Guardian: At last a nuclear deal with Iran is in sight. The chance must not be spurned

See more official Iranian photos and cartoons about Israel at Pam Geller’s. The pic is from 2009, but the attitude of the Ayatollahs has not changed since 1979.

It’s hard to see why a nuclear deal with Iran will not be agreed this week. Each of the state representatives taking part in the final round of negotiations in Lausanne has powerful reasons for wanting a successful outcome, while the reputations of key individuals would be enhanced by an agreement. Such pragmatic considerations aside, a deal is positively desirable for strategic, security, and moral reasons.

Death-to-AmericaGiven a string of past failures stretching back to 2002, when Iran’s covert nuclear programme was first publicly revealed, a continuing impasse after tomorrow night’s deadline may look a safer bet. Diplomats are warning that significant differences remain, particularly over the lifting of UN sanctions and Tehran’s wish to continue nuclear research and development.

But the negotiators – from the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran – have been aware of these sticking points for months. It is reasonable to assume they already have compromise formulas up their sleeves, and may yet put them on the table. What is happening now, it appears, is last-minute manoeuvring for advantage. And the bar has been lowered. The aim now is for a “preliminary” deal, not the “comprehensive solution” that was originally sought.

Iran wants a deal because sanctions – despite official denials – are hurting its economy and damaging crucial oil and gas export industries. Iranian businessmen and workers interviewed in Tehran last year were unanimous in their hope that relations will be normalised. Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, knows a deal would revive his so far lacklustre presidency and confound his conservative critics.

Even Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, appears temporarily to have set aside his life-long, visceral distrust of the Americans and British. He recently discouraged criticism of Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s chief negotiator. If Tehran does balk at the last moment, it will most likely be because Khamenei does not feel the timing and pace of sanctions relief are acceptable. He will certainly be consulted before Zarif signs anything…