There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the United States and its European allies were seemingly a stone’s throw away from clinching a nuclear agreement with Iran after 16 months of arduous talks.

Western officials were downright giddy; European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, the man responsible for shepherding the negotiations across the finish line, told reporters last month that he was hopeful a deal could be finalized in a matter of days. U.S. officials joined the chorus of optimism, with White House national security spokesman John Kirby observing “we’re closer now than we had been in … weeks and months” thanks to Tehran’s decision to drop extraneous demands.

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