Call this something less than a confidence-builder. CBS News reports that talks with Iran may go another 48 hours after the deadline for a deal passed last night, but the talks will be a lonelier exercise. Three of the nations in the talks have walked out, while John Kerry tries wheedling the Iranians into an agreement of any kind:
European diplomats told CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan on Wednesday that nuclear negotiations with Iran could continue for another 24-48 hours, meaning the talks which have already exceeded their preordained deadline could drag on until the end of the week.
Just hours after the White House issued a public threat to walk away from the drawn-out talks if they failed to make significant headway by the original Tuesday night deadline, Secretary Kerry made an 11th hour decision to stay past midnight and keep the intense negotiations going, arguing that recent progress warranted an extension.
Progress is apparently defined as thus:
The French, Russian and Chinese Ministers had all left by Wednesday, but in spite of the suggestion the talks could continue for yet another day or two even in the absence of those top officials, Iranian and British diplomats said they were still optimistic a deal could be reached within far fewer hours.
Associated Press reporter Matt Lee noted that a 45-minute meeting between the foreign ministers this morning produced nothing at all. Neither did a subsequent 48-minute meeting between Kerry and Iranian FM Zarif. The only development from those talks turned out to be a restatement of what should already be obvious:
Western diplomat says "nothing decided" about any #Iran talks statement, says P5+1 won't accept document with no details in Lausanne.
— Matt Lee (@APDiploWriter) April 1, 2015
The Washington Post says earlier optimistic reports about the proximity of a deal appear to have been off the mark:
Negotiators scrambling to chart Iran’s nuclear future said Wednesday that several “key issues” remain unresolved, casting doubt on earlier, more optimistic predictions that an agreement was ready to be drafted.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said progress had been made, but characterized it as “slow going.”
“I’m optimistic that we will make further progress this morning but it does mean the Iranians being willing to meet us where there are still issues to deal with,” he told reporters. “Fingers crossed and we’ll hope to get there during the course of the day.”
The Iranians seem less than willing to go along with Hammond:
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi said Wednesday that “problems” remain in nuclear talks with world powers and there can be no deal without a “framework for the removal of all sanctions”.
In a live interview with state television from the talks in Switzerland, Araghchi said that “until we have solutions to all problems we cannot have a comprehensive agreement,” naming sanctions and research and development of advanced centrifuge machines as key stumbling blocks.
He said a joint statement on progress made in recent days would be issued later Wednesday in Lausanne, where the negotiations are taking place.
In other words, the Iranians want to stick with their demands to keep all their enriched uranium and have all sanctions lifted, plus be able to keep developing more efficient centrifuges that will accelerate their run to a nuke. The only question appears to be whether the Obama administration is desperate enough to go along with it, in order to have a foreign-policy achievement about which they can brag … at least until the first mushroom cloud appears in the Middle East. By that time, they’re all hoping to be long gone, though, so it won’t be their problem.
That leaves the rest of us to cross our fingers and hope that the P5+1 group wakes up to the threat, and to the history of appeasing extremist tyrants for an interregnum from principles.
Update: This statement from the talks sums up the ridiculous nature of the entire exercise:
“Negotiators have a tentative agreement on the rough outline of a possible public statement on the progress they have made so far that would also highlight areas of disagreement, diplomats close to the talks said.”
In other words, We’ll take the little white piece of paper, but hold the ‘peace in our time.’