The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, the P5+1, and Iran are in overtime negotiations to reach a nuclear agreement, after failing to craft one in the first year of talks. The hardest stage of negotiations between these powers is occurring now, ahead of the March 1 deadline for a framework deal. Iran and the West need to work harder than ever to reach a resolution. However, perpetual extension of negotiations is not politically or economically feasible. A confluence of factors—insufficient economic relief, hardliners in the U.S. Congress and Iran, and ambitions of certain P5+1 members—makes the window of opportunity to conclude a deal very brief.
Under the current interim deal, economic relief is insufficient to satisfy Iran in the long-term. In conjunction with low oil prices, President Hassan Rouhani’s promise to improve Iran’s economy would be compromised by a long-term continuation of the interim agreement. Oil prices have slid dramatically since June highs of $115 a barrel to around $50 today. The drop in oil price has reduced Iran’s revenue, which relies 50 percent on the oil sector. Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, Iran’s oil minister, stated recently that after sanctions are lifted, Iran would raise production from 2.7 million b/d to a goal of four million b/d. Iran’s oil production ambitions fall outside the bounds prescribed by the sanctions currently in place. If the untenable combination of lack of economic relief and falling oil prices causes a crisis in Iran’s leadership, progress in nuclear negotiations could be undone. Nuclear diplomacy could fail entirely if a new president emerges who is not interested in making a deal.
Read the full article at The Hill.