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Did Trump save face by breaking America’s commitment to the JCPOA?

Because, how does keeping America’s international agreements make it ‘great’?

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Trump yesterday signed off on a US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) lifting tough economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for a throttled nuclear development commitment. Why would he do this when all the other parties to the agreement were literally begging him not to withdraw and the IAEA had certified nearly a dozen times that Iran was complying with the terms of the agreement?

Trump had been saying that the Iran nuclear deal was the ‘worst deal ever’ negotiated and had promised to end America’s participation in it during his 2016 presidential campaign. Add to that the fact that when he signed off on its continuation in January that it would be ‘for the last time’ bluntly stated that Trump was going to end it.

A Personal Commitment

Trump, in true narcissistic fashion, wants to appear as the greatest president that America has ever had, thus, he wants to downplay or destroy every achievement of his predecessor, Barack Hussein Obama, whether domestically or internationally, whether it was the Paris Climate Accord, the TPP, NAFTA, domestic environmental regulations, tax codes, etc., etc., etc.,. this time it’s the Iran nuclear deal. He will be the one to cut the deals and ‘make America great’. Should he take a different road and renew it once again, he might lose face and break a vital campaign promise, hence, Trump’s personal need to withdraw America from the 2015 multilateral agreement.

The Deal Maker in Action

Trump here breaks a nuclear arms deal immediately before attempting to broker another one with North Korea, who has developed nuclear warheads capable of striking the US mainland. Relative to the North Korea denuclearization prospect, Trump has already declared that if he doesn’t think that America will get the better end of such a deal that he would walk away from the meeting. By breaking America’s commitment to the Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA, Trump is hereby proving his willingness to ‘walk away’ if he doesn’t get exactly what he wants. It appears as though Trump’s version of deal making is a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude, rather than one of negotiation.

The Deep State’s Iranian regime change ambition

Of course, we can’t overlook the fact that the American deep state has been itching to launch a regime change plan through the past few presidential administrations, and the fact that now it looks like it has a very good chance of accomplishing it under Trump, given the manner in which he has staffed his cabinet, not that it didn’t stand to achieve it under previous admins which proved that they were hungry enough to try it, even violently if need be, from Clinton to Bush to Obama in either of each one’s dual term administrations.

After all, we just witnessed Trump using coded language to call for such a regime change in his announcement of his withdrawal from the JCPOA. The intention is to apply enough economic pressure on the people of Iran to provide the domestic pretext to launch a color revolution on Tehran in much the same way as was done elsewhere in the Middle East and Europe, and as was attempted at the dawn of the current year.

Additionally, we can’t forget that Israel has been crying out for the cancellation of the JCPOA for some time, and Netanyahu’s BS presentation about the Iran nuclear program last week, which was used as part of Trump’s ‘logic’ for breaking America’s international commitment to its allies relative to economic sanctions on Iran over its nuclear development program.

Trump’s reasoning for withdrawing from the JCPOA, as delivered in his announcement, were little more than faulty polemics, as they were fraught with outright inaccuracies, distortions, and fabrications, as even the Washington Post, in a rare instance of legitimate news and analysis, observes:

We reviewed six of Trump’s claims from his May 8 speech announcing the decision to withdraw from the deal. As is our custom with roundups of multiple statements, we will not be offering a Pinocchio rating. But we invite readers to weigh in with comments.

“In fact, the deal allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium and — over time — reach the brink of a nuclear breakout. …

“The agreement was so poorly negotiated that even if Iran fully complies, the regime can still be on the verge of a nuclear breakout in just a short period of time. The deal’s sunset provisions are totally unacceptable. …

“If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen. In just a short period of time, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons.”

Notice how Trump uses flexible wording such as “on the verge of a nuclear breakout in just a short period of time.” This is refreshing and more accurate than his Four Pinocchio claim from April 30: “In seven years, that deal will have expired, and Iran is free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons.”

The JCPOA’s prohibition on Iran’s building nuclear weapons does not sunset, and other international agreements to which Iran has committed itself also prohibit the development of such weapons.

However, critics of the JCPOA have voiced concerns that — despite these strictures — Iran could keep working toward nuclear weapons capability under the guise of pursuing peaceful goals, such as a nuclear energy program.

Trump is alluding to the fact that the JCPOA gradually lifts restrictions on the types of nuclear activities and the level of uranium enrichment Iran may conduct. These and other provisions sunset over 10, 15, 20 or 25 years.

The president argues that easing these restrictions over time would open the door to Iran’s attaining nuclear weapons capability, rendering the JCPOA ultimately ineffective. But supporters of the Iran deal dispute that and say the JCPOA at least buys time, subjecting Iran to strong constraints on its nuclear activities for 10 to 25 years. Without the JCPOA, Iran could hasten its development of nuclear weapons on an even shorter timeline than the one Trump found unsatisfactory, they say.

“Even as some of the provisions in the JCPOA do become less strict with time, this won’t happen until ten, fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years into the deal, so there is little reason to put those restrictions at risk today,” Obama wrote in a Facebook post responding to Trump’s announcement.

Moreover, Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has committed itself to ratifying the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Additional Protocol in 2023. The former restricts Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons, and the latter grants international inspectors wide access to monitor nuclear-related activities within Iran’s borders.

In agreeing to the JCPOA, Iran reaffirmed its commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and stated: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.” …

“This disastrous deal gave this regime — and it’s a regime of great terror — many billions of dollars, some of it in actual cash — a great embarrassment to me as a citizen and to all citizens of the United States.”

Trump always makes it seem that the United States casually handed Iran billions of dollars in cash. But as we’ve reported, this was always Iran’s money. Iran had billions of dollars in assets that were frozen in foreign banks because of international sanctions over its nuclear program. The U.S. Treasury Department estimated that Iran would have a little more than $50 billion of usable liquid assets at its disposal after a broad lifting of sanctions under the terms of the JCPOA. The Central Bank of Iran said the number was $32 billion.

Trump also mentions “actual cash.” This relates to the settlement of a decades-old claim between the United States and Iran. In the 1970s, the pro-Western Iranian government under the shah paid $400 million for U.S. military equipment. But the equipment was never delivered because the two countries broke off relations after American hostages were seized at the U.S. Embassy in Iran…

“At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy program. Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie. Last week, Israel published intelligence documents long concealed by Iran, conclusively showing the Iranian regime and its history of pursuing nuclear weapons.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel announced on April 30 that Mossad agents had obtained a massive cache of documents and data discs from Iran about “Project Amad,” a clandestine nuclear-weapons development program. Netanyahu said the documents proved that Iran had lied about its past nuclear efforts.

“What he is revealing with all this detail is not news,” Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, told The Washington Post after Netanyahu gave a PowerPoint presentation laying out these findings. “The fact that Iran has experimented with nuclear warhead designs, and had at one point an active weapons program, makes it all the more essential that the JCPOA remains in place to prevent Iran from quickly amassing enough fissile material for even one bomb.”

Like Kimball and other experts, U.S.-allied nations in Europe described Israel’s findings as nothing new and said they strengthened the case for the JCPOA….

“In the years since the deal was reached, Iran’s military budget has grown by almost 40 percent — while its economy is doing very badly.”

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Iran’s military expenditure increased nearly 30 percent from 2015, when the JCPOA was adopted, to 2017. This increase brought Iran’s military spending back to near-2006 levels. But as we’ve pointed out before, just looking at the raw increase or decrease in any country’s military budget misses important context. Instead, let’s consider Iran’s military expenditure as a share of overall government spending. In 2015, it accounted for 15.4 percent of government spending. It increased 0.4 percentage point, to 15.8 percent of government spending, by 2017. According to a White House official, this spending level is expected to remain stable in 2018. That means military spending increased alongside overall government spending — not in a silo on its own.

Looking at Iran’s military expenditure as a share of GDP, there’s a similar trend. It has increased by only half a percentage point — going from 2.6 percent to 3.1 percent from 2015 to 2017. (For comparison, in 2016, military expenditure accounted for about 3.3 percent of GDP in the United States.)…

“Making matters worse, the deal’s inspection provisions lack adequate mechanisms to prevent, detect, and punish cheating and don’t even have the unqualified right to inspect many important locations, including military facilities. Not only does the deal fail to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but it also fails to address the regime’s development of ballistic missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads.”

Let’s start at the top. To meet its end of the JCPOA deal, Iran first had to dismantle its nuclear program significantly. Then, Iran gave the international community wide access to investigate its nuclear activities.

As we’ve reported, the IAEA already has the ability to investigate nuclear facilities and activities disclosed by Iran’s government. The country also has committed itself to ratifying the IAEA’s Additional Protocol in 2023, which would give international investigators the power to “investigate undeclared nuclear facilities and activities” as well as “demand information from member states,” according to a 2017 report by the Congressional Research Service.

If Iran were to violate the terms of the deal, sanctions would be reinstated.

This all hinges on the access given to international watchdogs (and their ability). Supporters claim the JCPOA grants them unprecedented access. Some critics point out that Iran has been known to evade inspections in the past and that key provisions giving access to monitors sunset over time. Others say the IAEA should be given wider authority, particularly the ability to inspect military sites, to adequately police Iran’s nuclear programs.

“As long as Iran remains in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it has an obligation to answer the IAEA’s questions and allow inspectors access to military sites and personnel in Iran related to that effort,” the Institute for Science and International Security, which has been skeptical of the Iran deal, said in a statement after Trump’s speech.

“The Iranian regime is the leading state sponsor of terror. It exports dangerous missiles, fuels conflicts across the Middle East, and supports terrorist proxies and militias such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda.”

This claim is not new to the president’s repertoire. Trump suggests the assistance to al-Qaeda continues to the present day. This is in line with the latest State Department Country Reports on terrorism, released in July 2017, which said: “Since at least 2009, Iran has allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through the country, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.” This phrasing marked a shift from previous reports, which indicated the support was in the past.

Trump’s reasoning simply doesn’t fly here. With the JCPOA in place, even if Iran were violating it, international nuclear inspectors are keeping a close eye on their activities, whereas if the deal is canned, then Iran would have no incentive to keep it under wraps and would therefore escalate its nuclear program with impunity as they would have no reason not to do so, especially if the US announces that it wants to invade them. After all, nuclear weapons have worked as a great deterrent to a Western backed invasion attempt in North Korea, why would it not work for them, especially if other means prove unfeasible.

The accusations about Iran being a state sponsor of terror, as the WaPo demonstrates, are nothing new, as the US has been saying this all along, however, that it sponsors American backed terrorists is what is laughable about the claim. If that were indeed the case, then wouldn’t Washington consider Iran a strategic ally, in the much the same way that it views the Saudis, who likewise train, arm, and fund terrorists, ahem, ‘moderates’ and ‘opposition forces’, in the Middle East who are serving the deep state’s interests? Trump is borrowing Israel’s propaganda against Iran in order to justify withdrawing from the deal.

This is a case where Trump’s personal ambitions are both in concert with, and conflict with, his administration’s own interests. How is this so? Well, Trump is devaluing America’s clout on the world stage by giving the world its newest example of America violating its international commitments, while, at the same time, it wants to implement new ones with parties that the US has little or no diplomatic experience (North Korea, in particular), and showing European partners that their interests and their contributions are not esteemed by Washington. Here, he is breaking America’s word by keeping his personal word to his constituents to do so.

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Republicans call Justice Department’s Bruce Ohr to testify, but where is British Spy Steele? (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 78.

Alex Christoforou

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Representative Mark Meadows tweeted Friday…

“DOJ official Bruce Ohr will come before Congress on August 28 to answer why he had 60+ contacts with dossier author Chris Steele, as far back as January 2016. He owes the American public the full truth.”

Lawmakers believe former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr is a central figure to finding out how the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid PR smear firm Fusion GPS and British spy Christopher Steele to fuel a conspiracy of Trump campaign collusion with Russians at the top levels of the Justice Department and the FBI.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) said Sunday to Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo…

So here you have information flowing from the Clinton campaign from the Russians, likely — I believe was handed directly from Russian propaganda arms to the Clinton campaign, fed into the top levels of the FBI and Department of Justice to open up a counter-intelligence investigation into a political campaign that has now polluted nearly every top official at the DOJ and FBI over the course of the last couple years. It is absolutely amazing,

According to Breitbart, during the 2016 election, Ohr served as associate deputy attorney general, and as an assistant to former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and to then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. His office was four doors down from Rosenstein on the fourth floor. He was also dual-hatted as the director of the DOJ’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Ohr’s contacts with Steele, an ex-British spy, are said to date back more than a decade. Steele is a former FBI informant who had helped the FBI prosecute corruption by FIFA officials. But it is Ohr and Steele’s communications in 2016 that lawmakers are most interested in.

Emails handed over to Congress by the Justice Department show that Ohr, Steele, and Simpson communicated throughout 2016, as Steele and Simpson were being paid by the Clinton campaign and the DNC to dig up dirt on Trump.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the role Bruce Ohr played in Hillary Clinton’s Deep State attack against the Presidency of Donald Trump, and why the most central of figures in the Trump-Russia collusion hoax, British spy for hire Christopher Steele, is not sitting before Congress, testifying to the real election collusion between the UK, the Obama White House, the FBI and the DOJ.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via The Washington Times

Republicans in a joint session of House committees are set to interview former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr this month to gauge whether a complex conspiracy against Donald Trump existed among Hillary Clinton loyalists and the Justice Department.

“DOJ official Bruce Ohr will come before Congress on August 28 to answer why he had 60+contacts with dossier author Chris Steele as far back as January 2016. He owes the American public the full truth,” tweeted Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican and member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

His panel and the House Judiciary Committee plan to hold a joint hearing to interview Mr. Ohr, according to The Daily Caller.

FBI documents show that the bureau bluntly told dossier writer Christopher Steele in November 2016 that it no longer wanted to hear about his collection of accusations against Mr. Trump.

But for months afterward, the FBI appeared to violate its own edict as agents continued to receive the former British spy’s scandalous charges centered on supposed TrumpRussia collusion.

 

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The US-Turkey Crisis: The NATO Alliance Forged in 1949 Is Today Largely Irrelevant

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via American Herald Tribune:


There has been some reporting in the United States mass media about the deteriorating relationship between Washington and Ankara and what it might mean. Such a falling out between NATO members has not been seen since France left the alliance in 1966 and observers note that the hostility emanating from both sides suggests that far worse is to come as neither party appears prepared to moderate its current position while diplomatic exchanges have been half-hearted and designed to lead nowhere.

The immediate cause of the breakdown is ostensibly President Donald Trump’s demand that an American Protestant minister who has lived in Turkey for twenty-three years be released from detention. Andrew Brunson was arrested 21 months ago and charged with being a supporter of the alleged conspiracy behind the military coup in 2016 that sought to kill or replace President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan has asserted that the coup was directed by former political associate Fetullah Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, but has produced little credible evidence to support that claim. In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Erdogan has had himself voted extraordinary special powers to maintain public order and has arrested 160,000 people, including 20 Americans, who have been imprisoned. More than 170,000 civil servants, teachers, and military personnel have lost their jobs, the judiciary has been hobbled, and senior army officers have been replaced by loyalists.

Gulen is a religious leader who claims to promote a moderate brand of Islam that is compatible with western values. His power base consists of a large number of private schools that educate according to his curriculum, with particular emphasis on math and sciences. Many of the graduates become part of a loose affiliation that has sometimes been described as a cult. Gulen also owns and operates a number of media outlets, all of which have now been shut by Erdogan as part of his clamp down on the press. Turkey currently imprisons more journalists than any other country.

It is widely believed that Erdogan has been offering to release Brunson in exchange for Gulen, but President Donald Trump has instead offered only a Turkish banker currently in a U.S. prison while also turning the heat up in the belief that pressure on Turkey will force it to yield. Washington began the tit-for-tat by imposing sanctions on two cabinet-level officials in Erdogan’s government: Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul. Ankara has now also been on the receiving end of a Trump tweet and tariffs have been placed on a broad range of Turkish products, to include steel and aluminum.

The view that economic pressure will force the Turks to yield could be mistaken and demonstrates that the Administration does not include anyone who knows that Americans have been unpopular in Turkey since the Gulf War. The threats from Washington might actually rally skeptical and normally pro-western Turks around Erdogan but U.S. sanctions have already hit the Turkish economy hard, with the lira having lost 40% of its value this year and continuing to sink rapidly. Foreign investors, who fueled much of Turkey’s recent economic growth, have fled the market, suggesting that a collapse in credit might be on the way. Those European banks that hold Turkish debt are fearing a possible default.

It is a spectacle of one NATO member driving another NATO member’s economy into the ground over a political dispute. Erdogan has responded in his autocratic fashion by condemning “interest rates” and calling for an “economic war” against the U.S., telling his supporters to unload all their liquid valuables, gold and foreign to buy the plummeting lira, a certain recipe for disaster. If they do that, they will likely lose everything.

Other contentious issues involved in the badly damaged bilateral relationship are conflicting views on what to do about Syria, where the Turks have a legitimate interest due to potential Kurdish terrorism and are seeking a buffer zone, as well as Ankara’s interest in buying Russian air defense missile systems, which has prompted the U.S. to suspend sales of the new F-35 fighter. The Turks have also indicated that they have no interest in enforcing the sanctions on Iran that were re-imposed last week and they will continue to buy Iranian oil after the November 4th initiation of a U.S. ban on such purchases. The Trump Administration has warned that it will sanction any country that refuses to comply, setting the stage for a massive confrontation between Washington and Ankara involving the Turkish Central Bank.

In terms of U.S. interests, Turkey, which has the second largest army in NATO, is of strategic value because it is Muslim, countering arguments that the alliance is some kind of Christian club working to suppress Islam in the Middle East. And it is also important because of its geographic location close to hot spots where the American military is currently engaged. If the U.S. heeds Trump’s call to cut back on involvement in the region, Turkey will become less valuable, but currently, access to the Incirlik Airbase, near Adana and the Syrian border, is vital.

Indeed, Incirlik has become one of the flashpoints in the argument with Washington. Last week, a group of lawyers connected politically to Erdogan initiated legal action against U.S. officers at Incirlik over claimed ties to “terrorists” linked to Gulen. The “Association for Social Justice and Aid” has called for a temporary halt to all operations at the base to permit a search for evidence. The attorneys are asking for the detention of seven named American Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels. General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command based in Germany is also cited. If the lawyers are successful in court, it will mean a major conflict as Washington asserts the rights of the officers under the Status of Forces Agreement, while Turkey will no doubt insist that the Americans are criminals and have no protection.

Another trial balloon being floated by Erdogan is even more frightening in terms of the demons that it could be unleashing. Abdurrahman Dilipak, an Islamist columnist writing in the pro-government newspaper Yeni Atik, has suggested that there might well be a second terrorist attack on the United States like 9/11. Dilipak threatened that if Trump does nothing to reduce tension “…some people will teach him [to do] that. It must be seen that if internal tensions with the United States continue like this that a September 11 is no unlikely possibility.” Dilipak also warned that presumed Gulenist “U.S. collaborators” inside Turkey would be severely punished if they dared to go out into the streets to protest in support of Washington.

If recent developments in Turkey deteriorate further it might well suggest that Donald Trump’s instinct to disengage from the Middle East was the right call, though it could equally be seen as a rejection of the tactic being employed, i.e. using heavy-handed sanctions and tariffs to compel obedience from governments disinclined to follow Washington’s leadership. Either way, the Turkish-American relationship is in trouble and increasingly a liability for both sides, yet another indication that the NATO alliance forged in 1949 against the Soviet Union is today largely irrelevant.

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Is This The Most Important Geopolitical Deal Of 2018?

After more than 20 years of fraught diplomatic efforts, the five littoral Caspian nations agreed upon a legal framework for sharing the world’s largest inland body of water.

The Duran

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Authored by Olgu Okumus via Oilprice.com:


The two-decade-long dispute on the statute of the Caspian Sea, the world largest water reserve, came to an end last Sunday when five littoral states (Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan) agreed to give it a special legal status – it is now neither a sea, nor a lake. Before the final agreement became public, the BBC wrote that all littoral states will have the freedom of access beyond their territorial waters, but natural resources will be divided up. Russia, for its part, has guaranteed a military presence in the entire basin and won’t accept any NATO forces in the Caspian.

Russian energy companies can explore the Caspian’s 50 billion barrels of oil and its 8.4 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves, Turkmenistan can finally start considering linking its gas to the Turkish-Azeri joint project TANAP through a trans-Caspian pipeline, while Iran has gained increased energy supplies for its largest cities in the north of the country (Tehran, Tabriz, and Mashhad) – however, Iran has also put itself under the shadow of Russian ships. This controversy makes one wonder to what degree U.S. sanctions made Iran vulnerable enough to accept what it has always avoided – and how much these U.S. sanctions actually served NATO’s interests.

If the seabed, rich in oil and gas, is divided this means more wealth and energy for the region. From 1970 until the dissolution of the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1991, the Caspian Sea was divided into subsectors for Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – all constituent republics of the USSR. The division was implemented on the basis of the internationally-accepted median line.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the new order required new regulations. The question was over whether the Caspian was a sea or a lake? If it was treated as a sea, then it would have to be covered by international maritime law, namely the United Nations Law of the Sea. But if it is defined as a lake, then it could be divided equally between all five countries. The so-called “lake or sea” dispute revolved over the sovereignty of states, but also touched on some key global issues – exploiting oil and gas reserves in the Caspian Basin, freedom of access, the right to build beyond territorial waters, access to fishing and (last but not least) managing maritime pollution.

The IEA concluded in World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2017 that offshore energy has a promising future. More than a quarter of today’s oil and gas supply is produced offshore, and integrated offshore thinking will extend this beyond traditional sources onwards to renewables and more. Caspian offshore hydrocarbon reserves are around 50 billion barrels of oil equivalent (equivalent to one third of Iraq’s total oil reserves) and 8.4 trillion cubic meters of gas (almost equivalent to the U.S.’ entire proven gas reserves). As if these quantities were not themselves enough to rebalance Eurasian energy demand equations, the agreement will also allow Turkmenistan to build the Trans-Caspian pipeline, connecting Turkmenistan’s resources to the Azeri-Turkish joint project TANAP, and onwards to Europe – this could easily become a counter-balance factor to the growing LNG business in Europe.

Even though we still don’t have firm and total details on the agreement, Iran seems to have gained much less than its neighbors, as it has shortest border on the Caspian. From an energy perspective, Iran would be a natural market for the Caspian basin’s oil and gas, as Iran’s major cities (Tehran, Tabriz, and Mashhad) are closer to the Caspian than they are to Iran’s major oil and gas fields. Purchasing energy from the Caspian would also allow Iran to export more of its own oil and gas, making the country a transit route from the Caspian basin to world markets. For instance, for Turkmenistan (who would like to sell gas to Pakistan) Iran provides a convenient geography. Iran could earn fees for swap arrangements or for providing a transit route and justify its trade with Turkey and Turkmenistan as the swap deal is allowed under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA, or the D’Amato Act).

If the surface water will be in common usage, all littoral states will have access beyond their territorial waters. In practical terms, this represents an increasingly engaged Russian presence in the Basin. It also reduces any room for a NATO presence, as it seems to be understood that only the five littoral states will have a right to military presence in the Caspian. Considering the fact that Russia has already used its warships in the Caspian to launch missile attacks on targets within Syria, this increased Russian presence could potentially turn into a security threat for Iran.

Many questions can now be asked on what Tehran might have received in the swap but one piece of evidence for what might have pushed Iran into agreement in its vulnerable position in the face of increased U.S. sanctions. Given that the result of those sanctions seems to be Iran agreeing to a Caspian deal that allows Russia to place warships on its borders, remove NATO from the Caspian basin equation, and increase non-Western based energy supplies (themselves either directly or indirectly within Russia’s sphere of geopolitical influence) it makes one wonder whose interests those sanctions actually served?

By Olgu Okumus for Oilprice.com

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