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Iran Nuclear Deal Leaves Plenty Of Room For Disagreement


Throughout the program this morning, we're looking more deeply into the historic nuclear deal with Iran announced yesterday. Those involved are hailing it as a victory for diplomacy. But critics in both Iran and the United States are concerned about the compromises negotiators had to make. NPR's Peter Kenyon looks at a couple of them.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: In Iran, the supreme leader thanked his negotiating team and the celebrations began.


KENYON: But not everyone embraced the deal. The military sounded shocked. Rajanews, linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, wrote that fewer than 6,000 centrifuges remain, our uranium stockpile is down, inspections even of our military sites - does this sound like a good deal? The question of granting U.N. nuclear inspectors access to Iranian military bases is a good illustration of how tough it can be to find a compromise both sides can live with. The International Atomic Energy Agency wants to make sure Iran isn't hiding nuclear-related projects at a military site. Secretary of State John Kerry says this agreement makes that unlikely.


JOHN KERRY: Under this deal inspectors will be able to gain access to any location the IAEA and the majority of the P5-plus-one nations deem suspicious. If Iran fails to comply, we will know it, and we will know it quickly.

KENYON: The key phrase there is any facility deemed suspicious by the IAEA and the P5-plus-one - the six world powers that negotiated this deal. It refers to a dispute resolution mechanism in the deal. Let's say inspectors want to visit a military site. They send a request to Iran, which has two weeks to reply. The agency can force a vote on the issue by a joint commission set up under the deal, but that process could take as long as 24 days. That, critics say, would allow Iran time to clean the site and avoid having any violations detected. Another tricky issue involves what appears to be the only part of the agreement that will remain secret. It has to do with how quickly toward the end of a deal Iran might be able to speed up its enrichment of uranium - moving closer to having enough fuel for a nuclear bomb. Kerry used the phrase breakout time.


KERRY: It also guarantees that Iran's breakout time - the time it would take for Iran to produce enough fissile material for just one nuclear weapon - that time will increase to at least one year for a period of at least 10 years.

KENYON: Experts say that is measurably better than the current breakout estimate of two to three months. But here's the secret part - under the deal, Iran has to submit to the IAEA its plans for longer-term research and development. They've said they want to develop more advanced centrifuges, which will create nuclear fuel much faster. What does that do to the breakout time? American officials say they don't know exactly because that research plan is confidential. They argue that the IAEA may share that information with the U.S. and its negotiating partners, and in any case, getting enough fuel for a bomb depends on a lot more than just centrifuges. But this is another issue critics are likely to focus on as this highly complex nuclear agreement faces scrutiny in the coming weeks. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Vienna. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.