On Wednesday, President Donald Trump addressed the nation following rising tensions between Iran and the U.S. After Trump ordered a Baghdad drone strike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, Iran struck back with missiles targeted at a U.S. base in Iraq. Now, Americans fear the possibility of war, with multiple U.S. leaders speaking out on the threat.
But according to Trump’s address, that isn’t going to happen. "Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world,” he said in the morning briefing.
He also called Soleimani "the world's top terrorist," and referenced the Iran deal, JCPOA, as a “very effective” measure for peacekeeping. Calling on our allies to exit the deal, he said, "We must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place.”
Now, following a chilling Washington Post report, Iran announced it was partially withdrawing JCPOA, sparking a number of questions around the Iran deal and how it came to be. All the combined information around JCPOA is very detailed, so we’ve broken down exactly what the Iran deal is and how it came about.
What is the JCPOA?
JCPOA is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It is an agreement between Iran and permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
Who was involved in the Iran deal, JCPOA?
Several major world powers united on this. In 2015, after years of tension over Iran’s alleged efforts to develop a nuclear weapon program, Iran agreed to long-term deal with a group of world powers known as the P5+1, which included the United States, United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany. The deal was completed during the Obama administration with former Secretary of State John Kerry handling negotiations for the US.
What did the Iran deal do?
In short, the accord saw Iran limiting nuclear activities and allowed inspectors into the country in exchange for lifting economic sanctions.
The specific commitments from Iran included reducing their uranium stockpile by 98% and drastically lowering the number of centrifuges installed at nuclear two facilities: Natanz and Fordo. Centrifuges, which change the chemical properties of uranium to separate out the most fissile isotope – a material capable of sustaining a nuclear fission chain reaction called U-235. This creates “weapons grade” uranium used to make reactor fuel and nuclear weapons.
The agreement also saw Iran redesigning a facility near the town of Arak so that it would not produce weapons-grade plutonium or send any spent fuel out of the country. Lastly, Iran agreed to continuous monitoring from the global nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to confirm that no fissile material is moved covertly to a secret location to build a bomb.
How much money was spent on Iran deal & what was Obama’s role?
It’s not entirely clear, but we do know that Trump’s estimations are proven incorrect. As a candidate in the 2016 campaign, Trump criticized the JCPOA and suggested that the U.S. had given Iran $150 billion USD as part of the deal. He also repeated that claim at his press conference on Wednesday. But, the agreement included all allies in the United Nations, not just the U.S., and it’s estimated that actual numbers include about $400 million USD cash for military equipment along with $1.3 billion USD in reparations.
So, Obama did not carry out any part of the agreement on his own. As part of the sanctions that were removed, a freeze on Iran’s assets in foreign banks was lifted and money that belonged to Iran ($400 million USD) was made available to Iran, according to The Washington Post. It was only made inaccessible by sanctions meant to stop or slow the country’s nuclear program.
When does the Iran deal expire?
At a press conference in April of 2018, President Trump stated that the Iran deal expires in seven years. The deal actually puts a cap on enriched uranium until 2030, or 12 years from now. After that, other agreements limit nuclear weapons development in Iran. While some restrictions ease or sunset after seven years, The New York Times reports that the key elements that prevent Iran from enriching the uranium needed for a bomb remain in place until 2030.
What is Trump planning to do following the Iran deal?
The president announced new sanctions against Iran in his press conference on Wednesday, stating that, "As long as I'm President of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.”. Trump also noted that the administration is continuing to review other options to respond to the Iranian missile strikes.