Russia May Obstruct the Nuclear Deal with Iran

March 10 2022

On Tuesday, President Biden announced a ban on “all imports of Russian oil and gas and energy” in response to the invasion of Ukraine. Biden acknowledged that the ban is almost certain to drive up gas prices even further than they have risen in recent weeks, but blamed Moscow’s aggression for the harsh countermeasure. In response, the Kremlin has made forceful demands in the ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, insisting that any trade with Iran be exempt from sanctions recently imposed upon Russia. Patrick Wintour reports:

The Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov cited the “avalanche of aggressive sanctions [on Russia] that the West has started spewing out.” He went on: “We request that our U.S. colleagues . . . give us written guarantees at the minimum level of the secretary of state that the current [sanctions] process launched by the U.S. will not in any way harm our right to free, fully fledged trade and economic and investment cooperation and military-technical cooperation with Iran.”

The West is almost certain to reject [Lavrov’s] demand since it would open a huge loophole in the sanctions regime. It would then be up to Moscow whether to veto the nuclear deal altogether.

Russia also has a short-term strategic interest in scuppering or postponing the deal. Iran produces more than two million barrels of oil a day, and if these supplies were able to reach the markets, the upward surge in prices would be slowed. Russia, a large-scale oil producer, wants to drive the oil price up to turn the screw on Western economies but also to boost its own revenues.

Read more at Guardian

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy, War in Ukraine

Saudi Arabia Should Open Its Doors to Israeli—and Palestinian—Pilgrims

On the evening of June 26 the annual period of the Hajj begins, during which Muslims from all over the world visit Mecca and perform prescribed religious rituals. Because of the de-jure state of war between Saudi Arabia and the Jewish state, Israeli Muslim pilgrims—who usually number about 6,000—must take a circuitous (and often costly) route via a third country. The same is true for Palestinians. Mark Dubowitz and Tzvi Kahn, writing in the Saudi paper Arab News, urge Riyadh to reconsider its policy:

[I]f the kingdom now withholds consent for direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia, it would be a setback for those normalization efforts, not merely a continuation of the status quo. It is hard to see what the Saudis would gain from that.

One way to support the arrangement would be to include Palestinians in the deal. Israel might also consider earmarking its southern Ramon Airport for the flights. After all, Ramon is significantly closer to the kingdom than Ben-Gurion Airport, making for cheaper routes. Its seclusion from Israeli population centers would also help Israeli efforts to monitor outgoing passengers and incoming flights for security purposes.

A pilot program that ran between August and October proved promising, with dozens of Palestinians from the West Bank traveling back and forth from Ramon to Cyprus and Turkey. This program proceeded over the objections of the Palestinian Authority, which fears being sidelined by such accommodations. Jordan, too, has reason to be concerned about the loss of Palestinian passenger dinars at Amman’s airports.

But Palestinians deserve easier travel. Since Israel is willing to be magnanimous in this regard, Saudi Arabia can certainly follow suit by allowing Ramon to be the springboard for direct Hajj flights for Palestinian and Israeli Muslims alike. And that would be a net positive for efforts to normalize ties between [Jerusalem] and Riyadh.

Read more at Arab News

More about: Israel-Arab relations, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia