You already know (and not just because we’ve told you) that the talks between the P5+1 and Iran over a final-status nuclear agreement have been extended yet again. But why did the negotiations break down despite statements by US Secretary of State John Kerry and others, including the Iranian team, reflecting more progress and fewer gaps?
Foreign Policy’s Aaron David Miller and Jason Brodsky have some ideas. The two suggested in a recent column that the “close-but-no-cigar” conclusion of a year of talks was a consequence of four “faulty assumptions” that led US negotiators to believe a deal was possible: that President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif had the power to cut a bargain (they don’t – they are on Ayatollah Khamenei’s “retractable leash”); that Iran needs a deal (not that badly); that Iran would choose its interests over its pride (Khamenei wouldn’t, surely); and that if Iran can’t get what it wants, it will settle for what it needs (not quite).
Elsewhere on the web, it appeared that the belief that Iran had benefited from the extension (or at least had a “really, really, really good nuke week”) was common to many Western pundits.
AFP recently attributed the failure to the gaps that persist between the two sides – gaps that, with the Republicans poised to take over both houses of Congress and with Iranian hardliners waiting in the wings, are only growing wider. But The Wall Street Journal had a more sinister take on things, suggesting that the hardliners’ intensifying efforts to “sabotage” and “undercut” the talks likely contributed to the deadlock.
Over at Dallas News, Michael Rubin opined that the impasse was “according to plan” for the Islamic Republic – which he said was more concerned with “winning concessions and relieving pressure on Iran’s moribund economy” than with actually sealing the deal.
And indeed, the Iranian nuclear negotiators were praised back home for standing their ground in the face of Western “bullying” and “deception” – according to some reports, by shouting so loudly that the bodyguards outside the negotiation room had to rush inside, alarmed. Were these Iranian diplomats excited by the prospect of a deal, or by the prospect that there wouldn’t be one?