|U.S. signals extension on Iran nuclear deal could be needed: Al-Monitor||
The United States is signaling that it is prepared for an extension of Iran nuclear talks into the fall if Iran does not return to the table with more viable proposals including on the centrifuge capacity it could be expected to have in a final deal, according to Al-Monitor.
A senior U.S. administration official, briefing small groups of Washington experts in recent days, has been downbeat about prospects for reaching a final deal by July 20, sources briefed by the official told Al-Monitor Friday. One expert, speaking not for attribution, was left with the impression that the senior U.S. official “didn’t think it would get done.”
“We are not there yet,” however, a U.S. official told Al-Monitor Friday, about whether the administration thought it would require an extension.
The U.S. needs to determine “whether we see a mindset (from Iran) that is more realistic about what the outcome will have to be here,” the U.S. administration official told Al Monitor Friday. “We are not just waiting for a response…. There are discussions.”
Experts from Iran and the P5+1 are due to hold technical talks in Vienna this week on the sidelines of an IAEA board of governors meeting. The P5+1 and Iran are due to hold the next round of final deal talks in Vienna on June 16-20.
With less than two months to go ‘til a July 20 expiration of an interim Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. and Iran are not yet pursuing parallel bilateral meetings to narrow wide differences for a nuclear deal, U.S. and Iranian sources tell Al-Monitor. That may be because the U.S. and P5+1 believe that Iran is going to have to do most of the modifying, particularly on enrichment capacity, if a final deal is to be reached, U.S. experts recently briefed by Obama administration officials tell Al-Monitor.
“The Iranians know what the bottom line is,” Suzanne Maloney, a former State Department Iran expert now at the Brookings Institution, told Al-Monitor Friday. “This will not be a case of meeting in the middle.”
“It will be difficult for the powers to reach an agreement with Iran by the deadline of July 20,” Robert Einhorn, a former top U.S. Iran arms control advisor, told Israel’s Ynetnew.com Sunday. “The last round of talks didn’t amount to expectations. There was hope that some main issues would be solved, like the issue of the reactor in Arak…but that didn’t happen.”
“My assessment is that when faced with the alternative of ending the talks, the two sides will agree to extend them,” Einhorn, now with the Brookings Institution, told Ynet.
“The odds of success are still long,” President Obama told graduating West Point cadets Wednesday, referring to a comprehensive Iran nuclear deal. “But for the first time in a decade, we have a very real chance of achieving a breakthrough agreement — one that is more effective and durable than what we could have achieved through the use of force. “
The American side and the P5+1 “had sticker shock at what the Iranians came in on in Vienna,” Patrick Clawson, deputy director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Al-Monitor Friday, referring to the Iranian proposal for the amount of centrifuges it would like to have in a final deal at the last round of talks in Vienna in May.
The Iranians seemed to have “the impression that the P5+1 was desperate for a deal, but it’s actually not true,” Clawson said. “Therefore they (the U.S. and P5+1) are prepared to let the Iranians” stew in the impasse for now, and may not be rushing to send the bilat team to meet with them to try to narrow positions.
“There will be no final nuclear deal without direct U.S. and Iran bilateral talks,” former Iranian nuclear negotiator Seyyed Hossein Mousavian told an audience at the New America Foundation in New York last week.
The U.S. may yet pursue face to face meetings with Iran at a future point in the negotiations, U.S. sources told Al-Monitor, but hasn’t to date this year done so, outside of those meetings that have taken place on the sidelines of the P5+1 Iran talks.
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