Login/Logout

*
*  

ACA's journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent.

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General
Iran

The IAEA Reports - Yet Again - Iran's Compliance with the JCPOA

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported, yet again, that Iran is fully implementing its nuclear commitments under the 2015 multilateral deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) . Despite biting U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s oil and banking sector coming into effect Nov. 5, the agency’s most recent quarterly report , made public Nov. 22, demonstrates that Iran remains below the limits set on key nuclear activities and continues to cooperate with IAEA monitoring and verification activities. As with prior reports, the IAEA noted that inspectors have had...

Trump Sanctions Exempt Some Oil Sales and Nuclear Projects

The Trump administration ramped up its reckless and irresponsible “maximum pressure” approach to Iran Nov. 5 when it rolled out the second round of U.S. sanctions, re-imposed after President Donald Trump violated and withdrew from the nuclear deal in May. While the re-imposed sanctions have a biting effect on Iran’s economy and negatively impact the relief envisioned by the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Nov. 5 announcement could have been worse. The Trump administration did not realize its goal of pushing Iran’s oil exports to “zero,” or as close to...

Trump's Oil Sanctions Compound Error of Violating 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal

Sections:

Description: 

Although the new oil sanctions are unlikely to change Iran’s commitment to the JCPOA in the short-term, the long-term viability of the deal remains at risk.

Body: 

Statement from Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy

For Immediate Release: Nov. 2, 2018

Media Contact: Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, 202-463-8270 ext. 102 

Iran’s commitment to continue implementing the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), faces another test Nov. 5, when the Trump administration’s biting sanctions on Iran’s oil sector come back into effect.

This move further compounds President Trump's reckless and irresponsible decision in May to violate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, despite acknowledging Iran’s compliance with the accord, and reimpose sanctions. It is another serious blow to the Trump administration’s already low credibility on nuclear nonproliferation matters.

Although the new oil sanctions are unlikely to change Iran’s commitment to the JCPOA in the short-term, the long-term viability of the deal remains at risk.

The Trump administration has falsely claimed that the JCPOA has been a failure because it did not “fix” Iran’s activities in policy areas beyond the scope of the nuclear deal, such as Tehran’s support for non-state actors. 

In reality, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has significantly reduced Iran’s capability to produce bomb-grade nuclear material, opened it up to a more robust international inspections regime, and blocked its major pathways to nuclear weapons for years to come. The International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly confirmed that Tehran is complying with the restrictions set by the JCPOA.

Worse yet, the Trump administration turned down earlier proposals from our European partners on addressing Iran’s malign activities in other areas, and the Trump administration’s overreliance on sanctions and its “maximum pressure” policy is not a viable strategy for replacing the JCPOA. The Trump administration’s approach is a recipe for conflict and increased proliferation risks in the Middle East.

We encourage the other parties to the JCPOA to continue to meet their obligations and preserve legitimate trade with Iran. The international community must fulfill UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the nuclear deal and called upon all states to support it, until such time as the United States comes back into compliance with the agreement and new talks can begin on win-win approaches to extend and build upon key elements of the JCPOA.

Country Resources:

Israel Claims Secret Nuclear Site in Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s charge draws pushback from the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.


November 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed what he described as a secret nuclear warehouse in Iran and publicly called for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to visit the site, putting pressure on the international watchdog agency that could hamper its independence.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, addressing the United Nations, uses a visual aid to highlight his allegations about a “secret atomic warehouse” in Tehran. His comments were misleading, according to two U.S. intelligence officials cited by Reuters. (Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)Netanyahu’s allegations come as the United States is pressuring countries to support its sanctions on Iran and as the remaining P4+1 parties (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) to the July 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran are taking steps to work around the coercive U.S. measures and preserve the accord. (See ACT, October 2018.)

Speaking at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 27, Netanyahu described the facility in central Tehran as a “secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program.” Netanyahu called on IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano to “do the right thing” and inspect the warehouse “immediately” before Iran finished clearing it out.

Amano pushed back in an Oct. 2 statement, saying that the agency does not take any information at “face value.” Although Amano did not mention Netanyahu directly, he said that all material, including that received from third parties, is subject to a rigorous and independent assessment. Further, Amano said that IAEA nuclear verification work “must always be impartial, factual, and professional” and that the agency’s independence is “of paramount importance.”

Netanyahu’s remarks garnered headlines around the world, but it remains unclear whether the facility is of interest to the IAEA. Still, Netanyahu’s comments could complicate work by the agency. IAEA inspectors should visit the facility if their assessment determines that an inspection is warranted. Yet, if inspectors visit the site now, it may appear as if the IAEA is acting at Israel’s behest, which would jeopardize the agency’s credibility and independence.

Brandishing a picture of the facility, Netanyahu charged that Iran removed 15 kilograms of radioactive material from the warehouse in August. It is not clear if Netanyahu was referring to uranium, plutonium, or another radioactive material. Possession of undeclared uranium or plutonium would violate Iran’s safeguards agreement and the multilateral nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but radioactive materials used for a variety of purposes, including medical and industrial activities, are not subject to the same restrictions.

U.S. intelligence officials also disputed Netanyahu’s description of the facility and said his comments were misleading. One intelligence official quoted by Reuters on Sept. 27 said that the facility has been known to the U.S. intelligence community for some time and is full of documents, not nuclear equipment. The officials said that “so far as anyone knows, there is nothing in it that would allow Iran to break out” of the nuclear deal any faster. Iranian officials immediately denounced Netanyahu’s accusation as a farce, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Sept. 30 that Netanyahu is “desperately seeking to find a pretext to create hype” about Iran’s nuclear program.

This is the second time Netanyahu has publicly revealed what he describes as secret information tied to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. In February 2018, Israel stole archival material from a facility in Iran that appears to document activities related to the country’s nuclear weapons development and shared the information with several states and the IAEA.

Netanyahu publicly revealed that the raid took place and released some details from the stolen material at a press conference in April, just weeks before U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement and reimpose sanctions, despite Iran’s compliance with the provisions of the deal. Israel is one of the few states that encouraged Trump to withdraw from the accord.

In his Sept. 27 speech, Netanyahu claimed that the IAEA “has still not taken any action” following up on the archival material and “has not demanded to inspect a single new site.”

The information shared publicly confirms what the IAEA and the U.S. intelligence community already concluded, that Iran had an organized illicit nuclear weapons program that it abandoned in 2003, although some activities continued. The IAEA reported in 2015 that it had no evidence of nuclear activities with military dimensions after 2009.

Netanyahu’s allegation that the IAEA has done nothing appears to be at odds with the U.S. assessment.

During the IAEA Board of Governors meeting on Sept. 11–14, Nicole Shampaine, an official at the U.S. mission in Vienna, told the board that the United States supports the agency’s “careful assessment of the newly acquired archive materials.” She said any “concern” related to undeclared nuclear activities or material must be pursued and the United States has “full confidence” in the IAEA and its inspectors “to do so appropriately.”

If any of the archival material indicated that Iran pursued illicit nuclear activities after the nuclear deal was concluded, it is likely that the Trump administration would have accused Iran of violating the agreement and its safeguards obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), given Trump’s animosity toward the accord.

The U.S. State Department released a report in April that concluded Iran is in compliance with its NPT obligations and, through 2017, with the Iran nuclear deal.

U.S. Officials Dispute Netanyahu's Secret Iranian Nuclear Site Claim | P4+1 and Iran Deal Alert, October 18, 2018

U.S. Officials Dispute Netanyahu's Secret Iranian Nuclear Site Claim In his address to the UN General Assembly , Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed what he described as a secret nuclear warehouse “storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program,” a claim that U.S. intelligence officials have told reporters is misleading. Netanyahu’s Sept. 27 allegations came as U.S. President Donald Trump threatened countries that do not support U.S. sanctions on Iran with “severe consequences,” and as the remaining P4+1 parties to the July 2015...

Trump Challenges Europeans Over Iran Deal

EU plans steps to get around U.S. sanctions on Iran.


October 2018
By Terry Atlas and Kelsey Davenport

The Iran nuclear deal remains on life support, as U.S. President Donald Trump redoubles his efforts to kill an arrangement that is successfully restraining Iran’s nuclear program.

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the UN General Assembly on September 25, denouncing what he called the “corrupt dictatorship” in Iran. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)Nearly five months after Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 accord, Iran continues to comply with restrictions on its nuclear activities as the European Union, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom seek work-arounds to renewed U.S. sanctions on the Islamic republic.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote in a Sept. 23 column in The Washington Post that he is allowing a “short grace period” to see what the other parties to the accord, including Russia and China, are able to do to offset Trump’s pressure tactics, notably U.S. efforts to prevent Iranian oil sales. U.S. officials are pressuring states that import Iranian oil to cut purchases or face severe sanctions that will enter back into effect Nov. 5.

The other parties to the nuclear deal met at the United Nations on Sept. 24, the eve of Trump’s second General Assembly address, to assess what they called “practical proposals” to offset U.S. actions and to protect “legitimate business” dealings with Iran. Afterward, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, speaking alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, said the parties agreed to establish a “special purpose vehicle” to facilitate purchases of Iranian imports and exports, including oil.

“In practical terms, this will mean that EU member states will set up a legal entity to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran, and this will allow European companies to continue to trade with Iran in accordance with European Union law,” she said. “And it will be open to other partners in the world.”

This puts the countries, including close U.S. allies, in direct defiance of Trump, who told the General Assembly on Sept. 25 that the United States will increase its “campaign of economic pressure” on Tehran. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, warned allies and others against trying to evade sanctions.

Bolton characterized the European plan as just rhetoric and suggested any such action would have consequences. “We do not intend to have our sanctions evaded by Europe or by anyone else,” he said in a speech Sept. 25 detailing the administration’s redlines for Iranian leaders.

Trump, at the UN, said the oil-related sanctions will be followed by other punitive measures to thwart what he characterized as a “corrupt dictatorship” that still harbors nuclear weapons ambitions and foments turmoil in the Middle East through its support of militant groups.

“We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues,” he said. Further, using language linked to potential regime change, he said, “[W]e ask all nations to support Iran’s people as they struggle to reclaim their religious and righteous destiny.”

But it is the United States that appears isolated. At a special UN Security Council session chaired by Trump Sept. 26, called to highlight nonproliferation priorities, top leaders one after the other directly criticized his decision to abandon the Iran deal and urged Tehran to continue to comply with the accord.

The Trump administration, which denies an overt goal of regime change, has said it is seeking to force Iran to negotiate a more wide-ranging deal that includes restraints on its regional interference and ballistic missile program and tighter restrictions on nuclear activities.

President of Iran Hassan Rouhani addresses the UN General Assembly on September 25. World leaders gathered for the 73rd annual meeting at the UN headquarters in New York. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)Iran has ruled out such talks, at least until the United States returns to the nuclear accord negotiated during the Obama administration. Trump’s offer of direct talks “is not honest or genuine” given his actions, Rouhani said in his column. Rouhani told the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25 that beginning a dialogue starts with ending threats and unjust sanctions.

The Europeans have been particularly determined to try to preserve the 2015 pact because it has effectively halted Iran’s nuclear advances and reopened a lucrative market for European trade and because they are alarmed by a drift toward an imaginable U.S. war with Iran, encouraged by Saudi Arabia and Israel. It is unclear whether their new initiatives to shield companies from U.S. sanctions will have much effect, with major European companies already abandoning Iran.

More important may be what actions Iran’s biggest oil purchasers, China and India, take in light of the U.S. sanctions. Both have substantially reduced oil purchases, although it is uncertain what Beijing may decide in light of growing trade disputes with the Trump administration.

Iran agreed to the nuclear deal in return for the lifting of U.S., EU, and UN sanctions, hoping for a boost to the country’s struggling economy. In the face of rising tensions with the Trump administration and internal mismanagement of the economy, the value of the Iranian currency has plummeted by as much as 70 percent in the past year, fueling protests against Rouhani’s government.

Iranian officials have said they could restart nuclear activities, such as enriching uranium at prohibited levels, within days if there is a decision to do so. An Iranian decision to exit the nuclear deal might play well for anti-U.S. sentiment, but would pose a different set of risks for the regime.

Iran has continued to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement, according to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Aug. 20, the first since the United States began reimposing sanctions Aug. 7. The report also said Iran is abiding by the deal’s more intrusive IAEA monitoring and verification mechanisms, which provide inspector access “to all the sites and locations” necessary to visit.

The IAEA reports do not contain any details on what sites the agency visits outside of Iran’s declared nuclear program, but there are some indications that inspections took place at two universities in Iran in July. According to several news outlets, protests broke out over the IAEA presence.

The report does not mention a reported new advanced-centrifuge production facility. The official Iranian news agency IRNA on Sept. 9 quoted Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as saying that the facility is “fully complete and set up.” The construction of such a facility does not violate the deal, but it would be a violation if Tehran manufactured centrifuges outside of the narrow scope of production permitted by the accord.

The IAEA report also does not mention the stolen trove of secret Iranian documents, which Israel disclosed earlier this year, relating to Iran’s past nuclear weapons activities. But Nicole Shampaine, a U.S. official at the U.S. Mission in Vienna, told the IAEA Board of Governors Sept. 12 that the United States supports the “IAEA’s careful assessment of the newly acquired archive materials from Iran’s past nuclear weapons program. She said the existence of the documentation demonstrates that Iran “sought to preserve the information and expertise from that past program.”

Iran Continues to Meet JCPOA Limits, Despite Sanctions

Unsurprisingly, Iran continues to abide by its commitments under the multilateral nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), according to the most recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The report is the first since a tranche of U.S. sanctions reimposed by U.S. President Donald Trump in violation of the JCPOA entered into full effect Aug. 7. IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano told the agency’s Board of Governors Sept. 10 that “Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments” and urged Tehran to continue to fully abide by the deal. The...

Iran Pushes for EU Measures to Preserve Oil Sales | P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, September 7, 2018

Iran Pushes for EU Measures to Preserve Oil Sales Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Aug. 29 that “hope should be abandoned” for the multilateral nuclear deal that Iran reached with six countries and the European Union in 2015 and he seemed to dismiss European efforts to sustain the deal as insufficient. Khamenei and other Iranian officials contend that the remaining P4+1 parties to the nuclear deal (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) are not doing enough to counteract sanctions reimposed by the United States. With U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector set to...

Trump Faces Resistance on Iran Sanctions

Other countries want to maintain the Iran nuclear deal that the United States abandoned.


September 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

The first tranche of U.S. sanctions on Iran took effect Aug. 7 as the remaining parties to the nuclear deal with Iran committed themselves to maintaining economic ties despite U.S. threats of “severe consequences” for any entity that defies the U.S. policy.

Pedestrians glace at the depressed value of the Iranian rial posted at a currency exchange shop in Tehran on August 8, the day after the reimposed U.S. sanctions took effect. (Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)Although the sanctions were reimposed in May, when U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the multilateral nuclear accord known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the United States allowed entities 90 or 180 days to wind down their activities in the Islamic republic before the U.S. restrictions would enter into full effect. (See ACT, June 2018.)

The remaining states-party to the nuclear deal—China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom—and the European Union said they will stand by the accord and will not abide by the U.S. measures as long as Iran meets its commitments under the agreement. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, reflecting the strains between the United States and its closest European allies, warned on Aug. 8 that U.S. actions against Iran may lead to further turmoil in the Middle East.

The Aug. 7 sanctions target the purchase of U.S. dollars; trade in aluminum, steel, coal, and precious metals; and the automotive sector. The Trump administration also revoked licenses allowing the United States to import certain foodstuffs from and export commercial aircraft parts to Iran.

In an Aug. 6 statement, Trump said that the United States is fully committed to enforcing all sanctions and that entities that fail to comply “risk severe consequences.” He later tweeted that “anyone doing business with Iran will not be doing business with the United States” and said he was seeking “world peace, nothing less.”

While acknowledging sanctions pressure, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on Iranians to “overcome this with unity” and said Washington “will regret imposing sanctions on Iran.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement pledging to do “everything necessary” to maintain the nuclear deal, including measures to protect trade with Iran. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Beijing will protect its commercial cooperation with Iran.

The foreign ministers of the EU, France, Germany, and the UK said on Aug. 6 that they were “determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran” in accordance with EU law and the 2016 UN Security Council resolution endorsing the nuclear deal.

Before the U.S. sanctions went into effect, the EU adopted an update to its so-called blocking regulation to cover U.S. sanctions on Iran. Nathalie Tocci, a special adviser to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, said on Aug. 7 that the EU will sanction European companies that abide by U.S. secondary sanctions.

It is unclear whether the regulation will provide EU companies enough protection from U.S. sanctions penalties for them to risk continuing to do business with Iran. A number of EU companies have announced that they are suspending operations in Iran.

In a July letter to the European officials, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made clear that the United States would not grant sanctions exemptions requested by the EU.

Following the Pompeo letter, 10 Republican senators hinted at retaliation if European states tried to block or get around the application of the U.S sanctions. The Republican letter, addressed to the French, German, and UK ambassadors in Washington, said it would be “particularly troubling if you sought to evade or undermine” U.S. law and steps to do so “could well prompt Congressional action” to ensure the integrity of the sanctions.

 It is unclear why the senators would describe actions to block the sanctions as “evasion” when the three countries have no legal obligation to abide by U.S. sanctions and have stated that sustaining the nuclear deal is in their national security interests.

A more significant set of sanctions, which primarily target states purchasing oil from Iran, is scheduled to go into effect Nov. 5. Oil revenue constitutes 70 percent of Iran’s total exports, and it remains to be seen how significantly oil exports will be hit, particularly given that China, Iran’s top oil purchaser, does not appear to be planning any cutback.

The U.S. law providing for the oil sanctions does not require a complete cutoff of Iranian oil purchases. A country can apply for a waiver if it makes a “significant reduction” every 180 days. The law does not define “significant reduction,” and initially the Trump administration was insisting that states completely end Iranian oil imports. Pompeo said on July 22 that the goal is to get “as close to zero as possible.”

Rouhani warned on July 22 that if Iranian oil exports are blocked, no other country in the region will be able to export oil. He appeared to be referring to Iran’s ability to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a third of all oil shipped by sea passes.

Rouhani also said that “peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all war,” a statement that drew a threatening Trump tweet in all capital letters: “Never ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.”

The Trump administration continues to maintain that the goal of sanctions is to get a “better deal” with Iran that addresses not only the nuclear program but all of Iran’s ballistic missile and provocative regional activities.

Certain statements, however, suggest a broader goal of triggering major political change in Iran, although the administration denies a policy of regime change. Before joining the administration, Pompeo and Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, had publicly favored U.S. policies to press for regime change.

“Anyone who’s hoping for regime change must not forget that whatever follows could bring us much bigger problems,” Mass said in a German press interview.

Trump maintains that he is willing to meet with Rouhani without preconditions, but Pompeo outlined a dozen requirements that would require Tehran to unilaterally change policies and actions before sanctions relief is granted.

For his part, Rouhani said on Aug. 6 that the United States must return to compliance with the nuclear deal before talks could occur. He said that “if you stab someone with a knife and then say you want talks, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife.”

 

U.S. Touts Sanctions Success as EU Announces Iran Package | The P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, August 24, 2018

U.S. Touts Sanctions Success as EU Announces Iran Package During an Aug. 19-22 trip to Israel, National Security Advisor John Bolton said U.S. sanctions reimposed on Iran are having economic effects “even stronger than we anticipated” and that the United States expects that Europeans will see that the “choice between doing business with Iran or doing business with the United States is very clear.” Iran figured prominently in discussions between Bolton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At a joint Aug. 20 press conference , Netanyahu again thanked the Trump administration for...

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Iran