Members' Research Service By / April 24, 2015

Nuclear talks with Iran – the 2 April 2015 preliminary deal

Written by Eric Pichon On 2 April 2015, Iran and the E3/EU+3 group of negotiators* agreed on a list of…

Federica Mogherini and Mohammed Javad Zarif in Lausanne
Written by Eric Pichon

On 2 April 2015, Iran and the E3/EU+3 group of negotiators* agreed on a list of “parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program.” Although the outcome of 2 April is an ‘agreement for an agreement’ and the technicalities for its implementation are still to be negotiated, it is considered a historic benchmark in a twelve-year series of negotiations. According to these parameters, Iran would keep only one third of its centrifuges, produce only low-enriched uranium (not over 3.67% whereas a nuclear bomb requires 90%-enriched uranium) during 15 years and accept monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). When the IAEA has evidence that Iran has fulfilled its obligations, US and EU sanctions would be lifted.

Federica Mogherini and Mohammed Javad Zarif in Lausanne
Federica Mogherini and Mohammed Javad Zarif in Lausanne

Nevertheless, differences are emerging on interpretation, in particular on another set of sanctions, imposed by the UN: Russia and Iran insist that they are lifted at the same time as other sanctions, while EU and US negotiators prefer to wait until the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is fully implemented.

There are also concerns about the effectiveness of monitoring: US President Obama is confident that “if Iran cheats, the world will know it”, but according to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “because Iran’s nuclear programme would be left largely intact, Iran’s break-out time [the time needed for Iran to produce enough high-enriched uranium if it decides to build a nuclear bomb] would be very short — about a year by U.S. assessment, even shorter by Israel’s”. The quality of monitoring will also depend on the powers entrusted by the UN Security Council to the IAEA inspectors and accepted by Iran.

An Iran freed from international sanctions also evokes contrasting reactions: on the one hand it could favour regional and international trade but on the other hand it could also represent a greater threat for its neighbours.

This selection of analyses looks at the main issues.

[ *’E3/EU + 3′ refers to the representatives of 3 EU countries (France, Germany, the United Kingdom), the EU External Action Service + 3 non-EU powers (China, Russia, the United States) – the six countries negotiating with Iran are also commonly referred to as ‘P5+1’ (as they are the 5 permanent UN Security Council members + Germany)]

Background and overview

The situation as of 2 April 2015

Previous posts on this blog:

Iran and the Bomb. 2 (2014) compile analyses, first published by the review Foreign Affairs, about the Iranian nuclear programme, assessment of the real intentions of Iranian governments, and forecasts of the outcome of ‘Iran talks’ and sanctions. (book also available in the EPRS library )

The main benchmarks of Iran’s nuclear programme and Iran nuclear talks are listed by Arms Control Association – see also their Iran page for the latest developments (mostly from a US viewpoint).

Who Determines Iran’s Foreign Policy?, Al-Monitor , 27/03/2015

Officially Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gives final sign-off in foreign policy, but history shows that the President and his government also have their say.

Sanctions in force as of 2 April 2015

UN sanctions

UN sanctions are based on resolutions 1737 (2006) , 1747 (2007) , 1803 (2008) and 1929 (2010) , and resolutions enforcing them , they are monitored by the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1737 (2006) assisted by a Panel of experts .

EU sanctions

European Union Restrictive measures (sanctions) in force (Regulations based on Article 215 TFEU and Decisions adopted in the framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy). European Commission, 19/03/2015. Sanctions against Iran: p. 28

US sanctions

The US Department of State web pages on US sanctions against Iran provide in particular a series of factsheets detailing legislation passed by Congress, an Presidential Executive Orders.

Kenneth Katzman. Iran sanctions . CRS Congressional Research Service (USA), CRS Report RS20871, 9/03/2015, 82 p.

A list of US and international sanctions, and an assessment of their effectiveness.

The 2 April 2015 accord

The Iran Nuclear Deal: What You Need to Know . The New York Times. 3/04/2015.

A quick summary of the preliminary agreement and international reactions.

Official documents and statements

Factsheets (official interpretations)

Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program . U.S. Department of State, 2/04/2015.

The ‘factsheet’ drafted by the US Department of State.

Summary of the Package of Joint Solutions for Reaching a Comprehensive Plan of Joint Action . Iran Foreign Ministry (unofficial EN translation by Harvard Belfer Center, 3/04/2015) .

Iran published its own ‘factsheet’ about the agreement.

Comment: Camelia Entekhabi. Divergences d’interprétation sur l’accord entre les États-Unis et l’Iran . Orient, 7/04/2015.

EU statements

Joint Statement by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif . EEAS, 2/04/2015.

“Today, we have taken a decisive step: we have reached solutions on key parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).”

Press release: Statement by EP President Martin Schulz on the outcome of nuclear negotiations with Iran . European Parliament, 2/04/2015.

“This landmark agreement is a major contribution to international security.”

US statements

President Obama’s full remarks announcing a “framework” for a nuclear deal with Iran . The Washington Post. 2/04/2015.

Transcript: President Obama’s Full NPR Interview On Iran Nuclear Deal . NPR, 07/04/2015.

For the US President interpretation about the deal: “So essentially, we’re purchasing for 13, 14, 15 years assurances that the breakout is at least a year … that — that if they decided to break the deal, kick out all the inspectors, break the seals and go for a bomb, we’d have over a year to respond. And we have those assurances for at least well over a decade. And then in years 13 and 14, it is possible that those breakout times would have been much shorter, but at that point we have much better ideas about what it is that their program involves.”

Russia’s statement

Foreign Ministry statement on the results of the Lausanne talks between the P5+1 powers and Iran on the settlement of Iran’s nuclear issue. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 2/04/2015.

“This political agreement is based on a principle formulated by President Vladimir Putin, namely recognition of Iran’s unquestionable right to conduct a peaceful nuclear programme, including uranium enrichment, under international control and with the lifting of all sanctions imposed on Iran.”

Iran’s statements

President: Iran Resolved to Defend National Interests in Nuclear Talks with Powers . FARS news, 6/04/2015.

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister: Foundations of Iran’s Nuclear Program Unhurt by Lausanne Understanding . FARS News, 06/04/2015

“We have agreed on certain limitations which will not leave any impact on the normal course of our nuclear program; we have only excluded those parts that could cause concern in the international community,”

Parliament Speaker Views Lausanne Statement as Promising . FARS news, 6/04/2015.

Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: no guarantee of final nuclear deal . video, in:, 9/04/2015.

Ayatollah Khamenei publicly expressed his views only a few days after the agreement: for him, the preliminary deal is not binding and only a final deal lifting immediately all sanctions would be acceptable for Iran. He also sees the role of the inspectors limited to non-military installations.

Is the deal good? International analyses

For Iran

Most commentators in the analyses below see the deal as a good one for Iran – even those thinking its commitment is bogus – since it might lead the country to come back to diplomatic game and be beneficial for its economy.

For Iranian comments, see Brookings’ Iran press week in review.

For the EU

Is an Iran Deal Good for Europe? Carnegie Europe, 9/04 2015.

The answers from EU think tanks researchers, i.a.:

Cornelius Adebahr, Carnegie’s Europe Program (“Yes”)

Thierry Coville,  Institut des Relations Internationales et Stratégiques (“Yes”)

Ellie Geranmayeh, European Council on Foreign Relations (“A win for all sides”)

Rem Korteweg, Centre for European Reform (“Probably”)

Walter Posch, Austrian National Defense Academy (“Yes”)

For the USA

The framework agreement about a nuclear deal has triggered many analyses from US think tanks, such as:

Iran nuclear: US Congress to have right to reject deal . BBC, 15/04/2015.

President Obama accepted to give the Congress to right to reject an agreement with Iran – but it would not be binding.

For Israel and the Arab world

Paul Salem. Will the Nuclear Deal Help or Harm Regional Stability? MEI Middle East Institute, 3/04/2015.
Michelle Ye Hee Lee. Netanyahu blasts “very, very bad” Iran nuclear agreement . The Washington Post. 5/04/2015.

Israel’s Prime Minister, B. Netanyahu has long expressed his opposition to a deal leading to lift sanctions on Iran – in particular in his 3 March address to US Congress . His opinion is that the 2 April deal will not deter Iran to build a nuclear bomb, as the inspections couldn’t be performed in a transparent manner.

Arms Control Association (USA) has assessed B. Netanyahu’s allegations : Netanyahu on the Nuclear Issue:  a Reality Check , 3/03/2015.

Scott Malone. CIA chief says criticism of Iran nuclear deal “disingenuous.” Haaretz, 8/04/2015.

Uneasy Arab world gives Iran nuclear framework a cautious welcome . the Guardian, 3/04/2015.

Arab countries, in particular Saudi Arabia and the UAE, publicly welcomed the agreement, but “fear Iran’s rehabilitation would ease its political and economic isolation and embolden its designs in the Arab world”.

For Asia and Russia

Vladimir Putin authorises delivery of missile system to Iran . the Guardian, 13/04/2015.

Russia did not wait for a final agreement to be signed before lifting a ban on missile system delivery.  delivery of S-300 missile system to Iran.

Shannon Tiezzi. China’s Already Preparing for a Post-Sanctions Iran . The Diplomat, 8/04/2015.

Sanctions relief might increase Iran’s oil trade with China, and Chinese investments in Iran.

What the Iran deal means for India . Gateway House, 6/04/2015.

With the deal, India will avoid a nuclear competitor, and benefit from an expanded trade with Iran, where it could export products that are in short supply in Iran: pharmaceuticals and food products, it could also resume building projects on hold such as infrastructures and  oil and gas pipelines.

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