WASHINGTON (AFP) – A nuclear deal with Iran would be a rare coup for a beleaguered President Barack Obama already seeking to shape his White House legacy, but analysts caution that renewing full ties will take longer.
Iran and the United States have had no direct diplomatic relations since the 1979 storming of the US embassy in Tehran, when radical students held a group of American diplomats hostage for 444 days.
After a decade of stop-start talks, both sides have engaged seriously over the past year with the group of global powers, known as the P5+1, to hammer out a complex comprehensive nuclear agreement.
But the two nations have been driven to the negotiating table by their own agendas.
“If there is an agreement that prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability through diplomatic and peaceful means that’s a major achievement for US diplomacy, and internationalism,” said Alireza Nader, a senior policy analyst with the RAND Corporation.
As the world awaits the outcome of next week’s all-out push in Vienna toward a November 24 deadline, Nader warned it was impossible to “read the tea leaves.”
Like most observers, he says so much has been invested and the stakes are so high that the most likely scenario is the emergence of the contours of a deal with some last details still to be worked out.
A deal permanently removing the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran would be a stunning victory for Obama.
With just two years left of his second term, the Democrat is under fire at home and abroad for his perceived chaotic and timid foreign policy particularly in dealing with the chaos in the Middle East.
For Iranians, it could spell the lifting of a rigorous global sanctions regime that has crippled the country’s economy.
But “if there is a deal, it won’t make for friendship between Iran and its erstwhile antagonists,” cautioned Mark Fitzpatrick, a former US State Department official focused on non-proliferation issues now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.
“Friendship no, uneasy bedfellows yes,” he said.
In Washington, any dealings with Iran are highly politically charged.
Many Republicans, who now control both chambers of Congress after elections earlier this month, have been infuriated by the tentative rapprochement of Obama, a Democrat, toward Iran.