Iran’s nuclear cliffhanger: Will a deal be reached?
With no more extensions available at this stage the choices are simply black or white
In the last few hours before the major deadline of the Iranian nuclear talks on June 30, it seems like this deal has been bewitched! The officials already said that the talks may goes a few days beyond the deadline but it wouldn’t be any extension in the bottom.
In the past, an extension was often the only choice to keep the talks going but with no more extensions available at this stage the choices are simply black or white. Leaving the political and technical aspects of these talks aside, solving the 36-year-dispute between Iran and the United Sates is still at the center of this issue.
The Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say, expressed his frustration regarding the Americans and his mistrust of them. In his latest public speech, he seemed to put the deal in jeopardy by refusing the inspections of Iran’s military sites by IAEA inspectors.
Iranian people have been forced to live under sanctions which are now too difficult to continueCamelia Entekhabi-Fard
He also disagreed to any long term freeze of Iran’s sensitive nuclear activities which was agreed to earlier on April 2 in Lausanne.
Ayatollah Khamenei outlined other redlines too and asked all the sanctions to be lifted upon the basis of the final agreement.
All those demands, some of them new to Western negotiators, has restricted Iranian diplomats who are engaged in the talks so close to the official deadline.
Here in Vienna, most of the P5+1’s ( five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) foreign ministers, or their vice foreign ministers, arrived for a brief but intense meeting on Sunday to meet with top Iranian negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Iran Foreign Minister Zarif left Vienna on Sunday evening for Tehran, most likely for a consultation with Khamenei. Zarif is due to come back to Vienna within a day while Secretary Kerry remains in the city.
Being the most critical stage of the ongoing negotiation, it’s hard for either side to break up and walk away from the table. Pushing so hard to make this agreement is one side of this story and the other side is the wish for a beneficial agreement.
Sense of urgency
There is a sense of urgency in the negotiations, especially for Iran as the current government promised its people it would tackle the lagging nuclear file. President Hassan Rowhani’s next round of elections will be tied to the success of these talks and securing the final agreement.
Half of Rowhani’s presidency has been spent on these negotiations and he can’t simply break up the talks and put his government and his own authority in jeopardy.
Iranian people have been forced to live under sanctions which are now too difficult to continue and the public demands are exactly what makes the supreme leader agree with the talks. Rowhani’s government’s priority is sanctions relief which will allow Iran to improve its economic infrastructure, defense capabilities, and social programs and he doesn’t want to compromise that with anything else, even at the price of confronting his strong powerful opponents.
Sources at the talks indicate that they are in a delicate position now – with key elements about inspections, verifications, and sanctions relief in question. The final text is reportedly riddled with blank spaces where exact terms of the agreement still need to be worked out. On Monday evening, or Tuesday when Zarif is back from Tehran, we will see if Ayatollah Khamenei agreed to show flexibility and find ways to reach common ground or not.
Any further delay to reach an agreement has dire political and economic consequences and now the decision should be taken by the one and only Ayatollah Khamenei. Observers are betting as to whether the first week of July will be the historic time many have been waiting for.
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard