Obama: Iran nuclear deal 'once in a lifetime' opportunity

U.S. President Barack Obama.  

U.S. President Barack Obama defended a framework nuclear agreement with Iran as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to prevent a bomb and bring longer-term stability to the Middle East. He insisted the U.S. would stand by Israel if it were to come under attack, but acknowledged that his pursuit of diplomacy with Tehran has caused strain with the close ally.

“It’s been a hard period,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. He added that it is “personally difficult” for him to hear his administration accused of not looking out for Israel’s interests.

“We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk,” he said, citing his overtures to Cuba and Myanmar as other examples of his approach.

Mr. Obama argued that successful negotiations presented the most effective way to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but insisted he would keep all options on the table if Tehran were to violate the terms.

“I’ve been very clear that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon on my watch, and I think they should understand that we mean it,” Mr. Obama said. “But I say that hoping that we can conclude this diplomatic arrangement and that it ushers a new era in U.S.-Iranian relations and, just as importantly, over time, a new era in Iranian relations with its neighbours.”

The President said there are many details that still need to be worked out with the Iranians and cautioned that there would be “real political difficulties” in implementing an agreement in both countries. He reiterated his opposition to a legislation that would give the U.S. Congress final say in approving or rejecting a deal, but said he hoped to find a path to allow Congress to “express itself.”

On the substance of the Iran framework agreement, Mr. Obama outlined more specifics of how the U.S. would seek to verify that Tehran wasn’t cheating. He said there would be an “international mechanism” that would assess whether there needed to be an inspection at a suspicious site and could overrule Iranian objections.

Key issues in Iran nuclear talks with world powers



The goal of the negotiations is an arrangement whereby Iran would need at least one year to produce enough fissile material -- high enriched uranium or plutonium -- for a single atomic weapon, should Tehran choose to produce one. That is known as the “break-out” time.


U.S. President Barack Obama has said that Iran will need to accept limits on its nuclear programme for at least 10 years. Recently Iran had wanted eight years and the U.S. 20 years. They have compromised at 10 years.




Originally Iran wanted to maintain all of its uranium enrichment centrifuges, machines that purify uranium for use as fuel in power plants or, if very highly enriched, in weapons. That was around 10,000 operational out of nearly 20,000. The U.S. and others wanted to reduce that number to several hundred. Now, Iran wants to keep around 9,000 while western official are talking 6,000.


Iran’s desire to pursue > research and development into advanced centrifuges is one of the biggest sticking points in the talks. Western powers are extremely uncomfortable with allowing Tehran to continue developing more efficient centrifuges that would shorten the break-out time.




Western powers had originally wanted Iran to dismantle a heavy-water reactor at Arak that could yield significant quantities of plutonium. Tehran refused to do so but has agreed to the idea of converting or operating it in a way that ensures the amount of plutonium it could yield would be insignificant. Iran has also agreed not to pursue technology for extracting plutonium from spent fuel.


An underground enrichment plant that Iranian officials say they have agreed to convert into an R&D plant. Western officials would like this site converted into something that has nothing to do with enrichment.




Iran's uranium stockpiles are an important issue because the less uranium Tehran has on hand, the more centrifuges it can maintain. Originally, Iran wanted to enrich 2.5 tonnes per year, but could settle at half a tonne. Western officials say that allowing Iran to produce more than 250 kg a year would be problematic. The remainder would be relocated to Russia or another country


The speed of lifting sanctions is another major sticking point in the talks. Iran wants all U.S, European Union and United Nations sanctions lifted immediately. U.S. says sanctions should be lifted gradually. This has become a sensitive issue in the U.S., as Republicans controlling both houses of Congress have threatened to impose new U.S. sanctions on Tehran against the advice of Obama. Obama has said he would veto any new sanctions steps for fear they would torpedo the delicate negotiations. Obama can use executive authority to suspend sanctions but many U.S. measures can only be terminated by Congress.




The Western powers say it is vital that Iran fully cooperate with a U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation into past nuclear activities that could be related to making weapons. Iran has said these “possible military dimensions” (PMD) are an issue it will not budge on.


Any deal would require a vigorous monitoring framework to ensure Iranian compliance. Iranian officials say they reject Western demands unlimited inspection powers for the IAEA.


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Printable version | Dec 4, 2021 4:31:02 AM |

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