In the run-up to the new talks, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani conceded a longstanding demand that Iran’s right to enrich uranium must be recognized in any deal, and that incited opposition from hardliners in the his country. Also, speaking to reporters in Rome while en route to the negotiations, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif accused Israel of trying to “torpedo” a possible agreement.
Yet most signs seemed to be pointing to a deal coming together before or over the weekend.
Obama, along with Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, personally appealed to senators in a White House meeting to hold off on seeking additional sanctions in order to test Iran’s seriousness in addressing concerns it is trying to develop nuclear weapons.
“We have the opportunity to halt the progress of the Iranian program and roll it back in key respects, while testing whether a comprehensive resolution can be achieved,” the White House said in a statement after the two-hour meeting Tuesday. It said if there is not an initial agreement, Iran will keep making progress on increasing enrichment capacity, growing its stockpiles of enriched uranium, installing new centrifuges and developing a plutonium reactor in the city of Arak.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama told the senators that new sanctions would be most effective as a consequence if Iran refused to accept the deal now on the table or agreed and then failed to comply. And the president rejected reports that Iran would receive $40 billion or $50 billion in sanctions relief.
“Part of the reason I have confidence that the sanctions don’t fall apart is because we’re not doing anything around the most powerful sanctions,” Obama said later at an event sponsored by The Wall Street Journal.