Iranian Nuclear Deal Down to the Wire Again

Just as in previous cycles of negotiations between the P5 + 1 (Security Council permanent members U.S., Russia, China, Great Britain, and France, plus Germany) and Iran, the parties are butting up against another deadline. It's November 24 this time around, and many issues remain.

Should the parties not reach an agreement, it is all but certain that the talks will be extended for another six- or twelve-month period rather than break down. Just as with the 21-year “peace process” between Israelis and Palestinians, no one is willing to accept that failure is not only an option, but reality.

The major difference between the Israeli-Palestinian track and the nuclear negotiations is that Israel is not a party to the nuclear talks. The nation most impacted by Iran becoming a nuclear power has to rely on other nations to represent its interests by preventing that from occurring. The danger is that an agreement that Israel considers an imbalanced and dangerous deal might be eagerly signed by an American government now anxious for some positive foreign policy achievement. The Obama administration has a very long losing streak both domestically and overseas, which now includes a second wipeout in a midterm election.

Obama has, throughout his six years in office, eagerly sought to change the American relationship with Iran, and for that matter, with Israel: one up, one down. At this point, Iran is cooperating with the U.S. in the fight with ISIS in Iraq and -- to a lesser extent -- in Syria (where the U.S. is less involved). Both parties seem eager to achieve stabilization in Iraq in particular. If that goal is achieved, Iran will have secured one more nation for its growing collection of Shiite-friendly regimes to add to Lebanon, Syria, and now Yemen. If ISIS is defeated in Iraq, then it will also be easier for Iranian proxy armies, such as Hezbollah and its own militias, to concentrate on wiping them out in Syria. Then Iran could get back to its primary interest: leading and supporting the fight against Israel.

The cooperation on the battlefield in Iraq is clearly connected to the nuclear negotiations with Iran.  Iran is happy to cooperate with the United States when it serves its own interests. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei learned this week that nothing he says or does, no matter how vile, will deter the P5 + 1 -- and, it seems, the Americans in particular -- from moving ahead. Khamenei recently called for the annihilation of Israel (even laying out nine points for discussion!). Also, his government funded the terrorist group responsible for the savage slaughter in a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday morning.

Analysts such as Michael Ledeen have argued a nuclear deal will not occur because it is impossible for the ayatollahs to accept a deal with a country they have demonized for 35 years. They are not interested in an Obama-in-Tehran signing ceremony. But it is also possible that the genocidal language about Israel and the continued verbal attacks on the United States are window dressing to protect the revolutionary flank, while a deal the Iranians seek (in particular, sanctions relief in exchange for their feeble promises to curtail their nuclear program) is forthcoming.