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The momentous nuclear agreement of 2015 between Iran and six world powers – the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany – was signed after arduous negotiations.
It was within the framework of that pact that economic sanctions were lifted against Iran in exchange for limiting its controversial atomic energy program that international powers feared could be used to create nuclear weapons.
At the time, the agreement was considered a milestone in the foreign policy of the then US president, Barack Obama. But that fact put him in the sights of his successor, Donald Trump, who called it “the worst agreement” ever achieved and threatened to abandon it .
A few days before Trump takes that crucial decision on the future of the agreement – which is expected to happen before May 12 – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Tehran on Monday of having an undercover program to equip himself nuclear weapons that could be revived at any time.
Instead, the Iranian Foreign Ministry dismissed the accusations on Tuesday, saying they are based on old data that were already considered in the original agreement. He called Netanyahu a “liar” and accused him of trying to influence the United States to withdraw from the nuclear agreement.
Other Western powers, including the United Kingdom and France co-signatories , declared that Iran has abided by the terms of agreement and that this should be maintained.
And Federica Mogherini, the head of the European Union’s foreign policy, went further by stating that Israel’s denunciation is not calling into question whether Iran has complied with its side of the bargain.
In fact, he stressed that the pact was signed “exactly because there was no confidence between the parties, otherwise a nuclear agreement would not have been necessary.”
Trump’s main criticisms are that the agreement only limits Iran’s nuclear activities for a definite period, that it has not prevented its development of ballistic missiles, and that Tehran was rewarded with US $ 100,000 million that it can use as “an illegal fund for weapons, terror and oppression “through the Middle East, according to the US president.
These are 5 of the key points of the original agreement signed with Iran and the modifications that President Trump would like to make.
1. Enrichment of uranium
There are two uranium enrichment facilities in Iran – Natanz and Fordo – where uranium hexafluoride gas is introduced into centrifuges to separate U-235, the fissile isotope of natural origin from uranium.
Low-grade uranium, which has a 3-4% concentration of U-235, can be used to produce fuel from nuclear power plants. However, it can also be enriched to the degree of 90% necessary for the production of nuclear weapons.
In July 2015, Iran had almost 20,000 centrifuges. The Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (JCPOA) limits installation to no more than 5,060 of the oldest and least efficient centrifuges at Natanz for 10 years.
Iran promised to reduce its uranium reserves by 98% to 300 kilograms, which should maintain its level of enrichment by 3.67%.
By January 2016, Iran had drastically reduced the number of centrifuges installed in Natanz and Fordo, and shipped tons of low-grade uranium to Russia .
In addition, research and development can only be carried out in Natanz, and for a maximum of eight years.
Fordo enrichment will not be allowed for 15 years, and the underground facility will be converted into a nuclear physics and technology center.
The 1,044 centrifuges at the site will be used to produce radioisotopes for medicinal, agricultural, industrial and scientific use.
2. The output of plutonium
Iran had been building a heavy-water nuclear facility near the city of Arak. The fuel used in a heavy water reactor contains plutonium that can be used for a nuclear bomb.
Initially, the international powers wanted to dismantle Arak due to the risk of proliferation . According to an interim nuclear agreement, agreed in November 2013, Iran agreed not to operate the reactor or fuel it.
On the other hand, he agreed to redesign the reactor so that it could not produce plutonium capable of manufacturing nuclear weapons. As long as the modified reactor exists, all the used fuel will be sent out of the country
Most of the 20 tons of heavy water expected to be produced at the facility in Arak will be shipped to the US. through a third country, according to officials in Iran. Some six tons will be conserved for the production of isotopes for medical use.
The JCPOA stipulates that Iran will not be allowed to build more heavy water reactors or accumulate excess heavy water for 15 years.
But Donald Trump does not want to see time frames limiting Iran’s nuclear activities. One of the conditions he defends is that there is no expiration date.
3. Covert activity
When the agreement was signed, the US presidency at that time he expressed confidence that the JCPOA would prevent Iran from developing a clandestine nuclear program.
For its part, Iran said it had committed itself to an “extraordinary and robust regime of monitoring, verification and inspection . “
Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the global nuclear watchdog group, continuously monitor the nuclear facilities declared by Iran and also ensure that no fissile material is being covertly transported to secret sites to build a bomb.
The Tehran government also pledged to implement the Additional Protocol to its IAEA Safeguards Agreement, which allows inspectors access to any site in the country they suspect.
During the 15 years of the agreement, Iran will have 24 days to comply with any request for access by the IAEA . If it does not, the eight members of the Joint Commission – including Iran – will issue a ruling on the matter.
But for the government of Donald Trump this is not enough, and it demands that Tehran allow the immediate entry of inspectors to all the sites requested by the IAEA.
Otherwise, punitive measures could be taken, including reinstatement of sanctions.
4. “Explosion time”
Before July 2015, Iran had large reserves of enriched uranium and almost 20,000 centrifuges, enough to create between eight and 10 bombs, according to US intelligence.
US experts estimated that if Iran rushed to build a bomb, it would take two or three months to produce enough 90% enriched uranium to build a nuclear weapon , which is known as the “bursting time.”
Trump calls for greater guarantees to ensure that Iran “does not even come close to owning a nuclear weapon,” which would mean increasing the time it could produce a bomb a year.
The signed agreement contemplates the withdrawal of the key elements that Iran would need to shorten the “bursting time”.
Iran also agreed not to participate in activities, including research and development, that could contribute to the production of a nuclear bomb.
In December 2015, the IAEA board of governors agreed to complete its decade-long investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.
The agency’s director general, Yukiya Amano, said the report concluded that, until 2003, Iran had managed “a coordinated effort” in “a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.”
Iran continued with certain activities until 2009. After that, there was “no credible indication” of weapons development , the official added.
5. Lifting of sanctions
The sanctions previously imposed by the UN, USA and the European Union to force Iran to stop uranium enrichment damaged the country’s economy, costing it more than US $ 160 billion in oil revenues from 2012 to 2016.
Following the agreement, Iran was granted access to more than US $ 100 billion of assets frozen abroad, and ready to resume its oil exports to international markets and use the global financial financial system.
The president of the USA He claims that money “dropped from the sky” allows Iran to export its regime of oppression and terror throughout the Middle East.
In case Iran violates any aspect of the agreement, the UN sanctions would automatically reactivate for 10 years , with the possibility of extending another five.
If the Joint Plan could not resolve a dispute, it would be referred to the UN Security Council.
Iran also agreed to the continuation of the arms embargo imposed on it by the UN for up to five years, although it could be less if the IAEA concludes that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.
The ban on imports of ballistic missile technology, meanwhile, will be maintained for up to eight years.
However, the current US government seeks to explicitly state that the ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs should be treated as inseparable and that any test or development of missiles will face severe sanctions.