The Iranian Nuclear Deal’s Sunset Clauses

Why They Are Not a Path to a Bomb

The flag of the International Atomic Energy Agency flies in front of its headquarters in Vienna, Austria, May 28, 2015. Heinz-Peter Bader / Reuters

Although the opponents of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal often speak of Tehran in hyperbolic terms—as a "murderous regime" and as an exporter of “death and destruction”—their main criticism of the agreement is more mundane. It revolves around clauses known as the “sunset provisions,” which stipulate when the various restrictions imposed on Iran’s nuclear program expire and which critics say provide Iran with a patient pathway to acquiring nuclear weapons.

On September 19, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the staunchest critics of the deal, which is known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), rebuked it yet again at a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. “In a few years, [nuclear] restrictions will be automatically removed,” he said, “not by a change in Iran’s behavior, not by a lessening of its terror or its aggression—they’ll just be removed by a mere

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