Iran’s Nuclear Program & Western Sanctions

Iran rules out changes to Nuclear Deal


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Iran Nuclear Deal

Mains level : Irritants in the deal and threats posed by Iran's nuclear programme

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ruled out changes to Iran’s nuclear accord with world powers and dismissed calls to broaden the terms of the deal and include regional countries.

Do you know how the enmity between Iran and the US came into reality?  We hope you have watched the Argo (2012) movie for sure!

What is the news?

  • The election of Joe Biden, who supports a US return to the agreement, has spurred some expectations of renewed diplomacy.
  • But Rouhani’s refusal puts this possibility at the end.

The United States since 1979 has applied various economic, trades, scientific and military sanctions against Iran. U.S. economic sanctions are administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Iranian Nuclear Agreement

  • The Iran nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is a landmark accord reached between Iran and several world powers, including the US, in July 2015.
  • Under its terms, Iran agreed to dismantle much of its nuclear program and open its facilities to more extensive international inspections in exchange for billions of dollars’ worth of sanctions relief.

What were the goals of JCPOA?

  • The P5+1 wanted to unwind Iran’s nuclear program to the point that if Tehran decided to pursue a nuclear weapon, it would take at least one year, giving world powers time to respond.
  • Heading into the JCPOA negotiations, U.S. intelligence officials estimated that, in the absence of an agreement, Iran could produce enough nuclear material for a weapon in a few months.

Who are the participants?

  • The JCPOA, which went into effect in January 2016, imposes restrictions on Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program.
  • At the heart of negotiations with Iran were the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US) and Germany—collectively known as the P5+1.
  • The European Union also took part.
  • Prior to the JCPOA, the P5+1 had been negotiating with Iran for years, offering its government various incentives to halt uranium enrichment.

Disruptions after trump

  • The deal has been in jeopardy since President Donald J. Trump withdrew the US from it in 2018.
  • In response to the U.S. departure, as well as to deadly attacks on prominent Iranians in 2020, including one by the United States, Iran has resumed some of its nuclear activities.

Why isn’t the deal yet enforced?

  • In April 2020, the United States announced its intention to keep back sanctions.
  • The other P5 members objected to the move, saying the US could not unilaterally implement the mechanism because it left the nuclear deal in 2018.
  • Meanwhile, the wide range of U.S. sanctions unrelated to the nuclear program has added to the damage.

 Iran’s current nuclear activity

  • Iran since Trump’s decisions started exceeding agreed-upon limits to its stockpile of low-enriched uranium.
  • It began enriching uranium to higher concentrations (though still far short of the purity required for weapons).
  • It also began developing new centrifuges to accelerate uranium enrichment; resuming heavy water production at its Arak facility.

Did you know?


Mined uranium has less than 1 percent of the uranium-235 isotope used in fission reactions, and centrifuges increase that isotope’s concentration. Uranium enriched to 5 percent is used in nuclear power plants, and at 20 percent it can be used in research reactors or for medical purposes. High-enriched uranium, at some 90 percent, is used in nuclear weapons.

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