Deadline for Iran deal today. Or not

From watching the nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers (United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia), it seems that in Obama World a “deadline” with Iran is a “deadline,” except when it isn’t.

A lot like a “red line” with Syria over chemical weapons.

Washington’s threats of walking away from the nuclear talks (or inflicting punishment for the use of chemical weapons) just don’t seem to be credible — which is likely a reason that a pact with Tehran hasn’t been concluded yet.

Over the July Fourth weekend, there was word on the wires that a deal was imminent and that the July 7 deadline — which was set after they blew through the June 30 deadline — would be achieved.

Didn’t happen.

The parties then agreed to conclude negotiating by the end of this week, if not sooner. That looks unlikely, too, based on Secretary of State John Kerry’s comments yesterday in Vienna.

If a final deal isn’t sent to the Congress before today, the House and Senate have 60 days rather than 30 days to review and reject the agreement.

Clearly seeing the Americans — make no mistake, this is really a U.S.-Iran negotiation — as under pressure to close the deal due to existing congressional requirements, the Iranians not surprisingly started making new demands earlier this week.

For instance, Tehran asked that the United Nations lift punitive economic sanctions placed on Iran’s ballistic missile program; pretty brassy since the mullahs refused to allow its missile program to be part of the talks.

Iran also demanded that the United Nations’ conventional weapons embargo on Tehran be lifted — once again as part of a final nuke deal.

Washington declined Tehran’s “helpful suggestions,” but Moscow reportedly is sympathetic to the idea of lifting the arms ban so Iran can battle the Islamic State with, most-likely, Russian arms — what else?

There was also some drama this week as nerves frayed.

Bloomberg, citing an Iranian news agency, reported that Kerry and Iranian Prime Minister Javad Zarif exchanged heated words in private that could be heard beyond the room’s confines.

Though I stand by my concerns about squishy deadlines (and red lines) and their negative effect on American credibility generally and Iranian positions (at the talks), the delays may have actually served us in a way.

They’ve given us time to consider and discuss the broader ramifications of the deal — which aren’t happy ones.

For instance, the release of $100 billion — or more — in frozen assets to Iran under a deal means it will be able to muscle up its military and multiply its Middle East mischief which is arguably at unprecedented levels.

(See my July 2 op-ed, “Deal or no deal, Iran still a threat”).

American allies and friends will see a final deal as risky — if not much worse — and as letting the Iranian genie out of the bottle it’s been contained in for decades, threatening their security and advancing the Persian push for regional hegemony.

Consequently, especially if they’re going to take their time and get a “quality” pact, it’s critical that Team Obama take these broader strategic concerns into consideration as it works toward — should I even say it? — the likely setting of another “deadline.”

 - Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

About the Author

Peter Brookes Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy

Originally appeared in the Boston Herald