On April 2, 2014, the P5+1 (the United States, Germany, France, the UK, Russia, and China) and Iran reached an agreed-upon framework outlining the roadmap for a future agreement surrounding Iran’s nuclear program that would include suspension of U.S. and EU nuclear-related sanctions imposed on Iran. The U.S. Department of State published the key parameters of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”) framework, decided in Lausanne, Switzerland. The key parameters, highlights included below, will form the basis of the JCPOA, which must be brokered by June 30, 2015. This announcement comes after years of tense and at times hostile relations between the United States and Iran. Beginning in 2013, the P5+1, coordinated by the European Union’s High Representative, and Iran entered into negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, and reached an agreement over limited sanctions relief in November 24, 2014. We previously described those efforts here.

If an agreement is successfully reached by the June 30 deadline, the international community should expect a significant easing of the aforementioned sanctions regimes. U.S. and EU nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the International Atomic Energy Agency (“IAEA”) has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. If Iran does not abide by its commitments under the JCPOA, the sanctions will “snap back” into place. As described in the agreed-upon outline, the United States will maintain the “architecture” of the regulations if quick re-implementation is required. U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place under the deal. Accordingly, we expect that most of the restrictions on U.S. persons dealing with Iran will continue, at least for the foreseeable future.

President Obama believes that the JCPOA “framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon…Iran will face strict limitations on its program, and Iran has also agreed to the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history.” In the coming months, Congress could pose some challenges to President Obama’s diplomatic efforts. Indeed, the president warned, “if Congress kills this deal – not based on expert analysis, and without offering any reasonable alternative – then it’s the United States that will be blamed for the failure of diplomacy.” The president somewhat tempered expectations, stating that “[m]any key details will be finalized over the next three months, and nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed.” A full transcript of the president’s Statement on the Framework to Prevent Iran from Obtaining a Nuclear Weapon is available here.

JCPOA Framework Highlights

Key Concessions

  • Iran has agreed to reduce by approximately two-thirds its installed centrifuges.
  • Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium at its Fordow facility for at least 15 years.
  • Iran will only enrich uranium at the Natanz facility, with only 5,060 IR-1 first-generation centrifuges for 10 years.
  • The IAEA will purportedly have regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities, including to Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz and its former enrichment facility at Fordow.
  • Inspectors will have access to the supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program. The new transparency and inspections mechanisms will closely monitor materials and/or components to prevent diversion to a secret program.
  • Iran has agreed to redesign and rebuild a heavy water research reactor in Arak, based on a design that is agreed to by the P5+1, which will not produce weapons-grade plutonium, and which will support peaceful nuclear research and radioisotope production. Iran will not build any additional heavy water reactors for 15 years.

Sanctions

  • U.S. and EU nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place.
  • The architecture of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for much of the duration of the deal and will allow for snap-back of sanctions in the event of significant non-performance.
  • All past UN Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordow, Arak, PMD, and transparency).
  • However, core provisions in the UN Security Council resolutions – those that deal with transfers of sensitive technologies and activities – will be re-established by a new UN Security Council resolution that will endorse the JCPOA and urge its full implementation. It will also create the procurement channel mentioned above, which will serve as a key transparency measure. Important restrictions on conventional arms and ballistic missiles, as well as provisions that allow for related cargo inspections and asset freezes, will also be incorporated by this new resolution.
  • A dispute-resolution process will be specified, which enables any JCPOA participant to seek to resolve disagreements about the performance of JCPOA commitments.
  • If an issue of significant non-performance cannot be resolved through that process, then all previous UN sanctions could be re-imposed.
  • U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place under the deal.