Some of the coverage of yesterday’s events at the IAEA treat it as a done deal, but sometimes – in the words of Hooman Majd’s wonderful new book – the Ayatollah begs to differ.
This deal will only be done when Tehran gives a yes or no, and saying yes or no is something the Supreme Leader generally tries to avoid. When in doubt, he errs on the side of no. The deadline is tomorrow, but it would not be out of character for Tehran to try to stretch it.
My understanding of what happened in Vienna from talking to those involved is this: Yesterday at about noon, out of fear that the negotiations were going round in circles, Mohamed ElBaradei handed out a draft document. It expressed in legal terms the agreement in principle made in Geneva on October 1, plus ElBaradei’s pick of some of the modifications proposed by the participants in Vienna and the “red lines” of the various parties.
“There was no formal discussion of the draft, and no formal expression of agreement with the draft,” said one diplomat. The French, Russians and Americans simply said they saw no problem with it. The chief Iranian negotiator, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, agreed only to forward it to Tehran.