US President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that he will pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal, a 2015 agreement that capped over a decade of hostility between Tehran and the West over its atomic program. The Iran nuclear deal was signed between Iran and the P5 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council) plus Germany and the European Union in Vienna in July 2015. Under the 2015 nuclear deal struck by Iran and six major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear program in return for relief from the US and other economic sanctions.
Here’s what Iran’s nuclear program terms were under the deal:
The deal also limited the number of centrifuges Iran can run and restricted it to an older, slower model. Iran also reconfigured a heavy-water reactor so it couldn’t produce plutonium and agreed to convert its Fordo enrichment site into a research centre. It granted more access to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and allowed it to inspect other sites.
In exchange, world powers lifted the economic sanctions that had kept Iran away from international banking and the global oil trade. It allowed Iran to make purchases of commercial aircraft and reach other business deals. It also unfroze billions of dollars Iran had overseas.
Fifteen years after the deal, restrictions on Iran’s uranium enrichment and stockpile size will end. The deal’s opponents argue it allows Iran to build a bomb after it expires, something Iran had explicitly promised in the accord not to do. In theory, Iran could have an array of advanced centrifuges ready for use, the limits on its stockpile would be gone, and it could then throw itself wholeheartedly into producing highly enriched uranium. But at the same time, nothing in the deal prevents the West from trying to rein Iran in again with sanctions.
Here’s a timeline of major events over the timespan of the Iran nuclear deal:
June 2006: The United States, Russia and China join Britain, France and Germany to form the P5+1 group of nations trying to persuade Iran to curb its nuclear program. Washington initially stays away from the negotiating table.
December 2006: The UN Security Council imposes the first set of sanctions on Iran, banning the sale of sensitive nuclear technology.
November 2007: The number of uranium-enriching centrifuges assembled by Iran reaches about 3,000 from just a few hundred in 2002. Its stockpile of low-enriched uranium also grows, giving Tehran the ability to, theoritically, make enough-weapons grade uranium for an atomic bomb.
October 2009: Under President Barack Obama, a senior U.S. diplomat meets one-on-one with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator. The talks are some of the most extensive between Washington and Tehran in three decades. (Source: AP)
February 2010: Iran announces it has started to enrich uranium to near 20 percent, a technical step away from weapons-grade material.
November 2013: Iran and the six powers announce an interim agreement that temporarily curbs Tehran’s nuclear program and unfreezes some Iranian assets. The deal sets the stage for extended negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear accord.
October 2015: Iran conducts its first ballistic missile test since the nuclear deal. The US accuses Iran of violating a UN Security Council resolution, but former President Barack Obama acknowledges that ballistic missiles are “entirely separate” from the nuclear deal.
Jan. 16, 2016: The IAEA acknowledges Iran has met its commitments under the nuclear deal, which sees most sanctions on Iran lifted. It takes time but Iran re-enters the global banking system and begins selling crude oil and natural gas on the international market. Next day, the US imposes sanctions over Iran’s ballistic missile tests.
October 2018: Trump announces he will not re-certify the Iran nuclear deal as required, criticizing the accord by saying it “threw Iran’s dictatorship a political and economic lifeline.”