A framework for a nuclear deal with Iran has been reached, but significant hurdles remain.
At a White House news conference on Thursday, President Obama said the United States and the five other world powers negotiating with Switzerland had reached a “historic understanding with Iran” on a deal that, if fully implemented, would prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The deadline for a comprehensive agreement is June 30.
“It is a good deal” that would “cut off every pathway” to an Iran nuclear weapon, Obama said. “If this framework leads to a final comprehensive deal, it will make our country, our allies and our world safer.”
Cautioning that “Nothing is agreed till everything is agreed,” Obama provided the basic outlines of the agreement:
1. Iran will not develop weapons-grade plutonium, and the nuclear facility at Arak will be dismantled and its fuel shipped out of country.
2. Iran’s installed centrifuges will be reduced by two-thirds, and Iran won’t enrich uranium using advanced centrifuges for at least 10 years.
3. International inspectors will have unprecedented access to Iranian nuclear facilities and their entire supply chain.
In exchange, Iran will get relief from certain U.S. and U.N. sanctions, and the relief will be phased in as Iran takes steps to meet its end of the bargain. If Iran violates the deal, those sanctions will “snap back,” Obama said. The president did not specify what sanctions would be lifted or which would remain.
This deal ensures that Iran’s “breakout time” to acquiring a nuclear weapon is at least a year, and imposes strict limitations upon Iran’s nuclear program for at least 15 years, Obama said.
Anticipating criticism of the deal from overseas and in Washington, Obama said he will speak to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday about the deal and already has spoken with the Saudi king, whom Obama invited to Camp David along with several Persian Gulf allies to discuss strengthening security cooperation. The Sunni Arab regimes in the Persian Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, have grave concerns about America’s rapprochement with Tehran, a Shiite rival.
Obama also said his administration will be engaging with Congress in the coming weeks. Congress could scuttle the deal if it mustered a veto-proof majority to negate the deal, uphold existing sanctions or impose new ones on Iran.
“The issues at stake here are bigger than politics; these are matters of war and peace,” Obama said.
The president argued that the alternatives to this deal – bombing Iran or imposing additional sanctions — would do less to set back Iran’s nuclear program than this agreement does.
“A diplomatic solution is the best way to get this done and offers a more comprehensive and lasting solution,” Obama said. “It is our best option by far.”
He also cautioned that many details have yet to be worked out before the deal can be completed.
“Those details matter,” he said. “Our work is not yet done. The deal has not been signed.
“If we can get this done and Iran follows through,” he said, “we will be able to resolve one of the greatest threats to our security, and to do so peacefully.”