Will Iran's new demands push a nuclear treaty further out of reach? (+video)
Iran's demand to lift sanctions has already been a sticking points in nuclear talks. A new request to eliminate the arms embargo just added fuel to the fire.
Iran and six world powers met again Saturday behind closed doors, as the negotiators gave themselves until Monday to reach a nuclear deal, the third extension in two weeks.
As each extension passes, both sides become more frustrated. Until two weeks ago, Iran and the world powers were expressing hope to seal a deal; now most conversation is about the difficulties and obstacles.
US Secretary of State John Kerry tweeted about unsolved “issues":
His British counterpart Philip Hammond noted that although talks are moving forward, progress is “painfully slow,” Reuters reported.
On the other hand, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused world powers of changing position, reported the BBC, saying that “several countries” are making “excessive demands.”
There are several sticking points, including international inspections of Iran's non-nuclear sites, verifying Iran's compliance, and sanctions relief.
US President Barack Obama cannot suspend sanctions on Iran without a congressional review of the Iran deal. The US has already missed the Friday congressional deadline that would have required a 30-day review. Now any possible Iran deal would be subject to a 60-day review period.
And a recent complication is making a deal more difficult to reach: Iran wants the UN missile and arms embargo to be completely lifted.
Russia has echoed Iran's demands for the arms embargo to be lifted “as soon as possible,” Reuters reported.
"Iran is a consistent supporter of the struggle against ISIS, and lifting the arms embargo would help Iran to advance its efficiency in fighting terrorism," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters on Thursday during an energy-related summit in Russia.
The arms embargo was first imposed on Iran in 2007, as part of a United Nations Security Council resolution. In 2010, amid increasing reports of Iran's nuclear program, the UN imposed a new set of sanctions on Iran while expanding the arms embargo.
A diplomatic source in Vienna told the Russian news agency Tass on Saturday that the Iranian side is ready to preserve embargo only "for six months after a deal."
On Thursday, Tass reported a source in Vienna saying that the arms embargo could be maintained for two to eight years after a possible agreement.
Negotiators have not completely closed the window and are still working on a way forward on this issue, but the US is inflexible on the embargo, say officials.
During the July 7 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army General Martin Dempsey said, "Under no circumstances" should the US relieve pressure on Iran’s military and ballistic-missile programs. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter noted that Iran should "continue to be isolated as a military," Bloomberg reported.
"I can’t imagine that any member of Congress" would support a treaty accepting Iran's demands, Senator Tom Cotton, a member of the Armed Services Committee, told Bloomberg. Such an agreement "goes beyond the nuclear issues on the table and also gives Iran relief for the conventional arms embargo or their ballistic missile program."