U.S. planning a meeting on the side with Iran as July nuclear deal deadline approaches

The United States and the other P5+1 powers have been working with Iranian officials to bring the interim deal reached last November to its full-scale comprehensive resolution, with representatives all meeting up most recently in Vienna last month — but those talks evidently didn’t go all that well. This week, Reuters reported that analysts and diplomats aren’t feeling remotely confident that a deal will come together by the July 20th deadline to which everyone originally agreed (with a clause for a possible six-month extension), with one diplomat noting that “we’re far apart” on the terms of said deal and that the talks would be “long and complicated.” It sounds like the Obama administration, however, is hoping to keep the dream alive and persuade the Iranians to budge with a little separate one-on-one negotiation, because officials from both countries are getting together on June 9th/10th before the next round of group talks. Via CNN:

The United States and Iran are adding a new round of senior-level talks about the latter’s nuclear program, discussions separate from the so-called P5+1 process continuing in Vienna. …

Major disagreements on a comprehensive agreement remain, a senior administration official told CNN on Saturday. The new talks appear to be a push to see whether roadblocks can be overcome.

“We believe we need to engage in as much active diplomacy as we can to test whether we can reach a diplomatic solution with Iran on its nuclear program,” the official said. “These consultations come at an important juncture of the negotiations, and they will give us a timely opportunity to exchange views in the context of the next P5+1 round in Vienna.”

The Obama administration considers “engagement” with Iran as one of its major foreign-policy achievements (we know this, because officials keep telling us so), and won’t want to give up on the July 20th deadline so easily — so the White House is getting the band of diplomats that struck the initial interim deal with the Iranians in the first place back together. As Politico notes, however, Russia is also hoping to get some playing time on that front:

The discussions involving Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, are set for Monday and Tuesday. The European Union’s political director, Helga Schmid, will sit in. …

Iran’s official IRNA news agency said the upcoming U.S. talks would be followed by separate discussions in Rome between Iranian and Russian officials on Tuesday and Wednesday. IRNA quoted Abbas Araqchi, a senior member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, as saying that the Islamic Republic planned to hold other bilateral talks as well with the other world powers, but those meetings had yet to be set.