Over the weekend, negotiations with Iran were given a four-month extension. The state of play:
The six powers want Iran to dramatically reduce its nuclear programme for a lengthy period of time and agree to more intrusive UN inspections. This would expand the time needed for Tehran to develop a nuclear weapon, while giving the world ample warning of any such “breakout” push.
The two sides are believed to have narrowed their positions in recent weeks on a few issues such as the Arak reactor, which could give Iran weapons-grade plutonium, and enhanced inspections. But they remain far apart on the key issue of Iran’s capacities to enrich uranium, a process which can produce fuel for reactors but also the core of a nuclear bomb.
The administration is trying to stay upbeat:
Obama administration officials insist that the talks have made major progress that justified giving negotiators until November to pursue a final deal. In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said“the very real prospect of reaching a good agreement that achieves our objectives necessitates that we seek more time.”
The Senate, however, remains a wild card – and AIPAC has been doing its usual work to buttress the case for war and for scuttling any agreement. The problem there, it seems to me, is that the necessarily private diplomacy has not allowed for a more robust and public discussion as to the costs and benefits. My own view is that the American public could be persuaded of the sanity of the least-worst option when it comes to preventing Iran getting a nuclear bomb; but the administration has been timid and defensive in its public outreach. Maybe that would change after a possible agreement. But it may be too late by then.
Majid Rafizadeh believes, for his part, that “the gaps between the six world powers and Iran would more likely require more than four months of extensions as well as a significant shift in Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s stance on his government’s nuclear program, or a remarkable change in the six world power’s stance”: