international intrigue

That Sound You Hear Is a Nuclear Deal With Iran Receding

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lawrow, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Catherine Ashton, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi pose for a group photo at the Palais Coburg on November 24, 2014 in Vienna, Austria. Negotiators from the U.S., Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia are meeting with Iran to finalize an interim deal over Iran's nuclear program.
Photo: Ute Grabowsky/Photothek via Getty Images

Tonight’s midnight deadline for a deal with Iran will come and go without any firm agreement about the future of the country’s nuclear program. Instead, negotiators in Vienna have extended the deadline by more than seven months, to July 1. 

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that by March, the parties involved would come up with a plan “that sets out in layman’s language what we have agreed to do.” The four additional months will allow them to hammer out the details. 

Iran has been engaged in frenzied negotiations with six world powers, during which the Islamic Republic has tried to convince the world that it has a right to develop a peaceful nuclear program and that it will not use international leniency toward it to secretly develop weapons. In exchange for Iran allowing Western oversight and inspectors, the international community would lift some of the sanctions crippling the country’s economy. 

According to CNN, one of the main stumbling blocks in reaching a permanent deal after last year’s preliminary one is disagreement over how sanctions will be lifted. While Iranian officials want them lifted immediately, Western leaders are hesitant and want to do so gradually, giving them more leverage to make sure Iran complies with the agreement.

Reaching out to Iran, one of the “Axis of Evil” countries under George W. Bush, was one of President Obama’s early priorities, but the negotiations have hit a number of roadblocks along the way. Iran has come under fire for refusing some nuclear weapons inspectors access to the country, and for missing some preliminary deadlines in the talks. On top of that, it signed a deal with Russia for new nuclear reactors earlier this month.

And, in addition to diplomatic talks, the president has also personally reached out to its religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a series of personal letters, the latest of which surfaced earlier this month. (They reportedly went unanswered.) New congressional Republicans, however, say they want to slap Iran with more sanctions — possibly further setting back nuclear talks. Unfortunately for Obama, this is one campaign promise he can’t stop unilaterally through executive action. 

No Nuclear Deal With Iran by Today’s Deadline