Iran and Russia announce major trade initiatives, triggering worries over subverted Western energy and food pressure


Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported Wednesday that Russia and Iran have successfully laid the groundwork for what the outlet described as a "strategic partnership aimed at vastly expanding trade and investment," with analysts describing the maneuver as a way for the Iranians to dodge Western sanctions pressure. Rumors of a sanctions-busting energy deal between Iran and Russia had started to coalesce last March, when news of a potential $20 billion oil deal began to emerge. Mark Dubowitz, the executive director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, assessed at the time that the dynamic - continued P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran, even as Tehran's deals with Russia eroded Western leverage - would "serve as a signal to other countries that the United States won't risk major diplomatic disputes at the expense of the sanctions regime." Within a week analysts had unpacked the potential import of energy deals, noting that they would among other things allow Iran to upgrade its military capabilities as a hedge against Western pressure. Reports that emerged this week indicate that Tehran and the Kremlin committed to cooperation far beyond the energy sector, even as officials from the two countries denied that the previously rumored oil-for-food deal had been inked. AFP had already reported on Tuesday that the Russians were in Tehran with the intention of boosting economic ties across a range of industries, and had quoted Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh declaring that "God willing, we will quickly increase the level of relations up to more than 10 times." The Kremlin's Minister of Energy Alexander Novak had for his part boasted that Russia had a range of resources - all the way from energy infrastructure to airplane parts - that could serve as the basis for strengthened cooperation. The New York Times at the same time described the Russian-Iranian moves as aimed at "subvert[ing] the Western sanctions on its contentious nuclear energy program." One of the deals announced on Wednesday will see Iran importing ten million tons of wheat from Russia. The Russians for their part committed to boosting their purchases of dairy and farm products, and Iran will reportedly triple its current $600 million per year import of poultry, meat, and shrimp products. Iran has for years been plagued by food price inflation, much of it driven by Western financial restrictions, and the destabilizing cascades generated by the price fluctuations were considered critical in the West's efforts to pressure Iran into trading nuclear concessions for sanctions relief. Tehran had desperately sought to diversify its food sources in order to outmaneuver the Western measures.


Israel’s surf is the star of two new edgy videos that show off the country’s waves as never before. Surfing in Israel just got a major visual boost thanks to Arthur Rashkovan, the Vans Israel go-to-guy, and the team (including film director Yakir Avrahami) he put together for an amazing video that will have you gawking at the Mediterranean Sea. ‘Vans Israel Surf — Rockets & Barrels’ was filmed in summer 2014 as Hamas-fired rockets flew over the Tel Aviv skies. “I want to show there’s a great lifestyle of surfers here and great spots to surf,” Rashkovan tells ISRAEL21c. The description of the video reads: “A mix of barrels, carves and airs with the right sound track provided by the Tel Aviv garage punk group, The Crotches, created a real off the wall surf video. We chose to show only surf and aloha vibes and not rockets in the Israeli sky. Enjoy.” Part of Rashkovan’s job as the Vans Israel marketing solutions point man is to organize skate and surf demos and music events, and create clips showing off Israel’s outdoors. Rashkovan also runs his own surfing company, DoctorSurf, and is a co-founder of Surfing for Peace. Shortly after the release of the Vans surfing video, he released another video featuring inspiring surf moves on Mediterranean waves. He says this clip took its inspiration from “70s B fiction movies” to the original tune “The Devil Went Down to the Holyland” by Israeli band Betzefer. (via Israel21c)

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