As Eli Lake and Josh Rogin reported in the Daily Beast last week, the Obama administration began relaxing sanctions simply to get talks started. Iran, by contrast, has offered no such concessions to the United States.
Since the breakdown of the talks last week, Iran has insisted on its willingness to walk away if it does not gain a deal to its liking. Secretary of State John Kerry – by contrast again – has blitzed the media, defending the agreement as better than nothing at all.
Iran is the country more willing to live with the failure of the talks. Its worst-case scenario at Geneva is more sanctions, more economic privation, more public discontent, and more need for political repression. This last is not an outcome that need frighten the regime very much: The mullahs crushed protests in 2003 and 2009 and there’s no reason to doubt that they can crush any future protest equally effectively.
The Obama administration seems much more frightened of its worst-case outcome: the need to use military force to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Compared with that scenario, it seems to prefer any deal, no matter how flimsy or one-sided. And the Iranians seem to understand that preference.