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International negotiators on Tuesday announced a landmark agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program.

The deal is the result of years of negotiations between the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Iran to couple the dismantling of key aspects of Tehran’s nuclear program with the lifting of international sanctions.

{mosads}The 159-page document wades deep into the technical steps Iran will have to take to win sanctions relief. [READ EXCERPTS BELOW.]

Here’s a summary of those details.

Nuclear disarmament

Iranian concessions aimed at ensuring that Tehran will not be able to publicly or covertly develop a nuclear weapon make up the centerpiece of the deal. Iran will be forced to drop its uranium stockpile by 98 percent and keep enrichment to a maximum of 3.67 percent. That, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “is a level that is appropriate for civilian nuclear power and research but well below anything that could be possibly used as a weapon.”

For 10 years, Iran will have to rely on first-generation centrifuges and must reduce its installed centrifuges by 66 percent. It can’t build a new heavy-water reactor for the next 15 years and will have to rebuild its current heavy water reactor in Arak to meet international stipulations by only using low-enrichment uranium.

The White House says that the deal will block all four pathways that Iran could take toward a nuclear bomb by limiting centrifuges and highly enriched uranium, making it rebuild the Arak water reactor and by adding nuclear monitoring capabilities in order to stop any covert pathway.

The deal also extends Iran’s breakout time for nuclear weapons to one year over the next ten years. The administration defines breakout time as the time it takes to amass enough nuclear material to build a bomb, not the entire process from start-to-finish, so building a bomb would take even more than a year under this new framework if Iran decides to buck the deal. 

International monitoring

The deal puts the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in a key role in ensuring Iran meets the terms of the agreement.

President Obama touted during a Tuesday morning speech that its monitors will have 24/7 access “when necessary, where necessary” to inspect any site it believes could be violating the deal. That’s borne out in the text, with some time-based restrictions. If the IAEA has concerns about any site that Iran cannot satisfy within 14 days, the international community can decide to grant access.

One main sticking point is how monitors will be able to access military sites. Iran had initially drawn a hard line on not allowing the international community to access those sites in order to keep military secrets. The deal doesn’t specifically mention whether monitors can inspect military sites and only states that the requests for access will be “kept at the minimum” and “will not be aimed at interfering with Iranian military or other national security activities.”

Sanctions relief

Once the IAEA certifies that Iran is implementing the nuclear disarmament programs, international sanctions begin to come down. All United Nations Security Council sanctions and other international penalties enacted to punish Iran for its nuclear program will be lifted. That includes European Union and American sanctions. 

Obama administration officials cautioned that the U.S. will not remove its trade embargo on Iran and noted that American citizens and banks will still be largely barred from dealing with Tehran. But it will lift certain economic and trade sanctions, including the importation of civilian aircraft in order to help address the country’s poor aircraft safety record. 

Sanctions will continue to be removed as the years go on, with certain military restrictions staying in place for a number of years to give more incentive for Iran to abide by the terms. Restrictions on ballistic missiles will remain until eight years after the international community agrees that Iran is cooperating on a peaceful nuclear energy program, and international arms sanctions will remain for five years.

Administration officials stressed that the terms expect Iran will fully adhere to the deal but can easily “snap back” sanctions on Tehran if it ignores its commitments.

“We are mindful that Iran may not uphold its side of the deal. In the event that Iran violates its commitments after we have suspended sanctions, we have the legal authority, the will and the leverage to snap them back,” an official said.

“Preserving that option isn’t about preparing for failure; to the contrary, it’s about maximizing the chances of successful implementation.” 

Permanent pledges

The deal re-codifies Iran’s pledge to never seek a nuclear weapons, giving the international community more teeth in case Tehran abandons that pledge.

“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 U.N. Security Council endorsing the deal,” Secretary of State John Kerry said during a speech after the deal.

“And some of the provisions are in place for 10 years, others for 15 years, others for 25 years. And certain provisions, including many of the transparency measures and prohibitions on nuclear work, will stay in place permanently.”

The terms permanently commit Iran to never developing weapons-grade plutonium, using computer simulations to simulate nuclear devices and a list of other actions meant to “contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device.”

Excerpts of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

This story was updated at 10:49 a.m.

Tags Iran John Kerry

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