In recent months, three American religious delegations have visited Iran while the first group of female Iranian seminary students came to the United States.
Sports exchanges are also on the rise again, spearheaded by American wrestlers who find far more numerous and passionate fans in Iran than in many countries, including the U.S.
Russia's Energy Pivot to Asia and European Energy Security
After almost a decade of haggling, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed an agreement on Russian gas supplies to China in late May. The contracts stipulates Russia's obligation to supply 38 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas annually for 30 years through the planned Power of Siberia pipeline, starting 2018 from the Eastern Siberian Kovykhta and Chayanda gas fields. The project, including upstream and midstream infrastructure is estimate to cost about $75 billion, out of which $45 billion will be financed by the Chinese in direct investment and pre-payment for the gas. The value of gas sales throughout the contract is estimated to be up to $400 billion.
Amid Ukraine Crisis, US Should Push to Remove an ObstacleMae West once said that “an ounce of performance is worth a pound of promises.” For Georgians, to whom NATO promised eventual membership in the alliance back in 2008, truer words have never been spoken. NATO’s standard procedure is to require candidate member states to fulfill a Membership Action Plan (MAP), and the alliance has specifically declared its intent to draw up such a plan with Georgia. Despite that, and years of toil and sacrifice by Tbilisi to improve its standing as a candidate, NATO said last week it would not invite Georgia to sign a membership plan at this year’s NATO summit conference, in September.
Amid Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, however, the costs of leaving promise unmatched by performance will be felt by the alliance as a whole, not just Georgia. Washington urgently needs to reconsider – with courage and imagination – its position on Georgia’s NATO aspirations.
A stormy Israeli cabinet session considered a variety of retaliatory options for the killings of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrah, including another major military operation against Hamas in Gaza and further boosting Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank.
Alliance’s September Summit Must Offer ‘Concrete,’ Not ‘Token’ Help as Georgia Faces Russia
In the same week that the European Union signed an association agreement with Georgia on June 27, NATO officials meeting in Brussels decided not to offer the country a formal plan this year to achieve membership in the alliance.
If ‘no’ is to be NATO’s formal answer to Georgia at the alliance’s summit conference in September, it will be a deep disappointment for my homeland of 5 million people in the South Caucasus region. It also risks being a danger – to Georgia’s political stability and to the credibility of the transatlantic alliance. Avoiding these risks will depend on how NATO’s message is managed and what alternative the alliance will offer Georgia.
Sometime soon, the prospect of the European holiday calendar will force the pace, and the European Union will have a new management team. A new European Commission will alter relations among member states and between them and the European institutions in Brussels. Of course, it will not put an end to the tug and pull among them about the distribution of power.
Nor will a new Commisison alter the current mosaic of different historical experiences, memories, threat perceptions, and perspectives that are the hallmark of Europe and make the EU such a challenging instrument to manage. The new Commission will not significantly alter the sour mood of mistrust either in which the EU is held in many corners of Europe. Former head of the Commission Jacques Delors demonstrated that a visible and strong leader can provide effective European leadership. But the outlook is for an individual who will be judged by key member states to be malleable. European publics long for fresh faces, which are not on offer. Key to the choice for EC Commission president will be the position of the German government. No candidate will stand a chance without Chancellor Merkel's endorsement.