For months, diplomats from six world powers have known what a deal over Iran’s disputed nuclear program would look like. It’s just the details that are missing.
How much uranium will Iran be allowed to enrich? How much will Iran reveal about its disputed nuclear program? How vigorous will international inspections be, and for Iran, will international sanctions be lifted?
“I think it is likely 50 percent, I think at the end of the day they’ve come so far to walk away at this point,” said Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council. “It’s going to be tremendously costly for both sides.”
But a potential nuclear deal must also get past domestic political hurdles. Yet analysts say the leaders of the U.S. and Iran have an opportunity to find common ground. President Barack Obama and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei have reportedly been exchanging secret letters over the past few years.
The U.S. Congress has been keeping the pressure on for a deal by pushing for more Iran sanctions. But now that the U.S. presidents’ political opposition controls Congress, there are concerns that could set back chances for an agreement.
There are divisions in Iran as well. The moderate government of Hassan Rouhani wants a nuclear deal more than the hardline conservatives do. Rouhani was elected to help fix the economy, and lifting sanctions would help. But some in Iran could never foresee a deal with the U.S.
There are differences among the international negotiating partners. Russia is the key to any deal. Moscow has offered to process Iranian enriched uranium into fuel, but there are deep divisions with the West over Ukraine and Syria.
France has taken a strong stance on Iran, wanting safeguards in any deal that give the West a longer warning time if Tehran decides to move forward with making a nuclear weapon.
In the Middle East, both Israel and Saudi Arabia have lobbied against a deal that would allow Iran to keep producing uranium. Two years ago, Israel warned that Iran could produce a nuclear weapon within six months if it decided to. Saudi officials say they may build uranium enrichment facilities if Iran is allowed to keep theirs.