Six world powers adopt nuclear deal with Iran
VIENNA — World powers have adopted a final, comprehensive agreement with Iran that will govern its nuclear program for over a decade. The deal culminates a two-year diplomatic effort in which the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, led by the United States, have sought to end a twelve-year crisis over Iran’s suspicious nuclear work.Formally known as the the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 100-page document amounts to the most significant multilateral agreement reached in several decades. Its final form is roundly opposed in Israel— by the government, by its opposition, and by the public at large.The JCPOA allows Iran to retain much of its nuclear infrastructure, and grants it the right to enrich uranium on its own soil. But the deal also requires Iran to cap and partially roll back that infrastructure for ten to fifteen years, and grants the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, managed access to monitor that program with intrusive inspections.
In exchange, the governments of Britain, France, Russia, China, the US and Germany have agreed to lift all UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic— once Iran abides by a set of nuclear-related commitments. The moment Tehran receives sanctions relief— including access to an estimated $100 billion in frozen assets overseas— will be on “implementation day,” as one senior administration official put it on Tuesday morning in Vienna. That date is not set, and is entirely reliant on the pace of Iran’s initial haste in preparing for life under the deal. Once Iran has reduced its stockpile to just 300 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride, disconnected and removed some of its infrastructure and neutered its heavy-water plutonium reactor at Arak, the UN Security Council will vote to lift all sanctions at once.A Joint Commission has been established to adjudicate disagreements in the deal and, if necessary, vote to demand access to a specific site, or to request the reimposition of sanctions. The commission will be comprised of one delegate each from the permanent five members of the Security Council, Iran and the EU.
Negotiators failed to meet the standard of achieving “anytime, anywhere” access that several members of the United States Congress had demanded as a part of any nuclear deal. Instead, in the event Iran objects to an IAEA request for access to a specific site, a “clock” will begin that grants the two sides 14 days to negotiate. If that period expires without any resolution reached directly between Iran and the IAEA, the Joint Commission would have seven days to advise them on a way forward. Iran would then have three days to comply with the commission’s final advice, bringing the total time on the clock to 24 days. Asked by The Jerusalem Post whether that met a standard of anytime, anywhere access, a senior administration official involved in the negotiations said it did not. “We don’t think that ‘anytime, anywhere’ inspections are feasible,” the official said. “It’s just not something that happens anywhere in the world.”
Should Iran fail to comply with the commission’s requests— or should it violate the deal in any other “significant” way— a majority can vote to refer the complaint to the full UN Security Council.
But the Security Council would not then vote to renew sanctions on Iran. Rather, it would be a vote to keep sanctions relief in effect— and would require just one permanent member’s veto to end it.
That mechanism means that sanctions could snap back in place with action from the United States alone, the official noted. Iran has agreed explicitly in the deal to “generally allow” IAEA access— wording sought by the US after Iran’s history of generally rejecting such access. Tehran has also agreed to sign on to the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, which broadens access, in a binding manner and in perpetuity. “Above and beyond” its commitments made in a political agreement reached back in April, Iran has also agreed not to work on any technologies required for the construction of a nuclear warhead. That provision, US officials said, also does not have an expiration date.
Newly developed electronic seals will physically cap much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, and the IAEA will also use new, online enrichment measurements to monitor activity in the cascades of centrifuges Iran will be allowed to retain. That number is small, but not zero: 5,060 centrifuges, first constructed in the 1970s, will be allowed to enrich uranium to a low grade at Natanz for the first decade of a deal. The Arak installation will be converted into an altogether new design, based on conceptual models of a peaceful plutonium reactor that still uses heavy water. Outside of its April agreements, US officials say that Iran’s heavy water stocks— stored in “beer kegs”— will also be monitored.
Not everything in the JCPOA will be made public, but the entire deal will be provided to Congress. “Everything that we know— that the administration knows— Congress will know,” said a second senior American official. The official was referring, in part, to the future of Iran’s research and development into advanced centrifuges, beyond it 1970s models, as well as other equipment necessary for the construction of an industrial-sized nuclear program beyond 2025. According to Western powers, the deal ensures that Iran cannot produce the materials necessary to build a nuclear weapon without the world having one year’s notice. That, among non-proliferation experts, is colloquially referred to as “breakout time.” But that standard sunsets in ten years. After a decade, officials could not say how Iran’s program would develop. The future outlook of Iran’s program, one US official said, is a matter between Iran and the IAEA.
“We don’t know everything that’s going to be in Iran’s enrichment and R&D plan, and we have not negotiated the whole plan with Iran,” the official said. “Its difficult for us to know exactly what that plan is going to say and therefore difficult for us to know exactly what that breakout time limits will diminish to.”The IAEA’s investigation into Iran’s military nuclear work, according to US officials, will have to be addressed to the IAEA’s satisfaction before sanctions are relieved. But the details of that query, similarly, will be for the IAEA and Tehran to sort out for themselves.
In a prepared statement released on Tuesday morning, IAEA director general Yukiya Amano said that all of the agency’s outstanding questions— on issues past and present— must be resolved by October 15 of this year. A final report will be prepared by December.
Amano announced a “roadmap” for the resolution of the IAEA’s decade-long quest for answers to just twelve questions on the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. The roadmap “will continue to take into account Iran’s security concerns,” it reads. Iran’s atomic energy chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, signed the roadmap document. Final negotiations toward the deal slogged through eighteen days in Austria’s capital. And the technical task of precisely translating the text, and of reviewing each provision, held up announcement of the deal on Monday.
But it was that morning when Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief and coordinator of the talks, began her morning meeting with her colleagues with news that the process could not go on any longer. They agreed to push through to the finish line, and the hardest talks took place on that day, an official close to the process said.
Obama spoke with Kerry and his team just before midnight that evening. White House officials tell the Post that the president remained in constant contact with the US delegation on the ground.
The final issue that challenged negotiators was language of a UN resolution that details the expiration of an embargo on conventional arms. The US agreed to allow the embargo to expire in five years, and to allow another embargo on missiles to expire in eight years. The agreement came midday. “There wasn’t this triumphalist celebration,” the official added. “People were pretty tired.”
Toward midnight on Monday, various delegations began scheduling media interviews and preparing their press corps for an announcement ceremony at the city’s Austria Center, outside the heart of the city. Earlier in the day, the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said the Obama administration was “going to have a lot of confidence in our ability to advocate for this agreement,” after several Republican senators alleged the deal would be a “hard sell” on Capitol Hill.
The deal now goes to Congress for a 60-day review period. The US legislature will then have the opportunity to hold a non-binding vote to approve or disapprove of the deal. Both Kerry and Zarif took time for prayer during their prolonged stays in Vienna. Iran’s delegation marked Ramadan with a night at Imam Ali, an Islamic center, on July 6, one night before the second of four total deadlines; And Kerry attended a Sunday mass at the city’s central Stephansdom on Sunday, July 12, just hours before the deal was ultimately sealed. Their teams here are large, with heavy portfolios and massive hotel bills: Even before Kerry and Zarif arrived on June 26, their delegates had been on the ground, preparing the historic text as a basis for high-level political discussions.
Hundreds of journalists descended on this city for the original deadline for a final deal of June 30. Many remained, working out of a tent erected by the Austrian government just outside the palace where talks are taking place.
In one form or another, Iran has maintained a nuclear program for nearly half a century. But the international community grew alarmed with its nuclear work in 2002, when two covert facilities— a uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy-water plutonium facility at Arak— were discovered by Western intelligence agencies and revealed to the world. While there are several ways to produce nuclear power that are exclusively peaceful, Natanz and Arak were two hallmark facilities built for the production of fissile material necessary for nuclear weapons. Talks between Iran and three European nations— Britain, France, and Germany— began the following year, as the US was launching its second war in Iraq. Berlin’s participation in this early round of nuclear talks has reserved it a spot at the negotiations to this day.
But the efforts of the “E3,” as they were known, failed, and Iran dramatically expanded its nuclear program to include a vast and dispersed domestic enrichment infrastructure. That enrichment continued despite several demands from the UN Security Council to halt enrichment completely. And Tehran suspended its participation in the Additional Protocol, refusing to answer any more of the IAEA’s many questions after 2006. Another covert facility, this one burrowed inside a mountain near Iran’s holy city of Qom, was uncovered in 2009. The UN Security Council passed a total of eight sanctions resolutions against Iran by 2010. Washington already had a harsh sanctions regime leveled against Iran for a series of other, non-nuclear activities, including its violations of human rights and its sponsorship of terrorism worldwide. But that sanctions architecture was expanded dramatically in the following years, compounded by a sweeping oil embargo imposed by the EU. Iran was then cut from Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, better known as SWIFT, which made basic transactions a struggle for the theocratic government. Iran will be permitted to begin using SWIFT once again, after the deal is fully implemented. “That will be a significant driver of their economic improvement,” the official said.
The diplomatic effort which concluded on Tuesday began in secret, in the Omani capital of Muscat, directly between Iran and the US in 2013. Washington’s goal was to lay the groundwork for high-level dialogue, and it worked: Just months later, Obama made a phone call to Rouhani from the Oval Office. It was the first exchange of its kind in 34 years. Among those representing the US in Oman was Wendy Sherman, who has led the talks ever since, and Jake Sullivan, now chief foreign policy advisor to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. Obama would ultimately continue his direct diplomacy through written correspondence, with the supreme leader, on several occasions over the life of the talks. In Geneva that November, the US, Iran and its international partners agreed to freeze the crisis with a “joint plan of action.” The interim JPOA effectively capped Iran’s nuclear work as well as the imposition of new sanctions. But the hard talks began after the 2013 holiday season in Vienna, at the Palais Coburg, a luxury hotel with only sixteen rooms just off the city’s famous, tree-lined ring. The negotiations have now ended here, as well, in its gilded, blue-upholstered rooms overlooking the city’s Theodor Herzl Square.
Different cities hosted the talks over the last two years, but negotiators mostly alternated between Geneva— where the United Nations is headquartered— and Vienna, where the IAEA is based. The talks were occasionally diverted further along the coast of Europe’s largest lake to the resort city of Lausanne, and as far as to Montreux, at the foot of the Swiss Alps. It was at the Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne— after another marathon of talks, which included the longest-running meeting between a sitting US secretary of state and a counterpart in recorded history— where negotiators reached a series of core political agreements. Those agreements were meant to ultimately frame a final deal. But the framework was ultimately an agreement in principle, and not one in writing: There was no shared text, and the written parameters released from the White House and Tehran did not perfectly match. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei initially opposed the phasing of a deal. He sought a single, final agreement, which would lay out all commitments and prompt immediate sanctions relief for his country. The deal ultimately reached on Tuesday is a Western victory over Khamenei’s preferences, at least on process matters: The understanding reached in Lausanne has, indeed, framed a final agreement, which will be executed in phases. Those phases begin with its immediate adoption on Tuesday, logistical preparation beginning tomorrow, and its full implementation at a later date.
Obama: Iran deal cuts off all pathways to nuclear weapons
US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that the agreement signed between Iran and world powers “cuts off all pathways to nuclear weapons.” Speaking at the White House hours after the deal was culminated, the US president hailed it as an example of “US leadership.””Today after two years of negotiation the United States together with the international community has achieved something that decades of animosity has not: a comprehensive long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” the president said. “Because we negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons” in the Middle East, the president said. “The international community will be able to verify Iran will not be able to develop nuclear weapons,” Obama said. The president said the deal is effective since it requires Iran to take steps to curb its nuclear program before economic sanctions are lifted. The agreement “meets every single one of the bottom lines established” in the interim deal struck earlier this year, Obama said. The president said that the agreement compels Iran to eliminate most of its enriched uranium, leaving it with “just a fraction” of the raw materials needed to produce a bomb. Obama said the deal calls for limitations on Iranian stockpiles of uranium and plutonium. It also bans the Islamic Republic from constructing more heavy water reactors. The president said that the agreement stipulates reinforced sanctions in the event that Iran violates terms of the deal.
Addressing the concerns of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the deal is “bad” for Israel, Obama vowed to continue to strengthen Israel’s security.