- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

As international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program continue with no new signs of a breakthrough and with critics saying the U.S. should give up, the Obama administration on Wednesday put the burden for completing a historic deal squarely on the shoulders of Tehran.

White House officials said they remain hopeful Iran can come to a final agreement with the U.S. and its international partners but stressed that President Obama is prepared to walk away from the negotiating table if Tehran won’t make key compromises.

Should the negotiations break down and a final deal prove unattainable, the administration already has begun to blame Iran for the failure.

“The ball is in the court of the Iranians, that we — and when I say we, I don’t just mean the United States and the administration. I mean the United States and some of our closest allies and partners around the world — have made a compelling case to Iran that it is time for them to make serious commitments about the peaceful nature of their nuclear program, to verify that they will not acquire a nuclear weapon, and to agree to a set of verification measures that would ensure their compliance with the agreement,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

The U.S. and its partners are seeking an agreement that would roll back parts of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from some economic sanctions. A preliminary deal was reached in April, with hopes of finalizing the agreement by June 30. That deadline, and a week extension, both have come and gone without a concrete deal.

In Geneva, Switzerland, where Secretary of State John F. Kerry is heading the U.S. delegation, and behind the scenes in Washington, there are growing indications a final deal will not materialize.

Mr. Obama on Tuesday met with a group of Senate Democrats and downplayed the chances for an agreement, the Associated Press reported, citing participants in the closed-door meeting.

“He went out of his way last night to make it clear that he is prepared to walk away from the table and bear the consequences if the Iranians don’t bend on these last few issues,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, speaking of the meeting with the president.

One key sticking point reportedly is Iran’s insistance that a U.N. arms embargo be lifted entirely as part of any final deal.

In Geneva, some members of the P5+1 — the U.S., Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany — seem to have little confidence that an agreement is close.

The foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain left Geneva Wednesday and were expected back by the evening. But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also left and have not yet indicated when they will be return.

The uncertainty around the negotiations has top Republicans charging that the administration would be better off walking away from the negotiations and leaving April’s preliminary agreement in place.

Then, after Mr. Obama is out of office, his successor can finish the job, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Wednesday.

“The interim agreement has performed better than I thought it would. I think it’s a good place to stay until Obama leaves office,” Mr. Graham, a Republican presidential candidate, told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. “Nobody really believes what he says anymore. So I think it would be impossible for him to deliver a good deal because he’s a flawed negotiator in the eyes of the Iranians.”

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