Negotiators for the Power 5+1 Iran nuclear negotiations are nearing a very key deadline of midnight EST Thursday to reach a final agreement before triggering an expanded, 60 day review by the U.S. Senate, making ratification of any agreement that much harder to secure from the skeptical legislative body.
“We are continuing to negotiate for the next couple of days,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said outside the hotel where the marathon talks between Iran, Britain,China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States are taking place.
The spokeswoman for the U.S. delegation, Marie Harf, said the terms of an interim deal between Iran and the six would be extended through Friday to give negotiators a few more days to finish their work.
The negotiators had set Tuesday as a deadline when it became clear last week that a June 30 deadline would not be met. But despite a push in the past few days they made clear again that they still needed more time.
“We’re frankly more concerned about the quality of the deal than we are about the clock, though we also know that difficult decisions won’t get any easier with time,” Harf said.
“No deadline is sacrosanct for us,” senior Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi told reporters. “We are ready to stay in Vienna and continue talks as long as it is necessary.”
Many skeptics of the deal, led by Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), would likely use the expanded time period to use all available means to torpedo any deal they see as “weak”. Many provisions that had been called for previously, including the disclosure of previous military nuclear development by Iran, the recognition of the state of Israel, and the necessity for the end of Iran’s support of proxy terrorist groups worldwide have been left out of the deal.
Iran has complicated the process by refusing several other key terms sought by the P5+1, namely, phased lifting of sanctions on a timetable set by Iranian compliance and a intrusive inspections regime that would include unannounced inspections of military sites.
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are seeking a deal as a “legacy defining” achievement, which has many worried that they will likely agree to any deal no matter how “weak”. Additional time in the senate for concerted opposition, joined by key interest groups, will make the fight to ratify quite difficult if the deal is perceived as weak.