Iran Nuclear Talks Deadline Looms With Little Angst About Extension

Even Israel Is Resigned to Negotiations Dragging On

No Big Threat? It was almost two years ago that Benjamin Netanyahu grimly warned the world of the ‘existential’ threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. Now, a deadline to reach a deal is approaching with little sign of concern.
Getty Images
No Big Threat? It was almost two years ago that Benjamin Netanyahu grimly warned the world of the ‘existential’ threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. Now, a deadline to reach a deal is approaching with little sign of concern.

By Nathan Guttman

Published July 12, 2014, issue of August 01, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

When nuclear negotiations with Iran began, policy wonks and pro-Israel advocates marked July 20 on their calendars. It was the deadline set for reaching a historic agreement between Tehran and the global powers, after which Iran would either rejoin the community of nations or face an escalation that could lead to military action down the road.

But now the deadline is set to come and go, without leaving much of a mark.

Gaps between Iran and the group of six nations it is negotiating with are too large to overcome by then, but progress made in six months of negotiations is too significant to give up. And so the finish line is largely expected to move once again, without much opposition being heard from Washington, Tehran — or even Jerusalem.

“Extension is the most likely outcome,” said Gary Samore, who until 2013 served as President Obama’s top adviser on nuclear nonproliferation. Samore, now executive director for research at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, explained that pushing back the deadline is the most reasonable course of action for Iran and for the United States.

“Both sides would prefer the current status quo than a return to the previous situation when we were steadily increasing sanctions and Iran was increasing enrichment and it appeared to be heading to a military confrontation,” Samore added.

Six months have passed since the interim nuclear agreement was signed, and its expected extension gives pause to take toll of what negotiations have yielded so far. While an agreement is still elusive, all parties have learned important lessons during this interim period: Iran discovered that the path to opening world markets and to ending its international seclusion will be longer than it had expected; America has learned that even under crippling economic pressure, Iran can still run a tough bargain, and Israel, initially fearful of the interim agreement, which it viewed as a step toward the complete collapse of a carefully structured sanctions regime, found out that Iran, by and large, can stick to a deal and that the world is not rushing to unlock Iran’s ring of isolation.

The Obama administration has been reluctant to admit that the initial six months have passed without a breakthrough. As the July 20 deadline approaches, the United States has increased pressure, signaling to Iran that it should not count on an extension of the interim agreement and that it would be better off showing up at the negotiating table with willingness to compromise.

“An extension is by no means automatic,” said a senior administration official briefing reporters on the status of talks on July 3. The official argued that meeting the deadline is “not impossible” but it was up to Tehran to demonstrate flexibility. “This is not a negotiation about two parties meeting each other halfway,“ the official said.

But as the clock ticks toward the deadline, the gaps remain significant, most visibly on issues relating to Iran’s ability to enrich uranium after a deal is signed. Tehran, according to press reports based on sources from both sides, insists on maintaining its existing stockpile of enriched uranium and keeping thousands of centrifuges that would be able to produce more low-level enriched uranium. The United States and its partners have insisted on reducing the existing stockpile of enriched uranium and limiting the number of operative centrifuges to several hundred, a number that will allow enrichment for research and energy uses but will keep Iran at least a year away from acquiring enough nuclear material to build a bomb.

This gap has placed Israel much closer to the United States than when negotiations began. The Israeli government still insists that only a zero enrichment deal could be acceptable. And while the Obama administration has never agreed to this demand, it is now clear that Washington’s position on this issue is much closer to that of Jerusalem than it is to Tehran’s standpoint.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.