Ex-Obama official: Extension of Iran talks ‘inevitable’

A former top Obama administration official who was involved in the Iran negotiations said a six-month extension of the interim deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program looks “inevitable.”

"At this point it looks like unless they make significant progress over the last two days in Geneva, an extension is inevitable," said Robert Einhorn, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Einhorn, who served at the State Department from 2009 through last year, said both sides truly wish to complete the talks by July 20, but "if there were no breakthroughs in Geneva this week, that won't be possible."

The interim deal was put into place in order to give U.S. and international negotiators more time to work on a comprehensive agreement, but the four-month-old talks have run into difficulty, with each side accusing the other of making unrealistic demands.

Lawmakers say they are weary about extending the interim deal for another six months, which could buy Iran time to continue enriching uranium.

Einhorn said an extension would work in the U.S.'s favor.

"Iran has been disappointed with the sanctions relief it has achieved, and very much wants to see sanctions lifted, they wanted really to get this resolved by July 20," he said.

"A freeze at current levels is not acceptable to the United States in the long term, but it should be acceptable over the next six months," he added.

Lawmakers are also worried that the interim deal — which granted Iran some temporary sanctions relief — could ease pressure and incentive for Iran to comply.

Einhorn argued that despite the sanctions relief, international companies have been too cautious to engage in activity with Iran.

"Sanctions have not eroded. Sanctions have remained robust and continue to give Iran incentives to negotiate seriously," he said.

"Now there should be less concern that an extension would further unravel the sanctions," he said.