The United States and Iran are working on a two-phase deal that clamps down on Tehran’s nuclear program for at least a decade before providing it leeway over the remainder of the agreement to slowly ramp up activities that could be used to make weapons.
A breakthrough was not expected before Kerry returns to Washington later Monday. Still, Western officials familiar with the talks cited long-awaited progress on some elements that would have to go into a comprehensive deal. They described the discussions as a moving target, however, meaning changes in any one area would have repercussions for other parts of the negotiation.
The idea would be to reward Iran for good behavior over the last years of any agreement, gradually lifting constraints on its uranium enrichment program and slowly easing economic sanctions.
Iran says it does not want nuclear arms and needs enrichment only for energy, medical and scientific purposes, but the U.S. fears Tehran could re-engineer the program to another potential use — producing the fissile core of a nuclear weapon. The U.S. initially sought restrictions lasting for up to 20 years; Iran had pushed for less than a decade. The prospective deal appears to be somewhere in the middle.
Don’t worry! Congress will have to approve the deal… but —
Several steps would come immediately through executive action by President Barack Obama, the officials said. Other penalties would be suspended, but not lifted, as Iran demonstrates its compliance with its obligations. A lesser amount of restrictions would stay in place until Congress acts to remove them permanently.
Feel better now?