United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

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Rouhani on Eve of Nuclear Talks

       In the run-up to talks in Vienna, beginning on May 13, President Hassan Rouhani defended his approach to securing a final nuclear deal with the world’s six major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. Rouhani offered more transparency but warned that Iran’s “nuclear technology is not up for negotiation” in an address to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. The following are excerpts from his remarks reported by various news agencies.

 
            “We have nothing to put on the table and offer to them but transparency. That’s it. Our nuclear technology is not up for negotiation.
            “Iran will not retreat one step in the field of nuclear technology.
            “We are pursuing our national interests, and we will not accept nuclear apartheid.
            “We want to tell the world they cannot belittle the Iranian nation; they have to respect it.
            “Neither weakening, humiliation, sanctions or threats will work.
            “What we can offer the world is greater transparency.
            “If one engages in a technological endeavor but is not doing good legal and political work, then the enemy might come up with a fictional excuse to cause trouble for you.
            “If you don't have good public relations and are not able to communicate well, then you might find other evil-minded people misleading world public opinion.
            “We don't want to retreat one step from our pursuit of technology, but we want to take a step forward on the political front.
            “We wanted to tell the world that our activities are moving in the right direction: If we say we can enrich to 3.5 percent, we can do it. If necessary we will do [it to] 20 percent.
            “All of the commitments the West had to us [before the 1979 revolution]— from America to Germany to France — none of them were carried out.
            “Neither was America ready, based on its own commitments, to give Tehran reactor fuel. Neither was Germany ready to continue its work at Bushehr. Nor was France ready to act on its commitments in the fields of the joint [plans]. They were not even ready to hand over the [uranium hexafluoride], which belonged to us.”
            May 11, at a ceremony celebrating scientific advances by Iran's Atomic Energy Organization
 
           “The world today is forced to accept that the only way to deal with the Iranian nation is interaction and this nation does not bow to pressure and sanctions.
            The West should “pursue the path of logic, dialogue and negotiations because they do not have any other choice vis-a-vis the great and resistant nation of Iran.”
            May 7, to officials in Ilam Province
 
Photo credit: President.ir
 
 

Report: Solving the Nuclear Rubik’s™ Cube

            International Crisis Group presented a 40-measure action plan for a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran in a new report. Senior Analyst Ali Vaez warned that Iran and the world’s six major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – need to isolate the negotiations from the regional context and focus solely on the nuclear program. An agreement is possible if both sides “take a more technical approach focused on bottom-line requirements and core interests,” he argued. The following are excerpts from the executive summary with a link to the full text.

 
            The main objective of the P5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) is to constrain Iran’s nuclear program. In Geneva, where the agreement – officially known as the Joint Plan of Action – was signed, the group for the first time agreed to Iran maintaining some enrichment capacity. But it has demanded that Tehran significantly roll back its enrichment capabilities, close the bunkered enrichment facility in Fordow and heavy-water plant in Arak; and demonstrate the peaceful nature of its nuclear program by detailing past activities and allowing, for an extended period, intrusive monitoring. Fearing that it would be easier for Iran to reverse its nuclear concessions than for the West to renew its isolation, the group insists on retaining sanctions leverage, even through implementation of the final step of a comprehensive agreement.
            Iran believes that the P5+1’s objective is to contain not simply its nuclear program, but also the Islamic Republic itself. It contends that it has been singled out, uniquely among signatories of the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), to prove a negative, that its nuclear program does not aim at weaponisation. Tehran insists on preserving a substantial part of its nuclear infrastructure, in view of the enormous cost it has paid for it. While willing to accept heightened verification measures in order to enable the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to establish the peaceful nature of its program, it insists that they be temporary and respectful of its national security requirements. It also demands significant and immediate Western reciprocation of any nuclear concession.
            From these starting points, it would appear that the P5+1’s maximum – in terms of both what it considers a tolerable residual Iranian nuclear capability and the sanctions relief it is willing to provide – falls short of Iran’s minimum. Nevertheless, it is still possible to reach a comprehensive agreement on a limited nuclear program – though an uncomfortable one for skeptics like Saudi Arabia and Israel that object on principle to Iran retaining any enrichment capacity. Negotiators will not get far, however, by trying to define Iran’s “practical needs” for enriched uranium (an approach endorsed in Geneva), since needs are a matter of interpretation about which Iran and the P5+1 differ. Focusing on “breakout time” – the time required to enrich enough uranium for one weapon – will not stand them in better stead, as it is based on theoretical, unpredictable and plastic calculations.
            What is needed, rather, is a compromise that satisfies both sides’ irreducible, bottom-line requirements: for Iran a meaningful enrichment program, continued scientific advancement and tangible sanctions relief; and for the P5+1, a firewall between Iran’s civilian and potential military nuclear capabilities, airtight monitoring mechanisms and sufficient time and Iranian cooperation to establish trust in the exclusively peaceful nature of the country’s nuclear program. Such a solution would enable them to sell the deal at home and serve as a springboard for developing a different kind of relationship.
            This report presents a blueprint for achieving that agreement. It is guided by four objectives: building a firewall between Iran’s civilian and potential military nuclear capabilities by constraining the most proliferation-prone aspects of its nuclear program; enhancing transparency by establishing rigorous monitoring and verification mechanisms; ensuring implementation and deterring non-compliance by establishing objective and compulsory monitoring and arbitration mechanisms, as well as by devising, in advance, potential responses to breaches by either party; and bolstering the parties’ incentives to remain faithful to the agreement by introducing positive inducements rather than purely negative ones.
            A comprehensive agreement based on these principles should be implemented in three phases, the first of which would start with steps that clearly demonstrate the parties’ commitment to the process and provide them with immediate tangible benefits, while delaying the heavy lifting until their investment in the process is greater, the costs for withdrawing higher and at least some sceptics have bought into the process.
 
            The basic elements of the approach include:
  • permitting Iran a contingency enrichment program that could be dialled up in the event of nuclear fuel denial, though constrained enough that any breakout could be promptly detected and, through a defined response, thwarted;
  • converting the heavy-water research reactor in Arak to diminish the amount of plutonium it produces;
  • transforming the bunkered facility in Fordow into a proliferation-resistant research and development centre;
  • introducing transparency measures that exceed Iran’s existing obligations but conform with its legitimate security and dignity concerns and that the P5+1 should acknowledge will be temporary;
  • providing Iran significant but reversible sanctions relief in the early stages of the comprehensive agreement, followed by escalating further relaxation, including open-ended suspension or termination of restrictions in accordance with progress on the nuclear front;
  • establishing positive incentives by strengthening trade ties, and increasing civilian nuclear and renewable energy cooperation between the parties; and
  • coordinating messages to reassure both sides’ regional allies and rivals, and to avoid inciting hardliners as leaders sell the agreement at home.
            The detailed recommendations that follow lay out this path in 40 actions. It is a path that carries risks for both sides. There is no guarantee that Iran will remain faithful to its commitments after international attention shifts. Nor is there certainty that the U.S. Congress will accept the deal and provide the president with the necessary authority on sanctions.
These risks notwithstanding, the alternatives are less attractive. A series of partial, interim deals would lessen the chances of reaching a final agreement, fall short of satisfying either party and strengthen hardline critics. A return to the status quo ante, with each side ratcheting up its leverage in the hope of forcing the other to capitulate, would very possibly lay the tracks for a scenario in which Iran attains a nuclear bomb while sanctions cause it grave harm. Most dangerous would be a military strike, which could set back Iran’s nuclear march temporarily, but at the cost of spurring it to rush toward the ultimate deterrent, while retaliating in a variety of asymmetric or non-conventional ways, with unpredictable but certainly tragic regional ramifications.
            If odds of the talks collapsing are high, the stakes of failure are higher. At the very least, a breakdown would reduce the possibility of success later, as it would erode trust and stiffen positions. The region and the world will be a safer place for a compromise that protects everyone’s core interests, contains Iran’s nuclear program and rehabilitates the country’s economy and international standing.
 
RECOMMENDATIONS
Upon signing the comprehensive agreement
 
To the government of Iran:
1.  Reaffirm that in accordance with the Supreme Leader’s fatwa, it will never seek or develop nuclear weapons and will apply facility-specific safeguards, based on Information Circular 66 of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to all its current and future enrichment and nuclear fuel fabrication facilities.
2.  Declare a policy of maintaining an Open Fuel Cycle; ie, refrain from reprocessing spent fuel.
3.  Accept to maintain a “zero-stockpile” of enriched uranium, by converting any stockpile of fissile material in the form of uranium hexafluoride or uranium oxide powder to nuclear fuel rods in a short period of time; and pledge not to build any reconversion lines.
 
To the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the UK, U.S. plus Germany):
4.  Endorse the comprehensive agreement via a new UN Security Council resolution.
5.  Provide legally-binding guarantees to supply fuel for Iran’s nuclear power and research reactors.
6.  Refrain from imposing any additional nuclear-related sanctions.
 
Phase I: For a period of one to two years following the signing of a comprehensive agreement
To the government of Iran:
7.  Limit its uranium enrichment capacity to a contingency program capped at 6,400 SWU in one facility (Natanz). Relocate any excess centrifuges from Fordow and Natanz’s Hall A to Natanz’s Hall B for storage under the IAEA’s seal and video surveillance.
8.  Cooperate with the P5+1 on fuel manufacturing in Isfahan in order to convert Iran’s entire stockpile of 5 and 20 per cent low-enriched uranium into fuel rods by the end of this period.
9.  Convert Fordow into a research and development facility at which only individual machines could be tested. The net enrichment output should be zero, as products and tails are recombined at the end of the process. Other non-enrichment related nuclear research also could take place at the facility. More advanced machines could be tested in a maximum of two interconnected cascades in Natanz, with the IAEA allowed to evaluate their enrichment capacity. Also, limit enrichment capacity per centrifuge in the R&D sector at all facilities to 5 SWU/year.
10.  Modify the Arak heavy-water reactor, in cooperation with the P5+1, so that it operates, at a lower power level, on 5 per cent enriched uranium; allow either in-house inspectors or remote surveillance to monitor the facility upon introduction of nuclear material; agree to ship out its spent fuel as soon as it can be transported safely; and halt the production of natural uranium oxide fuel.
11.  Implement all elements of the Additional Protocol of the IAEA, modified Subsidiary Arrangement Code 3.1 and all the additional enhanced safeguards and transparency measures outlined in the 24 November 2013 Joint Plan of Action signed with the P5+1.
12.  Manufacture, assemble and test centrifuges and their parts only in locations open to IAEA inspections; allow the agency to tag the produced centrifuges for accountancy purposes; and declare the stocks of raw material to the IAEA.
13.  Limit mining, milling and conversion of uranium to levels commensurate with enrichment activities, and allow the IAEA to conduct regular material accountancy measurements at the uranium conversion plant in Isfahan.
14.  Resolve satisfactorily with the IAEA all past and present issues related to the “possible military dimensions” of the nuclear program and take all necessary corrective measures.
15.  Ratify the 1994 IAEA Convention on Nuclear Safety, consistent with the respective prerogatives of the executive and legislative branches of the Iranian government.
 
To the P5+1:
16.  State that they reject categorically any armed attack or threat against nuclear facilities devoted exclusively to peaceful purposes and deem any such coercive action a violation of the principles of international law and specifically of the UN Charter and IAEA Statute.
17.  Extend and expand the suspension of all sanctions outlined in the Joint Plan of Action; and delist Iranian banks and nuclear organisations blacklisted by the UN Security Council resolutions.
18.  Release half of Iran’s frozen oil proceeds in monthly instalments, allow repatriation of future oil revenue and release Iran’s impounded assets under U.S. Executive Order 13599.
19.  Resume gradually European imports of Iranian petroleum and lift the EU transaction threshold on permissible trade with Iran.
20.  Lift the ban on providing financial messaging services to Iranian banks and permit trading in Iranian currency (the Rial); rescind designation of Iran as a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern; and permit U-turn transactions in U.S. dollars.
21.  Facilitate further humanitarian trade with Iran.
22.  Cooperate with Iran to modify the Arak reactor, provide its fuel manufacturing technology or fuel upon completion and sell Iran medical isotopes at market prices.
23.  Confirm that any report by the IAEA regarding Iran’s past nuclear activities will be reported to the agency’s Board of Governors and the Security Council for information purposes only.
24.  Collaborate with Iran on issues of safety for nuclear power plants and research reactors, including assessment of risks, promotion of safety-oriented solutions and research on nuclear applications in medicine and agriculture.
 
Phase II: For a period of five to seven years after successful completion of Phase I
To the government of Iran:
25.  Ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty in accordance with the Supreme Leader’s fatwa against nuclear weapons.
26.  Increase its uranium enrichment capacity to a contingency program capped at 9,600 SWU; maintain the limit on enrichment capacity per centrifuge in the R&D sector at all facilities at 5 SWU/year
27.  Limit mining, milling, and conversion of uranium to enrichment needs.
28.  Sign the 2002 Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.
29.  Adhere to the Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines, and collaborate with the P5+1 to establish export control programs.
 
To the P5+1:
30.  Obtain the authority for lifting, suspending with open-ended waivers or otherwise relaxing the sanctions outlined in Appendix B of this report based on an agreed schedule, contingent in all cases on Iran’s compliance with its commitments.
31.  Release incrementally the second half of Iran’s frozen oil proceeds and relax sanctions on investment and provision of goods and services to Iran’s petro-chemical sector.
32.  Provide firm guarantees for Iran’s access to advanced civilian nuclear research and power reactor technology in conformity with Articles I, II and IV of the NPT.
33.  Negotiate and conclude contracts for two additional light-water research reactors and two nuclear power plants; and pledge to provide the fuel for these reactors and to repatriate their spent fuel during their entire lifespans.
34.  Transfer cutting-edge technologies related to renewable energies to Iran.
 
Phase III: For a period of eight to ten years after successful completion of Phase II
To the government of Iran:
35.  Ratify the Additional Protocol of the NPT.
36.  Stop implementing transparency measures beyond its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, the Additional Protocol and modified Subsidiary Arrangement Code 3.1 gradually, upon the IAEA’s drawing “broader conclusions” that there are no undeclared nuclear activities and materials in Iran.
37.  Limit its uranium enrichment capacity voluntarily to a contingency program capped at 19,200 SWU and limit per centrifuge enrichment capacity in the R&D sector to 10 SWU/year.
 
To the P5+1:
38.  Upon the IAEA drawing its “broader conclusions”, lift the remaining UN Security Council sanctions, with the exception of restrictions on procurement and export of dual-use material and technologies that will be lifted at the end of this phase.
39.  Lift sanctions incrementally on investment in and provision of goods/services to Iran’s natural gas sector, followed by similar measures related to Iran’s oil sector.
40.  The EU and other willing partners will develop a strategic energy partnership through a Trade and Cooperation Agreement and declare Iran a long-term supplier of fossil energy.
 
Click here for the full report.
 

Hardliners Grill Zarif on Holocaust Stance

            On May 6, some 75 hardliner lawmakers grilled Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on his Holocaust stance. He had called the Holocaust a “horrifying tragedy” that “should never occur again” in an interview with a German television station in February. Iran’s 290-member parliament voted against censuring the foreign minister after intense exchanges with critics. Zarif had previously been summoned to explain his stances on the United States and Israel. The latest parliament session came just two days after hardliners held a conference to warn Iran's nuclear negotiators, led by Zarif, against giving too many concessions in talks with the world's six major powers.

            Zarif earned applause from some lawmakers for accusing Israel of spreading propaganda against Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “shamelessly claims Iran denies the Holocaust, that we are after a nuclear bomb to create another Holocaust. As long as I am foreign minister, I will not allow the Holocaust to be exploited to ruin our national image and dignity,” pledged Zarif. Lawmakers said they were “satisfied” with Zarif’s explanation after the parliament session, which was broadcast live on state radio.
            Zarif was first questioned about his position in September 2013, shortly after he joined Twitter and wished a happy new year to the world’s Jews. His Rosh Hashanah message sparked a revealing exchange with Christine Pelosi, daughter of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. She tweeted that the new year would be “even sweeter” if Zarif would “end Iran’s Holocaust denial.” Zarif, known for a dry sense of humor, tweeted back, “Iran never denied it. The man who was perceived to be denying it is now gone. Happy New Year.” Zarif later confirmed to The Iran Primer that he knew that he was communicating with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s daughter. President Rouhani’s account retweeted Zarif’s reply to Pelosi.
 
           
            Iran’s Tasnim News Agency then asked the foreign minister about his statements on the Holocaust. Iranians condemn the “killing of Jews by Nazis, as we condemn the killing of Palestinians by the Zionists,” Zarif said. “Judaism is a divine religion that we respect in accordance with the teachings of our religion and our country’s constitution.” He added that Iran’s “Jewish compatriots are a recognized minority” and that they have a representative in parliament. “Jews aren’t our enemies,” Zarif clarified. He also claimed that “Zionists are a minority” among them. “The Zionists for 60 years used the Holocaust as a pretext for all the crimes against the Palestinians,” Zarif told Tasnim. Zarif posted the interview text on his Facebook account.
            Zarif’s stance contrasts sharply with former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial. Ahmadinejad repeatedly called the extermination of 6 million Jews a “myth” during his tenure from 2005 to 2013. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei most recently questioned the Holocaust in March 2014. The “Holocaust is an event whose reality is uncertain and if it has happened, it's uncertain how it has happened,” he said in a speech marking Persian New Year.

 

Report: Iran’s Missiles and a Final Deal

            Iran’s existing ballistic missiles, if fitted with a nuclear warhead, could pose a credible threat to the region. But the current negotiations between Iran and the world’s six major powers is not the ideal venue for discussing limits on Tehran’s missile program, according to a new brief by The Arms Control Association. Senior Fellow Greg Thielmann warns that demanding limits on weapons Tehran “regards as vital to its self-defense would jeopardize” the current negotiations’ key objective — constraining Iran’s nuclear program in a verifiable manner. A comprehensive nuclear deal, however, would “dramatically reduce the potential dangers posed by Iran’s ballistic missiles,” according to the brief. The following are excerpts.

•A comprehensive deal between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) that verifiably limits Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity, effectively blocks plutonium-production pathways, and enhances verification to assure detection of prohibited nuclear-weapons-related activities would dramatically reduce the potential dangers posed by Iran’s ballistic missiles.
 
•In 2010, the UN Security Council broadened previous sanctions by adopting Resolution 1929, an effort to increase pressure on Tehran to negotiate seriously to resolve international concerns about its nuclear program by limiting sensitive nuclear-weapons-related activities.
 
• Resolution 1929 was adopted at a time when the International Atomic Energy Agency’s questions about weapons-related experiments were not being answered, Iran’s capacity to produce fissile material was increasing, and Iran’s nuclear weapons development potential was growing.
 
•The resolution’s prohibition on “any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology” was never intended by the Security Council to be permanent.
 
• Today, Iran is assessed to have deployed several dozen Shahab-3 and Ghadr-1 medium-range ballistic missiles with ranges of 1,000 to 1,600 kilometers, as well as dozens more short-range ballistic missiles with ranges of 150 to 500 kilometers.
 
• All ballistic missiles with the capability of delivering a 500-kilogram payload 300 kilometers or more are commonly considered “nuclear capable.”
 
• To prevent Iran from having any such capability would require severe restrictions, such as the 150-kilometer missile flight-testing limit imposed on vanquished Iraq in 1991.
 
• Iran has been adamant that it will not accept removal of the only weapons systems it can reliably employ beyond the battlefield.
 
• Limits on Iranian ballistic missiles could be more effectively pursued outside the nuclear talks in a multilateral, regional context.
 
• The initial objective could be reciprocal confidence building measures among neighboring countries.
 
• Multilateral limits, such as a regional ban on intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles – could also be pursued.
 
How Invested Is Iran in Its Missiles?
 
             As noted in a recent analysis by Shahram Chubin of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “by orthodox standards Iran is militarily weak” and “its military expenditure is slight compared to that of its smaller Gulf neighbours.” With an aging and ineffective air force and an army unsuited for operating far afield, Iran relies heavily on conventionally armed missile systems for national defense.
 
             Iran has already developed and deployed several dozen Shahab-3 and Ghadar-1 medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs), able to strike regional area targets as far away as Israel. “[These missiles] represent one of Iran’s few capabilities to deter attack, intimidate regional rivals, and boost military morale and national pride,” according to Michael Elleman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Iran has devoted considerable energy and resources to acquiring and then improving these systems (see figure 1). They are now considered more advanced and reliable than North Korea’s Nodong MRBM, from which they were originally derived.
 
Alternative Approaches for Addressing Missiles
 
             The best way to address Iran’s potential to exploit nuclearcapable missiles is to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is sufficiently limited and transparent that missile limits become unnecessary. The primary means of doing so would be to strictly limit Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium. This would entail ensuring that production is significantly reduced in the short term and is commensurate with Iran’s “practical needs” for its civilian power program, as foreseen in the Joint Plan of Action. The IAEA would thereby have confidence that Iran did not have sufficient fissile material to assemble the several warheads necessary to pose a credible nuclear threat to other countries, and the international community would have many months to mount an effective response if Iran sought to break out of the NPT to build nuclear weapons.
 
             The IAEA will also need to gain sufficient understanding of the “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s past nuclear program to be confident that the program remains peaceful in the future. This includes Tehran adequately addressing allegations that Iran adapted a Shahab-3 MRBM front section to accommodate installation of a nuclear warhead. The final deal between Iran and the P5+1 should provide direction to the IAEA and Tehran on resolving outstanding issues. It might also be possible to persuade Iran to make a voluntary commitment to greater transparency with regard to its missile activities, such as notifications of flight tests, exercises, and field deployments. This appears unlikely as part of a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, but it might be possible to negotiate a side agreement in which Iran pledged to join the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, a confidence-building regime to which 137 states subscribe.
 
Click here for the full text.
 

Iran Nuke Program 1: ABCs of Issues

      There’s no one single formula for a nuclear deal with Iran. The United States compares negotiations to solving a Rubik’s Cube™, because so many pieces are involved—and moving one moves all the others. (The world’s most popular puzzle has 43 quintillion permutations to solve it so all the colors match on the six faces.) These are some of the key issues in the Rubik’s Cube of a nuclear deal.

 

  

         CENTRIFUGES: Since 2002, Iran has built centrifuges to enrich uranium, which can fuel both peaceful energy and deadly bombs. Tehran claims it is only for medical research and energy. But Iran’s abilities far exceed its current needs; Russia provides fuel for Iran’s single nuclear reactor.
            Iran now has about 19,000 centrifuges—up from less than 200 a decade ago. The vast majority of these are first-generation “IR-1” centrifuges, but Iran has begun installing much more sophisticated “IR-2” models. About 10,000 are enriching uranium at Iran’s two enrichment facilities, Natanz and Fordow; the rest are installed but not operating. The more centrifuges or the more advanced centrifuges Iran has, the faster it can enrich uranium.

            A deal will try to reduce the number of Iran’s centrifuges. Outside experts suggest the goal could be to limit Iran to between 2,000 and 6,000 operating IR-1 centrifuges, and place constraints on research and development into more advanced machines.

          ENRICHMENT: Uranium enriched to 90 percent is the purest form to fuel a weapon. Prior to the November 24 “Joint Plan of Action” (JPOA) interim nuclear deal, Iran was enriching up to 20 percent level; under the JPOA, enrichment has been temporarily capped at five percent or less.
            A final deal could seek to limit enrichment to five percent or less.
           
          STOCKPILE: The larger the stockpile of uranium gas, the faster Iran could produce fuel for a bomb. Iran had 447 kg of uranium enriched at 20 percent before the interim deal went into effect in January. It has since begun “neutralizing” its 20 percent stockpile by diluting 104 kg to 3.5 percent enriched uranium and converting another 287 kg into uranium oxide powder. As of May, Iran had an estimated 56 kg of uranium gas enriched at 20 percent. It is due to dilute or oxidize all its 20 percent uranium gas by July 20.

            A deal could seek to limit the stockpile of 5 percent enriched uranium and require Iran to further reduce its stockpile of 20 percent uranium in oxide form. Iran may be allowed to keep some for research, but not enough to quickly build a bomb.

         NATANZ: Iran’s primary enrichment facility includes three underground buildings, two of which are designed to hold 50,000 centrifuges, and six buildings built above ground.
            A deal will try to limit the program at Natanz.
 
          FORDO: The smaller, underground enrichment facility near Qom includes two halls; each could hold 1,500 centrifuges. Iran claims Fordow is to enrich uranium up to 20 percent— only for research. But skeptics contend the deeply-buried site, designed to survive aerial bombardment, is intended to take 20 percent enriched material from Natanz and enrich it to higher levels for use in a nuclear weapon.
            A deal will try to end enrichment activities at Fordow, perhaps converting it to a research-only facility.
 
            ARAK: The small heavy-water reactor, begun in the 1990s, is unfinished. Iran claims it is to produce medical isotopes and thermal power for civilian use. But the design would also produce plutonium that, if chemically reprocessed, could provide an alternative fuel to uranium for an atomic bomb. Nine kilograms of plutonium is enough material to fuel one or two nuclear weapons. After completion, Arak would need to run for 12 to 18 months to generate that much plutonium.
            A deal will try to close Arak or redesign it in a way to substantially reduce plutonium output. A deal will also try prohibit Iran from building a reprocessing facility.
 
          INSPECTIONS and VERIFICATION: Any deal will require considerable transparency into the nature and extent of Iran’s civilian nuclear infrastructure, as well as possible past military dimensions of its program. A deal will also involve extensive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of Natanz, Fordow, Arak, centrifuge assembly facilities, uranium mines, research facilities—and possibly other sites—aimed at ensuring that Iran’s program remains solely for peaceful purposes.

             It may also cover access to sites suspected of past work on bomb components, such as Parchin military base. And it is likely to require Tehran’s acceptance of the IAEA’s “Additional Protocol,” allowing inspections at both declared and undeclared sites—and maybe other intrusive measures.

 
          IRAN’S RED LINES:
            Iran has its own configurations for the Rubik’s Cube of a deal. They include:
  • Preserving key elements of its nuclear program, including some uranium enrichment and research and development
  • Protecting Iran's "right" under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to a peaceful nuclear energy program to alleviate the drain on its oil sources and fuel modern development
  • Removing nuclear-related sanctions on Iran by the United States, European Union and United Nations

 

July 14 Update: Iran released the most detailed report to date explaining its practical needs for its nuclear program. It was posted on the quasi-official website NuclearEnergy.ir.

 

For more information, see:

David Albright and Andrea Stricker “Centrifuges: Key to Final Nuclear Deal
Robert Einhorn “Preventing a Nuclear Armed Iran
 

Photo credits: Rubik's Cube by by Lars Karlsson (Keqs) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons [edited by Iran Primer], President.ir

 

 

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