A senior Democratic senator said on Wednesday that President Barack Obama believes the chances of a nuclear agreement with Iran are “less than 50-50,” even as he works to reassure Senate Democrats that he won’t accept a bad deal, Politico reports.
During something of a working cocktail party Tuesday night, the president reportedly sounded a fresh note of pessimism as the nuclear talks in Vienna missed yet another self-imposed deadline.
“He said the chances he thought were less than 50-50 at this point and that he wouldn’t agree to something he thought was weak or unenforceable,” Senator Dick Durbin told Politico on Wednesday. “But if he comes up with an agreement and it meets his standards he wanted us to take an honest look at it and not prejudge.”
The president spoke at length about Iran, senators who attended said. This was not the first time Obama has said the odds are against a deal, but his remarks reflect the White House’s message to both the Iranians and domestic opponents that U.S. negotiators would sooner walk away than back away from Obama’s core goals, noted Politico.
“He took us back to what the framework was when the initial agreement was announced in Lausanne,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) was quoted as having said Tuesday night. “He said, ‘Don’t get nervous, don’t get concerned about statements by the supreme leader, about statements in the press. I am not going to sign a deal where we can’t assure that we’ve blocked all pathways to a bomb for Iran.’ I found that very reassuring.”
While Obama “covered every hot topic there was,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), when it came to Iran, “he wanted to make it clear to us that if it’s a bad deal, there’s no deal.”
Iran and the West on Tuesday extended the deadline on reaching a final nuclear deal to Friday after already having extended it from June 30 to July 7.
Tuesday’s extension marked the fourth time the parties have extended the interim deal struck in November 2013, which gave Iran limited sanctions relief in return for its restricting its nuclear program, including halting production of 20 percent enriched uranium.
Regarding inspections, which Iran has refused to allow on sensitive nuclear sites, an adviser to Iran's parliament speaker on international affairs revealed Tuesday that Iran remains belligerent in its defiance of requests to allow inspections of the facilities.
"That we do not allow our military and sensitive sites to be inspected or that we refuse to send our (nuclear) scientists under the knife of interrogation is part of Iran's obvious and inalienable rights," Hossein Sheikholeslam told the Iranian Tasnim News Agency.
Another key sticking point aside from inspections has been Iran's demand that all sanctions be lifted as soon as a deal is reached, and its refusal to disclose the military aspects of its nuclear program.
A senior Western official made clear on Tuesday night that talks had to wrap up by Friday and that the latest extension would be the last one.
"We've come to the end," the source said, on condition of anonymity. "We have just made one, final extension. It is hard to see how or why we would go beyond this. Either it happens in the next 48 hours, or not."
On Sunday, before the talks were extended again, Secretary of State John Kerry had indicated that a nuclear agreement would be possible only if Iran makes the “hard choices” necessary.
Kerry said they had made “genuine progress” in talks over the last few days but “several of the most difficult issues” remain, the report said.
“If hard choices get made in the next couple of days, made quickly, we could get an agreement this week, but if they are not made we will not,” he said.