Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks to the media after closed-door nuclear talks on Iran take place in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, July 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
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Failure to solve Iran's nuclear dispute by a Sunday deadline may dismay weary negotiators in Vienna and stir fresh Middle East tension, but an extension of talks could reap political gains at home for the Islamic Republic's supreme leader.Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would like to end the dispute – on favorable terms. In practical terms, depriving centrists of the votes that could test Khamenei's unchallenged authority requires that sanctions start to be lifted only at the last possible moment, delaying any economic dividend.The later they are lifted, the less chance Rouhani's allies will do well at two important forthcoming elections in the first quarter of 2016, for parliament and for the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body with nominal power over the supreme leader.Under Iran's constitution, the experts assembly, a powerful body of 86 sheikhs elected by the people every eight years, has the power to elect, dismiss and supervise the supreme leader.Rouhani, who represented Khamenei on the Supreme National Security Council for over two decades, will have the supreme leader's blessing as long as his growing prestige at home and abroad does not threaten Khamenei's authority, analysts say.
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