Volume. 11887

U.S. next year’s priority is Iran deal: CFR politician
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c_330_235_16777215_0___images_stories_edim_011.jpgTEHRAN – The United States’ number one priority for next year will be to make permanent a six-month interim agreement between Iran and the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China - plus Germany), said James M. Lindsay in an interview published on the CFR website on Friday.
Lindsay is the Senior Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and a leading authority on U.S. foreign policy.
Following is an excerpt of the interview:
Q: When we looked ahead for 2013 last year, you said the major issue was the Middle East—most immediately the problems in Syria, followed by Iran’s nuclear activities. The situation in Syria seems to have worsened, but there’s potentially a breakthrough with Iran. Would you like to elaborate?
A: The Middle East continues to present the Obama administration with a wide range of challenges. The issues look much the same as they did in 2013, but the particulars have changed somewhat. Let’s take the good news first. With the Geneva interim agreement reached with Iran in November, the administration has the opportunity to strike a broader deal on…Iran’s nuclear program. And the Obama administration’s number one priority in 2014 will be to make the transition from an interim to a comprehensive agreement. But that will not be easy to do, and it may prove impossible.
Perhaps the most likely outcome is that the two sides will kick the can down the road by renewing the interim agreement. Hanging over the negotiations will be the question of what kind of new sanctions legislation emerges from Congress. Many members of Congress are unhappy with the interim agreement, or believe that they can give the administration additional bargaining leverage by imposing new, tougher sanctions on Iran. So we’ll see how that influences the course of the negotiations.
Israel has a big interest in the outcome, as does Saudi Arabia. Both countries see big risks in the warming of relations between Washington and Tehran. So the Obama administration will be feeling a lot of pressure politically and diplomatically from two of its partners in the region. But keep in mind that the discussion with Iran is not simply between the United States and Iran, but between the P5+1, the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany, and Iran. So the Obama administration is going to have to balance a lot of different pressures, concerns, interests in trying to come to an agreement. It will be a very tough negotiation.

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