“A historic mistake for the world” is how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the nuclear deal reached with Iran. An end to the “wrong, unfair and inhumane” sanctions is how Hassan Rouhani Iran’s president described the deal. The one thing we know for sure is this is a momentous deal for the Middle East and the world.
This was a deal that took 20 months to negotiate and after a 12 year stand-off between the western world and Iran over its nuclear programme will come as a welcome relief to many. The deal negotiated by the P5+1 group of world powers (US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany) is an agreement with Iran that in return for Iran scaling back its sensitive nuclear activities there will be a gradual lifting of sanctions.
What has Iran agreed to?
Iran’s nuclear facilities:
There are two uranium enrichment facilities in Iran, Natanz and Fordo. A third the Arak reactor has been under construction, but all progress had been halted following the interim nuclear deal agreed in November 2013. In this deal the Arak reactor is to be redesigned so that it cannot produce any weapons-grade plutonium. Iran will also not be allowed to build any additional heavy-water reactors or accumulate heavy water for 15 years.
Under the deal Natanz is the only facility where research and development will be allowed to take place. At Fordo no enrichment will occur for the next 15 years and the underground facility will be converted into a nuclear, physics and technology centre. The Centrifuges(a device is designed to enrich the Uranium-235 out of the mixture of isotopes found in naturally-occurring uranium compounds) at this site will produce radioisotopes which are to be used in medicine, agriculture, industry and science. There are currently about 2,700 Centrifuges installed, 700 are enriching uranium.
Iran has in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action also agreed to reduce its stockpile of uranium to 300kg for 15 years this is a reduction of 98%. Iran has also agreed to keep its enrichment level at 3.67%.
At the uranium enrichment facilities, Natanz and Fordo U-235 which is the most fissile isotope is separated out. Low-enriched Uranium, which has a 3%-4% concentration of U-235, is used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants. Iran has always stated that this was the purpose of these facilities, however these facilities can also be used to enrich Uranium to the 90% concentration of U-235 needed to produce nuclear weapons.
To construct a nuclear bomb, Iran would need tens of thousands of centrifuges it currently has 19,000 installed. Under the JCPOA, Iran would be limited to installing no more than 5,060 centrifuges at Natanz for a period of 10 years. Any excess centrifuges and enrichment-related infrastructure at Natanz will be stored under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continuous monitoring.
Iran has agreed to allow the IAEA to monitor its implementation of all newly agreed/ratified measures mentioned in the JCPOA. The main measures are that Iran will provisionally apply the Additional Protocol to its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. Secondly Iran will fully implement the “Roadmap for Clarification of Past and Present Outstanding Issues” as agreed with the IAEA.
The IAEA will also be given a long term presence in Iran, they will monitor uranium ore concentrate that is produced by Iran, and this will last for 25 years. Furthermore the IAEA will survey centrifuge rotors and bellows for 20 years.
What has the P5+1 agreed to?
- The UN Security Council resolution endorsing JCPOA will override all previous Security council provisions regarding Iran’s nuclear programme, simultaneously with IAEA confirmation that implementation of JCPOA is ongoing.
- The EU will terminate all provisions of the EU regulation dealing with sanctions towards Iran regarding the nuclear issue simultaneously with the IAEA confirmation that implementation of JCPOA is ongoing.
- The US will like the UN and the EU terminate all sanctions imposed towards Iran regarding the nuclear issue simultaneously with the IAEA confirmation that implementation of JCPOA is ongoing.
It is worth remembering that all U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran for its support of terrorism, human rights abuses and missile activities will remain in effect and be enforced. There will also be a Joint Commission comprising of representatives of the P5+1 nations, the EU and Iran which will monitor compliance.
Barack Obama said of this deal “I think we will be able to prove, is that this by a wide margin is the most definitive path by which Iran will not get a nuclear weapon”. Whether you agree with him or not, this is most certainly a deal that has for the first time in 12 years if not solved the issue of Iran at least shows that there is the possibility of a solution.