Middle East

Senate Democrats are on the verge of delivering a big win to President Obama on the nuclear agreement between the U.S., Iran and five other world powers.

With three more Democrats announcing Tuesday they were backing the accord, it gave supporters enough votes to prevent the passage of a disapproval resolution. Any such resolution would sink the White House-backed nuclear deal that lifts sanctions on Tehran in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Sen. Richard Blumenthal announced on Tuesday that he will support the Iran nuclear plan. Speaking in Hartford, he said, "Rejecting this agreement is fraught with unacceptable risk."

With thousands of Syrian refugees and other migrants finally reaching havens in Germany and other European countries — and thousands more arriving daily — the Obama administration says it's "actively considering" ways to help, including allowing more refugees into the U.S.

The migrant crisis has placed stress on infrastructure in Greece, Macedonia and Hungary. It has also highlighted divisions between European Union countries.

The leader of Iran's legislature has definite views on his country's nuclear deal with world powers.

Ali Larijani says the agreement is good enough. He adds that United States' reading of that deal, particularly when it comes to sanctions, is not good at all. And he's hoping that the agreement brings change in his country — though not as much as many Iranians would want.

Saudi Arabia's new king is at the White House on Friday and Iran is expected to be high on the agenda. The Obama administration has been trying to reassure Gulf Arab allies that a nuclear deal with Iran doesn't mean that the U.S. will turn away from its other concerns about Iranian activities in the Middle East. To prove that, the U.S. is stepping up military sales to Saudi Arabia.

Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced Wednesday that she will support the Iran nuclear agreement, giving the White House the final vote needed to protect the accord from a Republican-led effort to defeat the measure.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy is leaving for the Middle East to review operations against the Islamic State.

America and Iran have not had an easy relationship since 1979, when 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days by students supporting the Iranian Revolution. The resulting rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini further weakened the relationship.

President Obama's campaign to win support for the nuclear deal with Iran got a forceful boost Sunday when Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada announced his endorsement. Reid, the Senate's top Democrat, says he will "do everything in [his] power" to make sure the deal stands.

Reid's backing adds even more weight to a groundswell of support building on Capitol Hill for the deal between the U.S., Iran and five other nations.

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who is in line to be Democratic leader when Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada steps down next year, says he will vote against the president's nuclear control deal with Iran.

In a post on Medium, Schumer says after "considerable soul-searching," he has decided he can't support the agreement.

Schumer says among his reservations about the deal is that it does not allow for inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities at any time. He adds:

Chion Wolf / WNPR

As President Barack Obama made his case for the Iran nuclear agreement at American University on Wednesday, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy took to the floor of his chamber to come out in favor of the controversial deal. 

U.S. State Department

Debate continued this week in Washington, D.C. over President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.  

During a meeting with all 27 members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on Tuesday, Turkey said it wanted to give the members a heads up that at some point it may need their help fighting against the self-declared Islamic State.

Turkey called a rare Article 4 meeting of the NATO allies after it began an air campaign against ISIS targets in Syria.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney joins a classified bipartisan briefing today on the Iran nuclear deal. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

All eyes are on Congress as lawmakers debate the Iran nuclear agreement. This hour, we speak with Connecticut's 2nd district Rep. Joe Courtney. He called the tentative deal a "hopeful development" when it was first announced.

Just after hosting Cuba's foreign minister at the State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry sat down with NPR Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep to discuss the restoration of diplomatic relations with that country, as well as the status of a nuclear deal with Iran.

Kerry defended the Obama administration's stance on both countries, and said if diplomatic relations with Cuba or a nuclear deal with Iran were scuttled — either by a future president or Congress — it would hurt the U.S.

Chuck Kennedy / White House

President Barack Obama has more to say about the Iran nuclear deal.

Obama held a news conference on Wednesday to continue selling the agreement that he contends will cut off all the pathways Iran currently has to develop a nuclear weapon.

Kamyar Ad / Creative Commons

President Obama's agreement with Iran now heads to Congress. As part of the deal, Iran will curtail its nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions. But the idea of lifting sanctions has rankled many, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the deal a "historic mistake." 

Is it a good deal?

President Obama and his detractors are headed for a ferocious debate on this question following the nuclear agreement announced Tuesday in Vienna between Iran and six world powers.

The United States and five world powers have reached a historic agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.

As we've reported, the deal puts restrictions on Iran's nuclear program and also sets up an inspections regime that aims to make sure Iran is meeting its obligations. In exchange, the U.S. and its European partners have agreed to drop tough sanctions, allowing Iran to sell more oil and rejoin international financial systems.

(This post was last updated at 8:44 a.m. ET.)

Just hours before a self-imposed deadline, Iran and six world powers said they would not extend a deadline but they would keep working toward a deal over Iran's nuclear program for the next few days.

Reporting from Vienna, where the talks are taking place, NPR's Peter Kenyon says both sides — Iran and the so-called P5+1, which consists of the U.K., China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — are saying they will not be pressured into accepting a bad deal. Peter filed this report for our Newscast unit:

Updated at 5:26 p.m. ET

President Obama has warned that the campaign against the so-called Islamic State "will not be quick" as he cited gains made in Iraq and Syria by the coalition fighting the militant group.

"This will not be quick," Obama said at the Pentagon. "This is a long-term campaign."


A U.N. envoy to Syria this week has condemned what he calls the “unacceptable" use of barrel bombs by the Assad regime. On Monday, an important cultural heritage site was the target of one of those bombs.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

The U.S. needs more than just a military response to the violence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. That’s the message from Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, who’s issued a call for new principles in U.S. foreign policy. 


Senator Chris Murphy is pushing for congressional action to ban the deployment of U.S. ground troops to Iraq and Syria. Murphy spoke about his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act on the Senate floor on Wednesday.

The roar of a car bomb has been the prelude to Karim Wasfi's performances of late.

After hearing testimony from four families, U.S. lawmakers passed a resolution calling on Iran to release three jailed Americans and provide information about a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007.

As the June 30 deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran approaches, the families say it's time for the U.S. to push hard on this issue.

Among those who spoke Tuesday before a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee was Daniel Levinson, son of former FBI agent Robert Levinson.

Chion Wolf

The former Democratic senator and gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont returns to the show. Ned Lamont recently visited a key and controversial country in world affairs: Iran. We debrief with him about his trip, Middle Eastern affairs, and the world business climate.

Also, on the eve of the end of the legislative session, how does he think the new state budget will affect Connecticut's businesses?

Confusion and emotion broke out at Friday's FIFA Congress — and it wasn't over embattled leader Sepp Blatter. The leaders of the Israeli and Palestinian soccer organizations shook hands.

The much-discussed "handshake for peace" happened after the Palestinian Football Association withdrew its proposal that FIFA suspend Israel from international competition.

Josh Hough / Creative Commons

Since the ISIS takeover of Palmyra in Syria, hundreds are feared killed by the so-called Islamic State. Amateur videos posted online yesterday also appear to show buildings of the ancient city damaged in the fighting.  Palmyra is considered to be one of the most important cultural centers in the world.