All the Q&A
Want to know what’s in the Iran deal and how it works? Here are the answers to a few questions you might have on how we will make sure that Iran’s nuclear program remains exclusively peaceful.
This deal ensures IAEA access when needed, where needed to verify the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program. “Anytime, anywhere” inspections are simply unnecessary thanks to the deal.
Under this deal, Iran will allow robust monitoring of all its nuclear facilities. IAEA inspectors have the right to a physical or technical presence in all of Iran’s nuclear sites and will conduct regular monitoring of Iran’s entire nuclear fuel cycle and supply chain, from uranium mines and mills to centrifuge production, assembly, and storage facilities. This means Iran would need to set up an entirely parallel set of facilities and a separate supply chain if it sought to have a covert nuclear weapons program. This kind of program would be extremely difficult to hide under this deal. Standard practice under the Additional Protocol, which Iran will implement under this deal, is that the IAEA can request access to any suspicious location with 24 hours’ notice. This deal does not change that baseline.
But there are situations in which the IAEA and a State might negotiate the terms of access before the IAEA actually goes on site, and for that reason, the JCPOA sets an outer limit for those discussions. Even in the circumstance that it took up to 24 days for IAEA access to a suspicious location in the event of a dispute, radioactive evidence would almost certainly still be present in many of the core facilities Iran would need for a covert nuclear weapons program. In other words, Iran would not be able to cover its tracks before granting access, and the United States would be watching, so we would know if Iran tried to do so.
No. This is a good deal — the JCPOA is strong verificable and long-term.
No other approach ensures the strict limits and unprecedented inspections we were able to negotiate. The JCPOA cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. And it ensures the vigorous inspections and transparency necessary to verify that Iran cannot cheat and pursue a nuclear weapon without us knowing and having time to act. It ensures that sanctions can snap back into place if Iran violates the deal. And it is long-term, including significant elements that will be permanent.
You don’t have to take our word for it — ask our allies in the United Kingdom, Germany, and France, who have been with us every step of the way at the negotiating table. Ask the dozens of countries that have already come out in support of this deal, the UN, and the Vatican. Ask the numerous former Israeli military, intelligence, and security officials, who are all saying that this deal makes Israel safer. The world supports this deal.
The final Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) goes leaps and bounds beyond the interim JPOA in terms of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and far-reaching transparency measures.
It doesn’t just halt the progress and roll back key aspects of Iran’s program, as the JPOA did, it requires permanent steps be taken to verifiably ensure that Iran cannot get a nuclear weapon. The Arak heavy water reactor is just one example: Under the JPOA, Iran could not do further work on Arak; under the JCPOA, Iran has to physically remove the core, fill it with concrete, and fundamentally change the design so it won’t be producing plutonium that could be used in a bomb.
The critics were wrong once before. Many who opposed the interim deal have now come around to acknowledging that our negotiators got a good deal. We held out for a deal that met all of our key objectives, and we got it. The deal also includes the most comprehensive verification regime ever negotiated, as well as a means to “snap back” multilateral and domestic sanctions in the event Iran decides to cheat.
If we wanted a bad deal, we could have had one a long time ago. But the President and our negotiators insisted on waiting until Iran made the tough decisions that were needed to get the good deal that we got.
Hundreds of dedicated professionals from the Departments of State, Energy (including our leading national labs), Treasury, the Intelligence Community, and other agencies worked tirelessly over the past few years and more to test every part of this deal and make sure that it did exactly what the President demanded — that it effectively cut off all Iran’s pathways to enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. And we made clear to the Iranians — both publicly and privately — that we would walk away if we could not get a deal that met our objectives.
The "no enrichment" policy under the previous Administration failed. It resulted in Iran going from 164 centrifuges to 19,000 centrifuges.
And you can’t destroy knowledge that a country already has. Iran mastered uranium enrichment long before this Administration began, and our goal was always to prevent Iran from using this knowledge to build a bomb.
You can't sanction (or even bomb) that knowledge away. Our policy is one based in reality – one that will result in fewer centrifuges, not more.
No. Under this deal as well as under the Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran is never allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
Put simply, under this deal, there is a permanent prohibition on Iran ever having a nuclear weapons program and a permanent inspections regime that goes beyond any previous inspections regime in Iran. This deal provides the IAEA the means to make sure Iran isn’t doing so, both through JCPOA-specific verification tools, some of which last up to 25 years,and through the Additional Protocol that lasts indefinitely. In addition, Iran made commitments in this deal that include prohibitions on key research and development activities that it would need to design and construct a nuclear weapon. Those commitments have no end date.
Does this deal do anything about the U.S. citizens detained in Iran or address any of our other problems with Iran, like terrorism?
This deal is specifically about Iran’s nuclear program and ensuring it does not obtain a nuclear weapon. Here’s why:
If Iran were to obtain a nuclear weapon, it would be able to project even more power in the region – a position that would increase Iran’s leverage and make it much more difficult to resolve important challenges, including the detention of U.S. citizens and state-sponsored terrorism. That’s why this deal is such a critical step in moving forward to address Iran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East region. However, it’s important to note that U.S. sanctions for Iran’s terror and human rights abuses remain firmly in place.
The Obama administration continues to call on Iran to immediate release detained U.S. citizens so that they can be returned to their families as soon as possible. And, working closely with our international partners, we are addressing regional issues in a variety of ways and will continue to do so. But here’s the bottom line: This nuclear agreement is an historic and vital step that will protect our security interests and will make our partners in the region safer.
As President Obama said on the Daily Show, “The key issue here is that if we are able to negotiate peacefully with Iran not having a nuclear weapon, they’re still going to cause us problems in various areas. We're still going to have enormous differences with them. And we're still going to have to work with core allies like Israel, with the Gulf countries, to make sure that Iran is not sponsoring terrorism or destabilizing other countries. But we will have taken off the table what would be a catastrophic strategic problem if they got a weapon.”
Is there a "secret" or "side" deal that the U.S. agreed to with Iran? Is Congress and the public seeing what it should see?
There are no secret "side" deals between the P5+1 and Iran.
For the non-public JCPOA documents in our possession, we have provided access to Congress in an appropriate setting. And everything needed to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is spelled out within the JCPOA, which is publicly available for the world to see. Separately, Iran and the IAEA signed an agreement on July 14 on the way forward on PMD.This agreement has two attachments (called “separate arrangements”), one of which is an arrangement for Parchin. These are not public documents. The Administration was not provided them by the IAEA and therefore has not shared them with the Congress.
The IAEA has followed its standard practice in treating these two arrangements with Iran as “safeguards confidential.” It has not distributed these sensitive documents, nor do we expect it to do so. The United states has championed the principle of safeguards confidentiality throughout the IAEA’s existence to protect both proprietary and proliferation-sensitive information. For the IAEA to do its job, the countries subject to inspection have to know their patented or proprietary information won’t be stolen because they are released in IAEA documents, and they must be confident that information provided to the IAEA about their nuclear facilities will not compromise the safety or security of those facilities. The IAEA’s approach on this issue has been standard in past cases, including cases involving sensitive nuclear activities.
Right now, Congress has everything that the Obama administration has, and the State Department formally delivered the text of the Iran deal, all of its annexes, and related materials. You can also read the Iran deal here.
Very much so.
The JCPOA was secured by the U.S. and our P5+1 allies – the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia, and Germany – as well as the European Union. Along with the UN and the Vatican, the Iran deal has received 92 public statements of support from: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burundi, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, European Union, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Mongolia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, UK, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
No, an Iran with a nuclear weapon is what would make the region and the world a more dangerous place.
In reality, walking away from this deal and letting Iran get even closer to a nuclear weapon would make a regional arms race more likely. Any motivation for another Middle East state to have its own nuclear deterrent against Iran would be greater without a deal. In a “no-deal” scenario, Iran’s nuclear program could advance much more quickly without this enhanced transparency — a scenario that is much more likely to spark regional fears of a nuclear-armed Iran.
If we’re lifting the arms embargo in 5 years and missile restrictions in 8 years, doesn’t that mean the U.S. has given up on countering Iran’s destabilizing activities?
No. These arms and missile restrictions were put in place because of Iran’s nuclear activities. These restrictions will stay in place for years to come .
While some of our P5 partners wanted these restrictions lifted immediately, we pushed back and were successful in keeping them for 5 and 8 more years or until the IAEA reaches its broader conclusion. And even after those restrictions are ultimately lifted, we have strong multilateral and unilateral tools, including sanctions, to continue to restrict Iranian conventional arms and missile-related transfers. We have strong support from the international community on these issues.
That combined with the size of the U.S. economy, the power of our financial system, and the reach of U.S. unilateral measures gives us enormous leverage to work with other countries to enforce restrictions on Iranian missile and arms activity. All of the other multilateral and unilateral tools that remain in place are in no way impacted by the JCPOA, in any phase of its implementation.
Won’t Iran get $150 billion from sanctions relief, and won’t that money go straight toward terrorist activity in the region?
First, the $150 billion figure is entirely off base: the Treasury Department estimates that, should Iran complete its key nuclear steps and receive sanctions relief, Iran will be able to freely access about a third of that figure in overseas foreign reserves — a little over $50 billion. Further, we will continue to aggressively enforce sanctions against Iran’s support for terrorism, human rights abuses, missile program, and destabilizing activities in the region. Secondly, money Iran receives from sanctions relief is likely to be directed primarily towards pressing economic needs given the more than half a trillion dollars in investment and government obligations Iran faces.
Don’t forget it was these economic needs at home that helped bring Iran to the table, and President Rouhani will be under intense pressure to deliver results at home. Further, a nuclear-armed Iran would be a much greater terrorist threat to the region than an Iran that has access to additional amounts of its own money.
That is a fantasy scenario with no basis in reality.
Our sanctions against Iran were effective because they enjoyed broad, coordinated international cooperation. Iran’s major trading partners and oil customers adhered to our sanctions – at significant cost to themselves – because we offered a genuine diplomatic path forward. It is unrealistic to think that additional sanctions pressure would force Iran to capitulate – and impractical to believe that we could get our international partners to impose such pressure after turning down a deal that they (including the UK, France, and Germany) believe is a good one.
Our allies have been clear about this. Consider the UK Ambassador to the U.S. Peter Westmacott’s comment for example: “If we were to walk away or if the Congress was to make it impossible for the agreement to be implemented…then I think the international community would be pretty reluctant, frankly, to contemplate a ratcheting up further of sanctions against Iran.” To walk away would isolate the United States and damage our standing in the world, setting America on an uncertain path without the support of the international community.
No. Qassem Soleimani and other IRGC officials and entities are not being delisted by the United States.
They will remain designated because of their support for terrorism and other destabilizing activities. And all U.S. sanctions pertaining to them will absolutely remain in effect and will be vigorously enforced. The United States will maintain sanctions on the IRGC, the Qods Force, its leadership, and its entire network of front companies – and the JCPOA has no effect on those sanctions whatsoever.
Further, these sanctions are much more powerful because they also target third party entities, meaning that foreign banks that conduct business for or on behalf of the Qods Force or Soleimani will risk being cut off from the U.S. financial system. In addition to U.S. sanctions, the E.U. will continue to list Soleimani and the IRGC-QF under other, nonnuclear sanctions authorities.
No. There is no signing bonus.
Iran gets nothing until the IAEA verifies it has taken the key nuclear steps outlined under the JCPOA, aside from a continuation of the limited relief it has received under the JPOA for the past 18 months. If and when Iran completes those nuclear steps and is able to repatriate some of its own locked-up money, the Treasury Department estimates that Iran will be able to freely access slightly more than half this amount — a little over $50 billion.
No. Our commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad, and this deal is the best way to ensure that Iran will never be able to threaten Israel with a nuclear weapon.
Under President Obama, U.S-Israeli security, defense and intelligence assistance and cooperation have reached unprecedented levels. The United States is also helping Israel address new and complex security threats to ensure Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME). Our defense establishments, including top scientists and technical experts, are working together to provide Israel new capabilities to detect and destroy terror tunnels before they are used to threaten Israeli civilians and to build highly effective rocket and missile defense systems to protect the Israeli people. The U.S. is also helping Israel improve its cyber-defenses.
We won’t for a second take our eye off the ball on any of the anti-Israel actions and rhetoric we see from Iran, and now we can focus on countering those without the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon.
It did. In fact, the Lausanne parameters alone already represented a good deal, and the JCPOA goes even further.
Not only meeting every aspect of those parameters but surpassing them. Additional constraints on weaponization, uranium and plutonium metallurgy, other enrichment R&D, use of heavy water which further restricts Iran from gaining even the expertise it would need to develop a nuclear weapon – we got all of this and more in the final comprehensive deal (the JCPOA).
Will companies that sign contracts with Iran be able to continue that business even if Iran violates the JCPOA and snapback occurs, because of a "grandfather clause"?
No. There is no “grandfather clause” in the JCPOA.
We have reassured our partners that we will not impose sanctions retroactively for business with Iran before snapback occurs, but we have been equally clear with our partners that if snapback does occur, there are no exemptions from our sanctions for long-term contracts. As we always have, we will consult closely with our partners to ensure that Iran would pay the price for non-compliance.
No. No one has in any way committed to “defend” Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The JCPOA is designed to help bring Iran’s nuclear security and safety practices in line with those used by other peaceful nuclear programs around the world. It’s in the interest of all countries that nuclear material be safeguarded from theft and terrorist attacks, so any training provided by the IAEA or others will be solely for that purpose.
There are critical differences between both agreements that make the Iran deal significantly stronger.
The nuclear deal with North Korea was adopted before IAEA created the Additional Protocol, and after Pyongyang had already produced enough material for several nuclear weapons. It lacked all of the transparency the Iran deal has when it puts in place the most robust verification regime in any nuclear agreement.
What’s more, the North Korean deal only covered declared facilities. The Iran deal goes well beyond that, ensuring timely access to suspicious sites. And for the first time ever, the IAEA will have access to a suspicious or undeclared site within a definite timeframe even if Iran refuses access. With North Korea, there was no way to force access if it refused, and during the agreement North Korea was allowed to keep its weapon-usable nuclear materials. This is precisely the opposite of the situation with Iran.
Finally, the North Korea deal lacked any effective leverage, or teeth, to ensure that North Korea complied with the agreement. However, should Iran violate the terms of this agreement, we can snap back the expansive sanctions into place that devastated Iran’s economy and brought them to the table.
No. There is no “self-inspection” of Iranian facilities, and the IAEA has in no way given responsibility for nuclear inspections to Iran. Not now and certainly not in the future.
That is not how the IAEA does business. As IAEA Director General Amano noted, the arrangements between the IAEA and Iran are technically sound and consistent with the Agency’s long-established practice. They do not compromise the IAEA’s safeguards standards in any way. As we have said before—and as we briefed Congress fully in classified settings—the U.S. government’s nuclear experts are confident in the Agency’s technical plans for investigating the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s former program. Iran will not get additional sanctions relief until the IAEA verifies that Iran has completed its nuclear steps, including those related to PMD.
And let’s be clear—this issue is one of past behavior. The United States has already made our judgment about the past. We are focused on moving forward, in which we will rely on the unprecedented robust monitoring, verification, and transparency measures ever negotiated so we will know that any activities that caused us concern have been stopped. Most importantly, we can snap sanctions back into place if Iran blocks inspections from taking place going forward.
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Learn how we're blocking the four pathways to a nuclear weapon, what Iran’s nuclear program would look like without our deal, and what's at stake.