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Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi at a news conference
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Economic realities may force Iran to the table

Hardline rhetoric and positions apparently further apart than ever may obscure appetite for a deal

Iran and the P5+1—the US, the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany—remain no closer to a nuclear deal after six rounds of talks. It is difficult not to feel that previous cautious optimism may be ebbing away as we enter a seventh round. The key question, though, may be whether Iran can afford not to reach an agreement.  The election of Ebrahim Raisi, mooted as a potential successor to the ailing 82-year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has ushered in a new period in Iranian politics. Unsurprisingly, the alignment of conservative centres of power in Tehran has irked diplomats in Washington. Tit-for-tat tanker attacks in the Mid-East Gulf in recent weeks have also escalated—bringi

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