“…Demand for the region’s hydrocarbon wealth will likely remain constant, and might conceivably grow as the area’s population expands and urbanizes. However, even as the focus of demand for oil shifts East, Western investors in Central Asia and Kazakhstan especially will continue to seek a return on their enormous capital outlays. How all this will play out is hard to predict, as is who will guarantee and protect both production and export routes and pipelines in the future. It is therefore in the commercial and political interests of Russia, Kazakhstan, other Central Asian states, and China to cooperate. It is also in the West’s own interest to see this process continue. But disagreements and maneuvering between the participating parties can be expected to continue, even as a new and unwelcome cloud, that of militant Islam, might well cast its shadow east. If it does, NATO might long for the days when it regularly flew over the region.” – Angus Miller and Shamil Yenikeyeff in Foreign Affairs
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The brewing conflict over the division of resources located in the Caspian Sea has long been cited as a driver of the growth in naval capabilities of the five littoral states. However, to focus on this aspect would be to neglect the political and diplomatic advances of recent years, as well as other local and global geopolitical factors that have contributed to increased tension. Nicola Contessi (Columbia University) explores the intricate dynamics at play in the region and the ongoing efforts to unpick them, arguing that while the 2014 Astrakhan Summit did not herald the breakthrough hailed by the five participants, it did mark a step towards resolution.
“In the past four years, Saudi Arabia has used its military to intervene in both Bahrain and Yemen. Its rationale in both cases: To protect those Arab countries from “Persian subversion.” In its discussions of foreign policy, Riyadh portrays Iran as a hegemonic power whose nefarious support of its Shia Houthi proxy precipitated a civil war in Yemen—a struggle the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, describes as being “between good and evil.” But Saudi Arabia is grossly exaggerating Iran’s power in Yemen to justify its own expansionist ambitions. Iran is not the cause of the civil war, nor are the Houthis its proxy. Chaos, not Iran, controls Yemen. With no vital economic or strategic interests in Yemen, Iran has, for the last few years, only opportunistically supported the Houthis to create a political sphere of influence.” – Mohsen Milani, Foreign Affairs
“There are signs that the long-fraught relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan could improve, following the change of leadership in Kabul. Reciprocation from Islamabad will, however, be needed.” – Farooq Yousaf, Center for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad
After months of negotiations, Iran and six world powers have finally reached a framework agreement on limiting the country’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. The deal announced on Thursday is intended as the basis for a comprehensive agreement to be worked out by the end of June.
“Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday urged U.S. lawmakers to reject the nuclear deal being negotiated between Iran and world powers, warning that it would help Iran acquire nuclear weapons and threaten Israel’s survival. Iran’s regime could not be trusted to abide by any agreement, he warned, and he urged the United States to increase pressure on Tehran until it agreed to dismantle much of its nuclear program and change its regional behavior. The White House has long warned that abandoning the current negotiating framework would open a path to war — an argument he rejected. But the Israeli leader’s characterization of the deal and of Iran’s current nuclear efforts have long been challenged by Western governments involved in the talks.” – Al Jazeera America
“Kazakhstan has reached an agreement with Russia to take over most of a Russian military training facility in far western Kazakhstan. The deal represents the latest step in Kazakhstan’s efforts to regain control over the many Soviet-legacy military and other strategic facilities that Russia still operates in the country.” – Eurasianet
“Iran may be admitted into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization this summer if it makes progress in resolving disputes over its nuclear program, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, has said. It already seems clear that India and Pakistan, who have both long sought SCO membership, will be admitted at the organization’s summit this July in Ufa, Russia. Iran — which also has been trying for years to enter the SCO — has been hampered by the fact that it is under international sanctions related to its nuclear program.” – Eurasianet
“The notion that authoritarian governments and their enablers abroad cynically exaggerate the threat of radical Islamism in Central Asia has become widely accepted. But even well-meaning analysts of Central Asia tend to perpetuate similar myths about politics and Islam, two scholars argue in a new report.” – Eurasianet
“While Europe pretends to actively fight against terrorism by rallying multi-million marches in the French capital and the US carries on air strikes against ISIL militants without much success, there are countries that face a persistent terrorist threat, therefore they are taking a lot of efforts to genuinely fight terrorism with certain degree of success, instead of attaining mere propaganda results.” – Victor Titov, MSNBC International