Iran and the P5+1 (U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China and Germany) world powers have announced that a framework deal on Iran’s nuclear program has been reached after marathon talks in Switzerland that blew past the March 31 deadline, setting the stage for a final comprehensive agreement to be reached by June 30.
On Twitter, Secretary of State John Kerry described the conclusion of the recent round of talks as a “big day”, saying that the European Union, P5+1 and Iran “now have parameters to resolve major issues on nuclear program. Back to work soon on a final deal.”
At a joint press conference with the European Union’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mohherini, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that we had accomplished “significant work” and that Iran will “continue enriching.”
According to the parameters of the deal released by the U.S. State Department, Iran will reduce by two-thirds the amount of nuclear centrifuges, from 19,000 to 6,104, with only 5,060 of these able to enrich uranium. Furthermore, Iran has agreed not to enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for 15 years, far below the 90 percent enrichment needed for a nuclear weapon.
Additionally, Iran will convert its secretive underground military facility at Fordow so that it is no longer used to enrich uranium for at least 15 years. At the main nuclear reactor in Natanz, Iran has agreed to remove its more advanced centrifuges. At the Arak facility, Iran has agreed to rebuild its facility to no longer produce nuclear weapons-grade plutonium.
One of the most important key aspects of the framework deal is the breakout time needed for Iran to produce a nuclear weapon. According to the framework, Iran’s current breakout time is assessed to be 2 to 3 months, however, that timeline will be extended to at least a year for a duration of at least 10 years under the deal.
The framework also establishes regular access for inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog. After the IAEA verifies that Iran has complied, the U.S. and E.U. will begin to lift nuclear-related sanctions. However, U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place.
Behnam Ben Taleblu, a Iran research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), told JNS.org that the framework deal laid out today “highlights both the achievements and shortcomings” of the original interim deal agreed to in 2013.
“While the specifications for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) released by the State Department involve a host of technical modifications, key Iranian sites like the Heavy Water reactor at Arak and the facility at Fordow will not be shuttered. The centrifuge cap is also higher than I would have liked,” he said.
“While the West may see this as yet another necessary interim measure to reach a comprehensive accord, Iran continues to see this a victory, chiefly for the continuation of its nuclear program,” Ben Taleblu added.
Just as the framework was announced, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also posted on Twitter that “Any deal must significantly roll back Iran’s nuclear capabilities and stop its terrorism and aggression,” and included a map illustrating Iranian interference across the Middle East.
Later in a call with President Barack Obama, Netanyahu reiterated his criticism of the deal, saying that it could put Israel’s future at risk.
“This deal would legitimize Iran’s nuclear program, bolster Iran’s economy & increase Iran’s aggression and terror,” Netanyahu told Obama, according to Mark Regev, the prime minister’s spokesman.