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Showing posts from November 11, 2013

France Wrecks P5+1 Deal for Arab Money

By Finian Cunningham

November 10, 2013 - The French deal-breaking intervention at the P5+1 negotiation with Iran may have been motivated by France wanting to ingratiate itself with the Persian Gulf monarchies for strategic economic reasons.

Negotiations to resolve the nuclear deadlock and lift economic sanctions on Iran appeared to be near a breakthrough agreement after three days of talks in the Swiss capital, Geneva, over the weekend.

The hasty arrival of US Secretary of State John Kerry as well as the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany raised expectations that a potential deal was in the offing. But it was the French diplomat, Laurent Fabius, who threw a spanner in the works at the last-minute.

Fabius invoked “security concerns of Israel” and announced that his country was not going to sign a draft agreement. The French intervention appeared to catch participants by surprise.

An unnamed Western diplomat told Reuters, “The Americans, the EU and the Iranians have been wo…

IDF restructures armoured battalions

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have announced a series of major organisational and structural changes in their Armoured Corps as part of a larger reform of its ground forces. The IDF will disband its reservist tank brigades and, beginning from this month, gradually change the structure of its regular units by adding infantry companies to every battalion.

In July Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon approved the army's plan to close down the six reservist tank brigades, thus ending the use of two obsolete tank models: the Merkava Mk 1 and the MAGACH-7 (an Israeli version of the M60). Israeli Ministry of Defence officials refused to comment on the possibility that some of the older tanks would be offered for sale to other countries.

The IDF's chief armour officer, Brigadier General Shmuel Olansky, announced the additional changes in a press conference held in late October. He told Israeli journalists that, under the new structure, every armoured battalion will consist of tw…

Energy Price Reform in China

The Chinese government has big plans for the nation's natural gas sector. Beijing looks to the fuel to help wean the Chinese economy off its longtime reliance on dirty-burning coal-fired power generation. But as China's leaders are learning, developing robust natural gas markets will be difficult without deeper economic reforms -- and in particular, continued reform of the way energy is priced in China. In September, PetroChina's Changqing Oil and Natural Gas Field Co., which oversees one of the biggest energy plays in China, said it would raise its storage rates by 26 percent to the highest level allowed by the central government. It also announced what critics have called a pipeline surcharge hike, which would increase "incremental" prices by another 34 percent. In October, Shaanxi Green Gas and eight other middleman companies in Shaanxi province refused to pay the surcharge, since they are stationed at the origin of natural gas flows and do not rely on the nat…

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps: An Unconventional Military


Editor's Note: This is the first installment of a two-part special report on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Part 1 will lay out the corps' origins and explain how it has become Iran's most powerful institution. Part 2 will discuss the external pressures facing the IRGC, how that pressure is affecting the group, and what a weakened IRGC would mean for Iran.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, commonly referred to as the IRGC, is the most influential institution in the Iranian political system. To a large extent, Iran's ability to project power internationally and maintain domestic stability rests with this elite military institution. Of course, the IRGC functions somewhat like other conventional militaries; it is not completely immune to political infighting or institutional rivalry. While the disproportionate amount of power it wields will help the group overcome any factionalization to retain its pre-eminence, there are early signs of problems withi…

Selling Security

By Scott Stewart

 I briefly mentioned that one of my mentors had taught me some important lessons on selling security to people who mistakenly believe they do not need it. Some of the people who read last week's analysis have asked me to talk a bit more about selling security, so this week I will endeavor to do so.

Like most security professionals, I have faced the challenge of selling security throughout my entire professional and personal life, in a wide variety of contexts. In my capacity as a Diplomatic Security Service special agent I was responsible for the security of many diplomats, aid workers, family members and Peace Corps volunteers who believed that security was antithetical to their respective missions. As a member of a corporate executive protection team I protected a CEO who was young, had a very young family with active lifestyles and who did not want himself or his family to be encumbered by security. As a church board member and short-term mission team leader I ha…

Hungary: The Government Seeks to Strengthen Its Position Before Key Elections


As Hungary gets ready for its spring 2014 general elections, the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban is preparing with some controversial measures. On Nov. 5, the Hungarian parliament approved a new relief package for debtors with foreign-denominated mortgages, and on Nov. 6 Orban urged Hungarians living abroad to use their recently acquired voting rights in the upcoming elections, which will be held in April or May.

With a divided opposition and projections for modest economic growth in 2014, Orban's Fidesz party is likely to perform well. However, Budapest's relief measures are expensive and will likely strain Hungary's finances and create additional tensions with foreign companies and the European Union.


Since coming to power in late 2010, the ruling Fidesz party has used its two-thirds control of the seats in the Hungarian parliament to extend state intervention in the Hungarian economy. Orban was one of the first European leaders to understand tha…

The Reality of Reported Saudi-Pakistani Nuclear Cooperation


Whether or not Saudi Arabia is capable of deploying a nuclear arsenal with Pakistan's help, there are political and diplomatic factors preventing the countries from conducting such a transaction. Rumors of Saudi Arabia purchasing its own nuclear program have spread after a Nov. 6 BBC report claimed that the Saudis could seek to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan before Iran could field its own nuclear arsenal. However, such reports are not new.

Saudi-Pakistani relations are strong, and the Saudis have long invested in Pakistan's military capability, so it is not inconceivable in theory that Islamabad would provide Riyadh with nuclear weapons. But after the blowback when it was revealed in 2004 that Abdul Qadeer Khan, a top Pakistani nuclear scientist, was sharing sensitive nuclear technology, Pakistan has no desire to take part in nuclear proliferation. Nor does Islamabad wish to invite Tehran to retaliate in neighboring Afghanistan, which is already fragile and unst…

U.S., Iran: A Historic Deal in the Making


Washington and Tehran may soon reach a historic agreement over Iran's controversial nuclear program. As talks in Geneva move into their third day, both sides are continuing to negotiate the framework for a deal, moving what had been back-channel negotiations into the public realm. In these more publicized meetings, Iran and the United States are devising ways to implement what they have already agreed on -- a process that could encounter minor obstacles but that is unlikely to be derailed entirely.


On Nov. 8, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that a deal has not been reached and that some issues need to be resolved. Kerry was likely responding to rumors that the United States and Iran would soon reach a breakthrough in the talks. Such optimism is somewhat well-founded; much of the information was leaked deliberately by the U.S. government. Still, Kerry's remarks were echoed earlier in the week by his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, who said that a deal…