Iran sanctions talk prompts row over UN role

Reuters reports that world powers are talking about a UN resolution to lift sanctions on Iran “if a nuclear agreement is struck with Tehran, a step that could make it harder for the US Congress to undo a deal.”

The idea of UN involvement led to predictable outrage from Republicans, who warned President Obama against bypassing Congress. But the National Security Council told BuzzFeed that the US has no intention of using the UN to lock in any deal.

The United States will not be “converting U.S. political commitments under a deal with Iran into legally binding obligations through a UN Security Council resolution,” Bernadette Meehan, spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council, said in a statement emailed to BuzzFeed News.

Iran and the six powers – Britain, China, France, Russia, Germany and the United States – are set to resume negotiations next week in Switzerland with the aim of completing the framework of a deal by the end of the month.

Former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross told the Times of Israel that the world powers needed to co-ordinate in advance of a deal precisely how they would respond to any potential violations,

Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei – who has final say over any eventual deal – accused the six powers of “trickery” and also said this week’s letter to his country’s leaders by GOP Senators was “a sign of a decline in political ethics and the destruction of the American establishment from within.


* WORLD * Meanwhile, Iran’s influence in Iraq is strengthening as it continues to play a key role in helping Shiite Militias and Iraqi forces re-take the town of Tikrit from ISIS. McClatchy’s Mitchell Prothero writes:

The forces that appeared Thursday to have cornered the last Islamic State fighters in central Tikrit are dominated by Iranian military advisers. The Iraqi Shiite militias are all Iranian trained. And the offensive itself is being directed on the ground by Iran’s most influential general, Qassem Suleimani, who’s been a thorn in American efforts to pacify Iraq since the early days of the U.S. occupation of this country.

As the assault on Tikrit continues, however, reports are emerging of atrocities carried out by Iraqi forces. The Times reports:

General Martin Dempsey, the top US military officer, said  he had no doubt the pro-government forces would take Tikrit but voiced fears about what would happen after, echoing widespread concerns about sectarian reprisals against Sunni civilians in retaliation for Islamic State atrocities.

(image: Reuters video)
As polls ahead of Tuesday’s election in Israel indicate support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continuing to slipThe Economist endorsed his opponent, Yitzhak Herzog. It writes:
In this newspaper’s view [Netanyahu] has been a bad deal for Israel. It is better off without him. His challenger, Yitzhak “Bougie” Herzog is not charismatic. But he is level-headed and has a credible security and economic team. He wants talks with the Palestinians and to heal ties with Mr Obama. He deserves a chance to prove himself.
Russian president Vladimir Putin is “absolutely” healthy, apparently. Adam Taylor writes in the Washington Post: “Getting worked up by an absence of a few days may seem silly, but these things happen in authoritarian regimes: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un disappeared for weeks last year, intriguing the world. In that case, Kim later reappeared with no real explanation and continued going about his business as usual (don’t be surprised if that happens in Russia, too).”


And it’s not just Putin, it seems. The aforementioned Supreme Leader has also been subject to health rumors since 2009, according to Quartz.

In case you missed it, Mother Jones wrote recently on how one of the first decisions by new US Defense Secretary Ash Carter was to ban Powerpoint decks in briefings. Could this be why?


The Large Hadron Collider, one of mankind’s greatest scientific achievements and source of many a schoolboy mis-spelling, is preparing to go back on-line after a two-year upgrade, with physicists’ sights set on discovering more about “dark matter.”


* POLITICS * Loretta Lynch’s nomination as Attorney General is set to come before the Senate next week, but Politico reports that her confirmation is not the sure thing it once was.

Bloomberg profiles the “billionaire roofer’ whose cash is backing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Hilllary gets a visit from tech support.


 * MEDIA * BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, a division of BuzzFeed, said its videos have accumulated one billion monthly views, six months after its formal launch; meanwhile Vox Media said it is to launch Vox Entertainment in order to expand its video capabilities.

Interesting essay by Priya Kumar at MediaShift’s Idea Lab about using data storytelling to engage audiences.

Many tenets of good data storytelling mirror the traditional conventions of journalism. Verify facts and check assumptions. Provide enough context so the reader understands the story, but don’t bury the message. “Do the reporting and show the reader exactly what they should be getting out of your piece,” Kennedy Elliott, a Washington Post interactive journalist, said at the Tapestry data storytelling conference.

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger recounts his brush with the law – and an angry jogger – on Hampstead Heath.

Dr Nancy Snyderman, the NBC medical correspondent who “violated a self-imposed quarantine” while covering the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, is leaving the network.


* BUSINESS * House prices in the UK appear to be cooling, with prices in the most expensive parts of London rising by – just – an annual 9.5 percent in January, the slowest increase since September 2013. Bloomberg reports uncertainty over the upcoming general election in May is a factor:

Prices in London’s most expensive boroughs are being hit by changes to stamp duty announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in December. Under the revamp, buyers of homes costing more than 937,500 pounds pay more tax. Peter Williams, chairman of Acadata, said a “mansion tax” on the most expensive homes, promised by the opposition Labour Party if it wins an election in May, could intensify the slowdown.

Michael T Klare writes at The Nation on the “real reason for the collapse of the oil price.”

The production-maximizing strategy crafted by [big oil] CEOs rested on three fundamental assumptions: that, year after year, demand would keep climbing; that such rising demand would ensure prices high enough to justify costly investments in unconventional oil; and that concern over climate change would in no significant way alter the equation. Today, none of these assumptions holds true.

Yes, it’s an ad. But still…


* SPORTS * Uefa will apparently not rescind the red card shown to PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Wednesdays’ Champions League tie against Chelsea.


* CULTURE * Beloved fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett passed away aged 66.



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