Yesterday, perhaps anticipating Congressional chattering in response to another missed deadline, Secretary of State John Kerry held a press conference to address the state of the nuclear negotiations with Iran, reassuring observers of negotiations across the world that a deal is within reach, and that the importance of getting to a deal on any given timetable pales in comparison to the importance of reaching an airtight deal.
“Let me assure you we would not be here continuing to negotiate just for the sake of negotiating. We’re here because we believe we are making real progress toward a comprehensive deal… We also recognize that we shouldn’t get up and leave simply because the clock strikes midnight. And I emphasize, given that the work here is incredibly technical and that the stakes are very, very high, we will not rush and we will not be rushed, and we won’t let ourselves be rushed through any aspect of this. All that we are focused on is the quality of the agreement, and that is what will continue to define our work.”
The quality of this agreement will not only define the work of our diplomats, it will define the legacy of Obama’s presidency, and it will change the contours of US foreign policy in the Middle East. As Barbara Slavin, writing in the Voice of America’s blog put it yesterday, “The reason the end game is proving so torturous is because the stakes riding on an Iran agreement are so high.”
While an agreement has yet to be struck, promising signs have been emerging in recent days. On Wednesday, various diplomats from the European countries involved in negotiations flew back to Vienna to facilitate the final push for a deal. Hours before Kerry’s press conference, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters “I allow for everything: I even allow that the deal could be reached in the next couple of hours.” While an agreement was not reached within hours of that statement, the optimistic outlook from a diplomat heavily involved in the talks is clearly a good sign. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi recently said that the text of the agreement is “around 96 percent complete.”
Clearly the diplomats are very very close. We’ll be tracking developments closely so check back in here at Groundswell and follow us on Twitter to for up to the minute coverage of the negotiations as they reach the final few yards of this diplomatic marathon.