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Image source, AFPImage caption, Iran has insisted that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful

A landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers is close to collapse, five years after it was agreed. Here's how it got to this point.

What did the deal do?

Iran has always insisted its nuclear programme is peaceful.

But suspicions it was being used as a cover to develop a nuclear bomb prompted the UN Security Council, US and EU to impose crippling sanctions from 2010.

Image source, EPAImage caption, Iran says it will not return to complying with the deal until the US lifts crippling sanctions

In 2015, Iran reached a deal with six powers – the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany – that saw it limit its nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief.

The deal put many obligations on Iran, including restrictions on its enrichment of uranium, which has civilian uses but can also be used in nuclear weapons; the amount of that material it could stockpile; and also the type of machinery (centrifuges) used to perform the enriching. In addition, Iran agreed to allow international inspections.

Why is it close to collapse?

First, US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in May 2018 and reinstated US sanctions. He wanted a new deal that would also curb Iran's ballistic missile programme and its involvement in regional conflicts.

Iran refused and saw the value of its currency plummet and its inflation rate soar as the sanctions took effect.

When the sanctions were tightened in May 2019, Iran began to "reduce" its commitment to limit uranium enrichment.

This video can not be played

To play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.Media caption, Iran's nuclear programme: What's been happening at its key nuclear sites?

Since then Iran has stepped up its violations, exceeding limits on its stockpiles of nuclear-related materials, boosting its uranium enrichment and operating banned centrifuges.

Iran has insisted the US must lift President Trump's sanctions before it will reverse its steps, but the Biden administration has made clear Iran must return to compliance first.

In the meantime, concerns over where the crisis is leading deepen.

Want to know more?

  • Why do the limits on Iran's uranium enrichment matter?
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  • Iran nuclear deal – all you need to know