Posted on November 26, 2013 in Countdown

Hands Shaken

We have a deal. The U.S. (and other world powers) announced on Saturday that Iran has agreed to put the first significant limits on its nuclear program, in the most significant agreement reached between Tehran and the international community in decades. The agreement requires Iran to hold its uranium enrichment capacity in place for six months, under tight supervision, and in exchange, Iran receives temporary sanctions relief. The deal isn’t perfect and it’s not meant to be: it’s an interim agreement, which holds the status quo in place while negotiations continue, and it doesn’t depend on Iran keeping its word. There is still reason to be concerned, but this seems like the best we can hope for. And naturally, opponents are already embracing their go-to analogy: “Worse than Munich,” tweeted Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) (we’re guessing he didn’t mean the Spielberg movie). In a metaphor that goes over our heads, changes direction, and flies into the dirt, Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) says trusting Iran (which the deal doesn’t do) is “like betting on a blind horse on a wet track.” And before the deal was even announced, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, suggested it was meant as a distraction from Obamacare – because apparently President Obama knew, months ago, that the rollout of Obamacare would have issues, and planned this deal to come out right then – but couldn’t fix those issues. Makes perfect sense.

Egypt More Polarized Than Ever

If you can believe it, a new Zogby Research Services poll released to the public just today shows that Egypt is unfortunately more polarized and divided than ever. The poll released today is the third in a series ZRS has conducted since May, before Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the military. Though the country is divided – Egypt is split down the middle in its view of the military’s July 3 overthrow of the Morsi government – there is a bright side to the poll findings. Overall, 83% say Egypt will be better in a few years, and this sentiment is widely shared regardless of political leaning, with 72% of Freedom and Justice Party supporters and 96% of Tamarrud supporters in agreement. The way things have been playing out in Egypt, we certainly hope there is nowhere to go but up. That is, we hope Egypt will be able to achieve national reconciliation and move forward. Take a look at the data. You might be surprised what it tells us, but then again, if you’ve been following the sad state of affairs, you might not. We have faith in Egypt, though.

Congress May Give Obama More Leeway on Gitmo

In a refreshing bit of common sense from Congress, the Senate last week moved forward on legislation that will increase detainee transfers out of Guantanamo Bay. The language in the Senate’s proposed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) gives the President the authority to release detainees who are cleared for release by the intelligence community. He can also bring detainees to the United States, but only for medical treatment or to face trial for their crimes in a civilian federal court. Last week, the Senate rejected an amendment offered by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) to restrict detainee transfers, leaving the good language in the bill. We don’t want to say much, but hopefully, this might be the first, tiniest step to finally closing Guantanamo Bay.

Geneva II: So Far Not Looking Good

Free Syrian Army commander Gen. Salim Idris is refusing to stop fighting to attend the ‘Geneva II’ conference with Bashar al-Assad’s regime which is set to take place on January 22. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday, after months of awaited confirmation, finally announced the date and the purpose of the conference, to be “a vehicle for a peaceful transition that fulfills the legitimate aspirations of all the Syrian people.” If the parties involved actually show up, it will be the first meeting between the Syrian regime and opposition groups since the beginning of the 32-month long conflict. But General Idriss told Al Jazeera that “conditions are not suitable” for peace talks to convene in the near future. Consequently, the FSA is rejecting the call for a ceasefire for the duration of the conference. General Idris said the rebels “will not stop fighting, either before the conference or while it is taking place.” After all the bloodshed that has occurred, it’s no surprise that the government and opposition forces aren’t rushing to talk to each other, but certainly both sides must know they is no military solution to this conflict.

Politics is a Pendulum

How quickly things change. Just last month, the Republican brand looked tarnished, maybe irreparably so, by the government shutdown and near-default in September. CNN’s 2014 midterm election polling had the Democrats leading in the “generic ballot,” (i.e., “If the election were held today, which party would you vote for?”) 50-42%. But you know what they say – try to give someone healthcare, see your poll numbers crater. This month’s CNN poll was just released, and the Democrats’ edge is gone. The uproar over the extremely clunky rollout of Obamacare has now given the Republicans a 49-47% lead. It’s quite early – the CNN poll warns that a year before the 2010 midterms, Democrats had a six-point lead, and we all know how that turned out – but any advantage the Democrats got from the shutdown has apparently evaporated as quickly as a cancelled health insurance policy.


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