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THE INDEX—September 28, 2009

After announcing the existence of a previously undisclosed nuclear facility last week, Iran successfully test-fired surface-to-surface Shahab-3 long-range missiles. Iran declared the nuclear plant to the International Atomic Energy Agency last Monday after reportedly learning that U.S. intelligence agencies had been tracking the plant for some time. President Obama intended to reveal its existence at the opening of the G20 summit in Pittsburgh as diplomatic leverage in upcoming negotiations. The plant is located about 100 miles south of Tehran in the mountains near the holy city of Qom; Iran maintains the plant is for low-enriched uranium suitable only for domestic energy production and not highly-enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, and Iran conceded to allowing the IAEA to inspect the plant. But on Sunday and Monday, one week after Iran's nuclear declaration and two weeks after President Obama refashioned President Bush's missile defense shield, Iran began a series of successful missile launches of its short-, medium-, and long-range missiles, which could reach a maximum distance of 2,000 kilometers. This is far enough to strike Israel or U.S. military bases in the Gulf.  Iran is scheduled to meet Thursday in Geneva with the P5+1—the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany—for preliminary negotiations on a range of issues including proliferation, though Iran insists its domestic nuclear program is not negotiable.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday that the Iranians must "present convincing evidence as to the purpose of their nuclear program. We don't believe that they can present convincing evidence, that it's only for peaceful purposes, but we are going to put them to the test."  The United States is preparing to impose additional sanctions on Iran through the U.N. Security Council should negotiations fail, though the U.S. is also quietly assembling a coalition outside the Security Council should China or Russia veto a sanctions package. Russia and China maintain economic interests in Iran and many European nations believe existing sanctions against Iran have proven ineffective in persuading the Iranian government, only negatively affecting the people of Iran. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic party won a 33.8% plurality and maintained majority control in parliamentary elections in Germany on Sunday. Center-left Social Democrats posted their worst ever showing and the pro-business Free Democrats earned their best ever showing since World War II. Merkel will proceed to form a new coalition with the Free Democrats, which she believes will be a less strained coalition than in the past four years with liberal parties. The new coalition will focus on reducing unemployment and stimulating the economy with a two-stage $22 billion tax cut, even as public debt continues to increase.  The two parties may find some friction in upcoming talks as the Free Democrats campaigned for far more conservative policies, seeking deeper tax cuts, restricting Merkel's healthcare reform efforts, and nuances of Germany's foreign policy. "We'll have to argue over several issues," Merkel said Sunday evening, but stressed to Germans that the government would not dismantle the welfare state. Because all major parties endorse the 4,200 German presence in Afghanistan, excepting the far left, the election is unlikely to change that commitment in either direction. The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan failed to agree at the United Nations last week on resuming general negotiations and Indian FM SM Krishna rejected a Pakistani proposal to conduct informal discussions even absent formal negotiations.  After fighting three wars with each other over the disputed border land of Kashmir since 1947, the two nuclear-armed nations began a peace process in 2004 but discussions have been strained by rival interests in Afghanistan and, especially, since November 2008 when India blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant organization, for killing 174 in the Indian financial capital, Mumbai.  India requests that Pakistan apprehend and prosecute those responsible.  Pakistani FM Qureshi announced the arrest of seven people connected to the attacks, with prosecution scheduled to begin October 3.  Indian FM Krishna acknowledged, "Pakistan has taken some steps within its own legal system against those directly responsible for the attack on Mumbai, and the process thus instituted must gather further momentum.”  Meanwhile, India announced that it has built highly destructive nuclear weapons, enabling what Indian officials consider a “proper strategic deterrent” in its international relations.  Senior Indian officials say their weapon yields 200 kilotons; a nuclear weapon with a yield of 50 kilotons is considered “high yield.”  The test is likely to further strain relations with Pakistan and perhaps jeopardize the U.S.-India civilian nuclear agreement enacted last October under President Bush.  President Obama proposed at the U.N. General Assembly that nations, such as India, joint the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as non-nuclear nations, a proposal India quickly rejected. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey will formally sign an agreement to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia on October 10, furthering a roadmap agreed upon in April toward normalizing relations. Though Turkey still disputes Armenia's claim that mass Turkish killings of Armenians during World War I constitutes genocide, it seeks "zero problems with neighbors," to quote the motto of Turkish academic and Minster of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoglu. Turkey, a member of NATO and prospective member of the European Union, has engaged as a mediator in Middle Eastern conflicts, most notably the Israeli-Palestinian peace process during the 2008 Gaza War, and is also seeking to improve relations with its Kurdish citizens. The Kurds, after rebelling twenty-five years ago, prompted Turkey to ban the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which the United States lists as a terrorist organization. Turkey’s reconciliation with the Kurds could dramatically improve its relation with Iraq, where a large number of Kurds settle in the autonomous northern region, projecting Turkey further into Middle Eastern affairs.

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