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Iran Nuclear Agreement FAQs

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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.

  1. Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State (ret.)
  2. Graham Allison, former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Professor Kennedy School of Government at Harvard
  3. Amb. (ret.) Michael Armacost, Ambassador to Japan and the Philippines, former President of the Brookings Institution
  4. Amb. (ret.) Diego C. Asencio, Ambassador to Colombia and Brazil
  5. Amb. (ret.) Adrian Basora, Ambassador to Czechoslovakia
  6. Brian Atwood, Administrator of USAID and Under Secretary of State for Management
  7. Amb. (ret.) William M. Bellamy, Ambassador to Kenya
  8. Sandy Berger, former National Security Advisor to President Clinton
  9. Amb. (ret.) John R. Beyrle, Ambassador to Russia and Bulgaria
  10. Amb. (ret.) James Keough Bishop, Ambassador to Niger, Liberia and Somalia
  11. Amb. (ret.) Barbara K. Bodine, Ambassador to Yemen
  12. Amb. (ret.) Avis Bohlen, Assistant Secretary for Arms Control
  13. Amb. (ret.) Eric J. Boswell, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security
  14. Amb. (ret.) Stephen Bosworth, Ambassador to the Republic of Korea
  15. Amb. (ret.) Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia
  16. Amb. (ret.) Kenneth C. Brill, Ambassador to the IAEA, UN and founder of the U.S. National Counterproliferation Center
  17. Amb (ret.) Kenneth L. Brown, Ambassador to Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, and Ghana
  18. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to President Carter
  19. Amb. (ret.) A. Peter Burleigh, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
  20. Amb. (ret.) Nicholas Burns, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador to Greece and NATO
  21. Gen. (ret.) James Cartwright, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  22. Gen. (ret.) Stephen Cheney
  23. Joseph Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund
  24. Amb. (ret.) James F. Collins, Ambassador to the Russian Federation and Ambassador at Large for the New Independent States
  25. Amb. (ret.) Edwin G. Corr, Ambassador to Peru, Bolivia and El Salvador
  26. Amb. (ret.) William Courtney, Commissioner, Bilateral Consultative Commission to implement the Threshold Test Ban Treaty
  27. Chester A. Crocker, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Professor of Strategic Studies at Georgetown University
  28. Amb. (ret.) Ryan Crocker, Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait, and Lebanon
  29. Amb. (ret.) James B. Cunningham, Ambassador to Israel, Afghanistan and the United Nations
  30. Amb. (ret.) Walter L. Cutler, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Tunisia
  31. Amb. (ret.) Ruth A. Davis, Ambassador to the Republic of Benin and Director General of the Foreign Service
  32. Amb. (ret.) John Gunther Dean, Ambassador to India
  33. Suzanne DiMaggio, Senior Fellow at New America NYC, Director of Iran Initiative
  34. Amb. (ret.) James Dobbins, Ambassador to the European Union, former Assistant Secretary of State for Europe
  35. Amb. (ret.) Shaun Donnelly, Ambassador to Sri Lanka
  36. Robert Einhorn, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, former Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation
  37. Amb. (ret.) Harriet L. Elam-Thomas, Ambassador to Senegal
  38. Amb. (ret.) Theodore L. Eliot Jr., Ambassador to Afghanistan
  39. Amb. (ret.) Nancy Ely-Raphel, Ambassador to Slovenia
  40. Adm. (ret.) William J. Fallon, former Commander of US Central Command
  41. Michèle Flournoy, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
  42. Amb. (ret.) Chas W. Freeman, Jr., Assistant Secretary of Defense and Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
  43. Amb. (ret.) Robert Gallucci, Ambassador at Large
  44. 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
  45. Amb. (ret.) Robert S. Gelbard, President’s Special Representative for the Balkans
  46. David C. Gompert, former Acting Director of National Intelligence
  47. Amb. (ret.) James E. Goodby, Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Security and Dismantlement, and Ambassador to Finland
  48. Amb. (ret.) Marc Grossman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and Ambassador to Turkey
  49. Amb. (ret.) Brandon Grove, Director Foreign Service Institute
  50. Amb. (ret.)William Harrop, Ambassador to Israel, Guinea, Kenya, and Seychelles
  51. Amb. (ret.) Ulric Haynes, Jr. Ambassador to Algeria
  52. Amb. (ret.) Donald Hays, Ambassador to the United Nations
  53. Stephen B. Heintz, President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, former Executive VP and COO of the EastWest Institute
  54. Carla A. Hills, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, former U.S. Trade Representative
  55. Amb. (ret.) Heather M. Hodges, Ambassador to Ecuador and Moldova
  56. Amb. (ret.) Karl Hofmann, Ambassador to Togo
  57. James Hoge, Chairman of the Board of Human Rights Watch, former editor of Foreign Affairs
  58. Amb. (ret.) Thomas C. Hubbard, Ambassador to the Republic of Korea
  59. Amb. (ret.) Vicki Huddleston, Ambassador to Mali and Madagascar
  60. Thomas L. Hughes, former Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research
  61. Amb. (ret.) Dennis Jett, Ambassador to Mozambique and Peru
  62. Amb. (ret.) Beth Jones, Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia
  63. Amb. (ret.) James R. Jones, Ambassador to Mexico and formerly Member of Congress and White House Chief of Staff
  64. Sen. (ret.) Nancy L. Kassebaum, Senator from Kansas
  65. Amb. (ret.) Theodore Kattouf, Ambassador to Syria and United Arab Emirates
  66. Amb. (ret.) Richard D. Kauzlarich, Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  67. LtG. (ret.) Frank Kearney, Lieutenant General of the Army
  68. Amb. (ret.) Kenton W. Keith, Ambassador to Qatar
  69. Amb. (ret.) Roger Kirk, Ambassador to Romania and Somalia
  70. Amb. (ret.) John C. Kornblum, Ambassador to Germany and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
  71. Amb. (ret.) Eleni Kounalakis, Ambassador to Hungary
  72. Amb. (ret.) Daniel Kurtzer, Ambassador to Israel and Egypt
  73. Amb. (ret.) Bruce Laingen, Chargé d’Affaires in Tehran (1979)
  74. Sen. (ret.) Carl Levin, Senator from Michigan
  75. Amb. (ret.) Winston Lord, Ambassador to China, former Assistant Secretary of State
  76. Frank E. Loy, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs
  77. Amb. (ret.) William Luers, Ambassador to Czechoslovakia and Venezuela
  78. Sen. (ret.) Richard Lugar, Senator from Indiana
  79. Amb. (ret.) Princeton N. Lyman, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs
  80. Amb. (ret.) John F. Maisto, Ambassador to Organization of American States, Venezuela, Nicaragua
  81. Jessica T. Mathews, former President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  82. Amb. (ret.) Jack Matlock, Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Special Assistant to the President for National Security
  83. Amb. (ret.) Donald F. McHenry, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations
  84. Amb. (ret.) Thomas E. McNamara, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, Ambassador to Colombia, and at Large for Counterterrorism
  85. Amb. (ret.) William B. Milam, Ambassador to Pakistan and Bangladesh
  86. Amb. (ret.) William G. Miller, Ambassador to Ukraine
  87. Amb. (ret.) Tom Miller, Ambassador to Greece and Bosnia-Herzegovina
  88. Amb. (ret.) George E. Moose, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador to Benin, Senegal
  89. Amb. (ret.) Cameron Munter, Ambassador to Pakistan and Serbia
  90. Amb. (ret.) Richard Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs and Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
  91. Vali Nasr, Dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution
  92. Amb. (ret.) Ronald E. Neumann, Ambassador to Afghanistan, Algeria, and Bahrain
  93. Amb. (ret.) Thomas M. T. Niles, Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Canada and Ambassador to Greece
  94. Joseph Nye, formerly Chairman of the National Intelligence Council and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
  95. Phyllis E. Oakley, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Intelligence and Research
  96. Adm. (ret.) Eric Olson, former Commander of US Special Operations Command
  97. Amb. (ret.) W. Robert Pearson, Ambassador to Turkey
  98. Amb. (ret.) Robert H. Pelletreau, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affair
  99. George Perkovich, VP for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former foreign policy advisor to Senator Joe Biden
  100. Amb. (ret.) Pete Peterson, Ambassador to Vietnam
  101. Amb. (ret.) Thomas Pickering, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador to Israel, Russia, India, United Nations, El Salvador, Nigeria and Jordan
  102. Paul R. Pillar, former Chief of Analysis and Deputy Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center
  103. Amb. (ret.) Joan M. Plaisted, Ambassador to the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Kitibati
  104. Amb. (ret.) Nicholas Platt, Ambassador to Pakistan, Philippines, and Zambia
  105. Amb. (ret.) Anthony Quainton, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic security or Director General of the Foreign Service
  106. Amb. (ret.) Robin L. Raphel, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia
  107. Amb. (ret.) Charles A. Ray , Ambassador to Zimbabwe and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for  POW/Missing Personnel Affairs
  108. Joe R. Reeder, former Under Secretary of the Army
  109. William A. Reinsch, President of the National Foreign Trade Council, former Under Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration
  110. Amb (ret.) Arlene Render, Ambassador to The Gambia, Zambia and Cote d’Ivoire
  111. Amb. (ret.) Julissa Reynoso, Ambassador to Uruguay
  112. Amb. (ret.) Francis J. Ricciardone, Ambassador to Egypt, Turkey, the Philippines, and Palau
  113. Amb. (ret.) Rozanne L. Ridgway, Assistant Secretary for Europe and Canada and Counselor of the Department
  114. Amb. (ret.) Peter F. Romero, Assistant Secretary of State
  115. Amb. (ret.) Theodore Sedgwick, Ambassador to Slovakia
  116. Amb. (ret.) J. Stapleton Roy , Ambassador to China and Indonesia
  117. Barnett Rubin, former Senior Advisor to the Special Representative of the President for Afghanistan and Pakistan
  118. Amb. (ret.) William A. Rugh, Ambassador to Yemen and the United Arab Emirates
  119. Gary Samore, formerly the White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction and Special Assistant to the President
  120. Amb. (ret.) Janet A Sanderson, Ambassador to Algeria and Haiti
  121. Amb. (ret.) Teresita C. Schaffer, Ambassador to Sri Lanka
  122. Amb. (ret.) Howard B. Schaffer, Ambassador to Bangladesh
  123. LtG. (ret.) Brent Scowcroft, Air Force Lieutenant General, former National Security Advisor
  124. Amb. (ret.) Raymond G. H. Seitz, Ambassador to the United Kingdom
  125. Adm. (ret.) Joe Sestak, Navy Admiral, former Congressman
  126. Amb. (ret.) John Shattuck, Ambassador to the Czech Republic
  127. Gary Sick, formerly member of the U.S. National Security Council and U.S. Navy Captain
  128. Jim Slattery, former Congressman
  129. Anne-Marie Slaughter, former Director of Policy Planning for the State Department
  130. Amb. (ret.) Ronald I. Spiers, Ambassador to Pakistan, Turkey and Assistant Secretary for Politico-Military Affairs
  131. Adm. (ret.) James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO
  132. Amb. (ret.) William Lacy Swing, Ambassador to South Africa, Nigeria, Haiti, Congo-DRC, Liberia, and  Republic of Congo
  133. Amb. (ret.) Patrick Nickolas Theros, Ambassador to the State of Qatar
  134. Arturo A. Valenzuela, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and Special Assistant to the  President for National Security Affairs
  135. Amb. (ret.) William J. Vanden Heuvel, Deputy Permanent United States Representative to the United Nations
  136. Amb. (ret.) Nicholas A. Veliotes, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  137. Amb. (ret.) Richard N. Viets, Ambassador to Jordan
  138. Amb. (ret.) Edward S. Walker, Jr., Ambassador to Israel, Egypt and United Arab Emirates
  139. James Walsh, former Congressman
  140. Amb. (ret.) Alexander F. Watson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and  Ambassador to Peru
  141. Amb. (ret.) Melissa Wells, Ambassador to Estonia, DRC-Congo, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau
  142. Amb. (ret.) Philip C. Wilcox Junior, Ambassador at Large for Counter Terrorism
  143. Col. (ret.) Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Army Colonel, former Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State
  144. Molly K. Williamson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Defense, and Commerce
  145. Sen. (ret.) Timothy E. Wirth, Senator from Colorado, formerly a Congressman and the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs
  146. Amb. (ret.) Frank Wisner, Ambassador to India, Egypt, the Philippines and Zambia, and Under Secretary of State for International Security Affairs
  147. Amb. (ret.) John Wolf, Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation
  148. Amb. (ret.) Kenneth Yalowitz, Ambassador to Belarus and Georgia
  149. Gen. (ret.) Anthony C. Zinni, Marine Corps General, former Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command

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