Colin Powell and top Jewish Democrat back Iran deal in triumph for Obama – Sabrina Siddiqu Sunday 6 September 2015 11.34 EDT

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, leader of Democratic National Committee and Florida’s first Jewish congresswoman, says decision was her hardest yet

Colin Powell<br>In this Aug. 21, 2013, photo provided by CBS News, former Secretary of State Colin Powell speaks on CBS’s “Face the Nation” during a pre-taped interview in Washington. The first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and first black secretary of state, Powell says America has come a long way toward racial equality 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. (AP Photo/CBS News, Mary F. Calvert)

The Iran nuclear deal has gained the backing of both a top Democrat and George W Bush’s secretary of state, in what is shaping up to be a major victory for Barack Obama.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the first Jewish congresswoman to represent Florida, announced her support for the deal in what she said was her most difficult decision in more than two decades in public office.

Colin Powell, who served as secretary of state between 2001 and 2005, hailed “remarkable changes” agreed to by Iranian leaders while downplaying skepticism over whether the accord could be implemented.

“It’s a pretty good deal,” Powell said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “These are remarkable changes, and so we have stopped this highway race that they were going down – and I think that’s very, very important.”

While critics of the deal insist Iran cannot be trusted to comply with the terms of the deal, Powell expressed his confidence in the process agreed upon by Tehran and six world powers in July.

“I think a very vigorous verification regime has been put into place,” Powell said. “I say, we have a deal, let’s see how they implement the deal. If they don’t implement it, bail out. None of our options are gone.”

Wasserman Schultz came out in favor of the deal in an op-ed published on Sunday in the Miami Herald.

“This agreement is not perfect,” she wrote. “But I join many in the belief that with complex, multilateral, nuclear non-proliferation negotiations with inherent geopolitical implications for the entire world, there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ deal.”

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Foes Try New Ways To Attack Obama’s Iran Nuclear Deal – By KRISTINA PETERSON And JAY SOLOMON Updated Aug. 28, 2015 7:54 p.m. ET

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), right, listens to Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) last month in Washington, D.C.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), right, listens to Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) last month in Washington, D.C.Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

WASHINGTON—Capitol Hill opponents of the landmark Iranian nuclear accord are devising a Plan B to ratchet up pressure on Iran as President Barack Obama moves closer to locking up the support needed to implement the deal.

Critics of the agreement in both parties haven’t yet conceded defeat in the congressional battle next month, where they will push to derail the deal.

But as their chances dim, they are preparing to push a rash of new legislation for the fall to increase sanctions on Tehran for its role in supporting terrorist organizations and militant groups active across the Mideast, which could cause Iran to back out of the deal. These politicians also are devising new ways to target the finances of Tehran’s elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“Iran has a long rap sheet, and I want to continue to prosecute Iran for its bad behavior,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

The administration has vowed to continue challenging Iran’s terrorist activities and support of militancy, even after a nuclear deal is completed.

But the fresh sanctions push has the potential to put the White House and leading Democrats, such as the party’s presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, in a quandary. Those supporters of the deal could later face a tough decision over whether to back increased sanctions against Iran.

There is growing concern in the White House that any steps viewed as imposing new sanctions could be seized on by the Iranian government to charge the U.S. with violating the nuclear agreement. Already, Iranian officials have argued Congress is seeking to simply reimpose these financial restrictions under the guise of fighting terrorism and human-rights abuses. Tehran’s position could be backed by Russia, China and the European Union—the other parties to the nuclear deal.


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How the Iran Deal Will Pass—and Why It Should – By Fred Kaplan AUG. 27 2015

Benjamin Netanyahu should have held his tongue. Above, the Israeli prime minister speaks during a press conference on Nov. 18, 2014, in Jerusalem. Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

Benjamin Netanyahu should have held his tongue. Above, the Israeli prime minister speaks during a press conference on Nov. 18, 2014, in Jerusalem.
Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

It’s looking more and more like Benjamin Netanyahu committed a strategic blunder in so ferociously opposing the Iran nuclear deal and in rallying his American allies to spend all their resources on a campaign to kill the deal in Congress.

If current trends hold, the Israeli prime minister and his stateside lobbyists—mainly AIPAC—are set to lose this fight. It’s politically risky for Israel’s head of state to go up against the president of his only big ally and benefactor; it’s catastrophic to do so and come away with nothing. Similarly, it’s a huge defeat for AIPAC, whose power derives from an image of invincibility. American politicians and donors might get the idea that the group isn’t so invincible after all, that they can defy its wishes, now and then, without great risk.

It would have been better for Netanyahu—and for Israel—had he maybe grumbled about the Iran deal but not opposed it outright, let alone so brazenly. He could have pried many more favors from Obama in exchange for his scowl-faced neutrality. Not that Obama, or any other American president, will cut Israel off; but relations will remain more strained, and requests for other favors (for more or bigger weapons, or for certain votes in international forums) will be scrutinized more warily, than they would have been.

If the House and Senate do vote down the deal next month, Obama will impose a veto. To override the veto, his opponents would need to muster a two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress. As even many of these opponents admit, they are unlikely to do so. There is even a fair chance that they’ll fall short of the 60 votes needed to block the threat of a Democratic filibuster.

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Iran pact takes center stage in battle for Senate – By BURGESS EVERETT 8/26/15 5:11 AM EDT Updated 8/26/15 5:11 AM EDT

Republicans are attacking Democrats backing the deal as soft on national defense.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 20: U.S. Senate Republican candidate Pat Toomey (L) and U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA ) (R)  debate at the National Constitution Center on October 20, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Recent Polls have the two candidates neck and neck with two weeks to Election Day. (Photo by Matt Rourke - Pool/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Joe Sestak;Pat Toomey

U.S. Senate Republican candidate Pat Toomey (L) and U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA ) (R) debate at the National Constitution Center on October 20, 2010 in Philadelphia. | Getty

The nuclear agreement with Iran is becoming an early campaign flash point in the battle for Senate control in 2016, fueling Republican attacks and creating divisions in contested Democratic primaries ahead of critical votes in Congress next month.

It’s a rare instance of foreign policy driving the debate in congressional races — in an off year, no less — and a potential preview of things to come if the Iran pact continues to generate heat into next year. Republicans are trying to portray Democrats backing the deal as weak on Israel and national defense. And some Democratic hopefuls are going after opponents for not taking a stand.

Nowhere has the issue been more prominent than in Pennsylvania, where GOP Sen. Pat Toomey is one of the most ardent critics of the agreement and former Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak, who served in the Navy for three decades, became a surprising early supporter for the deal. Meanwhile, Sestak’s primary opponent, Katie McGinty, a former chief of staff to the Pennsylvania governor who is a formidable contender for the Democratic nomination, hasn’t taken a position.

That’s created a rare moment of unity between Toomey and Sestak, who battled bitterly in a close 2010 election.

In an interview, the former two-term Democratic congressman said it’s inexcusable that McGinty hasn’t taken a stance and offered this advice: “Read the agreement.”

“Those who are running for an office that has anything to do with this [nuclear agreement] should have a position on this by now,” he said, saying candidates and politicians owe it to voters to make their positions known.

McGinty’s campaign scoffed at Sestak’s criticisms of McGinty, who was Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s former chief of staff, but refused to directly engage with him.

“On this critical issue, Katie, like [Democratic] Sen. [Bob] Casey and others, is carefully assessing the impact of the proposed agreement on the nation’s security. ? While some Republicans are using this issue to score political points, Democrats need to remain focused on the facts and what is best for the country,” said McGinty campaign manager Mike Mikus.


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Iran deal opponents now have their “death panels” lie, and it’s a whopper – Updated by Max Fisher on August 19, 2015, 11:31 a.m. ET

The debate over the Iran nuclear deal may now have its own version of “death panels,” a provision that is both a point of overwhelming criticism and largely fictitious.

“Particularly troublesome, you have to wait 24 days before you can inspect,” Sen. Chuck Schumer told reporters last week, explaining why he is opposing the deal.

Conservative media have hammered at this idea: that nuclear inspectors must wait 24 days before visiting any place in Iran that is not a declared nuclear site. Sometimes they imply or outright state, as in the case of this staggeringly misleading but representative Fox News story, that the 24-day wait applies even to known nuclear sites.

This certainly sounds scary. It sounds, as the critics often say, like those bumbling appeasers in the Obama administration have handed Iran the ability to cheat on the deal and then prevent inspectors from catching them.

Fortunately, this is all largely false. It’s a lot like “death panels,” in which Obamacare critics took a benign fact about the health-care bill — it would include end-of-life counseling — and then spun it up into a massive lie about how President Obama was going to cancel Granny’s life-sustaining medications and send her to an early grave. This is an issue on which nuclear deal critics have taken a small truth and then exaggerated, distorted, and outright lied about it to make it into something very different.

How the “24-day wait” lie came about

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Chuck Schumer working the phones on Iran –

He calls colleagues to explain his decision and assure them he will not be whipping opposition.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., third ranking in the Senate Democratic leadership, speaks on his cell phone following a closed-door caucus at the Capitol in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012 to discuss how to avoid the

With liberal groups furious over his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, Sen. Chuck Schumer has been quietly reaching out to dozens of his colleagues to explain his decision and assure them he would not be whipping opposition to the deal, according to Democratic senators and aides.

After news of his decision to vote “no” on the Iran agreement first leaked Thursday night, Schumer (D-N.Y.) has spoken to 20 to 30 fellow Democrats about why he will vote with the GOP leadership against the deal, sources said. Schumer had been planning to make these calls on Friday, before his position on Iran became public, but was not able to do so because it had leaked the night before.

In these conversations, Schumer has been walking through his position on the Iran agreement, the product of lengthy negotiations between the leading world powers and the Iranian government.

Schumer, though, is not lobbying his colleagues to vote against the agreement when the Senate takes up a “resolution of disapproval” next month, several undecided senators said during interviews. The disapproval resolution is expected to win the 60 votes needed to overcome any Democratic filibuster.

The real question, however, is whether President Barack Obama can rally the 34 senators he needs to uphold a veto of the resolution. Right now, the Senate vote is too close to call, although Obama’s support for a veto override appears more solid among House Democrats, with three more coming out on Tuesday in favor of the agreement.


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The indefensible Hiroshima revisionism that haunts America to this day – CHRISTIAN APPY, TOMDISPATCH.COM WEDNESDAY, AUG 5, 2015 02:45 PM PDT

Seventy years ago this week we vaporized 250,000 civilians, and yet still view the bombings as an act of mercy

The indefensible Hiroshima revisionism that haunts America to this day
This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

Here we are, 70 years after the nuclear obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I’m wondering if we’ve come even one step closer to a moral reckoning with our status as the world’s only country to use atomic weapons to slaughter human beings. Will an American president ever offer a formal apology? Will our country ever regret the dropping of “Little Boy” and “Fat Man,” those two bombs that burned hotter than the sun? Will it absorb the way they instantly vaporized thousands of victims, incinerated tens of thousands more, and created unimaginably powerful shockwaves and firestorms that ravaged everything for miles beyond ground zero? Will it finally come to grips with the “black rain” that spread radiation and killed even more people — slowly and painfully — leading in the end to a death toll for the two cities conservatively estimated at more than 250,000?

Given the last seven decades of perpetual militarization and nuclear “modernization” in this country, the answer may seem like an obvious no. Still, as a historian, I’ve been trying to dig a little deeper into our lack of national contrition. As I have, an odd fragment of Americana kept coming to mind, a line from the popular 1970 tearjerker Love Story: “Love,” says the female lead when her boyfriend begins to apologize, “means never having to say you’re sorry.” It has to be one of the dumbest definitions ever to lodge in American memory, since real love often requires the strength to apologize and make amends.

It does, however, apply remarkably well to the way many Americans think about that broader form of love we call patriotism. With rare exceptions, like the 1988 congressional act that apologized to and compensated the Japanese-American victims of World War II internment, when it comes to the brute exercise of power, true patriotism has above all meant never having to say you’re sorry. The very politicians who criticize other countries for not owning up to their wrong-doing regularly insist that we should never apologize for anything. In 1988, for example, after the U.S. Navy shot down an Iranian civilian airliner over the Persian Gulf killing all 290 passengers (including 66 children), Vice President George H.W. Bush, then running for president, proclaimed, “I will never apologize for the United States. Ever. I don’t care what the facts are.”

It turns out, however, that Bush’s version of American remorselessness isn’t quite enough. After all, Americans prefer to view their country as peace-loving, despite having been at war constantly since 1941. This means they need more than denials and non-apologies. They need persuasive stories and explanations (however full of distortions and omissions). The tale developed to justify the bombings that led to a world in which the threat of human extinction has been a daily reality may be the most successful legitimizing narrative in our history. Seventy years later, it’s still deeply embedded in public memory and school textbooks, despite an ever-growing pile of evidence that contradicts it. Perhaps it’s time, so many decades into the age of apocalyptic peril, to review the American apologia for nuclear weapons — the argument in their defense — that ensured we would never have to say we’re sorry.

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Obama opens up on Iran – by Max Fisher on August 7, 2015

Toward the end of our meeting with President Obama, one of us asked whether the Iran nuclear deal might change the future of that country’s poisonously anti-American politics, and Obama drifted from the technical and political details he’d otherwise focused on into something of a more reflective tone.

Alex Wong/Getty

Alex Wong/Getty

“I just don’t know,” he said, leaning back a bit in his chair for the first time since he’d arrived. “When Nixon went to China, Mao was still in power. He had no idea how that was going to play out.

“He didn’t know that Deng Xiaoping would suddenly come in and decide that it doesn’t matter what color the cat is as long as it catches mice, and the next thing you know you’ve got this state capitalism on the march,” Obama said, paraphrasing the famous aphorism by Mao’s successor that capitalistic policies were acceptable if they helped China. “You couldn’t anticipate that.”

Obama on Iran

I. “A possibility for change”
II. The question he didn’t want to answer
III. How Iran could kill the deal
IV. What he imagines war with Iran would look like 
V. How Obama thinks Obama has changed 

It was surprising to hear Obama, normally more restrained in how he discusses the Iran nuclear deal, refer to it, however cautiously, as a moment when the arc of history might curve.

It was one of several interesting moments during an intimate 90-minute meeting Obama held with 10 journalists in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on Wednesday. What follows is a description of that conversation and what it reveals about how the president sees the nuclear deal and the larger problems of the Middle East, as well as the opposition to the deal, a subject he returned to frequently and at times with a visceral frustration that seemed to verge on disgust.

But Obama’s primary message was one of certainty. That the meeting was on the record — such gatherings, a routine event at the White House, are normally off the record — spoke to this, as did his easy manner and his eagerness to discuss fine-grained details of the deal, as well as criticisms.

“Of all the foreign policy issues that I’ve addressed since I’ve been president,” he said, “I’ve never been more certain that this is sound policy, that it’s the right thing to do for the United States, that it’s the right thing to do for our allies.”

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Key Senate Democrat Backs Iran Deal – By Gabrielle Levy Aug. 4, 2015 | 4:57 p.m. EDT

Bill Nelson of Florida is considered essential to blocking a veto override when Congress weighs in on the historic nuclear agreement.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said Tuesday he supports the Iranian nuclear deal in a key win for the Obama administration.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said Tuesday he supports the Iranian nuclear deal in a key win for the Obama administration.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, one of the Democrats key to preventing Congress from sinking a deal aimed at stopping Iran from building a nuclear weapon, announced on Tuesday that he will back the agreement.

Nelson offered a forceful argument in favor of supporting the deal struck in July by the U.S. and five other world powers with Iran. Congress will have an opportunity to weigh in on the pact after lawmakers return from August recess in September.

“Unless there is an unexpected change in the conditions and facts before the vote is called in September, I will support the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1,” Nelson said in a lengthy floor speech Tuesday, referring to the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, the negotiators in the deal.

“Will this agreement allow Iran to continue to be a state sponsor of terrorism? Yes,” he said. “But they now have the capability to develop a nuclear weapon within months and still be a state sponsor of terrorism. As dangerous a threat that Iran is to Israel and our allies, it would pale in comparison to the threat posed to them, and to us, by a nuclear-armed Iran.”

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