Iran is one step closer to Russia and China as nuclear talks falter

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CNN

Iran is preparing to formalize its relationship with the global east, and is one step closer to joining the Sino-Russian axis as its nuclear talks with world powers falter.

On Wednesday, the Islamic Republic signed a Memorandum of Commitments that will give it full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a climaxing moment after a fifteen-year wait since it first applied to join the Asian organization, which includes Russia and China.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Friday that expanding the Asian organization could help challenge Washington’s unilateralism, adding that thwarting “harsh” US sanctions required new solutions.

Tehran has hailed its successful entry into a “new phase of economic cooperation,” a soon-to-be accession as hopes of reviving the 2015 nuclear deal are fading, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has left the world in a polarized state. I haven’t seen since the Cold War.

Formed in 2001, the Asian bloc accounts for nearly a third of the world’s economy. The former Soviet Union includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and most recently India and Pakistan. Iran has been an observer state since 2005.

While Iran’s application for full membership was approved for the first time last year, Wednesday’s decision comes at a critical moment as both Iran and Western leaders had hoped that there would now be agreement on reviving the nuclear deal, says Trita Parsi, the union’s vice president. . Quincy Institute in Washington, DC.

“Iran has managed to start breaking its isolation,” Parsi told CNN, noting that with the world becoming multipolar, the West is now losing a key card it has long used to pressure Iran — the role of the United States as the “gatekeeper of the global economy.”

Western sanctions were a major pressure point that pushed Tehran to the negotiating table, some of which were supposed to be lifted if the nuclear deal was revived. However, talks stalled again and analysts say both Iran and the West are preparing for a no-deal scenario.

Alex Vatanka, director of the Iran program at the Middle East Institute, said that while little material relief is likely to come out of SCO membership, Iran will likely use Wednesday’s signature optics to show the world that it is not alone.

“The symbolic aspect is undeniable,” he said, noting that in practice, it would mean very little in the short term for Iran.

On the sidelines of the summit, which was held on Thursday and Friday in the Uzbek city of Samarkand, Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi was photographed meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Short term, [Ebrahim] “My boss is going to get another smile from Vladimir Putin and some handshakes,” Vatanka said. “But it means nothing in economic terms.”

Therefore, the alliance appears mostly political, especially as Russia and China are moving away from the West and moving closer to the Middle East.

“Iran interprets its membership within the framework of its regional security agenda to reduce US regional influence and encroachments,” said Fardeen Eftekhari, an expert on Iran’s national security and foreign policy-making, noting that the SCO should not be compared with Western security blocs such as NATO, primarily “because Its membership is diverse and there is no sustainable agenda.”

He added that Tehran is therefore “testing a new type of multilateral security relations within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.”

Some attribute Iran’s increasing alignment with Russia and China to the failure of the United States to effectively leverage its influence while it still could.

The majority of United Nations Security Council countries opposed the use of sanctions as a strategy for Iran’s discipline in 2020. Many countries fear that it will only push Tehran into the arms of Russia and China, Parsi said.

But with former US President Donald Trump withdrawing from the deal in 2018 and imposing a campaign of “maximum pressure” on Iran, the Gulf state has begun to search for new alliances.

In June, Iran also applied to join a group of emerging economies known as BRICS, which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. It has been selling its crude to China in an attempt to cling to the last economic lifeblood as Western countries refuse to buy its oil.

Iran is also selling what US officials believe are weapons-capable drones to Russia at a time when Moscow is waging Europe’s biggest war since 1945.

However, Iran’s relations with Russia and China are not without complications. Iran shares a bitter history with Russia, and over the past 150 years has looked westward in search of economic partners, according to Parsi.

Vatanka said that not only do Russia and Iran compete in the oil market, but they have little in common apart from their common anti-Americanism.

The famous slogan of the 1979 revolution in Iran, “Neither East nor West,” indicates the degree to which both the Iranian people and the ruling elite are willing to avoid a scenario in which dependence on Russia or the United States is necessary.

However, Western attempts to isolate Iran have pushed it in a direction that analysts say could be harmful to Tehran in the long run, even if there is slight short-term relief to its crippled economy.

“Had it not been for 30 or 40 years of sanctions on Iran, I think we would have seen a very different orientation toward Iran,” Parsi said, adding that while it was not necessarily fully allied with the West, Iran’s foreign policy would have been at least a policy Balanced where there is less reliance on the East.

“Russia and China alone cannot compensate for what Iran would have had if it had had a somewhat more diffuse foreign policy,” Vatanka said.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates in Tel Aviv on the two-year anniversary of the Ibrahim Accords

The official Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported that UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan arrived in Tel Aviv on Wednesday to mark the two-year anniversary of the signing of the Ibrahim Accords.

  • backgroundThe Israeli government said Sheikh Abdullah was scheduled to meet Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid at his Jerusalem residence on Thursday. The visit will extend for several days to commemorate the normalization agreement that was signed two years ago after the UAE officially ended its half-century boycott of Israel. This is the second official visit of a senior Emirati diplomat to Israel. The first was to attend a meeting in the southern Israeli city of Sde Boker in the Negev desert in March.
  • why does it matter: The agreement opened the doors to bilateral economic activity and security cooperation. Thousands of Israeli tourists now visit Dubai and other Emirati cities, while trade between the two countries has risen steadily. Countries continue to cooperate in the security field, and in a historic meeting hosted by Israel in March, the UAE joined other Arab countries in demonstrating the newly forged close partnership.

The Saudi crown prince travels to London to offer condolences but will not attend the funeral

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) will travel to London on Sunday to offer condolences to King Charles III and express his condolences on the death of Queen Elizabeth II, but the Saudi king will not attend the late king’s funeral on Monday. A source close to the Saudi royal family told CNN.

  • background: The source added that the Crown Prince will return to Saudi Arabia as soon as he offers his condolences. According to the source, another prominent member of the Saudi royal family may attend the funeral.
  • why does it matter: Mohammed bin Salman has avoided traveling to Western countries since the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 by Saudi agents. In July, he visited Greece and France on his first trip to the European Union since the murder. The last visit of the Crown Prince to the United Kingdom was in March 2018.

Five more banks in Lebanon stopped by customers demanding access to savings

A Lebanese army official told CNN that customers seized at least five banks across Lebanon on Friday in a bid to recover frozen savings just two days after the last such hostage situation. The official National News Agency reported that a gunman entered a bank, poured gasoline on the ground and threatened to burn down the branch if he was not allowed access to his money. He managed to retrieve about $19,000 and hand it to someone waiting outside the bank before turning himself in to the authorities.

  • background: Since October 2019, Lebanon has implemented strict restrictions on cash withdrawals as the country grapples with an economic meltdown. On Wednesday, two hostage cases took place at two different banks in Beirut. In one incident, a woman managed to take a total of $20,000 from her account after taking hostages in a bank with a toy gun.
  • why does it matter: Hostage kidnappings are becoming more common in heavily armed Lebanon as citizens whose savings have been frozen by banks say they are left with no choice to get their money back. In some cases, the kidnappers said they did so to help pay for medical treatment for loved ones.

Under Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s relationship with the Middle East changed dramatically as colonial structures collapsed and strategic partnerships formed, some of which continue to this day.

Watch the full report with CNN’s Becky Anderson here:

The United States returned currency from a Jewish rebellion against Roman rule nearly 2,000 years ago to Israel after a joint investigation into smuggling.

The “extremely rare” quarter of the shekel, minted in AD 69, is estimated to be worth more than $1 million, according to the Manhattan Attorney General’s Office, which hosted the repatriation party in New York on Monday.

The move comes 20 years after the Israeli authorities first learned, through informants, that antiquities looters had discovered the silver coin in Ella Valley, south of Jerusalem. It is believed to be one of the caches of coins found by thieves in the area, which houses several important archaeological sites.

Investigators say the item entered the black market before being smuggled into the UK via Jordan. Then it was exported to the United States using forged papers. In 2017, Homeland Security officers confiscated the coin in Denver, Colorado, where it was to be auctioned.

The Kingdom of Judea fell under Roman control in AD 6, although resistance to imperial rule led to a series of revolts known as the Jewish-Roman Wars. The coin dates from the fourth year of the First Jewish Revolt, also known as the Great Jewish Revolt, which began in AD 66.

By Oscar Holland

On Thursday, the Lebanese celebrated the news that local dance troupe Mayas had won the America's Got Talent contest on US television, taking home a $1 million prize.  Lebanon has been suffering from an economic meltdown since 2019 that has caused the local currency to lose more than 90% of its value amid frequent power outages and fuel shortages.

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