FPI Fact Sheet: The Iranian Nuclear Deal

July 21, 2015

The agreement with Iran, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), seeks to impose a range of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. This FPI Fact Sheet provides a basic outline of the key provisions of the deal in order to help policymakers understand the respective obligations of its signatories. In the coming weeks, FPI will provide more detailed analyses of the nuclear deal and its implications for U.S. foreign policy and the broader Middle East.

Nuclear Infrastructure

  • Iran retains its ability to enrich uranium. For 15 years, it will maintain a stockpile of no more than 300 kg of low-enriched uranium.
  • For 10 years, Iran will have no more than 5,060 first generation (IR-1) centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear facility, which Tehran may use to produce low-enriched uranium. At Fordow, Iran can retain 1,044 IR-1 centrifuges for 15 years, which Tehran may not use to enrich any uranium.
  • Iran’s remaining centrifuges — approximately 13,500 total — would be placed in storage until the respective time limits expire.
  • Research and development on a range of advanced centrifuges may continue for the duration of the agreement. After eight-and-a-half years, Iran may start testing up to 30 of the IR-6 and the IR-8, two of its most advanced centrifuges. At the end of the eighth year, Iran may begin manufacturing up to 200 of these centrifuges per year per type.
  • Iran will redesign the Arak heavy water reactor such that it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium. After 15 years, Iran may build new heavy water reactors and reprocess their spent plutonium fuel.
  • The P5+1 will facilitate Iran’s acquisition of an unspecified number of light water nuclear reactors for research and power generation. The P5+1 and others will also seek to cooperate with Iranian efforts to further develop its nuclear science and technology, including the means to prevent sabotage.


Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s Nuclear Program

  • The activities specified by the roadmap will be completed by October 15, 2015, and the director general of the IAEA will provide a final assessment by December 15, 2015.
  • Cooperation with the IAEA is not listed as a prerequisite for lifting sanctions. It is not clear whether the contents of the director general’s final assessment will have any bearing on sanctions relief or other aspects of the agreement. Likewise, it is not clear whether the IAEA Board of Governors must take any specific action prior to implementation of the deal.

Sanctions Relief

  • The agreement “will produce the comprehensive lifting of all U.N. Security Council sanctions as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program.” (Preface, Paragraph v)
  • Iran will receive an estimated $100 billion to $150 billion of oil revenue currently frozen in offshore accounts.
  • The agreement lifts sanctions on senior officials from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The officials include Qassem Suleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, which provided the weapons responsible for killing hundreds of American troops during the war in Iraq.
  • The deal also lifts sanctions on Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a nuclear scientist that U.S. intelligence agencies have identified as a leader of Iran’s nuclear weapons research program.
  • The deal lifts the U.N. arms embargo on Iran after five years and its ballistic missile restrictions after eight.


Dispute Resolution Mechanism and Snapbacks

  • The agreement establishes a “dispute resolution mechanism” for addressing disagreements between the parties. This mechanism entails a multi-stage review process that may last up to 35 days. Iran would participate in this process as an equal of the P5+1.
  • The agreement does not specify any mechanism to enforce outcomes of the dispute resolution mechanism, nor does it identify penalties for a failure to comply.
  • If unsatisfied, the complaining party may refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council should it “deems the issue to constitute significant non-performance” (Paragraph 36). The agreement does not specify the difference between significant and non-significant matters.
  • After such a referral, the U.N. Security Council then votes on whether to continue lifting sanctions on Iran. If the resolution does not pass within 30 days, the sanctions imposed by previous Security Council resolutions then “snap back” into place.
  • According to the agreement, “Iran has stated that if sanctions are reinstated in whole or in part, Iran will treat that as grounds to cease performing its commitments” (Paragraph 37). In effect, the application of snapback would terminate the agreement.
  • If sanctions snap back into place, contracts already signed with Iran or Iranian individuals and entities will be exempt from sanctions.
  • The U.S. and the EU commit “to refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran” (Paragraph 25).
  • This clause may allow Iran to withdraw from the agreement if any new sanctions are imposed by the U.S. or EU, even if they relate to terrorism or human rights.



  • Iran will provisionally ratify the Additional Protocol to its existing safeguards agreement with the IAEA. Iran pledges to seek ratification of the Additional Protocol by its parliament, the Majlis.
  • For 15 years, Iran will permit the IAEA to conduct continuous monitoring at declared nuclear sites.
  • For 20 years, Iran will allow the IAEA to monitor its inventory and production of centrifuge rotors and bellows. For 25 years, Iran will allow the IAEA to monitor the production and acquisition of uranium ore concentrate.
  • Should the IAEA suspect illicit activity at an Iranian site, it may formally request access. If Iran contests the charge, it may resolve the dispute through consultations with other world powers. Under this process, Iran can delay IAEA access for up to 24 days.
  • The agreement does not establish an enforcement mechanism or schedule of penalties to ensure that Iran will grant access to suspicious sites after 24 days. The only specified recourse is for one or more parties to initiate the snapback procedure via the U.N. Security Council (see above, “Dispute Resolution Mechanism and Snapbacks”).

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