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I'm going to dedicate today's news section to the deal struck in Geneva last night, using a mix of news stories, tweets and commentary to share what I witnessed last night and the reactions last night and today.   While I know that it was just a first step and that there is a long way to go, and that many people in our Congress are seeking to undermine it, and others in the world, it was a massive step forward toward peace, in my opinion and it has huge support and momentum among huge numbers of people around the world.

Last night's "peace watch" was really something to behold.  On a Saturday night, and for Europeans and Middle Easterners, an all nighter, people all over the world were on social media watching and waiting to see if there would be a deal negotiated by P5+1 and Iran.  We knew on Friday night that they were close because the foreign ministers flew in again.  For hours, there was back and forth news that there was a deal, there wasn't a deal, etc.  Reporters from a number of different countries hung out in the lobby of the Intercontinental hotel in Geneva, sending out messages of anticipation, frustration and hope over Twitter where thousands or millions, it's hard to know, were monitoring them.  Everyone seemed to believe it was going to happen but were also bracing themselves for a last minute failure like the one that happened just a couple of weeks ago when France sabotaged the deal at the last minute.

Along with all of the messages came the background color, the jokes and the quips.  It was quite an international waiting party and underneath it all was a positive energy and unity among peoples who are supposed to be adversaries that was so refreshing and powerful.  I'm sure the sentiments around the world would have been the same without social media, but social media allows us to share it and experience it together.  Television, radio and print media is no longer the gatekeeper and the only way we can get our information.  In the past, we'd only know what people in other countries were thinking and feeling by guessing, or watching/listening to/reading their news organization, if we even had access to that, and usually after the fact.  Social media, for all its faults, allows us to experience it together, in real time.  The various contacts in different countries are easily found or with the journalists on the scene as the nerve center, and journalists use Twitter extensively, people pass around the names and Twitter IDs of the best people to follow.

Another thing that was really interesting was that the media in Iran was the "go to" place for leaks about what was happening in the negotiating rooms.  It became apparent that the Iranian delegation was giving information to their media while most other countries were playing things close to the vest, which to be fair, is probably standard procedure during critical negotiations like this. But Iran has so much invested in this, and it seemed that while the citizens of most other countries were paying much less attention to the negotiations, especially on a Saturday night, a much bigger percentage of Iranians have been paying close attention and were last night.  The reactions after the deal was announced were pretty profound. While there was some unhelpful declaring of "victory" and such, others were the reactions of the massive youth generation expressing relief that they were not going to war.  A few Iranians that I was following were trying to communicate the reactions that they heard or sensed from young people in Iran.  

We did get some immediate negative reactions from some of the usual suspects, which was not surprising, but overall, the positive drowned out the negative.  And it was incredible to see the stark contrast between the conversation going on among international social media correspondence on Twitter and the reports on CNN where Wolf Blitzer made the deal sound ominous and CNN played and replayed footage of nuclear plants and workers in Iran, over and over.  They hardly had any footage from Geneva itself and spent most of their air time, while waiting for the go/no go word on the deal, then waiting for Pres. Obama's speech scheduled at 10:15pm.  It's hard to even express how different the message coming from CNN was compared to the messages and sentiments emanating from the people in Geneva and those watching and "talking" on social media all over the world. I think the same will be true of the Sunday news shows today. I'm wonder if Americans who rely on such media will ever know how things really were.  It probably will bubble up to the surface in other ways, especially for the younger generations who get less and less of their news from traditional media. At least I hope so.  

The joint statement issued by Catherine Ashton and Iran's Zarif. It's being reported that these two individuals are the ones, without whom, this would not have happened.

Joint Statement by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Iran Foreign Minister Zarif Geneva, 24 November 2013

The EU High Representative and the Foreign Minister of Iran, together with the Foreign Ministers and Political Directors of the E3+3 (China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States), met from 20 – 24 November 2013 in Geneva.

After intensive negotiations, we reached agreement today on a joint plan of action which sets out an approach towards reaching a long-term comprehensive solution. We agreed that the process leading to this comprehensive solution will include a first-step on initial reciprocal measures to be taken for both sides for a duration of six months.

We also share a strong commitment to negotiate a final, comprehensive solution.
The adoption of the joint plan of action was possible thanks to a sense of mutual respect and a determination to find a way forward which is beneficial for all of us.
The implementation of this first step creates the time and environment needed for a comprehensive solution, which remains the shared goal and on which talks will begin soon. The work on the implementation of this first step will begin shortly. We look forward to swift implementation, which we will jointly monitor, in close coordination with the IAEA.

Today's agreement is a significant step towards developing our relationship in a more constructive way

This was the first official word, I'm pretty sure (though many other negotiators and world leaders sent things out too).  It was retweeted 5,585 times so far.

The Guardian has a series of stories aggregated on their front page. In some of these stories you can find the details of the deal, and a Q&A, and various reactions.

Iran seals nuclear deal with west in return for sanctions relief
Barack Obama hails historic accord as first step towards resolution of decade-old impasse over Iran's nuclear programme
Iran nuclear agreement: Q&A with Julian Borger
Binyamin Netanyahu condemns Geneva deal as 'historic mistake'
Ian Black: Saudi Arabia and Gulf react with caution to agreement
Iran nuclear agreement: the key points
Lady Ashton's triumph in Geneva takes centre stage


Iran nuclear deal clinched

(Reuters) - Iran and six world powers clinched a deal on Sunday curbing the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for initial sanctions relief, signaling the start of a game-changing rapprochement that could ease the risk of a wider Middle East war.

Aimed at ending a long festering standoff, the interim pact between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia won the critical endorsement of Iranian clerical Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

WaPo.  This is being called a "nuclear deal" but we all know that it is much more than that.  I think there is still some ambiguity on Iran's explicit right, ability, authority to continue enriching, or rather some room for differences in translation.  Some of the journalists "in the know" were saying, early on, that this was intentional. It was also the sticking point.  We'll know more about this in the coming days.  Based on the conversations I saw last night, I would seek out the writings and opinions of experts from more than one country and not just rely on what is being reported in US media.  And also remember that this is just the first step in a multi-step set of negotiations.  It's imperative, given that our Congress is heavily influenced by lobbies who strongly oppose the deal or any deal, that Obama portray this as something that shuts down Iran's capability to enrich uranium and makes it impossible for them to build nuclear weapons.  Iran says this deal should make it clear that they have no nuclear weapon ambitions and that they haven't had those ambitions since they shut down their program years ago.
Iran, world powers reach historic nuclear deal

The agreement, sealed at a 3 a.m. signing ceremony in Geneva’s Palace of Nations, requires Iran to halt or scale back parts of its nuclear infrastructure, the first such pause in more than a decade.

“It is important that we all of us see the opportunity to end an unnecessary crisis and open new horizons based on respect, based on the rights of the Iranian people and removing any doubts about the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program,” Zarif told reporters in English. “This is a process of attempting to restore confidence.”

The deal, intended as a first step toward a more comprehensive nuclear pact to be completed in six months, freezes or reverses progress at all of Iran’s major nuclear facilities, according to Western officials familiar with the details. It halts the installation of new centrifuges used to enrich uranium and caps the amount and type of enriched uranium that Iran is allowed to produce.

Iran also agreed to halt work on key components of a heavy-water reactor that could someday provide Iran with a source of plutonium. In addition, Iran accepted a dramatic increase in oversight, including daily monitoring by international nuclear inspectors, the officials said.

One more thing: The Loya Jirga approved of the forever war agreement between the US and Afghanistan.  Karzai is still hedging, wanting to delay signing it until his successor is chosen in April.  I assume that there is a lot of money on the table, and not just the money that is written into any deal.  The CIA openly admits that there is black budget money thrown around in Afghanistan, some of it in plastic trash bags.  Money for contracts and other things are probably less obvious, and side deals that we'll probably never know about.  I suspect that Karzai will be pressured to change his mind on this by the end of the year. So from what I can tell, the only thing standing between an indefinite war for us in Afghanistan and some other solution is our Congress.  They take up the NDAA bill and hopefully the Merkley et al amendment requiring Congressional approval of such extensions of war.
Afghanistan's Karzai rejects elders' advice to back U.S. deal quickly

(Reuters) - An assembly of Afghan elders endorsed a crucial security deal on Sunday to enable U.S. troops to operate in the country beyond next year, but President Hamid Karzai left the matter up in the air by refusing to say whether he would sign it into law.

The gathering, known as the Loya Jirga, had been convened by the president to debate the pact which outlines the legal terms of continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. It voted in favor and advised Karzai sign it promptly.

But Karzai, in his final remarks to the four-day meeting, said he would not sign it until after a presidential election due next April.

And then there is Libya.  My understanding is that Kerry came straight to Geneva after working with Afghanistan, operating on very little sleep, and then went straight to London after signing the deal in Geneva. This news from the administration says that in London he will also be meeting with the PM of Libya, and we know that the Obama admin is considering sending US troops there because the country is destabilized.


Stop Watching Us.

The revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance apparatus, if true, represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights. We demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA's spying programs.

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

Apparently all the print media journos were shut out of the ceremony at the UN building and only TV media was allowed. This after these journos waited and reported from the Intercontinental Hotel, day and night, for days.

Funny or joy, relief?

Earlier, before the deal was announced:

More Tunes

Earth Wind and Fire- Shining Star

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