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July 1st, 2015

Five things your class needs to know about U.S.-Iranian relations

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iranBy Gabby Shacknai

Iran’s nuclear program has been a point of international attention since it began negotiating with the U.S. and a group of other nations in November 2013. As the countries prepare to finalize an agreement, it is important to understand both the history of U.S.-Iranian conflict and what a nuclear deal will entail. Use the following points to explain U.S.-Iranian relations and refer to the vocab sheet for key terms.

1) The history of U.S.-Iranian relations
Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Iran stretch back to 1883. Iran saw the establishment of a limited constitutional monarchy in 1906 and a U.S.- and U.K.-supported coup against its democratically elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953, which established a monarchy under King Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. The Shah was ousted from power in 1979, and Iran formed an Islamic Republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Later that year, after discovering that the deposed Shah was permitted entry into the U.S. for medical treatment, a group of revolutionary Iranian students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage for 444 days. As a result, the U.S. broke all diplomatic ties with Iran in 1980. The U.S. government designated Iran a state sponsor of terrorism in 1984 and considers it to be “the most active state sponsor of terrorism.”

2) What are the Iranian nuclear talks?
The Iran nuclear talks are a diplomatic process of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 regarding Iran’s nuclear program. The talks began in February 2013.

3) When and how did these talks begin?
There had been several unsuccessful attempts to negotiate a deal with Iran since 2002, when several Iranian dissident groups brought the country’s nuclear program to international attention. The groups revealed the existence of two facilities that Iran had not declared to the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Talks between the U.S. and Iran began in February 2013 and were further propelled by two events: the Obama administration’s opening of a back channel to Iran in March 2013, which led to several covert bilateral meetings in Oman, and the June 2013 election of Hassan Rohani, who had previously served as Iran’s nuclear negotiator.

 4) What does the nuclear agreement say?
The deal is not finalized, but a current agreement says that Iran would reduce its installed enrichment centrifuges from 19,000 to 6,000 with only 5,000 active. Fordow, Iran’s second enrichment facility, would cease all enrichment and will become a physics research center. The country has also said that it would reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium from 10,000 kg to 300 kg in the next 15 years. Under the terms of the agreement, the IAEA would be able to inspect any facility that they deem “suspicious.” In exchange for Iran’s cooperation, the country would gain relief from many economic sanctions that have affected its economy.

5) What needs to happen by July 7?
Many technical details of the deal still need to be finalized. The specific nature of the inspection program and any penalties for non-compliance are particularly important.

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