TIME Congress

John Kerry Urges Congress to Support Iran Nuclear Deal

Congress has begun a 60-day review of the international agreement

(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State John Kerry warned skeptical lawmakers not to nix the contentious nuclear deal with Iran, insisting that it includes strict inspections and other safeguards to deter cheating by Tehran.

“If Congress does not support the deal, we would see this deal die — with no other options,” Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday as he testified for the second time in a week, part of the Obama administration’s all-out campaign to sell the accord.

Kerry spoke as the administration picked up critical support for the deal from Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., a strong supporter of Israel who referred to his Jewish background in announcing his decision.

“I believe the agreement offers the best option to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Levin said in a statement circulated by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is leading the effort to round up Democratic support for the deal in the House.

Congress has begun a 60-day review of the international agreement that curbs Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from sanctions stifling its economy. All members must weigh the deal, but it’s especially a tough decision for those who have a large number of Jewish constituencies because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called it a “historic mistake.”

“I believe that Israel, the region and the world are far more secure if Iran does not move toward possession of a nuclear weapon,” Kerry told members who, at times, blasted the deal.

“Iran has cheated on every agreement they’ve signed,” said Rep. Ed Royce, the panel’s chairman. With Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew waiting to testify, he asked if Tehran “has earned the right to be trusted” given its history.

Few, if any, new details emerged from the more than three-hour hearing. Some committee members asked the three officials questions, while others used their time to read lengthy statements in opposition. That left Kerry visibly frustrated and several times he accused the members of misconstruing or misunderstanding the details of the agreement.

“Nothing in this deal is built on trust. Nothing,” Kerry said.

Kerry was asked what would prevent Iran from adhering to the agreement for a short time, and then, in effect, take the money and run toward building an atomic bomb.

Kerry said that was not a likely scenario. He said the Iranian government is under pressure to improve the economy in their country where half the population is under 30 years of age and wants jobs. And he defended the inspection protocol under the agreement, arguing that if Iran tries to develop a nuclear weapon covertly, the international community will know.

“They can’t do that. Because the red flags that would go off — the bells and whistles that would start chiming — as a result of any movement away from what they have to do” to meet their obligations under the agreement, Kerry said.

Faced with Republican majorities in both houses, the administration’s objective was to line up enough support for Obama among Democrats in what is all but certain to become a veto fight this fall.

Congress is expected to vote in September to prevent Obama from lifting sanctions imposed previously by lawmakers, a step that would likely cause Iran to walk away from the agreement. Obama has said he will veto any bill along those lines, and Republicans will need a two-thirds majority in both houses to override his objections.

Apart from Royce, the panel’s senior Democrat expressed reservations about the plan. Rep. Eliot Engel of New York said he has “serious questions and concerns about this deal.”

Engel is a strong supporter of Israel, which vociferously opposes the agreement. Iran has said it wants to wipe out Israel.

The hearing unfolded as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby, dispatched hundreds of its members to prod lawmakers to disapprove of the deal.

On the other side of the issue, seven former U.S. diplomats and State Department officials sent a letter Monday to leaders in Congress urging them to support the pact.

While lawmakers debated the implications of the deal, officials from member nations of the International Atomic Energy Agency told The Associated Press that Iran may be allowed to take soil samples at the Parchin military complex that is suspected as a site of nuclear weapon research, but only under monitoring by outside experts.

The officials said stringent oversight of the soil-sampling could include video monitoring. The samples would be analyzed by the agency for traces left by any nuclear experiments. The disclosures come from IAEA member nations and are tasked with following Iran’s nuclear program. They demanded anonymity because their information is confidential. The IAEA had no immediate comment.

Tehran insists Parchin is a conventional military area with no link to nuclear tests.

___

Associated Press writer George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this report.

TIME

John Kerry Pushes Back Against Critics of Iran Nuclear Deal

This may be the biggest foreign policy vote in more than a decade

(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State John Kerry bluntly challenged critics of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran on Thursday, calling it “fantasy, plain and simple,” to think the United States failed to hold out for a better deal at the bargaining table.

“Let me underscore, the alternative to the deal we’ve reached isn’t what we’re seeing ads for on TV,” he said at the first public hearing on the controversial deal to lift economic and other sanctions in exchange for concessions of the Islamic state’s nuclear program. He was referring commercials aired by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee urging lawmakers to reject the deal.

“It isn’t a better deal, some sort of unicorn arrangement involving Iran’s complete capitulation,” Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

He spoke as Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and other Republicans spoke scornfully of the administration’s claim that the only alternative to the deal that was reached was a war with Iran.

“You’ve been fleeced,” Corker, the committee chairman, said as Kerry sat nearby at the witness table — although he later sought to soften his criticism by saying, “we’ve been fleeced.” He said he was depressed after hearing the secretary of state and other administration officials make the same claim Wednesday in a closed-door briefing for lawmakers.

“You guys have been bamboozled,” added Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, who said the agreement wouldn’t permit testing at Iran’s Parchin military complex.

Kerry was joined by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who sat across the table from Iranian negotiators in the talks, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, whose agency enforces many of the sanctions that have squeezed Iran’s economy in recent years as part of a strategy to force Tehran to the bargaining table.

The hearing marked a new phase of a bruising struggle that will lead to what will arguably be the biggest foreign policy vote in more than a decade.

The deal will take effect unless Congress blocks it, and Republicans in control of the House and Senate have made clear they intend to try to do so in September.

Obama has vowed to veto any such bill. That would lead to a vote to override his veto, and the administration is searching for 34 votes in the Senate or 146 in the House, enough to assure the veto sticks.

Democrats and allied independents control 46 seats in the Senate.

The hearing unfolded as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., demanded the administration immediately turn over the text of side agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. “The law is clear,” he said in remarks on the Senate floor.

Administration officials say that in the past, such agreements have not been made available. They also say U.S. officials are available to provide information about them in classified meetings.

The committee hearing turned contentious at times, particularly including when Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., asked Kerry a tough question — and Corker interjected an answer. “You want to answer, senator?” Kerry said tartly to the chairman, who had said that Iran would be allowed to develop ballistic missiles.

Moniz also sought to parry Republican charges, including the claim that Kerry had failed to achieve a goal of assuring inspections “anywhere, anytime” to see if Iran is cheating on the deal.

“Like Secretary Kerry, I did say the words ‘anytime, anywhere,’ and I am very pleased that yesterday a member of your caucus acknowledged, however, that the full sentence was “anytime, anywhere in the sense of a well-defined process with a well-defined end time.”

In his testimony, Kerry read aloud from statements by past Israeli intelligence officials who praised the agreement, and said he expects Saudi Arabia will ultimately back the deal.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been an outspoken critic of the agreement, saying it would set Iran, which denies his country’s right to exist, on a path toward obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Kerry said that when the negotiations began, experts calculated that it would take Iran only two to three months to produce enough material for a bomb, the so-called breakout time.

“If the deal is rejected, we return immediately to this reality, except that the diplomatic support we have been steadily accumulating in recent years would disappear overnight,” he said.

The United Nations Security Council has already voted to lift the international sanctions in place, effectively accepting the deal that the United States and other powers have struck with Iran. As a result, administration officials say the United States would be left trying to enforce more limited sanctions, without the support of other nations that backed the earlier steps.

“President Obama has made it crystal clear we will never accept a nuclear-armed Iran,” Kerry said. “He is the only president who has developed a weapon capable of guaranteeing that. And he has not only developed it, he has deployed it.”

That appeared to be a reference to a bunker buster bomb, the “Massive Ordnance Penetrator.”

_____

Associated Press writers Donna Cassata and Matthew Lee contributed to this story.

TIME Foreign Policy

White House Launches Twitter Account to Sell Iran Deal

Press Secretary Josh Earnest said officials will use the account to engage with the public and share information

Correction appended, July 21, 2015

The White House is ramping up its efforts to sell the nuclear deal with Iran to the American public, launching a webpage and a Twitter account focused on the pending agreement.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters en route to Pittsburgh on Tuesday that the digital tools would be used to “advocate for the recently announce agreement to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”

Administration officials will use the Twitter handle @TheIranDeal, which had gathered 2,000 followers by early Tuesday afternoon, to “distribute facts” and “engage” with the public about the deal. The webpage will host fact sheets and infographics.

Tuesday’s announcement is the latest in the White House’s all-hands-on-deck approach to pitching the nuclear deal with Iran, which awaits approval from a skeptical Congress.

Administration officials immediately began their sales pitch once the historic deal was reached last week, sending Vice President Joe Biden to visit with Democrats on Capitol Hill and having the President host a press conference at which he sought to address concerns about the deal raised by members of Congress and allies in the region who are opposed to it.

On Sunday, as Secretary of State John Kerry made his rounds on talk shows, President Obama took a handful of Congressional members golfing.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated where White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was traveling to when he discussed the new Twitter account. He was en route to Pittsburgh.

TIME Iran

Kerry Threatens to Quit Iran Nuke Talks After More Delays

John Kerry iran talks vienna
Ronald Zak—AP U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the media in front of Palais Coburg in Vienna on July 9, 2015.

"This is not open-ended," Kerry said

(VIENNA) —U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry threatened Thursday to walk away from nuclear talks as he signaled that diplomats won’t conclude an agreement over the coming hours — another delay that this time could complicate American efforts to quickly implement any deal.

“This is not open-ended,” Kerry told reporters outside the 19th-century Viennese palace hosting the negotiations. “We can’t wait forever for the decision to be made. If the tough decisions don’t get made, we are absolutely prepared to call an end to this process.”

It was the strongest indication yet of U.S. frustration with Iran. It comes two days after President Barack Obama promised Senate Democrats the same response to Iranian intransigence, suggesting patience for continuing the current round of discussions was running out as it headed into its 14th day.

Thursday’s latest delay for a comprehensive deal is significant. Iran is demanding prompt easing of economic penalties for nuclear concessions, and the longer it takes world powers to make good on their promises, the longer they’ll have to wait for the Iranians to scale back their nuclear program.

Under U.S. law, the seven nations negotiating in Vienna have to complete the accord before the end of Thursday in Washington to avoid invoking a 60-day congressional review period during which President Barack Obama cannot waive sanctions on Iran. If they meet the target, the review would only be 30 days.

The specter of prolonged public relations campaigns for and against the pact also may not work in Obama’s favor. The delay could imply that the U.S., Iran and other negotiating powers may end up having to push off the talks until September when any deal would again only amount to a 30-day review period.

“We will not rush and we will not be rushed,” Kerry said.

“We would not be here continuing to negotiate just for the sake of negotiating. We’re here because we believe we are making real progress toward a comprehensive deal,” he said. But, he added: “We are not going to sit at the negotiating table forever.”

Kerry spoke after discussing the state-of-play with other world powers for almost an hour Thursday evening. That conversation followed a flurry of other closed-door meetings, including a 45-minute session between Kerry and his Iranian counterpart.

“We’re working hard, but not rushed, to get the job done,” Zarif tweeted.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he would remain in Austria’s capital for negotiations into Friday morning, citing “good things, but there is still work to do.”

The current round of talks has already been extended twice since it started on June 27, as has an interim nuclear accord with Iran that these negotiations are meant to finalize. The preliminary deal was due to expire on June 30, then July 7 and then Friday. It would have to be renewed a third time if the talks go beyond Friday.

At an economic summit in Russia, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said his nation was preparing for a “post-sanctions” era, suggesting a deal may be in sight to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Kerry spoke by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who was also in Russia and voiced optimism, saying he was prepared to return to Vienna.

And in what was widely seen as a hint that the talks might soon wrap up, the White House late Wednesday issued a brief statement saying President Barack Obama had conferred with the U.S. negotiating team through a secure video call.

The last time Obama held a secure conference call with his negotiators on the road was shortly before the framework for a final accord was reached on April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Kerry, nursing a broken leg, has been in Vienna since June 26, while Zarif has made one short trip to Tehran for consultations. Other foreign ministers have come and gone. All but the top diplomats from Russia and China were present at Thursday’s meetings.

When the talks missed their second deadline it raised new questions about the ability of world powers to cut off all Iranian pathways to nuclear weapons through diplomacy.

Long-standing differences persist over inspections of Iranian facilities and the Islamic republic’s research and development of advanced nuclear technology.

New difficulties also have surfaced over the past few days. Iran is pushing for an end to a U.N. arms embargo on the country but Washington opposes that demand.

TIME Iran

Iran Nuclear Talks Continue After Blowing Past Second Deadline

Austia Iran Nuclear Talks
Carlos Barria—AP U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman meet with foreign ministers of Germany, France, China, Britain, Russia and the European Union at a hotel in Vienna on July 7, 2015.

Current interim nuclear arrangement with Iran has extended through July 10

(VIENNA) — Iran nuclear talks busted through their second deadline in a week Tuesday, raising new questions about the ability of world powers to cut off all Iranian pathways to a bomb through diplomacy. The talks, already in their 12th day, were prolonged until possibly Friday.

“We knew it would have been difficult, challenging, and sometimes hard,” said Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief. She said the negotiations would continue despite hitting some “tense” moments, and the State Department declared the current interim nuclear arrangement with Iran extended through July 10.

As the latest target date arrived for a deal setting a decade of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and other top diplomats huddled in Vienna in search of a breakthrough.

All had spoken of deep differences remaining, and there was no public indication they had resolved disputes ranging from inspection rules on suspicious Iranian sites to limits on Tehran’s research and development of advanced nuclear technology. Still, no one was speaking yet on Tuesday of a long-term extension.

“The last, difficult, political issues, we have to solve,” Mogherini said.

And as he left the talks for an economic summit at home, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said fewer than 10 major differences needed to be ironed out, including access to Iranian sites for international monitors. He said questions related to the easing of sanctions on Iran had been decided, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported. Lavrov said he could return to the talks later in the week.

Diplomats had extended their discussions by a week when they missed their goal of a pact by June 30, after passing previous deadlines in July 2014 and last November. For Kerry and his team, pressure is increasing from skeptical U.S. allies and members of Congress. If the accord isn’t sent over to American lawmakers by Thursday, their month-long review period would be doubled to 60 days, hampering the ability of the Obama administration to offer speedy economic benefits to Iran for nuclear concessions.

In Tehran Tuesday, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization declared it had reached a “general understanding” in parallel talks with the U.N. nuclear agency on “joint cooperation.” The Iranians have made similar claims previously, and it was unclear if any process was established for the International Atomic Energy Agency’s long-stymied investigation of past nuclear weapons work by the Islamic Republic — a demand of Washington and its partners in negotiations in Austria’s capital.

There, in a baroque, 19th-century palace, Kerry gathered early Tuesday with the foreign ministers of Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. The larger group was to meet with Zarif at some point later in the day. Russia’s Lavrov and China’s Wang Yi had to leave for a gathering of emerging economies in the Russian city of Ufa starting Wednesday, and the EU’s Mogherini said different ministers were likely to depart and return.

“We are taking these negotiations day to day to see if we can conclude a comprehensive agreement,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement, adding that Kerry would remain in Vienna.

“We’ve made substantial progress in every area, but this work is highly technical and high stakes for all of the countries involved,” Harf said. “We’re frankly more concerned about the quality of the deal than we are about the clock, though we also know that difficult decisions won’t get any easier with time. That is why we are continuing to negotiate.”

The U.S. is in a tough spot. President Barack Obama has expended significant political capital on finalizing an agreement that has prompted suspicion from Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia, outright hostility from America’s closest Mideast ally, Israel, and deep ambivalence even among Obama’s Democratic allies in Congress. They’re concerned that the accord would leave Iran’s nuclear infrastructure largely intact and compel the West to provide the leading U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism with potentially hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of economic relief from international sanctions.

To ease their concerns, Obama and Kerry have vowed to hold out for a “good deal” that verifiably keeps Iran at least a year away from a nuclear weapons capability for at least a decade. Current intelligence estimates put the Iranians only two to three months away from amassing enough material for a nuclear warhead, if they pursued such a course. As part of the guarantee, the administration has repeatedly threatened to abandon negotiations if they prove fruitless or appear as an Iranian stall for time.

On-and-off talks with Tehran have been going on for more than a decade, though this incarnation has come closest to any resolution. The latest effort began in secret a couple of years ago and gained speed after the election of moderate-leaning Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in 2013. By November that year, Iran and the six world powers clinched an interim nuclear agreement and began the process for a comprehensive accord.

Over the weekend, a cautious Kerry told reporters that talks on the final package “could go either way.”

Republicans hostile to compromise with Iran have been urging the U.S. to pull back from the talks. Their refrain has been that Obama and Kerry want a deal more than the Iranians do, and have let red lines erode on Iranian enrichment capacity, inspections and providing limited sanctions relief. The president and his top advisers vehemently reject such claims.

Iran has its own red lines, defiantly outlined in recent weeks by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the nation’s supreme leader. They include a quick easing of sanctions, and rejection of any inspections of military sites or interviews with Iranian nuclear scientists.

___

Associated Press writer George Jahn contributed.

TIME faith

John Kerry Praises Pope Francis’ Climate Change Encyclical

Secretary of State John Kerry called Pope Francis’ encyclical a “powerful” statement on the threat of climate change Thursday.

Kerry, who is Catholic, told TIME in a statement that religious engagement on the issue will help spur agreement at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

The Pope’s powerful encyclical calls for a common response to the critical threat climate change poses to our common home. His plea for all religions to work together reflects the urgency of the challenge. The faith community – in the United States and abroad – has a long history of environmental stewardship and aiding the poor, and Pope Francis has thoughtfully applied those same values to the very real threat our planet is facing today. The devastating impacts of climate change – like heat waves, damaging floods, coastal sea level rise and historic droughts – are already taking place, threatening the habitat all humans and other creatures depend on to survive. We have a responsibility to meet this challenge and prevent the worst impacts. As stewards of our planet, we can all work together to manage our resources sustainably and ensure that the poorest among us are resilient to climate change. We have the overwhelming body of peer-reviewed science to show us what is causing this problem, and we are equipped with the tools and resources to begin solving it. Engagement on this issue from a wide range of voices is all the more important as we strive to reach a global climate agreement this December in Paris.

Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Sheba Crocker met with Vatican officials, including the Holy See’s Undersecretary for Relations with States Antoine Camilleri, on May 26 at the Holy See to discuss climate change and Pope Francis’ 2015 Development goals.

“When he speaks on issues—whether it’s on climate change, alleviating poverty, or peace and security issues—it just has a real resonance and that’s something that we find incredibly useful,” Crocker says. “It’s so important for Pope Francis to be speaking in the way that he is—with such a clear voice. He brings such a moral authority to these questions, and his voice resonates in a way throughout the world, which we think provides him with crucial impetus—both political and moral—to help us reach an agreement in Paris at the end of the year.”

It’s another sign that the Obama administration is hoping to leverage Pope Francis’ efforts on shared commitments, especially in advance of his upcoming trip to the U.S. In September. “We have really renewed energy—strong leadership from the United States, but also countries from around the world, and I think real dedication and commitment to try to reach a durable agreement in Paris, which is the historic step, obviously, at the end of this year,” Crocker tells TIME. “It’s a top priority for the administration.”

U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Ken Hackett was at the Vatican press conference Thursday morning for the encyclical’s release.

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 2016 Election

6 Poems 2016 Candidates Should Read

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signs the guest book at the Schindler Factory Museum in Krakow, Poland on July 3, 2010.
Drew Angerer—AFP/Getty Images Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signs the guest book at the Schindler Factory Museum in Krakow, Poland on July 3, 2010.

It's National Poetry Month and the official start of several 2016 campaigns

Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo famously said that “you campaign in poetry; you govern in prose” to contrast the difference between the soaring rhetoric of a candidate and the workaday efforts of an elected official.

That’s even more true this April, which is both National Poetry Month and the likely kickoff of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, among others.

Here’s a look at six poems the candidates might want to read.

“I Hear America Singing”
by Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe
and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work…

Walt Whitman briefly worked as an editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, not too far from where Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters will be located. Although not overtly political, his poem “I Hear America Singing” celebrates blue-collar jobs, a staple of campaign rhetoric. Throw in a few clips of Iowa farmers and this could be the voiceover of a positive ad.

“Next to of course god america i”
by e.e. cummings

next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn’s early my
country ’tis of centuries come and go…

On the other end of the spectrum, e.e. cummings’ “Next to of course god america i” is a parody of typical campaign rhetoric, mashing together various patriotic cliches. The sardonic final line — “He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water” — brings to mind Marco Rubio, who famously took a swig of Poland Spring in the middle of his response to the 2013 State of the Union.

“Exquisite Candidate”
by Denise Duhamel

I can promise you this: food in the White House
will change! No more granola, only fried eggs
flipped the way we like them. And ham ham ham!
Americans need ham! …

Less bitter than cummings’ take on political rhetoric, Denise Duhamel’s humorous 1961 poem is a nice palate cleanser for voters who are tired of hearing the candidates make false boasts and empty promises. Frankly, whoever can say “I am the only candidate to canoe over Niagara Falls / and live to photograph the Canadian side” gets our vote.

“Let America Be America Again”
by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free…

There’s some risk for candidates who borrow a turn of phrase from a poet. Conservatives criticized John Kerry for using the opening line as an unofficial campaign slogan in 2004, while Rick Santorum backed away from it during the 2012 campaign, in both cases because of the Communist leanings of poet Langston Hughes. Another line in the poem—”America never was America to me”—also undercuts political use of the poem.

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
by Robert Frost

…The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

At the 1964 Democratic National Convention, Robert Kennedy cited this Robert Frost poem as a favorite of his late brother, President John F. Kennedy, arguing that it “could apply it to the Democratic Party and to all of us as individuals.” It’s also pretty good inspiration for the poor candidate trudging along the campaign trail, making promises to voters.

“September 1, 1939″
by W.H. Auden

There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Written during the early days of World War II, W.H. Auden’s dark poem gained new resonance in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. It also played a role in one of the most famous political ads in history, Lyndon Johnson’s “Daisy,” which ends with a nuclear explosion and a brief excerpt from a speech in which LBJ paraphrases the line: “We must either love each other, or we must die.”

TIME Iran

These 5 Facts Explain the State of Iran

Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and others wait for a meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel on March 27, 2015 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Brendan Smialowski—Reuters Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and others wait for a meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel on March 27, 2015 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Sanctions, demographics, oil and cyberwarfare

As leaders in the United States and Iran maintain laser focus on the ongoing nuclear negotiations, it’s valuable to take a broader look at Iran’s politics, its economy, and its relations with the United States. Here are five stats that explain everything from Iran’s goals in cyberspace to its views of Western powers.

1. Sanctions and their discontents

Sanctions have taken a heavy toll on the Iranian economy. According to the Congressional Research Service, Iran’s economy is 15 to 20% smaller than it would have been without the sanctions that have been enacted since 2010. They leave Iran unable to access nearly four-fifths of the $100 billion in reserves the country holds in international accounts. Iran’s oil output has fallen off a cliff. Four years ago, Iran sold some 2.5 million barrels of oil and condensates a day. Over the last year, the country has averaged just over a million barrels a day. Even as the exports have fallen and the price has plummeted, oil still accounts for 42% of government revenues. Iran’s latest budget will slash spending by 11% after accounting for inflation.

(Bloomberg, The Economist)

2. Cyber-spending spree

But despite the belt-tightening, Tehran has been willing to splurge in one area. Funding for cyber security in the 2015/16 budget is 1200% higher than the $3.4 million allotted in 2013/14. Up until 2010, Iran’s chief focus in cyberspace was managing internal dissidents. But after news of the Stuxnet virus—a U.S.-led cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear program—went public in 2010, Iran’s leaders shifted gears. According to one estimate, Iran spent over $1 billion on its cyber capabilities in 2012 alone. That year, it conducted the Shamoon attack, wiping data from about 30,000 machines belonging to Saudi oil company Aramco. In 2013, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard publicly declared that Iran was “the fourth biggest cyber power among the world’s cyber armies.”

(Global Voices, Wired, Strategic Studies Institute, Wall Street Journal)

3. New generation and old leadership

The median age in Iran is 28, and youth unemployment in the country hovers around 25%. Nearly seven out of ten Iranians are under 35 years old, too young to remember the Iranian revolution of 1979. But the country is controlled by older men, many of whom had an instrumental role in the revolution. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is 75 years old; there have been concerns about his health and Iran’s eventual succession plan. Iran’s Assembly of Experts is an opaque institution with huge symbolic importance: it is tasked with selecting and overseeing Iran’s Supreme Leader. The Assembly’s Chairman passed away in October at the age of 83. His replacement? Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, who is…83 years old.

(New York Times, CIA World Factbook, BBC)

4. The feeling is mutual

Over 70% of Iranians view the United States unfavorably—and 58% have “very unfavorable” views. On the flip side, more than three-quarters of surveyed Americans have unfavorable views of Iran. But that’s a more modest stance than some other European powers: 80% of French and 85% of Germans have unfavorable views of Iran. According to recent polls, Iran is no longer considered “the United States’ greatest enemy today.” In 2012, 32% of those polled chose Iran, good for first place. In 2015, just 9% selected Iran, placing it fourth behind China, North Korea and Russia, respectively.

(Center for International & Security Studies, Pew Research Center, Vox)

5. Support for a deal?

Negative views of Iran haven’t undermined Americans’ desire to try and cut a deal: 68% of Americans favor diplomacy with Iran. It’s a bipartisan majority: 77% of Democrats and 65% of Republicans are in favor of talks. Iranians have mixed expectations: only 48% think that President Rouhani will be successful in reaching an agreement. But if we do see a final deal, a lot more than Iranian oil could open up. Western businesses would love to break into a country that is more populous than Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Israel, Bahrain, Lebanon and Jordan combined.

(Center for International & Security Studies, CNN survey, CIA World Factbook)

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