Deadline Changed to July 10, Another Extension Possible
The P5+1 countries announced another extension of nuclear negotiations and set July 10 as the new deadline to reach a final deal. The European Council and U.S. Department of Treasury in turn extended the 2013 Joint Plan of Action freeze on certain Iran sanctions to July 10 as well. The new deadline notably falls after July 9, the last day in which the U.S. Congress will only have 30 days to review an agreement.
If no deal is reached by July 9, the U.S. Congress will have 60 days to reject any deal, an outcome which many believe would jeopardize a final agreement by giving opponents more time to undermine it. But the Obama Administration and its allies spent most of Tuesday downplaying such a scenario. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer White House argued that allowing Congress more time would not be a bad idea and could even lead to a better agreement, though he warned against allowing Iran to draw out negotiations.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House would “welcome additional scrutiny of the deal, if one is reached” and pointed out that the 60 days will overlap with Congress’s month-long recess in August, leaving less time to debate the agreement. U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby even suggested that negotiators could extend the deadline again, noting that Secretary of State John Kerry “wouldn’t have remained in Vienna and so dedicated to this if he didn’t think [a final deal] was possible.”
P5+1 Negotiator Says Only 48 Hours Remain
Despite rhetoric from the U.S., one P5+1 source told Reuters hours ago that Western negotiators would only allow 48 hours to wrap up disagreements, setting 4 a.m. GMT (midnight EST) on July 9 as the deadline to reach an agreement. This would only allow Congress 30 days to review a deal. The anonymous negotiator insisted that “we’ve come to the end” and that “it is hard to see how or why we would go beyond this. Either it happens in the next 48 hours, or not.” Meanwhile, Iran continues to maintain that it does not consider any date this week a deadline to reach an agreement.
Work Still Remains on “8 or 9” Issues
The extension comes as difficult hurdles remain in Vienna, with E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini citing several “tense” moments during negotiations this week. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that 8 or 9 issues “had to be polished,” though he confirmed reports that both sides had agreed on the timing of sanctions relief and technological measures to eliminate Iran’s ability to create a nuclear weapon.
Lavrov also called
the lifting of sanctions on Iran’s missile program and the U.N. arms embargo a “major problem” in negotiations. Russia, unlike the U.S., supports lifting the restrictions because it would allow Iran to purchase air defense systems and other defense technology from Russia.