U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is on his way to Vienna this week, hoping to hammer out the remaining details of a potential deal with Iran over its nuclear program. The meetings follow intense negotiations in Oman last week. A Nov. 24 deadline for reaching an agreement is just around the corner.
“We are gearing up and targeting Nov. 24,” he said. “We're not talking about or thinking about going beyond that date. That’s a critical date. And we believe it is imperative for a lot of different reasons to get this done.”
Kerry will be traveling with a group of world leaders called the P5+1: the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the U.S., Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France) plus Germany.
The sticking point is Iran’s uranium enrichment program. The P5+1 nations want to extend the breakout time, the period it would take Iran to build a nuclear weapon. Iran is willing to negotiate on timelines but insists its nuclear program is for energy purposes only and wants an end to the debilitating sanctions imposed by the West.
“Sanctions have never contributed to the resolution of this issue,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said. “Sanctions are not a part of the solution. Sanctions are the most important part of the problem. They are illegal in nature. They must be removed. They have not produced any positive results.”
One country loudly skeptical of the talks is Israel.
“Iran is committed to the destruction of Israel,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “Just as the P5+1, United States and the world powers are negotiating the nuclear agreement, the Ayatollah [Ali Hosseini] Khamenei, the ruler of Iran, calls for the annihilation of Israel. He just did that four days ago."
Across the Persian Gulf, the talks are making another neighbor nervous. Saudi Arabia has said that even though it doesn’t need a nuclear program, it will start its own uranium enrichment at the levels agreed to by Iran.
If no agreement is reached next week, there could be implications for the U.S. and Iran within the two countries.
Congress gave the administration permission to waive some sanctions to keep up talks with Iran. But now hawks on both sides of the aisle are pushing for tougher sanctions if there is no agreement next week or if the deal doesn't go far enough.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s relatively moderate stance could be under pressure in Iran, allowing hard-line opponents to gain ground against him.
How has the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant affected negotiations between the U.S. and Iran in other areas?
Will Congress stop a nuclear deal that Barack Obama’s administration negotiates with Iran?
WIll a nuclear deal be enough to lead to a broader breakthrough in U.S.-Iran relations?
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