Congress moves to reassert oversight as nuke deal deadline approaches


Roll Call reported Thursday that lawmakers are preparing a series of steps aimed at reasserting Congressional oversight over the final contours of a nuclear deal between the P5+1 global powers and Iran, a few weeks after leaked audio revealed that the Obama administration has been planning for almost a year to circumvent the House and Senate in structuring the agreement. Bipartisan anger on the Hill has been running high since the emergence of the audio, which had been recorded at roughly the same time - last winter - that the State Department was assuring lawmakers that they would be given a role in shaping the talks' outcome. Roll Call quoted Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) telling reporters that "there will be a desire very quickly after the first of the year for Congress to weigh in on the topic in some form or fashion." Al Monitor's Congress Pulse quoted the same statement, reading it against the backdrop of "similar signals from current committee chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL)." The outlet outlined a recent letter penned by the two lawmakers, in which they emphasized that Iran should be forced to meet long-standing international demands regarding its atomic program. The letter maintained that an acceptable deal would have to "dismantle, not just stall, Iran’s illicit nuclear program" and would see Iran "coming clean on all possible military dimensions (PMD)." The Al Monitor article also conveyed Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), declaring that "the [insistence] on dismantlement continues to put Kirk and Menendez in the camp of those pushing for unrealistic demands." That insistence had been a condition laid down by the Obama administration and has been repeatedly emphasized as a critical prerequisite by huge majorities of Senators and House members. A NIAC staffer discussing sanctions on the Hill was blasted by the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2013 for pushing "propaganda put out by the Iranian regime."


Despite simmering tensions in Jerusalem, Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy and seminary students convened in the city recently around a shared vision of environmental stewardship at the Faith and Ecology Conference, each of them pledging a renewed commitment to integrating environmental education into faith-based teachings. More than 100 people attended the October 22nd meeting, which was part of the United Planet Faith and Science Initiative, a series of events taking place in Peru, New York and Jerusalem to coincide with UN climate-change talks. The conference featured a panel presentation by local priests, rabbis and imams including Bishop William Shomali of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Rabbi Yuval Cherlow of the Yeshivat Hesder in Petah Tikva, Member of Knesset Rabbi Dov Lipman and Dr. Nurit Hashimony Yaffe of the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yaffo. There were also interactive workshops, an outdoor session and a video message from senior religious leaders such as the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom. The goal of the gathering was not only to get participants thinking differently but also acting differently. One suggestion floated at these sessions inspired seminarians from the Salesian Pontifical University to state their intention to integrate environmental education into their youth programs, using some of the games they played in the outdoor session. Others plan to organize cleanup days or promote “green” policies in their faith institutions, such as introducing steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Just half an hour after the conference concluded, an Arab terror attack in northern Jerusalem wounded a dozen people and killed a three-month-old Jewish baby. Another victim later died of her injuries. Rabbi Michael Melchior, former Member of Knesset and co-founder of the Knesset environmental caucus, said that “the holy city of Jerusalem sometimes goes astray to points of violence, but really we can make it a gate to Heaven." (via Israel21c)

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