Iranian Nuclear Crisis
Renewed threat of Israeli military strikes against Iran as a result of a breakdown in nuclear negotiations and/or clear evidence of intent to develop a nuclear weapons capability
The prospects for a significant reduction in tensions over Iran’s nuclear energy development program improved significantly with the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on July 14, 2015, by representatives from the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) powers and Iran. Though still to be approved by the U.S. Congress, the agreement limits Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for phased sanctions relief.
The nuclear deal follows more than a decade of diplomatic intervention initiated after then Iranian President Mohammad Khatami first acknowledged the existence of the Natanz nuclear fuel production facility on February 9, 2003. After the UN Security Council imposed gradual economic sanctions against Iran from 2006 to 2010, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani signaled his desire in June 2013 to reach a mutually acceptable agreement that resolved the status of Iran’s nuclear enrichment and reprocessing activities.
Over a period of twenty months, the United States led the group of six countries in negotiations with Iran and convened several rounds of bilateral talks to further the process. The deadline for the final agreement was extended three times over disagreements to lift the UN arms embargo and the language describing Iran’s nuclear activities. Once the agreement signed, the UN Security Council approved Resolution 2213, paving the way for the lifting of UN sanctions against Iran.
According to the agreement, Iran is obligated to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98 percent for fifteen years and cut its number of centrifuges by two-thirds for the next decade. It will also convert its Fordow uranium enrichment site into a “nuclear, physics, and technology center” and grant access to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors within twenty-four days should there be any suspected violations of the agreement.
If Iran violates the terms of the nuclear agreement, President Barack Obama has said that sanctions will immediately “snap back” into place. But there are still obstacles to reassuring U.S. allies of Iran’s intent, particularly Israel and Saudi Arabia. Further, while Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei voiced support for the deal, he emphasized that it does not signal an end to Iran’s hostility toward the United States and its allies.
The threat of renewed tensions stemming from a breakdown of the final agreement and even the possibility of military strikes cannot be discounted. After returning from recess in late summer, the U.S. Congress will review the terms of the agreement and vote on a resolution either approving or rejecting the deal in fall 2015.
- Obama Clinches Votes to Secure Iran Nuclear Deal
Jonathan Weisman, New York Times
September 2, 2015
- What Should Obama Do Next on Iran?
Nicholas Burns, New York Times
September 1, 2015
- Okay, so what if Iran does get nuclear weapons?
Mark S. Bell, Washington Post
August 20, 2015
- How to get reelected if you are an Iranian MP
Paasha Mahdavi, Washington Post
August 13, 2015
- The Iran Nuclear Deal: A Definitive Guide
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
- A Simple Guide to the Nuclear Negotiations With Iran
William J. Broad and Sergio Peçanha, New York Times
- Debating the Iran Nuclear Deal
Robert Einhorn, Brookings
- Nuclear Diplomacy with Iran: A Deal, Not a Grand Bargain
Robert Litwak, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
- Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action
July 14, 2015
- Remarks by the President on the Iran Nuclear Deal
Barack Obama, Speech at American University
August 5, 2015
- Economic Implications of Lifting Sanctions on Iran
- IAEA and Iran
International Atomic Energy Agency
- Iran Sanctions
U.S. Department of the Treasury
- On the Iran Nuclear Deal: Yes, but . . .
Richard N. Haass, Wall Street Journal
August 28, 2015
- The Lengthening List of Iran Sanctions
- The Iran Deal is a Big Bet on a Revolutionary Outlier
Ray Takeyh, Washington Post
August 6, 2015
- Assessing the Nuclear Deal with Iran
Philip Gordon, Congressional Testimony
August 5, 2015
- On the Iran Nuclear Agreement and its Consequences
Richard N. Haass, Congressional Testimony
August 4, 2015
- How Will Iran Nuclear Inspections Work?
Thomas E. Shea and Zachary Laub, CFR Interview
July 30, 2015
- Iran Crisis Guide
CFR Crisis Guide