In a speech to the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum, Secretary of State Kerry expressed optimism—not only that the United States will reach a deal with Iran, but that it will do so well before the renewed negotiating deadline of June 30th. The Washington Post reports:
“We’re not looking at seven months,” Kerry said. “I think the target is three, four months, and hopefully even sooner if that is possible.” […]
Kerry spoke at the same forum last year, right after the signing of an interim agreement that allowed formal negotiations to begin. Kerry seemed to relish recalling the premonitions of critics who proclaimed that Iran was bound to cheat and that the administration was jeopardizing national security.
Instead, Kerry argued, the world is a safer place. International inspectors have daily access to Iran’s enrichment facilities. Its stockpile of highly enriched uranium has been diluted or converted. And a plutonium reactor is effectively frozen.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for his part, told the forum that he believed that further sanctions were necessary to force Iran to stop its weapons programs, saying: “Now we must use the time available to increase the pressure on Iran to dismantle its nuclear capability.” Kerry’s prediction of an early agreement stands in contrast with Vice President Joe Biden, who put the odds of any deal at less than 50/50. And as WRM wrote this weekend, there doesn’t seem to be much urgency from the Iranian side. Rather, Iran has increased its military expenditure by a third and has lowered its budget to meet a more realistic market rate in the break-even price of oil. Meanwhile, President Rouhani is now making a push against corruption to make the regime more efficient.As NPR reports, that view is shared from the Iranian street. While the country’s economic conditions are grim, they haven’t declined to the breaking point that would precipitate a breakthrough in the nuclear talks. So long as that’s the case, it’s hard to see what’s inspiring John Kerry’s optimism.