Questions on Iran? We've Got Answers.
April 21, 2015
On April 2, a framework agreement was reached between the "P5+1" negotiators and Iran. Although those who ardently supported diplomacy throughout the negotiation process celebrated this announcement as a huge victory, this left many questions for skeptics of the deal. We answer some of those questions here.
Q. Hardliners are convinced that this agreement doesn't block Iran's pathway to the bomb, but paves it. Is this true?
A. In short, no. The framework agreement details many things that block Iran's pathway to the bomb. Iran's enrichment capacity and stockpile will be drastically limited. The number of Iran's centrifuges will be reduced by two-thirds. The only enrichment facility in Iran will be at Natanz, and uranium enrichment there will be capped at 3.67%. In order to obtain weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon, uranium enrichment would have to be at 20% or higher. The Arak facility will be redesigned as a research facility, ruling out a plutonium pathway to the bomb. The time it would take for Iran to break away from the agreement and make enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon will be extended to a year – without an agreement it's at 2-3 months. Verification procedures will also be heavily increased. Iran will adopt the Additional Protocol, which grants the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regular access to all nuclear facilities indefinitely. Iran has also agreed not to establish any new nuclear facilities for at least 15 years.
Q. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has demanded that all sanctions on Iran be lifted as soon as a final deal is in place. Will this happen?
A. This statement from Ayatollah Khamenei occurred after the White House circulated a fact sheet with details of the framework agreement. This caused a lot of confusion as to whether the White House fact sheet was "correct." According to the White House, the United States and the European Union will terminate all economic and financial sanctions once Iran's implementation of the agreement is confirmed. So no, all sanctions on Iran will not be lifted as soon as the final deal is signed, and United States sanctions will also snap back if the agreement is broken.
Q. How long does the agreement last and what happens after it ends?
A. There will be no "sunset clause"in the final deal with Iran. This means that certain provisions of the agreement will never expire. 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. Iran will also 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. Other provisions of the agreement will last 10-15 years. For ten years, Iran will limit domestic enrichment capacity and research and development – ensuring a "breakout" timeline of at least one year. For fifteen years, Iran will not build new enrichment facilities or heavy water reactors and will limit its stockpile of enriched uranium and accept enhanced transparency procedures.
Q. President Obama has openly opposed any legislation that could jeopardize a final deal with Iran. Why has he suddenly yielded to one of these bills?
A. Senator Bob Corker has been making headway in Congress with his bill, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (S.615). The original version of this bill gave Congress 60 days to review the final agreement with Iran, providing an avenue for Congress to reject a final deal and bar the President from lifting Congress-imposed sanctions on Iran. Following the announcement of the Iran framework agreement on April 2nd, White House officials made 130 calls to lawmakers, and quickly came to the conclusion that Corker's legislation could not be blocked altogether. On April 14th, the Senate Foreign Relations committee revised Senator Corker's bill, after which it passed unanimously in committee by a vote of 19-0. The "compromise" was that Congress would have 30 days to review the final agreement and the President would then have 12 days to accept or veto any final decision that Congress makes. Congress would then have 10 days to attempt to override the Presidential veto. According to Obama's Press Secretary, Josh Earnest, Obama yielded because "it went from a piece of legislation that the president would veto to a piece of legislation that's undergone substantial revision such that it's now in the form of a compromise that the president would be willing to sign."
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