Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) met at the ministerial level to review implementation of the nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The September 22 meeting in New York was the first ministerial-level meeting on the nuclear agreement since the ministers gathered to announce implementation of the deal in January. Iran requested that the meeting take place to review progress on the deal and to raise concerns over the slow pace of sanctions relief.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini chaired the meeting and confirmed afterward that the “common assessment” is that the agreement is being implemented.
In remarks to the UN General Assembly September 22, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed concern about the pace of sanctions relief under the agreement and noted that the “lack of compliance” on the part of the United States “represents a flawed approach that should be rectified forthwith.”
Mogherini responded to that criticism in comments to reporters saying that the ministers discussed the pace of sanctions relief and outreach to business to “encourage engagement in Iran” and that there is a “strong commitment by all sides to continue in this direction” so that the Iranian people “feel real benefits” from the agreement.
Before the ministerial level meeting, deputy ministers from the seven countries and the EU held the fourth meeting of the Joint Commission, a group created in the deal to oversee implementation of the agreement, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Abas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs, led Iran’s team and said that the meeting included discussions on the modifications of the Arak reactor, cooperation between Iran and Russia on research at the Fordow facility, heavy water sales from Iran, and the performance of sanctions relief.
Ahead of that meeting, Airbus and Boeing announced September 21 that they received licenses from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to sell airplanes to Iran. The sale was possible because of sanctions waived under the agreement.
—KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy
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The nuclear agreement with Iran also came up in opening statements at the 60th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Sergei Kireienko, head of Rosatom, the state-run Russian nuclear energy company, announced September 26 that Moscow purchased 38 tons of heavy-water from Iran and that the material was delivered to Russia in mid-September. Iran and Russia began negotiating the sale in the spring.
Ali Akhbar Salehi, vice president of Iran and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told the General Conference that the first phase of constructing two new nuclear power plants at the Bushehr site began September 10. Iran and Rosatom, the Russian state-run nuclear energy corporation, signed an agreement to supply additional units at Bushehr in November 2014, updating the original 1992 agreement between the two companies on nuclear power plant construction. Salehi confirmed in his remarks that the Russian-supplied reactors come with fuel supply guarantees.
Salehi also told the IAEA General Conference that Iran has “played its role with great efforts” in implementing the commitments under the nuclear deal and continues “close cooperation” with the IAEA on monitoring and verification. Salehi said it is expected that the IAEA continue its work in Iran “with fairness and full objectivity.”
On the sidelines of the IAEA conference Iranian media reported that Iran and Switzerland signed a memorandum of understanding on nuclear safety cooperation. Nasser Rastkhah, head of nuclear safety in Iran told press that the two countries exchanged information on civil nuclear safety in March and the memorandum is a prelude to further cooperation.
Annex III of the nuclear deal lays out several areas where the P5+1 or other states could cooperate with Iran on nuclear safety, including strengthening emergency preparedness, exchanging information and equipment related to nuclear safety, concluding arrangements for research centers, and training courses for reactor and facility operators.
The IAEA Board of Governors also met in September and considered the third quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program under the agreement. U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA, Laura Holgate, told the board on Sept. 21 that “the IAEA’s continued verification and monitoring of these commitments is essential in ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program is and remains exclusively peaceful.”
The report, finalized September 8, indicated Iran’s compliance with key provisions under the agreement. It noted that:
Additionally, the report provided some new information about Iran’s activities:
While some officials and experts have expressed concern over the amount of detail provided in the reports, Holgate said that “the amount of detail needed in these reports necessarily depends on the IAEA's actual observations and they can be adjusted as necessary.”
For more on the IAEA report and concerns over transparency, click here.
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Bilal Saab, senior fellow and director of the Middle East Peace and Security Initiative at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council, and Michael Elleman, consulting senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, released a critical new report on Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities. In addition to assessing Iran’s missile capabilities, the authors discuss the role of missiles in Iran’s overarching military strategy.
The full brief, Precision Fire, is available from the Atlantic Council here.