On Monday the Trump administration certified that, while Iran is technically in compliance with an agreement to limit their nuclear program, they warned the Iranian government will likely face punishment for violating “the spirit” of the deal.
Here is what you should know about this “Iran Deal”:
What is the “Iran Deal”?
From 2013 to 2015 the Obama administration represented a cadre of international partners in reaching an agreement that would prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. This agreement, frequently referred to as the “Iran deal” or the “Iran nuclear deal,” is officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This plan was implemented on January 16, 2016.
How does the plan prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon?
The plan is complex, but it has two main methods of blocking Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.
First, the plan inhibits Iran’s ability to pursue a nuclear weapon with plutonium.
Iran has a nuclear reactor used to produce electricity at the Arak Nuclear Facility. Once the fuel for this reactor has been spent, it can be used to produce weapons grade plutonium. To prevent this from happening, Iran had to agree to redesign the facility and fill up it’s heavy water nuclear reactor with concrete, rendering it inoperable. The country also had to agree that for 15 years it will ship all spent fuel out of the country and not build another heavy water reactor.
Second, the deal hinders Iran’s ability to pursue a nuclear weapon through uranium enrichment. Before the deal, Iran had enough raw materials to produce about 10 nuclear weapons. Now, they are required to reduce their stockpile of enriched uranium by 98 percent, which is not enough enriched uranium for even a single nuclear weapon. This reduction will also last for 15 years.
Although some of the requirement only lasts for 15 years, Iran, as a party to the Nonproliferation Treaty, is prohibited from ever pursuing or acquiring nuclear weapons.
How do we know the Iranians will keep up their end of the deal?
The Obama administration contended that the JCPOA is based on verification, not trust, and that it includes the “most comprehensive and intrusive verification regime ever negotiated.”
The main verification tool is constant, around-the-clock monitoring of Iran’s nuclear facilities and international inspectors having access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain.
What do the Iranians get out of the deal?
As long as Iran remains in compliance with all the JPCOA requirements, the United States, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the European Union agree to lift the nuclear-related sanctions placed on that country. (Other sanctions related to Iran’s support for terrorism, human rights abuses, missile program, and destabilizing activities in the region remain in place.)
Because of sanctions, Iran is unable to access $150 billion in overseas foreign reserves. Obama’s Treasury Department estimated that by lifting the nuclear-related sanctions Iran would be able to freely access about a third of their frozen assets—a little over $50 billion.
If Iran broke the deal, how long would it take them to build a nuclear weapon?
Before the deal, if Iran decided to rush to make a bomb it would have taken them two to three months until they had enough weapon-ready uranium to build their first nuclear weapon. Now, if they broke the deal it would take them approximately 12 months to build a functional nuclear bomb.
What is the Trump administration’s ongoing role in the plan?
As part of the JCPOA negotiations, the Obama administration worked out an agreement with Congress that the executive branch would certify Iranian compliance with the deal every 90 days. If the administration finds Iran has failed to meet its obligations, it can restore the nuclear-related sanctions.
Didn’t President Trump oppose this deal?
As a candidate, Trump vowed to “rip up” the deal negotiated by President Trump. But as President he has taken no steps to remove the U.S. from the agreement and has twice signed off on its certification.
Joe Carter is an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College, an editor for several organizations, and the author of the NIV Lifehacks Bible.
Photo Credit: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif look across at each other on May 17, 2016, as they settle into the Blue Salon at the Palais Coburg Hotel in Vienna, Austria, the same room where they negotiated the Iranian nuclear deal, to have further conversations about the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. U.S. State Department Photo.