Here are basic facts about the proposed Iranian nuclear agreement.
The P5 + 1 group of nations (the USA, UK, France, China and Russia, plus Germany) and Iran have reached a preliminary agreement, in which the United Nations, USA and European Union will lift most economic sanctions against Iran in return for guarantees that Iran will not use its nuclear energy program to develop nuclear weapons.
They hope to reach a final agreement by June 30.
The Iranian government agreed to:
• Reduce the number of centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium, from 19,000 to about 6,000.
• Reduce the level of enrichment of uranium from 20 percent to 3.67 percent (bomb-grade uranium is enriched to 90 percent)
• Reduce its stockpile of low-level enriched uranium from 10,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms.
• Convert a bomb-proof underground enrichment facility to a research laboratory.
• Open all nuclear facilities to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.
This will not make Iran incapable of developing a nuclear weapon. Experts say it will extend the lead time required by Iran to develop bomb-grade uranium from six weeks to one year.
Some remaining areas of disagreement are:
• The Iranian government says it expects sanctions lifted before it begins to reduce nuclear capability. President Obama says he expects Iran to start complying with the agreement before sanctions are lifted.
• President Obama was Iran to allow inspections of its military facilities as well as its nuclear facilities. The Iranian government refuses.
The effect of the agreement would be to change the balance of power in the Middle East. This is a main reason why leaders of Israel and Saudi Arabia are worried about the agreement.
It would enable Iran to exert its full national strength in Middle East geo-politics. It will be better able to support its allies, including Syria, Iraq, Hezbollah and Shiite militias in different countries. Israel prioritizes its struggle with Hezbollah, and Saudi Arabia priorities its struggles against the Shiites.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, along with his supporters in the U.S. Congress, thinks the USA should insist that Iran give up enrichment of nuclear fuel altogether, and that it also grant diplomatic recognition to Israel.
No reputable authority ever claimed to have evidence that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. The basis for United Nations sanctions was that Iran did not provide adequate evidence that it complied with its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Under that treaty, nations without nuclear weapons will be granted help in developing nuclear power if they renounce nuclear weapons of their own. Nations with nuclear weapons promise to work for their eventual abolition.
The United States has imposed economic sanctions against Iran since the 1979 Iranian revolution. Some of the justifications for these sanctions are that Iran seized American property without compensation and that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism.
Under the Corker-Cardin bill, recently passed, Congress reserves the right to disapprove any lifting of sanctions, but the agreement takes effect if Congress does nothing.
I wrote earlier that U.S. sanctions would be ineffective if the rest of the world goes along with the agreement. That was too simple a view. The U.S. government has a lot of leverage over its European allies to make them go along with U.S. policy. But it has no leverage whatsoever over Russia and China, which are already moving to establish closer relations with Iran.
My own view is that if the Iranian government was hell-bent on obtaining nuclear weapons, it would already have done so. I think the agreement is a reasonable one, and I think it is high time to end the U.S. economic and covert war against Iran, which causes great suffering and benefits nobody.
AP Analysis: Iran deal leaves major questions unresolved by Bradley Klapper.
The Iran Nuclear Deal, by the Numbers by Graham Allison for The Atlantic.
The Iran nuclear deal, translated into plain English by Max Fisher for Vox.
Comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program from Wikipedia.
Sanctions against Iran from Wikipedia.
Iran: the Deal on the Deal by Elizabeth Drew for the New York Review of Books.
Does Obama Really Want an Agreement With Iran? by Shireen Hunter for LobeLog
If Iran Nuclear Talks Fail, Sanctions on Iran Could Unravel by Jasmin Ramsey for InterPress Service (via Informed Comment).
The Bomb Iran Lobby Gears Up for 2016 by Sina Toossi for Foreign Policy in Focus.
China urges no new demands at Iran nuclear talks by Reuters.