Caspian Weekly Energy and Security Update
Iran tested a ballistic missile last week, leading to much international condemnation and to US National Security Advisor Michael Flynn declaring that Iran was “on notice.” Critics are saying that Iran violated the 2015 nuclear agreement, which stipulated that Iran should refrain from developing missiles that could be used to carry nuclear payloads, but Iran is claiming that this particular ballistic missile was never intended to be used for that purpose. Despite the criticism, Iran held another military exercise on Saturday in which missile systems, radars, and cyber warfare systems were tested.
Kazakhstan is also making headway in its endeavor to be more secure. In terms of military equipment, a fourth Huey helicopter was just handed over in Kazakhstan by the US Ambassador to Kazakhstan. This donation is part of a larger agreement between the US and Kazakhstan to improve Kazakhstan’s existing military aircraft and enhance security in Central Asia. On another front, Kazakhstan has recently decided to enact a policy similar to one implemented in Tajikistan last November regarding cell phones. Beginning July 1 of this year, all unregistered mobile phones in Kazakhstan will be blocked from functioning. To avoid this, residents must bring their SIM cards and passports to an official service center so that their cell phones can be registered in a government data base. Like Tajikistan, Kazakhstan says that its goal with this policy is to crack down on terrorism and extremism.
The latest development in Turkey’s efforts to secure its border with Syria has taken the form of zeppelin-like unmanned airships. ASELSAN, one of the main defense contractors and manufacturers for the Turkish Armed Forces, is building these airships that will be used to patrol the border. With these airships, stations on the ground will be able to monitor larger areas of the Turkish-Syrian boundary. Turkey hopes that this endeavor, along with the construction of a border wall, will enhance Turkey’s security and prevent smuggling, terrorism, and illegal immigration.
Iran’s Finance Ministry has just approved a $3 billion investment in renewable energy in Iran. This investment is an initial one as part of a plan to increase Iran’s renewable energy capacity from its current level of about 200 megawatts to 75,000 megawatts by 2030. Armenia has received interest from dozens of companies for its plan to build the country’s first solar power plant. Construction of the 40-50 megawatt plant is slated to begin in 2017 and should be completed by 2020.
In Kazakhstan, the recent expansion of the Tengiz field and more production at the Kashagan field have restarted discussion of the Kazakh Caspian Transportation System, which was proposed 10 years ago but shelved due to uncertainties about the future production of those two fields. If realized, the transportation system would consist of a pipeline from the Kazakh port of Kuryk on the Caspian Sea to an Azerbaijani port on the Caspian Sea, from where it could be connected to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline.
According to numbers recently published by the Turkish government, Turkey spent 28.2% less in 2016 than in 2015 on energy imports. In reality, the majority of this difference is due to the decrease in oil prices in 2016 compared to 2015, but Turkey has stated that it aims to reduce its dependency on energy imports by using more domestic natural resources and renewable energy. For instance, Turkey opened 158 power plants last year, of which almost 70% use renewable energy, and these are expected to further decrease the amount that Turkey spends on energy imports in future years. However, Turkey is still keen on cooperating with its regional neighbors and acting as an energy hub. Turkish officials from the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources are traveling to Israel to meet Israeli Energy Ministry officials to discuss a possible gas pipeline between Israel and Turkey. Israel has large reserves of natural gas in its Mediterranean Sea fields, but because relations between Israel and Turkey have not been warm until recently, Israel has not been connected to the Turkish energy network.