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14 Jul

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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Obama vows to veto any Republican attempt to undermine deal as Iran hails ‘win-win solution’

Watch: Iran hails nuclear deal as ‘a new chapter of hope’

Iran and six world powers have concluded an agreement that will lift sanctions on Iran but place strict limits on its nuclear programme for more than a decade, in a historic compromise designed to stop the spread of atomic weapons and avert a major new conflict in the Middle East.

The deal, concluded in a Vienna hotel after prolonged talks between foreign ministers, binds Iran, the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China to a series of undertakings stretching over many years. Iran will dismantle much of its nuclear infrastructure, while the UN, US and EU will take down a wall of sanctions built around Iran over the past nine years.

Barack Obama said the agreement was the best available option to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear bomb, and promised to veto any attempt by Republican opponents to undermine it. His Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, said a new phase had begun in Iran’s relations with the rest of the world.

Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, described the agreement as among the most complex and consequential of the nuclear age: “[The agreement follows] nearly two years of intense negotiations involving seven nations, including two long-time adversaries, after more than a decade of false starts and missed opportunities.

“The deal is a major nuclear nonproliferation breakthrough that promises to prevent the emergence of another nuclear-armed state and head off a nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region.”

Among the conditions of the agreement are:

  • Iran will reduce its enrichment capacity by two-thirds. It will stop using its underground facility at Fordow for enriching uranium.

  • Iran’s stockpile of low enriched uranium will be reduced to 300kg, a 96% reduction. It will achieve this reduction either by diluting it or shipping it out of the country.

  • The core of the heavy water reactor in Arak will be removed, and it will be redesigned in such a way that it will not produce significant amounts of plutonium.

  • Iran will allow UN inspectors to enter sites, including military sites, when the inspectors have grounds to believe undeclared nuclear activity is being carried out there. It can object but a multinational commission can override any objections by majority vote. After that Iran will have three days to comply. Inspectors will only come from countries with diplomatic relations with Iran, so no Americans.

  • Once the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has verified that Iran has taken steps to shrink its programme, UN, US and EU sanctions will be lifted.

  • Restrictions on trade in conventional weapons will last another five years, and eight years in the case of ballistic missile technology.

  • If there are allegations that Iran has not met its obligations, a joint commission will seek to resolve the dispute for 30 days. If that effort fails it would be referred to the UN security council, which would have to vote to continue sanctions relief. A veto by a permanent member would mean that sanctions are reimposed. The whole process would take 65 days…………………..

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Iran and six world powers have concluded an agreement that will lift sanctions on Tehran but place strict limits on its nuclear programme. How will Congress react and what can it do? Does the president have the final say? And what options are open to the Republicans, who mainly oppose it?

Congress has several options over the nuclear deal but the presidential veto looms over any decision.
Congress has several options over the nuclear deal but the presidential veto looms over any decision. Photograph: Hisham Ibrahim/Getty Images

Can Congress delay the deal?

Yes. Under the terms of an oversight process agreed between US lawmakers and the White House in April, the president has to present all the details to Congress within five days of striking a deal. This must include a report from the secretary of state on how Iranian compliance will be verified.

he Senate and House of Representatives then have 60 days to scrutinise the deal and hold hearings, during which time the president cannot begin lifting sanctions on Iran. Obama may also then have to wait another 10-12 days before actually starting this crucial part of the process. In total, it could be up to eight weeks after the back-slapping in Vienna before anything can get going.

Can Congress block the deal?

In theory. Towards the end of the 60-day review period, both the House and Senate will probably vote on a resolution of approval or disapproval. The exact mechanism is unclear, but this is likely to require a simple majority in both chambers to pass – ie 51 of the 100 senators and 218 of the 435 representatives. Since many Republicans are opposed to the deal and currently command a majority in both House and Senate, it is quite possible that a joint disapproval resolution would pass.

he catch is that the president can veto any attempt to make such a resolution enforceable – and on Tuesday in his statement on the deal he vowed to do so. To override a presidential veto requires a second vote to be passed with a two-thirds majority in both chambers: a high hurdle that would have to include at least 42 Democrats in the House and a dozen Democratic senators – probably more, if some Republicans chose to back the administration.

In other words, Obama can stick to his deal as long as he persuades at least one-third of one chamber of Congress to vote with him over the course of the four votes. Conversely, his opponents have to persuade a significant number of Democrats to stand up against their president on the most important foreign policy question of his administration – four times in a row.

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How likely is this?

Not very. Assembling a veto-proof majority has long been the goal of opponents of the Iran deal. There are a number of Democrats, particularly more hawkish lawmakers such as Bob Menendez, who share Israel’s concerns about legitimising Iran’s nuclear programme and may join Republicans in blocking a weak deal…………………

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The International Atomic Energy Agency is tasked with ensuring the agreement is kept to, but there are concerns funding could limit its powers of scrutiny

The IAEA’s director general, Yukiya Amano, with Iran’s representative Ali Akbar Salehi, right, in Vienna.

The IAEA’s director general, Yukiya Amano (left), with Iran’s representative Ali Akbar Salehi, in Vienna. Photograph: Dean Calma/EPA

The Vienna agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme will make the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency the key arbiter of the deal, a task that brings with it huge prestige and severe strains.

One of the reasons the talks were held in the Austrian capital is that it is also the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose central role is woven tightly into the final text of the historic settlement. It will verify whether Iran has held up its end of the bargain by shrinking its nuclear infrastructure, and by the end of the year the agency is expected to deliver a report on its investigation into the country’s alleged weapons design work in the past. The IAEA’s director general, Yukiya Amano, could make or break the agreement with his choice of words.

The agency’s Iran taskforce will carry out the monitoring and nuclear detective work. The multi-disciplinary team was set up in 2012 and currently has 50 members, but it will almost certainly have to be expanded. It has access to state-of-the-art technology at the IAEA’s laboratories in Seibersdorf, about 25 miles south of Vienna, including a new €3.8m (£2.7m) mass spectrometer for identifying isotopes and a nuclear material facility inaugurated in 2013…………….

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Petition calls on Barack Obama to also suspend official exchanges with Chinese government following wave of detentions of lawyers and activists

Wang Yu, a lawyer with the Fengrui practice, who has been arrested by the Chinese authorities.

Wang Yu, a lawyer with the Fengrui practice, was detained after a raid on her home involving at least 20 police officers. Her law firm is known for taking on politically-sensitive cases. Photograph: Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Activists are urging Barack Obama to cancel an upcoming visit from the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, after more than 145 human rights lawyers and campaigners were detained in China as part of a rapidly intensifying campaign against civil society.

A petition sent to the White House website said: “Since Xi Jinping came to power, China’s human rights record has kept worsening.

“Xi’s state visit to the US scheduled for September this year should be cancelled, and all official exchanges with the Chinese government should be suspended until this matter is resolved.”

Wen Yunchao, a prominent pro-democracy blogger who has backed the campaign, said: “The US and the West have a moral responsibility to react to China’s crackdown.

“The US is the only power in the world that can counterbalance China. So we hope Obama’s administration will take a new decision on Xi’s state visit.”

The petition, which has gathered nearly 1,500 of the 100,000 signatures required to receive an official response, was launched after Chinese security officials began what activists have called an unprecedented offensive against human rights lawyers, dozens of whom have been detained in less than a week………………..

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Opinion

If you can stand to have a little empathy for someone who seems unsympathetic, maybe his whole life is dedicated to feeling less empty inside

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Even someone like Donald Trump can get his feelings hurt. Probably. Photograph: Parker Haeg/Demotix/Corbis

Lately, as I follow American politics, a question keeps nagging at me, resurfacing unbidden in idle moments over coffee, or while waiting on station platforms: what is Donald Trump thinking?

To be clear, I don’t mean “what makes Trump think he can be president?”, since for all I know, he doesn’t really think this. And I don’t mean “what makes Trump think the right way to campaign for the presidency is to travel the country by private jet spewing racist bile about Mexicans every time he opens his mouth?” Clearly, Trump either believes that stuff or is cynical enough to pretend that he does.

No, I mean the question straightforwardly, even naively: what is it like, the inner mental world of Donald Trump? Inside his mind – just behind those often-narrowed eyes, just beneath the unquestionably natural hair – what does it feel like to be him?

This question is so jarring, I think, partly because we so rarely think of any internationally famous people – even the non-preposterous and non-obnoxious ones – as possessing internal lives. (What is Barack Obama worrying about, as the water from the shower courses down his back? What runs through the Pope’s mind, in the seconds before he drifts to sleep?)

And partly, it’s jarring because Trump represents something so purely archetypal in the American psyche – wealth, or anyway the appearance of wealth, as the pinnacle of human meaning – that it’s impossible to see behind the facade. But there must be something behind the facade. (Right?) And so, to paraphrase the philosopher Thomas Nagel, whose landmark 1974 paper What Is It Like To Be A Bat? probed the difficulties of ever understanding the conscious experience of life-forms sufficiently different from ourselves … well: What Is It Like To Be A Trump?

I’m not the first to wonder. In 1997, the veteran New Yorker writer Mark Singer wrote a characteristically brilliant profile of Trump, who comes across as a lonely figure, isolated at the center of a self-built prison of luxury. Some years later, Singer recounted his efforts to penetrate the man’s soul:

“OK,” I said. “You’re basically alone. Your wife is still asleep”—he was then married, but not for much longer, to Marla Maples—“you’re in the bathroom shaving and you see yourself in the mirror. What are you thinking?”

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