5 Things to Know About the Iran Talks Extension

1. The P5+1’s patience is not indefinite

The Joint Plan of Action provided for a possible six-month extension should negotiators fail to reach agreement on a comprehensive agreement by July 20, 2014. By agreeing to a four-month rather than a six-month extension, the P5+1 signaled that it is committed to attempting an agreement, but that its patience is finite.  A six-month extension could have been read as a willingness to continue the status quo.

2. Considerable gaps remain

The three main points of disagreement between Iran and the P5+1 concerning a possible final deal remain:  1) The size of Iran’s enrichment capacity 2).  The number of centrifuges (if any) Iran could be permitted to operate and 3). The duration of a final deal (i.e. how long Iran would be obligated to abide by its terms).

3. What is Iran being asked to do during the four-month extension?

Under terms of the four-month extension, Iran agreed to accelerate conversion of all its 20-percent-enriched uranium oxide into metal “fuel plates,” which are technically difficult to reconvert into material that could be enriched to weapons grade; to “dilute” its 3-metric-ton stockpile of 2-percent-enriched uranium – material that is far from weapons grade but that “in a breakout scenario…[is] quite significant;” to produce rotors for advanced centrifuges at Natanz only at a plant under International Atomic Energy Agency inspection; and to produce additional advanced centrifuges only as replacements for damaged machines.

4. What will Iran get in return?

Iran will gain access to $2.8 billion in its oil revenues frozen in the international banking system – out of more than $100 billion it is barred from accessing under U.S. and international sanctions. In the previous six months, Iran was allowed access to $4.2 billion of its frozen assets.

5. AJC’s take

Iran cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons capability.  A diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear threat is by far the preferred solution.  Therefore, in the context of continued, and biting, financial, energy, and other targeted sanctions – and readiness, as a last resort, to take military action to prevent the preeminent state sponsor of terrorism from acquiring nuclear weaponry – AJC believes a limited extension of the negotiations makes sense.

Date: 7/20/2014