Reactions to the Iran nuclear deal

The U.S. State Department has released the Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program.

The International Crisis Group says:

If finalised by its 30 June deadline and implemented, the nuclear accord could put an end to a prolonged and multidimensional standoff; effectively block overt and clandestine pathways to nuclear militarisation; set a positive precedent for the non-proliferation regime; provide the Iranian people with economic relief; offer a path for normalising Iran’s relationship with the international community; and thus open the door to the possibility of constructive engagement on critical issues of peace and security in the Middle East.

Negotiated outcomes by nature are imperfect. These agreed upon parameters provide Iran with an enrichment capacity higher than the U.S. and its allies preferred, and sanctions relief slower and more circumscribed than Iran desired. But both sides have protected their core interests and rightfully can claim victory – a precondition for any sustainable solution.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace experts James Acton, George Perkovich, and Karim Sadjadpour discuss the details of the deal and its implications here.

Ariane Tabatabai writes: The coming months will involve a great deal of legal and political wrangling. In the United States especially, due to anxious allies (Saudi Arabia and Israel) and some domestic opposition (especially among Republicans in Congress), negotiations will keep the White House busy.

Nonetheless, this is a good agreement for both sides, as indicated by some of its key components.

First, most of the public discussion about the negotiations has until now been focused on quantifiable elements, such as the number of centrifuges and amount of low-enriched uranium that Iran gets to keep, and the length of the deal’s implementation. But perhaps the most crucial aspect lies in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) access to Iranian facilities. In the framework deal, Tehran has said it will once again voluntarily implement the Additional Protocol to its existing IAEA safeguards agreement, granting the nuclear watchdog more inspections authority. (Iran had previously implemented the Protocol but stopped adhering to it.) This means that IAEA inspectors will be able to regularly monitor Iranian facilities and can conduct unannounced inspections as well. Inspectors will also have access to the supply chain through which Iran obtains materials for its nuclear program. Inspections will likely last for about 25 years, longer than the implementation period of the agreement itself.

Second, Iran’s enrichment program will be limited. It has agreed not to build any new enrichment facilities for 15 years, and will not enrich uranium above 3.7 percent—a level suitable for commercial power plants, but too low to practically be used in a nuclear weapon—for at least that long. It is also reducing its current stockpile of 10,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium to a small fraction of that amount.

The Fordow nuclear facility will cease enriching any uranium and will be converted into a research center instead—one barred from doing research on enrichment. In fact, Iran will not keep any fissile material at Fordow for 15 years.

Iran will instead make the Natanz facility the focus of all enrichment activities. There, it will use only its first-generation (IR-1) centrifuges to enrich for 10 years. The more advanced IR-2m centrifuges will be stored for that period, under IAEA monitoring. In fact, advanced centrifuge models (the IR-2, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, and IR-8) will not be used for enrichment for 10 years.

In total, Iran will reduce its current enrichment apparatus by roughly two thirds. It will have only 6,104 installed centrifuges, as opposed to the current 19,000. All of them will be the IR-1 model.

Third, Iran will implement Modified Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements to its IAEA Safeguards Agreement, which requires it to give early notification that it is constructing new nuclear facilities.

Fourth, Iran will take steps to address concerns over the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.

Fifth, Iran will redesign and rebuild the Arak heavy water reactor. The design will be agreed upon by negotiators from the six world powers, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, and the United States. The redesign will mean that the reactor will not be able to produce weapon-grade plutonium. Iran is also recommitting itself to not developing a reprocessing capability. (Reprocessing, the back end of the fuel cycle, is a vital component in developing a plutonium bomb.) The original core of the reactor will be removed and either destroyed or taken out of the country. Additionally, Iran agrees not to build a new heavy water reactor for 15 years.

A number of these steps will, in effect, be irreversible. They will not just limit Iran’s nuclear capability for 10 to 15 years, but will reshape it entirely and indefinitely. [Continue reading…]

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