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– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011

Pompeo's Vision of “Better” Iran Deal is an Illusion

In his May 21 speech at the Heritage Foundation , the new U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, defended Trump’s decision earlier this month to violate the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, withdraw from the agreement, and pursue a “better deal.” But the Trump administration’s vision of a “better deal” with Iran is like a mirage in the desert—it may look good, but it is not real and there is no path to get there. And by trying to, the United States only risks the deal at hand. What Pompeo failed to articulate is how that “better deal” is possible, given that key U.S. allies and...

The P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, May 16, 2018

The Nuclear Deal Minus the United States? President Donald Trump’s irresponsible decision to violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement with Iran and withdraw from the accord was unanimously denounced by the other parties to the agreement. Washington’s P5+1 partners – the EU, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom, also announced their intention to sustain the agreement and fully implement it without the United States. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also pledged to continue abiding by the terms of the deal if Iran’s interests are met. But he ordered the...

White House Should State Opposition to Saudi Nuclear Weapons Threat



For Immediate Release: May 15, 2018

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Thomas Countryman, board of directors chair, (202) 463-8270 ext 110

We are deeply disappointed by the counterproductive response from the Trump administration to the statements from senior Saudi officials threatening to pursue nuclear weapons in violation of their nonproliferation commitments.

We call on the White House to immediately reiterate the longstanding, bipartisan policy of the United States that it will actively work against the spread of nuclear weapons to any country, friend or foe.

President Donald Trump’s reckless decision to violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which has blocked Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons and put in place a robust monitoring system to detect and deter cheating, has not only opened the door to an expansion of Iran’s capability to produce bomb-grade nuclear material, but it has increased the risk of a wider nuclear arms race in the Middle East, which is already home to one nuclear-armed state.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir told CNN Wednesday, May 9, that his country, which, like Iran, is a party to the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), stands ready to build nuclear weapons if Iran restarts its nuclear program.

Al-Jubeir also praised Trump's decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal and seek to reimpose sanctions on firms and business engaging in legitimate commerce with Iran.

Asked what his country will do if Iran restarts its nuclear program, he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that "we will do whatever it takes to protect our people. We have made it very clear that if Iran acquires a nuclear capability, we will do everything we can to do the same."

Asked to clarify whether that means the kingdom will work to acquire its own nuclear capability, al-Jubeir replied, "That's what we mean."

This follows similar comments by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a March 15 interview with CBS News that Saudi Arabia will quickly follow suit if Iran acquires nuclear weapons.

When asked May 9 whether Saudi Arabia would “have the administration’s support in the event that that occurred,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said:

“Right now, I don’t know that we have a specific policy announcement on that front, but I can tell you that we are very committed to making sure that Iran does not have nuclear weapons,” she stated.

The administration’s nonresponse to Prince Salman’s threat in March and Sanders’ weak response May 9 amounts to an irresponsible invitation for mischief.

They imply that Trump administration would look the other way if Saudi Arabia breaks its NPT commitments to pursue nuclear weapons.

It is bad enough that the Trump administration, by violating the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, has threatened the NPT regime by opening the door for Iran to expand its nuclear capacity.

President Trump and his advisors must not compound that error by swallowing their tongues when another NPT member state in the region threatens to pursue the bomb.

We call on the White House to immediately clarify that it is the longstanding policy of the United States, as an original party to the NPT:

 “…not to in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons …” and “… to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament ….”

We also call on the U.S. Congress to reject any proposed agreement with Saudi Arabia that permits U.S. nuclear cooperation if Saudi Arabia seeks to or acquires sensitive uranium enrichment or plutonium separation technology which can be used to produce nuclear weapons.


It is bad enough that the Trump administration has violated the Iran nuclear deal and threatened the NPT regime by opening the door for expanded Iranian nuclear capacity. The president and his advisors must not now compound that error by swallowing their tongues when another NPT member state in the region threatens to pursue the bomb.

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Trump just opened the door for Iran to expand its nuclear capabilities

This op-ed originally appeared in The Hill . Fulfilling a misguided campaign pledge, President Trump has chosen to violate the 2015 nuclear deal between the United States and its partners — the EU, U.K. France, Germany, Russia, and China — with Iran and reimpose U.S. sanctions that were waived according to the terms of the 2015 accord in exchange for severe limits and very robust international monitoring on Iran’s nuclear activities. Now, the valuable nonproliferation barriers established by the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), are at risk. Contrary to Trump...

Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: Iran

May 2018

Updated: May 2018

Iran is not a nuclear-weapons state and, though it has pursued a program to develop nuclear warheads in the past, has adhered to the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) since adoption in October 2015, as verified by all quarterly IAEA reports. Under the JCPOA, for well over a decade, it will take Iran 12 months to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb. The deal also bars Iran from selling conventional arms for five years from the start of implementation, though branches of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps continue to allegedly smuggle arms to Iranian proxies in Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere. Iran’s active ballistic missile program is one of the largest deployed missile forces in the Middle East, with over 1,000 short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles as well as a space-launch vehicle that could potentially be converted into an ICBM.

Major Multilateral Arms Control Agreements and Treaties




Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty



Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty


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Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM)

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CPPNM 2005 Amendment


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Chemical Weapons Convention



Biological Weapons Convention



International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism

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Export Control Regimes, Nonproliferation Initiatives, and Safeguards



Australia Group

Not a member

Missile Technology Control Regime

Not a member

Nuclear Suppliers Group

Not a member

Wassenaar Arrangement

Not a member

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol

Signed an additional protocol in Dec. 2003 and implemented it voluntarily until February 2006 after the IAEA Board of Governors resolution referring Tehran to the UN Security Council. As part of the July 2015 nuclear deal, Iran will implement its Additional Protocol and seek to ratify it within eight years.

Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism

Not a participant

Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation

Not a participant

Proliferation Security Initiative

Not a participant

UN Security Council Resolutions 1540

Iran has filed the requested reports on its activities to fulfill the resolution.

Nuclear Weapons Programs, Policies, and Practices

The Nuclear Arsenal, an Overview

Iran does not possess nuclear weapons but it conducted activities in the past relevant to developing a nuclear warhead, including uranium enrichment and studies on ballistic missile mating and re-entry. In July 2015, after a decade of intermittent negotiations, Iran along with the “P5+1” (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) concluded the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), frequently referred to as the Iran nuclear deal. The Iran nuclear deal restricts Iran’s nuclear activities and puts in place monitoring and verification measures in addition to Iran’s safeguards. On May 8, 2018, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the JCPOA and reinstate U.S. nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime. For more on the deal see the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action at a Glance.   

Delivery Systems

Ballistic Missiles

  • Iran’s missile program is largely based on North Korean and Russian designs and has benefitted from Chinese technical assistance.
  • With approximately 1,000 short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, the program is one of the largest deployed ballistic missile forces in the Middle East.
  • Iran’s current focus is on enhancing the accuracy of medium-range systems - not increasing range.
  • Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated that Iran would refrain from manufacturing ballistic missiles exceeding a range of 2,000km, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the head of the Revolutionary Guard, told reporters on Oct. 31, 2017. The limitation is not legally binding.
  • UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the JCPOA in 2015, annulled a 2010 resolution that prohibited Iranian tests of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and “calls upon” Iran not to test any ballistic missiles that are “designed to be nuclear capable.” Resolution 2231 also kept in place sanctions preventing Iran from transferring materials and technologies relevant to developing ballistic missiles.
  • Iran has continued ballistic missile testing in the wake of the nuclear deal. In response, the United States has designated additional entities for contributing to Iran’s ballistic missile program.
  • Iran’s short-range and medium-range missiles include:
    • Fateh-110: The Fateh-110 is an operational short-range missile with an estimated range of 200-300km.
    • Shahab-1: The Shahab-1 is an operational, short-range missile with an estimated range of 300km.
    • Qiam-1: The Qiam is an operational short-range missile with an estimated range of 500-1000km.
    • Shahab-2: The Shahab-2 is an operational short-range missile with an estimated range of 500km.
    • Fateh-313: The Fateh-313 is an operational short-range missile with an estimated range of 500km.
    • Zolfaghar: The Zolfaghar is an operational missile with an estimated range of 700km.
    • Shahab-3: The Shahab-3 is an operational missile with an estimated range of 800-1,000km. A liquid-fueled missile based on the North Korean No-Dong, it is Iran’s most sophisticated missile.
    • Emad-1: The Emad-1 is a single-stage medium-range ballistic missile under development with a range of up to 2,000 km. First tested in 2015, Iran claims the Emad-1 is a high-precision missile.
    • Ghadr-1: The Ghadr-1 is a medium-range missile under development with an estimated range of up to 2,000 km. The missile is a modified version of the Shahab-3.
    • Sejjil-2: The Sejiil is an intermediate-range missile under development with an estimated range of 1,500-2,500km. First tested in 2007, the Sejill is a two-stage solid fuel-propelled missile. The Sejjil-2 has not been tested since 2011 and reports indicate Iran has a hard time producing the solid-fueled motors because of sanctions. This technology could help improve the mobility of Iran’s missile force. 

Space-Launched Vehicles (SLV)

  • Safir: The Safir is a two-stage, liquid-fueled space launch vehicle (SLV) that Iran has used to successfully launch four satellites into space between February 2009 and February 2012. Two Safir launches subsequently failed, once in 2013 and again in 2014. In February 2015, Iran successfully launched a satellite for the fifth time. A 2009 report by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) assessed that the Safir “can serve as a test bed for long-range ballistic missile technologies” and could serve as an ICBM if converted to a ballistic missile.
  • Simorgh: The Simorgh is a two-stage SLV that Iran has displayed, but not launched. It is larger than the Safir. The first Simorgh launch was announced for 2010.

Cruise Missiles

  • Iran possesses the following cruise missiles:
    • Kh-55: An air-launched nuclear-capable cruise missile with a range of up to 3,000 km which was illegally procured from the Ukraine in 2001.
    • Khalid Farzh: Iran’s most advanced missile with a range of about 300 km capable of carrying a 1,000 kg warhead.
    • Nasr-1: A domestically produced missile which is claimed to be capable of destroying warships and military targets up to 3,000 tons.

Fissile Material

  • During the latter half of 2002, the IAEA began investigating two secret Iranian nuclear facilities: a heavy-water production plant near Arak and a gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment facility near Natanz.
  • In September of 2009, the discovery of Fordow, a secret nuclear facility under construction near Qom, deepened international suspicions about Iran’s uranium enrichment activities.
  • In 2010, Iran scaled up some of its uranium enrichment from less than 5 percent to 20 percent, the level required for Iran’s research reactor.
  • Under the Iran deal, Iran’s enriched uranium is capped at 3.67 percent.
  • Much of the uranium-enrichment program is based on equipment and designs acquired through former Pakistani nuclear official A.Q. Khan’s secret supply network.
  • Iran relies on its IR-1 centrifuge, a variant of Pakistan’s P-1 centrifuge, known to be crash-prone and unreliable. 
  • Under the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran is permitted a strictly limited amount of R&D on advanced centrifuges.  

The Road to the JCPOA

  • In 2006, the Security Council adopted a number of resolutions calling on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment-related activities and cooperate fully with the IAEA.
  • When Iran refused to comply, the UNSC introduced four rounds of sanctions targeting Iranian entities and individuals believed to be involved in Iran’s proliferation-related activities.
  • In 2009, Russia, France, and the United States negotiated a fuel swap deal with Iran to transfer low-enriched uranium (LEU) out of the country in exchange for fuel for a reactor that produces medical isotopes. The deal fell through when Iran tried to change the terms.
  • In 2012, the P5+1 continued diplomatic efforts and met with Iran on four separate occasions. These talks were suspended for the 2013 Iranian elections though they did lay the groundwork for what would become the JCPOA.
  • After President Rouhani was elected in June of 2013, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met for a bilateral exchange. A day later, President Obama called President Rouhani, marking the highest level contact between the U.S. and Iran since 1979.
  • Negotiations to curb the Iranian nuclear program took place in October and November 2013 and an interim agreement was reached November 24. Implementation of the interim agreement began on January 20, 2014. The interim agreement was extended twice before the comprehensive agreement was finalized. Along the way all parties implemented changes and did not violate the interim agreement. Learn more about the interim agreement here.
  • The final agreement is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and was finalized on July 14, 2015. The implementation schedules and enforcement options are governed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which was adopted on July 20, 2015. Learn more about the JCPOA.   
  • According to U.S. government estimates, under the JCPOA, for well over a decade, it will take Iran 12 months to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb.
  • The IAEA reports quarterly on Iran's adherence to the JCPOA. Two reports in 2016 noted slight excesses in heavy-water. Iran rectified this by selling or shipping abroad part of its stocks. The P5+1 and Iran subsequently clarified the heavy-water limit.
  • On May 8, 2018, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the JCPOA and reinstate U.S. nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime. 

Proliferation Record

  • In 2000, Iran exported rockets and several ballistic missile components to Libya.
  • Iran has been accused of violating a Security Council resolution barring arms transfers to Hezbollah.
  • Since 2007, the Security Council has barred Iran from selling conventional arms and also prohibits any country from importing arms from Iran without prior UN Security Council approval. Under UN Security Council Resolution 2231 the embargo on Iran’s export of conventional arms will remain in place for five years from JCPOA Adoption Day (October 2015). This embargo may be lifted earlier if the IAEA reaches a “Broader Conclusion” that Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful.
  • According to a 2012 report by a designated panel of experts, Iran has been a major supplier of weapons to the Syrian government. The report describes three illegal transfers, two to Syria and one to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
  • Unit 190, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is responsible for smuggling arms to Iranian proxies in Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere.

Biological Weapons

  • Iran has ratified the Biological Weapons Convention but the United States maintains Iran’s biotechnology infrastructure gives it the ability to produce small quantities of biological weapons agents for offensive purposes.
  • According to a 2004 CIA report, Iran has previously conducted offensive biological weapons agent research and development and continues to seek dual-use biotechnology.
  • U.S. officials have accused Iran of “probably” pursuing an offensive biological weapons capability in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention in 2011. Iran denies the allegation.

Chemical Weapons

  • Iran has signed and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention.
  • A 2009 unclassified U.S. intelligence report says that “Iran maintains the capability to produce chemical warfare agents” as well as the ability “of weaponizing [chemical weapons] agents in a variety of delivery systems."
  • Having suffered chemical weapon attacks during the eight year Iran-Iraq war, Iranian officials frequently speak about the dangers of chemical weapons.
  • The United States has sanctioned companies for providing dual-use chemicals to Iran.

Other Arms Control and Nonproliferation Activities

Middle East Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone

  • Iran was one of the first states to formally call for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, joining with Egypt to propose the goal to the UN General Assembly in 1974. Tehran consistently makes statements at disarmament fora expressing its support for the zone concept.  

Conference on Disarmament

  • At the 2012 Conference on Disarmament, Iran said it was not opposed to negotiations of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) but that it should not infringe on any state’s right to use fissile material for peaceful purposes or naval propulsion.

Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

  • Iran played an active role in the negotiations for a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons in March and June-July 2017, calling often for a comprehensive and verifiable treaty.
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The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) at a Glance

May 2018

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director of Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

May 2018

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a detailed, 159-page agreement with five annexes reached by Iran and the P5+1 (China France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) on July 14, 2015. The nuclear deal was endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, adopted on July 20, 2015. Iran’s compliance with the nuclear-related provisions of the JCPOA will be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) according to certain requirements set forth in the agreement. On May 8, 2018, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the JCPOA and reinstate U.S. nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime. 

The following is a summary of the timeline and key components of the multi-year agreement.

Timeline for Implementation

July 14, 2015, Finalization Day: conclusion of the agreement. Finalization day triggers Iran and the United States to begin domestic review processes of the JCPOA. Iran also begins providing the IAEA with information necessary for the agency to complete its investigation into past activities related to nuclear weapons development. 

October 18, 2015, Adoption Day: 90 days after the passage of the UN Security Council Resolution endorsing the deal (July 20, 2015). Adoption day triggers Iran and the P5+1 to take steps (outlined below) to meet the commitments to fully implement the JCPOA. 

 January 16, 2016, Implementation Day: the IAEA certifies that Iran has taken the key steps to restrict its nuclear program and has put in place increased monitoring. The IAEA's report on implementation day triggers U.S., EU, and UN sanctions relief. 

  • October 2023, Transition Day: Eight years after adoption day (or the IAEA reaching its broader conclusion on Iran's nuclear program, whichever is sooner). Adoption day triggers the UN to lift missile restrictions, Iran to seek ratification of its additional protocol, the EU to terminate all remaining nuclear sanctions, United States to remove certain entities from the sanctioned list, and the United States to seek legislative termination of certain sanctions.
  • October 2025, Termination Day: Ten years after adoption day. Termination day terminates Resolution 2231 and the Security Council closes Iran's nuclear file. 



Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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International Support for the Iran Nuclear Deal

International support for the 2015 nuclear deal between the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) and Iran remains strong, despite comments by U.S. President Donald Trump threatening the future of the agreement. The Arms Control Association will be adding international statements in support of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on this page as they are released. May 2018: General Australia Australia is disappointed that the United States has announced its withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (...

Trump's Reckless Violation of the Iran Deal Jeopardizes U.S. National Security

This op-ed originally appeared in TIME , May 9, 2018. By blocking Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons, the 2015 agreement with Iran had helped resolve a long-standing crisis that was destabilizing the Middle East. But on Tuesday, President Donald Trump put this critical accord at risk with his reckless and irresponsible decision to violate the multilateral nuclear deal. By walking away from the agreement, Trump is jeopardizing U.S. national security interests and risks precipitating a nuclear crisis that the international community can ill afford. Trump’s justification for abandoning the deal...

Trump Decision on Iran Deal is Foreign Policy Malpractice



For Immediate Release: May 8, 2018

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 102; Thomas Countryman, Chair of the Board, 301-312-3445.

(Washington, DC)—Experts from the Washington-based Arms Control Association denounced President Donald Trump’s reported decision not to renew U.S. sanctions waivers in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal between the P5+1 countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“President Trump’s decision to violate the Iran nuclear deal, which has successfully blocked Iran’s potential pathways to a nuclear bomb, is an irresponsible act of foreign policy malpractice,” charged Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the independent Arms Control Association.

"Reimposing sanctions absent Iranian violations is a twofold abrogation of U.S. commitments under the JCPOA* and it is critical that members of Congress and Washington’s P5+1 partners denounce Trump’s actions as a breach of the accord. Not only did the United States commit not to reimpose sanctions, Washington also committed not to interfere with the full realization of sanctions relief,” explained Kelsey Davenport, director of nonproliferation policy for the Arms Control Association.

“Trump’s action today does not kill the agreement, but it jeopardizes the future of the deal unless other partners, particularly the E3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), take immediate steps to insulate their companies and banks which are engaged in trade with Iran from U.S. secondary sanctions,” warned Davenport.

"We call on the E3, Russia, China, and other responsible states to pursue implementation of the JCPOA without the United States and implement measures that block the application of U.S. secondary sanctions. We also urge Tehran to continue abiding by the limits of the deal. Resuming troublesome nuclear activities limited by the accord will not serve Iran’s interests and risks provoking a deeper crisis,” Davenport said.

"European-U.S. efforts to negotiate a supplemental agreement intended to address Trump's complaints failed to yield results because Trump stubbornly refused to guarantee that he would uphold U.S. commitments under the JCPOA and demanded that Europe help to unilaterally impose major changes to the original terms of the agreement," Kimball said.

“The Iran nuclear deal is a strong nonproliferation agreement that delivers permanent and robust international monitoring of Iran’s nuclear activities, strictly limits its capacity to enrich uranium and prohibits other sensitive nuclear activities. Through his reckless actions, Trump is precipitating a proliferation crisis rather than working with our allies to develop a long-term diplomatic strategy to build on the agreement in the years ahead,” Kimball charged.

Relevant sections from the JCPOA on sanctions relief:

Paragraph 26 of the JCPOA requires:

“The United States will make best efforts in good faith to sustain this JCPOA and to prevent interference with the realisation of the full benefit by Iran of the sanctions lifting specified in Annex II. The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions specified in Annex II that it has ceased applying under this JCPOA, without prejudice to the dispute resolution process provided for under this JCPOA.”

Paragraph 29 of the JCPOA requires:

“The EU and its Member States and the United States, consistent with their respective laws, will refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran inconsistent with their commitments not to undermine the successful implementation of this JCPOA.”

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Iran's Past Nuclear Experiments Reflect Value of JCPOA

This op-ed originally appeared in The Iran Primer of the United States Institute for Peace. For decades, the international community has grappled with the danger of nuclear weapons proliferation and, in particular, the risk that the Islamic Republic of Iran might seek the capability to design and produce nuclear weapons. For more than a decade following the 2003 revelation that Iran had surreptitiously built a uranium conversion facility and an enrichment plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the world’s major powers have expended enormous effort and political capital to...


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