Analysis: In Iran talks, Khamenei calls the shots, not Obama

The US administration is very hot to sign a deal, but with Iran’s leader having the final word, anything can happen.

Obama and Khamenei (photo credit: REUTERS)
Obama and Khamenei
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can be temporarily satisfied. Due to good intelligence the Iran nuclear talks will probably not be finalized before the deadline on Tuesday.
Every day that passes has to be considered an achievement for Netanyahu and anyone else who opposes an agreement. It is very likely the talks will be extended – although not forever.
The US seems anxious to clinch a deal in a matter of days.
If it is achieved by July 4, Congress will have only 30 days to review the agreement. If there is no agreement by July 9, the congressional review period will be 60 days and, then, anything can happen.
Thus, President Barack Obama wishes to stamp the deal as quickly as possible. But it is not entirely in his hands. The power broker is Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He calls the shots.
After three extensive meetings with Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif left the talks in Vienna and flew home for consultations with Khamenei.
Zarif and his team feared that their communication lines were intercepted. They don’t even trust their secured and coded phones and computers.
Media and experts publications claimed Israeli intelligence was eavesdropping at the hotels where the various rounds of talks were taking place.
Zarif’s trip is also evidence that he doesn’t have the authority to finalize a deal; a deal that most of its clauses, including the stumbling blocks, have been known for months. Judging from past precedents, it is not sure that Zarif will return to Vienna with his supreme leader’s blessing. In the past, Khamenei authorized his nuclear team to sign an agreement, and then due to domestic pressure from his radicals he backed off. Khamenei’s approach may well be revisited – first let’s sign and then we’ll see.
One has to be completely stupid to dare predicting the chance of a deal being finalized.
The gaps, as stated by the foreign ministers of Germany, France and UK, remain large.
They revolve around all well-known controversial topics: the demand that Iran opens its suspected military sites for international inspection; that it makes its scientists, especially those involved in suspicious military programs in the past available for international questioning; and to accept that sanctions are not lifted until Iran meets its obligations according to the agreement once it is signed.
In short, the chance of clinching a deal remains to be seen.
Yes, logic says an agreement is an Iranian imperative and yes, the US administration is very hot to have it. But once again with Iran’s leader having the final word anything can happen.
Nothing is assured.