The Iranian regime apparently believes it can extract additional concessions from world powers as the deadline for a March 31 deal approaches, according to a report by Bloomberg News from Lausanne, Switzerland. Iran wants UN sanctions to be lifted up front–not kept in place for several years while international monitors measure Iranian compliance, as the U.S. and other powers (Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany) have said was a non-negotiable provision.
Evidently some European powers have begun to shift. Iran praised France and Germany for their apparent flexibility on sanctions, hoping that the U.S. and others would follow. Both France and Germany have a history of resisting sanctions against rogue regimes in the Middle East, though France has taken a tougher line than the Obama administration in negotiations with Iran. The Obama administration is likely to shift as well rather than losing the opportunity for a deal.
However, it is not clear that the Obama administration could actually deliver on any promise to remove sanctions. Though it refuses to allow the Senate to ratify the deal itself–a position many critics say is at odds with the U.S. Constitution–the sanctions currently in place against Iran were passed into law by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama. That means that only Congress can remove those sanctions, through new legislation that would have to pass both houses.
As for the chances of a deal–possibly on Sunday, which is the last day that all of the major representatives of the powers at the negotiating table will be together in Lausanne at once–the Russian foreign minister now says that the probability is “significantly higher than 50 percent.” Earlier this month, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu addressed Congress, Democrats had said the chances of a deal were “60/40 against,” in the words of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).