What is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)?
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a long-term comprehensive nuclear agreement between the P5+1 (United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany) and Iran to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Under the agreement, Iran is required to significantly draw down its nuclear program and permanently adhere to strict transparency protocols, inspections and verifications in order to receive some sanctions relief from the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States.
Why is the JCPOA needed?
The destabilizing and confrontational actions of the Iranian regime, in particular its nuclear program, pose a significant threat to Israel, countries in the region and beyond. According to our intelligence community and many nuclear experts, Iran’s break-out time (the time it would take to produce enough fissile material needed for a nuclear weapon), is currently two to three months. Without this deal, Iran would continue to rapidly enrich uranium, build centrifuges, produce weapons-grade plutonium, and ultimately produce a nuclear weapon. Under this agreement, Iran will be subjected to the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which allows monitoring and verification by the IAEA in perpetuity.
Is there precedent for this agreement?
Yes. The United States has negotiated with many countries in order to achieve arms control treaties. During the Cold War, the United States negotiated with the Soviet Union in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, which were overseen by both Republican and Democratic presidents. The negotiations resulted in agreements which effectively drew down arms and moved us away from a nuclear war. The agreements were not based on trust. It was essential to negotiate with an arch enemy to draw down the nuclear arms race, backed by stringent and verifiable inspections. Since the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, the United States and Russia have continuously negotiated new arms treaties, most recently as 2011, despite deep differences and divisions between our governments.
What are the requirements for Iran under the agreement?
Under the JCPOA:
- Iran will give up approximately 14,000 of its 20,000 centrifuges which are used to enrich uranium (a chemical used to make nuclear weapons).
- Iran will give up 97 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium. Iran currently possesses enough enriched uranium to produce ten nuclear weapons. With the deal, Iran would be reduced to having a fraction of what is needed for a single nuclear weapon.
- Iran will be forbidden from enriching uranium above 3.67 percent purity for 15 years.
- Iran must halt construction of a heavy-water reactor being built in Arak which could produce weapons-grade plutonium.
- Iran will be forbidden from having any heavy water reactors for 15 years.
- Iran’s supply chain for its nuclear program, centrifuge manufacturing, and storage facilities will be accessible to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) for inspections.
- Iran will be allowed to have nuclear power plants for peaceful purposes, but it cannot pursue development of nuclear weapons under the agreement.
What does Iran ‘get’ by adhering to the agreement?
U.S. and European nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog, certifies that Iran has drawn down its nuclear program. U.N. nuclear-related sanctions will be lifted after Iran completes additional nuclear-related commitments. This could take months and until then, all current sanctions remain in place.
The tough sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations have crippled Iran’s economy, reduced Iran’s access to refined petroleum and government-connected financial institutions, and created a greater need for Iran to respond to the international community’s calls for transparent accounting of its nuclear program.
Should Iran adhere to the deal, the JCPOA will:
- Allow Iran to export crude oil without restriction;
- Allow Iran access to its money that is being held abroad because of sanctions on Iran’s refined petroleum exports. Approximately $126 billion of its assets are frozen, with about $70 billion owed to various creditors, including China, and for oil projects Iran has agreed to fund. The net amount Iran could use for other purposes is about $56 billion;
- Allow the United States to license commercial aircraft sales to Iran, including U.S.-made aircraft;
- Allow European countries to do business with Iran;
- Allow the purchase and sale of conventional weapons after the first five years; and
- Allow Iran to conduct research on centrifuges for peaceful purposes after eight years.
Who will monitor Iran’s compliance?
Iran has agreed to inspections and restrictions on every aspect of its nuclear program, including the supply chain, research and development programs, and nuclear facilities. Iran must provide the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), under the United Nations, with regular and unrestricted access to its uranium processing facilities; the Arak reactor site; centrifuge plants; and other operational facilities. A joint task force will be established by the P5+1 nations and Iran to ensure adherence to the agreed upon terms.
What happens if Iran reneges on the agreement?
If Iran does not comply and the non-compliance is verified by an expert panel established under the JCPOA, the U.N. and U.S. sanctions will be reactivated. This “snap back” provision automatically restores sanctions on Iran and cannot be overturned unless a simple majority of the panel (Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United States, the European Union and Iran) votes to reverse them. At the very minimum, this deal will quadruple Iran’s current breakout time from two to three months to one year and the world will have more time to prepare and respond accordingly.
How long will the deal last?
Restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program under the JCPOA range from 10 to 25 years. A ban on the purchase and sale of conventional weapons will remain in place for the first five years. After eight years, the UN will also lift missile restrictions and allow Iran to conduct research on advanced centrifuges for peaceful purposes. Iran will also be subjected to the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which allows monitoring and verification by the IAEA in perpetuity.
Does this agreement rectify other issues with Iran, such as human rights abuses and the freeing of political prisoners?
The deal is strictly an agreement to reverse Iran’s ability to be a nuclear power. Just as the
SALT I and SALT II treaties with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the JCPOA narrowly focusses on the pathways to the development (the highly enriched uranium and plutonium pathways and the covert pathway) of nuclear weapons. The U.S. can continue to sanction Iran on the grounds of human rights violations, terrorism, and regional destabilization.
Could the U.S. have gotten a better deal by walking away from the negotiating table?
The U.S., together with its diplomatic partners produced extraordinary concessions and brought together the entire United Nations, including Russia and China. Some suggest that the U.S. should walk away and negotiate a better deal. However, there are absolutely no guarantees that the P5+1 countries would remain with the U.S. in the aftermath and agree to return to sanctions and go back to the negotiating table. Without this deal, Iran will continue to produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for one to two nuclear weapons every year, and the consequences would be immediate and dire, including military action.
What are the next steps?
The President submitted all relevant documents to Congress on July 19, 2015. Congress has 60 days to debate and vote on the agreement, as required by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. During this time the President is prohibited from lifting sanctions on Iran. President Obama has stated that should Congress reject the agreement, he will veto the legislation.
After the 60-day review, Congress can vote to accept the agreement, reject it, or take no action. If Congress accepts the agreement or takes no further action, the agreement will move ahead as agreed upon and Iran must begin to draw down its nuclear program in October 2015 (90 days after the announcement of the deal).
If lawmakers reject the agreement, the President can veto the legislation to overturn Congress’ rejection. At that point, Congress would need a two-thirds majority in each chamber to override the President’s veto.
Where can I read the unclassified portions of the agreement?
Unclassified portions of the agreement can be read here.
What are the defense and diplomatic communities saying?
More than 100 highly regarded experts from all aspects of our defense and diplomatic communities have stated their support for the agreement. They have worked under Republican and Democratic presidents and include military generals, ambassadors, secretaries of state, secretaries of defense, members of our intelligence community, experts in nuclear non-proliferation, scientists, and others. A list of some of these prominent individuals who have announced their support for the JCPOA can be found below.
- Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State (ret.)
- Graham Allison, former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Professor Kennedy School of Government at Harvard
- Amb. (ret.) Michael Armacost, Ambassador to Japan and the Philippines, former President of the Brookings Institution
- Amb. (ret.) Diego C. Asencio, Ambassador to Colombia and Brazil
- Amb. (ret.) Adrian Basora, Ambassador to Czechoslovakia
- Brian Atwood, Administrator of USAID and Under Secretary of State for Management
- Amb. (ret.) William M. Bellamy, Ambassador to Kenya
- Sandy Berger, former National Security Advisor to President Clinton
- Amb. (ret.) John R. Beyrle, Ambassador to Russia and Bulgaria
- Amb. (ret.) James Keough Bishop, Ambassador to Niger, Liberia and Somalia
- Amb. (ret.) Barbara K. Bodine, Ambassador to Yemen
- Amb. (ret.) Avis Bohlen, Assistant Secretary for Arms Control
- Amb. (ret.) Eric J. Boswell, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security
- Amb. (ret.) Stephen Bosworth, Ambassador to the Republic of Korea
- Amb. (ret.) Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia
- Amb. (ret.) Kenneth C. Brill, Ambassador to the IAEA, UN and founder of the U.S. National Counterproliferation Center
- Amb (ret.) Kenneth L. Brown, Ambassador to Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, and Ghana
- Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to President Carter
- Amb. (ret.) A. Peter Burleigh, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
- Amb. (ret.) Nicholas Burns, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador to Greece and NATO
- Gen. (ret.) James Cartwright, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Gen. (ret.) Stephen Cheney
- Joseph Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund
- Amb. (ret.) James F. Collins, Ambassador to the Russian Federation and Ambassador at Large for the New Independent States
- Amb. (ret.) Edwin G. Corr, Ambassador to Peru, Bolivia and El Salvador
- Amb. (ret.) William Courtney, Commissioner, Bilateral Consultative Commission to implement the Threshold Test Ban Treaty
- Chester A. Crocker, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Professor of Strategic Studies at Georgetown University
- Amb. (ret.) Ryan Crocker, Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait, and Lebanon
- Amb. (ret.) James B. Cunningham, Ambassador to Israel, Afghanistan and the United Nations
- Amb. (ret.) Walter L. Cutler, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Tunisia
- Amb. (ret.) Ruth A. Davis, Ambassador to the Republic of Benin and Director General of the Foreign Service
- Amb. (ret.) John Gunther Dean, Ambassador to India
- Suzanne DiMaggio, Senior Fellow at New America NYC, Director of Iran Initiative
- Amb. (ret.) James Dobbins, Ambassador to the European Union, former Assistant Secretary of State for Europe
- Amb. (ret.) Shaun Donnelly, Ambassador to Sri Lanka
- Robert Einhorn, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, former Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation
- Amb. (ret.) Harriet L. Elam-Thomas, Ambassador to Senegal
- Amb. (ret.) Theodore L. Eliot Jr., Ambassador to Afghanistan
- Amb. (ret.) Nancy Ely-Raphel, Ambassador to Slovenia
- Adm. (ret.) William J. Fallon, former Commander of US Central Command
- Michèle Flournoy, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
- Amb. (ret.) Chas W. Freeman, Jr., Assistant Secretary of Defense and Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
- Amb. (ret.) Robert Gallucci, Ambassador at Large
- Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, former Director of Policy Planning in the Department of Defense, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist
- Amb. (ret.) Robert S. Gelbard, President’s Special Representative for the Balkans
- David C. Gompert, former Acting Director of National Intelligence
- Amb. (ret.) James E. Goodby, Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Security and Dismantlement, and Ambassador to Finland
- Amb. (ret.) Marc Grossman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and Ambassador to Turkey
- Amb. (ret.) Brandon Grove, Director Foreign Service Institute
- Amb. (ret.)William Harrop, Ambassador to Israel, Guinea, Kenya, and Seychelles
- Amb. (ret.) Ulric Haynes, Jr. Ambassador to Algeria
- Amb. (ret.) Donald Hays, Ambassador to the United Nations
- Stephen B. Heintz, President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, former Executive VP and COO of the EastWest Institute
- Carla A. Hills, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, former U.S. Trade Representative
- Amb. (ret.) Heather M. Hodges, Ambassador to Ecuador and Moldova
- Amb. (ret.) Karl Hofmann, Ambassador to Togo
- James Hoge, Chairman of the Board of Human Rights Watch, former editor of Foreign Affairs
- Amb. (ret.) Thomas C. Hubbard, Ambassador to the Republic of Korea
- Amb. (ret.) Vicki Huddleston, Ambassador to Mali and Madagascar
- Thomas L. Hughes, former Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research
- Amb. (ret.) Dennis Jett, Ambassador to Mozambique and Peru
- Amb. (ret.) Beth Jones, Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia
- Amb. (ret.) James R. Jones, Ambassador to Mexico and formerly Member of Congress and White House Chief of Staff
- Sen. (ret.) Nancy L. Kassebaum, Senator from Kansas
- Amb. (ret.) Theodore Kattouf, Ambassador to Syria and United Arab Emirates
- Amb. (ret.) Richard D. Kauzlarich, Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina
- LtG. (ret.) Frank Kearney, Lieutenant General of the Army
- Amb. (ret.) Kenton W. Keith, Ambassador to Qatar
- Amb. (ret.) Roger Kirk, Ambassador to Romania and Somalia
- Amb. (ret.) John C. Kornblum, Ambassador to Germany and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
- Amb. (ret.) Eleni Kounalakis, Ambassador to Hungary
- Amb. (ret.) Daniel Kurtzer, Ambassador to Israel and Egypt
- Amb. (ret.) Bruce Laingen, Chargé d’Affaires in Tehran (1979)
- Sen. (ret.) Carl Levin, Senator from Michigan
- Amb. (ret.) Winston Lord, Ambassador to China, former Assistant Secretary of State
- Frank E. Loy, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs
- Amb. (ret.) William Luers, Ambassador to Czechoslovakia and Venezuela
- Sen. (ret.) Richard Lugar, Senator from Indiana
- Amb. (ret.) Princeton N. Lyman, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs
- Amb. (ret.) John F. Maisto, Ambassador to Organization of American States, Venezuela, Nicaragua
- Jessica T. Mathews, former President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
- Amb. (ret.) Jack Matlock, Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Special Assistant to the President for National Security
- Amb. (ret.) Donald F. McHenry, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations
- Amb. (ret.) Thomas E. McNamara, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, Ambassador to Colombia, and at Large for Counterterrorism
- Amb. (ret.) William B. Milam, Ambassador to Pakistan and Bangladesh
- Amb. (ret.) William G. Miller, Ambassador to Ukraine
- Amb. (ret.) Tom Miller, Ambassador to Greece and Bosnia-Herzegovina
- Amb. (ret.) George E. Moose, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador to Benin, Senegal
- Amb. (ret.) Cameron Munter, Ambassador to Pakistan and Serbia
- Amb. (ret.) Richard Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs and Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
- Vali Nasr, Dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution
- Amb. (ret.) Ronald E. Neumann, Ambassador to Afghanistan, Algeria, and Bahrain
- Amb. (ret.) Thomas M. T. Niles, Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Canada and Ambassador to Greece
- Joseph Nye, formerly Chairman of the National Intelligence Council and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
- Phyllis E. Oakley, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Intelligence and Research
- Adm. (ret.) Eric Olson, former Commander of US Special Operations Command
- Amb. (ret.) W. Robert Pearson, Ambassador to Turkey
- Amb. (ret.) Robert H. Pelletreau, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affair
- George Perkovich, VP for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former foreign policy advisor to Senator Joe Biden
- Amb. (ret.) Pete Peterson, Ambassador to Vietnam
- Amb. (ret.) Thomas Pickering, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador to Israel, Russia, India, United Nations, El Salvador, Nigeria and Jordan
- Paul R. Pillar, former Chief of Analysis and Deputy Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center
- Amb. (ret.) Joan M. Plaisted, Ambassador to the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Kitibati
- Amb. (ret.) Nicholas Platt, Ambassador to Pakistan, Philippines, and Zambia
- Amb. (ret.) Anthony Quainton, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic security or Director General of the Foreign Service
- Amb. (ret.) Robin L. Raphel, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia
- Amb. (ret.) Charles A. Ray , Ambassador to Zimbabwe and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs
- Joe R. Reeder, former Under Secretary of the Army
- William A. Reinsch, President of the National Foreign Trade Council, former Under Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration
- Amb (ret.) Arlene Render, Ambassador to The Gambia, Zambia and Cote d’Ivoire
- Amb. (ret.) Julissa Reynoso, Ambassador to Uruguay
- Amb. (ret.) Francis J. Ricciardone, Ambassador to Egypt, Turkey, the Philippines, and Palau
- Amb. (ret.) Rozanne L. Ridgway, Assistant Secretary for Europe and Canada and Counselor of the Department
- Amb. (ret.) Peter F. Romero, Assistant Secretary of State
- Amb. (ret.) Theodore Sedgwick, Ambassador to Slovakia
- Amb. (ret.) J. Stapleton Roy , Ambassador to China and Indonesia
- Barnett Rubin, former Senior Advisor to the Special Representative of the President for Afghanistan and Pakistan
- Amb. (ret.) William A. Rugh, Ambassador to Yemen and the United Arab Emirates
- Gary Samore, formerly the White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction and Special Assistant to the President
- Amb. (ret.) Janet A Sanderson, Ambassador to Algeria and Haiti
- Amb. (ret.) Teresita C. Schaffer, Ambassador to Sri Lanka
- Amb. (ret.) Howard B. Schaffer, Ambassador to Bangladesh
- LtG. (ret.) Brent Scowcroft, Air Force Lieutenant General, former National Security Advisor
- Amb. (ret.) Raymond G. H. Seitz, Ambassador to the United Kingdom
- Adm. (ret.) Joe Sestak, Navy Admiral, former Congressman
- Amb. (ret.) John Shattuck, Ambassador to the Czech Republic
- Gary Sick, formerly member of the U.S. National Security Council and U.S. Navy Captain
- Jim Slattery, former Congressman
- Anne-Marie Slaughter, former Director of Policy Planning for the State Department
- Amb. (ret.) Ronald I. Spiers, Ambassador to Pakistan, Turkey and Assistant Secretary for Politico-Military Affairs
- Adm. (ret.) James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO
- Amb. (ret.) William Lacy Swing, Ambassador to South Africa, Nigeria, Haiti, Congo-DRC, Liberia, and Republic of Congo
- Amb. (ret.) Patrick Nickolas Theros, Ambassador to the State of Qatar
- Arturo A. Valenzuela, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Amb. (ret.) William J. Vanden Heuvel, Deputy Permanent United States Representative to the United Nations
- Amb. (ret.) Nicholas A. Veliotes, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
- Amb. (ret.) Richard N. Viets, Ambassador to Jordan
- Amb. (ret.) Edward S. Walker, Jr., Ambassador to Israel, Egypt and United Arab Emirates
- James Walsh, former Congressman
- Amb. (ret.) Alexander F. Watson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Ambassador to Peru
- Amb. (ret.) Melissa Wells, Ambassador to Estonia, DRC-Congo, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau
- Amb. (ret.) Philip C. Wilcox Junior, Ambassador at Large for Counter Terrorism
- Col. (ret.) Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Army Colonel, former Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State
- Molly K. Williamson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Defense, and Commerce
- Sen. (ret.) Timothy E. Wirth, Senator from Colorado, formerly a Congressman and the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs
- Amb. (ret.) Frank Wisner, Ambassador to India, Egypt, the Philippines and Zambia, and Under Secretary of State for International Security Affairs
- Amb. (ret.) John Wolf, Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation
- Amb. (ret.) Kenneth Yalowitz, Ambassador to Belarus and Georgia
- Gen. (ret.) Anthony C. Zinni, Marine Corps General, former Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command