Iran nuclear deal, simply explained

More than 2 weeks of contentious negotiations in Vienna led to Tuesday morning's historic deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of major economic sanctions. The deal was negotiated by diplomats for Iran and the E3+3, which include the United States, United Kingdom, China, France, Germany and Russia.

"Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off," President Obama said, announcing the deal Tuesday morning. "This deal is not built on trust. It is built on verification."

Iran’s nuclear restrictions

Under terms of the 100-page agreement, Iran will allow inspections of its known and suspected nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran must also shut down its IR-40 heavy water reactor at Arak and move its enriched uranium supplies out of the country.

Reason for restrictions

The primary purpose of this agreement is to reduce the chances of a nuclear-armed Iran and avoid another U.S.-involved conflict in the Middle East. The U.S. and other world powers hope this agreement will prevent Iran from producing enough nuclear material for an atomic bomb for at least 10 years.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the deal "a new chapter" in the country’s global relations, but maintained that Iran never had plans to build a nuclear bomb.

Sanctions lifted

Once the IAEA has verified that Iran has carried out its end of the bargain, the United States and European Union will lift sanctions that have cut Iran’s oil exports and blocked its access to global financial markets. The deal will also give Iran an estimated $100 billion to $150 billion in assets that have been frozen overseas.


U.S. intelligence officials believe it will take Iran at least 2 to 3 months to get into compliance and trigger this “implementation day,” but a senior Iranian official said the country could make it happen in “a matter of weeks.”

What if Iran violates terms of the deal?

Iran agreed to a "snapback" provision, which could reinstate its sanctions if terms of the deal are broken.

The critics

Those against the deal include the governments of Israel and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have a generations-old rivalry with Iran for regional influence, and both nations are concerned with the short-term and long-term effects on Iran’s military. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the deal gives Iran a “jackpot” that will “enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror in the region and in the world.”

Here in the United States, the deal is met with resistance from most of the field of 15 Republican presidential candidates, many Republicans in Congress and a handful of Democrats. Congress will have 60 days to review the deal and vote.

"The American people are going to repudiate this deal and I believe Congress will kill the deal,” said Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton in a Tuesday morning appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

“My initial impression is that this deal is far worse than I ever dreamed it could be and will be a nightmare for the region, our national security and eventually the world at large,” said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, speaking to Bloomberg.