Further details of an unwritten agreement between the US and Iran regarding Tehran’s nuclear program emerged overnight on Wednesday.
The expected deal, which the sides negotiated in recent weeks via Oman after talks to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement failed last year, would have the US provide sanctions relief in exchange for Iran limiting its nuclear program.
Israeli officials warned for weeks that an agreement was coming, and many details of the plan have been reported in Israeli media, including The Jerusalem Post. US officials’ willingness to confirm details to reporters at The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, at a level they were not willing to do before, for articles released Wednesday may be an indication of the deal’s imminence.
The agreement entails Iran curbing its uranium enrichment at 60%, far beyond what was permitted in 2015 but below the 90% needed for a nuclear weapon. The US warned in the talks that it would exact a heavy price from Iran if it enriches to 90%.
Iran would also free Americans it is holding in prison.
In addition, Iran would no longer sell ballistic missiles to Russia and stop its proxies’ attacks on US contractors in Syria and Iraq, the Times reported.
The US would waive sanctions, specifically allowing Iraq to pay more than $10 billion it owes Iran for gas and electricity and for South Korea to pay it $7b. for oil imports.
The US would not add further sanctions or pursue resolutions against Iran in the UN Security Council or the International Atomic Energy Agency. In addition, the US would agree not to seize foreign tankers bearing Iranian oil, according to the Times.
Last week, the US waived sanctions and allowed Iraq to pay Iran $2.76b. The funds are meant to be used for food and medicine from US-approved sources, the US State Department said.
The deal is intended to prevent an escalation in tensions and keep the Iranian issue off of the political agenda at least until the 2024 US presidential election, Israeli diplomatic sources have said.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller has repeatedly denied “rumors about a nuclear deal,” which he said were “false or misleading.” Nevertheless, he may be referring to a technicality, since the understandings with Tehran are meant to remain unwritten and not a formal agreement.
The informality of the deal is likely an attempt by the Biden administration to avoid congressional review as stipulated by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.
The law requires the president to notify Congress within five days of any agreement with Iran relating to its nuclear program and transmit any related materials for a 30-day review period. It also requires the president to “determine the agreement in no way compromises the commitment of the United States to Israel’s security, nor its support for Israel’s right to exist.”
US Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) introduced another bill, the Iranian Enrichment Monitoring Act, which would put the Islamic Republic on the Senate’s agenda.
The bill would require the director of national intelligence (DNI) to notify Congress within 48 hours if Iran has produced or possesses any amount of uranium enriched to greater than 60% purity. In addition, the DNI would have to notify Congress if Iran enriches any amount of uranium-235 to a purity that is 5% higher or more than the percentage in the previous notification, or any enrichment quantity exceeding 10 kilograms.
“In most cases, knowledge is power,” Graham said. “There is no legitimate civilian purpose for Iran to have uranium enriched to this level – the only reason is for military purposes. This legislation will ensure that Congress is informed in a timely manner of advancements by Iran regarding their desire to build a nuclear weapon. I believe there is tremendous bipartisan support for this idea and hope it becomes law as soon as possible.”
Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said: “Every minute counts when it comes to monitoring the dangerous advancements in Iran’s nuclear program. The Iranian regime continues to push the limits with its enrichment, and we must be vigilant to ensure it never gets a nuclear weapon.”
Netanyahu: US determined to reach 'mini' nuclear deal
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said the US was determined to reach a “small deal,” and that there is little chance Washington will change its mind. All that is left is for the Islamic Republic to give an answer, he told the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee behind closed doors.
Netanyahu characterized the deal as a “mini-deal” or an “understanding,” rather than a formal agreement that would be put in writing.
“Our stance is clear: No agreement with Iran will oblige Israel,” he said ahead of the confidential committee meeting on Tuesday. “Israel will continue to do everything to defend itself.”
Israel’s opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal still stands, Netanyahu said.
“We still have different views, and we do not hide them, even about small agreements,” he said. “We make our stance clear in closed rooms and open ones.”