What Are the P5+1 Countries?

The P5+1 countries are a group of nations working together on the Iran Nuclear Deal. The countries include the five permanent members of the United Nations (U.N.) security council, with the addition of Germany. The U.N. security council consists of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The agreement is more formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Although the deal remains in place, the United States withdrew from the deal in 2018.

Key Takeaways

  • The P5+1 countries are those on the U.N. security council (China, France, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S.) that have been working toward an Iran nuclear deal since 2006 and since 2015 under the JCPOA.
  • The U.S. withdrew from the deal in 2018, as former President Donald Trump fulfilled a campaign promise to exit JCPOA, which he labeled a "disaster" and the "worst deal ever."
  • Despite this setback, the remaining countries continued negotiations with Iran, although the status of the pact is tenuous.

Understanding P5+1 Countries

The original group of nations was called the EU-3. This group consisted of representatives from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. In 2006, China, Russia, and the United States joined the pact forming the P5+1.

These nations began working together to neutralize Iran's nuclear activity after they discovered that the Islamic Republic had an operational uranium enrichment facility in 2002. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began investigating Iran’s nuclear actives in 2003 after the discovery, along with the existence of a heavy-water facility. 

The creation of the P5+1 came about when an IAEA study concluded that Iran failed to uphold its end of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. New negotiations began in 2013, which were formalized and signed in 2015. The U.N. passed the first of many resolutions that imposed sanctions on Iran regarding its nuclear development.

The United States levied several sanctions on Iran since the 1979 revolution. Some of these sanctions continue to relate to Iran’s nuclear programs. These are just part of the long history between the U.S. and Iran.

The Most Recent P5+1 Agreement

In November 2013, the P5+1 and Iran reached a preliminary agreement with regard to Iran's ongoing nuclear programs. Two years later, the P5+1 countries and Iran announced the initial details of an understanding which would allow Iran to enrich uranium to generate electricity. 

The 2015 agreement contained:

  • Reduction of enriched uranium stockpiles allowing only 3.67% enrichment for research and civil use
  • Outlined and limited the conditions for research and development of uranium enrichment at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP)
  • Limit the number of centrifuges that can operate
  • Require the modification of the Arak (IR-40) heavy-water facilities to produce only non-weapons grade plutonium
  • Convert the Fordo Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) uranium enrichment center to research functions exclusively

The IAEA was also granted access for inspections of all non-military facilities, uranium mines, and suppliers. If Iran adhered to these conditions, then the lifting of nuclear weapons-related sanctions would occur.

P5+1 in the News

In March 2018, IAEA Director Yukiya Amano announced the certification of Iran implementing its commitments to the nuclear deal. However, not everyone agreed. Evidence that surfaced in 2018 led some to believe that Iran was not complying with the JCPOA. This new information showed the Islamic Republic was hiding its continued research into the production of nuclear weapons. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed.

On 30 April 2018, the United States and Israel announced their disagreement with Iran's non-disclosure to the IAEA. Under a month later, on May 8, 2018, former President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrew from the P5+1 group. He based this decision on the lack of response from P5+1 members to strengthen the current sanctions on Tehran. Trump said the U.S. would replace previous sanctions, removed due to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement.

The weakened Accord continues. EU representatives said they will continue as long as Iran adheres to the agreement. However, the other signatories have yet to instigate a new plan of action. The Islamic Republic said it would continue to follow the JCPOA rules and, in its view, the agreement continues with the remaining members. 

Understanding the far-reaching impacts of the weakening of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is still ongoing. Iran and the U.S. have resorted to verbal challenges of military action at one another.

According to World Bank data from 2017, Iran experiences a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 4.3% per year with an 8.1% annual inflation deflator. The decline in the Iranian rial (IRR) exchange rate continues today as global pressures and disagreements on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the Iran nuclear deal, continue to erode the currency.