A Sunday deadline is looming for Iran to strike a nuclear deal with six world powers under a plan set in motion last year—but with just days to go, Iran's supreme leader has made the chances of a deal being forged in time look supremely unlikely. In a major speech, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the country will need 190,000 centrifuge machines, 19 times as many as the 10,000 negotiators from the US, France, Britain, Russia, China, and Germany want to limit the country to in order to reduce its capacity to build nuclear weapons.
After the leader's speech appeared to undermine negotiators, analysts began to wonder whether Iran really wants a deal that would limit its nuclear capacity in return for the lifting of sanctions, or if Khamenei is playing for time, the Atlantic notes. "In ostensibly expressing support for the Iranian negotiating team, close scrutiny of Khamenei's speech shows that in reality his remarks were aimed at severely curtailing his team's room for maneuver, making it effectively impossible to bridge gaps with the stance" of the six powers, an intelligence analysis seen by Reuters states. If all sides agree, the talks could be extended for another six months, though US officials say they will need to see some progress in the days to come before they will agree to an extension. John Kerry joined the talks in Vienna yesterday, but it's not clear whether he made any progress during hours of talks with Iran's foreign minister; issues including Afghanistan were also discussed, the AP reports. (Read more Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stories.)