A nuclear weapon uses a fissile material to cause a nuclear chain reaction. The most commonly used materials have been uranium 235 (U-235) and plutonium 239 (P-239). Both uranium 233 (U-233) and reactor-grade plutonium have also been used. The amount of uranium or plutonium needed depends on the sophistication of the design, with a simple design requiring approximately 15 kg of uranium or 6 kg of plutonium and a sophisticated design requiring as little as 9 kg of uranium or 2 kg of plutonium. Plutonium is almost nonexistent in nature, and natural uranium is about 99.3% uranium 238 (U-238) and 0.7% U-235. Therefore, to make a weapon, either uranium must be enriched, or plutonium must be produced. Uranium enrichment is also frequently necessary for nuclear power. For this reason, uranium enrichment is a dual-use technology, a technology which "can be used both for civilian and for military purposes". Key strategies to prevent proliferation of nuclear arms include limiting the number of operating uranium enrichment plants and controlling the export of nuclear technology and fissile material.
Iranian development of nuclear technology began in the 1970s, when the U.S. Atoms for Peace program began providing assistance to Iran, which was then led by the Shah. Iran signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1968 as a non-nuclear weapons state and ratified the NPT in 1970.
In 1979, the Iranian Revolution took place, and Iran's nuclear program, which had developed some baseline capacity, fell to disarray as "much of Iran's nuclear talent fled the country in the wake of the Revolution." Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was initially opposed to nuclear technology; and Iran engaged in a costly war with Iraq from 1980 to 1988.
Starting in the later 1980s, Iran restarted its nuclear program, with assistance from Pakistan (which entered into a bilateral agreement with Iran in 1992), China (which did the same in 1990), and Russia (which did the same in 1992 and 1995), and from the A.Q. Khan network. Iran "began pursuing an indigenous nuclear fuel cycle capability by developing a uranium mining infrastructure and experimenting with uranium conversion and enrichment." According to the nonpartisan Nuclear Threat Initiative, "U.S. intelligence agencies have long suspected Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover for clandestine weapons development." Iran, in contrast, "has always insisted that its nuclear work is peaceful."
In August 2002, the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, an Iranian dissident group, publicly revealed the existence of two undeclared nuclear facilities, the Arak heavy-water production facility and the Natanz enrichment facility. In February 2003, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami acknowledged the existence of the facilities and asserted that Iran had undertaken "small-scale enrichment experiments" to produce low-enriched uranium for nuclear power plants. In late February, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors visited Natanz. In May 2003, Iran allowed IAEA inspectors to visit the Kalaye Electric Company, but refused to allow them to take samples, and an IAEA report the following month concluded that Iran had failed to meet its obligations under the previous agreement.
In June 2003, Iran—faced with the prospect of being referred to the UN Security Council—entered into diplomatic negotiations with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (the EU 3). The United States refused to be involved in these negotiations. In October 2003, the Tehran Declaration was reached between Iran and the EU 3; under this declaration Iran agreed to cooperate fully with the IAEA, sign the Additional Protocol, and temporarily suspend all uranium enrichment. In September and October 2003, the IAEA conducted several facility inspections. This was followed by the Paris Agreement in November 2004, in which Iran agreed to temporarily suspend enrichment and conversion activities, "including the manufacture, installation, testing, and operation of centrifuges, and committed to working with the EU-3 to find a mutually beneficial long-term diplomatic solution."
In August 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hard-liner, was elected president of Iran. He accused Iranian negotiators who had negotiated the Paris Accords of treason. Over the next two months, the EU 3 agreement fell apart as talks over the EU 3's proposed Long Term Agreement broke down; the Iranian government "felt that the proposal was heavy on demands, light on incentives, did not incorporate Iran's proposals, and violated the Paris Agreement." Iran notified the IAEA that it would resume uranium conversion at Esfahan.
In February 2006, Iran ended its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol and resumed enrichment at Natanz, prompting the IAEA Board of Governors to refer Iran to the UN Security Council. After the vote, Iran announced it would resume enrichment of uranium. In April 2006, Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had nuclear technology, but stated that it was purely for power generation and not for producing weapons. In June 2006, the EU 3 joined China, Russia, and the United States, to form the P5+1. The following month, July 2006, the UN Security Council passed its first resolution demanding Iran stop uranium enrichment and processing. Altogether, from 2006 to 2010, the UN Security Council subsequently adopted six resolutions concerning Iran's nuclear program: 1696 (July 2006), 1737 (December 2006), 1747 (March 2007), 1803 (March 2008), 1835 (September 2008), and 1929 (June 2010). The legal authority for the IAEA Board of Governors referral and the Security Council resolutions was derived from the IAEA Statute and the United Nations Charter. The resolutions demanded that Iran cease enrichment activities and imposed sanctions on Iran, including bans on the transfer of nuclear and missile technology to the country and freezes on the assets of certain Iranian individuals and entities, in order to pressure the country. However, in Resolution 1803 and elsewhere the Security Council also acknowledged Iran's rights under Article IV of the NPT, which provides for "the inalienable right ... to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful Purposes."
In July 2006, Iran opened the Arak heavy water production plant, which led to one of the Security Council resolutions. In September 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama, revealed the existence of an underground enrichment facility in Fordow, near Qom saying that "Iran's decision to build yet another nuclear facility without notifying the IAEA represents a direct challenge to the basic compact at the center of the non-proliferation regime." Israel threatened to take military action against Iran.
In a February 2007 interview with the Financial Times, IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei said that military action against Iran "would be catastrophic, counterproductive" and called for negotiations between the international community and Iran over the Iranian nuclear program. ElBaradei specifically proposed a "double, simultaneous suspension, a time out" as "a confidence-building measure," under which the international sanctions would be suspended and Iran would suspend enrichment. ElBaradei also said that "if I look at it from a weapons perspective there are much more important issues to me than the suspension of [enrichment]," naming his top priorities as preventing Iran from "go[ing] to industrial capacity until the issues are settled"; building confidence, with "full inspection" involving Iranian adoption of the Additional Protocol; and "at all costs" preventing Iran from "moving out of the [treaty-based non-proliferation] system."
A November 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate assessed that Iran "halted its nuclear weapons program" in 2003; that estimate and subsequent U.S. Intelligence Community statements also assessed that the Iranian government at the time had was "keeping open the 'option' to develop nuclear weapons" in the future. A July 2015 Congressional Research Service report said that "statements from the U.S. intelligence community indicate that Iran has the technological and industrial capacity to produce nuclear weapons at some point, but the U.S. government assesses that Tehran has not mastered all of the necessary technologies for building a nuclear weapon."
In March 2013, the United States began a series of secret bilateral talks with Iranian officials in Oman, led by William Joseph Burns and Jake Sullivan on the American side and Ali Asghar Khaji on the Iranian side. In June 2013, Hassan Rouhani was elected president of Iran. Rouhani has been described as "more moderate, pragmatic and willing to negotiate than Ahmadinejad." However, in a 2006 nuclear negotiation with European powers, Rouhani said that Iran had used the negotiations to dupe the Europeans, saying that during the negotiations, Iran managed to master the conversion of uranium yellowcake at Isfahan. The conversion of yellowcake is an important step in the nuclear fuel process. In August 2013, three days after his inauguration, Rouhani called for a resumption of serious negotiations with the P5+1 on the Iranian nuclear program. In September 2013, Obama and Rouhani had a telephone conversation, the first high-level contact between U.S. and Iranian leaders since 1979, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had a meeting with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, signaling that the two countries had an opening to cooperation.
After several rounds of negotiations, on 24 November 2013, the Joint Plan of Action, an interim agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, was signed between Iran and the P5+1 countries in Geneva, Switzerland. It consisted of a short-term freeze of portions of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for decreased economic sanctions on Iran, as the countries work towards a long-term agreement. The IAEA began "more intrusive and frequent inspections" under this interim agreement. The agreement was formally activated on 20 January 2014. On that day, the IAEA issued a report stating that Iran was adhering to the terms of the interim agreement, including stopping enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, beginning the dilution process (to reduce half of the stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium to 3.5 percent), and halting work on the Arak heavy-water reactor.
A major focus on the negotiations was limitations on Iran's key nuclear facilities: the Arak IR-40 heavy water reactor and production plant (which was under construction, but never became operational, as Iran agreed as part of the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action (interim agreement) not to commission or fuel the reactor); the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant; the Gachin uranium mine; the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant; the Isfahan uranium-conversion plant; the Natanz uranium enrichment plant; and the Parchin military research and development complex.
The agreement between the P5+1+EU and Iran on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is the culmination of 20 months of "arduous" negotiations.
The agreement followed the Joint Plan of Action (JPA), an interim agreement between the P5+1 powers and Iran that was agreed to on 24 November 2013 at Geneva. The Geneva agreement was an interim deal, in which Iran agreed to roll back parts of its nuclear program in exchange for relief from some sanctions. This went into effect on 20 January 2014. The parties agreed to extend their talks with a first extension deadline on 24 November 2014 and a second extension deadline set to 1 July 2015.
An Iran nuclear deal framework was reached on 2 April 2015. Under this framework Iran agreed tentatively to accept restrictions on its nuclear program, all of which would last for at least a decade and some longer, and to submit to an increased intensity of international inspections under a framework deal. These details were to be negotiated by the end of June 2015. The negotiations toward a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action were extended several times until the final agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was finally reached on 14 July 2015. The JCPOA is based on the framework agreement from three months earlier.
Subsequently the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 continued. In April 2014, a framework deal was reached at Lausanne. Intense marathon negotiations then continued, with the last session in Vienna at the Palais Coburg lasting for seventeen days. At several points, negotiations appeared to be at risk of breaking down, but negotiators managed to come to agreement. As the negotiators neared a deal, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry directly asked Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to confirm that he was "authorized to actually make a deal, not just by the [Iranian] president, but by the supreme leader?" Zarif gave assurances that he was.
Ultimately, on 14 July 2015, all parties agreed to a landmark comprehensive nuclear agreement. At the time of the announcement, shortly before 11:00 GMT, the agreement was released to the public.
The final agreement's complexity shows the impact of a public letter written by a bipartisan group of 19 U.S. diplomats, experts, and others in June 2015, written when negotiations were still going on. That letter outlined concerns about the several provisions in the then-unfinished agreement and called for a number of improvements to strengthen the prospective agreement and win their support for it. After the final agreement was reached, one of the signatories, Robert J. Einhorn, a former U.S. Department of State official now at the Brookings Institution, said of the agreement: "Analysts will be pleasantly surprised. The more things are agreed to, the less opportunity there is for implementation difficulties later on."
The final agreement is based upon (and buttresses) "the rules-based nonproliferation regime created by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and including especially the IAEA safeguards system."
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) runs to 109 pages, including five annexes. Major provisions of the final accord include the following:Iran's current stockpile of low-enriched uranium will be reduced by 98 percent, from 10,000 kg to 300 kg. This reduction will be maintained for fifteen years. For the same fifteen-year period, Iran will be limited to enriching uranium to 3.67%, a percentage sufficient for civilian nuclear power and research, but not for building a nuclear weapon. However, the number of centrifuges is sufficient for a nuclear weapon, but not for nuclear power. This is a "major decline" in Iran's previous nuclear activity; prior to watering down its stockpile pursuant to the Joint Plan of Action interim agreement, Iran had enriched uranium to near 20% (medium-enriched uranium). These enriched uranium in excess of 300 kg of up to 3.67% will be down blended to natural uranium level or be sold in return for natural uranium, and the uranium enriched to between 5% and 20% will be fabricated into fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor or sold or diluted to an enrichment level of 3.67%. The implementation of the commercial contracts will be facilitated by P5+1. After fifteen years, all physical limits on enrichment will be removed, including limits on the type and number of centrifuges, Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium, and where Iran may have enrichment facilities. According to Belfer, at this point Iran could "expand its nuclear program to create more practical overt and covert nuclear weapons options."
For ten years, Iran will place over two-thirds of its centrifuges in storage, from its current stockpile of 19,000 centrifuges (of which 10,000 were operational) to no more than 6,104 operational centrifuges, with only 5,060 allowed to enrich uranium, with the enrichment capacity being limited to the Natanz plant. The centrifuges there must be IR-1 centrifuges, the first-generation centrifuge type which is Iran's oldest and least efficient; Iran will give up its advanced IR-2M centrifuges in this period. The non-operating centrifuges will be stored in Natanz and monitored by IAEA, but may be used to replace failed centrifuges. Iran will not build any new uranium-enrichment facilities for fifteen years.
Iran may continue research and development work on enrichment, but that work will take place only at the Natanz facility and include certain limitations for the first eight years. This is intended to keep the country to a breakout time of one year.
Iran, with cooperation from the "Working Group" (the P5+1 and possibly other countries), will modernise and rebuild the Arak heavy water research reactor based on an agreed design to support its peaceful nuclear research and production needs and purposes, but in such a way to minimise the production of plutonium and not to produce weapons-grade plutonium. The power of the redesigned reactor will not exceed 20 MWth. The P5+1 parties will support and facilitate the timely and safe construction of the Arak complex. All spent fuel will be sent out of the country. All excess heavy water which is beyond Iran's needs for the redesigned reactor will be made available for export to the international market based on international prices. In exchange, Iran received 130 tons of uranium in 2015 and in late 2016 was approved to receive 130 tons in 2017. For 15 years, Iran will not engage in, or research on, spent fuel reprocessing. Iran will also not build any additional heavy-water reactors or accumulate heavy water for fifteen years.
Iran's Fordow facility will stop enriching uranium and researching uranium enrichment for at least fifteen years; the facility will be converted into a nuclear physics and technology center. For 15 years, Fordow will maintain no more than 1,044 IR-1 centrifuges in six cascades in one wing of Fordow. "Two of those six cascades will spin without uranium and will be transitioned, including through appropriate infrastructure modification," for stable radioisotope production for medical, agricultural, industrial, and scientific use. "The other four cascades with all associated infrastructure will remain idle." Iran will not be permitted to have any fissile material in Fordow.
Iran will implement an Additional Protocol agreement which will continue in perpetuity for as long as Iran remains a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The signing of the Additional Protocol represents a continuation of the monitoring and verification provisions "long after the comprehensive agreement between the P5+1 and Iran is implemented."
A comprehensive inspections regime will be implemented in order to monitor and confirm that Iran is complying with its obligations and is not diverting any fissile material.The IAEA will have multilayered oversight "over Iran's entire nuclear supply chain, from uranium mills to its procurement of nuclear-related technologies." For declared nuclear sites such as Fordow and Natanz, the IAEA will have "round-the-clock access" to nuclear facilities and will be entitled to maintain continuous monitoring (including via surveillance equipment) at such sites. The agreement authorizes the IAEA to make use of sophisticated monitoring technology, such as fiber-optic seals on equipment that can electronically send information to the IAEA; infrared satellite imagery to detect covert sites, "environmental sensors that can detect minute signs of nuclear particles"; tamper-resistant, radiation-resistant cameras. Other tools include computerized accounting programs to gather information and detect anomalies, and big data sets on Iranian imports, to monitor dual-use items.
The number of IAEA inspectors assigned to Iran will triple, from 50 to 150 inspectors.
If IAEA inspectors have concerns that Iran is developing nuclear capabilities at any non-declared sites, they may request access "to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with" the agreement, informing Iran of the basis for their concerns. The inspectors would only come from countries with which Iran has diplomatic relations. Iran may admit the inspectors to such site or propose alternatives to inspection that might satisfy the IAEA's concerns. If such an agreement cannot be reached, a process running to a maximum of 24 days is triggered. Under this process, Iran and the IAEA have 14 days to resolve disagreements among themselves. If they fail to, the Joint Commission (including all eight parties) would have one week in which to consider the intelligence which initiated the IAEA request. A majority of the Commission (at least five of the eight members) could then inform Iran of the action that it would be required to take within three more days. The majority rule provision "means the United States and its European allies—Britain, France, Germany and the EU—could insist on access or any other steps and that Iran, Russia or China could not veto them." If Iran did not comply with the decision within three days, sanctions would be automatically reimposed under the snapback provision (see below).
As a result of the above, the "breakout time"—the time in which it would be possible for Iran to make enough material for a single nuclear weapon—will increase from two to three months to one year, according to U.S. officials and U.S. intelligence. An August 2015 report published by a group of experts at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs concurs in these estimates, writing that under the JCPOA, "over the next decade would be extended to roughly a year, from the current estimated breakout time of 2 to 3 months." The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation also accepts these estimates. By contrast, Alan J. Kuperman, coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project at the University of Texas at Austin, disputed the one-year assessment, arguing that under the agreement, Iran's breakout time "would be only about three months, not much longer than it is today."
The longer breakout time would be in place for at least ten years; after that point, the breakout time would gradually decrease. By the fifteenth year, U.S. officials state that the breakout time would return to the pre-JCPOA status quo of a few months. The Belfer Center report states: "Some contributors to this report believe that breakout time by year 15 could be comparable to what it is today—a few months—while others believe it could be reduced to a few weeks."
Reuters reported that exemptions were granted to Iran prior to January 16, 2016. The reported purpose of the exemptions was so that sanctions relief and other benefits could start by that date, instead of Iran being in violation. The exemptions included: (a) Iran able to exceed the 300 Kg of 3.5% LEU limit in the agreement; (b) Iran able to exceed the zero Kg of 20% LEU limit in the agreement; (c) Iran to keep operating 19 "hot cells" that exceed the size limit in the agreement; (d) Iran to maintain control of 50 tonnes of heavy water that exceed the 130 tonne limit in the agreement by storing the excess at an Iran-controlled facility in Oman. In December 2016, the IAEA published decisions of the Joint Commission that spell out these clarifications of the JCPOA.
The following provisions regarding sanctions are written into the JCPOA:Following the issuance of a IAEA report verifying implementation by Iran of the nuclear-related measures, the UN sanctions against Iran and some EU sanctions will terminate and some will be suspended. Once sanctions are lifted, Iran will recover approximately $100 billion of its assets (U.S. Treasury Department estimate) frozen in overseas banks.Eight years into the agreement, EU sanctions against a number of Iranian companies, individuals and institutions (such as the Revolutionary Guards) will be lifted.
The United States will "cease" application of its nuclear-related secondary sanctions by presidential action or executive waiver. Secondary sanctions are those that sanction other countries for doing business with Iran. Primary U.S. sanctions, which prohibit U.S. firms from conducting commercial transactions with few exceptions, are not altered by the JCPOA.This step is not tied to any specific date, but is expected to occur "roughly in the first half of 2016."
Sanctions relating to ballistic missile technologies would remain for eight years; similar sanctions on conventional weapon sales to Iran would remain for five years.
However, all U.S. sanctions against Iran related to alleged human rights abuses, missiles, and support for terrorism are not affected by the agreement and will remain in place. U.S. sanctions are viewed as more stringent, since many have extraterritorial effect (i.e., they apply worldwide). EU sanctions, by contrast, apply only in Europe.
No new UN or EU nuclear-related sanctions or restrictive measures will be imposed.
If Iran violates the agreement, any of the P5+1 can invoke a "snap back" provision, under which the sanctions "snap back" into place (i.e., are reimplemented).Specifically, the JCPOA establishes the following dispute resolution process: if a party to the JCPOA has reason to believe that another party is not upholding its commitments under the agreement, then the complaining party may refer its complaint to the Joint Commission, a body created under the JCPOA to monitor implementation. If a complaint made by a non-Iran party is not resolved to the satisfaction of the complaining party within thirty-five days of referral, then that party could treat the unresolved issue as grounds to cease performing its commitments under the JCPOA, notify the United Nations Security Council that it believes the issue constitutes significant non-performance, or both. The Security Council would then have thirty days to adopt a resolution to continue the lifting of sanctions. If such a resolution is not adopted within those thirty days, then the sanctions of all of the pre-JCPOA nuclear-related UN Security Council resolutions would automatically be re-imposed. Iran has stated that in such a case, it would cease performing its nuclear obligations under the deal. The effect of this rule is that any permanent member of the Security Council (United States, United Kingdom, China, Russia and France) can veto any ongoing sanctions relief, but no member can veto the re-imposition of sanctions.
Snapback sanctions "would not apply with retroactive effect to contracts signed between any party and Iran or Iranian individuals and entities prior to the date of application, provided that the activities contemplated under and execution of such contracts are consistent with this JCPOA and the previous and current UN Security Council resolutions."
Ankit Panda of The Diplomat states that this will make impossible any scenario where Iran is non-compliant with the JCPOA yet escapes re-imposition of sanctions. Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (which opposes the agreement) argues, however, that because the JCPOA provides that Iran could treat reinstatement of sanctions (in part or entirely) as grounds for leaving the agreement, the United States would be reluctant to impose a "snapback" for smaller violations: "The only thing you'll take to the Security Council are massive Iranian violations, because you're certainly not going to risk the Iranians walking away from the deal and engaging in nuclear escalation over smaller violations."
According to several commentators, JCPOA is the first of its kind in the annals of non-proliferation and is in many aspects unique.
The 159-page JCPOA document and its five appendices, is the most spacious text of a multinational treaty since World War II. Throughout the history of international law, this is the first and only time that a country subject to Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter – Iran – has managed to end its case and stop being subject to this chapter through diplomacy. All other cases have ended through either regime change, war or full implementation of the Security Council's decisions by the country.
This is the first time that the United Nations Security Council has recognized the nuclear enrichment program of a developing country –Iran– and backs an agreement (JCPOA) signed by several countries within the framework of a resolution (United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231). For the first time in the history of the United Nations, a country –Iran– was able to abolish 6 UN resolutions against it –1696, 1737, 1747, 1803, 1835, 1929– without even one day of implementating them. Sanctions against Iran was also lifted for the first time.
In the 47-year history of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), no country other than Iran has ever voluntarily agreed to put extraordinary restrictions on its nuclear activities.
During the final negotiations, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stayed in Vienna for 17 days, making him the top American official devoting time to a single international negotiation in more than four decades. Mohammad Javad Zarif broke the record of an Iranian Foreign Minister being far from home with 18-days stay in Vienna, and set the record of 106 days of negotiations in 687 days, a number higher than any other chief nuclear negotiator in 12 years. The negotiations became the longest continuous negotiations with the presence of all foreign ministers of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
The negotiations included 'rare events' in Iran–United States relations not only since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, but also in the history of the bilateral relations. The U.S. Secretary of State and Iranian Foreign Minister met on 18 different dates –sometimes multiple occasions a day– and in 11 different cities, unprecedented since the beginning of the relations. On 27 April 2015, John Kerry visited the official residence of the Permanent Representative of Iran to the United Nations –which counts as Iranian soil– to meet his counterpart. The encounter was the first of its kind since the Iran hostage crisis. On the sidelines of the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly, U.S. President Barack Obama shook hands with the Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, marking the first such event in history. The event was also noted in form of diplomatic ranks, as a head of state shook hands with a minister. Obama is reported to have said in the meeting: "Too much effort has been put into the JCPOA and we all should be diligent to implement it".
There was a significant worldwide response following the announcement of the agreement; more than 90 countries endorsed the agreement, as did many international organizations. China
Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that "the most important achievement of the comprehensive agreement is that the international nuclear non-proliferation system is safeguarded. It can be said that China had played a unique and constructive role and thus is highly praised and affirmed by all parties. In the next step, there are still many matters to be attended to concerning the implementation of the agreement. China will continuously make new contribution [sic] to this end with a responsible attitude."
High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, who acted as coordinator for the powers, said it could "open the way to a new chapter in international relations and show that diplomacy, coordination, cooperation can overcome decades of tensions and confrontations" and that it is "a sign of hope for the entire world."
Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, congratulated the negotiating parties and said: "If fully implemented, the agreement could be a turning point in relations between Iran and the international community, paving the way to new avenues of cooperation between the EU and Iran. Geopolitically, it has the potential to be a game changer."
In a Bastille Day speech, President Francois Hollande praised the deal and called upon Iran to "show that it is ready to help us end" the Syrian civil war. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Le Monde that the pact was a "robust agreement" that would last at least a decade. Both Hollande and Fabius pledged that France would be "extremely vigilant" in the implementation of the agreement.
Fabius visited Iran on 29 July, telling reporters in Tehran that "this deal allows the relations between our countries to develop and allows us to renew cooperation." His visit was controversial in Iran and met with public anger for several reasons.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the agreement was "an important success" of international diplomacy.
Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that the agreement was a "historic breakthrough." In mid-July 2015, Gabriel, along with a delegation of German industry and science representatives, completed a three-day visit to Iran focused on bolstering German-Iranian trade. Gabriel said there was "great interest on the part of German industry in normalizing and strengthening economic relations with Iran."
President Hassan Rouhani said the final agreement proved that "constructive engagement works" and presented the deal as a step on the road towards a wider goal of international cooperation: "With this unnecessary crisis resolved, new horizons emerge with a focus on shared challenges."
Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif called it an "historic moment" and said: "Today could have been the end of hope on this issue, but now we are starting a new chapter of hope. Let's build on that."
In a 21 July speech to the Iranian Parliament, Zarif said that the agreement was a defeat for Israel, saying that "Never before was the Zionist regime so isolated, even among her own allies." On 12 August, after a meeting with Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Zarif said that the agreement "created a historic opportunity to [sic] for regional cooperation to fight extremism and face threats posed by the Zionist entity."
Many Iranian families and youth celebrated at Vanak Square and elsewhere on the streets of Tehran on the evening of the agreement's announcements. Some held signs calling for the release of Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi from house arrest. Other ordinary Iranians cheered the announcement on social media.
On 16 July 2015, two days after the agreement was signed, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made his first public comments on the final agreement in a letter to President Hassan Rouhani posted on Khamenei's website. Khamenei wrote that "bringing the negotiations to a conclusion was a milestone" but that "the prepared text, however, needs careful scrutiny." Iranian hard-liners took the letter as a signal of openness to criticize the deal. In a speech in Tehran marking the end of Ramadan made two days later, Khamenei said, "Our policies toward the arrogant government of the United States will not be changed at all," adding that "the Americans say they stopped Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon ... They know it's not true. We had a fatwa, declaring nuclear weapons to be religiously forbidden under Islamic law. It had nothing to do with the nuclear talks". However, Khamenei also praised the negotiators who arranged the deal, which was taken as a symbol that he would not seek to block the deal in the Iranian parliament or the Supreme National Security Council. Khamenei also expressed support for the agreement, saying: "After 12 years of struggling with the Islamic republic, the result is that they [the P5+1 nations] have to bear the turning of thousands of centrifuges in the country." Khamenei is believed to have approved the negotiations and the agreement, giving Rouhani crucial political cover to do so.
The New York Times reported that "Iran's influential hard-liners, who have criticized Mr. Rouhani in much the same way that President Obama has been denounced by Republicans in the United States, signaled their intent to undercut the agreement," which they believe to be too favorable to the West. Foad Izadi, a professor at the University of Tehran, complained that of the 19 Iranian "major red lines" identified by the supreme leader during negotiations, "18 and a half have been crossed." Conservative lawmaker Alireza Zakani said "celebrating too early can send a bad signal to the enemy."
Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency stressed that under the agreement "world powers have recognized Iran's peaceful nuclear program and are to respect the nuclear rights of (Iran) within international conventions." The IRNA report also said that "The policy on preventing enrichment uranium is now failed" and stressed that "no Iranian nuclear facilities or centrifuges will be dismantled."
President Vladimir Putin said in a statement: "We are certain that the world heaved a sigh of relief today."
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated the accord "will favorably affect the general situation in the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf."
Prime Minister David Cameron applauded the agreement, saying that it would help "make our world a safer place" and that Iran now had a "real opportunity" to benefit economically.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond criticized the Israeli government's position on the JCPOA, saying in the House of Commons that "no agreement with Iran would have been enough for Netanyahu" and that "Israel prefers a permanent state of standoff" with Iran. At a joint press conference the next day in Jerusalem, Hammond and Netanyahu "sparred publicly" over the agreement, "veering off prepared comments ... in an awkward back-and-forth that extended what is usually a standard, brief public appearance with visiting officials into a spirited debate."
President Barack Obama addressed the nation in a 7 a.m. televised address from the White House, with Vice President Joe Biden at his side. Obama stated that the agreement "meets every single one of the bottom lines we established when we achieved a framework earlier this spring. Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off. And the inspection and transparency regime necessary to verify that objective will be put in place." The president emphasized that the agreement is "not built on trust—it is built on verification." Obama vowed to veto any congressional action that would block the agreement's implementation, saying: "I am confident that this deal will meet the national security needs of the United States and our allies, so I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal. We do not have to accept an inevitable spiral into conflict, and we certainly shouldn't seek it." Obama stated: "I welcome scrutiny of the details of this agreement" and added that "This is not the time for politics or posturing. Tough talk from Washington does not solve problems. Hard-nosed diplomacy, leadership that has united the world's major powers, offers a more effective way to verify that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon."
At a press briefing in Vienna, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the agreement was "a measureable step away from the prospect of nuclear proliferation" and "the specter of conflict" and that "there can be no question that this agreement will provide a stronger, more comprehensive, and more lasting means of limiting Iran's nuclear program than any realistic alternative." Kerry also stated that "The deal we have reached ... gives us the greatest assurance that we have had that Iran will not pursue a weapon covertly." Addressing critics of the agreement, Kerry stated that "those who spend a lot of time suggesting that something could be better have an obligation to provide an alternative that, in fact, works" and that "sanctioning Iran until it capitulates makes for a powerful talking point and a pretty good political speech, but it's not achievable outside a world of fantasy." Kerry also stated that "we are under no illusions that the hard work is over. No one is standing here today to say that the path ahead is easy or automatic. We move now to a new phase – a phase that is equally critical and may prove to be just as difficult – and that is implementation."
Republicans lined up against the deal. The candidates for the Republican nomination for president in 2016 uniformly condemned the deal; for example, Jeb Bush called the agreement "dangerous, deeply flawed, and short sighted" while Lindsey Graham asserted that the deal was a "death sentence for the state of Israel." Former Obama advisor Daniel Pfeiffer tweeted that "none of these GOP contenders would end this Iran Deal if they got to the White House," and that it would "massively damage US in the world."
Candidates for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016 welcomed the deal. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the agreement an "important step that puts the lid on Iran's nuclear programs"; Senator Bernie Sanders called it "a victory for diplomacy over saber-rattling" that "could keep the United States from being drawn into another never-ending war in the Middle East."
Speaker of the House John Boehner, a Republican, called the JCPOA a "bad deal."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said "I've closely examined this document. And it will have my strong support." Pelosi said that the agreement was "the product of years of tough, bold, clear-eyed leadership on the part of President Obama" and called it "a strong, effective option, for keeping the peace and stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, opposed the agreement, saying "The comprehensive nuclear agreement announced today appears to further the flawed elements of April's interim agreement because the Obama Administration approached these talks from a flawed perspective: reaching the best deal acceptable to Iran, rather than actually advancing our national goal of ending Iran's nuclear program."
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, issued a brief statement on 14 July saying that the agreement was the result of years of hard work and that "now it is incumbent on Congress to review this agreement with the thoughtful, level-headed process an agreement of this magnitude deserves." On 23 August, Reid endorsed the agreement, saying that the agreement "is the best path to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon" and that he would "do everything in my power to ensure that it stands."
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, a Republican, pledged to hold hearings on the deal during the sixty-day congressional review period and said that he is "totally opposed to" the agreement. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker, another Republican, also opposed the deal, saying that he believed that the West had conceded too much.
The New York Times editorial board wrote that the agreement "is potentially one of the most consequential accords in recent diplomatic history, with the ability not just to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon but also to reshape Middle East politics." They wrote: "It would be irresponsible to squander this chance to rein in Iran's nuclear program."
The Vatican applauded the deal, saying in a statement: "The agreement on the Iranian nuclear program is viewed in a positive light by the Holy See."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran, because Iran continues to seek our destruction, we will always defend ourselves." Netanyahu called the deal a "capitulation" and "a bad mistake of historic proportions." Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called the deal an "historic surrender" and said that Israel would "act with all means to try and stop the agreement being ratified"—indicating that it would try to use its influence to block the agreement in the U.S. Congress, Naftali Bennett, leader of the Bayit Yehudi party (which is a member of the government coalition), said: "The history books have been rewritten again today, and this period will be deemed particularly grave and dangerous."
Most of Israel's other political figures were similarly critical of the agreement. Netanyahu's main political opponent, Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog opposed the deal, stating that it "will unleash a lion from the cage" and make Iran "a nuclear-threshold state in a decade or so"; another Zionist Union member of the Knesset, Shelly Yachimovich, called the JCPOA a "dangerous, damaging agreement" Yair Lapid, head of the opposition Yesh Atid party, called the agreement "Israel's biggest foreign policy failure since the establishment of the state." At the same time, many of these figures also criticized Netanyahu's diplomatic campaign against the plan, calling it ineffectual and counter-productive. Yachimovich said that Netanyahu should "immediately cease and desist from confronting the Americans." Lapid called on the prime minister to resign, stating: "I also am not thrilled by Obama's polices. But Netanyahu crossed a line that caused the White House to stop listening to Israel. In the last year we weren't even in the arena, we had no representative in Vienna, our intelligence cooperation was harmed, and the door to the White House was closed to us."
The head of the opposition Yisrael Beiteinu party, Avigdor Lieberman, described the agreement as a "surrender to terror."
Zehava Gal-On, head of the opposition Meretz party, voiced cautious support for the JCPOA, writing, "The agreement is not perfect, it does not turn Iran into lovers of Israel all of the sudden, but it does aim to prevent Iran from obtaining a bomb, regulate the international mechanisms to monitoring it and allows the international community to act if the agreement is violated."
The Joint (Arab) List party of Arab Israeli MKs welcomed the agreement.
Ami Ayalon, former head of the Israeli internal security service Shin Bet and former commander of the Israeli Navy, said that the agreement was "the best option" for Israel, saying that "When negotiations began, Iran was two months away from acquiring enough material for a [nuclear] bomb. Now it will be 12 months." Ayalon said that opposition to the deal in Israel was "more emotional than logical." Efraim Halevy, the director of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad from 1998 to 2002, wrote in support of the agreement in Yedioth Ahronoth, arguing that the JCPOA includes "components that are crucial for Israel's security" and warning that a collapse of the agreement will leave Iran "free to do as it pleases." Chuck Freilich, a former deputy national security adviser in Israel and current senior fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times arguing that the JCPOA is "a good deal for Israel" and that by avoiding the threat of a nuclear Iran, the agreement "will enable Israel to divert precious resources to more immediate threats" and to pressing domestic needs.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said: "The agreement sows new hope for a regional peace project. Italy will actively support this process, and will ensure that it can benefit all countries of the region, without exception, with the aim of reaching a Middle East finally stable, where all peoples can live in peace and security".
Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev welcomed the progress in the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan on the regulation of the situation around Iran's nuclear programme.
President Nazarbayev said, "...in 2013 Almaty hosted two rounds of talks on Iran's nuclear program, which contributed to the resumption of negotiations between "P5+1" and Iran. We are proud that the results of those two rounds of talks in Almaty have served as foundation for JCPOA adopted two years later."
Arab states of the Persian Gulf
Kuwait: Sabah bin Ahmad Al-Sabah, the emir of Kuwait, congratulated all the nations involved in the negotiations and hoped the deal would lead to stability in the region.
Oman: Oman welcomed the agreement. Oman and its leader, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, were praised for its key role in the talks by diplomats and leaders from both Iran and the P5+1. Oman has good relations with both Iran and the United States and played a key role in the beginning of the talks; Oman offered to establish a back channel between Iran and the United States in 2009, and the first secret talks were held between U.S. and Iranian diplomats in July 2012 in Muscat.
Qatar: The government welcomed the agreement as a "significant step" toward enhancing regional peace and stability.
Saudi Arabia: On 14 July, the official Saudi Press Agency released a statement attributed to an "official source" saying that "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always believed in the importance of reaching a deal regarding Iran's nuclear program that ensures preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and at the same time includes a specific, strict and permanent mechanism for inspecting all sites—including military ones—along with a mechanism for rapidly and effectively re-imposing sanctions in case Iran violates the deal." U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter said that Saudi Arabia approved of the international agreement, despite the fact that "the Saudis, along with other Sunni Arab countries in the Persian Gulf, view the predominantly Shiite Iran as a regional adversary." The Saudis have undertaken a military campaign in Yemen against Iranian-backed Houthi insurgents there.
Elsewhere in the Muslim world
Afghanistan: Afghan president Mohammad Ashraf Ghani congratulated "the government and people of Islamic Republic of Iran on the occasion and reiterates that the government of Afghanistan welcomes any efforts that result in expansion of political and economic relations between states as well as consolidation and strengthening of peace and stability in the region."
Egypt: The Egyptian foreign ministry said the deal will prevent an arms race in the Middle East. The statement expressed hopes that the Middle East can be free of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.
Iraq: The Iraqi government applauded the agreement.
Pakistan: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs "welcomed" the agreement, saying that "reciprocal confidence-building measures ... auger well for peace and security in our region." Former President Asif Ali Zardari welcomed the deal as "a triumph of diplomacy and negotiations over coercion and hostility" and called upon the government to push forward with plans for construction of an Iran–Pakistan gas pipeline.
Syria: President Bashar al-Assad, an Iranian ally, called the agreement as "a great victory" and wrote in a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian supreme leader, that the agreement would be a "major turning point in the history of Iran, the region and the world."
Turkey: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the agreement in a statement saying that its implementation would contribute to regional peace, security and stability. Observers noted that although Turkey would benefit economically from the lifting of sanctions in the future, Turkish officials seemed to be "uneasy" of the potential for Iran to reemerge as a regional power that might overshadow Turkey.
Australia: Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop endorsed the agreement, saying: "What it has done is [bring] Iran into the international regime of inspections of nuclear programs, and that is a good thing. I think we have to give this comprehensive plan a chance."
Canada: Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson stated at the time of the announcement: "We appreciate the efforts of the P5+1 to reach an agreement. At the same time, we will continue to judge Iran by its actions not its words. To this end, Canada will continue to support the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor Iran's compliance with its commitments." The Globe and Mail reported at the time that Canada would keep its sanctions in place, at least initially, although Canada's own sanctions will have little impact on the Iranian economy. While the Canadian government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper was opposed to the agreement, the new Canadian government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau supported it, and in February 2016, following the implementation of the agreement, Canada lifted most of its sanctions on Iran.
Colombia: President Juan Manuel Santos applauded the agreement as "another triumph of diplomacy over confrontation" and praised President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry for their "courage" in securing the deal.
India: The Indian embassy in Tehran stated, "India welcomes the announcement of lifting of nuclear-related sanctions against Iran. The milestone represents a significant success for patient diplomacy and signals a new chapter of peace and prosperity. India looks forward to further developing its longstanding, close, and mutually beneficial economic cooperation with Iran, including in the spheres of energy and regional connectivity."
North Korea: The Foreign Ministry said that North Korea had no interest in a nuclear disarmament agreement, saying: "We do not have any interest at all on dialogue for unilaterally freezing or giving up our nukes."
Norway: In a statement, Foreign Minister Børge Brende said: "This historic agreement will benefit the international community, the Middle East and Iran. It will also pave the way for closer political and economic contact with Iran."
Philippines: The Department of Foreign Affairs welcomed the agreement, saying that it was an important measure to promote both regional and global security. They also called on the international community to maintain the positive momentum for long-term peace created by the agreement.
Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon issued a statement saying: "I warmly welcome the historic agreement in Vienna today and congratulate the P5+1 and Iran for reaching this agreement. This is testament to the value of dialogue. ... The United Nations stands ready to fully cooperate with the parties in the process of implementing this historic and important agreement."
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – Director General Yukiya Amano welcomed the agreement and congratulated Iran, the P5+1 countries and the European Union and said he is confident that IAEA is capable of doing the necessary monitoring and verification activities when requested.
Other international organizations and figures
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called the agreement a "historic breakthrough" and stated: "It is critical for Iran to implement the provisions of today's agreement and to fulfill all its international obligations and advance security in the region and beyond."
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said he hoped the JCPOA would bring "stability and security" to the Middle East.
Gulf Cooperation Council - The Gulf Cooperation Council publicly announced backing for the agreement at an 2 August 2015 summit in Doha, Qatar. Khalid al-Attiyah, the foreign minister of Qatar (which currently chairs the GCC) said at a news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Kerry following the summit that "This was the best option amongst other options in order to try to come up with a solution for the nuclear weapons of Iran though dialogue, and this came up as a result of the efforts exerted by the United States of America and its allies. [Secretary Kerry] let us know that there's going to be a kind of live oversight for Iran not to gain or to get any nuclear weapons. This is reassuring to the region."
Association of Southeast Asian Nations - On 6 August 2015, following the 5th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting, the foreign ministers of the 10 ASEAN nations, along with the foreign ministers of India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, endorsed the deal, welcoming it as an "important resolution" to a pressing global concern. Shortly before the joint ASEAN statement was released, U.S. Secretary of State Kerry met Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Kuala Lumpur to mark the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
Mohamed ElBaradei, former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, hailed the agreement as a triumph of diplomacy.
The International Crisis Group called the deal "a triumph of nuclear diplomacy" and urged both the United States Congress and Iranian Majlis to approve it.
Following the unveiling of the agreement, "a general consensus quickly emerged" among nuclear experts and watchdogs that the agreement "is as close to a best-case situation as reality would allow." In August 2015, 75 arms control and nuclear nonproliferation experts signed a statement endorsing the deal as "a net-plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts" that exceeds the historical standards for arms control agreements. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists invited top international security experts to comment on the final agreement.Arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, reviewed the final agreement and gave it a positive assessment, saying that he would give it an "A" grade. While Lewis was skeptical about the chances of a workable deal emerging in 2014, during the negotiations, Lewis said that the final agreement was "a good deal because it slows down [the Iranian] nuclear program ... And it puts monitoring and verification measures in place that mean if they try to build a bomb, we're very likely to find out, and to do so with enough time that we have options to do something about it. There's a verifiable gap between their bomb option and an actual bomb. That's why it's a good deal." Lewis said that the final agreement was very similar to the April 2015 framework agreement. Lewis does not believe that the agreement will fundamentally alter the U.S.-Iranian relationship, seeing the agreement instead as "a really straightforward measure to slow down an enrichment program that was going gangbusters."
Lawrence Korb and Katherine Blakeley, senior fellow and policy analyst, respectively, at the Center for American Progress, wrote that the agreement was "one of the most comprehensive and detailed nuclear arms agreements ever reached." Korb and Blakeley wrote that "a good look at the three main legs of the agreement shows that this deal is, in fact, a good one, for the United States and for the international community." Korb and Blakey said that the agreement "precludes Iranian development of a nuclear weapon by shutting down all of the pathways Iran might use to accumulate enough nuclear material to make a weapon" and praised components of the agreement which keep Iran subject to the constraints of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, provides for robust IAEA monitoring and verification, and links the phased lifting of nuclear-related sanctions to IAEA verification of Iranian compliance.
Frank von Hippel, senior research physicist and professor of public and international affairs emeritus at the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University, wrote that "The July 14 agreement is a political miracle" in which "Iran has agreed to back away from the nuclear-weapon threshold in exchange for a lifting of nuclear-related sanctions." Von Hippel wrote that "The Obama administration argues—and I agree—that the ratcheting back of Iran's enrichment capacity will give the world a much longer warning time should Iran attempt to build a bomb." Von Hippel suggested that once the first ten years of the agreement were complete, "One option that should be explored is multinational ownership and management of Iran's enrichment complex by a group of countries—perhaps including the United States."
Frederick H. Fleitz, former CIA nonproliferation analyst and currently of the Center for Security Policy, wrote that "The provisions of this agreement . . . contains minor concessions by Iran but huge concessions by the United States that will Iran to continue its nuclear program with weak verification provisions. Conditions for sanctions relief will be very easy for Iran to meet. Iran will not only continue to enrich uranium under the agreement, it will continue to develop advanced centrifuges that will reduce the timeline to an Iranian nuclear bomb."
William H. Tobey, senior fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, was critical of the agreement, writing that given Iranian hostility to the United States and Israel, the agreement provides little "more than a speed bump on the path to Iran's nuclear ambition." Tobey wrote that that "speed bump" is not "a good trade for at least $150 billion in sanctions relief."
Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said that although the JCPOA is "not perfect," it "will be a net plus for nonproliferation and will enhance U.S. and regional security." Reif wrote that it was "clear that Tehran had to retreat from many of its initial demands, including in the areas of the scale of uranium enrichment it needed, the intrusiveness of inspections it would tolerate, and the pace of sanctions relief it would demand." Reif also wrote that the JCPOA "will keep Iran further away from the ability to make nuclear weapons for far longer than the alternative of additional sanctions or a military strike possibly could," and as a result, the threat of regional proliferation throughout the Middle East was diminished. Reif added: "A perfect deal was not attainable. Overall, it's a very strong and good deal, but it wasn't negotiations that resulted in a score of 100-0 for the [United States]. That's not how international negotiations go. ... The monitoring and verification regime in this deal is the most comprehensive and intrusive regime that has ever been negotiated."
Siegfried S. Hecker of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University wrote that "the Iran nuclear deal was hard-won and is better than any other reasonably achievable alternative." Hecker wrote that "Iran agreed to considerably greater restrictions on its program than what I thought was possible." Hecker's view is that it is "imperative that the international community develops a credible and decisive response in the event of an Iranian violation of the agreement." He noted that "this agreement was one of the most technically informed diplomatic negotiations I have seen," with both sides advised by "world-class nuclear scientists": U.S. Secretary of State Kerry by U.S. Secretary of Energy Moniz, and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif by Atomic Energy Organization of Iran chief Ali-Akbar Salehi.
Zia Mian of the Program on Science & Global Security at Princeton University wrote that the JCPOA offers three "important lessons for those wanting to make progress towards nuclear disarmament and a more peaceful world." The first lesson was that "nuclear diplomacy can work. But it requires hard political work of many kinds"; Mian praised both the "creative technical and policy analysis work from within and outside governments to create options for negotiators to find common ground" as well as "the patient grassroots work to engage and mobilize public constituencies that brought to power leaders in the United States and in Iran willing to engage with each other and to take risks for a more peaceful relationship between their countries." The second lesson was that "International nuclear politics is bound to domestic politics, for good and ill. The Iran agreement has come despite determined hostility from conservatives within the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, and Iran. Seeing the world as a hierarchy shaped by power and fear, and locked in rigid, exclusivist national or religious identities, they press for advantage and privilege or to maintain the status quo. Sharing a propensity for mistrust, coercion, and violence, they would risk war with those they see as enemies rather than try dialogue and possible agreement on a peaceful future based on the ideals of equity and respect for others. These opponents will derail the Iran deal if they can." The third lesson is that "nuclear disarmament issues do not exist in isolation"; Mian called for more foreign minister-level talks in the Middle East, rather than expanded U.S. military assistance in the region.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist and former professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was a key member of the U.S. negotiating team, stated that the JCPOA helps put Iran further from a nuclear weapon not only in the first fifteen years, with "lots of very, very explicit constraints on the program that roll back current activities," but also beyond that period, because the agreement commits Iran to join the Additional Protocol. Former IAEA Deputy Director Olli Heinonen and former Iraq weapons inspector David Albright expressed concerns with the length of a review process for inspecting undeclared facilities, stating that a delay up to a maximum of 24 days was too long. Heinonen said that "it is clear that a facility of sizable scale cannot simply be erased in three weeks' time without leaving traces," but said there was a risk that the Iranians could hide small-scale work, such as creating uranium components of a nuclear weapon, particularly because they have experience with cheating. Albright said that activities on "a small scale," such as experiments with high explosives or a small plant to make centrifuges operation could possibly be cleared out in 24 days. Former U.S. State Department official Robert J. Einhorn, who took part in P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran from 2009 to 2013, said that "a limit shorter than 24 days would have been desirable," but "it is probably the case that the greater the significance of a covert activity, the more difficult it will be to remove evidence of it in 24 days." U.S. Energy Department officials said that if the Iranians attempted to conduct centrifuge test, uranium conversion, or other activities, contamination would be generated that is very difficult to conceal.
At a September 2015 panel discussion at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with Albert Carnesale (a former SALT I negotiator), Dalia Dassa Kaye (of the RAND Corporation), and Aslı Bâli and Steven Spiegel of UCLA, the panelists came a general consensus that the JCPOA "should be given a chance to work" and "despite its flaws, the agreement was worth pursuing and that the alternative would have been no agreement at all."
Henner Fürtig, a senior member of German Institute of Global and Area Studies and a professor at the University of Hamburg wrote that the accord contains multiple victories for all sides. It is a "triumph of international diplomacy" and "rarely reached consensus" for the United Nations and the UNSC, but "it is no panacea" resolving other conflicts in the Middle East.
The American TV series Madam Secretary built a whole season around the negotiations. Five years before the deal, in 24's season 8, the negotiations between the United States leaders and "President Hassan" of Islamic republic of Kamistan to abandon his nuclear technology programme was shown, which drew comparison to the US-Iran dispute. However the deal was contrarily to Homeland's season 3 plot that "fueled nuclear paranoia" against Iran.
After the deal, a joke began circulating in Iran that the name of city of Arak would change to "Barack" in honor of Obama, and that in return, the United States would change the name of Manhattan borough to "Mash Hassan" (Persian: مش حسن) which is a very casual way of referring to Rouhani.
Javad Zarif's efforts in the negotiations drew comparisons to mythological Arash the Archer, and two former Prime Ministers: Mohammad Mosaddegh, who leaded withdrawal of foreigners and nationalization of the Iran oil industry and was overthrown by American–British coup d'état, because both fought foreigners for Iran's rights; and Amir Kabir, because both faced domestic hostility through their way to gain more interest for the nation.
Public polling on the issue has yielded varied and sometimes contradictory results, depending on the question wording, whether the poll explains the provisions of the agreement, and whether an "undecided" option is offered. Polls have consistently shown polarization by party affiliation, with majorities of self-identified Democrats supporting the agreement and majorities of self-identified Republicans opposing it.According to a Zogby Research Services poll for the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, conducted 20–31 May 2015, 64% of Iranian Americans support the Iran deal, and 8 in 10 say it will improve Iran's relations with the West.
A poll of American Jewish adults conducted by GBA Strategies for J Street (which supports the agreement) from 21–23 July found that 60 percent of American Jews support the agreement. The poll found that: "There is broad support for the agreement, regardless of age, gender, region, Jewish organizational engagement, and awareness about the agreement." The poll found that support was strong across every denomination except for Orthodox Jews, with 67% of Reform Jews in support, 63% of Jews of no particular denomination in support, and 55% of Conservative Jews in support.
According to a Quinnipiac poll taken 30 July – 4 August, 43% of New York City voters oppose the agreement, while 36% support it; 42% said that the agreement would make the world less safe, while 40% said it will make the world more safe. Among Jewish voters in New York City, 33% support the agreement while 53% oppose it, and say 51% say the agreement will make the world less safe, while 37% say that the agreement will make the world more safe.
According to a Public Policy Polling poll of New York City voters taken 11–12 August, 58% of New York City voters support the Iran agreement, while 35% oppose it; 49% of New York City voters want their members of Congress to let the agreement go forward, while 33% want their members of Congress to block the agreement. The agreement achieved majority support from women and men; whites, African Americans, and Hispanics; and in every age group.
A GfK poll of American Jews conducted for the American Jewish Committee between 7 and 22 August found that American Jews narrowly favored the agreement with 50.6% approving and 47.2% disapproving.
According to a poll conducted from 12–28 May 2015 by the University of Tehran Center for Public Opinion Research, the independent, Toronto-based firm IranPoll, and the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, 57% of Iranians support the deal, whereas 15% opposed it.
According to First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri's interview on 6 August 2015, an Iranian government poll indicates that 80%-88% of Iranians support the Iran deal, whereas 4% oppose it.
A poll conducted 27 May to 29 May 2015, by private Virginia-based Information and Public Opinion Solutions LLC (iPOS), suggests that a 63% majority of Iranians favor a deal, with 12% conditional approval (they would support it only if certain advantages for Iran are contained within a final agreement). Answering "If Iran and the West reach a nuclear deal, do you agree or disagree (with) a normalization of relations between Iran and the US?," 52% agreed and 20% disagreed. The poll was conducted by phone with a random sample of 680 Iranians 18-years-old and older.
A July 2015 nationally representative survey of German adults conducted by YouGov Germany Omnibus found that overall, "63% of Germans support the deal to curb Iran's nuclear program, while only 18% oppose it and 20% don't know."
As provided for in the JCPOA, the agreement was formally endorsed by the UN Security Council, incorporating it into international law. There was initially disagreement on if the deal is legally binding on the United States. The U.S State Department clarified this in a 19 November 2015 letter to Congress, stating that "The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document. The JCPOA reflects political commitments between Iran, the P5+1, and the EU." According to the State Department Political Commitments are non-binding.
On 15 July 2015, the American ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, circulated a fourteen-page draft to Council members. On 20 July 2015, the Security Council unanimously approved the fourteen-page resolution—United Nations Security Council resolution 2231—in a 15–0 vote. The resolution delays its official implementation for 90 days, to allow for U.S. Congressional consideration under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. The resolution lays out the steps for terminating sanctions imposed by seven past Security Council resolutions, but retains an arms embargo and ballistic missile technology ban. The resolution also did not affect the sanctions imposed separately by the United States and the European Union. The resolution also codifies the "snapback" mechanism of the agreement, under which all Security Council sanctions will be automatically reimposed if Iran breaches the deal.
Speaking immediately after the vote, Power told the Security Council that sanctions relief would start only when Iran "verifiably" met its obligations, and also called upon Iran "to immediately release all unjustly detained Americans," specifically naming Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, who are imprisoned in Iran, Jason Rezaian, who was detained at the time, and Robert A. Levinson, who has been missing in the country.
On the same day that the Security Council approved a resolution, the European Union formally approved the JCPOA via a vote of the EU Foreign Affairs Council (the group of EU foreign ministers) meeting in Brussels. This sets into motion the lifting of certain EU sanctions, including those prohibiting the purchase of Iranian oil. The EU continues its sanctions relating to human rights and its sanctions prohibiting the export of ballistic missile technology. The approval by the EU was seen as a signal to the U.S. Congress.
Under U.S. law, the JCPOA is a non-binding political commitment. According to the U.S. State Department, it specifically is not an executive agreement or a treaty. There are widespread incorrect reports that it is an executive agreement. In contrast to treaties, which require two-thirds of the Senate to consent to ratification, political commitments require no congressional approval, and are not legally binding.
Under the terms of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which was signed into law on 22 May 2015, the agreement is undergoing a sixty-day review in the United States Congress. Under that Act, once all documents have been sent to the Capitol, Congress will have sixty days in which it can pass a resolution of approval, a resolution of disapproval, or do nothing. (The Act includes additional time beyond the sixty days for the president to veto a resolution and for Congress to take a vote on whether to override or sustain the veto.) President Obama has said he will veto any resolution of disapproval. Thus, Republicans will only be able to defeat the deal if they can muster the two-thirds of both houses of Congress needed to override a veto of any resolution of disapproval. This means that 34 votes in the Senate could sustain a veto and place the JCPOA into effect.
On 19 July 2015, the State Department officially transmitted to Congress the JCPOA, its annexes, and related materials. These documents include the Unclassified Verification Assessment Report on the JCPOA and the Intelligence Community's Classified Annex to the Verification Assessment Report. The sixty-day review period began the next day, 20 July, and will end 17 September. On 30 July, Senator Ted Cruz introduced a resolution seeking a delay in the review period, arguing that the sixty-day congressional review under the Act should not begin until the Senate obtains a copy of all bilateral Iran-IAEA documents.
The "international community" has long sought a landmark diplomatic agreement with Iran on its nuclear program, and such an agreement was also a long-sought foreign-policy goal of the Obama administration.
In comments made in the East Room of the White House on 15 July 2015, President Obama urged Congress to support the agreement, saying "If we don't choose wisely, I believe future generations will judge us harshly, for letting this moment slip away." Obama stated that the inspections regime in the agreement was among the most vigorous ever negotiated, and criticized opponents of the deal for failing to offer a viable alternative to it. Obama stated: "If 99 percent of the world's community and the majority of nuclear experts look at this thing and they say 'this will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb,' and you are arguing either that it does not ... then you should have some alternative to present. And I haven't heard that." The same day, Obama made a case for the deal on the agreement in an interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Obama stated:
With respect to Iran, it is a great civilization, but it also has an authoritarian theocracy in charge that is anti-American, anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, sponsors terrorism, and there are a whole host of real profound differences that we [have with] them... [T]heir argument was, 'We're entitled to have a peaceful nuclear program.'... You know, I have a lot of differences with Ronald Reagan, but where I completely admire him was his recognition that [we] were able to verify an agreement that [was negotiated] with the evil empire [the Soviet Union] that was hellbent on our destruction and was a far greater existential threat to us than Iran will ever be... I had a lot of disagreements with Richard Nixon, but he understood there was the prospect, the possibility, that China could take a different path. You test these things, and as long as we are preserving our security capacity — as long as we are not giving away our ability to respond forcefully, militarily, where necessary to protect our friends and our allies — that is a risk we have to take. It is a practical, common-sense position. It's not naïve; it's a recognition that if we can in fact resolve some of these differences, without resort to force, that will be a lot better for us and the people of that region.
Also on 15 July, Vice President Joe Biden met with Senate Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill, where he made a presentation on the agreement.
On 18 July, Obama devoted his weekly radio address to the agreement, stating that "this deal will make America and the world safer and more secure" and rebutting "a lot of overheated and often dishonest arguments about it." Obama stated "as commander-in-chief, I make no apology for keeping this country safe and secure through the hard work of diplomacy over the easy rush to war." On 23 July, President Obama met in the White House Cabinet Room with about a dozen undecided House Democrats to speak about the agreement and seek their support.
The debate over the agreement has been marked by acrimony between the White House and with Republicans inside and outside of Congress. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said that under the agreement "the Obama administration will become the leading financier of terrorism against America in the world." Former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, called the president "naive" and repeatedly invoked the Holocaust, saying that the president's policy would "take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven." This comparison was denounced by the Anti-Defamation League, the National Jewish Democratic Council, and various Israeli government officials. At a 27 June news conference, Obama specifically criticized Huckabee, Cruz, and Cotton, saying that such remarks were "just part of a general pattern we've seen that would be considered ridiculous if it weren't so sad," especially from "leaders in the Republican Party." Obama stated that "fling[ing] out ad hominem attacks like that ... doesn't help inform the American people" and stated: "This is a deal that has been endorsed by people like Brent Scowcroft and Sam Nunn ... historic Democratic and Republican leaders on arms control and on keeping America safe. And so when you get rhetoric like this, maybe it gets attention and maybe this is just an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines, but it's not the kind of leadership that is needed for America right now."
On 5 August, Obama gave a speech before an audience of around 200 at American University, marking a new phase in the administration's campaign for the agreement. Obama stated: "Let's not mince words: The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy and some form of war—maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon. How can we in good conscience justify war before we've tested a diplomatic agreement that achieves our objectives?" In his speech, Obama also invoked a speech made by John F. Kennedy at American University in 1963 in favor of the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Obama also said that the opponents of the agreement were the same people who created the "drumbeat of war" that led to the Iraq War and criticized "knee-jerk partisanship that has become all too familiar, rhetoric that renders every decision made to be a disaster, a surrender."
New York Senator Chuck Schumer, a senior Democrat, made a different assessment of prospects for war by distinguishing between nuclear and non-nuclear aspects of the agreement. In each case he asked whether we are better off with the agreement or without it and his conclusion was: "… when it comes to the nuclear aspects of the agreement within ten years, we might be slightly better off with it. However, when it comes to the nuclear aspects after ten years and the non-nuclear aspects, we would be better off without it." Then Schumer assessed the Iranian government, saying, "Who's to say this dictatorship will not prevail for another ten, twenty, or thirty years? To me, the very real risk that Iran will not moderate and will, instead, use the agreement to pursue its nefarious goals is too great." And, finally, Schumer concluded: "I will vote to disapprove the agreement, not because I believe war is a viable or desirable option, nor to challenge the path of diplomacy. It is because I believe Iran will not change, and under this agreement it will be able to achieve its dual goals of eliminating sanctions while ultimately retaining its nuclear and non-nuclear power."
In the same speech, Obama stated: "Just because Iranian hard-liners chant 'Death to America' does not mean that that's what all Iranians believe. In fact, it's those hard-liners who are most comfortable with the status quo. It's those hard-liners chanting 'Death to America' who have been most opposed to the deal. They're making common cause with the Republican caucus." This statement was criticized by congressional Republican leaders. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it "crass political rhetoric" that was a strategy to "Demonize your opponents, gin up the base, get the Democrats all angry, and rally around the president." McConnell said "This is an enormous national security debate that the president will leave behind, under the Constitution, a year and a half from now, and the rest of us will be dealing with the consequences of it. So I wish he would tone down the rhetoric and let's talk about the facts" and promised that Republicans would discuss the agreement respectfully in September. Republican Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of Foreign Relations Committee, asserted that the president was "trying to shut down debate by saying that those who have legitimate questions, legitimate questions — are somehow unpatriotic, are somehow compared to hardliners in Iran." The president subsequently stood by his statement, with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest calling it a "statement of fact" and the president saying in an interview, "Remember, what I said was that it's the hard-liners in Iran who are most opposed to this deal. And I said, in that sense, they're making common cause with those who are opposed to this deal here. I didn't say that they were equivalent." In the same interview, Obama said: "A sizable proportion of the Republicans were opposed before the ink was even dry on the deal."
In comments made at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado in July 2015, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that the JCPOA will improve the U.S. ability to monitor Iran, saying "[The agreement] puts us in a far better place in terms of insight and access" than no agreement. While Clapper remains "concerned about compliance and deceit," but "pointed out that during the negotiation period [Iran] complied with rules" negotiated under the interim agreement (the Joint Plan of Action).
An intense public debate in the United States took place during the congressional review period. "Some of the wealthiest and most powerful donors in American politics, those for and against the accord," became involved in the public debate, although "mega-donors" opposing the agreement have contributed substantially more money than those supporting it. From 2010 to early August 2015, the foundations of Sheldon Adelson, Paul Singer, and Haim Saban contributed a total of $13 million (at least $7.5 million, at least $2.6 million, and at least $2.9 million, respectively) to advocacy groups opposing an agreement with Iran. On the other side, three groups lobbying in support of the agreement have received at least $803,000 from the Ploughshares Fund, at least $425,000 from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and at least $68,500 from George Soros and his foundation. Other philanthropists and donors supporting an agreement include S. Daniel Abraham, Tim Gill, Norman Lear, Margery Tabankin, and Arnold Hiatt.
Many Iranian Americans, even those who fled repression in Iran and oppose its government, welcomed the JCPOA as a step forward. The National Iranian American Council (NIAC), Iranian American Bar Association, and other Iranian American organizations welcomed the JCPOA. The NIAC released a statement saying: "Our negotiators have done their job to win a strong nuclear deal that prevents an Iranian nuclear weapon, all the while avoiding a catastrophic war. Now is the time for Congress to do theirs. Make no mistake: if Congress rejects this good deal with Iran, there will be no better deal forthcoming and Congress will be left owning an unnecessary war." NIAC created a new group, NIAC Action, to run advertisements supporting the agreement. NIAC also organized an open letter from 73 Middle East and foreign affairs scholars stating that "reactivating diplomatic channels between the United States and Iran is a necessary first step" to reduce conflict in the region, and that while "the nuclear deal will not automatically or immediately bring stability to the region ... Ultimately, a Middle East where diplomacy is the norm rather than the exception will enhance U.S. national security and interests," Signatories to the letter include John Esposito, Ehsan Yarshater, Noam Chomsky, Peter Beinart, John Mearsheimer, and Stephen Walt.
U.S. pro-Israel groups divided on the JCPOA. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee opposes the agreement, and formed a new 501(c)(4) group, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, to run a television advertising campaign against the JCPOA. In August 2015, it was reported that AIPAC and Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran plan to spend between $20 million and $40 million on its campaign. From mid-July to 4 August 2015, AIPAC's Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran spent more than $11 million running network television political advertisements opposing the agreement in 23 states, spending more than $1 million in the large states of California, Florida, New York, and Texas. In the first week of August, AIPAC said that it had 400 meetings with congressional offices as part of its campaign to defeat the agreement.
In contrast to AIPAC, another pro-Israel organization, J Street, supports the agreement, and plans a $5 million advertising effort of its own to encourage Congress to support the agreement. During the first week of August, J Street launched a $2 million, three-week ad campaign in support of the agreement, with television ads running in Colorado, Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. From mid-July through early August, J Street reported having 125 meetings with congressional offices. J Street has also paid to fly prominent Israelis who support the agreement (including Amram Mitzna, a retired Israeli general, member of the Knesset, and mayor of Haifa) to the United States to help persuade members of Congress to support the agreement.
The group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) opposes the agreement and committed to spending more than $20 million on a national "TV, radio, print and digital campaign" against the agreement. After UANI announced its opposition, the group's president and co-founder, nonproliferation expert Gary Samore, announced that he had concluded "that the accord was in the United States' interest" and supported the agreement. Samore thus stepped down as president and was replaced by ex-Senator Joseph I. Lieberman. By 20 August, UANI had released its third national television ad against the agreement.
Various other groups that have also run ad campaigns for or against the agreement. John R. Bolton's Foundation for American Security and Freedom has run advertisements against the agreement, as has "Veterans Against the Deal," a group which does not disclose its donors. Various pro-agreement ads were run by MoveOn.org (which ran an ad with the title "Let Diplomacy Work" theme), Americans United for Change (which warned "They're back – the Iraq war hawks are fighting the Iran deal, want more war" over photos of Bolton, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld), and Global Zero (which ran a humorous ad featuring actors Jack Black, Morgan Freeman, and Natasha Lyonne).
The New York-based Iran Project, a nonprofit led by former high-level U.S. diplomats and funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, along with the United Nations Association of the United States, supports the agreement. The Rockefeller fund has also supported the San Francisco-based Ploughshares Fund, which has spent several years marshaling support for an agreement.
On 17 July 2015, a bipartisan open letter endorsing the Iran agreement was signed by more than 100 former U.S. ambassadors and high-ranking State Department officials. The ex-ambassadors wrote: "If properly implemented, this comprehensive and rigorously negotiated agreement can be an effective instrument in arresting Iran's nuclear program and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons in the volatile and vitally important region of the Middle East. In our judgment the [plan] deserves Congressional support and the opportunity to show it can work. We firmly believe that the most effective way to protect U.S. national security, and that of our allies and friends is to ensure that tough-minded diplomacy has a chance to succeed before considering other more costly and risky alternatives." Among the signatories to the letter were Daniel C. Kurtzer, James Robert Jones, Frank E. Loy, Princeton N. Lyman, Jack F. Matlock, Jr., Donald F. McHenry, Thomas E. McNamara, and Thomas R. Pickering.
A separate public letter to Congress in support of the agreement from five former U.S. ambassadors to Israel from administrations of both parties, and three former Under Secretaries of State was released on 26 July 2015. This letter was signed by R. Nicholas Burns, James B. Cunningham, William C. Harrop, Daniel Kurtzer, Thomas R. Pickering, Edward S. Walker, Jr., and Frank G. Wisner. The former officials wrote: "We are persuaded that this agreement will put in place a set of constraints and monitoring measures that will arrest Iran's nuclear program for at least fifteen years and assure that this agreement will leave Iran no legitimate avenue to produce a nuclear weapon during the next ten to fifteen years. This landmark agreement removes the threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to the region and to Israel specifically."
Another public letter to Congress urging approval of the agreement was signed by a bipartisan group of more than sixty "national-security leaders," including politicians, retired military officers, and diplomats. This letter, dated 20 July 2015, stated: "We congratulate President Obama and all the negotiators for a landmark agreement unprecedented in its importance for preventing the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran...We have followed carefully the negotiations as they have progressed and conclude that the JCPOA represents the achievement of greater security for us and our partners in the region." Among the Republicans who signed this letter are former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, former U.S. Trade Representative Carla Anderson Hills, and former Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum. Among the Democrats who signed the letter are former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; former Senate Majority Leaders George J. Mitchell and Tom Daschle, former Senator Carl Levin, and former Defense Secretary William Perry. Also signing were former National Security Advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft; Under Secretaries of State R. Nicholas Burns and Thomas R. Pickering; U.S. Ambassadors Ryan Crocker and Stuart Eizenstat; Admiral Eric T. Olson; Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy; and Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Robert Einhorn.
On 8 August 2015, 29 prominent U.S. scientists, mostly physicists, published an open letter endorsing the agreement. The letter, addressed to President Obama, says: "We congratulate you and your team on negotiating a technically sound, stringent and innovative deal that will provide the necessary assurance in the coming decade and more than Iran is not developing nuclear weapons, and provides a basis for further initiatives to raise the barriers to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and around the globe." The letter also states that the agreement "will advance the cause of peace and security in the Middle East and can serve as a guidepost for future nonproliferation agreements." The 29 signatories included "some of the world's most knowledgeable experts in the fields of nuclear weapons and arms control," many of whom have held Q clearances and have been longtime advisers to Congress, the White House, and federal agencies. The five primary authors were Richard L. Garwin (a nuclear physicist who played a key role in the development of the first hydrogen bomb and who was described by the New York Times as "among the last living physicists who helped usher in the nuclear age"); Robert J. Goldston (Director of the Princeton Program on Science and Global Security and former director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory); R. Scott Kemp (an MIT professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and a former science advisor for nonproliferation and arms control at the State Department); Rush D. Holt (a physicist and former U.S. Representative who is now the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science); and Frank N. von Hippel (Princeton Professor of Public Policy and former assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy). Six Nobel Prize in Physics laureates co-signed the letter: Philip W. Anderson of Princeton University; Leon N. Cooper of Brown University; Sheldon L. Glashow of Boston University; David Gross of the University of California, Santa Barbara; Burton Richter of Stanford University; and Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among the other scientists to sign are Siegfried S. Hecker (a Stanford physicist and the former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory); Freeman Dyson (of Princeton), and Sidney Drell (of Stanford).
On 11 August 2015, an open letter endorsing the agreement signed by 36 retired military generals and admirals, entitled "The Iran Deal Benefits U.S. National Security: An Open Letter from Retired Generals and Admirals," was released. The letter, signed by retired officers from all five branches of the U.S. armed services, said that the agreement was "the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons," and said that "If at some point it becomes necessary to consider military action against Iran, gathering sufficient international support for such an effort would only be possible if we have first given the diplomatic path a chance. We must exhaust diplomatic options before moving to military ones." The signers included General James E. "Hoss" Cartwright of the Marine Corps, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; General Joseph P. Hoar of the Marine Corps, the former commander of the U.S. Central Command; and Generals Merrill McPeak and Lloyd W. Newton of the Air Force. Other signers include Lieutenant Generals Robert G. Gard, Jr. and Claudia J. Kennedy; Vice Admiral Lee F. Gunn; Rear Admirals Garland Wright and Joseph Sestak; and Major General Paul D. Eaton.
The above letter was answered on 25 August 2015, by a letter signed by more than 200 retired generals and admirals opposing the deal. The letter asserted: "The agreement does not 'cut off every pathway' for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. To the contrary, it provides Iran with a legitimate pathway for doing exactly that simply by abiding by the deal. ...the JCPOA would threaten the national security and vital interests of the United States and, therefore, should be disapproved by the Congress." This letter was organized by Leon A. "Bud" Edney; other signers included Admiral James A. Lyons; Lieutenant General William G. Boykin, former Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence; and Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney, former vice commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe.
Retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni said that he had refused requests from both sides to sign their letters, saying to Time magazine: "I'm convinced that 90% of the guys who signed the letter one way or the other don't have any clue about whether it's a good or bad deal. They sign it because somebody's asked them to sign it." As to the JCPOA Zinni said: "The agreement's fine, if you think it can work. But if this is a Neville Chamberlain then you're in a world of shit."
On 13 August, retired Senators Carl Levin of Michigan, a Democrat, and John Warner of Virginia, a Republican, co-wrote an op-ed in support of the agreement—entitled "Why hawks should also back the Iran deal"—published in Politico. Levin and Warner, both past chairmen of the Senate Armed Services Committee, argued that "If we reject the agreement, we risk isolating ourselves and damaging our ability to assemble the strongest possible coalition to stop Iran" in the event that military action was needed in the future. Levin and Warner wrote that "The deal on the table is a strong agreement on many counts, and it leaves in place the robust deterrence and credibility of a military option. We urge our former colleagues not to take any action which would undermine the deterrent value of a coalition that participates in and could support the use of a military option. The failure of the United States to join the agreement would have that effect." On 14 August, retired senators Richard Lugar of Indiana, a Republican, and J. Bennett Johnston of Louisiana, a Democrat, also wrote in support of the agreement. In a column for Reuters, Lugar and Johnston argued that "Rejection of the agreement would severely undermine the U.S. role as a leader and reliable partner around the globe. If Washington walks away from this hard-fought multilateral agreement, its dependability would likely be doubted for decades." They also wrote: "Tehran would be the winner of this U.S. rejection because it would achieve its major objective: the lifting of most sanctions without being required to accept constraints on its nuclear program. Iran could also claim to be a victim of American perfidy and try to convince other nations to break with U.S. leadership and with the entire international sanctions regime."
On 17 August 2015, a group of 75 arms control and nuclear nonproliferation experts issued a joint statement endorsing the agreement. The statement says that "the JCPOA is a strong, long-term, and verifiable agreement that will be a net-plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts" and that the JCPOA's "rigorous limits and transparency measures will make it very likely that any future effort by Iran to pursue nuclear weapons, even a clandestine program, would be detected promptly, providing the opportunity to intervene decisively to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon." The letter was organized through the nonpartisan Arms Control Association. Among the 75 signatories are the Valerie Plame and Joseph C. Wilson; former IAEA director-general Hans Blix; Morton H. Halperin; and experts from the Brookings Institution, Stimson Center, and other think tanks. On 3 September, an open letter to President Obama signed by 56 people was issued criticizing the JCPOA as "unverifiable." The letter said: "Guided by our experience with U.S. and foreign nuclear weapons programs – as well as with the history and practice of arms control, nonproliferation, and intelligence matters, we judge the current JCPOA to be a very bad deal indeed." Signers included Boykin; Bolton; ex-CIA director James Woolsey, former national security advisor Robert McFarlane; Paula A. DeSutter, former Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation; various former ACDA officials; and former Sandia National Laboratories president/director C. Paul Robinson.
Foreign diplomats are also involved in the congressional debate. The Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer appeared on cable television shows to attack the agreement, while ambassadors from European nations, including Sir Peter Westmacott, the British ambassador to the United States, "came on to say the precise opposite." Dermer also lobbied members of Congress on Capitol Hill against the agreement, while diplomats from France, Britain, and Germany made the rounds on Capitol Hill to advocate for the agreement. On 4 August, P5+1 diplomats held "a rare meeting of world powers' envoys on Capitol Hill" with about 30 Senate Democrats to urge support for the agreement, saying that "If Congress rejects this good deal, and the U.S. is forced to walk away, Iran will be left with an unconstrained nuclear program with far weaker monitoring arrangements, the current international consensus on sanctions would unravel, and international unity and pressure on Iran would be seriously undermined."
On Meet the Press on 6 September 2014, former Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed support for the nuclear agreement with Iran, saying that it was "a pretty good deal." Powell said that various provisions accepted by Iran—such as the reduction in centrifuges and the uranium stockpile and the agreement to shut down its plutonium reactor—were "remarkable changes" that stopped the Iranian pathway to a nuclear weapons program. Powell also defended the verification provisions of the agreement, saying: "I think a very vigorous verification regime has been put into place."
Former Ambassador Dennis Ross, a longtime American negotiator in the Middle East, wrote that he was not yet convinced by either proponents or opponents of the agreement. Ross wrote that the United States should be focused on "deterring the Iranians from cheating" (e.g., by producing highly enriched uranium) after year fifteen of the agreement. Ross wrote that "President Obama emphasizes that the agreement is based on verification not trust. But our catching Iran cheating is less important than the price they know they will pay if we catch them. Deterrence needs to apply not just for the life of the deal." As part of a deterrence strategy, Ross proposed transferring to Israel the U.S. Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) "bunker buster" bomb at some point before year fifteen of the agreement. In a 25 August op-ed in the Washington Post, Ross and David H. Petraeus again argued for transferring the MOP to Israel.
The Jewish American community was divided on the agreement. On 19 August 2015, leaders of the Reform Jewish movement, the largest Jewish denomination in the United States, issued a lengthy public statement expressed a neutral position on the agreement. The statement, signed by the leaders of the Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Association of Reform Zionists of America, reflected what Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the URJ, called "deep divisions within the movement." On 20 August 2015, a group of 26 prominent current and foreign American Jewish communal leaders published a full-page ad in the New York Times with a statement backing the agreement; signers included three former chairs of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations as well as former AIPAC executive director Tom Dine. Separately, a group of 340 rabbis organized by Ameinu issued a public letter to Congress on 17 August 2015, in support of the agreement, saying: "We, along with many other Jewish leaders, fully support this historic nuclear accord." The signers were mostly Reform rabbis, but included at least 50 rabbis from the Conservative movement and at least one Orthodox rabbi. Prominent rabbis who signed this letter included Sharon Brous, Burton Visotzky, Nina Beth Cardin, Lawrence Kushner, Sharon Kleinbaum, and Amy Eilberg. In a separate letter released 27 August, eleven Democratic Jewish former members of Congress urged support for the agreement; the letter noted the signatories' pro-Israel credentials and said that the agreement "halts the immediate threat of a nuclear-armed Iran," while a rejection of the deal would "put Iran back on the path to develop a nuclear weapon within two to three months." Signatories included former Senator Carl Levin and former Representatives Barney Frank, Mel Levine, Steve Rothman, and Robert Wexler.
Conversely, a group of 900 rabbis signed an open letter written by Kalman Topp and Yonah Bookstein in late August, calling upon Congress to reject the agreement. The Orthodox Union and American Jewish Committee also announced opposition to the agreement.
The Roman Catholic Church has expressed support for the agreement. In a 14 July 2015 letter to Congress, Bishop Oscar Cantú, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated that the JCPOA was "a momentous agreement" which "signals progress in global nuclear non-proliferation." Cantú wrote that Catholic bishops in the United States "will continue to urge Congress to endorse the result of these intense negotiations because the alternative leads toward armed conflict, an outcome of profound concern to the Church."
On 25 August 2015, a group of 53 Christian faith leaders from a variety of denominations sent a message to Congress urging them to support the agreement. The Christian leaders wrote: "This is a moment to remember the wisdom of Jesus who proclaimed from the Sermon on the Mount, 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God' (Matthew 5:9). ... There is no question we are all better off with this deal than without it." The letter was coordinated by a Quaker group, the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Signatories to the letter included Jim Wallis of Sojourners; John C. Dorhauer, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ; Shane Claiborne; Adam Estle of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding; Archbishop Vicken Aykazian of the Armenian Orthodox Church; A. Roy Medley, the head of American Baptist Churches USA; the Reverend Paula Clayton Dempsey of the Alliance of Baptists, senior pastor Joel C. Hunter of Northland, A Church Distributed; and Sister Simone Campbell, a leader of the Catholic "Nuns on the Bus" campaigns.
A hearing on the JCPOA before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took place on 23 July 2015. Secretary of State Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and Energy Secretary Moniz testified. Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the committee chairman, said in his opening statement that when the talks began the goal was to dismantle the Iranian nuclear program, whereas the achieved agreement codified "the industrialization of their nuclear program." Corker, addressing Secretary of State Kerry, said, "I believe you've been fleeced" and "...what you've really done here is you have turned Iran from being a pariah to now Congress, Congress being a pariah." Corker asserted that a new threshold in U.S. foreign policy was crossed and the agreement would "enable a state sponsor of terror to obtain sophisticated, industrial nuclear development program that has, as we know, only one real practical need." The committee's ranking Democratic member, Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, said he had many questions and his hope was that the answers will cause a debate "in Congress and the American people." Democrats, led by Senator Barbara Boxer of California, expressed support for the agreement, with Boxer saying that criticisms by Republicans were "ridiculous," "unfair," and "wrong." Corker and Cardin sent a letter to Obama saying the bilateral IAEA-Iran document should be available for Congress to review.
At the hearing Kerry, Lew, and Moniz "were unequivocal in their statements that the accord was the best that could be achieved and that without it, the international sanctions regime would collapse." Kerry warned that if the United States would be "on our own" if it were to walk away from a multi-lateral agreement alongside the five global powers. Kerry stated that the belief that "some sort of unicorn arrangement involving Iran's complete capitulation" could be achieved was "a fantasy, plain and simple." The Washington Post reported that "Moniz emerged as the calm center of the proceedings, beginning his interjections with recitations of what he described as 'facts,' and mildly observing that Republican characterizations were 'incorrect.'" Kerry, Lew, and Moniz faced "uniform animus of Republicans" at the hearing, with Republican senators giving "long and often scathing speeches denouncing what they described as a fatally flawed agreement and accusing the administration of dangerous naivete" and showing "little interest in responses" from the three cabinet secretaries. Washington Post reported on twelve issues related to the agreement over which the two sides disagreed at the hearing.
On 28 July, Kerry, Moniz, and Lew testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Committee chairman Ed Royce, Republican of California, said in his opening statement that "we are being asked to consider an agreement that gives Iran permanent sanctions relief for temporary nuclear restrictions." "Royce also said the inspection regime 'came up short' from 'anywhere, anytime' access to Iran's nuclear facilities and criticized the removal of restrictions on Iran's ballistic missile program and conventional arms." The committee's ranking member, Representative Eliot Engel, Democrat of New York, said he has "serious questions and concerns" about the agreement. Kerry, Lew, and Moniz spent four hours testifying before the committee. At the hearing, Kerry stated that if Congress killed the deal, "You'll not only be giving Iran a free pass to double the pace of its uranium enrichment, to build a heavy-water reactor, to install new and more efficient centrifuges, but they will do it all without the unprecedented inspection and transparency measures that we have secured. Everything that we have tried to prevent will now happen."
On 29 July, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Kerry, Moniz, and Lew appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee in a three-hour hearing. Carter and Dempsey had been invited to testify by Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, the chairman of the committee; Kerry, Moniz, and Lew attended the hearing at the invitation of the Pentagon. In his opening statement, McCain said that if this agreement failed and U.S. armed forces were called to take action against Iran, they "could be at greater risk because of this agreement." He also asserted that the agreement may lead American allies and partners to fateful decisions and result in "growing regional security competition, new arms races, nuclear proliferation, and possibly conflict." The committee's ranking Democratic member, Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, said Congress had an obligation "to independently validate that the agreement will meet our common goal of stopping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon" and stated that "the agreement, no matter your position on it, is historic and, if implemented scrupulously, could serve as a strategic inflection point in the world's relations with Iran, for international non-proliferation efforts, and for the political and security dynamics in the Middle East."
Carter said the agreement prevented Iran from "getting a nuclear weapon in a comprehensive and verifiable way." He assured the committee that the deal would not limit the U.S. ability to respond with military force if needed. In response to a question from McCain, Carter said he had "no reason to foresee" that the agreement would cause Iran's threatening behavior to change more broadly, stating "That is why it's important that Iran not have a nuclear weapon." Dempsey offered what he described as a "pragmatic" view. He neither praised nor criticized the deal, but did testify that the agreement reduced the chances of a near-term military conflict between the United States and Iran. Dempsey said that the agreement works to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but does not address other concerns about Iran's malign activities in the region, ranging from "ballistic missile technology to weapons trafficking, to ... malicious activity in cyberspace." Dempsey testified that "Ultimately, time and Iranian behavior will determine if the nuclear agreement is effective and sustainable" and stated that he would continue to provide military options to the president. Senator Joni Ernst expressed disagreement with President Obama who stated that the choice was the Iran nuclear deal or war. When General Martin Dempsey testified that the United States had "a range of options" and he presented them to the president, Ernst said: "it's imperative everybody on the panel understand that there are other options available."
Under the JCPOA, Iran must submit a full report on its nuclear history before it can receive any sanctions relief. The IAEA has confidential technical arrangements with many countries as a matter of standard operating procedure. "Republican lawmakers refer to these agreements as 'secret side deals' and claim that the JCPOA hinges on a set of agreements no one in the administration has actually seen." Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a Republican opponent of the agreement, said that Kerry had "acted like Pontius Pilate and "washed his hands, kicked it to the IAEA, knowing Congress would not get this information unless someone went out to find it." On July 30, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas introduced a resolution seeking a delay in the review period, arguing that "The 60-calendar day period for review of such agreement in the Senate cannot be considered to have begun until the Majority Leader certifies that all of the materials required to be transmitted under the definition of the term 'agreement' under such Act, including any side agreements with Iran and United States Government-issued guidance materials in relation to Iran, have been transmitted to the Majority Leader." On 5 August, Yukiya Amano, director general of the IAEA, spoke with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a closed briefing about two IAEA documents: an agreement on inspection protocols with Iran and an agreement with Iran regarding Iranian disclosure of its previous nuclear activity (known as Possible Military Dimensions). Following this briefing with Amano, Republican Senator Bob Corker, the committee chairman, told reporters: "The majority of members here left with far more questions than they had before the meeting took place" and "We can not get him to even confirm that we will have physical access inside of Parchin." The committee's ranking Democratic member, Senator Benjamin Cardin told reporters: "I thought today was helpful, but it was not a substitute for seeing the document."
State Department spokesman John Kirby responded that "There's no secret deals between Iran and the IAEA that the P5+1 has not been briefed on in detail" and stated "These kinds of technical arrangements with the IAEA are a matter of standard practice, that they're not released publicly or to other states, but our experts are familiar and comfortable with the contents, which we would be happy to discuss with Congress in a classified setting." The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation writes that: "The arrangement specifies procedural information regarding how the IAEA will conduct its investigation into Iran's past nuclear history, including mentioning the names of informants who will be interviewed. Releasing this information would place those informants, and the information they hold, at risk." Mark Hibbs of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Thomas Shea, a former IAEA safeguards official and former head of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Programs at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, wrote that the charges of a "secret side deal" made by opponents of the agreement were a "manufactured controversy." Hibbs and Shea noted: "The IAEA has safeguards agreement with 180 countries. All have similar information protection provisions. Without these, governments would not open their nuclear programs for multilateral oversight. So IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano was acting by the book on August 5 when he told members of Congress that he couldn't share with them the details of [the] verification protocol the IAEA had negotiated with Iran as part of a bilateral 'roadmap.'" David Albright, founder and president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a former IAEA nuclear inspector, stated that the demands for greater transparency regarding the agreement between Iran and IAEA "aren't unreasonable" and that "Iran is a big screamer for more confidentiality. Nonetheless, if the IAEA wanted to make it more open, it could." Albright also proposed that the United States "should clearly and publicly confirm, and Congress should support with legislation, that if Iran does not address the IAEA's concerns about the past military dimensions of its nuclear programs, U.S. sanctions will not be lifted."
Republican leaders vowed to attempt to kill the agreement as soon as it was released, even before classified sections were made available to Congress, and "Republican lawmakers raced to send out news releases criticizing it." According to the Washington Post, "most congressional Republicans remained deeply skeptical, some openly scornful, of the prospect of relieving economic sanctions while leaving any Iranian uranium-enrichment capability intact." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, said the deal "appears to fall well short of the goal we all thought was trying to be achieved, which was that Iran would not be a nuclear state." A New York Times news analysis stated that Republican opposition to the agreement "seems born of genuine distaste for the deal's details, inherent distrust of President Obama, intense loyalty to Israel and an expansive view of the role that sanctions have played beyond preventing Iran's nuclear abilities." The Washington Post identified twelve issues related to the agreement on which the two sides disagreed, including the efficacy of inspections at undeclared sites; the effectiveness of the snapback sanctions; the significance of limits on enrichment; the significance of IAEA side agreements; the effectiveness of inspections of military sites; the consequences of walking away from an agreement; and the effects of lifting sanctions.
One area of disagreement between supporters and opponents of the JCPOA is the consequences of walking away from an agreement, and whether renegotiation of the agreement is a realistic option. Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, an opponent of the agreement, called for the U.S. government to keep sanctions in place, strengthen them, and "pursue the hard-trodden path of diplomacy once more, difficult as it may be." Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, said that he believed that it was "hyperbole" to say that the agreement was the only alternative to war. President Obama, by contrast, argued that renegotiation of the deal is unrealistic, stating in his American University speech that "the notion that there is a better deal to be had. ... relies on vague promises of toughness" and stated that "Those making this argument are either ignorant of Iranian society, or they are not being straight with the American people. ... Neither the Iranian government, or the Iranian opposition, or the Iranian people would agree to what they would view as a total surrender of their sovereignty." Obama also argued that "those who say we can just walk away from this deal and maintain sanctions are selling a fantasy. Instead of strengthening our position, as some have suggested, Congress' rejection would almost certainly result in multi-lateral sanctions unraveling," because "our closest allies in Europe or in Asia, much less China or Russia, certainly are not going to enforce existing sanctions for another five, 10, 15 years according to the dictates of the U.S. Congress because their willingness to support sanctions in the first place was based on Iran ending its pursuit of nuclear weapons. It was not based on the belief that Iran cannot have peaceful nuclear power." Secretary of State Kerry has echoed these remarks, saying in July 2015 that the idea of a "'better deal,' some sort of unicorn arrangement involving Iran's complete capitulation .... is a fantasy, plain and simple, and our intelligence community will tell you that." Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, a supporter of the agreement wrote: "Some say that, should the Senate reject this agreement, we would be in position to negotiate a "better" one. But I've spoken to representatives of the five nations that helped broker the deal, and they agree that this simply wouldn't be the case."
On 28 July 2015, Representative Sander M. Levin, Democrat of Michigan, the longest-serving Jewish member now in Congress, announced in a lengthy statement that he would support the JCPOA, saying that "the agreement is the best way" to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and that a rejection of the agreement would lead the international sanctions regime to "quickly fall apart," as "sanctions likely would not be continued even by our closest allies, and the United States would be isolated trying to enforce our unilateral sanctions as to Iran's banking and oil sectors."
A key figure in the congressional review process is Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, a Democrat who is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Cardin took a phone call from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu opposing the agreement and participated in a private 90-minute session with Energy Secretary Moniz supporting the agreement. On 21 July, Cardin said that if the agreement is implemented, the United States should increase military aid to Israel and friendly Gulf states.
On 4 August 2015, three key and closely watched Senate Democrats—Tim Kaine of Virginia (a Foreign Relations Committee member), Barbara Boxer of California (also a Foreign Relations Committee member), and Bill Nelson of Florida—announced their support for the agreement. In a floor speech that day, Kaine said that the agreement is "far preferable to any other alternative, including war" and that "America has honored its best traditions and shown that patient diplomacy can achieve what isolation and hostility cannot." In a similar floor speech the same day, Nelson said that: "I am convinced [that the agreement] will stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon for at least the next 10 to 15 years. No other available alternative accomplishes this vital objective" and "If the U.S. walks away from this multinational agreement, I believe we would find ourselves alone in the world with little credibility." Conversely, another closely watched senator, Chuck Schumer of New York, who is expected to make a bid to become Senate Democratic leader, announced his opposition to the agreement on 6 August, writing that "there is a strong case that we are better off without an agreement than with one"
According to an Associated Press report, the classified assessment of the United States Intelligence Community on the agreement concludes that because Iran will be required by the agreement to provide international inspectors with "unprecedented volume of information about nearly every aspect of its existing nuclear program," Iran's ability to conceal a covert weapons program will be diminished. In a 13 August letter to colleagues, ten current and former Democratic members of the House Select Committee on Intelligence (including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff) referred to this assessment as a reason to support the agreement, writing that "We are confident that this monitoring and the highly intrusive inspections provided for in the agreement – along with our own intelligence capabilities – make it nearly impossible for Iran to develop a covert enrichment effort without detection." The ten members also wrote "You need not take our word for it" and referred members to the classified assessment itself, which is located in an office in the Capitol basement and is available for members of Congress to read.
A resolution of disapproval was initially expected to pass both the House and Senate, meaning that "the real challenge for the White House is whether they can marshal enough Democrats to sustain the veto." Two-thirds of both houses (the House of Representatives and the Senate) are required to override a veto, meaning that one-third of either house (146 votes in the House, or 34 in the Senate) could sustain (uphold) President Obama's veto of a resolution of disapproval.
By early September 2015, 34 Senators had publicly confirmed support for the deal, a crucial threshold because it ensured that the Senate could sustain (i.e., uphold) any veto of a resolution of disapproval. Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland announced support on 2 September, a day after Chris Coons of Delaware and Bob Casey, Jr. of Pennsylvania also announced support, reaching 34 votes and assuring that an eventual disapproval resolution passed in the Senate could not override an Obama veto. By the following day, 38 Democratic senators supported the deal, 3 were opposed, and 5 were still undecided.
By 8 September, all senators had made a commitment on the agreement, with 42 in support (40 Democrats and two independents) and 58 opposed (54 Republicans and four Democrats). It is possible for senators in support of the agreement to kill the disapproval resolution outright in the Senate by effectively filibustering it, making it unnecessary for Obama to veto a disapproval resolution at all. However, this is only possible if at least 41 vote to do so, and several senators in support of the agreement, including Coons, "have suggested they'd prefer an up-or-down vote on the deal instead of blocking it altogether."
The apparent success of a strategy to marshal congressional support for the deal, linked to a carefully orchestrated rollout of endorsements (although Democratic Senate Whip Dick Durbin and other officials disputed the suggestion of coordination) was attributed to lessons learned by the White House and congressional Democrats during struggles in previous summers with Republicans, in particular, over Obama's health care legislation. An August 2015 meeting at which top diplomats from the UK, Russia, China, Germany, and France told 10 undecided Democratic senators they had no intention of returning to the negotiating table was reported to be particularly crucial. Senator Coons said: "They were clear and strong that we will not join you in re-imposing sanctions."
On 20 August 2015, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that House Democrats had the votes to uphold a veto of a resolution of disapproval. To sustain a veto, Pelosi would need to hold only 146 of the 188 House Democrats; by 20 August, about 60 House Democrats have publicly declared their support for the final agreement, and about 12 had publicly declared their opposition. In May 2015, before the final agreement was announced, 151 House Democrats signed in support for the broad outlines in the April framework agreement; none of those signatories have announced opposition to the final agreement.
It was originally expected that the House would vote on a formal resolution of disapproval introduced by Representative Ed Royce, Republican of California, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. As the Senate moved toward a vote on a resolution of disapproval, House leadership (under Republican control) planned to vote on a similar resolution of disapproval. However, conservative Republicans "revolted in protest" as "the chamber's right flank wanted tougher action from its leader" and the House Republican leadership (under Speaker John Boehner) planned to vote instead chose to bring a resolution of approval to the floor "as a way to effectively force Democrats who had voiced support for the president to formally register such endorsement." On 11 September 2015, the resolution failed, as expected, on a 162-269 vote; 244 Republicans and 25 Democrats voted no, while 162 Democrats and no Republicans voted yes. On the same day, House Republicans held two additional votes, one on a resolution claiming that the Obama administration had failed to meet the requirements of a congressional review period on the deal and another resolution which would prevent the United States from lifting any sanctions. The former resolution passed on a party-line vote, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed; the latter resolution passed on nearly a party-line vote, with all Republicans and two Democrats in favor and every other Democrat opposed. The House action against the resolution was a "symbolic vote that will have no consequence for the implementation of the deal," and the two anti-agreement measures passed by the House were seen as "unlikely to even reach Obama's desk."
On 10 September, the day before the vote, House speaker Boehner threatened to "use every tool at our disposal to stop, slow and delay this agreement from being fully implemented" and said that a lawsuit by House Republicans against the president (claiming that the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act was not followed) was "an option that is very possible." Four months later, however, House Republicans abandoned their plans for a lawsuit against the administration over the JCPOA.
Conservative legal activist Larry Klayman filed a lawsuit against President Obama and members of Congress in July 2015 in federal court in West Palm Beach, Florida, asserting that the agreement should be considered a treaty requiring Senate ratification. Klayman's suit was dismissed for lack of standing in September 2015.
On 21 June 2015, the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) decided to form a committee to study the JCPOA and to wait at least 80 days before voting on it. Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Atomic Energy Organization of Iran chief Ali Akbar Salehi, defended the deal in Parliament on the same day. Although the Iranian constitution gives Parliament the right to cancel the deal, it was reported that this outcome is unlikely. The New York Times reported that "the legislators have effectively opted to withhold their judgment until they know whether the American Congress approves of the deal."
In televised remarks made on 23 July 2015, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected domestic criticism of the JCPOA from Iranian hardliners, "such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and its allies," which "have criticized the accord as an invasive affront to the country's sovereignty and a capitulation to foreign adversaries, particularly the United States." In remarks described by the New York Times as "blunt" and uncharacteristically frank, Rouhani claimed a popular mandate to make an agreement based on his election in 2013 and warned that the alternative was "an economic Stone Age" brought on by sanctions which (as the Times described) have "shriveled oil exports and denied the country access to the global banking system." On 26 July, a two-page, top-secret directive sent to Iranian newspaper editors from Iran's Supreme National Security Council surfaced online. In the document, newspapers are instructed to avoid criticism of the agreement and to avoid giving the impression of "a rift" at the highest levels of government. The BBC reported that the document appears to be aimed at constraining criticism of the JCPOA by Iranian hardliners.
On 3 September, Iranian supreme leader Khamenei said that the Majlis should make the final decision on the agreement. On the same day, Ali Larijani, the speaker of the parliament, said that he support the agreement and that: "The agreement needs to be discussed and needs to be approved by the Iranian parliament. There will be heated discussions and debates."
Abbas Milani and Michael McFaul write that: "those [in Iran] supporting the deal include moderates inside the government, many opposition leaders, a majority of Iranian citizens, and many in the Iranian American diaspora—a disparate group that has rarely agreed on anything until now." Within the government, Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who negotiated the agreement, "are now the most vocal in defending it against Iranian hawks." Also vocally supporting the agreement are former presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami and moderates within parliament. The agreement is also supported by most prominent opposition leaders, including Mir-Hossein Mousavi, a 2009 presidential candidate who is under house arrest for his role as a leader of the Green Movement.
Conversely, "the most militantly authoritarian, conservative, and anti-Western leaders and groups within Iran oppose the deal." The anti-agreement coalition in Iran includes former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Fereydoon Abbasi, ex-nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili; and various conservative clerics and Revolutionary Guard commanders. This group has "issued blistering attacks on the incompetence of Iran's negotiating team, claiming that negotiators caved on many key issues and were outmaneuvered by more clever and sinister American diplomats."
Iranian defense minister Hossein Dehqan said on 2 September that Iran would not allow the IAEA to visit every site or facility that it wishes.
The Majlis special commission for examining the JCPOA, has invited Ali Shamkhani, as well as members of former nuclear negotiation team including Ali Bagheri and Fereydoon Abbasi to comment on the deal. During the session, Saeed Jalili, ex-chief negotiator has slammed the deal, stating "approximately 100 absolute rights" of Iran were conceded to the opposing side. He believes the deal is "unacceptable" because Iran makes an "exceptional [nuclear case], replacing 'permission' with 'right' under the NPT, and accepting unconventional measures." He also believes that the deal has crossed the red lines drawn by the Supreme leader of Iran. His testimony was criticized by commission members Masoud Pezeshkian and Abbas Ali Mansouri Arani. In another session, current negotiatiors Abbas Araqchi and Majid Takht-Ravanchi defended the deal, led by Javad Zarif.
In the Iranian media, the leading reformist newspapers, Etemad and Shargh, "continue to write approvingly of the negotiations and their outcome." Conversely, the leading conservative paper Ettelaat has criticized the agreement. The most "bombastic and hard-line criticism of the deal" has come from Kayhan, which is edited by Hossein Shariatmadari and closely associated with Khamenei, the supreme leader.
The agreement is supported by many Iranian dissidents, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate, human rights activist, and Iranian exile Shirin Ebadi, who "labeled as 'extremists' those who opposed the agreement in Iran and America." Likewise, dissident journalist and former political prisoner Akbar Ganji expressed hope that "step-by-step nuclear accords, the lifting of economic sanctions and the improvement of the relations between Iran and Western powers will gradually remove the warlike and securitized environment from Iran." Citing Iran's human rights situation and the "lack of religious and political freedom in the country," some dissidents opposed the agreement, including Ahmad Batebi, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, and Roozbeh Farahanipour, who signed an open letter arguing that "more pressure should be applied to the regime, not less."
On 13 October, the New York Times and many other major U.S. news sources reported that the Iranian Parliament had approved the JPCOA by a vote of 161 votes in favor, 59 against and 13 abstentions. Major Iranian news sources including Fars News Agency and Press TV, referred to as a semi-official government source by U.S. media, reported that what was actually approved was a document consisting of the text of the JPCOA, supplemented by text unilaterally added by Iran and not agreed by the P5+1.
On 18 October 2015, EU High Representative Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif jointly announced "Adoption Day" for the JCPOA, noting actions taken and planned by the EU, Iran, the IAEA, and the United States, and stating that "All sides remain strongly committed to ensuring that implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action can start as soon as possible."
After the IAEA confirmed that Iran met the relevant requirements under the JCPOA, all nuclear sanctions were lifted by the UN, the EU and the United States on 16 January 2016.
Washington imposed new sanctions on 11 companies and individuals for supplying Iran's ballistic missile program on the first day of the implementation. According to Kerry, $1.7 billion in debt with interest is to be paid to Tehran. However, some Iranian financial institutions including Ansar Bank, Bank Saderat, Bank Saderat PLC, and Mehr Bank remain on the SDN List and a number of U.S. sanctions with respect to Iran including existing terrorism, human rights and ballistic missiles-related sanctions will remain in place.
Some argue that deterrence is the key to ensuring not just that Iran is in compliance with the agreement but also to preventing them from developing nuclear weapons. Former Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Robert Einhorn, a supporter of the agreement, wrote it would be better to have permanent or longer-term restrictions on Iran's enrichment program, but preventing a nuclear-armed Iran is possible, "provided the United States and key partners maintain a strong and credible deterrent against a future Iranian decision to go for the bomb." According to Michael Eisenstadt, Director of the Military and Security Studies Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, "deterring Iran from developing or acquiring nuclear weapons will remain the core imperative driving U.S. policy in the coming years."
Four days after the JCPOA was adopted, Khamenei delivered a speech, highlighting his fatwa and rejecting the claim that the nuclear talks rather than Iran's religious abstinence prevented Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He said:
The Americans say they stopped Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. They know it's not true. We had a fatwa (religious ruling), declaring nuclear weapons to be religiously forbidden under Islamic law. It had nothing to do with the nuclear talks.
In a letter addressed to Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, President Barack Obama raised the issue about U.S. ability to deter Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons:
The JCPOA, moreover, does not remove any of our options when it comes to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. As I have repeatedly emphasized, my Administration will take whatever means are necessary to achieve that goal, including military means. Should Iran seek to dash toward a nuclear weapon, all of the options available to the United States – including the military option – will remain available through the life of the deal and beyond.
Ambassador Dennis Ross, former top Mideast official, and General David Petraeus, former CIA director, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that "Bolstering deterrence is essential in addressing key vulnerabilities" of the agreement. Petraeus and Ross asserted that if Iran decide to race toward a nuclear weapon "there is a need not to speak of our options but of our readiness to use force", since the threat of force is far more likely to deter the Iranians. They said the president could resolve their concerns by stating that he would use military force to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, including producing highly enriched uranium, even after the deal ends in 15 years. It is "critically important for the president to state this clearly, particularly given his perceived hesitancy to use force," they said.
In the same letter, Obama detailed the possible non-military unilateral and multilateral responses to be employed should Iran violate the agreement, however, the president made it clear: "Ultimately, it is essential that we retain the flexibility to decide what responsive measures we and our allies deem appropriate for any non-compliance." Flexibility meant that Obama rejected specifying "the penalties for smaller violations of the accord" in advance.
The open letter, which was signed by more than 100 former U.S. ambassadors and high-ranking State Department officials endorsing the agreement, begins with the words: "The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran stands as a landmark agreement in deterring the proliferation of nuclear weapons." In contrast, Michael Mandelbaum, the Christian A. Herter Professor at the Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies, wrote that nuclear nonproliferation in the Middle East ultimately depended "not on the details of the Vienna agreement but on the familiar Cold-War policy of deterrence." Mandelbaum added that if President Obama will leave office without Iran building the bomb, "the responsibility for conducting a policy of effective deterrence will fall on his successor." Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz expressed his view on deterring Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons as follows: "Nothing currently on the table will deter Iran. Sanctions are paper protests to an oil-rich nation. Diplomacy has already failed because Russia and China are playing both sides."
With the prospective lifting of some sanctions, the agreement is expected to have a significant impact on both the economy of Iran and global markets. The energy sector is particularly important, with Iran having nearly 10 percent of global oil reserves and 18 percent of natural gas reserves. Millions of barrels of Iranian oil may come onto global markets, lowering the price of crude oil. However, the impact will not be immediate, because Iran will not be able to implement measures that are needed to lift sanctions until the end of 2015. Technology and investment from global integrated oil companies are expected to increase capacity from Iran's oil fields and refineries, which have been in "disarray" in recent years, plagued by mismanagement and underinvestment. Senior executives from oil giants Royal Dutch Shell, Total S.A, and Eni met with the Iranian oil minister in Vienna in June, the month before the JCPOA was announced, and have been seeking business opportunities in Iran.
The economic impact of a partial lifting of sanctions extends beyond the energy sector; the New York Times reported that "consumer-oriented companies, in particular, could find opportunity in this country with 81 million consumers," many of whom are young and prefer Western products. Iran is "considered a strong emerging market play" by investment and trading firms.
French auto manufacturer PSA Peugeot Citroën has emerged as one of the first Western companies to re-establish commercial ties following the deal.
In February 2016, after the end of a four year restriction, Iranian banks –except Mehr, Ansar and Saderat banks– reconnected to the SWIFT. However, many Iranian observers including critics of Rouhani's administration, economists and private sector representatives claimed the news was false. According to Financial Times's report, Iran's banks are indeed being reconnected to SWIFT but there have been "too few" transactions because european and US banks are "worried about the risks" of dealing with them and "scarred by a string of multibillion-dollar fines".
Three months after implementation, Iran has been unable to tap about $100 billion held abroad. One 15 April 2016, Central Bank of Iran Governor Valiollah Seif, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television that Iran has gotten "almost nothing" from the accord. He also met Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew on the sidelines of his Washington's trip to discuss the concerns. Josh Earnest, the White House Press Secretary, said that: "the agreement that's included in the JCPOA does not include giving Iran access to the US financial system or to allow the execution of so-called U-turn transactions."
On 20 April 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States decided on Bank Markazi v. Peterson and ruled that almost $2 billion of Iranian frozen assets must be given to families of people killed in the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings. The court accused Iran of being responsible for the incident. Iranian foreign minister Zarif called the ruling "highway robbery", lashing the court for its previous ruling of holding Iran responsible for 9/11, adding that the Supreme Court is "the Supreme Court of the United States, not the Supreme Court of the world. We’re not under its jurisdiction, nor is our money".
On 27 November 2016, Schlumberger, the largest oil service company in the world announced that it had signed a preliminary deal to study an Iranian oil field. According to Schlumberger's spokesperson, this was a memorandum of understanding with the state-run National Iranian Oil Company "for the non-disclosure of data required for a technical evaluation of a field development prospect."
In July 2015, Richard Stone wrote in the journal Science in July 2015 that if the agreement is fully implemented, "Iran can expect a rapid expansion of scientific cooperation with Western powers. As its nuclear facilities are repurposed, scientists from Iran and abroad will team up in areas such as nuclear fusion, astrophysics, and radioisotopes for cancer therapy."
In August 2015, the British embassy in Tehran reopened almost four years after it was closed after protesters attacked the embassy in 2011. At a reopening ceremony, Hammond said that since Rouhani's election as president, British-Iranian relations had gone from a "low point" to steady "step-by-step" improvement. Hammond said: "Last month's historic nuclear agreement was another milestone, and showed the power of diplomacy, conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect, to solve shared challenges. Re-opening the embassy is the logical next step to build confidence and trust between two great nations." The BBC's diplomatic correspondent, Jonathan Marcus, reported that the nuclear agreement "had clearly been decisive in prompting the UK embassy to be reopened," stating that British-Iranian "ties have slowly been warming but it is clearly the successful conclusion of the nuclear accord with Iran that has paved the way for the embassy reopening."
After the adoption of the JCPOA, the United States imposed several new non-nuclear sanctions against Iran, some of which being condemned by Iran as a possible violation of the deal. According to Seyed Mohammad Marandi, professor at the University of Tehran, the general consensus in Iran while the negotiations were taking place was that the United States would move towards increasing sanctions on non-nuclear areas. He said that these post-JCPOA sanctions could "severely damage the chances for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action bearing fruit".
On March 8 and 9, 2016, the IRGC conducted ballistic missile tests as part of its military drills, with one of the Qadr H missiles carrying the inscription, "Israel should be wiped off the Earth". Israel called on Western powers to punish Iran for the tests, which U.S. officials said do not violate the nuclear deal, but may violate United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted that the tests were not in violation of the UNSC resolution. On March 17, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Iranian and British companies for involvement in the Iranian ballistic missile program.
On May 21, 2016, Zarif, the foreign minister of Iran, persisted that "U.S. must take practical steps" in the meeting with his New Zealander counterpart Murray McCully.
Hours before the official announcement of the activation of JCPOA on 16 January 2016, Iran released four imprisoned Iranian Americans—Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who had been convicted of espionage, former Marine Corps infantryman Amir Hekmati, who had been convicted of co-operating with hostile governments, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, who was convicted on national security charges, and former Iranian infantryman Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, who was convicted of violating alcohol prohibitions and awaiting trial on espionage charges—in exchange for the United States' release of seven Iranian Americans—Bahram Mechanic, Khosrow Afghahi and Tooraj Faridi, charged with sanctions violations, Nader Modanlo, convicted of helping launch Iranian satellite Sina-1, Arash Ghahreman, convicted of money laundering and sanctions violations for exporting navigation equipment to Iran, Nima Golestaneh, convicted of hacking, and Ali Saboonchi, convicted of sanctions violations—and the dismissal of outstanding charges against 14 Iranians outside the United States. A fifth American, student and researcher Matthew Trevithick, left Iran in a separate arrangement.
Shahi Hamid of The Atlantic Monthly wrote that the agreement "had a narrow—if understandable—focus on the minutia of Iran's nuclear program," and "[t]he Obama administration repeatedly underscored that the negotiations weren't about Iran's other activities in the region: They were about the nuclear program." The U.S. government and observers noted from the time that the framework was entered into in April 2015 "that the United States and Iran still find themselves on opposite sides of most of the conflicts that have pitched the Arab world into chaos" and that the agreement was "unlikely" to cause Iran to become a firm partner of the West.
The narrow nuclear-nonproliferation focus of the deal was criticized by the agreement's opponents (such as Lawrence J. Hass of the American Foreign Policy Council), who argued that the agreement was faulty because it did not address anti-Semitism and threats against Israel, hostility and rhetoric against America and the West in general, illegal missile testing, supplying of arms to terrorist groups, and efforts to destabilize ongoing conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
In October 2015 The Wall Street Journal noted that Iran had recently carried out ballistic missile tests, announced the conviction of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, launched military operations to maintain Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria, and continued shipping arms and money to Houthi rebels in Yemen, the latter two actions fueling fears of a broader regional war.
Israel and Saudi Arabia expressed concern about Iran's ability to use diplomatic cover and unfrozen money from the deal to strengthen its regional position and that of its allies. Critics in Washington accused the Obama administration of having been duped by Iran and Russia into accepting a deal that was antithetical to American interests.
Meanwhile, the administration was also accused of whitewashing Iran's failure to cooperate fully with the IAEA investigation into the possible military dimensions of its past nuclear work.
In November 2015, The New York Times wrote that "[a]nyone who hoped that Iran's nuclear agreement with the United States and other powers portended a new era of openness with the West has been jolted with a series of increasingly rude awakenings over the past few weeks." The Times reported, variously, that the Iranian had invited a Lebanese-American to visit the country, and then arrested him for spying; the Ayatollah made a public statement that the slogan "Death to America" was "eternal"; a wave of anti-American billboards went up in the capital; a backlash by political hard-liners began and the Revolutionary Guard intelligence apparatus "started rounding up journalists, activists and cultural figures"; state media circulated conspiracy theories about the United States, including that the CIA had downed a Russian civilian passenger jet in Egypt; Iranian and Lebanese citizens in Iran holding dual American citizenship were targeted for arrest on charges of "spying"; clothing manufacturers were prohibited from selling items featuring the American or British flags; and a state-sponsored demonstration was held outside the U.S. embassy in Tehran on the anniversary of the takeover and hostage crisis in 1979.
Business Insider reported that a variety of factors made it more likely that Iran's stance would harden once the agreement was in place, with one Iran expert saying that Iran's "nice, smiling face" would now disappear as the country pursued more adversarial stances, and policy analysts saying that by negotiating the deal with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Obama had "made an investment in the stability of the [IRGC] regime".
The National Review wrote that the U.S. administration's unwillingness to acknowledge any Iranian noncompliance had left the Iranians in control, and that the deal was undermining international security by emboldening Iran to act as a regional hegemon, at the expense of U.S. influence and credibility.
Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot argued in February 2016 that Iran's prohibited missile tests, capture of U.S. naval personnel, and other provocations were a sign that rapprochement hoped for by Iran's Western negotiating partners was not going to happen, saying the government had no interest in accommodating U.S. interests, seeking instead to humiliate the United States and spread propaganda. Gigot noted Iran's desire to be the dominant power in the Mideast and would work to promote instability there while using the nuclear agreement as a "shield" to protect from criticism of its "imperialist" behavior.
James S. Robbins, an American political commentator and a senior fellow on the American Foreign Policy Council, criticized the nuclear deal as "impotent" because it does not limit Iran's ballistic missile program, and UNSC Resolution 2231, which was adopted along with the deal, weakened the limits Iran's ballistic missile program that had been imposed by previous UNSC resolutions.
On March 4, 2016, Olli Heinonen, former Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, wrote that "the International Atomic Energy Agency's most recent report on Iran's nuclear activities provides insufficient details on important verification and monitoring issues", and said that the report's lack of detailed data prevented the international community from verifying whether Iran was complying with the deal.
On 9 November 2016, Deutsche Welle, citing a source from the IAEA, reported that "Iran has violated the terms of its nuclear deal".
On 1 December 2016, the U.S. Senate voted to renew the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) for another decade. The future of nuclear agreement with Iran is uncertain under the administration of President Trump. The Obama Administration and outside experts said the extension would have no practical effect and risked antagonizing Iran.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, President Rouhani, and Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the extension of sanctions would be a breach of the nuclear deal. Some Iranian officials said that Iran might ramp up uranium enrichment in response.
In January 2017, representatives from Iran, P5+1 and EU gathered in Vienna's Palais Coburg hotel to address Iran's complaint about the US congressional bill.