Different sources have provided a variety of opinions on the status of Iranian nuclear negotiations over the past twenty-four hours.
The Associated Press quoted U.S. officials on Tuesday saying that talks could be extended for an indefinite period after tomorrow’s nominal deadline, holding sanctions against Iran at bay for as long as progress was being made. On the other hand, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said he thought the chances of reaching an agreement very soon were good. Sources told the New York Times that something might be coming down the pipe on Wednesday.
But early Tuesday afternoon, rumors began circulating that an agreement had been reached, and a formal announcement would be coming in a matter of hours. These rumors seem to emanate from Iranian media, which does not necessarily make them incredible, but it is a detail worth keeping in mind.
An Iranian source claimed the agreement has been reached & Iran and 5+1 teams are going to the university of Lausanne to sign it #irantalks
— Rohollah Faghihi (@FaghihiRohollah) March 31, 2015
As recently as this morning, Iranian officials sounded generally optimistic that an agreement could be worked out, but they did not seem confident that it would be announced today.
Update, 2:15 PM EST: It appears that the “agreement has been reached” rumor didn’t pan out; what’s actually on tap, according to the BBC, is “a general statement focusing on points of agreement, which would be enough to allow for a new phase of talks on a comprehensive deal. But there is no sign that the most contentious issues have been resolved.”
In other words, the product of this round of talks was an agreement to have more talks. That’s what President Obama’s crack negotiating team gave endless humiliating concessions to Iran to achieve.
The most through-the-looking-glass part of the BBC report comes when they deliver a general status report on the talks: ”
After months of negotiations, she adds, the basic outline is well known: Iran would scale back the dimensions of its nuclear programme and subject it to rigorous inspection for at least 10 years. In exchange, there would be an easing and eventual termination of UN, US and EU sanctions. However, there has not been an agreement on some of the key technical details and political trade-offs involved in making that happen.”
And those unresolved “technical details” are… every important concession Iran could make, including how long the restrictions would last, how Iranian compliance would be monitored, what consequences Iran would face for non-compliance, how many weapons-grade centrifuges they can keep spinning for their “peaceful nuclear program,” whether they get to keep their existing nuclear fuel stockpile, and how long it would take for Iran to be paid off with sanctions relief.
Update, 5:00 PM EST: These negotiations seem to be ending in a characteristically screwed-up manner:
— Jon Williams (@WilliamsJon) March 31, 2015