We have a deal.
After several setbacks, negotiators in Geneva have reached a historic agreement that will place restrictions on the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for easing some of the sanctions arrayed against the country. In the early hours of Sunday morning in Switzerland, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif broke the news in a tweet:
We have reached an agreement.— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) November 24, 2013
The details are still coming into focus, but here are the basics: Iran will stop enriching uranium beyond the 5-percent level (nuclear power plants typically run on 3.5 percent-enriched uranium), refrain from installing new centrifuges for uranium enrichment, and dilute or convert to oxide its stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium (a level that allows Iran to quickly enrich uranium to the weapons-grade threshold of 90 percent). It will also refrain from producing fuel for or operating its heavy-water reactor near the city of Arak, which experts believe could produce weapons-grade plutonium. International monitors will be granted expanded access to Iran's nuclear facilities.
In response, world powers will offer Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief. Critically, the accord appears to be ambiguous on Iran’s right to enrich uranium—a key sticking point in the talks—with Iran and the United States interpreting the text in different ways.
It’s a big deal, though best seen as a temporary, brittle one designed to buy the parties six months to hammer out a longer-term—and far trickier—agreement.