TIME Nepal

Where Will the Next Big Earthquake Hit?

Search and rescue team work among the debris of houses after a powerful earthquake hits Katmandu, Nepal on April 26, 2015.
Sunil Pradhan—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Search and rescue team work among the debris of houses after a powerful earthquake hits Katmandu, Nepal on April 26, 2015.

Where seismic activity meets poverty, you have disaster waiting to happen

For years, seismic experts predicted that a big earthquake would hit the Himalayan region between India and Nepal.

The Himalayas are being pushed upwards at the rate of about one centimeter a year as the Indian subcontinent smashes against the Eurasian plate— a process that has been ongoing for millions for years. As the plates thrust against each other huge amounts of pressure builds up until it releases as an earthquake.

The region experiences a magnitude-8 earthquake approximately every 75 years, with the last in 1934. It killed about 10,000 people.

Though it’s impossible to predict exactly when or where big earthquakes will happen, areas where seismic activity meet underdevelopment and poverty are prone to the most devastation.

“In several places, the higher seismic risk overlaps with places with poor construction,” Hari Kumar, South Asia regional coordinator for GeoHazards International in Delhi, told TIME. GeoHazards is a non-government organization that helps to reduce earthquake-risk in developing countries.

The consequences of substandard building and a lack of earthquake preparedness were seen in devastating force in Saturday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake near Kathmandu. Scores of structures collapsed and more than 3,600 lives were lost.

Kumar warns that other cities and towns in Nepal, as well as several in India, Pakistan and Bhutan, are at high risk of a similar disaster due to the activity of the tectonic faults underneath them and their lack of preparation.

“It is not as though Nepal didn’t know about the problem, but that it was so huge they didn’t know where to start,” Kumar says, adding that the country lacked the resources and technical expertise to make existing buildings resistant to earthquakes (a process known as seismic retrofitting). “The government was working against time.”

According to Brian Tucker, the president of GeoHazards, the U.S., New Zealand, Japan, Turkey (particularly Istanbul) and Chile are all high-risk countries where tectonic plates are under strain but they have taken steps to prepare buildings and educate the people in order to mitigate the consequences of a big quake.

“Places you would really shudder to think what would happen are Tehran, Iran; Karachi, Pakistan; Padang, Indonesia and Lima, Peru,” he tells TIME. “If you ask me to place a bet on where the next big earthquake would be, the strongest evidence is offshore Sumatra.”

In 2004, a 9.3 magnitude earthquake struck 100 miles off the northwest tip of Sumatra, Indonesia generating a huge tsunami that killed some 230,000 people and cause widespread devastation.

“Padang is much smaller than Kathmandu so it wouldn’t create the same economic or political chaos that one in Tehran, Karachi or Istanbul would cause,” he said, but he stressed that an earthquake there could trigger a tsunami with similar devastating consequences.

Rapid migration from rural areas to cities worldwide has meant buildings in many cities with poor economies have sprung up quickly to accommodate the new influx of people.

“They don’t have resources to rebuild all the schools, hospitals, houses and apartments according to good building practice,” says Tucker.

Assessing the vulnerability of buildings such as schools and hospitals in these places will go a long way in preventing huge human and financial costs when a big quake strikes, he says. But “We need to create mechanisms to reward and incentivize the private sector to adhere to building codes.”

Read next: Here Are Six Ways you Can Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Iran

Ignore the Noise in Washington and Tehran. An Iran Nuclear Deal Is Still Likely

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses military commanders in Tehran on April 19, 2015,
Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/AP Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses military commanders in Tehran on April 19, 2015,

Despite the criticisms around the Iran negotiations, a deal is still more likely than not. But the real challenge will be implementation

In his first public comments after the U.S. and Iran settled on a nuclear framework agreement, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei pulled no punches: “The whole problem comes now that the details should be discussed, because the other side is stubborn, difficult to deal with, breaks promises and is a backstabber.”

Critics quickly pointed to the statement as proof that hopes for a final deal are evaporating. But the Ayatollah’s combative words don’t move the needle on whether we’ll get a final deal by the June 30 deadline.

Khamenei is posturing for two separate audiences. His hardline supporters in Iran could undermine his political authority if they believe he is capitulating to the West. The Ayatollah needs to placate this group while his negotiators, led by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, hammer out a deal behind closed doors. His second audience is the Western negotiators with whom he is trying to drive a hard bargain. Khamenei’s comments put more pressure on them, and sends a signal to his own negotiators not to cede ground.

But Khamenei authorized Iran’s president to appoint negotiators to work out a deal. The Supreme Leader has praised those negotiators via Twitter. The talks couldn’t have progressed this far if Khamenei wasn’t serious about getting a deal done to escape Western sanctions.

In fact, American detractors of the potential deal are engaging in a very similar form of theater. U.S. politicians want to score political points as much as their Iranian counterparts do: congressional Republicans and GOP presidential hopefuls are badmouthing the deal to ding President Obama and gain traction on the biggest global issue of the day. But the reality is that it will be impossible for Republicans to peel off enough Democrats to reach a veto-proof majority and overturn a final deal. The international community favors an Iran deal, and the American public is wary of undertaking military actions that could lead to another Middle East war.

A final deal between the U.S. and Iran remains more likely than not, but it’s not vitriolic tweets that threaten it most—it’s the remaining sticking points between the two sides. How much enriched uranium would Iran be allowed to stockpile? How much will a deal limit nuclear research using advanced machines? At what pace and in what sequence will the West lift sanctions while Iran carries out its end of the bargain?

These are critical and complex questions, but both sides know that they exist, and nothing that has been said from the sidelines in Tehran or Washington has changed that.

Yet even if the U.S. and Iran manage to agree on a final deal, the negotiations won’t end. The devil lies in the details of implementation. What happens if the U.S. discovers in four or five years that Iran is cheating, hiding nuclear weapons work from inspectors? How feasible will it be to punish Iran for undermining a deal, especially once sanctions are peeled back and Iran emerges from international isolation?

Reaching a deal is one thing. Making sure it doesn’t unravel is something else—and something that may be even tougher.

TIME Iran

Lawyer: Washington Post Reporter in Iran Faces 4 Charges

Washington Post's Jason Rezaian has been arrested for nearly 9 months and faces charges of espionage and three other crimes

(TEHRAN) — A Washington Post reporter jailed for nearly nine months in Iran faces charges of espionage and three other crimes, his lawyer revealed Monday following her first in-depth meeting with the journalist.

The Post, citing a statement from defense lawyer Leila Ahsan, said Jason Rezaian also faces charges of “conducting propaganda against the establishment,” ”collaborating with hostile governments” and “collecting information about internal and foreign policy and providing them to individuals with malicious intent.”

In an interview with the Associated Press, Ahsan described the journalist as being in good spirits and health, but said his continued detention alongside other inmates and a lack of access to outside media has taken a toll on his well-being.

Ahsan’s comments were the first confirmation of the exact charges Rezaian faces.

Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said in a statement that Ahsan’s meeting with Rezaian on Monday lasted 90 minutes and was conducted in the presence of an official translator. Baron said the charges, which he described as “ludicrous,” carry a maximum penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison.

“It is absurd and despicable to assert, as Iran’s judiciary is now claiming, that Jason’s work first as a freelance reporter and then as the Post’s Tehran correspondent amounted to espionage or otherwise posed any threat to Iranian national security,” Baron said.

Rezaian’s lawyer said his continued imprisonment without bail is unjustified.

“There is no legal basis for continuing his detention,” she told the AP. No trial date has been set, she added.

Earlier Monday, the official IRNA news agency quoted Gholamhossein Esmaili, the director-general of the Tehran provincial justice department, saying Rezaian’s case had been referred to a branch of Revolutionary Court. He said the process of bringing the case to trial had been prolonged because “the case has various aspects and (the case file) is thick.”

Rezaian, 39, was arrested on July 22 along with his Iranian wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who is a reporter for The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, and two other journalists whose names have not been made public.

All but Rezaian have since been released, though Baron said Salehi also faces “an impending trial on an equally baseless charge.”

The Post has repeatedly criticized its reporter’s detention and the limits on his access to legal assistance. Baron said the judge hearing the case, Abolghassem Salavati, rejected “several initial choices” of lawyers for Rezaian.

Among them was Masoud Shafiei, who represented three American hikers arrested by Iranian authorities in 2009. He however was prevented from completing the formalities needed to represent Rezaian, leading the family to eventually hire Ahsan. She only met him once briefly, before she had officially been named as his attorney, prior to Monday’s meeting.

“We continue to believe that Jason’s defense team should be permitted to grow to include additional lawyers of his choosing,” Baron said.

Judge Salavati has presided over a number of politically charged cases, including those of protesters arrested in connection with demonstrations that followed the 2009 presidential elections. He is known for his tough sentencing.

Deputy U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Monday if the reports were true, the charges are “patently absurd” and should be dropped immediately and Rezaian should be freed.

“He should immediately be freed so he can return to his family. The charges should immediately be dismissed,” Harf said.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the charges against Rezaian are absurd, should be dismissed, and that he should be released to his family.

Washington has pressed Iran to release Rezaian and other Americans jailed in Iran, including during talks on the sidelines of negotiations about the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Rezaian’s detention and possible trial comes as Iran negotiates with world powers over its contested nuclear program.

TIME Yemen

U.S. Warship Heads to Yemeni Waters to Intercept Iranian Weapons

The USS Theodore Roosevelt anchors off the coast on March 23, 2015 in Gosport, England.
Dan Kitwood—Getty Images The USS Theodore Roosevelt anchors off the coast on March 23, 2015 in Gosport, England.

(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Navy officials say the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is steaming toward the waters off Yemen and will join other American ships prepared to intercept any Iranian vessels carrying weapons to the Houthi (HOO’-thee) rebels fighting in Yemen.

The U.S. Navy has been beefing up its presence in the Gulf of Aden and the southern Arabian Sea amid reports that a convoy of Iranian ships may be headed toward Yemen to arm the Houthis.

The Houthis are battling government-backed fighters in an effort to take control of the country.

There are about nine U.S. ships in the region, including cruisers and destroyers carrying teams that can board and search other vessels.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ship movement on the record.

TIME Iran

Iran Foreign Minister Urges Talks With West to Solve Crisis in Yemen

Smoke rises during an air strike on an army weapons depot on a mountain overlooking Yemen's capital Sanaa April 20, 2015.
Khaled Abdullah—Reuters Smoke rises during an air strike on an army weapons depot on a mountain overlooking Yemen's capital Sanaa April 20, 2015.

Mohammad Javad Zarif says U.S. and its allies must choose between "cooperation and confrontation"

Iran’s Foreign Minister has called for dialogue with the U.S. and Western allies to confront crises in its regional neighbors, saying civil war-torn Yemen would be a “good place to start.”

Mohammad Javad Zarif, who reached a framework agreement on his country’s nuclear program earlier this month with the U.S. and its negotiating partners, also tied the agreement to broader regional cooperation.

“To seal the anticipated nuclear deal, more political will is required,” he wrote in an op-ed article in the New York Times. “It is time for the United States and its Western allies to make the choice between cooperation and confrontation, between negotiations and grandstanding, and between agreement and coercion.”

Zarif, who was named this year as one of the TIME 100 most influential people in the world, said a forum for dialogue in the Sunni Persian Gulf states could help the traditional rivals to solve crises in Iraq and Syria, where the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria has seized swathes of territory, and in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has spearheaded airstrikes against the rebel Houthis, a Shi’ite group with ties to Iran. Iran denies allegations that it has armed the group and is calling for a ceasefire.

“If one were to begin serious discussion of the calamities the region faces, Yemen would be a good place to start,” Zarif wrote.

Underscoring the rising violence in Yemen, an airstrike Monday morning in Sana’a, the capital, set off an enormous explosion that shook the city and reportedly killed dozens of people.

Read more at the New York Times.

TIME Yemen

The U.N. Envoy to Yemen Has Quit

YEMEN-POLITICS-UNREST-SOUTH-DIALOGUE
MOHAMMED HUWAIS—AFP/Getty Images Jamal Benomar, UN envoy to Yemen, speaks during a press conference conference in Sanaa December 24, 2013.

Moroccan diplomat Jamal Benomar had lost the support of the Gulf countries in his mission

The U.N. envoy to Yemen has resigned, citing “an interest in moving on to another assignment.”

Jamal Benomar, who has served as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy to the Middle Eastern country since 2012, reportedly threw in the towel due to lack of support from Gulf countries for his peacekeeping endeavors, reports the AFP.

“A successor shall be named in due course,” read a statement from the U.N. “Until that time and beyond, the United Nations will continue to spare no efforts to relaunch the peace process in order to get the political transition back on track.”

Benomar had already mentioned the possibility of resigning in an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, saying he had already expressed his desire to step down to the Secretary-General.

The conflict in Yemen is continuing to escalate as Shi‘ite Houthi rebels march on the country’s major port Aden after capturing the capital city of Sana‘a. The fighting has reportedly killed over 700 people and wounded more than 2,700 others.

The U.N. Security Council earlier this week adopted a resolution calling for the resumption of peace talks, even as coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia continued to carry out air strikes. The Saudi offensive has been criticized by other countries in the region, with Iran — whom it accuses of arming the Houthis — calling it “genocide.”

Iran’s neighbor Iraq also traded barbs with the Saudis on Wednesday, when Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said there was “no logic to the operation at all in the first place.” The Saudi ambassador to the U.S. later said there was “no logic” to al-Abadi’s remarks, and denied reports that Yemeni civilians had been killed in some of the air strikes.

Benomar’s successor, meanwhile, has been tipped as Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who currently leads the U.N. Ebola mission in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.

TIME Iran

The 3 Things the Ayatullah Wanted to Achieve in His Defiant Speech

Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking to crowds during a ceremony in Tehran on April 9, 2015.
Official Supreme Leader Website/EPA Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking to crowds during a ceremony in Tehran on April 9, 2015.

The Supreme Leader appealed to hard-liners while leaving the door open to the U.S.

Ayatullah Ali Khamenei broke his silence on the outline of a nuclear deal with the West on April 9, in a speech widely understood to be a buzzkill. “I have told the officials to not trust the opposing side,” he said, “to not be fooled by their smiles, to not trust their promises because when they have achieved their objectives they will laugh at you.”

But was it really a nail in the coffin for the negotiations? There’s no one answer, not least because over the week that followed it has become clear Iran’s Supreme Leader was trying to do several things at once:

1. Take control of the narrative.

By the time Khamenei, 75 and ailing, took the stage in Tehran in April, it was clear Iran’s right-wingers needed to be let out of their cage. At that point, all the skepticism toward the outline agreement seemed to be coming from the U.S. Congress, and in these negotiations, skepticism back home serves to improve one’s bargaining position. Every harsh appraisal from the Hill — which appears poised to demand review of any final deal — arms Western negotiators with new leverage to push even harder for Iranian concessions, as the two sides seek to nail down specifics before the June 30 deadline for a final pact.

But American politicians outshouting Iranians in opposition to a nuclear deal is a strange and rare dynamic, like McDonald’s hawking the Whopper, with Iran in the role of Burger King. The Leader set out to right the universe. Three times in his speech Khamenei called on negotiators to heed or answer “critics,” conspicuously lifting the ban on smack talk. He also directed them to address two specific points that apparently remain outstanding: the timing of lifting all sanctions, which Khamenei said should be immediate, and access of U.N. inspectors to Iranian military facilities, which he at least appeared to forbid.

2. Quiet the crowds.

Iran’s theocratic government is not a monolith, and the unpleasant political reality was that the factions least identified with Khamenei received all the acclaim for the prospective deal announced on April 2. Cheering reformist Foreign Minister Javad Zarif upon arrival from Switzerland, the crowd at the airport chanted, “Kayhan, Israel, our condolences,” naming a hard-line newspaper (whose editor Khamenei appoints) as a loser. Khamenei used his speech to declare that there’s nothing to cheer yet. “Nothing has yet been done and no binding topic has been brought up between the two sides,” he said, in the transcript posted on his personal website, www.leader.ir. “Therefore, extending congratulations is pointless.”

Abbas Milani, who runs the Iranian studies program at Stanford, tells TIME that while President Hassan Rouhani was elected on the platform of striking a deal, Khamenei “doesn’t want Rouhani to get too much credit. He’s very clear: If there’s a deal, it’s because I wanted it. And if there’s not, it’s because these guys were too frivolous to understand they were giving away too much.”

3. Keep the door open.

Khamenei may well loathe and distrust America, but along with the usual name-calling (“obstinate, unreliable, dishonest and into backstabbing”), his speech made clear his willingness to seal a deal — and even work with Washington on future projects, should this one end well. “Of course, the negotiations on the nuclear issue are an experience,” he said. “If the opposite side gives up its misconduct, we can continue this experience in other issues.” He even raised the possibility of extending the talks beyond the June 30 deadline, one more measure of how badly Iran needs a final pact. The regime Khamenei inherited in 1989 from Grand Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini may or may not want a nuclear weapon, but without relief from economic sanctions it will be in continuing danger. It’s not only a matter of the hardship born by ordinary Iranians, but by the state itself. Iran’s public sector accounts for perhaps three-quarters of the national economy, directly employing 80% of the Iranian workforce. Small wonder that Khamanei authorized the nuclear negotiations with a call for “heroic flexibility.”

The Supreme Leader’s speech can be seen as a kind of “Rorschach test,” Karim Sadjadpour, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who has written extensively on Khamenei, tells TIME. “He throws a lot of red meat to his hard-line base to reassure them he’s still an anti-American revolutionary. But careful readers also notice that underneath all the vitriol, he leaves the door of compromise with the U.S. slightly ajar. Given how badly the Iranian people want this deal to happen, Khamenei doesn’t want to be seen in their eyes as the obstacle.”

All of which, when the dust has cleared, looks like a stronger position for the West as the next round.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 15

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The U.S. is safer than we’ve been in generations. So why do we see threats around every corner?

By Stephen Kinzer in the Boston Globe

2. Is college worth it? There’s a checklist for that.

By Brandon Busteed at Gallup

3. Life is teaching your kid the value of white lies.

By Melissa Dahl in the Science of Us

4. The secret to success for unregulated currencies like Bitcoin might be more regulation.

By Larry Greenemeier in Scientific American

5. Scotland’s new drunk-driving law works so well, it’s hurting their economy.

By Chris Green in the Independent

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 14

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Have the missing Nigerian schoolgirls been trained to fight?

By Amnesty International

2. Why more roads means more traffic, not less.

By Matthew Beck and Michiel Bliemer in the Conversation

3. Let’s face it. There’s no perfect deal to be made with Iran.

By Pierre Atlas in the Indianapolis Star

4. Does more spending guarantee a better military?

By Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry in the Week

5. What if we could detect some types of cancer with a simple breath test?

By Smitha Mundasad at the BBC

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Congress

The Republican Senator Who Is Key to the Iran Deal

Sen. Bob Corker
Bill Clark—CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images Sen. Bob Corker, Senate Foreign Relations chairman, arrives for a briefing on Iran nuclear negotiations with Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama's chief of staff Jack Lew in the Capitol on April 14, 2015.

Over the next 10 weeks or so, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker can’t afford a mulligan. Lucky for him, according to occasional golfing buddy and Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson, he “doesn’t need ‘em.”

In that time, Corker will be “one of the most important people in the world,” as my colleague Massimo Calabresi writes in a magazine profile this week, as he attempts to ensure congressional oversight into a global debate on Iran’s nuclear program the Obama Administration would rather wage on its own.

As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Corker has the delicate task of crafting a 67-vote supermajority to beat back a veto threat on his bill, which the Administration has worried could imperil the chances of reaching a final deal by a June deadline. Corker struck a major agreement Tuesday, when the committee will take up his bill and introduce a series of amendments that could endanger consensus. But senators on both sides of the aisle are confident that Corker is well suited to the challenges ahead.

“There’s not a better horse to bet on in the United States Senate than Bob Corker,” says Isakson, a Republican member of the committee.

At first glance, Corker is an unlikely player in international affairs. A successful construction company owner, former Chattanooga mayor and head of Tennessee’s finances, Corker had no foreign policy experience before coming to the Senate in 2007. While a student at the University of Tennessee, Corker wasn’t even interested in politics, according to his roommate, Jimmy Haslam, who used to call Corker “Thor” because he “looked like a little Viking.” But his interests eventually evolved and after an introduction from Haslam, Corker met with Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander in 1993. The pair talked for an hour and a half as they walked down the beach at Hilton Head, South Carolina, discussing whether Corker should run for Senate or governor.

“He’s never been afraid of big jumps,” says Alexander, who thinks the two-term senator would be “terrific” as Secretary of either the State or Treasury departments. “In a way he’s perfectly named—Corker.”

Corker popped to the ranking Republican position on the committee in 2013 and became chairman when Republicans took the Senate this year. To overcome his initial lack of expertise, Corker has engaged in policy discussions with numerous foreign policy experts, including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who has breakfast with him every two or three months. Corker also travels extensively; he told TIME in February that he had traveled to over 63 countries. Haslam, now the owner of the Cleveland Browns, says his longtime friend flies commercial on his trips to the Middle East with usually one staff member. “Bob’s not a hot dog,” says Haslam. “He gets the job done.”

Corker’s temperament may serve him well as debate over U.S. foreign policy no longer ends at the water’s edge. Democrats are still smarting from Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton’s direct letter to Iranian leaders and House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress. One of seven Republicans who didn’t sign Cotton’s letter, Corker has garnered praise from Democrats. Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on Corker’s committee, calls Corker a “serious legislator” and an “ideal fit” for the panel’s chairmanship.

“I think that he is trying to use that position in the best tradition of the U.S. Senate to bring as much unity on behalf of foreign policy as possible,” Cardin told TIME last week. “And recognizing that’s challenging today, I think he’s done a really good job on his bill on the congressional oversight of the nuclear agreement. It’s one in which I hope we can find common ground. I think we’re very close to that.”

Introduced with Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez and Tim Kaine and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham as cosponsors, Corker’s bipartisan bill threads the needle by establishing an order of review, preventing the president from waiving Congress’ economic sanctions against Iran for 30 days, according to a Corker aide, and up to 52 days if Congress passes a bill and the president vetoes it. If the deal is submitted late, after July 9, the review period reverts to 60 days, according to the aide. If President Obama accepts it, the Administration would be required to tell Congress every 90 days if Iran is still keeping up its end.

“We have reached a bipartisan agreement that keeps the congressional review process absolutely intact and full of integrity,” said Corker on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Tuesday. “On behalf of the American people we want to make sure that if a final deal is reached it lays before Congress, so we have the opportunity to go through every detail.”

Corker has worked for months to bring Democrats on board. The bill originally had called for a vote to approve or disapprove of the deal—now there is the option to not act, Menendez told TIME. Another priority—pushed by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, according to the New York Times—was ensuring a 60-vote rather than a 51-vote threshold for any resolution of disapproval or agreement, ensuring that Congress spoke in a bipartisan manner. Kaine claims credit for limiting the bill to only sanctions imposed by Congress, rather than the Administration or international bodies. Still, just last week Cardin said he had three major areas of concern: “the time for review, the limitation of presidential powers during the review, and to the statute issues that are not directly related to the nuclear agreement.”

So over the past few days and up through Monday night, Corker has worked to close the gaps with Democrats, reportedly softening requirements that Iran isn’t directly sponsoring terrorism against the United States and loosening restrictions on the original timetable for a 60 day congressional review period.

The negotiations have appeared to assuage Democratic concerns. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that Obama’s veto threat would be revoked—a stunning turnaround—if some of the changes the White House has proposed, including the timetable and terrorism language, make it through committee.

“We have to see what comes through the committee process,” said Earnest. “What we have made clear to Democrats and Republicans is that the President would be willing to sign the proposed compromise that is making its way through the committee today.”

Corker’s immediate challenge now is to navigate a series of controversial amendments from Democrats and Republicans alike. One from Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy would allow President Obama to waive sanctions during the 60 days if a “failure to do so would be a breach of the final comprehensive agreement,” according to Murphy spokesman Chris Harris. Another by Isakson would make a condition of sanctions relief “fair and appropriate compensation” to Americans who were terrorized in the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. And Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio will introduce an amendment making approval of the deal dependent on Iran’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist, according to the New York Times.

Some of those amendments are nonstarters with the Administration, which has launched a full-scale lobbying effort on Capitol Hill. Secretary of State John Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Moniz briefed House members in a classified session Monday and are expected to hold another for senators on Tuesday, according to the Times. They are trying to convince lawmakers to agree to a framework agreement that couldn’t be subject to a wider divergence of opinion. Critics like Cotton, a foreign policy hawk and Iraq combat veteran, believe the deal could eventually lead to a nuclear confrontation. The Administration argues it could lead to a safer world, lengthening the time it would take for Iran to produce such a bomb over the next decade from three months to a year, giving America’s allies more time to forcefully respond.

Corker’s knack for jumping into the hairiest policy debates hasn’t always been a success, including in his early efforts to negotiate the auto company bailout and Dodd-Frank financial regulation reform. “He’s a guy who views things without the partisan lens and from a very practical approach,” says Josh Holmes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s former chief of staff. “I think in some ways early on it made him a target for Democrats to try to wedge the best deal out of.”

“I will say that Corker is amongst the most intelligent senators on the Hill,” adds Holmes. “He learns a great deal from each one of these interactions.”

Corker did seal a deal during the 2013 immigration reform debate, helping craft border security legislation that the Senate incorporated and passed before it died in the House. Menendez told TIME he “swallowed” Corker’s “odorous” amendment because he agreed with his colleague that it would “guarantee us a big vote and that the greater good was better served by accepting what he could bring along with him.”

Corker’s goal is essentially the same now: to convince a wide swath of Congress to get to “yes” despite their reservations. Menendez, who has “tag teamed” members on the bill on the Senate floor, says Corker is a dogged negotiator.

“He’s tenacious going to anyone on either side of the aisle making his case,” says Menendez. “And he won’t stop. If you say no to him, he’ll ask you why and then try to argue away the concern. If you say I’m thinking about he’ll probably come back to you another 10 times.”

With reporting by Maya Rhodan and Massimo Calabresi/Washington, D.C.

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