The UN’s nuclear watchdog announced a deal with Iran to inspect their nuclear facilities, a day before a second round of talks between Iran and Western powers. Yukiya Amano of the International Atomic Energy Agency said the deal would be signed soon, after a two-day trip to Tehran to work out the details. The IAEA has access to most of Iran’s nuclear sites already, so the assumption is that this agreement will give them access to the most sensitive sites, and possibly an agreement to suspend uranium enrichment above a certain level. These were the subjects of the negotiations going into Amano’s visit, so we’ll have to wait and see.

That would be counter to the US Senate, which passed a new round of sanctions on Iran, despite the progress being made on the negotiation front.

The U.S. Senate unanimously voted to tighten sanctions on Iran on Monday, three days after a dispute over whether to include the threat of American force stalled the legislation.

The new sanctions would target Iran’s oil and banking industries, as well as other sectors. The measure passed the Senate on a voice vote Monday evening, two days before a new round of talks between Iran and leading U.N. members in Baghdad.

“Today the Senate has showed we can still act in a bipartisan way on important priorities,” said Sen. Tim Johnson, D-South Dakota, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

Oh, we always knew that the Senate could act in a bipartisan way on things like imperial bullying against Iran. But it seems to me that there are two completely different conversations happening at once. On the one hand, negotiations between Iran and the West are starting to bear fruit. On the other, the Senate acts like no progress has been made and Iran still represents an existential threat to the lives of everyone on the planet. I’ve always assumed that nobody in Washington gets the international news, but this is a particularly absurd version of that dynamic.

Just adding a brief note here that sanctions have the effect of impoverishing the Iranian people. It’s not clear this has any bearing on their nuclear decision-making, especially as the consensus of the intelligence community is that they have not decided on using nuclear power in a weapons capacity. So it’s mostly needless suffering that, if anything, proves what hardliners have been saying forever, that they are engaged in a religious war with the West.