Negotiations to resume Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) have been carried out by Iran, China, Russia and European nations.
The treaty was negotiated in 2015 to put a lid over nuclear activities of Iran. Former President Donald Trump had withdrawn US from the treaty.
Iranian officials have refused to directly negotiate with Americans, forcing European officials to act as mediators to formulate a new treaty.
The treaty had proposed to lift economic sanctions on Iran if the country’s nuclear weapons programme was suspended.
The treaty mandated Iran to cut its enriched Uranium stockpile by 98% and keep purity level at 3.67%, suitable for civil purposes.
The US decided to pull out of the agreement after critics of the deal along with allies such as Saudi and Israel argued that the deal did not address Iran’s growing influence in the region.
Terms of the deal
Iran had argued that its nuclear programme was peaceful, which was widely contested. The deal gave a middle path for all stake-holders.
When the deal was signed, nuclear fuel enrichment in Iran was being carried out at Natanz and Fordow. These facilities were enriching uranium more than the permissible limits.
Uranium with less than 5% enrichment are used in nuclear energy plants, 20% and more purity for research and more than 90% enrichment for bomb.
In addition to keeping enrichment level at 3.67%, Iran was also instructed to keep restrictions on number of centrifuges.
The idea behind keeping enrichment levels at 3.67% was to ensure that a time period of 1 year was needed before Iran could enrich the fuel in case the deal broke.
Geopolitics behind the failure of deal
Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from agreement due to his belief that the deal was ‘flawed’. He argued that Iran did not adhere to the terms.
US allies Saudi and Israel put pressure on US to re-impose sanctions as economically powerful Iran could challenge their position in middle-east politics.
USA wants Iran to stop enrichment before sanctions are removed. It wants Iran to open door for IAEA inspection.
Iran in turn wants USA to remove sanctions first before any new deal is re-negotiated. It also wants assurances that any future US leader would not withdraw from deal.