Iran to Access $700 Million Monthly During Talks Extension
Iran will be allowed to access $700 million (BBC) in frozen assets a month, and temporary provisions to limit Iran's nuclear activity remain in place following agreement on a seven-month extension in talks over Iran's nuclear program (NYT). The United States and its allies had hoped to convince Iran by the November 24 deadline to curb its nuclear program in exchange for eased sanctions. Points of contention are said to be over the number of centrifuges Iran may operate, the levels of uranium enrichment Iran is allowed, and intensity of inspection on Iran's nuclear program. Both sides said they would aim to reach a "high-level" political agreement by March 1 and a final agreement by July 1.
"The deal they've been discussing in Vienna is complex, but technical details are not the main reason why they need more time to talk. At the heart of the talks there still is no agreement on the vital equation—the amount of uranium that Iran would be able to enrich, and the extent to which sanctions against it would be lifted," writes Jeremy Bowen for BBC News.
"In the end, [Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif] were constrained by hard-line politics at home. Mr. Zarif, while friendly, outgoing and Westernized, had pushed to the very limits of his brief; he often warned that the final decision would be in the hands of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.," write David E. Sanger, Michael R. Gordon, and Peter Baker in the New York Times.
"Iranian calculations are driven in part by the view that President Barack Obama is averse to conflict and that Washington, not Tehran, would be blamed for abrogating the joint agreement reached last November. Additional U.S. sanctions are less likely to produce greater concessions than they are to encourage Tehran to recommence its nuclear activities and curtail its already limited cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Association. So far, the global embargo on Iran’s economy has remained largely intact. But it’s unclear whether the European Union, Russia, and Asia would continue to forsake commercial and strategic ties with Iran to placate the U.S. in the event of a diplomatic breakdown," writes Karim Sadjadpour in the Wall Street Journal.
Protesters and Police Clash at Hong Kong Protest Site
Police, acting on an injunction to open blocked roads, clashed with protesters (SCMP) at the Mong Kok protest site in Hong Kong on Tuesday. More than thirty people, including a pro-democracy lawmaker, were arrested. Protest site clearing is likely to continue in the coming days.
Testifying before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, CFR's Mark P. Lagon argues that democracy in Hong Kong is reaching a pivotal moment.
MYANMAR: Parliament's upper house passed a proposal to adopt a proportional voting system (Irrawaddy) to elect members of the upper house on Tuesday, a move opposition parties claim will unfairly benefit the Union Solidarity and Development majority party. Myanmar is poised to hold its first democratic elections in twenty-five years next year, and 75 of the upper house members will face elections. Meanwhile, the Myanmar army released eighty child soldiers (Irrawaddy), according to UNICEF.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Polls Open in India's Assembly Elections
The first phase of Indian assembly elections began in the state of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party, the BJP, hopes to make political gains (Indian Express) for the first time. Thousands of police and security forces were dispatched to polling sites amid calls to boycott from Muslim separatists.
AFGHANISTAN: A roadside bomb (TOLO) exploded in Kabul on Tuesday, injuring seven Afghan National Army personnel, according to the Ministry of Defense. Meanwhile, Afghan intelligence officials blamed the Haqqani Network (TOLO) for a bombing near the Pakistani border on Sunday that killed sixty-one and injured fifty others.
Yemeni officials said security forces freed eight hostages (Al Arabiya), including a U.S. soldier, and killed seven al-Qaeda kidnappers in a special operation on Tuesday. Yemen is currently facing increased violence from al-Qaeda-affiliated militant groups and a southern separatist movement led by Shia Houthi rebels.
This CFR Backgrounder looks at militant groups in the al-Qaeda network in the Arabian Peninsula.
IRAQ: Turkey has sent arms (Hurriyet) to Iraqi Kurdish forces fighting ISIS, according to an Iraqi Kurdish official. Meanwhile, a car bomb (Reuters) in Baghdad killed eight people and injured twenty-two on Monday; officials reported a fourth day of fighting in Iraq's western Anbar province between armed forces and ISIS militants.
Sierra Leonean Ebola Workers Dump Bodies in Protest
Health workers dumped the bodies (BBC) of fifteen Ebola victims in public in the city of Kenema in protest of non-payment. Kenema is the site of Sierra Leone's first Ebola outbreak.
NIGERIA: Suspected Boko Haram female militants carried out two suicide bomb attacks (Reuters) in northeastern Nigeria on Monday. Witnesses report many deaths but official casualties are still unknown.
France Suspends Naval Warship Delivery to Russia
The French government suspended the delivery (AP) of a warship to Russia "until further notice" on Tuesday amid growing pressure from Western allies due to tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced on Monday that Ukraine will hold a referendum on NATO membership (Bloomberg) once NATO's criteria has been met.
The Ukraine conflict will continue to simmer until Russia decides it's time to settle, says Steven Pifer in this CFR Interview.
GREECE: Authorities sent a five-ship rescue mission (WSJ) to assist a 250-foot freighter near Crete carrying hundreds to migrants to Europe. Greece is a main entry point for migrants seeking refuge in Europe.
A new surge of violence erupted (NYT) in Ferguson, MO on Monday night after a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed teenager in August. Cars were burned, businesses were looted, and gunfire was heard throughout the night; riot police used smoke and gas to disperse crowds.
UNITED STATES: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel resigned (WaPo) on Monday under pressure from the Obama administration. Hagel, who has been in office for less than two years, will stay on until his replacement is confirmed.