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Bloomberg News
August 27, 2018
Kelsey Davenport

Iran, P5+1 Hold ‘Constructive’ Talks

Kelsey Davenport

Iran and six world powers held “constructive and useful” talks on a comprehensive deal on Iran’s nuclear program, according to a March 19 joint statement released by the parties.

A main topic of the talks between Iran and the six-country group, known as the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), was Iran’s uranium-enrichment program.

The March 17-19 talks in Vienna were the second set of meetings between Iran and the P5+1 on a comprehensive deal on Iran’s nuclear program after the parties reached an interim agreement in November. Implementation of the initial actions began Jan. 20 and is to last six months. If an agreement is not reached, the interim deal can be extended by mutual consent of the two sides. U.S. officials have said they hope to reach a final deal within the first six months.

Iran maintains that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but some countries are concerned that Iran could use its nuclear capabilities to develop nuclear weapons.

During the first round of meetings on the comprehensive deal, which were held Feb. 18-20 in Vienna, the two sides agreed on a framework and timetable to guide the first four months of negotiations on a comprehensive deal. (See ACT, March 2014.) Technical experts from Iran and the P5+1 met in the first week of March in advance of the political-level negotiations to begin discussions of the issues identified during the February talks.

The two sides are scheduled to hold lower-level talks on technical issues April 3-5, followed by another round of higher-level negotiations April 7-9 in Vienna.

During a March 19 press conference in Vienna after the most recent round of talks, a senior Obama administration official described them as “extensive” and said that each side understands the “concerns” and “concepts” of the other.

At a separate March 19 press conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the head of his country’s negotiating team, said that the talks provided clarification on issues and were “constructive.”

One of the areas in which the sides remain “far apart” is the issue of uranium enrichment because Iran has “far-reaching demands” in this area, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said in a March 19 statement.

At the press conference, the senior Obama administration official said that the issue of Iranian enrichment activities encompasses “a lot of elements” ranging “from facilities to stockpiles to research and development to monitoring and transparency” and that the discussions on that subject were “extensive.”

According to the Nov. 24 Joint Plan of Action, Iran’s enrichment capacity will be determined according to its “practical needs.”

Although Iran’s current need for enriched uranium is very small because its only civilian nuclear power plant is fueled by Russia, Tehran has said it plans to build 16 new nuclear power reactors and a research reactor. The timelines for these projects, however, have not been made public.

The P5+1 is concerned about Iran retaining an extensive enrichment capacity and large stockpiles of enriched uranium because that would allow Tehran to build a nuclear weapon more quickly if it decided to do so.

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on March 20 issued its second special report on Iran’s implementation of certain aspects of the interim deal. The first report was released Jan. 20, when implementation of the initial agreement began.

According to the March report, Iran is complying with its obligations under the deal. The IAEA confirmed that Iran is continuing to down-blend and convert its stockpiles of uranium that had been enriched to 20 percent. The Jan. 20 report confirmed that Iran had begun these activities.

As part of the initial deal, Iran agreed to dilute half of its stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium to an enrichment level of less than 5 percent. Last month’s report confirmed that Iran completed half of the dilution before the March 20 deadline for that task.

The remaining half is being converted to a powder form that can be used to make fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes.

Uranium refined to 20 percent is more easily enriched further to weapons grade than if it begins as reactor-grade uranium, which is enriched to less than 5 percent. Iran’s stockpile of the 20 percent-enriched material was a key concern for the international community.

The March 20 report also confirmed that the agency now has daily access to Iran’s two enrichment sites, Natanz and Fordow, and that Iran has not begun operating or installed any additional centrifuges at either site.

Iran and six world powers held talks on a comprehensive deal on Iran’s nuclear program, with both sides afterward describing the talks as “constructive.”

UN Report: Enforce N. Korea Sanctions

Kelsey Davenport

UN member states should focus on significantly improving implementation of existing sanctions to slow North Korea’s prohibited nuclear and ballistic missile programs rather than passing new measures, a March 6 report to the UN Security Council recommended.

The report, written by a panel of experts authorized under UN Security Council Resolution 1874 in 2009, found that North Korea has developed “multiple and tiered circumvention techniques” to evade sanctions and continue work on the banned programs but that states have “adequate tools” to prevent Pyongyang’s illicit trafficking.

Together, Resolutions 1718, 1874, 2087, and 2094 prohibit arms sales and transfers of nuclear and ballistic missile technology to North Korea, ban the sale of luxury items to Pyongyang, and give states broad authority to inspect North Korean cargo suspected of violating these measures if it passes through their territories. The mandate for the panel of experts includes assessing the effect of the sanctions on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and providing recommendations for better implementing restrictive measures on Pyongyang.

An incident last July involving a North Korean ship carrying Cuban weapons helped inform the panel’s recommendations, as it gave them “unrivalled insight” into the ways that Pyongyang circumvents sanctions, the report said.

Panama stopped the ship carrying Cuban weapons to North Korea on July 15, charging a violation of UN Security Council sanctions that prohibit transfers of arms to Pyongyang. (See ACT, September 2013.)

According to a July 16 statement by the Cuban Foreign Ministry, the “obsolete defensive weaponry,” made in the Soviet Union, was being shipped to North Korea for repair.

After investigating the ship’s cargo, the panel found that the shipment violated UN Security Council resolutions prohibiting the “indirect supply, sale or transfer” of arms to North Korea. Under the resolutions, Pyongyang also is not permitted to provide “technical training, advice, services or assistance” related to the maintenance of weaponry, the panel said.

According to the report, the illegal cargo was hidden among bags of sugar and included two MiG aircraft, 15 MiG aircraft engines, components for surface-to air-missiles, ammunition, and “miscellaneous arms-related material.”

Panama acted in “full compliance with relevant resolutions” and “set a sound precedent for future interdictions,” the panel concluded.

One of the panel’s recommendations is to ask member states to verify the contents of any cargo originating from or bound for North Korea that passes through their ports or airports. The panel also requested that member states provide information on all cargo inspections, even if prohibited items are not found.

The report provided further details about additional sanctions violations, including shipments of materials that can be used for nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

One documented violation was a shipment of aluminum alloy rods from North Korea to Myanmar. Under the Security Council resolutions, North Korea is prohibited from exporting this type of aluminum alloy because of its uses in nuclear programs.

Japan seized the rods from a ship it inspected in August 2012 along with documents indicating that the rods had been shipped from North Korea via China. In January 2014, China provided the panel with confirmation that the rods originated in North Korea and were being sent to Myanmar, the report said.

In November 2012, when the seizure was made public, the Myanmar government denied knowledge of a deal with North Korea to obtain the rods and said that the country had no nuclear ambitions. (See ACT, December 2012.)

The panel said it has requested further information from Myanmar about the shipment.

The panel also released findings from its examination of the debris from North Korea’s space launch in December 2012. The launch took place at North Korea’s Sohae launch facility in the northwestern region of the country and used a three-stage, liquid-fueled rocket, the Unha-3, as the satellite launch vehicle. (See ACT, January/February 2013.) South Korea recovered debris from the rocket that fell into the ocean.

According to the report, the panel’s analysis of the debris found materials that could be traced back to China, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the former Soviet Union. Four countries provided information to the panel about the materials, nearly all of which are not sanctioned items, the report said.

The panel concluded that the acquisition of these materials indicates the limits of North Korea’s “industrial production capabilities” and its ability to “assemble complex systems” to obtain necessary components and continue its illicit programs.

North Korea is prohibited from launching satellites under Resolution 1718, passed in 2006, and Resolution 1874, passed in 2009, because the technology of a space-launch vehicle can be used in the development of ballistic missiles.

The report requested that the states that had yet to do so provide information about the foreign-origin materials used in the Unha-3 satellite launch.

UN member states should focus on improving implementation of existing sanctions on North Korea rather than passing new measures, a report to the UN Security Council said.

States Commit to Nuclear Rules at Summit

Kelsey Davenport

Thirty-five countries last month launched an initiative that they said bolsters their commitment to implementing existing international guidelines on nuclear security, in part by incorporating the “fundamentals” of the voluntary guidelines into binding national rules.

The initiative was announced at the March 24-25 nuclear security summit in The Hague, the third in the series of biennial meetings.

In a March 25 press conference in The Hague announcing the initiative, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said the initiative is the “closest thing we have to international standards for nuclear security.”

The new initiative, called “Strengthening Nuclear Security Implementation,” was sponsored by the hosts of the three summits—the Netherlands, South Korea, and the United States—ahead of the March summit and was open to all 53 participating countries to join. (See ACT, March 2014, Web Extra.)

According to the document outlining the initiative’s commitments, the aim is to “demonstrate progress made in improving nuclear security worldwide.” These recommendations could serve “as a role model” for transparent behavior worldwide, the document said.

The initiative commits participating states to meet or exceed recommendations on nuclear security outlined in a series of documents published by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

At the March 25 press conference, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said that the initiative has two objectives: to “eliminate weak links” in the nuclear security and to “build confidence in nuclear security internationally.” By taking part in the initiative, the 35 countries have demonstrated their commitment to “continuous improvement,” he said.

The initiative’s roster includes all of the European and North American participants, as well as a range of others, such as Algeria, Israel, Kazakhstan, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam.

The 35 states pledged to conduct self-assessments; host periodic peer reviews, including IAEA reviews by the International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS); and implement the recommendations identified during the review process. This will allow them to “continue to improve the effectiveness of their nuclear security regimes and operators’ systems,” the document said.

At the request of an IAEA member state, an IPPAS mission can assist the country in strengthening its national nuclear security regime by providing advice on implementing international guidelines and IAEA nuclear security guidance and by conducting reviews of the country’s measures to protect nuclear materials and associated facilities. IPPAS missions can focus on a specific facility or review national practices.

The initiative requires states to ensure that the management and personnel responsible for nuclear security are “demonstrably competent” and includes a list of optional activities that states can take to further improve their nuclear security.

In a March 25 interview, Kenneth Brill, a former U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, said that the initiative was a “useful step forward” for several reasons. It is important that states are agreeing on guidelines to follow for nuclear security and “implicitly recognizing international responsibility” for nuclear security. He also cited the commitment to voluntary peer reviews as a significant new development.

But there is “still a long way to go,” Brill said, adding that he would have liked to have seen China, India, Pakistan, and Russia sign join the initiative because India and Pakistan have growing stockpiles of fissile materials and China and Russia need to demonstrate leadership as recognized nuclear-weapon states with large stockpiles of materials.

In 2016, when the United States hosts the next summit, President Barack Obama must seize on the progress made at this summit and “take it to a new level,” Brill said.

Nuclear security must be “sustainable” and have “agreed-on mechanisms for going forward in the coming years,” he said. This includes legally binding nuclear security regulations and “mechanisms to assist states that need help in meeting them,” Brill said.

Array of Actions

The consensus communiqué issued by the summit’s 53 participants laid out a number of actions for states to take to improve nuclear security, but the recommendations are nonbinding.

States were encouraged to ratify the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM). The convention, which entered into force in 1987, sets security standards for nuclear material in transit. The 2005 amendment would expand the scope of the physical protection measures to cover material in storage.

An additional 26 ratifications are necessary to reach the 98 necessary for bringing the amendment into force. The United States and South Korea are among the 17 summit participants that have not yet completed ratification.

Although entry into force of the 2005 amendment will set binding legal standards for nuclear materials in storage, “two key gaps” will remain, Jonathan Herbach, a researcher in nuclear security and arms control law at Utrecht University’s Centre for Conflict and Security Law, said in a March 24 interview. He said the amendment covers only part of the world’s stockpiles of nuclear material because military materials are not included. According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, 85 percent of the world’s nuclear materials are military stockpiles.

The 2005 amendment also does not address radiological sources. These sources, he said, are “more easily obtainable” and require “less technical expertise to use in an explosive device” than nuclear materials.

The CPPNM also does not provide a mechanism for expansion to cover additional areas, such as military materials, he said.

The communiqué identified voluntary measures that countries could take to demonstrate to the international community that they are implementing sound nuclear security practices without compromising national security. These measures, also known as assurances, include “publishing information about national laws, regulations and organisational structures,” the communiqué said. The measures in the communiqué also include “further developing training of personnel involved in nuclear security by setting up and stimulating participation in training courses and applying domestic certification schemes,” as well as exchanging information on good practices.

One of these voluntary measures is to invite the IPPAS reviews, but there are concerns by experts and summit participants that the IAEA may not have the capacity to handle an increased volume of IPPAS missions.

Bart Dal, former national coordinator for nuclear security and safeguards in the Netherlands, said in a March 24 interview that the size of the IAEA budget and staff is “just one” of the factors that needs to be considered. Dal, who has participated as an expert on IPPAS missions, said that countries need to “continue training experts in physical protection” for the teams that carry out these missions.

IPPAS teams are comprised of experts from member countries.

Implementing the recommendations from IPPAS missions is voluntary, but there is “no example of a country that did not follow up on the recommendations” in all of the missions that have taken place, Dal said.

Materials Removed

The communiqué encouraged states to take actions to minimize their stockpiles of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and keep stockpiles of plutonium “to a minimum level.”

Several countries announced progress on eliminating weapons-usable materials and pledged to continue efforts to reduce their stockpiles of those materials. Currently, 25 countries possess HEU or separated plutonium, 21 of which participate in the summit process.

Two of those countries, Japan and the United States, announced in a March 24 joint statement that the United States would take back more than 700 kilograms of HEU and plutonium from the Fast Critical Assembly facility in Japan. In the United States, the HEU will be down-blended into low-enriched uranium and used for civilian purposes, the joint statement said. The plutonium will be “prepared for final disposition” in the United States, the announcement said.

In other announcements at last month’s summit, Belgium and Italy each issued a joint statement with the United States saying it had completed the return of HEU and plutonium to the United States, fulfilling pledges made at the 2012 summit in Seoul. The United States will secure the materials and dispose of them, the statements said.

Italy, in an effort that also involved the IAEA and the United Kingdom, returned about 20 kilograms of HEU and plutonium. The cooperation included the “development of novel packaging configurations for the consolidation of plutonium materials within Italy, and the training and certification of personnel for specialized packaging operations” in Italy, according to the U.S.-Italian joint statement. The statement also said that the two countries would work together to eliminate additional stockpiles of these materials from Italy.

The U.S.-Belgian statement did not specify the amount of HEU that Belgium returned, saying only that it was “significant.” The two countries will work together to dispose of more material, their joint statement said.

Canada also announced on March 24 that it had returned about 45 kilograms of HEU to the United States.

At the summit, 13 countries issued a joint statement proclaiming themselves free of HEU. The majority of the countries have eliminated their stockpiles since Obama began the effort to secure nuclear materials in 2009. The list of countries includes the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Vietnam, all of which got rid of their stockpiles in 2013.

After 2016

It is unclear if the summit process will continue beyond the summit that the United States will host in 2016. U.S. officials have said in the past that the summit process was never meant to be a permanent institution.

In a March 25 statement, Irma Arguello, president of the Argentina-based NPSGlobal Foundation, said that, at the 2016 summit, “leaders must lay the foundation for an efficient, adaptable, inclusive, and harmonized nuclear security system” that can become “the enduring legacy of the process.”

In the Hague communiqué, countries agreed that their representatives will “continue to participate in different international forums dealing with nuclear security” because “continuous efforts” are needed to strengthen international nuclear security. The document recognized that the IAEA will play the “leading role” in the coordination of these efforts, but did not rule out future summits or indicate any successor organization.

Kelsey Davenport’s reporting from The Hague was supported by a grant from the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America.

Thirty-five countries launched an initiative that they said bolsters their commitment to implementing existing international guidelines on nuclear security.

U.S. Set to Co-Sponsor New Nuclear Security Initiative

This article is an ACT Web Extra. It was posted on March 14, 2014, and does not appear in the print or PDF version of the March 2014 Arms Control Today.

Kelsey Davenport

A new initiative to be launched at this month’s nuclear security summit in The Hague will commit participating states to the “highest standards” of nuclear security, the White House’s top official for countering weapons of mass destruction said in a March 6 interview.

The initiative will demonstrate the importance of adherence to nuclear security best practices and international guidelines, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, special assistant to the president and White House coordinator for defense policy, countering weapons of mass destruction, and arms control, said in the interview.

The initiative, sponsored by the Netherlands, South Korea, and the United States, will be opened for states to join at the March 24-25 summit. This will be the third summit to be convened since President Barack Obama in 2009 announced an effort to lock down all vulnerable nuclear material.

Although the text of the initiative has not been made public, it reportedly will commit states to implement international guidelines for nuclear security, including those published by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Sherwood-Randall said the United States expects progress in three key areas at the summit: further commitments to dispose of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium, efforts to strengthen the global “nuclear security architecture,” and “assurances,” or voluntary actions that states can take to demonstrate to the international community that they are maintaining high standards for nuclear security without disclosing sensitive information. Issue specialists use the term “architecture” to refer to the combination of elements dealing with nuclear security: institutions and organizations, legal instruments, evolving norms and best practices, and assurances.

At the summit, states will announce actions that will generate further progress in these key areas, Sherwood-Randall said.

Ensuring that the IAEA “has the resources it requires” and strengthening other international organizations, such as Interpol and the World Institute for Nuclear Security, are necessary elements for building up the nuclear security architecture, Sherwood-Randall said. She said that the summit process is contributing to strengthening the role of the IAEA and other multilateral organizations in nuclear security. For example, the summit process has helped make the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism a “durable international institution,” she said.

Progress in these areas will contribute to building a global nuclear security “scaffolding” so that the summits are no longer necessary and improving nuclear security is a “self-sustaining” process, Sherwood-Randall said. The United States decided to host a fourth summit in 2016 because this “job is not done,” she said.

One of the additional benefits of the summit process is that it has created a “global network of experts” who work on nuclear security across the governments of the 53 participating countries, she said.

The network of experts allows for “ongoing dialogue” and interaction among countries, she said, noting that this has led to “expanded bilateral cooperation.”

Interactive Summit

Sherwood-Randall said that the Dutch have done an “extraordinary job” preparing for the 2014 summit and have put forward “bold ideas” for the meeting. The Netherlands has planned a policy exercise in which the national leaders attending the meeting have to respond to various scenarios of a nuclear security crisis.

Like the past two summits, this one will produce a communiqué endorsed by the 53 participating states. States are also expected to make additional national commitments and sign on to joint statements, which are multilateral commitments to improve areas of nuclear security.

These multilateral commitments began at the 2012 Seoul summit, where states were able to sign on to 13 joint statements. The trilateral Dutch-South Korean-U.S. initiative will be just one of many new joint statements, also known as gift baskets, that will be announced at the summit.

Several states already have announced that they will present new joint statements at the 2014 summit or build on statements made in 2012. The Netherlands committed to leading a new joint statement on nuclear forensics that will be announced in The Hague, while the United Kingdom intends to keep working on its 2012 joint statement on nuclear information security, according to UK officials.

Participating countries were encouraged to prepare video messages to outline the progress made on nuclear security and goals for further improvement. On the second day of the summit, a session just for the leaders will focus on the future of the summit process.

There is no decision yet as to whether the process will continue after the 2016 summit. Obama administration officials have said in the past the summit process is not intended to be permanent and that no single institution is intended to take on the work of the summits. (See ACT, September 2013.)

U.S. Commitments

States are expected to pledge to eliminate stocks of U.S.-origin nuclear materials at the Dutch summit, and the United States will accept the HEU and plutonium for disposition, Sherwood-Randall said.

Since Obama initiated the summit process in 2009, 12 countries have eliminated their stockpiles of weapons-usable materials. According to a recent report released by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), 25 countries still have at least 1 kilogram of weapons-usable material. Of those 25 countries, 21 participate in the nuclear security summit process.

Australia, Belgium, and Italy have already pledged to return excess HEU or plutonium to the United States, but have not yet completed the disposition. It has been reported that, at this month’s summit, Japan will announce its intention to ship several hundred kilograms of plutonium back to the United States.

At the summit, the United States will announce further upgrades to the physical security of its nuclear facilities, Sherwood-Randall said. Referring to a 2012 break-in at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee, she said that strengthening physical security is an “ongoing process” for all countries and that the United States is discussing with its counterparts the lessons that were learned from this incident.

While the focus of the first two summits was on civilian materials and facilities, some countries, including the Netherlands, would like to see the summit process expanded to more formally include the protection of military materials and the elimination of excess materials. According to the NTI, military materials comprise about 85 percent of the world’s nuclear stockpiles. It is unclear to what extent military materials will be addressed at the upcoming summit.

Sherwood-Randall said that the United States also would announce further actions to be taken with other countries in a variety of areas, including strengthening the security of radioactive sources, converting HEU-fueled research reactors to run on low-enriched uranium fuel, and enhancing detection to prevent the smuggling of nuclear materials.

2010 Commitments

The United States recently fulfilled a commitment it made at the 2010 summit when the IAEA completed a review of the physical protection measures at a U.S. nuclear facility.

Such reviews, conducted by the IAEA International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS), are a way to demonstrate that countries are willing to receive “constructive criticism” and take steps to improve performance, Sherwood-Randall said.

At the request of an IAEA member state, an IPPAS mission can assist the country in strengthening its national nuclear security regime by providing advice on implementing international guidelines and IAEA nuclear security guidance and by conducting reviews of the protection of nuclear materials and associated facilities. IPPAS missions can focus on a specific facility or review national practices.

The two-week IPPAS mission in the United States, which was completed last October, reviewed the physical protection systems at the Center for Neutron Research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland.

According to an Oct. 11 IAEA press release, the IPPAS mission resulted in “a recommendation and some suggestions for the continuing improvement of nuclear security overall.” The team identified best practices at the facility and concluded that U.S. nuclear security practices in the civil nuclear sector are “robust,” the release said.

These missions are an example of the assurances concept that the Obama administration hopes will be advanced at The Hague summit, Sherwood-Randall said. It is important for the United States to set an example for IPPAS missions because there is a “spectrum” of what countries are willing to open up for inspection, she said.

There is no mechanism that tracks whether countries follow through on the recommendations from the IPPAS missions. But Sherwood-Randall said countries that requested missions are working to implement the recommendations.

At a December meeting in Paris, participants at the first international seminar on IPPAS missions reached a similar conclusion, a French official said in a March 7 interview. He said that states have “an incentive to take action on recommendations” once they have completed an IPPAS review because requesting a peer review “shows an openness to suggestions for improvement.” But he added that there are ways to improve the effectiveness of the IPPAS mission process and encourage greater implementation of the IPPAS recommendations and suggestions.

Follow-up IPPAS missions should receive more emphasis, he said, adding that these missions can “assess the implementation of prior recommendations” and “reinforce positive progress.”

One of the recommendations from the Paris meeting was that the IAEA should produce a “guide of good practices” observed during IPPAS missions, he said. This will allow other states to “perform self-assessments in some areas and improve their own practices,” he added. States might release some of the findings from the IPPAS missions that do not compromise national security, he said. This transparency would “provide evidence to the international community that a state has good nuclear material security,” he said.

IPPAS findings are confidential, but some states, including the Netherlands, have chosen to release some of the findings from the IPPAS teams.

South Korea, host of the 2012 summit, recently hosted an IPPAS mission, which reviewed the country’s regulatory framework for nuclear and radioactive materials, its security measures for the transport of these materials, and physical protection measures at two reactors, according to a March 7 IAEA press release. The IAEA said that its team identified “good practices” and made recommendations for “continuous improvement.”

The South Korean IPPAS mission was the 62nd mission conducted by the IAEA since the service was first offered in 1995. Forty countries have received IPPAS missions to date, according to the IAEA.

Armenia, a nuclear security summit participant, announced that it has invited an IPPAS mission to be conducted this year, and additional countries are expected to announce requests for IPPAS reviews at the summit.

Treaties Not Ratified

One commitment from the 2010 summit that the United States has not met is its pledge to complete ratification of two key legal instruments.

One of these is the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. The original treaty, which entered into force in 1987, sets security standards for nuclear material in transit. When in force, the amendment will expand the scope of the physical protection measures to cover material in storage.

Officials from other countries have called on the United States to take action on the 2005 amendment. (See ACT, March 2014.) Sherwood-Randall said that Washington does need to pass the implementing legislation that will allow the United States to complete the ratification process. The House of Representatives passed the legislation last June, but there has been no movement in the Senate.

Iran, P5+1 Agree on Framework for Talks

Kelsey Davenport

After three days of talks in Vienna, Iran and six world powers agreed last month on a framework and timetable to guide the first four months of negotiations on a comprehensive deal on Iran’s nuclear program.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who leads the negotiating team for the six-country group known as the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), said in a Feb. 20 statement that the parties had “identified all of the issues” to be addressed in the comprehensive agreement.

An official who was briefed on the talks told Arms Control Today in a Feb. 20 e-mail that this is not a “written agenda” but an “understanding of the issues that must be covered.” The official, who is from a P5+1 country, said that most of the discussions were on process but that “some substance was covered.”

The Feb. 18-20 meetings marked the resumption of political-level negotiations between Iran and the P5+1, following a Nov. 24 agreement on a plan of action, which laid out initial steps for each side to take and the broad parameters to guide negotiations on the comprehensive deal. (See ACT, December 2013.)

Implementation of the initial actions began Jan. 20 and is to last six months. The time period can be extended for an additional six months with the agreement of all the parties. But a senior U.S. official said at a Feb. 20 press briefing that the parties are aiming to negotiate the agreement within the six-month time frame of the initial deal.

The political-level meetings are scheduled to resume March 17, with experts gathering earlier in the month to discuss technical details.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who leads the negotiating team for Iran, told reporters Feb. 20 that the parties agreed that “nothing except Iran’s nuclear activities” will be part of the negotiations. Iran’s “defensive issues and scientific capabilities” will not be part of the talks, he said.

Zarif may have been referring to the recent comments from U.S. lawmakers about limiting Iran’s ballistic missile development and research as part of the deal.

UN Security Council Resolution 1929, which was approved in June 2010, prohibits Iran from “any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons,” including launches. In addition to Resolution 1929, the UN Security Council passed five resolutions dating back to August 2006 that prohibit countries from selling items to Iran that could be used to build ballistic missiles. The resolutions also require Iran to suspend certain nuclear activities, including those that are part of its uranium-enrichment program.

At a Feb. 17 press briefing, the senior U.S. official said that the UN Security Council resolutions must be addressed “in some way as part of the comprehensive agreement” but how to address them remains to be negotiated.

Under the Nov. 24 agreement, Iran is permitted to continue its nuclear research and development activities, including testing of advanced centrifuges. The most recent quarterly report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran’s nuclear program said that Tehran notified the agency of a new advanced centrifuge, the IR-8, that it will begin testing. The centrifuge was not yet installed as of the Feb. 20 IAEA report.

On Jan. 20, the day that implementation of the November agreement began, the IAEA issued a special report confirming that Iran had taken the steps required by the Nov. 24 agreement to halt certain nuclear activities, including enrichment of uranium to 20 percent.

Uranium refined to that level is more easily enriched further to weapons grade than if it begins as reactor-grade uranium, which is enriched to less than 5 percent. Iran’s stockpile of the 20 percent-enriched material was a key concern for the international community.

Iran maintains that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but some countries are concerned that Iran could use its nuclear capabilities to develop nuclear weapons.

As part of the initial deal, Iran agreed to dilute half of its stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium to an enrichment level of less than 5 percent. The remaining half would be converted to a powder form that can be used to make fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes.

According to the Feb. 20 IAEA report, the conversion and the dilution of the 20 percent-enriched stockpile had begun. As of the release of the previous IAEA quarterly report, in November, Iran had 196 kilograms of 20 percent-enriched uranium. The Feb. 20 report said that the stockpile was 160 kilograms.

In the Nov. 24 agreement, Iran agreed to more-stringent monitoring and verification measures by the IAEA, including allowing daily access to Iran’s enrichment sites at Natanz and Fordow. The senior U.S. official said at a Feb. 17 press briefing that daily inspections at the enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordow had begun.

The Feb. 20 IAEA report also said additional surveillance measures were put in place to ensure that Iran does not operate or install any additional centrifuges during the six months of the deal.

The Nov. 24 agreement also provides for IAEA access to centrifuge rotor production facilities, centrifuge assembly workshops, and centrifuge storage facilities. This access will give the agency a “clearer picture of Iran’s centrifuge production” and allow the international community to monitor the movement of any centrifuges, the official from the P5+1 country said in his Feb. 20 e-mail. Increased monitoring of key centrifuge production facilities, along with IAEA access to uranium mines, will help reassure the international community that Iran is not pursuing a clandestine enrichment program, he said.

According to the Feb. 20 IAEA report, the centrifuges that had been enriching uranium to the 20 percent level at Fordow are now being used to produce reactor-grade enriched uranium.

The future of Fordow will likely be a controversial issue, the official said, as Iran will want to continue enrichment activities there, whereas the P5+1 in the past has pushed for its closure. A compromise allowing Iran to continue research activities, but not commercial enrichment, may be a possibility, he said.

Also on Jan. 20, the United States and the European Union announced a sanctions waiver that allows Iran to resume selling petrochemical products and trade in gold and other precious metals. In addition, Iran will receive spare parts for its civilian aircraft and $4.2 billion in revenues from oil sales that is tied up in foreign banks. The P5+1 agreed to these measures in the Nov. 24 deal.

The revenue is to be released to Iran in installments on a set schedule over the course of the six months. The first payment took place Feb. 1.

During the six-month implementation period of the Nov. 24 agreement, a joint commission set up by the agreement will serve as a mechanism to clarify and resolve any compliance issues. The official said the goal of setting up a separate monitoring mechanism was to keep any disagreements about implementation out of the political-level negotiations between Iran and the P5+1.

Iran and six world powers agreed on a framework to guide negotiations of a comprehensive deal on Tehran’s nuclear program.

Lag on Nuclear Materials Pact Decried

Kelsey Davenport

The failure of several key states to ratify a nuclear security treaty ahead of this month’s nuclear security summit is a disappointment, but an Indonesian initiative may increase the pace of ratifications, an official familiar with the preparations for the meeting said.

The two previous nuclear security summits, in Washington in 2010 and Seoul in 2012, have emphasized the importance of the entry into force of a 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM). The March 24-25 summit in The Hague is also likely to encourage ratification of this treaty.

The original treaty, which entered into force in 1987, sets security standards for nuclear material in transit. Its 2005 amendment would expand the scope of the physical protection measures to cover material in storage. An additional 26 ratifications are necessary to reach the 98 necessary for bringing the amendment into force.

Although the 2012 Seoul summit communiqué urged states “in a position to do so to accelerate their domestic approval” of the amendment in order to achieve entry into force by 2014, 17 of the 53 summit participants have yet to ratify it.

In an e-mail exchange last month with Arms Control Today, the official said that the “absence of action” by several key states, including the United States, is a “blow to the summit process and its momentum.”

But a “promising initiative” led by Indonesia may assist countries in speeding up their ratification of the 2005 amendment, the official said.

The initiative, known as the National Legislation Implementation Kit, consolidates existing guidance on nuclear security, simplifying the process for states to update domestic regulations to comply with key nuclear security treaties and guidelines. Indonesia announced at the 2012 summit that it would develop the kit, and a rollout is expected at The Hague, the official said.

HEU Minimization

The 2012 communiqué also encouraged states to announce voluntary actions to minimize the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) “where technically and economically feasible” by 2013.

The official said that many countries have made such announcements, but some states have yet to “step up” and fulfill this commitment.

In a Feb. 18 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Elena Sokova, executive director of the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation, noted the recent removals of all weapons-usable materials from Austria, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Yet, she pointed out that Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Switzerland still hold stocks of HEU for civilian purposes and that France and the United Kingdom have civilian and military stocks of HEU and plutonium.

Sokova said she hoped that countries in western Europe would be “forthcoming with new pledges for the minimization” of HEU and plutonium use at the 2014 summit.

Countries should focus on “hard cases,” such as “devising solutions” to the question of how to convert French and German research reactors from HEU to low-enriched uranium fuel or other alternatives, she said. Countries also should work on policy solutions to reduce stockpiles of civilian separated plutonium and excess military stocks of HEU and plutonium, she said.

The Dutch hoped to expand the scope of nuclear security at the 2014 summit to include military material, but it has proved challenging to negotiate, the official said.

Western Europe is “well positioned” to lead international efforts to eliminate excess military materials and to put “these stocks under international verification and monitoring,” Sokova said.

New Commitments

In addition to the commitments in the communiqué, some groups of countries are expected to make multilateral commitments at the 2014 summit.

One of these will come from the four Latin American participants—Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico—on their “common regional thought” on a comprehensive approach to nuclear security, Irma Arguello said in a Feb. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

Arguello, the founder and chair of the Buenos Aires-based NPS Global Foundation, said that the statement will point out the “need to articulate nuclear security within the overall efforts to promote nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.” It also will highlight the need to include military materials in summit efforts and say that measures to prevent nuclear terrorism are “no substitute for the enhanced security” that comes from the abolition of nuclear weapons, she said.

Tanya Ogilvie-White, research director at the Centre for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament at the Australian National University in Canberra, told Arms Control Today in a Feb. 12 e-mail that group action from the Asia-Pacific region is unlikely given the “spectrum of different attitudes to nuclear security and the summit process.” The summit process, however, has led more countries to “recognize and accept” the threat posed by expanding nuclear weapons arsenals and expanding energy programs in the region and take concrete steps to improve nuclear security, she said.

She highlighted stronger physical protection of nuclear materials in Pakistan and Japan’s establishment of an independent nuclear regulatory authority as key regional developments.

Ogilvie-White, who, like Sokova and Arguello, is a regional representative for the Washington-based Fissile Materials Working Group, identified the summit as an opportunity to create momentum toward an Asia-Pacific mechanism for the “sharing of nuclear security best practice, which could be used as a model for other regions.”

Australia’s efforts provide a model for other countries to follow, she said. For example, in the run-up to its 2013 review by the International Atomic Energy Agency of the physical protection of its research reactor, Australia invited countries in the region to share in its “experience of preparing for external peer review of its nuclear security practices,” Ogilvie-White said.

Looking toward the 2014 summit, she said she would like to see more countries in the region make commitments to address insider threats, which are “serious and growing” in the Asia-Pacific region.

Arguello also identified “vulnerable social and political environments” that “could favor terrorism and illicit trafficking” as the main sources of nuclear risk in her region.

Awareness of nuclear risks is low, she said, and many countries view nuclear security “as a problem of developed states.” At the 2014 summit, Arguello said, it is essential that participating states “define mechanisms and ways to include” states that are not participating in the process to help control regional nuclear risks.

The failure of several states to ratify a key nuclear security treaty is a disappointment, an official said, but a new initiative may increase the pace of ratifications.

Iran to Give IAEA Details on Detonators

Kelsey Davenport

Iran will provide the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with information about its past development of a detonator that could be used to as a trigger in nuclear weapons, according to an agreement reached by the two sides last month.

In a Feb. 9 joint statement, Iran and the IAEA described the two days of talks in Tehran as “constructive” and announced seven actions for Iran to take by May 15 to further the agency’s investigations into its unresolved concerns about Iran’s current nuclear program and past actions.

One of the actions requires Tehran to provide the IAEA with information on exploding bridge wire detonators, which can be used to trigger nuclear weapons. They can also be used in civilian applications, including drilling for oil and gas, and for conventional military explosives.

The Feb. 9 announcement follows an agreement reached last Nov. 11, in which Iran and the IAEA pledged to cooperate to “resolve all present and past issues.” (See ACT, December 2013.) The IAEA laid out these concerns, including allegations of activities with possible relevance for developing nuclear weapons, in detail in its November 2011 report to the agency’s Board of Governors. (See ACT, December 2011.) In early 2012, the IAEA began negotiating an approach to its investigation with Iran, but did not make any progress until President Hassan Rouhani took office in August.

The other actions Iran agreed to take during the February talks include providing the IAEA with access to the Saghand uranium mine and to Iran’s uranium-concentration plant for refining uranium ore, information on the heavy-water reactor at Arak, and access to a center that was used in the past for laser uranium-enrichment experiments.

In the Feb. 9 announcement, Iran and the IAEA also reported that the six initial actions that Iran agreed to take as part of the Nov. 11 agreement had been completed on schedule.

IAEA Deputy Director-General Tero Varjoranta told reporters Feb. 10 that Iran took “all the initial pragmatic measures” and that “everything has gone as planned” since November. Varjoranta led the IAEA delegation to Tehran for the February talks.

The initial six measures from the Nov. 11 agreement included a Dec. 8 IAEA visit to the Heavy Water Production Plant at the Arak site, which produces heavy water for a reactor under construction, and a Jan. 29 visit to the Gchine uranium mine. The agency has not been able to visit either site for years despite requests for access.

Iran also provided the IAEA with information on its planned construction of nuclear power reactors, research reactors, and uranium-enrichment facilities.

In its Feb. 20 quarterly report on Iran, the IAEA summarized the contents of two letters that Tehran sent to the agency Feb. 8 regarding its future activities. Iran wrote that it had identified 16 sites for nuclear power reactors and was planning to build a light-water reactor fueled by 20 percent enriched uranium for medical isotope production and nuclear research. The site selection process for the reactor is in its “preliminary stages,” according to a passage from the letter that appeared in the IAEA report.

In a Jan. 18 letter to the agency also quoted in the IAEA report, Iran said it had begun the site selection for five of 10 planned uranium-enrichment sites but that there would be no progress on constructing these facilities during the following six months. Iran committed not to build any new enrichment facilities as part of a Nov. 24 agreement reached with six world powers (see).

Although these initial actions provided the agency with information on Iran’s future nuclear plans and access to several facilities, they did not address the activities with potential nuclear weapons applications—“possible military dimensions,” in IAEA parlance.

Past Cooperation

Iran previously has provided the agency with some information on nuclear activities with possible military dimensions.

These prior discussions included exchanges between Tehran and the IAEA on information regarding bridge wire detonators in 2008, which the IAEA summarized in its November 2011 report.

During the 2008 exchanges, Iran said that it was developing them for “civil and conventional military applications.” The IAEA, however, maintained in the report that given their “limited civilian and conventional military applications,” Iran’s work on developing the detonators is a “matter of concern.”

The IAEA also said in the November 2011 report it had information that Iran conducted practical tests of the bridge wire detonators to see if they would “perform satisfactorily over long distances between a firing point and a test device located down a deep shaft.” This information would be useful if Iran were to carry out a nuclear test, the agency stated in the report.

Even after the information on the detonator development is given to the IAEA, the agency has other unresolved concerns about alleged Iranian activities related to nuclear weapons development. In a list of topics requiring further investigation that the agency presented to Iran in February 2012, the IAEA included neutron initiation, tests of warhead integration with missiles, hydrodynamic experiments, and the possibility of past explosive testing at the Parchin military facility.

At his Feb. 10 press conference, Varjoranta said “a lot of work” remains to be done on the possible military dimensions. He said that there will be “new steps” after May 15.

Iran has maintained that the IAEA allegations of activities with possible military dimensions are baseless. On Feb. 7, the day before the meeting began, Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said that Iran is ready to “answer all the questions” about its “peaceful nuclear activities.”

Laser Enrichment

As part of the Nov. 11 agreement, Iran provided the IAEA with information on its experiments with laser-based uranium-enrichment technology and an explanation for Tehran’s February 2010 statement that it possessed this technology.

According to a second Jan. 18 letter quoted in the Feb. 20 IAEA report, Iran said that these experiments ended in 2003 and the February 2010 statement referenced that earlier work. Since 2003, “there had not been any especially designed or prepared systems, equipment and components for use in laser-based enrichment plants in Iran,” the letter was quoted as saying.

As a follow-up action, Iran agreed Feb. 9 to allow the IAEA to visit its Lashkar Ab’ad laser center where the enrichment experiments are known to have taken place prior to 2003.

Varjoranta said the IAEA has a plan for proceeding with the issue of laser-based uranium enrichment and that he felt confident that the IAEA will “find out” what it needs to know about Iran’s work in this area.

Iran agreed to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency with information on its past development of a detonator that can be used for nuclear weapons.

Libyan Uranium Stocks Flagged for IAEA

Kelsey Davenport

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team planned to visit Libya in December to verify the country’s stockpile of uranium yellowcake, a UN official reported to the Security Council.

Tarek Mitri, head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, told the Security Council on Dec. 9 that he received information from the Libyan government indicating that 6,400 barrels of uranium yellowcake are being stored at a former military facility in the south under the control of an army battalion. He said an IAEA inspection team was to visit the site in December to verify the “conditions of storage” and size of the stockpile.

The IAEA did not respond to a request for confirmation that the visit took place. A team from the agency last visited the site in 2011.

The announcement of the IAEA visit came a month after Russia expressed concern over the security of the Libyan yellowcake. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, told Russian news outlets Nov. 4 that he “mentioned the problem” of security for the stockpile of yellowcake during Security Council consultations and requested that the body ask Libya to take “practical steps to remedy the situation.”

Rwanda’s ambassador to the UN, Eugene-Richard Gasana, who chairs the Security Council committee that oversees sanctions imposed on Libya, told the Security Council on Dec. 9 that a UN panel of experts concluded that the yellowcake “posed no significant security risk” because it would require “extensive processing” before it could be used for civil or weapons purposes. The panel is charged with overseeing the implementation of sanctions imposed on Libya in connection with the civil war in February 2011 under UN Security Council Resolution 1970.

Yellowcake, which is concentrated uranium ore, represents an early step in the process of creating fuel for power reactors or nuclear weapons. Once natural uranium ore is mined, it undergoes a milling process to turn it into yellowcake, which then must be processed into a gaseous form, uranium hexafluoride, before it can be enriched.

Under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which Libya ratified in 1975, the country is prohibited from acquiring nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi covertly pursued a nuclear weapons program that began in the 1970s and lasted until 2003. In December of that year, Libya agreed to dismantle its covert nuclear weapons facilities and disclose information about its other programs for nonconventional weapons. As part of that agreement, Libya released information about the importation of 2,263 metric tons of uranium yellowcake from Niger between 1978 and 1981. Of that amount, only 1,000 metric tons were declared to the IAEA.

The remainder was for use in covert uranium-enrichment activities. Yellowcake stockpiles must be declared if a state has an additional protocol as part of its safeguards agreement with the IAEA. An additional protocol expands the scope and access that the agency has to a state’s nuclear facilities.

Although the last of Libya’s enriched uranium was removed in 2009, the stockpiles of yellowcake remained in the country.

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team planned to visit Libya in December to verify the country’s stockpile of uranium yellowcake, a UN official reported to the Security Council.

New Iran Sanctions Bill Introduced

Kelsey Davenport

A bipartisan group of 27 senators on Dec. 19 introduced legislation that would impose further sanctions on Iran, despite warnings by the Obama administration that additional sanctions will harm ongoing negotiations with Tehran over its controversial nuclear program and derail an interim agreement reached on Nov 24.

In a statement announcing the introduction of the bill, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), the co-authors of the legislation, said that the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013 proposes “prospective sanctions” if Iran violates the terms of the Nov. 24 initial deal or if the negotiators “fail to reach a final agreement.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a Dec. 19 press briefing that the administration has made it “very clear” to Congress that “it is not the time” to pass any additional sanctions and that such a move could “proactively undermine American diplomacy.” He said enacting the legislation is unnecessary because if Iran does not comply with the first-phase agreement, the administration could work with Congress “to very quickly pass new, effective sanctions.”

Iran and six world powers (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have been negotiating over Tehran’s nuclear program for more than a decade. Iran maintains that its nuclear activities are entirely peaceful, but the international community is concerned that Iran may choose to pursue nuclear weapons.

On Nov. 24, Iran and the six countries, or P5+1, reached an interim deal, which will limit Iran’s nuclear activities over six months in exchange for relief from some sanctions and a commitment that no new sanctions will be imposed. (See ACT, December 2013.) This deal will go into effect when the negotiators work out the details of the joint committee that will monitor implementation of the agreement (see). The six-month time period can be extended if the two sides agree to an extension.

Iranian Foreign Minister and lead negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a Dec. 7 interview with Time magazine that the “deal is dead” if the United States imposes more sanctions, even if they do not go into effect during the six-month time frame of the first-phase agreement.

A summary of the bill released on Dec. 19 by the sponsors says that the legislation “does not violate” the agreement because the sanctions detailed in the legislation “would only be imposed if Iran violates the interim agreement” or the negotiators fail to reach a comprehensive deal.

But Carney said that the administration is concerned about how Iran and the international community would react to new sanctions “no matter how they’re structured.”

The bill would allow the president to suspend the sanctions imposed by the legislation for six months if he certifies to Congress every 30 days that Iran is complying with the Nov. 24 interim agreement. In addition, the president must certify that Iran has not supported or financed any acts of terrorism against the United States or tested a ballistic missile with a range greater than 500 kilometers.

These measures are not included in the steps that Iran must take as part of the agreement.

A Senate staffer familiar with the legislation told Arms Control Today in a Dec. 19 interview that although some of the provisions in the legislation may be dropped in the course of negotiations on a final bill, the legislation “may have the support” to override a presidential veto. That requires a two-thirds majority of each chamber of Congress.

Proposed Sanctions

If passed into law, the legislation would require countries importing oil from Iran to reduce their imports by 30 percent within the first year and to near zero within two years. In a Dec. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a European official said the legislation “is a concern because it threatens international support for the sanctions.” He said that it “may not be feasible” for all countries to meet the oil import limitations required under the legislation, which could “erode support” for U.S. sanctions.

Under current law, the president can waive the sanctions on countries that continue to import Iranian oil after he has certified that they have “significantly reduced” their purchases from Iran. Waivers are granted for six-month periods, but can be renewed. (See ACT, January/February 2012.) On Nov. 29, the State Department renewed waivers for several countries that continue to import oil from Iran, including China, India, South Korea, and Turkey.

The European official said that the European Union has “done its part” to demonstrate its commitment to the deal and that the draft legislation sends a signal that the United States cannot “fulfill its part of the agreement.”

In a Dec. 16 statement following a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that the council “made a commitment to refrain from additional sanctions for the [six-month] implementation period.” Ashton, who leads the P5+1 negotiating team, said that parties should “refrain from actions that could delay” implementation of the Nov. 24 agreement.

If adopted, the legislation would expand business and financial sanctions on Iran’s mining and construction sectors. It also would block access to foreign assets by individuals who enable Iran to evade sanctions. This would also apply to companies that work in Iran or with its government to bypass sanctions. The bill also would increase the number of senior officials, including those working in the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the Ministry of Defense, and the Office of the Supreme Leader, who would be denied access to assets outside of Iran.

Senate Opposition

Prior to the introduction of the bill, which had 48 co-sponsors as of Jan. 6, a group of 10 senators sent a letter to Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) urging that no new sanctions be imposed on Iran. The Dec. 18 letter said that, during negotiations, “new sanctions would play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see the negotiations fail.” All 10 senators that signed the letter are committee chairmen, including Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), who heads the banking committee.

During a Dec. 12 hearing on Iran by that committee, Johnson said that the panel, which often has jurisdiction over sanctions bills, would not move forward on new sanctions legislation against Iran because it would be “counterproductive” and could “shatter Western unity” on the nuclear issue. Johnson said that he and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the banking committee, had crafted legislation to be introduced if Iran does not comply with the interim agreement or if negotiations to reach a comprehensive agreement fail.

The letter also called for vigorous implementation of existing sanctions and periodic updates from the administration on the implementation of the Nov. 24 plan. If negotiations fail or Iran is not complying with its obligations under that agreement, new sanctions should be passed, the letter said.

Final Agreement

The new sanctions bill sets conditions for the comprehensive deal that the P5+1 is to negotiate with Iran. The Nov. 24 agreement sets out the basic parameters for that deal, including a “mutually defined” Iranian uranium-enrichment program and the lifting of all U.S. and UN nuclear-related sanctions.

Yet, the bill will allow the president to suspend the nuclear-related sanctions on Iran for only one year once a comprehensive deal is reached. The president can continue suspending the sanctions for one-year periods if Iran continues complying with the comprehensive deal. Under the bill, the deal must include dismantlement of Iran’s uranium-enrichment capabilities and its heavy-water reactor. Additional verification measures, including continuous on-site inspections, would also be required.

The European official said this is a “non-starter” for negotiating the comprehensive agreement” because it “violates the parameters laid down on Nov. 24.”

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that would impose further sanctions on Iran, an approach opposed by the Obama administration.

Iran, P5+1 Prepare to Implement Deal

Kelsey Davenport

Iran and a group of six world powers could begin implementing an initial six-month agreement on Tehran’s controversial nuclear program on Jan. 20 if the two sides reach agreement on the remaining issues, Iran’s deputy nuclear negotiator told Iranian media Jan. 6.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said Iran and the six countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) are “making preparations” to begin implementing the agreement on Jan. 20 if there is a “mutual agreement.”

During a separate Jan. 6 briefing, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that the parties “just have to finalize some of the details.” The “last step in the process” is for negotiators to go back to their capitals for consultations, she said. The parties are scheduled to meet again Jan. 9-10.

Implementation of the interim agreement would allow the parties to move forward on negotiating a comprehensive nuclear deal.

That meeting was the third since Iran and the six countries, known as the P5+1, agreed Nov. 24 on a framework that includes an interim six-month deal to halt Iran’s most sensitive nuclear activities and increase international monitoring of its nuclear program in exchange for some relief from sanctions that have hurt Iran’s economy.

In the three meetings, Iran and the P5+1 discussed technical details of the November agreement, including the creation of a joint commission to monitor implementation.

The November agreement also lays out the parameters of a comprehensive deal on Tehran’s nuclear program that Iran and the P5+1 will continue negotiating during the implementation of the interim agreement. (See ACT, December 2013.)

In Dec. 12 testimony to the Senate banking committee, Wendy Sherman, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, said the discussions on implementing the interim agreement were “to make sure the sequence happens in the order in which we all believe it should.” Sherman, who led the U.S. delegation for the talks, said implementation would begin “in the next few weeks.”

The joint commission also will coordinate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which will play a role in the monitoring and verification measures set out in the interim agreement.

Meanwhile, Iran met with the IAEA on Dec. 11 to discuss ongoing implementation of an agreement the two parties reached Nov. 11. They also talked about further steps that Tehran could take to help the agency’s investigations into Iran’s alleged attempts to develop nuclear weapons. Both parties described the meeting as productive.

The Nov. 11 agreement included six initial actions for Iran to take by mid-February that will provide the IAEA with access to two nuclear sites and with information on Iran’s planned nuclear power plants and research reactors.

On Dec. 8, the IAEA was able to visit one of the complexes mentioned in the Nov. 11 agreement, the heavy-water production plant at the Arak complex. The plant, which began operating in 2010, produces heavy water that will be used to operate a reactor Iran is constructing at the site. The plant is not under IAEA safeguards, although Iran did allow the agency to inspect the facility in August 2011.

Under the terms of Iran’s interim agreement with the P5+1, however, Tehran agreed to halt construction of the Arak reactor.

Before beginning the talks Dec. 11, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Reza Najafi, said that the parties would discuss the date for the IAEA’s inspection of the second facility named in the agreement, the Gchine uranium mine. But there was no announcement on that point.

The Nov. 11 agreement stated that the parties would “strengthen their cooperation and dialogue” to “resolve all present and past issues.” This is understood to include the nuclear activities with possible military dimensions that Iran is alleged to have undertaken.

Although no new commitments were made at the Dec. 11 meeting to address the remaining issues, Tero Varjoranta, IAEA deputy director-general and head of the Department of Safeguards, said that the parties “began to discuss the next practical steps.” Varjoranta, who leads the IAEA negotiating team, said that the agency and Iran “aim to reach an agreement” on these steps at the next meeting.

The two sides are to meet again Jan. 21 in Tehran.

Iran and a group of six world powers could begin implementing an initial six-month agreement on Tehran’s controversial nuclear program as soon as January 20.

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