After a series of meetings held from 26 March to 2 April 2015 in Lausanne, Switzerland, between the foreign ministers of the P5+1, the EU and Iran, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif could announce that the parties had reached an agreement on a framework deal (Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program). Although the agreement is an important step in the right direction, the final details have still to be worked out by 30 June 2015 and the final agreement has to overcome several hurdles in the respective governments.
The final agreement has to include following key points:
- Centrifuges: Iran has to reduce the number of enrichment centrifuges from 19,000 down to 6,104, with only 5,060 allowed to enrich Uranium over the next 10 years with first-generation centrifuges (IR-1). The approximately 1,000 second-generation centrifuges (IR-2M) will be removed and placed in IAEA monitored storage for ten years.
- Uranium enrichment: The centrifuge will only enrich uranium to 3.67% for the next 15 years, which is not enough to build a nuclear bomb. The current stockpile of 10,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium (< 20% 235U) has to be reduced to 300 kilograms for the next 15 years. Furthermore, Tehran must not construct new uranium enrichment facilities over that period as well.
- Fordow facility: Iran has to stop enriching Uranium at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant for the next 15 years. It will not have fissile material at the facility, but it will be able to keep 1,000 centrifuges there.
- Breakout time: Under the deal, the time that it would take for Iran to acquire the material it needs to make one nuclear weapon, currently assessed at two to three months, would be extended to about one year for the next 10 years.
- Research and development: Iran can continue its research and development on enrichment, but that work will be limited to keep the country to its breakout time frame of one year. Though Iran will be required to make changes at a number of its facilities — including reducing centrifuges and rebuilding the heavy water reactor in Arak — the country will get to maintain its current facilities. The original core of the reactor in Arak, which would have enabled the production of significant quantities of weapons-grade plutonium, will be destroyed or removed from the country.
- Inspections: Iran will be required to give inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to all of its declared facilities. Inspectors will have access to uranium mines and uranium mills for 25 years.
- Sanctions: After the inspectors from the IAEA verifies that Iran has taken key steps to implement the agreement, nuclear-related sanctions on the Iranian economy will be lifted. If there are violations, the sanctions will be reinstated.
The above-mentioned agreement on a framework deal is only one topic of several Iran has to struggle with. To answer the question if Iran is ascendant or over-stretched in the Middle East, Matthew Hipple spoke with Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, last April.
Taleblu highlights the differences between the US and the Iranian version of the agreement and how the Iranian government sells it as a victory to the people. Regarding Iran’s possible move to ascendency, he highlights along with the ongoing nuclear negotiation, the consensus of the Iranian government in Tehran and Iran’s expanding regional influence. Regionally, Iran has three main military and political operations ongoing:
- In Yemen, where it supports the Houthis, which have asserted that their actions are to fight against the expansion of Salafism in Yemen;
- in Iraq, where Iranian troops fight against the Islamic State;
- and in Syria, which is the most important one for the Iranian government, where Iran supports the Bashar al-Assad and the Hezbollah in their fight against the Islamic State and other rebels.
Listen to episode #73 immediately
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