That's why President
Khamenei, while authorizing President
“Khamenei is in some ways acting like Obama on this,” said Jofi Joseph, a
Negotiators for Iran and the six world powers are beginning a two-month sprint to their goal of finishing a deal by July 20 that would lift tough international economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for safeguards to prevent Tehran from acquiring the capability to make a nuclear bomb.
The gathering begins Tuesday evening with a dinner between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and
Khamenei desperately needs a deal to ease the sanctions pressure on an economy that is already in deep trouble because of mismanagement and international isolation. Popular discontent with the economy could become a threat to the regime.
Yet Khamenei doesn't want to be seen as the revolutionary leader who has yielded to the West on the $100-billion nuclear program that is a source of pride for ordinary Iranians.
He's positioned himself carefully, so that if the talks collapse, or yield terms that Iranians consider humiliating, "he can wash his hands of the whole thing," Joseph said. "He's positioned to succeed, no matter what."
Obama has made clear how important the Iran talks are to him: It was No. 1 on his list of international security goals in his speech to the
But he doesn't want Iran to think he's desperate.
And he does not want his critics to say he was naive to seek a deal, as some in
A senior U.S. official at the talks last month voiced optimism about getting a deal by July, saying that the Iranians have shown in meetings since a preliminary deal was struck last November that they were serious about an agreement. But aides say Obama still believes that the chances of success are 50% or less.
Although both sides have made clear they are eager for a satisfactory agreement, they remain far apart on how much uranium enrichment capability Iran can retain. They also have major differences on how quickly and completely sanctions could be lifted; on how intrusively Iran's nuclear facilities would be monitored; and on how many years the deal would limit Iran's nuclear activities.