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With significant headway already made but major gaps remaining – and especially with the options available in the event of a breakdown of negotiations looking unattractive to all parties – it made good sense for the P5+1 countries and Iran to extend their talks for another four months, which they announced late Friday.
The United States and its partners can well afford to take the additional time. The six-month halt in all significant advances in Iran's nuclear program will remain in effect, as will the modest but worthwhile lengthening of the time it would take Iran to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a single nuclear weapon – the result of the neutralization of Tehran's entire stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium gas. Indeed, over the next four months, Iran has agreed to convert a portion of its 20 percent uranium in powdered form to fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, making it even less readily accessible for use in a weapons program.
Moreover, with an extension of the very limited sanctions relief measures that applied during the six-month deal, including the suspension of certain secondary sanctions and the continuation of the metered-out release of a tiny fraction of Iran's oil revenues held in overseas restricted accounts (roughly $700 million a month for a total of $2.8 billion by November), the devastating impact of the sanctions will remain intact and Iran will continue to have plenty of incentive to reach a comprehensive agreement.
See full text at the Brookings Institution: A Justified Extension for Iran Nuclear Talks, But Hard Choices Ahead