U.S. analysts praised President Obama’s proposal to free up some of Iran’s foreign financial assets in a swap for possible initial curbs on the nation’s disputed nuclear activities, though one expert questioned whether such an offer would be enough for Iranian negotiators seeking more enduring relief from economic penalties, the New York Times reported.
The new administration offer — reported on Wednesday and described on Thursday by a high-level administration insider to the Times — would gradually unfreeze Iranian money in international accounts as the Middle Eastern nation takes early steps to assure other countries that its atomic activities are not geared toward pursuit of a nuclear-bomb capability.
At a two-day meeting in Geneva this week, Iranian diplomats briefed the United States and five other countries on its proposal to adopt undisclosed nuclear restrictions in exchange for curbs on international sanctions. Possible specifics from the offer emerged in a Thursday al-Monitor report, which cites information from an unnamed Iranian insider.
Mark Dubowitz, an authority on punitive economic measures, warned that “if the administration takes out a brick from the sanctions regime,” it might not be possible “to put it back together.”
The reported proposal to unfreeze Iranian assets offers “a way to provide nonsanctions financial relief to give the administration flexibility during the negotiations,” said Dubowitz, who heads the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Former U.S. national security official Ray Takeyh, though, said “the Iranians are looking for fundamental sanctions relief.”
“I’m not sure whether they’d accept phased access to their own money,” said Takeyh, now a Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow.
The Iranian currency plan follows a prior offer to ease gold-trade sanctions if the Persian Gulf power shuttered its Qum facility, which houses weapon-usable uranium activities in an underground location sheltered from potential airstrikes. Tehran dismissed the gold-trade proposal earlier this year.
According to legislative insiders, a bill to further tighten Iran sanctions could reach the Senate floor shortly before a scheduled Nov. 7-8 follow-up meeting of Iranian diplomats and counterparts from China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Representative Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday introduced separate legislation aimed at increasing pressure on Tehran.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."