Don't stop believin': Kerry staying "at least" another day in Switzerland to keep Iran talks going

“At least.” If Iran tells him they want him there three more weeks, with talks to be held at their convenience, presumably he’ll agree to that too.

If you believe, as the White House clearly does, that a bad deal is better than no deal, then walking away isn’t an option.

How far apart are the two sides? Far enough that they can’t even agree on what sort of statement should be issued if/when talks conclude. Obama wants a list of detailed commitments so that he doesn’t look like a total chump when showing Americans what he got for his effort on this. Iran wants the opposite of that because their approach to this deal from day one will be to avoid compliance. That’s far easier to do when you’re working off of something vague that can be interpreted in various ways than something specific.

But the scope of the statement is small potatoes. The real problem is that they’re far apart on the large potatoes too.

Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program appeared headed for double overtime on Wednesday, beset by competing claims after diplomats abandoned a March 31 deadline for the outline of a deal and agreed to press on.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said negotiators were still facing a “tough struggle,” indicating the talks were not likely to end anytime soon. And other officials indicated the efforts, already extended into Wednesday, probably would drag into Thursday…

[Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas] Araghchi named differences on sanctions relief on his country as one dispute, along with disputes on Iran’s uranium enrichment-related research and development.

“Definitely our research and development program on high-end centrifuges should continue,” he told Iranian television.

R&D on centrifuge design isn’t a minor detail. The whole point of this deal from the White House’s perspective is to retard Iran’s enrichment capabilities so that, even if they choose to “break out” and start enriching uranium at weapons-grade levels, the equipment they’ll have on hand will be so archaic that it’ll take at least a year to generate the necessary amount of bomb material. If Iran is allowed to continue developing high-tech centrifuges, though, the breakout period could shorten dramatically: The IR-2 centrifuge is five or six times as fast as the IR-1s that the U.S. wants Iran to use. In other words, if Obama caves and allows centrifuge research to continue, he’ll be agreeing to let Iran undermine the biggest “achievement” to come out of all this from the United States’s perspective. It’s amazing that, on the day they were hoping to announce some sort of deal, the U.S. and Iran still haven’t reached an understanding on a matter as basic as that.

Serious question, then: Is there any point here where the White House starts to regard its own desperation to do a deal as unseemly and embarrassing? Diplomats from other western countries have already left Switzerland in frustration. Iran’s foreign minister is teasing the U.S. with warnings that “this opportunity … may not be repeated,” knowing full well the sort of terror that will strike in Obama’s and Kerry’s hearts. America seems to have given up any pretense that it’s willing to walk away, even if only for a few weeks, to show Iran that they need to be more accommodating if they want a deal to happen. In fact, I wonder how long it’ll be before Obama starts justifying his deal-at-all-costs approach by claiming that Iran doesn’t want a deal to happen, and therefore the surest way for America to stick it to ’em is to persist until they give in. That spin would be moronic — if the White House thinks Iran isn’t negotiating in good faith, it should walk away immediately rather than make concessions to keep things going — but we’re fast approaching the point where our leaders’ insistence on making something happen here will seem humiliating even to Democrats and the media, which means O will need an argument handy to save face. The idea that we’re holding Iran’s feet to the fire somehow by continuing this charade at all costs is just what the doctor ordered. I bet we hear some variation of it from Josh Earnest or the State Department by Friday at the latest.