Whether or not world powers reach a nuclear understanding with Iran this week, Congress and world leaders will try to influence the ongoing negotiations until a final deadline at the end of June.
Negotiators for the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany have been unable to agree with Iran on principles of a deal to limit Iran's nuclear program in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.
Gary Samore, a former arms control coordinator for Obama, said he expects both bills to pass but not survive a presidential veto. The emergence of Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., as the next Senate Democratic leader could complicate matters and give administration skeptics more clout, said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who has testified before Congress on Iran sanctions.
Schumer, who's expressed skepticism of the emerging deal, is being lobbied heavily by both his pro-Israel constituents and the White House, Dubowitz said. "He'll be the bellwether for which way wavering Democrats go on this," he said.
Finalizing the Details
The difficult talks this week in Switzerland left many details to be ironed out. There's still no agreement on the pace of sanctions relief, whether Iran will explain evidence of a past nuclear weapons program — which it denies — and how its adherence to a deal will be monitored.
Since some details that were agreed to in principle in past talks were rejected this week — such as a plan to ship Iran's uranium stockpiles to Russia — everything is still "up in the air," Dubowitz said.
June 30 Deadline?
The talks have proceeded under a six-month agreement signed in November 2013 that has been extended several times already and is now due to expire June 30. Just as Tuesday's latest deadline passed, the next one could be too.
From the U.S. standpoint, keeping the 2013 interim agreement in place is an advantage, because it stops Iran from advancing its nuclear program and building its stockpiles of nuclear fuel, while depriving Iran of significant economic relief, Samore said.
"There are many problems that could easily make it difficult to get an agreement by June 30," Samore said. "At that point I would expect another extension."
"There is no such thing as a deadline in these negotiations," he said. "The only deadline I think the president is concerned about is January 2017, when his second term as president expires."
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