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Explainer: The Iran nuclear deal - what's in it, and why we should care

A landmark deal has been struck that will prohibit Iran developing a nuclear bomb.

Updated at 8pm

Obama Iran Nuclear Talks Source: Associated Press

THERE’S A LOT of talk about Iran today – its nuclear powers, its oil and its military bases.

So, what’s going on? 

Today, historically, Iran agreed to a deal that essentially prohibits it from developing a nuclear bomb.

Iran agreed to the continuation of a UN arms embargo for up to five more years, as well as strict limits on its nuclear activities.

The agreement also sees stringent UN oversight, with world powers hoping this will make any dash to develop an atomic bomb virtually impossible.

The deal will allow United Nations inspectors to press for visits to Iranian military sites. 

The landmark agreement also aims to clarify some past and present issues regarding Iran’s nuclear programme, which has been shrouded in mystery for decades.

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What does the deal mean?

The deal was reached after 18 days of intense and often fractious negotiations between world powers and Iran.

It essentially curbs Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions.

It will keep Iran from producing enough material for an atomic weapon for at least 10 years and impose new provisions for inspections of Iranian facilities, including military sites.

“Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off,” said US President Barack Obama.

Iran will have to:

  • not produce the highly-enriched uranium used to make nuclear bombs
  • remove two-third installed centrifuges
  • store them under constant centrifuges
  • get rid of 98% of its enriched uranium (it currently has enough to make ten nuclear bombs)

Hold on, US and Iran are hardly best mates, why are they talking?

The relationship is far from friendly, but this agreement is designed to avert the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran and another US military intervention.

The deal “is not built on trust, it is built on verification,” President Barack Obama declared from the White House today.

However, President Obama said the nuclear deal with Iran offered a chance to move in a “new direction” in relations with Tehran.

“Our differences are real. The difficult history between the nations cannot be ignored. It is possible to change,” Obama said.

This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction. We should seize it.

The US said things aren’t getting too friendly though and they’ll be continuing their unprecedented efforts to strengthen Israel’s security, efforts “that go beyond what any administration has done before.”

shutterstock_253933258 Source: Shutterstock/FooTToo

So can UN inspectors just go to inspect suspected nuclear weapon sites when they want?

No, not exactly. Nobody walked away with a perfect deal and it came with a lot of compromises.

Iran agreed to the continuation of a UN arms embargo on the country for up to five more years.

Access at will to any site would not necessarily be granted and even if so, could be delayed, a condition that critics of the deal are sure to seize on as possibly giving Tehran time to cover any sign of non-compliance with its commitments.

Under the deal, Tehran would have the right to challenge the UN request and an arbitration board composed of Iran and the six world powers that negotiated with it would have to decide on the issue.

Iran’s acceptance in principle of access to military sites will give the agency extra authority in its attempts to go to the site and its demands — previously rejected by Tehran — to interview scientists it suspects were involved in the alleged nuclear weapons work.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said:

“We are reaching an agreement that is not perfect for anybody, but it is what we could accomplish, and it is an important achievement for all of us. Today could have been the end of hope on this issue. But now we are starting a new chapter of hope.”

shutterstock_153596798 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Source: Shutterstock/Valentina Petrov

What about Iran exporting weapons, was that a sticking point?

Yes. The US sought to maintain the ban on Iran importing and exporting weapons, as it is concerned that cash freed up in the nuclear deal would be used to expand Iran’s military assistance to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. 

Assad has congratulated Iran on the deal today.

But Iranian leaders insisted the embargo had to end as their forces are combating the likes of Islamic State.

Iran got support from China and particularly Russia on this, which wants to expand military cooperation and arms sales to Tehran.

The international arms embargo against Iran will remain for five years but deliveries would be possible with special permission of the UN Security Council.

shutterstock_153178391 Source: Shutterstock/Svetlana Lukienko

What’s in the deal for Iran? 

The economic benefits for Iran are potentially massive.

It stands to receive more than $100 billion in assets frozen overseas, and an end to a European oil embargo and various financial restrictions on Iranian banks.

Why should you care? 

It means, for now, Iran’s nuclear program will be a lot more transparent than ever before and rules out any production of a nuclear bomb.

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said it’s a deal ” the world was hoping for — a shared commitment to peace and to join our hands to make our world safer”.

shutterstock_125829944 Source: Shutterstock/Robert Lucian Crusitu

Painful international sanctions will be lifted and this could mean lower oil prices for all.

Analysts from Cebr said the extent of the impact on oil prices will depend primarily on the domestic capability to get oil on the market, but the lowering of oil prices is good news for most Western economies.

With reporting from Associated Press and AFP

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