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Preliminary Iran Nuclear Framework Reached

Final details to be negotiated by June 30; fight moves to Congress

Yair Rosenberg
April 02, 2015
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks in the Rose Garden of the White House on nuclear negotiations with Iran on April 2, 2015. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks in the Rose Garden of the White House on nuclear negotiations with Iran on April 2, 2015. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In what President Obama called the path to “a good deal,” Iran and six major world powers have agreed upon preliminary parameters to govern the former’s nuclear program. While many details remain to be ironed out by the final negotiating deadline on June 30, some were announced this evening by the parties at a joint press conference in Lausanne, Switzerland. Others were subsequently released in a U.S. fact sheet, which can be viewed below.

According to these sources, the rough contours of the framework are as follows: Iran will be restricted to approximately 6,000 of its centrifuges–a two-thirds reduction–only 5,000 of which will be permitted to spin uranium at the nuclear site at Natanz over the next 10 years. Iran will not enrich uranium beyond 3.67 percent for the next 15 years, while its current enriched stockpile will be either diluted or shipped abroad. (The announcement did not specify the ratio of each prospect, which will be important in any final agreement, as dilution can be reversed in a matter of weeks.) Although Iran’s underground nuclear facility at Fordo will remain open, it will be converted to a research facility with the oversight of foreign scientists. Likewise, Arak’s heavy water reactor, which could provide a plutonium path to a bomb, will have its core dismantled, though the facility will continue to operate.

One point of conflict between U.S. and Iranian sources appears to be the timing of the lifting of U.S., EU and UN sanctions. While both parties agree that the sanctions will be revoked when Iran’s compliance is confirmed, Iran’s foreign minister seemed to suggest that this would take place quickly at the outset of the 10-15 year deal, while American officials and President Obama presented a more phased approach. The international sanctions structure is complex and took many years to implement, so how fast it is rolled back will prove consequential, since it will not be easy to replace should Iran attempt to circumvent its obligations.

The parties also did not specify how exactly Iran’s compliance would be monitored, which will be pivotal to the enforcement of any agreement and to ensuring that Iran does not cheat on its international obligations–as it has done countless times in the past–and secretly move closer to a bomb.

In a statement delivered in the White House Rose Garden, President Obama hailed the framework as potentially “historic,” but also sought to reassure traditional U.S. allies in the region and preemptively combat congressional skeptics. He promised that other sanctions on Iran for its human rights abuses, support for terrorism, and ballistic missile program would remain in place, and that there would be “no daylight” when it comes to ensuring Israel’s security. He added that he would be calling Prime Minister Netanyahu later today, and had already spoken to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. Israel, meanwhile, dismissed the celebrations over the framework as “detached” from the “wretched reality.”

The current round of horsetrading may have ended in Switzerland, but the bargaining now moves to Congress. Under the framework, the U.S. and the P5+1 countries agreed not to impose further sanctions on Iran, an accord aimed directly at congressional efforts to do so. Even as those efforts have sputtered, and may finally have been killed by this framework, Congress members have already announced that they will be pressing ahead with other bipartisan legislation designed to give Congress approval over any final deal. This measure is strenuously opposed by the Obama administration, and the fight over its passage and a potential presidential veto may be the next front in this continuing saga.

Read the U.S. fact sheet on the preliminary framework below:

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.