The headlines announcing the progress made in the nuclear talks in Vienna between Iran and the world powers originate in Tehran. There are basically two countries which have an interest in presenting a distorted picture of alleged progress made in the talks: Israel and Iran.
For a while now, the talks in Vienna are no longer about stopping the Iranian nuclear ability. We have already missed the train there. Now, they are political talks aimed at serving the tactical goals of the heads of state in Jerusalem and Tehran.
Israeli officials are attempting to create a particularly pessimistic picture, as if an agreement is about to be signed between Iran and the US, and that is taking over the public agenda on the eve of the elections and serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's need to travel to Washington to address the Congress.
The Iranians, on the opposite side, have no intention of giving up their nuclear ability, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani isn't really interested in an agreement, and the positive headlines are helping the political leadership present national pride: When it comes to Iran's national interest, no one will make us capitulate.
At the same time come the leaks about remarkable progress and gap bridging in order to exert a bit more pressure on the American administration: Look how close we are. You've anyway lost your shirt, so put a bit more effort into it.
Netanyahu knows that the chance that an agreement will be signed between Iran and the world powers on March 26 and that a detailed agreement for dismantling the Iranian nuclear enrichment ability will be submitted in June is very low.
But Netanyahu is right about one thing: The American president, who has his own political reasons, is making a huge effort to convince the Iranians to sign – sending them messages, letters and messengers and getting into an argument with the Congress. But Barack Obama is actually causing his own failure. He wants the goods so much that he has already put all the cards on the table, while the Iranians are still holding the cards close to their chest.
Even today – two months before the scheduled date for signing an agreement – the Iranians have hardly budged while the Americans have reached the limit of concessions. Rouhani left the following instruction to his negotiations team: Iran will not give up any ability it has already acquired. It will not dismantle any centrifuges.
So the Iranians are saying to the Americans: You have already crossed the Rubicon, agreed to leave us most of the centrifuges, a certain enrichment ability, and let us continue to engage in research and development – in other words, to continue developing advanced centrifuges. So take just one more tiny step towards us and let us increase the number of advanced centrifuges over time.
And the Iranians have another condition: The moment the agreement is signed, an immediate removal of all the sanctions and a full return to the family of nations.
The Americans have agreed that Iran will continue to hold onto the major part of the centrifuges, but are demanding that the West will control the uranium enrichment products: The quantity, the enrichment rate and the transfer of surpluses to Russia.
That's ridiculous. It means that the Obama administration has basically agreed that Iran will become a nuclear threshold state, only the supervision will be tighter in the first years. In other words, the moment the Iranians decide to seize the opportunity, they will break through with a bomb very quickly. Iran is retaining the option to produce a nuclear weapon whenever it feels like it.
It's not Netanyahu's outcry that is stopping Obama from taking the last step towards the Iranians. England, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and especially France, are unhappy with the agreement that is taking shape. As long as he fails to create a consensus with his partners, he cannot present the agreement to the American people.
If Netanyahu really wants to influence the outcome of the nuclear talks, he shouldn't travel to Washington but to Paris and London, and deliver his address there. Unless he has a different consideration.