Discussions between the P5+1 and Iran over the nation’s nuclear program have just entered what will be their last round of talks if the two sides are able to reach an agreement before July 20. Reportedly, all parties are focused on meeting that self-imposed deadline, although there are doubts about whether persistent differences can be resolved regarding some of the most fundamental topics, such as the extent of Iranian enrichment capability.
The LA Times reports that a senior Obama administration official has warned that if those differences aren’t reconciled and the Iranian side is deemed responsible for the failure, then the United States might break off talks without seeking the potential six-month extension past the deadline.
In a special press briefing by the US State Department, a senior administration official said that Iran had thus far failed “to commit to concrete and verifiable steps to show to the world” that its nuclear program is peaceful, as it has repeatedly claimed. The official went on to say that the US is putting forward positions that are eminently reasonable, as well as giving the Iranian negotiators multiple alternatives, but that all of these are being rejected out of hand.
Previous rounds of talks have already shown Iran to be intractable on various key points, with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei having instructed negotiators that the number of operational centrifuges and the amount of domestically enriched uranium are not viable topics of discussion. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has repeatedly reiterated these points of non-negotiation.
Whereas these statements cast doubt on Iran’s seriousness in pursuing a deal with Western powers, CNN reports that the Iranian people are predictably at odds with their leaders, and are saying that compromise on these issues will be in the best interests of the country, citing such things as the potential impact on the economy and the population’s desire to remain in Iran.
However, Western calculations are unlikely to be so focused on what is best for the Iranian people, or even for the overall, long-term stability of the globe. An article in Bloomberg calls attention to the possibility that short-term, national-level concerns may have an impact on the strength of policies towards Iran and its nuclear capabilities. Namely, the article points out that regional instability threatens to increase the need for Iranian oil and give the Islamic Republic greater leverage on that point of negotiations.
The interim agreement between Iran and the P5+1, which went into effect at the beginning of the year, called for Iranian oil exports to remain around one million barrels per day – a restriction that has widely been reported as having been exceeded month after month. Although the Obama administration has already been quite lax in its enforcement of that provision, Bloomberg suggests that that enforcement may become almost completely undesirable to policymakers in the West if the crisis in Iraq and the work of rebels in Libya have significantly negative impacts on exports from those markets.