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Dunsmore: Iran Talks

The objective of these negotiations has been to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, in exchange for the lifting of the economic sanctions the international community imposed on Iran because of its nuclear program.

It was never going to be easy, and as dead-lines have come and gone – the latest one yesterday when a framework for a deal was due - it seems quite possible there will ultimately be no final agreement by the end of June - which is the final, final deadline. Yesterday the White House threatened that if no significant progress can be made in resolving the remaining obstacles soon, it might walk away from the talks even before that June deadline. Yet talks continue.

So what happens if there is an agreement between Iran and the six world powers?

Of course it depends on the details, but in principle Iran’s nuclear facilities would be subject to a range of restrictions, monitored by a robust U. N. inspection regime, that would give the world at least a year’s warning if the Iranians decided to “break out” of the deal. In return, sanctions which have crippled Iran’s economy, would be gradually lifted – at what pace is one of the current sticking points.

Beyond that, the intense high level talks between America and Iran break nearly four decades of almost no diplomatic interaction. Ending that could over time, be beneficial to both countries. However, Sunni Arab states view the prospect of an American-Iranian détente with horror. To them that implies the U.S. is taking Iran’s side in the current power struggle in the region between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. And of course, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to consider any Iran deal, a threat to his country.

But what happens if there is no final agreement?

The American Congress is already poised to put further sanctions into place. Yet current international sanctions may very possibly start falling apart. Major countries such as India, China and some in Europe would no longer feel obligated to continue with sanctions on grounds that they haven’t worked to resolve Iran’s nuclear crisis.

Meantime, the current freeze on Iran’s nuclear program will end and the U.N. inspectors will have no mandate. Iran will then be free to proceed with building a nuclear weapon - which experts predict they could do within months. With that, President Barack Obama will be forced to fulfill his promise that he would not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons - which is widely assumed means bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities. That would ignite, as many analysts predict, the mother of all Middle East wars.

Barrie Dunsmore is a veteran diplomatic and foreign correspondent for ABC News, now living in Charlotte.
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