Progress reported in Vienna on final text of Iran nuclear deal

Congressional timeline puts pressure on June 30 deadline.

NEGOTIATORS FOR Iran and six world powers are shown meeting in the historic basement of the Palais Coburg Hotel in Vienna in April. (photo credit: REUTERS)
NEGOTIATORS FOR Iran and six world powers are shown meeting in the historic basement of the Palais Coburg Hotel in Vienna in April.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Experts from world powers are working on a continuous basis toward a nuclear deal with Iran, convening at the Palais Coburg in Vienna on Thursday to iron out final language of the text.
While specific sticking points remain – including over the precise pace of sanctions relief, the nature of a snapback mechanism should Iran violate a deal and the will of Iran to allow inspections at some of its nuclear sites – the focus of experts remains squarely on the technical process of writing the long, dense and historic document.
Iran’s top diplomats were scheduled to join meetings in Austria after holding bilateral talks in Moscow with their Russian counterparts. Negotiators from the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany seek to reach full agreement on all provisions by June 30.
US and Iranian officials claim to have made progress in recent days toward that final document, a “comprehensive joint plan of action” that will govern a decades-long agreement between world powers and Iran over the size and scope of its nuclear activities and of the international community’s monitoring powers over the program.
“We have made important progress on the final text, but less so on the annexes, so work continues,” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said in Vienna on Thursday.
If successful, negotiators will present the deal in its entirety – in English and Farsi – to both the UN Security Council and, in effect, to the US Congress.
The Security Council, having negotiated the text, will presumably agree to endorse the deal through resolution and proceed with lifting sanctions after Iran complies with a series of initial tasks. Iran is expected to have a period of six-to-eight months to execute on those initial requirements with time for the International Atomic Energy Agency to verify compliance.
But the clock may not start until Congress votes to approve, or disapprove, of a deal in a resolution that may present Capitol Hill Democrats with a presidential veto.
Congress is not required to vote on the deal, but is sure to do so under Republican leadership in both houses.
The speaker of the House and majority leader in the Senate can either present a vote of approval or a vote of disapproval, though only a vote of disapproval would be binding in that it would include a clause abstaining Congress from US commitments to ease sanctions on Iran.
A bill recently signed into law by US President Barack Obama grants Congress 30 days to debate the deal if negotiators meet the June 30 deadline.
That number doubles to 60 days if negotiators extend their efforts beyond July 10.
That means a one- or twomonth extension would maintain a level of uncertainty surrounding the deal throughout the fall, possibly delaying Iranian compliance and the time frame for a UN Security Council vote.
White House officials fear the delay would invite difficulties from the 2016 presidential campaign and drag key moments in the execution of the deal toward the very end of Obama’s presidency.
From a hospital bed in Boston following a bicycle-riding accident, US Secretary of State John Kerry has instructed his team to stick to the time frame and recommit all parties to the June 30 deadline.