1. Iran’s nuclear reactor at Bushehr has finally been connected to the power grid. A “pre-launch” ceremony has been scheduled for 12 September. The important thing about this is that it means Russia has decided not to hold the Bushehr start-up in reserve any longer, as a bargaining chip with the various players in the Iranian nuclear drama. (Note: Bushehr is not an important resource for the nuclear weapons program, but its fate is a signal of how seriously Iran takes the UN supervision and inspection regime.) It’s been the Russians, dragging their feet for years, who have kept postponing the operationalization of the reactor. They have now chosen to make the break. Why?
2. Turkey is rattling the naval saber around the Aegean Sea – and is planning to sign a strategic cooperation agreement with Egypt this month. The agreement will reportedly include military cooperation. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who did an interestingly-timed turn in Somalia last month, plans to visit Egypt – and, reportedly, Gaza – in mid-September. It’s no accident that Russia and Iran will be celebrating at Bushehr at the same time Erdogan is exercising Islamic leadership in post-Mubarak Egypt. Russia is using Iran (as opposed to throwing in with her) to signal the Turks that Ankara doesn’t have a free hand and will meet resistance and counter-power in the region.