The Nuclear Negotiations
Iran Lets the US Teeter

The Iranians are mooting extending the nuclear negotiations, Bloomberg reports:

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his deputy, Abbas Araghchi, both said on Monday that differences with a group of world powers were unresolved and that a deal by the end of the month might not be possible.

“Political and technical differences remain,” Zarif said ahead of discussions with European diplomats at an EU summit in Luxembourg. “We’ve always tried to channel all our efforts into finalizing a deal at the first possible opportunity, but it’s more important that we reach a good agreement.”

Talks with envoys from the group of six world powers haven’t “progressed as much as we expected,” Araghchi was reported as saying by the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency. An extension may be needed to reach an “acceptable and desirable” accord, he said.

For Iran, the best outcome in the short term may well be an extension: in the case of one, U.S. relations in the region will continue to fray, without Tehran undertaking any new obligations on its part. The Iranians have been on the march in the Middle East lately, and the U.S. and the West in general have been in disarray. Why would Tehran not want the present cycle to continue?

In recent weeks, the Administration seemed to suggest that it would do anything, make any concession, to get a deal. Many things are still possible: the Iranians may have gotten over-confident, for instance, and may actually need time to recalibrate. Certainly, the recent display of French hawkishness (France has recently been getting on very well with Saudi Arabia) has complicated both U.S. and Iranian calculations. And it’s still possible, as TAI editor Adam Garfinkle has previously surmised, that it’s the Iranians who will walk away in the end, for internal reasons (and they will then try to blame us.)

But in the interim, Iran is doing pretty well at the regional level—and the Administration is teetering on a limb it climbed out onto eagerly. At a minimum, that might continue a little longer.

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