April 2 marks a significant turning point in the relationship between Iran and the West, as the P5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) and Iran revealed their proposed nuclear agreement, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA), after almost 18 months of negotiations. In the prospective deal, Iran agrees to reduce its enrichment capabilities and reduce its current stockpile of uranium. In exchange, economic sanctions against Iran set by the European Union and the United States would be removed. Although a demonstrative sign of progress, this deal is only a framework for the final version of the JCPOA, which is set to be completed and signed by June 30 at the latest.
A relationship essentially cut off since 1979 and further strained after the 2002 exposure of Iran’s nuclear program, the June 2013 election of Hassan Rouhani to the Iranian presidency renewed optimism for US-Iran relations, especially concerning Iran’s nuclear strategy. To demonstrate the change in attitude, President Rouhani exchanged letters with President Barack Obama and established a new and more pragmatic negotiating team headed by Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 began in October 2013, just four months after President Rouhani’s election, and concluded with the signing of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) in November 2013. The JPOA represented the first formal agreement between Iran and the US since 1979. Between November 2013 and July 2014, Iran and the P5+1 met six times and in February signed the Nuclear Negotiation Framework, the highlight of the JPOA’s implementation period and framework for future negotiations. Despite frequent meetings and seeming moves towards progress, the two sides could not agree on uranium enrichment levels. A four-month extension was established instead. In the extension, though, Iran agreed to convert the remaining 20% enriched oxide material into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor in exchange for $2.8 billion frozen funds to be unblocked — a tangible sign of progress.
The JPOA’s first extension lasted from July to November of 2014. Despite positive attitudes about the negotiations’ future, the P5+1 and Iran were unable to reach an agreement and instead opted for another extension. Iran’s permitted uranium enrichment level was once again the central dispute. Although the last months of 2014 saw limited progress, negotiation efforts increased in 2015 as the deadline loomed. Talks resumed February 18 in Vienna and on February 19, the IAEA released a report affirming that Iran was abiding the provisions from the interim deal and the November 2014 extension. However, after the conclusion of the Vienna talk on February 20, the negotiation’s success seemed in danger with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3rd speech discouraging any Iran deal, and the March 9th release of the “Cotton Letter” signed by Republican Senator Tom Cotton and 46 other Republican senators warning that deals without legislative approval were not permanent and could easily change once a new president is elected. Despite these public oppositions of the potential deal, a new round of discussions picked up in Lausanne, Switzerland on March 17 to finalize an agreement before the March 31st deadline. Despite missing the extension deadline, Iran and the P5+1 revealed a framework for the JPCOA on April 2 and plan to finalize the deal by June 30.
With the framework for a comprehensive deal set in motion, Ntrepid analysts have utilized Timestream’s organizational and analytical features to decipher the multitude of factors that impacted the negotiation’s outcome. Understanding the path of the negotiations and the specific events and roadblocks encountered in the past two years is essential to insightfully analyzing this month’s negotiations and the deal’s finalization in the coming months. The analysis illustrates the course of the negotiations, emphasizing essential time frames and events that affected the framework of the JPCOA.