Mohammad Javad Zarif, foreign Minister of Iran, had a talk with Charlie Rose months after JCPOA (commonly known as Iran nuclear deal) disccussing the agreement and other related issues. In this talk, Zarif refers to the agreement as:

It was a deal not a treaty.

Consulting various dictionaries, no clear difference can be found between the two words. I would appreciate it if you could clarify this for me.

The link to the talk is provided below:

Iranian Foreign Minister in Conversation with Charlie Rose

2 Answers 2


Without knowing the full story about the Iran deal, to me a deal is not as formal as a treaty.

A deal could be established even by verbal assurance, whereas a treaty requires (per the dictionary definition) a formal ratification by a nation.

In the case where a "deal" has been signed by a nation's representative, the difference may then be in the wording. A "treaty" implies that the decisions within are formally binding or are more restrictive, but a "deal" may contain no more than an agreement of understanding or particular aims rather than binding items.

  • 1
    According to US State Department website, "treates" require Senate approval and they are seperate from "international agreements other than treaties" often referred to as "executive agreements".
    – S4JJ4D
    Aug 6, 2020 at 14:12

The word deal is an informal, colloquial way of referring to the formal pact between nations. It can be used of any arrangement, pact, agreement, contract, or set of mutual expectations.

The disparity between the importance of the thing and the informality of the word can be a way for the speaker to express some degree of sarcasm reflecting less than complete acceptance of, or respect for, the arrangement. It can also be a way of simplifying things for a TV audience whose average grade reading level is that of a student still in elementary school.

So, what's the deal? We live virtuous lives and get to enter Heaven?

The deal they struck had Berlin divided into eastern and western sectors.

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