Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Negotiations Deadline Extended Again for Iran and P5-1

Iran and the P5+1 reached the deadline of their nuclear talks yesterday without any consensus. The talks have gone on for months between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council member nations (plus Germany), with a questionable amount of progress being made. However, yesterday did not mark the end of the talks - the deadline was simply extended another seven months. Is this a good or bad thing for the United States? Well, perhaps it's both.

The biggest thing to take away from yesterday's deadline extension is that the deadline was extended at all. Clearly both sides see the importance in reaching a consensus on such an important issue, and the fact that all parties involved wish to remain involved could itself be seen as a success. However, a more pessimistic observation would be that despite months of negotiations, the parties have still been unable to find common ground - what could seven more months possibly achieve?

There is more good news, however, in the fact that Iran will continue to bear the brunt of all sanctions while negotiations continue. The economic sanctions that have been imposed on Iran have crippled the country, bringing urgency to the table on the part of Iranian President Rouhani who is trying to turn his economy around. In addition to economic sanctions, Iran continues to accept stringent nuclear inspection policies, meaning they will be highly scrutinized for the next seven months to ensure they are not continuing their nuclear development as negotiations stall.

However, the public on both sides is becoming less and less patient with the talks, and the next seven months may quite possibly be the longest that successful negotiations can take. In Iran, criticism has risen over Iran "giving too much away". In the U.S., warhawks on the right have criticized the Obama Administration for appearing weak - especially by extending the deadline - and have called for outright military action against Iran if negotiations fail (note: this is not a good negotiating strategy).

If there is to be any accord reached on this sensitive issue, it must come within the next several months. A deal with Iran on its nuclear development will be a significant precedent on nuclear policy and a major win for President Obama as he gears up to leave office. For Iran, it will mark the first time in years that their economy will have an opportunity to bounce back from harsh sanctions they have endured. And for everyone, it will mean one less country with nuclear weapons - something we should all be happy about.


  1. Colin, nice succinct article. What would be the ramifications of going through with a deadline vs. just extending it. It seems that we already sanction Iran quite heavily, would it be more sanctions? What is the alternative to just extending this again in another 7 months. At some point there needs to be action, right? In your opinion, what would an appropriate response be?

  2. Frank - thanks again for reading. When looking at negotiations in the international political arena, I think it's important to decide how critical a successful outcome in when questioning whether or not a deadline extension is warranted. In this case, I firmly believe it is - a stable, U.S.-friendly Iran is tantamount to increased stability in the region as a whole. Obviously, as I noted, there are downsides to prolonging the negotiations, although in this case, there will not be increased sanctions (in fact, Iran will be able to access $700m in frozen assets each month as a sign of good faith on the part of the P5+1). There does have to be action at some point though, and I'm of the mindset that if they can't get it done in the next seven months, there's no indication that they could get it done in 14 months or 21 months. Iran should also realize that they will receive a much better accord now, before the GOP takes control of the Senate in a few months. In my opinion, this deadline should be absolute, with the understanding that sanctions will continue and perhaps increase in the event that a deal cannot be brokered. Obama should remain steadfast on that.

  3. Thank you for the reply and additional insight. I guess i am just a bit skeptical of "Iran continues to accept stringent nuclear inspection policies." We've seem them constructing underground facilities less than 5 years ago. Then again, they've had the centrifuges and nuclear refining capabilities to manufacture a bomb for some time already and haven't done so. Anyways, thanks for the update.