What is the Iran nuclear deal?
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
It is a rare moment of agreement between Britain, Germany, and France. Representatives from the three countries have urged Donald Trump not to tear up the Iran nuclear deal.
The deal was a result of over 10 years of negotiations between the country and the P5+1, made up of America, France, Britain, China, Russia and Germany – the P5 are made up of the first five, who are permanent members of the UN Security Council, and Germany is there as part of the EU3 (with Britain and France) after they held an earlier series of negotiations with Iran. It was over a decade in the making, with numerous attempts to negotiate a deal being unsuccessful since 2002, until the preliminary framework agreement was eventually reached in 2015.
The three EU signatories say that Iran is respecting the agreement that has made the world safer, the Guardian reports. While Trump denounces the deal as "the worst ever made", the EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, said it had in reality “made the world safer and prevented a potential nuclear arms race in the region”.
Speaking in Brussels in a meeting attended by the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, Boris Johnson challenged the US to show there is a better alternative to the deal. The foreign secretary called the 2015 accord "a considerable diplomatic accomplishment" and stressed that Iran was fully in compliance with it.
This accomplishment required determination and compromise. After the previous failed attempts at talks, two things gave the 2015 framework real momentum: the Obama administration opened up a back channel to Iran that led to several secret bilateral meetings in Oman, and June 2013 also saw the election of Hassan Rohani, the country's former nuclear negotiator from 10 years previous, who ran on a platform "promising constructive engagement with the international community aimed at lifting harsh economic sanctions", as well as ending their international isolation.
The sanctions imposed by the UN, US and the EU have crippled Iran's economy, costing the country more than $160 billion (£110 billion) in oil revenue since 2012. It stands to gain access to more than $100 billion in assets frozen overseas. The sanctions can easily be put back into place if Iran violates any aspect of the deal. The UN sanctions will automatically snap back into place for 10 years, with the possibility of a five-year extension if they fail to comply with the deal.
In return for the easing of sanctions, and gaining access to the international market, as well as keeping their nuclear capabilities for "energy and medical purposes", the P5+1 are pressing for restrictions that will extend the amount of time it will take Iran to build a nuclear weapon.
TIME magazine reports that they want to extend the so-called "breakout time" from the current 2-3 months to a year. To achieve this goal, they are pushing for a reduction of the number of centrifuges that the country can use to enrich uranium into fuel for nuclear weapons, as well as cutting its stockpiles of enriched uranium. Ultimately, Iran will sacrifice two-thirds of its ability to enrich uranium.
The deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also agrees that inspectors from the IAEA will "continuously monitor Iran's declared nuclear sites and also verify that no fissile material is moved covertly to a secret location to build a bomb", the BBC reports. Iran will have 24 days to comply with any IAEA access request over the next 15 years.
The JCPOA - the Iran nuclear deal - was signed in July 2015 and went into effect the following January.
The Iran nuclear deal returns to Trump's desk today on the first waiver deadline. The president will decide whether to continue to sign a waiver to prevent the reimposition of economic sanctions against Iran. If he does not, the Iran nuclear deal - over a decade in the making - could collapse.