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After a roller coaster week of round-the-clock diplomacy, the United States and its five international partners managed to hammer out the key provisions of an accord that Washington has been pursuing for nearly a decade — a deal to verifiably constrain Iran’s expansive nuclear program. President Barack Obama hailed the announcement as a “historic understanding with Iran which, if fully implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon. I am convinced that if this framework leads to a comprehensive deal, it will make our country, our allies, and our world safer… It is our best option by far.”
It is not a final deal — not by a long shot — but the framework announced on Thursday was far more substantive than many had been expecting. And it appeared to make good on what the president previously indicated he would require to sustain the talks until the final deadline of June 30: serious evidence that the parties can reach a deal that meets the international community’s requirements for ensuring Iran does not achieve nuclear weapons capability.
The announcement followed some apparent turbulence in the negotiating process. Expectations rose in February and early March, as reports suggested that the most troublesome technical differences surrounding Iran’s enrichment capabilities had finally been overcome. However, these hopes were dashed as the talks began earlier this week, when Iranian negotiators appeared to scuttle hard-won progress on the issue of Iran’s handling of its stockpiles of enriched uranium.
For days, the world’s attention remained trained on the talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, where representatives from Tehran, Washington, the European Union, and five other world powers met in sessions that dragged late into the night — and sometimes well into the following morning. Their endurance was a reflection of the political stakes. As I wrote earlier this week, the March 31 “target date for achieving a political framework was meant to be a soft deadline — a deliberately low hurdle that both sides would use to reassure their impatient domestic critics that a comprehensive deal was, in fact, achievable. But those same partisan pressures — amplified by escalating regional unrest — conspired to transform this purported ‘soft deadline’ into a moment of truth for the tortuous process and, by extension, for the Obama administration’s Middle East policy.”
That moment of truth became a moment of rare triumph for Obama’s foreign policy. What the negotiators managed to produce appeared to validate Obama’s decision to remain at the table for almost 48 hours past the March 31st deadline. Instead of a general statement of progress that Iranian officials had been foreshadowing, the framework announced on Thursday outlined in some considerable detail the shape of a long-term agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and the nature of the reciprocal trade-offs.
What turned the tide? Maybe it was the baby gifts emblazoned with the MIT logo gifted by U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to his fellow alumnus, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, to mark a grandchild’s birth. Maybe it was the oddly reverential condolences offered by Secretary of State John Kerry to Hossein Fereydoun, advisor (and brother) to Iranian president Hassan Rouhani after the death of Rouhani’s mother. Maybe it was the epic all-nighters or the ambience of a series of Swiss hotels.
Whatever the case, the administration’s gamble — and the tenacity of Kerry and his colleagues and counterparts — has paid off for now. But there are at least four big issues that confront the Obama administration as it seeks to achieve a true resolution to this longstanding crisis.
Divergent American and Iranian interpretations of the deal
One of the biggest red flags about today’s announcement is that while Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini issued a Read the rest of the Article here