On Monday, the United States and United Kingdom announced a seven-month extension of negotiations with Iran regarding its nuclear infrastructure. This came after slow progress in yearlong talks to establish a basic framework for a more comprehensive accord.
As a result of the extension, Iran was granted a continuation of the temporary agreement, which provides $700 million each month in sanctions relief. However, the newly elected Republican majority in the Senate presents the threat of added sanctions and a requirement that any final deal be sent to Congress for approval. The White House believes these actions could undermine ongoing talks.
Secretary of State John Kerry expressed optimism at new ideas that emerged in the last few days of negotiations and argued that leaving the table would be a poor decision, as a temporary agreement halting Iran’s program will remain in place while talks continue. Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif also expressed his confidence that the parties “don’t need seven months” to come to a solution.
Despite this outward positivity, plenty of obstacles remain on the path towards a final settlement. First, President Hassan Rouhani does not seem to have the political autonomy necessary to make decisions leading to a deal. Additionally, supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini has not yet expressed a willingness to make the widespread cuts to Iran’s nuclear endeavors necessary to secure a final deal.