The Naval Postgraduate School & The U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Iran Nuclear Deal: An Effective First Step?

Iran Nuclear Facility In the wake of the nuclear deal made with Iran this past week, what's left seems to be a debate over whether or not this deal is an effective first step towards a permanent long-term agreement.   

The negotiations over the weekend, which included Iran and the P5+1, ultimately culminated in a "first step" towards a "mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran's nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful." To the international community, "exclusively peaceful" particularly refers to the prevention of Iran from developing nuclear weapons. This first step is a time-bound interim agreement (6 months) in which Iran's nuclear program is essentially frozen while a permanent agreement is negotiated. A few of the voluntary measures that Iran has agreed to in the interim agreement are the following:

  • Iran will not enrich uranium over 5% for the duration of the 6 months.  
  • Iran will not make any further advances of its activities at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant, Fordow, or the Arak reactor (called IR-40 by the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]).  
  • Iran will have no new locations for enrichment.
  • Iran will accept enhanced IAEA monitoring at its nuclear facilities, including centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities, and uranium mines and mills.

As per most effective international agreements, the E3/EU+3 will also undertake voluntary measures in return for Iran's concessions. A few of the measures are the following:

  • Pause efforts to further reduce Iran's crude oil sales.
  • Suspend U.S. and EU sanctions on Iranian exports, including petrochemicals, gold and precious metals, and automotive goods.
  • No new UN Security Council, EU, or US nuclear-related sanctions.

To view all voluntary measures from both sides, refer to the full text of the deal.

While many see this agreement as a big step forward in restraining Iran from enriching uranium to a weapons grade, others question its ability to effectively monitor Iranian nuclear activity. The former argues that IAEA safeguards and regulations are extensive enough to make weapons development extremely hard for Iran during this interim period and that the deal (along with the dialogue it has opened) is better than allowing Iran to enrich unrestrained. The latter argues that the deal not only allows, but validates enrichment, which means that Iran could still work towards developing a nuclear weapon. Additionally, they argue that IAEA safeguards cannot account for the possibility of covert nuclear development sites.

For more information and opposing viewpoints on the Iran deal, check out the following useful resources: