The fine print of the Iran nuclear agreement
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Iran and six global powers have struck a six-month interim agreement that includes a requirement that Iran stop enriching uranium above 5% and the easing of some sanctions. FRANCE 24 takes a closer look.
Following four days of high-level talks in Geneva, Iran and six world powers have agreed on a landmark deal to ease economic sanctions in return for limits on Iran's uranium enrichment activities and allowing the UN “daily access” to its main nuclear sites.
According to details of the interim agreement published by the White House on Sunday, Iran and the "six powers" – the United States, France, Germany, the UK, China and Russia – have committed to the following points for a period of six months.
- Stop enriching uranium above 5%
The key point here is the implicit recognition of Iran’s right to continue enriching uranium under 5%, which is sufficient for electricity generation.
The agreement also includes a commitment by Iran to maintain a constant stockpile of 3.5%-enriched uranium, the grade currently used at its first nuclear power plant in Bouchehr. This means Iran can continue to re-supply the Russian-made reactor.
“At the end of the day the Iranians will continue enrichment,” Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, told FRANCE 24. “This is an implicit recognition of Iran’s right within the framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
AFP’s former deputy bureau chief in Iran Marc Burleigh added: “Talking about a right to enrich uranium is a way to attack the six UN resolutions that have come down against Iran and form the legal basis for US and EU sanctions.” He added that this aspect of the agreement was a “get out of jail free” card for Iran, written in a language ambiguous enough for Tehran to claim that its right to enrich uranium has been recognised and for the Americans to argue that this is not formally the case.
- Stop the installation of new centrifuges
This part of the deal limits the installation of new uranium-enriching machines to the replacement of existing ones, which means Iran’s capacity will stay the same.
- Neutralise its stockpile of uranium enriched at 20%
Iran has six months to dilute or get rid of its near-20% enriched uranium. This fuel is closest to weapons-grade and has been used at Tehran’s research reactor.
Prof Marandi argues that this is not a problem for Iran, which has now produced enough cancer treatment supplies from the high-grade uranium. “The only reason Iran produced uranium enriched at 20% in the first place was because western countries tried to block Iran from obtaining this fuel from abroad,” he said.
- Allow the IAEA to monitor the Natanz and Fordo facilities
According to the White House, the agreement includes “unprecedented transparency and intrusive monitoring of Iran’s nuclear programme”. The UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is granted “daily access” to Iran’s two main nuclear sites. Other locations including centrifuge assembly factories and uranium treatment plants will be monitored. Inspectors will also be given plans and frequent access to the controversial Arak reactor.
- Stop further advances at the Arak nuclear reactor
The Arak reactor, currently under construction, is estimated to have the capacity to produce up to 9 kg of plutonium – a key material in nuclear weapons – per year. Arak was not in the picture when the IAEA and Iran signed existing agreements. Under the Geneva deal, Iran is stopping construction and other preparations including supplying fuel for the reactor.
Commitments by P5+1
- No new sanctions
If Iran sticks to the commitments above, Western countries will not impose any new economic sanctions. However, the bulk of existing sanctions, most importantly on Iranian oil exports, will remain in place.
“If Iran cannot address our concerns, we are prepared to increase sanctions and pressure”, the White House said.
- $6-7 billion sanction relief
More than $4 billion can be paid to Iran in exchange for oil purchases during the six coming months.
Trade with Iran in precious metals, petrochemicals, automobiles, airliner maintenance and education becomes possible again.
However, the White House highlights that these measures amount to “limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible relief”. Iranian oil exports remain limited and part of the associated revenues remain frozen in overseas accounts.
- The right to civilian nuclear energy
The six-month interim agreement paves the way for further discussion, which the White House says “would constrain Iran’s nuclear programme over the long term, provide verifiable assurances to the international community that Iran’s nuclear activities will be exclusively peaceful”.
This implicit recognition of Iran’s right to civilian nuclear energy is seen as “a major success for Iran”, Prof Marandi said.
- Iran forbidden from obtaining nuclear weapons
The ultimate goal of the agreement and further negotiations remains to “prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” in application of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.