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Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Iran-Russia oil barter deal not in Iran’s interest
By Sara Rajabova
Iran and Russia's commitment to continue negotiations on oil barter deal has sparked concerns in some countries, especially the United States.
Some experts said such a deal would not be beneficial for Iran and even would damage the nuclear talks between Iran and P5+1 on Tehran's nuclear energy program.
However, a senior Iranian official said Tehran and Moscow are in talks to finalize the oil agreement irrespective of Tehran's nuclear talks with six world powers.
Commenting on the issue, James M. Dorsey, Senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies told AzerNews that a barter deal with Russia won't impact the nuclear negotiations.
"It would hedge Iran to some degree Iran against a potential failure of the nuclear talks and it would serve Russia's interest by positioning it in Iran in advance of a competitive rush should the talks succeed," Dorsey said.
Another expert believes that oil barter deal between Iran and Russia isn't in the interest of Iran.
Professor of economics at U.S. Northeastern University, Kamran Dadkhah said such a deal is quite against Iran's interest.
"On the surface it may seem that Russia is helping Iran to bypass international sanctions. But in reality it is Russia that is taking advantage of Iran's weak position to benefit economically. Russia is the third largest oil producer (after Saudi Arabia and the United States) and second largest oil exporter (after Saudi Arabia). Therefore, it cannot use the half million per day barrels of oil domestically; it has to sell it to its international customers. Therefore, Iran will be forced to accept a price far below the prevailing international oil price. On the other hand, Iran has to buy Russian goods at the market price. But because this is a barter trade (no international money involved) Russians will limit Iran to certain items and indeed to lower quality goods. Iran has had the same experience with China," Dadkhah said.
Earlier in April, Reuters reported that Iran and Russia were close to sealing a $ 20-billion oil-for-commodities deal.
Under the agreement, which is yet to be finalized, Russia will buy 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day in return for Russian goods needed by Iran.
Washington said such a deal would go against the terms of the interim nuclear deal between the world powers and Iran.
Earlier, U.S. Senators threatened to reinstate Iran sanctions that were eased under the Geneva deal in case Russia and Iran sign the barter deal.
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said in April that Tehran is determined to raise the volume of its economic transactions with Russia under long-term deals.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, who co-chairs the permanent Russian-Iranian Commission on trade and economic cooperation, said the agreement on trade and industrial cooperation with Iran is expected to be signed in September, ITAR-TASS news agency reported.
However, Novak did not specify, whether the oil-for-goods deal would be included in the agreement or not
Saturday, July 19, 2014
By Sara Rajabova
As the July 20 deadline for clinching a comprehensive deal on Tehran's long-lasting nuclear dispute is approaching, Iran and the P5+1 group is mulling on extension of negotiations.
Despite the optimism shown by some parties towards the chance of an agreement being reached, the two sides still remain at loggerheads over the main issues in the nuclear talks.
Reuters quoted Western diplomats as saying on July 16 that an announcement on the possible extension of the talks between Iran and P5+1 may come on July 18.
The officials from Iran and six countries, as well as the experts didn't rule out extending the talks as no tangible progress has been made at the ongoing nuclear negotiation.
James M. Dorsey, Senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies believes that the chances for reaching final nuclear deal before July 20 are low, but not impossible.
"The negotiators still have some tough issues to resolve. The likelihood of achieving that before July 20 is low although not impossible. The real question is whether negotiators believe the issues can be resolved. The answer to that question is a function of one's assessment of the balance of power in Iran between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Iran's Supreme Guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards," Dorsey told AzerNews.
He went on to note that if the talks fail, it can lead to harsher sanctions for certain. "The West would likely feel diplomacy has for now run its course. Otherwise, there would be every reason to continue negotiations beyond July 20," Dorsey said.
Iran and the six world powers kicked off their sixth round of talks this year in the Austrian capital, Vienna, on July 3 to discuss drafting a final nuclear accord.
The P5+1 and Iran reached an interim pact last November under which Iran won some relief from economic sanctions in return for reining in some of its nuclear activities.
Their goal is to reach a comprehensive nuclear agreement by July 20 that will lay to rest Western concerns about the Iranian program and ease all the sanctions on Tehran.
Commenting on the issue, professor of economics at U.S. Northeastern University Kamran Dadkhah also ruled out clinching a nuclear deal before the deadline.
"It is very unlikely that Iran and the P5+1 will reach a final agreement by July 20. But based on statements made by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama on July 16 (when he imposed new sanctions on Russia), we can be sure that the deadline will be extended and discussions will continue," Dadkhah told AzerNews.
Noting that real progress has been made in several areas, Obama said the talks might continue beyond the deadline under the interim deal. He added that there was "more work to do."
He said the U.S. government would consult with Congress as it decided whether additional time was needed to complete nuclear talks beyond the July 20 deadline.
On the possibility of fail in talks, Dadkhah also expects new sanctions on Iran.
"Most likely there will be a combination of new sanctions and continuation of diplomacy and discussions. Because the alternative would be military action and so far President Obama has shown that he is not going to take that route," Dadkhah said.
The negotiators from Iran and P5+1 group cannot come to an agreement over the major issues that paves way to discussion on the extending the talks.
The two sides have made no announcement on any continuation of negotiation, at the same time they didn't made remarks on stopping the negotiation if talks fail.
Delay in the talks is not for the hands of neither Iran, nor the Western countries. Thus, the six world powers have made big progress to solve nuclear dispute with Iran and is very close to reach deal. Suspension of negotiations would mean to cross a line on all efforts of the sides.
On the other hand, it is also detrimental for Iran, as the country would again struggle with sanctions and experience the same economic difficulties as it was before.
Therefore, the continuation of talks and resolving the nuclear dispute will be beneficial for all.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
ISIS militant plays soccer with Syrian children
By James M. Dorsey
Iraqi soccer pitches have emerged as an alternative battleground in the struggle for control of Iraq between the Islamic State, the jihadist group that controls chunks of northern Iraq, and embattled Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Iraqi officials said the broadcasting last Sunday in Baghdad's Al-Shaab International Stadium of the World Cup final between Germany and Argentina was intended as a show of defiance against the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL), which has banned soccer in territory it controls and reportedly ordered the closure of sports facilities and forbidden the wearing of shirts with images imprinted on them, including soccer jerseys.
In addition, Iraqi Football Association (IFA) officials announced that they would be organising soccer matches across areas of Iraq under government control in protest against the Islamic State’s targeting of players and fans. They said they would focus on areas that have been attacked by the Islamic State including:
- Diyala province where five people were killed and 17 wounded by a bomb planted under the seats of a stadium in Ballour as boys aged 10 to 17 were playing;
- Al Nahrawan where nine people were killed and 21 wounded in a bomb explosion during a soccer match;
- Al Madaen where a bomb in a stadium killed one and wounded six others, including an Iraqi member of parliament;
- Al Zafaaraniya where a bomb killed four people, including three players, and wounded 11 others;
- Al Qalaa where a bomb in a stadium killed one and wounded 11;
- Kirkuk where two players were killed and four others wounded;
- Al Qaim where police foiled a stadium bombing by discovering a vehicle rigged with explosives.
The Islamic State further signalled its dim view of soccer in a purported letter to world soccer governance body FIFA demanding that the group deprive Qatar of the right to host the 2022 World Cup.
The Islamic State has positioned itself with the spate of attacks and its letter to FIFA squarely in the camp of those jihadists and Salafists, puritan Muslims who want to emulate life at the time of the Prophet Mohammed and his immediate successors, who oppose soccer as an infidel creation intended to distract the faithful from their religious obligations.
Attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al Shabab in Somalia and Kenya spiked during the World Cup with both groups targeting venues where fans gathered to watch matches on huge television screens.
The anti-soccer jihadists are strengthened in their resolve by fatwas or religious opinions issued by one segment of the Salafist clergy opposed to any form of entertainment which they view as a threat to performance of religious duties. The views of those clergymen are opposed by other Salafist imams who argue that the Quran encourages sports as long as it is in line with Islamic precepts.
They are also opposed by those militant Islamists who recognize the recruitment and bonding advantages of soccer and unlike groups like the Islamic State, Boko Haram and Al Shabab attribute some importance to garnering public support rather than seeking to impose puritan Islamic rule by sheer force.
“In Nigeria, football is a religion. It is one of the few things that brings the country together across ethnic and religious lines… Football is often an escape from the ugliness of everyday life, and that is even more true in a region under a cloud of insecurity for the last few years… (Terrorism) forces a change in lifestyles. Public gatherings in North Eastern Nigeria, even to celebrate a festival of football…are likely to attract a high price. You cannot watch a game without looking around nervously from time to time,” said Nigerian journalist Joachim MacEbong.
Mr. MacEbong could have said the same of Iraq or East African nations where soccer fans are targets.
The Islamic State, despite its anti-soccer campaign has not shied away from using soccer in recruitment and propaganda videos.
And there are signs that opinion about soccer is divided even within its own ranks as well as within the larger community of those who empathize with the views of the likes of the Islamic State, Boko Haram and Al Shabab.
The mosque in Mosul, the major Iraqi city occupied by the Islamic State, where self-declared caliph Ibrahim Bin Awad Alqarshi aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who as a student was known as a talented soccer player, made a rare public appearance earlier this month was packed with men, many of whom were sporting soccer jerseys
Similarly, an online review by Vocativ of jihadist and militant Islamist Facebook pages showed that many continue to be soccer fans. They rooted for Algeria during the World Cup but switched their allegiance to Brazil, Italy, England and France once the Algerians had been knocked out of the tournament despite their condemnation of the Europeans as enemies of Islam.
“Jihadis are in some ways like any other fans – they support the local favourites,” wrote Versha Sharama, who conducted the review.
James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies as Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Würzburg and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, and a forthcoming book with the same title.