Iran needs a nuclear deal with world powers because it's "hemorrhaging hundreds of billions" because of economic sanctions, but it appears the U.S. wants the agreement more, Karim Sadjadpour, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, said Monday.
Iran appears to be backtracking from the framework agreement struck with the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany three months ago. American officials said talks on a final accord would likely run past Tuesday's deadline.
Securing an agreement would presumably ease the standoff between the U.S. and Iran, and it could eventually lead to suspending sanctions and allowing Tehran to raise oil exports—adding to an already well-supplied world market.
"I think the real deadline is going to be July 9, and it's really going to be an open question whether they meet that deadline or extend further," Sadjadpour told CNBC's "Squawk Box" in an interview. Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama want a "major foreign policy victory … [and] are prepared to continue the diplomacy."
But he added they're running into resistance from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose "firebrand rhetoric has been indicative of the policies" in resisting pressure from the U.S. and other Western world powers.
The supreme leader was quiet for a while, giving Iranian negotiators room to operate, said Robert Hormats, a former undersecretary of state for economic growth during Hillary Clinton's tenure leading the department. "He comes back a few days ago and he, in effect, redlined certain portions of what our negotiators had thought had already been agreed [to]."
"This country could blossom. This could be the economic leader of the region very quickly," the vice chairman of international consultancy Kissinger Associates added, if the hardliners in power there would relent.
Sadjadpour agreed, calling Iran a country with enormous potential. "It's got enormous natural resources. It's got enormous human capital."
"Major international companies, especially energy companies, are very eager to get back into Iran," he continued. "But if a nuclear deal isn't reached, these companies will basically continue to face a simple decision: Do you want to do business with America or do you want to do business with Iran?"
Last week, the Financial Times that executives from Royal Dutch Shell and Italy's Eni met in May and June with Iranian officials in Tehran to discuss investing in the country's energy industry. It's the first time international oil groups have publicly confirmed such talks ahead of a possible nuclear deal.