Iran Deal Basics

Fact Sheets, FAQs, Myths & Facts

When the Iran deal was REACHED in 2015, we created a series of videos to help explain how the deal works.

The videos cover all the major issues related to the deal, from sanctions relief to the so-called ‘sunset’ of certain provisions. They explain Iran’s obligations, and how we can verify that Iran is complying.

Read the factsheet

Another fantastic primer on the Iran deal is the Arms Control Association’s JCPOA Fact Sheet, which lays out the timeline, key components, and the current status of the multi-year agreement.


Watch the videos

1) It’s not about trust. It’s about verification.

Opponents of this agreement say Iran would be able to cheat their way to a nuclear weapon.

Not without us knowing in time to stop them. That’s why this deal is so important: By subjecting Iran to the most intrusive inspections regime in history, it leaves nothing to trust.

Inspections at all nuclear sites. 24/7/365 monitoring. Tracking every ounce of uranium. It all adds up to unprecedented assurance that Iran cannot cheat their way to a weapon undetected.

2) Iran’s past is bad. With no deal, the future is worse.

Opponents of this agreement say Iran must admit to all its past nuclear-weapons related research.

Yet it would be foolish to sacrifice knowing what Iran is doing now and in the future just to insist that it admit all it did wrong in the past.

This deal ensures that we’ll know what Iran is up to now and going forward — and give us ample time to stop it — because Iran will again be subject to the most intrusive inspections regime in its history.

3) Limited sanctions relief came only when inspectors verified Iran’s compliance.

Opponents of the agreement say that it lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for little or nothing but promises.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Sanctions only lifted when the international inspectors, part of the most intrusive program in history, verified that Iran had complied with the deal.

4) It’s a lasting end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Opponents of this agreement say it only lasts for 10 or 15 years.

They’re wrong: After rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, this deal keeps in place permanent, enhanced inspections to prevent it from acquiring a bomb.

That’s a far better result than the mere two to four years experts say a military strike would set back Iran’s nuclear program.

5) It blocks every pathway to a bomb.

Opponents of this agreement insist that Iran’s infrastructure must be completely dismantled.

Yet this deal is the most direct, workable route to blocking every pathway Iran has to a bomb.

It completely defangs Iran’s nuclear infrastructure by effectively eliminating uranium stockpiles, cutting centrifuges by two-thirds and preventing the acquisition of plutonium.

6) It exposed Iran’s entire nuclear program to global scrutiny

Opponents of the agreement argue that this deal allows Iran to still engage in some nuclear research and development.

In fact, this deal severely restricts Iran’s nuclear R&D, including by prohibiting the testing of advanced centrifuges using uranium. It also drags Iran’s R&D program out into the light of day, subjecting it to the most intrusive inspections and verification regime in history.

Without the deal fully in place, Iran’s research and development has again moved toward being unrestricted and unmonitored.

7) Iran’s support for terror will still be punished

Opponents of the agreement say it does not stop Iran’s support for terrorism.

It’s important to understand that this deal does not let Iran off the hook for its sponsorship of terrorism and continues to punish it for that and other outrageous activity. Under the deal, sanctions remained firmly in place against Iranian support for terrorism, human rights abuses and ballistic missile development.

And most importantly, this deal keeps Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, which could then fall into other dangerous hands.

8) More sanctions won’t stop Iran’s dangerous nuclear activities. This deal does.

Opponents of this agreement say the United States should impose tougher sanctions and insist on a “better deal.”

However, new US sanctions imposed by the Trump administration dramatically and decisively failed to force Iran to make concessions.

Today, Iran is stockpiling larger amounts of uranium. Its hardliners are emboldened and operating with a freer hand. US troops in the region have been subjected to bombardment by Iranian missiles. Key allies like Israel face increasing threats from Iran and its proxies near their borders.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below, we answer some of the questions we frequently get from supporters and clarify some of the most common misconceptions about the deal. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please feel free to email us at [email protected].

Did Iran comply with the nuclear agreement? How do we know?

Prior to Donald Trump’s violation and abandonment of the JCPOA, Iran had taken all the steps that they were required to take in order to block all pathways to developing a nuclear weapon. The core of the Arak plutonium reactor had been removed and filled with concrete. 25,000 pounds of enriched uranium had been shipped out of the country. ⅔ of installed centrifuges had been physically removed. Iran had provided inspectors access to its nuclear facilities and supply chain.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is tasked with monitoring and inspecting Iran’s nuclear facilities to ensure that they are complying with the deal – utilizing the unprecedentedly thorough and sophisticated inspections mechanisms and technology that the deal put into place. Prior to Trump’s unilateral violation of the deal, the IAEA had repeatedly certified that Iran was compliant.

Does the deal prevent the US from confronting and sanctioning Iran’s dangerous non-nuclear behaviors?

No. The deal is designed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Non-nuclear behaviors are separate – which is why the US has and can continue to use a wide range of tactics and sanctions to confront and penalize Iran over its support for terror, human rights violations and missile development. In fact, Congress passed new non-nuclear sanctions on Iran prior to Trump’s violation and abandonment of the agreement.

It is important to note, however, that some proposed pieces of legislation in recent years have aimed to violate or undermine the JCPOA by reimposing key nuclear sanctions under the guise of confronting non-nuclear behavior. That’s a dangerous tactic that we have to watch out for.

What happens after the deal expires or sunsets? Can’t Iran just go back to trying to build a nuclear weapon then?

The agreement never expires or sunsets. The agreement contains some time-limited restrictions on certain Iranian nuclear activity, but its prohibition on Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon and Iran’s submission to an aggressive inspections and monitoring regime are permanent.

Specifically, the agreement establishes strict limits on advanced centrifuge R&D, testing and deployment in the first 10 years and, after the initial 10 year period, Iran must continue to limit enrichment to a level that is consistent with a peaceful nuclear program. Certain transparency measures will last for 15 years, others for 20 to 25 years and some will last forever, namely its obligations under the IAEA Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol.

This deal in no way authorizes, allows or encourages future Iranian nuclear weapons activity, which will always be prohibited under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). If Iran ever acts to pursue a nuclear weapon in violation of the agreement, the United States and its allies retain their ability to respond with any number of diplomatic and military options. And thanks to the agreement, America and its partners are now in a better position to thwart any break-out attempt, given the unparalleled understanding and awareness of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure that the deal has already provided.

Can we trust Iran when it has violated many past agreements?

We don’t trust Iran – and this agreement leaves nothing to trust. It is based on unprecedented verification, with the strictest inspections in Iran’s history. It includes 24/7 monitoring of Iran’s declared nuclear facilities, including Natanz, Fordow and Arak. International inspectors have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain – its uranium mines and mills; its conversion facility; its centrifuge manufacturing and storage facilities; and its other declared nuclear sites. As a result, Iran would need to construct an entire covert supply chain to pursue a covert nuclear weapons program. The IAEA can also request access to any undeclared sites within 24 days, and Iran, Russia and China do not have a veto over that right, or over moves to punish Iran if it refuses.

Why doesn’t the deal impose “anytime, anywhere inspections>”

There is no such thing – it is a semantic debate about a term that does not exist in arms control circles or at the IAEA. There are currently no countries that grant “anytime, anywhere” inspections to the IAEA nor has any country ever agreed to such a condition. What is important and undeniable is that inspectors have the access they need, when and where they need it. Iran’s nuclear facilities are monitored 24/7. Without a deal, international inspectors would be granted little or no access to any sites, while Iran’s nuclear program proceeds unmonitored and unrestricted.