Some American officials are skeptical that even a four-month extension in talks will not be enough to resolve some of the major sticking points among negotiators. And the reality is that as time goes on, the West will continue to lose leverage as Iran's economy slowly crawls toward a recovery with limited sanctions relief.
"The extension was expected because Iranian nuclear intransigence is being further emboldened by the reality that Western negotiating leverage is diminishing," Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider.
Dubowitz helped write a report detailing how Iran's economy has rebounded — and sanctions pressure has subsided — by recent U.S. moves.
"The Obama administration's mid-2013 decision to de-escalate the sanctions pressure, and the direct relief offered at Geneva, have sparked a modest albeit fragile Iranian economic recovery and increased the economy's resilience to sanctions pressure," Dubowitz told BI. "Tehran may believe that it can sustain these negotiations for many months if not years, provide only limited and reversible nuclear concessions, while extracting additional direct sanctions relief and solidifying its economic recovery."
Dubowitz says that if Tehran's bet turned out to be true, then the nuclear concessions would continue to swing Iran's way.
"Then the Obama administration is left doing more of what it has done already — namely, defining downwards its nuclear demands until Iran's leaders have deal terms that give them an industrial-size nuclear capacity, relative immunity from any new sanctions, and the essential elements they need to build nuclear weapons at a time of their choosing," he said.
"Nuclear diplomacy has made the Obama administration even more reluctant to push back against Iranian influence for fear that this will compromise any nuclear deal," Dubowitz told BI.
"It has even sparked delusional recommendations from Washington's commentariat that the U.S. and Iran have common interests. The result of this will be an even more dangerous Iran which will use any nuclear deal to diminish its diplomatic isolation, restore its economy, and supercharge its regional influence at significant cost to U.S. interests."
And what if a comprehensive deal can't be reached? Dubowitz noted that "he is deeply skeptical that the Obama administration will be willing to walk away from the negotiations if a good deal is not possible."
If the U.S. does decide to walk away, Obama would have to scrap his plan to open up Iran.
"If there is no good deal to be had ... then the president will have to deliver on his commitment that he will massively enhance the economic pressure and that all options including military force will be considered," Dubowitz said.
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