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– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Iran

Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: Iran

February 2018

Updated: February 2018

Iran is not a nuclear-weapons state and, though it has pursued a program to develop nuclear warheads in the past, has adhered to the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) since adoption in October 2015, as verified by all quarterly IAEA reports. Under the JCPOA, for well over a decade, it will take Iran 12 months to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb. The deal also bars Iran from selling conventional arms for five years from the start of implementation, though branches of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps continue to allegedly smuggle arms to Iranian proxies in Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere. Iran’s active ballistic missile program is one of the largest deployed missile forces in the Middle East, with over 1,000 short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles as well as a space-launch vehicle that could potentially be converted into an ICBM.

Major Multilateral Arms Control Agreements and Treaties

 

Signed

Ratified

Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

1968

1970

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

1996

- - -

Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM)

- - -

- - -

CPPNM 2005 Amendment

 

- - -

- - -

Chemical Weapons Convention

1993

1997

Biological Weapons Convention

1972

1973

International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism

- - -

- - -

Export Control Regimes, Nonproliferation Initiatives, and Safeguards

Group

Status

Australia Group

Not a member

Missile Technology Control Regime

Not a member

Nuclear Suppliers Group

Not a member

Wassenaar Arrangement

Not a member

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol

Signed an additional protocol in Dec. 2003 and implemented it voluntarily until February 2006 after the IAEA Board of Governors resolution referring Tehran to the UN Security Council. As part of the July 2015 nuclear deal, Iran will implement its Additional Protocol and seek to ratify it within eight years.

Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism

Not a participant

Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation

Not a participant

Proliferation Security Initiative

Not a participant

UN Security Council Resolutions 1540

Iran has filed the requested reports on its activities to fulfil the resolution.

Nuclear Weapons Programs, Policies, and Practices

The Nuclear Arsenal, an Overview

Iran does not possess nuclear weapons but it conducted activities in the past relevant to developing a nuclear warhead, including uranium enrichment and studies on ballistic missile mating and re-entry. In July 2015, after a decade of intermittent negotiations, Iran along with the “P5+1” (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) concluded the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), frequently referred to as the Iran nuclear deal. The Iran nuclear deal restricts Iran’s nuclear activities and puts in place monitoring and verification measures in addition to Iran’s safeguards. For more on the deal see the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action at a Glance.   

Delivery Systems

Ballistic Missiles

  • Iran’s missile program is largely based on North Korean and Russian designs and has benefitted from Chinese technical assistance.
  • With approximately 1,000 short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, the program is one of the largest deployed ballistic missile forces in the Middle East.
  • Iran’s current focus is on enhancing the accuracy of medium-range systems - not increasing range.
  • Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated that Iran would refrain from manufacturing ballistic missiles exceeding a range of 2,000km, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the head of the Revolutionary Guard, told reporters on Oct. 31, 2017. The limitation is not legally binding.
  • UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the JCPOA in 2015, annulled a 2010 resolution that prohibited Iranian tests of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and “calls upon” Iran not to test any ballistic missiles that are “designed to be nuclear capable.” Resolution 2231 also kept in place sanctions preventing Iran from transferring materials and technologies relevant to developing ballistic missiles.
  • Iran has continued ballistic missile testing in the wake of the nuclear deal. In response, the United States has designated additional entities for contributing to Iran’s ballistic missile program.
  • Iran’s short-range and medium-range missiles include:
    • Fateh-110: The Fateh-110 is an operational short-range missile with an estimated range of 200-300km.
    • Shahab-1: The Shahab-1 is an operational, short-range missile with an estimated range of 300km.
    • Qiam-1: The Qiam is a short-range missile with an estimated range of 500-1000km.
    • Shahab-2: The Shahab-2 is a short-range missile with an estimated range of 500km.
    • Fateh-313: The Fateh-313 is short-range missile with an estimated range of 500km.
    • Zolfaghar: The Zolfaghar is a missile with an estimated range of 700km.
    • Shahab-3: The Shahab-3 is a liquid-fueled missile based on the North Korean No-Dong missile with an estimated range of 800-1,000km. 
    • Emad-1: The Emad-1 is a single-stage medium-range ballistic missile under development with a range of up to 2,000 km. First tested in 2015, Iran claims the Emad-1 is a high-precision missile.
    • Ghadr-1: The Ghadr-1 is a medium-range missile under development with an estimated range of up to 2,000 km. The missile is a modified version of the Shahab-3.
    • Sejjil-2: The Sejiil is a intermediate-range missile under development with an estimated range of 1,500-2,500km. First tested in 2007, the Sejill is a two-stage solid fuel-propelled missile. The Sejjil-2 has not been tested since 2011 and reports indicate Iran has a hard time producing the solid-fueled motors because of sanctions. This technology could help improve the mobility of Iran’s missile force. 

Space-Launched Vehicles (SLV)

  • Safir: The Safir is a two-stage, liquid-fueled space launch vehicle (SLV) that Iran has used to successfully launch four satellites into space between February 2009 and February 2012. Two Safir launches subsequently failed, once in 2013 and again in 2014. In February 2015, Iran successfully launched a satellite for the fifth time. A 2009 report by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) assessed that the Safir “can serve as a test bed for long-range ballistic missile technologies” and could serve as an ICBM if converted to a ballistic missile.
  • Simorgh: The Simorgh is a two-stage SLV that Iran has displayed, but not launched. It is larger than the Safir. The first Simorgh launch was announced for 2010.

Cruise Missiles

  • Iran possesses the following cruise missiles:
    • Kh-55: An air-launched nuclear-capable cruise missile with a range of up to 3,000 km which was illegally procured from the Ukraine in 2001.
    • Khalid Farzh: Iran’s most advanced missile with a range of about 300 km capable of carrying a 1,000 kg warhead.
    • Nasr-1: A domestically produced missile which is claimed to be capable of destroying warships and military targets up to 3,000 tons.

Fissile Material

  • During the latter half of 2002, the IAEA began investigating two secret Iranian nuclear facilities: a heavy-water production plant near Arak and a gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment facility near Natanz.
  • In September of 2009, the discovery of Fordow, a secret nuclear facility under construction near Qom, deepened international suspicions about Iran’s uranium enrichment activities.
  • In 2010, Iran scaled up some of its uranium enrichment from less than 5 percent to 20 percent, the level required for Iran’s research reactor.
  • Under the Iran deal, Iran’s enriched uranium is capped at 3.67 percent.
  • Much of the uranium-enrichment program is based on equipment and designs acquired through former Pakistani nuclear official A.Q. Khan’s secret supply network.
  • Iran relies on its IR-1 centrifuge, a variant of Pakistan’s P-1 centrifuge, known to be crash-prone and unreliable. 
  • Under the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran is permitted a strictly limited amount of R&D on advanced centrifuges.  

The Road to the JCPOA

  • In 2006, the Security Council adopted a number of resolutions calling on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment-related activities and cooperate fully with the IAEA.
  • When Iran refused to comply, the UNSC introduced four rounds of sanctions targeting Iranian entities and individuals believed to be involved in Iran’s proliferation-related activities.
  • In 2009, Russia, France, and the United States negotiated a fuel swap deal with Iran to transfer low-enriched uranium (LEU) out of the country in exchange for fuel for a reactor that produces medical isotopes. The deal fell through when Iran tried to change the terms.
  • In 2012, the P5+1 continued diplomatic efforts and met with Iran on four separate occasions. These talks were suspended for the 2013 Iranian elections though they did lay the groundwork for what would become the JCPOA.
  • After President Rouhani was elected in June of 2013, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met for a bilateral exchange. A day later, President Obama called President Rouhani, marking the highest level contact between the U.S. and Iran since 1979.
  • Negotiations to curb the Iranian nuclear program took place in October and November 2013 and an interim agreement was reached November 24. Implementation of the interim agreement began on January 20, 2014. The interim agreement was extended twice before the comprehensive agreement was finalized. Along the way all parties implemented changes and did not violate the interim agreement. Learn more about the interim agreement here.
  • The final agreement is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and was finalized on July 14, 2015. The implementation schedules and enforcement options are governed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which was adopted on July 20, 2015. Learn more about the JCPOA.   
  • According to U.S. government estimates, under the JCPOA, for well over a decade, it will take Iran 12 months to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb.
  • The IAEA reports quarterly on Iran’s adherence to the JCPOA. Two reports in 2016 noted slight excesses in heavy-water. Iran rectified this by selling or shipping abroad part of its stocks. The P5+1 and Iran subsequently clarified the heavy-water limit.

Proliferation Record

  • In 2000, Iran exported rockets and several ballistic missile components to Libya.
  • Iran has been accused of violating a Security Council resolution barring arms transfers to Hezbollah.
  • Since 2007, the Security Council has barred Iran from selling conventional arms and also prohibits any country from importing arms from Iran without prior UN Security Council approval. Under UN Security Council Resolution 2231 the embargo on Iran’s export of conventional arms will remain in place for five years from JCPOA Adoption Day (October 2015). This embargo may be lifted earlier if the IAEA reaches a “Broader Conclusion” that Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful.
  • According to a 2012 report by a designated panel of experts, Iran has been a major supplier of weapons to the Syrian government. The report describes three illegal transfers, two to Syria and one to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
  • Unit 190, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is responsible for smuggling arms to Iranian proxies in Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere.

Biological Weapons

  • Iran has ratified the Biological Weapons Convention but the United States maintains Iran’s biotechnology infrastructure gives it the ability to produce small quantities of biological weapons agents for offensive purposes.
  • According to a 2004 CIA report, Iran has previously conducted offensive biological weapons agent research and development and continues to seek dual-use biotechnology.
  • U.S. officials have accused Iran of “probably” pursuing an offensive biological weapons capability in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention in 2011. Iran denies the allegation.

Chemical Weapons

  • Iran has signed and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention.
  • A 2009 unclassified U.S. intelligence report says that “Iran maintains the capability to produce chemical warfare agents” as well as the ability “of weaponizing [chemical weapons] agents in a variety of delivery systems."
  • Having suffered chemical weapon attacks during the eight year Iran-Iraq war, Iranian officials frequently speak about the dangers of chemical weapons.
  • The United States has sanctioned companies for providing dual-use chemicals to Iran.

Other Arms Control and Nonproliferation Activities

Middle East Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone

  • Iran was one of the first states to formally call for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, joining with Egypt to propose the goal to the UN General Assembly in 1974. Tehran consistently makes statements at disarmament fora expressing its support for the zone concept.  

Conference on Disarmament

  • At the 2012 Conference on Disarmament, Iran said it was not opposed to negotiations of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) but that it should not infringe on any state’s right to use fissile material for peaceful purposes or naval propulsion.

Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

  • Iran played an active role in the negotiations for a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons in March and June-July 2017, calling often for a comprehensive and verifiable treaty.
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Posted: February 22, 2018

The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, February 5, 2017

P5+1, Congress Respond to Trump’s Demands to Change the Iran Nuclear Deal Officials from the United States and the E3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) gathered Jan. 25 in London for a working group meeting to discuss the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and Iran’s ballistic missile program. The meeting came after U.S. President Donald Trump renewed sanctions waivers required to keep the United States in compliance with the accord Jan. 12, but threatened to withhold the next round of waivers, due May 12, if Congress and...

Trump’s Cynical Gambit on the Iran Nuclear Deal

Sections:

Description: 

Trump’s ultimatum that Congress pass legislation to unilaterally address what he describes as “flaws” in the agreement is based on flawed assumptions and puts the future of the accord in doubt.

Body: 


Volume 10, Issue 2, January 17, 2018

President Donald Trump’s Jan. 12 decision to waive sanctions on Iran keeps the United States in compliance–for the time being–with its obligations under the multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trump’s ultimatum that Congress pass legislation to unilaterally address what he describes as “flaws” in the agreement is based on flawed assumptions. His demands are unrealistic and put the future of the accord in doubt.

US President Donald J. Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, USA, 28 February 2017. (Photo: JIM LO SCALZO/AFP/Getty Images)Trump’s Jan. 12 statement announcing the United States would waive sanctions reiterated the threat from his October Iran policy speech: “fix the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw.” In the Jan. 12 statement, however, Trump put a deadline on the “fix,” declaring that he would not waive sanctions again unless Congress passes legislation to address the “flaws” and almost certainly violating the JCPOA. Before the next sanctions waivers are due on or around May 12, Trump specifically called for legislation addressing four factors:

1) It must demand that Iran allow immediate inspections at all sites requested by international inspectors.

2) Second, it must ensure that Iran never even comes close to possessing a nuclear weapon.

3) Third, unlike the nuclear deal, these provisions must have no expiration date.

4) Fourth, the legislation must explicitly state in United States law—for the first time—that long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs are inseparable, and that Iran’s development and testing of missiles should be subject to severe sanctions.

Under the nuclear deal, the United States committed to “implement this JCPOA in good faith and in a constructive atmosphere, based on mutual respect, and to refrain from any action inconsistent with the letter, spirit, and intent of this JCPOA that would undermine its successful implementation.” (See Section C.)

Conditioning continued U.S. participation in the agreement on achieving changes through unilateral action is not a good faith implementation of the JCPOA and sets the United States up to violate the agreement.

Thus far, Congress has wisely refrained from pursuing legislation that would violate the deal. In response to Trump’s ultimatum, it is critical that Congress does not kill the deal under the guise of saving it. Legislation that violates the agreement by unilaterally attempting to extend or alter the nuclear restrictions on Iran poses just as great a risk as Trump revoking the waivers, which would put the United States in material breach of its JCPOA commitments.

Moreover, any U.S. attempt to make changes to the multilateral accord will be staunchly opposed by Washington’s P5+1 negotiating partners, (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) and would be rejected by Iran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif quickly responded to Trump’s Jan. 12 statement by saying the JCPOA is “not renegotiable” and that the U.S. announcement amounts to a desperate attempt to “undermine a solid multilateral agreement.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Jan. 15 that Trump’s approach is unacceptable and Moscow would work to preserve the existing agreement.

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief and head of the P5+1 group made similar comments last year, noting Sept. 21 that reopening an agreement that is working is unnecessary. Mogherini also called out Trump on his threat to blow up the deal. She warned that the JCPOA “does not belong to any single country and it is not up to any single country to terminate it.”

Clearly, pursuing Trump’s approach will only isolate the United States at a time when Washington needs to keep Iran’s nuclear program in check. Worse still, threats to pull out of the JCPOA unless other parties accede to U.S. demands will undermine cooperation on sanctions and negotiations to produce a deal to halt and reverse North Korea’s far more advanced nuclear and missile programs.

Trump’s Unrealistic Renegotiation Demands

A closer look at Trump’s four conditions for new legislation on the JCPOA show them to be unnecessary and unrealistic:

1) “It must demand that Iran allow immediate inspections at all sites requested by international inspectors.”

Additional inspections authorities dictated by Congress are unnecessary and risk undermining the independence and integrity of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Under the JCPOA, key nuclear activities in Iran are subject to continuous monitoring to verify Iran is abiding by the deal. The IAEA also has timely access to both declared and undeclared sites. Declared sites can be visited on short notice and key sites can be inspected on a daily basis if requested by the agency.

If the IAEA has questions about illicit nuclear-related activities at any undeclared site (either civilian or military) that Iran does not address, the agency can request access. If Iran does not comply or fails to provide sufficient access in 14 days, the Joint Commission set up by the JCPOA can require Iran to comply with the IAEA’s request. This process is outlined in Annex I, Section Q of the JCPOA. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano noted Oct. 13 that agency inspectors have had all the access to sites they have requested and that the verification regime is the “world’s most robust.”

The JCPOA does not allow “anytime, anywhere” inspections–but that is not necessary for a strong agreement. Nor is likely that Iran–or any other country–would agree to give inspectors carte blanche access to any site, particularly military facilities. The current measures, combined with U.S. national intelligence means, provide high confidence that any deviations from the provisions allowed in the JCPOA would be quickly detected.

Additionally, the United States cannot and should not dictate the terms of international inspections. The IAEA is an independent organization and the credibility of the agency’s work depends on that perception. For the United States or any other country to try to legislate the agency’s access risks undermining the independence and integrity that is so critical to the IAEA’s work.


2) “It must ensure that Iran never even comes close to possessing a nuclear weapon.”

It is unclear how Trump thinks legislation can or should be crafted to address this vague demand. A bill that seeks additional barriers based on a unilateral and arbitrary understanding of what constitutes "close to possessing a nuclear weapon" would be outside the scope of the JCPOA and would certainly be rejected by Iran and the United States' partners.

While some of the core restrictions under the JCPOA will expire, a shorter breakout time is not necessarily indicative of pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Currently, the breakout, or time it would take for Iran to obtain enough fissile material for one bomb, is approximately 12 months. That timeline will drop after the first 10 years of the JCPOA when restrictions begin to expire. However, a shorter breakout alone does not indicate by itself that Iran has chosen to pursue nuclear weapons. For instance, if Tehran begins producing enough enriched uranium for its Bushehr power reactor, its breakout time would be shorter, but its activities would be legally permissible under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Additionally, key restrictions on Iran are permanent under the JCPOA. The enhanced inspections and monitoring under the additional protocol do not expire, nor does the prohibition on certain weaponization activities (Annex I, Section T). As a result, inspectors have more access than in prior years and Iran cannot claim that certain activities relevant to developing a nuclear explosive device are for conventional military purposes as it has in the past. The combination of restrictions, enhanced IAEA monitoring and access, and national intelligence means puts the United States in the best possible place to quickly detect covert nuclear activity, or a dash to nuclear weapons using declared nuclear facilities.

There are legitimate concerns about what happens in 10-15 years when some of the core nuclear limits mandated by the JCPOA are due to expire. But it is far better to sustain the current deal and look for opportunities, in conjunction with the P5+1 partners, to build on it in a way that strengthens nonproliferation in Iran and regionally, rather than risk the agreement immediately.


3) “Unlike the nuclear deal, these provisions must have no expiration date. My policy is to deny Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon—not just for ten years, but forever. If Iran does not comply with any of these provisions, American nuclear sanctions would automatically resume.”

Unilaterally demanding an extension of JCPOA restrictions under threat of reimposing sanctions would violate the deal. Under the terms of the JCPOA, full implementation of the JCPOA results in Iran being treated like any other non-nuclear weapon state under the NPT. The State Department itself stated in the 2016 Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments that with the implementation of the deal, “previous issues leading to NPT noncompliance findings [regarding Iran] had been resolved.”

Additionally, 10 years from adoption day, barring the reimposition of sanctions on Iran by the United Nations Security Council, that body will no longer be “seized” of the issue of Iran’s nuclear program. At this point, if Iran is in compliance with its international treaty obligations and the United States has no intelligence suggesting that Iran is pursuing a covert nuclear program, there is no legitimate basis to subject Iran’s nuclear program to arbitrary restrictions under threat of sanction.

The United States is also obligated in the JCPOA to seek the statutory lifting of sanctions eight years after adoption day. If Washington intends to threaten automatic reimposition of sanctions in perpetuity if Iran resumes certain nuclear activities, Congress cannot make a good faith effort to statutorily lift the measures.

The United States does not need to seek a basis now in order to respond to future, hypothetical Iranian actions. If national intelligence or evidence obtained by the IAEA were to emerge in the future that Iran had resumed nuclear-weapons related activities in violation of its NPT commitments, the United States should work multilaterally, as it did leading up to the JCPOA, to pursue a response supported by the international community.


4) “Legislation must explicitly state in United States law—for the first time—that long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs are inseparable, and that Iran’s development and testing of missiles should be subject to severe sanctions.”

Formally linking Iran’s long-range missile program to its nuclear weapons program under U.S. law risks putting in place conditions that would disrupt the JCPOA because of activities outside the scope of the agreement.

While the JCPOA does not cover Iran’s ballistic missile activities, the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorses the deal, calls upon Iran to refrain from testing ballistic missiles designed to be nuclear-capable. While this is a nonbinding condition, the eight-year prohibitions on selling or purchasing certain ballistic missiles and related technologies without prior approval from the Security Council are absolute.

Since the Iran nuclear deal was implemented in January 2016, the UN secretary-general has issued four reports assessing the implementation the resolution. Several of the reports, including the most recent in December 2017, call into question Iran’s compliance with the restrictions, noting several allegations of illicit transfer of ballistic missile systems.

Iran’s flouting of UN Security Council restrictions is troublesome, but the United States has a number of tools to address Iran’s ballistic missile activities. The JCPOA did not waive or prohibit additional U.S. sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile activity and the United States has responded to Iran’s ballistic missile activities by passing new measures and designating individuals and entities.

In the past six months, the administration targeted additional entities assessed as involved in Iran’s ballistic missiles program as recently as Jan. 12, and Congress passed additional sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile activity in August 2017. Implementation of these measures, as well as UN restrictions, should be the focus of U.S. efforts at this point.

Given Iran’s security concerns and the current US-Iranian tensions, an agreement limiting ballistic missiles may be unlikely in short term, particularly if the JCPOA’s future is in doubt, and because of the central role that Iran’s ballistic missiles play in its national security. But the United States can and should do what it can to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and encourage Iran to abide by its announced range restriction. Iran has stated it will limit its ballistic missiles to a range of 2,000 kilometers. While this commitment is voluntary and nonbinding, it has been reiterated by the Supreme Leader, and a June 2017 report by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Ballistic Missile Analysis Committee found that Iran’s current ballistic missile inventory includes systems with a range of up to 2,000 kilometers, but did not discuss any missiles that exceed that range.

The United States should also work with its EU allies, which have stated in October a willingness to work cooperatively to address Iran’s ballistic missiles–separate from the JCPOA. That could include discussions on a regional ballistic missile limitation mechanism and greater information sharing to ensure that the existing UN restrictions, as well as U.S. sanctions, are abided by. Training on Resolution 2231 and export controls could also be beneficial to enhance compliance with existing restrictions. Given the broad authorities already on the books, a focus on implementation, rather than additional sanctions, may be the best path forward.

Going Forward

Responsible legislators should understand Trump’s demands to “fix” the deal for what they are: an attempt to force Congress to unilaterally push changes that other parties won’t accept, or allow him to reimpose sanctions in violation of U.S. commitments.

Even if the Congress proposes “fixes” to the JCPOA that do not violate the terms of the agreement outright—and it is difficult to conceive of legislation that would meet Trump’s conditions without violating the deal—there is no guarantee that Trump will not move the goalposts again in the future and demand additional concessions for continued U.S. participation in the accord.

From a nonproliferation perspective, the JCPOA can continue to block Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons for more than a decade if fully implemented. With top U.S. policymakers like Secretary of Defense James Mattis affirming that Iran is meeting its commitments and that the deal benefits U.S. national security interests, there is no reason for Washington to pull out of the deal, demand additional changes, and risk a new proliferation crisis now.

The Trump administration must recognize that the best path forward to address Iran’s nuclear program is to fully implement the agreement at hand and look for opportunities to build on its unique nonproliferation value.—KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy

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Posted: January 17, 2018

International Support for the Iran Nuclear Deal

International support for the 2015 nuclear deal between the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) and Iran remains strong, despite comments by U.S. President Donald Trump threatening the future of the agreement. The Arms Control Association will be adding international statements in support of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on this page as they are released. January 2018: General Russia We are confident that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) for the Iranian nuclear programme is among the...

Timeline of Nuclear Diplomacy With Iran

Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

Updated: January 2018

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, U.S. Secretary of State' John Kerry, and European Union High Representativ Catherine Ashton meet Sept. 25 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.Iran and six world powers known as the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) reached a historic nuclear deal on July 14, 2015 that limited Iran's nuclear program and ehanced monitoring in exchange for relief from nuclear sanctions. Prior to that, Iran had been engaged in efforts to acquire the capability to build nuclear weapons for more than two decades. Although it remained uncertain whether Tehran would have made the final decision to build nuclear weapons, it had developed a range of technologies, including uranium enrichment, warhead design, and delivery systems, that would give it this option in a relatively short time frame. Tehran maintains that its nuclear activities are entirely peaceful.

What follows is a chronological recount of the most significant developments in Iran’s nuclear program, international efforts to negotiate a settlement to address this controversial issue, and implementation of the agreement reached by Iran and the P5+1 on July 14, 2015.

 


Skip To: 1970's, 1980's, 1990's, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

 

November 1967: Iran’s first nuclear reactor, the U.S. supplied five-megawatt Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) goes critical. It operates on uranium enriched to about 93 percent (it is converted to run on 20 percent in 1993,) which the United States also supplies.

1970's

February 1970: The Iranian parliament ratifies the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

1974: Shah Reza Pahlavi establishes the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and announces plans to generate about 23,000 megawatts of energy over 20 years, including the construction of 23 nuclear power plants and the development of a full nuclear fuel cycle.

1979: The Iranian Revolution and the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran result in a severing of U.S.-Iranian ties and damages Iran’s relationship with the West. Iranian nuclear projects are halted.

1980's

January 19, 1984: The U.S. Department of State adds Iran to its list of state sponsors of terrorism, effectively imposing sweeping sanctions on Tehran.

1987: Iran acquires technical schematics for building a P-1 centrifuge from the Abdul Qadeer Khan network.

1990's

1992: Congress passes the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act of 1992, which prohibits the transfer of controlled goods or technology that might contribute “knowingly and materially” to Iran’s proliferation of advanced conventional weapons.

1993: Conversion of the TRR is completed by Argentina’s Applied Research Institute. It now runs on fuel enriched to just less than 20 percent, 115 kilograms of which is provided by Argentina; the contract for the conversion was signed in 1987.

August 5, 1996: The U.S. Congress passes the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, also known as the Iran Sanctions Act, that penalizes foreign and U.S. investment exceeding $20 million in Iran’s energy sector in one year.

2002

August 2002: The National Council of Resistance on Iran, the political wing of the terrorist organization Mujahideen-e Khalq (MeK), holds a press conference and declares Iran has built nuclear facilities near Natanz and Arak.

2003

 

September 12, 2003: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors adopts a resolution calling for Iran to suspend all enrichment – and reprocessing- related activities. The resolution requires Iran to declare all material relevant to its uranium-enrichment program and allow IAEA inspectors to conduct environmental sampling at any location. The resolution requires Iran to meet its conditions by October 31st 2003.

October 21, 2003: Iran agrees to meet IAEA demands by the October 31st deadline. In a deal struck between Iran and European foreign ministers, Iran agrees to suspend its uranium–enrichment activities and ratify an additional protocol requiring Iran to provide an expanded declaration of its nuclear activities and granting the IAEA broader rights of access to sites in the country.

2004

June 18, 2004: The IAEA rebukes Iran for failing to cooperate with IAEA inspectors. Iran responds by refusing to suspend enrichment-related activities as it had previously pledged.

November 14, 2004: Iran notifies the IAEA that it will suspend enrichment-related activities following talks with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. According to the so-called Paris Agreement, Iran would maintain the suspension for the duration of talks among the four countries. As a result, the IAEA Board of Governors decides not to refer Tehran to the UN Security Council.

2005

February 27, 2005: Russia and Iran conclude a nuclear fuel supply agreement in which Russia would provide fuel for the Bushehr reactor it is constructing and Iran would return the spent nuclear fuel to Russia. The arrangement is aimed at preventing Iran from extracting plutonium for nuclear weapons from the spent nuclear fuel.

August 8, 2005: Iran begins producing uranium hexafluoride at its Isfahan facility. As a result, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom halt negotiations with Tehran.

September 24, 2005: The IAEA adopts a resolution finding Iran in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement by a vote of 22-1 with 12 members abstaining. The resolution says that the nature of Iran’s nuclear activities and the lack of assurance in their peaceful nature fall under the purview of the UN Security Council, paving the way for a future referral.

2006

February 4, 2006: A special meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors refers Iran to the UN Security Council. The resolution “deems it necessary for Iran to” suspend its enrichment-related activities, reconsider the construction of the Arak heavy-water reactor, ratify the additional protocol to its safeguards agreement, and fully cooperate with the agency’s investigation.

February 6, 2006: Iran tells the IAEA that it will stop voluntarily implementing the additional protocol and other non-legally binding inspection procedures.

April 11, 2006: Iran announces that it has enriched uranium for the first time. The uranium enriched to about 3.5 percent was produced at the Natanz pilot enrichment plant.

 

June 6, 2006: China, France, Germany, Russia the United Kingdom, and the United Sates (the P5+1, referring to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) propose a framework agreement to Iran offering incentives for Iran to halt its enrichment program for an indefinite period of time.

July 31, 2006: The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 1696, making the IAEA’s calls for Iran to suspend enrichment –related and reprocessing activities legally binding for the first time.

August 22, 2006: Iran delivers a response to the P5+1 proposal, rejecting the requirement to suspend enrichment but declaring that the package contained “elements which may be useful for a constructive approach.”

December 23, 2006: The UN Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 1737, imposing sanctions on Iran for its failure to suspend its enrichment-related activities. The sanctions prohibit countries from transferring sensitive nuclear- and missile-related technology to Iran and require that all countries freeze the assets of ten Iranian organizations and twelve individuals for their involvement in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

2007

March 24, 2007: The UN Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 1747 in response to Iran’s continued failure to comply with the council’s demand to suspend Uranium enrichment.

August 21, 2007: Following three rounds of talks in July and August, the IAEA and Iran agree on a “work plan” for Iran to answer long-standing questions about its nuclear activities, including work suspected of being related to nuclear weapons development.

December 3, 2007: The United States publicly releases an unclassified summary of a new National Intelligence Estimate report on Iran’s nuclear program. The NIE says that the intelligence community judged “with high confidence” that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003 and assessed with moderate confidence that the program had not resumed as of mid-2007. The report defines Iran’s nuclear weapons program as “design and weaponization work” as well as clandestine uranium conversion and enrichment. The NIE also said that Iran was believed to be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon between 2010 and 2015.

2008

March 3, 2008: The UN Security Council passes Resolution 1803, further broadening sanctions on Iran. It requires increased efforts on the part of member states to prevent Iran from acquiring sensitive nuclear or missile technology and adds 13 persons and seven entities to the UN blacklist.

June 14, 2008: The P5+1 present a new comprehensive proposal to Iran updating its 2006 incentives package. The new proposal maintained the same basic framework as the one in 2006, but highlighted an initial “freeze-for-freeze” process wherein Iran would halt any expansion of its enrichment activities while the UN Security Council agreed not to impose additional sanctions.

2009

February 3, 2009: Iran announces that it successfully carried out its first satellite launch, raising international concerns that Iran’s ballistic missile potential was growing.

April 8, 2009: Following an Iran policy review by the new Obama administration, the United States announces that it would participate fully in the P5+1 talks with Iran, a departure from the previous administration’s policy requiring Iran to meet UN demands first.

June 12, 2009: Iran holds presidential elections. Incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is declared the winner amid many indications that the election was rigged. This sparks weeks of protests within Iran and delays diplomatic efforts to address Iran’s nuclear program.

September 25, 2009: United States President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that Iran has been constructing a secret, second uranium-enrichment facility, Fordow, in the mountains near the holy city of Qom. IAEA spokesman Marc Vidricaire said that Iran informed the agency September 21 about the existence of the facility, but U.S. intelligence officials said Iran offered the confirmation only after learning that it had been discovered by the United States.

October 1, 2009: The P5+1 and Iran agree “in principle” to a U.S.-initiated, IAEA-backed, proposal to fuel the TRR. The proposal entails Iran exporting the majority of its 3.5 percent enriched Uranium in return for 20 percent-enriched uranium fuel for the TRR, which has exhausted much of its supply. This agreement was later met with domestic political opposition in Iran, resulting in attempts by Tehran to change the terms of the “fuel swap.”

2010

February 9, 2010: Iran begins the process of producing 20 percent enriched uranium, allegedly for the TRR.

May 17, 2010: Brazil, Iran, and Turkey issue a joint declaration attempting to resuscitate the TRR fuel-swap proposal. In the declaration, Iran agrees to ship 1,200 kilograms of 3.5 percent enriched uranium to Turkey in return for TRR fuel from France and Russia. France, Russia, and the United States reject the arrangement, citing Iran’s larger stockpile of 3.5 percent-enriched uranium and the failure of the declaration to address Iran’s enrichment to 20 percent.

June 9, 2010: The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 1929, significantly expanding sanctions against Iran. In addition to tightening proliferation-related sanctions and banning Iran from carrying out nuclear-capable ballistic missile tests, the resolution imposes an arms embargo on the transfer of major weapons systems to Iran.

June 24, 2010: Congress adopts the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act; tightening U.S. sanctions against firms investing in Iran’s energy sector, extending those sanctions until 2016, and imposing new sanctions on companies that sell refined petroleum to Iran.

July 26, 2010: The EU agrees to further sanctions against Iran. A statement issued by EU member state foreign ministers refers to the new sanctions as “a comprehensive and robust package of measures in the areas of trade, financial services, energy, [and] transport, as well as additional designations for [a] visa ban and asset freeze.

September 16, 2010: The Stuxnet computer virus is first identified by a security expert as a directed attack against an Iranian nuclear-related facility, likely to be the Natanz enrichment plant.

2011

January 21-22, 2011: Following a December meeting in Geneva, the P5+1 meets with Iran in Istanbul, but the two sides do not arrive at any substantive agreement. Iran’s two preconditions for further discussions on a fuel-swap plan and transparency measures, recognition of a right to enrichment and the lifting of sanctions, were rejected by the P5+1.

February 16, 2011: U.S. intelligence officials tell a Senate committee that Iran has not yet decided whether it wants to develop nuclear weapons but is keeping that option open through development of its material capabilities.

May 8, 2011: Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant begins operations and successfully achieves a sustained chain reaction two days later, according to Atomstroyexport, the Russian state-owned company constructing and operating the plant.

June 8, 2011: Iran announces that it intends to triple the rate of 20 percent-enriched uranium production using more-advanced centrifuge designs. It also says it will move production to the Fordow enrichment plant near Qom, which is still under construction.

July 12, 2011: Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov unveils a proposal wherein Iran would take steps to increase cooperation with the IAEA and carry out confidence-building measures in return for a gradual easing of sanctions.

October 21, 2011: EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, sends a letter to Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili calling for “meaningful discussions on concrete confidence-building steps” to address international concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

November 8, 2011: The IAEA releases a report detailing a range of activities related to nuclear weapons development in which Iran is suspected to have engaged as part of a structured program prior to 2004. The report raises concerns that some weapons-related activities occurred after 2003. The information in the report is based primarily on information received from other countries, but also includes information from the agency’s own investigation. The findings appear consistent with the U.S. 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.

December 31, 2011: As part of the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress passes legislation that will allow the United States to sanction foreign banks if they continue to process transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.

2012

January 2012: The EU passes a decision that will ban all member countries from importing Iranian oil beginning July 1, 2012. Other provisions of the decision will prevent member countries from providing the necessary protection and indemnity insurance for tankers carrying Iranian oil.

January 29-31, 2012: Following an exchange of letters between Iran and the IAEA, it was agreed that an Agency team would travel to Tehran to begin discussions on the IAEA’s investigations into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program laid out in the November 2011 IAEA report.

February 15, 2012: Jalili responds to Ashton’s Oct. 21 letter, while Iran simultaneously announces a number of nuclear advances, including the domestic production of a fuel plate for the TRR.

April 14, 2012: Iran meets with the P5+1 in Istanbul for talks both sides call “positive.” They agree on a framework of continuing negotiations with a step-by-step process and reciprocal actions.

May 23-24, 2012: Iran and the P5+1 meet in Baghdad for a second set of talks.

June 18-19, 2012: Talks between Iran and the P5+1 continue in Moscow. Representatives discuss the substance of a P5+1 proposal and an Iranian proposal. Ashton and Jalili announce that will determine if political-level talks will continue after a technical-level meeting in July.

July 3, 2012: Experts representing the six parties meet in Istanbul to discuss the technical aspects of the P5+1 proposal and the Iranian proposal.

July 24, 2012: Schmid and Bagheri meet in Istanbul to discuss the outcome of the technical level experts meeting and confirm that Ashton and Jalili will talk to determine the future of the negotiations.

August 30, 2012: The IAEA reports that Iran increased the number of centrifuges installed at the Fordow enrichment plant and is continuing to produce uranium enriched to 20 percent in excess of its needs for the Tehran Research Reactor.

September 2012: Ashton and Jalili meet in Istanbul to assess “common points” reached at the low-level expert talks held in early July. The meeting was not considered a formal negotiation.

September 27, 2012: In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu draws a red-line for an Israeli attack on Iran. Netanyahu defines his red-line as Iran amassing enough uranium enriched to 20 percent (approximately 250 kilograms), which, when further enriched, will be enough for one bomb.

November 16, 2012: The IAEA reports that since August, Iran completed installation of the approximately 2,800 centrifuges that Fordow is designed to hold, although the number enriching remains constant. The number of cascades producing 20 percent enriched uranium remains constant at Fordow. The report also notes that Iran installed more centrifuges at Natanz,, and continued producing uranium enriched to 20 percent.

2013

February 26, 2013: Iran and the P5+1 resume negotiations in Almaty, Kazakhstan over Iran's nuclear program. The P5+1 offers Iran an updated proposal based largely on the 2012 package.

April 5-6, 2013: Iran and the P5+1 meet again in Almaty for a second round of talks. At the end of the meetings, negotiators announce that no further meetings are scheduled and the sides remain far apart.

June 3, 2013: At the quarterly meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors, Director General Yukiya Amano says that the agency's talks with Iran over clarifying the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program have not made any progress.

June 14, 2013: Hassan Rouhani is elected president of Iran. A former nuclear negotiator, he asserts that Iran will maintain its nuclear program, but offers to be more transparent.

August 6, 2013: Three days after his inaguration, Iran's President Hasan Rouhani calls for the resumption of serious negotiations with the P5+1 on Iran's nuclear program.

September 26, 2013: The P5+1 foreign ministers meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on the sidelines on the UN General Assembly meeting in New York. Zarif presents the P5+1 with a new proposal that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry describes as “very different in the vision” of possibilities for the future. Zarif and Kerry meeting for a bilateral exchange after the larger group meeting. Zarif later says he and Kerry move to agree “first, on the parameters of the end game.” Zarif says Iran and the P5+1 will think about the order of steps that need to be implemented to “address the immediate concerns of [the] two sides” and move toward finalizing a deal within a year. The parties agree to meet again on October 15 in Geneva.

September 27, 2013: President Barack Obama calls Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, marking the highest level contact between the U.S. and Iran since 1979. While President Obama says that there will be significant obstacles to overcome, he believes a comprehensive resolution can be reached.

In Vienna, Iran's new envoy to the IAEA, Reza Najafi, meets with IAEA deputy director Herman Nackaerts to resume negotitations on the structured approach to resolving the agency's concerns about the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program. Both sides describe the meeting as constructive and agree to meet again on October 28.

October 15-16, 2013: Iran and the P5+1 meet in Geneva to resume negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. At the end of the talks, the parties release a joint statement describing the meetings as "substantive and forward looking." The statement also says that Iran presented a new proposal that the P5+1 carefully considered as an "important contribution" to the talks. The proposal is understood to contain a broad framework for a comprehensive agreement and an interim confidence building measure to be instituted over the next 3-6 months, but no details are given as the parties agreed to keep the negotiations confidential.

Wendy Sherman, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, says after the talks that Iran approached the meetings "with a candor" she had not heard in her two years of negotiating with Tehran. The parties agree to meet again November 7-8 in Geneva with an experts level meeting October 30-31.

October 28-29, 2013: Iran meets with the IAEA to continue discussions over the agency's investigations into Iran's past nuclear activities with possible miltiary dimensions. According to a joint statement, Iran presented a new proposal at the talks that contained "practical measures" to "strengthen cooperation and dialouge with a view to future resolutiion of all outstanding issues." Iran and the IAEA agree to meet again in Tehran on November 11.

November 7-10, 2013: The P5+1 and Iran meet in Geneva to continue negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. On November 8, with the expectation that a deal is close, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flies to Geneva to join the talks, as do the foreign ministers from the other P5+1 countries. The parties fail to reach an agreement on a first-phase deal, but announce that talks will continue on November 20 in Geneva.

Secretary Kerry says in Nov. 10 press conference that the parties "narrowed the differences" and made significant progress toward reaching an agreemend during the talks.

November 11, 2013: IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and Ali Akbar Salehi meet in Tehran to continue talks on an approach for the agency's investigations into Iran's past nuclear activities with possible miltiary dimensions. Amano and Salehi sign a Framework for Cooperation Agreement. The framework lays out initial practical steps to be take by Iran within three months, including allowing IAEA access to the Heavy Water Production Plant at Arak and the Gchine uranium mine, and providing the agency with information on new reserach reactors and nuclear power plants that Iran intends to build. The statement commits the parties to cooperation "aimed at ensuring the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme through the resolution of all outstanding issues that have not already been resolved by the IAEA."

November 20-24, 2013: Iran and the P5+1 meet again in Geneva to continue negotiations. On November 23, the foreign ministers from the P5+1 join the negotiations. Early on November 24, Iranian Minister Javad Zarif and Catherine Ashton, leader of the P5+1 negotiating team, sign an agreement called the Joint Plan of Action. It lays out specific steps for each side in a six-month, first-phase agreeement, and the broad framework to guide negotiations for a comprehesive solution.

The first-phase pauses further developments in Iran's nuclear program, rolls back significant elements like the stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium, and requires more extensive IAEA monitoring and access to nuclear sites. In return, Iran receives limited sanctions relief, repatriation of limited assets frozen abroad, and a comittment that no new nuclear-related sanctions will be imposed on Iran for the duration of the agreement. For more details on the agreement, click here.

The plan will establish a Joint Commission to monitor the agreement and work with the IAEA. The six month period can be extended by mutual consent of both parties.

December 8, 2013: Under the terms of the Framework for Cooperation Agreement the IAEA visits the Arak Heavy Water Production Plant.

December 9-12, 2013: The P5+1 and Iran meet in Geneva at the technical level to begin discussions on the implementation of the Nov. 24 Joint Plant of Action.

December 11, 2013: Iran and the IAEA meet again in Vienna to review progress made on the six actions that Iran agreed to take as part of the Framework for Cooperation Agreement. The parties also begin discussing the next practical steps for Iran to take and initially plan to meet again on Jan. 21 to finalize the measures. The meeting is later postponed at the request of Iran to Feb. 8.

December 30-31, 2013: Technical level discussions between Iran and the P5+1 on implementing the Joint Plan of Action continue in Geneva.

2014

January 9-10, 2014: Iran and the P5+1 meet for a third time in Geneva to discuss implementation. The parties reach an agreement and return to their respective capitals for approval.

January 12, 2014: Iran and the P5+1 announce that implementation of the Joint Plan of Action will begin on Jan. 20.

January 20, 2014: Implementation of the Joint Plan of Action begins. The IAEA issues a report on Iran's compliance with the deal. The report states that Iran is adhering to the terms of the agreement, including, halting enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, beginning to blend down half of the stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium to 3.5 percent, and halting work on the Arak Heavy Water Reactor. The IAEA also begins more intrusive and frequent inspections.

The United States and the European Union also issue statements saying they have taken the necessary steps to waive the specific sanctions outlined in the Nov. 24 deal and release a schedule of payments for Iran to receive oil money held up in the other countries.

February 9, 2014: Iran and the IAEA meet to discuss further actions for Iran to take under the November 11 framework agreement to resolve the agency’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. They agree on additional actions, including Iran’s past work on exploding bridgewire detonators, one of the past activities with possible military dimensions.

February 17-20, 2014: Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 on the comprehensive agreement begin in Vienna. The parties agree on an agenda and framework to guide the talks

March 17-20, 2014: The P5+1 and Iran meet in Vienna to continue negotiations.

April 7-9, 2014: Another round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 take place in Vienna.

May 13-16, 2014: The P5+1 and Iran begin drafting the comprehensive agreement.

 

May 21, 2014: Iran and the IAEA announce an additional five actions for Iran to complete before August 25. Two of the activities that Iran agrees to provide information on relate to possible military dimensions.

June 2-6, 2014: At the IAEA board meeting Director General Yukiya Amano says that Iran is complying with the terms of the interim agreement and the agency's investigation into the unresolved concerns about Iran's nuclear program. The agency's quarterly report shows that Iran has neutralized nearly all of its stockpile of 20 percent uranium gas bu dilution or conversion to powder form.

June 16-20, 2014: Iran and the P5+1 hold another round of negotiations in Vienna.

July 2-19, 2014: Iran and the P5+1 continue talks in Vienna on a comprehensive nuclear agreement. Early on June 19, the parties announce that they will extend the talks through November 24 and keep the measures agreed to in the interim agreement in place. The parties also announce additional actions that Iran will take, namely converting 25 kg of uranium powder enriched to 20 percent into fuel plates and blending down about 3 tons of uranium enriched to less than 2 percent. The P5+1 will also repatriate $2.8 billion in funds. The parties agree to resume talks in August.

August 25, 2014: Iran misses a deadline to complete actions on five areas of concern to the IAEA as part of the agreement that Iran and the agency reached in November 2013.

September 5, 2014: The IAEA's quarterly report on Iran's nuclear program shows that Iran is complying with the interim deal, but did not provide the IAEA with information about past activities with possible military dimensions (PMDs) by the Aug. 25 deadline.

September 18, 2014: Talks between Iran and the P5+1 resume in New York City on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Both sides say that little progress was made at the end of the talks.

October 14-16, 2014: Iran and the P5+1 meet in Vienna to continue negotiations. Officials say that they remain focused on reaching an agreement by the Nov. 24 deadline and progress was made during the talks.

November 9-10, 2014: Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State Kerry meet in Muscat, Oman to continue talks. P5+1 lead negotiator Catherine Ashton is also present.

November 18-24, 2014: Iran and the P5+1 meet in Vienna to continue negotiations on an comprehensive agreement. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joins the talks on Nov. 20. French Foreign Minister Fabiusu, British Foreign Secretary Hammond, and German Foreign Minister Steinmeier all join the talks between Nov. 20 and 22. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov arrives on Nov. 23 and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang on Nov. 24.

November 24, 2014: Iran and the P5+1 announce that negotiations will be extended because progress was made on the difficult issues and both sides see a path forward. The parties announce that they now aim to reach a political agreement by March and then complete the technical annexes by June 30. Both sides will continue to implement the conditions of the interim Joint Plan of Action from November 2013. Iran and the P5+1 also make additional commitments.

December 15, 2014: Talks between the P5+1 and Iran continue in Geneva. U.S. State Department officials say the talks are "good and substanative." Parties plan to meet again in January.

December 24, 2014: Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says in a letter to his foreign counterparts that Iran’s goal remains to reach a comprehensive nuclear deal that assures the world its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.

2015

January 15-18, 2015: The P5+1 and Iran meet in Geneva to continue negotiations.

January 21, 2015: In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Jan. 21, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken says: "We assess that we still have a credible chance of reaching a deal that is in the best interest of America's security, as well as the security of our allies."  

January 23-24, 2015: Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and European Union Political Director Helga Schmid meet again with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi in Zurich, Switzerland.

February 18-20, 2015: Talks between the P5+1 and Iran resume in Vienna.

February 19, 2015: A report by the Director General of the IAEA confirms that Iran is upholding its commitments under the interim deal, including additional provisions from the November 2014 extension. The report notes “Iran has continued to provide the Agency with managed access to centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities.”

March 3, 2015: Prime Minister Netanyahu delivers a speech to a joint session of Congress. His speech claims that the Iran deal  “would all but guarantee that Iran gets [nuclear] weapons, lots of them.”

March 9, 2015: Senator Tom Cotton and 46 other senators sign an open letter to the Parliament of Iran. The letter warns that any deal reached without legislative approval could be revised by the next president “with the stroke of a pen.”

March 17-20, 2015: Talks between the P5+1 and Iran continue in Lausanne. The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, says to reporters "We have made progress on technical issues… One or two issues remain and need to be discussed."

March 25-April 2, 2015: Negotaitions continue in Lausanne. By March 29, all of the Foreign Ministers from the seven countries involved and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini are present.

April 2, 2015: Iran and the P5+1 announce agreement on a general framework that outlines the broad parameters of a nuclear deal. The United States issues a more specific factsheet on the details. Iran and the P5+1 agree to continue meeting to finalize a deal before June 30.

April 14, 2015: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passes legislation authored by Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that will require the President to submit the deal to Congress for a vote of approval or disapproval. According to the legislation, the President will not be able to waive sanctions during the 30 day Congressional review period.

April 15, 2015: Iran and the IAEA meet in Tehran to continue discussing the agency's investigations into the possibly military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program.

April 27, 2015: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meet in New York on the sidelines of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. Technical drafting work on the annexes of the agreement is underway.

May 7, 2015: The Senate passes the Corker legislation 98-1 on congressional review of an Iran nuclear deal.

May 12, 2015: EU and Iranian negotiators meet in Vienna to continue drafting a comprehensive ageement.

June 26, 2015: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Vienna to continue negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran and the P5+1. U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz joins Kerry. 

July 14, 2015: Iran and the P5+1 announce a comprehensive deal. Iran and the IAEA announce a roadmap for the agency's investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program.

July 19, 2015: The Obama administration sends the comprehensive deal and supporting documents to Congress, beginning the 60 day review period mandated by the Iran Nuclear Deal Review Act.

July 20, 2015: The UN Security Council unanimously passes a resolution endorsing the nuclear deal and the lifting of UN Security Council nuclear sanctions once key steps are taken in the deal.

August 15, 2015: The IAEA confirms that Iran submitted documents and explanations to answer the agency's unresolved concerns about past activities that could be related to nuclear weapons development.

September 2, 2015: The 34th Senator announces support for the nuclear deal with Iran, meaning that Congress will not have the support to override a presidential veto on a resolution disapproving of the deal.

September 8, 2015: Four additional Senators announce that they will support the nuclear deal with Iran, bringing the total number to 42. This important milestone will prevent the Senate from reaching the 60 vote threshold required for ending debate and moving to vote on a resolution of disapproval.

September 9, 2015: The IAEA announces that is submitted follow-up questions to Iran based on the information provided by Iran on Aug. 15. The IAEA is ahead of its Sept. 15 deadline to submit the questions.

September 10, 2015: A vote to end debate and move to vote on a resolution of disapproval failes to reach the required 60 votes on the Senate floor. The measure fails 58-42. Four democrats joined the 54 Republicans in favor of moving to vote on the resolution of dispproval. Similar votes fail on Sept. 15 and Sept. 17.

September 11, 2015: A vote on a resolution of approval fails in the House of Representatives, 269-162, with 25 Democrats voting joining the Republicans in voting against the measure.

September 17, 2015: The congressional review period ends without passage of a resolution of approval or a resolution of disapproval.

September 20, 2015: IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and Deputy Director General Tero Varjoranta visit the Parchin site at Iran. The IAEA has concerns about Iran conducting explosive activities there relevant to a nuclear device. Amano and Varjoranta confirm that environmental sampling was done at the site under IAEA surveillence and the agency is now testing the samples.

October 4, 2015: A panel of Iranian lawmakers reviewing the JCPOA release their assesment of the deal. The report issued says that the agreement contains some security threats, such as allowing inspectors access to military sites, but should go ahead.

October 10, 2015: Iran tests a medium-range ballistic missile, the Emad. The Emad is a more precise version of the Shahab-3, believed to be capable of carrying a 750 kg payload over 1,700 kilometers. The test is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929 (2010), which prohibits Iran from testing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. 

October 10, 2015: Iran's parliment approves a preliminary bill supporting the Iran deal. 

October 13, 2015: Iran's parliment aproves a detailed bill supporting the Iran deal.

October 14, 2015Iran's Guardian Council ratifies the bill approved by the parliment, completing Iran's internal review of the agreement. 

October 15, 2015: The IAEA announces the activities laid out in the July 14 roadmap for the investigation into the past possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program has been completed. The IAEA aims to complete its report by Dec. 15.  

October 18, 2015Iran and the P5+1 formally adopt the nuclear deal. Iran begins taking steps to restrict its nuclear program. The United States issues waivers on nuclear-related sanctions to come into effect on implementation day. The EU announces it passed legislation to lift nuclear-related sanctions on implementation day. 

October 18, 2015Iran notifies the IAEA of that it will provisionally implement its additional protocol and modified Code 3.1 to its safeguards agreement as of implementation day.

October 19, 2015The first meeting of the Joint Commission takes place in Vienna. One of the purposes of the meeting is to set up working groups called for under the deal, such as the working group on procurement and the Arak reactor modification.  

October 20, 2015The Supreme Leader issues a statement endorsing the nuclear deal and bill passed by the Iranian parliment. 

October 21, 2015The United States raises Iran's ballistic missile test as a possible violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929 at a meeting of the Security Council. 

November 21, 2015Iran tests another medium-range ballistic missile in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929. 

December 2, 2015: The IAEA issues its assesment of Iran's past activities related to nuclear weapons development (PMDs). The IAEA assess that Tehran had an organized weapons program prior to 2003 and that some activities continued, although not as an organized effort, through 2009. The report says that the agency has no credible indication that nuclear material was diverted from Iran's declared program or that any activities continued after 2009.

December 15, 2015: The IAEA Board of Governors holds a special meeting to consider the Dec. 2 report on Iran's weaponization activities. The board passes a resolution terminating past resolutions on Iran's nuclear program and ending the investigation. The board requests that the IAEA continue reporting on Iran's nuclear activities under the nuclear deal and report immediately on any concerns that arise with Iran's implementation.

December 28, 2015: Iran announces that it shipped 8.5 tonnes of low-enriched uranium, including the 20 percent enriched material in scrap and waste, out of the country to Russia. In return, Iran receives 140 tonnes of uranium yellowcake.

2016

January 11, 2016: Iranian officials announce that the Arak reactor core is being disabled. Iranian and P5+1 officials say that implementation day is close.

January 16, 2016The IAEA verifies that Iran met its nuclear related commitments. Based on the IAEA report, Zarif and Mogherini announce implementation day, triggering the lifting of sanctions. UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which the Council passed in July to endorse the deal and trigger the lifting of UN sanctions comes into effect. Prior resolutions on Iran's nuclear program are terminated. 

January 17, 2016: The U.S. Treasury Department issues an anouncement that new sanctions will be imposed on 11 individuals and entities involved with Iran's ballisitic missile programs. U.S. President Barack Obama says that with implementation of the nuclear deal Iran will not obtain nuclear weapons and that "the region, the United States, and the world will be more secure." Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gives a speech saying that "Iran's nuclear rights have been accepted by all." 

January 26, 2016Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, says that Iran and China had signed a basic agreement to formalize China’s assistance in redesigning the Arak reactor during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Iran the previous week. 

February 11, 2016: Abbas Qaidaari, director of the Defense and Security Studies Department at the Center for Strategic Studies in the Office of the Iranian President, writes in a piece for the Atlantic Council that “Iran’s strategic defense plan currently sees no justification” for missile ranges greater than 2,000-2,300 kilometers. Qaidaari said that although Tehran is committed to developing its “deterrent conventional defense capabilities,” it will limit its ballistic missiles to that range.

February 26, 2016The IAEA issues its first quarterly report on Iran's post-implementation day nuclear activities. The report notes that Iran is meeting its nuclear obligations, although it slightly exceeded a cap set on the stockpile of heavy water allowed under the agreement. The IAEA notes that Iran had 130.9 metric tons of heavy water, slightly above the 130 metric ton limit set by the deal, but shipped out 20 metric tons on February 24 to stay below the limit. 

March 9, 2016: Iran test launches two different variations of the Qadr medium-range ballistic missile. 

March 14, 2016U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power says she raised Iran's ballistic missile tests at a Security Council meeting, saying that the tests are inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2231. 

March 15, 2016Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif defends Iran's missile launches saying that the missiles are permissible under UN Security Council Resolution 2231 because the missiles are not designed to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads. 

March 21, 2016: Then-candidate Trump delivers remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference, noting his “number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.”

April 22, 2016: Officials from Iran and the United States meet in Vienna, signing a purchase agreement for Washington to buy 32 metric tons of heavy water for $8.6 million. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meet in New York to discuss implementation of the deal. In remarks after the meeting Kerry says that Washington is working to clarify confusion amongst foreign banks about the sanctions lifted in January. 

May 27, 2016The IAEA issues its quarterly report on Iran's implementation of the nuclear deal. The report shows Iran is abiding by restrictions under the agreement and inspectors have been able to access certain Iranian sites using complimentary access visits. 

July 18, 2016Iran's research and development plan for advanced centrifuge machines, leaked to the AP, is reported on in the press. 

July 29, 2016: In a statement, the IAEA notes it sent a letter to Iran denying it was the source of leaked information about Iranian plans for phasing in advanced centrifuges in 2027.

September 8, 2016: The IAEA releases its third quarterly report since JCPOA implementation day, showing Iran continues to abide by its restrictions under the JCPOA. The report notes that Iran removed 96 IR-1 centrifuges from the storage area at Natanz to replace damaged centrifuges that were enriching uranium.

September 21, 2016: The U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control grants Airbus and Boeing permission to sell planes to Iran. The licenses were made possible by sanctions waived as part of the JCPOA. 

September 22, 2016: Iran and the P5+1 meet in New York to review progress on JCPOA implementation and the pace of sanctions relief. The meeting marks the first ministerial-level meeting since the announcement of the deal’s implementation in January. Speaking to the UN General Assembly on the same day, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expresses concern over the slow pace of sanctions relief and claims the U.S. has been in lack of compliance.

September 26, 2016: Sergei Kireienko, head of Rosatom, the state-run Russian nuclear energy company, announces that Moscow purchased 38 tons of heavy-water from Iran. The material was delivered to Russia in mid-September.

November 2, 2016: IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano expresses concern to Iranian leaders regarding the size of Iran’s heavy water stock. On November 8th, the Agency confirms that Iran’s heavy water stock, at 130.1 tons, exceeds the 130 metric ton limit outlined in the deal, marking the second time Iran has exceeded the limit. On November 9th, Iran informs the IAEA of plans to remain in compliance by transferring heavy water out of the country.

November 8, 2016: Donald Trump is elected as the 45th President of the United States. During the presidential campaign, Trump referred to the JCPOA as the worst deal ever negotiated and pledged to renegotiate it. The U.S.’s European allies in the P5+1 previously signaled they would resist efforts to renegotiate the deal.

November 20, 2016: IAEA releases its fourth quarterly report on Iranian nuclear program since JCPOA implementation day. The report notes that Iran had 130.1 metric tons of heavy water, slightly over the 130 metric tons permitted under the deal. The IAEA report says Iran plans to transfer heavy water out of the country.

December 1, 2016: Congress passes a 10-year extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), which becomes law on December 15th. Extension of the ISA is consistent with U.S. obligations under the JCPOA, although many of the ISA’s provisions are being waived under Washington’s commitments under the agreement.

December 6, 2016: IAEA verifies that all 11 metric tons of heavy water shipped out of Iran have reached their destination and are in storage, bringing Iran back within the limit on heavy water of 130 metric tons established by the JCPOA.

December 13, 2016: President Rouhani announces Iran will respond to Washington’s extension of the Iran Sanctions Act by researching and developing nuclear propulsion for marine vessels.

December 15, 2016: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reissues sanctions waivers early, on the same day that the ISA renewal comes into effect, to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to the JCPOA.

December 18, 2016: IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano visits Iran, meeting with President Rouhani and Ali Akhbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization. Amano and Salehi discussed issues related to implementation. Further, Amano sought clarification on Iran’s announcement regarding naval nuclear reactor research and development.

December 23, 2016: The IAEA, at the request of Federica Mogherini, circulates decisions made by the Joint Commission set up to oversee implementation of the nuclear deal. The documents contain additional information on hot cells, recovering waste uranium, describing and calculating efficiency for advanced centrifuges, and utilizing the procurement channel.  

2017

January 12, 2017: In his confirmation hearing for the position of Secretary of Defense, General Jim Mattis tells Congress that, while he believes the JCPOA is an imperfect agreement, “when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.” His remarks echo a previous statement in April, when he noted there is “no going back” on the deal absent a clear violation of the agreement.

Iran receives the first shipment in an order of 100 planes purchased from Airbus. Sanctions waived as part of the nuclear deal allow Iran to purchase new commercial aircraft.

January 15, 2017: IAEA verifies that Tehran has taken certain steps to remove infrastructure and excess centrifuges from Fordow within the necessary timeframe required by the JCPOA (one year after Implementation Day). Secretary of Energy Moniz releases a statement noting “Iran successfully met the milestone of removing excess centrifuges and infrastructure from Fordow, demonstrating that the deal continues to limit Iran’s nuclear program so as to provide confidence that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon and maintain at least a one year breakout time.”

January 28, 2017: Iran test fires a medium-range ballistic missile, in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231. The test prompts former NSA Michael Flynn, on February 1, to declare the United States has placed Iran “on notice.”

February 9, 2017: EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini travels to Washington for meetings with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former National Security Advisor Micheal Flynn, and members of Congress. Mogherini notes that the JCPOA is key for the security of Europe given its geographic proximity to Iran.

February 24, 2017: IAEA releases its first quarterly report on Iranian nuclear activity in 2017, reporting on the size of Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 3.67 percent for the first time. The report notes that the stockpile was 101.7 kilograms. The limit established by the deal is 300 kilograms.

March 23, 2017: Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) introduces a new Iran sanctions bill, the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017, targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for terrorism.

March 31, 2017: Former Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken and six former Obama administration officials release an op-ed in Foreign Policy outlining their opposition to the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017.

April 18, 2017: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in a letter to speaker of the House Paul Ryan, certifies to Congress that Iran is compliant in meeting its obligations under the JCPOA.

April 23, 2017: Iran and China resolve a price dispute and complete an agreement to modify Iran’s Arak reactor. China will work with Iran to carry out modifications stipulated by the JCPOA to reduce the reactor’s output of weapons-grade plutonium.  

May 16, 2017: Ambassador Wendy Sherman, the lead U.S. negotiator for the JCPOA, states her opposition to the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017, noting its potential to undermine the nuclear accord.

May 17, 2017: The U.S. renews sanctions waivers as required by its JCPOA obligations, marking the first time the Trump administration has waived sanctions and taken a proactive step to implement the deal.

May 19, 2017: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is re-elected to a second term. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini congratulates Rouhani on Twitter and reaffirms the EU’s commitment to full JCPOA implementation.

June 2, 2017: The IAEA releases its second quarterly report in 2017 on Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA, reporting that Iran is meeting its obligations under the nuclear deal. 

June 15, 2017: Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017 (S.722) passes the Senate by a vote of 98-2. The bill was amended to correct sections that violated the JCPOA, but Iran continued to assert that the bill contradicts the spirit of the deal. 

June 20, 2017: The UN Secretary General releases the biannual report on UN Security Council Resolution 2231, affirming that Iran is complying with the JCPOA but raising concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile activity. 

July 10, 2017: White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders says that at the G20 summit, President Trump encouraged foreign leaders not to do business with Iran, which Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif later cited as a failure on the part of the United States to “implement its part of the bargain” in an interview

July 17, 2017: The Trump administration reluctantly certifies Iran's compliance with the JCPOA, delaying the announcement for hours and issuing new non-nuclear sanctions on Iran the next day.  

July 21, 2017: The Joint Commission of the JCPOA meets for the sixth time to address the implementation of the agreement. 

July 25, 2017: The U.S. House of Representatives passes H.R. 3364, the Countering Adversarial Nations Through Sanctions Act, which would impose new sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia. 

August 31, 2017: In its third quarterly report, the IAEA finds that as of Aug. 21, Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium was 88.4 kg (194.89 pounds), well below a 202.8-kg limit, and the level of enrichment did not exceed a 3.67 percent cap. Iran’s stock of heavy water, stood at 111 tons, below the 130 ton limit.

September 20, 2017: The foreign ministers of China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly for the ministerial meeting of the E3/EU+3 and Iran. In remarks following the meeting, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini states that all agreed that all sides are implementing the JCPOA.

September 22, 2017: Iran parades its new medium-range ballistic missile tested in January, the Khoramshahr, with a range of about 2,000 km, in a military parade.

October 13, 2017: Trump declares that, as part of a broader new strategy toward Iran, he will not certify under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) that the suspension of sanctions under the JCPOA is "appropriate and proportionate" to measures taken by Iran under the deal. Trump's decertification itself does not violate the JCPOA. However, decertification opens up a window of 60 days where Congress may re-introduce sanctions waived under the nuclear deal with Iran under an expedited process. In his address, Trump encourages Congress to enact legislation against the JCPOA's "sunset clauses" which set dates after which certain restrictions under the deal on Iran's nuclear program will no longer apply. Trump says if his concerns about the deal are not resolved he will terminate the agreement.

Trump also states that he will further sanction the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for its support for terrorism, but does not designate the group as a terrorist organization.

Immediately following the announcement, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron released a joint statement expressing their continued support for the JCPOA.

November 13, 2017: The IAEA issues its fourth quarterly report for 2017 on Iran's implementation of the JCPOA. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano tells the agency's Board of Governors that the nuclear-related commitments are being implemented and that IAEA inspectors have had access to all locations they have needed to visit.

December 13, 2017: The JCPOA Joint Commission meets for the seventh time to oversee the implementation of the agreement.

2018

January 12, 2018: The Trump administration announces that it will re-issue waivers on nuclear-related sanctions on Iran to meet U.S. obligations under the agreement. However, Trump says he will not re-issue the waivers again and will withdraw from the deal unless Congress passes legislation addressing what he describes as flaws in the agreement. Trump says his administration is also engaging with European allies on a supplemental agreement of unlimited duration that would impose sanctions if Iran tests long-range missiles, thwarts inspections, or makes progress toward a nuclear weapon.

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Posted: January 12, 2018

Iran Talks Focus on Sanctions Relief

Sanctions relief was a key topic of discussion at a regular meeting between Iran and six countries on implementation of the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

January/February 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

Sanctions relief was a key topic of discussion at a regular meeting between Iran and six countries on implementation of the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

With missile remains as a backdrop, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley accuses Iran of violating Security Council Resolution 2231 by providing the Houthi rebels in Yemen with arms. She spoke at Joint Base Anacostia near Washington on December 14, 2017. (Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)The quarterly meeting of the Joint Commission, the body set up by the JCPOA to oversee the nuclear deal and comprised of representatives from all seven states and the European Union, was chaired by Helga Schmid, secretary-general of the European External Action Service, and held on Dec. 13.

Ahead of the meeting in Vienna, Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said that banks and companies are “afraid” of doing business with Iran because of U.S. actions and that this issue would be a main point of discussion. In a statement following the meeting, Schmid said the participants “extensively reviewed progress” on lifting sanctions and noted that a working group on sanctions had met the previous day.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, who headed Iran’s delegation to the meeting, told reporters that the body needs to deal “more assertively” with what he described as U.S. noncompliance with the nuclear accord. All members of the Joint Commission raised concerns about the United States “very explicitly” and stressed the importance of Washington continuing to meet its commitments, he said.

Schmid’s public statement did not specifically mention the United States, saying that all participants “recalled the need for continued implementation of sanctions lifting to allow for the effective realization of the benefits envisioned under the JCPOA.” Her statement also noted the value of addressing challenges related to sanctions relief in forums set up by the accord.

Washington has continued to waive sanctions as required, but Iran has argued that certain U.S. actions have violated the “spirit” of the deal. (See ACT, September 2017.) The Trump administratizon will need to waive sanctions again in mid-January to remain in compliance.

Schmid’s statement said that the states welcomed the news that the International Atomic Energy Agency, in its quarterly report in November, again “confirmed Iran’s continued adherence” to its nuclear-related commitments. The parties also welcomed the work done to advance implementation of Annex III, which lays out recommendations for cooperation between Iran and other states on civil nuclear activities, according to the statement.

Although her statement did not reference specific activities, EU and Iranian representatives met in Isfahan on Nov. 21-22 for the second high-level seminar on nuclear cooperation.

A joint statement released on Nov. 22 said that Iran and the EU discussed the latest developments in nuclear governance, including nuclear safety, nuclear liability, and spent fuel management, and agreed to hold a workshop on nuclear liability and insurance in 2018. The statement noted the cooperative projects that were underway, including stress tests at the Bushehr reactor and a feasibility study on the establishment of a nuclear safety center in Iran.

At a Dec. 12 meeting of the EU Parliament, Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, called attention to the importance of civil nuclear cooperation. Mogherini said the civil nuclear cooperation projects make the nuclear deal “more solid through increased transparency.”

UN Report on Resolution 2231

UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a report tied to the nuclear deal on Dec. 13.

The biannual report is required under UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the nuclear deal and laid out restrictions on Iran’s missile and conventional weapons activities.

The report noted that Saudi Arabia, in a letter to the Security Council president and UN secretary-general, said that Iran had a role in manufacturing the missiles launched at its territory from Yemen in July and November 2017 in “flagrant violation” of council resolutions. Under Resolution 2231, Iran is prohibited from selling or transferring ballistic missiles or certain missile-related items without the prior approval of the Security Council. Iran denied the allegations as “baseless and unfounded.”

The report noted that the UN Secretariat examined the debris from the missiles and concluded that the diameter was “consistent” with that of the Scud models and that components bore a logo similar to an Iranian entity designated by Resolution 2231. The report said that the secretariat is still analyzing the information and material and will report back to the council.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley displayed at the UN on Dec. 14 what she said were parts of the missile launched at Riyadh and remarked on similarities to Iran’s Qiam missile. She said that there are “many pieces of evidence that tell us of this missile’s Iranian origins.” The U.S. intelligence community has concluded “unequivocally” that the missile was supplied by the Iranian regime in violation of Resolution 2231, she said.

According to the report, the secretariat is also investigating possible violations of Resolution 2231 requirements that prohibit Iran from transferring certain conventional armaments without prior approval from the Security Council. The report encouraged all states to continue to support and implement the nuclear deal and specifically called on the United States to “maintain its commitments.”

Posted: January 10, 2018

Trump’s Decision on U.S. Role in Iran Nuclear Deal

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A Nonproliferation Success That Should Not Be Squandered

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A Nonproliferation Success That Should Not Be Squandered

Volume 10, Issue 1, January 9, 2018

The Trump administration is approaching two deadlines this week that are tied to the nuclear deal between the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Iran: the president’s quarterly certification to Congress and the renewal of sanctions waivers, which are required for continued U.S. compliance with the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to withhold the 90-day certification to Congress, which includes an assessment of Iran’s compliance with the accord and an assessment on whether or not the deal remains in U.S. national security interests. Trump withheld the last certification in October, despite Iran’s compliance with accord, using the subjective determination that the sanctions relief Iran received is disproportionate to the nuclear restrictions. Since the certification is a U.S. legal requirement under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, withholding it does not violate the JCPOA. Given that the international community has become immune to Trump’s bellicose rhetoric surrounding the value of the deal, unless Trump alleges an Iranian violation, withholding certification is likely to become part of the status quo if the United States stays in the deal.

However, Trump has not yet indicated his decision on a second Iran deal deadline: the renewal of U.S. sanctions waivers, which is more critical for the future of the multilateral accord. The United States will violate its commitment to lift certain sanctions under the deal if Trump fails to issue the waivers between Jan. 12-17.

Reimposition by the United States of nuclear-related sanctions would not only violate Washington’s commitments under the deal, but also risks drying up the economic benefits that were promised to Iran in exchange for accepting stringent limits and monitoring on its nuclear program. Because the U.S. sanctions include extraterritorial measures, reimposition of these sanctions would affect companies outside of the United States that have resumed legal business with Iran permitted under the nuclear deal. As a result, it would be more difficult for the government of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani to continue abiding by the terms of the deal if economic benefits evaporate. If Iran abandons the JCPOA in response to a U.S. violation, the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program could re-emerge and spark further instability in the region.

A Legislative Fix?

Trump has given little indication as to how he will approach the upcoming deadlines, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a Jan. 5 interview with AP that the president will either “fix [the deal] or cancel it.”

There is no legitimate reason for the United States to unilaterally try to “cancel” the deal. Iran remains in compliance with the nuclear restrictions under the JCPOA—a fact affirmed by the most recent quarterly report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in November and by Washington’s P5+1 partners.

The threshold for what Trump would need to see as a “fix” in order to stay in the deal, however, remains vague.

In October, Trump directed his administration to work with Congress to develop legislation that would address what he viewed as flaws in the agreement, including the so-called "sunset" provisions, or nuclear restrictions that phase out over time, and ballistic missile activity, which is not covered by the deal but is dealt with in a UN Security Council resolution endorsing the agreement. In October, Trump said he would exit the deal if these concerns are not resolved, but did not set a deadline for results or a threshold for what would satisfy his concerns.

As a result, it remains unclear if efforts such as the commitment from Germany, France and the United Kingdom to work with the United States on addressing Iran’s ballistic missile program separate from the nuclear deal are enough to keep the United States in compliance with the terms of the multilateral JCPOA agreement.

Tillerson also said that the administration is pursuing a fix with members of Congress on a “very active basis” and implied that a fix did not have to be finalized, but just in the works, for Trump to reissue the waivers. U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), met with U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster Jan. 4 to discuss Iran, but did not provide any details on possible legislation.

While such legislation might appease Trump’s political desire to distance himself from an agreement negotiated during the Obama tenure, it is critical that any congressional initiative on the issue does not violate or seek to recast the terms of the JCPOA.

For example, unilateral efforts by the U.S. Congress to indefinitely extend all or some of the JCPOA’s core nuclear restrictions on Iran, which are due to phase out over time, as Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Corker (R-Tenn.) proposed in October, would violate the accord and are strongly opposed by Washington’s negotiating partners.

Appeasing Trump’s demand to "fix" the agreement also risks setting a dangerous precedent—that threating to abandon the deal can extract additional concessions. There is no guarantee that Trump—or another leader—will not change the goal posts again down the road and demand more "fixes" in order for the United States to continue complying with the accord.

On the other hand, Congress could eliminate provisions requiring the president to issue the certification every 90 days, which might appeal to Trump as he would no longer have to publically acknowledge the deal on a regular basis. Such a move would only impact U.S. law and have no bearing on the deal itself.

Moving the spotlight off the Iran deal every 90-days might also give the United States and its negotiating partners more time to work multilaterally on options to build upon the nuclear deal and restore confidence in the U.S. commitment to the agreement.

The Nonproliferation Consequences of Nixing the Deal

It is unclear what steps Iran will take if the United States violates the accord, but if Tehran no longer sees benefit to remaining in the deal and resumes nuclear activities that are now restricted or halts cooperation on verification measures mandated under the JCPOA, there could be significant nonproliferation consequences.

Bahram Qassami, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry said Jan. 8 that “all options are on the Islamic Republic’s table” and they will be quickly implemented in response to any U.S. actions. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said in November that Iran could resume enrichment to 20 percent within days if the United States walks away from the deal. Before the negotiation of a November 2013 interim nuclear deal with the P5+1, Iran enriched uranium to the 20-percent uranium-235 level, which is below the level necessary for nuclear weapons but more of a threat than the current 3.67 percent uranium-235 limit set by the JCPOA.

Resumption of higher-level enrichment and/or the operation of additional centrifuges, including advanced machines, that were dismantled as part of the JCPOA, could return Iran to the 2-3 month “breakout time” (the time estimated to produce enough fissile material for one nuclear weapon) that it was before the deal was negotiated. As a result of the restrictions and limits under the deal, the breakout time is currently estimated to be around 12 months.

Tehran could also choose to stop implementing the additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement, which it currently adheres to voluntarily under the deal. Salehi hinted at this Jan. 8 when he stated that Iran would adopt measures that could affect the current level of cooperation with IAEA. Losing the additional protocol would give inspectors less access to Iranian nuclear facilities and information about its program.

In addition to an increased risk posed by an unrestricted Iranian nuclear program, there are regional implications to losing the nuclear deal.

Currently, Saudi Arabia is developing a nuclear energy program and pursuing a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States. Thus far, Saudi Arabia has refused to forswear acquisition of uranium enrichment and reprocessing capabilities. If the nuclear deal with Iran collapses, and Iran’s uranium enrichment program is unrestricted, it is more likely that Saudi Arabia will also choose to go down this route.

For decades, the United States has placed a high premium on halting the further spread of enrichment and reprocessing technology. It would be a mistake for the U.S. executive branch or legislative branch to take actions that jeopardize continued implementation and compliance with Iran deal in a way that risks the pursuit of these sensitive technologies by other states in the troubled Middle East region.

Responding to the U.S. Decision

If Trump abandons the nuclear deal, it behooves Iran and the remaining P5+1 partners to use what tools they have to continue implementing the deal.

The European Union, for instance, could issue a blocking regulation to try and protect European companies and businesses from extraterritorial sanctions. The EU has used this regulation in the past when the United States imposed secondary sanctions on Cuba that the EU did not support.

An EU sanctions blocking regulation, however, cannot guarantee protection and as a result the risk of secondary sanctions might cause companies and investors to pull out of the Iranian market. Nevertheless, it would send a powerful message to the United States that the EU rejects Trump’s irresponsible behavior and continues to support the deal. Issuing the block regulation would also help demonstrate to the Trump administration that the United States will only be further isolated if it continues to reject its international obligations.

While political pressures in Iran might prevent continued implementation of the deal in the long run, the Rouhani government should do what it can to continue meeting the limits of the JCPOA. The current program allowed under the nuclear deal is consistent with Iran’s needs and a commitment by the rest of the P5+1 to continue to take steps, such as providing 20-percent enriched fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, would meet needs not covered by Iran’s domestic nuclear activities.

Without question, the nuclear deal with Iran has effectively removed the existential threat of an Iranian nuclear weapons program and significantly scaled back the country’s nuclear activities. The Trump administration would be foolish to disrupt a successful deal that has addressed a significant threat in a tension-filled region and contributes to strengthening the global nonproliferation regime.

If, in the end, Trump take steps to kill or undermine the successful Iran nuclear deal, the international community—particularly the remaining P5+1 and Iran—should do what they can to continue to implement it. The last thing the Middle East and the United States needs at this time is a major nuclear proliferation crisis manufactured by the White House.—KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy

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Posted: January 9, 2018

Triggers, Redlines, and the Fate of the Iran Nuclear Accord

Why action now by Congress could be counterproductive.

December 2017
By Richard Nephew

Following President Donald Trump’s decision no longer to certify that the Iran nuclear accord is in the
U.S. national security interest, the conversation in Washington has focused on what Congress can and ought to do next.

Given the centrality of the issue of when certain restrictions on Iran's nuclear activities expire under the accord, there is a possibility that Congress will seek to pass legislation to address the perceived problem by attempting to unilaterally change the terms of the 2015 agreement. Republican Senators Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) said they would introduce legislation1 that creates triggers or redlines for the automatic snapback of U.S. sanctions suspended pursuant to the agreement, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), although there is a chance that they will hold off moving forward for some time due to lack of support.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) with President Donald Trump at the White House on August 2. Cotton has been a leading voice in the Senate urging the president not to certify Iranian compliance with the nuclear accord, so that Congress can act.  (Photo credit: Zach Gibson - Pool/Getty Images)These triggers or redlines could be simple (e.g., focused on uranium centrifuge numbers) or complex (e.g., related to stages of ballistic missile development). Yet, the concept is the same across the board: manage the political problem of a president who campaigned against the nuclear agreement having to validate Iranian compliance, which is occurring, while devolving responsibility for the response to that compliance away from the chief executive and legislative branch to a set of “dead man’s switches.”

Separate and apart from the wisdom of this approach, discussion of such options misses the real point concerning Iran and the challenge if Iran’s nuclear program expands in the future. The central challenge is not in figuring out how the United States could respond in such a scenario; it is in ascertaining how best to achieve the goal of preventing Iran’s nuclear program from expanding in the first place. In legislating on the topic of nuclear redlines and Iranian sunsets, Congress may be able to cobble together a framework for managing the U.S. policy response. By doing so, however, Congress might eliminate any chance for negotiations with the Iranians to arrest this problem. In fact, legislating on Iranian behavior without any thought as to how Iran will actually be convinced to agree is not only somewhat pointless, it is also counterproductive in the extreme.

The Trouble With Triggers

To start, it is worth reviewing the text of existing U.S. law, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA). In essence, it lays out the process whereby the JCPOA would be evaluated by Congress for its suitability and then enforced into the future. Congress was not entirely clear as to what would be involved in the JCPOA, as specific provisions were still under negotiation with the Iranians and U.S. partners in the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) when the legislation passed. Nevertheless, as a result of extensive briefings provided by the Obama administration, Congress had a decent idea that the agreement would involve U.S. and UN Security Council sanctions relief being traded for Iran accepting restrictions on its nuclear program, as well as additional monitoring and transparency.

Congress therefore gave itself a broad mandate to review the JCPOA and its constituent parts and the president a broad obligation to confirm on a regular basis that Iran was living up to its responsibilities under the deal. The result was a series of reporting requirements imposed on various parts of the U.S. executive branch and intelligence community, as well as the quarterly certification requirement that Iran was complying with its obligations and that sanctions relief under the JCPOA was in the U.S. national security interest. It is this latter point that the president has now refused to certify.

The rest of that law, however, is constructed as a way of signaling to Iran what would happen if it were to cheat on its obligations and to simplify the process of mounting that response. The concept is that a sanctions snapback strategy might be required if Iran starts to break out of its nuclear restrictions and that it would be prudent for that process to be as expedient as possible. Congress therefore defined cheating in broad terms, speaking of “material breaches,” “compliance incidents,” and even “potentially significant breaches.”

Congress wisely left the determination of what constitutes what in the hands of the president and the executive branch, requiring information about any such problems but avoiding prescription. Congress even acknowledged the possibility that a breach or compliance issue might arise but be “cured” by Iran, noting in essence that mistakes or provocations were to be expected during the JCPOA and that flexibility ought to be afforded to the president and his diplomats to fix them.

By discussing redlines and triggers, Congress may undo this effective and prudent setup to our collective detriment. First and foremost, if drawn tightly, such redlines and triggers could create unwarranted and unnecessary crises with Iran even where fundamental risks from the nuclear program are not present. Triggers and redlines are intended to serve as a forcing function in which A automatically results in B. For example, a redline may be drawn that Iran may not possess more than 300 kilograms of enriched uranium in forms other than fuel in perpetuity. If the amount of enriched uranium was reported at 301 kilograms, although this has no significance from the perspective of weapons breakout, the result would be the same as if Iran possessed 1,000 or 10,000 kilograms of enriched uranium in the same form: snapback of U.S. sanctions and likely a confrontation with Iran. At the same time, if the decision is made to have a redline that is looser than the underlying JCPOA requirement, say, a redline at 350 kilograms rather than 301, then the approach opens up areas of “acceptable” marginal behavior, giving Iran the impression that it can play within the range of 300-350 kilograms.

Some may argue that this is precisely why a tight trigger ought to be agreed, to stop Iran from playing games on the margins of the JCPOA. Proponents of this strategy might note that Iran played such games on heavy-water production in 2016, edging just over the permissible threshold of heavy-water possession on two occasions, and that it is precisely this kind of behavior that merits prevention. The theory goes that if Iran sees a tight trigger, it will be dissuaded from testing the fences that ring it in the JCPOA.

But, there are few scenarios in which a numerical benchmark is obtainable. Many of the issues in the JCPOA depend on interpretation of data where there may be no consensus or no judgment. On transparency and verification, for example, throughout the JCPOA, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is called on to conduct inspections and complementary access visits in order to verify various aspects of the agreement. As a matter of logical necessity, it is up to the IAEA to make the call as to whether it assesses Iranian compliance with those elements or not. Member states can object to the IAEA assessment and render their own verdicts, but this too is a subjective appraisal. It is impossible, therefore, to have a trigger attached to such access that is immune from interpretation unless it is so mundane as to be meaningless (e.g., numbers of inspector visits).

This opens up another problem: what happens if part of the JCPOA is not captured under an explicit trigger? Just as with the concept of a 350-kilogram limit on enriched uranium, any indication given to Iran that some provisions are less important than others could convey an unhelpful signal to Iran that noncompliance in one area would be treated differently than noncompliance in another. Even if a catchall provision were to be retained, the damage might still be done, as it is human nature to take signals from perceived prioritization. After all, laws are written to forbid specific crimes rather than to encourage people to behave as good citizens.

Last but not least, if a trigger and redline approach operates as intended, then it eliminates the opportunity for diplomacy and negotiation in managing incidents that might emerge. Automaticity in the design of snapback means by its very definition that once an assessment of noncompliance is made, there would be limited opportunities for the Iranians to make redress. Presumably, they could do so before such a determination was reported to Congress, although this would create all the same problems as under the present system and as outlined above with respect to a more flexible interpretation of noncompliance.

After that, unless there is significant leeway accorded to the president on enforcement of snapped-back sanctions, which would reduce the credibility of threat itself, the die would be cast. This might be fine if the intent is to police behavior without concern for the consequences of violations, but it is worth underscoring that it is not in the interest of the United States for there to be violations in the first place. The entire basis of the accord was that the imposition of consequences for Iran’s violations of its obligations was less valuable than a resolution of the underlying nuclear problem with Iran. That would not necessarily be the case with a less flexible approach.

In all of this, an analogy with U.S. nuclear strategy in the 1950s and 1960s may be warranted. Advocates of the trigger and redline approach lament the flexible response arrangements of the present, but it is not apparent that going to a “massive retaliation” strategy would accomplish much more than raising real risks of a rapid and unintended escalation into a crisis with Iran.

Of course, some advocates of triggers and redlines have underscored that their interest is not necessarily in going after Iran today but rather laying out a set of requirements on Iran for the future. This trigger and redline approach would be potentially different because it would not be intended to resolve implementation problems but rather to police Iranian behavior after Iran’s affirmative obligations under the JCPOA start to lapse.

In this conception, the redlines and triggers would not really come into play until such time as Iran’s nuclear program begins to change and expand toward the later years of the JCPOA restrictions, or roughly 2023 forward. Options could include things such as a decision to snap-back sanctions if Iran fields advanced centrifuges in greater numbers than research and development scale starting in 2028 or a decision to reimpose sanctions if Iran declined to source its future power reactors from foreign vendors, instead preferring to build and fuel its own.

From a nonproliferation perspective, both of these Iranian steps are objectionable in their own ways. Other examples of potentially problematic Iranian nuclear activities that could occur as restrictions lapse abound, such as a decision by Iran to restart R&D on spent fuel reprocessing or the production of uranium enriched to a level higher than 3.67 percent U-235. For this reason, it is in the U.S. interest to avoid these outcomes and to work to prevent these developments.

The Matter of Iranian Honor

Those inclined to pursue a redline and trigger approach appear to believe that the most effective way forward is to threaten Iran into cooperation. They are arguing implicitly that an Iran that knows the potential consequences of its activities is an Iran that will stay meekly in its box, abiding by foreign-imposed restrictions.

Unfortunately, that is not likely to take place. Iran’s very core identity is that of a revolutionary state that resists the imperialistic tendencies of the West and those of the United States in particular. This identity was forged in the resentments that were engendered in a history of colonialism and foreign power domination, most recently experienced in the U.S. and UK-assisted coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 and in the predatory oil investment arrangements that Iranians felt were foisted on them throughout the 20th century.

Iranian soldiers march Sept. 22 past President Hassan Rouhani during the annual military parade in Tehran marking the anniversary of the outbreak of its 1980-1988 war with Iraq. Rouhani vowed that Iran will boost its ballistic missile capabilities despite criticism from the United States.  (Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)Taking aside completely whether a U.S. decision to impose penalties against Iran for nuclear activities that, to a certain extent, were determined to be acceptable in the JCPOA would be a violation, the simple reality is that an overt imposition of obligations on Iran from the outside is the completely wrong way to start this conversation with Iran. Throughout the 2002-2015 period, when various attempts at negotiation with Iran were made, the Iranians were unambiguous about precisely one thing: they would not accept any arrangement in which they were forced to obey the demands of an outside power.

The Iranian system imposed this constraint, and Iranian negotiators observed it religiously. It is this reason, for example, that the JCPOA and the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) that preceded it included so many references to Iran undertaking voluntary actions or making a decision as to what it would do. The legal impact of these decisions was the same as a prohibition, but the phrasing was an essential element of getting Iran to agree.

U.S. negotiators were confronted with this challenge early on in the JPOA’s restrictions on its enrichment plants and the Arak heavy-water reactor. The United States wanted to have a concrete requirement on Iran not to expand its enrichment plants or to construct the reactor, which would be capable of producing weapons-usable plutonium. Iran would not agree to such blunt language. In the end, the United States agreed to accept a statement that “Iran announces that it will not make any further advances of its activities at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant, Fordow, or the Arak reactor, designated by the IAEA as IR-40.”2 The United States then used IAEA inspector access and U.S. intelligence resources to verify that this announced intention was observed.

The result was that Iran was able to frame its commitment in its own way, and the United States got the desired end result. Proponents of a trigger and redline approach might argue that they too would be fine with such an outcome and that their concept would not inherently preclude Iran making a similar declaration in the future. Yet, by framing the very discussion of this approach as coercing Iran’s future behavior, Congress would nonetheless feed into the internal deliberations in Iran as to why it would be taking or, more likely, forgoing nuclear steps in the future. This would make the jobs of those future Iranian leaders more difficult if not impossible, especially if the next few years involve a more general increase in tensions between the United States and Iran.

An important difference must be made between legislating what the United States wants and getting what the United States wants. Congress naturally has the ability under the U.S. Constitution to set conditions for what the U.S. executive branch can offer insofar as sanctions relief is concerned or even what would constitute an acceptable policy toward Iran. Historical precedent has tended to accord a president latitude in implementing his own foreign policy, which Congress has largely respected. Yet, Congress cannot legislate what a foreign government will do, only what the United States will do in response. The problem therefore emerges: how to get Iran to sign on to U.S. requirements and preferences.

The prevailing theory of the redline approach is that the threat of overwhelming U.S. sanctions pressure will be sufficient. This is a dubious proposition. U.S. sanctions prior to the 2013 JPOA were hardly light in touch, driving the Iranian economy into recession and depriving it of more than $50 billion in oil revenues in 2012 alone. Some have argued that Iran would have accepted deeper concessions in JCPOA negotiations had sanctions not been held back in 2013, but this is at best conjecture and speculation, if not wishful thinking. This author’s own assessment is that sanctions had delivered as much pressure as was going to be achievable and that they were a wasting asset.

Either way, the sanctions pressure was able to bring Iran along only so far, and bringing more to bear would require not only snapback but far deeper sanctions against Iran. Given international hesitancy to support the Trump administration approach, it is a purely hypothetical exercise to suggest that even snapback would be effective, much less obtaining the comprehensive global embargo against Iran that would be necessary for a sanctions-focused strategy to have even a chance of succeeding.

Getting the Best of Both Worlds

As was hinted in the description of what Iran accepted in JPOA language, the right answer is to get Iran to believe it is in its own interest to take the required steps and to be able to sell the result at home. This requires more tact and diplomacy and less rigid demands from the outside, but has the hope of creating actual solutions with Iran and a more sustainable agreement to boot.

To start, Congress should not change the approach of a flexible response to compliance standards embodied in INARA, and it should not adopt rigid redlines to manage Iran’s future nuclear program. Instead, Congress should maintain its more general view of how Iranian compliance under the JCPOA should be judged and should outline the broad strokes of U.S. priorities for future negotiations with Iran.

Activists participate in a protest in front of the White House October 12 denouncing President Trump's anticipated decision to decertify the Iran nuclear deal.  (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)Congress can offer legislation that mandates reimposition of U.S. sanctions against Iran long into the future if evidence emerges that Iran is once again violating its nonproliferation commitments or that the IAEA is unable to provide assurances as to the absence of undeclared Iranian nuclear activities after the JCPOA’s expanded verification requirements end. This would be the establishment of a redline but one sufficiently distant and broad so as to permit latitude for executive branch performance. Alternatively and preferably, Congress can simply wait to see what happens, content in the knowledge that a massive snapback of sanctions remains a U.S. policy option in perpetuity, provided there is adequate cause and scope.

Privately, Congress can register with the administration its views as to what would constitute sufficient measures for a long-term arrangement, charging the administration to seek negotiations with Iran and other U.S. partners in its pursuit. The administration can define core elements for such an arrangement, prioritizing those measures that would provide expanded confidence as to Iran’s nuclear intent, and then seek a variety of ways for bringing them about. These could include enhancements to the IAEA’s standard safeguards practices, improved global export controls, regional arrangements, and even a direct agreement with Iran.3

Such a strategy would not generate immediate headlines nor would it satisfy the visceral desire on the part of some to see Iran acquiesce to the demands of the United States. Yet, it might just have a chance of securing the kind of steps and commitments on Iran’s part that would be necessary to convert the JCPOA into a longer-term, more sustainable nonproliferation instrument.

ENDNOTES

1. “Fixing the Iran Deal: Background and Key Elements,” n.d., https://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/INARA%20Amendment%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf.

2. “Appendix C: Text of the Joint Plan of Action,” Arms Control Association, June 23, 2014, https://www.armscontrol.org/reports/Solving-the-Iranian-Nuclear-Puzzle/2014/06/APPENDIX_C-Text-of-the-Joint-Plan-of-Action.

3. Robert Einhorn and Richard Nephew, “The Iran Nuclear Deal: Prelude to Proliferation in the Middle East,” Brookings Institution, May 31, 2016, https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-iran-nuclear-deal-prelude-to-proliferation-in-the-middle-east/.


Richard Nephew is a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. Previously, he was principal deputy coordinator for sanctions policy at the Department of State from 2013 to 2015. Nephew also served as the lead sanctions expert for the U.S. team negotiating with Iran on the nuclear deal. From May 2011 to January 2013, Nephew served as the director for Iran on the National Security Council Staff.

 

Posted: December 1, 2017

Iran’s Leader Sets Missile Range Limit

Iran is focusing on accuracy gains rather than extending range.

December 2017
By Kelsey Davenport

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said his country will not develop ballistic missiles with a range exceeding 2,000 kilometers, reinforcing prior statements by officials and military leaders about missile range limitations.

Although that constraint leaves the United States out of range, most of the Middle East, including regional U.S. military facilities and Israel, are within the 2,000-kilometer range. Further, there was no indication that Khamenei’s order, citied by Iranian officials, precludes Iran from continuing to develop satellite launch rockets, a capability that would inform any attempt to produce intercontinental ballistic missiles.

A military truck carries a Qadr medium-range ballistic missile past a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a military parade in Tehran September 22, 2015. One version of that missile has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers, according to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.  (Photo credit: ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)Iranian government officials have said repeatedly that Iran would abide by such a limit voluntarily and focus on improving accuracy. A statement by the supreme leader in this regard carries greater political significance. Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests appear to confirm that Tehran is concentrating on accuracy rather than trying to extend the range of its systems.

A June 2017 report by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Ballistic Missile Analysis Committee found that Iran’s current ballistic missile inventory includes systems with a range of up to 2,000 kilometers, but did not discuss any missiles that exceed that range. The report did mention that Iran’s space launch vehicles could provide a pathway to longer-range ballistic missiles, but many experts note that there are significant technological differences between space launch vehicles and ballistic missiles.

Iran’s ballistic missiles are not covered by the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the deal, called on Iran to refrain from ballistic missile testing on systems “designed to be capable” of delivering nuclear weapons.

U.S. President Donald Trump has criticized the nuclear deal for failing to include ballistic missiles and, in an Iran policy speech on Oct. 13, directed his administration to work with Congress to “fix” what he described as “flaws” in the agreement, including the issue of ballistic missiles. (See ACT, November 2017.)

Washington’s EU partners in the nuclear agreement—France, Germany, and the United Kingdom—said in a statement responding to Trump’s speech that they are willing to work on ballistic missile restrictions outside of the deal.

Khamenei, however, said that Iran’s ballistic missiles are non-negotiable and “not to be bargained for.” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani similarly emphasized that Iran’s ballistic missiles are necessary for state security and that production of ballistic missiles is not a violation of international law.

Although Resolution 2231 only “called” on Iran to refrain from ballistic missile activities, including development and testing, there is a clear prohibition on transfers or exports of ballistic missiles and related technologies without advance approval from the UN Security Council. A similar process is required for a range of armaments.

Yet, a U.S. statement tying a missile fired on Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to Iran raises concerns that Iran may have violated the restriction prohibiting transfers. The Saudi military intercepted a missile from Yemen targeted at Riyadh’s international airport on Nov. 4.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigan, head of U.S. Air Force Central Command in Qatar, said on Nov. 10 that there have been Iranian markings on missiles used by the Houthis against Saudi and Saudi-backed forces in the war in Yemen. He said the markings “connect the dots to Iran.” Other countries, including Saudi Arabia and France, also linked the missile to Iran in earlier statements.

Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said in Iran on Nov. 5 that accusations that the missile came from Iran are “baseless” and contended that Yemen can produce its own ballistic missiles.

Iran allegedly has transferred missile components in violation of Resolution 2231, according to a June report from the UN secretary-general assessing implementation of the resolution. The report referenced two cases in which missile components were seized in Ukraine. Additionally, the report noted letters from authorities in Yemen and the United Arab Emirates alleging that arms of Iranian origin were seized in Yemen.

IAEA Points to Iran’s Compliance

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program, presenting findings that point toward Tehran’s compliance with the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal.

IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said on Nov. 14 that his “assessment of the current situation” is that Iran is meeting its nuclear-related commitments. Speaking at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, Amano said that the IAEA is “confident” that it can “detect diversion of nuclear material or misuse of nuclear facilities and any nuclear activities and materials that are not included in Iran’s declaration in a timely manner.”

In the Nov. 13 report, the IAEA noted that Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 3.67 percent uranium-235 totaled 96.7 kilograms, well below the 300-kilogram limit, and its stockpile of heavy water was 114.4 metric tons, below the limit of 130 metric tons. Further, Iran was abiding by the limitations on operating centrifuges, which caps Iran’s use of centrifuges for enriching uranium to 5,060 IR-1 machines, according to the report.       

In a new development, Iran provided the IAEA in an Oct. 29 letter with preliminary design information for a light-water critical reactor, which it proposes to build in the “near future” for research purposes, consistent with the nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Annex I of the accord notes that Iran will “rely on light water for its future nuclear power and research reactors,” and Annex III says that the P5+1 countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) “will facilitate Iran’s acquisition of light water research and power reactors.”

The report is the first since U.S. President Donald Trump withheld a certification to Congress on the nuclear deal. Although Trump did not do so on the grounds that Iran was violating its commitments, he said that Iran had “intimidated international inspectors into not using the full inspection authorities that the agreement calls for.”

Amano, however, said that inspectors have had access to all the necessary sites and noted that inspectors are now spending 3,000 workdays a year on the ground, twice the number in 2013.

Amano also sought to dispel doubt over the agency’s authority to monitor Iran’s compliance with the accord’s Section T, which prohibits Iran from undertaking activities that “could contribute to the design and development” of a nuclear device, including experiments with certain types of explosives.

That provision includes no specific reference to IAEA verification, and Russia has interpreted that to mean the Vienna-based agency has no authority over it. Western powers disagree with Russia. Amano in September sought clarification from the P5+1 on the IAEA’s role in implementing Section T. U.S. Ambassador the United Nations Nikki Haley in September accused Russia of trying to use the issue to “shield” Iran from inspections.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Posted: December 1, 2017

Trump Sets U.S. Up to Violate Iran Deal

Next steps fall to Congress, as key allies appeal for U.S. to stick with the nuclear accord.


November 2017
By Kelsey Davenport

President Donald Trump directed his administration to work with Congress to address “serious flaws” in the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, but with Tehran and Washington’s negotiating partners rejecting renegotiations, his approach is unlikely to yield results and risks resulting in the United States violating the agreement.

Outlining his Iran policy in an Oct. 13 speech, Trump said he would terminate the accord if Congress and the U.S. negotiating partners in the P5+1 group—China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom—fail to address areas of concern, such as the expiration of certain nuclear constraints and Iran’s ballistic missile development.

President Donald Trump speaks October 13 at the White House about his decision to deny quarterly certification of the Iran nuclear deal. (Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)Trump also said he was withholding a quarterly certification to Congress tied to the nuclear deal on the grounds that sanctions relief provided to Iran was not proportionate to the restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear program. That was an expected step after Trump said in July that he was unlikely to issue the certification. (See ACT, September 2017.)

The certification is a U.S. legal requirement comprised of several determinations. In addition to the determination on sanctions proportionality, the certification includes determinations related to Iran’s compliance with the deal and the national security value of the accord. In the weeks leading up to the certification deadline, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson noted that Iran was meeting its obligations; and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that the deal is in the U.S. national security interest, indicators that key advisers in Trump’s cabinet opposed his decision to withhold certification.

Withholding certification does not violate the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trump said that the United States intends to remain party to the agreement for now, while he looks to Congress and U.S. allies to "address the deal's many serious flaws."

Despite Trump’s threats to terminate the accord if changes are not made, Washington’s negotiating partners and Iran rejected renegotiating elements of the deal. Shortly after Trump’s Oct. 13 announcement, Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief and head of the P5+1, said that the deal is working, the EU will continue to implement it, and it is “not up to a single country to terminate it.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is under pressure from regime hardliners, said Iran “will not be the first to withdraw from the deal but, if its rights and interests in the deal are not respected, it will stop implementing all its commitments and will resume its peaceful nuclear program without any restrictions.”

Washington’s actions prove that the United States is “not a reliable negotiating partner,” he said, a statement that could have ramifications for any future talks with Iran, as well as for U.S. efforts to negotiate with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a joint statement Oct. 13 expressing “concern about the possible implications” of Trump’s decision to withhold certification and encouraging him and Congress to consider “the implications to the security of the U.S. and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA, such as re-imposing sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement.”

Withholding certification allows Congress to introduce legislation within 60 days to reimpose sanctions waived under the deal using an expedited legislative process, but it appears unlikely that Congress will pursue this route, which would clearly violate the agreement.

The current approach espoused by several Senate Republicans would seek to address Trump’s concerns about ballistic missiles and limits that expire under the deal and refrain from reimposing sanctions. Still, if enacted as described, this approach would violate the terms of the accord by seeking to pressure Iran, under threat of sanctions, to abide by limits for a longer duration than required under the deal.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) released a factsheet Oct. 13 summarizing his legislative approach, titled “Fixing the Iran Deal,” which outlines that U.S. sanctions waived under the deal will be reimposed automatically if Iran takes certain steps, including activities that are permitted under the nuclear deal or will be permitted in the out years of the agreement.

For instance, the factsheet says that U.S. sanctions waived under the deal will snap back automatically if Iran’s nuclear weapons “breakout” time, commonly defined as the time it would take Iran to amass enough weapons-grade fissile material for one bomb, drops to less than one year.

For the first 10 years of the nuclear deal, the combination of limits on Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity and stockpile of enriched uranium holds Iran to a 12-month breakout time. By year 15, however, certain limits expire; and Iran could choose to expand its uranium-enrichment capacity, at which point breakout would likely drop below 12 months.

Despite the deal permitting Iran to expand uranium enrichment, U.S. sanctions would be automatically reimposed at that point, which many experts contend violates the agreement. Corker’s factsheet, however, argues that approach is “ridding the JCPOA of sunset provisions as they apply to U.S. sanctions.”

Trump did not specifically mention Corker’s initiative in his speech, but said he supported congressional efforts to “make all restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity permanent under U.S. law” and “prevent Iran from developing” an intercontinental ballistic missile.

It seems unlikely that Democrats would support any approach that violates the deal. In the Senate, any such effort to bring legislation altering the terms of the nuclear deal up for a vote would require 60 votes; and key Senate Democrats, including several who opposed the deal in 2015, signaled they do not support abrogating the deal.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, opposed the deal in 2015, but denounced Trump’s decision to withholding certification as “reckless” and “without factual or material evidence” to warrant such a move.

Cardin said that “we will not buy into the false premise that it is Congress’ role to legislate solutions to problems of [Trump’s] own making” and that it is “up to Congress to show the world that there is bipartisan support for the United States to uphold its commitments, including the JCPOA.”

An official from a European country that participated in the negotiations told Arms Control Today on Oct. 23 that the “deal is done” and that “any efforts to unilaterally change its terms” jeopardizes the agreement.

He said Mogherini was very clear at the United Nations in September that there is “no interest in or need to renegotiate or reopen the accord.” Concerns outside of the deal, such as ballistic missiles, can be addressed separately from implementation of the agreement, he added.

May, Macron, and Merkel made a similar statement in their Oct. 13 letter, saying that they “stand ready to take further appropriate measures to address” issues such as ballistic missile development “at the same time as we work to preserve the JCPOA.”

Corker’s factsheet does not explicitly mention ballistic missiles, but in interviews following Trump’s speech, he has said his approach may reimpose sanctions automatically in response to certain ballistic missile activities conducted by Iran.

The nuclear deal does not prohibit Iran from developing ballistic missiles, but the UN Security Council resolution endorsing the deal “called upon” Iran to refrain from testing ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons and regulates Iran’s purchases of materials and technology relevant to developing ballistic missiles.

The United States, as permitted by the accord, continues to sanction individuals and entities involved with Iran’s ballistic missile activities.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Posted: November 1, 2017

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