After the 18-month stretch of tough negotiations following the implementation of the interim agreement (or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), the nuclear negotiators are enjoying a well-deserved break from the bargaining table. On April 2, the European Union and Iran issued a brief “understanding” on a political framework for a future nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran. More detailed fact sheets unilaterally issued by the United States and Iran bolstered that document. The political framework is an important step toward a comprehensive agreement. For the first time, Iran has tentatively accepted substantial reductions in, and limitations on, its capacity to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons for 10–15 years, along with enhanced monitoring and inspections for up to 25 years. In return for implementing these measures, Iran will receive near-term relief from nuclear-related sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations Security Council.
The basic contours of the political framework are solid, but the parties have a lot more work ahead of them if they are to complete a comprehensive agreement by their self-imposed deadline of June 30, 2015. Comparing the U.S. and Iran fact sheets (as translated by the Belfer Center’s Payam Mohseni), here are some of the remaining disputes.
First, what happens to Iran’s existing stockpile of low-enriched uranium?
During the course of earlier negotiations, the United States agreed that Iran could retain 6,000–7,000 IR-1 centrifuges on the understanding that most of Iran’s low-enriched uranium would be shipped abroad for fabrication into fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power reactor, leaving only 300–500 kilograms on Iran’s soil at any time. This formula was necessary to preserve a one-year breakout period—the time required for Iran to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb (27 kilograms of 90 percent enriched uranium) at its Natanz enrichment facility. In the final days of negotiations, however, Iran pulled back and declared that it had no plans to export its low-enriched uranium.
The issue apparently remains unresolved. According to the U.S. fact
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