What Iran is Permitted to do Under the JCPOA

By Yigal Carmon


September 17, 2015

Support or opposition to the nuclear deal should be predicated on the text of the JCPOA.

Here are a few examples of what Iran can do under the JCPOA. These actions –permitted under the JCPOA – clearly contradict statements and arguments raised recently by U.S. administration officials.

Iran Can Pursue The Development Of A Nuclear Device And Key Nuclear Technologies

Under the JCPOA, Iran can conduct activities “suitable for the development of a nuclear device” if the joint commission approves it as being “monitored and not for weapons purposes”.[1] If anything should have been totally and absolutely banned by this agreement, it is activity suitable for the development of a nuclear device. President Obama’s declared rationale for the agreement is to distance Iran from a nuclear device. The JCPOA, under certain conditions, allows even that.

Also nowhere in the JCPOA does Iran promise to refrain from development of key technologies that would be necessary to develop a nuclear device. To the contrary, Ali Akbar Salehi head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran stated that: “We are building nuclear fusion now that is the technology for the next 50 years.”[2]

Iran Can Prevent The Inspection Of Military Sites

Under the JCPOA the IAEA cannot go wherever the evidence leads. The JCPOA allows Iran to reject a priori any request to visit a military facility. This exclusion was included in the JCPOA by introducing a limitation under which a request that “aims at interfering with military or other national security activities” is not admissible. [3]

The ban on visits to military sites has been enunciated by all regime figures from Supreme Leader Khamenei downwards. Supreme Leader Khamenei specified: “(The foreigners) shouldn’t be allowed at all to penetrate into the country’s security and defensive boundaries under the pretext of inspection, and the country’s military officials are not permitted at all to allow the foreigners to cross these boundaries or stop the country’s defensive development under the pretext of supervision and inspection.” [4]

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that such visits crossed a red line and were successfully rejected by Iran during the negotiations.[5]

Supreme Leader Khamenei’s top adviser for international affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati, stated: “The access of inspectors from the IAEA or from any other body to Iran’s military centers is forbidden.”[6]

Administration spokespersons persist in claiming that military facilities will also come under inspection, in total contradiction to the language of the JCPOA and the Iranian position.

There Will Be No Snapback Of Sanctions

Under the JCPOA, snapback is not automatic, but will be dependent on UN Security Council approval. Additionally, a declaration has been introduced into the JCPOA and thus became an integral part of the agreement. Iran “will treat such a re-introduction or reimposition of the sanctions specified in Annex II, or such an imposition of new nuclear-related sanctions, as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part.”[7] The inclusion of this clause in the agreement makes the re-imposition of sanctions, in the optimal case, the subject of litigation, when Iran can contend that the other sides is in violation of the agreement.

Sanctions Regime’s Duration Can Be Shortened To Less Than Eight Or Ten Years

Under the JCPOA the duration of the sanctions regime need not extend to eight or ten years but can be much shorter if the IAEA so determines. Upon a report from the director-general of the IAEA to the board of governors of the IAEA and in parallel to the UN Security Council stating that the IAEA has reached the broader conclusion that all nuclear material in Iran remains in peaceful activities whichever is earlier (emphasis added)”[8]

Arak Will Remain A Heavy Water And Hence A Plutonium Capable Facility; Iran’s Plutonium Pathway Was Not Totally Blocked

Arak houses Iran’s heavy water facility. Despite the vague wording in the JCPOA, (i.e. Iran will “redesign” the reactor and it will be “modernized”),[9] it will also continue to operate partially as a heavy water facility a key element needed in plutonium production.

*Yigal Carmon is President and Founder of MEMRI.



[2] Farsnews.com, August 9, 2015.

[3] JCPOA, Annex I, Q.74.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Latimes.com, July 22, 2015

[6] http://english.farsnews.com/print.aspx?nn=13940510000646

[7] JCPOA, Section I, Article C, Paragraph 26. See footnote 1 for link to

[8] JCPOA, Annex V, D.19. See footnote 1 for link to text.

[9] JCPOA, I.B.8. See footnote 1 for link to text.