TIME Iran

Iranian Officials Seem Cautiously Optimistic About the Nuclear Talks

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, attends a meeting in Tehran, Sept. 7, 2014.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, attends a meeting in Tehran, Sept. 7, 2014. AP

Releases in Iran's state-controlled media seem to indicate the country is preparing for a deal at the nuclear talks in Vienna

There’s no shortage of pessimism about whether Iran and six world powers can reach a comprehensive deal on the country’s nuclear program by Nov. 24, the self-imposed deadline. Time is short, and as a senior U.S. official said before leaving for Vienna, where the talks began, “we have some very serious gaps to close.” But those looking for optimism need search no further then Tehran’s official media. Tightly controlled by the regime that is the ultimate authority on any pact, the country’s media may be preparing the Iranian public for an agreement.

While hardliners in Tehran grump about the talks, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has clearly aligned himself with the negotiators—even posting an interview with one of the diplomats, deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi, on his personal website this week

“Araqchi basically said ‘We’re winning this, we’re not giving in,’” says Abbas Milani, who heads the Iranian studies department at Stanford University. Milani was astonished by the post. Never before had Khamenei’s office made the site a forum for another official, even one understood, as Araqchi is, to be serving as the Leader’s personal representative. It signaled a full embrace of the talks by the man who, as his title makes clear, holds ultimate power in the Islamic Republic.

“The headline was that the leader has had oversight of the entire negotiating process,” says Milani. “It’s clear to me this was an attempt to make a claim for victory and dissuade the idea that [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani is doing this on his own and will get all the credit.”

On the same day as that post, the man Khamenei named to lead Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps was widely quoted on government outlets as saying that a nuclear deal was consistent with the ideals of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which remains the litmus test for all government endeavors.

Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander, also appeared to prepare the public for elements of a deal that may not look like a win for Iran. “If it appears that there are aspects of this where we’re accepted humiliation, first of all it’s not true — we are winning,” Jafari insisted. “But those perceptions of humiliation are because of the clumsy management and inexperience of some of our negotiators.”

The goal, the commander said, was the removal of the economic sanctions imposed on Iran by Washington and other world powers. “God willing, this goal will be reached,” Jafari said.

There was more. Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament, which is dominated by conservatives, spoke of “our spirit of resistance” taught by Khamenei and his predecessor Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei as “the reason or our success, and why in spite of all efforts by the enemy they could not stop our progress on the nuclear front.”

“It is possible to have a deal,” Larijani added. “It’s just important for the U.S. not to ask for new conditions.”

Some in Iran complained that new conditions are just what the U.S. has indeed demanded. One hardline member of the parliament, or majlis, claimed to have seen the contents of an eight-page proposal Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly showed Iranian negotiators in Oman the previous week, and compared it to the Treaty of Turkmenchy, the 1828 capitulation to Russia that Iranians consider the epitome of humiliation, losing not only territory in the Caucasus but even the right to navigate on the Caspian Sea, which forms Iran’s northern border.

But to Iran watchers, what’s truly significant is that such grumbling is only background noise in what appears to be a concerted effort by Iran’s top echelon to set the foundation for a deal—if not on Monday, then if the talks are extended, as they may well be. There may be more riding on it than just escape from economically ruinous sanctions. The New York Times on Thursday quoted Amir Mohebbian, a conservative adviser long tied to the Leader’s office, predicting a nuclear deal as a harbinger of a strategic change in Iran’s entire political orientation.

“If there is a deal, and if it is good, the entire system will go along with it,” Mohebbian said in Tehran. “There will be a huge political shift after the deal. It is my conviction that those who make decisions within the system want it to be alive and supported. For survival, we need to change.”

It’s just such a change that President Obama has repeatedly said a nuclear deal might herald, opening the way for Iran to end its pariah status and return to “the community of nations.” So it’s possible Mohebbian is saying no more than what the administration wants to hear. But the expectations of a deal are running high in Iran, and the government appears to be doing much less than it might to discourage them.

TIME TIME for Thanks

John Kerry: What I’m Thankful For

John Kerry
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Chancellery in Berlin on Oct. 22, 2014. Pool/Getty Images

I’ve spent Thanksgiving in some surreal settings: I was just an 11-year-old kid, my Diplomatic Passport yanked away by my Dad after I’d mischievously biked through the Brandenburg Gate to explore East Berlin, when my family celebrated Thanksgiving in a bitterly divided Berlin; fifteen years later, I marked the holiday with five other sailors and a luke-warm plate of scrambled eggs on a patrol boat in Vietnam; and then as a Senator, in 2007, Teresa and I spent part of Thanksgiving weekend awe-struck in the presence of a frail but fearless Nelson Mandela.

So I am particularly thankful this year to know that we live in a world where near-miraculous change is possible – where Cold War rivalry could give way to a united Germany and a democratic Europe; where war-torn Southeast Asia could become a magnet for investment and growth; and where the hard rain of apartheid could end with the dawn of a new era marked by reconciliation and truth.

Faith in our collective power to resolve seemingly intractable problems is a gift that should inspire us all this Thanksgiving, for there is certainly no shortage of challenges to engage our determination, our will, and our perseverance.

So I’m especially grateful for the family and friends who sustain us, who prod us not to take ourselves so seriously even as we take our responsibility seriously, and I give thanks for the people whose names many will never know, those who care for the sick and the hurt, often at grave risk to themselves.

I give thanks for the activists and “trouble-makers” across the globe who speak up each day on behalf of better government, more opportunity, and greater respect for the rule of law.

I give thanks for all who defend their own dignity and rights while still honoring the rights of others, for the healers who build bridges between rivals, for the teachers of forgiveness, and for the architects of peace.

I give thanks for the scientists who have alerted us to the dangers of climate change and to the advocates of conservation and the innovators in clean energy who are striving to preserve the health of our planet.

I give thanks for those who risk their lives to ensure access to quality education for every girl, every boy, everywhere — and to end violence against women.

I am grateful for truth-telling journalists, bloggers, photographers, and artists, particularly those who have lost their lives in that struggle.

And I am grateful for those who serve in our armed forces and diplomatic missions at home and abroad – brave men and women defending liberty, advancing democracy, combating evil, and keeping good people safe.

Above all, I give thanks for those who rebel against the counsels of complacency and defeatism – and who welcome the opportunity to achieve what others say cannot be done.

There’s no greater gift than the one we all have every day whether we know it or not: waking up every day as American citizens with the opportunity to make the world a little more safe, a little more just, and a little more free, and the responsibility always – always – always – to try.

John Kerry is the 68th U.S. Secretary of State.

TIME Environment

U.N.: Phase Out Fossil Fuels By 2100 Or Face ‘Irreversible’ Climate Impact

Aerial view of a power station
Jason Hawkes—Getty Images

"Science has spoken," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said

Greenhouse gas emissions may have to cease by the end of the century to keep global temperatures from reaching levels many scientists consider dangerous, the United Nations’ latest climate assessment suggests.

“Science has spoken,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in Copenhagen at Sunday’s launch of the fourth and final report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), CBS News reports. “There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”

The IPCC assessment, which incorporated the findings of three other reports over the past 13 months, reaffirms with 95% certainty that global climate change is both real and a mostly man-made problem — a conclusion it shared in an earlier report. The entire project, which reviewed approximately 30,000 studies about climate, also suggests that if greenhouse gas emissions continue without intervention, there could be “irreversible” impacts, such as rising sea levels, more frequent heat waves and even a change in the human population’s male-female ratio.

To halt climate change, countries around the world will have to wean themselves off fossil fuels, which emit greenhouse gases when burned, in favor of more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy sources, the IPCC report concluded. Last month, leaders of 28 European nations agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to at least 40 percent of 1990 levels by the year 2030.

“We have the means to limit climate change,” said Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC. “All we need is the will to change, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change.”

Meteorologists already reported last month that 2014 could be the hottest year on record. If climate change continues, billions of dollars in seaside property could be destroyed, while some states could see crop yields drop by as much as 70%. Climate change could also likely cause a rise in various infectious diseases, world hunger, respiratory problems and heat-related illnesses, such as cardiac arrest and heat stroke.

The report’s findings contrast with the American public perception of climate change. Only 54 percent of people in the U.S. this summer reported that they believe current climate change is caused by human activity. In September, however, thousands of people took to the streets of New York City to put pressure on world leaders during the People’s Climate March, one of the largest environmental events ever.

In a statement about the latest report, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, “Those who choose to ignore or dispute the science so clearly laid out in this report do so at a great risk for all of us and for our kids and grandkids.”

[CBS]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 14

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

1. Fix the system, don’t fight individual diseases: Why Ebola may change how aid dollars are spent on healthcare in Africa.

By Lesley Wroughton at Reuters

2. Plan for a global body to regulate the great promise of genetics — balancing unfettered innovation with sensible rules to prevent abuse.

By Jamie F. Metzl in Foreign Affairs

3. Because it increases disease and exacerbates resource scarcity, the Pentagon sees climate change as a threat multiplier.

By Laura Barron-Lopez in the Hill

4. The U.S. should call out Egypt’s rising authoritarian leadership and the plight of repressed people there.

By the Editorial Board of the Washington Post

5. Successful community collaborations build civic confidence for increasingly audacious projects that can improve lives.

By Monique Miles in the Collective Impact Forum blog

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 Syria

Kerry Says Kobani’s Fate Is Not Key to U.S. Strategy in Fighting ISIS

The Secretary of State calls the situation in Kobani a tragedy, but insists that the enclave does not “define” the American-led coalition’s battle plans

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said keeping Kobani out of ISIS’s hands was not the top priority for the coalition of nations bombarding the Sunni extremist group in Iraq and Syria.

He voiced concern over the potential fall of the besieged Kurdish enclave, also known as Ayn al-Arab, to extremist militants, but was quick to note that the city’s survival did not “define” the U.S.-led coalition’s strategy.

“Kobani is one community, and it’s a tragedy what is happening there,” Kerry told reporters during a press conference in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. “We have said from Day 1 it is going to take a period of time to bring the coalition thoroughly to the table to rebuild some of the morale and capacity of the Iraqi army and to begin to focus where we ought to be focusing first, which is in Iraq.”

Kerry’s admission comes as coalition forces steadily increase the number of air strikes targeting ISIS forces surrounding the conflict-torn city in northern Syria. If it falls under ISIS control, it will give the terrorist group a large strategic corridor running along the Turkish border.

U.S. Central Command confirmed launching three air strikes in Kobani on Sunday that “destroyed an [ISIS] fighting position and an [ISIS] staging area.” However, it appears the strikes have failed to reverse ISIS’s momentum.

Syrian Kurdish militia fighters, known locally as the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), have been battling thousands of heavily armed ISIS militants in and around Kobani for weeks. Despite exhibiting incredible tenacity, the YPG has steadily lost ground thanks to a lack of reinforcements and access to sophisticated weaponry.

Analysts have also expressed growing concern that the loss of Kobani to ISIS could reignite civil war in Turkey. Ankara continues to prevent thousands of Kurdish fighters and supplies from crossing the border into Syria — a move that sparked days of rioting across Turkey that claimed at least 33 lives.

Cemil Bayik, who helps lead the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), warned that the fall of Kobani would incite fresh insurrection in Turkey, during an interview with the New York Times published over the weekend.

“Negotiations cannot go on in an environment where they want to create a massacre in Kobani,” Bayik told the Times. “We cannot bargain for settlement on the blood of Kobani.”

The PKK, which backs the YPG, has kept a shaky cease-fire with Ankara since 2013, after three decades of bitter civil war.

Bayik went on to promise to “mobilize the guerrillas” if Turkish forces allowed a massacre to ensue after preventing Kurdish forces from entering the fight for the city. Human-rights groups and the U.N. have voiced similar concerns over an imminent humanitarian catastrophe.

If Kobani fell, up to “12,000 people, apart from the fighters, will be most likely massacred,” warned U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura on Friday.

On Sunday, ISIS boasted, in an article published by its official propaganda outlet, of taking Yezidi women as slaves during the group’s conquest of northern Iraq in August.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) confirmed the admission by ISIS. “The group has systematically separated young women and teenage girls from their families and has forced some of them to marry its fighters,” said HRW in a statement published on Sunday.

TIME Foreign Policy

Kerry Pledges $212M in U.S. Aid to Gaza

A Palestinian man stands atop the rubble of his house as he looks at the ruins of his neighborhood that was badly damaged during the 50-day war between the Hamas militant movement and Israel, in the east of Gaza City on Oct. 12, 2014.
A Palestinian man stands atop the rubble of his house as he looks at the ruins of his neighborhood that was badly damaged during the 50-day war between the Hamas militant movement and Israel, in the east of Gaza City on Oct. 12, 2014. Mohammed Salem—Reuters

The funds will help the region rebuild following a destructive 50-day war this summer

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged $212 million in new aid to help rebuild Gaza after the region accumulated heavy damage during this summer’s 50-day war between Israel and Hamas.

Kerry made the announcement on Sunday as diplomats from more than 40 countries gathered in Cairo to pledge humanitarian aid, the New York Times reports. The U.S. previously provided $118 million in aid to Gaza earlier in 2014.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that approximately one-third of Gaza’s population was displaced by the violence and that the parts of the region are still plagued by blackouts and lack of access to water.

Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas has said that Gaza will need $4 billion to rebuild, and Qatar has already promised $1 billion toward that goal. U.S. officials suggest concerns for the region’s stability may hinder aid commitments among donors.

“There is the third time in less than six years that we have seen war break out and Gaza left in rubble,” Kerry said. “As long as there is a possibility that Hamas can fire rockets on Israeli civilians at any time, the people of Gaza will remain at risk of future conflict.”

[NYT]

TIME world affairs

A Serial Israel-Basher Shouldn’t Be Judging the Jewish State

Netherlands World Court Croatia Serbia
Members of the Serbian delegation, from left: Sasa Orbadovic, William Schabas, Andreas Zimmermann, Christian Tams and Wayne Jordash await the start of public hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday, March 3, 2014. Jiri Buller—AP

Rabbi Marvin Hier is Dean and Founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The appointment of William Schabas to head the inquiry mocks the U.S.'s judicial standards

The iconic Lady Justice holding evenly balanced scales reflects a truth that national traditions, the law, and, yes, common decency demand that judges should be above reproach. Mocking this baseline ethical standard, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) selected a notorious anti-Israel zealot—Canadian lawyer William Schabas—to head its latest “verdict first, trial later” inquisition against the Jewish state.

According to the U.S. Code governing judicial conduct, a judge should recuse himself or be disqualified if “his impartiality might be reasonably questioned” for “a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party.” That should have led the U.S. to immediately denounce a charade that violates American law and tradition and leaves open the possibility that this flawed international commission’s findings could set legal precedents that not only further demonize our Israeli ally, but could negatively impact Americans defending our nation against terrorists in the future.

Schabas is already on record that when it comes to Israel/Palestine; his primary motivation is “to talk about crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression that have been committed, all of which can be shown to have been perpetrated at various times during the history of the state of Israel.” His fondest hope would be to see Netanyahu “in the dock of an international court.” He’s even called for the prosecution for “war crimes” of Nobel Peace Prize winner, former Israeli President Shimon Peres.

It’s not too late for the U.S. to pull the plug on this travesty. This is why the Simon Wiesenthal Center has urged U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as well as Attorney General Eric Holder to declare the UNHRC’s new kangaroo court against Israel without legal standing in the U.S., before it perpetrates another “legal” lynching that brazenly mocks our basic judicial standards.

Various U.S. administrations have had their hands full with previous UN-based “inquiries.” The UNHRC, renamed from the Human Rights Commission to the Human Rights Council in 2006, is an organization with a sordid history of invoking the cause of “human rights” while suppressing action against the world’s worst human rights abusers. It casts a blind eye to the inhuman rights records of Saddam’s Iraq, the Assads’ Syria, Bashir’s Sudan, the mullahs’ Iran, the Saudis’ male-only theocracy, China’s Tiananmen tank crew, sadists’ targeting of Tibetan society, the geriatric Castro brothers and late Hugo Chavez’s Latin prison farms.

Why didn’t these outrages find the their way to the UNHRC’s podium? For the simple reason that many of the heads these Orwellian regimes served on the UNHRC, sometimes even chairing it.

The UNHRC has served as a virtual good old boys club controlled by the world’s worst human rights abusers—including Iran, Sudan, China, and Cuba. Their main goals: to protect themselves and their allies from the glare of global spotlight on their human rights abuses; and to assure each other of a whitewashed clean bill of health while piling nonstop one-sided resolutions on Israel condemning the Jewish state—not Hamas terrorists—for “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.” That first effort culminated in the 2009 Goldstone Report, which sought to degrade Israel’s ability to defend its civilians from non-state terrorists onslaughts. This report also set the stage for more international legal challenges to other democracies struggling against the transitional menace of terrorism. Its contents were so odious that Judge Goldstone ultimately repudiated it, implying he had been duped.

Here is an example of the kind of “guidance” from biased NGOs that the UNHRC relies on in drawing up its indictments against Israel. The International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD) characterized Israel as “the largest open-air prison in the world” and accused it of “loose hordes of marauding gangs of Israeli illegal settlers” so as to launch pogroms against Palestinians. In addition, EAFORD charged “the human organs” of “dead, kidnapped and killed Palestinians…can be a source of immense wealth through illegal trafficking in the world market. Israeli physicians, medical centers, rabbis and the Israeli army may to be involved.”

The Bush Administration belatedly disengaged from the UNHRC, but the Obama Administration has eagerly reengaged with it. To paraphrase what has been said of unsuccessful second marriages, the results of Obama’s “smart diplomacy” in the case of the UNHRC has been a triumph of misplaced hope over experienced evildoers.

The threats of another dose of legal demonization of an embattled Jewish state from UN “justice” are clear. We wrote not only to the U.S. Secretary of State but also to the Attorney General of the United States because the UNHRC’s perverted norms of justice threaten to enter the bloodstream of American society and mores. The resulting damage to our legal and societal norms could corrode the foundations upon which the American experiment was founded: freedom and fairness.

Rabbi Marvin Hier is Dean and Founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

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 Bizarre

The 35 Most Surprising Photos of the Month

From eating ice cream in the senate to kissing Tony Bennett, each photograph will give you an intriguing experience, as TIME shares the most outrageous images from September 2014

TIME Iraq

Iraq’s New Premier Says He’s ‘Happy’ With the Anti-ISIS Coalition

Al-Abadi says ISIS controls at least a quarter of Iraq and is very close to the capital, Baghdad

Iraq’s newly appointed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told CNN Tuesday he was “happy” that the U.S. and Arab coalition has joined the fight against ISIS.

But he warned that they must “do it right.”

“We have warned in the last two years: this is a danger,” he said, in one of his first international interviews. “It’s going to end in a bloodbath if nobody stops it and nobody was listening.

“They thought they were immune from this danger and only Iraq and Syria were on the spot of this danger but now I think we’re happy.”

Five Arab nations — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar — have joined the U.S. to fight the militant extremists who control vast swaths of Iraq and Syria.

Al-Abadi’s comments came after the coalition launched a series of strikes Tuesday against ISIS and Khorasan targets in Syria.

“I personally am happy that everybody is seeing this danger so that they are going to do something about it and I hope they do something about it and they do it right,” he said. “They don’t do it the wrong way.”

Sharing al-Abadi’s optimism, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday that no country could just stand by and do nothing when faced with the ISIS threat.

“I’ve been very encouraged, as I think all of us engaged in this are, by everybody else’s cooperation, by the overwhelming unity and support for Iraq’s new government,” he said. “No civilized country can shirk its responsibility to stop this cancer from spreading.”

Al-Abadi had been instrumental in pushing the international community to expand its campaign against the militants into Syria. But he criticized Washington for not working closely with Iraqi ground troops fighting ISIS, CNN reports.

“Our forces are moving forward and, when they are moving forward, they need air cover, they need air support,” he said, adding that ISIS controls at least 25% of Iraq and remain very close to the capital, Baghdad.

Al-Abadi must also attempt to mend the deep rifts in his own country between the Shi‘ite majority and the Sunni minority. “This is our country. And if we don’t work together, we don’t deserve a country,” he told CNN.

TIME Environment

U.S. Gives $15 Million to Help Cut Methane Emissions

"It is about time that world leaders come to the United Nations to recognize this threat in the way that it requires and demands"

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday pledged $15 million to help get the World Bank’s new initiative to cut methane emissions underway.

The Pilot Auction Facility for Methane and Climate Mitigation will use auctions to allocate public funds and private investment into projects around the globe that reduce methane emissions, including those that cut waste from landfills and treatment plants.

Addressing business leaders and government representatives at the opening of Climate Week NYC, Kerry said it was “about time” that world leaders recognized the “threat” of global warming.

“It gives me hope that this global summit may actually produce the leadership that is necessary to try to come together and move the needle to take advantage of the small window of time that we have left in order to be able to prevent the worst impacts of climate change for already happening,” he said.

Kerry urged leaders attending the U.N. Climate Change Summit in New York, which kicks off Tuesday, to “move and act now” on global warming, reports Responding to Climate Change.

The summit aims to engage governments and businesses into making real efforts to reduce climate change in preparation for an international agreement in 2015 to limit global warming to less than 2°C.

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