Iran Reaches an Agreement With the West

3 MINS READApr 2, 2015 | 19:35 GMT
Iran and the West Reach an Agreement
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attend the announcement of an agreement on Iran nuclear talks on April 2.

After double overtime negotiations in Lausanne, Iran and the six world powers have announced a framework deal that largely covers the key sticking points of a nuclear agreement, leaving the technical details to be worked out over the next three months.

The joint statement specified several key points:

  • Natanz will be the only facility allowed to carry out uranium enrichment, and the deeply buried Fordow enrichment site will be converted into a nuclear research facility.
  • Iran would be allowed to continue enrichment in limited amounts, with all spent fuel shipped out of the country.
  • The Arak heavy water reactor that is still under construction will be redesigned so that no plutonium is produced at this site.
  • All three of these sites would come under heavy inspection.

Notably, there was no mention of the Parchin military facility, where Iran has been suspected of engaging in nuclear weapons research. Iran has publicly insisted that it would not subject its military facilities to inspection, though it is unclear what has been conceded to assuage concerns about the activity at this facility.

The biggest concession outlined for Iran is the statement concerning sanctions. Specifically, the joint statement said: "The EU will terminate implementation of all nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions. The U.S. will cease application of all nuclear-related secondary economic and financial sanctions simultaneously with IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] verification of Iran's commitment."

The precise phrasing is critical to understanding how sanctions will be eased. First, U.N. Security Council sanctions — which deal primarily with nuclear-related weapons and technology proliferation rather than energy, trade and financial sanctions — will be lifted, though the U.N. resolution will still include language on restricting Iran from accessing nuclear-related weapons and technology. The U.N. Security Council resolution is not important for its immediate impact on Iranian trade, but for laying the political foundation for the European Union and United States to ease sanctions. The European Union "will terminate" sanctions, because it will have the political leeway to do so cleanly with an EU vote. However, the United States will "cease application" of sanctions. This refers to the complications in lifting sanctions codified in U.S. law. As Stratfor has emphasized, the lifting of U.S. sanctions will have to entail the president relying on his executive power to suspend sanctions through his waiver authority for consecutive 120-day periods. There is no limit to how many times he extends the waiver period.

The statement also did not specify how long the terms of the final accord would last — another question left for the final agreement.

Though there are several critical ambiguities in the joint statement, on the whole this statement is highly favorable to Iran. The careful wording was designed to enable Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to sell this deal at home, and could help stave off U.S. congressional dissent in the months leading up to the June 30 deadline — though this deal will not depend on congressional approval for implementation.

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