With world powers nearing what many hope is the finish line to a nuclear deal with Iran, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed on Thursday that the talks will be extended further, telling reporters that "we will not rush and we will not be rushed."
Speaking from the Austrian capital of Vienna where ongoing negotiations are taking place, Kerry added: "We're here because we believe we are making real progress."
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday informed journalists from his hotel balcony that he is prepared to negotiate "as long as necessary" to close a deal with P5+1 countries: the U.S., Russia, China, United Kingdom, France, and Germany.
If the talks extend beyond Thursday at midnight, Congress will have 60 days instead of 30 to review the pact—potentially giving hawkish lawmakers more time to rally against the deal. However, Jamal Abdi, policy director for the National Iranian American Council, told Common Dreams that the expiration of this deadline should not be interpreted as a collapse—or even a setback—in the negotiations.
"Since this deadline only applied to the U.S., either side may have perceived that the American hand would be weaker unless they demonstrated they were willing to ignore the deadline and keep negotiating," said Abdi. "The parties are on the brink of a historic decision, it's not surprising that this is going to take more time to get across the finish."
Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy emphasized to Common Dreams: "Let's wait and see. Those who want this agreement have waited for this agreement for years. We can wait one more day."
Civil society groups in all countries involved, including Iran, have warned that a breakdown of talks would likely lead to military escalation, and potentially war, and worsen policies of sanctions and isolation that continue to devastate ordinary Iranians.
Back in Washington, Representative Eliot Engel (D-N.Y) on Thursday acknowledged failure to clinch a deal could put the U.S. on the path to military escalation.
"At this point we all know the refrain: no deal is better than a bad deal," he said during a hearing in the House. "The alternative to a deal would surely mean some kind of military strikes on Iran’s nuclear plant."
As Hill reporter Julian Hattem pointed out, "Engel's comments were meant to argue that the last best way to halt Iran’s nuclear progress is through an agreement."
The questions Engel raised were harrowing for their potential impact on people in the U.S. and Iran: "It’s not just accepting the deal or nothing. There are things we’re going to have to come to grips with, and I believe one of them is bombing the nuclear reactor."
Over recent weeks, the anti-diplomacy lobby has spent millions on advertising and social media campaigns urging lawmakers and their constituents to reject a final agreement.
But U.S. proponents of the talks have also stepped up their efforts, recently releasing an open letter calling on U.S. lawmakers to embrace the diplomatic process, back the agreement, and reject the "new push for war."