Deadline Passes for Iran Nuclear Deal
Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group of powers – the US, UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany – failed to yield a deal prior to Tuesday’s interim deadline. Statements indicate that progress had been made, however, and talks resumed on Wednesday. Both sides appear to be pushing for a comprehensive agreement in advance of late June’s hard deadline.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov commented that “all key aspects” had been agreed, but officials in several western capitals said that particulars still needed to be agreed upon. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said that the sides had come together on “quite a bit.”
While the Obama administration has arguably the most at stake in pushing for an early resolution, the State Department stated that “enough progress” had been made to merit an extension of the preliminary deadline.
Major issues yet to be resolved include the timeframe for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program –the P5+1 is pushing for a period of 10 years, although France prefers restrictions lasting for 15 years – particulars for gradually unwinding UN sanctions against Iran, and the mechanism for reapplying sanctions in the event of Iranian non-compliance.
In addition, Iran wants to retain the ability to use centrifuges to enrich uranium and has flatly refused to send its existing nuclear stockpile abroad, where it can be converted into fuel rods for use in the country’s sole civilian nuclear reactor.
“The shipping out of Iran’s nuclear stockpile was to be the key administration win in this agreement,” according to Republican Representative Ed Royce of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee. Without that concession, it will be difficult for the Obama administration to present an acceptable deal to a skeptical Congress. America’s Republican-led Congress has threatened to intensify sanctions on Iran as early as this month if a deal is not reached.
Iran is reported to have tens of thousands of pounds of uranium, but the timeline for its ability to build a functional nuclear weapon is unclear. The goal of the Obama administration is to extend the “breakout time” – the date by which Iran could enrich enough uranium for a single weapon – by one year.