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For well more than a decade, the sensitive nuclear fuel-cycle activities of the Islamic Republic of Iran have been at the center of international concern about the further spread of nuclear weapons.

In November 2013, after years of on-and-off negotiations, the Obama administration and its P5+1 partners (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) secured an agreement with the Iranian government, led by newly elected, more moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The six-month-long interim agreement pauses some of the most proliferation-sensitive activities and opens the way for further talks on what the two sides called “a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful.”

The negotiators’ immediate and more difficult challenge is to hammer out a comprehensive, final-phase agreement, possibly by July 20 or by the end of 2014 if the two sides agree to extend the interim agreement and the negotiations on a final deal.

This is the third edition of the Arms Control Association briefing book “Solving the Iranian Nuclear Puzzle” and is a substantial revision from the second edition. It is the first update since the conclusion of the interim agreement in November 2013.

This volume provides an overview of Iran’s nuclear history and an up-to-date summary of the status and capabilities of Iran’s nuclear program. It includes a new section analyzing the major issues and policy options now before the P5+1 and Iranian negotiators.

In our considered judgment, a comprehensive agreement that sets practical, lower limits on Iranian enrichment capacity, maintains Iranian nuclear material stockpiles at very low levels, and significantly reduces the proliferation potential of Iran’s other nuclear projects, combined with more-extensive International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards and a resolution to concerns about possible weapons-related experiments, in exchange for phased sanctions relief, could sufficiently guard against a nuclear-armed Iran for many years to come.

Concluding and implementing such an agreement will be difficult, but it is clearly the best option on the table.

—Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director,
Arms Control Association, June 2014

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