“We’re frankly more concerned about the quality of the deal than we are about the clock, though we also know that difficult decisions won’t get any easier with time.” U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf- July 7, 2015
The P5+1 talks may never end. After blowing through two deadlines without reaching an agreement this week, the White House is now floating the idea of keeping the April 2 framework in place and keeping the talks going without the pressure of an agreement. Perhaps the reason for the suggestion of the timing change is the only P5+1 foreign minister left at the talks is John Kerry.
Secretary of State Kerry is insisting that the sides “have never been closer” to coming to an agreement. Despite the closeness, there are differences on key issues, including international inspections of Iranian sites, and the exact timeframe for sanctions relief after a deal is completed,
President Barack Obama views an Iran deal as a key part of his administration’s legacy, and is now looking for ways to sustain the negotiations despite repeated missed deadlines and the significant gaps that remain. Making an agreement even more difficult is that Iranian negotiators have increased their demands in recent days saying that the U.N. embargo on their ballistic-missile program and arms trade must be removed as part of any deal.
Obama has suggested that the negotiations would result in a deal or with the talks breaking up, but according to a Wall Street Journal report:
But with negotiations making little headway, the White House on Tuesday laid the groundwork for a third outcome: continuing talks while keeping in place a November 2013 interim agreement that provided Iran with limited sanctions relief in exchange for rolling back parts of its nuclear program.
Such an outcome would allow Mr. Obama to avoid alternatives to diplomacy to confront Iran’s nuclear program, such as military force. It gives the president political cover because the idea has support from some influential Republicans—including Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—and Israel.
All this is happening as President Obama desperately wants a deal so he would have a foreign policy achievement as part of his presidential legacy.
Iranian officials in Austria appeared to be using Washington’s political wrangling to their diplomatic advantage. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and other Iranian negotiators have said this week that Tehran isn’t bound by the White House’s deadlines.
“If we can get it done…before July 9th, so much the better. But we cannot sacrifice a good deal at the expense of meeting a deadline,” a senior Iranian negotiator said on Monday. “In our opinion, that is an artificial deadline.”
According to U.S. officials Secretary Kerry will remain in Vienna until a nuclear deal is either reached or it is concluded the sides are too far apart to reach one now. Fox News is reporting that as of Wednesday, the only foreign minister left in Vienna to talk with Iran is Kerry (see video below).
In the end the latter would be much better than a deal which would allow the rogue Iranian regime to continue its nuclear weapon development.