Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program are coming to a close in Vienna. The deadline: today. In Iran, the business community eagerly waits for a compromise that would open their country’s immense wealth to investors. That’s the story from Tehran, where executives and economists have vehemently criticized the mismanagement of the Islamic regime.
The negotiators have until 5:00am Friday morning to reach an agreement on the Iranian nuclear issues. This deadline, which has been extended twice already, was set as the final limit by the White House. But on Thursday, we learned from the Iranian delegation that “there are no sacred dates.” Thirteen days after the representatives’ return to Vienna, the talks’ outcome remains completely uncertain. Barack Obama, for whom an agreement would be a major diplomatic success, estimated earlier this week that the chances of success were less than 50 percent.
Although resolution of the Iranian nuclear crisis seemed on track one week earlier, the final technical details, which are being worked out by the foreign ministers of Iran, the United States, France, Germany, Russia and China, as well as the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, who serves as a facilitator, suddenly seem insurmountable. After 12 years of suspicion over a secret Iranian program for developing nuclear weapons — which Tehran denies — each detail has become crucial.
Three sticking points remain: access to Iranian military sites by International Atomic Energy Agency agents, who will be responsible for verifying Tehran’s nuclear program; the length of restrictions imposed on Iran regarding the free development of its civilian nuclear activities; and finally, the rate at which international sanctions will be lifted.
For Tehran, all the sanctions passed by the U.N. must be lifted, including those regarding weapons imports. The Europeans have drawn a red line on this point. But Sergei Lavrov, representing Russia, has argued that Iran must be able to arm itself to “bolster its combat capacity for fighting terrorism.” Indeed, one of the agreement’s promises would permit the establishment of a new coalition for stopping the advancement of Islamic State. This was highlighted by the Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Javad Zarif in a communication published by the Financial Times. Zarif also wrote on Thursday evening on his Twitter account: “you can’t change horses in the middle of a stream.” Is this the ultimate bluff?
On the American side, John Kerry doesn’t want to yield to pressure but seems to be ready to “call an end to this process.” The suspense could last all weekend.