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Iran | Iran Agrees to Scale Back Nuclear Program, but Deal Remains Elusive
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Iran Agrees to Scale Back Nuclear Program, but Deal Remains Elusive
Talks about Iran's nulcear program between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany resumed in October 2013 and again November after being on hold for six months. They were the most promising and specific to date. In a separate agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran said it would give the agency inspectors "managed access" to nuclear facilities in Bandar Abbas and Arak so they can gather data about activities. The agreement does not require that Iran hand over proprietary information about their technology. The plant at Bandar Abbas is a mine that produces yellowcake uranium, and Arak houses a heavy-water production plant. Iran, however, did not grant the IAEA access to the plant at Parchin, where inspectors think Iran tested triggers for nuclear devices.
On Nov. 24, 2013, at a third round of talks in Geneva, Iran reached a six-month deal with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany. Iran agreed to halt production of uranium beyond 5%, which means it could only produce uranium for peaceful purposes; dilute or convert to oxide its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20%; not install new centrifuges; give UN inspectors daily access to enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordo. In return, the crippling sanctions against Iran were eased, pumping between $6 billion and $7 billion back into Iran's economy. The sanctions will be reinstated if Iran does not comply. Negotiations for a long-term agreement will continue during the six-month period. Israel and Saudi Arabia both expressed outrage about the deal, fearing their power in the Middle East would be threatened or diminished by closer ties between the U.S. and Iran and by Iran's potential wealth from oil revenue and its nuclear know-how.
By the time the next round of talks opened in February 2014, Iran's economy was showing signs of rebounding, with inflation falling from 45% in 2013 to less than 30%—a result of the easing of sanctions. While representatives at the six-party talks disclosed little about the progress, they said they had agreed on a framework for moving forward—certainly reason for cautious optimism. A deal was supposed to be reached by the end of July 2014, but the deadline was extended to November. Once again, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany failed to reach the November deadline. However, neither side was ready to throw in the towel, and they set a deadline of March 2015 to outline a framework and June 30, 2015, for a full accord. Negotiations picked up in February 2015, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry engaging in a series of dicussions with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. U.S. officials expressed optimism that a framework would be in place by the end of March and that a full agreement would be in place by the end of June.
In November 2014, Russia agreed to build two—and potentially eight—nuclear power reactors in Iran. As part of the deal, Iran will buy reactor fuel from Russia, reducing Iran's need to enrich its own uranium.