U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman after the signing of Iran's nuclear agreement.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman after the signing of Iran’s nuclear agreement on Nov. 23, 2013, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Image: U.S. Dept. of State / Flickr CC

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus one reached a deal with Iran Sunday with landmark, yet divisive, legislation that will assure the Middle East country temporarily halts part of its nuclear enrichment program.

Officials from China, France, Russia, U.K. and U.S., along with Germany, have met with Iranian officials multiple times since the election of Iran’s new moderate President Hassan Rouhani in June. Rouhani began speaking to President Obama in September, first through letters and eventually through phone calls.

As NPR‘s Eyder Peralta reports, Iran has agreed to begin halting any enrichment of its uranium reserves at levels greater than 5 percent. The country will also neutralize any uranium it has that is enriched near 20 percent.

In return, the U.S. will drop certain sanctions it previously pressed on Iran, which will amount to approximately $6 billion to $7 billion in relief.

The countries agreed to a temporary 6-month deal while more permanent solutions are agreed upon. Although Peralta notes that secret negotiations took place over the past year between the U.S. and Iran, the international community has spoken to Iran over the past several months and should continue to do so.

The GOP is not happy with the deal, says Peralta, with members saying it only makes a nuclear Iran more likely. Despite the negative reaction, however, Secretary of State John Kerry has responded with optimism and assurance that inspectors will verify compliance throughout. He said the deal will completely eliminate Iran’s approximately 407 pounds of 20-percent enriched uranium, thus extending the time Iran needs to build a nuclear weapon.

Natural uranium contains less than one percent U-235, a fissile uranium isotope. When uranium is enriched to near 20 percent, the amount of fissile material is enough to be used in a crude nuclear weapon. Typically, a modern nuclear bomb contains U-235 at near 85 percent.

Cameron Abadi at Bloomberg Businessweek wrote Tuesday about how Congress could potentially sour the international deal. Abadi says President Obama has the power to remove sanctions on Iran that he enacted with an executive order, including those agreed to be lifted on Sunday. However, only Congress has the power to remove sanctions that it put in place.

In fact, Abadi notes, Congress has enacted three separate rounds of sanctions against Iran since 2010. The removal of such sanctions will require the President to convince Congress of the necessity of sanction removal, all while overcoming partisan gridlock.

With the GOP stating a clear message that it does not support the latest deal with Iran, convincing that side of the aisle may prove difficult. In any case, Iran controls much of its own fate by demonstrating compliance with international negotiators and nuclear program inspectors.

Image courtesy of U.S. State Department via Flickr