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  1. Iran Main Page
  2. Iran Becomes a Theocracy with Islamic Revolution
  3. U.S. and Iran Sever Ties Amid Hostage Crisis
  4. Khatami Attempts to Liberalize Nation
  5. Iran Taunts World With Nuclear Ambitions
  6. Ahmadinejad Elected President
  7. Iran Continues Progress on Nuclear Technology
  8. Presidential Election Thrusts Iran into Crisis
  9. Leaked Cables Show Arab Countries Wary of Iran
  10. Experts Fear Iran Will Exploit Tumult in Middle East
  11. Advances in Nuclear Program Lead to Additional Sanctions
  12. Relationship with Israel Reaches Critical Point
  13. Centrist Elected President of Iran; Reaches Out to West with a Charm Offensive
  14. Iran Agrees to Scale Back Nuclear Program, but Deal Remains Elusive
  15. Iran Contributes to the Fight Against ISIS
  16. Iran Agrees to Historic Nuclear Deal
Iran Agrees to Historic Nuclear Deal

Iran nuclear talks
Carlos Barria, Pool Photo via AP

The leaders of Iran and the six nations that negotiated the nuclear deal

In March 2015, as Iran appeared to be close to signing a 10-year accord that would scale back its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, 47 U.S. Republican senators signed an open letter to Iranian officials saying the agreement could be reversed "with the stroke of a pen" by President Obama's successor. The letter, written by freshman senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, sparked outrage among Democrats, who said the move, which was without precedent, undermined Obama's foreign policy. "This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that our commander in chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments—a message that is as false as it is dangerous," said Vice President Joe Biden. President Obama bitterly said, "It’s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran. It’s an unusual coalition."

Some Republicans denounced the missive. "I just didn't think it was productive during this time when there are very tough negotiations going on," Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, said on CNN. "They're tough enough without introducing this element."

Days before Cotton published his letter, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the U.S. Congress in an effort to sway the Obama administration against continuing negotiations with Iran over nuclear weapons. Netanyahu called the negotiations to get Iran to freeze its nuclear program "a bad deal." In his speech, he said the deal that the Obama administration wanted "could well threaten the survival of my country" because it would not prevent Iran from having and using nuclear weapons. To the contrary, he said, the deal "will all but guarantee" nuclear arms in Iran. The speech generated controversy in the U.S. because House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) invited Netanyahu to address Congress without consulting the Obama administration, a breach of protocol.

Iranian officials dismissed the letter and continued the negotiations, "In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy," said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

On April 2, 2015, despite the interference by the U.S. Congress and Netanyahu, Iran, the U.S., and the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany agreed on a detailed, comprehensive framework for the future of Iran's nuclear program. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran's minister of foreign affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, engaged in marathon negotiation sessions for eight days to secure the deal. The breadth of the agreement exceeded expectations. The deadline to reach a final agreement is June 30, 2015.

Iran agreed to a lengthy list of concessions, including reducing the number of centrifuges spinning enriched uranium at Natanz, Iran's main nuclear facility, to 5,000 from about 19,000; not to enrich uranium over 3.67% for at least 15 years; not to build enrichment facilities for 15 years; that the enrichment site at Fordo will be converted to produce nuclear material for medical purposes for 15 years, and to allow all equipment and centrifuges not in use to be placed in storage monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA will have access to inspect all of Iran's nuclear sites. In addition, the length of time it will take Iran to obtain enough fissile material for one weapon will be extended to one year, up from the current 2 to 3 months. Iran agreed that the one-year break-out period will be in effect for 10 years. In exchange, the U.S. and the European Union would lift nearly all the sanctions against Iran once the final deal is signed. The sanctions have crippled Iran's economy.

President Barack Obama praised the framework agreement, saying it "cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon." He said the inspection provisions will ensure Iran complies. "If Iran cheats," he said, "the world will know it."

The June 30, 2015, deadline passed without a final agreement. However, negotiators agreed to extend the deadline with the hope of reaching a historic accord.

On July 14, 2015, Iran and the group of six nations—the United States, UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany—reached a historic agreement to limit Iran's ability to produce a nuclear weapon in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions. "Today's announcement marks one more chapter in our pursuit of a safer, more helpful and more hopeful world," said President Barack Obama. He also said the agreement is "not built on trust, it is built on verification." Obama now faces the difficult task of persuading the U.S. Congress to endorse the agreement. Congress has 60 days to vote on the deal. Obama vowed to veto any legislation that blocks implementation of the agreement.

"Today is the end to acts of tyranny against our nation and the start of cooperation with the world," said President Rouhani.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the agreement a "historic mistake," and said, "Iran will get a jackpot, a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars, which will enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror in the region and in the world."

Iran agreed to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98%, place two-thirds of their installed centrifuges under international supervision, give the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) permanent access "where necessary, when necessary", and accept a resumption of sanctions if it violates any of the terms. If Iran ever decides to flout the accord, by agreeing to the restrictions, it will take the country about a year to develop the fuel to make a bomb. Currently, the breakout time is a few months.

On September 10, 2015, Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocked a Republican-led attempt to thwart the nuclear deal with Iran, handing President Obama a major victory. Republicans did not have enough votes to end a Democratic filibuster on the resolution of disapproval.

See also Encyclopedia: Iran .
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: Iran

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