A Few Highlights of "The Deal"
July 14, 2015
Most Washingtonians woke up to the news on July 14th that negotiators in Vienna had indeed reached an agreement with Iran to limit its nuclear program and lift sanctions, but few had time to digest the 159-page tome before opinions became rampant. Below are a few of the more interesting details about the agreement to give a flavor of the negotiations. A more comprehensive analysis will be forthcoming.
Q1: What’s the most interesting thing about the agreement?
A1: For negotiators who failed to meet multiple deadlines, the incredibly complicated implementation schedule is a wondrous thing that may challenge even those used to figuring out the U.S. Congress’s days in session.
It has “Days” – Finalisation, Adoption, Implementation, Transition, and Termination. It also has sub-deadlines, mostly relating to resolution of issues regarding Iran’s military program. Of course, if the parties manage to accomplish their tasks sooner, benefits could start rolling sooner.
The countdown starts from July 14th, or Finalisation Day, after which Iran has 90 days to clear up past and present outstanding issues with the IAEA (ending October 15). According to the Roadmap signed with the IAEA in Vienna today, ( https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/iaea-director-generals-statement-and-road-map-clarification-past-present-outstanding-issues-regarding-irans-nuclear-program ) there are some shorter deadlines to meet: August 15th: Iran must submit all documents; September 15th: the IAEA reviews and submits further questions to Iran; October 15th: resolution of all outstanding issues regarding military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program. Although the question of the Parchin facility (a military facility that has been suspected of hosting nuclear activities) is left to a separate arrangement between Iran and the IAEA, that too will have to be resolved by October 15th. By December 15th, the IAEA will report to the Board of Governors on its final assessment.
While all this is going on, the UN will need to pass a resolution that endorses the agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA). This will start the clock running for Adoption Day, which is 90 days past the UN’s endorsement of the plan. By this time, Iran will have completed its roadmap obligations, and the EU and United States must have measures ready to temporarily lift sanctions. (For the EU, its adoption of a regulation and for the United States, the president must issue waivers).
Those temporary measures enter into force on Implementation Day, which triggers Iran’s implementation of selected restrictions on its nuclear program (dismantling or disabling centrifuges, additional monitoring, etc.). This is the beginning of the implementation period, and the IAEA has a crucial role in verifying that Iran is complying with the provisions. At this point, Iran will provisionally apply strengthened inspection measures (including the Additional Protocol and modified Code 3.1), just as it did back in 2003.
The raft of UN Security Council resolutions heaped upon Iran since 2006 also terminate on Implementation Day, and the schedule for “snapback” of inspections is also quite detailed. The permanent removal of sanctions by the EU and the US will come 8 years later on Transition Day, at which point Iran will seek ratification of the Additional Protocol. This extra time for ratification is probably politically astute. Termination Day is 10 years into the process, although monitoring will continue in other areas (5 more years for IAEA access, 10 more years for monitoring of centrifuge components, and 15 more years monitoring Iran’s uranium production).
Q2: Were there any surprises?
A2: The basic contours of the agreement were laid out in April, but there were some surprises. The JCPOA is specific about nuclear-weapons-related activities that Iran will not engage in. This is highly unusual to include in any nuclear safeguards-related agreement, and one hopes it is a comprehensive list so there are no loopholes. More importantly, this may be an important hook to allow the IAEA to gain access to military sites, since access must be “exclusively for resolving concerns regarding fulfilment of JCPOA commitments.”
Another big surprise was the absolute silence regarding access to scientists. This was a specific point of contention and the subject of Majlis legislation, but there don’t appear to be any restrictions in the agreement. It may be easier in practice for Iranian scientists to elude interviews than to have insisted on such a provision.
Another surprise was the seeming lack of restrictions on access to military sites. The five paragraphs in Annex I devoted to access seem relatively favorable until one starts considering how long the deliberative process will be for resolving access issues. In the end, however, the final decision rests with 5 votes from the Joint Commission, which should not be too high a bar for the United States, UK, France, Germany and the EU representative to meet.
In technical areas, the agreement states that Iran will not engage in spent fuel reprocessing for 15 years. While this is positive, earlier references to Iran not engaging in reprocessing seemed to extend indefinitely into the future, so this is a bit disappointing. R&D restrictions on enrichment seem both strict and flexible: while Iran is prohibited from research in anything but centrifuges for 10 years, the restrictions start to fade in year 8 after which it will be able to test IR-6s and -8s (it can only deploy IR-1s for the duration of the agreement). And, despite a reprocessing ban, negotiators agreed to let Iran do some radioactive processing in connection with production of medical radioisotopes, although the equipment must be acquired through a procurement mechanism outlined in the JCPOA. What’s more, the West’s involvement in redesigning the Arak heavy water reactor is greater than has been depicted in the past.
Sharon Squassoni is director and senior fellow with the Proliferation Prevention Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.
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