The Timeline On A Final Iran Deal

It’s more relaxed than the press reports would have you believe:

Most news stories cite Obama and Kerry as saying Geneva is a six-month arrangement. However, the text of the agreement notes that the deal is “renewable by mutual consent.” And lest that line is viewed as a throwaway to placate Tehran, the text specifically notes that the parties “aim to conclude negotiating and commence implementing” the final agreement “no more than one year after the adoption of this document.”

In other words, negotiators did not agree on a hard deadline to reaching agreement on the final deal, approving just an aspirational goal that it will be achieved a year from now. The administration probably welcomed this additional wiggle room to avoid a situation in which negotiations are deadlocked and it is cornered into admitting that the diplomacy had failed, forced the White House to consider unattrative alternatives.

On the surface, it stands to reason that Iran has an interest in getting a final deal as quickly as possible. After all, the most punishing economic sanctions remain in place under the “first step” deal and Obama promised renewed vigilance in sanctions enforcement when he announced the Geneva accord. But with the signing of this deal, the perception of leverage will begin to tilt away from Washington and toward Iran, which may want to see how this deal improves its regional standing before it heads into talks for a final agreement.

Meanwhile, Fisher analyzes a new Khamenei letter:

What makes this letter significant is not just that Khamenei is blessing the deal, but that he’s giving Rouhani some political cover in Tehran. This suggests, and is surely meant to broadcast as much, that Khamenei not only supports the deal so far but that he supports it sufficiently that he’s willing to publicly pressure Iranian hard-liners to get behind it.

It can be easy for Americans to forget that Iranian politics are complicated and noisy. Khamenei is the ultimate authority but only when he’s willing to use that power, which is only true sometimes.