TIME China

China Proposes Ban on Smoking in Public Places

Beer Enthusiasts Gather For China's Largest Beer Festival
Chinese men take a smoke break during the 24th Annual Qingdao International Beer Festival on August 20, 2014 in Qingdao, China. Kevin Frayer—Getty Images

Ban would affect the country's 300 million smokers

Soon it could be illegal to smoke in public places in China, as the government considers tightening restrictions on the addictive habit.

The new rules, which are being presented to the public for the first time this week, would also ban smoking at certain outdoor areas like sports venues, restrict selling of tobacco to minors and force tobacco companies to include warnings about the dangers of smoking prominently on their package labels, the New York Times reports.

Smoking is incredibly popular in China: 300 million people partake regularly. It’s also cheap because, unlike in the U.S., the Chinese government doesn’t levy heavy taxes on tobacco products. Pro-smoking advertisements are even a common sight at schools. The World Health Organization had been pushing China to do more to curb smoking in the country for several years.

The reaction to the proposed rules has been largely positive so far, according to the Times. A local Beijing publication claims that 90% of the city’s residents support banning smoking at indoor public places.

[New York Times]

TIME United Nations

ISIS Got Up to $45 Million in Ransoms in Past Year, U.N. Says

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa
A member loyal to ISIS waves an ISIS flag in Raqqa, Syria on June 29, 2014. Reuters

(UNITED NATIONS) — The Islamic State group which controls a large swath of Syria and Iraq has received between $35 million and $45 million in ransom payments in the past year, a U.N. expert monitoring sanctions against al-Qaida said Monday.

Yotsna Lalji told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee that an estimated $120 million in ransom was paid to terrorist groups between 2004 and 2012.

Kidnapping for ransom “continues to grow,” she said, as demonstrated by the money the extremist group calling itself the Islamic State has collected, up to $45 million in just the past year.

She said in recent years that al-Qaida and its affiliates have made kidnapping “the core al-Qaida tactic for generating revenue.” She pointed to an October 2012 recording in which al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri incites militants worldwide to kidnap Westerners.

Lalji said al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which operates from Yemen, received $20 million in ransom between 2011 and 2013, and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates in North Africa, received $75 million over the past four years.

She said the al-Qaida-linked extremist groups Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Shabab in Somalia also “have collected millions of dollars over the past years,” and the Abu Sayyaf militant group in the Philippines has received about $1.5 million in ransom.

According to the al-Qaida sanctions committee, although the media focuses on international hostages who have generated the largest ransom payments, the vast majority of victims are nationals kidnapped within their own country.

Lalji said terrorist groups either carry out kidnappings themselves or in the case of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula they work with tribesmen in Yemen who deliver hostages for a fee.

Last week, President Barack Obama ordered a review of how the United States responds when its citizens are taken hostage overseas in light of the beheadings of Americans by Islamic State militants, but it will not include changing the longstanding U.S. policy of refusing to pay ransom. Many governments do pay ransom and some family members of those killed have complained that the U.S. did not take enough action in an attempt to save their loved ones.

TIME europe

Pope Urges ‘Aged and Weary’ Europe to Accept Migrants and Reject Hunger

Pope Francis delivers his speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on Nov. 25, 2014.
Pope Francis delivers his speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Nov. 25, 2014 Remy De La Mauviniere—AFP/Getty Images

The Pontiff uses address to the European Parliament to argue that migrants need "acceptance and assistance"

At many times in Europe’s turbulent history religious leaders have turned a blind eye to violence and discrimination. At other times faith itself has set the battleground. This awareness heightened both the strangeness and the poignancy of the Nov. 25 speech by Pope Francis to members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The Pontiff wasn’t the most obvious person to deliver hard truths to elected politicians about the rising threats to the democracies they serve, or, as head of the Catholic Church, to convey a blast against global corporations that undermine the democratic process by co-opting institutions, as he resonantly expressed it, to “the service of unseen empires.” Yet standing at the lectern at the center of the plenary chamber, peering through wire-rimmed reading glasses at his script, he did these things and more. The leader of a religion that has created its share of fractures made an eloquent plea for the European Union to rediscover its founding principles of “bridging divisions and fostering peace and fellowship.”

Many factors gave urgency to his words. Europe is grappling with soaring unemployment in the midst of global economic instability and the relentless problems of the euro zone. There is a war within its own borders while brutal conflicts on other continents affect the security of European nations and citizens. The interlocking challenges are compounded by voters’ dwindling trust in the political classes. In speaking to members of these classes, the Pope aimed, he said, “as a pastor to deliver a message of hope” to “a Europe that gives the impression of feeling aged and weary.” A glance around the chamber — built as a hemicycle to encourage members of the Parliament from different political groupings to see each other not as opponents but colleagues — reinforced just how timely that papal message was and the extent to which politicians have become, like the Catholic Church in its darker periods, part of the problem as well as its solution.

Pope Francis emphasized the centrality of human dignity and the equal value of every life. He did so to an assembly of 751 MEPs and other European officials that severely underrepresents the diversity of European populations — only 36.75% of lawmakers are women and only about 5% are from ethnic minorities — while substantially representing views that the Pope singled out for criticism. “One of the most common diseases in Europe, if you ask me, today is the loneliness of those who have no connection to others,” he said. This phenomenon could be observed among the isolated old and the alienated young, the poor and “in the lost gaze of the migrants who have come here in search of a better future.”

“Unity doesn’t mean uniformity,” the guest speaker told an audience overwhelmingly composed of middle-aged white men in suits. “In point of fact all real unity draws from the diversities that make it up.” To that audience he set out a list of priorities. It was, he ventured, “intolerable that people are dying each day of hunger while tons of food are thrown away each day from our tables.” He won a round of applause with a call “to promote policies that create employment but above all it is time to restore dignity to work by restoring proper working conditions.” He also highlighted Europe’s failure to achieve “a united response to the question of migration. We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast graveyard. The boats landing daily on Europe’s shores are filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance.”

Listening to him were members of mainstream parties who have contributed to that failure and representatives of fringe parties — now achieving such electoral success that they may not for much longer remain on the fringes — who are arguing for the dissolution of the European Union and the turning away of migrants. It seems unlikely that members of the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), or France’s hard-right National Front party will have been swayed by his words any more than Ian Paisley, at the time the apparently implacable voice of Northern Irish Protestant loyalism, could be persuaded to give a fair hearing to Pope John Paul II’s 1988 speech to the European Parliament, the last such address by a Pontiff to the body until Francis took the floor.

Eventually, however, Paisley did learn to stop bellowing and to prize peace above division, at least to some extent. European history is full of such encouraging examples alongside its gloomier lessons. Pope Francis reminded Europe of its capacity for good. In so doing, he continues to reassert the capacity of his office to do the same.

TIME Hong Kong

Fresh Clashes in Hong Kong Between Police and Pro-Democracy Protesters

A pro-democracy protester chants at an occupied area before the barricade is removed in Mong Kok district of Hong Kong on Nov. 25, 2014.
A pro-democracy protester chants at an occupied area before the barricade is removed in Mong Kok district of Hong Kong on Nov. 25, 2014 Kin Cheung—AP

Dozens were arrested including a prominent lawmaker

Hong Kong police charged, and used pepper-spray cannons, on peaceful pro-democracy protesters Tuesday night local time in a bid to clear streets in the Mong Kok district, location of one of city’s three protest areas.

Dozens of people, including firebrand lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, were arrested in clashes that took place in the vicinity of the luxurious Langham Place Hotel, popular with international visitors.

Colorful umbrellas, symbol of what has been termed the Umbrella Revolution, were hurriedly unfurled as mostly young protesters sought to protect themselves from pepper spray.

The atmosphere at the Mong Kok site, in the heart of the teeming Kowloon peninsula, had been tense for several hours after bailiffs dismantled barricades at a key intersection earlier in the day. The bailiffs were enforcing a civil injunction brought by transport companies objecting to the two-month occupation of the area by protesters, who are demanding free elections for this city of 7.2 million.

Scuffles broke out and arrests were made after police accused protesters of obstructing the court order and instructed the crowd — among them high school students still in school uniform — to disperse.

Police in riot gear then spent hours attempting to contain running groups of protesters, who attempted to erect fresh barricades in the densely populated narrow streets leading off Nathan Road, Kowloon’s main north-south thoroughfare. Pepper-spray cannon, mounted on mobile towers, were deployed and used liberally on the crowd.

After a tense standoff on Shantung Street, officers then charged, scattering demonstrators and arresting some who were unable to escape.

Just one block away, hundreds of tents where protesters have been sleeping for weeks remained untouched. A clearance action is expected Wednesday and is almost certain to lead to further clashes. For now, however, the mood on the streets is defiant.

“Police can’t take this all back,” 31-year-old protester Ryan Cheung told TIME. “They don’t have the right and they know they don’t have the right. They say it’s the law but that’s just an excuse.” Cheung said he would remain on the streets “as long as it goes on.”

Besides the Mong Kok site, protesters also occupy a significant portion of the downtown Admiralty district — the city’s largest protest area — with their tents pitched beneath the looming headquarters of the People’s Liberation Army and Central Government Offices. A small site in the Causeway Bay shopping district, popular with tourists, is also occupied.

With reporting by Elizabeth Barber / Hong Kong

TIME Italy

Shakespeare’s City of Love Plans to Build High-Rise Cemetery

The futuristic tower would be Verona's tallest building

An Italian company is planning to build the country’s first high-rise cemetery — a 33 storey tower with space for 24,000 graves — in Verona, the city where Shakespeare set Romeo and Juliet.

Council officials have given initial approval to plans submitted by Cielo Infinito (Infinite Sky), the company which offered €11.5 million ($14.3 million) for a plot of land on the eastern outskirts of the city.

Verona’s main cemetery has been completely encircled by buildings and can no longer expand, a city spokesman told The Times, explaining why the plan won support.

As cities around the world expand and space to bury bodies decreases, other countries have turned to high-rise cemeteries as a solution: the tallest currently stands at 32 storeys in Santos, Brazil, while Israel and India are also planning their own vertical graveyards.

[The Times]

TIME ebola

The U.N. Says It Cannot Meet Its Dec. 1 Target Date for Containing Ebola

TOPSHOTS-SLEONE-HEALTH-EBOLA-WAFRICA
A cemetery at the Kenama Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone run by the Red Cross Society on Nov. 15, 2014 Francisco Leong—AFP/Getty Images

"Intense" transmission of the virus in West Africa, especially in Sierra Leone, continues to bedevil efforts

The U.N. mission responsible for responding to the Ebola outbreak will miss its Dec. 1 target for containing the disease because of rising transmission rates in the West African countries of Sierra Leone and Mali.

Anthony Banbury, the head of the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), told Reuters that though progress has been made in some areas — including in Liberia, one of the countries hardest hit by the current outbreak — setbacks elsewhere have put the mission off its target.

UNMEER said in September that it hoped to have 70% of Ebola patients in treatment, and 70% of Ebola victims safely buried, by the start of next month. But just 13% of Ebola patients have been isolated in Sierra Leone, according to a UNMEER statement.

“Progress is slow and we are falling short, and we need to accelerate our efforts,” said Amadu Kamara, the U.N.’s Ebola crisis manager for Sierra Leone, in a statement.

The Ebola virus has killed some 5,459 people worldwide, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The most recent World Health Organization situation report, released on Friday, describes transmission rates in all three countries as “intense.”

Mali, which was believed to be Ebola-free after a toddler’s death from the virus there in October, said on Monday that an eighth person in the nation had tested positive for the disease.

Still, UNMEER said that it is hopeful that efforts to stop the virus in Mali will benefit from lessons learned in the three nations still reeling from Ebola.

Banbury also told Reuters that Liberia was a bright point in the mission’s efforts to contain the virus.

Liberia’s President expressed optimism at a ceremony on Monday that her country, whose economy has been gutted by the outbreak, could still reach its goal of no new Ebola cases by Christmas.

“We’ve set a pretty tough target,” said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Associated Press reports. “But when you set a target, it means that you stay focused on that target and on that goal.”

TIME Crime

Mexican Cartel Drug Trafficker Sentenced to 22 Years

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman
This Feb. 22, 2014, file photo shows Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the head of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, being escorted to a helicopter in Mexico City following his capture overnight in the beach resort town of Mazatlan Eduardo Verdugo—AP

Prosecutors say Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez is a lieutenant for Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman

Vowing to send a message to drug traffickers around the world, a U.S. judge sentenced Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez, 59, to 22 years in prison for his role in a billion dollar narcotics trafficking conspiracy.

Hernandez, reputed to be a lieutenant in a Mexican drug cartel led by Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, asked for “forgiveness and pity” moments before the sentence was read out, reports the Associated Press.

Chief U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo was unmoved, however. “I tell you on behalf of all citizens of Chicago … we are tired of this drug trafficking,” he said.

Hernandez pleaded guilty of possessing heroin and cocaine with intent to distribute. However, his attorney, Paul Brayman, requested the minimum 10-year sentence, maintaining that “anything more … is a death sentence,” considering his client’s advanced years.

The prosecution relied primarily on the testimony of twins Pedro and Margarito Flores, former associates of the Sinaloa cartel turned government witnesses. They portrayed Hernandez as a close aide who helped Guzman move tons of illicit drugs from Mexico to Chicago within furniture cargo.

In mitigation, Brayman said Hernandez was merely an auto-mechanic caught in a one-off drug deal while the testimony of the Flores twins could not trusted, as they had to have cut a deal with prosecutors.

Castillo maintained that while the legitimacy of what the twins said could be called into question, it was not the ranking of Hernandez within the cartel that mattered. The judge also questioned the portrayal of Hernandez as an hapless auto-repairman caught in the act for which he was extradited to Chicago in 2012.

“I am not going to sit here … and think for one second this was the first time you happened to do this,” said Castillo.

After hearing the sentence, Gabriel Vasquez, the 43-year-old son of Hernandez, told reporters his father was “not the monster that everyone says he is,” and that the sentence was too harsh.

[Associated Press]

TIME Asia

More Barricades Come Down at Hong Kong Democracy Protests

City bailiffs encounter no major opposition

Hong Kong bailiffs dismantled barricades at a major intersection in the Mong Kok protest area on Tuesday.

The site, on the teeming Kowloon peninsula, is one of three urban locations that have been occupied for almost two months by protesters demanding free elections for this city of 7.2 million.

Workers in white hard hats started taking down barricades at the intersection of Nathan Road and Argyle Street on Tuesday morning. Many activists did not resist but simply retreated with their tents and belongings to the main part of the site, which stretches for several blocks down Nathan Road and remains untouched. However, scuffles also broke out, pepper spray was used and about a dozen protesters were arrested for obstructing the bailiffs in their work, including Liberal Hong Kong politician Leung “Long hair” Kwok-Hung.

One-way traffic has now resumed on Argyle Street, but protesters and onlookers have spilled into adjoining roads. Police presence remains high in the area, with officers warning people to leave. Further clearance operations are expected in the coming days.

This morning’s action was taken in order to enforce a civil injunction granted to a bus company and two taxi companies, who successfully argued in court that the barricades at the intersection were obstructing their business.

Similar legal means were used last week to force the removal of some barricades at the fringes of the main protest site in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong Island.

Critics of the authorities say the reliance on private litigation to restore order is a sign of the government’s weakness.

“I think this is a political problem that the government is not solving with politics,” said a 50-year-old retiree, who only identified himself by his surname Lim.

Unique among Hong Kong’s three protest sites, Mong Kok is not just a commercial area but a high-density residential neighborhood as well.

Currently dozens, perhaps hundreds, of colorful tents still festoon both sides of Nathan Road, completely blocking the main thoroughfare through the district. Protesters have set up a study area, makeshift library, supply tents, first-aid posts and even an elaborate altar to the martial deity Guan Yu.

Many of the area’s mostly blue-collar residents have complained bitterly about the disruption the protest is causing to their daily lives, generating heated arguments and scuffles with the protesters on a daily basis. The area is thus seen as the “front line” of the Hong Kong protests and attracts a more radical brand of demonstrator than the other protest zones, as well as their more vociferous opponents.

For these reasons, any attempt to clear the Mong Kok site completely could easily spill over into clashes.

On Oct. 17, police cleared the site in the morning, only for thousands of supporters to reclaim it after nightfall. That night, and ones before that, were marred with scattered violence.

“If they remove this roadblock, we will come back soon,” said a nurse who identified himself as Siu at the protest site in Mong Kok.

While recent polls have shown that a majority of the city’s residents now think that the occupations should end, it appears that large numbers of protesters have no intention of withdrawing.

With reporting by Helen Regan and David Stout / Hong Kong

TIME Military

New Defense Secretary, Same Old Strategy

Obama Announces Resignation Of Chuck Hagel As Defense Secretary
President Obama listens as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announces he is resigning after less than two years as defense chief. Alex Wong / Getty Images

Hagel's sudden departure fixes the wrong problem—the lack of a clear, achievable ISIS strategy

Last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declared that the U.S. war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria was on track. “There’s no official review of any of the decisions that the President has made, or strategy,” Hagel told Charlie Rose.

This week, he’s out of his Pentagon job, even as the same old Obama Anti-ISIS Express continues barreling down that track.

So how much change can be expected following Hagel’s announcement Monday that he is leaving the Defense Department’s top civilian post after 20 months? Or, by handing Hagel his walking papers, is President Obama now suggesting his ISIS strategy is fine?

Washington immediately began debating the reasons for Hagel’s surprising departure. Obama supporters argued that Hagel’s low-key demeanor made him a good choice two years ago, when the issues were winding down wars and budget cuts, but ill-fitted to the offensive U.S. military push ISIS now needs. His backers blamed an insular National Security staff that shut him out of key decisions that led to bad blood between the White House and Pentagon.

Current and former Obama Administration officials say the problem was more policy than personnel. The roots of the problem, they say, are closer to the Oval Office—involving close-hold decision-making by Obama, Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough and National Security Adviser Susan Rice—than at the Pentagon.

“Not sure what kind of Kool-Aid they are drinking if they think that getting rid of Hagel—and not the National Security Advisor who’s flailing to handle the [ISIS] problem—is going to make things better,” one former Obama Administration official says.

Hagel’s leaving “is not an obvious fix for what seems to be ailing the administration,” says Peter Feaver, a civil-military relations expert at Duke University. When President George W. Bush eased out Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2006 (also following a White House drubbing in midterm elections), it included changing strategy by sending a surge of U.S. troops into Iraq.

“But there doesn’t seem to be any interest in the Obama administration to change the strategy,” Feaver adds. “What we have here is a change in personnel, without a change in policy.”

Retired Army general Jack Keane, who advocated for the surge in Iraq, says the White House has meddled with Pentagon prerogatives as the ISIS threat has grown over the past year, including videotaped beheadings of five Westerners, three of them American. “The policy is wrong and Hagel was pushing back on it,” Keane says, confirming what some Pentagon officials say privately.

Defense officials say White House meetings on dealing with ISIS often ended without a decision, which would be made later by Obama, aided by National Security Advisor Susan Rice and her deputy, Ben Rhodes. “That’s very frustrating for a secretary of defense,” Keane adds, “who feels on the outside when it comes to issues that are in their domain.”

Rice has long been a target inside the administration, even as she garnered sympathy as a Congressional scapegoat in the post-Benghazi hullaballoo. “The problems reach much higher than the secretary of defense,” a second Obama national-security aide said.

Much of Capitol Hill concurs. “The President needs to realize that the real source of his current failures on national security more often lie with his Administration’s misguided policies and the role played by his White House in devising and implementing them,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said. He’s the likely next chairman of the Armed Services Committee, which will confirm Hagel’s successor. “That is the real change we need right now,” McCain said in a statement.

Hagel fought for a tougher approach in Syria, and wrote a recent memo to Rice calling for more clarity about dictator Bashar Assad’s fate. Assad’s continued hold on power has bedeviled U.S. strategy toward ISIS, which is one of several rebel groups seeking to overthrown him. “Hagel had been a bit more hawkish on Syria,” Feaver says. “Perhaps replacing him is an indication that the President’s not going to be moving in a more hawkish direction there.”

Fat chance. Republican lawmakers are making clear following Hagel’s announcement that they want a new strategy for dealing with ISIS, as well as a new secretary of Defense.

– With reporting by Zeke Miller

TIME Iran

Why Iran and the U.S. Need Each Other More Than Ever

Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif before a meeting in Vienna, Nov. 23, 2014.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif before a meeting in Vienna, Nov. 23, 2014. Ronald Zak—Reuters

Once, each needed the other to be their defining enemy. Now, both sides need the other to help resolve a freshly delayed nuclear deal

Even in the absence of a deal, word that talks between Iran and six world powers will continue for another seven months make plain a startling new reality: Iran and the United States now need each other.

That has been true for three decades, of course, but during that time what each found in the other was a reliable enemy. After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the ayatollahs who took control in Iran built their entire world view around opposition to the United States, which had propped up the Shah the masses sent packing (and helped engineer a coup against an elected Iranian government in 1953). The presence of the Great Satan allowed the mullahs’ vision to emerge – of a world defined by the teachings of Islam, as interpreted by themselves alone, and free of “Western toxification.” From the U.S. side, the 444-day takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, and holding of 52 American hostages, has made the Islamic Republic the country’s go-to villain for more than a generation.

But grudges aren’t all there is to politics. Interests often trump feelings, and Tehran and Washington share a deep interest in reconciling the future of Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

The stakes for the U.S. are plain enough: Barring Iran from the means to develop a nuclear weapon undetected would not only keep a doomsday weapon from a historically radical regime, but also prevent a nuclear arms race in the world’s most reliably volatile region. And now that U.S. troops are back in Baghdad, and poised to remain in Afghanistan past the original Dec. 31, 2014 deadline, the Obama administration needs a clear foreign policy “win” more than ever.

Iran’s interests are not hard to see either – at least some of them aren’t. It wants to avoid being drawn into conflict, and, more immediately, wants relief from the devastating economic sanctions that Obama marshaled to coerce Tehran to the bargaining table. In an economy 80% controlled directly by the state, the estimated $100 billion lost so far has been a body blow to the regime. Among the losers is the financially rapacious Revolutionary Guard, an ideological military wrapped up with economic interests. Iran’s treasury is also stretched supporting its Hizballah and its ally Syria in that country’s civil war while oil prices plummet.

Iran may be wondering whether it even needs to become a nuclear state. It is coming off a string of battlefield successes, including a little-noticed takeover of Yemen by the Shiite al-Haouthi tribe supported by Tehran, and is fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in Iraq, where it wields huge influence. “We in the axis of resistance are the new sultans of the Mediterranean and the Gulf,” the Iranian analyst Sadiq Al-Hosseini said on state television Sept. 4. At this rate, getting The Bomb might seem like an unnecessary hassle.

At the same time, pressure for a deal only builds among Iran’s youthful population—over 60% of whom are aged 30 or under—and the mullahs fear their own people as any government does. That’s been in evidence since the surprise first-round election of Hassan Rouhani as president last year, on a platform of ending Iran’s international isolation, and could be seen as recently as mid-November, when hundreds of thousands of young people gathered to mourn a pop singer, in a potent reminder of the lasting potential for spontaneous demonstrations and the appetite of youth for connection.

“If that is not a big referendum on the status quo, I don’t know what is,” says Abbas Milani, head of Iranian studies at Stanford University. “Things like this happen on a daily basis, and I think Rouhani has recognized that the society has already moved.”

Other observers see the glass as half empty, or even less. Ray Takeyh, who follows Iran for the Council on Foreign Relations, agrees that, unlike previous negotiations, the mullahs have signaled ownership of the process: “This negotiating team is not called ‘the negotiating team,’” he notes. “It’s called ‘children of the Revolution.’’’ But whatever interests the U.S. and Iran may share, he says, are overwhelmed by those they don’t.

“Arms control agreements are based on trust,” Takeyh says. “Each side has to trust the other. When they don’t trust each other, they both demand reversible steps that prevent years-old enmity from evaporating. I think that’s the reason you can’t get an arms control agreement. I think they both want to solve the nuclear issue, but at this point on terms that are unacceptable to each other.”

Still, they are talking, and holding to the terms of their previous agreement for seven more months. That might not be long enough to repair three decades of mistrust — but it might yet be enough to find that elusive patch of common ground on which to build a deal.

Read next: Iran Nuclear Talks to Be Extended Until July

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