Hurdles Pile Up on Nuclear Deal
In an article published on Monday, AFP commented that hurdles to a nuclear agreement between Iran and the major powers are stacking up as uncertainty persists over talks aimed at ending the 12-year standoff on Tehran's nuclear program.
In Washington, lawmakers are considering imposing new sanctions on Tehran despite calls from the White House to give the negotiations more time. Iranian MPs have responded with threats of their own and are drafting two bills that would undermine the talks.
With the going already tough -- the level of uranium enrichment Iran can conduct and a timetable for lifting sanctions are said to be blocking a deal -- analysts say pressure is being ratcheted up.
"Those who oppose any diplomacy between Iran and the West are already seeking to end the process," said Ellie Geranmayeh, an Iran specialist at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
"With time, they will gain further ammunition."
Although the June 30 deadline for a final agreement between Iran and the P5+1 -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the US plus Germany -- is some way off, two earlier deadlines were missed.
In the Iranian capital, officials say the US and other world powers need to show more flexibility in nailing down the hard details of a deal.
Iran's negotiators have given no indication a compromise is in the offing and Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei last month voiced doubt that the US could be trusted.
Israel is lobbying hard against a final deal and Saudi Arabia is also wary, analysts say, and the negotiations could be scuttled if there is no definitive progress soon.
The biggest threat, they say, is the possibility of new US sanctions on Iran, which Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said would effectively "torpedo" the talks.
Such an outcome is likely the aim of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to the US Congress about Iran's nuclear efforts on March 3. In a signal of White House disapproval at such a high- profile and untimely intervention -- an outline agreement with Iran is due on March 31 -- President Barack Obama will not meet Netanyahu.
Two US senators, Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Robert Menendez, have said they will decide by March 24 whether to table new sanctions legislation.
If they can convince enough Democrats in the Republican-controlled Congress to back sanctions, they could have the super-majority needed to pass veto-proof legislation.