Last week brought official news of an extension of nuclear talks with Iran.
While ideally one would have hoped to bring things to a close by the original July 20 deadline, many analysts expected at the outset of the deal to see an extension of some kind, given that the possibility was built in as part of the November Joint Plan of Action.
The extension agreed to Friday puts a new, and more final, deadline on negotiations of November 24, 2014. And, realistically, this gives negotiators approximately 3 months and 3 and a half weeks to drag their feet. While some lawmakers are sure to decry such stalling, they should look only as far as their own halls for example upon example of working down to the deadline. This poker-faced practice is common in any negotiation, and there is no reason we should expect any more or less from this one.
Those who would throw in the towel now, expecting negotiators to walk away at crunch time, would all but doom the process to breakdown and an eventual decision over the use of military force.
“Diplomacy takes time, and persistence is needed to determine whether we can achieve our objectives peacefully,” Secretary Kerry said Friday. “To turn our back prematurely on diplomatic efforts when significant progress has been made would deny ourselves the ability to achieve our objectives peacefully.”
The four-month extension does place some additional limits on Iran’s nuclear program, however, meaning that progress won’t be brought to a halt while the conversation continues.
In addition to a series of measures already implemented as part of the interim deal, Iran will convert all of its 20% oxide material into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR). This makes it more difficult for Iran to someday convert the material for use in building a weapon, and will go far to address concerns over the speed with which Iran could “break out,” were it to choose to do so.
As of yet, Iran’s compliance with the terms of the JPOA has exceeded expectations. The IAEA’s report this week confirms that Iran has completed its obligations under the six-month deal on schedule, leading one to expect Iran’s continued cooperation on conversion of its oxide material.
In return, the P5+1 will grant Iran access to an additional $2.8 billion in restricted assets, a small concession given the billions Iran’s economy continues to lose with the majority of sanctions still in place.
And while there are still many issues that remain unresolved, negotiators remain positive about the possibility of a final deal.
“We have a text, a draft, of [possible comprehensive deal] solutions,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said Friday. “We have discussed the details of each and every question. We know possible solutions much better. On each and every issue, all the parties are very serious.”
And that is far more than anyone could have hoped for at the outset of this process. In four months, we will know whether a deal is possible. Until then, the great progress that has been made in securing Iran’s nuclear material over the past six months is cause for celebration.