Iran Nuclear Negotiations - Your Questions Answered

As the Iran nuclear deadline approaches, here are answers to your questions.

What is the deadline?

What is the outline of a deal?

A deal would require Iran to halt production of all weapons-grade nuclear material for another 10 years -- as it has already done under an interim agreement -- and to submit to an intense inspection and verification process. In exchange, the international community and the U.S. would gradually lift heavy economic sanctions. Reports about the latest negotiations say the agreement would force Iran to cut the hardware it could use to make a bomb by about 40 percent. That would mean Iran would be allowed to keep 6,000 of the 10,000 centrifuges it has used to enrich uranium. Current estimates are that Iran could put together enough nuclear material for an atomic bomb in about two to three months, what is known as a “breakout time.” The U.S. believes a deal would push Iran’s breakout time to one year during the course of the 10-year moratorium.

What does Iran want?

President Obama could lift some of the U.S. sanctions immediately but others would be lifted over time pending verification that Iran is complying with the agreement. Eventually, Congress will have to approve lifting some of the final sanctions, which could be problematic.

What do the U.S. and its allies want?

What is the biggest hurdle in the negotiations?

The deal hinges, in large part, on the deep buried enrichment facility at Fordow. Iran wants to keep running hundreds of the centrifuges there for “scientific research,” but the U.S. wants Iran to completely repurpose the facility, fearing the centrifuges could be easily retooled for a quick, secret breakout. The U.S. is focusing on the Fordow facility because it is buried deep underground, possibly beyond the reach of the world’s most powerful “bunker-buster” bombs. So if Iran breaks the agreement, Fordow would be its most hardened and likely choice to begin producing the material.

Does Congress need to sign off on a deal?

No. This is not a treaty. If it were a treaty then Congress would have a say. But it’s not, so they don’t. This is a legally non-binding international agreement. And it’s only really enforceable to the degree that Iran is intimidated by the threat of further sanctions or, possibly, military strikes.

What would happen if there is no deal?

If no deal is reached and talks break down completely, then Iran would likely reject the interim agreement and try to erode current sanctions by reaching out aggressively to governments and companies around the world, enticing them to ignore sanctions. It would seek to circumvent oil embargoes with Europe and Asia that are the most bothersome sanctions for Iran, not the U.S. sanctions.

What would Israel do?

Is Congress going to enact sanctions on its own before a deal is reached?

Probably not. President Obama has threatened to veto any additional sanctions and Congress would need enough votes to override that veto. That’s unlikely to happen. Rep. Brad Sherman, a pro-Israel California Democrat and second-ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told ABC News Thursday that Netanyahu’s visit to Congress, while it may have served his and John Boehner’s political interests, reduced the chances of overriding a presidential veto legislation from “40 percent to 4 percent.” Why? Sherman believes the speech framed the debate as a personality contest between the president and the prime minister, which means Democrats are going to side with the president.