After close to two years of painful negotiations, Iran and world powers have reached a potentially historic deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear activities.
What was at stake? What does the deal mean? What happens next?
Here are quick answers to some pressing questions, designed to get you up to speed on this important story:
What’s the deal in a nutshell?
Diplomats from the United States, the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany have finally completed a deal with Iran meant to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.
In exchange for limits on its nuclear program, Iran would come out from under some economic sanctions while being allowed to continue a peaceful nuclear program.
What are the details?
The final text has not yet been released, and representatives of Iran, the United States and the other nations involved in the marathon talks are still to hold a final meeting in Vienna, Austria.
Iran’s ISNA news agency said the document runs to 100 pages with another five pages of annexes.
After the representatives meet one last time, an official statement on the agreement is expected to be issued by Iran and the European Union, diplomats said.
What took so long?
The talks hit a snag, despite earlier hints that a deal could be imminent.
The biggest sticking point Monday seemed to be Iran’s insistence that any deal include the lifting of an embargo on conventional weapons and missiles, multiple sources told CNN. Russia supported that idea, but U.S. officials were opposed.
The deadline to reach a deal was technically Monday, but it had been extended before — as recently as Friday.
What was at stake?
Oh, just the security of the entire world, if you take the European Union’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, at her word.
The deal-making had been driven by fear of the effect that a nuclear-armed Iran would have on the already tense and frightfully complicated Middle East. The country has long been accused of sponsoring terror, and the idea of Tehran possessing nuclear weapons sends shudders through many in the West, and Israel in particular.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly warned of Iranian ambitions to expand its influence and annihilate Israel.
The state of Iran’s economy also hinged on a deal. Western and U.N. sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program and other issues have crippled the country’s economy.
What was proposed?
Western leaders have pushed for a deal that would curb Iran’s ability to use nuclear technology to create fuel for a bomb for at least a decade. It calls for regular inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities and the supply chain that supports the program. For its part, Iran wants a quick end to economic sanctions, once the deal is signed, and a deal that protects its ability to continue developing a peaceful nuclear program.
The deal would not irrevocably prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. But advocates say it would make it harder to do so and put roadblocks in the way that would give world powers time to fashion a response if Iran turned course and started sprinting toward making a bomb.
Will it affect gas prices?
Absolutely. Crude prices fell by as much as 2.3% to $50.98 a barrel as investors reacted to the freshly inked deal. Experts have warned that the deal could lead to a flood of new oil from Iran — the country has 30 millions of barrels of crude in storage and ready for sale, according to FACTS Global Energy, an industry consultancy.
How did we get here?
Talks began after the 2013 election of reformist Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. He seemed open to warmer ties with the West and said he would work to end international sanctions.
“#IranDeal shows constructive engagement works,” he tweeted Tuesday. “With this unnecessary crisis resolved, new horizons emerge with a focus on shared challenges.”
Even before 2013, President Barack Obama had said, as a presidential candidate in 2007, that he would be open to talks with Iran on the country’s nuclear program.
Discussions in November 2013 led to an interim deal called the Joint Plan of Action that offered some sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program pending further talks toward a permanent solution.
International inspectors say Iran has complied with the terms of that interim agreement, but it’s only now that agreement on the broader, longer-lasting deal has been reached.
Who’s been in favor of a deal?
Iranian negotiators very much want to get out from under economic sanctions that are choking their country’s economy. International sanctions have roughly cut in half Iran’s oil exports and caused its economy to contract by 5% in 2013, according to the U.S. Institute for Peace.
“I believe this is a historic moment,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said after news of the deal, although he cautioned that it was “not perfect.”
He added, “Today could have been the end of hope on this issue, but now we are starting a new chapter of hope.”
Leaders of the Western nations involved in the negotiations also favored a deal as the best way to block Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
The European Commission tweeted Tuesday: “The decision we are going to take is much more than a nuclear deal. It can open a new chapter.”
Congressional Republicans have been particularly vocal critics, saying the deal is a losing proposition for the United States and its allies. Saudi Arabia is concerned about the boost it could give Iran, its regional rival.
“This agreement is a historic mistake for the world,” Netanyahu said Tuesday. The Israeli Prime Minister has previously said the deal “will pave Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal.”
Hardline clerics in Iran are also likely to oppose any deal that imposes restrictions on what they see as Iran’s right to a nuclear program.
What happens next?
Now that an agreement has been forged, Obama must submit it to Congress for review. Congress has 60 days to review the agreement, giving its opponents plenty of time to dig into the details and challenge the Obama administration’s position.
Obama is expected to give a statement on the deal Tuesday, ahead of a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.
In Tehran, the deal will need the clear backing of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to fend off any objections from hardliners suspicious of an accord with the United States after decades of tensions and mistrust.
How sanctions would be lifted has yet to be worked out as well.
CNN’s Erin McLaughin, Christiane Amanpour, Nic Robertson and Damien Ward contributed to this report.
By Michael Pearson and Laura Smith-Spark