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Delays and red lines
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Delays and red lines

To the surprise of no one, negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program went over their scheduled June 20 deadline, with one of the Western partners, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, saying the world powers do not have to sign a deal in Vienna.

“No deal is better than a bad deal,” Hammond told reporters. “There are red lines that we cannot cross and some very difficult decisions and tough choices are going to have to be made by all of us.”

Perhaps the P5 + 1 negotiators can use the reprieve to consider the red lines being proposed by those who support diplomacy but are concerned that the West’s parameters leave Iran with too many pathways to making a bomb. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee offers a five-point plan, which includes “short notice” nuclear inspections “anytime and anywhere,” including all military locations; maintaining sanctions until Iran’s cooperation is assured; extending any deal’s expiration date; demanding that Iran’s nuclear infrastructure retains no path to a nuclear weapon; and applying scrutiny to Iran’s weaponization efforts.

Some experts are skeptical of some of these red lines. For example, Alireza Nader, an Iran analyst at the Rand Corporation, says the Iranians are unlikely to agree to “anytime, anywhere” inspections. She suggests a middle ground, where inspectors have access, and “Iran can be assured it won’t expose its conventional secrets to inspectors.” 

It is up to negotiators to find these “middle grounds.” But they should heed the warnings of observers who are neither wild-eyed hawks nor anti-Obama zealots but who do support diplomacy and want the very best deal to emerge from Vienna. The West needs to ask the most from a regime that has time and again demonstrated its hostility to its neighbors, including Israel, and its aversion to compromise. 

Ultimately, the red line that cannot be crossed is this: Iran must comply with any agreement and cannot be allowed to pursue a nuclear weapon.

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