After a nail-biting few days in which it appeared Iran and the six world powers had reached the nuclear finish line, the deadline for a final-status agreement was extended this week by seven more months. While US Secretary of State John Kerry urged patience, arguing that enough progress had been made in the talks thus far to justify yet another extension, not everyone was convinced.
On Foreign Policy, for example, Jeffrey Lewis was adamant that “The Iran Nuke Extension Is A Death Sentence,” suggesting that between the rock of a Republican-dominated Congress and the hard place of a new generation of centrifuges, the negotiators – who Lewis speculated may have been drunk on Viennese mulled wine when okaying the extension – would quickly run out of time.
And Lewis wasn’t the only one. An editorial on The Economist argued this week that the extension would give opponents of the talks, both in Iran and outside of it, enough time “to mobilize” against any accord.
Meanwhile at The Washington Post, columnist David Ignatius compared the “no-deal consensus” to an impasse in labor bargaining, writing that though one of the sides – represented by Kerry – was sticking to classic techniques to bring about an agreement, the Iranian side was “famously” following a different kind of logic – one that “can lead people to walk away from agreements, even ones in their rational interest.”
And indeed, USA Today’s Oren Dorrell pointed out that the deadlock wasn’t really about the technical details of a future agreement, but rather hinged on Tehran’s ambivalence as to whether or not “it wants to remain in conflict or engage with the West” – and its inability to provide conclusive evidence to a UN agency plagued by a chronic lack of resources that all its nuclear material is for peaceful purposes.
The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens was even more unforgiving, saying that the Obama administration was “whitewashing” Iran’s “cheating” regarding its nuclear commitments because it was already resigned to a nuclear Iran.
And Iran? While The Huffington Post’s Muhammad Sahimi had nothing but praise for its various concessions, its message to the West on the eve of the extension was mostly one of caution against “excessive demands.”