Iran Nuke Deal All But Done
Cue the fat lady in the burqa -- the Iran nuclear deal is done.
Two diplomats told the Associated Press that negotiators will announce on Monday that an agreement has been reached for Iran to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
How solid is that information? Even the Iranians are saying a deal is near but may not be ready by Monday.
All of the officials, who are at the talks in Vienna, demanded anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the negotiations publicly.
"We are working hard, but a deal tonight is simply logistically impossible," the Iranian official said, noting that the agreement will run roughly 100 pages.
The senior U.S. official declined to speculate as to the timing of any agreement or announcement but said "major issues remain to be resolved."
Despite the caution, the negotiators appeared to be on the cusp of an agreement.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who on Thursday had threatened to walk away from the negotiations, said Sunday that "a few tough things" remain in the way but added "we're getting to some real decisions."
En route to Mass at Vienna's gothic St. Stephens Cathedral, Kerry said twice he was "hopeful" after a "very good meeting" Saturday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had Muslim services Friday.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also was cautiously optimistic, telling reporters Sunday: "I hope that we are finally entering the last phase of this negotiation."
In another sign that a deal could soon be sealed, Russian news agencies reported that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had arrived in Vienna. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was also expected later in the day. The other foreign ministers of the six nations negotiating with Iran already are in the Austrian capital and in position to join Kerry and Zarif for an announcement.
Movement toward a deal has been marked by years of tough negotiations. The pact is meant to impose long-term, verifiable limits on nuclear programs that Tehran could modify to produce weapons. Iran, in return, would get tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief.
The current round of nuclear talks is now in its 16th day and has been extended three times since the first deadline of June 30 was missed. The mood among negotiators had turned more somber each time a new target date — first July 7, then July 10 and then July 13 — was set.
As the weekend approached, Kerry declared the talks couldn't go on indefinitely and warned that the U.S. could walk away from the negotiations.
I don't think walking away from the negotiations was ever seriously considered. President Obama has far too much of his personal prestige invested in these talks and ending them would have virtually ended his presidency.