Missed Opportunity in Vienna

I’m pretty bummed today that the latest round of talks between the P5+1 and Iran in Vienna has ended in a decision to extend the JPOA for another six months. I fail to see what will be different in six months that will make a deal more doable then than now. As others have observed, at this point there are no real technical issues. It’s all about political will. I was one among those who were hoping that the two sides would exert leadership and make the tough choices necessary to obtain a deal.

I know that both sides’ positions are complicated, perhaps made practically irreconcilable, by domestic politics in their respective capitals. If that’s the case, then I don’t know why we should be optimistic that those dynamics will change significantly over the next six months. Far more likely, I would think, is that more stumbling blocks will arise over that time, either in the form of domestic politics or unpredictable world events.

If there is no deal, I really don’t know what will happen long term. I don’t expect war, to be honest. I think more likely is the continuation of sanctions on Iran by the West, which will help nothing and no one, with more and more instances of economic dealmaking between Iran and Russia, China, and others who will increasingly see the sanctions programs by the West as unsupportable.

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5 Comments on “Missed Opportunity in Vienna”

  1. Cyrus says:

    America can’t take yes for an answer. This isn’t about nukes, of course. A deal would mean practically recognizing Iran and getting along with it. But 35 years of demonization has its own inertia

  2. Veronica Long Yin Lee says:

    I am skeptical that the P5+1 and Iran can reach any meaningful deal before the next deadline. According to http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/99c24c8c-73c1-11e4-82a6-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3K4tebSz4, Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, said, “Iran would not retreat from keeping nuclear technology, notably uranium enrichment.”

    In addition, while the P5+1 members prefer to lift the sanctions incrementally, “200 Iranian members of parliament signed a statement demanding that Iranian negotiators ‘vigorously defend’ the country’s nuclear rights to ensure a ‘total lifting of sanctions.’” (See http://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/24/world/meast/iran-nuclear-talks/index.html?hpt=wo_c2) It seems there remains a huge gap between the 2 sides’ ideal “good deal.”

    So, I can imagine the next deadline would just be met with another extension and another interim deal. Neither party wants to walk away first as any party that decides to do so at this point will face international criticisms.

    However, the fact that the talks have been extended twice means that both sides would like to see a deal. Therefore, I agree that war is unlikely, as the escalation of tensions is not in anyone’s interests.

  3. Megan M says:

    I agree that the decision to extend the deadline is very disappointing, and I am also uncertain about the prospects of Iran and the US reaching a deal in the next seven months.

    However, this was still a much better outcome than the alternative of both sides leaving the table all together and abandoning negotiations. Although the interim agreement is temporary, it is still an agreement that both parties are obligated to respect. In my opinion, this is still meaningful progress.

    Nonetheless, it is clear that both states will be faced with political obstacles in the coming months. As the NY Times reported, “If anything, the last few weeks underscored a larger conclusion about the negotiations: If the deal had been left to Mr. Kerry and Mr. Zarif, and to their respective teams, it probably would have happened […] In the end, both were constrained by hard-line politics at home.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/25/world/middleeast/nuclear-deal-again-eludes-us-and-iran-.html?_r=0)

    Unfortunately, with the recent Republican victory in the US midterm elections, I am not confident that the US Congress will allow for further compromise.

  4. Janaina Isabel Tewaney Mencomo says:

    It is disappointing to know that the p5+1 and Iran have not reached an agreement and decided to extend negotiations. However, I don’t see it as a negative decision. It is more effective to continue talking than end up the negotiations.

    President Rouhani had said that “big steps have been taken” and that the distance between the parties involved decreased. In all type of negotiation, specially when sensitive topics such as security are involved, it is important to take due time, so the parties reach a consensus. That consensus should and need to be sustainable over time, and it needs to be realistic.

    Both parties are facing strong pressure inside their countries, and because of the complexity of this topic, I expect it will take maybe even more than 6 months.

    However, no matter how much time it takes, at the end the result should be positive, because the price to pay if it fails will be higher than any compromise taken by the parties involved to reach an agreement. I am sure Iran and the USA are aware of it.

    I agree that definitely it is more a political issue than technical but in the end politics are playing a very important role between Iran and the USA. It has always been more about politics than anything else.

  5. Saroj Nair says:

    I am also sceptical about the possibility of concluding any deal within the next six months, the term of the new extension. Since this is all about political will anyway, it is difficult to understand why the current extension will help concluding a deal. While I agree that it is the P5+1 and Iran continue their talks at the negotiating table, is it really a fair negotiating table? What can we expect at the end of these negotiations? The current easing of sanctions is definitely a good step, especially as regards humanitarian aid but will the P5+1 provide further easing. Even with the current easing, in the US, US companies or non-US companies which are controlled by US interests are not permitted to do any business with Iran. This seems a step that will be continued. I believe this status quo will continue for times to come.


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