Analysis of Nuclear Agreement between Iran and P5+1 Group

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hassan Beheshtipour


An interim agreement between Iran and the member states of the P5+1 group – which consisted of the foreign ministers of the United States, the UK, China, Russia, France and Germany – was finally signed at the United Nations office in Geneva, Switzerland, on Sunday, November 24, 2013. Since the contents of this important agreement have been already subject to different viewpoints and discussions, the following article aims to consider various issues related to this agreement and resolve the ambiguities that currently surround it.

Past history

The first round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and three European countries of Germany, the UK, and France [which were then known as the European Troika or the EU3] took place in October 2003 and led to the conclusion of Saadabad agreement in Tehran on October 21, 2003. Ten years have passed since the conclusion of that agreement during which Iran has made frequent attempts to prove to the Western states that the final goal of its nuclear energy program is to master the complete nuclear fuel cycle in order to use the nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

During these years, and to prove its goodwill, Iran accepted on December 18, 2003, to voluntarily implement the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Also, starting on November 15, 2004, and in line with the Paris Agreement [signed between Iran and the EU3], the Islamic Republic accepted to suspend all activities related to enrichment of uranium on a voluntary basis. In return, the Western countries not only did not ramp up cooperation with Iran, but took every step to deny the country its inalienable nuclear rights the result of which was the adoption of six anti-Iran resolutions by the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which practically obliterated any possibility for mutual cooperation. Finally, Iran decided to first voice its vehement protest to bullying efforts of the West and the incoordination that existed between European countries and the United States, followed by ending the voluntary suspension of its nuclear activities in line with the country’s nuclear rights on January 10, 2006. As a consequence and through an illegal process, Iran's nuclear case was referred by the Board of Governors of the IAEA to the UN Security Council on February 4, 2006. The outcome of that referral was the adoption of six anti-Iran resolutions, including four resolutions which imposed international sanctions against Iran, by the UN Security Council. Of course, none of the above measures was able to influence the resolve of the Iranian officials who were bent on protecting the nuclear rights of the Iranian nation.

The nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers [including the United States, the UK, France, Russia and China plus Germany] started in June 2006. Finally, and following fourteen rounds of negotiations within a period of seven years, the two sides agreed on the recent “Joint Plan of Action” in Geneva.

Analysis of contents of Geneva agreement

A package of proposals offered by Iran's nuclear negotiating team – which was headed by [the country’s Foreign Minister] Mr. [Mohammad Javad] Zarif – on October 15, 2013, did actually appeal to other negotiating parties with Iran. At the end, the same package was adopted as the final document of the negotiations, though after certain modifications.

The agreement has a number of basic characteristics:

1. It clearly specified the main goals behind the negotiations

a. From the viewpoint of Iran, the main goal is to get the other negotiating parties to recognize Iran's nuclear rights and put an end to sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.

b. From the viewpoint of the member states of the P5+1 group, the main goal is to increase supervision and control over Iran's nuclear activities in such a way that they will be able to make totally sure that all the nuclear activities of Iran are of a peaceful nature and there is no possibility for diversion in Iran's nuclear energy program toward production of the nuclear bomb.

2. It clarified the general course of the negotiations:

That course consists of the following three steps:

a. Preliminary agreement,
b. Intermediate agreements, and
c. Final agreement.

The aforesaid three steps have two basic features.

Firstly, all the three steps are interrelated and will be taken in the form of a single package. That is, no part of that package can be singled out for implementation while rejecting other parts as unfavorable. The package has specified that all the three steps should be taken simultaneously and in the above order. Failure to implement any part of the agreement would, therefore, be tantamount to abrogation of the entire agreement. This feature will make it possible for both sides to block the way to any possible misinterpretation and misuse of the agreement.

Secondly, a specified period of six months has been considered for the implementation of the agreement. This is a major point for Iran and has its root in the failed experience of the past in which Iran accepted to voluntarily suspend all kinds of nuclear activities, including uranium enrichment, for a period of over two years. However, Iran's cooperation bore no fruit as a result of the failure of the European countries to abide by their commitments. Now that a period of six months has been considered for the implementation of the agreement, each side will be able to assess the honesty of the other side for the implementation of the agreement with more confidence.

3. The agreement clarifies outcome of negotiations

The outcome of the negotiations has been formulated into a win-win game so that, if all the three aforesaid steps were taken, both sides would be winners because they would have achieved their desired goals. In addition, if they manage to finally turn the interim agreement into a comprehensive contract for cooperation, their achievements will be nothing short of the following:

A) Replacing interaction for confrontation between Iran and West

The agreement will enable both sides to come up with a model for sustainable cooperation with each other, which will in turn, lead to the establishment and strengthening of stability and security in the entire Middle East, especially in the Persian Gulf region. In that case, all the regional countries would feel more secure because the United States will be stripped of its excuses to deploy its military forces to the Persian Gulf.

B) Facilitating economic prosperity on both sides

After the United States and its allies gave up the failed policy of “pressure and negotiations,” which had no practical benefit but to increase distrust and tension between the two sides, and replaced that policy with the Geneva agreement, the way has been practically paved for both sides to pursue a policy of “cooperation and agreement.” As a result and due to gradual wavering of the sanctions policy against Iran, the crisis-ridden Western economy will have gradual access to Iranian market with a potential customer base of 75 million people. This issue will not only reduce tension in international oil market, but also lead to remarkable increase in economic exchanges between Iran and other countries.

C) Establishing a successful legal precedence for other non-aligned countries to take advantage of the nuclear energy

The heroic success of the Iranian nation in achieving its goal for the peaceful use of the nuclear energy and getting the Western states to recognize Iran's right to take advantage of the complete nuclear fuel cycle, including the right to enrich uranium to 5-percent purity level, will set a legal precedence for other non-aligned countries. As a result, those countries will be able to argue in favor of their nuclear rights on the strength of Iran case. In fact, the Iranian people have spearheaded the successful resistance against extortionist policies of the nuclear-power states that are not willing for other countries to take advantage of the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology.


1. All the commitments that Iran has undertaken in line with the “Joint Plan of Action” are directed toward the main goal of assuring the other parties that Iran has no plan to build a nuclear bomb. This issue is not contradictory to Iran's interests because from the very onset of the nuclear case, Iran has frequently announced that it has no plan to build the nuclear bomb.

2. Obligations considered for Iran as per the Geneva agreement can be divided into three categories of “supervision,” “control,” and “restricting further development of the country’s nuclear equipment and facilities” in the next six months. According to the agreement, during this period:

a. Iran will refrain from further developing its peaceful nuclear activities;
b. Will accept “enhanced monitoring” of its nuclear energy program by the IAEA; and
c. Will take such restrictive measures as stopping the production of 20-percent enriched uranium. In line with this obligation, Iran will cut down its 20-percent enriched uranium reserves to five-percent level, or will convert them into fuel plates for use in reactors.

The member states of the P5+1 group, for their part, have accepted the following obligations:

1. Will not impose new sanctions against Iran;
2. Will remove part of the existing sanctions against various economic sectors of Iran;
3. Will give Iran restricted access to its frozen assets in overseas banks;
4. Will allow Iran to export about one million barrels of crude oil per day;
5. Will allow Iran to continue enriching uranium to 5 percent level during the aforesaid six-month period without any concern about four sanctions resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council; and
6. If Iran fulfills all its obligations as per the agreement, the P5+1 group will allow the country to continue uranium enrichment until all the three major steps of the agreement are taken.

I, personally, believe that the concessions given to Iran through this agreement are good enough because the country will be able to continue its peaceful nuclear activities without having to suffer further sanctions or be exposed to the threat of military strike.

*A researcher, documentary producer, and expert on nuclear issues, Hassan Beheshtipour received his BA in Trade Economics from Tehran University. His research topics span from US and Russian foreign policy to the Ukrainian Orange Revolution.

Key Words: Nuclear Agreement, Iran and P5+1 Group, NPT, EU3, Iran's Nuclear Rights, Sanctions, Interaction, Confrontation, Economic Prosperity, Beheshtipour

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*Photo Credit: Fars News Agency

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