Blocking or breakthrough? Where the Vienna talks are headed and what they can achieve

Sven-Eric FikenscherSven-Eric Fikenscher argues that prospects for a final nuclear deal with Iran remain dim, despite recent claims of optimism from negotiators. Rather than trying for a final deal that will be difficult to negotiate and even harder to implement, he suggests that the U.S. try to conclude a new interim agreement with more limited concessions from each side.

Belfer Iran Brief—Reviving the 1979 hostage crisis and other news

Belfer Iran BriefThe next round of P5+1 negotiations approaches, as Congress zeroes in on new terrorism-related sanctions and blocking a diplomat linked to the 1979 hostage crisis from entering the United States. These stories, President Rouhani’s visit to Afghanistan, General Dempsey’s trip to Israel, and more—in this week’s edition of Iran news from March 29-April 4, 2014.

Like a boss: How corporate negotiators would handle nuclear negotiations with Iran

James SebeniusJames Sebenius, writing in Foreign Policy, suggests next steps for the American negotiating strategy in nuclear talks with Iran. The Obama administration, Sebenius argues, would do well to help expand the potential constituency for a more comprehensive deal in Iran by dramatizing its benefits. At the same time, he highlights the risk of “deal drift:” that some version of the interim deal may well end up as the new status quo.  To address this risk, Sebenius describes how a credible contingent sanctions mechanism—that avoids the deal-killing provisions of Menendez-Kirk—could be put in place for exceeding a potential six month extension on the Joint Plan of Action.

Human rights and the Iran nuclear talks

Ariane TabatabaiAriane Tabatabai, writing in The National Interest, takes a closer look at Iran's human rights record under President Rouhani and grapples with the idea of linking progress on human rights to ongoing nuclear negotiations. The linkage, she concludes, would be largely counterproductive:

"Are the nuclear talks are an adequate platform for those human-rights concerns that remain? Probably not. The nuclear talks are complex enough without the addition of an extremely complicated and largely separate issue."