When Secretary of State John Kerry returned to Vienna for the final round of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program yesterday, speculation was rife that the parties would not meet their deadline of this Tuesday for a comprehensive deal. Officials are now confirming that, and the Iranian foreign minister is heading home to Tehran today for consultations with his superiors:
Iranian media said Mohammed Javad Zarif’s trip was planned in advance. Still, the fact that he was leaving the talks so close to the Tuesday deadline reflected his need to get instructions on how to proceed on issues where the sides remain apart — among them how much access Tehran should give to U.N. experts monitoring his country’s compliance to any deal.
Nonetheless, negotiators insist that they are still working toward a final deal in this round of talks and that another long-term extension is not in the cards:
Zarif is expected back in Vienna tomorrow, but Iran’s hardliners are clearly losing patience with negotiations they never much cared for to begin with:
“Do not think that Iran needs a deal,” said Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament, according to a report Sunday on the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcast. “We welcome an agreement, but I do not let you to think that if you exert more pressure, Iran will tolerate it. Do not make Iran withdraw from the talks, and do not make it follow its nuclear path more speedily.”
Larijani’s parliament, along with Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, raised last-minute reservations about the deal last week that seemed designed to scuttle an accord. Critics of the deal in the US and its Western allies have also grown more outspoken as the deadline approaches. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a longstanding opponent of the talks, weighed in again today on “this bad agreement, which is becoming worse by the day,” saying: “It is still not too late to go back and insist on demands that will genuinely deny Iran the ability to arm itself with nuclear weapons.”