After many months of principled diplomacy, the P5+1 – the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany — along with the European Union, have achieved a long-term comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran that will verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful going forward.
In announcing a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the United States, P5+1 and EU partners, and Iran have taken a measurable step away from the prospect of nuclear proliferation, towards transparency and cooperation.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered remarks saying “It is a step away from the specter of conflict and towards the possibility of peace.”
President Obama, who had the courage to launch this process, has been resolute in insisting from the day he came to office that Iran will never have a nuclear weapon, and he has been equally strong in asserting that diplomacy should be given a fair chance to achieve that goal. President Obama famously proposed an ambitious nuclear risk-reduction program in a speech in Prague at the beginning of his first term, and followed it up with a number of early achievements. He reiterated the importance of his agenda in a June 2013 speech in Berlin.
This deal concluded in Vienna on 14 July 2015 and hailed as “A Historic Deal that Will Prevent Iran from Acquiring a Nuclear Weapon” stands on the foundation of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), achieved in November of 2013, and the framework for this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), announced in Lausanne on April 2, 2015 that set the requirements for the deal with the P5+ 1 and Iran, alongside the European Union announced today.
No one can deny that this agreement, building on previous interim or framework agreements (concluded in Geneva in November 2013 and Lausanne in April 2015), is a comprehensive one. It results from some 20 months of intensive negotiations that put an end to a process initiated in 2003 by three European countries – France, Germany and the United Kingdom – as well as the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (EU3) and enlarged in 2006 to China, Russia and the United States (from then on, the EU3+3).
As it stands today, Iran has a large stockpile of enriched uranium and nearly 20,000 centrifuges, enough to create 8 to 10 bombs. If Iran decided to rush to make a bomb without the deal in place, it would take them 2 to 3 months until they had enough weapon-ready uranium (or highly enriched uranium) to build their first nuclear weapon. This deal removes the key elements needed to create a bomb and prolongs Iran’s breakout time from 2-3 months to 1 year or more if Iran broke its commitments. And contrary to the assertions of some, this agreement has no sunset. It doesn’t terminate. It will be implemented in phases — beginning within 90 days of the UN Security Council endorsing the deal, and some of the provisions are in place for 10 years, others for 15 year, others for 25 years.
The deal called for the embargo to be lifted after a maximum of eight years for ballistic missiles and five years for conventional weapons. The JCPOA was cleverly drafted to allow both sides to claim victory on this issue. According to the Implementation Plan (Annex V), sanctions relief will begin upon “IAEA-verified implementation of [certain specified] nuclear-related measures.” It is not entirely clear when “IAEA-verified implementation” will begin, but it will probably be sometime in early 2016.
Over the next few months, Iran will provisionally apply the Additional Protocol (allowing for increased inspections), and fully implement both modified code 3.1 (obligating Iran to disclose new nuclear facilities before construction starts) and the “Roadmap for Clarification of Past and Present Outstanding Issues.” The IAEA will have to verify that these (as well as other measures) have been completed in order to trigger “Implementation Day.” And certain provisions — including many of the transparency measures and prohibitions on nuclear work — will stay in place permanently.
The 109 pages that P5+1 and EU partners, and Iran have agreed upon outline commitments made on both sides. (Here’s a comprehensive summary) In the end, however, this agreement will live or die by whether the leaders who have to implement it on both sides honor and implement the commitments that have been made. The day the agreement is reached, and is endorsed by Iran and the P5+1: July 14, 2015. The deal is submitted to the UNSC and the EU Council, and Iran and the IAEA begin working on transparency arrangements. Participants in the agreement will “make necessary arrangements and preparations” to implement their commitments on “Adoption Day,”
President Obama and U.S. Congress has 60 days to review the agreement. During that time, President Obama cannot lift the sanctions Congress has imposed on Iran. Congress can reject the deal, and keep the sanctions in place, but President Obama can veto that. It would need a two-thirds majority to overturn the veto, which is unlikely.
From the brief discussion above, it can be concluded the activities taking place in UNSC. 90 days after the UNSC votes to endorse the JCPOA, passing resolutions that will, on Implementation Day, lift all nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. (Adoption Day can also come earlier by mutual agreement of the parties.) There is the Additional Protocol that deals with intrusive inspections, and then there is the modified Code 3.1 that deals with the intent to construct a new nuclear facility. Iran provisionally applies the Additional Protocol (allowing for increased inspections), fully implements modified code 3.1 (obligating Iran to disclose new nuclear facilities before construction starts), and provides certain information in writing to the IAEA about “outstanding issues.”
The EU and US President will pass those regulations and issue those waivers necessary to begin sanction relief on Implementation Day.
Importantly, Iran won’t garner any new sanctions relief until the IAEA confirms that Iran has followed through with its end of the deal. And should Iran violate any aspect of this deal, the U.N., U.S., and E.U. can snap the sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy back into place. Now, with this deal in place, the U.S., our allies, and the international community can know that tough, new requirements will keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And we also know that the entire region would become worse if Iran had a nuclear weapon. That’s why this deal is so important. Further delays would only send the opposite signal. Thanks to this deal, Iran’s four possible pathways to a nuclear weapon are blocked.
Iran also needs tens of thousands of centrifuges to create highly enriched uranium for a bomb. Right now, Iran has nearly 20,000 centrifuges between their Natanz and Fordow facilities. But under this deal, Iran must reduce its centrifuges to 6,104 for the next ten years. No enrichment will be allowed at the Fordow facility at all, and the only centrifuges Iran will be allowed to use are their oldest and least efficient models.
In short, here’s the difference this historic deal will make.
The same is true for the plutonium path. Iran’s heavy-water reactor at Arak will be rebuilt — based on a final design that the United States and international partners will approve — so that it will only be used for peaceful purposes. These joint projects include: nuclear power plants, research reactors, fuel fabrication, agreed joint advanced R&D such as fusion, establishment of a regional nuclear medical center, personnel training, nuclear safety and security, and environmental protection. The EU, EU Member States, and US will issue clear public guidance about the sanctions relief, and will refrain from any policy intended to adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran. They commit to engaging in joint projects with Iran, including through IAEA cooperation projects, in the field of peaceful nuclear technology. Iran and these countries will also agree on steps to ensure Iran’s access in areas of trade, technology, finance and energy.
Another potential consequence of the implementation of the agreement with Iran, and surely one of the calculations of the Obama administration, is that, over time, thanks to the gradual lifting of sanctions and reintegration of Iran into the international community, foreign investment and international trade, attracted by the country’s potential in energy supply and a market of some 80 million consumers, will contribute to economic recovery and social dividends. It can safely be expected that the billions of dollars in unfrozen assets and potential revenues of new oil and gas exports will not be massively reinvested in military spending or support for terrorist groups but actual economic needs.
Certainly as a way of placating the conservative opponents to normalisation, the rhetoric will remain critical (especially against Israel) and the vested interests of some powerful groups such as the Revolutionary Guard or the clerics will be preserved. But popular pressure for more openness, easier travel and greater freedom of expression will no doubt be exerted domestically. How the regime will respond to it will determine the future of the country.