As a quick background, negotiations began in 2003 with European states in which Iran offered to limit its capacity to 3,000 centrifuges if its right to enrichment was recognized. The deal collapsed by 2005 and there was no sign of compromise for the next eight years, as the international community ratcheted up sanctions and Iran responded defiantly by expanding its nuclear programme, moving from production of low-enriched uranium to 20 percent-enriched uranium, a major step towards the capacity to make weapons-grade fissile material.
The confrontation continued to escalate until 2013 and the election of a pragmatist president in Iran, Hassan Rouhani, who acted swiftly to establish lines of communication with the White House and between John Kerry, US Secretary of State, and Mohammed Javad Zarif, Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs. An interim deal was agreed in November 2013 that halted production of 20 percent-enriched uranium and eliminated Iran’s stockpile of the material in return for access to $700m a month of its assets frozen around the world.
The group of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States known as a 5+1 Group existed before 1 October 2009 but the USA for the first time participated in a 5+1 meeting with the Iranians. The 5+1 group was formed to focus on the nuclear issue, and it remains the focus of the group and their paramount concern. Six months back in April, the USA had made an announcement about their commitment to meaningful negotiations with Iran to resolve the growing international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.
This commitment was consistent with the commitment made by each member of the group. All members of the group acknowledged Iran’s right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program but they have also emphasized that with that right comes a responsibility to demonstrate the exclusively peaceful purposes of Iran’s program. On November 24, 2013, the United States and its partners in the P5+1 reached an initial understanding with Iran, outlined in a Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), that halts progress on Iran’s nuclear program and rolls it back in key respects. In return for Iran’s commitment to place meaningful limits on its nuclear program, the P5+1 committed to provide Iran with limited, targeted, and reversible sanctions relief for a period of six-month. In furtherance of the US Government’s (USG) commitments under the JPOA, the U.S. Department of State and the US Department of the Treasury will implement sanctions relief relating to certain activities and associated services taking place exclusively during the six-month period beginning on January 20, 2014, and ending July 20, 2014.
John Kerry, in his testimony before the House Foreign Affair Committee on 10 December 2013, explained that at the end of the six months, if Iran fully comply, Iranians would have somewhere in the vicinity of $7 billion dollars as a temporary sanctions relief.
Kerry explained that all the sanctions on Iran on its abysmal human rights record, over its support for terrorism and over its destabilizing activities in places like Syria – those sanctions will all remain in effect. They have nothing to do with the nuclear. Nevertheless, this agreement does provide Iran with a very limited, temporary, and reversible relief. If Iran fails to meet its commitments, the relief will be revoked. This relief represents the already mentioned amount of $7 billion which is less than one percent of Iran’s $1 trillion dollar economy, and it is a small fraction of the $100 billion-plus of oil revenue alone that Iran has been deprived by USA since 2012.
He further explained that the suggested temporary relief pales in comparison to the amount of pressure for the sanctions which will stay in place. Iran will lose $30 billion over the course of this continued sanctions regime over the next six months. So compare that – they may get $7 billion of relief, but they’re going to lose $30 billion. It’s going to go into the frozen accounts. It will be added to the already 45 billion or so that’s in those accounts now that they can’t access. Another thing to keep in mind that sanctions relief is limited to the very few targeted areas that are specified in the agreement.
The interim deal, known as the joint plan of action, bought time for a comprehensive agreement which was initially intended to be completed by July last year. The negotiators gave themselves another four months until November, and then after marathon talks in Vienna, it was postponed again, setting 30 June as the new deadline.
The announcement made on 2 April 2015 in the Swiss city’s technical university, followed 18 months of intensive bargaining, culminating in an eight-day period of near-continuous talks that went on long into the night, and on the last night continued all the way through until dawn. It was announced that “Iran has promised to make drastic cuts to its nuclear
programme in return for the gradual lifting of sanctions as part of a historic breakthrough in Lausanne that could end a 13-year nuclear standoff”.
Here are the key parameters of a JCPOA regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program that were decided in Lausanne, Switzerland. These parameters have been classified into the following five categories:
- Iran has agreed to reduce by approximately two-thirds its installed centrifuges. Iran will go from having about 19,000 installed today to 6,104 installed under the deal, with only 5,060 of these enriching uranium for 10 years. All 6,104 centrifuges will be IR-1s, Iran’s first-generation centrifuge;
- Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years;
- Iran has agreed to reduce its current stockpile of about 10,000 kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to 300 kg of 3.67 percent LEU for 15 years;
- All excess centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure will be placed in IAEA monitored storage and will be used only as replacements for operating centrifuges and equipment;
- Iran has agreed to not build any new facilities for the purpose of enriching uranium for 15 years; and
- Iran’s breakout timeline – the time that it would take for Iran to acquire enough fissile material for one weapon – is currently assessed to be 2 to 3 months. That timeline will be extended to at least one year, for a duration of at least ten years, under this framework.
- Iran will convert its facility at Fordow so that it is no longer used to enrich uranium:
- ran has agreed to not enrich uranium at its Fordow facility for at least 15 years;
- Iran has agreed to convert its Fordow facility so that it is used for peaceful purposes only – into a nuclear, physics, technology, research center;
- Iran has agreed to not conduct research and development associated with uranium enrichment at Fordow for 15 years;
- Iran will not have any fissile material at Fordow for 15 years;
- Almost two-thirds of Fordow’s centrifuges and infrastructure will be removed. The remaining centrifuges will not enrich uranium. All centrifuges and related infrastructure will be placed under IAEA monitoring;
- Iran will only enrich uranium at the Natanz facility, with only 5,060 IR-1 first-generation entrifuges for ten years:
- Iran has agreed to only enrich uranium using its first generation (IR-1 models) centrifuges at Natanz for ten years, removing its more advanced centrifuges;
- Iran will remove the 1,000 IR-2M centrifuges currently installed at Natanz and place them in IAEA monitored storage for ten years;
- Iran will not use its IR-2, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, or IR-8 models to produce enriched uranium for at least ten years. Iran will engage in limited research and development with its advanced centrifuges, according to a schedule and parameters which have been agreed to by the P5+1; and
- For ten years, enrichment and enrichment research and development will be limited to ensure a breakout timeline of at least 1 year. Beyond 10 years, Iran will abide by its enrichment and enrichment R&D plan submitted to the IAEA, and pursuant to the JCPOA, under the Additional Protocol resulting in certain limitations on enrichment capacity.
- INSPECTION AND TRANSPARENCY:
- The IAEA will have regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities, including to Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz and its former enrichment facility at Fordow, and including the use of the most up-to-date, modern monitoring technologies;
- Inspectors will have access to the supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program. The new transparency and inspections mechanisms will closely monitor materials and/or components to prevent diversion to a secret program;
- Inspectors will have access to uranium mines and continuous surveillance at uranium mills, where Iran produces yellowcake, for 25 years;
- Inspectors will have continuous surveillance of Iran’s centrifuge rotors and bellows production and storage facilities for 20 years. Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing base will be frozen and under continuous surveillance;
- All centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure removed from Fordow and Natanz will be placed under continuous monitoring by the IAEA;
- A dedicated procurement channel for Iran’s nuclear program will be established to monitor and approve, on a case by case basis, the supply, sale, or transfer to Iran of certain nuclear-related and dual use materials and technology – an additional transparency measure;
- Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol of the IAEA, providing the IAEA much greater access and information regarding Iran’s nuclear program, including both declared and undeclared facilities;
- Iran will be required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country;
- Iran has agreed to implement Modified Code 3.1 requiring early notification of construction of new facilities; and
- Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.
- REACTORS AND REPROCESSING:
- Iran has agreed to redesign and rebuild a heavy water research reactor in Arak, based on a design that is agreed to by the P5+1, which will not produce weapons grade plutonium, and which will support peaceful nuclear research and radioisotope production;
- The original core of the reactor, which would have enabled the production of significant quantities of weapons-grade plutonium, will be destroyed or removed from the country;
- Iran will ship all of its spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the reactor’s lifetime;
- Iran has committed indefinitely to not conduct reprocessing or reprocessing research and development on spent nuclear fuel;
- Iran will not accumulate heavy water in excess of the needs of the modified Arak reactor, and will sell any remaining heavy water on the international market for 15 years; and
- Iran will not build any additional heavy water reactors for 15 years.
- Iran will receive sanctions relief, if it verifiably abides by its commitments;
- U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place;
- The architecture of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for much of the duration of the deal and allow for snap-back of sanctions in the event of significant non-performance;
- All past UN Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordow, Arak, PMD, and transparency);
- However, core provisions in the UN Security Council resolutions – those that deal with transfers of sensitive technologies and activities – will be re-established by a new UN Security Council resolution that will endorse the JCPOA and urge its full implementation. It will also create the procurement channel mentioned above, which will serve as a key transparency measure. Important restrictions on conventional arms and ballistic missiles, as well as provisions that allow for related cargo inspections and asset freezes, will also be incorporated by this new resolution;
- A dispute resolution process will be specified, which enables any JCPOA participant, to seek to resolve disagreements about the performance of JCPOA commitments;
- If an issue of significant non-performance cannot be resolved through that process, then all previous UN sanctions could be re-imposed; and
- U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place under the deal.
- For ten years, Iran will limit domestic enrichment capacity and research and development – ensuring a breakout timeline of at least one year. Beyond that, Iran will be bound by its longer-term enrichment and enrichment research and development plan it shared with the P5+1;
- For fifteen years, Iran will limit additional elements of its program. For instance, Iran will not build new enrichment facilities or heavy water reactors and will limit its stockpile of enriched uranium and accept enhanced transparency procedures;
- Important inspections and transparency measures will continue well beyond 15 years. Iran’s adherence to the Additional Protocol of the IAEA is permanent, including its significant access and transparency obligations. The robust inspections of Iran’s uranium supply chain will last for 25 years; and
- Even after the period of the most stringent limitations on Iran’s nuclear program, Iran will remain a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which prohibits Iran’s development or acquisition of nuclear weapons and requires IAEA safeguards on its nuclear program.
In a joint statement, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, hailed what they called a “decisive step” after more than a decade of work.
Speaking afterwards, Zarif said the accord showed “Our programme is exclusively peaceful, has always been and always will remain exclusively peaceful”, while not hindering the country’s pursuit of atomic energy for civilian purposes.
Speaking at the White House, President Barack Obama said that if fully implemented, the agreement would “cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon”.
As news of the deal reached Tehran, people took to the streets to celebrate, looking forward to the prospect of life without sanctions.
In Washington, meanwhile, there was a clear sign of the battle to come over the agreement, which Republicans have vowed to overturn. Senator Mark Kirk, who is promoting fresh sanctions against Iran, declared that former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain “got a better deal from Adolf Hitler” at Munich.
In his remarks in Lausanne, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a riposte to rightwing critics of the accord. “Throughout history, diplomacy has been necessary to prevent wars and to define international boundaries, to design institutions, and to develop global norms,” Kerry said. “Simply demanding that Iran capitulate makes a nice soundbite, but it’s not a policy. It is not a realistic plan … The test is whether or not it will leave the world safer or more secure than it would be without this agreement. And there can be no question that the comprehensive plan that we are moving toward will more than pass that test.
”It is obvious that not only just Republicans but some Democrats in US Congress are highly suspicious of Iran’s motivations for the deal and expressed concerns about, declaring that certain provisions of the framework agreement are too lenient toward Iran which could leave them with the capacity to divert nuclear energy enrichment for making bombs.
At the same time Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei insists that “Sanctions must be completely removed on the day of the agreement.” As far as the US Congress is concerned, they have already expressed apprehension over the Obama Administration’s ability to conclude any air tight agreement and asserting final oversight on what may ultimately be agreed.
The Ayatollah has also publicly ruled out any “Infiltration of the security and defence realm of the state on the pretense of inspection”.
The president, Hassan Rouhani, also reiterated Iran’s position that onerous economic sanctions that have been imposed on the country for years by the United Nations, United States and European Union must be lifted with the signing of any final agreement.
It is no secret that conflicting public statements in Tehran and Washington suggest that there are indeed serious differences yet to be resolved.
The declaration of a framework deal is both preliminary and partial. It does not cover all the issues in dispute and is intended to be only a precursor to a full, comprehensive and detailed agreement due to be completed by the end of June, 2015. Before then, the understanding must survive attack from hardliners in Iran and the US.
The joint statement and the details published in Lausanne represent a set of basic compromises that had eluded negotiators for many years. Iran will cut its nuclear infrastructure to the point that western governments are satisfied it would take a year to “breakout” and build a bomb, if Tehran chose to follow that path. At the same time, Iran will open itself up to a level of monitoring and scrutiny of its nuclear programme that is likely to be unparalleled anywhere in the world.
When all that has been achieved, which could be in as little as six months, the overwhelming bulk of international sanctions would be lifted and Iran would re-enter the global economy.
The accord also has the potential to be a turning point in normalizing Iran’s adversarial relations with the west, which have been a constant in world affairs since the Islamic revolution of 1979. “This could be one of the most important diplomatic achievements in a generation or more,” said Ali Vaez, an Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group.
Kazem Sadjadpour, an Iranian university professor, said on state TV: “I feel very proud as an Iranian … This is a turning point in Iran’s history of diplomacy. This is a night of mourning for Netanyahu and his warmongering allies in the US congress.”
The UK foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said: “This is well beyond what many of us thought possible even 18 months ago.” Hammond said that Iran would face stringent monitoring of its programme. “There is a very rigorous transparency and inspection regime with access for international inspectors on a daily basis, high-tech surveillance of all the facilities, TV cameras, electronic seals on equipment, so we know remotely if any equipment has been moved,” he said.
The Russians quickly moved to spoil any premature celebration about the deal by agreeing to provide Iran with an $800-million advanced air defence system on the spurious grounds that this is merely defensive weaponry. Though there are now reports that the sale may not necessarily go through right away, by signalling its intent to lift restrictions, Russia has crossed another one of President Barack Obama’s “red lines.” Russia has also concluded a trade deal with Iran for oil, grain and construction equipment that is worth billions.
The dyke on sanctions – the main source of leverage on Iran – is springing leaks in all directions. In addition to Russia, the Europeans and the Chinese, also parties to the framework, are rushing to feast on commercial opportunities in Iran even before a final text is concluded and sanctions are supposed to be eased. “Snapback sanctions” promised in response to Iranian breaches of the ultimate agreement may be as porous as red lines especially when the latest estimates suggest that Iran is only two or three months away from nuclear weapons capability. What seems forgotten in the rush for commercial dividends is that crippling sanctions brought Iran to the negotiation table in the first place. The leverage to ensure compliance is gradually dissipating.
Here is an interesting prospective articulated by Julian Borger in Lausanne and Pwis in Washington (Guardian). There are the winners and losers from the nuclear deal which was announced on 2 April 2015:
- John Kerry: The US secretary of state has been under fire at home for having devoted so much of his time and effort to the Iran nuclear issue, which his critics claimed was a fool’s errand. The Lausanne deal is his response. It is already being hailed as one of the most significant diplomatic achievements in a generation or more, and makes him a leading contender for the Nobel peace prize overnight;
- Barack Obama: For his part, the US president already has a Nobel peace prize. A completed Iran deal could allow him to claim that he has retrospectively earned it. It secures a signature foreign policy achievement for his legacy, to set alongside his principal domestic policy win, Obamacare;
- Mohammad Javad Zarif: Iran’s foreign minister receives a hero’s welcome in Tehran, has made the deal the overwhelming focus of his role, delegating many other duties to deputies. Failure to clinch an agreement – and lift the burden of sanctions on his country – would have spelt the end of his political career. For Zarif, it is all or nothing. If the full agreement is signed in June, he could be sitting alongside Kerry in Oslo receiving that Nobel;
- Hassan Rouhani: The failure of a nuclear deal would almost certainly have made Rouhani a one-term president of Iran. He will have to deliver the economic benefits of sanctions relief quickly, and then follow up with real social reform if he is to fulfil the hopes of Iranians who voted for him; and
- Federica Mogherini: The Italian former foreign minister’s timing was impeccable. She took up the role as convener of the six-nation group as the talks were beginning to gather momentum. But the fact that Mogherini was the one to first announce the Lausanne accord was not just a matter of luck. She won high marks from all sides for chairing some of the tougher late night sessions, and for instilling a team spirit among those who work for her.
- Binyamin Netanyahu: He went all out to stop the accord being signed and was rebuked by almost all sides in the negotiating chamber. After all his sound and fury, particularly before the US Congress, the Lausanne deal makes him look ineffectual and marginalized;
- Senator Bob Corker: The accord will make it harder for the US Republican party to muster a veto-proof majority to pass the Tennessee senator’s bill, which is due to go to the floor on the Senate. He needs 13 Democrats to defect to obtain 67 votes. It will be hard to find that many Democrats willing to defy their president once he has sealed a deal which has the approval of most non-proliferation experts;
- King Salman bin Abdulaziz: The House of Saud has taken a zero-sum game approach to Iran and will see a rapprochement between the US and Iran as a loss of Saudi influence.Unfortunately, if the agreement is derailed before being finalized at the end of June, however, the tables will be turned: Winners will become losers and losers will become winners.
- The Guardian – Iran Nuclear Deal;
- US Department of Treasury;
- The Guardian – Iran;
- US Department of State – Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action;
- The Globe and Mail – Iran nuclear deal a triumph of hope over experience;
- US Department of State – The P5 +1’s First Step Agreement with Iran on its nuclear program; and
- The Guardian – Iran Nuclear Deal – Winners and Losers.