Congress begins 60-day review period for Iran nuclear deal

President Obama and members of his administration have extended their aggressive campaign to sell the nuclear agreement with Iran at home and abroad.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is in Israel on the first leg of a Middle East trip to reassure US allies in the region, and will meet his Israeli counterpart on Monday, having said that the deal does not mean military action is “off the table” when it comes to stopping Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

On Sunday the agreement was submitted to Congress to begin the formal 60-day review period. The UN Security Council is set to vote on Monday morning to clear a path for sanctions against Iran to be lifted, as stipulated in the deal agreed in Vienna last week. The New York Times reports:

At least two senior Democrats have joined the Republican leadership in complaining that the Security Council action, expected Monday morning, would pre-empt the congressional debate. Their concern is that it would signal the international community’s intention to dismantle the sanctions — if Iran meets the nuclear terms of the accord — before American lawmakers have had time to vote on it…

A provision inserted into the agreement at the behest of American negotiators, he said, stipulates that the deal will not take effect until 90 days after the Security Council formally endorses the accord — giving Congress time for action.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz appeared on the Sunday talk shows, maintaining there was “no viable alternative” to the deal for making the Middle East safer. The Washington Post reports:

Kerry said that if opponents in Congress get enough votes to override a presidential veto, the consequences will be dire, warning that Iran would resume enriching uranium to levels prohibited under the deal. “If Congress says no to this deal, then there will be no restraints on Iran, there will be no sanctions left,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Meanwhile, the executive editor of the Washington Post, Martin Baron, has urged the administration to “work harder” to secure the release of post journalist Jason Rezaian, held in Iran on espionage charges.

***

* WORLD *  British Prime Minister David Cameron – who at the weekend appeared on US television in support of the Iran nuclear deal – will on Monday set out his plan for a five-year approach to tackling Islamic extremism in Britain. The Independent reports:

In a speech in Birmingham, Mr Cameron will say Islamic extremist ideology is based on the same intolerant ideas of “discrimination, sectarianism and segregation” that led to the rise of Hitler and that still exist in the far right.

He will also reject suggestions that Western foreign policy has contributed to the rise of Isis and its popularity among Muslim populations in the West, arguing that such extremism existed long before the Iraq war.

Banks across Greece are to re-open on Monday, as “the first cautious sign of a return to normal after a deal to start talks on a new package of bailout reforms” Reuters reports. The Athens Stock Exchange will remain closed and some capital controls on money transfers will still be in place.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told German TV on Sunday she is prepared to consider further debt concessions to Greece once its economic reforms are worked out, but she reiterated that there would be no debt write-off.

On Monday morning, the US and Cuba formally restore diplomatic relations after more than five decades. Reuters reports that

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez will preside around 10:30 a.m. over the raising of the Cuban flag for the first time in 54 years over a mansion that will again serve as Havana’s embassy in Washington.

The hugely symbolic event will be followed by a meeting at the State Department between Secretary of State John Kerry and Rodriguez, the first Cuban foreign minister on an official visit to Washington since the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

***

* BUSINESS * Banking giant Barclays is planning to cut more than 30,000 staff over the next two years, The Times reports. The move would see the bank’s global workforce fall to under 100,000.

Japan’s Mitsubishi corporation on Sunday made an apparently unprecedented apology for using American Prisoners of War as forced labor during World War 2. At a ceremony in Los Angeles, “Hikaru Kimura, a senior executive of the firm, extended a “most remorseful” apology to 94-year-old James Murphy of California, who is among only two of the surviving US prisoners,” Al Jazeera reports.

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* POLITICS * Donald Trump appears unapologetic after his remarks on Saturday about Sen John McCain. The GOP candidate writes in USA Today that “A number of my competitors for the Republican nomination have no business running for president. I do not need to be lectured by any of them. Many are failed politicians or people who would be unable to succeed in the private sector. Some, however, I have great respect for.”

Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post writes:

If you were expecting anything else from Trump, you haven’t been paying much attention to his presidential campaign. Or his life. Trump’s appeal in the 2016 race appears to be built on saying things and acting in ways that other politicians would never dream of doing.  Trump, to his credit, appears to grasp that fact.

“I will say what I want to say, and maybe that’s why I’m leading in the polls because people are tired of hearing politicians and pollsters telling the politicians exactly what to say,” Trump told [ABC’s Martha] Raddatz.

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* SPORTS *  Fifa President Sepp Blatter is expected on Monday to outline plans for reform of world football’s governing body. The BBC reports that 16 December could be the date for a new Presidential election, and that Uefa head Michel Platini may have been approached to stand for the post.

Meanwhile, British MPs are set to launch an inquiry into why key institutional players in the Fifa corruption scandal did not do more to expose wrong-doing.

Monday sees the unexpected final round of the weather-delayed British Open at St Andrews, with 22-year-old Irish amateur sharing the lead. The last amateur to win the Open was Bobby Jones in 1930, so the “bonus day” is set to be a hot ticket.

Of course you can always avail yourself of the Royal and Ancient’s “sick slip”..

 

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