STATE DEPARTMENT— Iran and six world powers have entered the final phase of negotiations to reach a comprehensive agreement on Tehran's nuclear program. Negotiators have agreed on key elements for a final joint plan of action that they hope to create by a June 30 deadline. Analysts have applauded the level of detail in the framework plan, but say tough work lies ahead.
After more than a week of marathon sessions in Switzerland, Secretary of State John Kerry said negotiators have a solid foundation for a good final agreement.
“It is the foundation for a deal that will see Iran reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98% for 15 years,” said Kerry.
As part of that plan, Iran would not enrich any uranium at one facility for at least 15 years and limit enrichment at a second one.
It would grant nuclear inspectors regular access to sites and also agree not to build any new uranium enrichment facilities for 15 years.
It is a plan that, in theory, should ease concerns of vocal critics, including members of Congress and some U.S. allies, said Carnegie Endowment nuclear policy co-director James Acton.
“I think the question that faces us is not 'Is this a perfect agreement?' It is not. Is it significantly better for their security -- for Israel’s security, for Saudi Arabia’s security -- than no deal would be? And, I think, judged by that metric, this is unquestionably better for Israeli security,” said Acton.
He said for the negotiators, however, a number of challenges lie ahead.
“Firstly, the two sides have to agree to the details of the implementation agreement. That is going to be really difficult. At the moment, I would give it roughly a 65-percent chance of being successful in that,” said Acton.
In exchange for compliance with the plan, Iran would receive relief from sanctions.
That has been a weak bargaining chip, though, said former ambassador John Bolton, who served as Under Secretary of State for arms control and international security.
“The sanctions that we have seen have caused Iran to come to the table to get relief from sanctions - well, no kidding! What else would you expect? But, they have not caused Iran to make anything other than trivial and easily reversible concessions on the nuclear program,” said Bolton.
Awaiting final deal
Nonproliferation expert Kelsey Davenport said she is not as concerned about whether negotiators can close the deal as she is about naysayers who may derail the process.
"We don’t know all of the details yet. Not all of the details have been worked out. But I think we need to give the negotiators the benefit of the doubt and then evaluate the deal after we see it in its entirety,” she said.
Davenport said that while some may view it as preferable for Iran to give up its entire nuclear program, that is not realistic and not a pledge that can be used to launch negotiations.