Secretary of State John Kerry

Image via Reuters/Denis Balibouse/RNS

Former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky famously said that President Ronald Reagan’s 1983 “Evil Empire” speech was a turning point for him and other prisoners in the Soviet gulag.

“For us, that was the moment that really marked the end for them, and the beginning for us,” recalled Sharansky in a 2004 interview.

He and fellow prisoners communicated the news between cells with taps on walls and toilets. They understood immediately that the truth about the Soviet Union would resound around the world: Reagan’s moral condemnation made indifference toward Soviet oppression unthinkable.

QR Blog Editor 04-02-2015
A nuclear deal between Iran and the US was reached today. Image via Aref.ahm/shu

A nuclear deal between Iran and the US was reached today. Image via Aref.ahm/shutterstock.com

The United States and Iran agreed to a preliminary deal on Iran's nuclear program today, Politico reports. The hotly anticipated deal, following stop-and-start negotiations and vocal concern from Republicans and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will include Iran dismantling two-thirds of its centrifuges and allowing rigiourous inspections by the IAEA through 2035 and beyond. In exchange for Iran's compliance, the U.S. and the E.U. will lift longstanding economic sanctions. 

President Obama was optimistic but pragmatic, saying the plan was a "good deal," according to Politico: 

"'[It is] a historic understanding with Iran which, if implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon. I am convinced that if this framework leads to a final deal, it will make our country and the world safer,' Obama said in a statement in the White House Rose Garden. The deal would 'cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.'

... Obama stressed in particular the inspection and verification aspects of the agreement. 'If Iran cheats, the world will know it. If we see anything suspicious, we will inspect it,' Obama said.

...'If there is backsliding on the part of the Iranians,' he said, 'there will be no deal.'"

The Win Without War coalition called the preliminary deal "huge news" in a statement, also released today:

"At a time when much of the Middle East is engulfed in war, the United States is on the verge of achieving one of our most pressing national security goals without dropping a single bomb. Today's progress towards a comprehensive, historic agreement between Iran, the United States, and our P5+1 partners not only ensures that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon, but it demonstrates precisely how America can win without war."

Details of the plan are anticipated in late June. Read more at Politico

 
Judd Birdsall 01-22-2014

Judd Birdsall is a former U.S. diplomat and a current doctoral candidate at Cambridge University. Photo: Courtesy Judd Birdsall

Barack Obama’s critics allege that the president doesn’t practice what he preaches on international religious freedom policy. Last week they pounced on an apparent gap between presidential rhetoric and reality.

On Thursday, the same day that Obama issued his annual Religious Freedom Day proclamation, Religion News Service published an article highlighting his administration’s failure to quickly nominate a new ambassador at large for religious freedom.

Suzan Johnson Cook resigned in October and a successor has yet to be named. It took the administration well over a year to nominate Johnson Cook in the first place, and then a skeptical Senate took an additional year to confirm her. During her brief tenure Johnson Cook never escaped criticism that she was unqualified for the job.

Even so, Obama used his proclamation to affirm, “America proudly stands with people of every nation who seek to think, believe, and practice their faiths as they choose.” He promised that his administration “will remain committed to promoting religious freedom.”

Jim Wallis 09-12-2013
Alexander Koerner/Getty Images

Syrian Refugees sit in the arrival hall after arriving at Hanover Airport on Sept. 11 in Germany. Alexander Koerner/Getty Image

I have been literally disgusted at how “politics” has dominated the media’s response and coverage of the Syria crisis. Millions of lives are at stake, as is the security of one of the most critical regions of the world. But all many of our media pundits can talk about is how this affects politics — i.e., how this could weaken President Obama’s second term or what this might mean for Obamacare.

I heard the same media blathering when I was in London last week when the Syria chemical weapons crisis broke through. “Does the vote in Parliament hurt the Prime Minister and help his opposition?” “Is the Labor Party now up, and the Tory down?”

Who cares?!

Oren Dorell 07-29-2013
Photo courtesy Petr Louzensky/Shutterstock.com.

Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Israel. Photo courtesy Petr Louzensky/Shutterstock.com.

As Israeli and Palestinian negotiators prepare for preliminary talks in Washington today, the future of Jerusalem — holy to three faiths — looms as the thorniest and most difficult issue to resolve.

The State Department announced Sunday that the two sides had accepted invitations from Secretary of State John Kerry to come to Washington “to formally resume direct final status negotiations.” The department said two days of initial meetings will begin this evening.

The announcement came shortly after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet approved the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners, a key part of the Kerry-brokered deal.

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