A nuclear deal, now or never

WASHINGTON — Like it or not, the calendar of voting — here and in Iran — is driving the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. A first, easy prediction: Don’t expect progress in the few days that remain until America’s Election Day. But then the tempo could ratchet up quickly. And it had better, if we are to expect a nuclear deal at all.

The clock begins ticking on Election Day because Nov. 24 is the target date for a comprehensive agreement. But until the next Congress is chosen on Nov. 4, the Americans can’t make politically risky promises and the Iranians can’t react, not knowing where the balance of power between Republicans and Democrats will lie.

Slightly more than a year from now, Iran will hold its own elections, which will ultimately decide who its next top leader will be. Given that the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has set the balance of power between reformists and hard-liners, that choice could well change the direction of Iranian policy making on any potential deal for a very long time.

This article was written by Vali R. Nasr for the opinion page of The New York Times on OCT. 21, 2014. Vali R. Nasr, the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, is the author of “The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat.”

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