Originally Published 2015-04-04 00:00:00 Published on Apr 04, 2015
Though Iran and P5+1 negotiators have only agreed upon the parameters for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the "implementation details" are yet to be worked out, this nevertheless is a significant step.
Iran Nuclear Deal: A significant step

Iran and P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany), also referred to as EU3+3, have agreed on parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Lausanne, Switzerland on April 2, 2015. This was announced in a joint statement issued by the EU High Representative, Federica Mogherini, and the Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif. While the negotiators have only agreed upon the parameters for the JCPOA and the "implementation details" are yet to be worked out, this nevertheless is a significant step. Considering that most of the obstacles to the deal, which have been addressed in the joint statement, were primarily about the political differences between the two sides, it will be important to examine what the agreed parameters and the concessions made by each side are.

On the number of centrifuges, the negotiators have agreed to restrict the number of installed Iranian centrifuges to 6,104, of which 5,060 will be operational. These centrifuges will be IR-1s, Iran's first-generation centrifuges, and Iran has agreed to not install and operate its IR-2, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6 and IR-8 models. Iran will also remove the 1,000 IR-2M centrifuges installed at Natanz and will place them under IAEA monitoring for 10 years. On this, both sides seem to have made significant concession. For instance, through the course of the negotiations, the US called for restricting the numbers within the range of a few hundreds and less than 4,500. On the other hand, Iranian negotiators wanted to retain all of its 19,000 installed centrifuges, while Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for building 190,000 centrifuges in July 2014.

Another critical issue which the negotiators have resolved is that of the stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) that Iran will be allowed to retain. Iran has agreed to bring down its stock of 10,000 kg of LEU to only 300 kg and will keep it enriched at 3.67 percent. This is a significant compromise made by Iran, considering that only a week ago Iran's deputy foreign minister ruled out the possibility of an agreement that would involve "giving up a stockpile that Iran has spent years and billions of dollars to amass." As argued by the negotiating parties in the joint statement, the limits to the number of operational centrifuges and stockpiles of LEU will bring the breakout time from the current levels of 2-3 months to "at least one year."

Meanwhile, Iran and P5+1 have affirmed their agreement to redesign the heavy water reactor at Arak. The statement has gone ahead to further name the Arak reactor as a "heavy water research reactor", indicating that it will be run purely for research purposes. The original core of the reactor, which could produce significant amount of weapons-grade plutonium in its spent fuel, will be destroyed or removed permanently. The negotiators have confirmed that the new design will not produce weapons grade plutonium and Iran has reaffirmed its commitment to not conduct reprocessing or related research and development - blocking another path for Iran to the bomb.

Iran has furthermore addressed the concerns over its enrichment facility at Fordow by agreeing not to enrich uranium at the facility for at least 15 years. The facility in effect will be used for research purposes, that too barring research on enrichment. Fordow enrichment facility was of particular concern to the P5+1 given that it is underground, heavily fortified and can evade air-strikes.

A crucial challenge to the negotiation was that of the period for which a comprehensive deal, once agreed upon, would remain in force. Throughout the negotiations, P5+1 were calling for the comprehensive deal to remain in force for at least 10-15 years. Iran, on the other hand, was planning to agree to comply by a deal for only a few years. Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council, had explained the Iranian position by emphasising on "the mistrust that exists between the two sides" and on "the legitimate uncertainty that exists about the intentions and orientations of future leaders in Washington and Tehran." The agreed framework captures a deal which would remain in force for at least 15 years. For instance, Iran has committed to not enrich uranium over 3.67 per cent, to keep its stockpile of LEU to 300 kg, to not build new facilities for the purpose of uranium enrichment, to not use Fordow facility for enrichment, to not build any additional heavy water reactors, and to allow important inspection and transparency measures for at least the next 15 years. While the framework allows Iran to conduct enrichment R&D after 10 years, Iran will only follow a plan for the same which has been submitted to the IAEA.

Finally, P5+1 have agreed to give sanctions relief to Iran, if the latter abides by its commitments made under this framework. This relief will include both economic sanctions imposed by the US and EU, as well as nuclear related sanctions imposed by the US, EU and the UN Security Council. The nuclear related sanctions imposed by the US, EU and the UNSC will be suspended or lifted simultaneously as soon as IAEA confirms that Iran has completed all of its nuclear-related steps. However, the nuclear-related sanctions imposed by the US and EU will be back in force, if Iran is found to not adhere to the JCPOA. Details on the suspension of the economic sanctions, however, have not yet been disclosed and it will remain subject to further negotiations before the June 30 deadline for the JCPOA. UNSC resolution on restricting transfer of sensitive technologies will continue and will be incorporated into another UNSCR that would call for the adherence to JCOPA by Iran.

The agreed framework or the parameters for the JCPOA have addressed broad range of issues on which there were political disagreements. Both sides have made significant concessions from their original positions on these issues. Both on uranium enrichment and plutonium production, Iran has agreed to parameters that restrict the possible ways through which it could have acquired a bomb and take the breakout time from current estimates of 2-3 months to at least one year. Barack Obama has stated that the framework will establish a "robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime" of unprecedented level and that will be critical in bridging the mistrust between the negotiating parties, as well as ensuring that Iran's nuclear programme remains peaceful.

It must, however, be noted that these are just the parameters, agreed upon by the negotiators, for the JCPOA. More negotiations are required before the final text of the JCPOA is released. At the same time, there seems to be confusion over what the agreed parameters are. Javad Zarif tweeted that "there is no need to spin using "fact sheets" so early on." But that seem to reflect the concerns that Zarif may have regarding acceptance of the agreed parameters domestically in Iran.

Click here for the text of the Joint Statement: http://www.eeas.europa.eu/statements-eeas/2015/150402_03_en.htm

(The writer is a Junior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

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