei Xinyu, Commerce Minister adviser to the Chinese government, warned (on Oct 2014) China may decide to completely stop buying U.S. Treasury bonds.

China is the largest producer of gold in the world, and it has also been importing an absolutely massive amount of gold from other nations and in addition China plans to buy another 5,000 tons of gold.) There are many that are convinced that China eventually plans to back the yuan with gold and try to make it the number one alternative to the U.S. dollar.

If China does decide to back the yuan with gold and no longer use the U.S. dollar in international trade, it will have devastating effects on the U.S. economy. If other nations stopped using the dollar to trade with one another, the value of the dollar would plummet dramatically. One could claim that the entire way of life in U.S. depends on the U.S.$ being the primary reserve currency of the world. (Source: The Economic Collapse )

eu-china trade map

The dollar does not just predominate in China’s trade with the United States, but with other countries as well. The first steps towards the internationalisation of the yuan emerged in 2008-2009. At that time, businesses and companies were allowed to use the yuan in trade with Hong Kong (Xianggang), Macau, and ASEAN countries. In 2012, every Chinese company with a licence for export and import transactions was able to use the yuan. An active transition to foreign trade settlements in yuan is happening alongside an increase in the use of the national currencies of China’s trading partners. This is being facilitated by the signing of bilateral currency swaps between the People’s Bank of China (PBC) and the central banks of China’s trading partners. To date, the PBC has signed more than 20 currency swap agreements. At the end of 2013-beginning of 2014, the yuan overtook the euro in terms of the amount of payments used for international trade, and took second place after the US dollar. According to the People’s Bank of China (PBC) , there was more than 1.3 trillion yuan overseas at the end of 2013, which is equivalent to approximately US $250 billion. In fact, this money is forming an offshore yuan market. At present, the yuan can be directly converted with the US dollar, the Japanese yen, the Australian dollar, the Russian rouble, the Malaysian ringgit, and the New Zealand dollar. The latest such agreement was signed between China and New Zealand in March 2014. (Source: Strategic Culture Foundation )

 

the end of dollar

Bypassing the U.S. dollar system is a spear-head of Russia’s counter-offensive. Besides monetary war the emergencing cooperation on different pro-Russian fields and energy policy are linked to ongoing geopolitical turmoil.The wider picture includes the Sino-Russian cooperation, the BRICS, the SCO, the EEU, the energy war and other bilateral operations.

The Sino-Russian cooperation

The Russia-China strategic partnership will keep evolving very fast – with Beijing in symbiosis with Moscow’s immense natural and military-technological resources. Not to mention the strategic benefits. Faced with an increasingly hostile West, Russia is visibly turning East. In particular, China and Russia have become closer, signing a historic gas deal, conducting joint naval exercises, and increasing trade.

Gazprom signed a thirty-year gas contract worth $400 billion. The deal’s importance can be compared with a similar accord concluded in the 1960s that brought Russian gas to West Germany for the first time. Moscow and Beijing vow to more than double their bilateral trade to $200 billion by 2020, that is, roughly half of their current turnover with the EU.

It is clear that Moscow seeks an acceleration of its business ties with China. On Nov. 09, 2014 President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping signed a memorandum of understanding on the so-called “western” gas supplies route to China. Russia’s so-called “western” or “Altay” route would supply 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas a year to China. The new supply line comes in addition to the “eastern” route, through the “Power of Siberia” pipeline, which will annually deliver 38 bcm of gas to China. Work on that pipeline route has already begun after a $400 billion deal was clinched in May.  It should be noted that the both deals together are propably the bigest deal in the world – the total amount of this gasinvestment and -trade is over 700 bn USD.  In addition also 16 other tradedeal was signed. Among the business issues discussed by Putin and Xi at their fifth meeting this year was the possibility of payment in Chinese yuan, including for defense deals military, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov was cited as saying by RIA Novosti. (Source: RT )

China-Russia gas deal

In addition China and Russia have agreed to jointly build a seaport on the coast of the sea of Japan, which are projected to become one of the largest on the coast in North-East Asia. The facility will be located in our territory and will serve up to 60 million tons of cargo per year.

eurasian landbridgesAlso, China has decided to invest 400 billion rubles in the construction of high-speed highway Moscow-Kazan, which is part of transport corridor Moscow-Beijing.

Russia and China are determined to reduce U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) presence in Central Asia to what it was before the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. The SCO has consistently rebuffed U.S. requests for observer status, and has pressured countries in the region to end U.S. basing rights. The United States was forced out of Karshi-Khanabad in Uzbekistan in 2005, and from Manas in Kyrgyzstan in 2014.

yuan vs USDAt present, the SCO has started to counterbalance NATO’s role in Asia,” says Aleksey Maslov, chair of the Department of Asian Studies of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. And the new members, he says, want in to safeguard their interests. (Source: VoR)

China overtook Germany as Russia’s largest trading partner in 2011, Last year, China acquired 12.5 percent of Russia’s Uralkali (URKA:RM), the biggest producer of potash in the world, and China National Petroleum agreed to prepay Rosneft (ROSN:RM), run by Putin associate Igor Sechin, about $70 billion as part of a $270 billion, 25-year supply deal. That was followed by Rosneft’s $85 billion, 10-year accord with China Sinopec and China National Petroleum’s purchase of 20 percent of an Arctic gas project from Novatek for an undisclosed sum. (Source: Bloomberg Businessweek  )

The BRICS

The BRICS met 2013 in Durban, South Africa, to, among other steps, create their own credit rating agency, sidelining the “biased agendas” of the Moody’s/Standard & Poor’s variety. They endorsed plans to create a joint foreign exchange reserves pool. Initially it will include US$100 billion. It’s called a self-managed contingent reserve arrangement (CRA). brics cra

During the July (2014) BRICS Summit in Brazil the five members agreed to directly confront the West’s institutional economic dominance. The BRICS agreed to establish the New Development Bank (NDB) based in Shanghai , pushed especially by India and Brazil, a concrete alternative to the Western-dominated World Bank and the Bretton Woods system. With initial authorized capital of $100 billion, including $50 billion of equally shared initial subscribed capital, it will become one of the largest multilateral financial development institutions. Importantly, it will be open for other countries to join.

In addition creation of the Contingent Reserve Arrangement, or currency reserve pool, initially sized at $100 billion, will help protect the BRICS countries against short-term liquidity pressures and international financial shocks. Together with the NDB these new instruments will contribute to further co-operation on macroeconomic policies. According Conn Hallinan – in his article Move Over, NATO and IMF: Eurasia Is Coming – The BRICS’ construction of a Contingent Reserve Arrangement will give its members emergency access to foreign currency, which might eventually dethrone the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. The creation of a development bank will make it possible to bypass the IMF for balance-of-payment loans, thus avoiding the organization’s onerous austerity requirements.

Also it was agreed MoU’s among BRICS Export Credit and Guarantees Agencies, as well as the Cooperation Agreement on Innovation within the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism, which will offer new channels of support for trade and financial ties between the five countries.

So in near future BRICS will be trading in their own currencies, including a globally convertible yuan, further away from the US dollar and the petrodollar. All these actions are strenghtening financial stability of BRICS – a some kind of safety net precaution, an extra line of defense.

Emerging economic powers such as China, India and Brazil have long been demanding greater share of votes in multilateral development institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank (ADP) to reflect their recent phenomenal growth. China’s economy is expected to grow to $10 trillion this year, yet its share of votes in the Bretton Woods institutions is only 3.72 percent, compared with 17.4 percent for the United States. The signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding on Establishing Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) took place in Beijing, Oct. 24, 2014 According to ADB, in the 10 years up to 2020, the region requires investments of $8 trillion in terms of national infrastructure, or $800 billion a year. The ADB currently lends out only about 1.5 percent of this amount. The AIIB is expected to have an initial capital base of $100 billion. The AIIB, to begin with, will serve at least five objectives for China. First, it could help China invest part of its foreign exchange reserves of $3.9 trillion on commercial terms. Second, it will play a vital role in the internationalization of the yuan. And fifth, the AIIB will boost China’s global influence and enhance its soft power.

BRICS could be expanded to include the MINT countries (MINT is an acronym referring to the economies of Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Turkey.), thus furthering the organization’s scope and creating opportunities for a long-term strategic ‘flip’ of those states from their largely Western orientations.

Being in the same organization does not automatically translate into having the same politics on international questions. The BRICS and the recent Gaza conflict are a good example. China called for negotiations; Russia was generally neutral, but slightly friendly toward Israel; India was silent (Israel is New Delhi’s number-one source of arms); South Africa was critical of Israel, and Brazil withdrew its ambassador.

As Russia is taking over the position of the BRICS Chair, the next summit will be held in the city of Ufa in the Republic of Bashkortostan, in July 2015.

The SCO

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is the cradle in which the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership (RCSP) was born and raised. Originally founded as the Shanghai Five in 1996, it was reformed as the SCO in 2001 with the inclusion of Uzbekistan. Less than a month after the BRICS’ declaration of independence from the current strictures of world finance, the SCO—which includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan—approved India, Pakistan, Iran, and Mongolia for membership in the organization. Also SCO has received applications for the status of observers from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

SCO map

It was the single largest expansion of the economic cooperation and security-minded group in its history, and it could end up diluting the impact of sanctions currently plaguing Moscow over the Ukraine crisis and Tehran over its nuclear program. These countries directly fall into the immediate sphere of the RCSP, where either Russia or China can exert some degree or another of important influence to varying degrees. Also, the SCO sets out the foundations of the RCSP, listing the fight against “terrorism, separatism, and extremism in all their manifestations” (thus including Color Revolutions) as their foremost foe. It just so happens that the U.S. engages in all of these activities in its Eurasian-wide campaign of chaos and control, thereby placing it at existential odds with Russia and China, as well as the other official members. Even before the recent additions, SCO represented three-fifths of Eurasia and 25 percent of the world’s population.

For Iran, SCO membership may serve as a way to bypass the sanctions currently pounding the Iranian economy. Russia and Iran signed a memorandum in August (2014) to exchange Russian energy technology and food for Iranian oil, a move that would violate U.S. sanctions. One particular constraint is Russia’s important relationship with Israel, which Moscow will not give up unless Jerusalem drops its neutral stance and joins the U.S.-led condemnation of Russia.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has also promoted new regional security initiatives. In addition to the already existing Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Chinese-led security institution that includes Russia and four Central Asian states, Xi wants to build a new Asia-Pacific security structure that would exclude the United States.

As for India and Pakistan energy is a major concern the membership in the oil- and gas-rich SCO is quite reasonable. Whether that will lead to a reduction of tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad over Kashmir remains to see, but at least the two traditional enemies will be in same organization to talk about economic cooperation and regional security on a regular basis.

As joint forum the SCO can ease tensions in Central Asia e.g. between SCO members Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan over borders, and both countries, plus Tajikistan, over water rights. Most SCO members are concerned about security, particularly given the imminent departure of the United States and NATO from Afghanistan. That country might well descend into civil war, one that could have a destabilizing effect on its neighbors. From August 24 -29, SCO members China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan took part in “Peace Mission 2014,” an anti-terrorist exercise to “subdue” a hypothetical Central Asian city that had become a center for terrorist activity.

The BRICS and the SCO are the two largest independent international organizations to develop over the past decade. There is also other developments to reduce old U.S. global dominance. The newly minted Union of South American Nations (USAN) includes every country in South America, including Cuba, and has largely replaced the Organization of American States (OAS), a Cold War relic that excluded Havana. While the United States and Canada are part of the OAS, they were not invited to join USAN.

Eurasian Economic Union (EEU)

Eurasian integration has moved to a higher level, to replace the EurAsEC came a new form of closer Association of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) also known as the Eurasian Union (EAU). To him by the old member States (Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus) was joined by Armenia, the next candidate in the list on the accession of Kyrgyzstan, and later, his desire to join the EAEC expressed and Vietnam. Also the accession of Turkey and Syria are on the way.

EEU mapMoscow began building a Russian-led community in Eurasia that would give Russia certain economic benefits and, no less important, better bargaining positions with regard to the country’s big continental neighbors—the EU to the west and China to the east.

Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia have been offered by both the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union to join their integration unions. All three countries opted for the European Union by signing association agreements on March 21, 2014. However break-away regions of Moldova (Transnistria), Ukraine (Republic of Donetsk) and Georgia (South Ossetia and Abkhazia) have expressed a desire to join the Eurasian Customs Union and integrate into the Eurasian Economic Union.

Putin is scheduled to visit Japan later in 2014 in an effort to keep Russia’s technology and investment channel to the country open. And Moscow is expected to reinvigorate ties with India, particularly in the defense technology sphere, under the leadership of newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Eurasian union may become an add-on to, or even an extension of, China’s Silk Road project – a common space for economic and humanitarian cooperation stretching all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean

Treaties and development stages of Eurasian Economic Union/Structural evolution

1991  1996  2000  1995- 2007
2007 & 2011
2014 
Eurasian Economic Union (EEU)
Eurasian Economic Space
Eurasian Customs Union (ECU)
Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC)
Increased Integration in the Economic and Humanitarian Fields
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

Other bilateral development

Russia is in the process of politically and economically integrating with Kazakhstan and soon Kyrgyzstan under the auspices of the Eurasian Union, and it has mutual security commitments with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan under the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). China, on the other hand, is more of a soft leader in Central Asia, having established lucrative business contacts in recent years and struck extremely strategic energy deals with most of the region’s members, first and foremost Turkmenistan.

A Russian-Iranian strategic partnership would extend beyond Caspian and nuclear energy issues and see implicit cooperation between the two in the Mideast, especially in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. It can even carry over into Afghanistan after the NATO drawdown by year’s end. This can help to build an alternative non-Western-centric trade network that can bolster Russia’s complex economic interdependence with other states. This would give it the opportunity to expand mutual relations beyond the economic sphere and perhaps eventually associate these states into the multilateral webs of BRICS and the SCO.

Russia is also pursuing bilateral relations with Iran with fewer constraints. This refers to nuclear energy, oil and gas, and arms deals, all based on pragmatic considerations: a Russo-Persian alliance is unlikely in view of many differences between Moscow and Tehran and thick layers of mutual suspicion. 

At the recent summit of the SCO in Dushanbe (11-12 Sep. 2014 )the cooperation with SCO-applicant Iran went wider. Some of the projects were following:

  • The well-known “Uralvagonzavod”, began talks with Iran on the supply of freight cars 40 billion annually.
  • Interestingly, Iran is not on the camera, discussing terms of oil supplies in exchange for electricity, in which Russia plans to build in Iran, the network of hydro – and thermal power plants.
  • Iran and Russia have made progress towards an oil-for-goods deal sources said would be worth up to $20 billion, which would enable Tehran to boost vital energy exports in defiance of Western sanctions. In January Reuters reported Moscow and Tehran were discussing a barter deal that would see Moscow buy up to 500,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil in exchange for Russian equipment and goods.

(Source: EN.XPPX.org )

One particular constraint is Russia’s important relationship with Israel, which Moscow will not give up unless Jerusalem drops its neutral stance and joins the U.S.-led condemnation of Russia.

russia-japan gaspipelinesPutin is scheduled to visit Japan later in 2014 in an effort to keep Russia’s technology and investment channel to the country open. Russia is interested in restarting talks to build a natural gas pipeline between its Sakhalin Island and Japan’s far northern island of Hokkaido, Russia already supplies 9.8 percent of Japan’s LNG imports. The proposed pipeline would deliver 20 billion cubic meters of natural gas every year, which at full capacity would supply 17 percent of Japan’s total natural gas imports. As an additional bonus, using a pipeline does not require the building of expensive regasification plants and natural gas from Russia would probably still be relatively cheap. This is also part of Moscow’s attempt to balance its interests and expand its energy influence eastward.

Also Moscow is expected to reinvigorate ties with India, particularly in the defense technology sphere, under the leadership of newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

South stream serbiaRussia also hopes that Russian-Serbian trade will reach 2 billion dollars this year. He said that a free trade regime existing between the two countries was contributing to steady development of Russian-Serbian economic ties. “Our reciprocal trade turnover grew by 15% to reach 1.97 billion dollars in 2013. It grew by another 16.5% to reach 1.2 billion dollars in the first half of 2014. We hope to reach the figure of 2 billion dollars this year” Putin stressed. Positive dynamics can be seen in the sphere of investments. The total volume of Russian capital investments in Serbia has exceeded 3 billion dollars, the bulk of which was channeled into the strategically important energy sector.

While Russia is consolidating its influence over the former Soviet sphere with states which it already has cultivated deep relations with, China is moving in due its strategic interest in Central Asia. For China a top priority is to be able to diversify its natural resource import routes in order to avoid the U.S. dominated Straits of Malacca.

The growing influence of China in Southeast and East Asia and the Indian Ocean is explained with “string of pearls” concept (strategic points such as Hainan Island, the Woody Islands/close to Vietnam, Chittagong/Bangladesh, Sittue and the Coco Islands/Myanmar, Hambantota/Sri Lanka etc.). The “string of pearls” strategy is aimed at protecting China’s oil flows, affirming the country as a global naval power with diverse interests throughout the world, and overcoming attempts by the USA to cut off access to or from China via the world’s oceans. Furthermore, an important task lay in minimizing potential threats in the most complex and vulnerable choke point at the junction of two oceans, named the “Malacca Dilemma”. (Source and more in Second Wind for China’s String of Pearls Strategy   by Nina Lebedeva ).

Tehran is reaching out to Beijing as well. Iran and China have negotiated a deal to trade Iran’s oil for China’s manufactured goods. Beijing is currently Iran’s number-one customer for oil. In late September, two Chinese warships paid a first-ever visit to Iran, and the two countries’ navies carried out joint anti-piracy and rescue maneuvers.

Importing more gas from Russia helps Beijing to gradually escape its Malacca and Hormuz dilemma and industrialize the immense, highly populated and heavily dependent on agriculture interior provinces.

The Northern East-West Freight Corridor (Eurasian Landbridge) is an idea to link the Far East and Europe by rail takes its origin with the construction of the Trans Siberian railway linking Moscow to Vladivostok, completed in 1916. With a length of 9,200 km it is the longest rail segment in the world. It was initially used solely as an inland rail link, but in the 1960s the Soviet Union started offering a landbridge service from Vladivostok using the Trans Siberian to reach Western Europe.

east-west freight corridor

Energy war

U.S. ally inside OPEC, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has been flooding the market with deep discounted oil, triggering a price war within OPEC, with Iran following suit and panic selling short in oil futures markets. The Saudis are targeting sales to Asia for the discounts and in particular, its major Asian customer, China where it is reportedly offering its crude for a mere $50 to $60 a barrel rather than the earlier price of around $100. When combined with the financial losses of Russian state natural gas sales to Ukraine and prospects of a US-instigated cutoff of the transit of Russian gas to the huge EU market this winter as EU stockpiles become low, the pressure on oil prices hits Moscow doubly. More than 50% of Russian state revenue comes from its export sales of oil and gas. The US-Saudi oil price manipulation is aimed at destabilizing several strong opponents of U.S. globalist policies. Targets include Iran and Syria, both allies of Russia in opposing a US sole Superpower. In fact the oil weapon is accelerating recent Russian moves to focus its economic power on national interests and lessen dependence on the Dollar system. If the dollar ceases being the currency of world trade, especially oil trade, the US Treasury faces financial catastrophe.

The shale gas revolution and a greater availability of LNG technologies, EU regulatory initiatives and implementation of the Third Energy Package provisions play a key role in transformations of gas markets.

ME pipelinesNow there might be a global oil war underway pitting the United States and Saudi Arabia on one side against Russia and Iran on the other.

In July 2011, the governments of Syria, Iran and Iraq signed an historic gas pipeline energy agreement which went largely unnoticed in the midst of the NATO-Saudi-Qatari war to remove Assad. The pipeline, envisioned to cost $10 billion and take three years to complete, would run from the Iranian Port Assalouyeh near the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf, to Damascus in Syria via Iraq territory. The agreement would make Syria the center of assembly and production in conjunction with the reserves of Lebanon. This is a geopolitically strategic space that geographically opens for the first time, extending from Iran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. As Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar put it, “The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline – if it’s ever built – would solidify a predominantly Shi’ite axis through an economic, steel umbilical cord.”

In ongoing oil war the U.S. shale oil producers will suffer most. According to experts’ estimates, the cost of production is around 80-90 dollars a barrel, 4-5 times more than the traditional oil. It means that the current price – 85 dollars a barrel as of October 17 – makes the companies operate in the red. Some producers will have to suspend operations facing mass bankruptcy in case the oil price falls lower than 80 dollars as shareholders start getting rid of zero profit bonds. The shale oil «soap bubble» will blow like the housing construction industry «bubble» blew in 2008. Of course, as time goes by oil prices will go up but it’ll be a different world with some US oil producers non-existent anymore…

Russia insists the South Stream project should be exempt from the effect of the Third Energy Package because it signed bilateral inter-governmental agreements with the EU countries participating in the construction of the gas pipeline on their territory before the EU’s new energy legislation came into force. Therefore, Russia says that the European Commission’s requirement to adapt these documents to the Third Energy Package contradicts the basic law principle that legislation cannot have retroactive force. The Third Energy Package requires, in particular, that a half of the capacities of the pipeline built with Russian money must be reserved for independent suppliers, i.e. for cheap and free transit of Caspian gas to Europe independently from Russia. Therefore, Russia does not recognize the legitimacy of applying the Third Energy Package to the South Stream gas pipeline project.

Bottom line

Eurasia flagRussia has accelerated its building of the Eurasian Bridge: Russia has the geostrategic opportunity of being an air, land, and sea bridge between Europe and East Asia. In line with China’s Silk Road and New Eurasian Land Bridge projects, the concept of the Northern Sea Route, and international air routes traversing Siberia, Russia can use its geographic position to reap the resultant dividends of East-West trade and thereby increasing its middleman importance.

The geopolitical situation is now transforming from traditional Sino-U.S. relations to U.S.-China-Russia triangle in which China, rather than the United States, will be the central player.

In addition the EU is worried that Russia will turn east and Europe will lose much of its Russian market share. At a time when the euro area threatens to collapse, where an acute economic crisis has led the U.S. into a debt of up to 14 940 billion, and where their influence is dwindling in the face of the emerging BRICS powers, it becomes clear that the key to economic success and political domination lies mainly in the control of the energy source of the century: gas.

With China signing the natural gas deal with Russia and the president of China publicly stating that it’s time to create a new security model for the Asian nations that includes Russia and Iran, it’s clear China has chosen Russia over the U.S. Today the US-backed wars in Ukraine and in Syria are but two fronts in the same strategic war to cripple Russia and China and to rupture any Eurasian counter-pole to a U.S.-controlled regions. In each, control of energy pipelines, this time primarily of natural gas pipelines—from Russia to the EU via Ukraine and from Iran and Syria to the EU via Syria—is the strategic goal.

So far U.S. has bullied its way around smaller nations for too long now. It seems to me that finally there is coming to be a coalition of new axis with Eurasia and China. Russia and China are leading of developing a network of “parallel structures” to existing international organizations and institutions. The end goal is create an alternative reality for international engagement, so that China can expand its own influence while escaping the restrictions of the current U.S.-dominated system.

In my conclusion the era when the IMF, World Bank, and U.S. Treasury could essentially dictate international finances and intimidate or crush opponents with sanctions, pressure and threads are drawing to a close – the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization are two nails in that coffin. These independent poles (BRICS, SCO, USAN) are developing fast and it remains to see what their ultimate impact on international politics will be – my scenario is that the impact will be a drastic shift from U.S. dominance to more balanced juxtaposition of U.S. and Eurasia.

eurasia revolution


¥uan and Waterloo of Petro$ (Part 2/2)

November 10, 2014

yuan logoU.S. sanctions due the conflict in Ukraine launched Russia’s counter-offensive with bypassing the U.S. dollar system as its spear-head. My previous article ¥uan and Waterloo of Petro$(Part ½) describes this monetary war. The gas contract, signed between Russia and China in May 2014, and a new wave of the EU sanctions in September 2014 are paving the road towards the revival of traditional (neo)realist balance of power.

Besides monetary war the emergencing cooperation on different pro-Russian fields and energy policy are linked to ongoing geopolitical turmoil.The wider picture includes the Sino-Russian cooperation, the BRICS, the SCO, the EEU, the energy war and other bilateral operations.

 

The Sino-Russian cooperation

The Russia-China strategic partnership will keep evolving very fast – with Beijing in symbiosis with Moscow’s immense natural and military-technological resources. Not to mention the strategic benefits. Faced with an increasingly hostile West, Russia is visibly turning East. In particular, China and Russia have become closer, signing a historic gas deal, conducting joint naval exercises, and increasing trade.

Gazprom signed a thirty-year gas contract worth $400 billion. The deal’s importance can be compared with a similar accord concluded in the 1960s that brought Russian gas to West Germany for the first time. Moscow and Beijing vow to more than double their bilateral trade to $200 billion by 2020, that is, roughly half of their current turnover with the EU.

It is clear that Moscow seeks an acceleration of its business ties with China. On Nov. 09, 2014 President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping signed a memorandum of understanding on the so-called “western” gas supplies route to China. Russia’s so-called “western” or “Altay” route would supply 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas a year to China. The new supply line comes in addition to the “eastern” route, through the “Power of Siberia” pipeline, which will annually deliver 38 bcm of gas to China. Work on that pipeline route has already begun after a $400 billion deal was clinched in May. Among the business issues discussed by Putin and Xi at their fifth meeting this year was the possibility of payment in Chinese yuan, including for defense deals military, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov was cited as saying by RIA Novosti. (Source: RT )

China-Russia gas deal

In addition China and Russia have agreed to jointly build a seaport on the coast of the sea of Japan, which are projected to become one of the largest on the coast in North-East Asia. The facility will be located in our territory and will serve up to 60 million tons of cargo per year.

Also, China has decided to invest 400 billion rubles in the construction of high-speed highway Moscow-Kazan, which is part of transport corridor Moscow-Beijing.

Russia and China are determined to reduce U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) presence in Central Asia to what it was before the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. The SCO has consistently rebuffed U.S. requests for observer status, and has pressured countries in the region to end U.S. basing rights. The United States was forced out of Karshi-Khanabad in Uzbekistan in 2005, and from Manas in Kyrgyzstan in 2014.

At present, the SCO has started to counterbalance NATO’s role in Asia,” says Aleksey Maslov, chair of the Department of Asian Studies of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. And the new members, he says, want in to safeguard their interests. (Source: VoR)

China overtook Germany as Russia’s largest trading partner in 2011, Last year, China acquired 12.5 percent of Russia’s Uralkali (URKA:RM), the biggest producer of potash in the world, and China National Petroleum agreed to prepay Rosneft (ROSN:RM), run by Putin associate Igor Sechin, about $70 billion as part of a $270 billion, 25-year supply deal. That was followed by Rosneft’s $85 billion, 10-year accord with China Sinopec and China National Petroleum’s purchase of 20 percent of an Arctic gas project from Novatek for an undisclosed sum. (Source: Bloomberg Businessweek  )

The BRICS

The BRICS met 2013 in Durban, South Africa, to, among other steps, create their own credit rating agency, sidelining the “biased agendas” of the Moody’s/Standard & Poor’s variety. They endorsed plans to create a joint foreign exchange reserves pool. Initially it will include US$100 billion. It’s called a self-managed contingent reserve arrangement (CRA). brics cra

During the July (2014) BRICS Summit in Brazil the five members agreed to directly confront the West’s institutional economic dominance. The BRICS agreed to establish the New Development Bank (NDB) based in Shanghai , pushed especially by India and Brazil, a concrete alternative to the Western-dominated World Bank and the Bretton Woods system. With initial authorized capital of $100 billion, including $50 billion of equally shared initial subscribed capital, it will become one of the largest multilateral financial development institutions. Importantly, it will be open for other countries to join.

In addition creation of the Contingent Reserve Arrangement, or currency reserve pool, initially sized at $100 billion, will help protect the BRICS countries against short-term liquidity pressures and international financial shocks. Together with the NDB these new instruments will contribute to further co-operation on macroeconomic policies. According Conn Hallinan – in his article Move Over, NATO and IMF: Eurasia Is Coming – The BRICS’ construction of a Contingent Reserve Arrangement will give its members emergency access to foreign currency, which might eventually dethrone the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. The creation of a development bank will make it possible to bypass the IMF for balance-of-payment loans, thus avoiding the organization’s onerous austerity requirements.

Also it was agreed MoU’s among BRICS Export Credit and Guarantees Agencies, as well as the Cooperation Agreement on Innovation within the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism, which will offer new channels of support for trade and financial ties between the five countries.

So in near future BRICS will be trading in their own currencies, including a globally convertible yuan, further away from the US dollar and the petrodollar. All these actions are strenghtening financial stability of BRICS – a some kind of safety net precaution, an extra line of defense.

Emerging economic powers such as China, India and Brazil have long been demanding greater share of votes in multilateral development institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank (ADP) to reflect their recent phenomenal growth. China’s economy is expected to grow to $10 trillion this year, yet its share of votes in the Bretton Woods institutions is only 3.72 percent, compared with 17.4 percent for the United States. The signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding on Establishing Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) took place in Beijing, Oct. 24, 2014 According to ADB, in the 10 years up to 2020, the region requires investments of $8 trillion in terms of national infrastructure, or $800 billion a year. The ADB currently lends out only about 1.5 percent of this amount. The AIIB is expected to have an initial capital base of $100 billion. The AIIB, to begin with, will serve at least five objectives for China. First, it could help China invest part of its foreign exchange reserves of $3.9 trillion on commercial terms. Second, it will play a vital role in the internationalization of the yuan. And fifth, the AIIB will boost China’s global influence and enhance its soft power.

BRICS could be expanded to include the MINT countries (MINT is an acronym referring to the economies of Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Turkey.), thus furthering the organization’s scope and creating opportunities for a long-term strategic ‘flip’ of those states from their largely Western orientations.

Being in the same organization does not automatically translate into having the same politics on international questions. The BRICS and the recent Gaza conflict are a good example. China called for negotiations; Russia was generally neutral, but slightly friendly toward Israel; India was silent (Israel is New Delhi’s number-one source of arms); South Africa was critical of Israel, and Brazil withdrew its ambassador.

As Russia is taking over the position of the BRICS Chair, the next summit will be held in the city of Ufa in the Republic of Bashkortostan, in July 2015.

The SCO

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is the cradle in which the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership (RCSP) was born and raised. Originally founded as the Shanghai Five in 1996, it was reformed as the SCO in 2001 with the inclusion of Uzbekistan. Less than a month after the BRICS’ declaration of independence from the current strictures of world finance, the SCO—which includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan—approved India, Pakistan, Iran, and Mongolia for membership in the organization. Also SCO has received applications for the status of observers from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

SCO map

It was the single largest expansion of the economic cooperation and security-minded group in its history, and it could end up diluting the impact of sanctions currently plaguing Moscow over the Ukraine crisis and Tehran over its nuclear program. These countries directly fall into the immediate sphere of the RCSP, where either Russia or China can exert some degree or another of important influence to varying degrees. Also, the SCO sets out the foundations of the RCSP, listing the fight against “terrorism, separatism, and extremism in all their manifestations” (thus including Color Revolutions) as their foremost foe. It just so happens that the U.S. engages in all of these activities in its Eurasian-wide campaign of chaos and control, thereby placing it at existential odds with Russia and China, as well as the other official members. Even before the recent additions, SCO represented three-fifths of Eurasia and 25 percent of the world’s population.

For Iran, SCO membership may serve as a way to bypass the sanctions currently pounding the Iranian economy. Russia and Iran signed a memorandum in August (2014) to exchange Russian energy technology and food for Iranian oil, a move that would violate U.S. sanctions. One particular constraint is Russia’s important relationship with Israel, which Moscow will not give up unless Jerusalem drops its neutral stance and joins the U.S.-led condemnation of Russia.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has also promoted new regional security initiatives. In addition to the already existing Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Chinese-led security institution that includes Russia and four Central Asian states, Xi wants to build a new Asia-Pacific security structure that would exclude the United States.

As for India and Pakistan energy is a major concern the membership in the oil- and gas-rich SCO is quite reasonable. Whether that will lead to a reduction of tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad over Kashmir remains to see, but at least the two traditional enemies will be in same organization to talk about economic cooperation and regional security on a regular basis.

As joint forum the SCO can ease tensions in Central Asia e.g. between SCO members Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan over borders, and both countries, plus Tajikistan, over water rights. Most SCO members are concerned about security, particularly given the imminent departure of the United States and NATO from Afghanistan. That country might well descend into civil war, one that could have a destabilizing effect on its neighbors. From August 24 -29, SCO members China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan took part in “Peace Mission 2014,” an anti-terrorist exercise to “subdue” a hypothetical Central Asian city that had become a center for terrorist activity.

The BRICS and the SCO are the two largest independent international organizations to develop over the past decade. There is also other developments to reduce old U.S. global dominance. The newly minted Union of South American Nations (USAN) includes every country in South America, including Cuba, and has largely replaced the Organization of American States (OAS), a Cold War relic that excluded Havana. While the United States and Canada are part of the OAS, they were not invited to join USAN.

Eurasian Economic Union (EEU)

Eurasian integration has moved to a higher level, to replace the EurAsEC came a new form of closer Association of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) also known as the Eurasian Union (EAU). To him by the old member States (Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus) was joined by Armenia, the next candidate in the list on the accession of Kyrgyzstan, and later, his desire to join the EAEC expressed and Vietnam. Also the accession of Turkey and Syria are on the way.

EEU mapMoscow began building a Russian-led community in Eurasia that would give Russia certain economic benefits and, no less important, better bargaining positions with regard to the country’s big continental neighbors—the EU to the west and China to the east.

Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia have been offered by both the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union to join their integration unions. All three countries opted for the European Union by signing association agreements on March 21, 2014. However break-away regions of Moldova (Transnistria), Ukraine (Republic of Donetsk) and Georgia (South Ossetia and Abkhazia) have expressed a desire to join the Eurasian Customs Union and integrate into the Eurasian Economic Union.

Putin is scheduled to visit Japan later in 2014 in an effort to keep Russia’s technology and investment channel to the country open. And Moscow is expected to reinvigorate ties with India, particularly in the defense technology sphere, under the leadership of newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Eurasian union may become an add-on to, or even an extension of, China’s Silk Road project – a common space for economic and humanitarian cooperation stretching all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean


Treaties and development stages of Eurasian Economic Union/Structural evolution

1991  1996  2000  1995- 2007
2007 & 2011
2014 
Eurasian Economic Union (EEU)
Eurasian Economic Space
Eurasian Customs Union (ECU)
Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC)
Increased Integration in the Economic and Humanitarian Fields
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

Other bilateral development

Russia is in the process of politically and economically integrating with Kazakhstan and soon Kyrgyzstan under the auspices of the Eurasian Union, and it has mutual security commitments with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan under the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). China, on the other hand, is more of a soft leader in Central Asia, having established lucrative business contacts in recent years and struck extremely strategic energy deals with most of the region’s members, first and foremost Turkmenistan.

A Russian-Iranian strategic partnership would extend beyond Caspian and nuclear energy issues and see implicit cooperation between the two in the Mideast, especially in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. It can even carry over into Afghanistan after the NATO drawdown by year’s end. This can help to build an alternative non-Western-centric trade network that can bolster Russia’s complex economic interdependence with other states. This would give it the opportunity to expand mutual relations beyond the economic sphere and perhaps eventually associate these states into the multilateral webs of BRICS and the SCO.

Russia is also pursuing bilateral relations with Iran with fewer constraints. This refers to nuclear energy, oil and gas, and arms deals, all based on pragmatic considerations: a Russo-Persian alliance is unlikely in view of many differences between Moscow and Tehran and thick layers of mutual suspicion. 

At the recent summit of the SCO in Dushanbe (11-12 Sep. 2014 )the cooperation with SCO-applicant Iran went wider. Some of the projects were following:

  • The well-known “Uralvagonzavod”, began talks with Iran on the supply of freight cars 40 billion annually.
  • Interestingly, Iran is not on the camera, discussing terms of oil supplies in exchange for electricity, in which Russia plans to build in Iran, the network of hydro – and thermal power plants.
  • Iran and Russia have made progress towards an oil-for-goods deal sources said would be worth up to $20 billion, which would enable Tehran to boost vital energy exports in defiance of Western sanctions. In January Reuters reported Moscow and Tehran were discussing a barter deal that would see Moscow buy up to 500,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil in exchange for Russian equipment and goods.

(Source: EN.XPPX.org )

One particular constraint is Russia’s important relationship with Israel, which Moscow will not give up unless Jerusalem drops its neutral stance and joins the U.S.-led condemnation of Russia.

Putin is scheduled to visit Japan later in 2014 in an effort to keep Russia’s technology and investment channel to the country open. Russia is interested in restarting talks to build a natural gas pipeline between its Sakhalin Island and Japan’s far northern island of Hokkaido, Russia already supplies 9.8 percent of Japan’s LNG imports. The proposed pipeline would deliver 20 billion cubic meters of natural gas every year, which at full capacity would supply 17 percent of Japan’s total natural gas imports. As an additional bonus, using a pipeline does not require the building of expensive regasification plants and natural gas from Russia would probably still be relatively cheap. This is also part of Moscow’s attempt to balance its interests and expand its energy influence eastward.

Also Moscow is expected to reinvigorate ties with India, particularly in the defense technology sphere, under the leadership of newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

South stream serbiaRussia also hopes that Russian-Serbian trade will reach 2 billion dollars this year. He said that a free trade regime existing between the two countries was contributing to steady development of Russian-Serbian economic ties. “Our reciprocal trade turnover grew by 15% to reach 1.97 billion dollars in 2013. It grew by another 16.5% to reach 1.2 billion dollars in the first half of 2014. We hope to reach the figure of 2 billion dollars this year” Putin stressed. Positive dynamics can be seen in the sphere of investments. The total volume of Russian capital investments in Serbia has exceeded 3 billion dollars, the bulk of which was channeled into the strategically important energy sector.

While Russia is consolidating its influence over the former Soviet sphere with states which it already has cultivated deep relations with, China is moving in due its strategic interest in Central Asia. For China a top priority is to be able to diversify its natural resource import routes in order to avoid the U.S. dominated Straits of Malacca.

The growing influence of China in Southeast and East Asia and the Indian Ocean is explained with “string of pearls” concept (strategic points such as Hainan Island, the Woody Islands/close to Vietnam, Chittagong/Bangladesh, Sittue and the Coco Islands/Myanmar, Hambantota/Sri Lanka etc.). The “string of pearls” strategy is aimed at protecting China’s oil flows, affirming the country as a global naval power with diverse interests throughout the world, and overcoming attempts by the USA to cut off access to or from China via the world’s oceans. Furthermore, an important task lay in minimizing potential threats in the most complex and vulnerable choke point at the junction of two oceans, named the “Malacca Dilemma”. (Source and more in Second Wind for China’s String of Pearls Strategy   by Nina Lebedeva ).

Tehran is reaching out to Beijing as well. Iran and China have negotiated a deal to trade Iran’s oil for China’s manufactured goods. Beijing is currently Iran’s number-one customer for oil. In late September, two Chinese warships paid a first-ever visit to Iran, and the two countries’ navies carried out joint anti-piracy and rescue maneuvers.

Importing more gas from Russia helps Beijing to gradually escape its Malacca and Hormuz dilemma and industrialize the immense, highly populated and heavily dependent on agriculture interior provinces.

The Northern East-West Freight Corridor (Eurasian Landbridge) is an idea to link the Far East and Europe by rail takes its origin with the construction of the Trans Siberian railway linking Moscow to Vladivostok, completed in 1916. With a length of 9,200 km it is the longest rail segment in the world. It was initially used solely as an inland rail link, but in the 1960s the Soviet Union started offering a landbridge service from Vladivostok using the Trans Siberian to reach Western Europe.

east-west freight corridor

Energy war

U.S. ally inside OPEC, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has been flooding the market with deep discounted oil, triggering a price war within OPEC, with Iran following suit and panic selling short in oil futures markets. The Saudis are targeting sales to Asia for the discounts and in particular, its major Asian customer, China where it is reportedly offering its crude for a mere $50 to $60 a barrel rather than the earlier price of around $100. When combined with the financial losses of Russian state natural gas sales to Ukraine and prospects of a US-instigated cutoff of the transit of Russian gas to the huge EU market this winter as EU stockpiles become low, the pressure on oil prices hits Moscow doubly. More than 50% of Russian state revenue comes from its export sales of oil and gas. The US-Saudi oil price manipulation is aimed at destabilizing several strong opponents of U.S. globalist policies. Targets include Iran and Syria, both allies of Russia in opposing a US sole Superpower. In fact the oil weapon is accelerating recent Russian moves to focus its economic power on national interests and lessen dependence on the Dollar system. If the dollar ceases being the currency of world trade, especially oil trade, the US Treasury faces financial catastrophe.

The shale gas revolution and a greater availability of LNG technologies, EU regulatory initiatives and implementation of the Third Energy Package provisions play a key role in transformations of gas markets.

ME pipelinesNow there might be a global oil war underway pitting the United States and Saudi Arabia on one side against Russia and Iran on the other.

In July 2011, the governments of Syria, Iran and Iraq signed an historic gas pipeline energy agreement which went largely unnoticed in the midst of the NATO-Saudi-Qatari war to remove Assad. The pipeline, envisioned to cost $10 billion and take three years to complete, would run from the Iranian Port Assalouyeh near the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf, to Damascus in Syria via Iraq territory. The agreement would make Syria the center of assembly and production in conjunction with the reserves of Lebanon. This is a geopolitically strategic space that geographically opens for the first time, extending from Iran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. As Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar put it, “The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline – if it’s ever built – would solidify a predominantly Shi’ite axis through an economic, steel umbilical cord.”

In ongoing oil war the U.S. shale oil producers will suffer most. According to experts’ estimates, the cost of production is around 80-90 dollars a barrel, 4-5 times more than the traditional oil. It means that the current price – 85 dollars a barrel as of October 17 – makes the companies operate in the red. Some producers will have to suspend operations facing mass bankruptcy in case the oil price falls lower than 80 dollars as shareholders start getting rid of zero profit bonds. The shale oil «soap bubble» will blow like the housing construction industry «bubble» blew in 2008. Of course, as time goes by oil prices will go up but it’ll be a different world with some US oil producers non-existent anymore…

Russia insists the South Stream project should be exempt from the effect of the Third Energy Package because it signed bilateral inter-governmental agreements with the EU countries participating in the construction of the gas pipeline on their territory before the EU’s new energy legislation came into force. Therefore, Russia says that the European Commission’s requirement to adapt these documents to the Third Energy Package contradicts the basic law principle that legislation cannot have retroactive force. The Third Energy Package requires, in particular, that a half of the capacities of the pipeline built with Russian money must be reserved for independent suppliers, i.e. for cheap and free transit of Caspian gas to Europe independently from Russia. Therefore, Russia does not recognize the legitimacy of applying the Third Energy Package to the South Stream gas pipeline project.

Bottom line

Eurasia flagRussia has accelerated its building of the Eurasian Bridge: Russia has the geostrategic opportunity of being an air, land, and sea bridge between Europe and East Asia. In line with China’s Silk Road and New Eurasian Land Bridge projects, the concept of the Northern Sea Route, and international air routes traversing Siberia, Russia can use its geographic position to reap the resultant dividends of East-West trade and thereby increasing its middleman importance.

The geopolitical situation is now transforming from traditional Sino-U.S. relations to U.S.-China-Russia triangle in which China, rather than the United States, will be the central player.

In addition the EU is worried that Russia will turn east and Europe will lose much of its Russian market share. At a time when the euro area threatens to collapse, where an acute economic crisis has led the U.S. into a debt of up to 14 940 billion, and where their influence is dwindling in the face of the emerging BRICS powers, it becomes clear that the key to economic success and political domination lies mainly in the control of the energy source of the century: gas.

With China signing the natural gas deal with Russia and the president of China publicly stating that it’s time to create a new security model for the Asian nations that includes Russia and Iran, it’s clear China has chosen Russia over the U.S. Today the US-backed wars in Ukraine and in Syria are but two fronts in the same strategic war to cripple Russia and China and to rupture any Eurasian counter-pole to a U.S.-controlled regions. In each, control of energy pipelines, this time primarily of natural gas pipelines—from Russia to the EU via Ukraine and from Iran and Syria to the EU via Syria—is the strategic goal.

So far U.S. has bullied its way around smaller nations for too long now. It seems to me that finally there is coming to be a coalition of new axis with Eurasia and China. Russia and China are leading of developing a network of “parallel structures” to existing international organizations and institutions. The end goal is create an alternative reality for international engagement, so that China can expand its own influence while escaping the restrictions of the current U.S.-dominated system.

eurasia revolution

 


Iran Nuke Deal Enables The Détente

November 25, 2013

Iran nuclear programmeThe world powers – U.S., France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia – reached an agreement with Iranian leaders early Sunday (24th Nov. 2013) in Geneva to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for a gradual easing of economic sanctions. President Obama said the tentative pact will “cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb…While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal,” Mr. Obama said. “For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back.

Iran has committed to halting certain levels of enrichment, and neutralizing part of its stockpile. Iran cannot use its next-generation centrifuges—which are used for enriching uranium.” Mr. Obama said the U.S. and its partners will not proceed with new sanctions that would scuttle the deal. (Source e.g. The Washington Times ) In return for Iran agreeing to increased international inspections of its facilities, the U.S. and its partners will suspend sanctions on gold and precious metals, Iran’s auto sector, and Iran’s petrochemical exports, potentially providing Iran about $1.5 billion in revenue.

The subsequent economic crisis in Iran discredited the policies of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, changed the thinking of the supreme leader and ultimately led to the electoral victory of President Hassan Rouhani. Previous international negotiators entered talks with Iran at a disadvantage because Iran had no need for negotiations. This has changed because Iran needs a negotiated deal as well, and it cannot get sanctions relief without international cooperation. This transformation in the negotiations dynamic made the deal now possible.

From other side Washington was hoping during the Arab Spring that at some point in Iran there would be an uprising that would overthrow the regime. The 2009 uprising, never really a threat to the regime, was seen as a rehearsal (see e.g IRAN – revolution postponed and Iran – no Revolution but potential for Change anyway). U.S was expecting Arab Spring to yield more liberal regimes. That didn’t happen. Egypt has not evolved, Syria has devolved into civil war, Bahrain has seen Saudi Arabia repress its uprising, and Libya has found itself on the brink of chaos. Not a single liberal democratic regime emerged. It became clear that there would be no uprising in Iran, and even if there were, the results would not likely benefit the United States.

Iran nuclear sites

Iran nuclear sites

Key Elements of Iran Nuke Deal

According US State Department fact sheet on Iran nuclear deal the key elements of Iran nuke deal are following:

Iran has committed to halt enrichment above 5%:

  • Halt all enrichment above 5% and dismantle the technical connections required to enrich above 5%.

Iran has committed to neutralize its stockpile of near-20% uranium:

  • Dilute below 5% or convert to a form not suitable for further enrichment its entire stockpile of near-20% enriched uranium before the end of the initial phase.

Iran has committed to halt progress on its enrichment capacity:

  • Not install additional centrifuges of any type.
  • Not install or use any next-generation centrifuges to enrich uranium.
  • Leave inoperable roughly half of installed centrifuges at Natanz and three-quarters of installed centrifuges at Fordow, so they cannot be used to enrich uranium.
  • Limit its centrifuge production to those needed to replace damaged machines, so Iran cannot use the six months to stockpile centrifuges.
  • Not construct additional enrichment facilities.

Iran has committed to halt progress on the growth of its 3.5% stockpile:

  • Not increase its stockpile of 3.5% low enriched uranium, so that the amount is not greater at the end of the six months than it is at the beginning, and any newly enriched 3.5% enriched uranium is converted into oxide.

Iran has committed to no further advances of its activities at Arak and to halt progress on its plutonium track. Iran has committed to:

  • Not commission the Arak reactor.
  • Not fuel the Arak reactor.
  • Halt the production of fuel for the Arak reactor.
  • No additional testing of fuel for the Arak reactor.
  • Not install any additional reactor components at Arak.
  • Not transfer fuel and heavy water to the reactor site.
  • Not construct a facility capable of reprocessing. Without reprocessing, Iran cannot separate plutonium from spent fuel.

Unprecedented transparency and intrusive monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program

Iran has committed to:

  • Provide daily access by IAEA inspectors at Natanz and Fordow. This daily access will permit inspectors to review surveillance camera footage to ensure comprehensive monitoring. This access will provide even greater transparency into enrichment at these sites and shorten detection time for any non-compliance.
  • Provide IAEA access to centrifuge assembly facilities.
  • Provide IAEA access to centrifuge rotor component production and storage facilities.
  • Provide IAEA access to uranium mines and mills.
  • Provide long-sought design information for the Arak reactor. This will provide critical insight into the reactor that has not previously been available.
  • Provide more frequent inspector access to the Arak reactor.
  • Provide certain key data and information called for in the Additional Protocol to Iran’s IAEA Safeguards Agreement and Modified Code 3.1.

Limited, Temporary, Reversible Relief

In return for these steps, the P5+1 is to provide limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible relief while maintaining the vast bulk of our sanctions, including the oil, finance, and banking sanctions architecture. If Iran fails to meet its commitments, we will revoke the relief. Specifically the P5+1 has committed to:

  • Not impose new nuclear-related sanctions for six months, if Iran abides by its commitments under this deal, to the extent permissible within their political systems.
  • Suspend certain sanctions on gold and precious metals, Iran’s auto sector, and Iran’s petrochemical exports, potentially providing Iran approximately $1.5 billion in revenue.
  • License safety-related repairs and inspections inside Iran for certain Iranian airlines.
  • Allow purchases of Iranian oil to remain at their currently significantly reduced levels — levels that are 60% less than two years ago. $4.2 billion from these sales will be allowed to be transferred in installments if, and as, Iran fulfills its commitments.
  • Allow $400 million in governmental tuition assistance to be transferred from restricted Iranian funds directly to recognized educational institutions in third countries to defray the tuition costs of Iranian students.

Putting Limited Relief in Perspective

In total, the approximately $7 billion in relief is a fraction of the costs that Iran will continue to incur during this first phase under the sanctions that will remain in place. The vast majority of Iran’s approximately $100 billion in foreign exchange holdings are inaccessible or restricted by sanctions.

In the next six months, Iran’s crude oil sales cannot increase. Oil sanctions alone will result in approximately $30 billion in lost revenues to Iran

The western powers have cut Iran’s oil sales from 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in early 2012 to 1 million bpd today, denying Iran the ability to sell almost 1.5 million bpd.

Secret talks paved the way

The negotiations started in Geneva on Nov. 2013 but as usual secret talks paved the way for the historic deal since March 2013. Some of the points comprising the interim agreement reached between Iran and the six powers were based on these secret talks between the U.S. and Tehran, integrated by the Americans into the official document. The existence of the secret channel between Iran and the United States was revealed publicly for the first time only on Sunday by the Associated Press and by blogger Laura Rozen on the Al-Monitor news website. The two reports appeared simultaneously, right after Iran and world powers signed an agreement in Geneva. The discussions were kept hidden even from America’s closest friends, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago, and that may explain how the nuclear accord appeared to come together so quickly after years of stalemate and fierce hostility between Iran and the West. However the Israeli government learned of the secret negotiations sometime near the beginning of the summer through intelligence it managed to obtain.

The talks were held in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman and elsewhere with only a tight circle of people in the know, the AP learned. Since March, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, have met at least five times with Iranian officials. The last four clandestine meetings, held since Iran’s reform-minded President Hasan Rouhani was inaugurated in August, produced much of the agreement later formally hammered out in negotiations in Geneva.

Meanwhile Le Figaro reported that the U.S. is already conducting secret bilateral talks with Iran on a number of topics.Among other things, the sides are discussing Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and accelerating trade relations between Tehran and Washington immediately after the signing of the interim agreement in Geneva, according to the French newspaper. A reliable source in the Gulf revealed these details to a senior correspondent for the newspaper, Georges Malbrunot who specializes in the Middle East. The source said that the contacts between U.S. and Iranians began on the day following the U.N. General Assembly in late September following a telephone conversation between President Obama and his Iranian counterpart Rouhani. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stayed in the U.S. for an additional ten days following the U.N. General Assembly, along with 75 colleagues from President Rouhani’s entourage — businessmen, industrialists and representatives of the Iranian gas and oil sector, who met with representatives of American oil companies Chevron and Exxon. (Source e.g: Report: Secret US-Iran talks laid the groundwork for deal )

IAEA reports Iran nuclear activity slowed not reduced

Iran now self-sufficient in uranium ore

Iran now self-sufficient in uranium ore

The latest quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear activities was issued on 14th Nov. 2013 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It noted a slowdown, but no reduction in Tehran’s nuclear activity.

The report was the IAEA’s first meaningful assessment since Iran’s President Rouhani took office. It comes as representatives from the P5+1 powers (US, UK, China, Russia, France and Germany) and Iranian officials prepare to meet again next week to further consider an interim agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme.

The IAEA report found that during the past three months, four advanced centrifuges had been added at the central Natanz plant, in comparison to 1,861 during the previous three-month period. The report concludes activity has been “more or less frozen” at the Arak heavy water plant, where it is feared plutonium is being developed which could speed up nuclear activity. However, Iran’s stockpile of 20 per-cent enriched uranium, considered just a short step away from weapons-grade material, has increased by five per cent to 196kg since August. Despite the slight increase, this is still below the 240kg mark specified last year by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as his “red line” which may precipitate action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. ( Source Bicom )

Israeli reactions

From Israel’s perspective, the accord is a strategic defeat for the West, since it legitimizes Iran’s status as a nuclear threshold state. The Iranians, says Jerusalem, are giving up nothing, while getting sanctions relief. The Iranian commitment not to enrich uranium to 20 percent for the next six months is no Iranian concession since the Iranians have already been careful not to cross Netanyahu’s red line of 220 kilos of such uranium. The Iranian commitment not to operate the heavy water reactor in Arak for the next six months is similarly “a joke,” Israel says, since Iran anyway can’t do so. The reactor is still under construction, and will be so for at least another 12 months. Israel’s security cabinet took earlier the unusual step of releasing a public statement, which affirmed Israel’s support for a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear development, should Tehran comply with four measures: cease all nuclear enrichment, remove all stockpiles of enriched uranium, dismantle the Qom and Natanz facilities and stop work at the Arak heavy water reactor.

PM Netanyahu and Iran red lineIsrael’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a forum of Jewish community leaders in Moscow before deal that Iran “must not have nuclear weapons. And I promise you that they will not have nuclear weapons.” He added, “The Iranians deny our past and repeat their commitment to wipe the State of Israel off the map,” citing comments made this week by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei who described Israel as a “rabid dog” and its leaders inhuman. US Secretary of State John Kerry called Khamenei’s comments “inflammatory and unnecessary.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed deep skepticism that Iran would abandon its nuclear ambitions. “What was achieved last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement; it is a historic mistake …Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world.” (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu)

Despite this irate response from the Prime Minister’s Office to the agreement signed in Geneva between Iran and six world powers, the deal might not be really a bad one even from an Israeli perspective. Geneva deal places serious restrictions on Iran and provides the West with valuable information on its nuclear program. Israeli President Shimon Peres gave a more measured response, saying time would tell whether the agreement was effective. Leftist Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On delivered the only positive Israeli response so far to the nuclear deal, saying her colleagues’ attack on the deal missed the fact that the agreement was intended to slow down Iran’s fast track to a nuclear bomb. After Iran nuke deal in Israel the Likud leadership anticipates a diplomatic and political crisis next spring. If Netanyahu wants to run again he will have to become even more extreme and speed toward Obama on a collision course. It might be that Geneva ended Netanyahu’s era. In a new reality, Israel might need new leadership.

Follow-ups

Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival, at times opposed Islamist radicals (in Saudi Arabia) and supported them elsewhere (in Syria or Iraq). The American relationship with Saudi Arabia, resting heavily on oil, had changed. The United States had plenty of oil now and the Saudis’ complex strategies simply no longer matched American interests.

The Iran nuke deal is only – sure core one – part of story. The deal but especially the secret U.S.-Iran talks before the deal may have also big geopolitical affect. When the nuclear issue is out from agenda and the sanctions removed, then matters such as controlling Sunni extremists, investment in Iran and maintaining the regional balance of power would all be on the table.

Iran missilesOn the other side Gulf States fear not only Iran’s nuclear programme, but Iran being allowed to continue with its hegemonic ambitions, even being emboldened by the deal, and that they will be left alone to deal with it. Already regional states are reaching out to other international actors aside from the United States: Egypt talking with Russia about a major arms deal; Turkey considering China for a major air defence system; Saudi Arabia developing ties with France and Pakistan about their own nuclear weapon, Israel with France and Russia about cooperation in energy sector. This is a strong expression of deep disappointment with the US and its regional approach.

Challenges

  • Arak plutonium reactor: Arak need to be followed closely. Before the French intervention during the last round of talks, the Arak clause was problematic, proposing that Iran could not commission the facility but could continue construction in the next six months. One idea is that it will be converted into a light water reactor from a heavy water plant, this is something else.
  • The Iranian narrative, that they have the ‘right’ to enrichment, has become an issue of their national pride. As a result, any deal will probably allow a degree of enrichment, but round the clock inspections by the IAEA will be essential to manage this.
  • One key challenge is that the P5+1 powers should agree among themselves on a clearly defined endgame to the talks after an interim accord of six months.

The bottom line

(the P5+1 agreement) puts time on the clock.” (John Kerry)

Israel, the US and the major EU powers share the assessment that Iran’s programme is intended to give it the capacity to build nuclear weapons at its time of choosing. Now the Iran nuke deal concludes an interim accord as a prelude to a more comprehensive agreement. It would require Iran to freeze aspects of its nuclear programme for six months, in return for limited concessions on sanctions. Despite hard words one should remember that Iranian foreign policy has been extremely measured. Its one major war, which it fought against Iraq in the 1980s, was not initiated by Iran. Already some months ago Russia and U.S. managed to deal with Syria’s WMDs restoring trust to the great Middle East. Based on this history and the new deal with Iran I think that the détente has took a remarkable step forwards.

Iran nuclear sites

Iran nuclear sites

Some of my previous articles related to nuclear Iran:

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Instead Iran The Saudis Can Be The Next Nuclear Power

November 10, 2013

WMD logoWhile Iran nuke talks heat up in Geneva (Nov. 2013) and demolition of Syria’s CW stockpiles has already started one question related to WMD has kept out from headlines namely intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery to Saudi Arabia. While the world has worried about the nuclear program of Iran – and possible Israeli air-strike to stop it – a new nuclear power can be reality in few weeks.

Saudi authorities have invested heavily in Pakistan’s nuclear program and now it seems that Saudi Arabia is joining to the nuclear club sooner than Iran as according BBC Newsnight Riyadh has already bought nuclear weapons in Pakistan made on behalf of Saudi Arabia and are now sitting ready for delivery.

Saudi-Paki nuke cooperation

What’s interesting is that no major news network in the USA has featured this story since the BBC broke it 3 days ago. I watch NBC, BBC, and FOX news programming every weekday, and the BBC is the only network saying this, and only online – BBC America is NOT carrying this story on cable.” (A view in social media)

Pakistan presumably has reached a secret deal to provide Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons if Iran, which the world powers suspect is working on a nuclear programme, develops a nuke bomb. Pakistan declared itself as a nuclear armed state in 1998 with its first test. It has never signed up non-proliferation agreements and has an expanding arsenal, with some estimates saying it has as many as 110 nuclear weapons with enough fissile material for more than 200.

Saudi-Paki cooperation mapIn general it is not widely known that Saudi Arabia has a nuclear weapons program. From an official and public standpoint, Saudi Arabia has been an opponent of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, having signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Saudi Arabia has denied manufacturing the nuclear weapons under its peaceful civilian nuclear program, the country has allegedly allotted financial funds for its nuclear program, and as well received scientific assistance from various counties, including United States and Pakistan. (Read more e.g. in Wiki)

It is true that Saudi Arabia has not been producing nukes on their own soil; howeverSaudi authorities are a sole financier of Pakistan’s own integrated atomic bomb project since 1974. In March 2006, the German magazine Cicero reported that Saudi Arabia had since 2003 received assistance from Pakistan to acquire nuclear missiles and warheads. Satellite photos allegedly reveal an underground city and nuclear silos with Ghauri rockets in Al-Sulaiyil, south of the capital Riyadh. Pakistan has denied aiding Saudi Arabia in any nuclear ambitions. Western intelligence sources have told The Guardian that the Saudi monarchy has paid for up to 60% of the Pakistan’s atomic bomb projects and in return has the option to buy five to six nuclear warheads off the shelf.

Saudi desire for bomb

In 1987 it was reported that Saudi Arabia secretly purchased between 50 and 60 Chinese-made CSS-2 intermediate-range ballistic missiles equipped with a high explosive warhead, which have a range of 2,800 km with a payload of either 2,150 or 2,500 kg together with between 10 and 15 transport vehicle systems. These CSS-2 ballistic missiles are relatively useless as conventional weapons; they are too inaccurate, but if one load them up with a nuclear warhead it won’t really matter how accurate those things are.

CSS-2 ballistic missiles for Saudi Arabia

CSS-2 ballistic missiles

According Wikipedia long time Saudi support of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program during the Saddam Hussein regime was implemented with $5 billion on the condition that successful nuclear technology and possibly even nuclear weapons would be transferred to Saudi Arabia . In 2011, Prince Turki al-Faisal, who has served as the Saudi intelligence chief and as ambassador to the United States has suggested that the kingdom might consider producing nuclear weapons if it found itself between the atomic arsenals of Iran and Israel. In 2012, it was confirmed that Saudi Arabia would launch its own nuclear weapons program immediately if Iran successfully developed nuclear weapons. In such an eventuality, Saudi Arabia would start work on a new ballistic missile platform, purchase nuclear warheads from overseas and aim to source uranium to develop weapons-grade material.

And now in November 2013, a variety of sources told BBC Newsnight that Saudi Arabia had invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects and believes it could obtain nuclear bombs at will. Earlier in the year (2013), a senior NATO decision maker told Mark Urban, a senior diplomatic and defense editor, that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery. In October 2013, Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that if Iran got the bomb, “the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring.”

Ready facilities

Saudi Arabia has a ballistic missile facility near the town of Al-Watah. For example defence publisher Jane’s revealed the existence of Saudi Arabia’s third and undisclosed intermediate-range ballistic missile site – a new CSS-2 missile base with its launch rails aimed at Israel and Iran about 200 km southwest of Riyadh.

Ballistic missile base in Saudi Arabia near the town of Al-Watah

Photo credit: IHS/DigitalGlobe

Conclusion

The key conclusion is that Saudi authorities have invested heavily in Pakistan’s nuclear program and at any time can get from Islamabad nuclear weapons. Even this is not widely reported it not surprise either. The Saudis have been sending the Americans many signals of their going ahead with their nuclear weapons plan. Since 2009, according to the BBC, when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia warned visiting US special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross that once Iran crossed the threshold, “we will get nuclear weapons,”. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have longstanding ties and the Kingdom has financed a range of infrastructure projects, mosques and defence contracts. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have longstanding ties and the Kingdom has financed a range of infrastructure projects, mosques and defence contracts.

The key point is that a new nuclear power can be reality in few weeks. Saudi Arabia has new ballistic missile facility, it has missiles and assumed deal with Pakistan to bring nuclear warheads to those missiles. It could also be possible that Saudis could import ready Pakistani Shaheen II missiles. An alternative might also be for Pakistan to offer Saudi Arabia protection under its “nuclear umbrella”.

Some of my previous articles related to nuclear Iran:

 The Shaheen II missile during a military parade in Islamabad.

Possible export to Saudi Arabia? The Shaheen II missile during a military parade in Islamabad. Photograph: Aziz Haidari/Reuters


Blogging & Web 2.0 As A Tool In The Media War by Ari Rusila

October 2, 2013

(Editors note: This article is a modified web-version of my article printed in A Flying Finn : Finnish Civil Society Actors in the Global Sphere Melasuo, Tuomo; Nissinen, Petter; Tomperi, Outi (ed.), 2013, published by Tampere Peace Research Institute; ISBN: 978-951-44-9191-7.)

Ari Rusila, MA SocSc, is a Finnish freelancer and project management expert who lives in Jyväskylä, Finland. He has worked mostly in the Barents region, the Murmansk region of Russia and Kosovo/Serbia (Balkans). His main blog, Ari Rusila’s BalkanBlog, covers issues such as conflicts, crisis management and geopolitics.

 

Blogging statue

Introduction

Blogging is a part of the social media and Web 2.0 environment. While the first-stage web mainly included websites where people were limited to passive viewing of the content, the new-generation Web 2.0 creates highly interactive platforms that allow the creation of user-generated content, discussion and sharing in the virtual community. Besides blogging, the social media includes social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn…), microblogs (e.g. Twitter), wikis (wikipedia, wikimedia, wikileaks…), video sharing sites (e.g. Youtube), folksonomies (social bookmarking, tags) and other web applications (e.g. JavaScript). In conclusion, Web 2.0 has created a totally new level for communication between organizations, communities and individuals, far from the still-existing traditional and industrial media.

I have been blogging1 for over five years and have used some other social media applications for a few years. I have average computer and Internet skills, but programming is beyond my ability. So my experience of using social media is much the same as any ordinary citizen and not at any kind of expertise level. As my blog covers issues such as conflicts, crisis management and geopolitics – and regionally, the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus and MENA (the greater Middle East and North Africa) regions – I describe my experiences of the social media from that perspective. Another aspect should also be mentioned: I try to have blog articles with a message; in general, I take a position, describe a conflict from my perspective and give arguments for it. As my motto is “the other side of the story”, I never claim that my articles are neutral, or an academic description of different issues – the printed media and broadcasts can more or less pretend to have that kind of approach. In my opinion, when a reader compares my provocative or biased post with information collected from the mainstream media, he or she can get a more comprehensive picture of the related issues or events.

Web updated the media war

The traditional media has had a role in wars and international conflicts for at least a hundred years, e.g during the Armenian genocide it had some influence on the small humanitarian aid from the U.S. and afterwards influenced the trials against the perpetrators in Turkey. However, it was not until a half-century ago that it came clear that media hype can be far more effective than military combat success – as the Vietnam war amply demonstrated. It is said that Vietnam was the first conflict waged and won by the U.S. media.

The civil war in Yugoslavia lifted the media war to a more professional level when Croatian, Bosnian Muslim and Kosovo Albanian separatists employed PR firms to get U.S. public opinion and political leaders on their side, while the Serbs totally ignored the importance of the media. This proved to be a fatal Serb error in twentieth century hostilities, where public relations and media hype can be far more effective than military combat success. Barry Lituchu hit the nail on the head with these sentences2:

It is said that the first casualty of war is the truth. Of course, today with the appalling spectacle of the civil war in Yugoslavia filling our TV screens and newspapers, this old axiom has taken on an uglier, more sinister meaning. If four years ago we could say that the American public was totally uninformed about the conflict ready to unfold, today we can say with equal justification that Americans are doubly or triply misinformed, and dangerously so, about this tragic and completely unnecessary war.

Referring to the Yugoslav civil wars, Barry Lituchy describes the methods as follows3:

All public relations firms working for foreign governments must register with the Justice Department. I found in documents obtained from the Justice Department that while Croatia was contracted to pay Ruder Finn $16,000 a month and Bosnia was to pay $12,000 in 1992, payments in some later months were as high as $200,000, and total payments per year were ultimately in the millions of dollars. Moreover, Ruder Finn was not the only P.R. firm employed in Bosnia. Hill and Knowlton was also contracted early in the war. Waterman & Associates was employed by Croatia. Financial backing came from countries such as Saudi Arabia, which alone funneled nearly $1 billion to the Sarajevo regime from 1993 to 1996, according to the Washington Post, 2 February 1996. Ruder Finn was also contracted by the non-existent “Republic of Kosovo” for $5,000 a month, according to a Justice Department document dated 1 November 1992.

The outcome of this demonizing anti-Serb campaign was so effective that there was no market for stories by a journalist who discovered that the reported Serbian “rape camps” did not exist, or who included information about Muslim or Croat crimes against Serbs. Challenging the dominant interpretation in the major media became increasingly impossible.

Two decades ago the role of the average citizen with regard to printed or broadcast media was still passive; with social media the situation totally changed to the opposite – ordinary people can be creative through interactive media. The new trend in the present decade seems to be the ‘Internet revolution’. One of the first examples of this was way back in 2001 when the Filipinos famously overthrew their government with the help of text messaging. The latest example of the use of social media in the context of catastrophes or terrorist acts comes from the U.S., where, immediately after the bombs had exploded during the Boston marathon (Spring 2013), tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or even millions, of social media users began to comb through still and video images from the explosion sites, like so many self-deputized CIA agents. These instant vigilantes not only shared images and theories on Reddit, Imgur, Tumbler and countless blogs but also fingered (innocent) suspects, most of them dark-skinned, as potential terrorists.

The use of social media in present day conflicts can be seen from a few examples I have studied or participated in in different roles (as a neutral observer, as writing articles from the grassroots level perspective or as an active participant in the virtual media war).

Case Moldova – Twitter revolution 4,5

After the Orange (Ukraine), Rose (Georgia) and Tulip (Kyrgyzstan) revolutions, the first attempt at a next-generation demonstration took place in Moldova after the 2009 parliamentary elections. Known now as “The Twitter Revolution” the protest was organized by two youth movements – Hyde Park and ThinkMoldova – using their generation’s social messaging network to gather 10,000-15,000 demonstrators on the streets in Moldova’s capital Chisinau at an event billed as “I am a not a Communist”, which included ransacking the presidential palace and parliament building.

As many as 50 per cent of the eligible Moldovan voters cast their votes for the Communist Party (PCRM). Thus the ruling party won a landslide victory, leaving the other three political parties that made it to parliament far behind. Three other parties managed to pass the 6 per cent threshold required to enter the legislature. All three are in favour of closer ties with the European Union, free-market policies and pursuing NATO membership. The Communists (PCRM) are pro-EU, anti-NATO and less market-friendly.

Election observers from the EU and OSCE accepted6 the voting as fair, though they expressed some concern about interference from the authorities. But the results were a deep disappointment in the capital. Expectation of change was in the air before the voting, but that did not happen.

On the other hand, the demonstration has been characterized in discussion forums (by government supporters perhaps?) as an act where

youth, paid by older internationally-acting manipulators with money, alcohol and drugs, seized a presidential office, planted a Romania’s flag on a president palace and set on fire country’s parliament, demanding inclusion as a province in Romania.”

Natalia Morar, one of the leaders of ThinkMoldova7, described the effort in her blog as “six people, 10 minutes for brainstorming and decision-making, several hours of disseminating information through networks, Facebook, blogs, SMSs and e-mails.” She said the protests organized under the slogan were organized online: “All the organization was through the Internet, and 15,000 people came on to the street.”

To create a demonstration via social media was easy, but to have a common view of its purpose and manage the crowd seems to have been problematic. That the demonstration turned violent was a surprise to the activists. Mr. Moscovici said the protests were never intended to turn in that direction. “The situation got beyond any expectations,” he said. “If it would have been planned in advance, they would have used Molotov cocktails or other bad stuff. Today they didn’t have any tools to fight back. The stones they got from the ground, from the pavement.” Ms. Morar of ThinkMoldova also distanced her organization from the violence, shifting the blame onto the opposition parties. What bothers her the most, she said, is the suggestion that she and her friends somehow contributed to the violence, which she watched on television. “Believe me, there is nothing at all enjoyable about it,” she said8.

ThinkMoldova gives an example of how a debate can be brought to the street level. One problem is manipulation by the media, etc, which is a common phenomenon in political actions, as well hijacking a demonstration for the purpose of one interest group. In the Moldova case, the two organizations behind the protest condemned the violence and were of the opinion that the opposition parties were behind these acts. The opposition parties deny this and of course it is possible that the Establishment orchestrated the hooligan part of the demonstration to weaken the NGOs. The truth – I don’t know.

The Moldovan experiment showed that Twitter has made some difference since the demonstrations in Ukraine 2004 and Belorussia 2006, which were mainly organized with SMS. It is practical and effective, but from my point of view not a sufficient method for democratic revolution. For protest certainly, for revolution maybe, sometime, somewhere.

Arab Streets: Social media gave good start and bad follow-up

The uprisings and revolutions on the Arab streets a couple of years ago clearly demonstrated the force of the social media in the early stages of those events. A sort of warm-up to the recent cyber war came with the release of a number of US diplomatic cables on Tunisia9by WikiLeaksin late November and early December 2010. The cables gave details about the “Family Mafia” led by the Tunisian President. A Lebanese news website that published the cables, Al-Akhbar, was blocked in Tunisia and attacked by hackers. The political campaign on the Internet escalated with Operation Tunisia10(an open letter to the media, a request for help from journalists, bloggers and hackers) in which activists targeted government sites with Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. The hackers also got their Open Letter onto the main page of the Government of Tunisia website. During critical days, the social media have been used to help get people out on the streets.

In Egypt the social media played a decisive role by bringing the protest onto the streets. Anonymous leaflets11How to Protest Intelligently – circulating in Cairo also provided practical and tactical advice for mass demonstrations, confronting riot police, and besieging and taking control of government offices. The leaflet asked recipients to redistribute it by email and photocopying, but not to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which were being monitored by the security forces.

While the social media was so effective during the uprisings, its role became insignificant immediately after the change of regime. Traditional, better organized religious groups got an almost landslide victory over different “ad hoc” temporary action groups. It seems that with Tweet and FB it is difficult to create any deeper group identity, common vision or commitment.

Iran: Unsuccessful Green revolution, but successful cyber war

The “green revolution” in Tehran started after the elections in the summer of 2009. The Western media relied on its reporters covering the mass demonstrations by opposition supporters. The most news coverage came from Tehran via English-speaking students – the bulk of the opposition demonstrators were drawn from the upper and middle-class students, business and professional classes.

From the post-election surveys it can be seen that the only demographic groups where the opposition candidate Mousavi was leading or competing with Ahmadinejad were the university students and graduates, and the highest-income Iranians. This group had the language skills, equipment and skills for using the social media for their purpose. But relying on them as a source of information gives a totally false picture about the grassroots level in Iran as, according to surveys, only one-third of Iranians have access to the Internet. Commentators portrayed Iranian youth and the Internet as harbingers of change in the 2009 election, whereas in reality, 18-to-24-year-olds comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad.

While distributing real-time tweets and pictures of the “revolution”, the Western media totally ignored and downplayed the huge turnout for Ahmadinejad. Worse still, the Western media ignored the class composition of the competing demonstrations – the fact that Ahmadinejad was drawing his support from the far more numerous poor working class, peasant, artisan and public employee sectors while ignoring the provinces, small and medium sized cities and villages where Ahmadinejad had his mass base of support.12, 13

Later, when the core problem (information coming from English-speaking students and highest income class) of the social media as a source of information was clear, and to give a deeper view, I published the traditional information from the Iranian opposition and, especially, from a group named The Organization of Iranian People’s Fadaian (Majority) – in Persian: سازمان فدائیان خلق ایران اکثریتSāzmān-e fedaiyān-e khalq-e Irān (aksariat) – which is the largest socialist party in Iran and advocates the overthrow of the Islamic regime there. The group is banned from open activity within the Islamic Republic, and works clandestinely inside Iran and openly abroad. I published their letter to EU leaders14 as such, and their other letter15 to President Obama related to a planned Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities as, in my opinion, their wise words reflected the grassroots attitude among the Iranian opposition

While social media like Twitter at a regional/local level can be a decisive factor by encouraging the masses to throw out an existing regime, one should remember that the stakes are on a different scale in a real cyber war. The best examples are the introduction of the Stuxnet computer virus into 30,000 computers in Iran’s nuclear reactors and the explosions in October 2009 in which 18 Iranian technicians were killed at a factory in the Zagros mountains that manufactured Shihab missiles.16

Israel: The most sophisticated use of social media as a tool of war

The old tradition (called also Pallywood) in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the use of some respected media, such as the BBC, to show “Israel’s aggression” and, at the same time, Palestinians as innocent civilian victims. During earlier conflicts it was usual to bring the dead – anyone who had died or been murdered for reasons of crime during these wars – out from the hospitals in front of the cameras as victims of “Israel’s aggression”. This kind of media war is still continuing on the Internet. The difference with the old times is that while it is easy to create and publish (mis)information, it is just as easy for the public to detect photo manipulations and other fabrications.

During the Israeli Pillar of Defence operation against Hamas terrorists in Gaza, an Arab news site called Alarab Net released a photo17 that shows a family who were allegedly ‘massacred’ in Gaza on its Facebook page on Sunday, 18 November 2012. The caption in Arabic roughly translates into English as “martyred massacred family in Gaza shortly before…” Thanks to Tazpit News Agency’s investigative work, it was found that the photo had originally been published on a news site called Moheet based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, one month earlier, on 9 October 2012. October 19. On the Moheet website, the photo18 was entitled “Syria killed 122 Friday…Assad Used Cluster Bombs.”

And here another example where the Alqassam Brigades published an image which was taken in during the Syrian civil war weeks ago and attempted to pass it off as a picture taken in Gaza during current conflict.

media manipulation in the middle east, Pallywood

Trevor Asserson in YNetNews19:

The only force in the Middle East that can beat the Israeli army is a bunch of ragged reporters. Had it not been for the fear of world opinion the Army would have rooted out Hamas and its rockets… World opinion matters because Israel’s natural friends are democracies. Politicians in democracies will follow public opinion. In today’s digital world, where people can communicate across the world in seconds and access information anonymously from their own homes, the internet is the new battlefield. The BBC, with its halo of ‘impartiality,’ is the world leader in dissimulation. The BBC aired dead Syrian children passed off as Palestinians; a ‘badly injured victim of Israeli bombing’ was filmed moments later walking around healthily. The BBC shrugged it off – “perhaps he just recovered quickly.”

A couple of years ago, the General Staff of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) established a Cyber Defense Division in the C4I Directorate, which is responsible for protecting the IDF networks from hackers and infiltrations, to combat this new virtual frontier. While modern cyber warfare is more between skilled specialists, the information war in the social media is possible for anyone who has some kind of equipment and access to the web.

In my opinion, the most sophisticated use of social media as tool of war is the official blog of the Israel Defense Forces (IDFBlog)20. This is a source of information where one can find news from the field, including operational updates, photos and videos. Besides news, the IDF blog also includes wide background information and facts about related issues via different means (images, videos, FB discussions, interactive means, contacts …) and in many languages. The IDF are using Twitter as a means of making conflict, and their part in it, as transparent as possible. They are letting the world know exactly what they are doing, as well as why they are doing it. I think this is incredibly important as Israel is too easily cast in the role of “the bully” by the mainstream press abroad.

Besides blogging, the IDF also work with Facebook21, Youtube22, Twitter23 and Flickr24.

IDF leaflets during Gaza operation

As not all people have access to the social media, Israel has also used old-fashioned methods such as aircraft dropping leaflets in Gaza stating that the residents should “keep their distance from Hamas terror operatives”. There were similar warnings via Twitter. The reason for this kind of early warning was to minimize collateral damage (very bad for the public image) in any conflict.25

A very good example of how the IDF information unit works with the social media is its actions on 14th November 2012, when Operation Pillar of Defence was starting: in the morning, around 9:30 a.m. Eastern time, @IDFSpokesperson tweeted that “The IDF has begun a widespread campaign on terror sites & operatives in the #Gaza Strip, chief among them #Hamas & Islamic Jihad targets.” Minutes later they tweeted26, “The first target hit, minutes ago, was Ahmed Al-Jabari, head of the #Hamas military wing.” The tweet linked to a post on the IDF blog27 that explained: “The purpose of this operation was to severely impair the command and control chain of the Hamas leadership, as well as its terrorist infrastructure.”…“The IDF will continue to target sites that are used for carrying out terror attacks against the citizens of Israel while improving their daily security.” Soon after, a video of the IDF Pinpoint Strike on Ahmed Jabari28 hit YouTube, where it has accrued over 800,000 views so far (despite being blocked and reinstated by YouTube) 29. On the opposition’s side, the Alqassam Brigades30have been live-tweeting their attacks on Israel as well – e.g during Operation Pillar of Defence, tweeting the news of rockets being fired at different cities in Israel every few minutes.

Web 2.0 As a Tool – My conclusions

The Egyptian autocrats removed the Internet from Egypt; the Chinese autocrats removed Egypt from the Internet (an anonymous quote from a web forum)

The Web 2.0 revolution created a collective consciousness over the Internet, and, in addition, the social media also made it possible for large numbers of people to organize and, in certain cases create, attacks against the establishment – in the virtual or real sphere. The social media is different from the traditional/industrial media in many ways, such as quality, reach, frequency, usability, immediacy and permanence. A Web 2.0 site may allow users to interact and collaborate with each other in the social media. This new Internet culture reflects the fact of, or is a process by which, the centre of gravity of the news cycle has shifted to the social media. The critical task is, of course, criticism of the sources, so that what seems like complete democratization of information and news reporting can lead to a tyranny of the mob, even erupting into “virtual” and perhaps even physical violence.

Today’s communication tools are providing new aspects for election campaigns and politics in general. One of them is that modern technology can inspire young voters. Another aspect is that protest is not necessarily channelled via voting but through street democracy.

One can claim that both of these aspects can include undemocratic elements because the majority of the population are not familiar with these tools and directing democracy with violence can gain more than a fair share of power. On the other hand, one can claim that the Establishment has such strong means with which to exercise power that normal elections are insignificant. My position is not clear, because the situation is different in every society.

Web 2.0 has been excellent tool with which to mobilize huge segments of the population with “Colour revolutions” or uprisings. However, the problems start after the demonstrations or even when the regime changes. After changing the regime or ousting a dictator, any further goals are rarely discussed and accepted by the mobilized demonstrators. Indeed, the real aims – labelled the promotion of democracy – can be imported abroad to serve foreign interests (like pro-American economic and foreign policies on Arab streets) or at least one leading domestic interest group. So, in my opinion, the criticism is the core question from this aspect.

I do not think the Western traditional mainstream media are so interested in in-depth critical analysis or investigations, which are a thread for advertising money or other publishers’ interests. The Internet is an excellent medium for alternative critical citizen journalism and even investigative journalism. Speaking about today’s whistle-blowers – the most famous being WikiLeaks – it may be the only medium where these kinds of actions are possible. One can, of course, find a lot of nonsense and what I call Facebook journalism on the Internet. I personally prefer more op-ed articles, alternative perspectives, etc, with good links to background information. In blogging I have changed my approach from daily commentaries to longer and not-so-frequent articles.

I think that at best, the social media can challenge the existing system, policy and initiatives by looking behind the picture from the mainstream media and finding the core interests in ongoing and coming (e.g. Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, military intervention in Syria, etc) interventions, conflicts and high-flown statements, and investigate how the actions are implementing the interests of different lobby groups. The blogosphere can tell what’s really happening and why. The blogosphere can liberate us and our thinking from the mainstream media box. It delivers a huge amount of information and raw material from different shareholders. The critical task is criticism of the sources, but even with this reservation it makes a real change as a virtual think tank – far more than the traditional media.

¤ ¤ ¤

Excerpt: Ari Rusila – My Blogosphere

My motivation for blogging originates from my experience of working in the Balkans. While working in the Balkans I saw a huge gap between the mainstream media and reality, and between high-flown ideas from Washington and Brussels from one side and the grassroots from the other. To change the situation I started to write e-mails and memorandums to policy-makers and comments to different forums – although the response was modest at best. Then I went to different web forums and started blogging, and got much more feedback. My motto is “The other side of the story”.

My main blog is Ari Rusila’s BalkanBlog31, which covers issues relating to conflicts, crisis management and geopolitics, and regionally the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus and MENA (the greater Middle East and North Africa) regions. The content of the blog is more in-depth analysis or essays from my personal viewpoint on topics mentioned, not daily posts about current events. The main blog has visitors from more than 140 countries, mostly from North America.

There is a Finnish version of the main blog with a little different content: Ari Rusilan BalkanBlog32. I also launched a news portal, Ari Rusila’s Conflicts, where real-time news on diffferent topics was automatically generated from different sources – but no more, as the service provider ended this option. Then there is Themes of Ari Rusila33, which includes some minicourses for e-learning purposes. This site is still partly under construction. In addition to this, there is a more static website, Ari Rusila WebS34. I also participate in a number of community blogs with the same content as my main blog but with a different audience.

Blogosphere of Ari Rusila, Balkanblog, Web 2.0, blogging, social media

Highlights & Achievements 2008-

2013

2012

  • TOP 10 political blogs rank in Finland (Cision)

  • Translations of my articles are spreading my message

  • Interviews in international printed and online media: Crimea Policy Dialogue Project (Ukraine)

  • Blog-Zug Hall of Fame (week 43/2012)

  • Blog-Zug Top (week 43/2012)

  • Google Search can give a good score depending how high each article is at any given time (my best is 603,000 hits, normal variation is 7,000 – 200,000)

  • Technorati authority changes according tro article popularity (my scores between 1 -150) h

2011

2010

  • Blog got 1st position among the most visited Babelblogs in Cafebabel.com (The European Magazine)

  • 4,782 views on main blog in one day

  • TOP 10 political blogs rank in Finland (Cision)

  • Article for AC Policy Team/NATO Strategic Concept

  • Translations and forum activities disseminate views

2009

  • TH!NK ABOUT IT blogging competition by European Journalism Centre, only two selected to participate from Finland

  • Quality Blogging Award in TH!NK ABOUT IT blogging competition by European Journalism Centre

  • Intercultural Dialogue” Training workshop of Anna Lindh Foundation in Luxemburg for EuroMed bloggers. I was the only one selected from the Nordic countries

  • Platinium contributor to Atlantic-Community

2008

  • Article in New Kosova Report (Kosovo/Serbia)

  • Active participation in different forums and articles referred to

  • International Press Card

Other outcomes

  • Citations in a few academic works

  • Answering questions from researchers and students for their studies or publications

  • Contacted by a few writers and discussions of common issues

  • Helping aid or development workers with advice when they are going on missions

  • Giving official statements to, for example, asylum seekers

  • Contacted by a few moviemakers and giving background information and hints for documentary movies.

Notes:

1See “Excerpt: My Blogoshere

2 The Spectator (http://www.iacenter.org/bosnia/lituchy.htm)

3 The Spectator (http://www.iacenter.org/bosnia/lituchy.htm)

4 More in Twitter revolution – no coup d’etat but big drama anyway (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/04/19/twitter-revolution-) and

5 Twitter Revolution-Case Moldova (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/twitter-revolution-)

6 OSCE report (http://www.osce.org/documents/odihr/2009/04/37142_en.pdf )

7 Source NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/world/europe/08moldova.html?_r=0)

8 Source NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/world/europe/08moldova.html?_r=0 )

9 (http://213.251.145.96/origin/19_0.html)

10 (http://www.pdf-archive.com/2011/01/04/an-open-letter-to-all-media/an-open-letter-to-all-media.pdf)

11 (http://assets.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/science/assets_c/2011/01/Page%201_rev2-thumb-600×424-41204.jpg) and (http://assets.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/science/assets_c/2011/01/Page%204_rev-thumb-600×424-41213.jpg)

12 More in my articles IRAN – revolution postponed (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/07/07/iran-) and

13 Iran – Twitter – Revolution (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/06/22/iran-)

14 Support for Iranian Opposition (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/support-for-iranian-opposition/)

15 US Giving a “Yellow Light” to an Israeli Strike (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/us-giving-a-yellow-light-to-an-israeli-strike/)

16 More in my article Cyber war has became a tool between political and military options (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/cyber-war-has-became-a-tool-between-political-and-military-options/)

17 The “recycled” massacre, transplanted to Gaza. (http://www.jewishpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/forgery-1.jpg)

18 The original massacre, in Syria. http://www.jewishpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/forgery-21-422×486.jpg )

19 (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4315343,00.html)

20 (http://www.idfblog.com/ )

21 (http://www.facebook.com/idfonline )

22 (http://www.youtube.com/idfnadesk )

23 (http://www.twitter.com/idfspokesperson )

24 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/idfonline )

25 Minimizing Collateral Damage In Gaza Conflict (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/minimizing-collateral-damage-in-gaza-conflict/)

26 (http://twitter.com/IDFSpokesperson/status/268722815300169729 )

27 (http://www.idfblog.com/2012/11/14/idf-begins-widespread-attack-on-terror-sites-in-the-gaza-strip/ )

28 (http://youtu.be/P6U2ZQ0EhN4 )

29 (http://allthingsd.com/20121115/youtube-blocks-israeli-hamas-assassination-video/ )

30 (http://twitter.com/AlqassamBrigade )

31 (https://arirusila.wordpress.com )

32 (http://arirusila.blogit.fi/ )

33 (http://arirusilathemes.wordpress.com/ )

34 (http://arirusila.webs.com/ )


Iranians And Israeli Instead Of Israel Vs. Iran

August 3, 2013

<img source="http://niacblog.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/israel_iran_nuclear.jpg?w=252&h=189" alt="Israel, Iran and nuklear."</img>Two days before his inauguration, President of Iran, Hasan Rouhani said, “The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed”. A bit similar words were given by former President Ahmadinejad for years. On the other side Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu went on U.S television to remind the world that the threat from Iran remains very much alive. Speaking on “Face the Nation,” Netanyahu warned that the Islamic Republic is once again approaching a nuclear redline, and hinted that if the United States doesn’t take action soon, he will. Israeli leaders have been issuing such alarms for almost a decade now.

<img source="https://i1.wp.com/foreignaffairs.com/files/images/preview/Bibi3_0.jpg" alt="Israel, Iran and red line by Netanyahu."</img>While military strike still is a serious thread the secret war between Israel and Iran has been going on the whole time. From Israeli side well known actions are assassinations of some key figures in Iran’s nuclear program, Stuxnet and some strange blasts and explosions in Iran’s nuclear facilities. However its pleasure to find out that some civil activities will give hope that a non military development might be possible.

Jerusalem Film Festival

Recently in July 2013, Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, an Iranian film maker and member of the Iranian political opposition who has won some 50 awards, visited Israel as a guest of honor at the Jerusalem Film Festival. He received an award for his efforts to promote freedom and democracy in Iran and hosted a film screening of his recent film The Gardener a film that explores the Bahai community in Israel. The Gardener is the first Iranian film since the 1979 Iranian Revolution to be filmed within Israel. A number of his other films were also highlighted at the Jerusalem Film Festival. Crowds of Israelis honored him with standing ovations. Makhmalbaf was the first high-profile Iranian artist and former revolutionary to visit the Jewish state since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Born in Tehran 56 years ago, the maker of 20 films took part in the demonstrations against the shah of Iran which saw him arrested at the age of 17 and spending more than four years in prison. After the 1979 Islamic revolution he was able to concentrate on cinema, but his approach and attempts to prevent censorship angered the new authorities. Makhmalbaf was forced into exile in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, where he remained underground, before moving to Paris for four years. He now lives in London.

“On many occasions the Iranian authorities sent killers after me. I narrowly escaped a grenade attack in Afghanistan. In Paris I lived 24 hours with 24 bodyguards,” he said.

All of his films and 30 books are banned in Iran, but his movies do find their way in through black market DVDs, satellite television or YouTube.

“After my visit to Israel, I’ll probably face a campaign accusing me of being a Mossad or CIA agent,” he predicted. (Source and more in Arutz Sheva)

Makhmalbaf came to Israel despite the fact that he could face up to five years in prison for such a visit should he ever decide to return to Iran. According to Makhmalbaf, he made this film in Israel just to provoke the fundamentalist elements in my country.

In response to Makhmalbaf’s visit to Israel, Javad Shamghadri, one of the authorities of the Ahmadinejad-controlled cinema agency, ordered the withdrawal of all of Makhmalbaf’s works from Iran’s cinema museum. Also a group of Iranian scholars, artists, journalists and activists who are deeply concerned by the decision of Makhmalbaf to take part in the Jerusalem International Film Festival as they see that his participation directly violates the International call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) of the State of Israel campaign issued by Palestinian civil society in 2005, as well as the specific call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel issued in July 2004.

<img source="http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSk_70bXyX41gV605Jarg3usbfC2tNwijlDWM0h1swcQBmd4hJ8" alt="Israel, Iran and cyberwar."</img>Still, Makhmalbaf says he is “proud to have paved the way for Iranian cinema in Israel. Boycotting and writing statements does not solve anything. It only leads to war. We have to get to know each other through art, literature, and cinema, so we can become friends and end the hostility. That’s the reason I filmed my latest movie ‘The Gardener’ in Israel.” And, he adds, he hopes that someday soon, Israeli filmmakers will be able to shoot films in Iran.

In an interview by Payvand Iranian News Mohsen Makhmalbaf answer to critics e.g as follows:

However, I am very happy for a discussion to have started and I believe we have to elevate the level of the conversation. My point is that religious enmity and hatred, particularly in the Middle East, are threatening the security of the whole world. By traveling, by starting a dialogue between different ethnic and religious groups and creating bonds of friendship between the opposing sides, we have to try to reduce this hatred and religious prejudice. Turning away and boycotting worsens the hatred.”

Man lives on the planet Earth. Communities need to communicate with one another. Cultural interaction can clear the way for solving financial and political crises. For sixty years, we went along with boycotting. It is time to start a cultural dialogue, especially on the topic of peace. In Israel I said, ‘I love your people and as far as I have seen, Iranian people also love Israelis.’ There is no problem between the two nations; it is a political issue between the governments.”

More e.g. in Payvand Iranian News 

On the other hand more than 80 Iranian scholars, opposition group members, and human rights activists openly declared their support of Mohsen Makhmalbaf‘s decision to come to Israel by following words:

In gratitude for Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s peaceful efforts in Israel

Iranian director, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who recently attended the Jerusalem Film Festival to screen his latest film “The Gardener”, received a special award from the festival organizers for “artistic achievements” and “for his long battle and struggle for democracy and freedom” in Iran.

Upon receiving the award, Mr. Makhmalbaf stated: “If politics separates us, art, on the other hand, can heal these rifts and distances and unite us in our peaceful efforts.”

He further mentioned that he wanted to dedicate his award to “artists, politicians, intellectuals and all the people in Iran and Israel who have worked for peace and friendship between two nations and believe in it.”

Mr. Makhmalbaf added in Jerusalem that he likes the people of Israel but an attack by Israel against Iran would only worsen the situation.

He stated that instead of a military attack, Israel should support the “democratic forces” in Iran which struggle for freedom.

Mohsen Makhmalbaf predicted, while making these statements, that he would soon face a wave of accusations, that he would be called a “spy of CIA and the Mossad.”

His prediction has come true in a way. Besides the media that is owned or affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran, a number of other Iranians inside and outside Iran (under the guise of peace and human rights activists and intellectuals), have published a letter condemning Makhmalbaf‘s trip to Israel “with grave concern” as it “violates human conscience” and stated that his presence at Jerusalem Film Festival was tantamount to support of the “apartheid politics of the Israeli government.”

It is at this juncture of time, and under the circumstances outlined above, we sign this letter to support and applaud Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s bravery for breaking the taboo of visiting the state of Israel and conveying the message of friendship between Iranian people and people of Isreal.

We believe that supporting the rights of the Palestinian people is not a sufficient justification to criticize an Iranian director’s professional trip to Israel.

We still remember those Israeli and Iranian citizens who last year launched a campaign of friendship between the two countries and exchanged written and video messages stating that they “loved “ each other just when it seemed that the chances of an Israeli strike against Iran was increasing.

We condemn the politics of war whether it is advanced by officials of the Islamic Regime or some officials in Israel. Instead, we endorse, support and welcome, the position of Mohsen Makhmalbaf that instead of a military attack, Iran’s “democratic forces” should be supported.

Just like Mohsen Makhmalbaf, we are unafraid to stretch out our hands in friendship with the citizens of Israel and believe that art can be a tool that brings people together regardless of people’s racial, linguistic and political differences.

We believe that instead of criticizing Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s trip to Israel, we should call him the ambassador of peace and friendship between the people of Iran and Israel.

Signatures: more than 80 members of opposition groups, scholars and human rights activists

Israelis love Iranians and vice versa

<img source="https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRoPVyYuBRt3Sh7mWIuFZTNG9-4Q7aa6Mzo8Um6I6meDvLfxtP1jA" alt="Israel loves Iran and vice versa."</img>

70 buses rode the streets of TelAviv carrying message for peace

There is many Iranians who support peace with Israel as seen in an article published in pages of United with Israel – a global grassroots movement:

I think there are many Iranians who live for the day that Iran has diplomatic relations with Israel,” says Mhyar Shams Ahmadi, who was born in Tehran 28 years ago but now lives in Toronto. “In my view, if you just look at relations between Iran and Israel, it is clear that it is in fact the ruling regime in Iran that is preventing diplomatic relations.”

Ahmadi is inspired by the high-tech advances and Western-style democracy that Israeli society has achieved. “Israel is already serving as a model for Iran, and other countries, on how to treat women and minorities,” he says. “Much like Canada, Israel does not oppress its citizens and allows them to think freely without fear of being persecuted no matter what your religion or beliefs are.”

Ahmadi criticizes Iranian leadership’s view of Israel as “little Satan” to the US’ “big Satan.” He says he is embarrassed and saddened that the present Iranian government remains opposed to Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. “Even with a new president, it is evident that Iran’s government hasn’t changed at all, and it is no surprise that Iran still continues to fail to live up to their international obligations,” he said.

Other Iranians are a bit more optimistic. “I think that the prospect of Israeli-Iranian relations will look good within the near future, either through the collapse of the regime, or by reform of Iranian politics,” says Pedram, an Iranian presently living in Stockholm, Sweden. “The Iranian and Jewish people have thousands of years of cultural and historical connection with each other and it cannot be broken just because we have an oppressive regime at the moment. I can with strong confidence say that the overwhelming majority of Iranians, both inside and outside the country, strongly support not only peace with Israel but also better relations in general.”

I highly appreciate people like Mohsen Makhmalbaf who have courage to act outside the box of their regime. Happily the Jerusalem Film Festival was not an isolated case. At grassroots there has been over one year a movement labelled as ”Israel loves Iran”. It is aline of communication between the people of Israel and Iran – a bridge in the Middle East between the people. The mission of this mostly virtual group is to break the wall of fear, built a bridge of communication as war happens where there is no communication.”And the only thing we can do…is communicate. Get the lines open. That’s hope…and that’s easy. Because of the internet” says in their mission statement. Israel loves Iran Facebook community can be found from here!

<img source="https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSaZtj1DEHNDMV2YuR99TPvHrvMQnyuI7P3y77VDwcykh1pv2bE" alt="Israel loves Iran and vice versa."</img>

¤ ¤ ¤

Some of my previous articles related to nuclear Iran:


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