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What Deadline? Iran and the West to Continue Nuclear Talks After June 30

Iran and the United States won't meet a June 30 deadline to get a nuclear deal done.

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When it comes to the Iran nuclear deal, a deadline is never really a deadline.

Ahead of a June 30 deadline for the the United States to complete a nuclear deal with Tehran, U.S. negotiators in Vienna said talks would extend past Tuesday. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is flying back to Iran to consult with his government about the talks.

This is the second time in recent months that diplomats have blown a date to finalize the long-elusive deal. They ignored a March 31 stop date to put a framework agreement in place, announcing a breakthrough a few days later.

Ignoring this deadline could have stark consequences for the deal, meant to limit Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons. Under the terms of a bill championed by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, which passed in April, the White House must deliver to Congress an agreement by July 9 for a 30-day review. If the White House fails, lawmakers will have 60 days to consider — and potentially scuttle — the agreement that has drawn opposition even from lawmakers in President Barack Obama’s own party, including Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

Under the terms of the framework deal, Iran would receive gradual relief from economic sanctions if it gives international monitors access to its nuclear facilities to verify it isn’t trying to build a weapon. It appears as if the largest stumbling block to reaching an agreement is how much access these monitors would receive.

Iranian Gen. Masoud Jazayeri said Sunday that the West was trying to “obtain Iran’s military information for years … by the pressure of sanctions.” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is also in Vienna, countered that Iran’s “nuclear activities, no matter where they take place,” must be monitored.

Critics of the deal, like former Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), maintain the agreement would give Iran a cash windfall of some $40 billion. The White House argues Tehran would only receive economic benefits over time and only if it abides by the terms of the deal. If it doesn’t, so-called “snap back” sanctions would be re-imposed against Iran.

A U.S. official told the BBC there would be no long-term extension of negotiations.

Ahead of the deadline, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is vehemently opposed to the deal, decried “this bad agreement, which is becoming worse by the day.”

“We are now witnessing a stark retreat from the red lines that the world powers set themselves only recently and publicly,” Netanyahu said at a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Vienna, hobbled by a leg cast, for the talks. According to the State Department, he met Sunday with Zarif and representatives of the his negotiating partners, the P5+1, which includes the United Kingdom, France, China, and Russia plus Germany.

Photo Credit: Christian Bruna/Getty Images

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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