Iran Sanctions: JCPOA Basics

The JCPOA is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also sometimes referred to as the “Iranian Nuclear Deal”. It is the international agreement entered into between the P5+1 countries and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program. In exchange for key concessions to its nuclear program, Iran will receive significant but limited sanctions relief, including an end to most EU and UN sanctions targeting Iran and the end of the US nuclear-related, secondary sanctions. Secondary sanctions are US sanctions that discourage and punish foreign persons from doing significant business with Iran.

The P5+1 Nations

The P5 are the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. They are the U.S., the U.K, France, China, and Russia, and the plus one is Germany. There was international consensus among all these countries that Iran’s nuclear program was problematic and threatened international security, which is what encouraged the P5+1 to work together towards an agreement with Iran.

The Purpose of the JCPOA

There are many opinions as to why the P5+1 entered into an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. Some experts believe the concessions made by Iran to its nuclear program extend its breakout time to make a nuclear bomb. With this additional time, the U.S. and its partners are believed to be able to take military action against Iran to neutralize its ability to make a bomb if they decided to go down that path. Additionally, some experts believe the JCPOA’s level of verifiable oversight of Iran’s nuclear program is unprecedented in the international realm. This oversight protects the United States and its partners from the threat posed by a nuclear Iran.

The JCPOA’s Impact on Iran

Iran will receive sanctions relief in exchange for its nuclear concessions. The U.S. will primarily cease its nuclear-related secondary sanctions program against Iran while the EU and UN will lift most of its sanctions targeting Iran. These three sanctions measures, the U.S. secondary sanctions, the UN sanctions and the EU sanctions, were believed to have hurt the Iranian economy so badly that Iran could no longer ignore their impact. Many people credit the sanctions measures as the reasons why Iran came to the negotiating table in the first place to make a deal.

The JPOA is the precursor to the JCPOA. The JPOA offered a framework through which the P5+1 could come to an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program while the JPOA was always conceived as a temporary measure. The JCPOA is considered a long-term solution to Iran’s nuclear program, which will span 15 years and will permanently prohibit Iran from making a nuclear bomb.