Although a week of high-level talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna made good progress, negotiators failed to reach an agreement and instead set a new deadline of March 1, 2015, for a framework agreement on Iran's nuclear program and a July 1 deadline for the final agreement, including annexes. The parties are close to consensus on many of the major issues, but gaps remain on two key issues — defining the size and scope of Iran's nuclear program and the sequence for lifting UN Security Council sanctions. Wendy R. Sherman, the chief US negotiator, remarked Oct. 23, “We have made impressive progress on issues that originally seemed intractable. We have cleared up misunderstandings and held exhaustive discussions on every element of a possible text. However, like any complicated and technically complex diplomatic initiative, this is a puzzle with many interlocking pieces.”
As a result of the tectonic developments in the Middle East in recent years, the geopolitics of the region have shifted significantly. Amid 35 years of all-out sanctions and pressure on Iran, the outcomes of the Middle East’s ebbs and flows include Iran’s emergence as the most stable country in the area and as a regional power, Arab countries either in turmoil or vulnerable to unrest and destabilization and the unprecedented rise of violent extremist groups. These developments could serve as the impetus for an Iranian-Western rapprochement, despite the inconclusive talks in Vienna.