U.S. lawmakers voice increased concerns over slipping Western leverage in Iran nuke talks


Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) on Tuesday warned that sanctions relief provided to Iran by the current interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA) had bolstered the Iranians' negotiating position in nuclear talks with the West, and suggested that lawmakers in Washington would vote to boost the leverage of American negotiators in coming months. Casey’s remarks underscored longstanding concerns from Congressional lawmakers of both parties that the administration, which remains opposed to any such new legislation, nonetheless lacks sufficient leverage to extract meaningful concessions from Iran. They echo comments from other Democrats calling for increased pressure on Iran and increased Congressional oversight over the talks in general. Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) had in October blasted the administration in the aftermath of reports that administration was planning to circumvent Congress in securing a nuclear deal with Iran. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) last week told the Jerusalem Post that the Senate was eager to advance legislation that would boost Western leverage by signaling to Iran that, should it fail to accept a robust deal rolling back its nuclear program, it would face new financial restrictions. Graham signaled that a relevant bill would be moved through committee by the time President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address next week. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) more specifically told reporters last week that a 2013 sanctions bill coauthored with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), which was cosponsored by a majority of the Senate but which had never been brought to the floor for a vote, would be reintroduced in an updated form during the coming weeks.


The disastrous pipeline rupture in the Arava provides an opportunity to test out new cleanup methods from Israeli academia. In one of the worst environmental disasters in Israel’s history, between three and five million liters of raw crude oil gushed from a burst pipeline near the Evrona Nature Reserve in the Arava Desert on December 3 last year. In the chaotic days that followed, nature authorities employed many methods in the desperate race to contain the four-mile river of toxic oil and mitigate the deadly damage it caused to the Evrona’s plants and wildlife. This emergency also provided an unexpected opportunity for Israeli innovators to test their solutions for treating contaminated soil, and results have been encouraging. Prof. Yoel Sasson tells ISRAEL21c that he and Dr. Uri Stoin from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem set up a pilot trial together with the Swiss Man Oil Group (MOG) to test their breakthrough technology for treating contaminated soil. Less than a year ago, MOG licensed the solution from Yissum, the university’s technology-transfer company, and has been using it to clean up polluted sites from Siberia to Nigeria. Sasson and Stoin’s chemical reagent spray quickly decomposes hydrocarbon molecules from the oil into carbon dioxide and water, which are safe in nature and sewage systems. Sasson explains that six years ago, he and Stoin were focusing on a solution for detoxifying flue emissions from coal power plants. At the university’s Casali Institute of Applied Chemistry, their research team developed “scrubbers” containing oxidizing compounds to attack mercury and other toxic materials from flue emission and release leftover benign gases. (via Israel21c)

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